The History of Acts Part 3

Background to the Acts of the Apostles

  1. The author:
      1. Luke was not an eyewitness to the life of Christ (Luke 1:14), but he was a participant in many of the events of Acts (Acts 16: 10­ 17; 20:5­-21:18; 27:1­-28:16).
      2. Like Paul, he came on the scene after the life of Christ on earth.
      3. He was with Paul at Rome during the imprisonment with which Acts closes rather abruptly. Acts 28:30, ­31; cf. Colossians 4: 14; Philemon 24.
    1. When was Acts written?
      1. Acts closes abruptly with Paul under house arrest at Rome awaiting the outcome of his appeal to Caesar.
      2. The most reasonable explanation for the book’s leaving us in the dark as to the outcome of the appeal is that the case had not yet been decided when Luke wrote.
      3. Paul and his company arrived at Rome in the spring of A.D. 60 and stayed there “two whole years” before going to trial. Acts 28:30.
      4. Thus Acts may have been written sometime in or shortly after 62 A.D., just before Paul’s trial and initial release to go to Iberia/Spain where large numbers of Jews lived.
      5. Note: Tradition tells us that Paul undertook additional missionary labors following his release, perhaps in Spain; i.e. Iberia. Cf. Rom.15:24­-28.
    2. The title of this book: The Acts of the Apostles.
      1. The book certainly does not tell all the acts of all the apostles; it doesn’t even relate some of the acts of the other apostles.
      2. Some have suggested that a more descriptive title might be the Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Church Known as The Way; early Christians were not called Christians.

Additional Background to the Acts of the Apostles

  1. Luke was a physician (Col.4:14), and his medical background and interests seem to appear at times.
    1. He uses medical terms (“convulsed” (thrown down, ASV) and “examine” (look upon, ASV) in Luke 4:35 and 9:38.)
    2. In Jesus’ saying about the camel and the needle’s eye, Luke uses the technical term for a surgeon’s needle/awl eye (trumalia); Matthew and Mark use another word (trupēma) which refers to a needle of whatever variety. Luke 18:25; cf. Matt.19:24; Mark 10:25.
  • Saul did not merely have his sight restored, but “there fell from his eyes as it were scales”; he then “took food and was strengthened.” Acts 9:18­19.
    1. This eyesight restoration leads this author to believe his “thorn in the side” was not his eyesight
  1. Publius’ father “lay sick of fever and dysentery.” Acts 28:8.
  1. Why did Luke write?
    1. He saw the need to commit to writing an accurate account of the beginning and spread of Christianity. THE CHURCH. Luke 1: 1­4.
    2. It chronicles the triumph of the gospel over the hearts of men in a hostile world. Acts 2:47b; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:30, ­31.

The Message of the Book of Acts

  1. Acts traces the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome.
    1. A simple outline of the book can be formulated on the basis of Jesus’ statement at Acts 1:8.
      1. In Jerusalem. Acts 1:1­8
      2. In Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:4­; 11:18.
  • In the uttermost parts of the world. Acts 11:19; ­28:31.
  1. As he was moved by the Holy Spirit, Luke showed how the purpose of God to save mankind was being worked out in human history.
  2. Its (gospel message) spread throughout the larger Roman Empire mainly through the efforts of Paul and the dispersed church of believers by the Sanhedrin and anti-Christian Rome.
    1. Paul always began his preaching in each city among its Jewish population in a local Synagogue. Acts 13:5,14; 14:1; 16:13; 17:1,10,17; 18:4; 19:8; 28:17.
    2. Rejection by the Jews led to preaching among the Gentiles. Acts 13:46. 

Major Themes and/or Issues in the Book of Acts

  1. The reliability of Luke as an historian.
    1. In the last century, critical thought, generally in Germany, held that Acts was a second century document from a third-­rate historian.
    2. Research in geography, archaeology, and history have so thoroughly vindicated Acts’ trustworthiness as a document from the first century that such criticisms now appear absurd.
  • Sir William Ramsay (1852 – 1916) was trained in and accepted the German critical theories until he began archaeological work in Asia Minor. He was forced to abandon the attitude he had learned toward Acts and eventually became one of the most ardent defenders of Luke’s reliability. Cf. Ramsay’s The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (1915).
  1. Acts reflects details that only a first­ century author who was personally familiar with them could have related. He had great insight from befriending Apostle Paul.
  2. Luke knew, for example, that . . .
    1. Cyprus, Achaia, and Asia were senatorial provinces governed by proconsuls. Acts 13:7; 18:12; 19:38.
    2. The chief magistrates of Thessalonica were called ”politarchs.” Acts 17:6,8.
    3. The leading men of Ephesus were “Asiarchs.” Acts 19:31.
    4. Laws and customs of the Roman world conformed to patterns that we have only recently been able to corroborate.
  3. Luke is now known to display a minute accuracy of detail which is unsurpassed in ancient literature.
  1. Some special features of Acts.
    1. The geography of the book involves three key cities.
      1. Jerusalem is the base for the church’s evangelistic activity among the Jews for the first 12 chapters with Apostle Peter.
      2. Antioch is the center of activity among the Gentiles in chapters 13­:21 with Apostle Paul.
      3. Rome is the city of Paul’s evangelistic enterprise as the book comes to a close.
    2. In terms of central personalities, Peter and Paul dominate respective halves of the book. Luke was a colleague of Paul and knew Peter by association.
      1. Peter, apostle to the circumcision [Jews and Israelis], is the central figure of the first 12 chapters.
      2. Paul, apostle to the uncircumcision [Greeks], is the principle of the remainder.
      3. Even the miracles they performed in confirmation of their apostleship are recorded in parallel: healing lame men (Acts 3:2; Acts 14:8), “miracles of harm” (Acts 5:1; Acts 13:6), healings through secondary means (Acts 5:15; Acts 19:12), casting out demons (Acts 5:16; Acts 16:18), confronting sorcerers (Acts 8:18; Acts13:6), and raising the dead (Acts 9:36; Acts 20:9).
  • The activity of the Holy Spirit is given great notice in Acts.
    1. The outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost is in many ways the central event of the book. Acts 1:4­5; 2:1-­13.
    2. The message preached and the signs performed in its confirmation are all attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit.
  1. The early expansion of the church.
    1. In the earliest days of the church, the church was confined to Jerusalem.
    2. The persecution of Christians by the Jewish leadership following Stephen’s martyrdom led to evangelization in the areas of Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:1.
      1. Philip preached in Samaria. Acts 8:4-­25.
      2. He converted an Ethiopian seeking understanding. Acts 8:26-­39.
      3. He preached in the Gentile city of Caesarea. Acts 8:40.
  • The first recorded instance of Gentile conversion is Peter’s experience with Cornelius. Acts 10.
    1. This met with objections. Acts 11:1­3
    2. As a result, however, the right of Gentiles to hear the gospel was affirmed. Acts 11:4­-18.
  1. Near the time of Cornelius’ conversion (A.D. 40?), the gospel came to Antioch.
    1. Preaching was first to the Jews. Acts 11:19.
    2. An outreach was begun among the Gentiles. Acts 11:20­-21.
    3. Cornelius is the first recorded Greek conversion to The Way (Christianity)
  2. Antioch of Syria now becomes the center of activity in the book.
  1. The missionary tours of Paul.
    1. The church at Antioch was founded by fugitives from Saul’s persecution of Jewish converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. Acts 11:19.
      1. Many Gentiles were also converted in this city. Acts 11:20,­ 21.
      2. The brethren at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to investigate this unusual situation. Acts 11:22­, 24.
    2. Barnabas decided to seek the help of Saul now called Paul in building up the church at Antioch. Acts 11:25, ­26.
      1. He had shown confidence in Paul earlier, shortly after his conversion. Acts 9:26, ­27.
      2. Now he would bring him into a situation where the Lord’s providence was to give an opportunity for the greatest missionary efforts in all history other than possibly Billie Graham.
      3. Note: This is three years after Saul’s conversion. We do not know what was happening in his life during that time. Galatians 1: 15­-24.

 

 

Part Two (Introduction to Second Semester – Acts 13-28)

Luke – Part Two (Introduction to Second Semester – Acts 13-28)

Instructor’s Note: Last semester we left off at chapter 12:24. We now pick up where the Apostle Peter is no longer the center of the goings on; the Apostle Paul is primary to Acts 13-28. This term will mention Paul’s missionary trips to the Gentiles, but mostly discuss the issues of those days when Paul made his missionary travels. It isn’t a study to trace his three “missionary” trips establishing new communities of Gentile believers, but more to the historical facts of why and where he went and where he avoided going.

An aside note…Just as the first half of the Book of Daniel is written in Aramaic (Greek) and the second half Hebrew, the Book of Acts is the message in the first half to the Jews and the second half is to the Gentile/Greeks.acts

Acts 12:25-16:5

In this part, Luke describes how the gospel spread through more countries and by who; such as the connection with King Solomon in 945 B.C. and Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian official almost 1,000 years later. It ends like this: ‘So, the Christians became stronger in their faith and more believers joined together daily.’ The people who joined were believers, not outsiders. This means those in The Way (Christians) in worship and discipleship were not the lost but those who were there to learn something beyond their salvation moment.

Acts 16:6-19:20

We learn from this portion of Acts how the good news about Jesus reached Europe. Paul started a new church in Corinth, a city in Greece. To its name-sake we get 1 & 2 Corinthians. He also started a new church in Ephesus; i.e. the Book of Ephesians. Ephesus was a very important city. It was in the same territory that is Turkey today. It is near Greece but mostly separated by the Aegean Sea. This part ends like this: ‘In this manner, the Lord’s message (to the believers) continued to increase in power and it spread widely.’

Acts 19:21-28:31

In the final part of our Acts study this semester, Luke tells us that Paul reached Rome. When the book ends, Paul is in prison under house arrest. There, ‘he preached boldly about God’s kingdom. He taught the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ and nobody tried to stop him.’ In other words, he brought many to a belief in Christ than sent them to a church of other believers to be disciples (learners) per living a life in Christ; i.e. To Be & To Live (be-liever) growing daily in knowledge and understanding.be a believer

When the book ends, Paul is in Rome. The Romans had arrested him. Luke does not say what happened to Paul next but he remained with him. So, many scholars conclude that Luke completed Acts very soon after this. Also, he said nothing about Emperor Nero. He killed many Christians in AD 64. Luke had likely finished the book in AD 62. We do not know the exact date. It only makes sense if Luke had not already written Acts, he would have included Paul’s execution under the sword of Nero; the firebug of Rome.rome fire

Nero Biography

Nero was the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius and became Claudius’ heir and successor. Like Claudius, Nero became emperor with the consent of the Praetorian Guard. Nero’s mother, Agrippina the Younger, was likely implicated in Claudius’ death and Nero’s nomination as emperor. She dominated Nero’s early life and decisions until he cast her off. Five years into his reign, he had her murdered. He reigned from 54 A.D. to 68 A.D.

JIV NOTE: As a disciple; i.e. bible student, know that names mentioned in the bible are for reasons far beyond the knowledge of their names. The same is true of places and things. These persons, places and things help archeologists, historians, and even militaries trace diggings, research, and tactics. In a very real sense it is like the Hansel and Gretel “story.” These persons, places and things have markers that can be traced back to their origins. Praise God!

AHA MOMENT: The Rest of the Bible Facts not found in the bible; Job, Issachar, and Zebulon

After the Assyrian dispersion of the ten Northern Tribes of Israel around 720 B.C., tribes migrated north, west and east; Kazar/Kazak Empire. To the distant northeast we find a tribe even older than the Israeli Tribes; one that claims to descend from Job. Today they are called the Abii or Lob (Job) tribes…in *Siberia.

*NOTE: From where do most historians claim the American Indian migrated when crossing the land-bridge between Alaska and Russia? ANS: Siberia, so that implicates the American Indian.

Extra Bonus AHA MOMENT: Shortly after the Northern Tribes of Israel were dispersed by Assyrians a people by the names Asakarta or Sagartii (Issachar) appeared in the Zagros Mountains between Iran and Iraq. British geographers discovered in a territory close by the name, of a clan of people who called their land Zabulistan (Zebulon?).

So much more but this is for an advanced study at a later date. The Bible is not a manuscript for a religion. It is traceable historical facts.

“The bulk of the Finns and Estonians are Israelite, but the Karelians are Japhetic but live within the lands of Israeli in Scandinavia. The Karelians live in an eastern province of Finland. They descended from Japheth (son of Noah)”

Descendants of Issachar settled in western Finland and Estonia (Sources: Eino Juttikala and Kauko Pirinen, A History of Finland, 1974. p.13; W.R Mead, Finland, 1968, p. 56)

 

Dr. jStarkRev. Dr. Jstark
May, 2018