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From: WordNet (r) 2.0

 Acts of the Apostles
      n : a New Testament book describing the development of the early
          Church from Christ's ascension to Paul's sojourn at Rome
          [syn: Acts]

From: Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary

 Acts of the Apostles
    the title now given to the fifth and last of the historical
    books of the New Testament. The author styles it a "treatise"
    (1:1). It was early called "The Acts," "The Gospel of the Holy
    Ghost," and "The Gospel of the Resurrection." It contains
    properly no account of any of the apostles except Peter and
    Paul. John is noticed only three times; and all that is recorded
    of James, the son of Zebedee, is his execution by Herod. It is
    properly therefore not the history of the "Acts of the
    Apostles," a title which was given to the book at a later date,
    but of "Acts of Apostles," or more correctly, of "Some Acts of
    Certain Apostles."
      As regards its authorship, it was certainly the work of Luke,
    the "beloved physician" (comp. Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1). This is
    the uniform tradition of antiquity, although the writer nowhere
    makes mention of himself by name. The style and idiom of the
    Gospel of Luke and of the Acts, and the usage of words and
    phrases common to both, strengthen this opinion. The writer
    first appears in the narrative in 16:11, and then disappears
    till Paul's return to Philippi two years afterwards, when he and
    Paul left that place together (20:6), and the two seem
    henceforth to have been constant companions to the end. He was
    certainly with Paul at Rome (28; Col. 4:14). Thus he wrote a
    great portion of that history from personal observation. For
    what lay beyond his own experience he had the instruction of
    Paul. If, as is very probable, 2 Tim. was written during Paul's
    second imprisonment at Rome, Luke was with him then as his
    faithful companion to the last (2 Tim. 4:11). Of his subsequent
    history we have no certain information.
      The design of Luke's Gospel was to give an exhibition of the
    character and work of Christ as seen in his history till he was
    taken up from his disciples into heaven; and of the Acts, as its
    sequel, to give an illustration of the power and working of the
    gospel when preached among all nations, "beginning at
    Jerusalem." The opening sentences of the Acts are just an
    expansion and an explanation of the closing words of the Gospel.
    In this book we have just a continuation of the history of the
    church after Christ's ascension. Luke here carries on the
    history in the same spirit in which he had commenced it. It is
    only a book of beginnings, a history of the founding of
    churches, the initial steps in the formation of the Christian
    society in the different places visited by the apostles. It
    records a cycle of "representative events."
      All through the narrative we see the ever-present,
    all-controlling power of the ever-living Saviour. He worketh all
    and in all in spreading abroad his truth among men by his Spirit
    and through the instrumentality of his apostles.
      The time of the writing of this history may be gathered from
    the fact that the narrative extends down to the close of the
    second year of Paul's first imprisonment at Rome. It could not
    therefore have been written earlier than A.D. 61 or 62, nor
    later than about the end of A.D. 63. Paul was probably put to
    death during his second imprisonment, about A.D. 64, or, as some
    think, 66.
      The place where the book was written was probably Rome, to
    which Luke accompanied Paul.
      The key to the contents of the book is in 1:8, "Ye shall be
    witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in
    Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." After
    referring to what had been recorded in a "former treatise" of
    the sayings and doings of Jesus Christ before his ascension, the
    author proceeds to give an account of the circumstances
    connected with that event, and then records the leading facts
    with reference to the spread and triumphs of Christianity over
    the world during a period of about thirty years. The record
    begins with Pentecost (A.D. 33) and ends with Paul's first
    imprisonment (A.D. 63 or 64). The whole contents of the book may
    be divided into these three parts:
      (1.) Chaps. 1-12, describing the first twelve years of the
    Christian church. This section has been entitled "From Jerusalem
    to Antioch." It contains the history of the planting and
    extension of the church among the Jews by the ministry of Peter.
      (2.) Chaps. 13-21, Paul's missionary journeys, giving the
    history of the extension and planting of the church among the
      (3.) Chaps. 21-28, Paul at Rome, and the events which led to
    this. Chaps. 13-28 have been entitled "From Antioch to Rome."
      In this book it is worthy of note that no mention is made of
    the writing by Paul of any of his epistles. This may be
    accounted for by the fact that the writer confined himself to a
    history of the planting of the church, and not to that of its
    training or edification. The relation, however, between this
    history and the epistles of Paul is of such a kind, i.e., brings
    to light so many undesigned coincidences, as to prove the
    genuineness and authenticity of both, as is so ably shown by
    Paley in his _Horae Paulinae_. "No ancient work affords so many
    tests of veracity; for no other has such numerous points of
    contact in all directions with contemporary history, politics,
    and topography, whether Jewish, or Greek, or Roman." Lightfoot.
    (See PAUL.)