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Acts: Introduction, Outline, and Argument

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I. Introduction

A. The Title

The inscription “The Acts of the Apostles” probably reaches back to the beginning of the second century CE, since it is found in virtually every MS which contains this book, as well as the anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke (c. 150-80 CE). Although it has been suggested that the wholly anarthrous title Πράξεις ᾿Αποστόλων could be read “Some of the Acts of Some of the Apostles,” this is really quite artificial to the Greek sense.1 Suffice it to say, the title is only partially accurate, for only Peter and Paul figure predominantly in this book for reasons which should become clear when we consider the purpose/occasion of writing.

B. The Author

2. External Evidence

Attestation of Lukan authorship is found in the Muratorian Canon, the anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, and Jerome. These all not only affirm authorship of the Acts by Luke, but Lukan authorship for the book which bears his name, too. Thus the external evidence is both unanimous and early. “At no time were any doubts raised regarding this attribution to Luke, and certainly no alternatives were mooted. The tradition could hardly be stronger . . .”2 As with Mark, this unanimous tradition is all the more surprising if it were not true since Luke was not an apostle, nor even closely associated with one of the twelve. Caird makes the interesting observation:

Not all the traditions of the early Church are to be accepted at their face value, but there are good reasons for accepting this one. . . . a book which was meant for publication must have borne its author’s name from the start. In this respect the literary conventions of the first century were stricter than ours, which allow an author to hide behind a pen-name. Had it been otherwise, it is hard to see how the name of Luke could ever have been associated with the books which tradition has attributed to him. Luke can scarcely be described as a prominent figure in the annals of first-century Christianity.3

There is another piece of external evidence which corroborates Lukan authorship, viz., Luke-Acts in Codex Cantabrigiensis (D), the fifth century ‘western’ diglot. Studies done on the singular readings of D (by G. E. Rice, E. J. Epp, etc.) show that it had certain theological tendencies. Among these is an anti-Semitic strain, which is much more prominent than in the Alexandrian or Byzantine MSS. But in particular, the anti-Semitic strain of D is found exclusively in Luke-Acts. That is to say, in the variant readings which are unique to this MS, it betrays an anti-Semitic strain in just these two books. What is to account for this? Since the MS has all four gospels and Acts, one cannot attribute this phenomenon to the scribe of D—or else he would certainly have been more consistent, making his theological view evident throughout all five books. Nor can we attribute this to Luke himself, for the western text is decidedly inferior and secondary to the Alexandrian, in spite of its antiquity.4 If the theological slant of D in Luke-acts is not due to Luke himself, nor to the scribe(s) of D, it most likely was created by an earlier scribe who copied only Luke and Acts and did not have the other gospels under the same cover. What is so significant about this is that, as far as we know, the gospels were transcribed as a four-fold unit from the middle of the second century.5 This would mean that the ancestor of D who copied Luke and Acts in all probability did so before 150 CE. Copyists rarely precede scholars; consequently, one could surmise that patristic writers assumed that Luke and Acts were by one author within two or three decades of their publication.6

3. Internal Evidence

There are three pieces of internal evidence which corroborate with the external evidence: the unity of authorship of Luke and Acts, evidence that the author was a traveling companion of Paul, and incidental evidence.7

a. Unity of Authorship of Luke and Acts8

There are five arguments which Guthrie uses to show common authorship:

(1) Both books are dedicated to the same man, Theophilus; (2) Acts refers to the first treatise, which is most naturally understood as the gospel; (3) the books contain strong similarities of language and style; (4) both contain common interests; (5) Acts naturally follows on from Luke’s gospel . . . It may safely be concluded that the evidence is very strong for linking the two books as the work of one man, a conclusion which few modern scholars would dispute.9

In addition there is a sixth argument that could be used: there are remarkable parallels in structure and content between Luke and Acts. To take but one example, “not only is Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem parallel to that of Paul, but also the events that take place when the two men reach the city, and after, are similar.”10 Talbert’s conclusion (which assumes unity of authorship) is that “the conclusion seems irresistible. This architectonic pattern which has Gospel and Acts correspond in content and in sequence at many points is due to deliberate editorial activity by the author of Luke-Acts.”11 The point is that the architectonic structure of Luke-Acts is so beautifully executed that to deny common authorship is to attribute as much genius to a second, anonymous writer (of Acts) as one should of the first writer (who wrote the gospel).12

b. Evidence that the Author was a Companion of Paul

The “we” passages in Acts (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1–28:16), prima facie, suggest a companion of Paul. On this supposition, this particular companion

(1) first joins Paul at Philippi [sic: Troas]; (2) reappears on Paul’s return visit to Philippi; (3) accompanies the apostle on the journey towards Jerusalem and stays with Philip at Caesarea, and (4) after Paul’s two years’ imprisonment at Caesarea, during which time there are no definite data regarding the author’s whereabouts, accompanies Paul to Rome and experiences shipwreck with him. It would also mean that the author could not be any of those companions of Paul who are mentioned by name in these sections (Silas, Timothy, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus, Trophimus).13

c. Indirect Evidence in Support of Lukan Authorship

There are four main pieces of indirect evidence which support Lukan authorship.

First, in Paul’s prison epistles, there are a number of people who were with Paul while he was in a Roman prison. There is a definite probability that the author of Luke-Acts was one of them. Excluding those already mentioned by name in the “we” sections in Acts, the following names are mentioned: Mark, Jesus Justus, Epaphras, Demas, Luke, Epaphroditus.

Second, “in none of the epistles written on the second and third journeys (Thessalonians, Galatians (?), Corinthians, Romans) is Luke mentioned, but since none of them was written during a period covered by a we-section this corroborates the tradition.”14

Third, according to Col. 4:10 and Philemon 24, Luke and Mark were in close contact with one another. Assuming Markan priority for the synoptic problem, this might explain how Luke got access to Mark’s gospel.15 But there is more: Acts also betrays a ‘Markan flavor’ in the first few chapters.

Fourth, Col. 4:14 calls Luke ‘the beloved physician.’ In 1882 W. K. Hobart wrote his celebrated The Medical Language of St. Luke in which he argued that where Matthew and Mark use common, everyday terms, Luke often used medical terms in describing Jesus’ healings. This, however, was challenged by H. J. Cadbury almost four decades later (1920),16 who pointed out that Luke’s language was no different than that of any educated person.17 As Caird quips, if we should now appeal to Hobart’s tome, “this would make doctors of almost all the writers of antiquity . . . ”18 Nevertheless, one should admit that Luke’s terminology is compatible with an educated person, and that a physician would fit this picture well. Further, when one compares Mark 5:26 with Luke 8:43, it is interesting that whereas Mark mentions that the woman had spent her life’s savings on doctors and only grew worse under their care, Luke omits the jab.

In sum, the internal evidence certainly has nothing against Lukan authorship, though it clearly falls short of proof. This is all the more reason to accept Lukan authorship, for this is the unanimous testimony from the fathers: “Granted that an ancient scholar might have deduced from the prologue to the Gospel that the author was not an apostle and from the ‘we’ sections of Acts that he was a companion of Paul, he still would have had no means of putting a name to the author if there had not been a valid tradition connecting the books with the name of Luke.”19

Assuming that Luke penned the gospel which bears his name, and the book of Acts, what do we know about him (apart from his occupation)? First, he was probably a Gentile since he is mentioned separately from the “men of the circumcision” in Colossians 4.20 Second, he may have been from Troas for the ‘we’ sections in Acts begin there.21 Beyond this there is very little information within the NT. However, the Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke (found not infrequently attached to Latin MSS of the gospel) adds some interesting information: (1) Luke was a native of Antioch, (2) he wrote the gospel in Achaea, (3) never married, (4) and died at age 84 in Boetia. since the same source adds other, extremely doubtful information, all of the above is suspect as well.22

4. Arguments against Lukan Authorship

There are principally three arguments against Lukan authorship.

a. Historical Discrepancies

Many have pointed out apparent discrepancies between Paul’s biographical notes in his Hauptbriefe and other secure epistles with the information about Paul given in Acts. Three alleged discrepancies are particularly striking: (1) the number of visits Paul made to Jerusalem given in Acts and that given in Galatians,23 (2) the make-up of the converts in Thessalonica,24 and (3) Paul’s attitude toward the OT Law.

Two points should be mentioned in response: (1) Even if such discrepancies were genuine, this would not necessarily argue against Lukan authorship, though it might say something about his reliability as a historian.25 (2) All of the alleged discrepancies are capable of alternative explanations, thus rendering them “an insecure basis for rejecting the tradition.”26

b. Different Interpretations of the “We” Sections

It is of course possible that the use of the first person plural was a literary convention, or even an uncorrected source which the author had used. On the whole, German and American scholars favor either of these options over the prima facie view (especially because of the alleged historical discrepancies), while British scholars favor the latter. Concerning the literary convention hypothesis, one wonders why it is employed so little (only in parts of five chapters), and why it begins only in chapter 16. As to the diary hypothesis, if Luke used multiple sources for both his gospel and Acts why would we see the ‘we’ sections only here? Surely he received many first person reports (both written and oral) for the composition of both books.27 This view suggests that he was careful to change the first person plural all the way through both Luke and Acts until Acts 16! Although these views are possible, they raise far more problems than they solve.

c. Theological Difficulties

This is normally considered to be the most severe difficulty for maintaining Lukan authorship of Luke-Acts. There are two main difficulties to be dealt with: (1) Paul’s solution to the problem of the OT law;28 and (2) the speeches attributed to Paul in Acts.29

(1) A superficial reading of Acts suggests that the Paul of Acts is different from the Paul of the epistles in his handling of the OT law. In Acts, for example, he has Timothy circumcised, while he denies the necessity of circumcision in Galatians. But two pieces of data must be kept in mind here: (a) the reason for Timothy’s circumcision in Acts was related to evangelistic opportunity, while in Galatians he is opposed to circumcision for those who wish to rest on it as essential for salvation. Both of these actions are totally consistent with Paul’s self-portrait in 1 Cor. 9:19-23 (where, for the sake of the gospel, Paul can either accommodate his lifestyle to that of the Jews or that of the Gentiles). (b) The purpose of Acts is different than the purpose of the epistles. Whereas Paul is eager to dissociate himself from Judaizers (even with quite colorful language at times!), Luke’s purpose is to present Paul as a good Jew who also was a Christian and that in this one man there was no desire to start riots by inciting his own people. Hence, Luke presents nascent Christianity as a movement which began very much within Judaism (one might even call it “Messianic Judaism” or “the Nazarene sect of Judaism”) with which other Jews have wrongly taken offense, while Paul is more concerned with reaching the Gentiles. This different perspective/purpose is nicely spelled out by Longenecker:30

Undoubtedly there are differences between the Paul of his own letters and the Paul of his “biographer,” and undoubtedly Pauline Christianity and early Jewish Christianity were distinguishable entities. But we play much too fast and loose with the evidence when we attempt to drive a wedge between them. Paul writes as an evangelist and pastor to his converts, affirming the essentials of his message within a context of personal humility, whereas Luke writes as an historian and admirer of the apostle, with a sense for the historical unfolding of the gospel and a desire to highlight the heroic. While we must ask for a body of agreement in the respective portrayals, we cannot reasonably call for identity in details or uniformity in viewpoints.31

(2) Paul’s speeches in Acts do not sound like his letters. Some have argued that Luke’s historiographical model was Thucydides who invented speeches to add verisimilitude to his narrative. However, this assertion neither does justice to Thucydides nor to Luke. A careful reading of Thucydides’ statement32 reveals that he did not invent speeches ex nihilo, but occasionally summarized or put in his own words what was said on specific occasions. Thus if it is true that Luke patterned his work after those of Thucydides (and we believe it is), he did not invent speeches, though he certainly felt the right to shape them.33 Still, what is remarkable is that several of the speeches, especially those of Peter and James, have strong verbal parallels with the epistles alleged to be by the same authors (1-2 Peter and James).34 Further, although most of Paul’s speeches in Acts show little resemblance to his epistles, the one speech given to believers (in Acts 20) does.35

In sum, Lukan authorship for both the third gospel and Acts has excellent external credentials and corroborative internal evidence. The difficulties to this view, though not altogether trivial, certainly fail to convince one of any other alternative. Indeed, it is precisely because there are theological and historical difficulties between Acts and Paul that the argument for Lukan authorship is the most plausible: what later writer (for those who deny Lukan authorship all put Luke-Acts late), who had access to Paul’s letters, would create so many discrepancies in the portrait of his hero, the apostle Paul?36

C. Date

A number of factors and presuppositions affect the date of this book. Among the most important are: (1) authorship; (2) the solution to the synoptic problem; (3) whether the Olivet Discourse was truly prophetic or a vaticinium ex eventu; and especially (4) evidence internal to the book of Acts (i.e., not related to the gospel per se). Though most scholars date the book c. 80-90, our conclusion is that it should be dated substantially earlier.

(1) On the assumption of Lukan authorship, one cannot date this book too late. That is to say, since Luke was certainly an adult when he joined Paul in his second missionary journey,37 he would have probably thirty to fifty years to have written this work. However, apart from F. C. Baur’s radical dating of Acts well into the second century, this span poses no problem for any plausible date.

(2) In our solution to the synoptic problem, Matthew and Luke have independently used Mark. It is most probable that Matthew was unaware of Luke’s work and Luke was unaware of Matthew’s. If so, then both were probably written at around the same time. If Matthew is dated c. 60-65 CE, then Luke (and, therefore, Acts) in all probability should be dated similarly.38

(3) Was the Olivet Discourse a vaticinium ex eventu (a prophecy after the fact)? It is safe to say that the assumption that it was is the single most important reason for overturning an early date (pre-70) for Luke-Acts (as it was for Matthew and Mark). We have dealt with this in our discussion of Matthew’s date and simply need to summarize our two points here: (a) only a denial of the possibility of predictive prophecy on the lips of Jesus would necessitate a late date; (b) the synoptic gospels are both vague and imprecise in their prophecies assuming that those prophecies were fulfilled in the Jewish War, but if there is more to come, and if the Olivet Discourse was given before 66 CE, then the discourse makes sense.

(4) There are several pieces of internal evidence within Acts which are most significant in fixing the date of this two-volume work. Guthrie lists six,39 of which the last is the most significant.

(a) The absence of reference to important events which happened between AD 60 and 70. The fall of Jerusalem (66-70), the persecution of Christians by Nero (64), and the death of James by the Sanhedrin (62) are not mentioned. On this last point, it is a significant silence, for “no incident could have served Luke’s apologetic purpose better, that it was the Jews not the Romans who were the real enemies of the gospel.”40

(b) The primitive character of the subject-matter. In particular, “the Jewish-Gentile controversy is dominant and all other evidence apart from Acts suggests that this was a vital issue only in the period before the fall of Jerusalem.”41

(c) The primitive nature of the theology. Terms such as “the Christ,” “disciples,” “the Way,” and the reference to the first day of the week for the time when Christian met together to break bread, all imply primitiveness.

(d) The attitude of the state towards the church. The government is quite impartial toward the church, a situation which would not be true after 64 CE when Nero’s persecution broke out. It is significant that Luke ends this book by saying that the gospel was able to spread “unhindered” (ἀκωλύτως).

(e) The  relation of Acts to the Pauline epistles. Luke shows no awareness of Paul’s literary endeavors. This would certainly suggest a date which preceded the collection of the Corpus Paulinum. Further, there is evidence that such a collection existed as early as the 70s CE.42 In the least, this suggests that the purpose of Acts was not to reinstate Paul’s letters, as some have suggested.

(f) The absence of reference to the death of Paul. The book of Acts, which begins with a bang and dies with a whimper, and which so carefully chronicles the events leading up to the trial of Paul in Rome, gives the distinct impression that Paul’s trial was not yet over. In other words, it is very doubtful that this book was written after 62 CE. Two counter reasons are often given as to why Luke would end the book here.

[1] He did not want to mention the trial’s outcome. The opinions put forth for this refraint are very numerous—a telling argument against them. Some argue that it would put too much emphasis on the man rather than on his mission; that it would hint at a parallel with the death of Christ, which would be inappropriate; that the readers knew the rest of the story and hence Luke did not need to go on; etc. As Guthrie remarks, “It is not sufficient, on the other hand, to propose a theory of the author’s intention without supplying an adequate motive for the intention, and it may be questioned whether this condition has been fulfilled.”43

[2] Luke intended to write a third volume. This was the view of Spitta, Zahn, Ramsey, and W. L. Knox. It is based on the use of πρῶτος in Acts 1:1—a word which, in classical Greek, indicated “first of at least three.” That it does not do so in hellenistic Greek is quite evident from the data supplied in BAGD; further that Luke does not use the superlative as a true superlative is evident from his discussion of the first census of Quirinius in Luke 2:2: scholars have had enough trouble trying to locate two censuses of Quirinius, let alone three! Further, even if Luke did use πρῶτος as a true superlative on occasion, why would he break his three-volume work here? This explanation seems a quite desperate expedient.44

All in all, that Acts ends where it does is a great embarrassment to those who do not maintain a pre-64 date. Robinson, who bases much of his Redating the New Testament on an early (62) date of Acts, argues ably for this view.45 In particular, he points out that Adolph von Harnack, “whose massive scholarship and objectivity of judgment contrast with so many who have come after him,” is still worth quoting precisely because “on this subject he was forced slowly and painfully to change his mind.”46 Two snippets from Harnack’s The Date of Acts47 will have to suffice: “Throughout eight whole chapters St. Luke keeps his readers intensely interested in the progress of the trial of St. Paul, simply that he may in the end completely disappoint them—they learn nothing of the final result of the trial!” “The more clearly we see that the trial of St. Paul, and above all his appeal to Caesar, is the chief subject of the last quarter of Acts, the more hopeless does it appear that we can explain why the narrative breaks off as it does, otherwise than by assuming that the trial had actually not yet reached its close. It is no use to struggle against this conclusion.”

At the same time, one has to ask how much later Acts was than the gospel. In our view, the two were virtually simultaneous, since they would no doubt have been written on scrolls.48 Customarily, the longest usable scroll was about thirty-five feet. Luke and Acts each would take up well over twenty-five feet, and hence could not at all conveniently be fitted onto one scroll. This fact, coupled with the internal continuity between the two books,49 strongly suggests that they were meant to be read virtually as a single document, written at almost the same time, bearing the same purpose(s).50

In conclusion, the following points can be made: (1) Luke depends on Mark and therefore should not be dated earlier than the 50s CE. The date of Mark, then, provides the terminu a quo for the date of Luke-Acts. (2) Luke neither knew of Matthew’s work, nor Matthew’s of Luke’s. If Matthew is dated c. 60-65, then Luke-Acts was probably written within the same time frame. (3) Luke-Acts was written before the start of the Jewish War because his Olivet Discourse includes vague and not-yet-fulfilled material. (4) Acts is to be dated c. 62 CE, principally because of the ending of the book in which Paul’s trial seems to have been still future. Our conclusion is that Acts was written just before the end of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, c. 61-62 CE.

D. Destination

Both the gospel and Acts are addressed to one Theophilus. He is called “most excellent” (κράτιστε), a term usually indicating some sort of government official, or at least high social rank.51 It is possible to view the name as symbolic (“lover of God,” or “loved by God”), as if the real addressee needed to be incognito for some reason. But since this name was well attested up to three centuries before Luke wrote, it may well have been his real name. If Theophilus was a Roman official, then he certainly was a Gentile, and the contents of this gospel, as well as the Acts, bear eloquent testimony of a Gentile readership.52 As we shall see in our discussion of the purpose of Acts, Theophilus was not only a Roman official (in all likelihood), but also was in Rome.

Although Luke-Acts is addressed to Theophilus, something must be said for the probability that Luke intended to  have this work published and consequently envisioned an audience broader in scope than one man. His prologue to both the gospel and Acts emulates so much the ancient historians’ prefaces that it is quite evident that he wanted the work published. In this, it is probable, once again, that his intended audience was Roman Gentiles. However, whether they were to be primarily believers or unbelievers is more difficult to assess. In fact, whether Theophilus was a believer or not is difficult to assess!53 The key issue is the meaning of κατηχήθης (“of what you have been informed” or “of what you have been taught”; from κατηχέω) in Luke 1:4. The term can refer either to Christian instruction (Acts 18:25; Gal. 6:6) or simply information, even a negative report (Acts 21:21, 24). Thus, even in the key term there is an impasse. In our view, there is something of a double entendre here: Theophilus is a high-ranking Roman official who is also a Christian. If his name is symbolic, then this is almost certainly the case.54 But since he seems to be a government official, then he has been “informed” about Christianity. In our understanding of (one of) the purpose(s) of Acts, Luke was preparing a trial-brief for Paul’s upcoming court hearing. In this case, Luke would certainly want a Roman official who was as sympathetic as he could be, κατηχήθης, then, seems to indicate that Luke wanted to set the record straight about the origins of Christianity (thus, information) while “Theophilus” suggests that this particular recipient had been more than informed—he had believed.55

E. Occasion and Purpose

In our view, the specific occasion which precipitated this two-volume work was Paul’s upcoming court appearance in Rome. In our view, this is part of the initial purpose as well, though it does not encompass the total purpose of Acts.

Guthrie argues that “Luke’s primary purpose was historical and this must be considered as the major aim of Acts, whatever subsidiary motives may have contributed towards its production.”56 Yet, Guthrie quickly adds five alternatives to the purpose of Acts (a narrative of history, a gospel of the Spirit, an apology, a defense for Paul’s trial, and a theological document [either written to address the triumph of Christianity or the delay of the parousia]).57

Yet not all would even agree with Guthrie’s basic premise that the primary purpose was historical in a general sense, the real tension concerning the purpose of this work is between history and apologetic. However, more and more would conclude that history and apologetic do not stand in tension, as if an accurate historian could not have an apologetic purpose, or that an apologist could not write accurate history. It has long been recognized that the historical positivism of Ernst Troeltsch of last century is passé—that is, that no history was ever written from an unbiased motive. If this is the case, then to charge Luke with an apologetic motive is not to deny his being an accurate historiographer.

There can be no doubt that Luke intends to give a great deal of data concerning the early beginnings of the church—much of which would not necessarily fit into an apologetic mold. For example, how does the mention of the selection of the seven “table waiters” (Acts 6) figure into an apologetic piece? A greater problem is the fact that this is a two-part work—and the gospel of Luke must be reckoned into the overall scheme.

Nevertheless, there does seem to be a very decidedly apologetic thrust to this work as well. Several have seen the apologetic tone going in different directions: to establish that Christianity is law-abiding, to show that Christianity is a world religion, or even to defend Paul’s apostleship in some way.

It is our contention that Acts is both historical and apologetic, that Luke wrote the work both for Theophilus (as an apologetic piece) and for secondary readers (both for apologetic and historical reasons). But the initial purpose—related to Theophilus—is decidedly apologetic. Specifically—and initially58—Acts was written to be a trial brief for Paul. The evidence is as follows:

1. The beginning of Luke, in which Theophilus is addressed as “excellent” (κράτιστε). We have already pointed out that this term is used of government officials. But there is more: the vocative is used almost universally in the papyri only in petitions, as far as my own cursory research reveals (an examination of the first two volumes on the papyri in LCL). If this is the case here, then a petition is implied in Luke-Acts, even though none is stated.

2. The ending of the book, which almost certainly dates it as just before the end of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. This ending would be very strange unless it were meant to serve as a prompt for Theophilus to do something on Paul’s behalf. The date of Acts and the reasons for the book ending here are the most compelling reasons to see this work as in some sense a trial brief for Paul. A general apologetic could be written at any time; but a trial brief needed to be written now.

3. The mention of Paul being under house arrest for “two years” in Acts 28:30. Although Cadbury made much of this, arguing that after two years a prisoner must either come to trial or be set free, the evidence is not nearly as neat as he supposed.59 Nevertheless, one could appeal to the Roman law of a “speedy trial.” The point may be that Luke is reminding Theophilus that Paul’s case is about to be heard and that his defense needs to be prepared. Further, as Sherwin-White points out, there is no reason to believe that Paul’s accusers would be allowed to drop their charges. They had to prepare the best case they could. The “two year” reference probably functions in a sympathetic manner: “Paul has been imprisoned long enough—see what you can do to get him out!”

4. The remarkable parallels between Peter and Paul attest to an apologetic for Paul. Even Guthrie admits that “the history before the narrative of Paul’s life and work is somewhat scrappy and gives the impression that the author’s purpose is to get to Paul as soon as possible.”60 C. H. Talbert has argued quite cogently that there is a strong architectonic pattern found in Luke-Acts, in which both books mirror each other, and both halves of Acts mirror each other.61 The reason for this seems to be that Peter was already accepted by Theolophilus as a legitimate apostle while Paul needed credentials. Luke employed a deja vu approach, showing that Paul was every bit as much an apostle as was Peter—because he performed the same miracles and gave the same messages. Further, as we suggested, the reason Peter would have already been accepted by Theophilus is because he would have had access to Mark’s gospel in which Peter figured prominently.

5. Coupled with the remarkable parallels between these two great apostles is the fact that the last comment about Peter (apart from his message in Acts 15) is his release from certain death in Acts 12 (the narrative then picks up on Paul’s missionary journeys). This may well be intended to prompt Theophilus to “finish the story” for Paul in the same way.

6. Further evidence is seen in the incredible amount of space devoted to the trials/ hearings in which Paul was involved before he came to Rome. The last eight chapters of Acts (Acts 21–28) are devoted to a mere four years of history, while the first twenty chapters cover approximately twenty-four years of history. The material is more than twice as compact because it now focuses on Paul’s trials and material which would be useful in proving his innocence.

7. The use of πρῶτον in Acts 1:1 might be a literary device similar to the ending of Mark (at 16:8), making the work open-ended. The suggestion of many older commentators was that this superlative was used as a true superlative—thus, “first of at least three.” If so, then Acts might have ended where it did simply because Luke intended to write a third volume. We have already discussed this view and found it wanting. However, a modification of it has some attractiveness to it: Could it be that Luke intended Theophilus to “write the third volume”—that is, do what he could to see that Paul’s ministry continued? Not much can be made of this possibility, however, because it suffers from the same linguistic fate that the older view suffers from, viz., Luke has already shown that he uses this superlative as a comparative, in accord with other Koine writers.

8. Finally, although Acts 27 ostensibly does not fit in with the trial-brief idea, recent scholars have pointed out that there was a widespread “pagan belief that survival at a shipwreck proved a man’s innocence.”62

Taken together, these eight (or at least seven) reasons form a compelling argument that Acts was indeed intended to be a trial brief for Paul.

At the same time, one criticism should be mentioned here: If Acts is really intended (in part) to be a trial brief for Paul, then how does Luke fit into this picture? Since both works really belong together, the purpose of Acts is seemingly the purpose of Luke-Acts. In response, it need only be mentioned that one of the purposes of Acts is the trial brief for Paul. It is true that Luke does not neatly fit into this purpose, though it does fit into the broader picture of apologetic of Christianity before the Roman government. The occasion for Acts necessitated the publication of Luke, but it did not thereby dictate the purpose of Luke.

F. Theme

The theme of Acts is intrinsically bound up with its purpose. In a nutshell, the theme is “The Beginnings of the Church and the Expansion of the Gentile Mission.”

II. Argument

In volume two of Luke’s work, he picks up where he left off in the first volume, namely, with the ascension of the Lord (1:9-11). But he begins with a prologue (1:1-2) similar to that in the first volume. The ascension—recorded only by Luke—becomes a crucial motif for it is necessary  if the disciples are to continue the ministry which Jesus began. That is why Luke refers to volume one as detailing what “Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up into heaven” (1:1-2a).

After this brief prologue, the body of the work commences. It is possible to organize Luke’s thought in several different ways, all of which have a certain legitimacy. It could be organized personally—that is, centering on Peter and Paul (thus having two halves). It could be organized geographically, from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth (cf. 1:8) (thus having three sections). Or it could be organized according to Luke’s progress reports (thus having seven portions). The reason for this variety has to do with Luke’s varied purposes. His work is both historical and apologetic. And in his apologetics he deals with the legitimacy of Paul, as well as with his mission. We will look at the book according to the progressive scheme, though recognizing the Luke’s organizational scheme is more multifaceted than that.

In the progressive approach, there are seven units of thought, or “books.” In Book One, Luke touches on the birth of the Church in Jerusalem (1:1–2:47). Immediately, he gives us a glimpse of one of his organizational schemes, for the birth of the Church parallels the birth of Christ. This can further be seen in that at Jesus’ baptism, while he is praying, the Spirit descends in a physical form and while the disciples are praying, the Spirit again descends in a physical form. Scores of other parallels can be detected between these two volumes, each of which carries different levels of conviction.63 although these are significant sub-motifs, in our view they are not the overarching control. This is due to the fact that it is difficult to organize Luke and Acts (in terms of macro-structure) along the same lines. Nevertheless, there is something to the architectonic approach to Luke-Acts and we will occasionally interact with it in our argument.

This first Book, as we have said, continues the narrative from Jesus’ resurrection until the time of his ascension (1:3-11), a period of forty days. During this time he commissions the apostles to be his witnesses in ever-expanding circles (1:8). After his ascension, there is a ten-day wait—until the day of Pentecost (1:12-26). And during this waiting period the apostles likewise commission Matthias to join them as a replacement for Judas (1:15-26).

When the day of Pentecost came the apostles were all together (2:1). The Spirit descends on them (2:1-13) like individual flames of fire (2:2-3). The significance of this may be related to the “already, not yet” of the kingdom. When the Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism, coupled with the heavenly voice declaring him to be God’s Son, this seemed to be an enthronement of sorts (similar to the use of the enthronement Psalms in the OT [cf. especially Psalm 2:7!] and the motif of the Spirit abiding on the king [cf. Psalm 51]), thus inaugurating the kingdom. Before Jesus’ ascent into heaven, the question heaviest on the apostles’ minds was, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (1:6). Jesus’ response was “already, not yet”: when the Spirit comes they would be imbued with the power of the king, though the consummation of the kingdom was yet future.

God was surely doing a new work on the day of Pentecost. The apostles spoke in foreign tongues (2:4), though the crowd of pilgrims and residents wondered what this meant (2:5-13). Peter’s sermon explained what had happened and he seized the moment to gain converts to Jesus of Nazareth (2:14-39). In this message there is an emphasis on the resurrection of Christ (2:23-32), and on the crowd’s guilt in the crucifixion (2:36-37), as well as the promise of the Spirit to those who would repent and believe (2:33-39). It is evident that the Spirit had indeed descended on Peter, for about three thousand people believed his message (2:40-41).

Book One concludes with the first progress report, after summarizing the unity and growth of the nascent Church (2:42-47a): “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (2:47b).

Book Two now deals with the expansion of the Church in Jerusalem (3:1–6:7). Luke arranges the material in an A B A B pattern. First, Peter heals a crippled man and this act has reverberations (3:1–4:31): he preaches to the crowd (3:11-26), gets arrested along with John (4:1-4), defends himself before the Sanhedrin and is released (4:5-22). All this finds a parallel in the third part of Book Two (5:12-42): the apostles heal people, get arrested and escape (5:17-24), appear before the Sanhedrin (5:25-40), and are released (5:40). Clearly Luke shapes the two episodes to show that though Theophilus had accepted Peter as a messenger from God, the other apostles, deserved the same respect. Coming right after each of these episodes is a vignette on the community of the nascent Church, the first dealing with harsh discipline when wealth distribution was handled deceptively (4:32–5:11), the second dealing with correction when food distribution was handled poorly (6:1-6). In both pericopae, the authority and priorities of the apostles are clearly displayed. Book Two concludes with the summary statement, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (6:7). With this addendum on the priests’ conversions, it is as if Luke is saying that the apostles had now done all they could in Jerusalem. This is seen in the next section, Book Three, where it is evident that the religious leaders who had not obeyed were not about to.

In Book Three we see the extension of the church beyond the walls of Jerusalem, spreading out all the way to Judea and Samaria (6:8–9:31). This book focuses on three non-apostles: Stephen, Philip, and Saul. What is significant is that these three—more than all of the apostles combined—were instrumental in fulfilling the commission to be witnesses in Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8). Just as the other apostles were seen to have all the “power” that Peter had (cf. Acts 1:8a), so these non-apostles were seen to be “witnesses” (cf. Acts 1:8b) every bit as much as the twelve. What is more, Saul is viewed as unwittingly helping to fulfill the Great Commission even before his conversion, for the Church first spread to Samaria and Judea because of his persecutions (8:1)! This Book’s purpose, then, is to foreshadow both the full apostolic status of Paul and his superiority over all the rest of the original apostles in carrying out the mandate of Acts 1:8.

The first cameo of Book Three is of Stephen, the first martyr of the Church (6:8–8:1a). Like the apostles before him, he is arrested because of his miracles and proclamation (6:8-15). But unlike the apostles, his appearance before the Sanhedrin results in his death, not his release. In his defense (7:2-53) he outlines the nation’s history (with a focus on the patriarchs, Moses and David) up until their murder of “the Righteous One” (7:52), thus paralleling Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. Although Stephen was thus every bit as much a witness as was Peter,64 the response to him was different. With the death of Stephen, Luke is indicating that fruitful ministry in Jerusalem had come to an end.

The transition to the second cameo, that of Philip (8:1b-40), is via Saul (8:1): because of his role in Stephen’s death and subsequent role in persecuting the Church, Philip and others “were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (8:1). Philip, like Stephen, performed miracles and proclaimed Christ (8:4-8). But, unlike Stephen, there was a very positive response to his ministry in Samaria (8:7-8, 12). But not every response was positive. Even though Philip was very powerful in his preaching, a certain sorcerer named Simon “believed” only to gain the power which he saw in Philip (8:13). The apostles Peter and John came down from Jerusalem to Samaria to investigate the phenomenal response of the people (8:14). They laid hands on them, causing them to receive the Spirit (8:15-17). Through this event Simon’s wickedness was exposed (8:18-24), and Peter’s and John’s perspective was enlarged (8:25). Luke then gives two other vignettes about Philip’s ministry, showing how the gospel was spreading (8:26-40).

Saul’s conversion concludes this third Book (9:1-30). Luke spends much time telling his audience about Saul’s conversion (it is rehearsed three times in the book of Acts), with a special emphasis on the revelation of the risen Lord to Saul (9:4-5) as well as the Lord’s disclosure to Ananias that Saul had truly converted and would be the “chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles” (9:10-15). Thus Saul is seen not only to have a remarkable conversion experience, but also from the first to be the one who would exemplify the mandate of Acts 1:8.

Book Three, which began with an expanding church because of persecution now concludes with the words, “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy spirit and it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord” (9:31).

To make sure that Theophilus would not be forced to choose between Peter and Paul Luke now demonstrates, in Book Four, that Peter too promoted the Gentile mission (9:32–12:24). But it was not just Peter who promoted this; it was the Lord himself. Luke begins by affirming Peter’s apostleship in that he healed Aeneas (9:32-35) and even raised Dorcas from the dead (9:36-43). While in Joppa (where Dorcas had been raised), Peter saw a vision of unclean animals descending from heaven accompanied by a voice which bid him to kill and eat (10:8-23a). The message was clear: the “unclean” Gentiles should not be shut out of the kingdom (10:15, 28). Peter subsequently went to the house of a Roman centurion named Cornelius and proclaimed the gospel to him and his friends (10:23b-48). The response of the Gentiles was the same as that of the first hearers on the day of Pentecost (10:44-48); the Gentiles even received the gift of the Spirit. Peter was thus convinced that the Gentile mission was from God.

Not only did Peter have to be prepared for the Gentile mission; the Jerusalem church did, too (11:1-18). Since Peter was recognized by all as a legitimate spokesman for God, his recounting of what happened at Cornelius’ house was enough to convince the Jewish believers.

Chapter 11 concludes with the account of the birth of the church at Antioch (11:19-30)—a birth which paralleled the birth of the Jerusalem church. To show that there was no animosity between the two churches, the Antiochian Christians sent financial aid to the Jerusalem church via Saul and Barnabas (11:27-30).

Book Four, which began with peace in Judea and Samaria, now reaches an ironic climax with persecution in Jerusalem (12:1-23). This time, rather than Saul, Herod is the one persecuting the church. First, he executes James (12:1-2), then arrests Peter (12:3-19). But Peter miraculously escapes (12:6-11) and Herod dies (12:20-23). This is the last we see of Peter in his evangelistic efforts.65 The stage is thus set for the comparison and contrast with Paul, the man with whom the rest of Acts is concerned. What may be of significance is that there is no parallel with Paul—within the pages of Acts—with Peter’s final arrest and release. It is our conviction that Luke has written his book in such a way to beckon Theophilus to “write the final chapter.”

Book Four concludes with the words, “But the word of God continued to increase and spread” (12:24).

The Fifth Book addresses the extension of the Church to Asia Minor, but might just as properly be called “The Book of the Establishment of Paul’s Apostleship” (12:25–16:5). Here we begin to see the deja vu pattern emerge once again. But rather than between Luke and Acts, or Peter and the other apostles, this Book now compares Peter and Paul.

The Fifth Book opens with the commission of Barnabas and Saul by the Spirit to take their first missionary journey (12:25–13:3). Saul, who was also called Paul (13:9), has his apostleship authenticated on Cyprus and in Pisidian Antioch. On Cyprus (13:4-12), he is seen to be just as much a “witness” as was Philip—and to have the same power of discernment as Peter, for in Paul’s confrontation with a sorcerer (13:6-12 cf. 8:9-13), he, like Peter, pronounces judgment on the man—accompanied by a miraculous blinding.

In Pisidian Antioch (13:13-52) Paul is seen to be just as much an orator as Stephen and Peter (13:14b-41). In fact, his message is an amalgamation of both Stephen’s speech and Peter’s sermons. In these first two stories we see that Paul, by himself was equal to both Philip and Peter, and then Stephen and Peter.

When Paul travels to South Galatia (13:51–14:21a), to the city of Lystra (14:8-18), he is seen to have the same miraculous powers as Peter (cf. 3:1–4:31). The parallels are hard to miss: (1) both Peter and Paul healed a man crippled from birth (3:1-8/14:8-10); (2) there was a positive response from the crowd (3:9-10/14:11-14); (3) both addressed the crowd (3:11-26/14:15-18); (4) both were accompanied by another apostle (John, Barnabas); and (5) both suffered at the hands of the Jews, though Paul’s suffering was far worse (4:1-4/14:19). Clearly, Paul was just as much an apostle as was Peter.66

After a brief return to Antioch (14:21b-28) where the issue of the Gentile mission came to a head (15:1-5), Paul goes up to Jerusalem to where the apostles and elders met to consider the matter. Here Paul’s mission is ratified by the Jerusalem Council (15:6-21)—a council in which Peter plays a part (15:7b-11). Paul and Barnabas are selected as letter-bearers (15:22), and are to bring the good news of the Council’s decision back to Antioch and elsewhere. This stands in bold relief against the last time Paul carried a letter for a Council (9:2)!

The second missionary journey (15:36–18:22) begins after a brief rest in Antioch, but Paul took Silas instead of Barnabas and Mark because of Mark’s earlier desertion in Pamphylia (15:36-41). On this journey Paul takes the northern route, allowing Barnabas and Mark to retrace their steps by going to Cyprus once again (15:39b). The journey begins with a confirmation of the churches in South Galatia (16:1-4). On this positive note, Book Five concludes: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in the numbers” (16:5).

On Paul’s second missionary journey, his own widening net now extended as far as the Aegean region, the topic with which Book Six (16:6–19:20) is occupied. Having established that Paul was an authentic apostle and that his message was ratified by Peter himself, Luke now concentrates especially on the historical side to his tome. There is no dichotomy between the history and apologetic of Luke, but the emphasis now is on the former, while through Book Five it was on the latter. Still, there are parallels to be seen between Paul and Peter even here (cf. e.g., Paul’s vision to come to Macedonia [16:8b-10] with Peter’s vision of accepting “unclean” Gentiles [10:8-23]; the twelve disciples of John in Ephesus speaking in tongues when they receive the Spirit [19:1-7] with the twelve apostles speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost when they receive the Spirit [2:1-4]; etc.).

Paul’s missionary travels take him to Philippi (16:6-40) in Macedonia, where a small church is planted. Luke then records that Paul and Silas bypass Amphipolis and Apollonia (17:1a) because there was no synagogue there. This becomes a motif throughout the rest of Acts: Paul consistently went to the Jews first and then the Gentiles, even till the very end (28:17-28). Yet, equal to this motif, is Jewish hostility wherever the apostle went.

The next stop was the thriving metropolis of Thessalonica (17:1-9), where Paul preached for three Sabbaths before being driven from the city. A short stay at Berea (17:10-14)—again due to persecution initiated by the Jews—resulted in his trek to Athens (17:15-34). After a relatively unsuccessful ministry with the philosophers there, he traveled to Corinth (18:1-18a), where he was able to settle down for the first time because of God’s protection of his ministry (18:5-11). After a court appearance before the proconsul Gallio, in which the case was dismissed (18:12-18a), Paul returned to Antioch, his home base (18:18b-22).

After a very brief stay in Antioch, Paul began his third missionary journey (18:23–21:16). He had left Priscilla and Aquila, two of his co-workers, in Ephesus on his return trip to Antioch. Now he returned to Ephesus, by way of the South Galatian region (18:23). Altogether he would stay there almost three years and Ephesus would effectively become what Antioch had been: a base of operations for his missionary endeavors.

Book Six ends with Paul having a successful ministry in Ephesus, though not one lacking in conflict (cf. 19:8-9a, 11-19). but because of a final victory over one opponent, namely, the occult, “the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (19:20).

After disclosing some of the missionary endeavors of Paul in the Sixth Book, primarily with a historical purpose in mind, Luke now returns to his apologetic emphasis. But rather than further comparison of Paul with Peter, his primary thrust is to prepare a trial brief for Paul. Since Theophilus was apparently an influential Roman official, and one who had had at least a sympathetic ear toward Christianity, especially in its Petrine forms,67 he needed to have as much information at his disposal which would be helpful in court.

Book Seven (19:21–28:31) provides just such information. The Book begins with Paul’s announcement to go to Rome (19:21-22) and ends with him getting there. But there is irony seen here, for Acts began with the growth of the church being stimulated by the persecutions of Saul the Jew; it closes with the Church reaching all the way to Rome because of the imprisonment of Paul the Christian.

A riot at Ephesus over the adverse impact Paul’s gospel was having on idolatry (19:22-41) provides the catalyst for Paul to move on. But before he could go to Rome, the capital of the Gentile world, he felt it necessary to go to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish world. Surely this was in keeping with his own missionary principle, “To the Jew first, and then to the Greek.”

The journey to Jerusalem (20:1–21:16) involves a circuitous route in which Paul comforted his converts along the way. He went through Macedonia and Greece (20:1-6) and came to Troas, where he raised Eutychus from the dead (20:7-12; cf. 9:36-43). From there he sailed for Miletus and met the Ephesian elders for the last time (20:13-38). From Miletus Paul traveled to Tyre (21:1-6) and then to Caesarea (21:7-14). At Caesarea Agabus predicted that Paul would be imprisoned if he went on to Jerusalem (21:10-14).

Agabus’ prophecy came true. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he was arrested in the temple on trumped up charges of violating the temple by bringing in a Gentile (21:27-36). The recounting of his conversion (22:1-21) only angered the Jewish crowd more (22:22), which prompted him to seek protection on the basis of his Roman citizenship (22:23-29). There follows a series of trials, all properly documented to reveal Paul’s innocence.

First, Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin (22:30–23:10) who almost broke out in a riot themselves (22:30–23:10). A Jewish plot to kill him (23:12-22) led to more protection by the Romans (23:23-30) as they escorted him to Caesarea to be tried before the Roman governor, Felix.

Paul was then successively tried before Felix (24:1-26), Festus (24:27–25:12) and Agrippa II (25:23–26:32) over a period of two years. Ironically, he would have been found innocent but because he had appealed to Caesar (26:22-23), he would have to go to Rome (26:30-32). Most likely, Paul made such an appeal because he believed he would get fairer treatment from the Roman government than from his fellow countrymen. Throughout Acts, in fact, Luke seems to embrace the same position.

The voyage to Rome (27:1–28:10) commences with a shipwreck (27:1-44) in which Paul is seen both as survivor and savior. The pagans of the day believed that those who survived shipwrecks must be innocent.68 Whether or not Theophilus held to this superstition, it could certainly come in handy in the trial.

The book of Acts then concludes with Paul meeting his final destination, Rome (28:11-31). Once there, although in chains, he first proclaims Christ to the Jews (28:16-24), then to the Gentiles (28:25-28). Book Seven ends with Paul imprisoned for two years (28:30), though “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (28:31). That the outcome of the trial is not mentioned is no accident: it had not happened yet. But like Peter’s angel in chapter 12, Luke wants Theophilus to do what he can to get Paul out of prison that the gospel might continue to spread. After all, the Gentiles “will listen” (28:28).

Thus in a masterful series of Seven Books, Luke has not only shown how the Church grew from its humble beginnings, but he has also vindicated both Paul’s apostleship and his innocence. His literary labors to get Paul free were successful: the apostle to the Gentiles was released; he ministered for three more years and wrote three more epistles before his beheading by Nero in the summer of 64 CE.

III. Outline69

I. Book One: The Birth of the Church in Jerusalem (1:1–2:47)

A. Prologue (1:1-2)

B. Anticipation: From Resurrection to Pentecost (1:3-26)

1. From Resurrection to ascension: Christ’s Forty Day Ministry (1:3-11)

a. The Apostles’ Commission (1:3-8)

b. The Ascension (1:9-11)

2. From Ascension to Pentecost: The Apostles’ Ten Day Wait (1:12-26)

a. Praying in the Upper Room (1:12-14)

b. Selecting a Replacement for Judas (1:15-26)

C. Realization: The Day of Pentecost (2:1-41)

1. The Descent of the Spirit (2:1-13)

a. The Response of the Apostles: Speaking in Tongues (2:1-4)

b. The Reaction of the Crowd (2:5-13)

2. The Proclamation of Peter (2:14-39)

a. Introduction: Fulfillment of Prophecy (2:14-21)

b. Body: Jesus Is the Messiah (2:22-39)

1) Proof: Miracles (2:22-32)

a) During His Life (2:22)

b) After His Death: Resurrection (2:23-32)

2) Promise: Holy Spirit (2:33-39)

3. The Response of the Crowd (2:40-41)

D. Conclusion of Book One (2:42-47)

II. Book Two: The Expansion of the Church in Jerusalem (3:1–6:7)

A. A Healing by Peter and Its Consequences (3:1–4:31)

1. The Healing of a Man Crippled from Birth (3:1-8)

2. The Response of the Crowd (3:9-10)

3. The Message of Peter (3:11-26)

4. The Arrest of Peter and John (4:1-4)

5. Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (4:5-22)

a. Peter’s Defense (4:5-12)

b. The Debate in the Sanhedrin (4:13-17)

c. The Release of Peter and John (4:18-22)

6. The Thanksgiving of the Saints (4:23-31)

B. Community and Discipline (4:32–5:11)

1. The Sharing of All Possessions (4:32-37)

2. The Deception of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11)

C. Healings by the Apostles and their Consequences (5:12-42)

1. Healings of the Apostles, Responses of the Crowds (5:12-16)

2. The Arrest and Escape (5:17-24)

3. The Apostles before the Sanhedrin (5:25-40)

a. The Sanhedrin’s Rebuke (5:25-28)

b. The Apostles’ Defense (5:29-32)

c. The Debate in the Sanhedrin (5:33-39)

d. The Release of the Apostles (5:40)

4. The Rejoicing of the Apostles (5:41-42)

D. Community: Distribution and Administration (6:1-6)

E. Conclusion of Book Two (6:7)

III. Book Three: The Extension of the Church to Judea and Samaria (6:8–9:31)

A. Stephen’s Martyrdom (6:8–8:1a)

1. His Arrest (6:8-15)

2. His Defense (7:1-53)

a. The High Priest’s Question (7:1)

b. Stephen’s Response (7:2-53)

1) The Patriarchal Age (7:2-8)

2) The Nation in Egypt (7:9-19)

3) The Rejection of Moses by the Nation (7:20-39)

a) Moses’ Early Years (7:20-29)

b) Moses’ Call by God (7:30-34)

c) The Nation’s Rejection in the Wilderness (7:35-39)

4) The Rejection of the Nation by God (7:40-43)

5) The Tabernacle and the Temple (7:44-50)

6) The Rejection of Christ by the Nation (7:51-53)

3. His Death (7:54–8:1a)

B. Philip’s Ministry (8:1b-40)

1. Setting: the Persecution by Saul (8:1b-3)

2. Philip in Samaria (8:4-25)

a. The Activities of Philip (8:4-8)

b. The Response of Simon (8:9-13)

c. The Coming of Peter and John (8:14-25)

1) The Reception of the Spirit by the Crowd (8:14-17)

2) The Wickedness of Simon the Sorcerer Revealed (8:18-24)

3) The Return of the Apostles to Jerusalem (8:25)

3. Philip and the Ethiopian on the Road to Gaza (8:26-39)

4. Philip on the Coast of Palestine (8:40)

C. Saul’s Conversion (9:1-30)

1. Setting: On the Road to Damascus (9:1-2)

2. The Conversion of Saul on the Road (9:1-9)

3. The Coming of Ananias in Damascus (9:10-19)

4. The Confrontations with the Jews in Damascus (9:20-25)

5. The Coming of Saul to Jerusalem (9:26-30)

D. Conclusion of Book Three (9:31)

IV. Book Four: The Extension of the Church to Antioch (9:32–12:24)

A. The Preparation of Peter for the Gentile Mission (9:32–10:48)

1. Peter in Western Judea: With Aeneas and Dorcas (9:32-43)

a. In Lydda: The Healing of Aeneas (9:32-35)

b. In Joppa: The Raising of Dorcas (9:36-43)

2. Peter in Caesarea: With Cornelius (10:1-48)

a. Cornelius’ Vision: Send for Peter (10:1-7)

b. Peter’s Vision: Receive the Gentiles (10:8-23a)

c. Peter at Cornelius’ House (10:23b-48)

1) Setting (10:23b-27)

2) Recounting of Peter’s Vision (10:28-29a)

3) Recounting of Cornelius’ Vision (10:29b-33)

4) Peter’s Message (10:34-43)

5) The Gentiles’ Response (10:44-48)

a) Gift of the Spirit (10:44-46)

b) Water Baptism (10:47-48a)

c) Fellowship (10:48b)

B. The Preparation of the Leaders of the Jerusalem Church for the Gentile Mission (11:1-18)

1. The Accusation of the Jewish Believers (11:1-3)

2. The Explanation of Peter (11:4-17)

a. Recounting of Peter’s Vision in Joppa (11:4-10)

b. Recounting of Peter’s Visit to Cornelius in Caesarea (11:11-16)

c. Recognition of the Legitimacy of the Gentile Mission by Peter (11:17)

d. Response of the Jewish Believers (11:18)

C. The Preparation of the Church at Antioch for the Gentile Mission (11:19-30)

1. The Birth of the Church in Antioch (11:19-21)

2. The Response of Jerusalem to Antioch: The Sending of Barnabas (11:22-24)

3. Barnabas and Saul at Antioch (11:25-26)

4. The Response of Antioch to Jerusalem: The Sending of Barnabas and Saul (11:27-30)

a. The prophecy of Agabus: Worldwide Famine (11:27-28)

b. The Poverty of the Judean Churches: A Collection Taken (11:29-30)

D. Herod’s Persecution of the Church at Jerusalem (12:1-23)

1. The Martyrdom of James by Herod (12:1-2)

2. The Arrest of Peter by Herod (12:3-19)

a. The Arrest and Imprisonment (12:3-5)

b. The Angel and Escape (12:6-11)

c. The Response of the Church (12:12-16)

d. The Withdrawal of Peter (12:17)

e. The Reaction of Herod (12:18-19)

3. The Death of Herod (12:20-23)

E. Conclusion of Book Four (12:24)

V. Book Five: The Extension of the Church to Asia Minor (12:25–16:5)

A. The Commission of Barnabas and Saul at Antioch (12:25–13:3)
[Paul’s First Missionary Journey (13:4–14:28)]

B. The Mission of Barnabas and Paul In Asia Minor (13:4–14:28)

1. Cyprus (13:4-12)70

a. From Antioch to Seleucia to Cyprus (13:4)

b. On the Island of Cyprus (13:5-12)

1) At the Synagogue in Salamis (13:5)

2) At Paphos: Confrontation with Bar-Jesus the Sorcerer (13:6-12)

2. Pisidian Antioch (13:13-52)

a. From Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia: John Mark’s Departure (13:13)

b. From Perga to Pisidian Antioch (13:14a)

c. In Pisidian Antioch (13:14b-52)

1) Paul’s Message on the Sabbath (13:14b-41)

a) Setting (13:14b-15)

b) Introduction (13:16)

c) Body (13:17-37)

1] Preparation for Christ in the OT (13:17-22)

2] Proclamation of Christ to the Hearers (13:23-37)

d) Application (13:38-41)

2) Initial Jewish Response to Paul’s Message (13:42-43)

3) Later Gentile Response and Jewish Opposition to Paul’s Gospel (13:44-50)

3. South Galatia: Iconium, Lystra, Derbe (13:51–14:21a)

a. In Iconium: Jewish and Gentile Response (13:51–14:5)

b. In Lystra and Derbe (14:6-21a)

1) From Iconium to Lystra and Derbe (14:6-7)

2)  A Healing in Lystra (14:6-18)

a) The Healing of a Man Crippled from Birth (14:8-10)

b) The Response of the Crowd (14:11-14)

c) The Message of Paul and Barnabas (14:15-18)

d) The Stoning of Paul (14:19)

3) Escape to Derbe (14:20-21a)

4. Return to Antioch (14:21b-28)

C. The Council at Jerusalem Concerning the Gentile Mission (15:1-35)

1. The Occasion: Judaizers in Antioch (15:1-5)

2. The Meeting of the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem (15:6-21)

a. The Setting (15:6-7a)

b. Peter’s Message (15:7b-11)

c. Barnabas’ and Paul’s Testimony (15:12)

d. James’ Concluding Thoughts (15:13-21)

3. The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers (15:22-35)

a. The Selection of Barnabas and Paul as Letter-Bearers (15:22)

b. The Contents of the Letter (15:23-29)

c. The Response in Antioch (15:30-35)

D. The Confirmation of the Churches in Asia Minor (15:36–16:4)
[Paul’s Second Missionary Journey [15:36–18:22]

1. The Dispute between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark (15:36-41)

a. The Desire to Return (15:36)

b. The Discussion over John Mark (15:37-39a)

c. Barnabas and Mark Depart for Cyprus (15:39b)

d. Paul and Silas Depart for Tarsus (15:40-41)

2. In South Galatia (Derbe, Lystra): Timothy Joins Paul and Silas (16:1-4)

E. Conclusion of Book Five (16:5)

VI. Book Six: The Extension of the Church to the Aegean Area (16:6–19:20)

A. Philippi (16:6-40)

1. Throughout the Phrygian-Galatian Region (16:6)

2. To Troas in Mysia (16:7-8a)

3. Paul’s Vision: Come to Macedonia (16:8b-10)

4. Troas to Samothrace to Neapolis to Philippi (16:11)

5. In Philippi (16:12-40)

a. The Conversion of Lydia (16:12-15)

b. The Exorcism of a Slave Girl (16:16-18)

c. The Conversion of a Philippian Jailer (16:19-34)

1) Paul and Silas Arrested (16:19-24)

2) An Earthquake: Shackles Released (16:25-28)

3) The Response of the Jailer (16:29-34)

d. The Release of Paul and Silas (16:35-40)

B. Thessalonica (17:1-9)

1. Through Amphipolis and Apollonia (17:1a)

2. In Thessalonica (17:1b-9)

a. Paul’s Proclamation in the Synagogue (17:1b-3)

b. The Conversion of Some Jews and Greeks (17:4)

c. The Hostility of other Jews (17:5-9)

C. Berea (17:10-14)

D. Athens (17:15-34)

1. Discussion in the Agora (17:15-18)

2. Dispute on the Areopagus (17:19-34)

a. Paul’s Message (17:19-31)

b. The Athenians’ Reaction (17:32-34)

E. Corinth (18:1-18a)

1. With Aquila and Priscilla: Tentmaking and Preaching (18:1-4)

2. With Silas and Timothy: Eighteen Months of Ministry (18:5-11)

3. Before Gallio (18:12-18a)

F. Return to Antioch (18:18b-22)

1. From Cenchrea to Ephesus to Caesarea (18:18b-22a)

2. Arrival in Antioch (18:22b)

G. Ephesus (18:23–19:19)  [Paul’s Third Missionary Journey (18:23–21:16)]

1. Return to the Galatian-Phrygian Region (18:23)

2. Apollos in Ephesus: Forerunner to Paul (18:24-28)

a. Apollos’ Arrival in Ephesus (18:24)

b. Apollos’ Instruction by Aquila and Priscilla (18:25-26)

c. Apollos’ Departure for Corinth (18:27-28)

3. In Ephesus (19:1-19)

a. With Twelve Disciples of John (19:1-7)

b. In the Synagogue of the Jews (19:8-9a)

c. In the Lecture Hall of Tyrannus (19:9b-10)

d. In Conflict with the Occult (19:11-19)

H. Conclusion of Book Six (19:20)

VII. Book Seven: The Extension of the Church to Rome (19:21–28:31)

A. The Plan Announced (19:21-22)

B. The Riot in Ephesus (19:22-41)

1. The Accusations by the Silversmiths (19:22-27)

2. The Demonstration in the Theater (19:28-34)

3. The Quieting of the Mob by the Town Clerk (19:35-41)

C. The Journey to Jerusalem (20:1–21:16)

1. Through Macedonia and Greece (20:1-6)

2. In Troas: The Raising of Eutychus (20:7-12)

3. From Troas to Miletus (20:13-17)

4. In Miletus: Farewell Message to the Ephesian Elders (20:18-38)

a. Paul’s Message (20:18-35)

b. The Elders’ Response (20:36-38)

5. From Miletus to Tyre (21:1-6)

6. From Tyre to Caesarea (21:7-14)

a. Staying with Philip (21:7-9)

b. The Prediction of Agabus (21:10-14)

7. Arrival at Jerusalem (21:15-16)

D. Paul In Jerusalem (21:17–23:30)

1. The Meeting  with James and the Elders (21:17-26)

2. The Arrest of Paul in the Temple (21:27-36)

3. The Address of Paul to the Crowd (21:37–22:21)

a. The Request to Speak (21:37-40)

b. Recounting His Conversion (22:1-11)

c. Recounting His Call (22:12-21)

4. The Disclosure of Paul’s Roman Citizenship (22:22-29)

5. Paul before the Sanhedrin (22:30–23:10)

a. Confrontation with the High Priest (22:30–23:5)

b. Dispute over the Resurrection (23:6-10)

6. Night Vision of the Lord (23:11)

7. The Plot to Kill Paul (23:12-22)

a. The Plot by the Jews (23:12-15)

b. The Revelation to the Romans (23:16-22)

8. The Protection of the Romans (23:23-30)

a. Protection provided (23:23-24)

b. Cover-Letter Written (23:25-30)

E. Paul in Caesarea (23:31–26:32)

1. A Roman Escort to Caesarea (23:31-35)

2. The Trial before Felix (24:1-26)

a. Accusations of the Jews (24:1-9)

b. Defense of Paul (24:10-21)

c. Adjournment by Felix (24:22-23)

d. Intermittent Interviews by Felix (24:24-26)

3. The Trial before Festus (24:27–25:12)

a. Felix Replaced by Festus (24:27)

b. Arrival of Festus in Jerusalem (25:1-5)

c. Paul before Festus: Appeal to Caesar (25:6-12)

4. Consultation of Festus with Agrippa II (25:13-22)

5. Paul before Agrippa (25:23–26:32)

a. The Briefing by Festus (25:23-27)

b. The Defense by Paul (26:1-23)

1) Introduction (26:1-3)

2) The Jewish Hope of Resurrection (26:4-8)

3) Paul’s Persecution of Christians (26:9-11)

4) Paul’s Conversion (26:12-18)

5) Paul’s Commission to the Gentiles (26:19-20)

6) Paul’s Arrest in Jerusalem (26:21)

7) Concluding Appeal (26:22-23)

c. Interchange between Festus, Paul and Agrippa (26:24-29)

d. Paul’s Innocence and the Irony of his Appeal to Caesar (26:30-32)

F. The Voyage to Rome (27:1–28:10)

1. The Shipwreck (27:1-44)

a. Setting (27:1-12)

1) From Caesarea to Myra (27:1-5)

2) From Myra to Fair Havens in Crete (27:6-8)

b. Warnings of Imminent Shipwreck (27:9-26)

1) The Season: After the Day of Atonement (27:9a)

2) Paul’s Warning (27:9b-12)

3) The Storm (27:13-20)

4) Paul’s Vision (27:21-26)

c. The Shipwreck on Malta (27:27-44)

1) A Foiled Escape by the Sailors (27:27-32)

2) A Last Meal on Board (27:33-38)

3) The Ship Runs Aground (27:39-41)

4) All Safe Ashore (27:42-44)

2. On Malta (28:1-10)

a. Paul’s Snake Bite (28:1-6)

b. Paul’s Miracles (28:7-10)

G.  Paul In Rome (28:11-31)

1. Arrival at Rome (28:11-16)

2. Paul’s Proclamation to the Jews (28:16-24)

3. Paul’s Proclamation to the Gentiles (28:25-28)

H. Conclusion of Book Seven (28:30-31)


1In particular, Apollonius’ Canon and its corollary suggest that (1) in Greek, normally both the nomen regens and the nomen rectum either have the article or lack it; and (2) when both lack it, the sense is still usually definite for both (hence, “The Acts of the Apostles”).

2Guthrie, 114. For more arguments on Lukan authorship based on external evidence, cf. our discussion of Luke.

3G. B. Caird, Saint Luke, 16-17.

4Cf. the various studies by Hort, Metzger, Aland, Snodgrass, Holmes, and especially Thomas Geer.

5So B. M. Metzger, personal conversation (March 1989); cf. also his The Canon of the New Testament and The Text of the New Testament.

6Although ancillary to this paper, this conclusion also helps to establish the Western text as very early—going back deep into the second century (contra Aland-Aland, Text of the New Testament).

7See Guthrie for an expanded treatment, 115-19. This section is merely a distillation of Guthrie’s arguments.

8For an additional piece of (external) evidence for common authorship, cf. the last paragraph in our discussion of external evidence.

9Guthrie, 115-16.

10C. H. Talbert, Literary Patterns, Theological Themes and the Genre of Luke-Acts, 17. Talbert notices, for example, that both Jesus and Paul are well received by the populace; they both enter the temple in a friendly manner; the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection, but the scribes support Jesus/Paul; they both “take bread, and after giving thanks, break it”; a mob seizes Jesus/Paul; Jesus/Paul is slapped by the priest’s assistant; each undergoes four trials.

11Ibid., 23. Although we would affirm this statement of Talbert, there is one caveat: Talbert goes on to suggest that Luke created much of his material, while we would argue instead that he selected and arranged it. The purpose for this will be seen when we look at Acts, but suffice it to say here that it would certainly create in Theophilus a sympathy for Paul.

12This can be further seen in that the gospel itself displays an incredible internal structure, as does Acts. Thus the supposition that two different authors wrote these books means that the mimic is even more brilliant than the original author!

13Guthrie, 116.

14Ibid., 117.

15This is doubtful, however, since only in c. 60 would Luke have met Mark, if Mark had been in Rome since the mid-50s. Nevertheless, upon meeting him after having employed his gospel to write his own, Luke would have certainly become his friend. Luke’s favorable attitude toward Mark—not just personally but as a reliable source on the life of Jesus—might be implied in his calling Mark an “assistant” (ὑπηρέτης) in Acts 13:5. “Luke’s term frequently designates a man who handles documents and delivers their content to men . . .” (Lane, Mark, 22). Lane goes on to mention Acts 26:16 where Paul is appointed as a ὑπηρέτης and witness to the truth, and Luke 1:1-2 where “the evangelist links the servants [ὑπηρέτης] of the word with those who were the eyewitnesses and guarantors of apostolic tradition.” The connection of ὑπηρέτης with both Mark and Luke’s sources suggests that Mark’s Gospel may well have been one of those sources which Luke used to compile his gospel—and one which he himself deeply appreciated.

16Style and Literary Method of Luke.

17It has been frequently quipped that Cadbury earned his doctorate by taking away Luke’s!

18Caird, Luke, 17.

19Ibid.

20There is another subtle indicator of Luke’s race. In Acts 16, after the beginning of the first “we” section (16:11-17), Luke mentions that he was with Paul in Philippi up to the time that Paul cast out the evil spirit from the servant girl (v. 17—“she followed Paul and us”). Then, in 16:19, the person changes from first to third (“her owners . . . seized Paul and Silas”). In vv. 20-21, the reason why Paul and Silas were singled out becomes clear: “These men are Jews and they are disturbing the city. They advocate customs which it is not lawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” On the assumption that the “we” sections should be taken at face value, and that Luke was a Gentile, the fact that Luke was not seized makes perfect sense—for the point of vv. 20-21 has its sting in the fact that Paul and Silas are Jews. (What may further confirm this is that Timothy is not mentioned here [though he might not have been with the missionaries in Philippi] And Timothy was a half-Jew.) In the least, if one wants to deny that Luke was a Gentile, he must explain why the first person plural is used in 16:17, but is immediately switched to third person when the Philippians make their accusation against the missionaries on the basis of their race.

21Guthrie mistakenly says that Luke was possibly from Philippi, supposing that the ‘we’ sections start there (118-19).

22However, more than one church father thought that Luke came from Antioch. Even codex D suggests this, for it begins the ‘we’ material at Acts 11:28!

23We will deal with this issue in our introduction to Galatians.

24We will deal with this issue in our introduction to 1 Thessalonians.

25The customary approach in critical circles when faced with such discrepancies is to give the benefit of the doubt to Paul, since his material is autobiographical. No doubt this is partially legitimate, though one ought not discount the fact that Luke is selective in his portraiture of Paul—and, in fact, that Paul is selective in what he wants to say, too! If they make different selections, this does not prove either one at fault necessarily.

26Guthrie, 120.

27One thinks in particular of Luke 2:19 (“Mary kept all these things in her heart”), in which Luke probably used the mother of Jesus as his source for the early life of the Messiah. (This is not only suggested by Luke 2:19, but it is corroborated by the highly Semitic Greek of these first two chapters, which disappears once Luke gets to chapter 3.)

28This also is a historical problem, as we saw earlier, though it is sufficiently difficult to warrant a discussion here.

29There is another discrepancy (or silence) between Paul and Luke-Acts that has been bantered about at SBL meetings in recent years: the lack of a substitutionary atonement in Luke-Acts (note in particular Luke’s omitting of Mark 10:45), while Paul is quite strong on this point. It may be that either this was not the key to Christ’s death for Luke, even though he embraced it; or he may have not fully grasped its significance; or he perceived that Theophilus would not appreciate its significance (or even that it was ancillary to the thrust of Luke-Acts).

30R. N. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, in vol. 9 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 226. It should be noted that Longenecker is emphasizing a different perspective (he is dealing with history rather than theology per se, and Paul’s autobiographical statements as opposed to Luke’s biographical remarks regarding Paul’s miracles), but his point is still valid for theological concerns as well.

31Longenecker adds a helpful analogy: “The situation is somewhat comparable to Plutarch’s treatment of the members of the Roman family Gracchus in his Parallel  Lives and Appian’s depiction of these same leaders in his Civil Wars. While both wrote in the second century A.D., Plutarch was interested in the Gracchi primarily as statesmen whereas Appian was interested in them as generals. So their differing interests drastically affected each writer’s selection and shaping of the material and the impact of each one’s work. Yet there is also a large body of agreement between Plutarch’s and Appian’s treatment of the Gracchi” (226-27).

32Thucydides I.22:1-4 is the relevant text (my translation follows): “And concerning whatever each of these men actually said, either when they were about to engage in battle or when they were already in it, the precise accuracy of what was said has proved itself difficult to remember—both for me, of what I myself heard, and regarding those things which were reported to me from other locales. But as it seemed to me that since each of these men had something especially fitting to say concerning the ever-present circumstances, by adhering as closely as possible to the general intent of what was truly said, [the speeches] were thus recorded.”

Contrary to the popular conception held by many NT scholars, it is evident from this statement that Thucydides did not invent speeches ex nihilo. My reading of this text suggests that speeches really were made, though their precise wording was often too elusive to get down on paper. Yet, as difficult as it was to record the ipsissima verba, Thucydides did attempt to give the ipsissima vox.

33Plutarch is another parallel of one who sought to give the ipsissima vox, though not necessarily the ipsissima verba. Cf. Plutarch’s Lives: Alexander 1.1-3 (my translation follows): “In this book we are writing about the life of Alexander the king and that of Caesar, [the latter] by whom Pompey was destroyed. Because of the vast number of acts which are to be set forth, we will say nothing beforehand other than that we ask the readers not to criticize [our efforts] if we do not report everything in precise detail of their well-known deeds, but abridge most of them. For we are not writing histories but biographies. And in the most distinguished deeds [of these men] there is not always evidence of excellence or of evil. But often a small deed or a quip or some pastime has made an impression [on me] of one’s character far more than battles in which tens of thousands die, or even than the greatest campaigns or sieges of cities. Therefore, in the same way that those who paint the likenesses of one’s face and of facial features—by which one’s character is revealed—draw their picture reflecting minimally on the remaining parts [of the body]; so also one must allow us to penetrate the windows of the soul and, through these windows, to portray each life, leaving the highs and lows [of these individuals] to others.” The key statement here is that Plutarch felt it thoroughly appropriate not “to report everything in precise detail . . . but [to] abridge most of them.”

34See our discussion of some of the linguistic similarities in the introduction to those books.

35Guthrie writes: “The only Acts speech which bears any analogy to the situation behind the Pauline epistles is Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus. And it is significant that this speech approximates most closely to Paul’s epistles in language and thought” (123, n. 5).

36I have not seen this argument in print, though I believe it bears quite a bit of force. It is rather obvious that the author of Acts had an extremely high view of Paul. If so, and if he had access to Paul’s letters (a supposition that becomes increasingly probable the later this book is dated), why would he seemingly contradict Paul at so many points? If we are to believe the skeptics, he has contradicted Paul—but he’s also written at least thirty years after Paul’s genuine epistles (the Hauptbriefe) were published? This is a blatantly self-contradictory supposition. Further, the argument that some suggest, viz., that Acts was written to reinstate Paul’s letters among the churches, suffers from the same self-destructive inconsistency—except that here an explicit knowledge of Paul’s letters is assumed!

37It is certainly doubtful that he became a physician afterwards!

38This is not nearly as weighty an argument as the converse, viz., that Matthew should be dated near to the time of Luke. Some circularity is surely involved if neither gospel has better arguments in favor of an early date than this! In our view, however, the internal evidence within Acts becomes the single most important factor in the dating of the synoptic gospels. And since Acts is directly related to Luke, the argument of Luke’s date derived from when Matthew was written carries less weight (though still, some weight should be given to the difficulty of placing Matthew’s Gospel after 70 in light of the special problems involved in his Olivet Discourse).

39Guthrie, 355-61.

40Robinson, 89.

41Ibid., 359.

42See our discussion of the authorship of 2 Peter for data.

43Guthrie, 358.

44There may be some merit to the suggestion, however. Luke might have intended πρῶτος to indicate a third volume—rhetorically, not literally. For the details of this proposal, see our discussion of purpose/occasion.

45Robinson, 89ff.

46Robinson, 90.

47As quoted by Robinson, 89-90.

48The codex form was not invented until the middle of the first century. Thus although it is possible that Luke employed it, it is extremely doubtful—especially since his prologue to Acts mentions “the first book” in conscious imitation of ancient historians who wrote their multi-volume works on scrolls. Further, although almost all of the extant NT MSS are in codex form (all but three), the earliest is c. 100-150 (P52), giving no help to first century practices. Finally, the vast bulk of extant second century (secular) writings is in scroll form, indicating that even though the codex might have been invented in the first century, it really did not “catch on” until the second or third. (Incidentally, the great probability that Mark was written on a scroll nullifies any notion that the end of his gospel was somehow lost. He meant to end it at 16:8.)

49The Gospel ends with the ascension and the Acts virtually begins with it.

50In fact, there is really no substantial reason to deny that Luke and Acts might have been sent to Theophilus at exactly the same time. That there is some transition between Luke and Acts (the repetition of the ascension) would be only natural if Luke expected the work to be copied onto two scrolls; but this repetition does not need to suggest any gap in date any more than a modern author’s initial paragraph at the beginning of , say, chapter four summarizing the conclusion of chapter three implies any interval.

51Cf. its use in Acts 23:26; 24:3; and 26:25 of the Roman governors Felix and Festus.

52In particular, the exoneration at almost every turn of the Romans and the heavy blame on the Jews throughout both works, coupled with a quite universal outlook (culminating in the legitimacy of the Gentile mission of Paul—especially after repeated attempts to bring the gospel in each town first to the Jews), render this judgment certain.

53Cf. the helpful discussion in Caird, Luke, 44.

54Although Theophilus could mean “loved by God,” since the NT nowhere speaks of God having φιλέω, φιλία toward unbelievers, to call this man “loved by God” probably implies that he was a believer. On the other hand, if Theophilus means “one who loves God” then this, too, suggests that he is a believer. That Luke plays on names in his second volume (cf. Talbert’s work, and classnotes of student in Zane Hodges’ “Acts” [Dallas Seminary, 1978]) suggests that the name here is symbolic, too.

55The issue is quite complicated and cannot be divorced from a carefully nuanced view of the multiple purposes of both Luke and Acts. One of the issues which seems to have been neglected is the amount of time Luke spends on Peter in Acts, and then parallels this with events in the life of Paul. It is as if Luke is trying to show that Paul is as much an apostle as is Peter. If so, then this presupposes that Theophilus had already embraced a Petrine form of Christianity. We will discuss this in our look at the purpose of Acts, but suffice it to say here that Theophilus is in all probability a believer, though he had had doubts about Paul.

56Guthrie, 365.

57See Longenecker’s treatment for an expanded list of options.

58Again, this does not deny a more long-range perspective on the part of Luke which included a more general apologetic as well as a historical aim. Our contention, however, that the catalyst for the writing of Acts was the upcoming trial of Paul.

59See especially A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 108-19.

60Guthrie, 365.

61C. H. Talbert, Literary Patterns, Theological Themes and the Genre of Luke-Acts.

62Guthrie, 373. Guthrie cites D. Ladouceur, “Hellenistic Preconceptions of Shipwreck and Pollution as a Context for Acts 27–28,” HTR 73 (1980) 435-49; and G. B. Miles and G. Trompf, “Luke and Antiphon: The Theology of Acts 27–28 in the Light of Pagan Beliefs about Divine Retribution, Pollution and Shipwreck,” HTR 69 (1976) 259-67.

63For the best treatment on this subject, cf. C. H. Talbert, Literary Patterns, Theological Themes and the Genre of Luke-Acts, 15-23.

64It seems to be Luke’s intention to draw out the parallel. At the conclusion of each message, the author tells us that “they were cut to the heart” (2:37; 7:54, though a different verb is used each time). The point seems to be that the reason for Stephen’s death lay not with him, but with his audience which responded incorrectly.

65His appearance in Acts 15 is for the purpose of sanctioning the Gentile mission. He is not there functioning as a “witness.”

66That this reading of Acts is derived from the author’s intention can be seen by his establishment of this very motif in Acts 10–11: since the Gentiles had experienced the same thing as the Jewish believers, their faith must be just as genuine. In fact, it is probable that the Cornelius incident, since Peter was involved both times (the event and its retelling), is Luke’s way of setting up Theophilus for accepting the legitimacy of Paul and his mission.

67See introduction for a more detailed discussion of our views.

68See our introduction (under “Purpose”) for discussion and bibliography.

69There are several different ways to outline Acts, all of which yield satisfactory results: (1) personally: centered on the two main apostles, Peter and Paul; (2) geographically: from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, to the ends of the earth; (3) progressively: centering on Luke’s seven “progress reports.” Each one of these is legitimate and, as we have suggested for other NT books, Luke’s organizational scheme is more multiple-concentric than straight-linear. That is to say, Luke is developing three distinct motifs all at once: the role of Peter and Paul (thus, two main sections can be detected), the expansion of Christianity according to the outline seen in Acts 1:8, and progression at certain climactic moments. The ideal way to outline this book—as with so much of ancient literature—would be to draw three overlapping circles, each of which expands concentrically as the book unfolds. Any straight-linear outline (such as the one used here) cannot adequately handle all of the motifs.

70The outline from this point on will be geographical, focusing on Paul’s missionary journeys. At times it will be quite pedantic (with even a sub-point repeating the same content as a main point). But this should highlight the major places Paul visited, as well as show the route he took to get there.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines