The writer of Acts did not identify himself by name. Traditionally, from the second century CE onward, the account has been attributed to Luke, Paul’s fellow worker and a physician by profession. In modern times, Luke’s writership has been questioned. There is, however, no compelling reason for rejecting the ancient tradition, and doing so leaves the question of the writer’s identity unresolved and contributes nothing meaningful for understanding Acts.
Both the third Gospel (the one attributed to Luke) and Acts are addressed to Theophilus, and the writer’s comments (Acts 1:1, 2) about the first account are descriptive of the subject matter contained in the Gospel. Accordingly, the Gospel and Acts were written by the same person, and the good literary Greek style that both accounts share in common confirm this.
Acts largely focuses on the activity of Peter and Paul. Among others who figure significantly in the account are the first martyr Stephen, the evangelist Phillip, Barnabas, the Lord’s brother James, and Silas. Passages where the first person plural (“we”) appears suggest that Luke was personally present.
Included in the account are conversations and lengthy discourses or defenses, and a considerable number of these were not originally spoken in Greek. Of necessity, this required Luke to choose wording that would convey the message, and he doubtless only included what he considered essential for Theophilus to know. Even in the case of words initially spoken in Greek, one should not expect them to be exact quotations in the written text. As is apparent from the literary style, the narrative serves to express the basic thoughts of the originally spoken words.
Already in early manuscripts (fourth and fifth century CE) numerous differences exist. A number of scholars have attempted to explain the reasons for the variations, but no one view has gained general acceptance. In the commentary that follows, many of the different manuscript readings are included in the Notes section.