Marguerat, professor of NT at the University of Lausanne, has here collected most of his published articles on the Acts of the Apostles.
The first two chapters show how Luke used contemporary historiographical devices to recount a confessional history. By joining the memory of the witnesses (Acts) to the memory of the Master (Luke), Luke constructs a complete narrative of the beginnings, and so provides Theophilus with everything he should know about Christianity's past.
Chapter three finds the unity of Luke-Acts in Luke's arrangement of Acts as a sequel (or better as an effect) of the gospel. This arrangement causes the reader to construct the unity of this diptych from the series of markers which the author has put in the text (inclusions, proplepses, narrative chains, and syncrises). These techniques force the reader to go back and forth between the two panels of the Lukan diptych, and so the unity of the two books takes place in the act of reading.
Chapters four to six deal with themes of Ad Theophilum. Emphases on Jerusalem and Rome present Christianity as the place where the promises of salvation made to a particular people (Israel) come together with the universality of God that the Christian mission proclaims (in and thanks to the Roman empire). Luke so manages his narrative that God unobtrusively and even ironically brings to completion his plan of salvation. Indeed, because Luke-Acts is narrative, Luke does not engage in theological reflection on the Holy Spirit, but presents a pragmatique of the Spirit's work in founding the Church as a missionary community.
In chapter seven the author refuses to accept an either/or choice between scholars who see Luke-Acts as documenting the failure of Israel, and those who see it as making Christianity the fulfillment of Judaism. While Acts' narrative order (Jerusalem to Rome) supports the former opinion, the construction of its characters favors the latter. Especially Paul, at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13), in his four apologias (Acts 22; 23; 24; 26), and in his final appeal to the Jews (Acts 28), so speaks of Christianity's rupture with Judaism that Scripture is fulfilled and the door is opened for Judaism to inherit its promises.
Briefly: chapter eight sees Ananias and Sapphira as embodying the original sin in Acts' narrative of beginnings; chapter nine sees the conversion of Paul as proclaiming the power of the Risen Christ as a transforming force within history; chapter ten finds Acts 28 assigning to Christianity the place that the Pauline mission had won for it—the Roman Empire; chapter eleven finds Luke' travel narratives a celebration of the memory of a time when the Word was on the road.
The title of the book is misleading, as it is not a sustained argument that Luke was the first Christian historian. Even the first two chapters do not demonstrate this thesis, since the use of historiographic narrative procedures in Luke-Acts does not make Luke a historian. Anyone comparing the works of Josephus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, or Eusebius can see how they differ from Luke-Acts. Indeed, the author himself often describes Luke as a theologian.
What does constitute the unity of these disparate essays is the author's consistent attention to how Luke's narrative technique both limits and discloses his thought. He has read the scholarly literature widely and by submitting the text of Acts to narratological analysis he is able to bring the reader new insights on almost every page.
There are minor defects in the work (e.g. the misspelling of M L. Soards and R. J. Cassidy, the shaky Greek of on p. 22), and the translation is rendered in overly dense prose, but these hardly mar a book which should be read by all Lukan scholars not already familiar with Marguerat's work.