Acts of the Apostles (book of the Bible)

Acts of the Apostles. It is the book that tells the history of the Christian church presented in the New Testament . Its author, Luke , also wrote the Gospel according to Saint Luke .


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  • 1 Main theme
  • 2 Purpose of the book
  • 3 Contents
  • 4 The book and its title
  • 5 Division of the book
  • 6 Literary style
  • 7 Place and date of composition
  • 8 Outline of content
  • 9 Sources

Main topic

The history of the development of the early Church from the ascension of Christ to the imprisonment of Paul in Rome , and the beginning of his ministry there. Many Bible scholars see in the book the formal beginning of the era of the Holy Spirit. Upon leaving, Christ made the announcement of a great campaign of missions throughout the world, through human mediation under the power of the Spirit. (1: 8).

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

Purpose of the book

The only work in the entire NT that follows another is the Acts of the Apostles (= Acts). The author, traditionally identified with Lucas, did not want to conclude with his first book the account “of things that have been very true between us” (Lc 1.1), but, in a second volume, compiled the information he had at his scope on the beginnings of the spread of Christianity.

Practically, Acts begins at the point where the third gospel ends. After a thematic introduction (1.1–3) that includes the dedication to Theophilus (cf. Lk 1.3), the author places the narration on the stage of Bethany (Lc 24.50–51), where Jesus “seeing him [his disciples] was lifted up, and received by a cloud that hid it from his eyes »(Acts 1.9).


The event of the ascension appears marked for Luke by the affirmation of Jesus “you will be my witnesses” (1.8). Under the sign of these words the whole history of the nascent church will unfold. The ascension marks the beginning of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the church, which she first calls upon the foundation of faith in Christ, to guide her onward towards her glorious fullness of the new people of God.

The book and its title

The title Acts of the Apostles, which was not imposed on the text by its own author but by the church of the s. II, does not respond in all its aspects to the content of the narration. Indeed, the book only occasionally deals with the group of the Twelve (already counted Matías, according to 1.26). His attention is not directed to the apostles in general, but in particular to certain characters, especially the apostle Peter and, above all, Paul.

The image features Peter and Paul

The works and speeches of Pedro and Pablo are Lucas’s main centers of interest. Its purpose is to document the first steps in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and how the Spirit of God was driving the growth of the church back then “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (1.8).

Jerusalem is the place where the history of apostolic activity begins. This is where the mother church meets and organizes; there the first manifestations of the Holy Spirit occur; there Stephen dies, the protomartyr of the Christian faith; There the first evangelical messages are heard, and from there the first envoys depart to announce the message of salvation outside the Palestinian limits. The person of Peter appears closely linked to these events and to the development of the community in Jerusalem.

But even more interested is Luke in the figure of Paul, the missionary, the man who was able to renounce his old mental and religious schemes to wholeheartedly proclaim Jesus Christ to all who wanted to hear him (Acts 13.46; see Rom 1.16 ; 1 Co 9.20; Gl 2.7–10). Paul’s faith and vitality represent for Luke the internal energy of the gospel, which very soon and irresistibly was to reach the heart of the Roman Empire. Paul’s arrival in Rome (11-28–31) brings to an end the Acts of the Apostles, a rapidly developing drama that started from Jerusalem a few years earlier.

Division of the book

The content of the book supports various analyzes, based on the movements of its most important characters. From this historical-geographical perspective, the story can be divided into three different stages:

First stage: Jerusalem (2.1–8.3) After the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus to heaven (1.4–11); Jerusalem is the scene of the formation of the oldest Christian nucleus in history (1.12–26); there the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost (2.40), and there the first steps were taken for the organization of the church (2.41–8.3).

Martyrdom of Stephen

Second stage: Judea and Samaria (8.4–9.43) The persecution against Christians unleashed after the martyrdom of Stephen (6.8–7.60) forced many of them to leave Jerusalem and disperse “throughout the lands of Judea and Samaria ” (8.1 ). This fact came to favor the spread of the gospel, which by then had reached various parts of Syria and Palestine (8.4–6, 25, 26, 40; 9.19, 30–32, 35–36, 38, 42–43).

Third stage: “to the ends of the earth” (10.1–28.31) (a) God, on the road to Damascus , had called Saul of Tarsus (7.58; 8.1, 3; 9.1–30; 22.6–16; 26.12– 18), to make him “chosen instrument to carry” the name of Jesus to the Gentiles (9.15). On the other hand, the believers “who had been scattered because of the persecution … went as far as Phenicia , Cyprus and Antioch ” (11.19), and thus the doors to the gospel were opened in hitherto fully pagan places.

Paul begins his missionary activity. In the course of three trips, he crossed territories in the south and west of Asia Minor , entered Europe through Macedonia and reached Achaia (13.1–14.28; 15.36–18.22; 18.23–20.38). His step is marked by the birth of new churches, of which he is, first, founder, and then mentor and counselor, and with whom he maintains a cordial relationship, either in person or in writing.

At the end of his third apostolic journey, he returned to Jerusalem (21.1–15), in whose temple he was arrested (21.27–36). The last chapters of Acts describe in particular detail the incidents of Paul’s trip to Rome, where he was led to be tried before the imperial court, to which he had appealed using the right granted to him by his Roman citizenship (22.25–29; 23.27 ; 25.10–12). The book concludes with the arrival of the apostle in Rome and the beginning of his activity in that city (28.14–31).

The author of Acts sometimes appears as an eyewitness to what he is telling. The narration then uses the first person plural: “we” (16.10-17; 20.5-21.18; 27.1-28.16), so that the writer includes himself among the people who accompany the apostle in his work.

Literary style

The Acts style is elegant and rich in vocabulary. Lucas has a remarkable command of the grammar and linguistic resources of the Greek of his time ( koiné ), and even the classical ( Attic ). Perhaps all of his work is representative of the first efforts made to propose the Christian faith to the most educated levels of Roman society.

Place and date of composition

No data has been retained to determine the date or place of composition of this book. Many think that it was published some twenty-five or thirty years after Paul’s death, approximately during the eighties.

Content outline

Prologue (1.1–26)

  1. Preaching the gospel in Jerusalem (2.1–8.3)

The first Christian Pentecost (2.1–42)

The life of the first Christians (2.43–5.16)

The first persecutions (5.17–8.3)

  1. Preaching the gospel in Samaria and Judea (8.4–9.43)
  2. Preaching the gospel to the Gentiles (10.1–28.31)

Pedro’s Activity (10.1–12.25)

Paul’s first missionary trip (13.1–14.28)

The Jerusalem Assembly (15.1–35)

Paul’s second missionary journey (15.36–18.22)

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey (18.23–20.38)

Paul’s prison and trip to Rome (21.1–28.31)


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