Recommendations from Dr. Brandon Scott:
The Acts of the Apostles is a major biblical book for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Recently there has been some major scholarship on this book that is changing the way scholars are looking at Acts.
For the past 10 years the Acts Seminar under the chairmanship of Dennis Smith, LaDonna Kramer Meinders Professor of New Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary, has been engaged in a project to investigate the historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles, a project parallel to that of the earlier Jesus Seminar. This book, edited by Smith and Joseph Tyson, a renowned scholar of Luke/Acts, is the report of that seminar’s results. It brings the debates of scholars to the inquiring reader in a highly readable way. The Seminar concludes that Acts was written in the early second century, a real shift from the traditional dating, that the author knows the Pauline letter collection, again a major shift, and that Acts is the founding myth of Christianity. A great read that demonstrates the true importance of Acts.
Richard Pervo, undoubtedly the dominant scholar on Acts, was also a member of the Acts Seminar. His book Dating Acts is the book that started the debate. It is a carefully and meticulously argued book, not for the faint of heart. It is scholarship at the highest level. The evidence for a second century date for Acts as laid out by Pervo is overwhelming and convincing. His commentary on Acts in the prestigious Hermeina series is the most important commentary on Acts in the past 50 years. This is a very scholarly commentary, but if you want to know the latest and best scholarship on Acts, this is the book to which to turn. Pervo’s The Mystery of Acts is an accessible and well written introduction to how to read Acts.
Shelly Matthews, professor at Brite Divinity School, has written an important study on the stoning of Stephen. The title is a good summary of her book. She sees the story, not as an historical remembrance, but as an effort by the unknown author of Acts to construct Christian identity, an effort that she too dates to the early second century.
If you want to be informed on the current state of studies on the Acts of the Apostles, you could not do better than pursuing these books. Start withActs and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report , then turn to Pervo’sThe Mystery of Acts:Unraveling Its Story. With these two books you will have the lay of the land in a highly readable package. Then you can dig into scholar in the other books.