A. Introductory Questions Author: The author of Acts is anonymous, however historically the book is attributed to the author of the third gospel, Luke the physician (HCSB, 2056, Powell, Introducing, 209). Date: Many scholars believe that Acts was written shortly after Luke which would put the writing of Acts as the mid-80s (HCSB, 2057, Powell, 210). However Acts could have been written earlier, which would mean Luke was likely written earlier as well, given that Acts doesn’t contain events that happened in the late 60s and 70s (Powell, 210). Audience: Both Luke and Acts are addressed to Theophilus so one could assume it is written to a person name Theophilus, but Theophilus means “lover of God” and the books could be written to all people who are lovers of God (HCSB, 2057). Genre: The books of Acts is a book of history which leaves out the bad parts. Not to say these didn’t happen, however the author chose to emphasize the high points of the start of the disciples living as Jesus did (Powell, 212). Acts is a history book to tell the story of the Acts of the Holy Spirit (Powell, 206)
B. Outline Diagram and Summaries
Ascension Jesus was with the disciples after his resurrection in Jerusalem and he told them to stay there until they receive power from the Holy Spirit (1:8) and then he was taken into heaven as the disciples stared. Pentecost Everyone was gathered together to celebrate Pentecost when a loud wind rushed through the crowd and tongues of fire rested on each of their heads and the disciples spoke and all of the devout Jews from all over the world (1:9) heard the speaking in their native tongue. All Things in Common All of the believers were of one heart and soul and they did not privately own anything but gave all to be held in common (4:32). The apostles gave to all in need and no one among them was in need (4:34). Stephen One of the seven chosen to serve so the apostles could focus on teaching (6:2) who was arrested because some of the members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen argued with him and accused him of blasphemy (6:11). Stephen was brought before the high priests and gave testimony of new life in Jesus citing stories from the Hebrew Scripture of how the religious powers missed it (7:1-51). And then Stephen was atoned to death as Saul looked on (7:54-8:1a). Paul’s Call Paul was hunting followers of The Way (9:2) and on his way to Damascus a bright light flashed from heaven and Jesus, as a voice from heaven, asked why Saul persecuted him (9:3-6). Then he went without water or food for three days (9:9). Then Ananias was called and sent to see Saul and removed the scales from Saul’s eyes and baptize him and send him out as God has called him (9:10-19a). Peter and Cornelius Cornelius was a centurion of the Italian Cohort in Caesarea who followed God (10:1-2) had a vision to send for Peter (10:3-8), while Peter had a vision of a sheet lowered from heaven with all kinds of creatures prohibited to eat by the law, but a voice told him get up, kill, and eat. Peter answered no Lord for nothing unclean has ever passed my lips and the sheet disappeared after the appearing 3 times (10:9-16). Peter and believers from Joppa went to Cornelius’ home and Cornelius asked for Peter to tell them all about God (10:23b-33). Jerusalem Council and Apostolic Decree People were coming from Judea teaching that unless you are circumcised you cannot be saved (15:1). So Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to ask the apostles and the elders. And some of the believers who were also Pharisees said new believers must be circumcised and follow all the laws. (15:2-5). The council met and heard testimony from Peter and Paul and Barnabas and decided that Gentile converts did not need to be circumcised but just abstain from things polluted by idols, fornication, whatever has been strangled and from blood (15:6-21). Then the council sent a letter stating this to the churches. And the council appointed members to go and take messages so new converts would know who to listen to (15:22-35). Paul in Corinth Paul stayed with a fellow tentmaker as he taught in the synagogue until they reviled him (18:1-6), then he left and stayed at a house next door to the temple and taught many Jews and Gentiles for 18 months (18:7-12). Then he was brought by Jews before the proconsul, but the proconsul said it was just a matter of words and not law (18:13-17). Then Paul left Corinth. Paul in Ephesus When Paul arrived he found some men who were believers and asked if they had received the Holy Spirit and they didn’t know of the Holy Spirit for they were baptized into John’s Baptism. So Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (19:1-7). Paul taught in the synagogue for 3 months and then 2 years in the lecture hall (19:8-10). Things that touched Paul would be taken to the ill and they were healed. And those who practiced magic burned their books (19:11-20). Paul’s Final Arrival in Jerusalem and Arrest Paul arrived in Jerusalem and was warmly welcomed and visited with James and the elders, and they asked him to go through a purification ritual with 4 men (21:17-26). When the ritual was almost done the crowd was stirred up by Jews from Asia, that Paul was turning people away from the true religion. So, they rushed the temple and drug Paul out and was beating him, but the Roman authorities heard of this and sent guards to stop the riot and arrest Paul to protect him from the other believers (21:27-36). Paul’s House Arrest in Rome In Rome Paul was allowed to live by himself with a soldier standing guard over him (28:16). Paul openly preached in Rome and lived at his own expense for 2 years (28:17-31)
C. Interpretive Issues (200 words) The author of Acts is working the truth of The Way’s narrative to show that they are the victors when Rome had taken away any doubt who was in charge or the world and was the victor (Kahl, p. 140). This sets up issues with the use of Lord and Caesar giving titles that belong only to the ruler of Rome to Jesus (Kahl, p. 142). This along with the author of Act’s portrayal of Paul which is different from the epistles portrayal and also saying that Peter is the main thrust to the Gentiles (Acts 15:7). Paul seems to use his “Roman citizenship” to gain access to places and preaches the gospel in such a way that he is able to still maintain being a Jew and Roman citizen. It seems as though the author of Acts has made Paul into a poster boy for walking the party line and doing what the ruling class says, which seems to go against the epistles Paul actually wrote.
D. Ministerial Application (200 words) This is where the rubber meets the road and I can see how the author of Acts “is announcing that he is about to provide a “safe version” of the Christ (hi)story within the framework of Roman power.” (Kahl, p.147). As the pastor of an RIC campus ministry with congregations that support us that are on the conservative side of the ELCA, I am constantly finessing the story of students and what we encounter to fit the framework of what donors believe without changing the story. I can see the examples of the early church and move this ministry into the coming years.