Monday, September 21, 2015

"After Acts" by Bryan Litftin - Book Review

I had hoped to be able to read After Acts devotionally and also recommend it to small groups for spiritual growth. The topic is interesting and unique--what happened to the apostles in history after the Bible finishes telling their story? The author is an evangelical professor at my alma mater and really knows his stuff.

Yet while this book is definitely worthwhile to read, it's not the book I was hoping it would be. The main problem is just how difficult it is to faithfully reconstruct the history of the apostles. Take this paragraph about Peter for example:

"Since the early Christina were aware that Peter had followed in the footsteps of the Savior to the same kind of death, it wasn't long before fictional narratives emerged that purported to recount the whole epic story. These tales are filled with holy saints and vanquished heretics, giving us reasons to view them critically. Yet just because the texts have a legendary, even lurid, flavor doesn't mean they don't have a historical kernel of truth. The trick is to separate fact from fiction!" (pg. 149).

Yep, that's the trick. And while Litfin does a yeoman's work of trying to untangle those things, it makes the book difficult to read and the end result is unsatisfying if you're only moderately interested in the historical method.

On the other hand, I'm glad that someone has done this work and that it's here in a readable format. As an accessible reference work, it's very good. The best feature is a scorecard at the end of each chapter assigning a grade to each historical assertion about the apostles for how likely the "facts" about them truly are. For anyone who wonders if Peter was crucified upside down or where Paul is buried or if Thomas made it to India, this book will do the best job of summarizing the evidence. But if you're looking for a lot more fodder for your own personal spiritual growth, turn back to Acts.