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Acts of the Apostles Introduction

In A Nutshell

The Empire Strikes Back. Dark Knight. The Wrath of Khan. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Aliens. Acts of the Apostles. What do all these stories have in common? Well, besides the fact that they all rock our socks off, they're also all pretty amazing sequels.

Acts of the Apostles is the blockbuster follow-up to the Gospel of Luke. Don't worry: this one is no Weekend at Bernie's II. Even though the whole dying and rising again thing is a tough act to follow, Acts brings the goods... and the disciples never even have to resort to carrying Jesus's dead body around while dressing him in Hawaiian shirts. Thank umm… God.

The story begins a long time ago in a desert far, far away. Jesus is back from the dead and he wants his disciples to know that they need to keep on keeping on. They're gonna need to start spreading his message all around. To the ends of the world, if possible. Do they do it? Well, how many churches did you drive past today? We'd say they were pretty successful.

But even though Christianity is a powerhouse today, the years after Jesus died were kind of dark days. Like the Blues Brothers will tell you, being on a mission from God ain't easy. Most people weren't too psyched to start following the teachings of a poor, crucified Jewish peasant. Go figure. The first Christians were arrested, beaten, attacked, run out of town, and yes, even put to death. It kind of stunk.

Acts isn't all stonings and beheadings, though. That would be a huge bummer. There's tons of awesome stories in there, too. People rising from the dead. People talking about penises (uh-huh). People getting attacked by snakes. Oh, and sermons. Tons and tons of sermons. We'd say they make the story kind of preachy, but, well, that's the whole point.

So whether you want to know what happened to the disciples after the resurrection or you just love a good sequel, crack open your Bible to Acts of the Apostles. And just be thankful that George Lucas wasn't around 2,000 years ago to convince Luke to write a whole bunch of totally lame prequels.


Why Should I Care?

So you've read all the gospel stories and you think you've got this whole New Testament thing down? Shmoop hates to break it to you, but… you are wrong. So very, very wrong.

Sure Jesus was a pretty important guy. (Um, duh.) That's probably why the Bible tells his story not once, but four—count 'em—four times. His disciples on the other hand… not so much. They usually get the short end of the stick. In the gospels they're kind of bumbling idiots, and they're barely even mentioned in the epistles. What's a follower of Jesus got to do to get in on this Bible action?

Enter Acts of the Apostles. It's the only book in the entire Bible that tells the story of the early church in the years after Jesus died. Building Christianity into the most popular religion in the world wasn't easy. Yes, Jesus spent 30 years trying to do it, but his followers racked up nearly 2,000 years of evangelizing… and 2.1 billion believers. We'd say they've earned their time in the limelight.

While a good story in its own right, Acts is also the only place where you'll find all kinds of stories that are referenced in art, literature, and pop culture. That one Pentecost where the tongues of fire came down from the sky. The day when Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus and heard the voice of Jesus. Miss these stories and you're missing a lot.

Plus, if you plan on reading any of the biblical epistles, you're gonna need to stop by Acts. The Apostle Paul—the guy who wrote the majority of the letters in the Bible—gets a fully fleshed out backstory. Sure, you could just head over to our handy dandy character guide to Paul, but we promise Acts tells it way better. Shmoop is good, but we're no Luke.

So, you may know Jesus, but that doesn't mean you know the whole story. Why not cozy up to his disciples and find out what you're missing?

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