I’ve been studying the book of Acts since November (yes, November) to write our Acts Bible study series, so I’ve become very familiar with the book. There’s a couple interesting tidbits I’ve learned over these 9 months, so I thought I would share 5 quick things you probably didn’t know about Acts!
01. The full name of this book is “Acts of the Apostles”
Why was the book called “the Acts of the Apostles”? It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time and orgin of this title. However, we do know that other names were used before “the Acts of the Apostles,” including “the Gospel of the Holy Ghost” and “the Gospel of the Resurrection.” Some Bible scholars argue that a better title would have been “the Acts of Some of the Apostles,” since not every apostle is examined in the book.
It’s important to note that Luke himself did not name the book, because it was originally a letter. Although this book’s formal title is “the Acts of the Apostles,” Christians today have nicknamed it “Acts” instead. The original Greek word for “acts” is práxeis, also meaning: to do, perform, action, deed, or practice.
02. Paul wasn’t the 12th apostle
Acts Chapter 1 is the one and only time we ever read about Barsabbas and Matthias. So, we must wonder: Was Matthias truly God’s chosen as the 12th apostle? Some scholars believe that Paul was God’s actual choice as a replacement, and that the apostles decided too quickly in Acts 1.
However, there are a couple problems with this theory. First, nowhere in Scripture do we see God condemning the apostles’ decision. Second, as we have already seen, the apostles used lots to make the decision, which was a way to determine God’s will by trusting that He would have the lots land on the side He wanted.
Furthermore, most of the apostles are never mentioned again in the book of Acts. By this theory, those apostles must have not been God’s chosen either! Matthias may have done miracles and been filled by the Holy Spirit. For whatever reason, Luke just decided not to record it, as He did with the other apostles.
Paul did become a prominent figure in the early Church, and his ministry takes up the second half of the book of Acts. However, he would have been disqualified, since He did not walk with Jesus during His ministry. He was taught by Jesus personally, yes, but He did not meet the criteria laid out in Acts 1:21-22.
03. John’s baptisms were the precursor to the baptism of the Holy Spirit
In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist mentions the purpose of his baptisms: “I baptize you with water for repentance.” Paul affirms this in Acts 19:4: “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” John’s baptism had to do with repentance—it was a symbolic representation of changing one’s mind and going a new direction. “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matthew 3:6). Being baptized by John demonstrated a recognition of one’s sin, a desire for spiritual cleansing, and a commitment to follow God’s law in anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival.
Jesus also said to His disciples, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5) We see the same thing happen with the believers at Ephesus in Acts 19 – they receive the Holy Spirit when they received Jesus’ salvation, whereas John’s baptism called them to repentance. Also, it is interesting to note here that these Christian believers in Ephesus had been baptized by John. We can either surmise that John travelled to the Ephesus region to baptize anyone would believe in the coming Messiah, or these Ephesian Jews had traveled to Israel to be baptized by John. Either way, John’s influence was widespread!
04. Galatians 2 wasn’t during Acts 15
You probably have been taught that Galatians 2 and Acts are one and the same. In fact, there is an on-going dispute amongst commentators on whether Acts 15 refers to the same events as Galatians 2:1-10 or not. In Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem is diliberating on whether the Gentiles should be held to the Law to become Christians. In Galatians 2, Paul recounts an incident with Peter, who wouldn’t eat with Gentiles much to Paul’s chagrin. However, if we observe the facts, it is unlikely that these two situations were the same. Here’s why we think so:
- Galatians 2 appears to have been a private conversation, whereas Acts 15 was a public forum.
- Galatians 2 doesn’t mention the measures imposed on the Gentiles in Acts 15’s distributed letter. It also doesn’t appear that any action was taken in Galatians 2.
- According to I Howard Marshall, it is unlikely that Paul would have approved of the decided compromise placed on the Christian comunity in Acts 15.
- Galatians 2:1-10 was during Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem, whereas Acts 15 was clearly his third visit. (The first was Acts 9:26-29; the second was Acts 11:30)
Due to these reasons, in our opinion, Galatians 2 and Acts 15 must have been completely separate events.
05. The Herodian dynasty was descended from Edom
Herod the First (also known as “Herod the Great”) was the one who wanted Jesus killed as a baby. Later, Herod Antipas gives the order for John the Baptist’s beheading. Jesus also stood on trial before Herod Antipas, although Herod shooed him back to Pontius Pilate. The Herod in Acts 12 who orders James, brother of Jesus, to be killed is Herod Agrippa I.
Interestingly, the Herodian dynasty are descendants of Edom. According to Jon Courson: “Around the year 3000 B.C., a group called the Nabateans took control of the area where the Edomites lived southeast of Israel. Driven out of their homeland, the Edomites settled around – part of the West Bank today – and became known as Idumeans. Years later, when the Macabbeans rose up and overthrew the Syrians who had taken control of Jerusalem, the Macabbeans said to the people living in Idumea, ‘We’ll let you stay here only if you convert to Judaism.’ So the Idumeans became Jews religiously, although they remained Edomites ethnically. Around the year 47. B.C., Julius Caesar appointed Antipater – an Idumean – as governor of the region. Antipater was the father of Herod.”
Generation after generation of the Herodian dynasty tried to rid our world of the Messiah and His followers. This fulfills the prophecy in Genesis 27:40 given by Isaac to Esau regarding Esau’s descendants: “By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you willbreak his yoke from your neck.”
Later, in 70 A.D. (not long after Luke wrote the book of Acts), the Romans took siege of Jerusalem. The Jews allowed the Idumeans to enter the city before the siege, so that the Idumeans could aid the Jews in batttle. As soon as the Idumeans got in, however, they immediately began to slaughter the Jews. Jon Courson describes Edom as having a “spirit to destroy the Jewish nation and prevent [the] Messiah from surviving. It’s the spirit of antichrist.”
According to Daniel 9, the antichrist will be descended from those who destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. We know today that was the Romans, as mentioned in the previous paragraph. However, in Isaiah 63 and in Micah 2, the antichrist is said to be from some of Christ’s enemies in the Final Battle will be Edomite. Thus, it is supposed that descendants of Edom will aid the antichrist of his quest to rid the world of God’s people.
We know, however, that Jesus Christ will return (even seen in Isaiah 63:1), and so we have the hope that no matter what, the Lord will protect us from whatever evil plans Satan has up his sleeve.