Jesus Begins

The "first book written about Jesus" passage, at the beginning of Acts, includes a number pointing at John, the first gospel.

Acts 1:1-5

1The 1st writing I have written FA , Theophilus, on all those things which FA our master Joshua FA the anointed began to do and teach 2until the day he was taken up, after he had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen FA by the spirit of the holy. 3To them he also showed himself alive FA , after he had suffered, in many wonders in 40 days while appearing to them and talking with them concerning the kingdom of god. Acts 1:1-34When he ate bread with them he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to continue toward the promise FA of the father, that which you have heard from me. 5For John baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the spirit of the holy Q Acts 11:16 not many days from now. Acts 1:4-5 (Acts 1:1-5 BRB)


40 = John


John is the first gospel, the first place in the Bible, where we can read about Jesus directly. As such, when this passage in Acts mentions the "first" book about what Jesus "began" to do and teach, it's a nice pointer to John.

This passage in Acts also mentions a time when, over bread, Jesus told his disciples to wait for the promise of the father, the coming of the holy spirit. When did that conversation actually occur? The conventional answer, which is not totally wrong, is that it occurred right before Jesus left the planet, as told at the end of Luke.

49I will send on you the promise FA of my father, but stay in the city of Jerusalem until you are surrounded with the army from Rome. (Luke 24:49 BRB)

The way Luke and Acts are written by the same author, and Acts continues the story where Luke leaves off, helps establish that Acts indeed should follow Luke in the book order (which I deal with elsewhere). And so it's correct to see the continuity between the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts, but there's a problem with thinking this passage in Acts only refers to the end of Luke. Acts is explicit that Jesus told his disciples about the holy spirit over bread and Luke does not mention bread.

It's easy to assume the story at the end of Luke could have included a meal, or bread, and that Acts is just filling in some details not given in Luke, but there's a better answer.

The math supplied by Acts points to the Gospel of John. Is it possible that Acts is actually referring the reader to a place in John where Jesus spoke to this disciples about the coming holy spirit over bread? It sure is, because such a place exists, and it's the definitive place to learn about the holy spirit. Let me set the stage.

It's passover. That means an intimate meal shared by Jesus and his disciples, which includes bread, though unleavened bread in keeping with the design of the holiday. It's also Jesus' last night with his disciples, before being arrested and crucified. After dismissing Judas to begin the betrayal, by handing him a piece of bread, Jesus moves into what's commonly called the Upper Room Discourse. What does Jesus want to impart during this final night with his disciples? The one subject Jesus circles back to again and again is the coming of the holy spirit.

16I will ask my father and he will give you another comforter to be with you forever, 17even the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it has not seen him and does not know him, but you know him because he stays with you and is in you. (John 14:16-17 BRB)
26The comforter, the spirit of the holy, whom my father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. (John 14:26 BRB)
26When the comforter comes, whom I will send to you from my father, the spirit of truth which proceeds from my father, he will testify concerning me, John 15:26-27 (John 15:26 BRB)
12Again, I have many other things to tell you, but you cannot grasp them now, 13but when the spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak from himself, but what he hears he will speak, and he will make known to you things which are to come in the future. John 16:12-15 (John 16:12-13 BRB)

Jesus dealt with other subjects, and questions, through the course of the conversation, but he kept coming back to this basic idea that the holy spirit, the comforter, the spirit of truth, was coming to the disciples to help them in his absence. He also refers to the coming of the holy spirit as the father's promise and he tells them these things over bread. These are all elements from Acts.

So the same passage in Acts directly quotes the end of Luke for the sake of continuity between those books and simultaneously points to the long passage about the holy spirit in John via a numeric reference. It looks like Acts is telling the studious reader where to go to hear what Jesus has to say to his disciples about the holy spirit.