Acts of Luke

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New Testament
Acts of the Apostles
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Catholic letters

The Acts of the Apostles of Luke ( Latin Actus apostolorum or Acta apostolorum "deeds of the apostles"; German abbreviation: Acts) is a book of the New Testament of the Bible . It forms the second part of the so-called "Lukan double work" in that it follows on from the Gospel of Luke . The foundation of the church and the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire are dealt with . In Greek the title is Práxeis Apostólōn (Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων, "deeds of the apostles "). In many other languages, the book has a title that literally means “Deeds of the Apostles” (for example in French , Italian , Dutch , Swedish or Russian ) or can be translated as “Book of Deeds” (for example in English : Book of Acts ). In addition to German, it also describes the Polish language as the “story of the apostles” . It has been divided into 28 chapters since the Middle Ages .


The evangelist Luke has been considered the author of the Acts of the Apostles since early Christian times . The author himself also identifies with him by addressing a Christian named Theophilus, to whom the Gospel of Luke is already dedicated, and announcing a continuation of that work: “In the first book, dear Theophilus, I reported on everything, what Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up (into heaven) ”( Acts 1 : 1–2  EU )

The church fathers (first recorded in Papias of Hierapolis around 130) also name Luke, a companion of Paul , who was a doctor according to Colossians 4:14 , as the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles . The scriptures do not presuppose this identification: for example, the author does not represent any specific theology of Paul as found in his letters . He made no mention of these letters, which were later so important.

The majority of historians today assume that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles come from the same author, but they often doubt that this author is identical with the companion of St. Luke.


The Acts of the Apostles, like the Gospel of Luke , are addressed by name to Theophilus , Greek for “the one who loves God”. Nothing is known about him from other sources. He is addressed as kratistos , which means "most powerful, highly honored" and was an address for provincial governors, for example. It is believed that he lived in Italy. It is possible that he was not a historical person, but a literary fiction of the author with which he used his “theophile”, i.e. H. for God open-minded readers who wanted to address personally.


The great majority of historical-critical biblical research takes the years around 90 AD as the time of the writing of the Acts of the Apostles. The earliest possible date of writing results from the dependence of the author of the Lukan double work on the Gospel of Mark , which according to prevailing opinion must have been written in its final form after 70 AD due to the knowledge of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple . The term ante quem (latest possible drafting date) is often derived from the fact that the Acts of the Apostles does not contain any references to the persecution of Jews in the final phase of the reign of Domitian (81-96) and does not know of any collection of Pauline letters whose distribution is assumed from around 100 AD becomes.

Church Slavonic edition of the Acts of the Apostles from 1644

Jürgen Roloff , for example, mentions the striking theological and historical differences between the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul and deviations between the Acts of the Apostles and the historical works of Flavius ​​Josephus as further arguments for dating between 80 and 90 .

Evangelical interpreters, on the other hand, usually defend an early dating of the Acts of the Apostles to the years AD 62–65. They also refer to well-known representatives of the evangelical interpretation of the Bible from the United States , who support an early dating (62 at the latest), among others, the following arguments have put forward:

  • Essential events of the years before 70 are not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles: the death of James (brother of Jesus) (62), the Neronian persecution of Christians (64), the death of Paul, the Jewish uprising from 66 and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70.
  • The description of the trial against Paul makes up a quarter of the volume of the Acts of the Apostles, but it breaks off after Paul's two-year stay in Rome without reporting the outcome of the trial. The very extensive description of the process in the Acts of the Apostles is also more interesting for readers around AD 60 from the point of view of the current situation, but hardly in the decades after that.
  • The tense relationship between Jewish and Gentile Christians is a recurring theme in the Acts of the Apostles, but was historically only relevant until the fall of the Christian community in Jerusalem (before 70).
  • According to some researchers, the Pauline letters were already in circulation by 70, so that the failure to mention this collection in the Acts of the Apostles would suggest that it was written early.


The coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1,1-2,13)

El Greco : outpouring of the Holy Spirit

The book of Acts begins with a very brief account of the time after Easter, when Jesus Christ appeared to the apostles near Jerusalem for forty days and was then taken into heaven (1: 1–14 EU ). The circle of the originally twelve apostles was added again shortly after the “loss” of Judas Iscariot : Matthias was elected 12th apostle by drawing lots (1.15–26 EU ). At Pentecost , the Holy Spirit descends on the Christian community and causes speaking in tongues , which sometimes causes horror and sometimes ridicule among outsiders (2.1–13 EU ).

The early church in Jerusalem (Acts 2.14–6.15)

Fra Angelico : Peter's missionary sermon

Peter preaches the terrified and ridicule ends the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2.14 to 36 EU ), after which many Jews converted to Christianity and baptized leave: the first Christian community ( The early church in Jerusalem ) is created (from 2.37 to 47 EU ) that grows quickly. Peter calls for the healing of the lame man in the Temple in Jerusalem , the Jews for conversion to Christ (3 EU ), after which he and his companions set and interrogated: Despite intimidation keep the Christians at their embassy firmly (4.1 to 22 EU ) . In the face of threats from the High Council , the congregation prays for “boldness in speaking”, signs and wonders (4.23–31 EU ). Some community members even feel so strongly connected to one another that they form a community of property (4.32–37 EU ).

In the episode about Ananias and Saphira the consequence of a lie against God is made clear, namely death (5.1–11 EU ). Accompanied by many miracles , the mission continues successfully (5.12–16 EU ), so that the apostles are once again appointed and interrogated before the high council (5.17–33 EU ). The life-threatening situation for the apostles is saved by the respected Rabbi Gamaliel , who points out that if the teaching of Jesus were purely human work, it would survive on its own just like the teachings of various earlier Messiah aspirants. The apostles are then released after scourging (5.34–42 EU ). Shortly afterwards, the first dispute between Hebrew and Greek Jews broke out in the young and rapidly growing community . The "Greeks" believed that they saw injustice in the care of widows, whereupon official poor carers ( deacons ) were appointed to counteract this development (6.1–7 EU ).

Stephen's speech (Acts 7: 1-8: 3)

The event described by Luke represents a judgment situation in the Sanhedrin . A group of Hellenists claims that Stephen preaches that Jesus , the Nazora, wants to destroy both the place - meaning the temple - and to dissolve the Jewish customs. The high priest turns due to the allegations by asking "Is that so?" To Stephen, after which it responds with the longest "speech" of Acts. The fact that Stephen does not say a word about the reproaches speaks against an apology . New Testament science concludes that it is a fictional speech. Likewise, it is hardly suitable as a template for the confession of martyrs that the writer wanted to pass on to the following generations. But the classic confession of Jesus Christ is missing . A righteous man is only mentioned in verse 52.

As a scholar in the history of Israel and in the line of the rejected prophets, Stephen acts like a penitential preacher who, with the help of the history of Israel and the rejection of its prophets, shows the accusers that they themselves are in the dock and are making the mistakes that are already their fathers had committed. The presentation of salvation history is obviously less apologetic in terms of one's own defense. The historicity of this speech is considered improbable because the historical-critical method in chapter 7 sees the editorial work of the author of the Acts of the Apostles. This suggests that the speech with the criticism of the Jewish people arises from the Deuteronomist school. Walter Schmithals therefore only postulates the following verses for the actual Stephen tradition:

“From the so-called synagogue of the Libertines, Cyreneans and Alexandrians and from those from Cilicia and Asia Minor some rose and quarreled with Stephen. They instigated men who rioted the people, confronted them, attacked them, dragged them away, threw them out of town and stoned them to death. Pious men buried Stephen and made a great mourning for him. "


  • 1–3 story of Abraham
  • 4-8 patriarchal story
  • 9–16 Joseph story
  • 17–35 Moses story
  • 36–43 Salvation and rejection in Moses
  • 42–46 cultural criticism
  • 47–53 Court Announcement

The seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles nevertheless marks a vertex in the Lukan representation. The missionary activity of the young church spreads from Jerusalem to Judea , Samaria and Antioch .

The Acts of the Apostles of Luke (7.16 EU ) locates the tomb of the patriarchs in Shechem . This can also be found in the 4th century with the church father Hieronymus . However, Machpelah Cave , known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs , is located in Hebron .

The mission in Samaria (Acts 8: 4-40)

The Christian community, scattered by the persecution, is now beginning to preach the gospel outside Jerusalem. Philip meets the magician Simon in Samaria , who realizes that the Holy Spirit is received by the laying on of hands by the apostles. He offers money to the apostles so that they may give him this gift. Peter rebukes Simon and encourages him to repent honestly (8.4–25 EU ). On the return journey to Jerusalem, Philip meets an Ethiopian eunuch who has converted to Judaism , to whom he explains the prophet Isaiah . The eunuch was then converted to Christ and immediately baptized. Philip is raptured to Ashdod (8.26–40 EU ).

Paul is called (Acts 9: 1-43)

Caravaggio : The Conversion of Paul

Saul, who is busy persecuting Christians, has an apparition of Jesus (“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”), Which makes him blind. Jesus orders him to go to Damascus for further instructions. The disciple Ananias living in Damascus is commanded by God in a dream to lay hands on Saul and heal him. Despite great fear of the well-known persecutor of Christians, Ananias does what he was told, Saul regains his eyesight , is converted and is baptized (9.1–19a EU ). He was soon preaching very successfully in Damascus and himself became a potential target for persecutors of Christians. Together with the Levite Barnabas , who was converted in Jerusalem at the beginning , he flees back to Tarsus (his hometown) and the Christian mission continues quietly (9.19b – 31 EU ). Peter works further miracles in Lydda (9.32–35 EU ) and Joppe (today Jaffa ; raising the Tabitha , 9.36–43 EU ), whereupon all residents of the places are converted.

Gentiles in the church (Acts 10: 1-48)

The Christian mission is now also extended to the Gentiles: With the Roman centurion Cornelius , Peter baptizes an uncircumcised man for the first time on God's instruction, and therefore unclean for the Jews (10 EU ). The Gentile mission is criticized by parts of the Jerusalem early church, so that Peter has to justify himself. Eventually, however, it is generally accepted (11.1–18 EU ).

The church in Antioch (Acts 11: 1–26)

After the persecution, the circle around Stephen also settled in Antioch and increasingly turned to a mission among pagans. That is why the group of believers in Christ was less and less viewed as part of Judaism and more and more as an independent group, which is why they were given the name Chrestians or Christians (11.26 EU ). The Antiochian church is growing rapidly, Peter stays a lot in Antioch, Saul / Paul is also brought to Antioch by Barnabas. We are now in the middle of the 1940s. The Antiochene congregation collects a collection for Jerusalem and has the money delivered by Barnabas and Paul (11.27–30 EU ; 12.25 EU ).

The church in Jerusalem (Acts 11.27-12.25)

A new persecution of Christians begins through King Herod Agrippa I , in which Peter is captured and James, brother of John, is killed. Peter is miraculously able to escape from prison ( EU 12: 1–25 ). A short time later Herod is "beaten with worms" by an angel of God and dies; this scene is essential for the chronology of the events of the entire New Testament, as Herod's year of death (44) is well known as one of the few New Testament events from secular histories (12.18-25 EU ).

1st missionary journey of Paul (Acts 13,1-14,28)

Saul and Barnabas are called to the Gentile mission and leave Antioch (13.1–3 EU ). In Cyprus, where Barnabas comes from, they meet the magician Barjesus , also called Elymas, who resists them and is blinded, whereupon Sergius Paulus , the governor of Cyprus, is converted (13.4–12 EU ). In Antioch (Pisidia) Paul - from Cyprus onwards Saul is referred to by the Latin name Paul instead of the Hebrew Saul - gives an extensive sermon in the synagogue after which many Jews are converted.

Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15: 1-35)

In response to the hostility of the envious religious officials, Paul once again mentions his commission for mission to the Gentiles (13.13–52 EU ). Something similar happens in Ikonien (14.1–7 EU ), Lystra (14.8–20a EU ) and Derbe. Paul and Barnabas install elders in the newly founded churches and then return to Antioch for a longer period of time (14.20b – 28 EU ). After a while, the Torah- minded Jewish Christians and Paul argue about the circumcision of non-Jewish Christians, which they consider to be urgently necessary. A meeting of the apostles in Jerusalem will clarify this question. After a long dispute (15.1–21 EU ) the assembly decides that circumcision is not necessary for salvation.

2nd missionary journey of Paul (Acts 15,36-18,17)

Paul and Barnabas are sent from Jerusalem on another mission (15.22–29 EU ) and return to Antioch, where they continue to live and preach (15.30–35 EU ). Paul begins another missionary journey (this time accompanied by Silas after he had fallen out with Barnabas), which leads him to Asia Minor (16.1–8 EU ). In a nocturnal apparition, Paul is called to Macedonia (16.9f. EU ), whereupon the journey to Philippi is continued (16.11-13 EU ). The converted Lydia offers the travelers quarters (16.14f. EU ). When Paulus and Silas obscure the business prospects for the owner of a fortune-telling slave by driving out the fortune-telling spirit, the latter shows them without further ado for inciting the population (16.16–22 EU ). Paul and Silas are put in prison, have to leave the prison due to an earthquake and find accommodation with their overseer, who is also converted. When the city leaders learn that Paul is a Roman citizen , they let him go (16.23–40 EU ).

Athens: Areopagus

The mission, which was accompanied by conflicts with the Jews, continues at the following stations in Thessalonica (17.1–9 EU ) and Beroea (17.10–15 EU ). In Athens, Paul speaks on Areopagus and proclaims the One God, is sometimes ridiculed, but also wins new followers (17.16–34 EU ), including Dionysius Areopagita , who, according to tradition, was the first bishop of Athens and is the city's patron saint . In Corinth he meets Aquila and Priscilla , a Jewish Christian couple who had been expelled from Rome. This brings us to around the year 49, because it is known from historical works that Emperor Claudius issued an edict for this year, according to which all Jews had to leave Rome (see Suetonius). The arrival of the couple and Paul in Corinth should then fall around the year 50. The two become close collaborators of Paul. Many are converted in Corinth, too, but Christians are constantly in danger of being persecuted. In a renewed appearance Paul is asked to “continue not to be silent” (18.1–17 EU ). Paul is dragged to court by Jews in Corinth. The judge is the governor Gallio, whose term of office can be proven quite reliably for 51 or 52.

3rd missionary journey of Paul (Acts 18,18-21,14)

Paul leaves Corinth and returns to Antioch (18.18–22 EU ). After a while he embarks on a third missionary journey (18.23–28 EU ), which initially takes him to Ephesus. There he teaches first in the synagogue, then later in the school of tyrannos. Some Jewish conjurers misuse the name of Jesus for their craft and are badly beaten, whereupon many who previously practiced magic burn their books (19.1–22 EU ). Some artisans under a Demetrius are angry that the Christians have turned many people away from the Artemis cult, so that their "Silver Temple of Artemis" (probably replicas that were sold to rich pilgrims) no longer find buyers. However, the city councilors do not let the situation escalate, but instead refer Demetrius to the ordinary court process (19.23–40 EU ). Under severe persecution, Paul travels via Macedonia and Greece (20.1–5 EU ) to Troas , where a young man who fell asleep during Paul's long sermon falls out of the window on the third floor, dies and is resuscitated by Paul (20.6–12 EU ), then to Miletus (20.13–16 EU ). Paul says goodbye to the elders of Ephesus (20.17–38 EU ) and returns to Jerusalem via Caesarea (21.1–14 EU ).

Paul as a prisoner (Acts 21.15-26.32)

In Jerusalem the apostles are happy about his missionary successes (21.15–26 EU ), but the arrest of Paul is not long in coming. With the help of the military, Paul barely escapes death (21.27–40 EU ) and is allowed to deliver a defense speech in which Paul reports on his calling (22.1–21 EU ). During interrogation with a Roman colonel, Paul emphasizes that he is a Roman citizen and thus avoids further scourging (22.22–30 EU ). Nevertheless, he is interrogated again before the High Council, where his statements lead to a discord between the Pharisees and Sadducees , which escalates to such an extent that the Roman Colonel brings Paul back to the castle for fear of his life (23.1–11 EU ). Some Jews decide to kill Paul in an ambush.

The colonel learns of the plot (23.12-22 EU ) through Paul's nephew who lives in Jerusalem and has Paul transferred to Caesarea (23.23-35 EU ). There Paul is interrogated again: this time by the governor Felix. The Jews accuse Paul during interrogation of being the leader of the Nazora sect, of causing riot and desecration of the temple. Paul rejects all accusations (24.1–21 EU ). Felix postpones the process because he hopes for bribes from Paul (24.22–27 EU ). Paul remains in prison until Felix is ​​replaced by the new governor Porcius Festus . This replacement can be dated to the year 59. There is another interrogation (25.1–8 EU ) in which Paul invokes his Roman citizenship and his right to be sentenced to death only before the emperor (25.9–12 EU ).

Paul comes to Rome (Acts 27: 1–28, 31)

When the Galilean king Agrippa visits Festus, the king asks to be able to interrogate Paul as well (25.13-27 EU ). Paul gives a long defense speech in front of Agrippa, in which he traces his path from the zealous Pharisee to the Christian and confesses the resurrection of Jesus. Agrippa finds nothing reprehensible and would release Paul if he had not appealed to the emperor (26 EU ). So Paul is sent to Rome as a prisoner (27.1–12 EU ), gets caught in a violent sea storm (27.13–26 EU ) on the crossing and suffers a mild shipwreck off the island of Melite ( Μελίτη ), according to recent studies not Malta or Miletus ( Mljet ), but Kefalonia (27.27–44 EU ).

The stranded are welcomed on Melite, Paul heals many sick people and is honored (28.1–10 EU ). After three months the journey to Rome can be continued (28.11–15 EU ). Once in Rome, thanks to an open prison system, Paul can immediately begin preaching there (28: 16–31 EU ). With that the book of Acts ends.

Historical reliability

The author is consistently certified as having good geographical, social and political knowledge. He is very precise with the names and titles of the Roman officials that appear in his story and also seems to be well informed about the Roman legal situation . Thus - among other things by the Scottish archaeologist and ancient historian William Mitchell Ramsay - various events that Luke mentions in the Acts of the Apostles can be documented in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Whether this general historical reliability can also be related to the dates of the early Christian community is controversial in theological research. After the view was widespread in the 1970s and 1980s that Lukas was untrustworthy as a historian, the opinion has recently become more widespread that there is more trust in the Lukan information. It is obvious that the version of the events around the so-called Apostles' Council described in Acts (Chapter 15) cannot be reconciled with the course of events described by Paul himself in Galatians (Chapter 2). Whether the two authors describe different events or whether Paul as an eyewitness has priority here and what this means for the other events described by Luke is disputed.


  • Knut Backhaus : The delimitation of salvation. Collected studies on the Acts of the Apostles (= Scientific Studies on the New Testament. Volume 422), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2019, ISBN 978-3-16-154687-7 .
  • Jörg Frey, Clare K. Rothschild, Jens Schröter (eds.): The Acts of the Apostles in the context of ancient and early Christian historiography (= supplements to the journal for New Testament science. Volume 162). de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-021631-8 .
  • Udo Schnelle : Introduction to the New Testament . 5th revised edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-8252-1830-9 . (historical-critical, currently the reference work of the New Testament introductory science)
  • Rudolf Pesch : The Acts of the Apostles (= Evangelical-Catholic Commentary on the New Testament. Volume 5). 2 volumes. Benziger, Zurich a. a.
  • Gerhard Schneider : Acts of the Apostles (= Herder's theological commentary on the New Testament. Volume 5). 2 volumes, Herder, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-451-27490-6 .
    • Volume 1: Introduction, commentary on chap. 1.1-8.40.
    • Volume 2: Introduction, commentary on chap. 9.1-28.31.
  • Wilfried Eckey : The Acts of the Apostles. The way of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. 2 volumes, Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000.
    • Volume 1: Acts 1,1-15,35. Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, ISBN 3-7887-1780-7 .
    • Volume 2: Acts 15.36-28.31. Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, ISBN 3-7887-1796-3 .
  • Kurt Aland et al. a. (Ed.): Text and textual value of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament . Volume 3: The Acts of the Apostles. 2 volumes, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1993.
    • Volume 1: Studies and supplementary list (= work on New Testament text research. Volume 20). de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1993, ISBN 3-11-014055-1 .
    • Part 2: Main list (= work on New Testament text research. Volume 21). de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1993, ISBN 3-11-014056-X .

Web links

Commons : Acts of the Apostles  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. a b Jürgen Roloff : The Acts of the Apostles . Ed .: Peter Stuhlmacher (=  The New Testament German . Part 5). 18th edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen - Zurich 1988, ISBN 978-3-525-51361-3 , pp. 3 (2nd edition of the new version).
  2. Alexander Weiß: Social Elite and Christianity . Studies of Ordo Members among Early Christians. Walter de Gruyter, 2015, ISBN 978-3-11-039937-0 , p. 104 f .
  3. a b Eckhard J. Schnabel : Original Christian Mission. R. Brockhaus , Wuppertal 2002, ISBN 3-417-29475-4 , pp. 31-33 in the Google book search.
  4. Jürgen Roloff: The Acts of the Apostles. The New Testament German, Part 5, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1981, ISBN 978-3-525-51361-3 .
  5. Craig L. Blomberg : Where do we Start Studying Jesus? In: Michael J. Wilkins, JP Moreland: Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. Zondervan, Grand Rapids 1996.
  6. Colin J. Hemer (1930-1987): The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History ( WUNT 49). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1989, pp. 365-410.
  7. Wilfried Eckey : The Acts of the Apostles. The way of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. Volume 1: Acts 1,1-15,35. Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, ISBN 3-7887-1780-7 .
  8. Walter Schmithals: The Acts of the Apostles of Luke (= Zurich Bible Commentary ). Theological Publishing House, Zurich 1982, ISBN 3-290-14731-2 .
  9. Martin Dibelius: Essays on the Acts of the Apostles. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1961.
  10. ^ Albert Barnes, Robert Frew: Notes on the New Testament: Acts and Romans . Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1990, ISBN 0-8010-0844-1 , pp. 124 (first edition: Blackie & Son, London 1849, reprint). Albert Barnes: Barnes Notes . Notes on the New Testament. 1990, ISBN 0-8010-0843-3 . Alden Bass Kyle Butt, MA: Who is Right - Stephen or Moses? ( Memento from June 26, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  11. Heinz Warnecke: The actual Rome trip of the Apostle Paul . 2nd Edition. Kath.Bibelwerk, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-460-04271-0 , p. 164 .
  12. Udo Schnelle : Introduction to the New Testament. P. 319.
  13. Udo Schnelle : Paulus: Living and Thinking. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2003, ISBN 3-11-012856-X , p. 34.