What really happened after Acts?
If you've ever wondered what happened to the biblical characters after Acts—from the well-known Matthew to the lesser-known Bartholomew—then this book is for you. Join Dr. Bryan Litfin as he guides you through Scripture and other ancient literature to sift fact from fiction, real-life from legend.
Skillfully researched and clearly written, After Acts is as accurate as it is engaging. Gain a window into the religious milieu of the ancient and medieval church. Unearth artifacts and burial sites. Learn what really happened to your favorite characters and what you should truly remember them for.
The book of Acts ends at chapter 28. But its characters lived on.
This book is for anyone who is interested in learning more about the prominent Biblical characters that we see throughout scripture. It brings life to them and reminds us that they are real people. As someone who was always curious and wanted to know more about the behind the scenes lives of those who penned the Scriptures, this book was so helpful to me. Litfin truly speaks from an unbiased point of view. He allows us to know the myths, legends, and probability in order to draw our own conclusions. There is no pressure to think one way or another, but only to learn the information that is out there as well as it's possible credibility. He wrote this book gracefully, not only giving facts, but always bringing it back around to the Gospel, the entire purpose of these legends' lives. He is a wonderful and engaging storyteller and makes it so that it is not read as a textbook, but a storybook. This book will satisfy any history lovers' thirst for more background knowledge of the beloved Bible characters, show us the things people believed about them throughout history, as well as challenge our initial beliefs when it comes to the legends and stories that we have never second guessed before.
In this book Dr. Litfin undertakes the job of looking at the lives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Mary, Thomas, James, Peter, Paul, and “The Other Apostles” according to biblical accounts, history, and “church tradition.” In doing so he sets forth an excellent hermeneutic for all students of history in understanding primary sources and hagiography.
His introduction to the book is what sets it apart from most history books. As a true teacher he defines terms which will be used in the book. Many people might find this to be trite, but in doing so he educates the reader in a manner which many are deficient. He knows that terms such as “liberal” and “conservative” are loaded terms, so he describes what these mean in regards to biblical and historical studies. He also defines terms like “orthodox,” “heresy,” and “gnostic.” By defining the terms he is then able to describe how to engage with historical sources and sort out what is mythical, mystical, and fantastic, versus what is of value theologically and or historically.
His chapters on the apostles were fun. It was enjoyable to read history regarding these figures. He relies heavily upon what Scripture attests, which is highly commendable, but for those who really want to know the “legends” of the apostles’ lives might find the chapters to be a little less than satisfying.
Dr. Litfin is straightforward about his purpose in this book though, and it is not to his discredit that the fantastic myths of these apostles are not fully told. From the onset he says that he wants the reader to look at the sources which are most historically reliable, which would be those sources dating closest to the lives of the apostles. So he focuses on these more than the medieval writings which include many fantastic miracles and legends. If you want to read page after page of legends, then you must go to those sources. He gives very abbreviated legends, so that he can work through the more reliable sources and critic the legends.
From a historical theology standpoint, Protestant readers will find the chapter on Mary very significant. He explains the origins of the veneration of Mary, when it was made Roman Catholic official doctrine, and how we should and should not interact with it. I found this chapter incredibly informative
After Acts is around 200 pages. That is an incredibly short space for so many lives. I am sure he would have included more details if he was given 300 or 400 pages, but then it would have been too long for the intended audience. My best bet is that the audience Moody Publishers was targeting is not one that has time to slog through hundreds of pages, nor is it one that wants too critical of analysis of linguistics and textual history. If the book is to have all the details a scholar would want, then it would be long, arduous, and read by few.
Outside of the introduction, where he defines terms, he also includes parenthetical references inside of chapters telling a reader to either go back to a previous chapter or forward to an upcoming chapter for more details. This is a good teaching method which keeps him from having to be redundant.
My favorite part of this book though is that he continually finds ways to point the reader to Christ, which was the goal of the apostles. Every chapter finds a way to show the glory of our Resurrected Savior. Each chapter caused me to praise God for His work in this world. Then, in the conclusion of the book, Dr. Litfin then makes it explicitly obvious that the lives of the apostles were about serving God, and that upon the backs of the apostles the Church was built. The Church is still working in this world, showing people to Christ, and combating the deeds of Satan. You and I are called to join in this work as servants of Jesus Christ- just like the apostles.
Will you join?