Questions About Acts Who wrote it? When was it written? Why was it written?
Author The prologue to Acts states that it is volume two of a two part work, the first of which “… dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up … “ (Acts 1:1b-2a, ESV) Both the Acts and the Gospel of Luke are addressed to Theophilus Some of the latter parts of Acts are written in the first person, parts where Luke is said to be accompanying Paul The earliest external evidence we have that Luke wrote Acts is the Muratorian fragment (from about A.D. 170)
Muratorian Fragment Father Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750) discovered a 8th century list in Latin of the books of the NT The list is a translation from a Greek original dating to about A.D. 170 The list makes some comments about each book, including the fact that Luke wrote Acts
What Is and Isn’t Written Acts mentions the martyrdom of the deacon Stephen and the apostle James, but says nothing about the deaths of Peter and Paul, the book’s two main characters, in A.D. 66-68 Acts gives Paul’s defense before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, but says nothing about his defense before the emperor, to which these are preludes Acts talks about various local persecutions of Christians, but says nothing about the greater persecution under Nero In Volume One (his Gospel) Luke records Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, but makes no mention in Volume Two (Acts) of the fulfillment of that prophecy (A.D. 70) What do you conclude from these statements and omissions?
Date of Writing The traditional date for Acts is A.D. 60-62 The traditional date makes sense of all of this since in A.D. 60-62: – Peter and Paul were still alive – Paul was under house arrest in Rome waiting for a hearing before the emperor – The Great Roman Fire of A.D. 64, after which Nero targeted Christians, had not yet happened – The Jewish War had not yet started
Purpose “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4, ESV) Luke says he is: – Compiling a narrative of what happened – Recording what eyewitnesses told him – Putting it down in an orderly account – Doing it so that the reader may be certain about what he has already been taught
Structure: the Leaders of the Church The book of Acts focuses on individuals important in early church history, gives status updates on the growth of the church, and shows how and where the Gospel spread The people: – Jesus (1:1-11) – Peter (1:11-6:7 and 9:32-12:25) – Stephen (6:8-8:3) – Philip (8) – Paul (9:1-31 and chapters 13-28)
Structure: the Growth of the Church The status updates: – 1:15 (before Pentecost) – 2:41 (after Pentecost) – 6:7 (spread of the Gospel in Jerusalem) – 9:31 (spread of the Gospel in Palestine) – 12:24 (before Paul’s 1 st missionary journey) – 16:5 (before the Gospel goes to Europe) – 19:20 (during Paul’s 3 rd missionary journey)
Structure: the Spread of the Gospel The apostles tell the good news about Jesus in Jerusalem (1:1-6:7) The Gospel in preached in Judea and Samaria (6:8-9:31) Gentiles are included (9:32-12:24) The Gospel is preached in Asia (12:25-16:5) The Gospel is preached in Europe (16:6-19:20) The Gospel is preached in the capital of the Empire (19:21-28:31)
Teaching Method Video Introduction Background Information Summary of Events Archaeological Confirmation Important Textual Variations Discussion Question
Video Introduction Each week we will begin by showing a DVD section of the Scripture for that week The DVD is The Visual Bible – Acts The script is exactly the NIV text However, some scenes are narrated instead of being dramatized
Background Information Here we tell you things that a first century Greek reader would understand but a twenty- first century American reader might not We try to be your Bible dictionary and encyclopedia
Summary of Events Here we summarize what happens in the narrative, including things that might not be obvious if you don’t have the background knowledge Luke’s readers had Here also we describe differing interpretations of the events to let you make your choice
Archaeological Confirmation It’s no good trying to convince an unbeliever that the Bible is the word of God and inerrant by quoting the Bible to him. Unlike you, he doesn’t already believe it. A much better tactic is to: – Show him how the words of the NT have been verified by archaeological discoveries. – Then point out to him that the human authors of the NT had little to gain and much to lose by making up what they wrote. – Then ask him why he doubts writings that have been archaeologically verified and contain embarrassing stories about the authors themselves. Why would they make it up?
Archaeological Confirmation in Acts The book of Acts is important in this effort because in volume 1 (the Gospel of Luke) its author claims to have compiled his narrative from eyewitness accounts. In Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, 84 different details are noted which an eyewitness might know but a ordinary first century Greek author would not. We will try to point some of these out to you as we go through the book.
Important Textual Variations Modern New Testaments are typically translated from a standard Greek text However this standard text (in the case of our pew Bibles the 1993 edition of The Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies) is chosen by people known as textual critics Textual critics review the wording of different manuscripts, decide which is more likely the original wording, and put that wording in the standard Greek NT text. The alternate wording they list in footnotes Translation committees then decide 1) on which Greek words (text or footnotes) they will base their English translation, 2) which alternate readings (if any) they will list in their own footnotes
Example of a Textual Variation “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37, KJV) The RSV and NRSV put this verse in a footnote The ASV, NASB, and HCSB print the verse in brackets with a note that most manuscripts do not have it The NIV puts it in a footnote and says that only late manuscripts have it
Discussion Question Is it important for you to understand the choices made by translators and textual critics about the which words you read in your English Bible?