AN ATHEISTIC BIBLE READING OF ACTS 1 TO 3
Luke’s follow up to his Gospel tries to show the adventures of the Apostles following the ascension of Jesus, which he now tells us happened forty days after he allegedly died on the cross. Luke summarizes those events quickly, especially that part about waiting for the divine signal of being visited by the Holy Ghost before doing anything at all. This may explain the period of inactivity and silence that might well have left the Sadducees and Pharisees convinced that the Jesus cult had died along with its leader.
The Apostles watch Jesus being drawn skywards, when two men in white appear, (presumably angels), to tell them that one day (unspecified), Jesus will return to Earth the same way.
At Peter’s request, the Apostles meet in a room at the house at which they are staying, along with Mary, Jesus’ mother, and some other women (un-named) and 120 other followers. Peter proposes an election should be held to find a successor for Judas, now dead from (as Acts absurdly declares), exploding in a field. The election is a surprisingly democratic affair; there are two candidates, Matthias, and Barsabus (aka Justus). Matthias wins when the lots (votes) are cast. We hear virtually nothing more of him after this, or of Mary.
The Holy Ghost now makes its appearance and touches the Apostles with a visible flame. The men are now given the instant gift of speaking in tongues. This is not the Glossolalia gibberish uttered by various evangelical congregations today, but an apparent ability to speak to anyone and be heard in that person’s native dialect, accent and language.
The Apostles start evangelising quickly, gaining many converts in Jerusalem, but also being mocked. Some take their multi-tongued gifts as a sign of the Apostles being simply drunk, suggesting that not everyone heard their words clearly. Peter asks how they can be drunk so early in the morning. (I have seen many who are inebriated early in the day so it seems a poor explanation).
Peter tells the crowd off for their part in the crucifixion. He tells them that Jesus returned from death and that he is willing to forgive them if they become Christians. 3,000 agree right away to be baptized. The followers stay grouped together en-masse and their numbers grow in the coming days. Luke tells us that the Apostles performed many miracles healings, but offers no examples at this stage. Nor do we see the vast numbers in the re-born cult attracting enemy attention as yet, though the sect’s numbers already exceed the number of followers Jesus himself attained. It seems odd that the Pharisees were slow to react but their response would come soon, and with great brutality.