Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Regular Sunday Gathering - 7 PM to 9 PM - New Semester Starts November 29th

Regular Sunday Gathering
7 PM to 9 PM
10202 Vanderbilt Drive
Revs. Sam and Bunny Sewell
591-4565 or ChurchWOW@comcast.net

See recent article about CHURCH WOW below:

The Book of Acts
First century Christianity gets a rocky start and then conquers the Roman Empire

Church Without Walls Biblical Scholarship series
New Semester Starts November 29th
Class Meets Sundays - 7 to 9 PM.

The ongoing biblical Scholarship Class meets every Sunday from 7PM to 9PM in the media room at 10202 Vanderbilt Drive, Naples, FL. There is no tuition fee, but love offerings are appreciated. Class is led by Revs. Sam and Bunny Sewell. The Biblical Scholarship series is sponsored by the Theological Center of Naples.

Directions? – More information? – and please RSVP - Rev Bunny at 591-4565 or ChurchWOW@comcast.net 10202 Vanderbilt Dr, Naples, Fl 34108

Biblical scholarship is not the same thing as Bible study. Those who want Bible study can find high quality Bible study programs at almost every church in town. The Church Without Walls Biblical Scholarship Program aims to provide the public at large with a curriculum similar to that which must be mastered by clergy at accredited seminaries.


PO Box 1196
Naples, Florida 34106

The Theological Center of Naples is proud to endorse the Church Without Walls Biblical Scholarship Program led by the Reverends Sam and Bunny Sewell. Sam and Bunny are active supporters, contributors and leaders of the TCN.

The TCN partnership with the Church Without Walls demonstrates the commitment of TCN in providing high quality biblical education programs to lay persons interested in expanding their understanding and appreciation of the scriptures & their relevancy to personal and spiritual growth.

The TCN encourages clergy to promote and support The Biblical Scholarship Program. The program meets on Sundays from 7 -9PM. For more information contact Rev Bunny at 591-4565 or ChurchWOW@comcast.net 10202 Vanderbilt Dr, Naples, Fl 34108

Peace and Blessings,

Rev. Michael Harper
President, TCN


click image to enlarge

Introduction to The Book of Acts

I. Luke-Acts: Its Unity and Common Authorship
It is of the utmost importance to visualize the Third Gospel and the book of Acts as two parts of a single whole. Scholarship has been greatly handicapped by their conventional treatment in introductions and commentaries as separate books, and a commentary which will deal with the whole of Luke's work as a single unit is still greatly to be desired. Amidst the sharpest division of opinion concerning many of the critical problems of Acts, modern scholars are almost unanimous that Luke and Acts have a common author. Even among radicals, Norden and Loisy (see pp. 14, 20) stand almost alone in attributing to the author of the Third Gospel, not the whole of Acts, but only its principal source--the travel diary. Apart altogether from the witness of tradition, the linguistic evidence (see pp. 7-8) seems conclusive that however diverse the sources of his information, one ultimate editor has left his own hallmark upon the whole of his varied materials from the beginning of Luke to the end of Acts. For conservative and radical scholars alike to accept or deny the "Lukan" authorship of Acts means the acceptance or denial of the "Lukan" authorship of the Gospel.
A study of the major interests of the two books (see Intro. to Luke's Gospel, Vol. VIII) confirms the impression of unity of authorship. Both regard Christianity as the new universal religion that recognizes no limitations of race (Luke 2:32; 4:23-27; 10:29-37; 17:15-18--and note the omission of the material of Matthew 7:6; 10:5-6; 15:21-28; 18:17--Acts 10:34-35; 13:46-47; 17:26-28; 28:28). Both continually emphasize the power of the Holy Spirit at work, first in the ministry of Jesus himself, and subsequently in the apostolic missions (Luke 1:15, 35; 2:25-27; 3:22; 4:1, 18; 10:21; 24:49; Acts 1:2, 8; 2:14, 38; 8:14-17, 29, 39; 10:44-47; 13:2, 4, 9; 15:28; 16:7; 19:1-7; etc.). Both show a marked sympathy for the poor (Luke 3:11; 4:18; 6:20; 16:22; Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35; 9:36, 39), a certain antipathy to the rich (Luke 1:53; 6:24; 12:13-21; 16:14, 19 ff.; Acts 8:18-24), and stress the duty of the proper stewardship of wealth (Luke 12:42-48; 16:1-13; 19:12-27; Acts 4:36-37; 5:1-11; 20:35). Both seem specially interested in the part played by women in the Christian community (Luke 1:39-56; 2:36-38; 7:37-38; 23:27-29; 24:10; Acts 5:1 ff.; 9:36 ff.; 12:12-13; 16:13-15, 16-18; 18:2; 24:24; 25:13). Both give much attention to such subjects as prayer (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-5, 9-14; 22:39-46--and note the references to Jesus at prayer, not in Mark, in Luke 3:21; 6:12; 9:28-29; 11:l--Acts 1:24-25; 2:42; 4:31; 6:6; 10:2, 9; 12:12; 13:3; 16:25; 21:5), "grace" or "favor" (the word ca6riv, which is used by neither Mark nor Matthew, occurs nine times in Luke and seventeen times in Acts), and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 1:77; 7:47; 11:4; 15:11-32; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18). We even have hints in the Gospel of what we shall find to be one of the main postulates of Acts--that Christianity is not to be considered a subversive sect, but on the contrary was in general regarded with favor by the Roman authorities, who but for the inveterate hatred of the Jews would have refused to condemn either Jesus or his apostles (Luke 20:20-26; 23:4, 13-16, 20-22, 47; Acts 13:7, 12; 16:35-40; 18:12-17; 19:31, 37; 23:26-30; 24:23; 25:25-27; 26:30-32; 27:43; 28:30-31).
But not only have Luke and Acts a common author; they are two parts of one continuous work. Nor should we think of Acts as a mere "sequel" to the Gospel, written it may be years later as an afterthought. The second volume was almost certainly part of the author's original plan for a two-volume work. Indeed it has been conjectured that he orginally intended to write a third volume, and that only so can the abrupt ending of Acts be satisfactorily explained (see Exeg. at end of ch. 28). However that may be, that Luke planned at least two volumes seems conclusively proved by the twin prefaces (see below, p. 20 and Exeg. on 1:1). Both volumes are addressed to the same The ophilus. The opening verses of Luke appear to be a general prooimion covering both volumes, for the words "the things which have been accomplished among us" (Luke 1:1) obviously have reference not only to the contents of the Gospel, but to the whole story of the birth and growth of Christianity, which is the theme of both books. Similarly the preface of Acts is a conventional proekthesis, which refers to "the first book" (Acts 1:1), or "volume one," as we should say, and picks up the thread of events where it was there broken off. The Gospel ends with Jesus' assurance that he will "send the promise of my Father upon you," with his command to "stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high," and with the briefest possible account of how "he parted from them." Acts opens with a reminder of this promise and command, a picture of the disciples waiting at Jerusalem for its fulfillment, a fuller account of the Ascension, and a vivid description of the fulfillment of the promise by the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. Just as volume one looked forward to volume two, so does volume two look back to volume one. Both are parts of a single planned whole.
The unity and common authorship of Luke and Acts being thus assumed, how are we to explain the early separation of the two books in the arrangement of the New Testament writings? The first volume corresponded in character and contents with other outlines of Jesus' life and teaching, and together with the three other "Gospels" it passed into the New Testament canon as one of a clearly defined group of four which, with certain variations in order, were also transmitted together. The second volume, the Acts, appeared to belong to a different category of writings. It too had a number of close relatives in early Christian literature, memorabilia about the apostles, but alone in this class of writings it won a place in the canon. It thus became separated from its companion volume, and its place in the order of the New Testament books varies according as it is related more closely to the Catholic epistles or to the Pauline epistles.
The book was canonised first of all as a supplement to the catholic epistles,--to make up for the fact that many of the apostles had left no writings behind them,--and, in the second place, as a link between the Pauline and the catholic epistles, by way of documentary proof that Paul and the twelve were at one.2
The most ancient tradition seems to have closely associated Acts with the Catholic epistles, and we have the order: Gospels, Acts, Catholic epistles, Pauline epistles. This is the order of the codices A, B, and C, of the Fathers Athanasius and Cyril of Jerusalem; and among modern editors Tischendorff, Westcott and Hort, and von Soden have adopted it. A rarer order, but one which still associates Acts with the Catholic epistles, is: Gospels, Pauline epistles, Acts, Catholic epistles. This is the order in Codex Sinaiticus, and it is also attested by Epiphanius and Jerome. Sometimes, on the other hand, Acts is associated more closely with the Pauline epistles, so that we have the order: Gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, Catholic epistles. This order is found in none of the more ancient manuscripts, but it is attested among other authorities by the Muratorian Canon, Eusebius, and the Codex Amiatinus of the Vulgate. Most of the early editors--Erasmus, Stephanus, Théodore de Bèze, the Elzeviri--followed it, so that it became the recognized order in the Textus Receptus and consequently in nearly all modern translations.
What title, if any, the author gave to his two-volume work, we do not know. Ancient writers commonly entitled their books "Concerning So-and-So," or used the name of their patron: in Luke's case the title would be, if dedicated in Latin, Ad Theophilum. Only after the separation of the two volumes would the title Acts (pra6xeiv) of the Apostles be applied to the second. The word pra6xeiv had previously been used as a book title, as, for example, by Callisthenes, a contemporary of Alexander the Great, who wrote The Acts of Alexander. The title Acts of the Apostles does not correspond particularly well with the contents of the book, which has nothing to say about any of the original "apostles" save Peter and John. It probably reflects the point of view of the second-century church for which Peter and Paul were the "apostles" par excellence. But pra6xeiv was a simple and natural word to employ as a title, and it was probably not originally intended to indicate any formal literary classification. Nevertheless once it had been applied to the canonical "Acts," the latter became in fact the prototype of a succession of apocryphal "Acts" which, however inferior in quality, were felt to belong to the same literary genre.
II. Luke-Acts: The Witness of Tradition
Tradition is unanimous in ascribing both the Third Gospel and Acts to Luke, but it is not till the latter part of the second century that Acts is expressly quoted as his work. The writings of the Apostolic Fathers contain what may well be echoes of Acts, but they are never so precise as to demand direct dependence. Clement of Rome, for example, speaks of "giving more willingly than receiving,"3 which recalls the words of Jesus quoted in Acts 20:35, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," but is hardly a direct quotation. Similarly the fact that in the same epistle Ps. 89:20 and I Sam. 13:14 are combined in the same manner as in Acts 13:22 may indicate no more than that both writers are dependent on the same collection of "testimonies," or messianic proof texts.
In Did. 4:8 we have the words, "Thou shalt share everything in common with thy brother, and thou shalt not say that it belongs to thee personally," which again reads like an echo of Acts 4:32, but is not close enough to be regarded as an actual quotation.4 Similarly Barnabas, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Hermas all contain phrases which are more or less closely reminiscent of Acts and create a presumption, which however fails short of certainty, that they were familiar with Luke's work.5
In the last quarter of the second century the evidence becomes perfectly definite. In the Western church Irenaeus regards Acts as holy Scripture and cites it as Lucae de apostolis testificatio.6 The Muratorian Canon is still more explicit: "The Acts of all the Apostles are written in a single book. Luke compiled for 'most excellent Theophilus' everything that happened in detail in his presence ..."--a statement evidently intended to exclude from the canon the various apocryphal "Acts." Similarly Tertullian in the church of Africa speaks of Acts as a "commentary of Luke," and in Alexandria Clement7 recognizes it as an authentic Lukan writing.
Thereafter the testimony of tradition regarding Acts no less than the Third Gospel is so unanimous that it is unnecessary to cite witnesses. As Moffatt puts it: "What helped eventually to popularise [Acts] and to win canonical prestige was its ecclesiastical emphasis on the apostles and Paul as leaders of the catholic church--a trait which became particularly grateful in the controversy with Marcion."8
III. Luke the Physician in the New Testament and in Tradition
Apart from what we can deduce from Acts, on the assumption that it, or at least the diary source, is to be ascribed to him, the New Testament tells us little of Luke. In Col. 4:14 Paul calls him "the beloved physician," and he is mentioned as if in Paul's company along with Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus Justus, Epaphras, and Demas. The first three are called "the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers" (Col. 4:11), whence it may be deduced that Luke was a Gentile by origin. The same names, except that of Justus, are mentioned in Philem. 24:1 and are called by Paul "my fellow workers." In II Tim. 4:10-11 Luke is again mentioned alongside Demas, which suggests some possible relationship between them. But "Demas ... has deserted me ...; Luke alone is with me." Doubt as to the authenticity of the Pastorals lessens the value of this allusion.
Efforts have been made to find references to Luke elsewhere in the New Testament. Theophylact and Gregory the Great wished to identify him with the unnamed companion of Cleopas on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13 ff.); but this is pure speculation. Tradition numbered him among "the seventy" (Luke 10:1), but this is most improbable if he was of pagan origin. An allusion to him has been supposed in "the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches" (II Cor. 8:18 KJV), who was sent by Paul with Titus to Corinth. But the correct translation is "the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel" (RSV); and to see in a letter written as early as II Corinthians, as do Origen and Jerome,9 an allusion to Luke's Gospel is of course an anachronism. Luke has been identified also with one or other Lucius mentioned in Acts 13:1 (see Exeg., ad loc.) and Rom. 16:21 on the supposition that the Greek form Loukas is an intimate abbreviated form of Loukios, which inscriptions show was used in the vernacular koine for the Latin Lucius. Finally the attempt to identify Luke with Silvanus (Silas)--on the ground presumably that the Latin term lucus is a synonym for silva--can only be pronounced with Alfred Plummer "a caricature of critical ingenuity."
Later traditions outside the New Testament have little if any historical value. In some lists of apostles Luke is given a place beside Paul and Mark to the exclusion of Philip, Thaddaeus, and James the son of Alphaeus. He is said variously to have conducted missions in Italy, Greece, Dalmatia, Gaul, Bithynia, Africa--in fact over all the known world. One legend makes him a notable painter. In others he appears as bishop either of Alexandria or Laodicea. Traditions about his death are equally conflicting. Sometimes he dies a natural death, both at Thebes in Boeotia and at Ephesus; sometimes he suffers a martyr's death, either by decapitation at Alexandria or in a mass slaughter with "169 brothers" at Rome. His relics were allegedly transferred to Constantinople in A.D. 357 with those of Andrew and Timothy.10
The one tradition which is so ancient and widespread as to appear likely to have some substance is that Luke hailed from Antioch in Syria. Eusebius expressly describes him as "being by birth of those from Antioch and by profession a physician," and his statement reappears in Jerome who speaks of "Luke the physician, an Antiochian."11 The Western text after Acts 11:27 reads: "And there was great rejoicing; and when we were gathered together one of them stood up and said ..."--as if Luke himself were present. Even though this is only a Western addition, it may witness to the early belief that Luke was associated with the church at Antioch during the first stay there of Paul and Barnabas. Harnack12 has attempted with some success to show from the internal evidence of Acts its author's special interest in Antioch. On the other hand it is possible that the tradition merely grew out of a false Western reading which, by introducing a "we" at Antioch in Acts 11:27, invited the deduction that this was Luke's place of residence. It has even been plausibly suggested that Luke's alleged Antiochene origin is a deduction from that of Theophilus. The title "most excellent" indicates a man of rank. The romance called the Clementine Recognitions13 pictures Theophilus as a wealthy resident of Antioch. Later Christian writers transformed him into a bishop, and finally confounded him with the famous apologist at the end of the second century, Bishop Theophilus of Antioch. Has Luke simply been assigned to the same city as his patron? Nevertheless only one other city seriously rivals Antioch as Luke's possible birthplace. Ramsay, following Renan, claims the honor for Philippi, arguing that the "man of Macedonia" (16:9) whom Paul saw in a vision at Troas, was in fact Luke, who had visited Paul to plead the claims of his own city to hear the gospel. The first authentic "we passage" begins in the very next verse, and Paul makes his way directly to Philippi. Luke's native pride is evidenced in 16:12, where he calls Philippi "the leading city of the district of Macedonia." S. C. Carpenter ingeniously suggests that "the two views [as to Luke's place of origin] may perhaps be combined by supposing that he was an Antiochene who was in medical practice at Philippi."14 To the much-debated question when Luke became a Christian, many possible answers have been suggested. Was it at Antioch when Paul came there with Barnabas? Or at Troas, when according to Ramsay, he met Paul for the first time? Or at Antioch in Galatia, when, as Rackham suggests, Paul may have called him in to attend him? Harnack's conclusion is the wisest: "We have no knowledge when and by whose influence he became a Christian, nor whether he had previously come into sympathetic touch with the Judaism of the Dispersion; only one thing is certain--that he had never been in Jerusalem or Palestine."15
IV. Luke-Acts: Its Style, Vocabulary, and Literary Character
The author of Luke-Acts is an accomplished and versatile literary artist, and his style is very supple and varied. As is evident from a study of the Synoptic parallels, he does not hesitate to polish and embellish the language of his Marcan source to a much greater extent than does Matthew. In Acts some of his narratives--the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, the story of Philip the evangelist, the conversion of Cornelius--are written in an archaic, redundant style which is characteristically Hebraic; while others, such as the account of Paul's appearance before the Areopagus, are so wholly Greek in color and outlook as to suggest that they could be written only by a pure Hellene. The truth is that the book is written, not in one style, but in several; and this can be explained, not merely by the use of varied sources, but by the author's practice of skillfully adapting his style to suit the atmosphere of the situation which he is describing. As J. H. Moulton has said, "He steeps his style in Biblical phraseology, drawn from the Greek Old Testament, so long as his narrative moves in Palestinian circles, where the speakers use Greek that obviously represents a foreign. idiom," whereas he "instinctively departs from that style when his subject takes him away from the Biblical land and people."16 As Cadbury has pointed out, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether imitation is conscious or unconscious. The "biblical flavor" of writers like Bunyan and Lincoln was unconscious; but Luke belonged to an age in which imitative style was not uncommon, so that it is likely enough that some of the more obvious Semitisms, especially in the speeches of Acts, are deliberate biblical imitation. Note too the Hebrew prepositional use of parts of the body: "to the face of" (before), "from the face of" (away from), "on the face of" (upon), "by the hand of," "by the mouth of." Nor, one feels, would any Greek man of letters, as was Luke, use except by way of imitation such characteristic Semitic parallelisms as "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity" (8:23) or "that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God" (26:18).17
In a series of elaborate linguistic studies Harnack and in particular J. C. Hawkins18 claim with justice to have proved a unity of style between the Third Gospel and Acts. There are undoubtedly more affinities of vocabulary between these two books than between any other two New Testament writings. There are, for example, seventeen words found both in Acts and Matthew but nowhere else in the New Testament; fourteen words found only in Acts and Mark; thirteen only in Acts and John; but no fewer than fifty-eight found only in Acts and Luke. By similar methods of analysis the linguistic unity of the whole book of Acts can be demonstrated, for the characteristic "Lukan" expressions occur in all sections--in the early chapters as well as in the diary source. This would seem to suggest either that the writer of the diary is the author of the whole book, which is the traditional view; or that the author of the book as a whole has imposed his own style on someone else's diary; or even conversely that a later editor has assimilated his own style to that of the Lukan diary source which he is incorporating. Of the three alternatives the first appears much the most probable. The third alternative seems very unnatural, though Maurice Goguel pleads in its favor that Harnack's statistics show the "we-sections" to be "not only Lukan but hyper-Lukan." They are the fountainhead of the Lukan style, which is more diluted throughout the rest of the book.19
Much weight has also been put on the linguistic argument that the author of Luke-Acts is a physician.20 It is questionable whether this line of research would ever have suggested itself were it not stated in Col. 4:14 that Luke the companion of Paul was a physician: it would therefore be strong confirmation of the traditional theory of authorship if it could be proved that the author's language is characterized by technical medical terms. There are in fact numerous points of contact between the vocabulary of Luke and that of Greek medical writers such as Hippocrates (ca. 460 B.C.) and Galen (ca. A.D. 130), and technical terms are more numerous and more precise in the stories of healing in Luke-Acts than in the other Gospels. But more recent work, particularly that of H. J. Cadbury,21 has largely undermined the purely linguistic argument. Of the 400 supposed medical terms listed by Hobart 360 are found in the Septuagint; other nonmedical authors, such as Philo and Lucian, supply as many "medical terms" as does Luke. Practically all Luke's alleged technical terms are used also by nonmedical writers; both Plutarch and Lucian use 90 per cent of them; if Josephus and the Septuagint are taken together, no less than 390 out of the 400 can be paralleled. The truth seems to be that the language of Greek doctors was not highly specialized, and that the use made by Luke of so-called technical terms does not exceed what might be expected of any writer of wide general culture. It would indeed be equally easy to prove from the number of nautical terms used in ch. 27 that Luke was a sailor, or that he was a lawyer from the considerable number of legal expressions used in the closing chapters.
The fallacy of most of the linguistic statistics must be admitted. But the argument is not one from language only but also from medical interest, and it is indubitable that the whole of Luke-Acts shows this to a remarkable degree. In the Gospel, to a greater extent than in any of the others, attention is focused on the healing and care of the sick. Luke alone tells the parable of the good Samaritan. For him Jesus' cures are a signal proof of his messiahship (Luke 7:18-23). In Acts great emphasis is laid on the numerous cures wrought by the apostles in general at Jerusalem (5:12-16) and by Paul at Ephesus (19:11). Such cures are proof that the power of Jesus himself is still at work (3:12-13; 4:7-10). Harnack indeed rightly calls attention to Luke's disposition to see in miracles of healing the chief function of the mighty forces of the new religion. When we recall such vivid descriptions of healing as Luke 4:38-41 or Acts 3:1-10--or note how tactfully Luke 8:43 modifies Mark 5:26 in the interest of the good name of the medical profession!--the impression is cumulative that the author may well have been a doctor. This would probably be generally admitted by scholars were there not other reasons--some of them undoubtedly strong--which have prejudiced them against the traditional view that the author is Luke the physician. But as Windisch, himself an opponent of the traditional view, confesses: "We cannot demand unconditionally that the medical calling of an author should appear in an evangelic and apostolic history. If, however, we do find traces of such a professional education, we appear to have an unexpectedly brilliant confirmation of the tradition."22
Finally it may be asked under what literary genre Luke-Acts should be classified stylistically. The truth is that it belongs, strictly speaking, to none of the recognized literary types of antiquity. The Gospels appear at first sight to fall under the category of "biography" alongside, for example, Plutarch's Parallel Lives, Suetonius' Lives of the Caesars, Tacitus' Agricola. An even closer parallel might seem to be provided by memorabilia, such as Xenophon's Recollections of Socrates or Philostratus' Life of Apollonius of Tyana. But it is of the nature of memorabilia that the author should claim to be present at the events he records, and this, apart from the diary source, the author of Luke-Acts does not. Moreover Cadbury23 well remarks that, quite apart from their admitted apologetic and religious purpose, the factor distinguishing the Gospels from ancient literary "biography" or "memoirs" is their "popular" character--not in the sense that they are written for plain folk in a popular style, but rather in the sense that they grew out of the common popular life of the church. The material is the spontaneous creation of the Christian community, and the final recorder is content to set it down much as it came to him. Though Luke's Gospel has more claim to be literature than have Matthew and Mark, it is still "popular" in this sense. And this is just as true of Luke's second volume. Still less can it be classified as biography, for though full of biographical interest, it makes no attempt to trace the full career of the principal characters--Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul--who pass across the pages more like the actors in a drama than the subjects of a formal biography. For Acts "history" might appear to be a more apt classification; and indeed it has many points of contact with typical histories of antiquity--the working up of earlier sources, the introduction of speeches, the use of a series of outstanding names as a thread on which to carry forward the continuous narrative. But once again, only with many reservations can Acts be classified as formal history. The narrative is too disjointed, and too noticeably lacking in balance and proportion;24 the gaps in the story of the church's growth are too obvious; the selection of the material is determined too clearly by motives which are not primarily historical. Once again Luke appears as a transmitter of popular Christian tradition rather than as a formal littérateur. This of course is not to deny that his book contains a vast amount of valuable and reliable history. But it does mean that other motives than that of pure historical research lie behind his writing, and that we can understand his book only as we appreciate that fact.
V. The Greek Text of Acts
The problem presented by the text of Acts is unique in the New Testament. The manuscripts have preserved two types of text, and the divergent readings in this or that family are so general and consistent as to suggest to some scholars that we have to do, not merely with a large number of independent variants, but rather with two separate recensions of the original text. The "Neutral" text as given in most modern critical editions is based on our oldest uncials--Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus--supported by the Vulgate Latin, the Peshitta Syriac, and the Greek fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Chrysostom. The "Western" text, which in Acts differs much more widely from the "Neutral" than in other New Testament books, derives chiefly from Codex Bezae (D) and Codex Laudianus, supported by the Old Latin, certain Syriac authorities, in particular the margin of the Harclean Syriac, Irenaeus, and the Latin fathers such as Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine. The regular occurrence of the same variant (for example, the important variants in the text of the "apostolic decrees" in ch. 15) in all the manuscripts of a Western type has led to the theory that they must all come from a common source, and that we are dealing, not with a collection of more or less fortuitous variants, but with a separate edition of the original text.
The most important development of this theory is that of Friedrich Wilhelm Blass. Following up the work of Bornemann25 and of Paul de Lagarde,26 both of whom gave preference to the Western text, Blass27 propounded the hypothesis that Luke had in fact issued two editions of Acts. Having composed the book at the end of the two years of Paul's imprisonment at Rome, Luke carefully revised it and sent a copy of the revision to Theophilus at Antioch. This copy was the prototype of the Neutral recension (Blass's a text). Luke then handed over his original draft to the Christians of Rome, and this in turn became the source of the Western or Roman recension (Blass's b text). Curiously, while in Acts the Western readings are uniformly longer than the Neutral, in the Gospel the reverse is usually the case. This Blass explained by the converse theory that in the case of the Gospel the original draft, written before Luke arrived in Rome, lies behind the Neutral text, while the Western text has its origin in a revised edition which Luke specially made for the Roman church.
There would seem to be three tenable views concerning the relationship to each other of the two types of text: (a) The view of Blass, which though ingenious has found little support, that Luke did in fact himself issue two editions. (b) The view that the Western text is nearer the original, the Neutral representing a later scholarly revision. Though the tendency today is certainly to pay greater respect to Western readings, and the priority of the Western text has been urged with great cogency by A. C. Clark,28 this view has not yet found general acceptance. Matthew Black, an Aramaic expert, has emphasized the value of the text of the Bezan Codex and holds that "D represents the Aramaic background of the Synoptic tradition more faithfully than do non-Western manuscripts."29 (c) The view that the Neutral text is most nearly primitive, while the Western readings are merely the corrections, paraphrases, and expansions of successive scribes, or are possibly in part at least due to a later redaction of the Lukan text, as is argued by Harnack and more recently by J. H. Ropes.30
The more interesting Western variations are noted throughout the commentary. A study of them in detail seems, generally speaking, to confirm the priority of the shorter Neutral text. Some of the Western variations are evidently designed to bring the text into line with some parallel passage: for example, the Western expansion of 9:5-6 (cf. KJV with RSV) is evidently based on 22:10 and 26:14; and the addition in 13:33 of the words "Ask of me and I shall give thee the Gentiles for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" merely completes the quotation from Ps. 2:7-8. In 18:27 the Western addition that "some Corinthians urged him [Apollos] to go with them to their country" can perhaps be explained by reference to I Cor. 16:12. Other additions aim at giving greater precision to circumstances of time (1:5, "at Pentecost"; 5:21, "rising up early"), or of place (12:1, "some who belonged to the church in Judea"; 12:20, "they came to him in a body from both the cities"). Others again appear to be purely stylistic and due to a scribe or editor who, as Adolf Jülicher says, "occasionally even altered from the mere joy of altering."31 See 2:37 and especially 19:14, where in both passages, particularly the second, the text is greatly expanded without anything essentially new being said. If it is the Neutral scribe who is responsible for a later abbreviation of such passages, it is difficult to understand how his zeal for abridgment could have spared him room for three accounts of Paul's conversion and all the redundancies of the story of Cornelius.
When the Western variant is not merely stylistic but factual, it is again usually most easily explained as an expansion of an originally shorter text. In the Western text of 5:39, where Gamaliel says, "You will not be able to overthrow them, neither you nor emperors nor tyrants," we see reflected the church's later experience of state persecution. The confession of faith in 8:37 (KJV) is evidently added under the influence of later baptismal practice. For the very important variants in the text of the apostolic decrees in 15:20, 29 see Exeg., ad loc., where again the Neutral text is preferred.
It is true that certain Western readings leave the impression that they are based on good authority. Such are the first occurrence of a "we" in 11:28, the mention of the "seven steps" in 12:10, of Trogyllium in 20:15 and of Myra in 21:1, the remark in 28:16 that "the centurion delivered the prisoners to the stratopedarch." But even in these cases, if the readings were indeed original, it is difficult to understand why such vivid details should have been deliberately excised at a later editing, whether by the author, by a subsequent redactor, or by a mere scribe. The conclusion is that while certain individual Western readings may have some claim to originality on their own merit, the Western text as a whole is almost certainly secondary, and has probably resulted, except perhaps in the case of certain key passages such as the apostolic decrees, from a fortuitous accumulation of scribal alterations, paraphrases, and expansions, rather than from a systematic redaction of the entire Lukan text.