Acts of the Apostles, 8-12 in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

VIII. The Speeches in Acts. This matter is important enough to receive separate treatment. Are the numerous speeches reported in Acts free compositions of Luke made to order a la Thucydides? Are they verbatim reports from notes taken at the times and literally copied into the narrative? Are they substantial reports incorporated with more or less freedom with marks of Luke's own style? In the abstract either of these methods was possible. The example of Thucydides, Xenophon, Livy and Josephus shows that ancient historians did not scruple to invent speeches of which no report was available. There are not wanting those who accuse Luke of this very thing in Acts. The matter can only be settled by an appeal to the facts so far as they can be determined. It cannot be denied that to a certain extent the hand of Luke is apparent in the addresses reported by him in Acts. But this fact must not be pressed too far. It is not true that the addresses are all alike in style. It is possible to distinguish very clearly the speeches of Peter from those of Paul. Not merely is this true, but we are able to compare the addresses of both Paul and Peter with their epistles. It is not probable that Luke had seen these epistles, as will presently be shown. It is crediting remarkable literary skill to Luke to suppose that he made up "Petrine" speeches and "Pauline" speeches with such success that they harmonize beautifully with the teachings and general style of each of these apostles. The address of Stephen differs also sharply from those of Peter and Paul, though we are not able to compare this report with any original work by Stephen himself. Another thing is true also, particularly of Paul's sermons. They are wonderfully stated to time, place and audience. They all have a distract Pauline flavor, and yet a difference in local color that corresponds, to some extent, with the variations in the style of Paul's epistles. Professor Percy Gardner (The Speeches of Paul in Acts, in Cambridge Biblical Essays, 1909) recognizes these differences, but seeks to explain them on the ground of varying accuracy in the sources used by Luke, counting the speech at Miletus as the most historic of all. But he admits the use of sources by Luke for these addresses. The theory of pure invention by Luke is quite discredited by appeal to the facts. On the other hand, in view of the apparent presence of Luke's style to some extent in the speeches, it can hardly be claimed that he has made verbatim reports. Besides, the report of the addresses of Jesus in Luke's Gospel (as in the other gospels) shows the same freedom in giving the substance exact reproduction of the words that is found in Acts. Again, it seems clear that some, if not all, the reports in Acts are condensed, mere outlines in the case of some of Peter's addresses. The ancients knew how to make shorthand reports of such addresses. The oral tradition was probably active in preserving the early speeches of Peter and even of Stephen, though Paul himself heard Stephen. The speeches...

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