PRESS RELEASE - September 2013

Scholars from the Westar Institute will share findings of a decade-long study on the biblical book of Acts on October 23–26, at the Westar Fall 2013 Meeting, “Early Christianity: Heritage or Heresies?” in Santa Rosa, California, the Institute announced.

Acts was long thought to be a first-century document, and its author Luke—a disciple of Paul—an eyewitness or acquaintance of eyewitnesses. This view is no longer tenable in light of new findings, say scholars involved in the study. According to the forthcoming report, the author of Acts relied on literary sources like Josephus, Homer, Vergil, and a Greek translation of the Bible known as the Septuagint to craft an epic of Christian beginnings. Acts was most likely written in the early second century. It cannot be used as a reliable source of information on the apostle Paul or the first-century Christian movement.

Featured speakers at the event include Joseph B. Tyson and Shelly Matthews. Tyson is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and an internationally recognized authority on the Gospel of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and Marcion. Tyson co-edited the report of the Acts Seminar, Acts and Christian Origins (forthcoming 2013) with Dennis E. Smith, and has authored several other books including Marcion and Luke-Acts (2006). He will join other scholars to discuss the Acts Seminar Report Friday, October 25 from 9–10:30 a.m.

Shelly Matthews is Associate Professor of New Testament at the Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. Her books include The Acts of the Apostles: Taming the Tongues of Fire (forthcoming) and First Converts: Rich Pagan Women and the Rhetoric of Mission in Early Judaism and Christianity (2001). Shelley will present “The Acts of the Apostles: Taming the Tongues of Fire” Thursday, October 24 from 9–11:30 a.m.

Other featured speakers include David Galston (Embracing the Human Jesus, 2012), Joseph A. Bessler (A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better, 2013), and Jason BeDuhn (The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon, forthcoming 2013).

Westar Institute was founded in 1986 to support research on the origins of Christianity and to disseminate the results of serious scholarship on religion to the interested public. Polebridge Press, an imprint of Westar, publishes books related to Westar’s mission. Both Westar and Polebridge are located on the campus of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Registration fees and more information about the Fall Meeting can be found at or by calling 503-375-5323.

Christians have long viewed Jerusalem as the birthplace of Christianity, based on Acts. Also based solely on Acts are the claims that Paul was born in Tarsus and a Roman citizen, worked as a tentmaker, and had a vision on the Damascus road. These traditional views are all called into question by the Acts Seminar findings.

Westar Institute 2013 Fall Meeting Schedule

Wednesday, October 23
9 am – 3:30 pm—“The Once & Future God” (David Galston & Joseph A. Bessler)
4–5 p.m.—Polebridge Press, Books & Authors

Thursday, October 24
9–10, 10:30–11:30 am—“The Acts of the Apostles: Taming the Tongues of Fire” (Shelly Matthews)
1–2, 2:30–3:30 pm—“Marcion: Forgotten ‘Father’ & Inventor of the New Testament” (Jason BeDuhn)
4–5 pm—Polebridge Press, Books & Authors
8–10 pm—Reception

Friday, October 25
9–10:30 am—Celebration of Publication of the Acts Seminar Report
11 a.m. – 3:30 pm—Christianity Seminar
4–5 pm—Associates Forum
7:30–9 pm—Keynote Interview: Joseph B. Tyson

Saturday, October 26
9 a.m. – 3:30 pm—Christianity Seminar
7–10 pm—Closing Banquet

See the full program