Acts 2:14a, 22-32
The book, “The Acts of the Apostles,” was written by the author of the Gospel According to Luke around 85 to 90 CE.
Today’s reading presents the second half of Peter’s long speech after the Pentecost Event, and reflects the theology of the community from which Luke-Acts came. In Luke and Acts, everything that happens is said to be guided by the Holy Spirit and is part of “God’s Plan.” Peter’s speech says “God’s Plan” included the handing over of Jesus to the Israelites (v. 23), the crucifixion by the Israelites of Jesus “by the hands of those outside the law” (i.e. Gentiles, Romans), and the “impossibility” (v. 24) that death could hold Jesus in its power. The balance of the speech states that Jesus descended from King David whose line was promised by God to endure forever (2 Sam. 7:13).
To put the harsh words against the Israelites in context, it is important to remember that after the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, the only two surviving sects in Judaism were the Pharisees and the Jesus Followers (not called “Christians” until 85 or so). The other sects (Sadducees, Zealots, Herodians, Essenes) became irrelevant or were killed by the Romans. For example, the Sadducees (priests) disappeared because there was no Temple for animal sacrifice.
For the next 30+ years, the Jesus Followers and the Pharisees contended for control of Judaism. Matthew, Luke-Acts and John were written during this time. Around 100 CE, there was a “parting of the ways” – the Jesus Follower Movement evolved into Christianity and the Pharisaical Movement evolved into Rabbinic Judaism. In the post-70 Gospels (and Acts), there is harsh language against Israelites, Judeans/Jews, and Pharisees (but hardly any against the ruling Romans who crucified Jesus as an insurrectionist). Unfortunately, the historical controversies that led to the harsh words in the post-70 Gospels (and Acts) is often forgotten.
1 Peter 1:3-9
The First Letter of Peter was likely written in the last quarter of the First Century, long after Peter’s death. It was written in sophisticated Greek and resembles the form of Paul’s letters. Its focus is not on the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth, but on the Resurrection and the affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
In today’s reading, the author notes that Jesus Followers “had to suffer various trials” (v. 6), not so much from overt governmental persecution, but because the Jesus Follower Movement was a minority sect within Judaism, particularly after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
The author also expects that God will send the Christ soon because “salvation is ready to be revealed in the last time” (v.5) and “your faith …will result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (v. 7).