Acts - Introduction

INTRODUCTION

The manifest connection between this book and the third Gospel--of which it professes to be simply the continuation by the same author--and the striking similarity which marks the style of both productions, leave no room to doubt that the early Church was right in ascribing it with one consent to Luke. The difficulty which some fastidious critics have made about the sources of the earlier portion of the history has no solid ground. That the historian himself was an eye-witness of the earliest scenes--as HUG concludes from the circumstantiality of the narrative--is altogether improbable: but there were hundreds of eye-witnesses of some of the scenes, and enough of all the rest, to give to the historian, partly by oral, partly by written testimony, all the details which he has embodied so graphically in his history; and it will appear, we trust, from the commentary, that De Wette's complaints of confusion, contradiction, and error in this portion are without foundation. The same critic, and one or two others, would ascribe to Timothy those later portions of the book in which the historian speaks in the first person plural--"we"; supposing him to have taken notes of all that passed under his own eye, which Luke embodied in his history just as they stood. It is impossible here to refute this gratuitous hypothesis in detail; but the reader will find it done by EBRARD (The Gospel History, sect. 110, Clark's translation; sect. 127 of the original work, Wissenschaftliche Kritik der Evangelische Geschichte, 1850), and by DAVIDSON (Introduction to New Testament, Vol. II, pp. 9-21).

The undesigned coincidences between this History and the Apostolic Epistles have been brought out and handled, as an argument for the truth of the facts thus attested, with unrivalled felicity by PALEY in his Horæ Paulinæ, to which Mr. BIRKS has made a number of ingenious additions in his Horæ Apostolicæ. Exception has been taken to some of these by JOWETT (St. Paul's Epistles, Vol. I, pp. 108 ff.), not without a measure of reason in certain cases--for our day, at least--though even he admits that in this line of evidence the work of PALEY, taken as a whole, is unassailable.

Much has been written about the object of this history. Certainly "the Acts of the Apostles" are but very partially recorded. But for this title the historian is not responsible. Between the two extremes--of supposing that the work has no plan at all, and that it is constructed on an elaborate and complex plan, we shall probably be as near the truth as is necessary if we take the design to be to record the diffusion of Christianity and the rise of the Christian Church, first among the Jews of Palestine, the seat of the ancient Faith, and next among the surrounding Gentiles, with Antioch for its headquarters, until, finally, it is seen waving over imperial Rome, foretokening its universal triumph. In this view of it, there is no difficulty in accounting for the almost exclusive place which it gives to the labors of Peter in the first instance, and the all but entire disappearance from the history both of him and of the rest of the Twelve after the great apostle of the Gentiles came upon the stage--like the lesser lights on the rise of the great luminary.

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