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Acts of the Apostles

The Oxford Companion to World Mythology

David Leeming

Acts of the Apostles 

Generally attributed to Luke, the Greek-speaking physician who is credited with the authorship of the third gospel of the New Testament, the Christian section of the Bible, the Book of Acts contains several myths of the early Christian church. Reminding us that in his earlier work he had given us an account of Jesus' life, the author takes up the early experiences of Jesus' immediate followers and disciples—the apostles— after their master's death. He begins with the myth of the Ascension, telling how the apostles watched Jesus being carried up into the sky on a cloud (Acts 1:9–11). Other mythic stories involve supernatural powers attributed to the apostles during the days of the early church. In Acts 2:1–4 is the story of Pentecost, when a noise came from the sky and flames of fire came to rest on each one of the apostles, after which they were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (see Trinity) and able to talk in all languages. In Acts 9:1–30 is the story of the anti-Christian Saul's dramatic conversion after the voice of Jesus spoke to him from the sky. It was Saul who became the early church's most important evangelist, Paul. Paul and his associates performed curing miracles that led many gentiles to think of them as Greek gods, similar to Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:8–18).