It think it is pretty clear that the writer of the Gospel of Luke used a lot of different sources to create his gospel. I consider it obvious that the writer of Acts is not making up his material, but is also putting together different earlier material. What I am interested in is what that Acts material, which the author/editor used, knew about Jesus.
I take the opening chapter to be material that the editor is making up as it has nothing to do with the rest of the material. For example, in the opening chapter, the disciples elect Mattias (Matthew) to be the 12th disciple but we never hear about him afterwards, nor anything about Joseph called Barsabbas who was apparently also on the ballot to be 12th disciple. Mary and almost all the apostles also disappear from the narrative after the first chapter. The naming of the apostles and the stuff about Judas exploding is just to tie the Acts Material in the rest of Acts to later Gospels.
The first chapter seems to me to be the work of an editor creating a bridge to other gospels. However, starting from the second chapter we are getting text with a very specific knowledge of Jesus.
This knowledge consists of bits and pieces of the John the Baptist gospel material and the passion and resurrection material. Only it is not fleshed out as the gospel material in the New Testament.
To me, it represents a pre-gospel stage of development in the story. In this it resembles the epistles where only a few basic, general facts are known.
What the Acts Material knows about Jesus is pretty much given in a few lines in chapter 10:
|10:37that saying ye yourselves know, which was published throughout all Judaea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 10:38even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 10:39And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom also they slew, hanging him on a tree. 10:40Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, 10:41not to all the people, but unto witnesses that were chosen before of God, even to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 10:42And he charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is he who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead.|
A few minor details are added later:
|13:22And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king; to whom also he bare witness and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who shall do all My will. 13:23Of this man’s seed hath God according to promise brought unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus; 13:24when John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 13:25And as John was fulfilling his course, he said, What suppose ye that I am? I am not he. But behold, there cometh one after me the shoes of whose feet I am not worthy to unloose. 13:26Brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us is the word of this salvation sent forth. 13:27For they that dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 13:28And though they found no cause of death in him, yet asked they of Pilate that he should be slain. 13:29And when they had fulfilled all things that were written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. 13:30But God raised him from the dead: 13:31and he was seen for many days of them that came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses unto the people.|
The only real difference between this and what we get from the Pauline epistles is that John the Baptist predicted that someone would come after him. The Acts material is the first text that ties Jesus to John the Baptist, but it doesn’t say that Jesus was baptized by John. Rather it says that
|when John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 13:25And as John was fulfilling his course, he said, What suppose ye that I am? I am not he. But behold, there cometh one after me the shoes of whose feet I am not worthy to unloose. 13:26Brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us is the word of this salvation sent forth.|
As John was preaching the coming kingdom of God, it seems probable that he was talking about God and predicting that God would soon come, and saying that he was not fit to untie God’s shoelaces. The text shanghais this prophetical prediction just as it shanghais many prophetical predictions in the Hebrew Scriptures to make it refer to Jesus.
We can see the development in the Gospel stories
1. Acts tells us only that John predicted Jesus
2. The John Gospel adds to this story connecting John to Jesus through a prophesy of John by adding that John saw Jesus and even saw a dove descend on his head.
3. The Gospel of Mark goes further in connecting John and Jesus by having John baptize Jesus. he has the dove descending directly after the baptism
4. The Gospel of Matthew repeats Mark, but has Jesus demand that John baptize him. It doesn’t want people to have the impression that Jesus was sinful and needed to be baptized for his sins.
5. The Gospel of Luke puts the descending of the dove later when Jesus was praying.
This allows us to eliminate any historical connection between John and Jesus. The Acts material is creating a Jesus from prophesy and John’s prediction gets fleshed out in later material.
This leaves only the passion and resurrection material which is also coming from prophesy material.
The Acts material shows us a layer that is only slightly more advanced than the layer of material in Paul’s epistles. Paul’s epistles just knows a few prophesies that have come true. It does show us how the material is slowly developed in later gospel writings to flesh out the Jesus/Christ character.
The John material gives us a good model for how the Jesus character was invented based on the need/desire to show prophetic fulfillment.