THE BOOK OF ACTS

 

1. Who wrote the Book of Acts?

1.1. It has already been determined that the Book of Acts was written by Luke. Acts is the second part of a two-volume work. The Book of Acts begins with a summary of the previous volume, the Gospel of Luke, and then introduces the second volume. In Acts 1:1-5, Luke writes:

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after he had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom he had chosen. To these he also presented himself alive after his suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God. Gathering them together, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "which," he said, "you heard of from me for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

Clearly, he intends Acts to be the second volume of a two volume work: volume one (Luke) describes Jesus' ministry and passion; volume two (Acts) describes events after Jesus' ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit. As a literary parallel to Luke-Acts, it should be noted that Josephus writes a two-volume work, and introduces the second volume in a similar manner. He states:

In the first volume of this work, my most esteemed Epaphroditus, I demonstrated the antiquity of our race, corroborating my statements by the writings of Phoenicians, Chaldeans and Egyptians, besides citing as witnesses numerous Greek historians; I also challenged the statements of Manetho, Chaeremon and some others. I shall now proceed to refute the rest of the authors who attacked us... (Apion 2.1).

1.2. The correct use of somewhat idiosyncratic political titles corroborates the view that the Book of Acts was written by someone historically close to the events narrated, such as Luke was. To get such details correct would be much less likely for an author who was further removed in time from the events.

  • The city magistrates of Thessalonica are referred to by the title of politarchai, which inscriptions have confirmed to be the correct title for them (17:6, 8).
  • The chief magistrate in Ephesus are said to be called grammateus, which inscriptions have confirmed to be the correct title (19:35).
  • The title proconsul (anthupatos) is correctly used for the governors of the two senatorial provinces referred to in Acts (13:7-8, Acts 18:12).

1.3. Lukan authorship of the Book of Acts explains the extensive linguistic agreement between the it and the Gospel of Luke and the details that Luke includes about the church in Antioch, the city from which he hailed. What does Luke say about Antioch in Acts 6:5 and 13:1, and how may this indicate Lukan authorship?

In Acts 6:5 Nicolas is the only one of the seven men chosen whose provenance is specified: "Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch." Luke may have included the fact because it was of personal interest to him since this is where he was from. In addition, Antioch is the only gentile church whose leaders (prophets and teachers) are mentioned: "Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul" (Acts 13:1). Luke may have included these names because he was personally familiar with these men.

1.4. Several early, reliable secondary sources confirm the Lukan authorship of the Book of Acts.

1.4.1. The Muratorian canon states the following about the authorship of Acts: "Moreover the Acts of the Apostles are included in one book. For 'most excellent Theophilus' Luke compiled the individual events that took place in his presence..."

1.4.2. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue identifies Luke as the author of a second volume, Acts: "And afterwards the same Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles."

1.4.3. In context of a discussion of authorship of Hebrews and whether the author was Luke, Origen identifies the author of Acts as Luke, the same who wrote the gospel: "Others that it was Luke, he who wrote the gospel and the Acts" (H.E. 6.25.14).

1.4.4. Clement of Alexandria accepts Lukan authorship of Acts, as indicated by the following statement: "As Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates that Paul said, 'Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious'" (Strom. 5.12). Similarly, Eusebius indicates that the view of Clement of Alexandria was that Luke wrote the Book of Acts, and from this concluded further that Luke may also have translated Hebrews since it is so much like Acts in style and vocabulary. He writes, "And he says that the Epistle to the Hebrews is Paul's, and was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language; but that Luke, having carefully translated it, gave it to the Greeks, and hence the same coloring in the expression is discoverable in this letter and the Acts" (H.E. 6.14.2-3).

1.4.5. Jerome states as an accepted fact that Luke wrote both a gospel and the Book of Acts: "He also wrote another excellent volume to which he prefixed the title Acts of the Apostles, a history which extends to the second year of Paul's sojourn at Rome, that is to the fourth year of Nero" (de vir. ill. 7).
 

2. For whom was the Book of Acts written?

From Acts 1:1, what do you conclude about the intended readership of the Book of Acts?

The intended reader of the Book of Acts was Theophilus. No doubt, Luke also had a larger readership in mind.
 

3. When was the Book of Acts written?

3.1. Internal Evidence

3.1.1. From Acts 28:30, what do you conclude about the terminus a quo of the composition of the Book of Acts? Keep in mind that chapter 28 is the last chapter of the book.

At the earliest, the Book of Acts was written two years after Paul's imprisonment in Rome, c. 62.

3.1.2. What might the fact that the last event in the Book of Acts is Paul's imprisonment in Rome also indicate about the terminus ad quem of the Book of Acts?

It could be that Luke said nothing about events after Paul's first two years of his Roman imprisonment because nothing had happened. This means that he completed the Book of Acts two years after Paul arrived in Rome.

3.1.3. There are several arguments from silence for a relatively early date for the Book of Acts:

  • There is no direct reference to or any other evidence of acquaintance with Paul’s letters in Acts, which may be interpreted to mean that Luke his work before a collection of his letters was made and began to circulate among the churches, some time in the latter part of the first century.
  • There is no direct reference or even allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem, which may imply that Acts was written before 70.
  • There is no reference to the death of James the brother of Jesus, the leader of the Jerusalem church, shortly before Vespasian's siege of Jerusalem in 68. The omission of this important event may imply that Luke wrote Acts before that event.
  • There is no reference to Nero's persecution of the church, which may suggest that Luke completed the work before 65.

How convincing are these arguments from silence?

While a certain amount of weight should be given to these arguments, it should be noted, nonetheless, that arguments from silence are weak arguments. There may be other explanations for the omission of these events from the Book of Acts other than that they have not yet happened.

3.2. External Evidence

3.2.1. Any conclusion about the terminus ad quem of the Book of Acts based upon the fact that it ends with Paul's having been in prison in Rome for two years is weakened by two data.

A. If Luke used the Gospel of Mark as a source for his gospel, if he wrote his gospel before the Book of Acts and if Mark wrote his gospel in the late 60's, then the Book of Acts must have been written several years after Paul's first Roman imprisonment.

B. The Muratorian canon offers an early and plausible explanation for why Luke omitted events that took place after Paul's first two years of  imprisonment in Rome:

"Luke addressed them [Luke and Acts] to the most excellent Theophilus, because the several events took place when he was present; he makes this plain by the omission of the passion of Peter and of the journey of Paul when he left Rome for Spain."

As already indicated, it seems that the explanation is that Luke did not include accounts of Peter's death or Paul's further journeys after his release from his Roman incarceration (to Spain?) because he was not an eyewitness of these events (and presumably because he did not have access to other eyewitness accounts).

3.3. What do you conclude about the date of the composition of the Book of Acts?

The internal and external evidence does not all point in the same direction, so that based on the internal it is possible to argue for a date before 70 and even as early as the early 60's and on the external evidence for a date not before the early 70's. It is probably best to leave the question unanswered or to provide a wide range of dates.
 

4. Where was the Book of Acts written?

4.1. From all available data, where might Luke have written the Book of Acts?

Luke could have written the Book of Acts almost anywhere. It is possible that Luke wrote his work in stages, so that the Book of Acts was written in many places.

4.2. Jerome concludes from the fact that Luke concludes the Book of Acts with Paul's imprisonment in Rome that Luke wrote the work in Rome. He writes, "He [Luke] also wrote another excellent volume to which he prefixed the title Acts of the Apostles, a history which extends to the second year of Paul's sojourn at Rome, that is to the fourth year of Nero, from which we learn that the book was composed in that same city" (de vir. ill. 7). Jerome's inference, however, seems to be without basis, for two reasons. First, there is no reason that the location of the last event in the work should be the place where it was written. Second, Luke could easily have written the Book of Acts in stages, in which case there would be many provenances for the text.
 

5. What is the Book of Acts?

5.1. Introduction

The Book of Acts is a selective history of the early church told from a Christian point of view; it focuses primarily on two figures: Peter and Paul. The title "Acts of the Apostles" was first used by Irenaeus in the late second century (Adv. Haer. 3.13.3); it has been suggested, however, that the better title of the work would be "Acts of the Holy Spirit," since the events described occur consequent upon the giving of the Spirit (Acts 2).

5.2. Sources of Book of Acts

5.2.1. There are three passages consisting of ninety-seven verses in which Luke uses the first person plural, rather than the third person as in the rest of the book (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). Although some have disputed it, the best explanation for these "we-sections" is Luke's memory or perhaps short accounts that he himself wrote of events in which he was a participant. If one claims, as is sometimes done, that the we-sections are a fraudulent attempt to claim eyewitness status for the Book of Acts, the question that needs to be addressed is why the whole document was not written in the first person. Another explanation for the we-sections sometimes proffered is that the author used a source written by an eyewitness of the events narrated, which would explain the use of the first person. But why the author did not identify the source or change the first person into the third person remains a problem. Besides one would need to explain the linguistic homogeneity of the Book of Acts. The we-sections are linguistically so indistinguishable from the rest of Acts (and the Gospel of Luke), that it is highly probable that whoever wrote the we-sections wrote the whole work (Hawkins, Horae Synopticae, 182-89).

5.2.2. Luke had one written source at his disposal: the copy of the letter sent from the Jerusalem church to Paul's predominately gentile congregations, which he reproduces in Acts 15:23-29. If Luke made use of other written sources, however, it is impossible to identify them based on vocabulary and style: there is such a linguistic homogeneity in Acts that one must conclude that, if they existed at all, Luke thoroughly redacted his sources. But, in fact, the hypothesis that Luke used other written sources is unnecessary. This is because Luke had access to many people who were eyewitnesses of the events that he described in the Book of Acts, which means that he would not need written sources, even if they existed. Based on the following passages, what might Luke's network of eyewitness sources have been?

A. Acts 12:12; Col 4:10, 14

Luke's contact with John Mark as potential source for early events centered in Jerusalem or nearby.

B. Acts 21:8; 6:5

Luke's contact with Philip and his daughters at Caesarea (Acts 21:8) could be a source of information for Acts 6:1-8:3, since Philip was associated with Stephen, since both were one of the seven (Acts 6:5).

C. Acts 21:16

Luke lodged with a Cypriot named Mnason who is said to be an "early disciple," which would make him a possible source of information on the earliest history of the church.

D. Acts 11:22, 25-26; 13:1; 15:22, 35

Luke's connection to Antioch may mean that he had contact with Barnabas, who likewise was a sometime resident of the city. Barnabas could have given Luke information about the early career of Paul since he was an associate of Paul in those early years (Acts 9, 13:1-16:10).

E. Acts 20:4; Col 4:7-17; Phlm 23-24

Luke's contact with Paul himself and men in his circle, such Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia, would give Luke access to information about events in Paul's apostolic career to which he was not an eyewitness (20:4). There are also other of Paul's associates to whom Luke may have had access (Col 4:7-17; Phlm 23-24).

5.2.3. There are many speeches in the Book of Acts, constituting about twenty percent of the work: 1:15-22 (Peter); 2:14-36 (Peter); 3:12-26 (Peter); 4:8-12 (Peter); 4:24-31 (Peter and John); 5:34-39 (Gamaliel); 7:2-53 (Stephen); 10:34-43 (Peter); 11:1-17 (Peter); 13:16-40 (Paul); 15:7-11 (Peter); 15:13-21 (James); 17:22-31 (Paul); 20:18-35 (Paul); 22:1-21 (Paul); 25:14-22 (Festus); 26:1-23 (Paul). Although these are probably not all verbatim accounts, Luke no doubt provides a accurate summary of what was said by these people on different occasions. He probably adhered to the same methodological ideal as the Greek historian Thucydides:

As to the speeches which were made either before or during the war, it was hard for me, and for others who reported them to me, to recollect the exact words. I have therefore put into the mouth of each speaker the sentiments proper to the occasion, expressed as I thought he would be likely to express them, while at the same time I endeavored, as nearly as I could, to give the general purport of what was actually said (Hist. 1.22.1).

Similarly, Luke would have agreed unquestionably with Polybius' disapproval of the practice of inventing speeches, since the task of the historian was "to instruct and convince for all time serious students by the truth of the facts and the speeches he narrates" (Hist. 2.56.10–12). After all he promised Theophilus that he would "write an orderly account for you...in order you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:3-4). Thus the skeptical position that the author of the Book of Acts created the speeches as expressions of his own theological views is unjustified. Luke no doubt obtained information about what was said on various occasions from his sources and then composed his speeches based on that.

5.3. The Book of Acts can be structured in different ways. These are three possibilities.

5.3.1. The Book of Acts can be organized according to a geographical and biographical structure.

A. 1-12 From Jerusalem to Antioch focusing on Peter

B. 13-28 From Antioch to Rome focusing on Paul

5.3.2. The Book of Acts can be organized according to a thematic/theological structure, having as its mid-point Acts 15:35/36.

A. Part One: The period before the clarification of the gentile question at the Jerusalem council (Acts 1-15)

B. Part Two: The period after the clarification of the gentile question at the Jerusalem council (Acts15-28)

5.3.3. The Book of Acts can be organized in accord with another geographical structure based on the missionary command in Acts 1:8 to bear witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the far reaches of the earth.  It should be noted that in the two-volume work of Luke/Acts there is first (Luke) a movement towards Jerusalem where Jesus is crucified and resurrected, which is followed by a movement away from Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus (Acts). Related to this is the movement in Luke/Acts from Jew to gentile. This is the structure that is followed below.

5.4. Outline of the Book of Acts

 A. 1:1-5

In the prologue, Luke describes his work as the second volume of a two-volume work, which he has dedicated to Theophilus.
 

B. 1:6-26

Jesus ascends to heaven, and the disciples remain in Jerusalem waiting the fulfillment of the giving of the Holy Spirit. Lots are drawn in order to replace Judas as one of the twelve; the lot falls to Matthias.
 

C. 2:1-8:3

The spread of gospel within Jerusalem is described.

1. 2:1-41

The Holy Spirit falls upon those gathered in upper room of a house, and they begin to speak in other languages, so that all foreigners who have come to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost hear the gospel in their native tongues. Peter explains what is happening as the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. He also cites Ps 16:8-11 as fulfilled by Jesus' resurrection: God did not allow his holy one to see corruption. Peter commands all to repent and be baptized in order that they may receive the Holy Spirit.

2. 2:42-47

The early Jerusalem church is described as meeting regularly to hear the apostles' teaching, share common life, break bread and pray. The church met in the Temple, and broke bread in private homes; there was a communal sharing of all things. A sense of awe was upon all, and many wonders and signs were performed through the apostles. Many were added day by day to the church.

3. 3:1-26

Peter heals a lame man in the Temple and explains what he did to those who witnessed the healing. He explains that he healed the lame man by the power of Jesus, whom they handed over to Pilate to ne executed, but whom God raised from the dead. Peter exhorts his hearers to repent, and cites Deut 18, 15, 18-19 as fulfilled in Jesus: he is the prophet like Moses whom God has raised up.

4. 4:1-22

Because of the healing of the lame man, Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin. Peter defends his action by saying that it was in the name of Jesus that this lame man was healed. He cites Ps 118:22 as fulfilled in Jesus: he is the rejected capstone.

5. 4:23-31

Upon their release, Peter and John pray citing Ps 2:1-2 as fulfilled of Jesus: he is the anointed one installed by God against whom and the Lord the nations rage and the kings and rulers oppose. After the prayer the place where they prayed was filled with the Holy Spirit.

6. 4:32-37

The Jerusalem church is described as living communally, sharing everything in common.

7. 5:1-11

Ananias and Sapphira die under God's judgment, because they lied to the Holy Spirit about the value of some land that they sold.

8. 5:12-16

It is said that the apostles performed many signs and wonders and that the church met in Solomon's portico and was held in high regard by the people. Many were added to the church and people brought their sick and demon possessed to be healed.

9. 5:17-42

The apostles are arrested by the high priest, but are released by an angel and commanded to preach in the Temple. When later told not to teach in Jesus' name, Peter replies that they must obey God rather than men. Gamaliel convinces the Sanhedrin to take a "wait and see" attitude towards the Christian movement, because, if it is of man, it will founder, but, if it is of God, they will be found to be opposing God.

10. 6:1-7

The apostles chose seven men to take care of the daily distribution of food to the widows. One of these is Stephen.

11. 6:8-7:60

Stephen is brought to the Sanhedrin because he allegedly speaking against the Temple and the Law. He defends himself in a long discourse, in which he tries to prove from scripture God does not dwell in houses made with human hands and that Jesus is the Righteous One, whom his generation put to death. Stephen's hearers are enraged and stone him; a certain Saul is complicit in this.

12. 8:1-3

After Stephen's martyrdom, a persecution breaks out against the church in Jerusalem. Many are scattered to other parts of Judea and to Samaria. Unexplainably, only the apostles remain behind.
 

D. 8:4-11:18

The spread of the gospel into Samaria and coastal regions is described.

1. 8:4-25

Philip preaches "the Christ" in Samaria with much success, healing and exorcising. Even Simon the sorcerer believes, who later tries to buy the gift of the Spirit from the apostles, who arrived in Samaria after hearing of Philip's success. Peter rebukes Simon, who repents.

2. 8:26-40

An angel of the Lord commands Philip to go to the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza, where he encounters an Ethiopian eunuch, puzzling over the meaning of Isa 53. Philip explains that this passage speaks of Jesus, proclaims to the eunuch the gospel about Jesus and then baptizes him. Philip is snatched away by the Spirit, finding himself at Azotus, where he preaches the gospel.

3. 9:1-31

Saul (Paul) pursues believers from Jerusalem who fled to Damascus. On his way, he sees a vision of the risen Christ and hears him ask why Paul is persecuting him. Saul is struck blind, but continues to Damascus, where a certain Ananias, being commanded by God, reluctantly goes and prays for Saul, whereupon his sight is restored. Paul is said to be God's chosen instrument to bring God's name before the gentiles. Saul is then baptized and begins to preach that Jesus is the son of God and the Christ in Damascus. Because of hostility from unbelieving Jews, Saul must secretly escape from the city and goes to Jerusalem. Because the church still feared Saul, Barnabas takes Saul to the apostles. Saul disputes with the Hellenistic Jews in Jerusalem and they plot against him. Thus he escapes to Caesarea.

4. 9:32-42

Peter preaches the gospel in Lydda, Sharon and Joppa. He heals Aeneas in Lydda and Tabitha in Joppa. In Joppa many believed because of this Tabitha's healing.

5. 10:1-11:18

The "god-fearing" Roman Cornelius receives an angelic command to send to Joppa for Peter. In Joppa, Peter has a vision in which God tells him not to call unclean what God has called clean. When Cornelius's emissaries arrive Peter understands that the vision refers to gentiles, so he travels to Caesarea, where he preaches the gospel to Cornelius and his household. While Peter is preaching, the Holy Spirit falls upon Cornelius and others. In amazement, Peter concludes that he cannot withhold baptism from these gentiles whom God has poured out his Holy Spirit.
 

E. 11:19-15:35

The spread of the gospel to Antioch and beyond is described.

1. 11:19-30

The founding of the church in Antioch is described. When news of this came to them, the apostles in Jerusalem sent Barnabas, who went to Tarsus and brought Saul to Antioch. The prophet Agabus came to Antioch from Jerusalem and foretold of a severe famine.

2. 12:1-19a

Herod Agrippa martyrs James the apostle. Peter is also arrested and placed in prison in order to be executed after Passover. Peter escapes, however, from prison by the assistance of an angel.

3. 12:19b-25

Herod Agrippa dies under the judgment of God because he did not give glory to God when the people of Sidon and Tyre proclaimed him as a god.

4. 13:1-14:28

Paul's first missionary journey with Silas and John Mark is described.

a. 13:1-12

Paul and company travel from Antioch to Seleucia to Salamis on Cyprus, where they preached the gospel in Jewish synagogues. In Paphos in Cyprus, they meet opposition from the sorcerer Elymas, who tries to turn the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, away from the faith. In the power of the Spirit, Saul strikes him blind as judgment.

b. 13:13-52

By ship, Saul and his associated go to Perga in the province of Pamphylia, where John Mark leaves and returns to Jerusalem. From here they go to Pisidian Antioch in the Roman province of Galatia, where Saul preaches the gospel in the synagogue there. On a Sabbath, Saul explains that the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, but God raised him from the dead; he cites Ps 2:7, Isa 55:3 and Ps 16:10 as fulfilled of Jesus. On the next Sabbath, Paul and Barnabas warn the Jews, who have rejected their message, that they will take the gospel to the gentiles, citing Isa 49:6 as predictive of this. Paul and Barnabas are forced by the Jews to leave Antioch.

c. 14:1-20

From Antioch, Paul and Barnabas go to Iconium, where they are also preach in the synagogue there and forced to leave. They then travel to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia. In Lystra, because of Paul's healing of a lame man, the people acclaim Barnabas and Paul as gods. But Jews from Antioch and Iconium convince the crowds otherwise and they stone Paul.

d. 14:20-28

Paul and Barnabas trace their steps backwards, travel through the cities in which they already preached the gospel and return to Antioch in Syria.

5. 15:1-35

A dispute arises in Antioch about whether gentiles must keep the Torah in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas travel to Jerusalem to have the issue resolved. After some discussion, it is decided that gentiles do not have to keep the Torah; only a few conditions are imposed them: to abstain what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. Peter supports Paul's position by relating the fact that God gave the Holy Spirit to uncircumcised gentiles, and James undergirds Paul's view by an interpretation of Amos 9:11-12, which predicts the conversion of the gentiles. The apostles and elders in Jerusalem choose men to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch, taking along with them a letter confirming the decision.
 

F. 15:36-20:6

The spread of the gospel westward to Macedonia and Greece is described during Paul's second and third missionary journeys.

1. 15:26-18:22: Paul's Second Missionary Journey

a. 15:36-41

Paul and Barnabas plan to revisit the churches founded during the first missionary journey, but have a falling out because Barnabas wants to bring John Mark against Paul's better judgment. Paul joins with Silas and travel through Cilicia and Syria strengthening the churches.

b. 16:1-10

Paul travels to Derbe and Lystra, where he meets Timothy, who joins Paul in his missionary travels. The group goes through Phrygia and Galatia until they arrive at Troas. Because Paul has a vision, they decide to sail to Macedonia.

c. 16:11-40

Paul and his associates sail to Samothrace, to Neapolis and then to Philippi. In Philippi, Lydia and her household believe the gospel and are baptized; Paul and his associates stay at Lydia's house. On one occasion, Paul drives out a divining spirit from a slave girl, with the result that her masters are outrage at the loss of potential future earnings from this girl's ability to tell the future. As a result, Paul and Silas are thrown in prison, where during that night an earthquake shakes the building and their jailer comes to faith and is baptized along with his household. In the morning they are released.

d. 17:1-15

Paul and Silas travel through Amphipolis and Apollonia and arrive at Thessalonica, where Paul preaches in the synagogue over successive Sabbaths. Although some Jews believe, others seek to do harm to Paul and Silas. They leave for Berea, where the Jews there were more receptive to the gospel. Paul travels to Athens and waits for Timothy and Silas to follow.

e. 17:16-34

In Athens, Paul preaches the gospel at the Areapagus. He tells the Athenians that the altar to the unknown God is the God whom he wishes to make known to them. This God, Paul says, calls for repentance, and has appointed a time when he will judge the world by Jesus, whom he has raised from the dead.

f. 18:1-17

Paul travels to Corinth, where he preaches the gospel in the synagogue there, but experiences resistance and has more success with the gentiles. Paul is joined in Corinth by Timothy and Silas, and stays in the city for six months. On one occasion, hostile Jews accuse Paul unsuccessfully to Gallio, the proconsul.

g. 18:18-22

From Corinth, Paul sets sail for Syria with Aquila and Priscilla. Landing in Caesarea, he visits Jerusalem and then returns to Antioch.

2. 18:23-21:14: Paul's Third Missionary Journey

a. 18:23

Paul travels from Antioch through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the churches.

b. 18:24-28

The ministry of Apollos is described. An Alexandrian, Apollos comes to Ephesus praching the gospel, but has known only the baptism of John. Aquila and Priscilla explain to him the "way" more accurately. Apollos continues his preaching in Achaia.

c. 19:1-20

While Apollos is in Corinth, Paul travels to Ephesus, where he finds some disciples who have not received the baptism of the Spirit, but have only been baptized into John's baptism. These disciples are then baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit. Paul spends the first three months speaking in the synagogue, and, after experiencing resistance, moves to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. Paul spends two years in Ephesus. In Ephesus, God does works of power through Paul, and many believe, giving up sorcery. In one case, the seven sons of Sceva attempt to exorcize a man in the name of the Jesus whom Paul proclaims, but the demon turns on them and gives them a beating, not recognizing their authority.

d. 19:21-41

Paul resolves to go to Macedonia and Achaia. Before he leaves Ephesus, however, a riot breaks out, instigated by the silversmiths who manufacture idols of the goddess Artemis; they are afraid that Paul's evangelistic success will ruin their business. The city scribe calms the mob, and no harm comes to Paul or any others.

e. 20:1-12

Paul travels to Macedonia and then the Achaia, where he stays for three months. Because of a plot against his life, he leaves Achaia with several of his associates, eventually meeting up with them again in Troas. In Troas, Paul heals Eutychus, who falls from a window after falling sleep.

f. 20:13-38

Paul and his associates set sail from Troas, arriving at Miletus, where he sends a message for the Ephesian elders to meet with him. He tells them that his destination is Jerusalem, in spite of the dangers that await him there. He reminds the Ephesian elders of his ministry in Ephesus and warns them that false teachers will infiltrate their church in the future.

g. 21:1-14

Paul and his associates travel from Miletus to Tyre, where Paul is warned by disciples through the Spirit not to go the Jerusalem. From Tyre the group travel to Ptolemais and then to Caesarea, where they stay with Philip, who has four daughters, who are prophetesses. The prophet Agabus comes from Judea and warns Paul not to go to Jerusalem, because he will be arrested.
 

G. 21:15-28:31

The spread of the gospel to Rome is described.

1. 21:15-36

Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Paul visits James and all the elders, relating to them what God did among the gentiles. In order to allay fears that Paul has forsaken the Law, the elders recommend that Paul fulfill the Nazarite oath at the Temple. While Paul is in the Temple, some Jews from Asia start a riot by accusing Paul of bringing gentiles into the Temple. Roman soldiers quell the riot and arrest Paul.

2. 21:37-22:30

Paul addresses the riotous mob, explaining how he came to be a believer and apostle. At the point when he says that, while he was in a trance, Jesus told him to go to the gentiles, the mob begins to shout for Paul's death. Paul is taken to the citadel adjacent to the Temple, and, because he is a Roman citizen, is spared an interrogation by torture. He is released and brought before the Sanhedrin the next day.

3. 23:1-11

The Sanhedrin is divided in their opinion of Paul: the Pharisees on the council are sympathetic because of Paul's belief in the resurrection, whereas the Sadducees are hostile. The disagreement turns violent and Paul is taken back to the citadel for his own protection.

4. 23:12-24:26

Some Jews conspire to kill Paul by ambushing him. Paul's nephew hears of the plot and tells the tribune, who then transfers Paul in an armed escort to Caesarea, to be under the protection of the governor Felix. There Paul waits in vain for the Jews from Jerusalem to lay a complaint against him. While in custody, Paul explains how he became the object of Jewish hostility. Paul also speaks to Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who is Jewish, about faith in Christ Jesus.

5. 24:27-26:30

Two years after Paul arrives in Caesarea, Felix is replaced by Festus. Paul's Jewish opponents ask Festus to bring Paul to Jerusalem to stand trial, because they are planning to kill Paul on the way to Jerusalem. Because Festus is inclined to cooperate with Paul's accusers, Paul appeals to Caesar, to have his case heard in Rome. Before being sent to Rome, Paul is interviewed by Agrippa II and his sister Berenice. Paul explains how he came to be an apostle to the gentiles and how he came to be in custody in Caesarea. He explains to Agrippa that he proclaims nothing that Moses and the prophets did not say would happen, that the Messiah must suffer and be raised from the dead. Paul attempts to convince Agrippa to believe.

6. 27:1-44

Paul sets sail as a prisoner for Rome, but on the way is shipwrecked, and washes up on the island of Malta. The centurion prevents the soldiers from killing Paul along with the other prisoners.

7. 28:1-10

On the island of Malta, Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake, but miraculously does not die. The local inhabitants take him to be a god. Paul also heals the father of Publius, the chief official on the island, as well as many others.

8. 28:11-30

Paul is placed upon a ship that has wintered on the island, and lands at Syracuse, Rhegium and then at Puteoli, where Paul is met by some believers. Arriving in Rome, Paul is put under house arrest, but charges are not forthcoming from Paul's accusers. Paul teaches the Roman Jews about the Kingdom of God, and tries to convince them from the Law and prophets about Jesus. Some Jews are convinced, but many are not, so that Paul quotes Isa 6:9-10 as describing their obstinacy. Paul has been in Rome for two at the end of the Book of Acts.

5.5. Claims of Historical Inaccuracy in the Book of Acts

There are two passages in particular that some point to as historical errors by the author of the Book of Acts. But there are other ways of explaining the data than saying that the author made a mistake.

5.5.1. Acts 5:33-39 gives an summary of the speech of the Pharisee Gamaliel, in which he refers a revolutionary movement led by Theudas (5:36) followed by one under the leadership of Judas the Galilean. Josephus dates the emergence of Judas to about 6, but refers to a revolutionary movement by a Theudas under the procurator during the time of the procurator Fadus (44-46), after the time when Gamaliel is speaking (Ant. 20.97-99). Based on this discrepancy with Josephus some have argued that Luke made an historical error: that he wrongly placed Theudas before Judas. But it is possible that there were two revolutionary movements led by two separate men named Theudas, one before Judas the Galilean and one during the time of Fadus.

5.5.2. Acts 23:31 has been interpreted to mean that Paul was brought by military escort (two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, two hundred spearmen) from Jerusalem to Antipatris in a single night, a distance of about forty-five miles. This is said to be an historical mistake because such a journey would be impossible, since thirty miles a day was about the maximum journey on foot. There are other ways of interpreting this verse, however. It is possible to understand "the soldiers...took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris" to refer to a two-day journey, so that "by night" does not refer to one night but two. The point made is not the duration of the journey during the period of one night but that they chose to travel at night, as opposed to the much hotter day time, and to rest during the day. If so then the reference to "on the next day" does not refer to the next day after leaving Jerusalem but the day after arriving in Antipatris. The party may have reached Nicopolis after the first night (c. 22 miles), and then travelled from there to Antipatris during the next night.
 

6. Why was the Book of Acts written?

6.1. What does Acts 1:1-5 indicate about Luke's purpose in writing the Book of Acts?

It indicates that Luke wrote the Book of Acts to inform Theophilus about events that took place after Jesus' ascension and after the baptism of the Holy Spirit, "the promise of the Father."  One could describe the Book of Acts as the "acts" of the Holy Spirit.

6.2. What would you describe the purpose of Luke's two-volume work, Luke-Acts, to be?

Luke's two-volume work is an account of the appearance of God's salvation in human history. The first volume deals with the coming of the Messiah, his death and resurrection. The second volume deals with the ascension of the Messiah, the sending of the Spirit, and the evangelism of Jews, Samaritans and gentiles, beginning in Jerusalem and moving progressively outward. The focus of the Book of Acts is on Peter and Paul predominantly, which means that Luke was selective in what he included in his work.


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