March 11, 2010

Caught In The Acts

So why does Acts end abruptly?

Paul is shipwrecked and islanders show him unusual kindness. He is bitten by a viper and suffers no ill effects. After wintering on an island he goes to Rome and remains in his imprisonment under Roman Guard and...

"For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." ~Acts 28:30-31.

Here the Book of Acts ends. Why? No explanation of what happens to Paul in Rome. No explanation of what happens after. Why?

Because at the time there was nothing else for Luke to write (an unsubstantiated theory says Luke died).

A more likely reason for an abrupt ending to Acts is because the Acts of the apostles were still taking place at the time Luke wrote The Book of Acts. The most likely date for the writing of Acts is approximately 60-62AD. The approximate date that Paul is transported under Roman Guard to Rome for an audience with Nero was around 60AD (he was later released). Essentially the continuation of Acts is in the letters Paul wrote to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians and Philippians while under house arrest in Rome. These Prison letters or prison epistles were written around A.D. 60 to 61. Subsequntly, further arrests and imprisonments took place and finally the beheading of Paul which most likely took place around 64-65AD.

This is why, in a historical context, the Book of Acts' prose is more a combination of the Letters of Paul and the Gospels of Jesus Christ. The Gospels were written after the fact because the 1st century Jewish aural/oral tradition maintained them orally for a period of approximately 15-20 years during the dispersion of early Christians through the Mediterranean area after Pentecost. Heresy and false teaching like Neo-Marcionism began to encroach on the church so it was deemed imperative that the Gospels of Christ be written down for posterity. Conversely, Paul's letters were written concurrent with the time Paul experienced them or very close thereafter(becasue they were letters!). Acts is a little of both. The Acts are a retrospection of things to the point in time where Luke writes for Theophilus or as Luke put it in his Gospel of Luke introduction:

"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Luke 1:1-4

The key words in the aforementioned passage are "fulfilled" which implies they were events in the past. The other key word is "everything" or all the information Luke had at the time of writing Luke/Acts. It is obvious that 99% of Acts was written as an "after the fact" documentary but Luke appears to end the book in the "heat of the "Acts"ion. Luke and Paul were contemporaries and more than likely were writing at the same time. Luke didn't know the outcome of Paul's trip to Rome under house arrest.

Acts 28 was "in-process" when it was being written by Luke. He literally caught the Apostles in the "Acts". Anything after Acts 28:31 hadn't happened yet. As it stands nothing further was written because it would've been a future event. Instead we need to then jump to Paul's prison epistles to see what further takes place in Paul's life.

It is my belief that the Acts of the Holy Spirit continue to this day. I will not claim cessationist beliefs. I am convicted that there is always the possibility that they do still exist. I feel if I say they are now impossible in the post-apostolic age I am somehow limiting the Holy Spirit. The truth is God can do what He wants when He wants. What I will say is that the Holy Spirit is still "acting" and working in His Church every minute of everyday since the Church began. How He works and how much He works in this world and in a believers life is indicative of the believer's faith.

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