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THE BOOK OF ACTS
Introduction to Acts (Part 1)
Victor M. Eskew
A. The book of Acts is the fifth book in our New Testaments.
1. It follows the gospels.
2. It precedes the epistles.
3. It is perfectly located within this divine book.
B. Acts is the only “history” book in the New Testament.
C. The book of Acts contains 28 chapters and 1007 verses.
I. THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK
A. The author of the book is not specifically named.
B. “Alfred Plummer says the voice of the church for the first eight centuries contends for Luke, and no one else, as the author of both the Gospel of Luke and Acts (xiii.) (Jackson, 2).
C. The lines of evidence of Lucan authorship.
a. Many of the early church fathers quoted from the book of Acts.
1) Thus, the book existed early.
2) Some of them men attributed the book to Luke (i.e., Irenaeus who lived from the early first century until 202 A.D. said Luke was the author in his work, Against Heresies).
b. The early writings of that period speak of Lucan authorship.
1) Didache, a first or early second century work
2) Muratorian Fragment (Latin translation from a Greek original about 170 A.D.).
2. Internal evidence
a. The “we” sections of Acts
1) The writer was a companion with Paul in some of his missionary travels.
2) When “we” is used Luke is not mentioned by name because he is included in the “we.”
3) When the word “they” is used, again, Luke is not mentioned because he was not with them at the time.
b. The similarities with the Gospel of Luke
1) Same recipient
2) Same literary style, vocabulary, and theological ideas
3) Each book is the length of a scroll, that is, 35 feet.
c. The medical language of the book of Acts (See Colossians 4:14).
Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.
II. THE RECIPIENT OF THE BOOK
A. The book names Theophilus as the recipient (Acts 1:1).
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.
1. Theophilus is a Greek name that means “lover of God.”
2. In Luke’s gospel, he is referred to as being “most excellent” (Luke 1:3). This indicates that he occupied a position of prominence in a governing office.
3. A friend of Luke
4. Some have suggested that he may have helped to fund Luke’s research and distribution of the books that he wrote.
B. It was a book written to the Gentiles.
C. It is a book written for all men.
III. THE DATE OF THE BOOK
A. The dates given to the book falls into three time periods: before A.D. 70, late first century, or mid-second century.
B. The early date has been set around 61-62 A.D. Why?
1. The book was written in a time when the miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit were still occurring and were considered significant.
2. The abrupt close of the book is an indicator of the early date of the book. “The most natural explanation of the phenomenon is that there is nothing further to report at the time” (Thiessen, 185).
IV. THE OCCASION OF THE BOOK (Thiessen, 184)
A. The definite need for authoritative information concerning the activity of the leading apostles.
B. The need to show that the Christian movement was one movement whether the believers were Jews, proselytes, Samarians, Gentiles, etc.
C. The need for setting Paul’s experiences in his missionary labors, especially his arrest and imprisonment, in the right light.
D. The need for showing that God bare witness with the apostles “both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:4). Thus, authenticating the whole Christians movement and connecting it with the work of the risen and ascended Christ.
V. THE STYLE OF THE BOOK
A. Acts is a historical narrative.
B. As a history book, it contains an abundance of details that can be verified.
1. Some of the details given:
a. 32 countries
b. 54 cities
c. 9 Mediterranean islands
d. 95 people
1) 62 of which are not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament
2) 27 are unbelievers, chiefly civil or military officials
2. William Ramsay was a skeptic of Acts at first. He did his own investigative research and became convinced of the book’s historical accuracy.
a. “Ramsay, an archaeologist, started out as a skeptic but became firmly convinced of Luke’s historical reliability as he discovered detail after detail in Acts that demonstrated firsthand acquaintance with conditions in the Roman Empire in the middle of the first century. Luke, Ramsay concluded, belongs in the rank of ancient historians” (Carson, Moo, Morris, 202)
b. Ramsay: “The present writer takes the view that Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness. At this point we are describing what reasons and arguments changed the mind of one who began under the impression that the history was written long after the events and that it was untrustworthy as a whole…” (as quoted by Jackson, p. 3).
A. We have finished the first half of our introduction to the book of Acts.
B. We will finish the introduction in next week’s lesson.
C. We hope that our discussion thus far has sparked your interest in this great work written by the physician Luke.