« AnteriorContinuar »
LIFE OF ST. LUKE : What we learn from the Acts-
What we learn from St. Paul-What we learn
BARNABAS—THE ACTS OF PAUL: His Missionary
ROMAN EMPIRE SHOWING ST. PAUL'S JOURNEYS
Facing title page
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES. The Title.
The author did not put a title to his work; in the first verse he calls it a treatise”; by the expression “ the former treatise he means the Third Gospel ; this is then the second treatise.
It was known by the title, “ Acts of the Apostles,” in the second century, and has been so called ever since. This title does not really describe the book correctly, since it only tells us the acts of some of the apostles; nor does it tell us the real purpose of the book, which was to trace the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. The Author. The writer of the
never mentions his own name; but the Christian writers of the second century (e.g. Irenæus, Tertullian of Carthage, and Clement of Alexandria) say that he was St. Luke, and we shall see that the book shows this is true. The historian Eusebius (A.D. 275-349) tells us that Luke left us two books, the Gospel and the Acts. Why was the Book written ?
The first verse tells us it was written, like the Gospel, for St. Luke's friend, Theophilus. In the Gospel he told Theophilus “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up” (i.e., His Ascension); in this book he continues to tell him about the work of Jesus, done now through His apostles, to whom Jesus has given His Spirit. Some writers have called the book “ The Gospel of the Holy Ghost ” because of this.
St. Luke also wanted to give his friend an account of the way the Gospel was carried from Jerusalem to the great capital of the Roman world, Rome; and how Christianity became the religion of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. This is why he does not tell us about the doings of all the Apostles, but only about the doings of those who helped to carry the message of Jesus through Syria and Asia Minor to Europe and then on to Rome. Where did St. Luke get his information ?
St. Luke was one of the companions of St. Paul, and he shows us clearly when he was with him by using
The passages where he does this are in the second half of the book from c. xvi. They are : xvi. 10-17 ; xx. 5-15 ; xxi. 1–18; xxvii. 1-xxviii. 16. For all these portions of his book, therefore, St. Luke was present and was an eye-witness of what he tells us.
The second half of the book from c. xiii. to the end deals almost entirely with the work of St. Paul, so that when St. Luke was not actually with Paul he could get his information from the Apostle. But St. Paul had other companions besides Luke, and we know that Luke had lived, worked and had close intercourse with at least four of these, Mark, Silas, Timothy, and Aristarchus. In xx. 4, he gives us a list of certain persons who
were travelling with Paul : Sopater of Berca, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius of Dei be, and Timothy; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus ; and he tells that these men waiting for us at Troas ”; thus he would learn much about St. Paul's work from them. So for the second half of the book he had every opportunity of getting all the information he wanted.
The first half of the book concerns chiefly the doings of Peter, Stephen, Barnabas, Philip the Evangelist, and Paul, who is called by his Hebrew name, Saul. Now of these men Luke knew personally Paul, Peter, and Philip ; and if Luke came from Antioch, as tradition tells us, he also knew Barnabas. He was at Rome when Peter was there, about 61 A.D.; and he stayed as a guest at the house of Philip (xxi. 8) in Cæsarea, where he also met Agabus, prophet from Judæa (xiii. 1 ; xxi. 10).
Besides these men Luke could have received much information from St. Mark, to whose house St. Peter went when he escaped from prison (xii. 12).
From the lips of Paul he would learn the story of the trial and death of Stephen, for Paul had taken care of the garments of those who stoned Stephen.
Besides all these, Luke had visited most of the places mentioned in the book, especially Jerusalem, where he must have met a great number of the early Disciples, including James, the Lord's brother.
Thus we can feel sure that St. Luke had every means at hand of getting to know the truth of what he wrote.
We may put all we have said about the first part of the Acts briefly thus :
i. The work of Peter, c. i.-vi. 7 ; x.-xii. Sources: Peter, Mark, Philip, Barnabas,
ii. The work of Philip in Samaria, and elsewhere, viii. 4-40. Source: Philip himself.
iii. The story of Stephen, c. vi. 8-vii. Source: Paul, and perhaps others.
iv. The story of Saul's conversion, c. ix. 1-30, told by Saul himself.
After what we have said we should expect our author to be accurate, and so indeed we find him. He shows this where we are able to check him, viz., in his political and physical geography, in his knowledge of Roman and Jewish life, and in his knowledge of the history of his day.
POLITICAL AND PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY.In the accounts of St. Paul's journeys Luke tells us the correct names of the Roman provinces and their divisions, and in which divisions the cities were situated. On the first missionary journey, he carefully describes the position of the cities of Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Derbe and Lystra (c. xiii.-xiv.); he distinguishes between the regions of Galatia, Lycaonia and Phrygia (xiv. 6; xvi. 6, notes). On the second journey he follows the provinces passed through with great care (xvi. 6-10). The voyage to Rome is full of geographical detail, especially the voyage from Cyprus to Crete (xxvii. 4-44), and the voyage from Malta to Rome (xxviii. 11-15).
ROMAN LIFE.—He tells us the standing of many of the cities, e.g., Philippi was a colony (xvi. 12); that Thessalonica was under the government of Politarchs (xvii. 6), thus showing it was a free city ; that Ephesus had an · Assembly under the town clerk"
(xix. 39). He knows the correct titles of the Roman provincials, e.g., the Proconsuls of Cyprus, Achaia, and Asia (xiii. 7; xviii. 12; xix. 38); and of the Prætors at Philippi (xvi. 19, note); he knows the particular religious worship of the inhabitants of the cities, e.g., Zeus and Hermes at Lystra (xiv. 12, note) ; the goddess Artemis of Ephesus (xix. 34).
JEWISH LIFE.-St. Luke tells us with care that the chief point in dispute between the two great religious parties, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, was the belief in the resurrection from the dead (xxiii. 6–8). He also shows us that the chief power and the highpriesthood were in the hands of the Sadducean party, and that they were the chief opponents of the Apostles because the latter taught the people that Jesus had risen from the dead (iv. 1-2). He mentions the various synagogues in Jerusalem (vi. 9). He knows the chief centres of the Jews of the Dispersion (ii. 5-11). He carefully calls the Jews of Judæa, “Hebrews," and those of the Dispersion, “Grecian Jews" (vi. 1).
I Thus we see that the claim he makes in the first verse of the Gospel to write accurately for his friend Theophilus is true. Where and when did he write ?
We do not know where St. Luke wrote the Acts,
but he breaks off suddenly leaving St. Paul in Rome, and never tells us a word about St. Paul's trial before the Emperor ; this seems to show that the trial had not taken place when St. Luke finished the Acts (circ. A.D. 61-62).
The date of the Acts is given by some writers about 80 A.D.*
LIFE OF ST. LUKE. References :-Acts xvi. 10-17 ; XX.
5-xxi. 17; xxvii.-xxviii. 1-16; Col. iv. 14; 2 Tim. iv. 11; Philemon 24 ; 2 Cor. viii. 18, and Luke i. 1-4.
From the preface to the third Gospel we learn that St. Luke was not one of the early disciples, who had seen Jesus on earth; but that he learnt the story of our Lord from those who had been eye-witnesses; and that he wrote down what he had learnt, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first,” for his friend Theophilus, whom he addresses by the title, most excellent.” He tells us nothing further about himself in the Gospel.
What we learn from the Acts.
As in his Gospel, Luke never mentions himself by name; but he tells us a good deal about his movements, because whenever he is with St. Paul he uses the first person plural, and says, “We” did this or that. The list of these passages is given above; they are called the we sections. From them we learn that he met St. Paul at Troas during the second missionary journey, and went across from Troas to Neapolis, and on to Philippi with him (xvi. 10–12). There he stayed after Paul and his companions left for Thessalonica. On the third journey he joined Paul at Philippi or Corinth (xx. 5-6); and travelled with him all the way to Jerusalem (xx.6–xxi. 17).
As he gives us such a full account of the trials of St. Paul it would seem probable that he went down to Cæsarea, and was present at them. He tells us he was there when the time came for Paul to sail for Rome in xxvii. I: When it was determined that we should sail for Italy,” etc. He was with Paul all through the voyage, shared the same fate of being shipwrecked, and escaped to land on the island of Malta. Every detail of that memorable voyage was printed in his memory. He tells us the name of the centurion who
* Those who wish for a fuller discussion of this section should consult the Larger Manual on the Acts. It has not seemed advisable to give more than an elementary statement of these subjects in a book intended for junior pupils.