home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted April 5, 2006

Book: The Acts of the Apostles
Author: Dennis Hamm
Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 2005, pp.135

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In his introduction to this instructive commentary Dennis Hamm welcomes us to a sequel, one that might better be called “The Gospel of Luke: Part Two.” Before we get to any of the acts of the apostles Luke picks up where his Gospel ended, namely, the ascension of Jesus. Then just as the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove before he began his preaching-healing ministry, so again the Holy Spirit descends on the successors of Jesus. With the flame of God’s presence and power in their hearts the followers take up the agenda Jesus had given them, namely, “to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the nations., beginning from Jerusalem.

Luke primarily focuses on the acts of two apostles: Peter and his mission to the Jews and Paul and his mission to the Gentiles. This dynamic duo follows Jesus’ routine: they travel, work miracles, preach the Good News, are persecuted and imprisoned. Community life is idyllic only for a while as problems arise (e.g. do Gentiles first have to be circumcised to become Christians?). But solutions are found when it becomes obvious that “God show no partiality.”

Dennis Hamm’s enlightening commentary makes the progress and problems of first-century Christians come alive as he highlights two continuities: 1) the continuity between the story of Jesus and the story of the Church; 2) the continuity between the Christian story as a whole and the longer story of Israel’s life with God as told in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible. The energy, enthusiasm, and generosity of the Church’s pioneers should inspire readers towards a new Pentecost.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Life in the Christian Community Acts 4:32-5:11

Acts 4:32-35 provides another cameo picture of the Jerusalem Christian community. With Acts 2:42-47, it makes a frame around the intervening episodes, which exemplify how God has worked through the leadership of the apostles (Peter and John) to continue Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry. The description of the community as being “of one heart and mind” and holding everything in common embodies the Greek ideal of friendship. And the statement that “there was no needy person among them” alludes to the Hebrew ideal of covenant justice expressed in Deuteronomy 15:4. The jubilee note struck here echoes the jubilee theme of the passage from Isaiah 61 that Jesus read at his debut in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:18-19). This spontaneous “faith sharing” of material goods to meet the needs of all is mediated through the leadership, a fact that is signified by their laying the proceeds of real estate sales “at the feet of the apostles.” (V.37).

To show that even from the beginning it was a struggle to live out the ideals of Christian community life, Luke now presents examples. First he offers a good example of Joseph Barnabas, who did it right. Then comes a dramatic account of a bad example, the deceptive behavior of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11).

The reference to Barnabas introduces one who will emerge as a key player in the Jerusalem Christian community and its mission. (So important does this coworker of Paul become that the second-century Epistle of Barnabas was attributed to him.)

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira lies not so much in possessiveness as in their deception. As Peter himself grants, the property was theirs to keep or sell as they wished. But pretending that they were donating the whole proceeds, when in fact they were holding back part – this was nothing less than lying to the holy Spirit! Ironically, Luke notes that Sapphira falls dead “at the feet” of Peter as punishment for deceptively laying “at the feet of the apostles” only part of the property proceeds frm the sale of their property. What is done to the community is done to the Spirit of God. The whole episode echoes another famous holding back, that of Achan, wh, after the battle of Jericho, kept for himself some of the banned goods (Josh 7).

Table of Contents:

The Acts of the Apostles

Text and Commentary
The risen Christ and the restoration of Israel in Jerusalem
The mission in Judea and Samaria
The inauguration of the Gentile mission
The mission of Paul to the ends of the earth

Review aids and discussion topics
Index of citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church