Now that I have explained at some length how the debates work in my Introduction to the New Testament class, I can talk a bit about the debate that I staged in front of the class.   The class debates that the students themselves will participate in start next week – one a week for three weeks.   I’ve always thought that for students to see how a debate is supposed to work, they need to observe one in action.  So I like to have a debate in front of the entire class to give them an idea.  The problem is that most years (well, virtually every year) it is hard to find someone who is willing to debate me.  And so, I debate myself.

The topic that I usually debate has to do with the NT book of Acts and whether it can be trusted to give a historically reliable account of the work of Paul and the other apostles after the death of Jesus.  The specific resolution is this:  “Resolved: The Book of Acts is Historically Reliable.”

In order to make sense of the debate, and of how I can argue for both the affirmative side of the resolution (yes Acts is reliable) and the negative side (no it is not), I need to provide, here, a bit of background that the students already have coming into the class.    (In future posts I’ll lay out my affirmative and negative arguments concerning its historical reliability.)

The first four books of the NT are Gospels, followed then by the book of Acts.  The Gospels each, in their own way, present accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  The book of Acts picks up where the Gospels drop off, by describing the activities of Jesus’ disciples after he is raised from the dead and then ascended into heaven.

One key fact to bear in mind is that …

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