Beginning at Jerusalem - a review by Stephen Whitehouse


This review first appeared in "The Christadelphian" November 2014

This new title, published by the Christadelphian Magazine and Publishing Association, is a chapter-by-chapter study of the book of Acts. "Beginning at Jerusalem" does not quite adopt a verse-by-verse approach, but tends to deal with topics around passages and verse clusters. Additional information is provided on backgrounds, certain topics of interest, and potential issues identified within the text. These fall under frequently punctuated ‘Digressions’ (a technique that was successfully adopted by Brother Alfred Norris in "Acts and Epistles" and "The Gospel of Mark", and here the reader can choose to read on and learn more, or skip over, depending on personal preference. Brother John has ensured that the reader has a certain flexibility, which is ideal as it means that both the newcomer to Acts as well as the advanced student will find the book helpful.
 
As one would expect with a commentary that deals so comprehensively with the book of Acts, the text in places is somewhat lengthy, but the language is succinct and punchy throughout. The reader can read the book from cover to cover (which I did), or dip into certain sections to assist with understanding particular passages, preparing exhortations and Bible Class papers, or supporting the daily readings. There is a significant advantage to the way in which the book has been structured – it serves as an information resource for specific sections or topics, as well as providing a good overview of the book of Acts itself. The author makes useful references to other Christadelphian and non-Christadelphian works, as appropriate.
 
The reader will find that there is plenty of helpful and substantial detail, and several sections are particularly good: for example, the analysis comparing Peter and Paul (in Table 9); the chronology of events relating to Paul’s visit to Jerusalem and Galatians at Acts 15:5; the Digression on “Titus as the ‘Silent Companion’ of Paul”, and there are many more. Early on, the book also deals with key Bible principles, such as Spirit Gifts, and examines whether these gifts were universal. Brother John’s arguments are both comprehensive and easy to understand, and much of the supporting information is fascinating.</p>
<p>Given the great distances travelled by the apostles throughout Acts, the good use of maps and photographs helps for further understanding, and certainly brings the text to life. There are also some lovely exhortations included, such as the importance of prayer in Acts 12:16 when Peter was released from prison, and in Acts 16:25 when Paul and Silas were later imprisoned.
 
Beginning at Jerusalem</em> will be a very good resource, both for Bible beginners and more advanced students, given the structure and layout of the book, and the author’s comprehensive approach and style. In short I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others.
 
Stephen Whitehouse
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