Unger's Bible Dictionary: Acts



ACTS, BOOK OF. The fifth book of the NT.


The Name. Commonly called "The Acts of the Apostles," a more accurate title would be "The Acts of the Holy Spirit," since He fills the scene. As the presence of the Son, exalting and manifesting the Father, is the central theme of the four gospels, the presence of the Holy Spirit, who came at Pentecost (Acts 2), magnifying and revealing the risen and ascended Son, is the underlying truth of the Acts.


The Date. The book was probably written about A.D. 63 AD or a little later, since it concludes with the account of Paul's earliest ministry in Rome.


The Author. Luke, the "beloved physician," who also wrote the gospel of Luke (Acts 1:1), was the author. Both the gospel and the Acts are addressed to "most excellent Theophilus," who was evidently a distinguished Gentile. The numerous "we" sections (16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16) indicate where Luke joined Paul as a fellow traveler.


The Theme. Acts is the continuation of the account of Christianity begun in the gospel of Luke. In the "first account" Luke relates what Jesus "began to do and teach" and catalogs in the Acts what Jesus continued to do and teach through the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. The book, accordingly, records the ascension and promised return of the risen Lord (Acts 1); the advent of the Spirit and the first historical occurrence of the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2; cf. 1:5 with 11:16); with the consequent formation of the church as the mystical Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). It also recounts Peter's use of the keys of the kingdom of the heavens in opening gospel opportunity for this age to Jew (Acts 2), Samaritan (Acts 8), and Gentile (Acts 10). It describes Paul's conversion and the extension of Christianity through him to the "remotest part of the earth."


Acts and Archaeology. Researches have greatly strengthened the historical credibility of the Acts. Early in this century William M. Ramsay pioneered in NT archaeology, especially as it bore on the accuracy of Luke's narratives. Among the more useful of his voluminous works is The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. Subsequently, A. T. Robertson made an important contribution with his luke the Historian in the Light of Historical Research. In 1981 Jack Finegan published the second volume of his The Archeology of the New Testament, which bears particularly on the narrative of Acts. A multitude of excavations and explorations has now been conducted at places mentioned in the book of Acts. Reference to some of this activity is included in the articles on those places appearing in this dictionary.


Besides being accurate in detail, Luke gives a remarkably vivid account of many phases of first-century life in the Mediterranean world, for example, the philosophical inquisitiveness of the Athenians (Acts 17:17-18) and the commercial monopoly of the silversmiths at the temple of Artemis in Ephesus (19:24-34). His picture of modes of travel of the day is far clearer than that set forth in the Odyssey. Whether on land by foot or horse (23:24,32) or chariot (8:27-38), or on sea by coastal freighter (21:1-3; 27:1-5), Luke's account is filled with local color. The story of the wreck of Paul's ship is the most exciting and dramatic narrative of sea adventure in ancient literature (Acts 27-28).


M.F.U.; H.F.V.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. B. Hackett, A Commentary in the Acts of the Apostles (1851); C. J. Vaughan, The Church of the First Days, 3 vols. (1864); R. B. Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles (1904); F. J. Foakes-Jackson and K. Lake, The Beginnings of Christianity, 5 vols. (1920-33); G. C. Morgan, Acts of the Apostles (1924); F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, New International Commentary on the New Testament (1954); W. M. Ramsay, Pictures of the Apostolic Church (1959); C. K. Barrett, Luke the Historian in Recent Study (1961); G. Ogg, Odyssey of Paul (1968); A. Ehrhardt, The Acts of the Apostles (1969); E. Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles (1971); W. W. Gasque, A History of the Criticism of the Acts of the Apostles (1975); E. F. Harrison, Acts: The Expanding Church (1976); P. J. Gloag, The Acts of the Apostles, 2 vols. (1979); I. H. Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (1980).

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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The New Testament Books and Their Authors

New Testament Books and Authors The Book of Matthew The Book of Mark The Book of Luke The Book of John The Book of Acts The Book of Romans The Book of 1 Corinthians The Book of 2 Corinthians The Book of Galatians The Book of Ephesians The Book of Philippians The Book of Colossians The Book of 1 Thessalonians The Book of 2 Thessalonians The Book of 1 Timothy The Book of 2 Timothy The Book of Titus The Book of Philemon The Book of Hebrews The Book of James The Book of 1 Peter The Book of 2 Peter The Book of 1 John The Book of 2 John The Book of 3 John The Book of Jude The Book of Revelation Books of the New Testament The New Testament

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. Heb. 8:6 (The Book of Hebrews)


image\bible_persp9.gif The New Testament is the most wonderful book. It reveals how God has kept every promise that He made to the nation Israel and ultimately fulfilled His covenant with them in One Man, Jesus Christ. It contains an accurate account of the gospel of Jesus Christ, His life, His history on earth, His Words, and His plan for all nations including Israel. It reveals how God used a single man, a Jew, who courageously went out to the farthest parts of the known world, to preach the gospel, and would eventually die for his faith in Jesus Christ. It reveals the end of the world, and how Jesus Christ would receive the kingdom that God had promised Him from the beginning.


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List of New Testament Books


Matthew Mark Luke
John Acts Romans
1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians
Ephesians Philippians Colossians
1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon
Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 John
3 John Jude Revelation


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