8. The Acts of the Apostles
Philip R. Davies† [+]
University of Sheffield, (Emeritus)
‘In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach’. So Acts begins, picking up where the Gospel of Luke ends, with Jesus’s appearances to the apostles and his ascension. Jesus’s work will continue through the Holy Spirit. Jesus’s life brought him from Galilee to Jerusalem; the Spirit will lead from Jerusalem to Rome, from the Jewish capital to the imperial capital, universalizing the gospel. Acts is the only scriptural narrative we have of Christian origins, though the letters of Paul supply some autobiographical information. Its main aim is not factual history, but ‘sacred history’, like the Old Testament, and its historical reliability, which is hard to assess, is not particularly important. Luke was a companion of Paul but did not necessarily witness all that he relates. The maps of Paul’s ‘missionary journeys’ probably reflect the author’s arrangement of different pieces of information—places visited, journeys made— into a scheme, which is not always straightforward to follow (18:24-19:7 is a good example).