Between the Gospel according to St. John and the Book of Revelation, there are 22 books of the New Testament detailing the actions, writings and thoughts of the Apostles. I had no idea at all of the contents before starting this read.
The Acts of the Apostles carries two intertwined themes : the birth of the early Christian Church by the travels and ministry of the Apostles and its successful extension to the Gentiles after being largely rejected by the Jews; and the story of Saul’s conversion and ministry. In both there is plenty of conflict between the Jewish and Christian beliefs, centred on the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, leading to the imprisonment, beating and stoning of disciples.
Acts starts from the resurrection of Jesus, and like the Gospel according to St. Luke, is addressed to Theophilus. The Apostles are remaining in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death and resurrection and have voted Matthias as a replacement for Judas Iscariot to bring their number to twelve again. (In Matthew, Judas hung himself, but here it is reported that he “burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out”, while working on the land he bought with the bribe money)
The Apostles are visited and filled by the Holy Spirit, which also enables them to speak in other languages, presumably to aid their missionary work in spreading the word to different peoples. We start hearing of communities of people who believe in the Apostles’ teachings described as “churches”, and the healing of many sick and possessed people. The Word spreads to other cities and countries : Samaria, Ethiopia, Macedonia, Cyprus, Athens, Syria and eventually Asia and Rome.
Saul, who I thought was only a tax collector but was actually one of the chief persecutors of the Christians, is traveling near Damascus when he is visited by Jesus and is blinded. The disciple Ananias is sent to restore Saul’s sight, and from then Saul becomes the disciple Paul, who will eventually carry the message to Rome.
Jesus asks Saul “Why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
Acts 9:5 and 26:14
Personal rating: Interesting for those who wish to study the evolution of the early Church. For me, 4/10.
Other reading: Lord Edgware Dies, another Poirot whodunnit by Agatha Christie. I am sure I had read this before but couldn’t quite recall the result, which bodes well for an Alzheimer’s old age. Nevertheless, I had the essential twist on the twist nailed quite early on, so maybe I did remember more than I thought.
Next : The books of the New Testament containing the Epistles.