Sunday, March 8, 2015

Introduction to the Acts of the Apostles Online Commentary Series:

In the first entry of the Acts of Apostles Online Commentary, I wrote, 

This will be a challenging commentary to take on in an online format because there are numerous technical issues associated with the text of the Acts of the Apostles which are not at the heart of this online commentary project and its goals, but which must be considered or at least noted for those who are interested in further and deeper study. There is another matter of some importance which must be dealt with first, however, and that is why write a commentary on Acts of the Apostles prior to a commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Acts of the Apostles is widely considered to be the second volume in a two volume set with the Gospel of Luke being the first volume, a consideration I share, so why do it out of order? 
Apart from the fact that I am able to do online what I choose to do, there is more significantly a desire to let Acts speak for itself. This does not mean that I will not be examining Acts in light of Luke, in fact I will begin to do so from the beginning, but the Luke-Acts model sometimes gives less attention to Acts as an independent text than is proper. This commentary will be an exploration of Acts as the first and earliest attempt to write a history of earliest Christianity and how well it succeeds as a historical overview of the nascent Jesus movement on these terms. The theological and literary themes which tie Acts to Luke will also be explored, but this will done primarily in the context of Acts itself and, as a secondary consideration, how this links Acts to the Gospel of Luke. 
 One technical issue which I must mention and then put aside has to do with the actual Greek text of the Acts of the Apostles. More than other New Testament documents the variations between manuscript schools of Acts reveal a great number of differences. These manuscript schools are known as the “Alexandrian tradition,” which represents the majority textual tradition, and the “Western text tradition,” “represented most fully by Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis,” which offers “a rather consistent alternative version of Acts and “as a group it contains a version of Luke’s story up to ten percent longer than that found in the majority textual tradition” (Luke Timothy Johnson, Sacra Pagina: Acts of the Apostles, 2).  A close study of these variations is beyond the technical tasks I have set for the online commentaries and they will only be mentioned on occasion. I will, as with previous online commentaries, work from the New Revised Standard Version while constantly consulting the Greek text to give insight into translation choices and the complex meaning of Greek words. And with that, the commentary proper begins!

As I add entries to the Acts of the Apostles Online Commentary, I will come and update this post with a link, so that you are able to access each entry from one post.

1) The first entry covers some of the major critical, technical and background issues that will concern us as we read through and comment on the Acts.
2) Acts 1:1-11 The prologue to the Acts of the Apostles.
3) Acts 1:12-26 The founding of the Jerusalem Church.
4) Acts 2:1-15 The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the beginning of Peter’s speech was discussed.
5) Acts 2:16-28 The bulk of Peter’s speech is examined.
6) Acts 2:29-41 Peter’s speech concludes with a successful response according to Acts.
7) Acts 2:42-47 deals with the formation of the apostles and other disciples into a community and the practices of the earliest community (the first summary).
8) Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John heal a man who was lame.
9) Acts 3:11-26 Peter explains how the lame man was healed and what this means about Jesus and his salvific power.
10) Acts 4:1-15 explores Peter and John before the Council in Jerusalem.
11) Acts 4:16-22 The trial of Peter and John at the Temple concludes.
12) Acts 4:23-31 Peter and John speak to their friends in the aftermath of their release.
13) Acts 4:32-5:11 Barnabas, Ananias and Sapphira (includes the second summary, 4:32-35)
14) Acts 5:12-16 Peter and the Apostles perform signs and wonders (the third summary) 
15) Acts 5:17-26 Peter and the Apostles are arrested, but freed by an angel (then rearrested) 
16) Acts 5:27-42 Gamaliel's intervention secures the release of the Apostles 

17) Acts 6:1-7  Hellenists and Hebraioi 
18) Acts 6:8-15 Stephen brought before the Council 
19) Acts 7:1-8   Stephen's Speech Begins 
20) Acts 7:9-40 Stephen's Speech Continues 
21) Acts 7:41-53 Stephen's Speech Concludes 
22) Acts 7:54-8:3 Stephen's Martyrdom 

23) Acts 8:4-13: Philip the Evangelist and Simon Magus  
24) Acts 8:14-25: Simon Magus tries to buy the Holy Spirit 
25) Acts 8:26-40: The Ethiopian Eunuch is baptized

26) Acts 9:1-9: The Conversion of Saul
27) Acts 9:10-22: Ananias Baptizes Saul
28) Acts 9:23-31: Saul Escapes Damascus
29) Acts 9:32-43: Peter heals Aeneas and raises up Tabitha

30) Acts 10:1-16: The visions of Cornelius and Peter
31) Acts 10:17-29: Peter goes to see Cornelius
32) Acts 10:30-48:  Peter baptizes Cornelius
33) Acts 11:1-18: Peter explains why he baptized Cornelius

34) Acts 11:19-30: The Origin of the "Christians" in Antioch
35) Acts 12:1-11: James is killed and Peter is imprisoned

John W. Martens
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