by Steven Charles Ger

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses
both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

~ Acts 1:7-8 ~


Every so often, a commentary comes to the attention of the student of Scripture that strikes him or her as being head and shoulders above the crowd. Steven Charles Ger's Acts: Witnesses to the World has struck this editor and AMC's board secretary Mottel Baleston just that way For this reason, we have decided to present Acts in its entirety - not just for the wealth of information that may be gained from its study, but, as Mottel stated, as a model for how a Bible study ought to be done.

Has God given you the gift of teaching? Perhaps you will be next to pick up the torch for this level of teaching.

We will begin with the first half of Steven's very informative introduction to the Book of Acts; but first, Steven's dedication and a little bit about Steven himself.


To my wife, Adria Lauren, whose worth is far above rubies and who reassuringly certified that my ramblings made sense; and to my son, Jonathan Gabriel, our five-year-old gift from God, who impatiently waited for his Dad to get his nose out of this book to come play with him.

About the Author

Steven Ger grew up in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York and Aberdeen, New Jersey, where he was educated in both church and synagogue due to his distinctive heritage as a Jewish Christian.

He is the founder and director of Sojourner Ministries, an organization dedicated to exploring the Jewish heart of Christianity with both Jew and Gentile. The name of the ministry is derived from the Hebrew meaning of Steven's surname. In Hebrew, the word "ger" means sojourner or wanderer. This particular "wandering" Jew's faith journey has led him to the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah who was foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures. Steven's life is dedicated to helping people see their Messiah more clearly ­ through Hebrew eyes.

Steven is the former host of the North Texas weekly radio show, The Jewish Heart of Christianity, and is uniquely equipped to comment on Israel, Judaism and the Church. He has appeared as a guest expert on both radio and television. He is also the host of an hour-long teaching video showing how Christ's reinterpretation of the Passover meal instituted the celebration of communion and announced a new era in human history.

Television audiences and church congregations alike have enjoyed Steven's leading them in invigorating, contemporary messianic worship. He is an accomplished singer, pianist and songwriter whose composition, "Jeremiah 31", was recorded by The Liberated Wailing Wall.

Steven has led 11 tours to Israel, with extensions to Egypt, Greece, Jordan, Turkey and Germany. He has lectured at Dallas Theological Seminary and at Tyndale Seminary. He served for 7 years as Director of Worship/Education at Providence Church in Rowlett, Texas.

He earned a BA in psychology and interpersonal communications from Trenton State College and a Th.M from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Steven lives in the Dallas area with his wife, Adria, and their son, Jonathan Gabriel.


Part 1 of 3



The book of Acts grants readers a unique and fascinating glimpse into the world of the early church. We peer through the corridors of two millennia and see the still vivid foundations of our own faith. Beginning in Jerusalem, Acts shows us the road we believers have traveled to arrive at our present state. All that we, the contemporary church, are today, we owe to the pioneers to whom its author, Luke, introduces us. Luke continues to perform an inestimable service for contemporary believers by unveiling the historical, social, cultural, political and religious milieu of the first three decades of church history.

Indeed, Acts is, at its most basic, a book of history. Yet for so many of us, the mention of any sort of history book immediately brings to mind dry, dusty tomes filled to overflowing with infinitely irrelevant data from some unrelated, bygone age.

Acts is not that sort of history book.

In many ways, Acts is the singularly most earthy and accessible book in the entire New Testament. It is entirely in its own distinct category. It is not chock full of challenging, doctrinal propositions, as are the epistles. It is not composed of enigmatic, apocalyptic imagery, as is Revelation. Nor does it consist of the biography, teaching and parables of the crucified and resurrected God-man, as do the gospels. Nonetheless, Acts provides the necessary context for the New Testament and is the connecting bridge that links this collection of gospels, epistles and apocalypse together.

Acts is unique. It is story. A simple story about regular human beings who are just like us. They share our same hopes and similar fears; our worst biases and best qualities. In fact, Acts is, essentially, our story. It is your legacy and mine. It is the record of our brothers and sisters who came before us, blazing a revolutionary, messianic trail from Jerusalem to "the ends of the earth."

As you dip your toe into the first few pages of the narrative, you just may see your reflection. Perhaps a spark of recognition will be ignited by the hesitant first steps of a fisherman who, at long last, emerges as a "fisher of men." Or perhaps by the strong, athletic stride of legs, useless for forty years, now miraculously healed. Could it be that you relate to the paralyzing chill of being called on to defend your faith before those who despise you? Maybe you recognize the initial flood of disbelief as God answers a prayer that you considered the utmost of longshots?

We easily identify with the people in Acts because Luke never allows us to forget their humanity. It is impossible to confuse Peter or Paul with fictional characters. No ancient novelist would ever create men whose lives were characterized by such dramatic contradictions: the brash and blustering everyman who blossoms overnight into an elder statesman; a movement's most infamous persecutor who develops into its most prominent advocate. Luke has drawn two millennia's worth of readers into the overlapping apostolic "adventures" of these two first century Jewish men who, while so dissimilar, shared a common vision and served the same Messiah.

While Acts is the definitive account of the early church's expansion, it was not Luke's intention to provide a comprehensive report on the apostolic mission to Israel and the Roman world. To do so would have taken an entire series of sequels to his original gospel. At its present length, Acts already approaches an ancient scroll's maximum length of between thirty-two and thirty-five feet. (1)

Luke provides considered selections, chosen from the vast historical panorama of early church history. The majority of the apostles barely make a cameo appearance within the narrative. Nor does Luke mention their eventual destinations or destinies. Even Peter disappears from the narrative after fifteen chapters.

In a series of vignettes, or "postcards," some historical, some biographical, still others theological, Acts reveals the successes and defeats, the conquests and tragedies of the original band of Jesus' followers. In Acts we are able to share in the joy, the loss, the rejection, the confident assurance, the jealousy, the setbacks, the frustration, the passionate debate and the ultimate triumph of these pioneers of the Jesus movement. These are ordinary people who, through the power and enablement of the Holy Spirit, accomplish extraordinary things in the name of their Messiah. In less than one generation, three decades, this initial cohort of Christians boldly "turned the world upside-down" (17:6)!

The existing literature on Acts is voluminous, and new works are regularly being added. I have introduced nothing in this commentary that has not been previously written about Acts, most likely with superior style and scholarship. Nevertheless, commentaries on Acts written from the perspective of and with the sensitivities peculiar to a Jewish Christian are in the distinct minority. Most of the Acts narrative, however, deals with specifically Jewish issues, questions, concerns and controversies, which arose as the church expanded from its initial Jerusalem borders and Hebrew boundaries. These issues and questions are not often examined through Jewish eyes or explained using Jewish categories. I believe that providing such a basic cultural insight facilitates understanding in the study of this foundational work.

I am a fourth-generation Jewish believer, nurtured in the faith from birth, whose family found our Messiah, beginning with my great-grandmother, over three quarters of a century ago. This project is an outgrowth of that legacy, and I pray that this Jewish Christian perspective may prove of value in studying Acts.

As I cannot be your personal study partner, I submit this volume as my surrogate to accompany you on your sojourn through the world of the nascent church. The following are the modest study notes of this particular "Hebrew of Hebrews;" the views of a messianic Jew as he ponders the book of Acts.


The traditional claim that Luke wrote Acts has been essentially uncontested throughout the book's history. There is clear internal evidence that Luke is the author of Acts.

First, Acts was written by the same individual who penned the gospel of Luke. The prologues of both books are linked to one another (Acts 1:1 refers back to Luke 1:1-4) and both prologues designate the same person, Theophilus, as the book's intended recipient.

Second, Acts was written by one of Paul's traveling companions, as is evidenced by the famous "we" passages (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1­28:16) when, at certain points, the author changes narrative voice from third to first person. Luke was one such companion of Paul and is mentioned in three of Paul's letters (Col. 4:14; Philem. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11). Aside from Luke, Acts notes another eight companions: Silas, Timothy, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus, and Trophimus. Each of these men, however, is mentioned at some point within the context of the "we" passages, eliminating for authorial consideration all but Luke. Luke alone is not referenced by name anywhere within the "we" passages.

Third, it is an indisputable fact that Luke, as an eyewitness and participant, demonstrates exceptional familiarity with Roman law and government. He is unfailingly accurate in his use of the proper political terminology for each Roman official in every Roman province he mentions. This is no small accomplishment, as titles, offices and terminology frequently shifted from time to time, province to province and, often, from one administration to another. (2)

For example, in Cyprus, Luke recognizes Sergius Paulus as proconsul; in Philippi, which is accurately recognized as a colony, the leadership are called strategoi (magistrates); in Thessalonica, the leaders are called politarchs; in Malta, the leader is called the protos (chief man); in Ephesus, Luke deftly differentiates between Asiarchs (religious administrators), the grammateus (town clerk) and proconsuls. (3)

Therefore, we are on extremely safe ground when we assert Luke to be the author of Acts.


Aside from what facts may be gleaned from the Acts "we" passages and his triple mention within Paul's epistles, as noted in the above discussion, very little is known about Luke as an individual.

Based upon Luke's literary skill and vocabulary usage, there is no question that he was extremely well educated. It comes then as no surprise that Paul identifies Luke as a "beloved physician" (Col. 4:14). In the realm of the Roman Empire, there were only three major medical schools where Luke may have studied. The three celebrated university towns of the ancient world were Athens (in Greece), Alexandria (in Egypt) and Tarsus (in Asia Minor, specifically, Cilicia, Paul's hometown). (A fourth possibility is the small Greek isle of Cos, which had both hospital and medical school.) (4) Precisely at which of these three eminent sites of learning Luke studied is a point open to speculation (and imagination as well, if he was educated in Tarsus and, if so, whether he was there concurrent with Paul's five year residency, from 37-42 AD [Acts 9:30-11:26].) Of course, in his medical capacity, Luke could verify the many healing miracles of which he was an eyewitness.

There is an ongoing debate over whether or not Luke was Jewish. While the overwhelming consensus has always been that Luke was a Gentile, the New Testament does not explicitly reveal Luke's nationality. However, in Paul's letter to the Colossians, Luke is listed separately (4:14) from Paul's list of Jewish coworkers (4:10-11). While this is the sole New Testament hint that Luke was a Gentile, on the surface this passage would seem to be conclusive.

There is, however, at least an adequate case to be made for Luke having been Jewish; not a native of Israel, but a Hellenistic (Greek) Jew of the diaspora (if so, he would be the earliest recorded "Jewish doctor"). First, beneath the surface of Luke's superb mastery of Greek literary style, there are indications that, while the author wrote in Greek, he may have been thinking in Hebrew. This is indicted by the presence of Hebraisms (Hebrew word order, phrases and terminology) scattered throughout the text. An alternative but less satisfying way to explain the presence of such Hebraisms in Acts is that they derive from the original Jewish sources, either written or oral, which Luke translated as he compiled his account.

Second, Luke's exquisite knowledge of Jewish theological issues and sectarian parties, familiarity with the Temple, acquaintance with Jewish holidays and marked concern for Jerusalem go beyond that of merely a historian's reporting of the facts. It is difficult to explain Luke's Jewish expertise and concern by simply citing the two years he spent in Israel, from 57-59 AD (Acts 21:8-27:1) or imagining the quantity of time he spent personally with his friend, Paul, that noted "Hebrew of Hebrews."

Third, Luke deftly weaves quotations and allusions from the Hebrew Scripture throughout his book. His fluency and familiarity with the Law, Prophets and Writings reveal a mind saturated in the contents of the Old Testament. Luke's facility with the Hebrew Scripture indicates comprehensive study. Such sophistication simply cannot have been developed over a limited period.

Fourth, Paul affirms in his letter to the Romans that God entrusted "the oracles of God," meaning the Holy Scriptures, to the Jewish people, in contradistinction to the Gentiles (3:2; 9:4). Paul seems to be saying that God has appointed the writing of Scripture to Jews. Therefore, since the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are both Scripture, Luke must have necessarily been Jewish. Alternatively, Paul may have been referring only to the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament).

A probable way to satisfactorily synthesize the evidence, pro and con, concerning Luke's Jewish or Gentile status, would be to posit that prior to becoming a Christian, Luke was either a God-fearer, a Gentile worshiper of the God of Israel, or a "proselyte of the gate," a near convert to Judaism. This would explain Paul having listed him separately from the Jewish Christians, Luke's familiarity with Judaism and the Temple as well as his facility with the Hebrew Scripture. In addition, it would clarify the profound interest in God-fearers that Luke demonstrates throughout Acts.


As indicated in the prologue of Acts, Luke's gospel must necessarily have been written prior to Acts. Since Acts is the sequel to Luke's gospel, most scholars hold that one should assign a date for the creation of Acts only after first determining a date for the writing of the gospel. This methodology, while logical, is not the only approach to dating Acts. To reverse this equation is equally justified, as the following will demonstrate.

In Luke's gospel, Jesus graphically predicts the coming destruction of Jerusalem (19:43-44, 21:20-24). His prophecy was fulfilled by the Romans in 70 AD. Due to extreme bias against accepting the validity of any predictive prophecy, even that which originated with Jesus, many scholars assign a date after 70 AD to Luke's gospel. This would allow Luke to portray Jesus as predicting something which, by the author's time, had already occurred.

Yet presuppositions against the possibility of Jesus' prophetic ability cannot be allowed to take precedence over documentary data. There is no other reason other than bias against predictive prophecy to accept this late a date for the composition of Luke's gospel, and so this late dating must be rejected. Therefore, there is no compelling rationale for first assigning a date to the composition of Luke's gospel prior to assigning a date to Acts. Indeed, it is easier to first date the creation of Acts and only then move backward in time to date Luke's earlier composition of the gospel.

A logical starting point in assigning a date to Acts is the last recorded event, which was Paul's two-year long imprisonment in Rome. This two-year term began in the first few months of 60 AD. Counting ahead two years makes 62 AD the earliest possible date of composition. This much is certain. What remains controversial is the indeterminate range between the earliest possible date and the latest likely date of composition.

It is possible that the Acts narrative deliberately ends as it does through Luke's own creative design. Many commentators presuppose that it was his calculated intention to complete the account with Paul's arrival in Rome. Therefore, Acts could have been composed at any point before Luke's death. If this view is correct, then one may comfortably date the composition of Acts anytime between 63 AD and 85 AD or possibly even later, since the date of Luke's death is unknown.

However, ending Acts with Paul under Roman house arrest seems an extremely unsatisfying manner in which to conclude this majestic chronicle. For Luke to have known the outcome of Paul's "appeal to Caesar" (Acts 25:11) and not have recorded it for his readers, effectively leaving them up in the air concerning Paul's fate, is simply not credible, especially since Luke expends the final quarter of the book on Paul's arrest and trial.

A more persuasive case may be made for a date of composition no later than 64 AD. There is compelling evidence that the window between 62 AD and the latest possible date is extremely narrow, for the following reasons.

First and foremost, when read at face value, Acts seems to bring readers up to date with Luke's own contemporary circumstances. In other words, there was nothing more to write. Paul still awaited trial, and the church continued expanding, unabated and unopposed. Any additional chapters would necessarily have had to wait until history unfolded with the occurrence of new events.

If Acts had been written later than 64 AD, it is inexplicable that Luke would fail to mention Paul's trial, his release from Roman imprisonment, the first Roman persecution of Christians under Nero beginning in 64 AD, the death of Peter that same year, or the death of James, the brother of Jesus, two years earlier. If Acts had been written after 70 AD, it is unfathomable that Luke would avoid mention of Paul's death in 68 AD or the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. The fact is that Luke makes no reference to any crucial events that concerned the church after AD 62.

Second, the sole theological controversy Acts records is the debate over Gentile inclusion. This debate was only active through the fifth decade of the first century. It was finally settled in 49 AD at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). By 70 AD, Gentile inclusion was universally accepted and this issue no longer controversial. Whether a Gentile needed to first become Jewish before becoming a Christian was hardly a concern for believers after 70 AD and an unlikely topic on which to expend so much precious scroll space.

Third, throughout Acts, the Roman Empire shows no animus toward the church and is still impartial, in fact, almost disinterested, concerning the nascent Christian movement. Time and again, the Romans do not comprehend the nature of the Jewish accusations brought against the church or the ferocity of those accusations. These accusations are of a religious, not political nature. Indeed, in most instances within the early years, Rome treated Christianity as one more incomprehensible Jewish sect among many. This was no longer the case after 64 AD, when the Roman Empire began to view Christians as a political and cultural threat.

A fourth reason to assign Acts an early date is Luke's expenditure of a great deal of narrative energy in demonstrating Christianity's Jewish roots and association with the nation of Israel. Following the initial outbreak of Israel's revolution against Rome in 66 AD, it would no longer have been prudent to press the fledgling faith's association with Israel as dynamically as Luke does in his narrative.

Finally, Acts obviously does not rely on Paul's epistles as a source of biographical information about Paul. Luke makes no attempt to correlate his account of Paul's life with the apostolic correspondence. Therefore, Acts had to have been written before Paul's letters had been collected as Scripture and widely circulated. Peter's final epistle, written in 64 AD, recognizes the circulation of Paul's epistles and their Scriptural authority (2 Pet.3:16).

Therefore, for these reasons, the composition of Acts may confidently be dated between 62-63 AD.


During Luke's extensive travels in Paul's company, Luke himself was a personal eyewitness to the events he recorded in Acts. In addition to his European travels, Luke also spent two unintentional years living in Israel (21:8-27:1). Upon their return from the third missionary journey, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and imprisoned in Caesarea for approximately two years, from the spring of 57 AD through the summer of 59 AD. Luke remained at liberty in Israel throughout this period.

While Paul was enjoying the Roman procurator's "hospitality," it is impossible not to envisage Luke traveling among the churches strewn throughout Israel, researching his two books. Luke would have had ample time and opportunity to gather eyewitness accounts and personal stories from many of Jesus' original followers and members of the early church. In addition to what he had already learned of the early days of the church from Paul's unique perspective during their travels together, Luke's list of additional possible interviews staggers the imagination.

Certainly, Luke would have spent time with James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church (21:18-19). There were many members of Jesus' family who would still have been available with whom to speak. Mary was, perhaps, still living, and Jesus' siblings, including Jude, may also have been available.

Some of the twelve apostles may still have been serving in Israel, and most of those who were elsewhere, including Peter and John, would have likely returned to Jerusalem over the course of two years for at least one pilgrim festival. Furthermore, the apostles' wives and families may not have always accompanied them on their journeys and may have been available.

Some of the original Hellenistic Jewish deacons (6:5) may have still been in Israel. Luke certainly spent time with Philip, who lived in Caesarea (21:8-10).

In addition, whether they first met during this time in Israel or later as coworkers in Rome (Col. 4:14; Philem. 24), Luke and Mark were well acquainted. There is no question that in writing both Luke's gospel and Acts, he was reliant on Mark's written testimony (the gospel of Mark) as well as oral reminiscence of his early Christian experiences.

The gospels and Acts are strewn with the names of additional individuals with whom Luke may have had opportunity to speak and get their personal accounts: Mary Magdalene (Luke 24:10), Mary, Martha and Lazarus (Luke 10:38-42), the unnamed lame beggar (Acts 3:2), Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50), Tabitha (Acts 9:40), Aeneas (Acts 9:33), Rhoda (Acts 12:13), Agabus (Acts 21:10), the priests who came to faith (Acts 6:7); Cleopas and his Emmaus companion (Luke 24:18); Bartimaeus (Luke 18:35); Zaccheus (Luke 19:2) and additional dozens.

Indeed, one may only speculate on how many of the five hundred witnesses of Jesus' resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6), or of the seventy emissaries Jesus had appointed (Luke 10:1), or the "Pentecost three thousand" (Acts 2:41) were subject to Luke's careful investigation. Both of Luke's volumes teem with concern for the "personal touch." In Acts alone, Luke references over one hundred people by name! Protagonists, antagonists, minor characters and bystanders all are recorded for posterity by this conscientious historian.

In short, there was no scarcity of potential sources Luke may have tapped to compile his two-volume work.

Luke's time in Israel also accounts for his tremendous attention to geographical detail. As Paul's missionary companion, Luke's ability to conjure up the geographic details that characterize his European travelogues is not at all surprising. Yet it is his strikingly vivid rendering of Galilee, Jerusalem, the Temple, Samaria and Israel's coastal cities that reveal Luke's first hand knowledge of Israel.


As becomes obvious on first reading, a vast portion of Acts (roughly one third) is composed of various sermons and speeches, primarily those of Peter, Paul and Stephen. Indeed, based on the percentage of narrative content dedicated to the speeches, perhaps Acts should have been assigned the more precise title, Selected Acts of a Few Apostles and an Extra-Large Assortment of their Sermons (see Table 1).

It is in the record of these speeches that Luke's qualitative faithfulness to his historical sources shines through. Luke's usual method is to quote a portion of the original speech and then summarize the remainder using his own words. There is every reason to attribute the quoted text of these speeches to either some sort of written record (although the presence of an on-scene "stenographer" is unlikely) or the personal reminiscence of the speaker himself or a member of his original audience. Most of these speeches were delivered on what, admittedly, must be described as "memorable occasions," which likely burned the content into the consciousness of speaker and listeners alike. This would have been particularly true in a culture like Israel's, which so highly valued the memorization and oral transmission of the instruction of valued and beloved teachers. (5) In addition, the Holy Spirit must have been influential in the preservation and recall of these messages.

Each speaker in Acts has his own distinctive voice: Peter, Paul, Stephen and James all qualitatively read very differently from one another, even when addressing the same broad themes or making reference to identical Old Testament prophecies. Furthermore, each speech is tailor-made for the particular audience to which it is addressed. Peter addressing the Sanhedrin is not identical to his addressing Cornelius. Paul addressing the synagogue reads very differently than when addressing the Athenians.

While it is doubtful that it would have been possible for Luke, decades after the fact, to accurately reflect the exact word-for-word text of every speech, it is not at all improbable that he accurately reflected the substance of each speech as originally delivered. In other words, we can be confident that what was eventually recorded was the substantial gist of what was originally spoken. It must be reiterated that Luke claimed to be a conscientious reporter of history and not a creative writer of fiction.


1. Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1970), 354.
2. Ibid., 354.
3. Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 369.
4. Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 369.
5. The entire complex corpus of Jewish oral law is built on this memorization and oral transmission
from one generation of rabbis to the next. This corpus of oral customs, traditions, edicts and verdicts
was not committed to writing until the second century AD, following the destruction of Jerusalem and
the Temple, and the majority of the Jewish people’s exile from the land of Israel.


1. What is the evidence that Luke is the author of Acts?
2. What is the evidence for the pre 64 AD composition of Acts?

Acts: Witnesses to the World
Copyright © 2004, Tyndale Theological Seminary


Steven Charles Ger, Th.M., is a fourth generation Jewish believer. In addition to Acts: Witnesses to the World, his body of work includes a biblical commentary on Hebrews and co-authorship of The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary. He is also a contributing author to The Gathering Storm and the Zondervan KJV Commentary: Old Testament. He is the former host of the weekly radio show, "The Jewish Heart of Christianity," and has appeared as a guest expert on both radio and television. Steven's main work is directing Sojourner Ministries, an organization dedicated to exploring the Jewish heart of Christianity.

Autographed copies of Acts: Witnesses to the World may be purchased from the Sojourner Ministries website at

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