No consideration of Acts as history could be regarded as reasonably complete without an examination of some of the events in the Apostle Paul's ministry and a comparison of what he himself states about it in Galatians with what Luke records in Acts.
Many have written about the supposed discrepancies between Acts 9:19-30 and Gal. 1:15-24. Needless to say, if one carefully searches these passages to find a discrepancy, something of the sort can easily be found. The three accounts of the call of Saul (Acts 9:3-9; 22:6-10; 26:12-18) are very different, and their differences can be twisted into discrepancies by any unscrupulous person who is minded to do so; for obviously, if two or more accounts of the same event are not recorded in exactly the same words, there is a difference between them. On the other hand, if we assume that both Luke in Acts and Paul in Galatians are telling no more than the simple truth, the differences between them throw light on both and thus amplify the sum-total of both-always provided that they are, in actual fact, accounts of the same event. If they are not, then it will be found that there is no way of getting round the apparent discrepancies. The irreconcilability of the two accounts then furnishes irrefutable proof that they relate to different events, and we have to readjust our thinking about them.
Thus, we are from time to time faced with two different situations: separate accounts of the same event presented to us in terms that are not identical, and accounts of different events that tradition or the misguided efforts of expositors have led us to assume to be divergent accounts of the same event. Most expositors appear to have assumed that Acts 9:19-30 and Gal. 1:15-24 belong to the former class, and they have been hard put to it to reconcile the two.
Dr. Lightfoot, formerly Bishop of Durham, in his commentary on Galatians (London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1902), one of the most enlightened of its kind in existence, identifies these two visits to Jerusalem by the Apostle Paul. He puts up the best case he can for identifying them; yet he has to confess that one "discrepancy is reduced to very narrow limits." He reaches the conclusion that "though the two accounts are not contradictory, the impression left by St. Luke's narrative needs correcting by the more precise and authentic statement by St. Paul" (page 92). With all respect to a fine scholar, this is not good enough. Luke was an historian, and a very great one. Paul's references to historical events are at most glimpses; and if we must assume that one of them is in error, it is not reasonable to suppose that Luke was the offender. Yet why should we adopt a view that involves such an assumption? The salient points of what Paul stated in Galatians are simple enough. They are (a) that God calls him through His grace "to unveil His Son in me that I may be evangelizing Him among (literally, in) the Gentiles," to use his own words. Note the word in, twice. (b) That he did not immediately submit this call to flesh and blood (see Vol. 24, p. 186); (c) neither did he come up into Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him; (d) but he came away into Arabia; (e) "and again I return into Damascus" (again his own words). Then (f) there follows a lapse of three years. (g) After this, Paul came up into Jerusalem to relate his story to Cephas, and he stays with him fifteen days. (h) Yet of the other apostles he saw none apart from James the brother of the Lord. (i) He then declares before God that in what he is writing he is not lying. (j) Thereupon he came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. (k) Yet he was unknown by face to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. Then (l) there follows a lapse of fourteen years and (m) he again went up into Jerusalem with Barnabas (n) taking Titus along also. (o) He went up according to revelation. (p) He submitted "to those of repute" the Evangel he was proclaiming among the Gentiles. (q) Those of repute submitted nothing to him. (r) They agreed to a demarcation: the Evangel of the uncircumcision to Paul, that of the circumcision to Peter (s) with the proviso that Paul and his company should remember the poor.
For our present enquiry the two most important items are (i) and (s). For the former is entirely pointless unless there had been some apparent reason to suppose Paul to have been less than truthful; and the latter is a retreat from the position taken up by James in Acts 15:19-29. The only issue about which Paul's veracity could be questioned at all is the account in Acts 9:19-30. No doubt Luke showed Paul this passage in his diary later on; and Paul, perceiving that there might appear to be conflict of testimony, was careful to guard the point in advance.
With all this in mind, we can now look into Acts 9. The first nineteen verses coincide with (a) above. Next, we have what Paul did do "immediately" in contrast with what he did not do in (b). This (vv. 20-22) in the time-sequence comes between (a) and (b). The time occupied by (d) and (e) is covered by the first half of v. 23. Yet, must we assume that what follows this (namely, the second half of v. 23 and what follows it) occurs within the three years of (f)? There is nothing in either narrative to say so; and the insertion of this gratuitous assumption is the cause of all the difficulty, being the above mentioned "apparent reason to suppose Paul to have been less than truthful." Once we assume that the whole of the items (f) to (k) inclusive occurred during "the considerable number of days" of Acts 9:23—and there is no reason why we should not do so—the difficulty vanishes. Then Acts 9:26-29 reveals itself as Paul's second visit to Jerusalem and comes within the fourteen years of (l), though obviously near the start of them.
Once this is perceived and properly taken into the mind, we become aware that it fits all the facts. Paul (then called Saul) was with the disciples in Damascus only "some days" after he had recovered sight (Acts 9:18, 19). The Jews' plan in v. 23 came into being after "a considerable number of days"; therefore, during most of that "considerable number" he must have been away from the place. The expression could well cover more than the three years, so enough time would be given for the visit to Arabia, a return to Damascus, the first visit to Jerusalem, and a return to Damascus once more. So we deduce a timetable like this: (1) Paul remains with the disciples some days. (2) Then he does to Arabia. (3) Then he returns to Damascus, where he remains for a considerable period. (4) Then he visits Peter at Jerusalem for fifteen days. (5) Then he comes into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. This suggests a return to Damascus by a roundabout route. (6) The Jews of Damascus plan to assassinate him. (7) He goes to Jerusalem again, this time led by Barnabas. How does this fit in with the other accounts of the events that happened in Damascus? The first gives nothing new of these, but only further particulars of Paul's commission (Acts 22:6-16); but there follows (vv. 17-21) fresh information as to what happened, at some time, in Jerusalem. In this account there is a note of extreme urgency, such urgency that it was necessary for God to put Paul into an ecstasy to tell him to leave Jerusalem hurriedly. Now, this is an altogether different story from what is told in Acts 9:26-31, where the disciples in Jerusalem actually feared Paul and where, after the introduction by Barnabas, Paul "was with them, going in and out, in Jerusalem," and he was "bold in the name of the Lord Jesus." Yet, even here, the brethren realized that some were taking in hand to assassinate Paul and therefore led him elsewhere; nevertheless, even so this in no way resembles the account in Acts 22:17-21 of God Himself urging Paul to leave. If the two really covered the same event, the contrasts between them would call loudly for explanation. There is, however, no reason why they should, nor why we should be put out by them; for we have ready to hand the clue we need, namely, Paul's own narrative in Gal. 1:18-20. His own words in Acts 22:17-21 furnish an entirely satisfactory explanation why he stayed with Cephas only fifteen days and met none of the rest of the Twelve, but only James, the brother of the Lord. He had been told to go at once, so go he did. Thus, the two passages fit neatly together. The third account of the Damascus vision and the events that followed (Acts 26:12-18) is followed by yet another statement of subsequent events (vv. 19-22). This tells usthat Paul went "first to those in Damascus, besides in Jerusalem also, as well as the entire province of Judea, and to the "Gentiles." Then we are told that "on account of this the Jews, apprehending me when I was in the Sanctuary, attempted to lay hands on me."
Where does this fit in? To begin with, we have to take account of Paul's ministry summed-up in Acts 26:20. This could have been no small matter on any reckoning; and its last clause, "and to the Gentiles" must involve covering part at least of Paul's ministry recorded from Acts 16 onwards. This involves a space of some years; so there is no necessary reason why those years should not have been the fourteen years of Gal. 2:1; particularly as what follows had to do so much with the Gentiles (vv. 2 and 9). Thus, going back to our analysis of the salient points related in Galatians, we can add another, (t), the apprehension of Paul in the Sanctuary, the Jews' attempts to lay hands on him, and the assistance he received from God (Acts 26:21-23).
All this means that we have reduced the salient historical features of the four narratives to the following summary: Paul's vision and the recovery of his sight, a short stay ("some days") in Damascus, his visit to Arabia, his return to Damascus, his stay there filling up the remainder of the three years, his visit to Jerusalem and stay with Cephas for fifteen days, the plan in Jerusalem to assassinate Paul and his orders from God to hurry away, his return to Damascus where the considerable number of days of Acts 9:23 was completed, his second visit to Jerusalem (9:26-29) after a plan by the Damascus Jews to assassinate him, at Jerusalem a further plan by the Jews there to assassinate him, after which the brethren take him down into Caesarea (9:29, 30), Paul's ministry after Acts 9:30 including his ministry to the Gentiles, filling up the rest of the fourteen years, his third visit to Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1-10), the apprehension of Paul in the Sanctuary by the Jews and the attempt to lay hands on him (Acts 26:21-33).
Now, although this last is related in Acts after a leap covering more than half the book, it is related only as something that had previously occurred; so its place in the historical sequence in Acts is not there defined. Yet we have certain hints in Galatians 2. Paul made the visit with Barnabas and took Titus with him (2:1) and, subsequently, Cephas went to Antioch and was withstood by Paul (2:11-21), Titus is not mentioned in Acts, so the reference to him does not help us. The last reference to Barnabas in Acts in 15:39, so that does not help us either, for it is chronologically too early. The last reference to Antioch in Acts is in 18:22, 23; but this does say that Paul spent some time there. So it may have been at this point that Cephas was withstood by Paul. there seems to be nothing in the account to preclude this; so it may be provisionally accepted as a personal opinion, provided it be recognized that there may have been some other and later visit by Paul to Antioch of which we know nothing. This, however, seems unlikely, as there is hardly any room for it before Paul passed through Macedonia and Achaia, going to Jerusalem with the avowed intention of subsequently going to Rome (Acts 19:21).
Placing the withstanding of Cephas by Paul at Acts 18:22, 23 implies that the visit to Jerusalem "after fourteen years" took place a while before; and, as a matter of fact, we have in Acts 15:1-29 an account of a visit to Jerusalem by Paul and Barnabas. I can find no sufficient reason why these two visits should not be identified. If so, this means that Acts 15:1-29 describes the visit from one point of view and Gal. 2:1-10 from another. from Paul's own personal standpoint. The objections that have been made to this identification are hardly very convincing. Acts 15:2 attributes the mission to the church at Antioch, but Gal. 2:2 says that Paul acted according to revelation. These need not in any case be incompatible. The motive of the church at Antioch was to obtain a settlement of the controversy concerning the admission of Gentiles. That needed not interfere with God's purpose revealed to Paul to settle the wider question of which this was no more than a part: the attitude of the Twelve towards his Evangel, that of the uncircumcision. If the matter be understood that way, then we have in Gal. 2:1-10 the negotiations between Paul, Barnabas and Titus on the one hand and James, Cephas and John on the other; whereas Acts 15:1-29 relates the public negotiations between "Paul and Barnabas and some others" on the one hand and "the church and the apostles and the elders" on the other with "some from the sect of the Pharisees who have believed" intervening. Moreover, Acts 15:4 refers to a preliminary private conference, which might well have been that in Galatians; while Gal. 2:3, 4 is certainly not inconsistent with the account in Acts 15. We have to remember too, that direct reference to Paul's Evangel is outside the scope of Acts.
The account does not actually say as much; but its complete and, indeed, studied silence about it speaks for itself. We neglect the silences of Scripture at our peril. Another consideration is that the friendly agreement concluded in Gal. 2:6-10 entirely explains the conciliatory tone of Peter and James in the subsequent negotiations. Lastly, the decree by James in Acts 15:23-29, even if only face-saving, was in no way onerous and would even, in all probability, be an excellent thing if accepted voluntarily by all Christians. And, after all, the light proviso in Gal. 2:10 is in effect only to save face. In accepting what was in itself only a formula, Paul was doing no more than acknowledging the supremacy of the Twelve within their own circle. He could well afford to, since that supremacy was but a shadow even then and soon to vanish. In the public discussion, Barnabas and Paul confine themselves to a factual statement (Acts 15:2). On p. 126 of his book, Lightfoot points out regarding the Gentiles and Paul: "His own voice raised in their cause might only inflame the passions of the bigoted and prejudice the result."
So we find that when the council meets, Paul and Barnabas confine themselves to narrating the success of their labours among the Gentiles. As regards the matter under dispute they are entirely passive." He sums up the matter thus: "The articles of the so-called Apostolic Council were 'Articles of Peace.' "
At this point we must return to face a possible objection that during the fourteen years between Paul's visits to Jerusalem referred to in Gal. 2:1 he made no other visits there. Lightfoot even paraphrases thus: "An interval of fourteen years elapsed. During the whole of this time I had no intercourse with the Apostles of the Circumcision. Then I paid another visit to Jerusalem." (Galatians, p. 102). This is a most unreasonable gloss on Paul's words. He was describing his dealings with the Twelve and James, and with them alone, and in connection with his Evangel. So to describe any other visits in which they were not involved in connection with this issue would have been irrelevant and also confusing.
Now we are able to summarize so far Paul's visits to Jerusalem. The first is Gal. 1:18-20. The second, Acts 9:26-29. The third, Gal. 2:1-10 with Acts 15:1-29. But here crops up another problem, this time textual. Was there another visit to Jerusalem, referred to in Acts 18:21, before the last one, which ended in Paul being sent a prisoner to Rome? The text issued by the C.V. and many other modern versions makes no room for this; but certain texts of Acts 18:21 read: "By all means must I keep the festival which is coming in Jerusalem." The evidence for this reading is quite good; but many reject it because it is absent from the earliest extant manuscripts; so we must treat it as an open question. Yet it does give a reason why Paul had to take leave of the Jews at Ephesus, an act which would otherwise have been rather abrupt and hardly consistent with Paul's habitual courtesy.
Just before this comes the curious episode at Cenchrea (Acts 18:18). Who shaved his head there? Was it Paul, or was it Aquila? The text, very literally rendered, says that Paul, "taking leave, salied away into Syria; and together with him Priscilla and Aqulia, being shorn in Cenchrea, for he had a vow." It is contended by some that such a vow had to be concluded with a sacrifice at Jerusalem. If so, this would explain the longer reading in v. 21. Yet nobody can rightly expect to "have it both ways"; and if that longer reading is not accepted as genuine, the argument in favour of it being Paul who vowed no longer holds.
Yet in spite of what has been said again and again this grammatical blunder keeps on cropping up. And there is no excuse for it; for apart from the elementary facts of the Greek language, two passages from this epistle itself show this beyond any possibility of doubt. Gal. 1:7 speaks of those who are "wanting also to distort the evangel of the Christ." Paul here does neither say nor mean "the evangel to the Christ" or "the evangel for the Christ"; so why should anyone substitute to or for in Gal. 2:7? There is no excuse for this substitution, but there is one strong reason for it: to bolster up a dogma which has become one of "the foundation truths" of a sect. The circumstance that this "truth" is actually a lie does not seem to matter. The other is in the next two verses, when Paul three times speaks of people "evangelizing to you." If we turn back to I. Cor. 15:1, we read of "the evangel which I evangelize to you." Here, beyond any doubt whatever, what is referred to is an evangel to someone. Equally beyond any doubt whatever, in Gal. 2:7 and in a number of other places, what is referred to is an evangel OF, see Matt. 4:23; 24:14; Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:13, etc.
"But," someone may argue, "what Paul really means here (as in the quotation) is 'the evangel for the uncircumcision.'" Then whyever did he not say so? He does use expressions similar to this quotation elsewhere in this epistle, as in most of his other epistles; for example: Gal. 1:4, "the One giving Himself for our sins"; 2:20, "the Son of God, Who loves me and is giving Himself up for me"; 3:13, "becoming curse for us." Nor does this epistle stand alone in this respect. On either side of it are II. Cor. 13:8, "for the truth" and Eph. 1:16, "giving thanks for you." In all of these "for" represents the Greek word huper. Beyond any doubt, Paul could have used it in Gal. 2:7 and said "for the uncircumcision," if he had so wished. Beyond any doubt, he never wrote anything of the kind or anything about any evangel for anyone.
Why must some "believers" persist in this sort of gross unbelief? For the issue is not "a matter of opinion," as some seem to suggest. Opinion does not come into it at all. Here we are faced with uncontrovertable fact—the fact of the Greek language itself, the fact of the way Paul writes it. To dare to set "opinion" against it is to proclaim a desire to dream, to reject reality.
This is no irrelevant digression, as some might suppose at first glance, for on it hangs the whole character of Paul's ministry in Acts; that is to say, to a large extent what Acts is all about. The author of the quotation from which this arises, that Paul "had been entrusted with a special evangel for the Uncircumcision," has also said about Gal. 2:7. "There was a mutual understanding arrived at among them that they would confine themselves to the Circumcision, while Paul and Barnabas went to the nations." He uses "nations" invariably as the translation of ethnE, which should correctly be generally rendered Gentiles. So it is a fair deduction that for him "the Uncircumcision" and "the nations" are interchangeable and mean the same, namely, what we mean by "the Gentiles."
Thus, if Paul was entrusted with "the evangel for the Uncircumcision," as this writer contends; he plainly had no evangel for Israel. How this squares with the way he went to Jews first is not explained.
In fact, right from the start of his ministry till the last recorded incident, at Rome, he is repeatedly described as having gone to the Jews first. There is no record anywhere that he ever did otherwise. In 1. Cor. 9:20 he wrote: "And I became to the Jews as Jew, that I should be gaining Jews." This, and what follows, comes out very plainly in Romans. No approach to Acts that fails to take this into account can possibly be sound.
Returning to our main subject, we are also informed that Peter "even goes so far as to ignore Paul altogether" in Acts 15:7. The remark, though true in itself, is altogether misleading. This is the first occurrence of evangel in Acts, and it is impossible to understand it unless we understand what Evangel Peter proclaimed. The 1930 C.V. Note says well; "Peter here refers to Cornelius, and his words must be taken, not in the light of Paul's subsequent course, but as the Jews present would understand them." Not one word, even in Acts 15:12, is said in the context about Paul evangelizing in Jerusalem; nothing of the sort is said even in Acts 9, or anywhere else for that matter. Paul and the Twelve are never said to have interfered with each other's ministries, and there is no reason to suppose that in fact they ever did such a thing. Peter's words in Acts 15:7 to the apostles and elders are, simply: "Men! Brethren! You are versed in the fact that from early days God, among you, chooses through my mouth that the Gentiles are to hear the word of the Evangel and to believe." Three things are emphasized as shown here in italics. Peter was asserting something that the Jerusalem Jews themselves knew: that he was chosen from among them in order that the Gentiles should hear the word of the Evangel and believe. So it was perfectly proper to "ignore Paul altogether" in this speech; for it was the previous ministry of Peter that was under consideration. To have dragged into it Paul's ministry outside Jerusalem and the Jews would have been to introduce an irrelevant error.
This is a textbook example of the technique of conveying an erroneous idea by means of an assertion which, though not actually untrue, is wholly beside the point.
Even the entirely true statement by James that follows (Acts 15:13-18) is so adduced as an attempt to show that "it only erected another barrier between the nations and God." This deduction is entirely false. The purpose of his quotation from Amos 9:11, 12 was to give reassurance that what was being done for the Gentiles was not out of harmony with the words of the Prophets. That the attempt should have been necessary demonstrates the truth of the words of the Lord Jesus in Matt. 13:11-15. It does not show that "the kingdom gospel had utterly failed" or, indeed, failed at all. God's purposes do not fail!
The intention at this point was that the paper should close; but when it was nearly completed some statements appeared in the "Church Times" of August 16th, 1963, which raised matters with an important bearing on this series of papers. The language of the article embodying them is remarkably vague. That is usual among modern critics, who would have met with derision in past days when clear and precise thought was expected of all educated men, and when those who could not so express themselves lacked the audacity to court publicity. A typical example from the article is the phrase, "the essential element in Christianity which transcends history." This can mean that there is more than simply "history" in Christianity, which is so obviously a truism that it is hardly worth saying; but the context shows beyond much doubt that its author's real meaning is that Christianity is independent of historical fact; though, if so, an intellectually honest man would say so frankly. For presently he writes of the historian thus:
"If he demonstrated that the Bible sometimes over-interpreted or exaggerated the significance of what had happened, or even concealed it from view, the believer, with his memory of Christ preserved in the life of the Church and its foundation documents, would have to point him to the reality of present Christian experience."
But how can "present Christian experience" have any bearing at all on, or do anything towards elucidating, events that happened nineteen centuries ago? Moreover, if the Bible is actually so unreliable as "demonstrated" by this "if," it is worthless historically as "foundation documents" of "the Church" or anyone else. Yet very soon we take another strange leap:
"By the mere fact that the Christian belongs to a community whose present experience corresponds with the experience recorded in the after-glow of the events from which it was born, he has a foundation unassailable by historical criticism."
But how can present experience correspond with recorded experience if the record is historically inaccurate or untrue? If historical criticism is unable to assail anything so shaky, rational examination soon makes it collapse.
Presently we arrive at the core of this odd teaching:
"The invitation to Christianity carries with it a call to trust, to risk. But this call is not first and foremost to historical trust or historical risk; the trust or risk is of quite a different kind. It is not that the basic documents of the faith might be proved to be historically inaccurate, but that the faith to which the would-be believer committed himself might not be worth the surrender of his whole life—that it might be a second best, like nationalism or humanism. A wrong faith could destroy the meaning of a man's whole life; it is hard to see how a wrong historical judgment could."
The first and best comment to make on this is set out in 1. Cor. 15:12-19—and it knocks out the whole silly idea in one blow. A wrong faith IS a wrong historical judgment, involving as it does the complete destruction of every rational element in belief. An untrue faith IS a wrong faith.
Our author tries to turn the edge of this truth by adding: "Faith and accurate historical knowledge do not necessarily involve each other; one is possible without the other, and the former is no more a guarantee of the latter than vice versa."
After the manner of his kind, he tries to confuse the issue with his last sentence and by using the word "accurate." For what matters most is whether the account of Christ's rousing is true. Some individual's knowledge of the event may not be accurate or complete. The important question for him and for each of us is, simply: Do I believe that Christ has been roused? A full and accurate knowledge can afford to wait till this question has been settled; and unless it is based on what is historically true, faith is unreal and merely credulity.
The bias of this author's mind is clearly indicated by one phrase he uses: "where details in the biblical text differ from other contemporary evidence." But where do they so differ? We are not told. Neither are we told why this "evidence" should be preferred to the evidence we have in the Scriptures. In fact, "contemporary evidence" is extremely scanty.
It is worth pointing out that "contemporary evidence," even when we have it, is by no means always so valuable as many people suppose. Recently one who claims to be a historian declared the Britain was better prepared for the first World War than for the second. I served through both as a soldier, and I know that this is untrue. For some years before 1914, Field-Marshal Lord Roberts urged our people to wake up to realities, but his warning fell on deaf ears. I spent most of my boyhood in garrison towns; and in military circles it was a commonplace that war with Germany was coming. The only reason why 1914-15 were less disasterous for us than 1939-40 was that in the former France was militarily prepared for the German attack. We were not.
Because the Scriptures do not set out to present complete history or biography it does not follow that what they do present is not wholly true.
The following quotations show the utter worthlessness of
"The books from Genesis to Chronicles have been rewritten from the ideological standpoint of later ages." "The Christianity of the second century and after was that of St. Paul, who indeed stresses what has happened but develops his thought in imagery which has room for no more than the salient features of the Lord's life on earth." In actual fact, the Apostle Paul presupposes the history recorded in the Gospels, as, indeed, he himself declares; and the false "Church" soon cast him aside.
Apart from a reference to Acts 2:22-24 this writer carefully avoids presenting any evidence; and even here he completely misses the point; for he says of Peter:
"But he does not present this statement on its own, to be accepted on its own merits. He mentions these facts of history only because Jesus Christ has sent forth the Holy Spirit, 'which we now see and hear.'" He is intending to show that the modern Christian apologist is in the same position as the Apostle Peter was then. But, like all his kind, he is utterly shallow. He does not say, most likely he does not even know, that Peter's "now" refers to the one and only occasion (except perhaps Acts 10:44, which does not say one way or the other) where the presence of the Holy Spirit is visible (Acts 2:3). If we had such manifestations still, his claim would be plausible, if not correct, but we do not. He could not have chosen a worse example to support the idea in the second quotation of the foregoing set; but possibly he appreciated that no other exists. However, it is well to remember that the presence of the Holy Spirit is known only by its effects and that these are understood only when a person has some knowledge of, and complete faith in, God's Word. Even the early disciples at Ephesus knew nothing of holy spirit, that is, the activity of the Holy Spirit in a person (Acts 19:2). Here, too, Paul did not depend on visual evidence or hearsay, but on a fact of history.
Christianity claims to be based on certain documentary records, and it depends for its validity entirely on their historical accuracy. Furthermore, this understanding of the basis of Christianity is not a recent theory, or even a theory developed for and by the Reformation. It is present in some degree in most of the writings of the Greek Scriptures; it permeates those of Luke. He and John and Paul, in particular, staked their all on the certainty and accuracy of the historical foundations on which they built; which are, in fact, the basis of everything they wrote. Cut that away; and the whole falls to the ground, a worthless myth. To try to make out, as the writer above quoted does, that we can somewhere, somehow, verify the essentials of their doctrine by the present experience of "the Church," is folly of the feeblest and shallowest sort. Without a real historical basis, there could be no such entity as "the Church" to experience anything, for there would be nothing to be experienced.
Acts is history, and does not need to be supplemented in any way, either by appealing to an imaginary "something" that is supposed to "transcend history," or by supplementing it with theories devised in order to explain away imaginary difficulties, such as Coles and his followers make so prominent.
Typical of the essential shallowness of so much of modern so-called thinking is the expression "transcend history"; for if we examine it critically, it is readily seen to be entirely meaningless. It has its uses. It gives to its user the illusion of profundity and immensity. It relieves his reader of the trouble of thinking. It is wholly destructive, because in effect it denies the validity of history.
R. B. W.