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expressions and minute geographical allusions in his account of Paul's voyage and shipwreck, has been found so remarkable as to form the subject of a special dissertation.1
As a last token of genuineness may be mentioned the fact that in the Book of Acts the positions taken up by the Pharisees and Sadducees respectively with reference to Christ's cause are almost the reverse of what they are in the Gospel. This change of attitude was due to the apostles' preaching of the Resurrection, after their Master's departure, which was fitted to give offence to the Sadducees alone; but it is a circumstance which only a contemporary would have been likely to realise and represent in such a vivid manner.
2. Date of Composition.—With regard to the date of its composition, its abrupt termination-leaving us in ignorance of Paul's fate and of his subsequent labours (if he was set free from his imprisonment at Rome)—has led some to suppose that the author brought up his narrative to the very moment when he closed the book and despatched it to his friend Theophilus. In that case it must have left the writer's hands about 63 A.D. But it may be that the work was broken off owing to Luke's death, or he may have had it in view to complete his narrative in another volume, or he may have felt it dangerous to go farther. Yet another view is that the apostle's preaching at Rome was purposely selected by the writer as a suitable finish to his narrative of the Church's progress. By some critics the internal evidence is held to prove a date subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, say 71-81 a.d.
writer says, "There is only one way of interpreting it, and that is as embodying almost, if not absolutely, verbatim, the words of an eyewitness."
1 Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul, by James Smith, Esq., F.R.S., of Jordanhill.
3. Character and Contents.-The keynote of the book is struck in the commission given by the risen Lord to His apostles (i. 8): "But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." The entire book records the fulfilment of this prophecy. It may be roughly divided into three parts corresponding to the widening spheres of labour which were thus indicated“Jerusalem” (i. 13-vii.); "all Judea and Samaria" (viii.-ix); "unto the uttermost part of the earth (x.xxviii.) Each of the three is marked by a notable outpouring of the Holy Spirit (ii. 1-4; viii. 17; x. 44-48).
Throughout the whole narrative prominence is given to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the subject of apostolic testimony (ii. 32; iii. 13-15; v. 31, 32, 42; viii. 5; x. 36-42), as the bestower of the Holy Spirit (ii. 33), with His miraculous gifts (iii. 16; ix. 34) and divine guidance (i. 24; x. 19; xvi. 6-10), as personally visible to the martyr Stephen (vii. 56), and as the personal agent in Paul's conversion (ix. 3-5).
There is great significance in the description of Luke's Gospel, given in the opening verse of this book, as a treatise "concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up." The position of the word "began" is very emphatic in the original, as if to imply that the Acts of the Apostles formed a continuation of Christ's work. The writer conceives of Him as still carrying on His work in virtue of His Resurrection and Ascension; and in the introduction to the book he refers to these events as well as to the prediction of His second Advent (i. 1-11).
The continuity of the divine work is indeed the ruling idea of the whole book. The Gospel kingdom is described as advancing steadily onwards, beginning at Jerusalem
(in the same upper room, perhaps, as had been the scene of the Last Supper), and extending finally to Rome, the great metropolis of the Gentiles. More than half the book is devoted to the labours of the Apostle of the Gentiles, and three of his missionary journeys are recorded with Antioch for his headquarters, where the "disciples were first called Christians" (xi. 26).
Of necessity it is a mere selection of incidents that is given, both as regards the labours of Paul (cf. 2 Cor. xi. 24-27), and the history of the Church during the thirtythree years or more over which the book extends. The selection was no doubt determined partly by the information which Luke had gathered from his own observation as an eye-witness or from trustworthy reporters,1 and partly by the great object he had in view, namely, to trace the gradual expansion of the Church from its first beginnings 2 as a seeming phase of Judaism to its full development as a catholic communion, in which there was to be no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and where the Law, on which the former prided himself so greatly, was to be superseded by the grace of God freely offered in the Gospel.
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1 E.g. the account of the mission in Samaria and elsewhere in chap. viii. would, no doubt, be mainly derived from Philip, with whom the writer (xxi. 8-10) had spent many days at Cæsarea, which had also been the scene of the notable events relating to the admission of Cornelius the centurion, recorded in chap. x.
2 "It tells us of the first apostolic miracle; the first apostolic sermon; the first beginnings of ecclesiastical organisation; the first persecution; the first martyr; the first Gentile convert; the first ecclesiastical synod; the first mission journey; the first European church" (Farrar, Messages of the Books).
favourite word both with St. Luke and St. Paul.
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The Epistles of St. Paul-His Previous History
1. The Epistles. One of the distinguishing character istics of the New Testament as compared with all other sacred books in the world is the epistolary character of a large part of its contents.
It contains twenty-one letters by six different authors. Nine of these are addressed to individual Churches, viz. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Philippians, Colossians, 2 John (see chap. xxiii.); five to individual persons, viz. Philemon, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 3 John; and two to Hebrew Christians, viz. Hebrews and James; the remaining five being of a more or less general nature, viz. Ephesians (see chap. xvi.), 1 and 2 Peter, 1 John, and Jude.
Besides these, we have reason to believe from the nature of the case (2 Cor. xi. 28), as well as from special allusions (1 Cor. v. 9; 2 Thess. iii. 17), that there were other apostolic letters which have not been preserved. That Providence should have suffered such inspired writings to perish is in no degree more remarkable than that so many of our Lord's own words should have passed into oblivion; and we can readily understand that during
the apostles' lifetime their letters were less prized than after their death, when the loss of any of their writings was seen to be irreparable.
Although most of the epistles were written at an earlier period than the Gospels, they represent in general a more advanced stage of Christian theology. In the epistles we have the fruits of twenty to fifty years' reflection on the great facts and elementary truths contained in the Synoptical Gospels, viewed in the light of Christian experience and under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, taking of the things that are Christ's and showing them to the Church. To the epistles we are mainly indebted for our knowledge of Christian doctrine on such subjects as the Trinity, the relations of Christ to the human race and to His Church, the Atonement, Justification by Faith, and Sanctification by the Holy Spirit.
But while largely doctrinal in character, most of the epistles differ very considerably from formal treatises, being enlivened with personal allusions, and dealing largely with questions of a practical nature.
2. The Epistles of St. Paul.-The remark just made applies specially to the epistles of Paul, which had their rise not in abstract speculations, but in the special needs and circumstances of the various Churches to which they were addressed. They are filled with the living personality of the writer, and lay hold so vividly upon the reader's sympathies, that they have been described by Luther as "not mere dead words, but living creatures with hands and feet."
They are thirteen in number. Their composition ranges over a period of about fifteen years, the earliest of them (1 and 2 Thess.) having been written about 53 A.D., at least sixteen years after the apostle's conversion ; the last of them (the Pastoral Epistles to Titus and