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Acts of the Apostles

General Information

The Acts of the Apostles is the fifth book of the New Testament, written between AD 70 and 90 by the author of the Gospel according to Luke. Acts is an account of the early preaching about Jesus Christ, the growth of the primitive Christian community, and the spread of the Christian message. It covers the period from the Ascension of Christ (chapter 1) and the Pentecost, to the visit of St. Paul to Rome, where he was placed under house arrest.

The early chapters of Acts contain an idyllic portrait of the Jerusalem community praying together, practicing common ownership of property, and preaching. The author attributes the vitality and activity of Christianity to the Holy Spirit, which plays a prominent part in Acts. Speeches constitute one - third of the book, and the early sermons of Peter summarize the message as understood by the author of Acts. Three of the key ideas are that Christ fulfills the promises of the Old Testament, that Salvation comes through him, and that the Christian community is the new chosen people.

After chapter 10, the emphasis shifts to the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles through the missionary work of St. Paul. In contrast to earlier New Testament documents such as 1 Thessalonians, written by St. Paul about AD 51, the end of the world is not considered imminent but has receded into the vaguely distant future. The very composition of Acts focuses attention on the present, and on spreading Christianity "to the ends of the earth" (1:8). Thus Acts is a fairly detailed account of early Christianity in its progress from Jerusalem to Rome.

Anthony J Saldarini

D S Crowther, Atlas and Outline of the Acts of the Apostles (1983); E Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary (1971); E F Harrison, Interpreting Acts (1986).

Acts of the Apostles

Brief Outline

  1. The origins of the Church in Jerusalem (1:1-8:3)
  2. The transition from the Jewish to the Gentile Ministry, including the preaching in Samaria (chap 8), the conversion of Paul (chap 9), and the beginning of Gentile work in Caesarea (chap 10) and Antioch (chaps 11, 12)
  3. The missionary journeys of Paul (chaps 13 through 28)


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