By John Polhill
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
5.1 (Spring 1994) : 110-111
This is one of the best evangelical commentaries on Acts in recent years. Polhill is Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Associate Dean for the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Volumes in the NAC series have been appearing since the early 1990's, continuing the biblical-inerrancy stance of the American Commentary published around the beginning of the twentieth century.
Through his footnotes and awareness of issues on which scholars differ, Polhill reflects a thorough familiarity with literature on Acts. He acknowledges the influence of Ernst Haenchen's work on Acts in tracing the literary flow of the book and its major themes. Yet he disagrees with Haenchen's views that oppose historical reliability. He likewise acknowledges his debt to F. F. Bruce in the latter's revised contribution to the NIC series.
Nearly sixty pages are in the introduction. Polhill argues for Lukan authorship in the A.D. 70's and for the reliability of the twenty four speeches that comprise nearly one-third of Acts (46). Acts' themes are world mission, God's providence, the power of the Spirit, and restored israel. In his amillennial view, all real Christians are "the true or `restored' Israel" (67). Other themes are the inclusive gospel, faithful witness, the relationship to the world, and the triumph of the gospel. Acts 2 refers to earthly languages and 1 Corinthians 12-14 to ecstatic languages (99). His discussion of how the signs of Joel 2 relate to Jesus' passion and to Pentecost lacks clarity (109-10). In Acts 2:38 the word for "for" (e1iw [eis]) means that water baptism is "on the ground, basis of" forgiveness, and not "for" baptismal regeneration, i.e., to secure forgiveness.
Polhill handles most problems well, even though concisely in some cases. He has devoted much thought to the issues. Discussions at 9:7-9; 19:11, 12; 22:16 exemplify this. Sometimes, however, thoroughness is not evident. In 8:14-17, why was the reception of the Spirit delayed at Samaria after baptism? In 15:13-18, in viewing Amos 9:11-15 as fulfilled in the church in an amillennial sense (330), he does not do justice to the land aspects of the promise to Israel in Amos 9:13- 15 or to the ultimate fulfillment of the words to Israel in the future. On 19:1-7, he is unclear as to whether the twelve "disciples" are saved in the OT sense or unsaved until they responded to Paul's more complete message.
Whatever shortcomings the work may have, its benefits far outweigh its lacks. A user can be confident of finding help in its careful handling of many verses. Teachers, students, preachers, and Christians in general will enjoy its readable flow that includes a fairly vigorous effort to elucidate the most crucial issues.