13 Things I Learned in New Testament Class on the Book of Acts

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New quarter has started and I had my first class last night.The prof is funny, intelligent, personable, exhaustive speaker, soul-touching preacher, and moving pray-er.  He’s been said to be a cross between Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) and Rodney Dangerfield.

The book of Acts was the topic. Here’s some of what I learned in class.

  1. Acts is the only book of its type in the Bible and because of this it is the single most important book in the Bible. (Every prof says this about every book we study.  🙂 ) We could lose 3 of the 4 gospels and still know about Jesus. We could lose most of Paul’s books and still have Pauline theology. But without the book of Acts we would not have information about the early church from 30-60 A.D.
  2. Acts does what no other book does; it speaks about an historical Jesus and the church.
  3. Acts is an historical book, but misses a lot of history. Its focus is very narrow.
  4. The book got its name, Acts,  in the 2nd Century– can’t remember by whom. 😦 Some have suggested the title “Acts of the Holy Spirit” (for obvious reasons) or “Tale of 2 Cities”because it records how the Gospel went from Jerusalem to Rome.
  5. Before 40 B.C. old was better (in Roman thought) than anything new. But in 40-50 B.C. there was a new wave of artistic expression and so there was friction between this new stuff and old ways. It was an exciting time for some and a confusing, difficult time for others regarding the shifting morays.
  6. The Roman authorities consistently ruled that the charges against Christians, sedition, were false. Christianity’s intent was never sedition; they weren’t preaching the gospel in order to overthrow the government. Rather, Christianity had a reforming emphasis. Therefore, those who practiced Christianity were the best citizens.
  7. All of the external evidence points to Luke, the physician and traveling companion of Paul, as the author of Luke and Acts. None of the evidence says anything different.
  8. Every archaeological point expressed in Acts has proven to be true per the work of Sir William Ramsay.
  9. Every legal point expressed in Acts has proven to be true per the work of A.N. Sherwin-White.
  10. Buy this book: According to the Scriptures by C.H. Dodd, the greatest scholar in English. There are 15 Scriptures that are consistently used in the New Testament. I.e. Psalm 2, 118; Isaiah 40, 53; Daniel 7. These form a complex theology and are mutually interpretive. Somebody did this. Paul says he didn’t do it. He never saw this mystery in the Old Testament. Rather, he received this information from the risen Christ.  This same risen Christ explained this mystery  to His Disciples as well.
  11. Fellowship/friendship in the ancient world was one of reciprocity: “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”  Jesus’ admonition for His Followers to practice “disinterested goodness” was unheard of. It was unique for groups/individuals to consistently do good for the sake of doing good.
  12. The Christians are described as being “one in mind and one in heart.”This is a deep theological statement about commitment. Their ideology was one of “If it’s mine, it’s also available for your use.” 90-94% of the ancient population lived below the poverty line. Most people were days  away from starvation. So this type of unity and sharing made a startling impact on the people in Jerusalem. Perhaps this is why they added to their church number so quickly?
  13. Words are not mere baubles that dissipate into the air. God takes them seriously. Therefor, be careful of oaths and the promises that we make.

Thanks for letting me share some of my notes. Only 5 more classes left.

If you’d like to read more Thursday 13 posts, click here. Don’t forget to check out the blog of RunningShoes too.

Entry filed under: 51 Things to Do In 365 Days, Thursday 13.

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