The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary

By Tannehill, Robert C. | Journal of Biblical Literature, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary


Tannehill, Robert C., Journal of Biblical Literature


The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, by Joseph A. Fitzmyer. AB 31. New York/London: Doubleday, 1998. Pp. xxxiv + 830. $45.00.

This volume completes Joseph Fitzmyer's commentary on the Lukan writings in the Anchor Bible series. It follows his commentary on the Gospel of Luke by thirteen years (The Gospel according to Luke [AB 28, 28A;1981, 1985]). In between these works Fitzmyer employed his broad knowledge and impressive skill in other tasks, including the Romans commentary in the same series. In the preface Fitzmyer explains that, unlike in the Luke commentary, the editors would not permit expansion of the Acts commentary to two volumes. This decision required some curtailment of Fitzmyer's discussion. There is, nevertheless, much fine scholarship in this thick volume.

The volume first presents Fitzmyer's translation of Acts, followed by an introduction of more than a hundred pages and an extensive general bibliography. The rest of the book moves through Acts by presenting a segment of translation, followed by a general "Comment," then "Notes" on the verses of the text and a bibliography on the text segment. The amount of bibliography is one value of the volume. There is one unusual feature to the translation in the commentary. It is followed by translations of the variants in the Western text, even though these variants will not play a large role in Fitzmyer's comments. There are no excursuses. The extensive introduction and the special attention that Fitzmyer gives certain topics in the notes make up for this lack.

The introduction includes discussion of the "Sources of Acts." Fitzmyer believes that there were Palestinian, Antiochene, and Pauline sources. He gives little defense of this hypothesis except to refer to "Benoit's analysis" (p. 83). The introduction also discusses form-critical analysis of Acts. Fitzmyer attempts to continue into Acts the form criticism previously applied to Luke. This aspect of the commentary is not very productive. Too many of the passages are simply classified as "narratives," which in itself is not very illuminating. "The Lukan Story of Paul" receives extensive discussion in the introduction. Here Fitzmyer is concerned with the differences between Acts and the Pauline letters. For his views on Lukan theology, Fitzmyer refers to the introduction of his Luke commentary.

There are many short but valuable comments on historical matters and items of vocabulary. For instance, Fitzmyer gives special attention to the use of ekklesia in Acts (p. 325) and to Hellenistai (pp. 347-48), synagoge (pp. 356-57), Antioch (pp. 475-76), Epicureans and Stoics (pp. 604-5), and Artemis (pp. 657-58). The commentary is useful in many particulars. Fitzmyer, however, is not interested only in particulars but also in broad theological issues and in the major purpose or purposes behind a writing. Here, however, he perpetuates some positions that have been called in question and that, in my opinion, should be rejected.

For instance, Fitzmyer accepts the identification of "the end of the earth" in Acts 1:8 with Rome (pp. 56, 206-7), an identification which suggests that the missionary command has been substantially realized with Paul's arrival in Rome. …

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