It is commonly held that the Acts of The Apostles was written by the gospel author Luke, the physician. In parts of the book, the Luke uses first-person pronouns that imply he is a participant in the events that he is writing about. Some have questioned Luke’s claim to be a participant because of possible conflicts between his description of events and Paul’s own narrative in his epistles. One example is that Paul says in Galatians 1:15-18 that he didn’t go to Jerusalem to talk to the apostles after his conversion whereas Acts 9:10-30 says that he did. Similarly, in Romans 1:18-23, Paul says that idol worshipers don’t have any excuse because their knowledge of God has always been apparent, but Acts 17:29-30 has Paul saying God will overlook idol worship as being the result of ignorance. Many think these differences can be explained, or at least aren’t enough to challenge the idea that the author traveled with Paul from time to time. In any event, church tradition has long held that the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were authored by Luke the physician who is identified as Paul’s companion in Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24; and 2 Timothy 4:11.
It is widely accepted that this book was written shortly after the Gospel of Luke in the late 80s.
The Acts of The Apostles is a book of history comparable to similar works in the Greco-Roman world that described the origins and progress of particular ethnic or national groups. In these writings, the author would not necessarily have been expected to be unbiased in his presentation. These books typically highlighted the accomplishments of a group and promoted its ideals. So it’s not unexpected that the book employs a bright and positive perspective to the events described herein. We can see that the persecution that pushed Christians into exile resulted in the spreading of the gospel to new locations (8:1-4). The rejection of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah gives cause to take the gospel to the Gentiles (13:44-49).
The book makes it clear that history is unfolding as determined by God who gives guidance through the Holy Spirit, prophets, angels, and visions. As well, Acts looks at the interaction of Christianity with Judaism. The book describes how Christianity began in Jerusalem with Jesus’ Jewish followers but, following a time of considerable growth in the Jewish community, the message was delivered to the Gentiles with greater success.
It can be held that the book shows how Gentile Christians replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. But Luke emphasizes that this wasn’t about any glitch in God’s divine planning. God is always faithful to His promises, but the Israelites lost their favored status as a result of their continuous rebellion throughout history. It follows that some have suggested that the book promotes anti-Semitism. This viewpoint, of course, is not a true characteristic of church tradition.
The the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts describe the continuing presence of Jesus from his earthly life as a man, through the Holy Spirit, and as demonstrated in the lives of Christians who proclaim his word and act in his name. His presence is revealed in acts of healing and other miracles, all of which are presented as manifestations of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The book describes the establishment and growth of the early church with remarkable detail, historical accuracy and context. The influence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles is evident in the emboldened speeches and actions recorded in this book.
If you’re curious about what happened after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Acts of The Apostles gives a splendid account of subsequent events focusing on how the gospel was spread by such key players as Paul, Stephen, Peter, Philip and others.