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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Acts of the Apostles

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This book, in the very beginning, professes itself to be a continuation of the Gospel of St. Luke; and its style bespeaks it to be written by the same person. The external evidence is also very satisfactory; for besides allusions in earlier authors, and particularly in Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr, the Acts of the Apostles are not only quoted by Irenaeus, as written by Luke the evangelist, but there are few things recorded in this book which are not mentioned by that ancient father. This strong testimony in favour of the genuineness of the Acts of the Apostles is supported by Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Jerome, Eusebius, Theodoret, and most of the later fathers. It may be added, that the name of St. Luke is prefixed to this book in several ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and also in the old Syriac version.

2. This is the only inspired work which gives us any historical account of the progress of Christianity after our Saviour's ascension. It comprehends a period of about thirty years, but it by no means contains a general history of the church during that time. The principal facts recorded in it are, the choice of Matthias to be an Apostle in the room of the traitor Judas; the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of pentecost; the preaching, miracles, and sufferings of the Apostles at Jerusalem; the death of Stephen, the first martyr; the persecution and dispersion of the Christians; the preaching of the Gospel in different parts of Palestine, especially in Samaria; the conversion of St. Paul; the call of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert; the persecution of the Christians by Herod Agrippa; the preaching of Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles, by the express command of the Holy Ghost; the decree made at Jerusalem, declaring that circumcision, and a conformity to other Jewish rites and ceremonies, were not necessary in Gentile converts; and the latter part of the book is confined to the history of St. Paul, of whom St. Luke was the constant companion for several years.

3. As this account of St. Paul is not continued beyond his two years' imprisonment at Rome, it is probable that this book was written soon after his release, which happened in the year 63; we may therefore consider the Acts of the Apostles as written about the year 64.

4. The place of its publication is more doubtful. The probability appears to be in favour of Greece, though some contend for Alexandria in Egypt. This latter opinion rests upon the subscriptions at the end of some Greek manuscripts, and of the copies of the Syriac version; but the best critics think, that these subscriptions, which are also affixed to other books of the New Testament, deserve but little weight; and in this case they are not supported by any ancient authority.

5. It must have been of the utmost importance in the early times of the Gospel, and certainly not of less importance to every subsequent age, to have an authentic account of the promised descent of the Holy Ghost, and of the success which attended the first preachers of the Gospel both among the Jews and Gentiles. These great events completed the evidence of the divine mission of Christ, established the truth of the religion which he taught, and pointed out in the clearest manner the comprehensive nature of the redemption which he purchased by his death.

OEcumenius calls the Acts, the "Gospel of the Holy Ghost; and St. Chrysostom, the "Gospel of our Saviour's resurrection," or the Gospel of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Here, in the lives and preaching of the Apostles, we have the most miraculous instances of the power of the Holy Ghost; and in the account of those who were the first believers, we have received the most excellent pattern of the true Christian life.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Acts of the Apostles'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/a/acts-of-the-apostles.html. 1831-2.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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