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Acts: An Exegetical Commentary, Volume 1

Introduction and 1:1–2:47

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Highly respected New Testament scholar Craig Keener is known for his meticulous and comprehensive research. This commentary on Acts, his magnum opus, may be the largest and most thoroughly documented Acts commentary available. Useful not only for the study of Acts but also early Christianity, this work sets Acts in its first-century context.

In this volume, the first of four, Keener introduces the book of Acts, particularly historical questions related to it, and provides detailed exegesis of its opening chapters. He utilizes an unparalleled range of ancient sources and offers a wealth of fresh insights. This magisterial commentary will be a valuable resource for New Testament professors and students, pastors, Acts scholars, and libraries.

The indexes for the entire four-volume set may be downloaded under the Resources section on the left side of this page.


"Somewhat surprisingly, a socio-historical approach to Acts still needs to be defended and its value demonstrated. No one does this better--is more informed about ancient literature, parallels, and precedents, and more interactively and fruitfully engaged with contemporary literature and issues--than Craig Keener. In the introduction (a monograph in itself), his treatment of the genre of Acts, especially his judicious discussion of the genre 'novel,' of the character of ancient historiography, and of the historical integrity and value of Acts, is unbeatable in today's market. For anyone wanting to appreciate how Acts 'worked' in its original context and to get into the text at some depth, Keener will be indispensable and 'first off the shelf.' Bring on volumes 2-4!"

James D. G. Dunn†, Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, University of Durham

"Keener takes very seriously the claim of the book of Acts to be historiography. His encyclopedic knowledge of ancient literature and his intelligent skill as an exegete make this a magisterial commentary."

Richard Bauckham, professor emeritus of New Testament studies, University of St. Andrews; senior scholar, Ridley Hall, Cambridge

"With a monograph-level introduction and solid, detailed use of background sources, Craig Keener has provided us with a rich gem of a commentary on Acts. One can use it and get a real sense of what this key work is all about."

Darrell L. Bock, research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

"This commentary sets Acts in its ancient social and historical setting with so many parallels that Johann Jakob Wettstein would have congratulated Keener even on this first volume of four! Keener shows convincingly how broadly and deeply Acts participates in ancient Hellenistic and Jewish thinking. This meticulous reconstruction fits well with his deep insights on Lukan theology in Acts. Keener's wide reading of scholarly discussion is stupendous and his introduction a monograph in itself. I expect this to be a marvelous, impressive, and inspiring commentary!"

Manfred Lang, associate professor of New Testament, Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg

"This first volume promises to be the inaugural component of the most comprehensive commentary on Acts to date. Keener presents a socio-historical reading of the text with meticulous precision, and his knowledge of scholarly research is impressive. The book of Acts is read as a historiographical work in which its author rewrites traditions; the documentation from ancient Jewish literature is exceptionally rich. Keener treats hermeneutical issues and the historical reliability of the text astutely and clearly. From now on, any exegesis of Acts will need to take into account this major work."

Daniel Marguerat, professor of New Testament, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

"Early Christianity developed in a complex and multifaceted context, one that Craig Keener masterfully presents in this socially and historically oriented commentary on Acts. As one has come to expect from Keener, there is thorough knowledge and use of the best and most important secondary literature in the areas of concern and abundant utilization of a wide range of ancient sources. This is a commentary that will continue to serve as a detailed resource for both scholars and students wishing to explore these crucial dimensions of the book of Acts."

Stanley E. Porter, president, dean, and professor of New Testament, McMaster Divinity College

"This book is a monumental exegetical commentary thanks to the amount of literary and social-historical information in it. Scholars and readers of the Acts of the Apostles will find it a precious source for consultation. In addition, Keener's attention to the work of Luke-Acts and the comparison he draws with Paul's letters will greatly profit those who are interested in the Third Gospel and the person of Paul."

Fr. G. Claudio Bottini, professor of introduction and exegesis of the New Testament and emeritus dean, Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology (Studium Biblicum Franciscanum), Jerusalem

"Craig Keener's academic commentaries are among the most important in print, because they not only summarize former scholarship but also add so many new insights from primary literature of the time."

David Instone-Brewer, senior research fellow in rabbinics and New Testament, Tyndale House, Cambridge

The Author

  1. Craig S. Keener

    Craig S. Keener

    Craig S. Keener (Ph.D., Duke University) is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is author of 30 books, 5 of which have won awards in Christianity Today. More than a million copies of his books are in...

    Continue reading about Craig S. Keener


"Acts has now taken a new step forward with the exhaustive (and exhausting) commentary by Craig S. Keener. . . . This will be the starting point for all Acts scholarship from now on!"

Scot McKnight,

Jesus Creed blog

"To my knowledge, Keener's four-volume project (running well in excess of 2.5 million words) is by far the largest single-author work on Acts to date. . . . Keener's strong suit has always been his impressive acquaintance with the literary environment of the New Testament. He is able to provide copious citations of texts (especially 'pagan' texts) of the time, offering readers many opportunities to ponder possible relevance for appreciating a given passage in the NT. He is also remarkably thorough in citing other scholars. . . . This initial volume (running nearly 1,100 pages) comprises an extensive Introduction in which . . . Keener addresses at length all the issues currently in play about Acts. . . . The remainder of this volume . . . is a detailed analysis of Acts 1:1-2:47. In this material as well, Keener conducts a dialogue with a rich assortment of other scholars (in the footnotes), as well as providing exegetical comments on the text of Acts. . . . Anyone concerned with Acts is best advised to take account of this extensive study from a widely read and dedicated scholar."

Larry Hurtado


"By almost any measure, Craig Keener's commentary on Acts is a remarkable achievement. . . . He is thoroughly engaged with a wide range of critical studies of Acts and related writings. Keener also brings to the study of Acts a deep and extensive acquaintance with ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish literature, and the result is a rich, detailed commentary packed with abundant and useful information. . . . I am unable to agree with many of his convictions about Acts but am compelled to admire his well-conceived and well-documented arguments and interpretations."

Joseph Tyson,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Keener's finished commentary will dwarf other modern commentaries, if measured by the quantity of either ink spilled or of citations of Greco-Roman texts. Beyond such metrics, Keener's magnum opus is a rich resource that will serve Acts scholars for years to come. . . . A scholar with extensive knowledge of Jewish and Greco-Roman materials, Keener brings this expertise to his commentary, introducing scores of relevant citations to subsequent scholars of Acts. . . . This volume is the result of the careful, balanced work of a senior scholar. Any serious scholar will want to have this valuable commentary ready-to-hand."

Daniel L. Smith,

Review of Biblical Literature

"The abundant harvest of references to documents . . . warms the hearts of readers like me. . . . Compendious Keener certainly is, but he is not ponderous, nor is he cloudy."

Richard Pervo,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Those who have followed Keener's career have come to expect learned comment and extensive bibliography undergirding his research. This first installment in his proposed four-volume Acts commentary is no exception. . . . The detail of historical inquiry involved in this commentary is quite fantastic and stimulating. . . . His work is well grounded in the primary source investigations and secondary interaction that populate each page. . . . [Keener] importantly demonstrates in this commentary that . . . significant progress is made in grasping the meaning of a given scriptural text when the historical background is fully investigated. This is both the continued legacy that Keener's industrious work will prove to carve out and what will make Keener's contribution a sturdy response to such approaches of historical criticism. . . . Keener's method and the volume of information it furnishes breaks many molds. . . . It will certainly have a great impact on the historical and theological study of Acts and on the apologetic case for the historical events recorded in Acts, natural and supernatural alike. Great appreciation must be expressed to Professor Keener for what may well be his magnum opus!"

Aaron W. White,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Recent years have seen a steady stream of Acts commentaries but, by its sheer size and scope, Keener's contribution . . . promises to be a marker around which subsequent scholarly currents will be required to navigate. . . . This first volume shows a tenacity in tracking down data which might possibly inform historical questions and alley historical doubts which looks set to characterize this project as a whole. . . . Properly digesting Keener's project will take a number of years and repeated readings. In content and approach his work will stimulate further readings and rereadings of Acts. As such, I welcome it for its rejuvenation of what pedagogy calls the 'threshold concepts' informing our engagement with Acts. Keener's work will prove to be excursive and recursive, inviting readers into new liminal spaces behind, within, and in front of the text."

Matthew Sleeman,

Expository Times

"A work of great quality and value. . . . Keener provides numerous connections to pertinent Greco-Roman and Jewish sources, to archaeology and material evidence, and to the other writings of the New Testament, particularly the letters of Paul. . . . Keener's prodigious work offers a closely reasoned and thoroughly documented argument for the historical worth of Acts, that is, 'historical' judged by the canons of history prevalent in the ancient world. This is a very valuable resource work that will surely be a point of reference for all future discussions about Acts."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"Written for academics, this work is equally accessible to pastors because of Keener's clear and flowing style. . . . Its major contribution lies precisely in taking readers from questions and data through the reasoning process to probable answers."

C. Anthony Ziccardi,

Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"This is the first of four volumes that, at over two and a half million words, may comprise the most exhaustive commentary ever written by one author on the Acts of the Apostles. . . . The commentary includes abundant and valuable references to Greco-Roman and other extracanonical literature and is liberally sprinkled with excursuses that offer useful background information. This is an inestimable resource for Acts scholars."

William Sanger Campbell,

Religious Studies Review

"Magisterial, meticulous, comprehensive, precise, impressively researched--these descriptors of Craig Keener's commentary are by almost anyone's standards not hyperbole. . . . The commentary is very thoroughly researched in both primary and secondary resources. . . . Related to Keener's desire to interact with everyone's work is his moderate, respectful appreciation of scholarly views with which he disagrees. . . . Keener's refusal to dismissively reject, as well as his ability to cull insights from those with whom he disagrees, is a helpful model for all biblical scholars. . . . Keener is not short on presenting creative insights regarding the purpose and theology of Acts. . . . Keener's commentary is indeed an incredible contribution and will undoubtedly repay dividends to those who use it carefully."

Joshua W. Jipp,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"Rich and detailed chapters, designed to immerse contemporary readers into the location of ancient readers, are the primary substance of this first of four volumes. . . . For anyone looking for a useful discussion of important features of 'introduction' to the Book of Acts, Keener's 600-page introduction is extraordinary. And for one looking for 'deep background' or 'thick description' of details behind, and assumed by, the text, Keener's work is without peer or parallel."

J. Bradley Chance,


"Craig Keener, a prolific and established commentator on the NT, has scaled the Everest of biblical exposition: he has authored what may prove to be the lengthiest and most thorough commentary on the Acts of the Apostles in the English language. . . . Keener's scholarship is replete with citations both of secondary literature and of ancient sources. As a result, many of his introductory discussions are encyclopedic in scope and will enrich one's understanding not only of Acts but also of the world of the first century. . . . Keener's defense of the historicity and the accuracy of Acts is both measured and welcome. . . . This first volume is a rich mine of detail from which scholar and pastor alike will profit. . . . [It] paint[s] a rich tapestry of the world within which Luke lived and to which he wrote. Keener's work therefore helps students of the Scripture undertake the work of exegesis in living color. One can only eagerly await the remaining volumes in this set."

Guy Prentiss Waters,


"Keener is masterful and thorough, making this an essential reference tool."

Ray Van Neste,

Preaching (Annual Survey of the Year's Best Bibles and Bible Reference, 2013)

"This promises to be a landmark set of volumes. . . . [A] great resource [for] specific questions."

Kevin DeYoung,

The Gospel Coalition blog

"Craig Keener's first volume on the book of Acts covers two chapters while containing decades' worth of extensive research. To dismiss the weight of this volume is to forego a severely missing component in any study on the Acts of the Apostles. . . . The introduction is a massive tome, some six-hundred pages, covering nearly every facet of a study of Acts. Keener is not lax when it comes to answering the student's questions, even preemptively. . . . The sources Keener draws from are numerous. . . . Added to this are the nearly 10,000 footnotes and citations between the covers and the nearly four hundred pages of works cited and indexes included with a separate CD, one cannot easily dismiss either the work nor the conclusions Keener has poured into this volume. I suspect, that by the end of the series on Acts, Keener will have left us his magnum opus and it will survive for a lot longer than other commentaries."

Joel Watts,

Unsettled Christianity blog

"[The strengths of this commentary] include the enormous amount of information about ancient primary sources, which alone makes this commentary worth consulting again and again in a serious exegesis of Acts. Keener also offers a healthy antidote to radical Enlightenment presuppositions that have been dominating critical biblical scholarship and calls for a more open-minded interaction with other perspectives. Especially noteworthy is his incorporation of perspectives from global Christianity, including the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, into a serious academic work like this. Last but not least, Keener's humble and irenic tone throughout the volume is praiseworthy. . . . One can only hope for more of this kind of fine scholarly work from the author in the future."

Kazuhiko Yamazaki-Ransom,

Trinity Journal

"This first of four volumes of Keener's massive commentary on Acts is certainly impressive. . . . It will probably be the most comprehensive commentary on Acts available for some time."

Joseph D. Fantin,

Bibliotheca Sacra

"The great and enduring strength of the work is Keener's encyclopedic knowledge of the ancient world. He adduces not only many of the commonly referenced, but also a host of lesser-known yet relevant passages and works. Drawing on this knowledge, Keener makes a formidable case for Acts as a work of ancient historiography . . . and his discussion of Acts' genre will have to be reckoned with by subsequent discussions of the topic. Keener's engagement with secondary sources is almost equally impressive, especially in its breadth, as he often draws on insights from the fields beyond NT studies. . . . In his commentary, Keener often highlights intertextual links between Acts and the Scriptures on which Luke so often drew, providing helpful and insightful analysis of this important aspect of Luke's writing and theology. He also displays more consideration for non-Western perspectives than do many Anglo commentators. . . . Volume one of Keener's Acts commentary is an invaluable resource for scholars and advanced students."

Peter H. Rice,

Stone-Campbell Journal

"One gains a new understanding of the word 'comprehensive' in commentary writing when this work of Craig Keener's on Acts is consulted. . . . Keener's extensive interaction with other views, detailed argumentation for the historical reliability of Acts, and comprehensive treatment of the social historical context for so many topics leaves me profoundly grateful for such a resource. . . . This commentary is best treated as more of an encyclopedia of information about almost any topic that is raised in Acts and related to the ancient world than an exegetical commentary. For scholars of Acts, Keener's encyclopedia is indispensable!"

Alan J. Thompson,


"A very informative commentary. . . . Keener gives a thorough discussion concerning the writing methodologies of Acts. . . . Keener also goes to some length to defend the historical reliability of the Book of Acts. . . . Keener gives a wealth of information regarding the historical and the cultural background of Acts. His book is definitely a valuable resource to serious Bible teachers and scholars."

Benjamin Fung,

Africanus Journal