The role of the Roman Empire

The author of Acts also engaged with the question of a Christian’s proper relationship with the Roman Empire, the civil power of the day.  Could a Christian obey God and also Caesar?  The answer was ambiguous.  The Romans never moved against Jesus or his followers unless provoked by the Jews.  In the trial scenes, the Christian missionaries were always cleared of charges of violating Roman laws, and Acts ended with Paul in Rome proclaiming the Christian message under Roman protection.  At the same time, Luke-Acts makes clear that the Romans, like all earthly rulers, receive their authority from Satan, while Christ is ruler of the kingdom of God. Luke-Acts generally does not portray this interaction of Roman authority and Christians as one of direct conflict.  Rather, each may have considered having a relationship with the other advantageous to its own cause. Christians may have appreciated hearing about the protection Paul received from the Roman officials against the gentile and Jewish rioters in Philippi and Ephesus.  Romans may have approved of Paul’s censure of the illegal practice of magic and the fact that he was a Roman citizen.  Acts did not include any account of a struggle between Christians and the Roman government as a result of the imperial cult.  Thus, Paul was depicted as a moderating presence between the young developing Christian church and the Roman Empire.  On the other hand, events such as the Roman imprisonment of Paul functioned as concrete points of conflict between Rome and the early church.  Perhaps the most significant point of tension between Roman imperial ideology was Peter’s speech to the Roman centurion, Cornelius.  Peter explicitly stated that Jesus was the Lord (κύριος) of all.  This title, κύριος was often ascribed to the Roman emperor in antiquity, rendering its use here was an unsubtle challenge to the emperor’s authority.

Sources of Luke–Acts

The anonymous author of Luke–Acts lacked exact analogies in Hellenistic or Jewish literature.  He anchored his history by dating the birth of the founder Jesus, and told how the founder was born from God, taught authoritatively, and appeared to witnesses after his death before ascending to heaven.  The sources for Acts can only be guessed at, but the author would have had access to the Septuagint Greek Bible, the Gospel of Mark, and either the hypothetical collection of “sayings of Jesus” called the Q source or the Gospel of Matthew.  He transposed a few incidents from Mark’s gospel to the time of the apostles.  The Christian Antioch community may have provided information about the growing Hellenistic Christian community.  The traditional explanation of the three “we” sections is that they represent eyewitness accounts.  

Date of Luke-Acts

While no proposed date for the composition of Acts is universally accepted, the most common scholarly position is to date Luke–Acts to 80-90 CE on the grounds that he used Mark as a source.  He looked back on the destruction of Jerusalem, and does not show any awareness of the letters of Paul, that began circulating late in the first century.  The earliest possible date for the composition of Acts is set by the events with which it ends, Paul’s imprisonment in Rome around 63 CE, but such an early dating is a minority position. The last possible date would be set by its first definite citation by another author, but there is no unanimity on this.  Some scholars find echoes of Acts in I Clement from 95 CE, the letter of Clement of Rome who died in 99 CE, while others see no indisputable citation until the middle of the 2nd century.  

Thank you – 50

July 29, 2019

Thank you – 50

After more than seven months, I have finished the third book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke.  Every time I finish a book of the Bible, I send a thank you blog.  I usually post five blogs a day covering about a verse of the biblical books.  So far, I have posted over 10,000 blogs about the individual paragraphs and of all the 46 books of the Old Testament, plus the individual verses of the first three books of the New Testament.  It has taken me five years to get this done.

Over 900 people have emailed me that they are following this project in some form or another.  196 people follow this blog every day.  During the month of March, 2019, 2,253 people visited this site.  The highest recent day was 130 people on July 5, 2019.  There have been over 54,882 hits on this blog since its inception.  I just want to thank all of you.  Word Press sent me a yearly compilation that showed that about 6,800 people from 84 countries visited this web site in 2015.

I realize that 12,613 of you have left comments, but I have not responded to them.  Some of you might want to moderate my comments, which is fine with me.  If you want to contact me directly, my email is  During this past seven months, 250 people have commented via email on this work.  Here is a list of those who sent email comments this past seven months.  Thank you to everyone. 

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Resurrection and ascension of Jesus

The resurrection story of Jesus centers around the empty tomb.  The women of Galilee made an early morning visit to the tomb of Jesus, where the stone was rolled away.  No body there, but two men were there and they spoke to them.  Remember what Jesus had said that the Son of Man would rise again.  They remembered it.

The women from Galilee told the apostles, but the apostles did not believe them.  The women were named, but the apostles thought that this was an idle tale.  Thus, Peter went to the tomb himself.

Next came the story of the two apostles on the road to Emmaus.  They were talking to each other when Jesus appeared to them.  They did not recognize Jesus who asked them what they were talking about?  They wondered why he did not know what was happening in Jerusalem.  They had crucified the prophet Jesus of Nazareth, who had brought the hope of redemption.  Some women at the tomb saw a vision of angels.  The women were right.  However, Jesus reprimanded them since they acted like foolish followers, Jesus explained the suffering Messiah and interpreted the scriptures for them.

These two disciples finally recognized Jesus.  He was going to go further on, but they asked him to stay.  Jesus blessed the bread and then he vanished.  Their hearts were burning.  They returned to Jerusalem to the eleven apostles.  Jesus had appeared to Simon and they had recognized Jesus.

Finally, Jesus appeared to the apostles.  He spoke to them.  Did he look like a ghost?  Why did they doubt?  He was flesh and bones with hands and feet.  He wanted to know if they had anything to eat.  They gave Jesus a piece of fish and he ate it.

Jesus gave his last instructions to his apostles.  He told them that scripture had been fulfilled.  They should understand scripture.  The Messiah would suffer and rise on the third day.  They were to be witnesses to Jesus and preach repentance.  However, they were to stay in the city.  Finally, Jesus blessed them and then he was taken up to heaven.  However, the disciples returned to Jerusalem and prayed in the Temple.

The sufferings and death of Jesus

Next Jesus prayed at the Mount of Olives.  He asked them to avoid temptations.  However, he wanted the will of his Father done.  An angel from heaven appeared as Jesus was sweating blood.  Meanwhile, his disciples were sleeping.  He told them to get up and pray.

Jesus was arrested, as Judas with a crowd arrived.  Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.  Should they strike back?  Someone cut off an ear of a Temple servant, but Jesus healed his ear.  He asked why they came out against him like he was a robber, when he had been teaching daily in the Temple.  Then they seized Jesus.

Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard when someone said that he had been with Jesus.  However, Peter denied it three times.  Then Jesus looked at Peter and Peter wept bitterly.

Jesus was brought before the Council.  They mocked Jesus, as they asked him who struck him.  They reviled Jesus.  The council assembly said that Jesus was a non-believer.  He gave no answer until he said that he was the Son of Man and the Son of God.  Thus, they said that they had heard it themselves.

Jesus was brought before Pilate because he had said that he was a king, the King of the Jews.  Pilate spoke to Jesus, since Jesus had stirred up the people.  When Pilate heard that he was a Galilean, he sent Jesus to Herod.  Herod was happy to meet Jesus.  He questioned him, but Jesus gave no answers.  The chief priests and the Scribes were angry.  Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate and he and Pilate became new friends, even though they had been enemies beforehand.

Pilate called the chief priests and said that Jesus was not guilty, so that there was no need for the death penalty.  He was going to release Jesus.  However, he had the obligation to release someone at Passover.  The crowd said that they wanted Barabbas, an insurrectionist murderer.  Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the crowds wanted to crucify him.  Pilate said that he would release Jesus, but the loud cries of the crowd prevailed.  Pilate finally agreed.  He released Barabbas.

Simon of Cyrene was asked to carry the cross for Jesus.  The women followers of Jesus were weeping.  Jesus told them to weep for themselves.  They would say Blessed are the barren!  Let the mountains fall on us!  Two other criminals were crucified with Jesus.  One asked for forgiveness, but the other scoffed at Jesus.  The soldiers offered vinegar.  There was a dispute about the Greek inscription, since it said that this is the King of the Jews.  One criminal said that Jesus should save himself and the other two criminals.  The other criminal said that Jesus was innocent.  He wanted to be remembered by Jesus.  Jesus responded that today he would be with him in paradise.

After three hours of darkness, Jesus died.  The Temple curtain was cut in half.  The Roman centurion said that he was an innocent man.  Many were beating their breasts, standing at a distance.

Joseph of Arimathea, who was looking for the kingdom of God asked for the body of Jesus.  He put the body of Jesus in the tomb before the Sabbath.  The women were watching, but they rested on the Sabbath.

The last supper Passover

There was a conspiracy to kill Jesus, but Passover was coming.  This plot against Jesus involved Judas Iscariot who planned to betray Jesus.  He made an agreement about the right time to do this.

Meanwhile, Jesus and his disciples made their preparations for the Passover meal.  Jesus decided where this would be.  They were to meet a man with a jar of water.  He would then show them a guest room, a large upper room, where they would prepare the Passover meal.

The right hour had come for Jesus and the last supper before his suffering began.  Jesus said that he would not eat with them again.  He was not going to drink the cup of thanksgiving again with them.  Then he took the thanksgiving bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples with a new covenant.  He said that the betrayer was at the table with them and should be cursed.  Who would do this?

At the same time a dispute about greatness broke out.  Who was the greatest?  Jesus reminded them his authority would be like a servant leadership.  He would confer the kingdom, so that they would judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

Then Jesus foretold Simon Peter’s denial.  They should pray for faith.  However, Simon said that he would die for Jesus, but Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times.

What to bring with you?  They had lacked nothing during their previous mission trips.  Now they should buy what they need, because scripture would be fulfilled.  It was enough, it was time to move on.

The teaching of Jesus in Jerusalem

Jesus was a true teacher.  They asked him if it was right to pay tribute to Caesar?  Jesus, however, perceived their craftiness.  He told them to show him a Roman coin.  He told them to render to Caesar what was Caesar’s.  Thus, they were silent.

The Sadducees came to Jesus with a question about the resurrection.  The Mosaic law said that a brother should take a dead brother’s wife.  There were seven brothers and they all died without children.  Finally, the widowed wife died.  Whose wife would she be in the resurrection?  Jesus responded that they were the sons of this age.  There would be no marriage in the resurrection among the children of God.  Moses said God was a God of the living.  He had given a good answer, so that there were no more questions.

Jesus then asked how could the Christ Messiah be the son of David, since he mentioned in the psalms that he was a lord.  How could be both lord and son?  Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the Scribes with a great condemnation.

Jesus noticed the rich giving gifts in the Temple.  However, there was a poor widow who gave more because she had given out of her necessities and not her abundance.  Jesus then predicted the future destruction of the Temple.  None of the noble stones of the Temple would be left untouched.  They wanted to know when this would take place?

Jesus told them that they should not be led astray and not to be afraid.  There would be many fights, great earthquakes, and persecutions.  However, they should bear testimony, but not plan ahead.  Wisdom would come to them.  There would be family betrayals.  They would be hated by everyone, but they would not lose a hair of their head, if they had endurance.

In the future, Jerusalem would be surrounded.  They should leave the city in this great distress at the fall of Jerusalem.  There would be signs and great fear because the Son of Man was coming to redeem them.  Jesus explained the parable about the fig tree.  When they see the leaves on the trees, they should know that the kingdom of God was near.  This present generation would see it.  The words of Jesus would not pass away.  They were to be ready.  Everybody will be involved.

Jesus enters Jerusalem

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, but he stopped in Bethany.  He told his disciples to get a colt that was in a neighboring town.  When they untied this colt, they were to say that the Lord needs it.  They did exactly that.  Jesus then sat on the colt as they spread garments around him.  They began to rejoice and say peace and glory.  The Pharisees wanted Jesus to rebuke his disciples, but Jesus said the stones would cry out if he did that.

Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem.  There would be future hidden things when the city would be surrounded on every side because there were terrible things ahead.  Jesus entered the Temple.  He said that it should be a house of prayer.  They tried to destroy Jesus, but the people listened to Jesus.

Some Jerusalem officials come to Jesus and asked him where he got his authority?  He had a question for them about the baptism of John the Baptist.  Was his baptism from heaven or not?  They refused to answer because the people thought that John was a prophet.  Then Jesus said that he was not going to tell them about his authority.

Jesus then told the parable about the rented vineyard and the wicked tenants who beat up his slaves.  Finally, he sent his beloved son.  However, these bad tenants killed the heir.  He would then destroy these tenants.  The rejected stone would become the crushing stone.  The chief priests and Scribes wanted Jesus destroyed, because this parable was aimed at them.

The prophecy fulfilled

Jesus then had the prophecy of his death and resurrection.  This would be a prophecy fulfilled for the twelve apostles.  There would be some bad treatment for the Son of Man, but he would rise on the third day.  However, the apostles did not understand this.

Jesus healed the blind beggar who asked what was going on as Jesus passed by.  He wanted mercy.  Jesus met and had a dialogue with this blind beggar.  Faith and sight went hand in hand.

Jesus was in Jericho when a small man named Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to see him.  Jesus wanted to stay at Zacchaeus’ house, where he was welcomed.  Other people complained that Jesus was eating with a sinner, but Zacchaeus defended himself.  Jesus said that salvation was coming to the lost ones.

Finally, Jesus told this parable about the ten minas when he was near Jerusalem.  This nobleman gave his slaves money.  However, some people did not like this nobleman.  When he returned home, he wanted to know what the various slaves had done with their ten minas.  The first slave had made ten more minas, as much as he originally had from trading.  Thus, the nobleman put him in charge of ten cities.  Another slave had gained five minas.  He was put in charge of five cities.  The third slave said that he wrapped up his ten minas in cloth.  He knew that his nobleman was a very severe man.  The nobleman said that he should have known better.  Why did he not at least collect interest?  This nobleman said to take away his money and give to the one had ten already.  Then this nobleman killed his enemies.