Criswell Theological Review 5.1 (1990) 31-41.

          Copyright © 1990 by The Criswell CollegeCited with permission.    




                       THE SPEECHES IN ACTS*



                                   SIMON J. KISTEMAKER

                              Reformed Theological Seminary

                                        Jackson, MS 39209


About half of the Book of Acts consists of speeches, discourses, and

letters. Counting both the short and the long addresses, we number at

least 26 speeches that are made by either apostles and Christian leaders

or by non-Christians (Jews and Gentiles). Classifying these speeches,

we have eight addresses delivered by Peter,1 a lengthy sermon of

Stephen before the Sanhedrin (7:2-53), a brief explanation by Cornelius

(10:30-33), a short address by James at the Jerusalem Council (15:13-

21), the advice to Paul by James and the elders in Jerusalem (21:20-25),

and nine sermons and speeches by Paul.2 The rest of the discourses

were given by Gamaliel the Pharisee (5:35-39), Demetrius the silver-

smith (19:25-27), the city clerk in Ephesus (19:35-40), Tertullus the

lawyer (24:2-8), and Festus the governor (25:24-27).3 In addition, Luke

relays the text of two letters: one from the Jerusalem Council to the

Gentile churches (15:23-29), and the other written by Claudius Lysias

addressed to Governor Felix (23:27-30).


                                                            I. Sources


            The speeches in Acts make the book interesting, because when

people talk we learn something about their personalities. Luke gives


            * A few paragraphs in this article have been taken from my commentary An

Exposition of Acts (New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990).

            1 See Acts 1:16-22; 2:14-36, 38-39; 3:12-26; 4:8-12, 19-20; 5:29-32; 10:34-43; 11:5-

17; 15:7-11.

            2 See Acts 13:16-41; 14:15-17; 17:22-31; 20:18-35; 22:1-21; 24:10-21; 26:2-~, 25-27;

27:21-26; 28:17-20.

            3 H. J. Cadbury, "The Speeches in Acts," The Beginnings of Christianity: The Acts

of the Apostles (repr. ed.; 5 vols.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979) 5.403. See also J. Navonne,

"Speeches in Acts," The Bible Today 65 (1973) 1114-17.




the reader an opportunity to listen to the speakers and by listening to

come to know their personalities. Luke was personally present when

Paul addressed the Ephesian elders, spoke in Jerusalem, defended him-

self before Felix, and delivered speeches before Festus and Agrippa.

We presume that Luke received from Paul the wording of Paul's

sermon in Pisidian Antioch and his Areopagus address. Perhaps Paul

and other witnesses provided information on Stephen's speech before

the Sanhedrin. From Peter, Luke gathered material on the addresses of

Peter in the upper room, at Pentecost, near Solomon's Colonnade,

before the Sanhedrin, and at the Jerusalem Council. And from James

he received the details concerning the Jerusalem Council.

            If Luke collected his information from eyewitnesses, does he faith-

fully reproduce the speeches which they and others made? As can be

expected, the context reveals that Luke presents the addresses in sum-

mary form. But are these summaries true to fact or have they been

placed in the mouths of speakers? Some scholars are of the opinion that

the speeches are the creation of the writer of Acts. By comparison, they

point to the Greek historian Thucydides and claim that Luke adopted

the methodology of Thucydides. This historian declared that in com-

posing his speeches he "adhered as closely as possible to the general

sense of what was actually said."4 The apparent intention of this

ancient writer was to state that the speeches he wrote were historically

accurate and not based on his own imagination.5 Even though the

words of Thucydides have been a topic of much debate, the inclination

to take his saying at face value prevails. The task which the ancient

historian assumed was to give an account of the events just as they

happened. He reported facts not fiction.

            If we listen to Luke's own words in the preface to his Gospel, we

learn that he gives an account of the things that have happened and

which people have accepted as true (Luke 1:1; cf. Acts 1:1). Thus at the

beginning of his writings, Luke informs the reader that his reporting as

a historian is true to fact.


                                                            II. History


            The question that concerns the student of Acts is whether Luke is

giving a truthful presentation in this historical account. Does he ac-

curately report the speeches he himself did not hear?


            4 Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 1.22.1.

            5 M. Dibelius, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles (London: SCM, 1956) 141,

expresses doubt; but W. W. Gasque accepts the statement as true, in "The Speeches of

Acts: Dibelius Reconsidered," New Dimensions in New Testament Study (ed. by R. N.

Longenecker and M. C. Tenney; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974) 243-44. Compare T.

F. Glasson, "Speeches in Acts and Thucydides," Exp Tim 76 (1964-65) 165.


      Simon J. Kistemaker: THE SPEECHES IN ACTS        33


Before we examine some of the speeches in Acts, let us first note

that Luke's reporting reflects linguistic peculiarities that show the area

and setting in which a dialogue took place. In many sections of his

Gospel and Acts, Luke expresses himself in excellent Greek. This is

evident, for instance, from the Greek in the introduction to his Gospel

(Luke 1:1-4). But throughout the birth narratives (Luke 1 and 2), his

diction and word choice bear a distinct Aramaic stamp. It is as if Mary

herself relates to Luke the accounts of Jesus' conception and birth in

Aramaic Greek. Indeed, so Luke reports, Mary kept all these things in

her heart (2:19, 51).

            Also in Acts, Luke varies the choice of words with reference to the

locale. He reflects the diction, vocabulary, and culture of the area he

describes. In the chapters that depict Palestine (1-15), Luke's Greek

has an Aramaic coloring. The second half of the book (16-28) reflects a

Gentile setting and is written in fluent Greek that, at times, rivals

classical Greek. To illustrate, of the 67 times that the optative mood

occurs in the NT, 17 of these are in Acts. These 17 instances appear

mostly in the second half of the book and often come from speakers

who know Greek well.6 Another aspect of a Jewish backdrop that Luke

portrays in Acts is the use of Semitisms. For instance, Jesus addresses

Paul on the way to Damascus with the Hebrew name Saou<l instead of

the Grecized form Sau?loj (9:4; 22:7; 26:14; and see 9:17; 22:13). By

contrast, when Governor Festus alludes to Emperor Nero as o[ Sebasto<j

and o[ ku<rioj (25:25,26), he exposes a typical Roman setting.

            Is Luke composing speeches that he places on the lips of the

speakers, or does he present more or less the exact words the speakers

uttered in summarized form? If we say that Luke is the source for these

speeches, he proves to be an exceptionally skilled artist who writes a

masterful book with all the possible nuances of speech and word

choice.7 His work, then, is closer to fiction than history. But if we

contend that Luke's source material comes directly from the speakers

or the community that heard them, he mirrors people as they are with

their own peculiarities and characteristics. "The question of the his-

toricity of the speeches is not beside the point in the study of a work

which claims to be a historical narrative."8 Luke, then, is both a writer

and a historian.


            6 These include the Greek philosophers in Athens (17:18), Paul at the Areopagus

(17:27 [twice]), Governor Festus (25:16 [twice], 20), and Paul addressing King Agrippa

(26:29). The other instances are: 5:24; 8:20, 31; 10:17; 17:11; 20:16; 21:33; 24:19; 27:12, 39.

            7 Concludes J. T. Townsend, "There is therefore, no reason to suppose that the

speeches in Acts which are found in the mouths of Christians reflect any other mind than

the mind of the man who wrote them, the author of Luke-Acts." 'The Speeches in Acts,"

ATR 42 (1960) 159.

            8 F. F. Bruce. "The Speeches in Acts-Thirty Years After," in Reconciliation and

Hope (ed. by R. Banks; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 57.



            Space does not permit examination of all the discourses in Acts.

We must be selective and refer to only a few, namely, those of Stephen,

Peter, and Paul, with a passing reference to the ones of Tertullus and

Festus. In the last part of Acts (20-28), Luke discloses that he himself

was present and, therefore, he speaks as an eyewitness.


                                                III. Stephen

            The most extensive speech in Acts is the one Stephen delivered

before the members of the Sanhedrin (7:2-53). Stephen traces the

history of the people of Israel from the time of Abraham to that of

Solomon's temple. But the speech is much more than a chronicle of

historical events. Stephen imparts that he is an expert theologian who is

thoroughly acquainted with the Scriptures. He is knowledgeable in

drawing implicit conclusions and displays the same theological acumen

as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews unveils.

            Stephen directly quotes no less than 15 OT passages, of which 13

are from the Pentateuch and two from the Prophets. Of the 40 OT

quotations cited in Acts, 15 are in Stephen's speech.9 The repeated

appeal to the OT is not a characteristic of Luke's style but rather points

to a theologian of Stephen's stature (6:9-10). Moreover, Stephen has

selected considerable detail from the primary events of Israel's early

history. "The major events and details which are included are carefully

chosen and presented to indicate convincingly the accuracy of Ste-

phen's interpretation of Israel's past history."10

            In his speech, Stephen shows that God is not bound to an earthly

temple built by human hands: God revealed himself to Abraham in

Mesopotamia, to Joseph in Egypt, and to Moses in the flames of the

burning bush. Stephen proves that the Jews are unable to confine God's

dwelling place to the temple in Jerusalem. He develops the theological

themes of God, worship, the Law, the covenant, and the person and

message of the Messiah. Through the work of the Messiah, the house of

Israel is able to worship God in truth and justice. Stephen avoids

mentioning the name of Jesus but teaches that God has raised up a

Savior for the house of Israel.


            9 Gen 12:1 = v 3; Gen 48:4 = v 5; Gen 15:13-15 = vv 6-7; Exod 3:12 = v 7; Exod

1:8 = v 18; Exod 2:14 = vv 27-28; Exod 3:2 = v 30; Exod 3:6 = v 32; Exod 3:5 = v 33;

Exod3:7, 8, 10 = v 34; Exod 2:14 = v 35; Deut 18:15 = v 37; Exod 32:1, 23 = v 40; Amos

5: 25-27 (LXX) = vv 42-43; Isa 66:1-2 = vv 49-50.

            10 J. J. Scott, Jr., "Stephen's Speech: A Possible Model for Luke's Historical

Method?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 17 (1974) 93. Consult A. F. J.

Klijn, "Stephen's Speech-Acts VII. 2-53," NTS 4 (1957) 25-31. C. H. H. Scobie thinks

that Luke used a Christian tract as source material in "The Use of Source Material in the

Speeches of Acts III and VII," NTS 25 (1979) 399-421.


            Simon J. Kistemaker: THE SPEECHES IN ACTS      35


            We are unable to ascertain from whom Luke received the sub-

stance of Stephen's speech. We surmise that Luke gained access to the

speech that Stephen delivered before the Sanhedrin from Paul and

those members of the Sanhedrin who later became Christians. The

speech came to Luke's attention through a fixed tradition either in oral

or written form. With reference to Acts 7--a study of word choice,

references to the temple and to Moses, and the absence of typical

Lucan constructions--all these facts indicate that Stephen's speech did

not originate in the mind of Luke.

            Thus, the words promise and affliction have their own significance

in the context of Acts 7 and do not correspond to their usages in the rest

of Acts. Next, Stephen's manner of speaking about Moses and the

temple is confined to this particular discourse. Luke writes nowhere

else in Acts in a similar manner. And last, in Stephen's speech are at

least 23 words that do not occur again either in Acts or in any other

book of the NT; also, numerous literary forms, peculiar to both the

Gospel of Luke and Acts, are absent from Stephen's speech.11 We

cannot assume that Luke has presented a verbatim account of Stephen's

speech, but we confidently assert that he allows the original speaker to

be heard in words and concepts that belong to Stephen, the first

Christian martyr.

            We infer that as a faithful historian Luke has incorporated the

discourse of Stephen at this juncture of Acts to prepare the reader for

the persecution subsequent to Stephen's death and for extending the

church beyond the confines of Jerusalem. It was Stephen, and not

Luke, who provided the impetus to further the church's development.

Luke, therefore, is reporting factual information based on historical

events.12 He is a historian who, in the manner of Thucydides, reports

speeches as closely as possible to the general sense of what the speakers

actually said.


                                                IV. Peter


            Peter's Pentecost sermon is the first of the three major addresses

Peter delivered (2:14-36; 3:12-26; 10:34-43). Some scholars are of the

opinion that Peter's Pentecost sermon is much more a theological


            11 M. H. Scharlemann, "Stephen's Speech: A Lucan Creation?" Concordia Journal 4

(1978) 57. See also L. W. Barnard, "Saint Stephen and Early Alexandrian Christianity,"

NTS 7 (1960-61) 31.

            12 Compare M. H. Scharlemann, Stephen: A Singular Saint (Analecta Biblica 34;

Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1968) 52-56; J. Kilgallen, The Stephen Speech: A Literary

and Redactional Study of Acts 7, 2-53 (Analecta Biblica 67; Rome: Biblical Institute

Press, 1976) 113.




discourse written by Luke than a historical report of the apostle's

speech.13 We know that Luke himself was not present in Jerusalem on

the Day of Pentecost, but that he received his information from "eye-

witnesses and servants of the word" (Luke 1:2). We presume that Peter

served as Luke's informant who gave him the pattern and wording of

the sermon. In fact, "Both the pattern and the basic theology are older

than Luke and probably reach back into the early days of the church."14

Luke presents a summary of Peter's sermon, which is also the case in

the other discourses. Luke indicates that much more was said, for Peter

warned the people with many other words (2:40).

            In his speeches, Peter employs concepts that have an echo in his

epistles. He even exhibits similarities in his word choice. Comparing

these similarities in both his speeches and letters, we find some in-

stances that are striking not only in the Greek but even in translation.


            Acts                                                    1 Peter

            by the set purpose and                       according to the

            foreknowledge of God (2:23)          foreknowledge of God (1:2)


            silver or gold I do not                       such as silver or gold that

            have (3:6)                                           you were redeemed (1:18)


            the faith that comes                           you believe in God

            through him (3:16)                            through him (1:21)


            as judge of the living                         to judge the living

            and the dead (10:42)                         and the dead (4:5)


            When Peter addresses the household of Cornelius, he tells the

Gentile audience that "God shows no favoritism" (10:34). Next, he

repeats this thought in slightly different wording when he speaks at the

Jerusalem Council in favor of admitting the Gentiles to membership in

the church. He says that God "made no distinction between us and

them" (15:9). Third, in 1 Peter he writes that God "impartially judges

each man's work" (1:17). And last, when Peter proclaims the good

news to the crowd at Solomon's Colonnade, he instructs the people to

repent in order to hasten the coming of Christ (3:19-21). He expresses

the same sentiment in a brief sentence in 2 Peter. He writes, "You ought


            13 Among others, R. F. Zehnle, Peter's Pentecost Discourse: Tradition and Lukan

Reinterpretation in Peter's Speeches in Acts 2 and 3 (SBLMS 15; ed. by R. A. Kraft;

Nashville, New York: Abingdon, 1971) 136-38.

            14 I. H. Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles (Tyndale New Testament Commen-

taries; ed. by R. V. G. Tasker; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 72. Compare C. H. Dodd,

The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1936)


      Simon J. Kistemaker: THE SPEECHES IN ACTS       37


to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and

speed its coming" (3:11b-12a, NIV).

            We admit that all these resemblances are no more than proverbial

straws in the wind. Nevertheless, these similarities point in the same

direction and lend verbal support to the historicity of Peter's dis-

courses.15  In these speeches, Peter clearly teaches both the humanity

and divinity of Jesus Christ (e.g., 2:22, 33-36). Also throughout his

writings, Peter refers to Jesus as God and man (e.g., 1 Pet 1:2, 3; 2:21,

24; 3:15; 2 Pet 1:1). In brief, Peter presents Jesus Christ as God and man

in both his addresses and epistles.


                                                V. Paul


            Luke has recorded three of Paul's missionary discourses: the syna-

gogue sermon in Pisidian Antioch (13:16-41), the Areopagus speech in

Athens (17:22-31), and the farewell address to the Ephesian elders

(20:18-35). Of these three, Luke personally heard the third one; he

appears to have received information for the first two discourses from

Paul and his travel companions.

            The Pisidian Antioch sermon is a type that Paul delivered through-

out Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece (cf. 14:15-17; 17:22-31). Paul's

sermon basically consists of three parts: (1) a survey of Israel's history;

(2) the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and (3) the application of

the gospel message.16 Many aspects of this sermon resemble features in

the sermons delivered by Peter in Jerusalem (2:14-36; 3:12-26) and the

one Stephen preached before the Sanhedrin (7:2-53).

            Paul's sermon in Pisidian Antioch discloses aspects of his epistolary

teaching. When Paul preached in the synagogue at Antioch, he ended

his sermon by mentioning the doctrine of justification. He said, "Every-

one who believes in [Jesus] is justified from all things from which you

could not be justified through the law of Moses" (13:39). There is a

discernible link between his sermon and his epistles, for Paul expresses

the doctrine of justification in his Epistles to the Romans, the Galatians,

and the Ephesians.17 This fundamental tenet he taught both in sermons

and letters.


            15 Cadbury is skeptical of these similarities and parallels, for he points to compar-

able word choices in other NT writers. "The Speeches in Acts," Beginnings, 5.413.

            16 Refer to J. W. Bowker, "Speeches in Acts: A Study in Proem and Yelammedenu

Form," NTS 14 (1967-68) 101-2.

            17 Cf. Rom 3:20,21,28; Gal 3:16; and Eph 2:9. Rejecting that Luke wrote Acts, J.

Roloff says that in general the speeches which the writer places on the lips of Paul have

nothing in common with the Pauline theology and characteristics known from his

epistles. Die Apostelgeschichte (NTD 5; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1981) 3.



            Strictly speaking, Paul's Areopagus address in Athens is not a

defense of the Christian faith. Rather, his speech is both a challenge to

the pagan religion and a proclamation of the gospel. When Paul stood

before members of the Areopagus Council, he faced an audience that

was different from that of the synagogue worship services. In the

presence of the Athenian philosophers, he could not assume that they

had any knowledge of the Scripture or of Jesus who fulfilled Scripture's

prophecies. Paul had to begin his speech by teaching his audience the

doctrines of God and creation. He continued his teaching with the

doctrine of man, for man is God's offspring. And he concluded his

oration with the doctrines of judgment and the resurrection.

            We affirm the historicity of Paul's visit to the Council of the

Areopagus. In that meeting, Paul the apostle to the Gentiles introduced

a pagan audience to the teachings of the Christian faith. He commented

that God created man, appointed a day for judgment, and overlooked

man's sins of the past. Paul's speech and writing reveal similarity. In his

letter to the Romans, Paul mentions that God has made himself known

in creation, that God judges men's secrets through Jesus Christ, and

that God has shown his forbearance by leaving sins unpunished (Rom

1:19-21; 2:16; 3:21-26). Comparing these comments with his Areopagus

address, we assert that Paul himself addressed the council members of

the Areopagus.18 We assume that at a later time he gave Luke the

wording of this speech.

            Even though Paul alludes to an altar inscription (“to an unknown

God”) and quotes some lines from pagan sources, he nowhere indicates

that the gospel occupies common ground with pagan religion and

philosophy."19 Paul uses these pagan aspects as points of contact with

his audience but refuses to accommodate and compromise the gospel

message. In this respect he is true to his God, who gives man the law

not to have any gods before him. When Paul refers to pagan gods, he

skillfully employs the neuter gender: “What [o!], therefore, you worship

in ignorance, this [tou?to] I am proclaiming to you" (17:23); and “We

ought not to think that the divine being [to> qei?on] is like an image”

(17:29). He refrains from calling an idol “God,” but classifies it with

impersonal objects. Conclusively, Luke indicates that Paul carefully

chose his words when he addressed the Athenian philosophers.


            18 F. F. Bruce, "Paul and the Athenians," Exp Tim 88 (1976) 11. H. Conzelmann

calls Paul's speech "not an extract from a missionary address, but a purely literary

creation." See his "The Address of Paul on the Areopagus," Studies in Luke-Acts (ed. by

L. E. Keck and J. L. Martyn; Nashville/New York: Abingdon, 1966) 218. Consult C. J.

Hemer, "The Speeches of Acts: II. The Areopagus Address," Tyndale Bulletin 40/2

(1989) 239-59.

            19 T. L. Wilkinson, “Acts 17: The Gospel Related to Paganism," Vox Reformata 35

(1980) 12.


      Simon J. Kistemaker: THE SPEECHES IN ACTS       39


Paul's farewell address to the Ephesian elders on the beach of

Miletus has a number of phrases that occur also in his epistles. These

are a few illustrations:


            serving the Lord with                        serving the Lord (Rom 12:11)

            all humility (20:19)                          with all humility (Eph 4:2)


            that I may finish                                 I have finished

            the race (20:24)                                the race (2 Tim 4:7)


            complete the task I                            complete the task you

            received from the Lord                     received in the Lord

            (20:24)                                               (Col 4:17)


            Examining the diction of Paul's farewell speech, R. H. Charles


            There is every ground for accepting this speech as a trustworthy record of

            Paul's speech. Some of the phrases are exclusively Pauline as plh>n o!ti,         

             kai> nu?n i]dou<, desma> kai> qli<yeij, nouqetei?n; others are

            characteristically Pauline and non-Lucan as mh> fei<desqai,     

            tapeinofronsu<nhj, u[poste<llesqai, nu<kta kai> h[me<ran, to>



In view of Luke's presence, we confidently affirm the historicity of

Paul's speech recorded by his friend Luke. C. K. Barrett pointedly asks

why Luke would write fiction and attach the story to Miletus instead of

the great city and Pauline centre Ephesus.”21 If Luke records a his-

torical event, then the address is an eyewitness report that reflects the

words Paul spoke.

            The speeches which Paul the prisoner delivered before the Jews in

Jerusalem (22:1-21) and before King Agrippa (26:2-29) exhibit remark-

able differences even though both contain the account of Paul's con-

version experience. For one thing, the audiences are different. In his

Jerusalem address, Paul never mentions the name Jesus with the excep-

tion of Jesus' self-identification (22:8). Paul purposely circumscribes

the name to avoid giving offense to his Jewish audience. But when he


            20 P. Gardner, "The Speeches of St. Paul in Acts," Essays on Some Biblical Ques-

tions of the Day (ed. by H. B. Sweet; London: Macmillan, 1909) 418. In an addendum he

includes the investigations of R. H. Charles.

            21 C. K. Barrett, "Paul's Address to the Ephesian Elders," God's Christ and His

People: Studies in Honour of N. A. Dahl (ed. by J. Jervell and W. A. Meeks; Oslo/Ber-

gen/Tromso: Universitetsforlaget, 1977)109. Consult G. A. Kennedy, "The Speeches in

Acts," New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism (Chapel Hill/London:

University of North Carolina Press, 1984) 139. Consult C. J. Hemer, "The Speeches of

Acts: I. The Ephesian Elders at Miletus," Tyndale Bulletin 40 (1989) 77-85.



addresses King Agrippa and tries to persuade him to believe in Jesus,

he explicitly mentions Jesus' name (26:9).

            Further, addressing the Jews in Jerusalem, Paul features Ananias

as a devout man according to the law and respected by all the Jews

living in Damascus (22:12). In his speech before Agrippa, Paul over-

looks the entire encounter with Ananias because it detracts from his

purpose to acquaint the king with the gospel. He delivers his Jerusalem

address in Hebrew or Aramaic (21:40) but his discourse before Agrippa

and Festus in excellent Greek. In the presence of these government

officials, military commanders, and prominent citizens of Caesarea,

Paul's diction compares with that of classical Greek. To illustrate, he

employs an Attic verb form i@sasi instead of the third person plural

oi@dasin (26:4); he ingeniously quotes the words "Nothing was done

secretly in a corner" (26:26), which philosophers pejoratively used for

uneducated teachers;22 and he uses the optative mood in his closing

remark to Agrippa: Eu]cai<mhn a@n (26:29).

            What are the characteristics that support the historicity of Paul's

speech before King Agrippa? In summary, here are the highlights:

            First, no speech either of Paul or any other speaker in Acts is as

personal in tone as Paul's address before Agrippa (see especially v 27).

This speech sparkles in the beauty of its direct gospel appeal. Paul

speaks engagingly to King Agrippa throughout his discourse by ad-

dressing him by title, name, and personal pronoun you.23

            Next, Paul fits his choice of words to the class of his audience. That

is, his diction and syntax are approaching classical Greek and equal that

of his Areopagus address (17:22-31). At the same time, we hear in his

Agrippa speech the same tone and tenor of Paul's other discourses.

            Third, in his speech before Agrippa, Paul repeats his conversion

experience (cf. 22:1-21; and see 9:1-19). Although the three conversion

accounts reveal differences, Paul freely selects from his own recollec-

tion those elements that suit his present purposes. And because Paul is

the speaker, he is free to choose his own wording to describe the event.

            Last, Paul addresses Agrippa, who is of Jewish descent and, as

curator of the Jerusalem temple, as "an expert in all the customs and

disputes of the Jews" (26:3). Yet Paul's speech is not a one-sided gospel

appeal directed only to Agrippa (see, for instance v 8); he presents the

doctrine of Christ's resurrection as a light both to the Jewish people

and to the Gentiles (v 23).24


            22 Consult A. J. Malherbe, "'Not in a Comer': Early Christian Apologetic in Acts

26:26," The Second Century 5 (1985-86) 193-210.

            23 Cf. vv 2, 3, 7, 13, 19, 27.

            24 Compare K. Haacker, "Das Bekenntnis des Paulus zur Hoffnung Israels nach der

Apostelgeschichte des Lukas," NTS 31 (1985) 437-51; J. J. Kilgallen, "Paul Before

Agrippa (Acts 26,2-23): Some Considerations," Bib 69 (1988) 170-95.

            Simon J. Kistemaker: THE SPEECHES IN ACTS     41


                                                VI. Conclusion


            The speeches in Acts accurately portray the speakers and reflect

their individual traits. The syntax in some of Peter's speeches is awk-

ward and in some verses disjointed. For example, before Cornelius and

his household Peter literally said: "The word which he sent to the sons

of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ, this one is Lord of all,

you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea,

beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed"

(10:36-37). Tertullus the lawyer attempts to influence Governor Felix

with flattery. Luke, who was present at the hearing, records Tertullus's

grammatical errors with journalistic accuracy. The orator utters a parti-

ciple ("finding this man to be a troublemaker" [24:2]) instead of a main

verb, and thus he disrupts the flow of the sentence. The letter from the

hand of commander Claudius Lysias is written in military style (23:26-

30), while the diction and syntax of Governor Festus characterize him

as an educated Roman official who is able to speak excellent Greek


            Although Luke is the writer of the speeches in Acts, he is not their

composer. That is, he does not create discourses which he places in the

mouths of speakers. He himself asserts, "I myself have accurately

investigated everything from the beginning" (Luke 1:3; see also Acts

1:1). Hence, we are assured that Luke's presentations are based on

factual and faithful research. Luke presented the people as they were,

precisely because he was personally acquainted with most of them. As

a travel companion of Paul, he recorded the historical events relating to

Paul's words and deeds.

            A close examination of Paul's speeches to the Jews shows that

"there is much in the content that is not essentially Lukan."25 As he

addressed Jewish audiences, Paul regularly appealed to the OT Scrip-

tures. But this characteristic does not fit Luke's style. Also, much of the

content and the vocabulary of Stephen's speech is not repeated in the

rest of Acts; this feature indicates that Luke is reporting and not

composing Stephen's address. We conclude, then, that the speeches in

Acts do not appear to be Lucan creations.


            25 F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and

Commentary (3d rev. and enlarged ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990) 62.



This material is cited with gracious permission from:

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