Luke And Acts!
As is our custom we will have an introduction to the Book of Acts today as our first step onto the bridge that spans the gulf between the testaments. And the best place to start is with the author of the book. While it is not universally accepted, all but the most ardent skeptics from both the Liberal and Conservative sides of Christianity agree that the author is Luke: the same Luke who penned the Gospel of Luke. There are several reasons for this conclusion.
- The first is that both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are addressed to the same person: Theophilos.
- The second is that the literary style of both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are very similar.
- And third it is clear by the author’s own words that the Book of Acts is essentially the sequel to the Gospel of Luke.
Let’s look at the opening paragraphs of both Luke and Acts.
Dear Theophilos: Concerning the matters that have taken place among us, many people have undertaken to draw up accounts based on what was handed down to us by those who from the start were eyewitnesses and proclaimers of the message.
Therefore, Your Excellency, since I have carefully investigated all these things from the beginning, it seemed good to me that I too should write you an accurate and ordered narrative, so that you might know how well-founded are the things about which you have been taught.
Luke 1:1-4 CJB
Let’s compare that with the opening of the Book of Acts.
Dear Theophilos: In the first book, I wrote about everything Yeshua set out to do and teach, until the day when, after giving instructions through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to the emissaries whom he had chosen, he was taken up into heaven. After his death he showed himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. During a period of forty days they saw him, and he spoke with them about the Kingdom of God.
Acts 1:1-3 CJB
So according to Luke the first book (the Gospel of Luke) was written about everything Yeshua set out to do and to teach. But the second book (the Book of Acts) is about what happened after Christ’s death and resurrection.
What has been forgotten, but was clearly known by the earliest Church Fathers, is that these two works (or books) written by Luke were essentially two volumes of a single original work called the “History of Christian Origins”; the contents of the Gospel of Luke was volume 1, and the contents of the Book of Acts was volume 2.
And because it was originally one work (not two separate books as we commonly think of it), it began to circulate among both Jewish and gentile Believers as a single work under the single title of “History of Christian Origins”.
It was only later that it got separated into two works, with each volume given its own separate name and identity; that is, it was no longer used as one continuous book. So only after Luke’s original work was divided into two was each volume given its own name:
- One became the Gospel of Luke, and
- The other became the Acts of the Apostles.
Most of the New Testament books as we call them today were at first in the form of letters or collections of letters, or lengthy monographs written for a specific purpose (the Gospels for instance). These letters and monographs were seen as informative, accurate and helpful documents that circulated among the Believers. Some letters, especially Paul’s, were taken as instructional.
The important point is that they were not at all taken as Scripture or as inspired of God (at least not on the level of inspiration as the books of the Old Testament). The first “Christian” Bible, the one that Christ and all of His disciples used and that was used all throughout the first 150 years after Christ’s death, was the Hebrew Bible also known to us as the Tanach or the Old Testament.
Only around 200 A.D. would the call come from among some in the Church for the need for a unique Christian Bible, which would add to the Old Testament what we today call the New Testament?