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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

Reading through Acts

Before you sit down to study Acts, read through the whole book. You will notice that there are some types of stories that occur again and again. The apostles are put in jail. They must make speeches before various courts and officials. Sometimes God rescues them from jail or some other hostile action. Besides the legal speeches, Luke adds the drama of speeches that announce the gospel. The apostles frequently gain attention through miracles, which they are able to work in Jesus' name. In other stories, the apostles challenge the religious beliefs, superstitions, and magical practices of the Gentiles. As the gospel moves out from Jerusalem, these dramatic episodes are fitted into a pattern of journeys.

Acts as Entertainment

We have already seen that Acts has been structured to make a religious point about God's plan of salvation. As Luke tells the story, he provides the reader with a number of entertaining incidents (confusing Paul and Barnabas with pagan gods in Acts 14, 8–18 , for example). Persecutions, trials, imprisonments, journeys, and dramatic shipwrecks all had their counterparts in novels that were popular during this period. The novels usually had a romantic theme rather than a religious one, but the use of comparable tales reminds us that Acts provided readers with pleasure as well as instruction.

Acts and the Early Community

You will also notice as you read through Acts that there appears to be great harmony among Christians in the early communities. We know from Paul's letters that the early churches were sometimes torn by dissent and often had to be encouraged by the apostle to demonstrate in their actions the love that Christians were to show one another.

Luke knows that the early communities were not always perfect. Acts shows us how the churches ought to live together. It even shows us how Christians should work out difficulties that they face. They are never to forget that their purpose is to thank God for the salvation they have received and to preach the same message to others. There is no place for the love of money, for the jealousy, maliciousness, and deceitful behavior that those who persecute the apostles demonstrate.

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