Acts (Loveday Alexander)

This Study Sheet complements the review of Loveday Alexander's Acts: the People's Bible Commentary, Buy this book from


A book of journeys that begins with visions: angels and disciples (Acts 1); Pentecost (Acts 2); Peter (Acts 10); Paul (Acts 9). A book of the cosmopolitan world and the inner mind. Three levels: reading it from the point of view of Luke, his characters and audience; relating Acts to other sources; considering its application to us. We know nothing about 'Luke' who implies he is a participant on Acts (commencing Acts 16:10). Four "acts":

  1. Jerusalem Acts 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; Luke 7
  2. Judea and Samaria Acts 8; 9; 10; 11; 12
  3. Ends of the Earth Acts 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19
  4. Paul the Prisoner: Judea and Rome Acts 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28.

Trace the story backwards, each step explained by its predecessor, under the guidance of the Spirit; a good narrator Luke's end point has always been Rome: Rome reflects Jewish hostility; Jewish hostility reflects the radical message; the radical message and Paul's conversion refer back to The Spirit, Jesus and Judaism; the last scene is a freeze-frame of Jewish/Christian relations.

Act I. Jerusalem

  1. Acts 1:1-5 First Act reminiscent of Acts Psalm 126:1-3 exultant, dream-like quality. Second volume following: "all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning". The "captain" gives instructions to the crew, overlapping with Luke 24 where the Ascension is integral to the Passion and Resurrection. The promise of the Father (Luke 24:49), in the life of the Son, is to be fulfilled in the Spirit.
  2. Acts 1:6-12 On the mountain-top, the place of OT contact between man and God, Jesus sketches the plot: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, the world, and turns Apostles away from past towards future. Ever since Luke 9:51 the Apostles have been on a journey which must now go downwards and outwards.
  3. Acts 1:13-26 Witness is more than eyewitness, it's speaking out; Luke admits failure in ministry; the importance of 12.
  4. Acts 2:1-8 After preliminaries, the first big scene of Acts. Pentecost: epiphany; diverse reaction; Scriptural explanation. Pentecost, harvest festival for first grain of new harvest (Shavuot) 50 days after Passover (Deuteronomy 16:9-10; Leviticus 23:15-16). By Luke's time (cf Qumran) also associated with Sinai Covenant. Inclusion of all present from Acts 1:14-15. The experience of wind: like 1 Kings 19:11 and Psalm 29:9 or Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37. The words for "Spirit" Ruach (Hebrew) and Pneuma (Greek) both mean wind or breath; and fire like Exodus 3:2, Psalm 104:4 and Ezekiel 1:4 but not terrifying as Luke 3:17. Speaking in tongues (cf 1 Corinthians 14) is unclear but Luke's meaning is; they were hearing words they understood.
  5. Acts 2:9-21 The crowd from all four compass points and nomads with Jerusalem centre. A Jewish argument for diaspora and domestic Jews: Pesher matches "this" with "that"; Joel 2:28-32 proclaims the "day of the Lord"; "happening now" refers to restoration of Judea and Jerusalem (Joel 3:1-8) but Peter only learns later what this means in the context of Romans 10:12-13.
  6. Acts 2:22-32 Can't get to future without facing "this Jesus whom you crucified", specific to Jerusalem audience; but Jesus was never separated from God and was raised but this must be linked to Scripture proofs: Psalm 16:8-11 where David is named; Easter proves Jesus is the successor.
  7. Acts 2:33-39 Peter moves from Resurrection, to Ascension to Pentecost; Jesus has "got through" to heaven and sent the Spirit. What to do? Repentance (ubiquitous in Luke/acts); Baptism; forgiveness; the Spirit. Reflects Luke 3:18 but Peter surpasses John.
  8. Acts 2:40-47 The birth day of the church of perseverance; church is: apostolic teaching; fellowship; breaking bread; prayer. A community of grace.
  9. Acts 3:1-13 cf. Exodus 3:6 God acts through Jesus in whose name the Apostles heal.
  10. Acts 3:14-26 In Acts 3:13 pais a mean boy or servant, cf Isaiah 52; 53 whom "you" killed. Scripture ordained but you acted. This would be unfair as a prescription for punishment but Peter wants repentance and then you can accept the promise; or not: cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Genesis 12:3.
  11. Acts 4:1-12 The same from the Wycliffes to Liberation Theology. Who controls the Temple, the teaching and the people? cf Luke 20:1-8. The authorities are not in control. Luke draws attention to 'class' difference between Galileans and Sanhedrin (note Wansbrough comment at Luke Chapter 87 22:54-65 - KC). Luke 21:12-15 comes true. The cornerstone (Psalm 118:22) or stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
  12. Acts 4:13-31 Parhesia, moral courage. The triumph of truth over spin. Psalm 2 a key text: Ethne (Gentiles) and Laoi (People, Jews).
  13. Acts 4:32-37 Prosecuting the external mission with good grace and sustained within by the Spirit. Koinonia cf. Deuteronomy 15:4-11; Qumran; and Greece. Lucian (Peregrinus 13) notes Christian Koinonia. Barnabas sold Cyprus land because Levites forbidden land in Israel.
  14. Acts 5:10-16 Enosphisato "kept back" cf. Joshua 7; 2 Maccabees 4:32. This is the church of the Spirit which stands on holy ground (Exodus 3:6).
  15. Acts 5:17-32 cf. Luke 22:28 Apostles powerful but vulnerable; but peter has learned (Luke 22:32). The powerless over the powerful start campaign of civil disobedience.
  16. Acts 5:33-42 Judah the Galilean rebellion 6 AD but Theudas rebelled 10 years after this hearing. Are speeches transcripts or paraphrases?  Contemporary practice the latter.
  17. Acts 6:1-4 SWOT: growing; too much admin; delegate and decentralise; ministry conflict.
  18. Acts 6:5-15 Deacons: the pebble that causes the landslide. Not delegation but trust. Laying on of hands for confirmation and ordination. Stephen full of the spirit.
  19. Acts 7:1-16 Stephen links the Pentateuch and Temple to Jesus; the vision and the promise; fratricidal feuding.
  20. Acts 7:17-34 But in a time of bondage in Egypt God sends a baby; exposed babies and Oedipus. The "who sent you?" to Moses. Paroikia: living as an alien.
  21. Acts 7:35-43 The deep irony of the saviour Moses: "this one" (Greek houtos) cited 5 times in 35-38; cf. Deuteronomy 18:15. Golden calf (Exodus 32) sore point in 1st Century (Josephus omits it). From idolatry to exile: cf. Isaiah 63:10.
  22. Acts 7:44-53 The tempo accelerates; from tabernacle to Temple; Isaiah 66:1-2 ambivalence cf. 2 Samuel 7. The long line of rejection from the wilderness to now: Luke 13:13-35; 19:41-44; Hebrews 11; puzzled  over in 2 Corinthians 3; 4. Post Holocaust: this is not parting of the ways, no attack on the law or the Jewish people but a controversy; much sharper attacks from Qumran.
  23. Acts 7:54-60 Acts 22:20 suggests Paul sees Stephen as first martyr; cf. Acts 1:8 and Acts 26:16 Greek martyrus means witness; Stephen's last words cf. Luke 23:34; his forgiveness overcomes his harshness.

Act II. Judea & Samaria

  1. Acts 8:1-4 In Act Two the Spirit moving witnesses out of their comfort zone to Ethiopia, the Mediterranean and Syria. Luke's account of Saul cf. Galatians 1; Philippians 3; 1 Corinthians 15; a radical fundamentalist determined to change the world regardless of cost to himself or anyone. The persecution seems to be of Hellenists; and the expansion seems to have been the Spirit driving new believers, not the Apostolic establishment.
  2. Acts 8:5-13 Philip, like Stephen, designated to table, found a wider vocation. Re-uniting 'Greater Israel'. The tradition of Simon 'Magus' in Rome.
  3. Acts 8:14-24 The two-stage process of Baptism and Confirmation, cf. Acts 8:36-38; .
  4. Acts 8:25-40 Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8) not church builder. Eunuch reading Isaiah 53.
  5. Acts 9:1-9 cf. 22 26. Not a "conversion". The last Resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:8-10).
  6. Acts 9:10-19 cf. 1 Samuel 3:10; Isaiah 6:1-8. "The privilege of vocation cannot be separated from the privilege of suffering".
  7. Acts 9:20-30 cf. 2 Corinthians 11:32-33. Caligula grants Aretas of Nabatea (d39/40) control of Damascus c37.
  8. Acts 9:31-42 Peter imitates Jesus in the name of Jesus.
  9. Acts 9:43-10:8 cf. 11 15. cf. Luke 7:1-9. A repeated vision: Acts 10:22; 10:30-32; 11:13.
  10. Acts 10:9-20 God Simultaneously working inside and outside the church, preparing ground for 15. ekstatis, standing outside.
  11. Acts 10:21-29 Luke slows the narrative. From Jewish host to Gentile guest.
  12. Acts 10:30-48 Cornelius and his visitors are "under orders". "Preaching peace" (Isaiah 52:7) Peter only knows one story. The Spirit reversing Acts 8:14-17.
  13. Acts 11:1-18 What God is tells us about rules rather than vice versa.
  14. Acts 11:19-26 Narrative "reminds us of the constant dialectic between reflection and action that characterises the mature Christian life." What would have happened if Barnabas had forgotten Saul? First called Christians.
  15. Acts 11:27-12:23 Death of Herod Daniel 3.

Act III. Paul the Missionary

  1. Acts 12:24-13:3 Scene change to Antioch of the trade routes.
  2. Acts 13:4-12 cf. Luke 4:1-13. Elymas mirrors Paul's blindness.
  3. Acts 13:13-25 cf.  Luke 4:16-30.
  4. Acts 13:26-41 cf. Isaiah 55. Paul distinguishes Jerusalem Jews from diaspora. cf. 2:16.
  5. Acts 13:42-47 cf. Romans 9-11: "A prolonged meditation on the mystery of unbelief". cf. Isaiah 49:6. A type-scene setting a pattern.
  6. Acts 13:48-14:6 cf. Luke 14:15-24; 9:5; 10:11. Apostolos means delegate not the Apostles. Careful to read Luke with Christians as minority not ascendancy.
  7. Acts 14:6-18 "Miracles are not self-interpreting: they need a framework". Baucis and Philemon (Ovid: Metamorphoses 8:620-724).
  8. Acts 14:19-28 Consolidation.
  9. Acts 15:1-3 cf. Galatians 2: the accounts do not tally. We must listen to both sides in this controversy on the nature of holiness, law and grace, tradition and moving forward in the Spirit, God's work in Scripture and the world.
  10. Acts 15:4-11 Listening and silence necessary; dispute between insiders. God the subject of the verbs. The genuine difficulty of discerning the new things God wants.
  11. Acts 15:12-18 James, cf. Galatians 2:6-9; "one of the brothers of the Lord"; but the letter not from him but from the group. James' authority of listening to colleagues and Scripture, cf. Amos 9:11-12. Translation problems with Acts 5:17: Adam or Edom?
  12. Acts 15:19-29 The pronouncement might come from "Noahide" law (unfixed) or the "Alien" law of Leviticus 17-18; cf. Galatians 2:11-14 which makes "strangled" dietary not homicidal for gentiles: no circumcision; not touching/eating food sacrificed to idols; observing the law on blood/not murdering (the latter less likely).
  13. Acts 15:30-16:3 Barnabas departs but warmly mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:6. John Mark also reappears: Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24; 1 Peter 5:13.
  14. Acts 16:4-10 Freelance Paul develops oversight; the Spirit brings consensus.
  15. Acts 16:11-15 A dyer forced to the river, an immigrant from Thyatira, a god-fearer, Lydia is marginalised.
  16. Acts 16:16-24 The "python spirit" from Apollos of Delphi; Paul treats the girl as human but as a Jew in a Roman city he's vulnerable for interfering with trade.
  17. Acts 16:24-40 Paul refuses to be de-humanised.
  18. Acts 17:1-9 The suffering and the risen Christ. Politarchs in a Greek, nominally independent, city.
  19. Acts 17:10-21 Socrates condemned for bringing "new gods".
  20. Acts 17:22-34 Confident compared with Acts 14:15-17. God incredibly far but incredibly near. Paul on safe ground with philosophy but the person of Christ risen is the stumbling block.
  21. Acts 18:1-3 Aquila and Priscilla: Acts 18:18; Luke 18:26; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19. Skenopoios can mean tent-maker or, more broadly, leather worker. Suetonius: Claudius 25 cites "Chrestus"; Orosius dates to 49.
  22. Acts 18:4-11 Acts 18:6 not to be confused with Matthew's "blood libel" Matthew 27:25.
  23. Acts 18:12-22 Gallio, brother of Seneca, Proconsul 51/52. Paul at the barber's cf. Numbers 6:2; 6:9. Acts 18:22: did Paul slip up to Jerusalem to fulfil his vow?
  24. Acts 18:23-28 Paul is writing letters (1/2 Corinthians from Ephesus) but Luke never mentions this. The philosopher and the tent-makers.
  25. Acts 19:1-12 Baptism not just penitence but joining a community in the Spirit.
  26. Acts 19:13-20 Paul's power exercised at a cost cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Galatians 6:14-17. Ephesus famed for producing books of magic which must be distinguished from Jesus.
  27. Acts 19:21-28 Church: network of house groups; Jewish splinter; wonder workers; threat to  craft guilds. Luke does not mention the apparently ill-fated "collection for the saints" as a means of unifying the Gentile and Jewish branches of the new church (Romans 15:25-32). Romans (cf. ) written on this last trip to Corinth, sees Paul thinking of Rome.
  28. Acts 19:29-41 Diana's fall from heaven "probably a meteorite"; precarious position of Jews in conflict between civic and Imperial cults.

Act IV. Paul the Prisoner: Judea and Rome

  1. Acts 20:1-12 Troas from which Paul sets out for Rome on a journey which includes a shipwreck is the Troy from which Aeneas set out to found Rome, also after a shipwreck. cf. Elijah in 1 Kings 17:17-24.
  2. Acts 20:13-21 Paradigmatic summary of Paul the pastor. In Christ's service: cf. Philippians 1; Galatians 1; 1 Thessalonians 2. Relationship with Christ: cf. Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Galatians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 4:5. Humility cf. Philippians 2:3; 8. Trials: cf. 1 1:6-7; 2:14-16; Philippians 1:12-17; 1:27-30.  
  3. Acts 20:22-35 A race almost finished: cf. Philippians 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:7. Purpose: cf. Romans 15:15-24. 20:35 saying of Jesus not in Gospels.
  4. Acts 20:36-21:17 Agabus sums up what Paul (and we) have known since Acts 20:22; cf. Luke 22:42.
  5. Acts 21:18-26 Fundamentalism building in Judaism (cf. Josephus) and Christianity in Jerusalem. Paul, the observant Jew, is expected to  build bridges by paying for the sacrifices of four Christian Nazarites.
  6. Acts 21:27-40 The specific charge of importing a Gentile is false but the general charge is more  difficult to refute. Paul, locked out, is in the precinct of the Antonia, a watch tower overlooking the volatile temple. The "Egyptian" a riot leader who had given the authorities the slip.
  7. Acts 22:1-21 Paul as Jew, Greek and Roman.
  8. Acts 22:22-29 "Gentiles" the spark.
  9. Acts 22:30-23:9 "Sanhedrin" is not a court but a tribunal to determine if there is a charge to answer (cf Wansbrough Chapter 87; Luke 22:66; 23:13). Ananias wealthy and greedy assassinated by rebels in 66 AD. Unlike Sadducees, Pharisees believed in continuing revelation.
  10. Acts 23:10-30 The case against Paul is false teaching not defiling the Temple.
  11. Acts 23:31-24:9 Tacitus (Histories 5:9) describes Felix as ruling with cruelty and lust, like the freed slave he was. Tertullus reverts to the capital charge.
  12. Acts 24:10-21 There are different ways of being a Jew. "Offerings" might refer to the Nazarite sacrifice or the collection for the "saints".
  13. Acts 24:22-25:12 Drusilla daughter of Herod Agrippa I. "Appealing" is not against something  but choosing jurisdiction.
  14. Acts 25:13-27 Agrippa II, son of Agrippa I (Herod of Acts 12); Berenice his sister and the sister of Drusilla caused a scandal by living with him after the death of her husband, their uncle Herod of Chalcis; nobody knew but everybody thought the worst. Festus can see no case to answer.
  15. Acts 16:1-16 Agrippa takes care of Jewish interests in Rome as well as supervising the Temple and appointing the High Priest. Paul, the prophet uses Parhesia (boldness) to address a king and key player. "Kicking against the ox-goad" is a Greek proverb about the futility of defying the divine imperative.
  16. Acts 26:16-32 The prophetic call: cf. Galatians 1:15-16; Isaiah 42:7; 42:16; 49:6; Luke 2:32. As Agrippa and Socrates knew, you can't walk away from a revelation. If you read Scripture from the Lucan perspective Paul's presentation makes sense: cf. Luke 24:26; 24:46; Acts 3:18; 17:3.
  17. Acts 27:1-6 From coaster to grain ship.
  18. Acts 27:7-38 A reverse of Jonah 1:7-16 as this ship is saved by a prophet serving God as opposed to being endangered by a prophet escaping God.
  19. Acts 27:39-28:6 cf. Jonah 1:7-10 on divine displeasure and disaster.
  20. Acts 28:7-15 All roads lead to Rome.
  21. Acts 28:16-31 The end of the journey but not the story.

KC xii/10

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