Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Reportby Dennis E. Smith
Acts was long thought to be a first-century document, and its author Luke to be a disciple of Paul—thus an eyewitness or acquaintance of eyewitnesses to nascent Christianity. Acts was considered history, pure and simple. But the Acts Seminar, a decade-long collaborative project by scholars affiliated with the
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The Acts of the Apostles is not history.
Acts was long thought to be a first-century document, and its author Luke to be a disciple of Paul—thus an eyewitness or acquaintance of eyewitnesses to nascent Christianity. Acts was considered history, pure and simple. But the Acts Seminar, a decade-long collaborative project by scholars affiliated with the Westar Institute, concluded that dates from the second century. That conclusion directly challenges the view of Acts as history and raises a host of new questions, addressed in this final report.
The Acts Seminar began deliberations in 2001, with the task of going through the canonical Acts of the Apostles from beginning to end and evaluating it for historical accuracy.
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This work is appalling. The scholarship is abysmal, and it is clear that the twelve contributors involved were so pleased with the demolition job that they'd done on the Book of Acts, that they didn't even think it was worth the effort to check their facts before going to press. Dennis Smith, for example, one of the two editors and a contributor himself to some of the essays, informs us that Gallio was appointed Proconsul by the emperor Tiberius at some time between AD 49 and 54. Somebody should have told Smith that Tiberius died in AD 37 and was thus ill-placed to appoint anybody. It was Claudius who appointed Gallio as stated on the very inscription which Smith would have us believe was one of his authorities. He makes the error twice on the same page - sloppy. Further into the book, Pervo tells us that "In the ancient world means and motives for preserving speeches did not exist." This shows a level of ignorance in his subject that is inexcusable. Shorthand exists in every language and script going way back to Babylon and its predecessors. It was invented for the express purpose of recording speech accurately, and if Pervo didn't know that much, then he shouldn't be commenting on anything, let alone the New Testament. Moreland informs us that Luke blamed the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple on the Jews, overlooking the fact that no such reference exists in Luke's Acts. The New Testament in its entirety knows nothing of that destruction, so the statement is clearly a product of Moreland's imagination. Space alone forbids a longer treatment of the astonishingly low level of objectivity displayed by all the contributors, and I can only say that if Luke had been as careless and sloppy in his writing as the Westar Institute team have been in theirs, then there may have been some point to this exercise. A little research would have shown them that Luke is meticulously accurate in all his facts, which is a lot more than can be said for this sad effort. It is abysmal and shames the very name of scholarship.