The Composition of Acts of the Apostles
Let us especially keep in mind the parallelism of Peter and Paul, then the undeniable testimonies that speak for the fact that the miracles of both apostles are intentionally and with full consciousness copied from the miracle reports of the Gospels, finally the artistic machinery that suddenly brings the course of events to a halt, when everything was already ready for the Apostle of the Gentiles to enter into his role, and which only allows the events to run their course again when Peter has in the meantime left and won the firstfruits of the Gentiles – thus the theological views on the origin and composition of the Acts of the Apostles will no longer be able to assert themselves against the correct explanation.
If, for example, de Wette *) says: “very naturally, although without any clear intention on the part of the author, there is a first part in C. 1-12 and a second part in C. 13-28”, this machinery rather points to a very definite, very clearly recognisable intention which the author pursued with perfectly clear consciousness and which he certainly also achieved in his own way, in that this machinery very artfully intertwines both parts.
*) Introduction p. 223.
Schneckenburger **) also thinks that “the book can best be divided with de Wette according to the main parts of the material, which is up to C. 13 is more general, while the following chapters have Paul as the sole hero and the wide non-Palestinian world as the geographical setting,” he combines with this the further opinion that the author, when he deals in the second part only with Paul, knew very well what was happening at the same time in Palestine and what the other apostles were doing, so we do no longer even need to ask where the traces of this richer consciousness of the author show themselves, but we can at once, with reference to the proof hitherto given of the free creation of the whole work, put down the proposition *) that the author knew only so much of the history of his Church as he pleased to create, and that the presupposition of the readers that he might well know more than he expressly reports would have been most unwelcome and embarrassing to him. He rather wanted to give the impression that he gave everything he knew and that he knew everything that had taken place under the Lord’s guidance up to his time in the church and with its chosen witnesses.
**) op. cit. p. 49.
*) By leaving aside the mistakes of the author, in which his knowledge of the Pauline epistles and his dependence on the presuppositions of the same are betrayed.
If Schneckenburger **) then thinks that the narratives of the first part were taken by the author from the tradition of the early church, and if he combines this view in part with at least the hypothesis of others that the author had already found this tradition in written records, then we need only refer to our proof, that the miracles of Paul are copied from the miracle reports of the Gospels in the same way as the deeds and destinies of Peter, and that the conformity of the method followed in this copying bears irrefutable witness to the simultaneity of the origin of both parts and to the unity of the author. Before we put it on the account of the most monstrous and mysterious coincidence that, for example, the first reproduction of the miracle of Jesus on Peter’s mother-in-law – (the miracle of Peter on Aeneas 9:2-34) – was casually presented and only later in the miracle of Paul on the father of Publius (28:7-9) – we prefer to acknowledge the fact that one author created both accounts, that the one author who, during the first imitation, already had the second one in mind and knew that the precisely corresponding imitation would follow in it.
**) op. cit. p. 154. 156.
The first part of the Acts of the Apostles never existed on its own, but the same author, who in the second part made the Apostle of the Gentiles a miracle worker and protégé of heaven after the model of the evangelical Jesus, created the miraculous figures of the first part after the same model and had the Apostle of the Gentiles in mind as the chosen instrument of his Lord from the beginning and already at the first construction of his work. When, for example, immediately before the Ascension Jesus tells the disciples that they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (1:8), the author sees before his eyes the original apostles who began the proclamation of the Gospel in the Holy Land and in Samaria, and he sees behind them the Apostle to the Gentiles who carried the message of salvation to the ends of the earth. When the disciples fill the gap that the traitor brought into the holy number of twelve and choose Matthias, the author is already thinking of the Apostle to the Gentiles, whom the Lord Himself called, and he counts on the reader coming to the conclusion of his own accord that he is the true substitute, the one called afterwards, i.e. the one whom the Lord had appointed to complete the circle of disciples. If the miracle of Pentecost depicts the universal destiny of the congregation in advance, who fulfilled this wonderful prophecy in its entirety? Who else but the witness whom the Lord won at Damascus and whom he accompanied and led on his missionary journeys until he finally brought him to the promised goal of his activity, to Rome? Why, finally, must James, John’s brother, fall as a martyr shortly before the appearance of the Apostle to the Gentiles? Only so that he might stand in a new way, so that he might stand quite clearly and evidently as the substitute ordered by the Lord, and so that at the same time, through the fate of the disciple he replaced, the outcome of his own life might be indicated, even declared to be a divine destiny.
But the account of the first great missionary journey of the Apostle to the Gentiles (13:1-14, 28) is surely *) a “special memoir” which the author of Acts found and simply inserted into his work? So the author of this memorandum happened to find that Paul is only the copy of Peter, of Peter who was portrayed by another author in such a way that his image could make the most indisputable claims to originality? The copy was made independently of the original – before the original was fixed? And the author of this memorandum happened to find that Paul is the same copy of Peter that he is in the course of his activity – he happened to strike the same note that others struck in their memoranda – he was so fortunate in his tendency that his memorandum could easily be added to the memoranda of others? No! Whoever elaborated Peter’s sermons in the first part, also created the copy in the presentation of the Apostle to the Gentiles at Antioch – whoever created Paul’s miracle on Elymas, had immediately before created Peter’s great deeds on Simon Magus and Ananias – it is the same author who called the miracles of both Apostles on a lame-born into existence – one and the same author lets the Apostle to the Gentiles on his first great journey, as later, first address the Jews, and the writer, who composed the apostle’s sermon to the Gentiles at Lystra, knew that he would later bring him once more – at Athens – into the situation in which horror at the Gentile nature moved him to a peroration to the Gentiles – the same writer who made Barnabas the companion of the apostle on his first missionary journey, had with deliberate intention made him the well-deserving and respected member of the early church (4: 35-36), who was from the beginning destined to introduce the Apostle to the Gentiles and to his missionary activity.
*) as Schneckenburger also assumes.
From none of the persons who appear in the Acts of the Apostles could the author receive notes or memoranda about the early days of the church and about the history of the Apostle to the Gentiles, for what they know, do and speak, they know, do and speak only through him. They are his creatures. Barnabas could not tell him anything, nor could he be the centre of a special memoir, for this Barnabas, who exits in the Acts of the Apostles, is from the outset only a means of historical pragmatism. Timothy could tell him nothing, because this Timothy of Acts with his unnatural circumcision is only an artificially created counter-image to Titus of the Epistle to the Galatians. Silas could not tell him anything about the apostle’s second journey of discord, for his experiences in the prison of Philippi only took place in that world in which the miracles that freed Peter from prison were capable of being repeated effortlessly and without danger. Finally, the four daughters of Philip, with whom Paul and his companions met in Caesarea (21:9), could not have told the author anything, for with their gift of prophecy they only serve to form the prophetic environment for the appearance of Agabus, who announced to the apostle the fate that awaited him in Jerusalem.
But since in the beginning of the report on the second major missionary journey a man appears who (16:10) speaks in the first person – with a direct and confident “we” – and with this “we” also appears later, in the report on the last journey to Jerusalem and on the journey to Rome, do the theologians not have every right to accept from the 16th chapter onwards a memoir *) that comes from an eye-witness and thus deserves – indeed, may demand – unconditional faith?
*) and indeed to accept it with the confidence which, for example, de Wette displays? (Introduction p. 232.)
Unhappy eyewitness, who appears just there (16:10), where the failed reproduction of the relation in which the Jesus of the Gospels stood to the demons, brought the Apostle of the Gentiles into the prison, from which the failed renewal of the faith of the miraculous power, which once assisted Peter, delivered him!
Unhappy eyewitness, who (20:5-13) comes forward with his We again at the moment when in the miracle of the apostle on the dead Eutychus the tortured recovery of the miracle should take place, which the Jesus of the Gospels had performed on the daughter of Jairus, and of the miracle which Peter had performed on Dorcas!
Poor eyewitness who has to hear in Caesarea e” (21:10-12) that the fate of the Jesus of the Gospels is to be repeated on the Apostle – again unfortunate eyewitness who, with his We, with which he accompanies the sea voyage to Rome and witnesses the arrival in the metropolitan city (C. 17, 1-18, 6), also has to witness the literal repetition of the miracle which Jesus had performed on Peter’s mother-in-law (C. 28, 7)!
This eyewitness could only see the events whose truth he affirms with his “we” in the ideal world which the author of the Acts of the Apostles created and modelled on the miraculous world of the Gospels. That is, he is made with his “we” like the world in which he lives and travels, which he sees and witnesses.
If the unity of plan and tendency, the continuous and always constant use of the evangelical image of the Saviour, the fact that Peter and Paul only received their form with regard to each other – if all this proves the unity of the author of the Acts of the Apostles, there are also some features in it, some inconsistencies, contradictions and repetitions, which virtually contradict and overturn this result – contradict it – and yet it retains its truth!
They contradict it – and yet it retains its truth! they overthrow it – and yet it remains unshakeable, it holds up irrefutably on the basis of that proof.
So several authors and yet only one? Several workers and yet the work comes from only one?
That is so! The Gospel of Luke, too, comes from One author – One wrote the Original Gospel, which is preserved to us most purely in the writing of Mark and which Urlukas based his compilation on – Only One was Ur-Luke, who inserted into the Original Gospel the late variations that others had made on it, and the author of the present Gospel of Luke enriched this compilation with additions, which represented to him the expansion of the Gospel historical material that had been accomplished in the meantime.
One of them originally created the Acts of the Apostles, but his creation gradually received various additions, expansions, intermediate remarks, variations, and the compiler who compiled the present Gospel of Luke proceeded with the Acts of the Apostles as he did with the original of his Gospel – he imposed on it a part of the additions and extensions which he found in the various redactions of the same, and thereby brought about the shifts in the material, the inconsistencies and incorrectnesses which in the present form of the Acts of the Apostles disturb the flow of the whole. Even if he did not cause all of these inconsistencies, even if he found a part of them already in the basic material of the work, they were still only possible through later hands and arose through the insertion of later variations.
It is impossible, for example, that the original creator first described the sorcerer whom Paul found on the island of Paphos as a Jewish false prophet, named Bar Jesus, and then, immediately after noticing that he was in the vicinity of Sergius Paulus and proceeding to the apostle’s fight with him, suddenly described him as the sorcerer Elymas (13:6-8). The hesitation and uncertainty of the later hand is rather betrayed by the addition to the latter name: “for thus his name is interpreted” – this hesitant addition therefore speaks for the fact that the latter name belongs to the original and that the former name and the remark that the sorcerer was a Jew comes from a later editor who proceeded from the assumption that Paul always and everywhere had to fight only with Jews. Probably the magician Elymas was originally a Gentile like his Petrine archetype the magician Simon.
The account at the turning point where Paul separates from Barnabas and joins Silas is also highly irregular. Barnabas suggests to him to take John Mark with him on the intended missionary journey, as if he was with them in Antioch (15:37), and so far it had only been reported that he had separated from them on his own authority on the earlier journey and had gone to Jerusalem (13:13). Furthermore, Paul took Silas with him on his new journey, as if he were in Antioch, and it was reported that he who had brought the apostle’s decree to Antioch with Judas was sent to the apostles in Jerusalem (15:33, 40). A later hand has wisely inserted the remark after the latter note (V. 34) that Silas remained in Antioch, but in this way it could not possibly succeed in removing the confusion that earlier reworkers had brought into this turning point.
If the prophets and teachers in Antioch receive a command from the Spirit to separate Barnabas and Paul for the work they are called to do while they are serving the Lord and fasting (13:2), this pragmatism corresponds to the overall design of the work in which Paul himself, while praying in the temple, hears the voice of the Lord sending him to the Gentiles (22:7-21), and where the prophet Agabus predicts his future fate to him (21:11). However, the preceding enumeration of those teachers and prophets, in which Paul and Barnabas appear so strange as if they had not yet appeared, so strange that the hypothesis could arise that here (13:1) begins an independent memorandum about the first missionary journey of the apostle – this overloaded and disturbing enumeration can only come from a later hand.
We have indeed seen at decisive points that the author was not able to form a tenable motive and to carry it out firmly and securely – so the uncertain accumulation of motives that finally drive the apostle to Jerusalem can also be his work. The overcrowding, however, which the penultimate journey to Jerusalem (18:21, 22) brings into the account, the circumstance that the apostle, after leaving Ephesus, immediately returns to convert the disciples of John (19:1), the circumstance further that the journey to Jerusalem (18: 22) is almost furtive, only furtively alluded to – all this makes it possible that this overcrowding was originally a variation on the last journey to Jerusalem, and that the confusion of the account is due to the compiler, who took this innovation into the original structure of the whole, and now had to almost conceal the superfluous journey to Jerusalem, and could only let it happen in a furtive way.
Otherwise, the author liked to vary his themes himself – as an example, we will give another variation, which one might be tempted to consider as the work of a later hand and as evidence of the gradual expansion and filling out of the Acts of the Apostles, if the original were not imitated in the copy with a knowledge of detail and an interest in detail that could only belong to the original creator.
Twice it is reported that the members of the early church sold their possessions and put the proceeds at the disposal of the community (2:45; 4:34-35). Both times, a miracle follows this note – the first time, Peter’s miracle with the lame man (3:1-10), and the second time, Peter’s miracle with Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-10). Both miracles made a great impression on the people, and they marvel at the apostles, who are in the hall of Solomon, like supernatural beings (3:11; 5:11-13). As a result of both miracles, the apostles are brought to trial, both times Peter speaks, both times he brings out the contrast that the one whom his judges have killed has been raised from the dead (4:10. Compare 3:13-15; 5:30-31), both times he appeals to the fact that one must obey God rather than men (4:19; 5:29), and finally, in both cases, the matter is settled by the judges forbidding the apostles to speak to the people about Jesus (4:17-21; 5:40).
As for the question of the time in which the Acts of the Apostles were written, this work is so deeply involved in the history of the Gospels, and the criticism of the latter is at present so securely established, that the answer to that question can be found with positive certainty.
Marcion, who became known by his system at the beginning of the second third of the second century, possessed only the foundation which was later extended to the present Gospel of Luke.
It was only in the second third of the second century that the compiler, who expanded the writing of Ur-Luke into the present Gospel of Luke, was able to find the Acts of the Apostles, which had made the revolutionary of the Pauline epistles an apologist *), and to connect it with his writing of the Gospels.
*) How far this transition from revolution to apologetics was already prepared in these letters themselves, we will show in the following critique of them.
Find them! – Because he did not create it anymore than he created his Gospel work; he only connected it loosely with his Gospel, for even though he expanded the ending of the original Luke text, which originally contained only the Lord’s command to the disciples to preach repentance and forgiveness to all nations (Luke 24:46-47), as well as the note of the Ascension (vv. 50-51), and added his own additions that connect with the account of the miracle of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles (vv. 48-49, 52-53), he could not overcome the contradiction of the views and assumptions of both works – indeed, he did not even attempt to mitigate it and left it in all its harshness. He immediately follows the Gospel that has the Lord ascend into heaven on the day of his resurrection and at Bethany in the plain with a work whose author, however, had determined that Jesus ascended into heaven on the fortieth day after his resurrection, specifically from the Mount of Olives. He did not want to leave us any doubt that he is innocent of this contradiction and that he only caused it by combining two works of others.
His Pentecost miracle also takes us to the late period to which the standpoint and tendency of the author of the Acts of the Apostles takes us. The Pentecost celebration, which unites the apostles, becomes a celebration of the new law and a counter-image of the legislation of Sinai through the miracle that they suddenly speak in all the languages of the world and the listeners from all the nations of the world each hear his language *). Josephus, however, does not yet know that the Pentecost had any relation to the legislation – the original Gospel does not yet know the Pentecost, does not need it and has completely and solemnly entrusted the disciples with their task and equipped them with the power to carry it out when, after His resurrection, the Lord gives the commandment that they should now go into the whole world and preach the Gospel.
*) The fact that the author (Acts 2:9-11) wants to list and group all the nations of the world according to their linguistic differences, although he also includes linguistically related groups, and that his enumeration yields the number 16, so that the foreigners present should represent the descendants of the 16 grandsons of Noah, we only mention in passing, as well as the mistake that those foreigners in Acts 2:5 are said to be Jews residing in Jerusalem, yet in verse 9 they are described as people who are living abroad.
Later, after the original Gospel had undergone multiple revisions, all of which, like the Gospel of Luke, considered the Lord’s farewell to the disciples as a sufficient and adequate introduction to apostolic work and a full guarantee of the universal mission of the Church, only later, when apostolic activity became the subject of a separate historical narrative, could the pleonasm arise that the Lord’s farewell, which in the original Gospel was absolutely miraculous and conclusively final, received its subsequent confirmation and fulfillment at Pentecost.
(We only need to mention in passing here that the theory found in the Philonic writings *), according to which the voice that proclaimed the law on Sinai reached to the end of the world, emerged from heavenly fire, or rather consisted of the fire itself, which articulated in the dialect that was innate and familiar to the listeners, must have been known to the author of the Acts of the Apostles and provided him with the elements for his miracle of language, his fiery tongues, i.e. the flickering flames of fire on the heads of the disciples, and the occasion for his combination of the Pentecost and the giving of the law feast.)
*) de sept. et fest. p. 1193 de decalogo p. 748-750.
The late origin of the Pentecostal miracle is finally proved by the use which the author of it made of the category of speaking in tongues. He took the category from the Pauline epistles, uses it as generally known, and even believes to use it in the sense in which it is used in the Pauline epistles, thus not noticing that while his “speaking with tongues” is speaking in foreign languages, hitherto foreign to the disciples, but known in themselves, the speaking with tongues in the Pauline epistles means the instantaneous creation of formulas and expressions that went beyond the ordinary language in general and formed, as it were, a completely new language.
The objection, whether Paul after the fall of Jerusalem could still be portrayed as a temple worshiper, whether in the late time, when the “early church” of Jerusalem had long since lost its influence and importance, the Apostle to the Gentiles could be placed in this dependent relationship to it, will not make the result of our investigation any more shaky. The former objection can only be clumsy against the proof that the Acts of the Apostles is a historical fiction that must use local colors, and the importance that the early church together with the primitive apostles has in this fiction, the preponderance that it has over Paul, we have already explained perfectly when we interpreted the whole Acts of the Apostles as the work of that Judaism, which has survived to the present day in the Christian Church. It transformed the original creation into a gift from heaven and the past, subjected the authority to its own power, and made the gain of the revolution, the bold conquest, a legitimate legacy of tradition.
At the same time that this Judaism produced the Acts of the Apostles, it modeled the cultus, constitution, and discipline of the church on the Old Testament hierarchy, without needing to see the temple and its service. When this Judaism formed the Christian hierarchy, the temple had long since fallen and had long since lost its worshippers.
One more question! Theologians have expressed it so far in the form of questioning whether the Acts of the Apostles were written before the martyrdom of the Apostle or whether it presupposed this death as known and real.
However, since the Acts of the Apostles, as a work of fiction and reflection, cannot report anything to us about Paul’s life, since the journey of the apostle to the Gentiles to Rome, along with his Roman citizenship, has also been shown to be a free creation of the author, and since the later legends about the martyrdom of the Gentile apostle – legends that reveal their origin from the rivalry in which Paul and Peter competed for the principal and true palm of victory and which become adventures – do not introduce us into real history, the question for us can only be: at what stage of development was the legend of the martyrdom of the Gentile apostle when the Acts of the Apostles were written, or did the author of the Acts know anything at all about his hero’s Roman martyrdom?
When the author reports at the end of his work (Acts 28:30-31) that Paul preached the kingdom of God in Rome for two years without hindrance, he acts as if he has these two years behind him and knows the turn of events that occurred after their conclusion, but he does not even hint at what this turn of events was. Nevertheless, throughout his work, he assumes that the Roman martyrdom was the culmination of the apostle’s career. The farewell that the apostle takes from the leaders of the Ephesian community in Miletus happens once and for all and is so generally worded that it is clear that it applies to all the communities with which he has been in contact: “And now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again” (Acts 20:25). When he went to Jerusalem for the last time, he was really driven to Rome and did not rest anywhere because the Spirit did not allow him to, and the Lord told him himself in a nocturnal vision (Acts 23:11) that he had to testify in Rome just as he had testified about him in Jerusalem – Rome is thus the goal of his career, the culmination of his work, and can this culmination be anything other than tragic when Stephen, who initiated the break with the Jewish people, fell as a martyr, and the apostle, who made room for him just before the beginning of his great work so that he could enter the circle of apostles as his replacement, and when James was the victim of the hostility that the secular power harbored against the community?
The author’s presupposition is therefore clear and pervades his work visibly and undoubtedly – why did he not elaborate it at the end of the same and develop it in detail?
In the fourth gospel, which was written after the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is already the martyr of the Lord (C. 21, 18. 19) – in the first letter of Clemens *) Paul and Peter stand next to each other as martyrs – while the place where Peter suffered is not yet determined in this letter, the end of the west where Paul witnessed with his blood is supposed to be Rome in any case, both apostles in the letter of the Corinthian Dionysius to you Romans *) are so closely connected with each other that both found the church of Corinth, both go to Italy at the same time and suffer martyrdom here at the same time – both apocryphal letters belong to the age in which the Acts of the Apostles were written – so why, we must ask again, why did the author of the latter not historically elaborate at the end of his work a premise that was certain to him and his time?
*) In Eusebius hist. eccl. 2, 25
He did not dare – he shrank from the criminalistic and bloody detail that would have been required to execute his assumption – it was enough for him that his time would find an assumption that they shared with him in his work, even without the bloody ending.
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