Mary the Mother of God
The early Church in the Acts of the Apostles and in their writings
Acts Ist Period III - IV to conclusion

2nd mission
Acts 2nd Period  2nd Journey
Galaatians Acts  Romans
Acts St Paul Arrest Trial


Historical Summary (62-117 AD

St Paul’s Pastoral Letters
1 Prologue 2 Ascension
of Jesus
3 Matthias
elected  Apostle
4 Pentecost
5 Peter's speech 6 First Christian community
7 The cure of a cripple 8 Peter's speech
in the Temple
9 Peter and John at the Sanhedrim
10  prayer of the persecuted community 11 Brotherly love of the first Christians 12  Ananias and Sapphira deceit
13 Growth of the Christian community
14 The Apostles are arrested and brought before the Sanhedrim
15 Intervention by Gamaliel
16 Election of the seven deacons 17 Stephen on trial before the Sanhedri 18 Stephen's speech
19 Martyrdom of Stephen Jesus looked down and PROBABLY wrote 3 words as each man stepped forward to stone an adultress: what were they? Answer Here
who wrote
the 1st Gospel
who wrote  3rd Gospel
and acts  Answer
Who were Jesus'
3special friends
When was the Acts written
How many letters
did St Paul write
It is not for you to know times or seasons
To purchase This Book  link here: Saint Paul Publications
Text of the Acts and passages from the apostolic letters and the Apocalypse
 arranged and commented on by Monsignor Enrico Galbiati with the voluntary workers of "MIMEP".

Enrico Galbiati
Paolo Acquistapace
Angelo Albani
Masimo Astrua
of the MIMEP Association
Photographs by Paolo Acquistapace
Translated by Kent White

Galbiati, Enrico  Titles Include:
The Early Church in Acts of the Apostles (1979)

History of Salvation in Old Testament (1979)

 The Gospel of Jesus (1979)

Original Title
Copyright 1972 by MIMEP , pessano, Italy
English edition produced in collaboration
with St Paul Publications, Slough, England
and copyrghted 1973 by Istituto S. Gaetano, Vicenzq Italy
Introductions and notes translated by Kent White
The Bible text in this publication is from the
Revised Standard Version of the Bible - Catholic Edition,
copyrighted 1965 and 1966 by the
Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission.
Imprimatur: + Aloysius Oldani Pro-Vic. Gen.
In Curia Arch Mediolani die 5-V-1972
Printed in Italy by Scuola Grafica, Istituto San Gaetano, Vicenza.

I. Environment
The Diaspora
Spread of Christianity
II.  The  People
The Life of
 Saint Pau
Races and Religions
III St Luke  author 63-65 AD
III   The Books
IV.  Expansion of Christianity 3 stages  I. Birth of The Church
Ascension of Jesus
Pentecost to Persecution under Agrippa 1 II. First Persecution
Who was last Apostle
to leave Jesus  night of his arrest ?
Who write the Acts of the Apostles Answer
What was Moloch and Where?  Answer Who made the longest and most important speech in the Acts ? Answ

The new testament is that part of the written Revelation (i.e. the Bible) which covers the historical period from the birth of Jesus Christ till the death of St John, the last of the Apostles, at the end of the first century.  It is called the New Testament because it presents to mankind the 'New Covenant' (Testament here means Covenant) offered by God to men through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.  Its contents are:
The Gospels, the personal teaching of Jesus, handed down by the Evangelists,
The Acts (or History) of the Apostles, written by St Luke,
The Apostles' Letters written by them to various Christian communities,
The Apocalypse, a revelation about the future of the Church and the world, addressed by St John the Apostle to the churches of Asia Minor.

    The setting in which the Apostles begin the preaching of the Gospel is the Roman Empire, i.e. the Mediterranean Basin.  Their work begins about the year 30 A.D. and lasts till the early years of the second century, that is from the Emperor Tiberius (14-37) to Trajan (98-117).
    In the first century of the Christian era the Roman Empire was at the height of its splendour and prosperity and was also beginning to reach its greatest territorial expansion.  Yet that vast Empire, politically Roman, was culturally Greek.  In Rome itself many people no longer spoke Latin but Greek, the international language of the time.

      Palestine, annexed to the Province of Syria, was a part of the Roman Empire, but enjoyed a special administration under Herod and his successors, and the Roman Procurators.
      A great network of roads joined all the most important places with each other and with Rome.  This network made travel easy and so aided the commercial and cultural development of the peoples.

14 AD
Tiberius Caesar succeeded Augustus, who had adopted, him as a son, and ruler of the Empire.
Crucifixion of Christ and birth of the Church occurred in last years of his reign.
37 AD
His grandson Caligula who, towards the end of his reign, indulged in acts of folly and ferocity succeeded him:
First of the emperors to claim divine honors for himself.
41 AD
After him came Claudius, victim of corruption in his court. His edict 48-50 banished Christians from Rome.
54 AD Nero
Emperor at 17, blotted his record quite soon with dreadful crimes blaming Christians for burning Rome.
In persecution, which followed Apostles Peter, and Paul perished.
68 AD
After Nero in one Year, the provincial armies chose 4 emperors: Galba, Otto, Vitellius and Vespasian.
68 AD
Soldiers besieging Jerusalem in the campaign against rebellious Jews acclaimed Vespasian. He was an emperor of simple and honest habits. Jerusalem was razed to the ground by Roman armies under command of his son Titus.
79 AD
Titus, a wise rule called ‘darling of the human race’ by the Roman historian Suetonius succeeded Vespasian.
96 AD
     Under Domitian bloody persecutions against Christians resumed.
98 – 117 AD
      Nerva was wise and gentle.
      Under Trajian the Empire reached its greatest territorial expansion.
In his reign, the historical cycle of written Revelation ended, with the death of St John the Evangelist.
Galba Otto Vitellius  Vespasian Trajan
Alexander the Great
   The best men of Greece were thus scattered throughout the kingdoms of Asia Minor, the Middle East and Egypt, bringing a new impetus to the cultures and economic activities of the vast empire.  The whole eastern basin of the Mediterranean saw the flowering of a new civilization which had common features in as much as each people kept to the same Greek culture as if to a pattern.
Page 20
    This was characterized by the pursuit of art and by a special interest in philosophical reflexion, particularly with regard to moral and religious problems.  This civilization was appropriately called Hellenistic.

  In 144 B.C. the Romans conquered Greece, but the civilization and culture of the vanquished country conquered the conquerors.  It was thus that Hellenistic civilization was extended to Rome itself and illuminated also those western regions which were under Roman rule.
  Political unification favoured religious unification also, bringing about the 'mingling' of the various cults, a phenomenon which was given the name of 'Syncretism'. The gods and rituals of the different peoples became confused or integrated by them into a single national religion.  For example, the Greek Zeus was identified with the Roman Jove (Jupiter) and the Egyptian Amon; Hera became Juno, Aphrodite corresponded to Venus... But, with the coming of Hellenism, religion acquired a more intimate and profound character also: men felt more intensely the problems of their moral life and their fate after death; and their minds were therefore prepared to welcome the teaching of Jesus, propagated by the Apostles.
Page 21

Pagan Divinities mentioned
        The long series of catastrophes, which had afflicted Palestine for several centuries before Christ, had induced many Hebrews (also called 'Jews') to emigrate. At the beginning of the Christian era they were already to be found scattered throughout the Greco-Roman world in great numbers.  They all continued to regard Jerusalem as their true home and their only religious centre.
Page 24
  In the most important cities that they reached they organized communities centered in the synagogue, in which the faith of their fathers kept alive their consciousness of belonging to the people of God’s abundant promises.
    This historical phenomenon, which took many Hebrews far from their native land, with which they still maintained ethnic and religious bonds, was called the 'Diaspora' from a Greek word meaning 'dissemination'.

   It was to these communities of the Diaspora that the Apostles' preaching was first directed.  Many Jews accepted the new teaching and became Disciples of Christ, at the cost of being renounced by the Jewish community and expelled from the synagogue.  So were born the first Christian communities, which were at once opened to Gentiles also.  In these very early communities good relations between converted pagans and Jews were disturbed by the fact that, in the minds of many, it was not yet clear whether or not Judaism was an obligatory gateway into Christianity.  That problem was to be resolved at the first Apostolic Council of Jerusalem (see no. 42).
There is something marvelous about the rapidity of the spread of Christianity, from the historical point of view also.  It was certainly assisted by particular historical circumstances like the 'pax romana', the relative ease of communications, the Diaspora or the Jews and the inhuman state of the slaves and the poor to whom the 'Good News' was addressed.  Against this there were very great obstacles such as divergent traditions, ancient social divisions and profound differences on the cultural level.  To this was added the decline in religious beliefs which, in the great cities, had deteriorated considerably in spite of all this, the Roman historian Tacitus tells us, only thirty years after the death of Christ, that Nero put to death 'an enormous number of Christians'.
Simon Peter
Jesus changed the name of Simon, a native of Bethsaida on the Lake of Galilee, to Peter.  The Lord was often his guest when he was in Capernaum.  After Pentecost, by command of Jesus himself, he became the visible head of the new community.  From Jerusalem he moved to Antioch, and thence to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom under Nero about 67 A.D.
Page 26
He is the only Apostle who has today a direct successor, the Pope.  The other apostles are instead succeeded by the college of bishops en bloc.
John the Evangelist, of Galilean origin, was in his early days a disciple of John the Baptist, as were Andrew and Philip.  With them he joined Jesus' followers and he was always specially attached to the Master.  In the Acts he, Peter and James are described as 'pillars of the Church'.  According to an old tradition, when he left Jerusalem he preached Christianity in Asia Minor and became head of the church in Ephesus.  Exiled to Patmos, he there wrote the Apocalypse (see p. 391).  He also wrote the fourth Gospel and three Letters (see p. 381).  He died at a great age at Ephesus probably in 104 A.D.
Page 27

James, called the Great, was the brother of John the Evangelist and one of Jesus' three special friends (the others were Peter and John).  He was the first of the Apostles to suffer martyrdom and died under Agrippa I who had him beheaded in 42 A.D. St. Mary Salome One of the “Three Marys” who served Christ 1st century
She was the mother of St. James the Great and St. John, and was the wife of Zebedee. Mary Salome witnessed the Crucifixion and was among the women who were at the burial place on the day of the Resurrection.
Andrew, a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, was a fisherman with Simon Peter his brother.  Originally a disciple of John the Baptist, it was he who brought his brother to Jesus.  After the dispersal of the Apostles he preached the Gospel in Asia Minor and in Scythia, the region between the Danube and the Don.  He went thence to Achaia (i.e. the Pelopennese) where he suffered martyrdom on the cross at Patras.
Philip who also came from Bethsaida was a disciple of John the Baptist and one of the first to be called by Jesus.  For the period after Pentecost our only source of information is tradition, according to which he preached in Asia Minor and was possibly crucified at Ephesus at the age of about 87.
Thomas called Didymus (the Twin) also came from Galilee.  His early disbelief in the Resurrection of Jesus is what is best remembered about him.  We have very uncertain information about him.  We have very uncertain information about the field of his apostolate after Pentecost.  A fairly reliable tradition assigns to him the East:
Page 28
Syria, Persia and India, where he seems to have suffered martyrdom and where the oldest Christian community, the Syro-Malabar church, venerates his tomb.
Bartholomew.  We find his name only in the lists of Apostles in the Gospels and the Acts.  He was a native of Cana in Galilee and in St John's Gospel he is called Nathanael (see The Gospel of Jesus p. 81 for the account of his call).  {Inserted here:  Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus 'of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?  You shall see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
After Pentecost tradition says that he made very long missionary journeys and was martyred in Armenia.

Matthew, a tax-contractor in Capernaum, was called by Jesus to be his apostle (see Gospel of Jesus, p. 101).
{Inserted Here: Jesus calls Matthew to be an apostle Mt. 9, 9-13 Mk. 2, 13-17, Lk. 5, 27-32; He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gatehed about him, and he taught them. Matthew was a 'publican' (that is, a tax collector): and, before following our Lord, he invited him to dinner in his house.  Later he became an Apostle and wrote the first Gospel. And as he passed on, he was Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
After Pentecost Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jews in Palestine, and wrote for them the first of the four Gospels, in Aramaic.  He also evangelized other countries, among which was probably Abyssinia.

James, called the Less and also the 'brother' (i.e. cousin) of Jesus, is named among the 'pillars of the Church' at Jerusalem, as are Peter and John.  He was later the 'Head', that is the Bishop, of the Jerusalem Church and is the author of a Letter (see page 357).  His apostolate was directed mainly towards the converted Jews and he was martyred under the High Priest Hanan II in 62.
Page 28
Simon called the Canaanite or the Zealot.  About him we know very little, but he is often coupled with Judas Thaddaeus in the Liturgy.  For the time after Pentecost, tradition is very confused and uncertain about where he exercised his apostolate.  He may be the same Simon, related to Jesus, who presided over the church in Jerusalem after James the Less.
Judas Thaddaeus, brother of James the Less, is not often mentioned.  He is the author of the Letter of Jude among the New Testament writings.  He seems to have preached the Gospel in Palestine and the neighboring regions and finally to have suffered martyrdom near the present Beirut.
Matthias was a disciple of the Lord and, after the Ascension, was chosen by the Eleven to be an apostle in the place of Judas the traitor (see page 51).  He preached the Gospel in Palestine and then went to Abyssinia.  According to another ancient tradition he suffered martyrdom by stoning, in Palestine itself.
Page 29

To the list of the Twelve Apostles we add other people who played a prominent part n early Christianity.
Paul of Tarsus, called the 'Apostle of the Gentiles' because of his tireless and very extensive missionary activity.   He did not know the Lord Jesus personaly, and it seems that this may be the reaon why St Luke in the Acts never gives him the title 'Apostle' which he reserves to the Twelve.  Paul makes good his claim to this title since he received his call from Jesus himself when the latter appeared to him on the Damascus road (see no. 24).  In the following pages we shall relate the outstanding events of his life.
Luke, author of the third Gospel and the acts (see page 37).

The Life of Saint Paul
           His double name Saul-Paul is derived from the contemporary custom of coupling with the Jewish name another belonging to the Graeco-Roman milieu.
    Paul was born at Tarsus between 5 and 10 AD and possessed Roman citizenship. (TARSUS [Tarsus], city (1990 pop. 191,333), S Turkey, in Cilicia, on the Tarsus (anc. Cydnus) River, near the Mediterranean Sea. It is an agricultural trade center; copper, zinc, chromium, and coal are mined in the region. Ancient Tarsus, first mentioned in the 8th cent. BC was the capital of Cilicia and one of the most important cities of Asia Minor. It reached the height of its prosperity and cultural achievement under Roman rule. The city was destroyed by the Arabs c. AD 660 and was rebuilt by them in the 780s. The Ottoman Turks captured it in 1515.)
At home he received a very strict Jewish upbringing, but life in Tarsus opened his mind to wider horizons. At Jerusalem he attended the rabbinical school of the Pharisee Gamaliel, and was so faithful a disciple that he won the confidence of the Jewish authorities, who eventually authorized him to suppress the new Christian sect.  There is no record of his having met Jesus.
           The Acts of the Apostles tell us about Paul from his conversion until his captivity in Rome, dwelling much on his three apostolic journeys and the voyage which took him, after a terrible shipwreck, to the capital of the Empire; the book ends its story with Paul a prisoner in Rome.  He was freed, perhaps by an act of Clemency on the part of the Emperor Nero, and seems then to have visited Spain.  But later he was arrested for the second time, at Troas, and was again taken to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom in about 67.  Tradition indicates the place called “Aquae Salviae”, where the Basilica of the Tre Fontane now stands, as the place where he was beheaded.

John Mark is the author of the second Gospel.  His proper Jewish name, John, was almost always supplanted by the Greek name, Mark.  Very probably, while still a boy he knew our Lord personally (see 'Gospel of Jesus', p. 322 Here:  Jesus is arrested -- ..."...this is your hour, and the power of darkness."  And they all forsook him, and fled.  And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body, and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.  This incident, mentioned by St Mark alone, suggests a personal memory:  the evangelist may have been this very boy.).
     From the account in the Acts we know that his house in Jerusalem had become the meeting-place of the Christians.  He later joined the Apostles and was first with Paul and then with Peter, with whom, in Rome he wrote his Gospel in Greek for Gentile converts.  Tradition speaks of him next as founder of the Church in Alexandria in Egypt, where he is said to have suffered martyrdom.  In 828 A.D. Venetian merchants took his remains to Venice.

Barnabas, of Cypriot origin, is presented in the Acts as a person of primary importance next to the Twelve, first in Jerusalem and then in Antioch.  His special merit was to have introduced Paul to the apostolate, in which he was also his companion for a time.  When he left Paul, tradition has it that he continued his apostolate in Cyprus and that he suffered martyrdom there in the city of Salamis.
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Races and Religions

Israelites, that is descendants of Israel, more often called Jacob, is the name by which those belong­ing to the people of God called themselves.  Their distinguishing marks were: descent from Abraham (through Isaac and Jacob), circumcision, and obedi­ence to the religious Law given by Moses.
Hebrews is the name by which other peoples called the Israelites and which they them­selves used in their relations with others.
Hebrews, as opposed to Hellenists, indicated the Hebrew population which, having remained in Palestine, spoke Hebrew or, more usually, Palestinian Aramaic.
Jews originally meant the Hebrews who lived in Judea; so in the Gospel the Jews are sometimes distinguished from the Galileans.
P. 34
Jews is normally the synonym for Israelites, because after the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C. the only Israelites who survived were those of the kingdom of Judah, and mainly of the tribe of Judah.  In this more general sense the term 'Jew' is contrasted with Proselytes (who were not Hebrews by race), Samaritans and Gentiles.
Hellenists was the name given to those Israelites who were born in the Diaspora, i.e. the Hebrew communities scattered in the cities of the Graeco-Roman world. They spoke Greek (hence their name) even if they returned to live in the land of their fathers and had their own synagogues in Jerusalem, where the Bible was read in Greek. Hellenists who became Christians (like St Paul) played the principal part in bring­ing pagans to the Gospel.
Proselytes were pagans converted to the Hebrew religion; they were not of Hebrew origin (i.e. descend­ed from Abraham) but accepted circumcision, and so were on an equal footing with the Israelites.  Sympathizers with Hebrew monotheism who did not take the decisive step of accepting circum­cision were called 'Godfearers' or 'Worshippers' of God (Acts 10,2-22; 13,16-26; 13,43-50; 17,4-17).
Samaritans, i.e. inhabitants of the region of Samaria, were said to be the descendants of Israelites of the kingdom of Israel who, after the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C. and the subsequent deportation, mingled with foreign populations brought in by the Assyrians. They were circumcised and honored the Pentateuch as Divine Law but Jews considered them foreigners (by reason of their mixed descent) and heretics.
Gentiles, that are belonging to the Nations (gentes; Greek ethne; Hebrew goyim), were all the non­-Israelites and considered unclean. We often translate this word as 'pagans' but it is to be noted that pagans converted to Christianity, without becoming proselytes first, were considered to be in the category of 'Gentiles' (Rom. 11,13; 15,27; 16,4; Gal. 2,12-14 ­Ephes. 3,1).
The Christians in the primitive Church called each other Brethren and Saints (Acts 1,15; 9,30; 10,23; 11,29 ff.; 9,13-32; etc.). The term 'Christian', first used in Antioch (Acts 11,28), was not adopted by the Christians themselves, but by others (Acts 26,28) perhaps some­what sarcastically (1 Pet. 4,17).


Its author was St Luke who wrote the third Gospel

The book called the Acts of the Apostles is a natural sequel to the third Gospel.  It does not set out to give us a biography of Peter and Paul so much as the history of the Early Church as, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, it gradually expanded from Jerusalem into the whole of the then known world.

Its author was St Luke who wrote the third Gospel.  He was a convert from paganism, coming from the Hellenistic environment of Antioch, and became a faithful fellow-worker with St Paul.

In writing both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles he had, as he himself affirms recourse to authentic sources or to facts and experiences of which he had been an eyewitness.  He also collected direct evidence from others, first from the Apostles and Elders who had remained in Jerusalem, and later from the testimony and accounts given by St Paul and his companions.  Luke himself, as has already been said, was St Paul's companion on some of his jour­neys, and for this reason he uses the first person plural in some parts of the book (the 'we-sec­tions', see nos.45-46, 65-69, 101 and 112-115).

Time of writing
   The abrupt ending of the book with St Paul's captivity in Rome in the year 63 or 64, and without any reference to the outcome of the trial, leads us to suppose that it was finished shortly afterwards.
Place of writing
    It was, most probably, written on various occasions and finished in Rome during St Paul's first cap­tivity.
P. 37

St Paul wrote fourteen Letters to the first churches, which he himself founded, and wrote them for particular reasons: they were generally answers to queries of a spiritual or practical nature.  The letters to the Romans and to the Hebrews, whose contents are specifically doctrinal, are exceptions to this rule.  The style is that which was customary at the time; at the beginning were the author's name followed by that of the recipients to whom was addressed a greeting, followed by thanksgiving to God.  At the end St Paul was wont to send a special greeting addressed to some of the more distinguished people involved. Then, since a scribe wrote the Letters from dictation, St Paul added a message in his own hand.  This ending is characteristic of the Letter to the Galatians and shows that St Paul, accustomed to manual work, wrote in very large script.

The letters of the other Apostles followed very much the same pattern, though each writer expresses his own personal characteristic in matter and style.
See the introductions to the individual letters in the text.
Parchment was very suitable for writing but it very expensive. It consisted of tanned goat- or lambskin strips, joined together, when rolled up, formed the 'volume' or 'scroll'. Later, scribes preferred to trim the parchment in double sheets and sew them in the form of a 'codex', like a modern book. Codices of the fourth century contain the whole Bible.
Papyrus was cheaper but less easy to use. It was made of thin sheets of papyrus bark pressed one upon the other with the veining perpendicular. Many papyri found in Egypt, where the dry climate is favorable to their preservation, contain fragments, and even very considerable extracts, from the New Testament.
Generally the Apostles used cheaper material and employed a 'scribe' who, sitting on the ground, held the scroll or sheet with his left hand propped on his knee, while with his right he wrote with a pointed reed called a 'calamus'.
The time spent in writing was clearly very considerable.

Parchment was very suitable for writing but it was very expensive.  It consisted of strips of tanned goat- or lambskin, joined together, which, when rolled up, formed the 'volume' or 'scroll'.  Later, scribes preferred to trim the parchment in double sheets and sew them in the form of a 'codex', like a modern book.  Codices of the fourth century contain the whole Bible.

Papyrus was cheaper but less easy to use.  It was made of thin sheets of papyrus bark pressed one upon the other with the veining perpendicular.  Many papyri found in Egypt, where the dry climate is favorable to their Preservation, contain fragments, and even very considerable extracts, from the New Testament.

Generally the Apostles used cheaper material and employed a 'scribe' who, sitting on the ground, held the scroll or sheet with his left hand propped on his knee, while with his right he wrote with a pointed reed called a 'calamus'.

The time spent in writing was clearly very considerable.
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The narrative of the Acts presents us with the history of the early Church and the proclamation of the universality of salvation. Diffusion of the new faith took place under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and had at its focal point the Figure of Christ and the fact of his resurrection.

First stage - Jewish-Christian period, about 30-40 A.D.
Attempt to break with traditional Jewish religion.
At Pentecost: proclamation of the new teaching to the Jews and proselytes coming from all the countries of the then known world and gathered together in Jerusalem for the Jewish Festival.
Spread of Christianity in the surrounding regions (Judea and Samaria).
Beginning and progress of missionary work among the pagans Mission of Peter at Caesarea, affirming breakdown of the barrier between pagans and Jews in the face of the Christian appeal.
Second stage - Pagan-Christian period (about 40-60 A.D.}
After the persecution of the new religion in Jerusalem, Antioch took its place, becoming the seat of Saint Peter and the new center for spread of Christianity.
In the second part of the book of the Acts Paul becomes the central figure.  It was from Antioch that he set out on all his journeys, mainly with the object of the conversion of the pagans. Peter moved to Rome about 55-60 and Paul arrived there in the spring of 61.

Third stage - Gradual advance of Christianity towards Rome and among the pagans in the Empire, from 60 A.D. onwards.
In this third stage the Gospel was offered chiefly to the pagans on completely equal terms with the Jews. The Jewish-Christian community in Jerusalem, opposed by official Judaism and tied to a conservatism of long tradition, lost importance in the work of evangelization.
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First Period

UNDER AGRIPPA 1 {followed death of Nero} (30-44 A.D.)

I. The birth of the Church

1 Prologue
  (Acts 1, 1-2)

1 In the first book, (1) O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

 (1)       St Luke, following the custom of the day, addresses himself to an imaginary reader to tell him the story of the spread of the Christian message.  He presents this book as a sequel to his Gospel.
2 The ascension of Jesus
         (Acts 1, 3-14)
3 To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, 5 for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them,
"It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth."
P. 47

9 And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey (1) away; 13 and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
 (1)       This indicates the length of the journey, which a Jew might make, on a feast-day (the Sabbath) without violating the precept of rest on the feast-day.  It corresponds to a little less than a kilometre.
The history of the Apostles, which begins with the commission specially entrusted to them by Jesus on his last appearance, is the theme of the book of the Acts and the justification of the whole Christian movement.

In it is contained or foreshadowed certain principles that remain fixed in the development of the early Church. Jesus commanded his apostles to be his witnesses because they had seen him.  Their witness, however, must not be founded only on the human fact of having seen, but they must wait in the city for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was to clothe them with power.  Thus Pentecost was to be the only true protagonist not only for the first Pentecost but also for all the manifestations of Christian activity; it is to him that the early Church constantly refers and he who truly guides it.  The Apostles were appointed as witnesses and such a function was to remain forever an essential element in the description of an apostle.  This very characteristic, of being a witness, causes St Luke in the book of the Acts to give the title of Apostle to none but the Twelve, not even to St Paul.

      Finally, the universal proclamation of the Gospel was foretold. The Lord predicted the stages by which Christianity would spread. In fact, the Gospel, in the course of the Acts was first proclaimed to orthodox Jewry in Jerusalem and Judea; the second stage was in Samaria where Jews who were considered heretical lived (see Old Testament, no. 142); finally it was announced to everybody, beyond the narrow confines of religious and legalistic Judaism.  This line of approach, enjoined by Jesus, is that which appears constantly to have been followed by the Apostles (see St Paul's method in the Jewish communities of the Diaspora).

3 Matthias is elected to the number of the Apostles
 (Acts 1, 15-26)
P.  51

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 "Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry. 18(Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.  19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 For it is written in the Book of Psalms,) (1)
          'Let his habitation become desolate,
    and let there be no one to live in it';
    and 'His office let another take.'

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us-one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." 23 And they put forward two; Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast 25 chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place."
26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.

(1) See Psalms 69,26 and 109,8.

    The reality and significance of the Church was slowly revealed and it is here shown as truly founded on the Twelve Witnesses of Jesus. Peter appears among them as head of the 'college'. The essential qualification emphasized here is that of having witnessed; The Apostle must have personally seen Jesus' acts and heard his words, to be a true witness of him. The special mention of Jesus' resurrection was due to the fact that by this miracle Jesus himself was declared God's Envoy: to be a witness of his resurrection was therefore to be a witness of the truth of his mission.
       The idea of the Church's being founded on the Twelve is not further developed in the Acts, in fact St Luke ends by losing sight of the others and confining himself to Peter and John in the first part and to St Paul afterwards. The newly elected Matthias is not mentioned again in the book. 

P.  53

The reason for this is the purpose that inspired St Luke in writing these 'Acts of the Apostles'.  That purpose was certainly neither to provide us with a biography of the Apostles nor with a history of the whole of the early Church, but to show us how the Christian witness continued, until it reached the centre of the then known world, Rome (see Introduction, p. 14).

4 Pentecost
     (Acts 2, 1-13)
1 When the day of Pentecost (1) had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
  5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and wondered, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God."
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others mocking said, "They are filled with new wine."

(1)Pentecost means 'fiftieth day' (after Easter). During this feast the first loaves of bread made with corn of the new harvest are offered to God.
The miracle of Pentecost is the foundation of the new community. It fulfils what Jesus foretold at his Ascension and becomes the starting point of the Christian Church.
P. 55
      The descent of the Holy Spirit is presented by St Luke as the actual birth of the Church, which, after this event, can never be considered a purely human institution.  The Apostles become the tools of the Holy Spirit and act under his guidance.  He is the new element, which enters the earliest community as its principle of life, and as such He will remain throughout the development of the book of the Acts.  St Luke will continue to show us the Church as directly inspired by the Holy Spirit in the interior life of the community (see the episode of Ananias and Sapphira, no. 12) in the choice of the direction in which it is to expand (see the episode of Cornelius, no. 30, in which the Holy Spirit really seems to anticipate the Church) and above all, in the determination of the line of conduct to be followed in the face of the difficulties which are to arise from time to time (see the Council of Jerusalem, no. 42).
     In the episode of Pentecost there was further affirmation, and in a manner that was solemn even in its literary form, of the universal scope of the Christian message.  St Luke expresses this with a list of peoples awaiting its announcement as they attended the festival.  The list is drawn up in a vaguely geographical order from Asia Minor to the Mediterranean, with reference to the languages that the people spoke.  It is to be noted that the foreigners present were all Jews of the Diaspora or at least proselytizes:  we are still, that is to say, in the area of Orthodox Judaism.

5 Peter's speech
 (Acts 2, 14-41)
       14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them,"Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour (1) of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon-all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and our old men shall dream dreams;
 18 yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day.
21  And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' (2)

          22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves-  23 know this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
        'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that
    I may not be shaken;

          26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover
     my flesh will dwell in hope.

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          27 For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy
       One see corruption.

          28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou wilt make me
       full of gladness -with thy presence.' (3)

     29 “Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
          'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand,
       35 till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet. (4)
    36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"  38 And Peter said to them,   "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." 40 And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

(1)        The 'third' hour of the morning corresponds to nine o'clock.
(2)        See Joel 3,1-5. (3) Psalm 15,8-11. (4) Psalm 109,1.

       The speeches recorded for us by St Luke all follow an almost uniform plan. They represent the public proclamation of the Christian message, and show the plan of the primitive teaching.
P.  59
The basis of the proclamation to the Jews is clearly the Old Testament seen in its Messianic perspective. The events of the life of Christ and the Church are looked at in the light of texts of the Old Testament that are quoted to show the sense in which God means them to be understood in the actual situation. This demonstrates clearly that individual events are included in the great Event of the history of salvation, interpreted in the light of Holy Scripture.  Now at last the Messianic Age has been reached and the whole of the Old Covenant has been superseded.  Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah in whom all the prophecies are fulfilled is risen, whom the Sanhedrim has condemned to death, and in him is realized the Divine plan of universal salvation.  We must now accept his message and be baptized in his name in order to be saved.
6 The first Christian community
     (Acts 2, 42-47)
     42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
     43 And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. (1) 46 And day-by-day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
(1)        Their free and voluntary sharing of goods was a consequence of their faith in and love for the Lord, and of their hope for the eternal blessings of the Kingdom, of God.
II.  The first persecutions and the martyrdom of St Stephen
Effects of the first persecution

     As we have seen the new Christian community lived in the setting of Orthodox Judaism, and was judged by the religious authorities as one of its many sects (see page 115, the first Church in Jerusalem.). Even in the last chapter of the Acts the Jews continue to call the new community a 'sect' (see no, 107).
      The strongest reaction came from the priestly aristocracy, the sect of the Sadducees, which had earlier been responsible for the condemnation of Jesus and therefore felt itself directly accused by the Apostles' preaching.  Furthermore the Sadducees denied the possibility of resurrection (see the 'Gospel of Jesus', pp. 23 & 272), so the defenders of Jewish orthodoxy intervened, in the first instance with threats, then with arrests and punishments.
Their reaction had two effects on the new community.  First of all, it gave it an opportunity of explaining its own teaching more thoroughly and pointing out more and more clearly its difference from Judaism.This clarification specialty affected the mind of official Judaism, which from a vague opinion about the new movement, came, from Peter's speeches and the interrogations of those arrested, to have a more exact knowledge of the significance of what the new community affirmed.
        The second effect of the persecution was to drive the first believers to leave Jerusalem and so to carry Jesus' message to other people also, first in Judea and then in Samaria.

7 The cure of a cripple
         (Acts 3, 1-10)
         1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. (1) 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. 
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  3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, "Look at us." 5 And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them.  6 But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.  9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
(1)  At the 'ninth' hour (three o'clock in the afternoon) the evening sacrifice was offered in the Temple; the offering of incense followed this during the prayer of the people and by the great priestly blessing.  The 'Beautiful' Gate gave access from the east to the first Temple Court properly so called (the Court of the Women).  It was thus named because of its ornamentation in gold, silver and bronze.
8 Peter's speech In the Temple
     (Acts 3, 11-26)
       11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's, astounded. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.  14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. 
P.  63
To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
  17 And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled.  19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. 22 Moses said, 'The Lord God will raise up - for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up.  You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul that does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.' (1) 24 And all the prophets who have spoken from Samuel and those who came afterwards, also proclaimed these days. 24 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God gave to your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your posterity shall all the families of the earth be blessed.' (2) 26 God having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

(1) Deuteronomy 18,18-19. (2) Genesis 22,18.

9 Peter and John before the Sanhedrim
        (Acts 4, 1-22)
  1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees (1) came upon them, 2 annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the morrow, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
P. 65
  5 On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, 10 be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, (2) but which has become the head of the corner. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
    13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, "What shall we do with these men?  For that a notable sign has been performed through them is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any one in this name." 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people; for all men praised God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
(1)  The Sadducees formed a genuine political party composed mainly of aristocrats and priests. They did not admit any oral traditions, and of the written law kept only the Pentateuch, which, in their opinion, permitted them even to deny the resurrection of the dead.
 (2)       Psalm 117, 2.
P.  67

10 The prayer of the persecuted community
     (Acts 4, 23-31)
     23  When they were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit,
    Why did the Gentiles rage,
    and the peoples imagine vain things?
   26  The kings of the earth set themselves in array,
    and the rulers were gathered together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed. (1)
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place.
29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, 30 while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus."
31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
(1)        Psalm 2,1-2.

11 Brotherly love of the first Christians
 (Acts 4, 32-37)
   32 Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. 
P.  68
33 And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet; 35 and distribution was made to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

12 The deceit of Ananias and Sapphira
       (Acts 5, 1-11)
   1 But a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles' feet.  3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?   4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?  How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart?  You have not lied to men but to God." 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died.  And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
   7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much."
9 But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?  Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out."  10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and died.  When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.

13 Growth of the Christian community
        (Acts 5, 12-16)
   12  Now many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. (1) 13  None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honour. 14  And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women, 15  so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.  16  The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
(1)        The porch called 'Solomon's' adorned the eastern side of the great esplanade of the Temple.  It overlooked the valley of the Kedron.
P. 71

14 The Apostles are arrested and brought before the Sanhedrim
   (Acts 5, 17-33)
  17 But the high priest rose up and all who were with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, 20 "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and taught.  
  Now the high priest came and those who were with him and called together the council and all the senate of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, and they returned and reported, 23 "We found the prison securely locked and the sentries standing at the doors, but when we opened it we found no one inside." 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were much perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And some one came and told them, "The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
   27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us."  29 But Peter and the apostles answered, 
"We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

15 Intervention by Gamaliel
       (Acts 5, 34-42)
  34  But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, (1) a teacher of the law, held in honour by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a while.  35  And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men. 36  For before these days Theudas arose, giving himself out to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37  After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38  So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; 39  but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" 
    40  So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name. 42  And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
(1)  Gamaliel was St Paul's teacher and also a person of influence in the Sanhedrim, where he represented a moderate tendency in the interpretation of the Mosaic Law and the Jewish traditions. The two persons to whom he refers are: - the former, a certain Theudas (a false Messiah of this name is mentioned by the historian Josephus Flavius) who, having proclaimed himself Messiah, aroused the people against the Romans; the latter, one Judas, was a native of Galilee who rebelled against the Romans on the occasion of the census of the years 6-7 A.D. His movement had a big following, lasted longer and was more difficult to suppress.  Both preached armed rebellion in the name of an earthly Messianic kingdom, in accordance with popular expectations.

16 Election of the seven deacons
     (Acts 6, 1-7)
   1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists (1) murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.  2 And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.  3 Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
5 And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.
6 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

(1)  Concerning the Hellenists, see Introduction, page 20.  When they returned to their fatherland they were treated rather like foreigners, to the extent that even in the Christian community they were overlooked in the daily distribution to the poor of food given by the free and voluntary offerings of other members of the same community.
      The Church at this point in its history, still gathered around the Twelve in Jerusalem as it was, had already opened its doors to the Hellenists.  These, living in the Diaspora (see Introduction, pages 20 and 24), had eventually absorbed something of the atmosphere of Hellenistic culture and had therefore a more open vision of reality than the Jews who were traditionally more conservative. Among the things for which the Hellenists were blamed was their tendency to exceed the bounds of narrow nationalism.  The very names of the chosen seven are all Greek.
P. 76
The Office to which they were elected was the 'diakonia', that is the serving of the poor in the community. Because of this fact Christian tradition has ascribed the rise of the institution of the Diaconate to that time. The episode, in St Luke's story, serves to introduce Stephen, whose persecution is presented as the cause of the diffusion of Christianity first, among the heretical Jews in Samaria (see no. 21) and secondly, as far as to Antioch.  It is on this occasion that Paul, the hero of the second part of the book, makes his first appearance.

17 Stephen on trial before the Sanhedrim
       (Acts 6, 8-15)
   And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly instigated men, who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him, and brought him before the council, 13 and set up false witnesses, who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law;
14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us."  15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

18 Stephen's speech
       (Acts 7,
And the high priest said, "Is this so?" 2 And Stephen said:
"Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, 'Depart from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.'(1) 4 Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and lived in Haran.  And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living; 5 yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him in possession and to his posterity after him, though he had no child. 
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6 And God spoke to this effect, that his posterity would be aliens in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and ill-treat them (2) four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation which they serve,' said God, 'and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.' 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; (3) and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.
9 And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him out of all his afflictions, 10 and gave him favour and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him governor over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12  But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent forth our fathers the first time. 13  And at the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh. 14  And Joseph sent and called to him Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five souls; 15  and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, himself and our fathers, 16  and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
17  "But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt is 18  till there arose over Egypt another king who had not known Joseph. 19  He dealt craftily with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants that they might not be kept alive. 20  At this time Moses was born, and was beautiful before God. And he was brought up for three months in his father's house; 21  and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22  And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
23  "When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. 24  And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking the Egyptian. 25  He supposed that his brethren understood that God was giving them deliverance by his hand, but they did not understand. 26  And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarrelling and would have reconciled them, saying, 'Men, you are brethren, why do you wrong each other?' 27  But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28  Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' (4)

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   29  At this retort Moses fled, and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.
  30 Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. (5)
  31 When Moses saw it he wondered at the sight; and as he drew near to look, the voice of the Lord came, 32 'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.' 33 And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 And the Lord said to him, 'Take off the shoes from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.  34 'I have surely seen the ill-treatment of my people that are in Egypt and heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them.  And now come, I will send you to Egypt.'
    35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' God sent as both ruler and deliverer by the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years.  37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, 'God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up.' 38 This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, saying to Aaron, 'Make for us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'
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41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and rejoiced in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
     ‘Did you offer to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
      forty years in the wilderness, house of Israel?
      43 And you took up the tent of Moloch, and the star of the
      god Rephan,
      the figures which you made to worship;
      and I will remove you beyond Babylon.'
    44 Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, even as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God thrust out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favour in the sight of God and asked leave to find a habitation for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands; as the prophet says:
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   49 Heaven is my throne,
     and earth my footstool.
     What house will you build for me, says the Lord,
     or what is the place of my rest?
50 "Did not my hand make all these things? 7)
  51 You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As you fathers did, so do you.
52 Which of the prophets did not our fathers persecute?  And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."

(1)   Gen. 12,1 ff. (2) Gen. 14,13 ff. (3) Gen. 17; for the history of the patriarch see Gen. 21-25. (4) Exod. 2,14. (5) Exod. 3. (6) See Amos 5,25-27. 
Moloch is the name of a god whose worship was widespread, especially in the region of Phoenicia: it was to him that even human sacrifices were offered. (7) Isaiah 66,1 ff.

19 The martyrdom of Stephen
    (Acts 7, 54-60)
   54  Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. 55  But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56  and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God."
57  But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. 58  Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; (1) and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59  And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60  And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

(1)  The Law of Moses (see Deut. 17,7) decreed that blasphemers should be stoned in the presence of witnesses, who had to fling the first stones.

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