The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Acts of the Apostles

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The American Cyclopædia
Acts of the Apostles
Edition of 1879. See also Acts of the Apostles on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, the fifth book of the New Testament, and the last of those properly historical. It is recognized on all sides that the Acts were written by the same author as the third Gospel, and the early tradition of the church was firm and constant in ascribing them to Luke. Schleiermacher regarded the book as an aggregate of various reports by different writers, and ascribed the most important of these works, the writer of which is characterized by the use of the word we, to Timothy. This view was supported by De Wette, Bleek, and other critics. Mayrhoff (1835) ascribed the whole book to Timothy, while Schwanbeck (Ueber die Quellen der Schriften des Lukas, 1847) assumed Silas to be the author. The authenticity and canonical character of the book was in the ancient church only denied by a few heretical sects, such as the Ebionites and Manichæans, whose objections were entirely of a dogmatical, not of an historical character. Chrysostom, however, complains that even in his time the book was not so much as known. In modern times the critics of the Tübingen school, in particular Baur, Zeller, and Schwegler, assumed the book to have been written in the course of the 2d century. Those who assert the authorship of Luke, including Renan, variously fix the time of writing between 58 and 80. The author clearly indicates that for the materials of the latter part of the book (xvi. 11 to xxviii. 31) he has drawn upon his own recollection or upon that of the apostle Paul. For the first part the author is believed by some writers of the critical school to have made use of older writings, and in particular of the apocryphal book entitled “Preaching of Peter.” — As regards the design of the Acts, it has long been a prevalent opinion that Luke intended to follow up his history of the life of Christ by a narrative of the establishment and early progress of the Christian religion. The opinion of Hugo Grotius that this book was intended to trace the lives of the two chief apostles, Peter and Paul, has found many supporters among the theologians. According to Schneckenburger, whose Ueber den Zweck der Apostelgeschichte (1841) is the first important work on the subject from the standpoint of the critical German school, the author wished to write an apology of Paul against his Judaizing opponents, and to prove that he was in no point inferior to any of the other apostles, and in particular to Peter. This theory was somewhat modified by Baur, the chief of the Tübingen school, who undertook to show that the Acts had been compiled in the 2d century for the purpose of effecting a reconciliation of Petrine and Pauline Christianity. The most important work of the Tübingen school on the subject is that of Zeller, Die Apostelgeschichte nach ihrem Inhalt und Ursprung kritisch untersucht (1854), which regards the Acts as a book proceeding from the Pagan-Christian party, and intended to purchase the peace of the church by some concessions to the Judaizing Christians. The inspired character of the book has been defended against the Tübingen school by Lange, Thiersch, Ebrard, Schaff, and others; and even writers like Bleek, De Wette, and Renan defend the trustworthy character of the Acts as a work of history. The style is purer than that of most other books of the New Testament; the first part, however, contains a considerable number of Hebraisms. The Acts include the history of the Christian church from the day of Pentecost to the imprisonment of Paul at Rome. With regard to the dates of the principal events recorded, there is a wide difference of opinion. (See Paul.) Besides the works on the Acts already mentioned, those by Lekebusch (Die Composition und Entstehung der Apostelgeschichte, 1854) and by Trip (Paulus nach der Apostelgeschichte, 1866) are of special importance.