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§ 85. The Acts of the Apostles.
Comp. § 82.
1. Critical Treatises.
M. Schneckenburger: Zweck der Apostelgeschichte. Bern, 1841.
Schwanbeck: Quellen der Ap. Gesch. Darmstadt, 1847.
Ed. Zeller: Contents and Origin of the Acts of the Apostles. Stuttg., 1854; trsl. by Jos. Dare, 1875–76, London, 2 vols.
Lekebusch: Composition u. Entstehung der Ap. Gesch. Gotha, 1854.
Klostermann: Vindiciae Lucancae. Göttingen, 1866.
Arthur König (R. C.): Die Aechtheit der Ap. Gesch. Breslau, 1867.
J. R. Oertel: Paulus in der Ap. Gesch. Der histor. Char. dieser Schrift, etc. Halle, 1868.
J. B. Lightfoot: Illustrations of the Acts from recent Discoveries, in the "Contemporary Review" for May, 1878, pp. 288–296.
Dean Howson: Bohlen Lectures on the Evidential Value of the Acts of the Apostles, delivered in Philadelphia, 1880. London and New York, 1880.
Friedr. Zimmer: Galaterbrief und Apostelgeschichte. Hildburghausen, 1882.
Comp. also, in part, J. H. Scholten: Das Paulinische Evangelium, trsl. from the Dutch by Redepenning, Elberf., 1881. A critical essay on the writings of Luke (pp. 254 sqq.).
2. Commentaries on Acts.
By Chrysotom; Jerome; Calvin; Olshausen; De Wette (4th ed., revised by Overbeck, 1870); Meyer (4th ed., 1870; 5th ed., revised by Wendt 1880); Baumgarten (in 2 parts, 1852, Engl. transl. in 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1856); Jos. A. Alexander; H. B. Hackett (2d ed., 1858; 3d ed., 1877); Ewald (1872); Lecher-Gerok (in Lange’s Bibelwerk, transl. by Schaeffer, N. Y., 1866); F. C. Cook (Lond., 1866); Alford; Wordsworth; Gloag; Plumptre; (in Ellicott’s Com.); Jacobson (in the "Speaker’s Com.," 1880); Lumby (in the "Cambridge Bible for Schools," 1880); Howson and Spence (in Schaff’s "Popul. Com.," 1880; revised for "Revision Com.," N. Y., 1882); K. Schmidt (Die Apostelgesch. unter dem Hauptgesichtspunkt ihrer Glaubwürdigkeit kritisch exegetisch bearbeitet. Erlangen, 1882, 2 vols.); Nösgen (Leipz. 1882), Bethge (1887).
The Acts and the Third Gospel.
The book of Acts, though placed by the ancient ecclesiastical division not in the "Gospel," but in the "Apostle," is a direct continuation of the third Gospel, by the same author, and addressed to the same Theophilus, probably a Christian convert of distinguished social position. In the former he reports what he heard and read, in the latter what he heard and saw. The one records the life and work of Christ, the other the work of the Holy Spirit, who is recognized at every step. The word Spirit, or Holy Spirit, occurs more frequently in the Acts than in any other book of the New Testament. It might properly be called "the Gospel of the Holy Spirit."
The universal testimony of the ancient church traces the two books to the same author. This is confirmed by internal evidence of identity of style, continuity of narrative, and correspondence of plan. About fifty words not found elsewhere in the New Testament are common to both books.10961096 See the conclusive proof in Zeller, pp. 414-452 (Engl. transl. by Dare, vol. II. 213-254). Holtzmann (Syn. Evang., p. 875): "Als ausgemacht darf man heutzutage wohl annehmen, dass der Verfasser der Apostelgeschichte und des dritten Evangeliums ein und dieselbePerson sind."Renan speaks in the same confident tone (Les Apôtres, pp. x. and xi. .): "Une chose hors de doute, c’est que les Actes ont eut le méme auteur que le troisiéme évangile et sont une continuation de cet évangile ... La parfaite ressemblance du style et des idées fournissent à cet égard d’abondantes démonstrations .... Les deux livres réunis font un ensemble absolument du mime style, présentant les mémes locutions favorites et la méme façon de citer l’écriture."Scholten dissents from this view and vainly tries to show that while both books originated in the school of Paul, the third evangelist elevates Paulinism above Jewish Christianity, and the author of Acts recommends Paul to the Jewish-Christian party. The Gospel is polemical, the Acts apologetic. Das Paulinische Evangelium, etc., transl. from the Dutch by Redepenning, Elberf., 1881, p. 315.
Object and Contents
The Acts is a cheerful and encouraging book, like the third Gospel; it is full of missionary zeal and hope; it records progress after progress, conquest after conquest, and turns even persecution and martyrdom into an occasion of joy and thanksgiving. It is the first church history. It begins in Jerusalem and ends in Rome. An additional chapter would probably have recorded the terrible persecution of Nero and the heroic martyrdom of Paul and Peter. But this would have made the book a tragedy; instead of that it ends as cheerfully and triumphantly as it begins.
It represents the origin and progress of Christianity from the capital of Judaism to the capital of heathenism. It is a history of the planting of the church among the Jews by Peter, and among the Gentiles by Paul. Its theme is expressed in the promise of the risen Christ to his disciples (Acts 1:8): "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you (Acts 2): and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem (Acts 3–7), and in all Judaea and Samaria (Acts 8–12), and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 13–28). The Gospel of Luke, which is the Pauline Gospel, laid the foundation by showing how salvation, coming from the Jews and opposed by the Jews, was intended for all men, Samaritans and Gentiles. The Acts exhibits the progress of the church from and among the Jews to the Gentiles by the ministry of Peter, then of Stephen, then of Philip in Samaria, then of Peter again in the conversion of Cornelius, and at last by the labors of Paul and his companions.10971097 The history of the Reformation furnishes a parallel; namely, the further progress of Christianity from Rome (the Christian Jerusalem) to Wittenberg, Geneva, Oxford and Edinburgh, through the labors of Luther, Calvin, Cranmer and Knox.
The Acts begins with the ascension of Christ, or his accession to his throne, and the founding of his kingdom by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; it closes with the joyful preaching of the Apostle of the Gentiles in the capital of the then known world.
The objective representation of the progress of the church is the chief aim of the work, and the subjective and biographical features are altogether subordinate. Before Peter, the hero of the first or Jewish-Christian division, and Paul, the hero of the second or Gentile-Christian part, the other apostles retire and are only once named, except John, the elder James, Stephen, and James, the brother of the Lord. Even the lives of the pillar-apostles appear in the history only so far as they are connected with the missionary work. In this view the long-received title of the book, added by some other hand than the author’s, is not altogether correct, though in keeping with ancient usage (as in the apocryphal literature, which includes "Acts of Pilate," "Acts of Peter and Paul," "Acts of Philip," etc.). More than three-fifths of it are devoted to Paul, and especially to his later labors and journeys, in which the author could speak from personal knowledge. The book is simply a selection of biographical memoirs of Peter and Paul connected with the planting of Christianity or the beginnings of the church (Origines Ecclesiae).
Luke, the faithful pupil and companion of Paul, was eminently fitted to produce the history of the primitive church. For the first part he had the aid not only of oral tradition, but she of Palestinian documents, as he had in preparing his Gospel. Hence the Hebrew coloring in the earlier chapters of Acts; while afterward he writes as pure Greek, as in the classical prologue of his Gospel. Most of the events in the second part came under his personal observation. Hence he often speaks in the plural number, modestly including himself.10981098 Ewald, in his Commentary on Acts (1872), pp. 35 sqq., infers from the use of the little word we and its connection with the other portions that the whole work is from one and the same author, who is none other than Luke of Antioch, the "beloved" friend and colaborer of Paul. Renan says (La apôtres, p. xiv.): "Je persiste à croire que le dernier rédacteur des Acts est bien le disciple de Paul qui dit ’nous’aux derniers chapitres,"but he puts the composition down to a.d. 71 or 72 (p. xx.), and in his Les Évangiles, ch. xix., pp. 435 sqq., still later, to the age of Domitian. The "we" sections begin Acts 16:10, when Paul started from Troas to Macedonia (a.d. 51); they break off when he leaves philippi for corinth (17:1); they are resumed (20:5, 6) when he visits macedonia again seven years later (58), and then continue to the close of the narrative (a.d. 63). Luke probably remained several years at Philippi, engaged in missionary labors, until Paul’s return. He was in the company of Paul, including the interruptions, at least twelve years. He was again with Paul in his last captivity, shortly before his martyrdom, his most faithful and devoted companion (2 Tim. 4:11).
Time of Composition.
Luke probably began the book of Acts or a preliminary diary during his missionary journeys with Paul in Greece, especially in Philippi, where he seems to have tarried several years; he continued it in Caesarea, where he had the best opportunity to gather reliable information of the earlier history, from Jerusalem, and such living witnesses as Cornelius and his friends, from Philip and his daughters, who resided in Caesarea; and he finished it soon after Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, before the terrible persecution in the summer of 64, which he could hardly have left unnoticed.
We look in vain for any allusion to this persecution and the martyrdom of Paul or Peter, or to any of their Epistles, or to the destruction of Jerusalem, or to the later organization of the church, or the superiority of the bishop over the presbyter (Comp. Acts 20:17, 28), or the Gnostic heresies, except by way of prophetic warning (20:30). This silence in a historical work like this seems inexplicable on the assumption that the book was written after a.d. 70, or even after 64. But if we place the composition before, the martyrdom of Paul, then the last verse is after all an appropriate conclusion of a missionary history of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. For the bold and free testimony of the Apostle of the Gentiles in the very heart of the civilized world was the sign and pledge of victory.
The Acts and the Gospels.
The Acts is the connecting link between the Gospels and Epistles. It presupposes and confirms the leading events in the life of Christ, on which the church is built. The fact of the resurrection, whereof the apostles were witnesses, sends a thrill of joy and an air of victory through the whole book. God raised Jesus from the dead and mightily proclaimed him to be the Messiah, the prince of life and a Saviour in Israel; this is the burden of the sermons of Peter, who shortly before had denied his Master. He boldly bears witness to it before the people, in his pentecostal sermon, before the Sanhedrin, and before Cornelius. Paul likewise, in his addresses at Antioch in Pisidia, at Thessalonica, on the Areopagus before the Athenian philosophers, and at Caesarea before Festus and Agrippa, emphasizes the resurrection without which his own conversion never could have taken place.
The Acts and the Epistles.
The Acts gives us the external history of the apostolic church; the Epistles present the internal life of the same. Both mutually supplement and confirm each other by a series of coincidences in all essential points. These coincidences are all the more conclusive as they are undesigned and accompanied by slight discrepancies in minor details. Archdeacon Paley made them the subject of a discussion in his Horae Paulinae,10991099 First published in 1790, and often since. See also the list of parallel passages in Dr. Plumptre’s Com. on Acts, pp. x. and xi. which will retain its place among classical monographs alongside of James Smith’s Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. Arguments such as are furnished in these two books are sufficient to silence most of the critical objections against the credibility of Acts for readers of sound common sense and unbiased judgment. There is not the slightest trace that Luke had read any of the thirteen Epistles of Paul, nor that Paul had read a line of Acts. The writings were contemporaneous and independent, yet animated by the same spirit. Luke omits, it is true, Paul’s journey to Arabia, his collision with Peter at Antioch, and many of his trials and persecutions; but he did not aim at a full biography. The following are a few examples of these conspicuously undesigned coincidences in the chronological order:
Comp. Acts chs. 9; 22and 26; three accounts which differ only in minor details.
Paul’s Persecution and Escape at Damascus.
Acts 9:23–25. The Jews took counsel together to kill him ... but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall lowering him in a basket.
2 Cor. 11:32, 33. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes, in order to take me; and through a window I was let down in a basket by the wall, and escaped his hands
Paul’s Visits to Jerusalem.
9:26, 27. And when he was come to Jerusalem ... Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles.
Gal. 1:18. Then after three years [counting from his conversion] I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days.
15:2. They appointed that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders [to the apostolic conference to settle the question about circumcision].
Gal. 2:1. Then after the space of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. And I went up by revelation. [This inner motive does, of course, not exclude the church appointment mentioned by Luke.]
Paul Left at Athens Alone.
17:16. Now while Paul waited for them [Silas and Timothy] at Athens.
Paul Working at his Trade.
Paul’s Two Visits to Corinth.
Work of Apollos at Corinth.
Paul Becoming a Jew to the Jews.
Baptism of Crispus and Gaius.
Collection for the Poor Brethren.
Paul’s Last Journey to Jerusalem.
His Desire to Visit Rome.
Paul an Ambassador in Bonds.
The Acts and Secular History.
The Acts brings Christianity in contact with the surrounding world and makes many allusions to various places, secular persons and events, though only incidentally and as far as its object required it. These allusions are—with a single exception, that of Theudas—in full harmony with the history of the age as known from Josephus and heathen writers, and establish Luke’s claim to be considered a well-informed, honest, and credible historian. Bishop Lightfoot asserts that no ancient work affords so many tests of veracity, because no other has such numerous points of contact in all directions with contemporary history, politics, and typography, whether Jewish or Greek or Roman. The description of persons introduced in the Acts such as Gamaliel, Herod, Agrippa I., Bernice, Felix, Festus, Gallio, agrees as far as it goes entirely with what we know from contemporary sources. The allusions to countries, cities, islands, in Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy are without exception correct and reveal an experienced traveller. We mention the chief points, some of which are crucial tests.
1. The rebellion of Theudas, Acts 5:36, alluded to in the speech of Gamaliel, which was delivered about a.d. 33. Here is, apparently, a conflict with Josephus, who places this event in the reign of Claudius, and under the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus, a.d. 44, ten or twelve years after Gamaliel’s speech.11001100 Ant. XX. 5, § 1. But he mentions no less than three insurrections which took place shortly after the death of Herod the Great, one under the lead of Judas (who may have been Theudas or Thaddaeus, the two names being interchangeable, comp. Matt. 10:3; Luke 6:16), and he adds that besides these there were many highway robbers and murderers who pretended to the name of king.11011101 Ant. XVII. 10. At all events, we should hesitate to charge Luke with an anachronism. He was as well informed as Josephus, and more credible. This is the only case of a conflict between the two, except the case of the census in Luke 2:2, and here the discovery of a double governorship of Quirinius has brought the chronological difficulty within the reach of solution.11021102 See above, p. 122.
2. The rebellion of Judas of Galilee, mentioned in the same speech, Acts 5:37, as having occurred in the days of the enrolment (the census of Quirinius), is confirmed by Josephus.11031103 Ant. XVIII. 1; XX. 5, § 2; War, II. 8, § 1. In the first passage Josephus calls Judas a Gaulonite (i.e., from the country east of Galilee), but in the other passage he is described as a Galilaean. He may have been a native of Gaulonitis and a resident of Galilee. The insurrection of this Judas was the most vigorous attempt to throw off the Roman yoke before the great war.
3. Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, 8:27. Strabo mentions a queen of Meroè in Ethiopia, under that name, which was probably, like Pharaoh, a dynastic title.11041104 Strabo, XVII., p. 820; comp. Pliny IV. 35; Dion Cass., LIV. 5.
4. The famine under Claudius, 11:28. This reign (a.d. 41–54) was disturbed by frequent famines, one of which, according to Josephus, severely affected Judaea and Syria, and caused great distress in Jerusalem under the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus, a.d. 45.11051105 Josephus, Ant. XX. 5; comp, Tacitus, Ann. XII. 43; Sueton., Claud. 28.
5. The death of King Herod Agrippa I. (grandson of Herod the Great), 12:20–23. Josephus says nothing about the preceding persecution of the church, but reports in substantial agreement with Luke that the king died of a loathsome disease in the seventh year of his reign (a.d. 44), five days after he had received, at the theatre of Caesarea, divine honors, being hailed, in heathen fashion, as a god by his courtiers.11061106 Ant. XVIII. 8.
6. The proconsular (as distinct from the propraetorian) status of Cyprus, under Sergius Paulus, 13:7 (σύν τῶ ἀνθυπάτῳ Σεργίῳ Παύλῳ). Here Luke was for a long time considered inaccurate, even by Grotius, but has been strikingly confirmed by modern research. When Augustus assumed the supreme power (b.c. 27), he divided the government of the provinces with the Senate, and called the ruler of the imperatorial provinces, which needed direct military control under the emperor as commander of the legions, propraetor (ἀντιστράτηγος) or legate (πρεσβύτης), the ruler of a senatorial province, proconsul (ἀνθύπατος). Formerly these terms had signified that the holder of the office had previously been praetor (στρατηγὸςor ἡγεμών) or consul (ὕπατος); now they signified the administrative heads of the provinces. But this subdivision underwent frequent changes, so that only a well-informed person could tell the distinction at any time. Cyprus was in the original distribution (b.c. 27) assigned to the emperor,11071107 Strabo, XIV., at the close. but since b.c. 22, and at the time of Paul’s visit under Claudius, it was a senatorial province;11081108 Dio Cassius, LIII. 12. and hence Sergius Paulus is rightly called proconsul. Coins have been found from the reign of Claudius which confirm this statement.11091109 Akerman, Numismatic Illustrations, pp. 39-42. Yea, the very name of (Sergius) Paulus has been discovered by General di Cesnola at Soli (which, next to Salamis, was the most important city of the island), in a mutilated inscription, which reads: "in the proconsulship of Paulus."11101110 ΤΩΝ ΕΠΙ - ΠΑΥΛΟΥ - [ΑΝΘ]ΥΠΑΤΟΥ. See Louis Palma di Cesnola’s Cyprus: Its Ancient Cities, Tombs, and Temples, New York, 1878, p. 424 sq. He says: "The Proconsul Paulus may be the Sergius Paulus of the Acts of the Apostles 13, as instances of the suppression of one or two names are not rare." Bishop Lightfoot ("Cont. Review" for 1876, p. 290 sq.) satisfactorily accounts for the omission of Sergius, and identifies also the name Sergius Paulus from the elder Pliny, who mentions him twice as a Latin author in the first book of his Natural History and as his chief authority for the facts in the second and eighteenth books, two of these facts being especially connected with Cyprus. The Consul L. Sergius Paulus, whom Galen the physician met at Rome a.d. 151, and whom he mentions repeatedly, first under his full name and then simply as Paulus, may have been a descendant of the convert of the apostle. Under Hadrian the island was governed by a propraetor; under Severus, again by a proconsul.
7. The proconsular status of Achaia under Gallio, 18:12 (Γαλλίωνος ἀνθυπάτου ὄντος τῆς Αχαίας). Achaia, which included the whole of Greece lying south of Macedonia, was originally a senatorial province, then an imperatorial province under Tiberius, and again a senatorial province under Claudius.11111111 Tacitus, Ann. I. 76; Sueton., Claudius, c. 25. In the year 53–54, when Paul was at Corinth, M. Annaeus Novatus Gallio, the brother of the philosopher L. Annaeus Seneca, was proconsul of Achaia, and popularly esteemed for his mild temper as "dulcis Gallio."
8. Paul and Barnabas mistaken for Zeus and Hermes in Lycaonia, 14:11. According to the myth described by Ovid,11121112 Metam., VIII. 625-724. the gods Jupiter and Mercury (Zeus and Hermes) had appeared to the Lycaonians in the likeness of men, and been received by Baucis and Philemon, to whom they left tokens of that favor. The place where they had dwelt was visited by devout pilgrims and adorned with votive offerings. How natural, therefore, was it for these idolaters, astonished by the miracle, to mistake the eloquent Paul for Hermes, and Barnabas who may have been of a more imposing figure, for Zeus.
9. The colonial dignity of the city of Philippi, in Macedonia, 16:12 ("a Roman colony," κολώνια; comp. 16:21, "being Romans"). Augustus had sent a colony to the famous battlefield where Brutus and the Republic expired, and conferred on the place new importance and the privileges of Italian or Roman citizenship (jus Italicum).11131113 Dion Cass., LI. 4; Pliny, Nat. Hist. IV.11.
10. "Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira," 16:14. Thyatira (now Akhissar), in the valley of Lycus in Asia Minor, was famous for its dying works, especially for purple or crimson.11141114 Strabo, XIII. 4, § 14. Inscriptions found in the place attest the existence of a guild of purple-dealers, with which Lydia was probably connected.
11. The "politarchs" of Thessalonica, 17:6, 8.11151115 τοὺς
πολιτῶν, praefectos civitatis, the rulers
of the city. Grimm says: "Usitatius Graecis erat, πολίαρχος
" This was a very rare
title for magistrates, and might easily be confounded with the more
usual designation "poliarchs." But Luke’s
accuracy has been confirmed by an inscription still legible on an
archway in Thessalonica, giving the names of seven "politarchs" who
governed before the visit of Paul.11161116 The Thessalonian inscription
in Greek letters is given by Boeckh. Leake, and Howson (in Conybeare
and Howson’s Life and Letters of St. Paul, ch.
IX., large Lond. ed., I. 860). Three of the names are identical, with
those of Paul’s friends in that region-Sopater of
Beraea (Acts 20:4), Gaius of Macedonia (19:29), and Secundus of
Thessalonica (20:4). I will only give the first line:
ΠΟΛΕΙΤΑΡΧΟΥΝΤΩΝ ΣΩΣΙΠΑΤΡΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΚΛΕΟ.
12. The description of Athens, the Areopagus, the schools of philosophy, the idle curiosity and inquisitiveness of the Athenians (mentioned also by Demosthenes), the altar of an unknown God, and the quotation from Aratus or Cleanthes, in Acts 17, are fully borne out by classical authorities.11171117 See the commentaries on Acts 17:16, 18, 21, 22, 23, 28. The singular θεῷ in 17:23 creates some difficulty; for Pausanias (I. 1-4) mentions "altars to unknown gods" which were set up in the harbor and streets of Athens; and Diogenes Laërtius (Epimen., c. 3) speaks of "altars without name" in many parts of Athens. It is supposed that Paul meant one of these altars, or that he ingeniously adapted the polytheistic inscription to his argument. In the dialogue Philopatris which is erroneously ascribed to Lucian, one of the speakers swears "by the unknown god of Athens."
13. The account of Ephesus in the nineteenth chapter has been verified as minutely accurate by the remarkable discoveries of John T. Wood, made between 1863 and 1874, with the aid of the English Government. The excessive worship of Diana, "the great goddess of Artemis," the temple-warden, the theatre (capable of holding twenty-five thousand people) often used for public assemblies, the distinct officers of the city, the Roman proconsul (ἀνθύπατος), the recorder or "town-clerk" (γραμματεύς), and the Asiarchs (Ἀσιαρχαί) or presidents of the games and the religious ceremonials, have all reappeared in ruins and on inscriptions, which may now be studied in the British Museum. "With these facts in view," says Lightfoot, "we are justified in saying that ancient literature has preserved no picture of the Ephesus of imperial times—the Ephesus which has been unearthed by the sagacity and perseverance of Mr. Wood—comparable for its life-like truthfulness to the narrative of St. Paul’s sojourn there in the Acts."11181118 See Wood:Discoveries at Ephesus, and Lightfoot’s article above quoted, p. 295. Lightfoot aided Mr. Wood in explaining the inscriptions.
14. The voyage and shipwreck of Paul in Acts 27. This chapter contains more information about ancient navigation than any work of Greek or Roman literature, and betrays the minute accuracy of an intelligent eye-witness, who, though not a professional seaman, was very familiar with nautical terms from close observation. He uses no less than sixteen technical terms, some of them rare, to describe the motion and management of a ship, and all of them most appropriately; and he is strictly correct in the description of the localities at Crete, Salmone, Fair Havens, Cauda, Lasea and Phoenix (two small places recently identified), and Melita (Malta), as well as the motions and effects of the tempestuous northeast wind called Euraquilo (A. V. Euroclydon) in the Mediterranean. All this has been thoroughly tested by an expert seaman and scholar, James Smith, of Scotland, who has published the results of his examination in the classical monograph already mentioned.11191119 Comp. § 82 of this vol., and myCompanion to the Greek Test., p. 61. Monumental and scientific evidence outweighs critical conjectures, and is an irresistible vindication of the historical accuracy and credibility of Luke.
The Acts an Irenicum.
But some critics have charged the Acts with an intentional falsification of history in the interest of peace between the Petrine and Pauline sections of the church. The work is said to be a Catholic Irenicum, based probably on a narrative of Luke, but not completed before the close of the first century, for the purpose of harmonizing the Jewish and Gentile sections of the church by conforming the two leading apostles, i.e., by raising Peter to the Pauline and lowering Paul to the Petrine Plane, and thus making both subservient to a compromise between Judaizing bigotry and Gentile freedom.11201120 This view was first broached by Baur (1836, 1838, and 1845), then carried out by Schneckenburger (1841), more fully by Zeller (1854), and by Hilgenfeld (1872, and in his Einleitung, 1875). Renan also presents substantially the same view, though somewhat modified. "Les Actes"(Les Apôtres, p. xxix.) "sont une histoire dogmatique, arrangée pour appuyer les doctrines orthodoxes du temps ou inculquer les idées qui souriaíent le plus à la pieté de l’auteur."He thinks, it could not be otherwise, as we know the history of religions only from the reports of believers; "i il n’y a que le sceptique qui écrive l’histoire ad narrandum."
The chief arguments on which this hypothesis is based are the suppression of the collision between Paul and Peter at Antioch, and the friendly relation into which Paul is brought to James, especially at the last interview. Acts 15 is supposed to be in irreconcilable conflict with Galatian. But a reaction has taken place in the Tübingen school, and it is admitted now by some of the ablest critics that the antagonism between Paulinism and Petrinism has been greatly exaggerated by Baur, and that Acts is a far more trustworthy account than he was willing to admit. The Epistle to the Galatians itself is the best vindication of the Acts, for it expressly speaks of a cordial agreement between Paul and the Jewish pillar-apostles. As to the omission of the collision between Peter and Paul at Antioch, it was merely a passing incident, perhaps unknown to Luke, or omitted because it had no bearing on the course of events recorded by him. On the other hand, he mentions the "sharp contention" between Paul and Barnabas, because it resulted in a division of the missionary work, Paul and Silas going to Syria and Cilicia, Barnabas and Mark sailing away to Cyprus (15:39–41). Of this Paul says nothing, because it had no bearing on his argument with the Galatians. Paul’s conciliatory course toward James and the Jews, as represented in the Acts, is confirmed by his own Epistles, in which he says that he became a Jew to the Jews, as well as a Gentile to the Gentiles, in order to gain them both, and expresses his readiness to make the greatest possible sacrifice for the salvation of his brethren after the flesh (1 Cor. 9:20; Rom. 9:3).
The Truthfulness of the Acts.
The book of Acts is, indeed, like every impartial history, an Irenicum, but a truthful Irenicum, conceived in the very spirit of the Conference at Jerusalem and the concordat concluded by the leading apostles, according to Paul’s own testimony in the polemical Epistle to the Galatians. The principle of selection required, of course, the omission of a large number of facts and incidents. But the selection was made with fairness and justice to all sides. The impartiality and truthfulness of Luke is very manifest in his honest record of the imperfections of the apostolic church. He does not conceal the hypocrisy and mean selfishness of Ananias and Sapphira, which threatened to poison Christianity in its cradle (Acts 5:1 sqq.); he informs us that the institution of the diaconate arose from a complaint of the Grecian Jews against their Hebrew brethren for neglecting their widows in the daily ministration (61 sqq.) he represents Paul and Barnabas as "men of like passions" with other men (14:15), and gives us some specimens of weak human nature in Mark when he became discouraged by the hardship of missionary life and returned to his mother in Jerusalem (13:13), and in Paul and Barnabas when they fell out for a season on account of this very Mark, who was a cousin of Barnabas (15:39); nor does he pass in silence the outburst of Paul’s violent temper when in righteous indignation he called the high-priest a "whited wall" (23:3); and he speaks of serious controversies and compromises even among the apostles under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—all for our humiliation and warning as well as comfort and encouragement.
Examine and compare the secular historians from Herodotus to Macaulay, and the church historians from Eusebius to Neander, and Luke need not fear a comparison. No history of thirty years has ever been written so truthful and impartial, so important and interesting, so healthy in tone and hopeful in spirit, so aggressive and yet so genial, so cheering and inspiring, so replete with lessons of wisdom and encouragement for work in spreading the gospel of truth and peace, and yet withal so simple and modest, as the Acts of the Apostles. It is the best as well as the first manual of church history.
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