In the series Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Eckhard J. Schnabel, distinguished professor of New Testament Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, wrote a commentary on Acts. In this series each contributor treats the literary context and structure of the passage in the original Greek and provides an original translation based on the literary structure. In the explanation that follows Greek word are place between brackets. A quite unique feature of this series is that is both useful for pastors and students who know Greek and those who do not have a workable knowledge of it.
The explanation of a passage of followed by theology in application. In this section attention is paid for the relevance of the passage for today. In this way we find in this commentary the classic conviction that application of Scripture is a part of the explanation because the Scripture is not just a voice from the past, but the voice of the living God. Inspiration has not just to do with the origin of Scripture, namely that the words written down by the writers of the books of the Bible are the words of the Holy Spirit, inspiration is also a remaining quality of the Bible.
Schnabel has a high view of the historical reliability of Acts. With regard to the date of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he prefers an early dating before the Apostle Convent. Doing that it is easier to understand the connection between what Paul narrates in Galatians and Luke in Acts. Schnabel shows the origin and extension movement of the followers of Jesus or the Christian Church is in Acts portrayed as the fulfillment of the Old Testament of the prophecies of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the restoration of Israel connected with it. Gentiles are incorporated in the community without having to conform to the Mosaic legislation.
I agree with Schnabel that the best way to understand the regulations of the Apostle Convent in terms of the regulations in Lev 17-18 for Gentiles who live in Israel as resident aliens. Under the new dispensation these rules must be followed for Gentiles who belong to the Church so that Jews and Gentiles can peacefully live together in the Christian Church.
Schabel underlines that Acts teaches us God through Jesus as the exalted Messiah grants to presence of the Holy Spirit. The second volume written by Luke has as content the acts of the exalted Messiah through the Spirit outpoured by Him. Apostles and evangelists are the means used by Christ and His Spirit. In the first part of Acts Peter stands in the centre and in the second part – even more than Peter in the first – Paul.
Only once (Acts 14:4) Paul - together with Barnabbas - is called an apostle by Luke. To explain this phenomenon Schnabel points to the fact Luke is the only evangelist who traces the designation of the Twelve as ‘apostles’ to Jesus Himself (Luke 6:13).He evidently wanted to be consistent and use as much as possible that term for the Twelve only. Luke surely has known that Paul had to insist on his right to be called an apostle, yet he did not use the second volume of his work to bolster Paul’s apostolic credentials. Paul and Barnabbas are called apostles in Acts14:4 because that have been send out by the risen Lord, the church of Jerusalem and the church of Antioch.
In find the commentary of Schnabel both a reliable, very readable and useful commentary also for pastors and students who do not know Greek. Besides the points I already highlighted I want to direct your attention to the fact that the commentary of Schnabel helps us to realize – perhaps better than before – that the Holy Spirit is the Originator of the Christian church and He is the transforming power of the new community of believers. That men are becoming believers and transformed to the image of Christ is finally God’s work or the work of the Lord Jesus Christ through His Spirit.
Luke shows us that nothing can hinder the progress of the gospel. The history of the church is the heart of the history of the word. Although the canonical period is closed, the same remains true until the end of history, when finally already predestinated to life are brought to faith in Jesus Christ.
Eckhard J. Schnabel, Acts, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), hardcover 1161 pp., price $59,99. (ISBN 978-0-310-24367-0)