Review: Acts (PNTC)

Acts

Peterson begins his commentary with a 97 page Introduction divided into two sections. The first deals with issues like Authorship, Date, Genre, Sources, Historical Reliability, Character, Structure, Purpose, and Interpretive Issues (e.g., the use of key terms, Scripture, narrative repetition, parallel and contrasting accounts, etc).

In the second section Peterson helpfully presents ten aspects of Acts’ theology covering 40 pages: God and His Plan, the Gospel, the Atoning Work of Jesus, Miracles, Magic and the Demonic, and more. The commentary proper is already quite large (626 full pages, which even for Acts is quite long), and this holistic overview of the theology of Acts helps give the teacher/pastor/student the proper perspective through which to view Acts from as they enter into the commentary proper.

Peterson brings out connections between Luke’s first and second volume and shows how Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT, saying, “From beginning to end… the ascended Lord is shown to be sovereign over every thing that happens, furthering his purpose in the world through his word and his Spirit” (27). In Acts the “growth of the word is clearly coextensive with the growth of the church…” (33). In fact, the “gospel is shown to prosper in spite of, and even because of, suffering” (33-34).

Peterson’s Aims

Peterson tries to be comprehensive, but says he writes specifically with a “bias towards theological analysis and an exploration of hermeneutical issues” (xvii). Basically, what does the text say, why does it say it, and what does it mean? Peterson is aware of the many monographs and scholarly articles that most readers will never lay their eyes on. He boils down the insights of others into a readable format for the general reader.

He argues that “Acts was written primarily for the edification of the church and for the encouragement of gospel ministry,” and he believes it has just as much relevance for us today.

Peterson is aware of the difficulty in preaching biblical narratives, and offers “more clues for understanding the purpose and meaning of various elements” of Acts. Alongside those issues are matters of interpreting texts dealing with the Holy Spirit, miracles, Christian gatherings, divine guidance, and the relevance of the OT and of Jews.

The Text

Though there’s more to Peterson’s commentary than these few points, I will try to give you a small taste of Peterson’s take on Acts.

1.8: Peterson sees this verse as “a prediction and promise of the way [the] divine plan will be fulfilled” (112). Jerusalem (Acts 2-7) comes first, then in Judea and Samaria (8-12), and then to the ends of the earth (13-28).

2.2-4: Peterson comments that the gift of the Spirit in Acts 2 “was a sign that God was about to accomplish a mighty work of renewal” (132). He continues saying that the “Pentecostal gift is God’s empowering presence with his people in a new and distinctive way, revealing his will and leading them to fulfill his purposes for them as the people of the New Covenant (133). He believes that these ‘tongues’ are different than those of 1 Corinthians 12-14, though without providing much evidence for his claim (134).

Ch 6; The Jewish leaders couldn’t stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave Stephen. Only two other references to wisdom are made, Joseph (7.10) and Moses (7.22). Stephen also shares grace and power with these two characters, “suggesting [the] prophetic authority and significance” of Stephen (240). He is “specifically portrayed as experiencing the fulfillment of Luke 21:14-15… [and is] an example for all who are on trial for their faith in Jesus and who trust in his promises” (240).

Ch 7: This chapter brings to a head the “story of the conflict between the Christian mission and the temple authorities… that first appeared in 4:1-3” (244). The Jewish leaders have consistently denied God’s prophets, his law, and ultimately his Righteous One. “Stephen’s ultimate aim is to glorify the exalted Lord Jesus and to convict those who have denied him” (244).

9.1-18; 22.6-18; 26.12-18: Here we see one of the Literary Features of Acts: Narrative Repetition. The reason why these accounts differ in wording or emphasis is because they are told from different perspectives (Luke [9]; Paul [22; 26] to different audiences (Christians reading Acts [9]; Jews [22], King Agrippa [26]).

Recommended?

The Greek Text is transliterated throughout the commentary, and Peterson has a solid grasp on the secondary literature. Peterson is an evangelical who takes the Bible seriously as God’s Word (see his NSBT volume on the Holy Spirit and Sanctification in the Christian). Peterson’s volume would suit the student and teacher quite well. Peterson’s volume would be beneficial for the (not too busy) pastor, although the pastor will want to look elsewhere for more application (e.g., Hughes; Schnabel). 

Lagniappe

  • Series: The Pillar New Testament Commentary
  • Hardcover: 846 pages

Buy it from Amazon or from Eerdmans!

(Special thanks to IVP and SPCK for the review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book).

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Review: Acts (PNTC)

  1. Pingback: Eerdmans All Over: January 22, 2016 – EerdWord

  2. Chita

    Your reviews are always good and informative. Just wondering though why this review different from many others (no “chocolate milk” spoiled milk”)? You mention “application” though you don’t mention it on the Luke commentary? Recommend? Yes, or yes but….

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    • Spencer

      Good eye! Sometimes my format varies because it can be a bit difficult putting everything into a “positive” vs “negative” section. Sometimes I want to write about one topic, and it’s easier to mention both good and bad sides in one section than putting it into two sections.

      As for the Luke (PNTC) commentary, I’m not sure why I didn’t mention application. I think that volume is more “useable” than this Acts volume, but Edwards doesn’t put much direct application into his commentary. I think. That may be why I didn’t say anything about it.

      Yes, recommended, but the student and teacher would get the most out this volume. Schnabel’s Acts (ZECNT) commentary would be very long, deep, but still readable.

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    • Spencer

      As in, I think more people would get more out of Schnabel’s commentary than Peterson’s.

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      • Chita

        Thanks Spencer. In other words if one had to choose between them, they must go for Schnabel’s because of its readability and usability, even though it’s longer.

        I also wanted some form of comparison between Stein (BECNT) and Strauss (ZECNT). Which one do you think one would get the most out of, if one had to choose just one?

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      • Spencer

        Hey, have you seen my response to your question on the Mark (ZECNT) review?

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      • Spencer

        And yes, I would go to Schnabel before Peterson.

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