The Acts of the Apostles is a genre of Early Christian literature, recounting the lives and works of the apostles of Jesus. The Acts (Latin: Acta, Greek: Πράξεις Práxeis) are important for many reasons, one of them being the concept of apostolic succession. They also provide insight into the valuation of "missionary activities among the exotic races," since some of them feature missionary work done among, for instance, the Cynocephaly.
The canonical Acts of the Apostles
Only one work in this genre is included in the New Testament canon, entitled the Acts of the Apostles, sometimes called the Book of Acts or simply Acts, and primarily concerns the activities of Saint Peter, John the Apostle, and Paul the Apostle, who converts to Christianity in chapter 9 and becomes the main character.(3:05) It is presumably the second part of a two-part work, the Canonical Gospel of Luke being the first part, with both works being addressed to Theophilus, and sharing a similar style. Almost all scholars believe that they were written by the same person.
The book narrates how the resurrected Jesus makes the apostles his witnesses, and instructs them to convert all peoples to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).(2:01) Through the Holy Spirit, God then empowers the apostles in their missionary work, with the ability to perform miracles such as healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead, while spreading Jesus' gospel. Problems such as anti-Christian persecutions, and conflicts about whether converts should first become Jewish before they can become Christians, are overcome.(3:45)
The Book of Acts was probably written around the year 80 or 85 CE. It is not so much concerned with historical accuracy as it is with furthering a particular theology from a certain religious point of view.(5:16)
All other books with similar titles or narratives have not been included into the Bible, and belong to the New Testament apocrypha. These acts narratives tend to be later, legendary accounts about the early apostles written in the 2nd and 3rd century CE. The books normally do not claim to be written by apostles, but are anonymous, and thus they are not considered pseudepigrapha and forgeries. Unlike the canonical Book of Acts, they tend to focus on the exploits of individual apostles.(5:53)
As a genre, the apocryphal acts tend to feature "travels, dangers, controversies, deliverances, thwarted sexual trysts, miraculous demonstrations of the power of God" within an episodic narrative. They bear a resemblance to the five surviving ancient Greek novels and the two surviving ancient Roman novels in Latin (The Golden Ass and the Satyricon). The overarching theme in these popular pagan romances is that heterosexual marital love is the basis for social peace and prosperity. The general plot is that a man and a woman from the upper classes fall in love, but become tragically separated before they can consummate their sexual love until the very end of the story, overcoming various hardships before being reunited. The Christian apocryphal acts turn these characteristics on their heads, however: the wealth and beauty of this world are to be despised, and any sexual activity is condemned as 'impure', in favour of love for God and preparation for the coming heavenly afterlife.(0:18)
List of acts
The following list is not exhaustive.
- Acts of Andrew, c. 180 CE in Greek, reconstructed from Greek, Latin, Coptic and Armenian fragments
- Acts of Andrew and Bartholomew, 5th century in Greek
- Acts of the Apostles, canonical, c. 80 to 85 CE in Greek(3:45)
- Acts of Barnabas, 5th century in Greek
- Acts of John, late 2nd century in Greek(8:23)
- The Lost Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, probably a 19th-century forgery in English without a Greek original
- Acts of Mar Mari, 600–650 CE in Syriac
- Acts of the Martyrs, term for a group of writings describing the martyrdom of various apostles, including:
- Martyrdom of Polycarp, c. 4th century in Greek
- Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs, c. 200 CE, probably the earliest Christian text in Latin
- Passion of Saint Perpetua, Saint Felicitas, and their Companions, 3rd century in Latin and Greek
- Acta proconsularia Cypriani
- Acta Maximiliani
- Acta Alexandrinorum, late 2nd to early 3rd century collection
- Acts of Paul, a collection of four texts known primarily from Greek and also other manuscripts from c. 160 CE
- Acts of Peter, second half of the 2nd century in Greek, probably in Asia Minor
- Acts of Peter and Paul, also known as Passion of Saints Peter and Paul, c. 450–550 in Latin and Greek
- Acts of Peter and the Twelve, 2nd or 3rd century in Greek and Coptic
- Acts of Philip, mid-to-late 4th century in Greek; Coptic translations exist
- Acts of Pilate, mid-4th century in Greek
- Acts of Thomas, before 240 CE in Syriac and Greek
- Acts of Timothy, late 4th or 5th century in Greek
- Ehrman (2003), p. 167.
- Friedman (2000) p. 59.
- Bart D. Ehrman (2002). "13: The Acts Of John". Lost Christianities. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
- Dale B. Martin (2009). "Lecture 9 – The Gospel of Luke". RLST 152: Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature. Yale University. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Bart D. Ehrman (2002). "14: The Acts Of Thomas". Lost Christianities. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
- Roig Lanzillota, Fernando, (2004) The Apocryphal Acts of Andrew; A New Approach to the Character, Thought and Meaning of the Primitive Text p. 60–61.
- White, David Gordon (1991). Myths of the Dog-Man. University of Chicago Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-226-89509-3.
- István Czachesz (2002). "8. The Commission of John Mark in the Acts of Barnabas" (PDF). Apostolic commission narratives in the canonical and apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. University of Groningen. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Moore, Phil (2010). Straight to the Heart of Acts: 60 bite-sized insights. Oxford: Monarch Books. p. 270. ISBN 9780857211781. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Walker, J. (2006). The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq. University of California Press. pp. 92–93, footnote 22. ISBN 978-0-520-24578-5.
- Armitage Robinson. "The Passion of the Scillitan Martyrs". EarlyChristianWritings.com. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Gibbs, Matt (October 2010). "Reviewed Work: Loyalty and Dissidence in Roman Egypt. The Case of the Acta Alexandrinorum by A. Harker". The Classical Review. Classical Association. 60 (2): 507–509. doi:10.1017/S0009840X10000843. JSTOR 40930821.
- Jones, Timothy Paul (2007), Misquoting Truth, InterVarsity Press, p. 167.
- Ceresa-Gastaldo has shown that Jerome’s “care for the chronology is constant and fundamental”; from this he was able to deduce from the De viri illustribus and Chronicon that the “History of Paul” (incorporating the earlier Acts of Paul and Thecla) was originally published between AD 68-98: Studia Patristica 15 (1984) 55-68. Affirmed by A. Hilhorst [“Tertullian on the Acts of Paul”, p.159f], S. Reinach, Cultes, mythes et religions IV (Paris, 1912) 229-51 ('Thekla'), esp. 242, and Theodor Zahn, (Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen 1877, p.1307), cf. W. Rordorf, 'Tradition et composition dans les Actes de Thecle', Theologische Zeitschrift 41 (1985) 272-83, esp. 276, reprinted in his Liturgie, foi et vie des premiers Chretiens (Paris, 1986*) 457-68
- "Acts of Peter". Wesley Center Online. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Schmisek, Brian (2017). The Rome of Peter and Paul: A Pilgrim's Handbook to New Testament Sites in the Eternal City. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 18. ISBN 9781532613098. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- István Czachesz (2002). "7. Acts of Peter and the Twelve" (PDF). Apostolic commission narratives in the canonical and apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. University of Groningen. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- István Czachesz (2002). "6. The Acts of Philip" (PDF). Apostolic commission narratives in the canonical and apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. University of Groningen. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Reid, George (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.).
- István Czachesz (2002). "5. The Acts of Thomas" (PDF). Apostolic commission narratives in the canonical and apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. University of Groningen. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Barnes 2010, 302; Zahn 1909, 41; Lipsius 1884, 385; Klauck 2008, 248, has "late fourth or fifth century."
- Friedman, John Block (2000). The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-2826-2.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2003). Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514182-5.
- Ehrman, Bart D (2005). Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-518249-9
- Klauck, Hans-Josef (2008). The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction. Baylor University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514182-5.
- Layton, Bentley (1987). The Gnostic Scriptures: A new translation with annotations and introductions. SCM Press. ISBN 0-334-02022-0
- Robinson, James M. (2000). The Definitive Translation of the Gnostic Scriptures: Complete in One Volume. HarperOne. ISBN 978-0-06-066935-5.
- Wallis-Budge, E.A. (2003). The Contendings of the Apostles: The Histories of the Lives and Martyrdomes and Deaths of the Twelve Apostles and Evangelists. London: Oxford University Press.