Acts of the Apostles

Acts of the Apostles

Overview
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age
Apostolic Age
The Apostolic Age of the history of Christianity is traditionally the period of the Twelve Apostles, dating from the Crucifixion of Jesus and the Great Commission in Jerusalem until the death of John the Apostle in Anatolia...

. The author is traditionally identified as Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist was an Early Christian writer whom Church Fathers such as Jerome and Eusebius said was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles...

; see Authorship of Luke-Acts
Authorship of Luke-Acts
The authorship of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles is an important issue for biblical exegetes who are attempting to produce critical scholarship on the origins of the New Testament...

 for details.



While the precise identity of the author is debated, the consensus is that this work was composed by a (Koine) Greek speaking Gentile writing for an audience of Gentile Christians.
The Early Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

 wrote that Luke was a physician in Antioch and an adherent of the Apostle Paul.
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Encyclopedia
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age
Apostolic Age
The Apostolic Age of the history of Christianity is traditionally the period of the Twelve Apostles, dating from the Crucifixion of Jesus and the Great Commission in Jerusalem until the death of John the Apostle in Anatolia...

. The author is traditionally identified as Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist was an Early Christian writer whom Church Fathers such as Jerome and Eusebius said was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles...

; see Authorship of Luke-Acts
Authorship of Luke-Acts
The authorship of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles is an important issue for biblical exegetes who are attempting to produce critical scholarship on the origins of the New Testament...

 for details.

Composition




While the precise identity of the author is debated, the consensus is that this work was composed by a (Koine) Greek speaking Gentile writing for an audience of Gentile Christians.
The Early Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

 wrote that Luke was a physician in Antioch and an adherent of the Apostle Paul. It is said to be that the author of the Gospel of Luke is the same as the author of the Acts of the Apostles. Tradition holds that the text was written by Luke the companion of Paul
Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist was an Early Christian writer whom Church Fathers such as Jerome and Eusebius said was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles...

 (named in Colossians ) and this traditional view of Lukan authorship is “widely held as the view which most satisfactorily explains all the data.” The list of scholars maintaining authorship by Luke the physician is lengthy, and represents scholars from a wide range of theological opinion. However, there is no consensus, and according to Raymond E. Brown
Raymond E. Brown
The Reverend Raymond Edward Brown, S.S. , was an American Roman Catholic priest, a member of the Sulpician Fathers and a major Biblical scholar of his era...

, the current opinion concerning Lukan authorship is ‘about evenly divided’.

Title


The title "Acts of the Apostles" (Greek  Praxeis Apostolon) was not part of the original text. It was first used by Irenaeus
Irenaeus
Saint Irenaeus , was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire . He was an early church father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology...

 late in the 2nd century
Christianity in the 2nd century
The 2nd century of Christianity was largely the time of the Apostolic Fathers who were the students of the apostles of Jesus, though there is some overlap as John the Apostle may have survived into the 2nd century and the early Apostolic Father Clement of Rome is said to have died at the end of the...

. Some have suggested that the title "Acts" be interpreted as "The Acts of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

" or even "The Acts of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

," since 1:1 gives the impression that these acts were set forth as an account of what Jesus continued to do and teach, Jesus himself being the principal actor.

Genre



The word "Acts" denoted a recognized genre in the ancient world, "characterizing books that described great deeds of people or of cities." There are several such books in the New Testament apocrypha
New Testament apocrypha
The New Testament apocrypha are a number of writings by early Christians that claim to be accounts of Jesus and his teachings, the nature of God, or the teachings of his apostles and of their lives. These writings often have links with books regarded as "canonical"...

, including the Acts of Thomas
Acts of Thomas
The early 3rd century text called Acts of Thomas is one of the New Testament apocrypha, portraying Christ as the "Heavenly Redeemer", independent of and beyond creation, who can free souls from the darkness of the world. References to the work by Epiphanius of Salamis show that it was in...

, the Acts of Andrew
Acts of Andrew
The Acts of Andrew , is the earliest testimony of the acts and miracles of the Apostle Andrew. The surviving version is alluded to in a 3rd century work, the Coptic Manichaean Psalter, providing a terminus ante quem, according to its editors, M.R. James and Jean-Marc Prieur in The Anchor Bible...

, and the Acts of John
Acts of John
The Acts of John is a collection of narratives and traditions concerning John the Apostle, well described as a "library of materials" , inspired by the Gospel of John, long known in fragmentary form...

. Initially the Gospel according to Luke and the book of the acts of the apostles formed a unique work; it was only when the gospels began to be compiled together that the initial work was split into two volumes with the aforementioned titles.

Modern scholars assign a wide range of genres to the Acts of the Apostles, including biography
Biography
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

, novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 and history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

. Most, however, interpret the genre as epic stories of early Christian miracles and conversions.

Sources



The author of Acts likely relied upon oral tradition, as well as other sources, in constructing his account of the early church and Paul's ministry. Evidence for this is found in the prologue
Prologue
A prologue is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information. The Greek prologos included the modern meaning of prologue, but was of wider significance...

 to the Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

, wherein the author alludes to his sources by writing, "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word." Some scholars theorize that the "we" passages in Acts are just such "handed down" quotations from some earlier source who accompanied Paul on his travels.

Historians believe that the author of Acts did not have access to a collection of Paul's letters
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

. One piece of evidence suggesting this is that, although half of Acts centers on Paul, Acts never directly quotes from the Pauline epistles nor does it even mention Paul writing letters. Discrepancies between the Pauline epistles and Acts would further support the conclusion that the author of Acts did not have access to those epistles when composing Acts.

Other theories about Acts' sources are more controversial. Some historians believe that Acts borrows phraseology and plot elements from Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

' play The Bacchae
The Bacchae
The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis, and which...

. Some feel that the text of Acts shows evidence of having used the Jewish historian Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 as a source (in which case it would have to have been written sometime after 94 AD). For example, R. I. Pervo dates Acts to the first quarter of the 2nd century.

Historical accuracy



The question of authorship is largely bound up with the one of the historical value of the contents. A key contested issue is the historicity of Luke's depiction of Paul. According to the majority viewpoint, Acts describes Paul differently from how he describes himself, both factually and theologically. Acts differs with Paul's letter on important issues, such as the Law
Paul of Tarsus and Judaism
The relationship between Paul of Tarsus and Second Temple Judaism continues to be the subject of much scholarly research, as it is thought that Paul played an important role in the relationship between Christianity and Judaism as a whole...

, Paul's own apostleship, and his relation to the Jerusalem church. Scholars generally prefer Paul's account over that in Acts. Representing a traditional view, however, some prominent scholars and historians view the book of Acts as being quite accurate and corroborated by archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, while agreeing with the Pauline epistles
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

.

Date



The book of Acts has been most commonly dated to the second half of the 1st century
Christianity in the 1st century
The earliest followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic, Jewish sect, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. The Apostles and others following the Great Commission's decree to spread the teachings of Jesus to "all nations," had great success spreading the religion to gentiles. Peter,...

. Norman Geisler
Norman Geisler
Norman L. Geisler is a Christian apologist and the co-founder of Southern Evangelical Seminary outside Charlotte, North Carolina, where he formerly taught. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Jesuit Loyola University...

 dates it as early as between 60-62. Donald Guthrie
Donald Guthrie
Donald Guthrie was a British New Testament scholar. Guthrie was a graduate of the University of London . From 1949 until his retirement in 1982 Guthrie was lecturer in New Testament studies at London Bible College , and from 1978 until 1982 he served as vice-principal of the college.Guthrie wrote...

, who dates the book between 62-64, notes that the absence of any mention of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 would be unlikely if the book were written afterward. He also suggested that since the book does not mention the death of Paul, a central character in the final chapters, it was likely penned before his death. Guthrie also saw traces of Acts in Polycarp's letter to the Philippians
Polycarp's letter to the Philippians
The Letter to the Philippians is an epistle composed around 110 to 140 ADby one of the Apostolic Fathers, Polycarp of Smyrna from Antioch, to the early Christian church in Philippi...

 (written between 110-140) and one letter by Ignatius
Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology...

 († about 117) and thought that Acts probably was current in Antioch and Smyrna
Izmir
Izmir is a large metropolis in the western extremity of Anatolia. The metropolitan area in the entire Izmir Province had a population of 3.35 million as of 2010, making the city third most populous in Turkey...

 not later than c. 115, and perhaps in Rome as early as c. 96.

A small indicator about the earliest possible date may be in which mentions the Province of Cilicia
Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

. The Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 province by that name had been on hiatus from 27 BC and re-established by Emperor Vespasian only in 72 AD. However, since Paul was from Cilicia and refers to himself using this name (see Acts 21:39, 22:3), it seems very natural that the name Cilicia would have continued to be in colloquial use among its residents despite its hiatus in official Roman nomenclature.

Parallels between Acts and Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

' The Wars of the Jews
The Wars of the Jews
The Jewish War , in full Flavius Josephus's Books of the History of the Jewish War against the Romans , also referred to in English as The Wars of the Jews and The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, is a book written by the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus.It is a description of Jewish...

(written in 75-80) and Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews is a twenty volume historiographical work composed by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the thirteenth year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian which was around 93 or 94 AD. Antiquities of the Jews contains an account of history of the Jewish people,...

(c. 94) have long been argued. Several scholars have argued that Acts used material from both of Josephus' works, rather than the other way around, which would indicate that Acts was written around the year 100 or later. Three points of contact with Josephus in particular are cited: (1) The circumstances attending the death of Agrippa I
Agrippa I
Agrippa I also known as Herod Agrippa or simply Herod , King of the Jews, was the grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice. His original name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, so named in honour of Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and he is the king named Herod in the...

 in 44. Here Acts 12:21-23 is largely parallel to Antiquities 19.8.2; (2) the cause of the Egyptian pseudo-prophet in Acts 21:37f and in Josephus (War 2.13.5; Antiquities 20.8.6); (3) the curious resemblance as to the order in which Theudas
Theudas
Theudas was a Jewish rebel of the 1st century AD. His name, if a Greek compound, may mean "gift of God", although other scholars believe its etymology is Semitic and might mean “flowing with water”...

 and Judas of Galilee
Judas of Galilee
Judas of Galilee or Judas of Gamala led a violent resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Iudaea Province around AD 6. The revolt was crushed brutally by the Romans...

 are referred to in both (Acts 5:36f; Antiquities 20.5.1).

According to John T. Townsend, "it is not before the last decades of the second century that one finds undisputed traces of the work." Townsend, turning to the sources behind the pseudo-Clementine writings
Clementine literature
Clementine literature is the name given to the religious romance which purports to contain a record made by one Clement of discourses...

, argues that the middle of the 2nd century is the terminus ad quem for the final composition. According to Richard I. Pervo, "Townsend's methodologically adventurous but ultimately cautious essay is another valuable lesson in the danger of establishing the date of Acts–or any work–by arguing for the earliest possible time of origin."

Place


The place of composition is still an open question. For some time Rome and Antioch have been in favor, and Blass combined both views in his theory of two editions. But internal evidence points strongly to the Roman province of Asia, particularly the neighborhood of Ephesus
Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

. Note the confident local allusion in 19:9 to "the school of Tyrannus" and in 19:33 to "Alexander"; also the very minute topography in 20:13–15. At any rate affairs in that region, including the future of the church of Ephesus (20:28–30), are treated as though they would specially interest "Theophilus" and his circle; also an early tradition has Luke die in the adjacent Bithynia
Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

. Finally it was in this region that there arose certain early glosses (e.g., 19:9; 20:15), probably the earliest of those referred to below. How fully in correspondence with such an environment the work would be, as apologia for the Church against the Synagogue's attempts to influence Roman policy to its harm, must be clear to all familiar with the strength of Judaism in Asia (cf. Rev
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 2:9, 3:9; and see Sir W. M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches, ch. xii.).

Manuscripts


Like most biblical books, there are differences between the earliest surviving manuscripts of Acts. This is because there are three different families of Biblical texts, Byzantine, Western, or Alexandrian. Many believers in the Bible hold that only one of these families is trustworthy as transmitting the Word of God. Within a family, manuscripts may have very minor differences in grammatical marks, spelling, and tenses that do not affect the sense. Within the Byzantine text family, a clear genuine reading emerges throughout the New Testament by comparing different manuscripts. When one manuscript has a difference compared to 99% of the others, it is understood to be a copyist's mistake. The manuscripts from the Western text-type
Western text-type
The Western text-type is one of several text-types used in textual criticism to describe and group the textual character of Greek New Testament manuscripts...

 (as represented by the Codex Bezae
Codex Bezae
The Codex Bezae Cantabrigensis, designated by siglum Dea or 05 , δ 5 , is a codex of the New Testament dating from the 5th century written in an uncial hand on vellum. It contains, in both Greek and Latin, most of the four Gospels and Acts, with a small fragment of the 3 John...

) and the Alexandrian text-type
Alexandrian text-type
The Alexandrian text-type , associated with Alexandria, is one of several text-types used in New Testament textual criticism to describe and group the textual character of biblical manuscripts...

 (as represented by the Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...

) are the earliest survivors. The version of Acts preserved in the Western manuscripts contains about 10% more content than the Alexandrian version of Acts. Some scholars have struggled to determine if either of these two versions is closer to the original text composed by the original author. Others favor the Byzantine text as transmitting the true Word of God from its reception.

An early theory, suggested by Swiss theologian Jean LeClerc
Jean Leclerc (theologian)
Jean Le Clerc, also Johannes Clericus was a Swiss theologian and biblical scholar. He was famous for promoting exegesis, or critical interpretation of the Bible, and was a radical of his age...

 in the 17th century, posits that the longer Western version was a first draft, while the Alexandrian version represents a more polished revision by the same author. Adherents of this theory argue that even when the two versions diverge, they both have similarities in vocabulary and writing style—suggesting that the two shared a common author. However, it has been argued that if both texts were written by the same individual, they should have exactly identical theologies and they should agree on historical questions. Since some modern scholars do detect subtle theological and historical differences between the texts, such scholars do not subscribe to the rough-draft/polished-draft theory.

A second theory deals with the Byzantine text-type
Byzantine text-type
The Byzantine text-type is one of several text-types used in textual criticism to describe the textual character of Greek New Testament manuscripts. It is the form found in the largest number of surviving manuscripts, though not in the oldest...

. This family includes extant manuscripts dating from the 5th century or later; however, papyrus fragments may be used to show that this text-type dates as early as the Alexandrian or Western text-types. Many believe this group of texts comes from the original Book of Acts by looking at the Byzantine text for the whole of the New Testament. They argue that the oldest copies of this text family are likely to have been lost or destroyed over time with use, and therefore extant manuscripts cannot accurately date a text family. The great majority of Biblical manuscripts support the Byzantine family, from which a single reading for the New Testament is established. The Byzantine text-type was used for the 16th century Textus Receptus
Textus Receptus
Textus Receptus is the name subsequently given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which constituted the translation base for the original German Luther Bible, the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Version, and for most other...

, the first Greek-language version of the New Testament to be printed by the printing press. The Textus Receptus, in turn, was used for the New Testament found in the English-language King James Bible. Today, the Byzantine text-type is the subject of renewed interest as the original form of the text from which the Western and Alexandrian text-types were derived. Those that side with the Byzantine text believe it is authentic and correctly transmits the genuine Word of God, preserved by the Lord himself.

A third theory assumes common authorship of the Western and Alexandrian texts, but claims the Alexandrian text is the short first draft, and the Western text is a longer polished draft.

A fourth theory is that the longer Western text came first, but that later, some other redactor abbreviated some of the material, resulting in the shorter Alexandrian text.

In modern times, there is another theory that some have come to believe. According to this new theory, the shorter Alexandrian text is closer to the original, and the longer Western text is the result of later insertion of additional material into the text. In 1893, Sir W. M. Ramsay in The Church in the Roman Empire held that the Codex Bezae
Codex Bezae
The Codex Bezae Cantabrigensis, designated by siglum Dea or 05 , δ 5 , is a codex of the New Testament dating from the 5th century written in an uncial hand on vellum. It contains, in both Greek and Latin, most of the four Gospels and Acts, with a small fragment of the 3 John...

 (the Western text) rested on a recension made in Asia Minor (somewhere between Ephesus
Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

 and southern Galatia
Galatia
Ancient Galatia was an area in the highlands of central Anatolia in modern Turkey. Galatia was named for the immigrant Gauls from Thrace , who settled here and became its ruling caste in the 3rd century BC, following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans in 279 BC. It has been called the "Gallia" of...

), not later than about the middle of the 2nd century. Some believe the revision in question was the work of a single reviser, who in his changes and additions expressed the local interpretation put upon Acts in his own time. His aim, in suiting the text to the views of his day, was partly to make it more intelligible to the public, and partly to make it more complete. To this end he "added some touches where surviving tradition seemed to contain trustworthy additional particulars," such as the statement that Paul taught in the lecture-room of Tyrannus "from the fifth to the tenth hour" (added to Acts 19:9). In his later work, St Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (1895), Ramsay's views gain both in precision and in breadth. The gain lies chiefly in seeing beyond the Bezan text to the "Western" text as a whole.

General presentation


Acts tells the story of the Apostolic Age
Apostolic Age
The Apostolic Age of the history of Christianity is traditionally the period of the Twelve Apostles, dating from the Crucifixion of Jesus and the Great Commission in Jerusalem until the death of John the Apostle in Anatolia...

 of the Early Christian
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 church, with particular emphasis on the ministry of the Twelve Apostles and of Paul of Tarsus. The early chapters, set in Jerusalem
Jerusalem in Christianity
For Christians, Jerusalem's place in the ministry of Jesus and the Apostolic Age gives it great importance, in addition to its place in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible.-Jerusalem in the New Testament and early Christianity:...

, discuss Jesus' Resurrection
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

 and Great Commission
Great Commission
The Great Commission, in Christian tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing missionary work, evangelism, and baptism...

, his Ascension with a prophecy to return
Second Coming
In Christian doctrine, the Second Coming of Christ, the Second Advent, or the Parousia, is the anticipated return of Jesus Christ from Heaven, where he sits at the Right Hand of God, to Earth. This prophecy is found in the canonical gospels and in most Christian and Islamic eschatologies...

, the start of the Twelve Apostles' ministry, and the Day of Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

. The later chapters discuss Paul's conversion, his ministry, and finally his arrest and imprisonment and trip to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

.

Structure


The structure of the book of Luke is closely tied with the structure of Acts. Both books are most easily tied to the geography of the book. Luke begins with a global perspective, dating the birth of Jesus to the reign of the Roman emperors in Luke 2:1 and 3:1. From there we see Jesus' ministry move from Galilee (chapters 4–9), through Samaria and Judea (chs. 10–19), to Jerusalem where he is crucified
Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

, raised and ascended into heaven
Heaven (Christianity)
Traditionally, Christianity has taught Heaven as a place of eternal life and the dwelling place of Angels and the Throne of God, and a kingdom to which all the elect will be admitted...

 (chs. 19–24).
The book of Acts follows just the opposite motion, taking the scene from Jerusalem (chs. 1–5), to Judea and Samaria (chs. 6–9), then traveling through Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Asia Minor, and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 towards Rome (chs. 9–28). This chiastic structure
Chiastic structure
Chiastic structure is a literary device for chiasmus applied to narrative motifs, turns of phrase, or whole passages. Various structures of chiasmus are commonly seen in ancient literature to emphasize, parallel, or contrast concepts or ideas...

 emphasizes the centrality of the resurrection
Resurrection
Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

 and ascension to Luke's message, while emphasizing the universal nature of the gospel.

This geographic structure is foreshadowed in Acts 1:8, where Jesus says "You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem (chs. 1–5), and in all Judea and Samaria (chs. 6–9), and even to the remotest part of the earth (chs. 10–28)." The first two sections (chs. 1–9) represent the witness of the apostles to the Jews, while the last section (chs. 10–28) represent the witness of the apostles to the Gentiles.

The book of Acts can also be broken down by the major characters of the book. While the complete title of the book is the Acts of the Apostles, really the book focuses on only two men: The Apostle Peter (chs. 1–12) and St. Paul (chs. 13–28).

Within this structure, the sub-points of the book are marked by a series of summary statements, or what one commentary calls a "progress report". Just before the geography of the scene shifts to a new location, Luke summarizes how the gospel has impacted that location. The standard for these progress reports is in 2:46–47, where Luke describes the impact of the gospel on the new church in Jerusalem. The remaining progress reports are located:
  • Acts 6:7 Impact of the gospel in Jerusalem.
  • 9:31 Impact of the gospel in Judea and Samaria.
  • 12:24 Impact of the gospel in Syria.
  • 16:5 Impact of the gospel in Asia Minor.
  • 19:20 Impact of the gospel in Europe.
  • 28:31 Impact of the gospel on Rome.


This structure can be also seen as a series of concentric circles, where the gospel begins in the center, Jerusalem, and is expanding ever outward to Judea & Samaria, Syria, Asia Minor, Europe, and eventually to Rome.

Content



  • Dedication to Theophilus
    Theophilus (Biblical)
    Theophilus is the name or honorary title of the person to whom the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are addressed...

     (1:1-2)
  • Resurrection appearances
    Resurrection appearances of Jesus
    The major Resurrection appearances of Jesus in the Canonical gospels are reported to have occurred after his death, burial and resurrection, but prior to his Ascension. Among these primary sources, most scholars believe First Corinthians was written first, authored by Paul of Tarsus along with...

     (1:3)
  • Great Commission
    Great Commission
    The Great Commission, in Christian tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing missionary work, evangelism, and baptism...

     (1:4-8)
  • Ascension (1:9)
  • Second Coming Prophecy
    Second Coming
    In Christian doctrine, the Second Coming of Christ, the Second Advent, or the Parousia, is the anticipated return of Jesus Christ from Heaven, where he sits at the Right Hand of God, to Earth. This prophecy is found in the canonical gospels and in most Christian and Islamic eschatologies...

     (1:10-11)
  • Matthias
    Saint Matthias
    Matthias , according to the Acts of the Apostles, was the apostle chosen by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following Judas' betrayal of Jesus and his suicide.-Biography:...

     replaced Judas
    Judas Iscariot
    Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...

     (1:12-26)
    • the Upper Room
      Cenacle
      The Cenacle , also known as the "Upper Room", is the term used for the site of The Last Supper. The word is a derivative of the Latin word cena, which means dinner....

       (1:13)
  • Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

     came at Pentecost
    Pentecost
    Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

     (2), see also Paraclete
    Paraclete
    Paraclete means advocate or helper. In Christianity, the term most commonly refers to the Holy Spirit.-Etymology:...

  • Peter healed a crippled beggar (3:1-10)
  • Peter's speech at the Temple (3:11-26)
  • Peter and John
    John the Apostle
    John the Apostle, John the Apostle, John the Apostle, (Aramaic Yoħanna, (c. 6 - c. 100) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James, another of the Twelve Apostles...

     before the Sanhedrin
    Sanhedrin
    The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in the Biblical Land of Israel.The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel made of 71 members...

     (4:1-22)
    • Resurrection of the dead
      Resurrection of the dead
      Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatologies, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to...

       (4:2)
  • Believers' Prayer
    Prayer in the New Testament
    Prayer in the New Testament is presented as a positive command . The people of God are challenged to include prayer in their everyday life, even in the busy struggles of marriage as it brings people closer to God....

     (4:23-31)
  • Everything is shared (4:32-37)
  • Ananias and Sapphira
    Ananias and Sapphira
    Ananias and his wife Sapphira were, according to the Acts of the Apostles, members of the Early Christian church in Jerusalem.-The story:...

     (5:1-11)
  • Signs and Wonders (5:12-16)
  • Apostles before the Sanhedrin (5:17-42)
  • Seven Greeks appointed
    Seven Deacons
    The Seven Deacons were leaders elected by the Early Christian church to minister to the people of Jerusalem. They are described in the Acts of the Apostles, and are the subject of later traditions as well; for instance they are supposed to have been members of the Seventy Disciples who appear in...

     (6:1-7)
  • Saint Stephen
    Saint Stephen
    Saint Stephen The Protomartyr , the protomartyr of Christianity, is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches....

     before the Sanhedrin (6:8-7:60)
  • First mentioning of Saul (St.Paul) in the Bible (7:58)
  • Saul persecuted the Church of Jerusalem (8:1-3)
  • Philip the Evangelist
    Philip the Evangelist
    Saint Philip the Evangelist appears several times in the Acts of the Apostles. He was one of the Seven Deacons chosen to care for the poor of the Christian community in Jerusalem . He preached and performed miracles in Samaria, converted Simon Magus, and met and baptised an Ethiopian man, an...

     (8:4-40)
    • Simon Magus
      Simon Magus
      Simon the Sorcerer or Simon the Magician, in Latin Simon Magus, was a Samaritan magus or religious figure and a convert to Christianity, baptised by Philip the Apostle, whose later confrontation with Peter is recorded in . The sin of simony, or paying for position and influence in the church, is...

       (8:9-24)
    • Ethiopian eunuch
      Ethiopian eunuch
      The Ethiopian eunuch is a figure in the New Testament of the Bible. The story of his conversion to Christianity is recounted in Acts 8.-Biblical narrative:...

       (8:26-39)
  • Conversion of Saul (9:1-31, 22:1-22, 26:9-24)
  • Peter healed Aeneas
    Aeneas (Bible)
    Aeneas is a character in the New Testament. According to Acts 9:32-33, he lived in Lydda, and had been a cripple for eight years. When Peter said to him, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat," he was healed and got up.F. F...

     and raised Tabitha
    Dorcas
    Dorcas was a disciple who lived in Joppa, referenced in the Book of Acts of the Bible. Acts recounts that when she died, she was mourned by "all the widows ... crying and showing the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them."...

     from the dead (9:32-43)

  • Conversion of Cornelius
    Centurion Cornelius
    Cornelius was a Roman centurion who is considered by Christians to be the first Gentile to convert to the faith, as related in Acts of the Apostles.-Biblical account:...

     (10:1-8, 24-48)
  • Peter's vision of a sheet with animals
    Peter's vision of a sheet with animals
    According to the story in Acts 10, Saint Peter had a vision of a sheet full of animals being lowered from heaven. A voice from heaven told Peter to kill and eat, but since the sheet contained unclean animals, Peter declined...

     (10:9-23, 11:1-18)
  • Church of Antioch founded (11:19-30)
    • term "Christian
      Christian
      A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

      " first used
  • Saint James the Great
    Saint James the Great
    James, son of Zebedee was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle...

     executed (12:1-2)
  • Peter's rescue from prison
    Liberation of Saint Peter
    The Liberation of Saint Peter is a story told in the Acts of the Apostles in which Saint Peter is rescued from prison by an angel. Although described in a short textual passage, the tale has given rise to theological discussions and has been the subject of a number of artworks.-Biblical...

     (12:3-19)
  • Death of Herod Agrippa I
    Agrippa I
    Agrippa I also known as Herod Agrippa or simply Herod , King of the Jews, was the grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice. His original name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, so named in honour of Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and he is the king named Herod in the...

     [in 44] (12:20-25)
    • "the voice of a god"
  • Mission of Barnabas and Saul (13-14)
    • "Saul, who was also known as Paul"
    • called "gods ... in human form" 
  • Council of Jerusalem
    Council of Jerusalem
    The Council of Jerusalem is a name applied by historians and theologians to an Early Christian council that was held in Jerusalem and dated to around the year 50. It is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later Ecumenical Councils...

     (15:1-35)
  • Paul separated from Barnabas (15:36-41)
  • 2nd and 3rd missions (16-20)
    • Areopagus sermon
      Areopagus sermon
      The Areopagus sermon refers to a sermon delivered by Apostle Paul in Athens, at the Areopagus, and described in .The Areopagus sermon is the most dramatic and fullest speech of the missionary career of Saint Paul and followed a shorter address in Lystra ....

       (17)
      • "God...has set a day"
        Last Judgment
        The Last Judgment, Final Judgment, Day of Judgment, Judgment Day, or The Day of the Lord in Christian theology, is the final and eternal judgment by God of every nation. The concept is found in all the Canonical gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew. It will purportedly take place after the...

         
  • Trip to Jerusalem (21)
  • Before the people and the Sanhedrin (22-23)
  • Before Felix
    Antonius Felix
    Marcus Antonius Felix was the Roman procurator of Iudaea Province 52-58, in succession to Ventidius Cumanus.- Life :...

    -Festus
    Porcius Festus
    Porcius Festus was procurator of Judea from about AD 59 to 62, succeeding Antonius Felix. His exact time in office is not known. The earliest proposed date for the start of his term is c. A.D. 55-6, while the latest is A.D. 61. These extremes have not gained much support and most scholars opt...

    -Agrippa II
    Agrippa II
    Agrippa II , son of Agrippa I, and like him originally named Marcus Julius Agrippa, was the seventh and last king of the family of Herod the Great, thus last of the Herodians. He was the brother of Berenice, Mariamne, and Drusilla...

     (24-26)
  • Trip to Rome (27-28)
    • called a god on Malta
      Malta
      Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

       


Overview



The author opens with a prologue, usually taken to be addressed to an individual by the name of Theophilus (though this name, which translates literally as "God-lover", may be a nickname rather than a personal appellation) and references "my earlier book"—almost certainly the Gospel of Luke. This is immediately followed by a narrative which is set in Jerusalem.

Peter and the apostles


The apostles, along with other followers of Jesus, meet and elect Matthias to replace Judas as a member of The Twelve. On Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

, the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 descends on them. The apostles hear a great wind and witness "tongues of flames" descending on them, paralleling . Thereafter, the apostles have the miraculous power to "speak in tongues
Glossolalia
Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables, often as part of religious practice. The significance of glossolalia has varied with time and place, with some considering it a part of a sacred language...

" and when they address a crowd, each member of the crowd hears their speech in his own native language.

Peter, along with John, preaches to many in Jerusalem, and performs many miracles such as healings, the casting out of evil spirits
Exorcism
Exorcism is the religious practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed...

, and the raising of the dead
Resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatologies, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to...

. As a result, thousands convert to Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 and are baptized.

As their numbers increase, the Christians begin to be increasingly persecuted
Persecution of Christians in the New Testament
The persecution of Christians in the New Testament is an important part of the Early Christian narrative which depicts the early Church as being persecuted for their heterodox beliefs by an alleged "Jewish establishment" in what was then Roman occupied Iudaea province.The New Testament, especially...

. Some of the apostles are arrested and flogged, but ultimately freed. Stephen
Saint Stephen
Saint Stephen The Protomartyr , the protomartyr of Christianity, is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches....

, one of the first deacons, is arrested for blasphemy
Blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

, and after a trial, is found guilty and executed by stoning
Stoning
Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until the person dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject, yet everyone involved plainly bears some degree of moral culpability. This is in contrast to the...

 by the Jews, thereby becoming the first known Christian martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

.

Peter and the apostles continue to preach, and Christianity continues to grow, and begins to spread to Gentiles. Peter has a vision in which a voice commands him to eat a variety of impure animals. When Peter objects, the voice replies, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." When Peter awakes from his vision, he meets with Cornelius the Centurion, who converts. Peter baptizes the centurion, and later has to justify this decision to the other Christians.

Paul's ministry



Paul of Tarsus, also known as Saul, is the main character of the second half of Acts. He is introduced as a persecutor of the Christian church , until his conversion to Christianity later in the chapter when he encounters the resurrected Christ. His own account of his conversion, , is not detailed. The conversion of Paul
Conversion of Paul
The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, as depicted in the Christian Bible, refers to an event reported to have taken place in the life of Paul of Tarsus which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to himself become a follower of Jesus; it is normally dated by researchers to AD 33–36...

 on the road to Damascus is told three times. While Paul was on the road to Damascus, near Damascus, "suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground" , the light was "brighter than the sun" and he was subsequently blinded for three days . He heard a voice in the Hebrew language (probably Aramaic
Aramaic of Jesus
It is generally agreed that the historical Jesus primarily spoke Aramaic, perhaps along with some Hebrew and Greek . The towns of Nazareth and Capernaum, where Jesus lived, were primarily Aramaic-speaking communities, although Greek was widely spoken in the major cities of the Eastern Mediterranean...

): "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? ... I am Jesus" . In Damascus, St. Ananias
Ananias of Damascus
Ananias , was a disciple of Jesus at Damascus mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, which describes how he was sent by Jesus to restore the sight of "Saul, of Tarsus" and provide him with additional instruction in the way of the...

 cured his blindness, "something like scales" fell from his eyes, and baptized him . It is commonly believed that Saul changes his name to Paul at this time, but the source of this claim is unknown, the first mention of another name is later , during his first missionary journey.

Several years later, Barnabas
Barnabas
Barnabas , born Joseph, was an Early Christian, one of the earliest Christian disciples in Jerusalem. In terms of culture and background, he was a Hellenised Jew, specifically a Levite. Named an apostle in , he and Saint Paul undertook missionary journeys together and defended Gentile converts...

 and Paul set out on a mission (13-14) to further spread Christianity, particularly among the Gentiles. Paul travels through Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

, preaching and visiting churches throughout the region.

Council of Jerusalem



Paul travels to Jerusalem where he meets with the apostles — a meeting known as the Council of Jerusalem . Paul's own record of the meeting appears to be Galatians 2
Epistle to the Galatians
The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, often shortened to Galatians, is the ninth book of the New Testament. It is a letter from Paul of Tarsus to a number of Early Christian communities in the Roman province of Galatia in central Anatolia...

, however, due to the differences, some argue Gal 2 is a different meeting. Members of the Jerusalem church have been preaching that circumcision
Circumcision controversy in early Christianity
There is evidence of a controversy over religious male circumcision in Early Christianity. A Council of Jerusalem, possibly held in approximately 50 AD, decreed that male circumcision was not a requirement for Gentile converts. This became known as the "Apostolic Decree" and may be one of the...

 is required for salvation. Paul and his associates strongly disagree. After much discussion, James the Just, leader of the Jerusalem church, decrees that Gentile Christian converts need not follow all of the Mosaic Law
613 mitzvot
The 613 commandments is a numbering of the statements and principles of law, ethics, and spiritual practice contained in the Torah or Five Books of Moses...

, and in particular, they do not need to be circumcised.

The decision of the Council came to be called the Apostolic Decree and was that most Mosaic law, including the requirement for circumcision of males, was not obligatory for Gentile
Gentile
The term Gentile refers to non-Israelite peoples or nations in English translations of the Bible....

 converts, possibly in order to make it easier for them to join the movement. However, the Council did retain the prohibitions against eating meat containing blood, or meat of animals not properly slain, and against "fornication
Fornication
Fornication typically refers to consensual sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other. For many people, the term carries a moral or religious association, but the significance of sexual acts to which the term is applied varies between religions, societies and cultures. The...

" and idol worship
Idolatry
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

. Beginning with Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

, many have seen a connection to Noahide Law, while some modern scholars reject the connection to Noahide Law and instead see as the basis. See also Old Testament Law directed at non-Jews and Leviticus 18
Leviticus 18
Leviticus 18 is a chapter of the Biblical book of Leviticus. It narrates part of the instructions given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. The chapter deals with a number of sexual activities considered 'unclean' or 'abominable'...

. In effect, however, the Jerusalem Church created a double standard: one for Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians is a term which appears in historical texts contrasting Christians of Jewish origin with Gentile Christians, both in discussion of the New Testament church and the second and following centuries....

 and one for Gentile converts. See Dual-covenant theology
Dual-covenant theology
Dual-covenant theology is a Liberal Christian view that holds that Jews may simply keep the Law of Moses, because of the "everlasting covenant" between Abraham and God expressed in the Hebrew Bible, whereas Gentiles must convert to Christianity or alternatively accept the Seven Laws of Noah...

 for the modern debate.

Paul spends the next few years traveling through western Asia Minor and (some believe) founds his first Christian church in Philippi
Philippi
Philippi was a city in eastern Macedonia, established by Philip II in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest...

. Paul then travels to Thessalonica, where he stays for some time before departing for southern Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. In Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, Paul visits an altar with an inscription dedicated to an unknown god, so when he gives his speech on the Areopagos, he proclaims to worship that same unknown god whom he identifies as the Christian God
God in Christianity
In Christianity, God is the eternal being that created and preserves the universe. God is believed by most Christians to be immanent , while others believe the plan of redemption show he will be immanent later...

.

Upon Paul's arrival in Jerusalem, he was confronted with the rumor of teaching against the Law of Moses
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

 . Perhaps to show that he was "living in obedience to the law", Paul took a biblical vow
Nazirite
In the Hebrew Bible, a nazirite or nazarite, , refers to one who voluntarily took a vow described in . The term "nazirite" comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning "consecrated" or "separated"...

 along with some others . Near the end of the days of the vow, Paul was recognized outside Herod's Temple and was nearly beaten to death by a mob, "shouting, 'Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place'" . Paul is rescued from the mob by a Roman commander and accused of being a revolutionary, "ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes", teaching resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatologies, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to...

, and thus imprisoned in Caesarea . Paul asserts his right, as a Roman citizen, to be tried in Rome. Paul is sent by sea to Rome, where he spends another two years under house arrest, proclaiming the Kingdom of God
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

 and teaching the "Lord Jesus Christ" . Surprisingly, Acts does not record the outcome of Paul's legal troubles — some traditions hold that Paul was ultimately executed in Rome, while other traditions have him surviving the encounter and later traveling to Spain — see Paul - Imprisonment & Death.

Universality of Christianity


One of the central themes of Acts, indeed of the New Testament (see also Great Commission
Great Commission
The Great Commission, in Christian tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing missionary work, evangelism, and baptism...

) is the universality of Christianity—the idea that Jesus's teachings were for all humanity—Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 and Gentiles alike. In this view, Christianity is seen as a religion in its own right, rather than a subset of Judaism, if one makes the common assumption that Judaism is not universal, however see Noahide Laws
Noahide Laws
The Seven Laws of Noah form the major part of the Noachide Laws, or Noahide Code. This code is a set of moral imperatives that, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humankind...

 and Christianity and Judaism for details. Whereas the members of Jewish Christianity were circumcised and adhered to dietary laws, the Pauline Christianity
Pauline Christianity
Pauline Christianity is a term used to refer to the Christianity associated with the beliefs and doctrines espoused by Paul of Tarsus through his writings. Most of orthodox Christianity relies heavily on these teachings and considers them to be amplifications and explanations of the teachings of...

 featured in Acts did not require Gentiles to be circumcised or to obey all of the Mosaic laws
613 mitzvot
The 613 commandments is a numbering of the statements and principles of law, ethics, and spiritual practice contained in the Torah or Five Books of Moses...

, which is consistent with Noahide Law. The final chapter of Acts ends with Paul condemning non-Christian Jews and saying "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!" . See also New Covenant (theology).

Holy Spirit


As in the Gospel of Luke, there are numerous references to the Holy Spirit throughout Acts. Acts features the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" on Pentecost and the subsequent spirit-inspired speaking in tongues. The Holy Spirit is shown guiding the decisions and actions of Christian leaders, and the Holy Spirit is said to "fill" the apostles, especially when they preach. As a result, Acts is particularly influential among branches of Christianity which place particular emphasis in the Holy Spirit, such as Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism is a diverse and complex movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has an eschatological focus, and is an experiential religion. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek...

 and the Charismatic movement
Charismatic movement
The term charismatic movement is used in varying senses to describe 20th century developments in various Christian denominations. It describes an ongoing international, cross-denominational/non-denominational Christian movement in which individual, historically mainstream congregations adopt...

.

Attention to the oppressed and persecuted


The Gospel of Luke and Acts both devote a great deal of attention to the oppressed and downtrodden. The impoverished are generally honored. A great deal of attention is devoted to women in general, and to widows in particular. The Samaritans of Samaria
Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

 (see map at Iudaea Province
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

), had their temple on Mount Gerizim
Mount Gerizim
Mount Gerizim is one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of the West Bank city of Nablus , and forms the southern side of the valley in which Nablus is situated,...

, and along with some other differences, see Samaritanism, were in conflict with Jews of Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

 and Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

 and other regions who had their Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

 and practiced Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

. Unexpectedly, since Jesus was a Jewish Galilean, the Samaritans are shown favorably in Luke-Acts
Luke-Acts
Luke-Acts is the name usually given by Biblical scholars to the hypothetical composite work of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament. Together they describe the Ministry of Jesus and the subsequent lives of the Apostles and the Apostolic Age.Both the books of Luke and...

. In Acts, attention is given to the religious persecution of the early Christians, as in the case of Stephen's martyrdom and the numerous examples are Paul's persecution for his preaching of Christianity.

Prayer


Prayer is a major motif in both the Gospel of Luke and Acts. Both books have a more prominent attention to prayer than is found in the other gospels. The Gospel of Luke depicts prayer as a certain feature in Jesus's life. Examples of prayer which are unique to Luke include Jesus's prayers at the time of his baptism , his praying all night before choosing the twelve , and praying for the transfiguration . Acts also features an emphasis on prayer and includes a number of notable prayers such as the Believers' Prayer , Stephen's death prayer , and Simon Magus' prayer . See also Prayer in the New Testament
Prayer in the New Testament
Prayer in the New Testament is presented as a positive command . The people of God are challenged to include prayer in their everyday life, even in the busy struggles of marriage as it brings people closer to God....

.

Speeches


Acts features twenty-four extended speeches or sermons from Peter, Paul, and others. The speeches comprise about 30% of the total verses. These speeches, which are given in full, have been the source of debates over the historical accuracy of Acts. Some scholars have objected to the language of the speeches as too Lukan in style to reflect anyone else's words. George Shillington writes that the author of Acts most likely created the speeches accordingly and they bear his literary and theological marks. Conversely, Howard Marshall writes that the speeches were not entirely the inventions of the author and while they may not be verbatim, nevertheless records the general idea. He compares this to the work of the historian Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 who found it difficult recording speeches verbatim but instead made the speakers say what he felt was appropriate for them to say on the occasion while adhering as much as possible to the general sense.

See also

  • Acts 29 Network
    Acts 29 Network
    The Acts 29 Network is a Christian organization dedicated to church planting. It derives its name from the Book of Acts in the New Testament, which has 28 chapters, making Acts 29 the "next chapter" in the history of the church...

  • List of Gospels
  • List of omitted Bible verses
  • Textual variants in the Acts of the Apostles

Acts of the Apostles (genre)
Acts of the Apostles (genre)
The Acts of the Apostles is a genre of Early Christian literature, recounting the lives and works of the apostles of Jesus. The Acts are important for many reasons, one of them being the concept of apostolic succession...

  • Acts of Andrew
    Acts of Andrew
    The Acts of Andrew , is the earliest testimony of the acts and miracles of the Apostle Andrew. The surviving version is alluded to in a 3rd century work, the Coptic Manichaean Psalter, providing a terminus ante quem, according to its editors, M.R. James and Jean-Marc Prieur in The Anchor Bible...

  • Acts of Barnabas
    Acts of Barnabas
    The text of the pseudepigraphical Acts of Barnabas claims to identify its author as "John Mark," the companion of Paul, as if writing an account of Barnabas, the Cypriot Jew who was a member of the earliest church at Jerusalem; through the services of Barnabas the convert Saul was welcomed into the...

  • Acts of John
    Acts of John
    The Acts of John is a collection of narratives and traditions concerning John the Apostle, well described as a "library of materials" , inspired by the Gospel of John, long known in fragmentary form...

  • Acts of the Martyrs
    Acts of the Martyrs
    Acts of the Martyrs are accounts of the suffering and death of a Christian martyr or group of martyrs. These accounts were collected and used in church liturgies from early times, as attested by Saint Augustine....

  • Acts of Paul
    Acts of Paul
    The Acts of Paul is one of the major works and earliest pseudepigraphal series from the New Testament also known as Apocryphal Acts, an approximate date given to the Acts of Paul is 160 CE. The Acts were first mentioned by Tertullian. Tertullian found it heretical because it encouraged women to...

  • Acts of Paul and Thecla
    Acts of Paul and Thecla
    The Acts of Paul and Thecla is an apocryphal story— Goodspeed called it a "religious romance"— of St Paul's influence on a young virgin named Thecla. It is one of the writings of the New Testament Apocrypha.- The text :...

  • Acts of Peter
    Acts of Peter
    The Acts of Peter is one of the earliest of the apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. The majority of the text has survived only in the Latin translation of the Vercelli manuscript. It is mainly notable for a description of a miracle contest between Saint Peter and Simon Magus, and as the first record...

  • Acts of Peter and Paul
    Acts of Peter and Paul
    The Acts of Peter and Paul is a late text from the New Testament apocrypha, thought to date from after the 4th century. An alternate version exists, known as the Passion of Peter and Paul, with variances in the introductory part of the text.-Synopsis:...

  • Acts of Peter and the Twelve
    Acts of Peter and the Twelve
    The Acts of Peter and the Twelve is one of the texts from the New Testament apocrypha which was found in the Nag Hammadi library.The text contains two parts, an initial allegory, and a subsequent gnostic exposition of its meaning...

  • Acts of Pilate
    Acts of Pilate
    The Acts of Pilate , also called the Gospel of Pilate, is a book of New Testament apocrypha. The dates of its accreted sections are uncertain, but scholars agree in assigning the resulting work to the middle of the fourth century...

  • Acts of Philip
  • Acts of Thomas
    Acts of Thomas
    The early 3rd century text called Acts of Thomas is one of the New Testament apocrypha, portraying Christ as the "Heavenly Redeemer", independent of and beyond creation, who can free souls from the darkness of the world. References to the work by Epiphanius of Salamis show that it was in...

  • Acts of Timothy
    Acts of Timothy
    The Acts of Timothy are a work of New Testament apocrypha, most likely from the 5th century, which are primarily concerned with portraying the apostle Timothy as the first bishop of Ephesus and describing his death during a violent pagan festival in the same town.- History :For many years these...

  • The Lost Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles
    The Lost Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles
    The Lost Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, also known as the Sonnini Manuscript, is a short text purporting to be the translation of a manuscript containing the 29th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, detailing St. Paul's journey to Britain, where he preached to a tribe of Israelites on...


External links