Why Is the Book “Acts of the Apostles” So Important?

At Mass, Easter Sunday through Pentecost Sunday, the first reading is usually taken from the New Testament book titled “Acts of the Apostles.” In this column and in the next FYI column we will take a closer look at this book and better understand its historical significance in the story of the early Church.
Most Bible experts agree that the Luke who wrote the “Gospel of Luke” also wrote Acts. The high writing style is evidence that Luke was well educated. Luke was also a disciple of Paul on one or more of the four “journeys.” Quite often Luke refers to Paul’s traveling party using the word “we” and not “they.”
The story told in Acts spans about 30 years, from the time of Jesus’ Ascension to about 66 A.D. The last story at the end of Acts relates Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. It is believed that Acts was written by 70 A.D.
We see that by the time Acts was written, Jesus’ message had spread to the entire Roman Empire, also identified as the “known world.” We learn that the persons primarily responsible for this growth included: (1) a former persecutor of Christians, (2) a tax collector and a bunch of non-educated fishermen. Ask yourself: How could this group achieve such a result without the Holy Spirit working overtime?
If we were to hand out Academy Awards for the story in Acts, the Holy Spirit would win the Oscar for Leading Man (or Leading Woman or Leading Spirit) hands down. Tied for the best supporting actors would be Saints Peter and Paul.
Luke’s audience is likely well educated Greeks—men as well as women. At the time Luke writes Acts, the Greeks had enjoyed libraries for centuries with thousands of book including dramatic plays (think Sophocles), philosophy (think Aristotle) and epic adventures such as the Iliad and the Odyssey (think Homer). So Luke’s method of storytelling must be highly refined to hold his audience’s attention.
The writing styles of both Luke’s Gospel and Acts are very similar. In both works, we are constantly being given the historical context in which key events take place—often by identifying events or governmental leaders. In the beginning of Luke’s gospel, Luke identifies the timeline as follows, “In the days of Herod, the King of Judea, there was a priest named Zachariah….” This would be comparable to a modern historian writing, “When Abraham Lincoln was president and the Civil War had begun…..”
As you listen to these stories from Acts in the next few weeks, think of similar events that are happening today in our parish. I hope these details will give you a deeper appreciation of how our Church was founded and how rapidly it expanded.
~ Mike Kleinman, Adult Faith Formation Team member

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