The Historical Books of the New Testament @ by J. Hampton Keathley, III {original source}

Although the author is unnamed in Acts, the evidence leads to the conclusion that the author was Lukedb01. As previously mentioned, Acts is the second volume of a two-part treatise written by Luke, the physician, to Theophilusdb02 about “all that Jesus began to do and teach.
In support of Luke as the author, Ryrie writes:db03
That the author of Acts was a companion of Paul
db04 is clear from the passages in the book in whichweandusare used (16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16).

These sections themselves eliminate known companions of Paul other than Luke, and Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24 point affirmatively to Luke, who was a physician. The frequent use of medical terms also substantiates this conclusion (1:3; 3:7ff.; 9:18, 33; 13:11; 28:1-10).

Luke answered the Macedonian calldb05 with Paul, was in charge of the work at Philippidb06 for about six years, and later was with Paul in Rome during the time of Paul’s house arrest. It was probably during this last period that the book was written. If it were written later it would be very difficult to explain the absence of mentioning such momentous events as the burning of Rome, the martyrdom of Paul, or the destruction of Jerusalem.fn32

Regarding the title, all available Greek manuscripts designate it by the title Praxeis, “Acts,” or by the title, “The Acts of the Apostles.

Just how or why it received this title is uncertain. Actually, “The Acts of the Apostles” is perhaps not the most accurate title since it does not contain the acts of all the apostles. Only Peterdb07 and Paul are really emphasized, though the promise of the coming of the Spirit was made to all the apostles in Acts 1:2-8 who were then to go into all the world preaching the gospel in the power of the Spirit (however, see 4:32).

Many have felt that the book would be more accurately titled, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” since it describes the spread of Christianity from the time of the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 as promised in Acts 1:8.

DATE: A.D. 61

The issues regarding the dating of the book are summarized by Stanley Toussaintdb08 as follows:

The writing of Acts must have taken place before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Certainly an event of such magnitude would not have been ignored. This is especially true in light of one of the basic themes of the book: God’s turning to the Gentiles from the Jews because of the Jews’ rejection of Jesus Christ.

Luke scarcely would have omitted an account of Paul’s death, traditionally dated from A.D. 66-68, if it had occurred before he wrote Acts.

Nor did Luke mention the Neroniandb09 persecutions which began after the "great fire of Rome"db10 in A.D. 64.

Furthermore, a defense of Christianity before Nero by using the Book of Acts to appeal to what lower officials had ruled regarding Paul would have had little point at the time of the Neronian antagonism. At that time Nero was so intent on destroying the church, the defense set forth in Acts would have had little effect in dissuading him.

The date usually accepted by conservative scholars for the writing of Acts is around A.D. 60-62. Accordingly the place of writing would be Rome or possibly both Caesareadb11 and Rome. At the time of writing, Paul’s release was either imminent or had just taken place.fn33


The book of Acts stands out as unique among the New Testament books for it alone provides a bridge for the other books of the New Testament. As Luke’s second treatise, Acts continues what Jesusbegan to do and to teach(1:1) as recorded in the Gospels.

It begins with Christ’s Ascension and continues to the period of the New Testament Epistles. In it we have the continuation of the ministry of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit at work in the apostles who went forth preaching and establishing the church, the body of Christ. Acts is the historical link between the Gospels and the Epistles.

Not only does it make this bridge for us, but it provides an account of the life of Paul and gives us the historical occasion for his letters. In the process, Acts recounts the first 30 years of the life of the church.

After summarizing various views on the purpose of Acts, Toussaint writes:

The purpose of the Book of Acts may be stated as follows:

To explain with the Gospel of Luke the orderly and sovereignly directed progress of the kingdom message from Jews to Gentiles, and from Jerusalem to Rome. In Luke’s Gospel the question is answered,If Christianity has its roots in the Old Testament and in Judaism, how did it become a worldwide religion?” The Book of Acts continues in the vein of the Gospel of Luke to answer the same problem.fn34

Acts 1:8 expresses the theme of Acts—the indwelling Holy Spirit empowering God’s people to be the Savior’s witnesses both ...

  • in Jerusalem (home base), and
  • in all Judea and Samaria (the immediate and surrounding areas), and
  • even to the remotest part of the earth (the world).


The key concept for Acts would be

  • the growth of the Church in all the world.

Two key words are

  • “witness” or “witnesses,” and
  • “the Holy Spirit.”


1:8 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.

2:42-47 42 They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers. 43 Reverential awe came on everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and held everything in common, 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. 46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, 47 praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.


Since the accomplishment of the church’s global mission of worldwide outreach is dependent on the coming of the Holy Spirit, chapter 2 is naturally the key chapter. This chapter records the fulfillment of 1:8 on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and began His ministry of baptizing believers into Christ’s body, the church (cf. 1:5; 11:15-16 with 1 Cor. 12:13), began indwelling all believers and empowering them to be witnesses of the Savior.


Key people include:


The resurrected Savior is the central theme of the sermons and defenses in Acts.

The Old Testament Scriptures, the historical resurrection, the apostolic testimony, and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit all bear witness that Jesus is both Lord and Christ (see Peter’s sermons in 2:22-36; 10:34-43).

  • To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins(10:43).

  • Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved(4:12).fn35


Acts can be naturally outlined around Acts 1:8, the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.fn36

    • I. The Witness in Jerusalem (1:1-6:7)
      • A. The Expectation of the Chosen (1:1-2:47) 
        • Progress report no. 1: 
          And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved(2:47).
      • B. The Expansion of the Church in Jerusalem (3:1-6:7)
        • Progress report no. 2: 
          So the Word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly(6:7).

    • II. The Witness in all Judea and Samaria (6:8-9:31)
      • A. The Martyrdom of Stephen (6:8-8:1a)
        • 1. The Arrest of Stephen (6:8-7:1)
        • 2. The Address of Stephen (7:2-53)
        • 3. The Attack on Stephen (7:54-8:1a)
      • B. The Ministry of Philip (8:1b-40)
      • C. The Message of Saul (9:1-19a)
      • D. The Conflicts of Saul (9:19b-31)
        • Progress report no. 3:
          Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria … was strengthened; and [it was] encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord(9:31).

    • III. The Witness to the Extremity of the Earth (9:32-28:31)
      • A. The Extension of the Church to Antioch (9:32-12:24)
        • Progress report no. 4
          But the Word of God continued to increase and spread(12:24).
      • B. The Extension of the Church in Asia Minor (12:25-16:5)
        • Progress report no. 5: 
          So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers(16:5).
      • C. The Extension of the Church in the Aegean Area (16:6-19:20)
        • In this way the Word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power(19:20).
      • D. The Extension of the Church to Rome (19:21-28:31)
        • Progress report no. 7: 
          Paul … welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ(28:30-31).

Ryrie, p. 1724.
Walvoord/Zuck, electronic media.
Walvoord/Zuck, electronic media.
Wilkinson/Boa, p. 353.
The outline used here follows that of Dr. Stanley in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, edited by Walvoord and Zuck, electronic media.
db* = Content added by to assist the reader
Luke: Luke the Evangelist (Ancient Greek: Λουκᾶς, Loukás) is one of the Four Evangelists or authors of canonical Gospels of Jesus Christ. Luke was a native of the Hellenistic city of Antioch in Syria. The early church fathers ascribed to him authorship of both the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts of the Apostles, which originally formed a single literary work, referred to as Luke-Acts. [From Wikipedia]
Theophilus: Theophilus is the name or honorary title of the person to whom the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are addressed (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1). No one knows the true identity of Theophilus and there are several conjectures and traditions around an identity. In English Theophilus is also written "Theophilos", both a common name and an honorary title among the learned (academic) Romans and Jews of the era. [From Wikipedia]
Ryrie: Charles Caldwell Ryrie (born March 2, 1925) is a Christian writer and theologian who served as professor of systematic theology and dean of doctoral studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and as president and professor at what is now Cairn University. He is the editor of The Ryrie Study Bible by Moody Publishers, containing more than 10,000 of Dr. Ryrie's explanatory notes. First published in 1978, it has sold more than 2 million copies. He is a notable advocate of premillennial dispensationalism. [From Wikipedia]
Paul: Paul the Apostle (Greek: Παῦλος Paulos; c. 5 – c. 67), original name Saul of Tarsus (Greek: Σαῦλος Ταρσεύς Saulos Tarseus), was an apostle (though not one of the Twelve Apostles) who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century world. He is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age. [From Wikipedia]
Macedonian call: The term “Macedonian Call” refers to a God-given vision that directed the route Paul took on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:39—18:22). []
Philippi: Philippi (Greek: Φίλιπποι, Philippoi) was a city in eastern Macedonia, established by Philip II in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest. [From Wikipedia]
Peter: Saint Peter (Latin: Petrus, Greek: Πέτρος Petros, Syriac/Aramaic: ܫܸܡܥܘܿܢ ܟܹ݁ܐܦ݂ܵܐ, Shemayon Keppa ; died c. 64 AD) , also known as Simon Peter, according to the New Testament, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, leaders of the early Christian Church. The New Testament indicates that Peter was the son of John (or Jonah or Jona) and was from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee or Gaulanitis. His brother Andrew was also an apostle. [From Wikipedia]
Stanley Toussaint: Senior Professor Emeritus of Bible Exposition, Adjunct Professor in Bible Exposition B.A., Augsburg College, 1951; Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1955; Th.D., 1957. A pastor-teacher committed to expository preaching, Dr. Toussaint enjoys both roles. He has taught at Dallas Seminary since 1960 and pastored for more than 20 years. An editor, author, teacher, and conference speaker, he has taught in Christian schools in the Middle East, Australia, and the Far East and has ministered in the pulpit literally around the world.[]
Neronian: {adj of Nero} Emperor of Rome (54-68) whose early reign was dominated by his mother, Agrippina the Younger. He had his mother and wife murdered, and he may have set the Great Fire of Rome (64). His cruelty and irresponsibility provoked widespread revolts, which led to his suicide. []
Great fire of Rome: The Great Fire of Rome was an urban fire that started on the night between 18 and 19 July in the year 64 AD. It caused widespread devastation before being brought under control after six days. [From Wikipedia]
Caesarea: Caesarea (Hebrew: קֵיסָרְיָה; Arabic: قيسارية‎, Kaysaria; Greek: Καισάρεια) is a town in Israel located mid-way between Tel Aviv and Haifa (45 km), on the Israeli coastal plain near the city of Hadera. [From Wikipedia]
Stephen: Stephen (Koine Greek: Στέφανος, Stephanos; sometimes spelled "Stephan"), traditionally regarded as the first martyr of Christianity, was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. [From Wikipedia]
Philip: Philip the Apostle (Greek: Φίλιππος, Philippos) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Later Christian traditions describe Philip as the apostle who preached in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia. The Synoptic Gospels list Philip as one of the apostles. The Gospel of John describes Philip's calling as a disciple of Jesus. [Jn 1:43] Philip is described as a disciple from the city of Bethsaida, and connects him to Andrew and Peter, who were from the same town. He also was among those surrounding the Baptist when the latter first pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God. It was Philip who first introduces Nathanael (sometimes identified with Bartholomew) to Jesus. [From Wikipedia]
James: James, son of Zebedee (Greek Ἰάκωβος, from Hebrew/Aramaic Yaʿqob; died 44 AD) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and traditionally considered the first apostle to be martyred. He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle. He is also called James the Greater or James the Great to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus.  [From Wikipedia]
Barnabas: was a Cypriot Jew, he and Paul the Apostle undertook missionary journeys together and defended Gentile converts against the Judaizers. [From Wikipedia]
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