Acts Commentary

Here is an excerpt from the Author’s Preface to my Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids/Cambridge; Nottingham: Apollos, 2009). I have copied this to show something of the approach I used in writing the commentary.

In recent years, the Acts of the Apostles has attracted the interest of many scholars and preachers, and the number of relevant publications one could consult is enormous and growing steadily!  I regret not being able to read or refer to them all.  Some commentaries major on textual issues, some on matters of historical and social context, some on theology and application.  My own contribution attempts to be as comprehensive as possible, but with a bias towards theological analysis and an exploration of hermeneutical issues.  The reason for this is twofold.

Firstly, monographs and articles on the theology of Acts are not normally accessible to the general reader.  Wherever possible, I have tried to distil the insights of valuable scholarly work for the benefit of a wider public.  Secondly, as I will argue, Acts was written primarily for the edification of the church and for the encouragement of gospel ministry.

How then is this book to be understood and used with reference to the life and witness of contemporary believers?  Many pastors and teachers are uncertain about the way to preach from biblical narratives, but recent developments in the field of narrative criticism have offered important guidelines for interpretation.  Luke has offered us more clues for understanding the purpose and meaning of various elements in his work than may first appear.

The problem of application is particularly acute with respect to Acts because of the divisions that exist among Christians over matters such as the ministry of the Holy Spirit, divine guidance, miracles, the nature of the gospel, priorities for mission, the character and purpose of Christian gatherings, the relevance of the Old Testament, and Christian attitudes towards Jews.  These are just a few of the topics that surface in any evaluation of Acts, all of which are matters of great importance for the contemporary life and witness of believers.  A number of these receive special attention in the introductory chapter on the theology of Acts.  Those who lead churches, teach the Bible regularly in any context, or engage in missionary activity, are challenged to re-evaluate their understanding of such matters through a fresh examination of Luke’s work.  This commentary, incorporating the insights of so many others, is offered as an aid to this task.

I have followed the pattern of recent volumes in this series by using Today’s New International Version as the basis of the exposition.  Where appropriate, I have offered a more literal translation or suggested a better way of expressing the Greek.  Readers who are familiar with New Testament Greek will find relevant words and phrases transliterated in brackets or footnotes, sometimes with comments about the grammatical and syntactical significance.  Where appropriate, I have also compared different English translations.  Sometimes these vary because they rely on alternative textual traditions.  I have tried to summarise the issue briefly at the end of my first introductory chapter, but detailed discussion of textual variants is provided in the body of the commentary when they give rise to different translations.

The introduction to the commentary covers these topics:

  1. Authorship and date
  2. Genre: the unity of Luke and Acts; ancient literary models for Acts; Acts and biblical histories
  3. Sources, rhetoric, and historical reliability
  4. Character, structure and purpose
  5. Interpretive Issues; literary approaches to Acts; some editorial techniques with thematic implications; characterisation
  6. Textual matters

A separate chapter on the theology of Acts covers these topics:

  1. God and his plan
  2. Jesus as Messiah and Lord
  3. The Holy Spirit
  4. Salvation
  5. The gospel
  6. The atoning work of Jesus
  7. Witness and mission
  8. Miracles
  9. Magic and the demonic
  10. The church


Carl Park from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School reviewed the commentary in Themelios 34, Issue 3, November 2009. It can be found at

The International Review of Biblical Studies (Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft and Grenzgebiete) 55:2008/09 said:

This monumental commentary’s emphasis is on Lukan theology. The introduction includes a long sketch of Lukan theology as it emerges from the book of Acts (pp. 53-97), with the following sections: God and his plan; Jesus as Messiah and Lord; the Holy Spirit; salvation; the gospel; the atoning work of Jesus; witness and mission; miracles; magic and the demonic; the church. Peterson thinks highly of the historiographical reliability of the work, and suggests that it may have been composed as early as 62-64 CE.


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