About Reading Acts

About the Blog: This blog was originally designed to extend the discussion of Acts based on my evening services at Rush Creek Bible Church in Byron Center, Michigan, beginning September 14, 2008.  My intent then was to post a few comments about the portion of Acts scheduled for that Sunday evening, then I would post a few notes from the evening service on the Monday after I teach the section.  After finished the book of Acts, the focus of the blog broadened to include issues of Pauline Theology along with the Book of Acts.  I have “read through” the NT on the blog several times, going far beyond the original title. I started including book reviews and commentary on using technology for biblical studies in the summer of 2011, making the title even less accurate.

On the other hand, perhaps the title means “the act of reading” any text, but applying reader-response criticism to your own work seems fairly self-centered.

I have posted a few papers at Academia.edu. Feel free to follow me there.

Disclaimer: The opinions I express on this blog are my own and are not intended to represent the views of any organization for which I am employed.

About Phillip J. Long: I have taught full time at Grace Bible College since 1998, specializing in Bible and Biblical languages.  I have two Masters degrees from Talbot School of Theology (BIOLA), one in Biblical Exposition and another in Old Testament and a PhD in New Testament from Andrews University. My dissertation was entitled “Messianic Banquet Imagery in the Synoptic Gospels: An Intertextual Study” and was published as Jesus the Bridegroom by Pickwick Books in 2012.

I read books, drink strong coffee, and listen to excellent music, often at the same time.

51 thoughts on “About Reading Acts

  1. I hoped to have a direct link to the MP3 file and PDF file, but I haven’t worked out how to do that yet.

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  2. I am enjoying your teaching. Last evening I was interested in comments you made about the idea first century Jews would have had that eventually the gospel would go to the Gentiles. Did I interpret that as you meant it? The Jews seem so insular and I have a hard time imagining them opening themselves up to this idea. They seemed to resist it most of the way through Acts. Some I would think never gave in to the idea that Christ was anything but their Saviour and the way to salvation was long and hard through conversion to Judaism. Paul had to work really hard to argue the point of salvation by grace.

    Just some thoughts and I would be interested in your comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. you forgot the part about burning strong smelling candles along with the coffee drinking, book reading, and music listening. It appears you are a very well versed multi-tasker.

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  4. Hi Phillip,

    If you have a moment, would you be willing to give me a few recommendations for textbooks for Acts for undergraduates? I’ll be teaching an Acts course for the first time this spring. I often teach a Paul course, but have not yet taught a course on Acts.

    BTW, I see we have something in common. I did my M.Div. at Talbot. I graduated in 98, and taught there as an adjunct until 2002.

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  5. Hi Gary, I graduated a second time from Talbot in 98, so we were probably at the same commencement. Josh McDowel was the speaker, I think. My first MA was Chuck Colson, but I might have them reversed.

    There are not alot of options for an Acts textbook, unfortunately. Many choices for Pauline Lit, few for Acts alone. I have only taught Acts once and was unhappy with my options for a textbook. I used Walker, In The Steps of Paul, from Zondervan, but that only covered the geography of the missionary travels and did nothing for the theology of the book. I thought about a commentary, but I have found undergrads are not very thrilled with reading a commentary, no matter how good. Zondervan does publish Clint Arnold’s Acts section from the NT Bible Background Commentary as a separate volume. It is a handy size and undergrad friendly (lots of pictures), but is not a textbook per se.

    I am currently using John Polhill, Paul and his Letters; but that is for a Pauline Lit course. It might work for Acts as well since he covers Acts alongside the letters. But you lose out on a third of the book, since there is little on early mission.

    Eckhard Schnabel has a “handy” version of his Early Christian Mission, in a single volume called Paul the Missionary. Same problem as Polhill, nothing on the first third of the book. ECM is simply too large for a textbook, especially at the undergrad level!

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  6. Thanks for the advice, Phillip. I have used Polhill and Arnold for Paul, so maybe I’ll try those. I was hoping that Baker might have an “Encountering Acts,” but they don’t yet.

    Yes, I graduated when McDowell spoke – as you remember, it was the shortest graduation speech on record, and Clyde Cook jokingly threatened to take back his honorarium! I wonder if we were in any classes together? Your picture looks kind of familiar. I probably look quite different – back then, I had hair on my head, but no beard.

    Glad you like the avatar. My friend bought it for me as a gift from Scott Meyer. He is selling the photo-avatar conversion service on his website now.

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  7. I used the Baker OT and NT books for Bible Survey when they came out. They were good for freshman, but they were a bit like High School textbooks, a bit lighter than I had hoped for. I have not used the other Encountering texts. I think that Kregel had a series of Handbooks, on Psalms or Historical books, etc. But nothing there on Acts yet either.

    I was a commuter, so I took entirely evening and weekend classes, so I knew very few people in the seminary. My second degree had two or three arranged reading courses, so I was even less on campus. I took the Greek Exegesis classes with Walt Russell and Joe Hellerman, and Hebrew from Tom Finley.

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  8. Josh McDowell’s 1998 commencement speech: “love God. Love your wife. Love your kids.” Irony of ironies I was there that day for my brothers graduation from Biola.

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    • That is really weird, even spooky. Our paths crossed and we didn’t even know it.

      I *think* Bruce Kemper was there as well, might have been for your brother’s graduation. When I walked, someone cheered rather loudly for me, which was weird because I was at the graduation by myself.

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      • I have to correct you…
        What he really said was, To have an effective ministry “Continuously pursue a loving intimate relationship with your spouse and spend time with your children.”
        He repeated the section in quotes three times and sat down to loud cheering. I graduated in 1998 from Biola.

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      • Two competing oral traditions about the words of the “historical Josh McDowell.” Do we need to use the criteria of authenticity to determine what he really said to “more that 500 brothers and sisters at one time”?

        All three of us heard the same speech and remember it slightly different, but the ipssima verba is the same.

        What was your degree, Jon S? I was receiving an MA in Old Testament at the time….

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  9. Greetings!! I have seen your blog before and most impressed. I am a Christian. A sometimes squirming and tortured student of life and the Life that GOD wants me to lead. I am a self proclaimed “Googlologist”. I love to Google it all up,(checking one website after another)
    Today I woke up to read my YouVersion Bible app. I wanted more info so I Googled and ran across your website. As I said, I was most impressed, but I wanted to find out about the author. Took me awhile to figure that out.

    Thank you for your sharing!!

    Blessings!
    In His Name
    JodyB

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  10. Hello,

    I work for TheologyDegreesOnline.com, and we’re putting together a list of exemplary sites that explore faith, Christianity, and Biblical Study for our readers, who are mostly prospective students in theology.

    We feel that highlighting the work of those sharing their religious journeys, and studying His Word will make our site an even better resource for theology students.

    To that end, I’m pleased to let you know that Reading Acts has been nominated for inclusion on our list of Top Christian Sites. If you’re selected for the final list, we’ll also send you a badge that you can display on your site should you wish to share your award.

    We’re still looking for great Christian sites for this list, so if you know of a quality site that would be useful to our readers, and anyone else interested in learning more about the Christian faith, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

    Blessings,
    Mary

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  11. Phillip, I just ran across your blog via the Near Emmaus one of Brian LePort (referral to you)…. Interesting to me on at least a couple levels… your focus, initially at least, on Acts, and your substantial time at Talbot. I’m a Talbot M.Div. grad of ’76 and have BA and MA (MFCC) from Biola (72, 78). I knew Tom Finley a bit, then just an asst. or adjunct in Hebrew (and Grk.?). He was just a few yrs. ahead of me in studies. I heard Josh McDowell speak, as he’d graduated a few yrs. before me; and THEN later landed working with an associate of his, Paul Lewis, where both lived a number of years in Julian, CA. (a dozen miles from where I grew up and I was then [1989-91] living within a mile of Paul and Josh). I was impressed with the model they had run (with a few others) at The Julian Center and happened to be there in the final year or two of its existence, as it fizzled out for a number of reasons.

    Theologically, I have moved “on” since those days, significantly, but have many good memories and prior relationships; AND the study of Christian origins has been a very serious “hobby” of mine, largely oriented around Acts for a good dozen years, and seeking to apply it to my now “progressive” Christian faith. (The latter largely come to via deeper and deeper study of the Bible and ancient history, culture, etc…. not any “bad experiences” or alienating events, etc.). I plan to check in here and perhaps comment from time to time!

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    • Thanks for the comment, I had Tom Finley for two classes, Hebrew and Ezekiel, then I think I did an independent study for him Amos. I grew up going to camp at Palomar Christian Conference Center, not too far from Julian. A small world indeed.

      Hopefully I will not give you any bad experiences!

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  12. Dear Phillip, Thank you for this blog. I have enjoyed reading the posts and have learnt much. Is there any way to get hold of your notes on Pauline Theology, Ephesians and the current series on 1 Tim?

    I live in Mirrabooka, Western Australia, and do not always have easy access to theological libraries or resources.

    Any resources you might care to share in digital format would be much appreciated. my two main areas of study has to do with election/predestination in Pauline epistles and the role of women as understood in the light of the historical/cultural context of Ephesus and teh household codes in the Pastorals.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience and knowledge.
    David

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    • Thank you for your kind words, David. I would be glad to share some material with you. The 1 Tim series is “ongoing,” I am teaching in chapter 6 this Sunday. Not much on Ephesians in a formal sense.

      Contact me via email and I can email you some files. I am plong42 at gmail dot com.

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  13. Phillip,

    Hi. Thanks for visiting my blog and following my posts. It is nice to meet you. I enjoyed your most recent article, I’m looking forward to more.

    God bless.

    Jennifer – I Give God All The Glory

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  14. Hey Phil! A good friend of mine, Brian Tice, shared your blog with me. I didn’t know that you two were acquainted with each other. The world keeps getting smaller! I was hoping to have been able to talk with you at the recent GBC Homecoming event. Unfortunately, something came up and I was unable to attend. I was wondering if GBC would ever consider adding a Jewish Studies program? What are your thoughts!?!

    Shalom to your home!

    michaEL Smith
    GBC ’89

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  15. Hi Mike, good to hear from you. Small world indeed, I knew Brian from teaching one semester at Cornerstone. I am not sure about a Jewish Studies program, but it is possible we could add a concentration to our existing Biblical Studies that was similar. It is an intriguing idea and might be “marketable,” sadly a factor in today’s world.

    If you stop by GBC sometime, make sure you visit my office, I would love to chat with you.

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  16. I am planning on reading through Acts in depth in 2015. Do you now of any 6 month plans to read through Acts?

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  17. I am not aware of one, I probably would just use the paragraph divisions in my favorite Bible (ESV/NIV). I think they work for the most part, but you can probably break the longer sections into two or three blocks. I know most Bibles make the shipwreck a long section, but it is hard to break that up since you want to get to the end of the story! Have you considered two or three read-throughs in the same period, in radically different translations?

    I am teaching Acts in the spring semester, so I too will be “slow reading” through the book,

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  18. Thank you again for the article about Paul and suffering en 2 Corinthians. I forgot to tell you. i’m an advocate of the simple our organic church. i’m doing now a seminar in the university about Christianity in the I-IV centuries. My subject is patronage. Do you know some articles or works about that considering specially the NT. books. Thanks in advance!!! JN

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  19. Thank you brother….Do you know Matthew Perri? He is writing me, and I don’t where is he in his doctrinal position. Thanks a lot…

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    • Perri is a guy who posts anti- Paul strangeness anytime I post something about Paul. He does this on several blogs that discuss Pauline theology, in fact.

      Is he contacting you outside of the blog? Tell him you are not interested if you want and he should stop.

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  20. Acts is such a fantastic and fascinating account. It was my first book to preach through in my first (current!) pastorate. Thank you for posting book reviews here. I will try to use you as a resource.

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  21. Your “Bridegroom” book’s sub-title indicates you do not deal with John’s Gospel. Yet the wedding at Cana mentions providing wine during “Christ’s hour.” At the eschatological feast Christ will provide the wine and this cryptic statement to His mother, whom He calls “woman” (Gen. 3.15) refers to it. I have not seen anyone who proposes this but, never-the-less, I believe is the reference. Do you see it as valid?

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    • Hello Alex, this is a great observation and I think there is certainly something to what you are saying. When I teach the Gospel of John I argue the Wedding at Cana is an announcement that the bridegroom of Israel (ie, God) has finally returned and he is re-gathering Israel to himself.

      Jesus the Bridegroom was my dissertation, so I had to delimit the study (it was already too long). I chose to set aside the Johannine literature entirely, although there were a few professors who wanted me to include Revelation. I had fantasized about writing a few more chapters and create a biblical theology of the bridegroom metaphor, but there are a couple of books like that out there now, and a good article, Ruben Zimmermann, “Nuptial imagery in the Revelation of John.” Biblica 84, no. 2 (2003): 153-183.

      As for John, what got me interested in the issue was a monograph on the bridegroom in John by Jocelyn McWhirter, The Bridegroom Messiah and the People of God: Marriage in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). She does not say quite what you do here, but it is on the same track.

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  22. Hi Phillip,
    Do plan a study on the date of Christ’s crucifixion? You mentioned you believe it was 33 C.E. Do you know good sources which deal with dating the event? Do you add a year for “0” between B.C.E. and C.E.? I come up with 34 C.E. by my figures but it seems a bit late. Usually I see between 27- 33 C.E. from studies. Do you have another contact address?

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    • I had not planned on doing any chronology posts any time soon, but I might work on that for later in the spring. I do not believe there is a “zero year” since CE is equivalent to AD, “year of our Lord.” If you added a year, then the CE would be one higher than AD and cause all of western lit to be off one year.

      If I recall correctly, the two main suggested dates for the crucifixion are 30 and 33, based on lunar cycles and Caiaphas as High Priest. The birth of Jesus as to be before 4-5 B.C., since the death of Herod is fairly well fixed.

      This generates a problem since Luke says Jesus was about thirty when he started his ministry, and most people think he had a three year ministry. This means he has to start his ministry about 29 or 30 to be executed in spring of 33; making him closer to forty when he is crucified. The earlier date for the crucifixion helps a little with the problem, but how close to thirty years old is “about thirty”?

      The three-year ministry starting at age thirty is a common assumption (based on priests beginning their ministry at thirty, but Jesus could have been much longer. Nothing in the Gospels prevents, and it helps with the chronology a bit.

      You can contact me at (plong at gbcol dot edu). I will delete this line once you get it so I am not mercilessly spammed.

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  23. Hi Phillip!

    I wish to extend an invitation to my new blog, First Objection. Basically, my blog is a place for my philosophical explorations of St. Paul’s letters, and Aquinas’ Summa. It is also a challenge to both works to re-establish my faith in God, hence the title-My First Objection to which Aquinas would reply to in his stylistic way. Your voice on my blog would be wonderful! Please consider following me!

    Pax,
    Dan

    firstobjection.wordpress.com

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  24. Hi, I wish to use a picture of the lone, lost sheep on the road, for a poster in a seminary (to encourage seminarians to grow in their journey). May I have your kind permission to use it, please? Thank you very much.

    Liked by 1 person

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