Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg Bible study material
This bible study material begins our studies on the book of Acts. The book of Acts is the name given to the second part of a two – volume work traditionally identified as having been written by Luke, a companion of the Apostle Paul. The book of Acts is basically historical book that forms a bridge between the Gospels and the New Testament letters. The author’s major interests are theological/spiritual and pastoral. The book is sometimes called “Acts of the Apostles” though this title seems to be misleading. For Luke appears to recount stories of the Apostles and other prominent church leaders. However, Luke’s major interest is to tell the Acts of God. Thus, the book of Acts could be called “Acts of the Holy Spirit” or “Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ”
2. Authorship of the book of Acts
The knowledge of an author of a book is very important to understanding what the person writes. Therefore, this aspect of our study discusses the authorship of Acts. It is believed that Luke wrote the book of Acts although no mention of the name is made. Traditionally, several reasons support Lukan authorship. To begin, the early Church Fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Tertulian, Jerome and historians such as Eusebius all attest to Luke’s authorship. It is worthy of note that these Fathers were closer to the age than we are now and so their witnesses could be more credible. Further, Paul was a close friend of Luke (Col 4:14). This makes Luke to be able to carry firsthand information. In this light, Luke’s use of “we” and “us” in Acts 16:10-17; Acts 20:5-21, tells us that the author is an eyewitness of the many events recorded in Acts.
If it is most probable that Luke wrote the book of Acts, then the following unique factors make him to be well suitable to tell his story:
a. Luke was a Gentile
Luke appears to be the only Gentile among the New Testament Gospel writers. Some factors that indicate Luke’s Gentile origins include: Paul appears to describe Luke, the doctor as non – Jewish who is not part of his three Jewish companions (Col 4:10 – 14); Luke appears to use the Septuagint versions of the Old Testament instead of translating from the Hebrew; Luke refers to the “Aramaic language” in ways that give the impression that he could not speak it (Acts 1:9); Luke shows special interest in Antioch in Syria. He thus shows special interest in the birth and growth of the Church in Antioch; and Luke’s dedication of his work to Theophilus appears to endorse the fact that he was a Gentile and wrote to a Greek patron, Theophilus.
b. Luke was highly educated
This uniqueness has to do with the fact that Luke was a Doctor. At that time, medicine was a special branch of philosophy, and Luke’s general culture and education was clear in his writings. The reasons being that Luke uses rich vocabulary choices, Literary skills and calls his work an orderly account.
c. Luke was a historian
Luke introduces his gospel in Luke 1:1-4 as a researcher who has done a painstaking investigation. This points out to the fact that Luke shows meticulous accuracy in matters of geography and civil administration.
d. Luke was a traveller
The word Luke uses in Luke 1:3 implies that he travelled in order to carry his investigation out. This interest in travelling is reflected in the story itself. Both Luke’s Gospel and Acts are based on several journeys.
3. Addressee of the book of Acts
The book of Acts is addressed to Theophilus meaning “Lover of God” or “Loved of God.” The recipient thus seems to be an influential citizen. The purpose was to give Theophilus an orderly account of the things in which he had been instructed. It is most likely that Theophilus was a believer already and there were other documented accounts that were in circulation. Luke’s orderly and systematic account thus suggests that true faith must base on facts.
This study has purposed to introduce the book of Acts by means of presenting issues regarding its authorship and recipient. Writing to a respected citizen, Theophilus, it can be said that Luke was a man of the extensive Graco – Roman world of his day. He was a man of unique background in areas of his professional experience, literary and historical gifts, travels and association with Paul. All these made him to be well suited for his writing ministry.
1. Why is it important to know something about the author of a biblical book?
2. State two important unique factors about Luke as the suggested author of the book of Acts.
3. Who was Theophilus?
4. How does your background and experience in the Lord affect what you say and write about Jesus and his Church?