Now we turn our attention to a particular feature of Acts. The speeches. Luke has included for us many speeches throughout the book of Acts.
The Major Speeches are:
- Peter (Acts 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 10; 11; 15)
- James (Acts 15; 21)
- Stephen (Acts 7)
- Paul (Acts 13; 14; 17; 20; 22; 23; 24; 26; 28)
- Non-Christian (Acts 5:35-39; 19:35-40; 24:2-8; 25:14-21, 24-27)
I have included an exhaustive list at the end of this Gem.
Some of those speeches are long and some are short, no more than a sentence or two. Luke is a good historian and gives us a large amount of speech material in Acts. It’s more than you find in other ancient historians such as Herodotus, Tactius, Polybius, or Thucydides. He (Luke) appears to have been following the Greek tradition of writing history and actually having information about what they said, rather than creating fictitious speeches for real historical people. According to Thucydides, it was difficult to retain a word for word account, but a good historian offered summaries with the major points of what was said.
Luke traveled with Paul and could have gained the material from talking with the apostle, and in a few instances, from being present to hear the speeches. But Luke doesn’t claim to have directly heard most of the speeches, and so we must assume that he relied on other sources – Paul for Stephen’s speech, and members of the Jerusalem church for the others. This matter is important enough to investigate. Are the numerous speeches reported in Acts free compositions of Luke? Are they verbatim reports from notes taken at the time and literally copied into the narrative? Are they substantial reports incorporated with some degree of freedom and marked by Luke’s own style? Either of these explanations are possible. There are those who accuse Luke of inventing speeches for which no report was available in Acts. The matter can only be settled by an appeal to the facts so far as they can be determined. It cannot be denied that the hand of Luke is apparent in the addresses reported by him in Acts.
In Acts we are dealing with summaries of speeches, except perhaps in the case of Stephen’s speech. Stephen’s speech differs sharply from those of Peter and Paul, though we are not able to compare this with any document from Stephen himself. Another thing is true also, particularly of Paul’s sermons. They are wonderfully particular related to time, place and audience. They all have a distinct Pauline flavor, and yet a difference in local colour that corresponds, to some extent, with the variations in the style of Paul’s epistles. The theory of pure invention by Luke is discredited if we weigh it up against the facts. On the other hand, in view of the apparent presence of Luke’s style, to some extent in the speeches, it can hardly be claimed that he has made verbatim reports. Besides, the report of the addresses of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel (as in the other gospels) shows the same freedom in giving the substance exact reproduction of the words that is found in Acts. Again, it seems clear that some, if not all, of the reports in Acts are condensed, mere outlines in the case of some of Peter’s addresses. The ancients knew how to make shorthand reports of such addresses. The oral tradition was probably active in preserving the early speeches of Peter and even of Stephen, though Paul himself heard Stephen. Professor Martin Dibelius thinks, “These speeches, without doubt, are as they stand, inventions of the author. For they are too short to have been actually given in this form; they are too similar to one another to have come from different persons.” It is not true that the addresses are all alike in style. It is possible to distinguish very clearly the speeches of Peter from those of Paul. Not merely is this true, but we are able to compare the addresses of both Paul and Peter with their epistles. It is not probable that Luke had seen these epistles, as will presently be shown. It is crediting remarkable literary skill to Luke to suppose that he made up Peter’s speeches and Paul’s speeches with such success that they harmonize perfectly with the teachings and general style of each of these apostles letters. These letters were not likely available to Luke.
Luke heard Paul speak at Miletus (Acts 20) and may have taken notes at the time. So also, he almost certainly heard Paul’s address on the steps of the Tower of Antonia (Acts 22) and before Agrippa (Acts 26). There is no reason to think that he was absent when Paul made his defenses before Felix and Festus (Acts 24 through 25). He was present on the ship when Paul spoke (Acts 27), and in Rome when he addressed the Jews (Acts 28). Luke was not on hand when Paul delivered his sermon at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13), or at Lystra (Acts 14), or at Athens (Acts 17). But these discourses differ so greatly in theme and treatment, and are so essentially Pauline that it is natural to think that Paul himself gave Luke the notes which he used.
However they were produced, the speeches in Acts are masterpieces, and deserve careful attention. It is not that Luke changed so much, but that he has invented so little. If Luke comes off so well in reports of speeches where his fidelity to his sources can be tested, we should not, without good reason, suppose that he was less faithful where his sources are no longer available for comparison. When at Bible College I was given the assignment to investigate the speech of Stephen in Greek, I was amazed by the brilliance of what Stephen intended. And it left me in no doubt as to why they stoned him. I made Stephen’s speech in Acts Chapter 7 a major focus and analysed it from a number of thematic viewpoints. (See Bible Gems 1474 to 1481)
All of the speech material is included by Luke in Acts for a purpose. That is our challenge to work out why these speeches appear and to what purpose. Keep in mind the overall picture as you look at the minute details. Luke’s use of the speech material in the Book of Acts is a major challenge for us to work out. Why does Luke include so many speeches and place them where he does? That is an on-going question for you to think about as we work our way through Acts.
Here is a complete list of the speeches in Acts
- The words of the risen Jesus and the angels to the apostles 1:4b-5, 7-8, 11
- Peter’s speech and the disciples’ prayer prior to the enrolment of Matthias 1:16-22, 24-25
- Peter’s speech at Pentecost 2:14b-36, 38-40
- Peter’s speech in Solomon’s portico of the Temple 3:12-26
- Peter’s speech to the Jewish authorities after his and John’s arrest 4:8-12, 19-20
- The prayer of the apostles and their friends 4:24-30
- The speech of Peter and the apostles to the council 5:29-32
- Gamaliel’s speech to the council 5:35-39
- The speech by the Twelve prior to the appointment of the Seven 6:2-4
- Stephen’s speech 7:2-53, 56, 59, 60
- Peter’s speech in Cornelius’ house 10:28-29, 34-43, 47
- Peter’s speech to the circumcision party 11:5-17
- Paul’s speech at Antioch of Pisidia 13:16-41, 46-47
- The speech of Barnabus and Paul at Lystra 14:15-17
- Peter’s speech at the Jerusalem gathering 15:7-11
- James’ speech at the Jerusalem gathering 15:13-21
- Paul’s speech in the middle of the Areopagus 17:22-31
- Paul’s speech to the Corinthian Jews 18:6
- Gallio’s speech to the Corinthian Jews 18:14-15
- Demetrius’ speech 19:25-27
- The speech of the Ephesian elders 19:35-40
- Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders 20:18-35
- Agabus’ speech in Caesarea 21:11
- Paul’s speech to the disciples in Caesarea 21:13
- The speech of James and the Jerusalem elders 21:20-25
- The speech of the Jews from Asia 21:28
- Paul’s speech to the Jerusalem Jews 22:1, 3 to 21
- Paul’s speech before the council 23:1, 3, 5, 6
- The Pharisees’ speech in the council 23:9
- Tertullus’ speech 24:2-8
- Paul’s speech before Felix 24:10-21
- Paul’s speech before Festus 25:8, 10-11
- Festus’ speech 25:14-21, 24 to 27
- Paul’s speech before King Agrippa 26:2-23, 25 to 27, 29
- Paul’s speech(es) during the sea voyage to Rome 27:10b, 21-26, 31, 33-34
- Paul’s speech to the Roman Jewish leaders 28:17-20, 25-28
Without Expectation Of God’s Promises, Faith Has Nothing To Act On…Robb Thompson
Anything that God has asked you to do in your life you are equipped to do it. So stop saying, “This is too much for me. I just can’t handle this.”Joyce Meyer
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.C. S. Lewis
What keeps you up at night is what will keep you going in the day!Rick Godwin