I have a confession. I’ve always kind of discounted the Acts of the Apostles. I don’t know why. I don’t have any great analysis of why I never properly gave the Acts its due. Maybe I am an idiot. I just don’t know.
This realization hit me a few weeks ago in the post-Easter travel down the Acts of the Apostles in the Sunday readings. Out of slightly embarrassed curiosity, I consulted my trusty Saint Joseph’s Edition of The New American Bible (On a side note, the SJE-NAB has great footnotes and analysis.). I flipped past the Gospels until I arrived at the first page of The Acts of the Apostles. I saw the introduction and decided, then and there, to sit down, read the intro, and perhaps it would explain to me what I’ve missed all these years.
Boy, did it ever. I received an education. My eyes were opened. I finally saw the big picture of the importance in the narrative of The Acts. If the Gospels document the birth of Christianity, The Acts documents the rise in Christianity from infancy to stand-on-its-own-feet entity. The Acts of the Apostles establishes Christianity’s place in the order of things in the world.
The SJE’s Introduction explains the importance of The Acts three-fold. Separation, spread, and acceptance.
“Luke describes the emergence of Christianity from its origins in Judaism to its position as a religion of worldwide status and appeal.”
“In the development of the church from a Jewish Christian origin in Jerusalem, with its roots in Jewish religious tradition, to a series of Christian communities among the Gentiles of the Roman empire, Luke perceives the action of God in history laying open the heart of all humanity to the divine message of salvation.”
“His (Luke) history of the apostolic church is the story of a Spirit-guided spread of the Word of God. The travels of Peter and Paul are in reality the travels of the Word of God as it spreads from Jerusalem, the city of destiny for Jesus, to Rome, the capital of the civilized world of Luke’s day.”
“By stressing the continuity between Judaism and Christianity, Luke argues that Christianity is deserving of the same toleration accorded Judaism by Rome.”
Now that I get it, I hope I never discount the Acts of the Apostles again. In fact, armed with this knowledge, I hope I use The Acts as an inspiration to deepen my faith.
Makes me wonder what other parts of the Bible I’ve been missing out on…