Bruce, F.F. (1988). "Introduction." In The Book of Acts (Revised). (pp.3-27). William B. Eerdmans Publishing,
I last visited this commentary in 2017-2018. Rather a lot of water has gone under the bridge since that time, so I thought I would pick it up again for another walk-through. If you are interested in comparing my observations at this time with the last set, search for tags of Bruce 1988, with posts on Thursdays beginning on July 20, 2017. Since that time, it appears that Kindle has added the real page numbers to the file, so citations will include page numbers rather than locations.
Bruce identifies Acts as a "second volume of a History of Christian Origins composed by a first-century Christian and dedicated to a certain Theophilus" (Bruce 1988, p. 3). He considers the two volumes to have circulated together before the early second century, when the canonical Gospels were gathered together, thus separating these two volumes. The book of Acts serves to tie the Gospel accounts to the collected Epistles, providing context for the numerous letters.
Bruce notes the importance of Acts in the mid second century as the Church dealt with the heresy of Marcion, who asserted Christianity to be entirely new, with Paul as the only faithful apostle (Bruce 1988, p. 4). Because Acts was recognized by Marcion but affirmed the validity of the Old Testament and the other apostles, Marcion's argument foundered.
Some scholarship suggests that Acts is from the mid second century and was composed as a response to Marcion. However, Bruce considers its overall presuppositions to fit the first century rather than the second (Bruce 1988, p. 6). The purpose of the writing is clear based on the prologue to Luke's Gospel, in 1:1-4, where an account accurately researched from eyewitness testimony is presented to confirm the truth of the events. Early textual evidence and long standing traditional interpretation ascribes authorship to a Luke who is a sometime companion of Paul, and who may be the physician mentioned by Paul in Colossians 4:14 (Bruce 1988, p. 7). Aside from providing research-based evidence of the events of the Gospel and early Christianity, Bruce observes that Luke was providing a polemic against those who considered Christianity to be subversive and revolutionary (Bruce 1988, p. 8). Acts does relate a number of instances of Christians working peacefully in society and experiencing a harmonious relationship with the Roman government. Bruce provides a brief summary of a number of these instances. Rather than portraying the Christians or the Romans as disorderly, Luke impugned the Jewish leadership as those who foment rebellion (Bruce 1988, p. 9). Because there were waves of opposition to Christianity peaking about A.D. 66, shortly after Paul's death, Bruce postulates that as a time period when composition of Acts may have been likely (Bruce 1988, p. 10). However, since there is no suggestion of Paul's death or Nero's persecution, many would date Acts in 65 or earlier (Bruce 1988, p. 11). Bruce, however, prefers a date between A.D. 69 and 96, based on the context of the cordiality portrayed of the apostles, as one might present a genial picture of people after their death.
Bruce continues by analyzing the portrayal of Paul in Acts. Paul's defense of his apostleship in his letters would not have been very necessary if one could presuppose the portrayal of Paul in Acts (Bruce 1988, p. 13). Because of the positive portrayal of both Peter and Paul, the Marcionites were not favorable toward Acts. Further, Bruce notes that Acts describes Paul as having a more fruitful life as a missionary than the other apostles, including Peter (Bruce 1988, p. 14). Bruce observes that, though Paul appears as the hero in Luke's writing, he is not the hero in his own writing. In his letters, Paul is doubtful, hesitant to assert authority, and subject to the fruit of his own sinful desires (Bruce 1988, p. 15). The portrayal by Luke makes him a very positive character, who brings the Christian faith to many communities, especially in Europe (Bruce 1988, p. 16). Without Paul's work, it is hard to imagine that anyone would think of Christianity as European.
Bruce concludes his chapter with an extensive bibliography of commentaries, editions, and other books related to the origin of Acts (Bruce 1988, pp. 17-27).