By the Backroom Theologian. Each week I read the coming Sunday’s lectionary like a preview of coming events. Sometimes the lessons are easy. Other times not so much. This week, as has been the case in the past few weeks, the readings involve Acts and Revelation. Hmmm! Where did these come from? The Gospels according to Mark, John, Luke and Matthew have a name attached to them, albeit open to question who actually wrote them. But Acts and Revelation stand apart. What’s with that?
I have heard Revelation described as being written by someone who was on a 40-day magic mushroom trip in the desert. That is a bit harsh. It is a fascinating read filled with imagery that is open to interpretation, and certainly beyond my pay grade. Maybe, sometime, we can have a Bible study centered on Revelation.
But I did some research on Acts. Acts is attributable to Luke as part of a matched set…surprisingly referred to as Luke-Acts. Luke’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus life. Luke’s Acts begins with Jesus Ascension into heaven and moves on to describe the spreading of Christianity among the Gentiles.
The great debate within the early Christian church was whether men had to be circumcised to become Jews before they could become Christians. That certainly would have hindered the growth of the church. Peter goes to Jerusalem and is confronted about his cavorting with Gentiles. Peter then responds about a dream in which God wraps all diverse beings under the sheet of love and forgiveness. And the critics respond: "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life."
In Acts we travel on the Road to Damascus with Saul who has an epiphany, a close encounter with Jesus of the conversion kind, and becomes Paul; instrumental in the spread of Christianity among non-Jews. Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles. His letters are key to understanding the creation of the early universal Christian church. He is the first great theologian of the church. It is his view of Christianity that established many tenets of the modern church…and not without controversy. That’s for another day.
From a pure history standpoint, Acts and Revelation are fascinating pieces of literature; one chronicling the early years of the church…the other speculating on the end days. Take some time to read and understand these very important parts of the New Testament.