WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Acts of the Apostles introduces readers to many people of ancient Christian times. There are Jesus’ apostles and disciples, men and women, catechists, members of the Jewish community and others.

Let’s meet a few of them:

— Sts. Peter and Paul: These apostles stand as Acts’ central personalities. Peter’s role is more dominant in early chapters, while later chapters highlight Paul as an apostle to the gentiles. Peter and Paul are recognized for their many healings, and we listen to each one preaching a basic message of Christ’s death and resurrection.

— St. Stephen: Known as the first Christian martyr, Stephen was stoned outside Jerusalem’s gates after being falsely charged by people angered at not being able to get the best of him in debate. Acts presents him as wise and “filled with grace,” one who worked “great wonders and signs,” and whose words were prompted by the Spirit. (6:8-7:3).

— Gamaliel: A Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, Gamaliel’s wisdom still is consulted today. After the Sanhedrin forbade the apostles to teach in Jesus’ name, Gamaliel proposed leaving them alone. He successfully advised that if their mission “is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them” (5:38-39).

— Eutychus: This young man sat on a windowsill in an upstairs room as Paul delivered a sermon that continued until midnight. Falling asleep, Eutychus fell from the window. “When he was picked up he was dead.” Paul “threw himself upon him” and then said, “There is life in him. … They took the boy away alive” (20:7-12).

— Priscilla and Aquila: This married couple served as ancient-church catechists. After being expelled from Rome because of their Jewish backgrounds, they met Paul in Corinth. Like him, they were tentmakers. They travel with Paul to Ephesus in Asia Minor. The couple are remembered as faith teachers of Apollos, who himself became a prominent, ancient-church teacher (18:1-3; 18-28).

— The early Christians: The first Christians “had all things in common.” Acts says, “They would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” The community’s bonds were strong. They were “of one heart and mind” (2:44-45; 4:32-35).


Gibson was the founding editor of Origins, Catholic News Service’s documentary service. He retired in 2007 after holding that post for 36 years.