Acts of the Apostles

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Acts of the Apostles,

book of the New Testament. It is the only 1st-century account of the expansion of Christianity in its earliest period. It was written in Greek anonymously as early as c.A.D. 65, but more likely later in the century, as a sequel to the Gospel of St. LukeLuke, Gospel according to Saint,
third book of the New Testament. It was composed in the second half of the 1st cent. Since the 2d cent. it and the Acts of the Apostles have been ascribed to St. Luke; Acts is sometimes considered a sequel to the Gospel.
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. Luke has been traditionally regarded as the author. It falls into two divisions. The first 12 chapters focus on Peter and are an account of the Palestinian church from the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost until the death of King Herod Agrippa I in A.D. 44. Chapters 13–28 deal with the missionary work of Paul, his arrest in Jerusalem, and his trial and journey to Rome. Passages written in the second person plural suggest that the author was a companion of Paul, though it is also possible this was a literary device lending vividness to the travel narrative. Acts conveys the author's particular concept of the Holy Spirit's providential guidance of the plan of salvation in history in the face of Jewish and Roman opposition. When believers encounter Roman officials, Acts seems to stress the political innocuousness of the believers.


See W. W. Gasque, A History of the Criticism of the Acts of the Apostles (1975); F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (rev. ed. 1988); G. Lüdemann, Earliest Christianity According to the Traditions in Acts (1989).

Acts of the Apostles


an anonymous early Christian work, which is included in the New Testament; it is a continuation of the Gospels—that is, it tells of the spread of Christianity after the death of Jesus Christ.

The first part of the Acts of the Apostles is taken up with the description of the activities of the disciples of Christ in Jerusalem and the second part, with the teachings of the apostle Paul. The author (who is most likely the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke) made use of written sources, which he put into literary form and to which he added long speeches. The material of the Acts of the Apostles at times contradicts information in the Epistles of the apostle Paul; even between the two parts of the book of the Acts itself there are contradictions (for example, the so-called miracle on the road to Damascus is differently described in the author’s story and in the sermon of Paul). Debate still rages over the dating of its compilation—Protestant theological literature dates it at 80–100 A.D., and Soviet scholars attribute it to the second quarter of the second century. Also disputable is the purpose of the Acts of the Apostles: Did it appear as an apology for Christianity in general, directed against paganism and Judaism? Or was it the reflection of an internal struggle within Christianity—that is, between the Judeo-Christians, who advocated preserving certain Judaic elements in Christianity, and the Paulinists who sought a radical break with Judaism, or between whatever other groupings there may have been? The Acts of the Apostles is an important source for the study of early Christianity.