David G. Peterson‘s The Acts of the Apostles is hot off the press (it’s not due until June 19, but it’s already available from WTSBooks), and I enjoyed spending some time surveying it this morning. It’s another outstanding addition to the Pillar NT Commentary series. (See my review of the PNTC series, which also notes the authors slated for the forthcoming volumes.)
Peterson, a seasoned scholar on Acts (see his publications on Acts listed below), includes a 45-page section on “The Theology of Acts” (pp. 53–97) in between the “Introduction” (pp. 1–53) and “Commentary” (pp. 99–725).
From D. A. Carson’s “Editor’s Preface”
Anyone writing a commentary on the Acts of the Apostles faces several challenges unique to this book. On the face of it, this is volume 2 of a two-part work, and the first part is the Synoptic Gospel we call Luke—so suddenly the relationships Acts sustains with the life and times of Jesus become rich and intricate. Acts is also the only source we have that directly tells part of the history of the earliest decades of the church—and that means it becomes imperative to think through the relationships this book has with the New Testament letters written during the same period. In particular, Acts devotes more than half its length to the ministry of the apostle Paul, a fact that invites interaction with the sheaf of letters Paul has left us in the New Testament corpus. And finally, Acts is, by New Testament standards, a long book, so a commentator, while tackling the whole, must judiciously avoid exploring tangential warrens that seem excusable when writing on short books like, say, Galatians or Jude. That means that the commentator must first and foremost devote attention to Acts itself and not to all of the many relationships this book has with much of the rest of the New Testament—which of course puts severe limitations on how much space can be fairly devoted to the features of Acts I’ve already mentioned.
All these challenges David Peterson has met superbly. His commentary focuses on what the text actually says, and his judgments are invariably sane, even-handed, judicious. While unpacking exegetical details, Peterson is careful to keep scanning the horizon so as to establish the larger vision. Moreover, his own commitments as a churchman, lecturer in New Testament, and long-time Principal of Oak Hill Theological College mean that he knows what kinds of information pastors and students want and need. So it is a great pleasure to add this commentary to the Pillar series. (pp. xiv–xv)
From David Peterson’s “Author’s Preface”
My most recent journey with Acts has lasted more than fifteen years. After teaching the book to a generation of theological students in Sydney, I was encouraged by the editor of the series to begin work on a commentary. Coincidentally, I was invited to contribute to the first volume of The Book of Acts in Its First-Century Setting (1993–96). In a rewarding partnership with Howard Marshall, I then became the editor of a book of essays on the theology of Acts, entitled Witness to the Gospel (1998). Working with Howard and the gifted contributors to that volume forced me to think in new ways about Luke’s theological method and intentions. The writing of this commentary slowed down as I engaged in these tasks, though inevitably the whole project was enriched by such opportunities for scholarly encounter.
In the midst of all this, I was appointed Principal of Oak Hill Theological College in London (1996), where I also taught New Testament for eleven years. . . . As well as teaching Acts in undergraduate and graduate classes, I managed to preach through much of the book in the College Chapel. . . .
My own contribution attempts to be as comprehensive as possible, but with a bias towards theological analysis and an exploration of hermeneutical issues.The reason for this is twofold. First of all, monographs and articles on the theology of Acts are not normally accessible to the general reader. Wherever possible, I have tried to distil the insights of the valuable scholarly work for the benefit of a wider public. Secondly, as I will argue, Acts was written primarily for the edification of the church and for the encouragement of gospel ministry. How, then, is this book to be understood and used with reference to the life and witness of contemporary believers? (pp. xvi–xvii)
Here in one convenient volume is the basic introductory information and verse-by-verse exegesis that New Testament students and preachers need in order to understand the second part of Luke’s account of Christian beginnings. This commentary is noteworthy for its incorporation of a full essay on the theology of Acts and its careful attention to theological issues in the course of the exposition; at the same time it does not neglect historical and literary matters. I warmly commend this useful tool for study.
-I. Howard Marshall
University of Aberdeen
David Peterson interacts with Acts scholarship fairly and in an up-to-date way; his literary and historical conclusions are well informed and sound. His introduction airs issues thoroughly, yet the entire work is easy to follow. Peterson consistently engages the cohesive, larger picture and the theological message of the book.
-Craig S. Keener
Palmer Theological Seminary
One of the most complex books in the Bible, the Acts of the Apostles presents readers with formidable historical, literary, and theological challenges. In recent decades scores of researchers have deepened our understanding of the book in each of these arenas. David Peterson’s excellent exposition of Acts interacts insightfully with those studies and offers a lucid, compelling, and satisfying interpretation of the book. Like its subject, this commentary is informative, edifying, and challenging. Pastors and teachers will find it to be an invaluable guide to reading Acts with profit.
-Brian S. Rosner
Moore Theological College and Macquarie University
Some of Peterson’s Previous Publications on Acts
- Marshall, I. Howard, and David Peterson, eds. Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
- Peterson, David. “Acts.” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove: IVP, 2000.
- Peterson, David. “Atonement Theology in Luke-Acts: Some Methodological Reflections.” Pages 56–71 in The New Testament in Its First-Century Setting: Essays on Context and Background in Honour of B. W. Winter on His 65th Birthday. Edited by P. J. Williams, Andrew D. Clarke, Peter M. Head, and David Instone-Brewer. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.
- Peterson, David. “Luke’s Theological Enterprise: Integration and Intent.” Pages 521–44 in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts. Edited by I. Howard Marshall and David Peterson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
- Peterson, David. “The Motif of Fulfilment and the Purpose of Luke-Acts.” Pages 83–104 in The Book of Acts in Its Ancient Literary Setting. Edited by Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke. The Book of Acts in Its First-Century Setting 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
- Peterson, David. “Resurrection Apologetic in the Theology of Luke-Acts.” In Proclaiming the Resurrection: Papers from the First Oak Hill College Annual School of Theology. Edited by Peter M. Head. Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998.
- Peterson, David. “The Worship of the New Community.” Pages 373–95 in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts. Edited by I. Howard Marshall and David Peterson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.