Brian Jones Analyzing the Book of Acts The biblical Acts of the Apostles is criticized by many as being embellished

in many parts by the author, who goes by the name of “Luke.” Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, for example, has been said to be exaggerated in Acts; details such as the blinding light and the voice of Christ seem a bit over the top to many scholars, including the author of In Search of Paul. Moreover, it has been suggested that Luke wrote the book for the Roman authorities, as a defense of Paul’s actions. This would be a good explanation for why the Jews are portrayed so negatively throughout the text – a rather large detail of the defense theory is that the Jews appear to be the blame for all the conflicts in which Paul is involved. If this is the case, then it could easily imply that Paul was not as innocent in all his workings as he is portrayed, which would then also mean that Luke bends the truth a bit. On the other hand, Luke may be completely truthful in his writings. Critics have trouble believing him, however, because of his aforementioned embellishment. In fact, the embellishments of several events throughout the book make it seem as though Luke focuses on flashy details more than anything else. Incidents which, in reality, may have seemed

quite ordinary, are given a very mystical effect when Luke writes about them. In chapter 12, for instance, an angel appears in a shining light and then breaks Peter’s chains, allowing the apostle to escape prison. This may seem awfully dramatic to many readers. It is this epic style of storytelling that stands out above all else in Acts to a large portion of critics. However, Luke’s style seems to have an even more outstanding feature: repetition. Multiple incidents repeat themselves throughout the book. Miracles of healing occur several times throughout the book, from Peter and John’s gift of walking to the cripple in chapter three, to Paul’s many healings of believers throughout his travels. The story of Peter’s vision is told three times within the span of two chapters, and the story of Paul’s conversion is told thrice throughout the course of the whole book. Miraculous jailbreaks occur in chapters five, 12, and 16; Luke mentions three separate jailbreaks, all of which are of a divine nature. Many more times are various disciples – although mostly Paul – arrested. From these arrests come multiple public defenses of Paul’s actions and Christianity in general. The speeches themselves are also very similar in the entire book. Stephen’s speech, which occupies the first 53

verses alone of chapter seven, summarizes the entire Old Testament and the Gospels, from God’s calling of Abram through the resurrection of Christ. This basic format of defense is not fully copied in other speeches, but the flow between Jewish history and Christ’s death and resurrection remains constant. In chapter two, Peter discusses David’s lineage leading down to Christ. Chapter eight tells the story of Philip preaching the gospel of Christ through only the scriptures of Isaiah. Now, why would Luke keep repeating the same stories and speeches? The most reasonable answer is that he did so for emphasis. He found important meanings in particular events and wanted to highlight them. Knowing this, the overall purpose of the book of Acts may be, at the very least, hypothesized: The book is to be used as an instructional text for disciples, using a method of teaching by example. The aforementioned format of public speeches, for instance, teaches a good method to preach to both Jews and Gentiles: find common ground with the audience, and work from there. Emphasizing miracles is a good way to build one’s faith in the power of God and the Holy Spirit. The repetition of being arrested and freed is a lasting metaphor for bondage to sin and the freedom which can be

found through Christ. Even the simple recalling of the way Paul acted in different scenarios is a good teacher. Although Christ is the ideal role model for Christians, Paul is imperfect and one can more easily relate to him. Several different themes and messages are present in the book of Acts. However, they are all displayed in hidden ways, through the stories of Paul and the apostles. Through repetition, Luke is able to point out the important points which can be learned from these stories. Although it may be said that these lessons were more relevant to the disciples of the early church, they are still quite useful in the life of a modern Christian.