Jump to content

Historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Papyrus manuscript of part of the Acts of the Apostles (Papyrus 8, 4th century AD)

The historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles, the principal historical source for the Apostolic Age, is of interest for biblical scholars and historians of Early Christianity as part of the debate over the historicity of the Bible. Historical reliability is not dependent on a source being inerrant or void of agendas since there are sources that are considered generally reliable despite having such traits (e.g. Josephus).[1]

Archaeological inscriptions and other independent sources show that Acts of the Apostles (“Acts”) contains some accurate details of 1st century society with regard to the titles of officials, administrative divisions, town assemblies, and rules of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. However, the historicity of the depiction of Paul the Apostle in Acts is contested. Acts describes Paul differently from how Paul describes himself, both factually and theologically.[2] Acts differs with Paul's letters on important issues, such as the Law, Paul's own apostleship, and his relation to the Jerusalem church.[2] Scholars generally prefer Paul's account over that in Acts.[3]: 316 [4]: 10  However, Roman historians have generally taken the basic historicity of Acts as granted.[5]



Luke–Acts is a two-part historical account traditionally ascribed to Luke the Evangelist, who was believed to be a follower of Paul. The author of Luke–Acts noted that there were many accounts in circulation at the time of his writing, saying that these were eyewitness testimonies. He stated that he had investigated "everything from the beginning" and was editing the material into one account from the birth of Jesus to his own time. Like other historians of his time,[6][7][8][9] he defined his actions by stating that the reader can rely on the "certainty" of the facts given. However, most scholars understand Luke–Acts to be in the tradition of Hellenic historiography.[10][11][12]

Use of sources[edit]

It has been claimed that the author of Acts used the writings of Josephus (specifically Antiquities of the Jews) as a historical source.[13][14] The majority of scholars reject both this claim and the claim that Josephus borrowed from Acts,[15][16][17] arguing instead that Luke and Josephus drew on common traditions and historical sources.[18][19][20][21][22][23]

Several scholars[who?] have criticised the author's use of his source materials. For example, Richard Heard has written that, "in his narrative in the early part of Acts he seems to be stringing together, as best he may, a number of different stories and narratives, some of which appear, by the time they reached him, to have been seriously distorted in the telling."[24][page needed]

Textual traditions[edit]

Like most New Testament books, there are significant differences among the earliest surviving manuscripts of Acts. In the case of Acts, the differences between the surviving manuscripts are especially substantial. Arguably the two earliest versions of manuscripts are the Western text-type (as represented by the Codex Bezae) and the Alexandrian text-type (as represented by the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus which was not seen in Europe until 1859). The version of Acts preserved in the Western manuscripts contains about 6.2–8.5%[25] more content than the Alexandrian version of Acts (depending on the definition of a variant).[4]: 5–6 

Modern scholars contend that the shorter Alexandrian text is closer to the original, and the longer Western text is the result of later insertion of additional material into the text.[4]: 5–6 

A third class of manuscripts, known as the Byzantine text-type, is often considered to have developed after the Western and Alexandrian types. While differing from both of the other types, the Byzantine type has more similarity to the Alexandrian than to the Western type. The extant manuscripts of this type date from the 5th century or later; however, papyrus fragments show that this text-type may date as early as the Alexandrian or Western text-types.[26]: 45–48  The Byzantine text-type served as the basis for the 16th century Textus Receptus, produced by Erasmus, the first Greek-language printed edition of the New Testament. The Textus Receptus, in turn, served as the basis for the New Testament in the English-language King James Bible. Today, the Byzantine text-type is the subject of renewed interest as the possible original form of the text from which the Western and Alexandrian text-types were derived.[27][page needed]


The debate on the historicity of Acts became most vehement between 1895 and 1915.[28] Ferdinand Christian Baur viewed it as unreliable, and mostly an effort to reconcile Gentile and Jewish forms of Christianity.[4]: 10  Adolf von Harnack in particular was known for being very critical of the accuracy of Acts, though his allegations of its inaccuracies have been described as "exaggerated hypercriticism" by some.[29] Leading scholar and archaeologist of the time period, William Mitchell Ramsay, considered Acts to be remarkably reliable as a historical document.[30] Attitudes towards the historicity of Acts have ranged widely across scholarship in different countries.[31]

According to Heidi J. Hornik and Mikeal C. Parsons, "Acts must be carefully sifted and mined for historical information."[4]: 10 

Passages consistent with the historical background[edit]

Acts contains some accurate details of 1st century society, specifically with regard to titles of officials, administrative divisions, town assemblies, and rules of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem,[32] including:

Charles H. Talbert concludes that the historical inaccuracies within Acts "are few and insignificant compared to the overwhelming congruence of Acts and its time [until AD 64] and place [Palestine and the wider Roman Empire]".[32] Talbert cautions nevertheless that "an exact description of the milieu does not prove the historicity of the event narrated".[35]

Whilst treating its description of the history of the early church skeptically, critical scholars such as Gerd Lüdemann, Alexander Wedderburn, Hans Conzelmann, and Martin Hengel still view Acts as containing valuable historically accurate accounts of the earliest Christians.

Lüdemann acknowledges the historicity of Christ's post-resurrection appearances,[36] the names of the early disciples,[37] women disciples,[38] and Judas Iscariot.[39] Wedderburn says the disciples indisputably believed Christ was truly raised.[40] Conzelmann dismisses an alleged contradiction between Acts 13:31 and Acts 1:3.[41] Hengel believes Acts was written early[42] by Luke as a partial eyewitness,[43] praising Luke's knowledge of Palestine,[44] and of Jewish customs in Acts 1:12.[45] With regard to Acts 1:15–26, Lüdemann is skeptical with regard to the appointment of Matthias, but not with regard to his historical existence.[46] Wedderburn rejects the theory that denies the historicity of the disciples,[47][48] Conzelmann considers the upper room meeting a historical event Luke knew from tradition,[49] and Hengel considers ‘the Field of Blood’ to be an authentic historical name.[50]

Concerning Acts 2, Lüdemann considers the Pentecost gathering as very possible,[51] and the apostolic instruction to be historically credible.[52] Wedderburn acknowledges the possibility of a ‘mass ecstatic experience’,[53] and notes it is difficult to explain why early Christians later adopted this Jewish festival if there had not been an original Pentecost event as described in Acts.[54] He also holds the description of the early community in Acts 2 to be reliable.[55][56]

Lüdemann views Acts 3:1–4:31 as historical.[57] Wedderburn notes what he sees as features of an idealized description,[58] but nevertheless cautions against dismissing the record as unhistorical.[59] Hengel likewise insists that Luke described genuine historical events, even if he has idealized them.[60][61]

Wedderburn maintains the historicity of communal ownership among the early followers of Christ (Acts 4:32–37).[62] Conzelmann, though sceptical, believes Luke took his account of Acts 6:1–15 from a written record;[63] more positively, Wedderburn defends the historicity of the account against scepticism.[64] Lüdemann considers the account to have a historical basis.[65]

Passages of disputed historical accuracy[edit]

Acts 2:41 and 4:4 – Peter's addresses[edit]

Acts 4:4 speaks of Peter addressing an audience, resulting in the number of Christian converts rising to 5,000 people. A Professor of the New Testament Robert M. Grant says "Luke evidently regarded himself as a historian, but many questions can be raised in regard to the reliability of his history [...] His ‘statistics’ are impossible; Peter could not have addressed three thousand hearers [e.g. in Acts 2:41] without a microphone, and since the population of Jerusalem was about 25–30,000, Christians cannot have numbered five thousand [e.g. Acts 4:4]."[66] However, as Professor I. Howard Marshall shows, the believers could have possibly come from other countries (see Acts 2: 9-10). In regards to being heard, recent history suggests that a crowd of thousands can be addressed; for instance, Benjamin Franklin's account about George Whitefield notes that crowds of thousands could be addressed by a single speaker without the aid of technological implements. [67]

Acts 5:33–39: Theudas[edit]

Acts 5:33–39 gives an account of speech by the 1st century Pharisee Gamaliel (d. ~50ad), in which he refers to two first century movements. One of these was led by Theudas.[68] Afterwards another was led by Judas the Galilean.[69] Josephus placed Judas at the Census of Quirinius of the year 6 and Theudas under the procurator Fadus[70] in 44–46. Assuming Acts refers to the same Theudas as Josephus, two problems emerge. First, the order of Judas and Theudas is reversed in Acts 5. Second, Theudas's movement may come after the time when Gamaliel is speaking. It is possible that Theudas in Josephus is not the same one as in Acts, or that it is Josephus who has his dates confused.[71] The 3rd-century writer Origen referred to a Theudas active before the birth of Jesus,[72] although it is possible that this simply draws on the account in Acts.

Acts 10:1: Roman troops in Caesarea[edit]

Acts 10:1 speaks of a Roman Centurion called Cornelius belonging to the "Italian regiment" and stationed in Caesarea about 37 AD. Robert M. Grant claims that during the reign of Herod Agrippa, 41–44, no Roman troops were stationed in his territory.[73] Wedderburn likewise finds the narrative "historically suspect",[74] and in view of the lack of inscriptional and literary evidence corroborating Acts, historian de Blois suggests that the unit either did not exist or was a later unit which the author of Acts projected to an earlier time.[75]

Noting that the 'Italian regiment' is generally identified as cohors II Italica civium Romanorum, a unit whose presence in Judea is attested no earlier than AD 69,[76] historian E. Mary Smallwood observes that the events described from Acts 9:32 to chapter 11 may not be in chronological order with the rest of the chapter but actually take place after Agrippa's death in chapter 12, and that the "Italian regiment" may have been introduced to Caesarea as early as AD 44.[77] Wedderburn notes this suggestion of chronological re-arrangement, along with the suggestion that Cornelius lived in Caesarea away from his unit.[78] Historians such as Bond,[79] Speidel,[80] and Saddington,[81] see no difficulty in the record of Acts 10:1.

Acts 15: The Council of Jerusalem[edit]

The description of the 'Apostolic Council' in Acts 15, generally considered the same event described in Galatians 2,[82] is considered by some scholars to be contradictory to the Galatians account.[83] The historicity of Luke's account has been challenged,[84][85][86] and was rejected completely by some scholars in the mid to late 20th century.[87] However, more recent scholarship inclines towards treating the Jerusalem Council and its rulings as a historical event,[88] though this is sometimes expressed with caution.[89]

Acts 15:16–18: James' speech[edit]

In Acts 15:16–18, James, the leader of the Christian Jews in Jerusalem, gives a speech where he quotes scriptures from the Greek Septuagint (Amos 9:11–12). Some believe this is incongruous with the portrait of James as a Jew, who would presumably have spoken Aramaic rather than Greek. For instance, Richard Pervo notes: "The scriptural citation strongly differs from the MT which has nothing to do with the inclusion of gentiles. This is the vital element in the citation and rules out the possibility that the historical James (who would not have cited the LXX) utilized the passage."[90]

A possible explanation is that the Septuagint translation better made James's point about the inclusion of gentiles as the people of God.[91]

Acts 21:38: The sicarii and the Egyptian[edit]

In Acts 21:38, a Roman asks Paul if he was 'the Egyptian' who led a band of 'sicarii' (literally: 'dagger-men') into the desert. In both The Jewish Wars[92] and Antiquities of the Jews,[93] Josephus talks about Jewish nationalist rebels called sicarii directly prior to talking about the Egyptian leading some followers to the Mount of Olives. Richard Pervo believes that this demonstrates that Luke used Josephus as a source and mistakenly thought that the sicarii were followers of The Egyptian.[94][95]

Other sources for early Church history[edit]

Two early sources that mention the origins of Christianity are the Antiquities of the Jews by the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus, and the Church History of Eusebius. Josephus and Luke-Acts are thought to be approximately contemporaneous, around AD 90, and Eusebius wrote some two and a quarter centuries later.

More indirect evidence can be obtained from other New Testament writings, early Christian apocrypha, and non-Christian sources such as the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan (AD 112). Even Christian pseudepigrapha sometimes give potential insights into how early Christian communities formed and functioned, the kind of issues they faced and what sort of beliefs they developed.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ehrman, Bart D.; Evans, Craig A.; Stewart, Robert B. (2020). Can we trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus? (1 ed.). Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 12–18. ISBN 9780664265854.
  2. ^ a b Cain, Seymour; et al. "Biblical literature". Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  3. ^ Harris, Stephen (1985). Understanding the Bible: A Reader's Introduction (2 ed.). Mayfield Publishing Companylocation=. ISBN 978-0874846966.
  4. ^ a b c d e Hornik, Heidi J.; Parsons, Mikeal C. (2017). The Acts of the Apostles through the centuries (1 ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. ISBN 9781118597873.
  5. ^ Licona, Michael R. (2010). The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. InterVarsity Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-8308-2719-0.
  6. ^ Aune, David (1988). The New Testament in Its Literary Environment. James Clarke & Co. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-0-227-67910-4.
  7. ^ Daniel Marguerat (5 September 2002). The First Christian Historian: Writing the 'Acts of the Apostles'. Cambridge University Press. pp. 63–. ISBN 978-1-139-43630-4.
  8. ^ Clare K. Rothschild (2004). Luke-Acts and the Rhetoric of History: An Investigation of Early Christian Historiography. Mohr Siebeck. pp. 216–. ISBN 978-3-16-148203-8.
  9. ^ Todd Penner (2004). In Praise of Christian Origins: Stephen and the Hellenists in Lukan Apologetic Historiography. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-0-567-02620-0.
  10. ^ Grant, Robert M., "A Historical Introduction to the New Testament" (Harper and Row, 1963) "A Historical Introduction to the New Testament". Archived from the original on 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2009-11-24.
  11. ^ Phillips, Thomas E. "The Genre of Acts: Moving Toward a Consensus?" Currents in Biblical Research 4 [2006] 365 – 396.
  12. ^ "Hengel classifies Acts as a "historical monograph," as accurate as the work of any other ancient historian. Cadbury thinks the author is closest to being a historian, but writes on a popular level. Others compare the author to the ancient historian Thucydides, particularly in the matter of composed speeches that strive for verisimilitude. L. Donelson characterizes the author as a cult historian who travels from place to place gathering traditions, setting down the origin of the sect. Pervo observes that even scholars such as Haenchen who rate the author as highly unreliable nevertheless classify him as a historian.", Setzer, "Jewish responses to early Christians: history and polemics, 30–150 C.E." (1994). Fortress Press.
  13. ^ ‘This theory was maintained by F. C. Burkitt (The Gospel History and its Transmission, 1911, pp. 105–110), following the arguments of Krenkel’s Josephus und Lucas (1894).’, Guthrie, ‘New Testament Introduction’, p. 363 (4th rev. ed. 1996). Tyndale Press.
  14. ^ 'Clearly Luke makes significant use of the LXX in both the gospels and Acts. In addition it is often alleged that he made use of the writings of Josephus and the letters of Paul. The use of the LXX is not debatable, but the influence of Josephus and Paul has been and is subjected to considerable debate.', Tyson, 'Marcion and Luke-Acts: a defining struggle', p. 14 (2006).University of California Press.
  15. ^ ‘Neither position has much of a following today, because of the significant differences between the two works in their accounts of the same events.’, Mason, ‘Josephus and the New Testament’, p. 185 (1992). Baker Publishing Group.
  16. ^ 'After examining the texts myself, I must conclude with the majority of scholars that it is impossible to establish the dependence of Luke-Acts on the Antiquitates.', Sterling, 'Historiography and Self-Definition: Josephus, Luke-Acts, and Apologetic Historiography', Supplements to Novum Testamentum, pp. 365–366 (1992). Brill.
  17. ^ 'Most scholars today deny any dependence one way or the other, and we think this judgment is correct.', Heyler, 'Exploring Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students', p. 362 (2002). InterVarsity Press.
  18. ^ 'Sterling concludes that, while it is impossible to establish a literary dependence of Luke-Acts on the writings of Josephus, it is reasonable to affirm that both authors not only had access to similar historical traditions but also shared the same historiographical techniques and perspectives.', Verheyden, 'The Unity of Luke-Acts', p. 678 (1990). Peeters Publishing.
  19. ^ 'It seems probable that Luke and Josephus wrote independently of one another; for each could certainly have had access to sources and information, which he then employed according to his own perspectives. A characteristic conglomerate of details, which in part agree, in part reflect great similarity, but also in part, appear dissimilar and to stem from different provenances, accords with this analysis.', Schreckenberg & Schubert, 'Jewish Historiography and Iconography in Early and Medieval Christian Literature', Compendia Rerum Iudicarum Ad Novum Testamentum, volume 2, p. 51 (1992). Uitgeverij Van Gorcum.
  20. ^ 'The relationship between Luke and Josephus has produced an abundant literature, which has attempted to show the literary dependence of one on the other. I do not believe that any such dependence can be proved.', Marguerat, 'The First Christian Historian: writing the "Acts of the Apostles"', p. 79 (2002). Cambridge University Press.
  21. ^ 'Arguments for the dependence of passages in Acts on Josephus (especially the reference to Theudas in Acts v. 37) are equally unconvincing. The fact is, as Schurer has said: "Either Luke had not read Josephus, or he had forgotten all about what he had read"', Geldenhuys, 'Commentary on the Gospel of Luke', p. 31 (1950).Tyndale Press.
  22. ^ 'After examining the texts myself, I must conclude with the majority of scholars that it is impossible to establish the dependence of Luke-Acts on the Antiquitates. What is clear is that Luke-Acts and Josephus shared some common traditions about the recent history of Palestine.', Sterling, 'Historiography and Self-Definition: Josephus, Luke-Acts, and Apologetic Historiography', Supplements to Novum Testamentum, pp. 365–366 (1992). Brill.
  23. ^ 'When we consider both the differences and the agreement in many details of the information in the two accounts, [of the death of Herod Agrippa I] it is surely better to suppose the existence of a common source on which Luke and Josephus independently drew.', Klauck & McNeil, 'Magic and Paganism in Early Christianity: the world of the Acts of the Apostles', p. 43 (2003). Continuum International Publishing Group.
  24. ^ Heard, Richard: An Introduction to the New Testament Chapter 13: The Acts of the Apostles, Harper & Brothers, 1950
  25. ^ Nicklas, Tobias (2003). The Book of Acts as Church History. New York: Die Deutsche Bibliothek. pp. 32–33. ISBN 978-3-11-017717-6.
  26. ^ Colwell, Ernest C. (1969). Studies in methodology in textual criticism of the New Testament. New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents. Vol. 9. Brill. ISBN 9789004015555.
  27. ^ Robinson, Maurice A.; Pierpont, William G. (2005). The New Testament in the original Greek: Byzantine textform (1 ed.). Chilton Book Publishers. ISBN 0-7598-0077-4.
  28. ^ "In the period approximately 1895–1915 there was a far reaching, multi-facted, high-level debate over the historicity of Acts.", Hemer & Gempf, "The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History", p.3 (1990). Mohr Siebeck.
  29. ^ "It is difficult to acquit Harnack here of an exaggerated hypercriticism. He constructed a lengthy list of inaccuracies (Harnack, Acts pp. 203–31), but most of the entries are bizarrely trivial:", Hemer & Gempf, "The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History", p. 7 (1990). Mohr Siebeck.
  30. ^ Ramsay, William (1915). The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 85, 89. Further study … showed that the book [of Acts] could bear the most minute scrutiny as an authority for the facts of the Aegean world, and that it was written with such judgment, skill, art and perception of truth as to be a model of historical statement. . . . I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it [in Acts]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment.
  31. ^ "British scholarship has been relatively positive about Acts' historicity, from Lightfoot and Ramsay to W.L. Knox and Bruce. German scholarship has, for the most part, evaluated negatively the historical worth of Acts, from Baur and his school to Dibelius, Conzelmann, and Haenchen. North American scholars show a range of opinion. Mattill and Gasque align with the British approach to Acts. Cadbury and Lake take a moderate line and to some degree sidestep the question of accurate historicity.", Setzer, "Jewish responses to early Christians: history and polemics, 30–150 C.E.", p. 94 (1994). Fortress Press.
  32. ^ a b Talbert, "Reading Luke-Acts in its Mediterranean Milieu", pp. 198–200 (2003). Brill.
  33. ^ Rainer Riesner "Pauline Chronology" in Stephen Westerholm The Blackwell Companion to Paul (May 16, 2011) ISBN 1405188448 pp.13-14
  34. ^ Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (2009) ISBN 978-0-8054-4365-3 p. 110, 400
  35. ^ Talbert, "Reading Luke-Acts in its Mediterranean Milieu", p. 201 (2003)
  36. ^ ‘"There were in fact appearances of the heavenly Jesus in Jerusalem (after those in Galilee)" (ibid., 29–30)”’, Lüdemann quoted by Matthews, ‘Acts and the History of the Earliest Jerusalem Church’, in Cameron & Miller (eds.), ‘Redescribing Christian origins’, p. 164 (2004); he attributes the appearances to hallucination.
  37. ^ ‘"The names of the disciples of Jesus are for the most part certainly historical[”].’, Lüdemann quoted by Matthews, ‘Acts and the History of the Earliest Jerusalem Church’, in Cameron & Miller (eds.), ‘Redescribing Christian origins’, p. 164 (2004)
  38. ^ ‘[“]The existence of women disciples as members of the earliest Jerusalem community is also a historical fact" (ibid., 31).’, Lüdemann quoted by Matthews, ‘Acts and the History of the Earliest Jerusalem Church’, in Cameron & Miller (eds.), ‘Redescribing Christian origins’, p. 164 (2004)
  39. ^ ‘"The disciple Iscariot is without doubt a historical person... [who] made a decisive contribution to delivering Jesus into the hands of the Jewish authorities" (ibid., 35–36).’, Lüdemann quoted by Matthews, ‘Acts and the History of the Earliest Jerusalem Church’, in Cameron & Miller (eds.), ‘Redescribing Christian origins’, p. 165 (2004)
  40. ^ ‘Whatever one believes about the resurrection of Jesus,5 it is undeniable that his followers came to believe that he had been raised by God from the dead, that the one who had apparently died an ignominious death, forsaken and even accursed by his God, had subsequently been vindicated by that same God., ’ Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 17 (2004).
  41. ^ ‘According to this verse Jesus seems to appear only to the apostles (for Luke, the Twelve), while the parallel in 13:31* says he appeared to all who went with him on the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. The contradiction is not a serious one, however, nor is there any real difference between the forty days mentioned in this text and the ἡμέρας πλείους, “many days,” of 13:31*.’, Conzelmann, Limber (trans.), Epp, & Matthews (eds.), ‘Acts of the Apostles: A commentary on the Acts of the Apostles’, Hermeneia, p. 5 (1987).
  42. ^ 'That makes it all the more striking that Acts says nothing of Paul the letter-writer. In my view this presupposes a relatively early date for Acts, when there was still a vivid memory of Paul the missionary, but the letter-writer was not known in the same way.', Hengel & Schwemer, 'Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: the unknown years', p. 3 (1997).
  43. ^ 'Contrary to a widespread anti-Lukan scholasticism which is often relatively ignorant of ancient historiography, I regard Acts as a work that was composed soon after the Third Gospel by Luke 'the beloved physician' (Col. 4:14), who accompanied Paul on his travels from the journey with the collection to Jerusalem onwards. In other words, as at least in part an eye-witness account for the late period of the apostle, about which we no longer have any information from the letters, it is a first-hand source.', Hengel & Schwemer, 'Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: the unknown years', p. 7 (1997).
  44. ^ ‘So Luke-Acts looks back on the destruction of Jerusalem, which is still relatively recent, and moreover is admirably well informed about Jewish circumstances in Palestine, in this respect comparable only to its contemporary Josephus. As Matthew and John attest, that was no longer the case around 15–25 years later; one need only compare the historical errors of the former Platonic philosopher Justin from Neapolis in Samaria, who was born around 100 CE.’, Hengel & Schwemer, 'Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: the unknown years', pp. 7–8 (1997).
  45. ^ ‘The term 'a sabbath day's journey', which appears only here in the New Testament, presupposes an amazingly intimate knowledge — for a Greek — of Jewish customs.’, Hengel, ‘Between Jesus and Paul: studies in the earliest history of Christianity’, p. 107 (1983).
  46. ^ ‘"One is... inclined to challenge the historicity of the election of Matthias... This does not mean, though, that the Jerusalem Christians Matthias and Joseph were not historical figures" (ibid., 37).’, Lüdemann quoted by Matthews, ‘Acts and the History of the Earliest Jerusalem Church’, in Cameron & Miller (eds.), ‘Redescribing Christian origins’, p. 166 (2004)
  47. ^ ‘Yet is such a theory not an act of desperation?21 Is it not in every way simpler to accept that the Twelve existed during Jesus’ lifetime and that Judas was one of them?’, Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 22 (2004).
  48. ^ ‘The presence of some names in the list is, in view of their relative obscurity, most easily explained by their having indeed been members of this group.’, Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 22 (2004).
  49. ^ ‘A local tradition about the meeting place can still be detected. The upper room is the place for prayer and conversation (20:8*; cf. Dan 6:11*), and for seclusion (Mart. Pol. 7.1). The list of names agrees with Luke 6:13–16*.’, Conzelmann, Limber (trans.), Epp, & Matthews (eds.), ‘Acts of the Apostles: A commentary on the Acts of the Apostles’, Hermeneia, pp. 8–9 (1987); he nevertheless believes the waiting for the spirit is a fiction by Luke.
  50. ^ 'The Aramaic designation Akeldamakc for 'field of blood' has been correctly handed down in Acts 1:19; this is a place name which is also known by Matthew 27:8', Hengel, ‘The Geography of Palestine in Acts’, in Bauckham (ed.), ‘The Book of Acts in its Palestinian Setting’, p. 47 (1995).
  51. ^ ‘Although doubting that the specification "Pentecost" belongs to the tradition, Lüdemann supposes, on the basis of references to glossolalia in Paul's letters and the ecstatic prophecy of Philip's daughters (Acts 21:9), that "we may certainly regard a happening of the kind described by the tradition behind vv.1–4 as very possible."’, Lüdemann quoted by Matthews, ‘Acts and the History of the Earliest Jerusalem Church’, in Cameron & Miller (eds.), ‘Redescribing Christian origins’, p. 166 (2004)
  52. ^ ‘"The instruction by the apostles is also to be accepted as historical, since in the early period of the Jerusalem community the apostles had a leading role. So Paul can speak of those who were apostles before him (in Jerusalem!, Gal. 1.17)" (40.)’, Lüdemann quoted by Matthews, ‘Acts and the History of the Earliest Jerusalem Church’, in Cameron & Miller (eds.), ‘Redescribing Christian origins’, p. 166 (2004).
  53. ^ ‘It is also possible that at some point of time, though not necessarily on this day, some mass ecstatic experience took place.’, Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 26 (2004).
  54. ^ ‘At any rate, as Weiser and Jervell point out,39 it needs to be explained why early Christians adopted Pentecost as one of their festivals, assuming that the Acts account was not reason enough.’, Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 27 (2004).
  55. ^ ‘Many features of them are too intrinsically probable to be lightly dismissed as the invention of the author. It is, for instance, highly probable that the earliest community was taught by the apostles (2:42)—at least by them among others.’, Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 30 (2004).
  56. ^ ‘Again, if communal meals had played an important part in Jesus’ ministry and had indeed served then as a demonstration of the inclusive nature of God’s kingly rule, then it is only to be expected that such meals would continue to form a prominent part of the life of his followers (Acts 2:42, 46), even if they and their symbolic and theological importance were a theme particularly dear to ‘Luke’s’ heart.47 It is equally probable that such meals took place, indeed had to take place, in private houses or in a private house (2:46) and that this community was therefore dependent, as the Pauline churches would be at a later stage, upon the generosity of at least one member or sympathizer who had a house in Jerusalem which could be placed at the disposal of the group. At the same time it might seem unnecessary to deny another feature of the account in Acts, namely that the first followers of Jesus also attended the worship of the Temple (2:46; 3:1; 5:21, 25, 42), even if they also used the opportunity of their visits to the shrine to spread their message among their fellow-worshippers. For without question they would have felt themselves to be still part of Israel.’, Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 30 (2004).
  57. ^ "Despite what is in other respects the negative result of the historical analysis of the tradition in Acts 3–4:31, the question remains whether Luke's general knowledge of this period of the earliest community is of historical value. We should probably answer this in the affirmative, because his description of the conflict between the earliest community and the priestly nobility rests on correct historical assumptions. For the missionary activity of the earliest community in Jerusalem not long after the crucifixion of Jesus may have alarmed Sadducean circles... so that they might at least have prompted considerations about action against the Jesus community.", Lüdemann quoted by Matthews, ‘Acts and the History of the Earliest Jerusalem Church’, in Cameron & Miller (eds.), ‘Redescribing Christian origins’, pp. 168–169 (2004).
  58. ^ ‘The presence of such idealizing features does not mean, however, that these accounts are worthless or offer no information about the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem.46 Many features of them are too intrinsically probable to be lightly dismissed as the invention of the author.’, Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 30 (2004).
  59. ^ ‘At the same time it might seem unnecessary to deny another feature of the account in Acts, namely that the first followers of Jesus also attended the worship of the Temple (2:46; 3:1; 5:21, 25, 42), even if they also used the opportunity of their visits to the shrine to spread their message among their fellow-worshippers. For without question they would have felt themselves to be still part of Israel.48 The earliest community was entirely a Jewish one; even if Acts 2:5 reflects an earlier tradition which spoke of an ethnically mixed audience at Pentecost,49 it is clear that for the author of Acts only Jewish hearers come in question at this stage and on this point he was in all probability correct.’, Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 30 (2004).
  60. ^ ‘There is a historical occasion behind the description of the story of Pentecost in Acts and Peter's preaching, even if Luke has depicted them with relative freedom.’, Hengel & Schwemer, 'Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: the unknown years', p. 28 (1997).
  61. ^ ‘Luke's ideal, stained-glass depiction in Acts 2–5 thus has a very real background, in which events followed one another rapidly and certainly were much more turbulent than Acts portrays them.’, Hengel & Schwemer, 'Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: the unknown years', p. 29 (1997).
  62. ^ ‘Is there any truth, however, in Acts’ repeated references to a sharing of goods or is this simply an idealizing feature invented by the author? For a start it is not clear whether he envisages property being sold and the proceeds distributed to the needy (so in 2:45; 4:34–5, 37) or whether the property is retained but the use of it is shared with other members of the community (cf. 2:44, ‘all things in common’). Yet even this uncertainty is most readily intelligible if at least one of these variants is traditional; if anything is to be attributed to the author’s idealizing tendency it is the motif of ‘all things in common’, but, as we saw, the mention in 12:12 of the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, points to a concrete example of something not sold, but held in common. If Barnabas possessed a field (4:37), on the other hand, then this is not likely to have been so immediately useful to the Jerusalem community, particularly if it was in his native Cyprus; yet it has been suggested that it was near Jerusalem (and may first have been sold when Barnabas was despatched to, or left for, Antioch—Acts 11:22).55 Some would certainly regard the whole picture of this sharing, in whatever form, as the product of the author’s imagination, but it is to be noted, not only that what he imagines is not wholly clear, but also that there are contemporary parallels which suggest that such a sharing is by no means unthinkable.’, Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, pp. 31–33 (2004).
  63. ^ ‘Behind this account lies a piece of tradition which Luke must have had in written form; note the manner in which the “Hellenists” and “Hebrews” are introduced.’, Conzelmann, Limber (trans.), Epp, & Matthews (eds.), ‘Acts of the Apostles: A commentary on the Acts of the Apostles’, Hermeneia, p. 44 (1987).
  64. ^ ‘A quarrel arose because the widows of the ‘Hellenists’ were neglected in the daily distribution of aid. This is depicted as an internal squabble which had to be settled within the Christian community and that implies that the earliest Christian community already had its own poor-relief system. Some have doubted that and therefore regard this account as anachronistic.10 Yet it is to be noted that it hangs together with the account of the pooling of resources mentioned earlier in Acts: the church had the means to offer aid and, indeed, if it did not use what was offered to it in some such way, it is difficult to see how it would otherwise have used such funds.’,Wedderburn, ‘A History of the First Christians’, p. 44 (2004).
  65. ^ ‘The tradition of the presence in Jerusalem of the groups named in v. 9 has a good deal to be said for it historically...', Lüdemann quoted by Matthews, ‘Acts and the History of the Earliest Jerusalem Church’, in Cameron & Miller (eds.), ‘Redescribing Christian origins’, p. 171 (2004).
  66. ^ Grant, Robert M., "A Historical Introduction to the New Testament", p. 145 (Harper and Row, 1963)
  67. ^ Marshall, I. Howard., "Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Acts", p. 75-76, and 87-88
  68. ^ Acts, 5:36
  69. ^ Acts 5:37
  70. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Theudas: "Bibliography: Josephus, Ant. xx. 5, § 1; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. II. ii.; Schmidt, in Herzog-Plitt, Real-Encyc. xv. 553–557; Klein, in Schenkel, Bibel-Lexikon, v. 510–513; Schürer, Gesch. i. 566, and note 6."
  71. ^ A. J. M. Wedderburn, A History of the First Christians, Continuum, 2004, p.14.
  72. ^ Contra Celsum 1.57
  73. ^ Grant, Robert M., A Historical Introduction to the New Testament, p. 145 (Harper and Row, 1963)
  74. ^ "The reference to the presence in Caesarea of a centurion of the 'Italian' cohort is, however, historically suspect. If a cohors Italica civium Romanorum is meant, i.e. a cohort of Roman auxiliaries consisting chiefly of Roman citizens from Italy, then such a unit may have been in Syria shortly before 69 (cf. Hemer, Book, 164), but was one to be found in Caesarea in the time just before Herod Agrippa I's death (cf. Haenchen, Acts, 346 n. 2 and 360); Schurer, HIstory 1, 366 n. 54)?", Wedderburn[who?], "A History of the First Christians", p. 217 (2004). Continuum Publishing Group.
  75. ^ "As for the Italian cohort, Speidel claims that it is a cohors civium Romanorum. Speidel actually identifies a cohors II Italica c.R. that was in Syria as early as AD 63, though it moved to Noricum before the Jewish war. As he argues, this unit could be the one called the speire tes kaloumenes Italike in the New Testament's Acts of the Apostles. The unit is not mentioned by Josephus nor is there epigraphical evidence for it at Caesarea nor anywhere in Judea. It is possible that the unit did not exist or was a later Syrian unit displaced to a different place and earlier time.", de Blois et al (eds.), "The Impact of the Roman Army (200 B.C. – A.D. 476): Economic, Social, Political, Religious and Cultural Aspects: Proceedings of the Sixth Workshop of the International Network Impact of Empire (Roman Empire, 200 B.C. – A.D. 476), Capri, Italy, March 29 – April 2, 2005", p. 412 (2005). Brill.
  76. ^ "There is inscriptional evidence for the presence in Syria in A.D. 69 of the auxiliary cohors II Italica civium Romanorum (Dessau, ILS 9168); but we have no direct evidence of the identity of the military units in Judaea between A.D. 6 and 41. from A.D. 41 to 44, when Agrippa I reigned over Judaea (see on 12:1), one important corps consisted of troops of Caesarea and Sebaste, Kaisareis kai Sebasthnoi (Jos. Ant. 19.356, 361, 364f.), who did not take kindly to the command of a Jewish king.", Bruce, "The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary", p. 252 (1990). Eerdmans.
  77. ^ "Acts x, 1, speirh Italikh, generally identified with cohors II Italica c. R., which was probably in Syria by 69 – Gabba, Iscr. Bibbia 25-6 (=ILS 9168; CIL XI, 6117); c.f. P.-W., s.v. cohors, 304. Jackson and Lake, Beginnings V, 467-9, argue that the events of Acts ix, 32-xi are misplaced and belong after Agrippa I's death (ch. xii). If so, the cohors Italica may have come in with the reconstitution of the province in 44 (below, p. 256).", Smallwood, "The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian: a study in political relations" p.147 (2001). Brill.
  78. ^ "Others date the incident either before Herod's reign (so Bruce, History, 261, following Acts' sequence) or more likely after it, unless one supposes that this officer had been seconded to Caesarea without the rest of his unit (cf. also Hengel, 'Geography', 203-4 n. 111).", Wedderburn, "A History of the First Christians", p. 217 (2004). Continuum Publishing Group.
  79. ^ "One of these infantry cohorts may well have been the cohors II Italica civium romanorum voluntariorum referred to in Acts 10; see Hengel, Between, p. 203, n. 111.", Bond, "Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation", p. 13 (1998). Cambridge University Press.
  80. ^ "Certainly after Titus' Jewish war the Flavian emperors revamped the Judaean army, and at the same time cohors II Italica seems to have been transferred north into Syria, as were ala and cohors I Sebastenorum of the same provincial army, yet for the time of the procurators there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of Acts 10.", Speidel, "Roman Army Studies', volume 2, p. 228 (1992). JC Bieben.
  81. ^ "The Coh. Italica and, possibly also, the Coh. Augusta were prestigious regiments. Their operation in Judaea cannot be placed before AD 40 on the evidence available, but it is of course possible that they had been sent there before that, even under the first prefect after the fall of Archelaus.", Saddington, "Military and Administrative Personnel in the NT", in "Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt", pp. 2417–2418 (1996). Walter de Gruyter.
  82. ^ "In spite of the presence of discrepancies between these two accounts, most scholars agree that they do in fact refer to the same event.", Paget, "Jewish Christianity", in Horbury, et al., "The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Early Roman Period", volume 3, p. 744 (2008). Cambridge University Press.
  83. ^ "Paul's account of the Jerusalem Council in Galatians 2 and the account of it recorded in Acts have been considered by some scholars as being in open contradiction.", Paget, "Jewish Christianity", in Horbury, et al., "The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Early Roman Period", volume 3, p. 744 (2008). Cambridge University Press.
  84. ^ "There is a very strong case against the historicity of Luke's account of the Apostolic Council", Esler, "Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts: The Social and Political Motivations of Lucan Theology", p. 97 (1989). Cambridge University Press.
  85. ^ "The historicity of Luke's account in Acts 15 has been questioned on a number of grounds.", Paget, "Jewish Christianity", in Horbury, et al., "The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Early Roman Period", volume 3, p. 744 (2008). Cambridge University Press.
  86. ^ "However, numerous scholars have challenged the historicity of the Jerusalem Council as related by Acts, Paul's presence there in the manner that Luke described, the issue of idol-food being thrust on Paul's Gentile mission, and the historical reliability of Acts in general.", Fotopolous, "Food Offered to Idols in Roman Corinth: a socio-rhetorical reconsideration", pp. 181–182 (2003). Mohr Siebeck.
  87. ^ "Sahlin rejects the historicity of Acts completely (Der Messias und das Gottesvolk [1945]). Haenchen’s view is that the Apostolic Council “is an imaginary construction answering to no historical reality” (The Acts of the Apostles [Engtr 1971], p. 463). Dibelius’ view (Studies in the Acts of the Apostles [Engtr 1956], pp. 93–101) is that Luke’s treatment was literary-theological and can make no claim to historical worth.", Mounce, "Apostolic Council", in Bromiley (ed.) "The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia", volume 1, p. 200 (rev. ed. 2001). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
  88. ^ "There is an increasing trend among scholars toward considering the Jerusalem Council as historical event. An overwhelming majority identifies the reference to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 with Paul's account in Gal. 2.1–10, and this accord is not just limited to the historicity of the gathering alone but extends also to the authenticity of the arguments deriving from the Jerusalem church itself.", Philip, "The Origins of Pauline Pneumatology: the Eschatological Bestowal of the Spirit", Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2, Reihe, p. 205 (2005). Mohr Siebeck.
  89. ^ "The present writer accepts its basic historicity, i.e. that there was an event at Jerusalem concerning the matter of the entry of the Gentiles into the Christian community, but would be circumspect about going much further than that. For a robust defence of its historicity, see Bauckham, "James", and the relevant literature cited there.", Paget, "Jewish Christianity", in Horbury, et al., "The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Early Roman Period", volume 3, p. 744 (2008). Cambridge University Press.
  90. ^ Pervo, Richard I., Acts – a commentary, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2009, p. 375-376
  91. ^ Evans, Craig A., The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary, Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado Springs Colorado, 2004, 102.
  92. ^ Jewish War 2.259–263
  93. ^ Jewish Antiquities 20.169–171
  94. ^ Steve Mason, Josephus and Luke-Acts, Josephus and the New Testament (Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody, Massachusetts, 1992), pp. 185–229.
  95. ^ Pervo, Richard, Dating Acts: between the evangelists and the apologists (Polebridge Press, 2006), p. 161-66

Further reading[edit]

  • I. Howard Marshall. Luke: Historian and Theologian. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press 1970.
  • F.F. Bruce. The Speeches in the Acts of the Apostles. Archived 2012-05-31 at the Wayback Machine London: The Tyndale Press, 1942.
  • Helmut Koester. Ancient Christian Gospels. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1999.
  • Colin J. Hemer. The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1989.
  • J. Wenham, "The Identification of Luke", Evangelical Quarterly 63 (1991), 3–44

External links[edit]