‘Paul Preaching in Athens’ Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)

Course Description

Unanimously scholars tell us that the Acts of the Apostles should be viewed as the second of two volumes written by Luke, who authored the Gospel of Luke. It is firmly established that the Gospel of Luke has a great emphasis on the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, his public mission, and the call to discipleship. It is through this that scholars see Luke’s gospel as developing a theology of history.

The Acts of the Apostles assumes that God’s revelation has been ultimately communicated through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and that the apostles, as chosen witnesses, exercise their divinely given commission to evangelise and teach in his name. As we see in the opening lines of Acts, Jesus commissions the apostles to preach the Gospel and to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samar’ia and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). With these last words of Jesus before his Ascension into Heaven, the apostles receive their program for evangelisation which will also be the program Luke follows in compiling the Acts of the Apostles.

The entire operation of the apostle’s mission to preach the Good News about Jesus unfolds under the impetus and direction of the Holy Spirit. Ironically, although this book is a historical record of the early Church’s movements, it is by no means an exhaustive account of the actions of all twelve apostles, for it is only two apostles, Peter and Paul, whose movements are substantially recorded. Many scholars, however, contend that the main character in the whole of the Acts of the Apostles is actually the Holy Spirit. Luke narrates the mission of early Church in such a way that it is identified with the mission of Jesus through the activity of the Holy Spirit.

A particular emphasis of the Acts of the Apostles is the defense of Paul’s missionary activity. As a travelling companion to Paul (see Acts 16:10), Luke knew that Paul had his rivals, and that many disputed his claim to apostolic authority. Luke narrates Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus three times (instead of once, as Paul does), stressing that Paul is no missionary maverick but one chosen specifically by Jesus. Luke also parallels Paul’s missionary activities with that of Peter: both deliver inaugural sermons to Israel focusing on the Davidic covenant, both appeal to Psalm 16 to explain Jesus’ resurrection, both have the power to cure cripples, both are filled with the Holy Spirit, both are renowned miracle workers, both confer the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, both confront and rebuke magicians, both raise the dead, both refuse to accept other’s offers to render them divine worship, and both are miraculously delivered from prison. With these parallels we see that the power of the Spirit at work in Peter’s missionary activity is also at work in Paul’s work, and that this power is what takes the same gospel to the Jews (with Peter) and the Gentiles (through Paul).

This course will undoubtedly give you insights, not only into how the early Church took the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world, but how we too can take this same message, empowered by the Holy Spirit, into our world today.

So join us for this breath-taking course, as we connect with the early Church in their mission of evangelisation.

Course Objectives

  1. To understand how the early Church evangelised both the Jews and the Gentiles unto conversion to Jesus.
  2. To see the structure of Acts in terms of the Holy Spirit’s mission working through the Church to preaching the gospel to all nations.
  3. To discover how the mission of the early Church was identified with Jesus’ mission; and that through the Church, Jesus continues to draw people to himself and his Father.
  4. To learn how Jesus restored the Davidic Kingdom through the Church he established.
  5. To see how Peter’s mission to the Israelites the Jews and Paul’s mission to the Gentiles are paralleled.

Course Duration

6 Weeks: 12 Hours (i.e., two hours, one night a week).

Recommended Reading

Texts Recommended for Purchase by Course Participants:

Hahn, Scott and Curtis Mitch. The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study: Acts of the Apostles. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000, 2nd ed. 2010.

Pimentel, Stephen. Witness of the Messiah: On the Acts of the Apostles 1-15. Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2002.

_________. Envoy of the Messiah: On the Acts of the Apostles 16-28. Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2005.

Popular Level Reading:

Hahn, Scott and Curtis Mitch. The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study: The New Testament. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010.

LaVerdiere, Eugene. The Breaking of the Bread: The Development of the Eucharist According to Acts. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1998.

Thematic Works for this Course:

Achtemeier, Paul J. Inspiration and Authority: Nature and Function of Christian Scripture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 1999.

Béchard, Dean P. ed. and trans. The Scripture Documents: An Anthology of Official Catholic Teachings. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002.

Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981.

Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Homebush: St Pauls, 1994.

_________. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church: Address of His Holiness John Paul II and Document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Boston: St Paul Books and Media, 1993.

_________. Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, New Revised Edition, vol. 1. Edited by Austin Flannery. New York: Costello Publishing Company, 1996.

Dauphinais, Michael and Matthew Levering. Holy People, Holy Land: A Theological Introduction to the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005.

Farkasfalvy, Denis. Inspiration and Interpretation: A Theological Introduction to Sacred Scripture. Washington DC. The Catholic University of America Press, 2010.

Geisler, Norman L. and William C. Roach. Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011.

Hahn, Scott. A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture. Michigan: Servant Publications, 1998.

_________. A Pocket Guide to the Bible. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Division, 2008.

_________. Scripture Matters: Essays on Reading the Bible From the Heart of the Church. Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road, 2003.

Shea, Mark P. Making Senses out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did. San Diego: Basilica Press, 1999.

Sri, Edward. The Bible Compass: A Catholic’s Guide to Navigating the Scriptures. West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2009.

Stravinskas, Peter M.J. The Catholic Church and the Bible. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. (ed.) Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2005, 2008.

_________. (ed.) Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2005, 2008.

Scholarly Level Reading:

Goulder, M.D. Type and History in Acts. London SPCK, 1964.

Hengel, Martin. Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity. London: SCM Press LTD., 1979.

Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Acts of the Apostles (Sacra Pagina Series, vol.5). Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1992.

Thompson, Richard P. and Thomas E. Phillips. Literary Studies in Luke-Acts: Essays in Honor of Joseph B. Tyson. Macon: GA: Mercer University Press, 1988.

Scholarly Journal Article:

Hahn, Scott W. “Christ, Kingdom and Creation: Davidic Christology and Ecclesiology in Luke-Acts.” Letter & Spirit 3 (2007): 113-138.