Some Notes on Acts, Mostly Questions

  • As the one Gentile author in the Bible, Luke alone came from a background in which the very concept of Scripture was, presumably, unfamiliar.  Yet, as a new Christian, he was quite aware of the Holy Spirit.  So was he conscious of being inspired to write God’s word in Acts even if, beforehand, such writing would have never crossed his mind?
  • What other early acts of the apostles do we wish Luke had told us about but are lacking from the narrative of his we have?  The one that immediately occurs to me would be some specifics about Barnabas’s ministry; recall that in Acts 13:1-3, he and Paul are chosen by the Holy Spirit to begin traveling, but after Paul’s first journey they split up, and from then on we hear only about Paul’s travels.

Another thought:  We are given some clues about what the doctrinal issues might have been in the early Jerusalem and Rome (and perhaps Antioch) churches; there’s much, too, that we don ‘t know, but I have no sense that those issues aren’t flagged implicitly or explicitly somewhere or other in the New Testament — if not in Acts, then in the various epistles.

Likewise, some questions, while not answered directly in Acts, might be addressed to an extent in the epistles or perhaps in other histories:  Where did other apostles and disciples go and where else were early churches established, and were those churches given Pauline-type supervision and were they similar in their worship, ministries, and missions?

  • Re Acts 13:11:  It’s ironic that Paul, whose conversion famously included being struck temporarily blind by Jesus on the road to Damascus, begins his ministry by striking someone else temporarily blind!
  • Re Acts 26:32:  Paul makes mistakes — in this instance, apparently, by making his appeal to Caesar; to give another example, by talking so long he puts a listener to sleep, almost fatally (Acts 20:7-12).  I’d add that we can’t assume that, just because Luke reports that Paul said something in Acts, that what Paul said there is true.  Compare this to interpreting Paul’s letters, where generally I think we do have to presume veracity (although perhaps in them we can make distinctions between when he is writing doctrinally and when he may be expressing personal emotions regarding, say, his disappointment in one or another other individual).