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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).
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