Epistle of Feast of the Ascension

Acts 1:1-11

The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom He had chosen, He was taken up: to whom also He showed Himself alive after His Passion by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them and speaking of the kingdom of God. And eating together with them, He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith He) by My mouth: for John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. They therefore who were come together asked Him, saying: Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? But He said to them: It is not for you to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in His own power: but you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had said these things, while they looked on, He was raised up: and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they were beholding Him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments, who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen Him going into heaven.


Verse 1. S. Luke, who was the author of this history, alludes, in this verse, to his gospel, which he calls his first discourse. In that he informs us, not only of the actions, but also the doctrines of our Saviour. These words, to do and to teach, are the abridgment of the whole gospel: here he gives us the Acts of the Apostles, that is, an history of their travels and preaching. In the beginning of this work he speaks of all the apostles, and what they did before their dispersion. As soon as he comes to the mention of S. Paul, he takes notice of no one else, but is entirely taken up with the narrative of his actions. He addresses his book to Theophilus, which signifies a friend of God, or one who loves God, as if he intended to dedicate it to all the faithful, who believed in, and loved God. But it is more probable that this was some distinct person, well known to S. Luke, and illustrious for his birth, because he gave him the title of kratiste, most excellent. Calmet.

Verse 2. Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up. As the Scripture was written without distinction of verses, and without any stops, or commas, which were added afterwards) the construction, and joining of the words in this verse, is ambiguous. The question is, with what part of the verse these words, by the Holy Ghost, are to be joined. The sense might be, 1. that he was taken up by the Holy Ghost: but this is generally rejected. 2. That he gave his commandments by the Holy Ghost to his apostles; that is, says S. Chrys. that he gave them spiritual commands, that came from the Holy Ghost, or from his holy Spirit. 3. The most probable exposition seems to be, that he gave his special commandments to his apostles, or to those whom he chose to be his apostles, by the Holy Ghost, or by his holy and divine spirit. Wi. — The power to preach, to baptize, to remit sins, and generally the whole commission and charge of the government of his Church after him in his name, and with his authority; which government was given them, together with the Holy Ghost, to assist them therein for ever. B.

Verse 3. Appearing, &c. Why did he not appear to all, but only to his disciples? Because to many of them, who did not know the mystery, he would have seemed a phantom. For if the disciples themselves were diffident, and terrified, and required to touch him with their hands, how would others have been affected? But we know from their miracles, the truth of the resurrection, which is made evident to all succeeding generations. Perhaps the apostles did not perform miracles. How then was the world converted? This is a fact which cannot be denied, and that it should have been brought about by twelve poor illiterate fishermen, without miracles, would be the greatest of all miracles, far beyond the reach of all human means. S. Chrys. hom. i. c. 1. on Acts. — “And speaking of things pertaining to the kingdom of God,” as we read in the Greek, and in the Protestant version, that is, pertaining to the Church, which is the kingdom of God, ta peri thV basileiaV tou qeou, which plainly makes for unwritten tradition. Estius.

Verse 4. And eating with them. This is a literal translation from the vulgar Latin. But the Prot. translation from some Greek copies, would have it, And being assembled together, he commanded them, &c. Mr. Bois defends the Latin Vulg. and even by the authority of S. Chrys. who doubtless understood the Greek text, as well as any one, and who takes the Greek word here to signify eating: for he observes that the apostles elsewhere prove Christ’s resurrection by his eating and drinking with them. Acts x. 4. S. Jer. also says, the derivation of the Greek word, is from eating salt together. Wi.

Verse 5. Baptized with the Holy Ghost, that is, cleansed, and sanctified by the plentiful graces he shall pour upon you. Wi.

Verse 6-7. Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel? Some of them, as S. Chrys. observes, had still their thoughts upon a temporal kingdom of the Messias. Christ, to divert them from such imaginations, tells them, their business is to be witnesses of his doctrine and miracles, particularly of his resurrection, even unto the utmost bounds of the earth, to all the nations of the world. Wi.

Verse 9. He was raised up. Raised himself up, and ascended, &c. Wi.

Verse 10. Behold two men, that is, two angels, stood by them in white apparel. Wi.

Verse 11. So shall he come, as you have seen him going. This word going, says S. Chrys. sufficiently intimates, that he ascended by his own power: for so will he come by his own power to judge the world. Wi. — Jesus Christ shall come on the last day, in the same body, in the same majesty, to judge the living and the dead. This he had likewise promised, in more than one place of the gospel, speaking of the vengeance, which he will exercise on the city of Jerusalem. S. Jerom, S. Hilary, and many other ancients, have believed that the Son of God will appear again on Mount Olivet, and that all people shall be assembled to judgment. S. Jerom. super Joel iii. 2. S. Hilary, super Matt. xxiv. 32. — And that same body, which thus ascended to heaven, and which will thus descend, is given us in the blessed Sacrament. “O miracle! exclaims S. Chrysostom, He that sitteth with his Father above, is at the same time handled by men below. Jesus Christ ascending to heaven, both hath his flesh with him above, and hath left it with us below. Elias being taken up, left his disciple, Eliseus, his mantle and double spirit, but the Son of Man ascending, left his own flesh for us.” L. iii. de Sacerd. hom. 2. ad pop. Ant. hom. de divit. et paup. — Sulpicius Severus, and S. Paulinus, assure us, that the marks of the feet of our Saviour were imprinted in the place off which he rose to heaven; and S. Aug. informs us, that many in his time went to Judea, to venerate these sacred marks. Ven. Bede testifies the same in the eighth age. In the time of Constantine the great, the empress Helen built a church on the place. Calmet.


2161: Gospel of Luke before Acts

The Author, the Time of Composition, the Historical Truth of the Gospels
According to Mark and According to Luke 

Reply of the Biblical
Commission, June 26, 1912

VII. Whether it ought to be affirmed that the Gospel of Luke preceded the book of the Acts of the Apostles; and although this book, with same i author Luke [Acts 1:1 f.], was finished before the end of the Apostle’s Roman captivity [Acts 28:30 f.], his Gospel was not composed after this time?–Reply: In the affirmative.

2166 to 2171: Acts of the Apostles

The Author, Time of Composition, Historical Veracity of the Book of the
Acts of the Apostles

Reply of the Biblical Commission, June 12, 1913

2166 I. Whether in view especially of the tradition of the whole Church going back to the earliest ecclesiastical writers, and noting the internal reasons of the book of Acts, considered in itself or in its relation to the third Gospel, and especially because of the mutual affinity and connection between the two prologues [Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1 f.], it must be held as certain that the volume that is entitled Actus A postolorum, or, (Greek text deleted), has Luke the Evangelist as author?–Reply: In the affirmative.

2167 II. Whether for critical reasons taken from the language and style, and from the manner of narrating, and from the oneness of aim and doctrine, it can be demonstrated that the book of the Acts of the Apostles should be attributed to one author alone; and therefore that the opinion of more recent writers which holds that Luke is not the only author of the book, but that different persons are to be recognized as authors of the same book is devoid of any foundation?–Reply: In the affirmative to both parts.

2168 III. Whether in outward appearance, the prominent chapters in the Acts where the use of the third person is broken off and the first person plural introduced, weaken the unity and authenticity of composition; or rather historically and philologically considered are to be said to confirm it?–Reply: In the negative to the first part; in the affirmative to the second.

2169 IV. Whether because of the fact that the book itself is abruptly concluded after scarcely making mention of the two years of Paul’s first Roman captivity, it may be inferred that the author had written a second volume now lost, or had intended to write it; and so the time of composition of the Book of Acts can be deferred long after this captivity; or whether it should rather rightly and worthily be held that Luke toward the end of the first Roman captivity of the Apostle Paul had completed his book?–Reply: In the negative to the first part; in the affirmative to the second.

2170 V. Whether, if there is considered together the frequent and easy communication which Luke undoubtedly had with the first and prominent founders of the Palestinian church, and also with Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, whose assistant in the preaching of the Gospel and companion in travel he was; also his customary industry and diligence in seeking witnesses, and in observing things with his own eyes; also, and finally, the evident and amazing agreement for the most part of the Book of Acts with the letters of Paul and the more genuine monuments of history, it should be held with certainty that Luke had at hand sources worthy of all trust, and applied them accurately, well, and faithfully, so that he rightly indicates for himself full historical authority?–Reply: In the affirmative.

2171 VI. Whether the difficulties which are usually raised from the supernatural deeds related by Luke, and from the narration of certain discourses which, since they are handed down in summary, are considered fictitious and adapted to circumstances; also from certain passages, apparently at least, in disagreement with history whether profane or biblical; finally also from certain accounts which seem to be at odds with the author of the Acts, or with other-sacred authors, are such as can call the historical authority of the Acts into doubt or at least in some manner diminish it?–Reply: In the negative.

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