Book Review: After Acts, by Bryan Litfin

Have you ever watched a movie based on true events? At the end they run an image of each main character and give you a short sentence or two about what they’ve been up to since the story ended. Or maybe you’ve seen those “Where are they now?” segments in magazines or on TV. We love to find out, along with Paul Harvey, the rest of the story.

If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the main characters of the New Testament after the final words were written, then you can go through hundreds and hundreds of extra-Biblical writings. You can learn Latin and Greek and Armenian. You can filter through all the existing early documents from the Church Fathers. You can weigh whether what they say is true or false or legend or myth.

Or you can pick up After Acts and let Bryan Litfin do that for you. He takes all the material that we have on the lives of the Apostles and other biblical figures and weighs them out. He can do this because of his extensive background in church history. And since we don’t have the same background, we can trust him.

Did Mark really found the church in Alexandria, Egypt? Did Thomas make his way to India or Edessa? How did Peter really die? These are the types of questions that Litfin answers. And along the way he gives some great insights into the compilation of the New Testament texts, the assembling of the cannon, and the early politics of the Church.

Litfin’s assessment is fair (although admittedly conservative), but he gives you a sliding scale rather than a full “yes” or “no” answer on each issue. At the end of each chapter he lists a few of the major theories about the character and then grades them (A to F) on whether or not they’re reliable. That way you can decide for yourself. But the rest of the story? Litfin does a great job giving you that.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.