Introduction to Acts: I just have to say that I’m pretty excited about reading this book. I’ve always been curious about what happened right after Jesus ascended into heaven. I hope this will help with that. It’s also going to be interesting to read about how Christianity grew right after Jesus died. Clearly Jesus was Jewish, but why didn’t the Jewish people see him as the messiah? Did the apostles convert to Christianity? When did this new religion take the name Christianity? I don’t know if Acts will be able to answer these questions. I certainly hope so. If not, then I’ve come up with more questions that I need to answer.
As my knowledge is extremely limited outside of the basic information found in the gospels, I find that even reading the introduction to Acts raises questions (such as the ones above). For example, I never really thought about what it must have been like soon after Jesus died for all of his followers. Now that I read this part it makes sense that there was turmoil as that already existed leading up to his death. But I wasn’t aware of the growing turmoil between the Jewish population and the early Christians. I found it fascinating to read this:
For Luke, who was likely a Gentile Christian (though a minority of scholars contend that he was a Diaspora Jew), that God’s promises in scripture had been made to the ancient people of God required the church to stand in continuity with Israel. But since most Jews did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, and since the increasingly Gentile Christian community ceased to observe Jewish ritual, this historical continuity had been called into question. Luke responds to this threat by depicting the earliest Christians as faithful Jews in Jerusalem until persecution pushed them out. (p. 1921)
The part that surprised me was that Luke purposefully wrote Acts to address this growing rift. Kinda interesting. It seems that Luke felt the need to pretty much do some damage control. For example, the text indicates that Acts “is an important example of early Christian theology” (p. 1921). It then describes that one goal for Luke was to bridge this growing divide between Jewish communities and Gentile Christians. Additionally, the text indicates that “Luke’s portrayal of Christianity’s close ties to Judaism and thus as possessing a venerable heritage (24.14) also bolsters his appeal to Roman officials not to concern themselves with internal religious disputes (25.19,20)” (p. 1921). It seems that Luke actually put text in Acts to ward off any potential future conflict with the Romans: “Acts portrays influential Romans expressing interest in Christianity (13.12; 19.31), or at least concluding that it posed no threat to the state (18.15; 19.37; 23.29; 25.25; 26.32)” (p. 1921). The text suggests that this was done to possibly convince the upper echelon of Roman society that being a Christian would not harm their status as Roman citizens. As in, Luke knew how to play the political game of the day. Pretty impressive.