A thorough discussion of the evidence.
by Chris Price (July 30, 2005)
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CHAPTER 1: THE GENRE OF ACTS
“The first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is – what it was intended to do and how it is meant to be used.”
C.S. Lewis, Preface to Paradise Lost
What is the Acts of the Apostles? It is a writing, a story, to be sure. But what kind? This question is one of genre. Genres “are social conventions that provide contextual meaning for the smaller units of language and text they enclose. The original significance that a literary text had for both author and reader is tied to the genre of the text, so that the meaning of the part is dependent upon the meaning of the whole.” In other words, authors write according to a set of conventions and expectations held by writers and audiences about different types of literature. To write according to a particular genre was to communicate specific intentions and to imbue your work with certain meaning.
Is the question of genre important? Yes, it is. “Identification of a work’s genre helps us understand its place within the literary history . . . and aids us in its interpretation.” Genre “is widely acknowledged as one of the key conventions guiding both the composition and the interpretation of writings. Genre forms a kind of ‘contract’ or agreement, often unspoken or unwritten, or even unconscious, between the author and a reader, by which the author sets out to write according to a whole set of expectations and conventions, and we agree to read or to interpret the work using the same conventions, giving us an initial idea of what we might expect to find.”
Knowledge of genres was widespread in the literate Hellenistic world in which Acts was written. As Prof. Richard Burridge states in his book, What Are the Gospels?, “[a]n awareness of genre and its conventions was widespread in the ancient world through elementary schooling, particular in its use of rhetorical exercises and moralistic stories of the heroes.”
Because of the importance of genre classification, scholars have spilled much ink exploring the genre of Acts and the majority have concluded that Acts is of the genre of the ancient history, known as ancient historiography. Below I discuss the possible genre classifications for Acts. I begin by making a preliminary case for ancient historiography and then evaluate the other candidates, comparing and contrasting their suitability with that of historiography.
I. Ancient Historiography
Ancient histories “are vehicles for narrating events worthy of record. . . . Historians [ ] treated events that actually happened and people who really lived; they had historical stories worth telling.” Luke T. Johnson explains why he concludes that the author of Acts was attempting to write history:
(1) His prologue tells us that he is writing an “orderly account.” Historians of his age used such language to describe their work. He refers as well to oral and written sources; he knew others had written narratives before him. He had sources; therefore, he regarded them as such, and he used them critically. (2) He tries to relate his story to the broader historical context. He does this first by providing chronological references for pivotal events (see Luke 1:5; 2:1-2; 3:1-2; Acts 18:12). In addition, he identifies power blocs and governing agents, not only in Palestine (Acts 18:12-17). (3) Above all, Luke has the historian’s instinct for chronology and causality; he makes connections between events, so that a thread of purpose runs through his narrative.
Joel Green provides additional similarities between Acts and historiography.
Luke’s two volumes evince a number of other attributes common in Greco-Roman historiography – for example a genealogical record (Lk. 3:23-28); the use of meal scenes as occasions for instruction (as in Greco-Roman symposia); travel narratives; speeches; letters; and dramatic episodes, such as Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth (4.16-30) and Paul’s stormy voyage and shipwreck (Acts 27.1-28.14). Further in characterizing his work as a narrative (diegesis), Luke qualifies his project as a long narrative of many events, for which the chief prototypes were the historiographical writings of Herodotus and Thucydides.
Finally, Willen van Unnik determined that there were ten basic rules that characterized the writings of Greco-Roman historians: 1) choosing a noble topic; 2) choosing a topic that would be useful to the audience; 3) independence and impartiality; 4) a well structured narrative, especially at the beginning and the end; 5) collection of preparatory material; 6) selection and variety in presentation of the information; 7) correct disposition and ordering of the narrative; 8) liveliness in the narration; 9) moderation of the topographical details; and 10) composition of speeches well suited to the orator and situation. Of these, Daniel Marguerat concludes “that Luke follows eight of the ten rules.” Rules 1 and 3 were exceptions explained by “the specificity of Luke’s project” and are more similar to Jewish historical writings. Thus, Luke seems most influenced by Greco-Roman historiography but his subject-matter and agenda are more akin to Jewish historiography.
On its face, therefore, the author of Acts appears to be consciously writing in the genre of ancient historiography. Although not without bias or theological focus, the genre of Acts indicates the author’s intent to record and describe historical events based on the best sources available.
II. Acts as Scripture
Some scholars believe that the author of Acts saw himself as writing scripture; adding to the story of the Old Testament. Even here, though, proponents of the theory see Acts as influenced by the “historical” books of the Old Testament, such as 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Samuel. This theory has much to commend it. “[O]ur author conceived of his work as the continuation of the LXX [the Greek translation of the Old Testament common in the time of Acts]. His deliberate composition in Septuagintal Greek and the conviction that his story was the fulfillment of the promises of the OT imply that as a continuation, Luke-Acts represents sacred narrative.” The return of the gift of prophecy, the centrality of Jerusalem to his narratives (as the destination of the gospel in Luke and the origin of the gospel in Acts), and the motif of fulfillment, also indicate that the author sees himself as completing the Old Testament story.
That the author of Acts may have seen himself as adding to scripture, however, does not mean that he was not writing under the influence of the conventions of ancient historiography. In essence, Luke was writing “salvation history” – the story of God bringing salvation to the world through the nation of Israel and then through Jesus and the Church – influenced by the historical conventions of his day. When this focus is considered in light of Acts’ genre of historiography, we may have the best explanation of the intentions of the author of Acts. Though Acts shares many of the features common to the Greco-Roman historians, it is somewhat unique that its author does not describe himself in any detail in his books. Instead, his focus is on recounting the salvation history begun in the Old Testament and concluded in the events about which he writes. Additionally, while other historians (even a Jewish one like Josephus) show some reservation about miracles, Luke does not. How could he if he is writing about God’s salvation history?
Accordingly, the idea that the author of Acts viewed himself as writing a continuation of the Old Testament does not count against the idea that he was writing according to the genre of historiography, but it does shed light on his intent and explains some of the variances with other works of historiography.
III. Acts as Ancient Biography
Another theory is that Acts is a form of ancient biography. The most prominent proponent of this theory is C.H. Talbert. Talbert initially made his case in his book, What is a Gospel? The Genre of the Canonical Gospels. This genre, like ancient historiography, intends to impart historical information about ancient figures. However, the focus of ancient biographies is narrower, such as the life of a famous person. This characteristic would seem to preclude Acts, given its focus on multiple characters. Talbert, however, argues that Acts is akin to a “succession narrative,” which he explains was a writing that followed up a biography and described the followers of, or movement birthed, by the figure featured in the earlier biography. This theory has the advantage of explaining the genre of Acts in light of the genre of Luke, which more scholars are willing to see as biography.
Other scholars, however, are unconvinced and note that such “succession narratives” are much shorter than Acts and have little narration. Professor Aune believes that Luke and Acts are best explained as historiography and notes that “succession narrative” is “an inappropriate description of brief lists of students or successors.” In other words, “succession narratives” were lists rather than narratives. For example, Talbert points to a few brief paragraphs in Laertius’ writings as examples of these succession narratives. Here is one such paragraph:
His disciples were Speiusippus of Athens, Xenocrates of Chalcedon, Aristotle of Stagira. . . ., and many others, among them two women, Lastheneia of Mantinea and Axiothea of Philius. . . . Some say that Theophrastus too attended his lectures. Chamaeleon adds Hyperdies the orator and Lycurgus, and in this Polemo agrees. Sabinus makes Demostenes his pupil, quoting . . . Mnesistratus of Thasos as his authority. And it is not improbable.
Acts, on the other hand, is obviously an extended narrative. Indeed, if anything, Acts is a richer narrative than the Gospel of Luke. Obviously, there is no comparison between such succession lists and the Acts of the Apostles. Given the broad range of subjects covered in Acts and the similarities of Acts with ancient historiography, the better explanation remains that the genre of Acts is ancient historiography.
IV. Acts as Ancient Romance/Ancient Novel
The notion that Acts is ancient fiction, or an “ancient novel,” has been advanced by Richard Pervo in his book Profit with Delight. This genre involved the writing of fictitious narratives intended to entertain and perhaps edify the reader. For a variety of reasons, however, leading Lukan scholars have rejected his arguments.
A. The Prefaces
The prefaces of Luke and Acts are strong evidence that its author intended to write history, not fiction. As Professor Gasque notes, “the majority of interpreters would [conclude] that his preface indicates he has historical pretensions.” Thought not all ancient writings had prefaces, many did. They are found in many different genres and signal the intent of the writer, and therefore the genre of the work. The prefaces of Luke-Acts show an obvious intent to write history:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
These passages certainly suggest that the author is attempting to write history. He refers to “eyewitnesses” as sources of information. He writes about information being “handed down.” He writes of investigating everything “carefully.” He is putting his writing in the form of a “narrative,” using the same term that Dionysius uses in his Roman Antiquities to describe his own work. Rom. Ant. 2.48.1. Perhaps most important, he states that his purpose for writing is that his reader will know “the exact truth” about the subject. In short, everything about the preface suggests that the author intended to write history, not narrate fictitious stories.
This is the way the ancients thought history should be written. In his second-century work, The Way to Write History, Lucian of Samosata writes: “Facts must not be carelessly put together, but the historian must work with great labor and often at great trouble make inquiry, preferably being himself present an eyewitness, failing that, he must rely on those who are incorruptible, and have no bias from passion or prejudice, to add or to diminish anything.” Quomodo 47. The author of Acts seems aware of this maxim and explains that while he himself is not an eyewitness for matters related in the Gospel of Luke, his information is derived from them. Notably, Lucian and Acts’ author use the same Greek word for “eyewitness.” Regarding making note of the effort put into writing their respective histories, the author of 2 Maccabees refers to the “labour of making this digest,” Josephus refers to growing weary and the difficulty of translating into Greek, and Luke refers to “carefully investigating” all things (Lk. 1:3).
The reference in the Gospel’s preface to the author’s forerunners also invites comparison to ancient historiography. “It is customary in ancient historiography to give a critical evaluation of the other historians, the predecessors, who had dealt with the same history as the historian in question.” The preface of 2 Maccabees, for example, explains of his predecessor (and one of his sources), “I was struck by the mass of statistics and the difficulty which the bulk of the materials causes to those wishing to grasp the narratives of this history.” So, he summarized and reordered the material. 2 Mac. 2:23-25. Josephus is more critical of his predecessors, claiming that he wrote because others had “perverted the truth” of the war between the Jews and the Romans. Ant. 1.4. His preface to Jewish War is similarly critical. War 1:1-2. In his preface to Roman Antiquities, Dionysius ironically notes with disapproval other historians who were critical of other historians, although he goes on to mention that some historians were “careless and indolent” in compiling their “narratives.”
The author of the Luke-Acts does something similar, noting that others had written accounts before him and that he was going to offer his own contribution because he wanted to write an “orderly account.” Although the criticism – if any – of earlier writings is mild, Luke distinguishes his account from them. All told, the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts works in “all the crucial points” we would expect from a preface to ancient historiography.
Pervo argues, however, that the prefaces are irrelevant to the issue of genre and that the author might have been trying to simulate historical intent:
Prefaces were highly conventional. Composition of them may have been taught in school. Their claims would be the object of parody. Not only historians but medical writers, astrologers, dream interpreters, and novelists made use of such marks of erudition. The use of the preface does not settle the question of genre, for such devices could be employed by novelists to create verisimilitude.
The notion that prefaces are irrelevant to the issue of genre, however, is not persuasive. While it is true that there were prefaces in various genres, it is also true that each genre had characteristics that distinguished it from the other genres. Those ancient novels with prefaces had prefaces that indicated that the writings were novels. Those works of ancient historiography with prefaces had prefaces that indicated that the writings were historiography.
Pervo’s suggestion that the author of Acts could have been attempting to “create verisimilitude” is likewise unpersuasive. He provides a footnote supposedly supporting this point, so I checked it expecting to find examples of ancient novels that had prefaces that pretended to be writing historiography. I found no examples. The footnote simply refers the reader to a later part of his book that also provides no examples. In reality, no supporting evidence is offered. It appears that the authors of ancient novels did not try to simulate historiography by the use of such prefaces. In fact, in ancient novels, “there was little concern for credibility in the narrative.”
The only references to novel prefaces in Pervo’s discussion are in an earlier footnote to his assertion that many different genres use prefaces. Of course this is not in dispute. The argument is not that Acts has a preface, but that it has a preface that indicates historical intent. A review of Pervo’s references to novel prefaces actually adds weight against his argument. The referenced novel prefaces do not attempt to simulate historiography. In fact, they indicate to the reader that he is reading a novel.
To take one of Pervo’s examples – the preface of Longus – “[the author’s] aim was to make a verbal equivalent of a painting he saw in Lesbos, and that is what he has done - summoned up a Golden Age of innocence in which his hero and heroine can have adventures and never get hurt.” This purpose is clearly stated in his preface. There is no attempt to render this an apparent historical account.
To take another of Pervo’s examples – Lucian’s True History – “Lucian states in the Preface (§1:2) that everything in his story is a ‘more or less comical parody of one or another of the poets, historians, and philosophers of old, who have written much that smacks of miracles and fables.’” Again, no attempt is made to pass off this writing as history.
As Pervo’s own examples demonstrate, when the authors of ancient novels used prefaces they appear to be candid about their goals. But no element of the ancient novel is hinted at in either of Luke’s prefaces. “Luke does not suggest in either Luke 1:1-4 or Acts 1:1-2 that he sees it as his essential task to give pleasure, to entertain, to edify, or even in the main to encourage certain virtues.”
In sum, the prefaces written by the author of Acts are strong evidence that he intends to write historical accounts rather than fictitious narratives.
B. The Ending of Acts
Another feature of Acts that counts against it being an ancient novel is its abrupt ending. Pervo notes that one of the defining characteristics of the ancient novel is that its outcome is predictable and complete. Other scholars agree. But Acts has anything but a predictable, complete ending. Indeed, the ending of Acts has raised questions for two thousand years:
It is the abrupt ending of Acts that is most troubling…. Ancient novels tell the tale of a hero or heroine, often both, following them through adventure and misadventure until they are reunited, married, and ‘living happily ever after.’ Villains are captured and punished, oracles fulfilled, the virtuous rewarded. There are no loose ends. Acts follows Paul (leaving Peter forgotten!) through thick and thin, recounting preachings, beatings, arrest, trial, voyage, shipwreck, and eventual arrival at Rome. And then stops. If the genre of Acts is that of the ancient novel, the end of Acts is unthinkable: There are no parallels to the ending.
To emphasize this point we can examine the apocryphal Acts, which contain much more evidence of containing fictional elements. The Acts of Paul, the Acts of Peter, the Acts of Thomas, and the Acts of Andrew all narrate the deaths of their leading characters. The Acts of Paul narrates Paul’s judicial sentence and execution in detail. (10.5). The Acts of Peter likewise narrates the sentencing and execution of Peter. (37-40). Nero plays prominent roles in both accounts, but in the Acts of the Apostles Nero does not even make an appearance. Moreover, what happened to Peter? Or James? And what about Paul? By the time Acts was written, all three of these figures may have been dead. Yet Acts narrates nothing of their fates.
The failure to narrate Paul’s fate is especially glaring because he is the hero of the second half of the book. Nevertheless, Paul is left in Rome awaiting trial (and thus in danger of his life or about to be set free). This is far from what we would expect from an ancient novel. But if Acts is a history of the progress of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, it is not surprising as ancient historiography.
C. Purported Inaccuracies
One reason Pervo concludes that Acts is not historiography is that he believes Acts is too full of inaccuracies. But as Pervo candidly admits, he simply assumes rather than demonstrates that Acts is replete with historical inaccuracies. To Pervo, the most important of these inaccuracies appears to be Luke’s supposed theological conflict with Paul’s letters. I deal with these more specifically below, but for now it is enough to note that historiography with inaccuracies is still historiography. As Professor Balch notes in his article on the genre of Luke-Acts, Pervo confuses modern history with ancient. “Pervo has nowhere seriously the form, content, or function of ancient historiography. He constantly contrasts novels with history, but the latter is his own reconstruction.” Another scholar puts it this way:
In supposedly establishing the difficulty in seeing Acts as history, Pervo begins by pointing out what he sees as the historical inaccuracies in Acts. He apparently does not recognize that he has moved outside of the form-critical examination in which he purports to engage. He has moved to criteria that have little, if any, bearing at this stage of discussion on whether the book of Acts is, or is not, a historical account. The possible explanations for the supposed historical flaws in Acts are several. For example, Luke could be a historian but a bad one, even a very bad one. There were many in the ancient world, but simply because they were bad historians does not mean that they were therefore writing novels. They were simply engaging in bad history writing.
Accordingly, even if Pervo’s evaluation of the accuracy of Acts had merit, it does not count against classifying Acts as historiography.
D. Writing to Entertain
Perhaps the most important point Pervo advances is that Acts was written to entertain its readers. Because the central purpose of ancient novels was to entertain, Pervo believes this feature of Acts makes his case. This argument, however, fails to adequately cope with three facts: 1) the most entertaining features of Acts Pervo points to are historical events confirmed by other Christian writings; 2) ancient historiography was also written to entertain; and, 3) the entertaining elements of Acts in relation to other elements are far from the balance found in ancient novels.
Pervo helpfully includes a table of the “entertaining” events that purportedly show that Acts was written to entertain. It includes Paul’s being arrested, beaten, and shipwrecked. But, Paul confirms these events in his own writings:
I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.… In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.
2 Corinthians 11:23-33.
In just one passage Paul confirms that he was imprisoned on many occasions, that he was physically punished by Roman authorities, that he was physically punished by Jewish authorities, that he was shipwrecked, and that he endured many adventures during his travels. Perhaps most instructive is that Paul confirms Luke’s rather fantastic account of Paul escaping from Damascus by being lowered down through the wall in a basket. If not confirmed by Paul, this episode might be seen as free creation evidencing that Acts is a novel intended to entertain. Fortunately this episode – as with most of the exciting elements in Acts regarding Paul – is confirmed by Paul himself.
Nevertheless, Pervo argues that it is not merely the existence of exciting episodes that proves Acts is fiction, but the way he weaves them together to create an exciting narrative. This argument is unpersuasive. Because the author of Acts has successfully strung together several true episodes we must conclude that he is writing fiction? Is this not better construed as evidence of historical intent?
The entertaining elements of Acts can be explained more readily by recognizing that this was one of the characteristics of the genre of ancient historiography. “Historians of the period were also obligated to make their narratives exciting and ‘delightful.’” In his How to Write History, Lucian noted that historians should write “what will interest and instruct” their audience. § 53. The author of 2 Maccabees, for example, tells his audience that he was writing “to provide for the entertainment of those who read for pleasure, the convenience of students who must commit the facts to memory, and the profit of even the casual readers.” 2 Mac. 2:25. Professor Soards points to additional examples of such historiography that Pervo overlooks or downplays:
[S]cholars have long recognized that one of the goals of ancient historians was to please their readers. . . . The presence of entertaining or pleasing elements in an ancient work does not automatically mean that it is not history. Yet Pervo takes this position. He is able to do so largely by ignoring this characteristic in ancient historiography–for example, it is remarkable that while Pervo mentions Thucydides (only!) five times in his study, he completely ignores Herodotus, “The Father of History,” who writes in a lively, engaging, entertaining, and even fantastic manner–not unlike the author of Acts. Similarly, Pervo refers several times to Lucian of Samosata and Xenophon of Ephesus, but he brings Dionysis of Halicarnassus into the study only twice; Polybius, once; and Sallus, three times. Many–perhaps most or all–the common characteristics Pervo identified between Acts and the ancient novel may be located in these ancient historians whom Pervo basically ignores.
Finally, when one compares the entertaining parts of Acts to the rest of the narrative, it becomes clear that though its author wanted to entertain, other purposes and features – such as speeches, evangelism, and reference to scriptures – predominate. As Professor Brosend notes, “[w]hile Acts does indeed entertain and inform, the ancient novels offer a profit/delight ratio weighed much more in favor of delight than does Acts.” This ratio favors the entertaining/historical balance found in ancient historiography, not ancient novels.
In conclusion, none of the exciting episodes or the fact that Acts was written to be entertaining means it is a novel as opposed to historiography.
E. The Apocryphal Acts
Pervo attempts to make much of the fact that later, apocryphal Acts, such as the Acts of Peter and the Acts of Paul, are fiction. Because Acts is literarily related to these later documents, Acts too supposedly is fiction. The most obvious problem with this argument is the causal flow. The later apocryphal Acts are embellishments perhaps encouraged by the original Acts and the gospels. They can tell us nothing, however, of the intent of the author of Acts. You cannot assess the genre of the original by simply equating it with some later, derivative writings:
The circular and anachronistic nature of this argument is manifest. He uses texts that are self-evidently derivative in order to assess the primary source. However, these later fictive interpretations of scenes from canonical Acts cannot be used to assess the literary or historical dimensions of Acts itself. This is confirmed by the treatment of canonical Acts even by classicists who consider Apocryphal Acts to fall within the ancient novel tradition. For example, Hagg assumes canonical Acts is a different sort of literature than the Apocryphal Acts of Paul, which he sees as a type of ancient novel.
Further, there were later Christian writers, such as Eusebius, who arguably was influenced by Acts when writing his ecclesiastical history. By focusing on the apocryphal Acts, Pervo has skewed his analysis.
Accordingly, Pervo’s reliance on these later apocryphal writings is not helpful in determining the genre of Acts itself.
F. The Speeches of Acts
Most scholars have noted that the use of speeches in Acts is similar to that of other historians (though Acts, being largely about missionary efforts, has a greater proportion of them). Pervo rejects the idea that the speeches in Acts indicate that its genre is ancient historiography and argues that “the use of speeches does not establish the genre.” The only distinctions Pervo attempts to make is that that the speeches in Acts are “Lucan compositions” and that there were no “missionary addresses in Thucydides.” Neither point is convincing.
Although it is true that the language of the speeches in Acts is similar to the rest of the book, the significance of this should not be misconstrued. No ancient historian wrote verbatim transcripts of speeches. The Greek historian Thucydides stated that, when writing speeches, the historian should record them “of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what was actually said.” History of the Peloponnesian War, 1.22.1. Though Thucydides believed that it was the historian’s duty to try and report the sense of what was actually said, even he realized that nothing more than a paraphrase was possible in ancient times. Ancient historians could not avoid using their own style and language when reporting speeches.
Pervo’s second point – that Thucydides did not write missionary speeches – is irrelevant. Thucydides did not write a history of an evangelistic religious movement. Certainly Pervo offers no evidence that missionary speeches were typical of ancient novels. Though claiming that the nature of the speeches in Acts cannot be used as a guide to genre he goes on to claim that ancient novels “provide much more convincing and useful parallels to the contents and literary function of the speeches in Acts than will histories.” This assertion is not backed up by convincing evidence. Rather, as Professor Bosend recognized, “[Pervo] scarcely provides any examples, and does not address the much broader use of speeches in Acts in comparison to the novels.”
Clearly, therefore, the speeches of Acts are more akin to the historiography genre than historical fiction.
G. The Absence of Romance
If Acts is intended to be an ancient novel it is strange that there is no romance in it. Romance was an important, even defining, part of ancient novels and “[t]he absence of [it] is a significant omission.” Although Acts features some women, it contains no hint of romance. Not even for the prominent couple of Priscilla and Aquila. Not even for Paul, the hero of the second half of Acts, who is distinctly romantically uninvolved.
It could be argued that Acts’ audience would not be interested in romance. But this is more assumed than demonstrated. “Ultimately, there is too much in this reasoning that has to be given away to the audience. It will seem easier to many who weigh Pervo’s case to conclude that Acts communicates to its readers using a different genre from the ancient novel rather than that genre minus most of its juicy parts.” The better explanation is that Acts does not include Romance because Acts is not an ancient novel.
Further, the absence of any hint of romance from Acts is all the more telling in light of its presence in the apocryphal Acts. Far from proving a Christian lack of interest in the characteristics of the ancient novel, the apocryphal Acts prove the opposite. “Many of the motifs of the Hellenistic romance recur in the Christian apocryphal acts.” Perhaps the most telling example is found in the Acts of Paul, which narrates the plight of the young virgin Thecla. This story is what we might expect from a Christianized version of the romance novel. As Richard Baukham explains:
The story of Thecla is of special interest because it is the only part of the Acts of Paul in which a character other than Paul takes centre-stage and because it bears a very close relationship to the themes of the Greek novels that tell the story of two lovers (such as Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe, and Xenephon’s Ephesiaca). . . . Thecla, like the heroines of the novels, is a beautiful young girl who preserves her chastity and remains faithful to her beloved through trials and dangers in which she comes close to death but experiences divine deliverance. Thamyris and Alexander are unwanted suitors such as appear in the novels. Unlike the heroines of the novels, of course, Thecla’s chastity is not temporary, but permanent, and represents her total devotion to God. But her devotion to God is also devotion to his apostle Paul, and the author does not hesitate to depict this devotion in terms which, while not intended to be sexual, parallel the erotic (cf. Athe 8-10, 18-19). As in the case of the heroes and heroines of the novels, the plot partly turns on the separation of Paul and Thecla, her search for and reunion with him (Athe 21-25, 40-41). Thecla’s offer to cut her hair short in order to follow Paul where he goes and her adoption of male dress when she travels in search of Paul [resemble] the novelistic theme of a woman traveling in male disguise to escape detection. The wealthy upper-class circles in which the story takes place, including the historical figure of the emperor’s relative Tyrphaena, are also consonant with the character of the Greek novels. It seems clear that the story of Thecla has been directly modeled on the themes of the Greek erotic novel. . . .
So, we have clear novelistic elements of Romance, but adapted for its Christian message and audience. There are other examples:
● The Acts of John includes a story about the pious Druisiana being romantically pursued by “a messenger of Satan.” She was so pious she had even “separated herself” from her husband for a time. After she died, the “messenger of Satan” defiled her corpse.
● In the Acts of Peter, the martyrdom of Peter’s wife is described, even recounting the last words of Peter to his wife.
● In the Acts of Thomas, a king’s daughter is getting married. At the wedding, Thomas sings a mystical bridal song and persuades the bride and groom to renounce marriage. There is also a side story of a flute-girl who obviously becomes infatuated with Thomas. After his song, she was “gazing and looking earnestly upon him” and “loved him well.”
● In the Acts of Andrew, it is lending aid to a woman in distress that lands Andrew on a cross. Maximilla is the wife of the proconsul of Greece. Following her conversion by Andrew, Maximilla wants to escape from her husband and Andrew encourages her to do so. When she is successful in leaving him, the proconsul has Andrew crucified. Maximilla saw to it that Andrew received a proper burial.
While it is true that these “romances” are different than the pagan ones in that the emphasis is often on abstinence even within marriage, the similarities remain. Women in distress or difficult situations are followed through until resolution of their plight. As noted by Goodspeed and Grant, this Christian fiction was “valuable as a substitute for the romances current among Greeks and Romans. It is sometimes supposed that these romances were characterized by what we should call pornography, but generally speaking they were rather edifying narratives of love and adventure. The emphasis put on sex in their Christian counterparts is rather more impressive, in spite of – and partly because of – the enthusiasm of the heroes and heroines for asceticism.” That the romantic features of ancient fiction are so common in the apocryphal Acts but absent from Acts itself is telling. It counts heavily against Acts being an ancient novel.
The elements of Acts that Pervo identifies as demonstrating historical fiction fail to persuade because they are also characteristic of historiography. Moreover, Pervo fails to adequately explain features of Acts that were unknown in historical fiction, such as the historical preface, the abrupt ending, and the abundance of speeches.
After reviewing the potentially applicable genres, Acts stands out as a work of ancient history. Though he viewed himself as continuing the historical work of recording God’s unfolding plan of salvation, the goal of the author of Acts was to write about real people and real events. As Professor Aune concludes, “Luke-Acts is popular ‘general history’ written by an amateur Hellenistic historian with credentials in Greek rhetoric.”
CHAPTER 2: THE HISTORICITY OF THE ACTS OF THE APOTLES
I. The Challenges Faced by Ancient Writers
The author of Acts faced a problem common among ancient writers: a lack of records and information. Unlike today, there were no – or very few – reference books, encyclopedias, or textbooks available. As for geography, “exact and detailed geographical knowledge on the basis of maps and accurate descriptions of places was limited to a very tiny elite of soldiers, politicians and scholars, and even with them, personal knowledge of a place was irreplaceable.” Maps or other resources that were available were often wildly inaccurate. Even educated writers with connections to the areas they were writing about often demonstrated imperfect geographic or political knowledge. “That even educated Jews had little information about the geography of Palestine is clear from the imaginary description of Judea and Jerusalem in the Letter of Aristeas or that of the Holy City by Pseudo-Hecataeus; we can presuppose that even Philo had only a vague knowledge of Jerusalem, the Temple and the Holy Land, though he did visit it once in his life.”
Otherwise well regarded historians and geographers got a lot wrong, especially about Judea.
[T]o Strabo’s account of Palestine, which has a great many errors in it, and to the confused remarks of Pliny the Elder, who completely muddled up his sources. Tacitus, too, had only very inaccurate ideas of the geographical relationship of Samaria and Galilee within the province of Judaea. Even Ptolemy, who sought to give exact locations of places in Palestine with indications of longitude and latitude, makes serious mistakes: his mention of Idumeaea, which lies well to the west of the Jordan’ is an anachronism in the second century AD and his location of Sebaste and Gaza in Judaea, in contrast to Joppa, Ashkelon . . . is also misleading.
The problem for ancient writers was not limited to geography. There was a dizzying diversity of governments and officials throughout the Roman Empire. There were provinces; some controlled by the Senate and some controlled by the Emperor. Titles of the governors of these provinces varied (for examples, Proconsul, Prefect, and Procurator). Adding to the diversity was the fact that many areas under Roman control were not provinces at all, but client kingdoms. King Herod’s reign over Palestine is an example. After his death, his kingdom was split up, with Rome eventually assuming direct control over Judea and Herod’s son becoming Tetrarch over Galilee. Because client kingdoms were given a freer hand in their internal administration, titles and offices were not uniform.
There were also a variety of cities. At the top were the coloniae civium romanorum, colonies of Roman citizens – mostly military veterans. Then there were the oppida civium romanorum, towns of Roman citizens. A step lower were “Latin” towns where the Roman franchise was within reach. Other cities, some prominent, were “free cities” and governed their own internal affairs.
There were differences in the city governments, depending on the type of city, its geographic location and its culture. Cities in the eastern Mediterranean especially “show much more variety in their local government, because they could keep older forms of municipal organization rather than imitate Rome.” Even in Jerusalem, a city under direct Roman control, the Sanhedrin – a group of Jewish religious leaders – was given a prominent role in governing aspects of the city.
Adding to the confusion was the ever changing nature of government in the Roman Empire. “[T]he titles sometimes did not remain the same for any great length of time; a province might pass from senatorial government to administration by a direct representative of the emperor, and would then be governed no longer by a proconsul but by an imperial legate (legatus pro praetore).” Cities might achieve their Roman franchise. Provinces may be split up. Client kingdoms may be split up with different parts being ruled in different ways. For example, Palestine after the reign of King Herod was split into a Roman Province ruled by a Prefect and to Galilee, ruled by a Tetrarch (as a client king).
Obviously, keeping oneself knowledgeable about so many different parts of the Roman Empire over any period of time would have been an almost insurmountable challenge. When it came to knowledge about where ordinary people were, what they were doing, and why they were doing it, the problem was even greater. Personal participation and/or excellent sources were often the only ways to get such details right.
II. Familiarity with Jewish Customs, Geography, and the Temple
Despite the challenges faced by ancient historians, Acts demonstrates familiarity with varied Jewish customs and beliefs, including many related to the Temple. Notably, the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and the related practices and rituals extinguished. As a result, without good sources, precise knowledge of pre-Temple destruction customs was hard to come by after 70 AD.
1. Purification Vow
“Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses in order that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” Acts 21:23-25.
This ritual is described in the Old Testament by Numbers 6. That its practice continued in the second-temple period is attested by Josephus. Ant. 19.6.1, §§ 293-94.
2. The Court of the Gentiles
“And when the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the multitude and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the Law, and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” Acts 21:27-28.
This passage correctly describes the Court of the Gentiles as being the limit of passage for Gentiles. BJ 5.194; 6.124f; Ant. 15.417; Ap. 2.103f; Philo, Leg ad Gai 212.
3. Against the Law and Punishable by Death
“Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion” Acts 21:30-31 & “And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him. And we wanted to judge him according to our own Law.” Acts 24:6.
The penalty for bringing a Gentile into the Temple was death. Transgressors were to be immediately removed to be executed so as not to defile the temple. Ant. 18.30. This is also confirmed by inscription evidence.
4. Steps into the Temple
“And when he got to the stairs, it so happened that he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob; for the multitude of the people kept following behind, crying out, ‘Away with him!’ And as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the commander, ‘May I say something to you?’ And he said, ‘Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?’” Acts 21:35-38.
This passage accurately depicts the steps at the Jerusalem temple. Acts is also correct that there was a rebel at this time known as the Egyptian.
5. Prayer in the Sixth Hour
“And on the next day, as they were on their way, and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.” Acts 10:9.
The time of prayer is confirmed by rabbinic tradition. Pesach. 5.1, but is not mentioned in Antiquities.
6. Description of the Temple
As Professor Hengel notes, Luke’s “description of the temple resembles rabbinic tradition,” not Josephus. Unlike Josephus, “Luke . . . never makes a distinction between the inner sanctuary and the Court of the gentiles. They are all speaking only about the one iepov, the real Temple. This is in some way in accordance with rabbinic terminology, which makes a sharp distinction between the sanctuary proper and the outer courtyard, the Temple mount, which is not called sanctuary.”
7. The Location of the Roman Commander
“And all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together; and taking hold of Paul, they dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. And while they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. And at once he took along some soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.” Acts 21:30-32.
Verse 31 correctly describes how the Roman commandant could intercede in a timely manner because the Roman barracks were on a higher level and connected by stairs to the Temple site. Jewish War 5.242-5.
8. Priestly Duties Selected by Lot
“Now it came about, while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” Luke 1:8-9.
In fact, priestly duties were assigned by lot. This is not mentioned by Josephus and is otherwise known to us only through the Mishnah. Yoma 2, 1-4; Tamid 1, 2; 2, 5; 3, 1; T. Yoma 1, 10.
9. Time of Prayer at the Temple
“Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.” Acts 3:1.
“The specific reference to the time of prayer at the ninth hour points to a precise knowledge of Jewish customs in the Temple. This was the time of the tamid sacrifice, in the afternoon, which was concluded with an incense offering and the priestly blessing.” See m. Pes. 5:1 and Ant. 14.65.
10. A Lame Man at the Beautiful Gate
“And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.” Acts 3:2.
Once again Acts demonstrates familiarity with Jewish custom. A lame man was not permitted to fully participate in the Temple worship. m. Shab. 6:8.
11. Solomon’s Portico
“While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement.” Acts 3:11.
The portico is also attested independently by John 10:23.
12. A Sabbath Day’s Journey
“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.” Acts 1:12.
The reference to a “Sabbath day’s journey” from Jerusalem to the mount of Olivet, shows accurate knowledge of Jewish customs. “The distance of their walk a ‘Sabbath day’s walk,’ which was the longest distance one could walk without breaking the Sabbath. The rabbinic tradition set this at 2,000 cubits, i.e., about three-fourths of a mile.” As Hengel notes, “[t]he term ‘a sabbath day’s journey’, which appears only here in the New Testament, presupposes an amazingly intimate knowledge—for a Greek—of Jewish customs.”
13. Field of Blood
“And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.” Acts 1:19.
“Hakeldama” is an Aramaic word accurately translated as “field of blood.” This place and name was also known by Matthew (27:8).
14. David’s Tomb
“Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” Acts 2:29.
The tomb of David is mentioned in Neh. 3:16. Its continuing veneration in the time of Jesus is attested by Josephus. Ant. 7:239ff.
III. Familiarity with Other Geography and Culture
Although Acts spends a significant amount of its narrative discussing Palestine, it also follows Paul and others to many places in the Roman Empire. Again and again the author of Acts demonstrates accurate knowledge about the geography and culture of the places Paul traveled.
1. A Natural Crossing
“So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.” Acts 13:4-5.
The author has Paul crossing the sea from Seleucia to Cyprus, which was a natural crossing point, as noted by Strabo, Geography 7.5.8 and Polybius, History 5.58.4.
2. The River Port Perga
“Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” Acts 13:13.
“The text names Perga, a river-port, and perhaps the direct destination of a ship crossing from Cyprus, whereas a coaster would have called only at the coastal harbour town of Attalia.”
3. The Pisidian Antioch
“But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.” Acts 13:14.
Although the city was a part of Phrygia, not Pisidian, Luke is correct in referring to “Pisidian Antioch.” Strabo also recognized the connection to Pisidian. 12.6.4 and 12.8.14. Moreover, because of the confirmed presence of a colony of Jews in Pisidian, the presence of a synagogue is also likely.
4. Iconium Not in Lyconia
“[T]hey became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region.” Acts 14:6.
“The implication is that Iconium was not in Lycaonia. As it was a frontier town between Phrygia and Lycaonia, and commonly shared the fortunes of the latter region, it is frequently called a Lycaonian city by ancient writers (e.g., Cicero, Fam. 15.4.2; Pliny, NH 5.25). But strictly it is in Phrygia.” This is confirmed by Xenophon, Anab.1.2.19, Hierax, Acta Iustini and Cyprian, Ep. 75.7.
5. Coasting Port for Coasting Vessel
“When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.” Acts 14:25.
See point No. 2 above. Although Perga is a port, it is only a river-port. To catch a “coaster” for travel in the Mediterranean, they had to go to the sea port of Attalia.
6. Derbe to Lystra
“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.” Acts 16:1.
Acts lists in correct order the overland approach to Lystra from the Cilician Gates.
7. Lystra and Iconium
“[A]nd [Timothy] was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” Acts 16:2.
“Lystra and Iconium were relatively close, although belonging to different jurisdictions, whereas Derbe is now known to have been more distant than was supposed when it was wrongly placed at Zostra or Gudelisin. It is thus natural that Timothy, if a native of Lystra, was known to these two churches rather than in Derbe.”
“[A]nd passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.” Acts 16:8.
Not only is the geography correct, but the use of the name “Troas” itself is an interesting accuracy. “The use of the name Troas, formerly Alexandria, is characteristic of first century usage, after Augustus made the city a colony formally designated ‘Colonia Augusta Troadensium’ or ‘Colonia Augusta Troas.’”
“So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis;” Acts 16:11.
“Samothrace was a conspicuous sailor’s landmark, dominated by a 5000 foot mountain.” Additionally, Luke uses the technical nautical term “anagein,” which he also uses in 13:13 (literally, “having been carried up [onto the high sea]”).
10. Amphipolis and Apollonia
“Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica. . . .” Acts 17:1.
Here, Acts accurately places these two cities as stations on the Egnatian Way from Philippi to Thessalonica. It is likely that the author also gets the distances correct. “The mention of Amphipolis and of Apollonia should probably be taken to imply that theses were place where the travelers spent successive nights, dividing the journey to Thessalonica into three stages of about 30, 27, and 35 miles.”
11. A Synagogue in Thessalonica
“[T]hey came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.” Acts 17:1.
Inscription evidence supports the conclusion that a synagogue existed in Thessalonica.
12. The Lycaonian Language in Lystra
“When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have become like men and have come down to us.’” Acts 14:11.
Verse 11 says the Lycaonian language is spoken in Lystra. However, the use of native languages was rather rare in urban Hellenized society. Nevertheless, Acts is correct that in Lystra they did in fact speak their native language. This was apparently not widely known. There is only one other reference to this language in all writings discovered up to the present day. It would require a person who was very familiar with specific local information on Lystra to be aware of this detail.
13. The Gangites Outside Philippi
“And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.” Acts 16:13.
The Gangites River matches this description and is outside of Philippi.
14. Philippi a Roman Colony
Acts correctly lists Philippi as a Roman colony, and its seaport is properly given as Nea Polis. Acts 16:12. Confirmation of these facts range from ancient writings and inscriptions to ancient coins.
15. Few Jews in Philippi
Acts indicates that there were too few Jews to form a synagogue in Philippi. Acts 16:13. This is highly probable. Given that Philippi was a colony rather than a center of commerce or trade, there were likely few Jews.
16. The Dye Trade in Thyatira
“A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” Acts 16:14.
The city of Thyatira is involved in the dye trade. Archaeologists have found 7 inscriptions in the city that refer to it.
17. The Correct Order of Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, and Miletus
“But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for so he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. Sailing from there, we arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.” Acts 20:13-16.
In verse 14-15, the author lists small cities in the correct order in which they would have been encountered on such a trip.
18. Organization of the Military Guard
“When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people.” Acts 12:4.
Gives correct information on the details of a Roman military guard. Vegetius, de Re militari 3.8.
19. The Appian Way
“And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15.
This verse correctly lists the Appii Forum (the Market of Appius) and Tres Tabernae (the Three Inns) as stops on the Appian Way. They are 30-45 miles southeast of Rome. The Appii Forum is the marketplace of Appius and is a market town south of Rome along the Appian Way. Horace, Sat. 153. Tres Tabernae is “The Tree Taverns” which was a station on the Appian Way 33 miles south of Rome. Both are mentioned by Cicero, Att. 2.10.
Acts 17:16-34, gives a vivid description of life in Athens that matches the knowledge obtained from archaeological discoveries and other Greek writers. Luke mentions Athens in relation to the Stoics, the altar to an unknown god (such altars are confirmed by Pausanias, 1.1.4 and Diogenes Laertius, Vita Philos. 1.110), and he gives the correct title for a member of the Areopagus (verse 34). Luke also reports Paul’s speech as quoting two Greek philosophers (Epimenides and Aratus) in verse 28. Aratus was a Stoic philosopher from Soli near Paul’s hometown of Tarsus, therefore making it highly plausible that Paul was familiar with his work. Luke also has the Athenians call Paul an “idle babbler,” which is a “word of characteristically Athenian slang.”
21. An Odd Grouping of Hellenized Gods
“And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. . . .” Acts 14:12ff.
The Greek names Zeus and Hermes are hellenized versions of the local cult. There is archeological evidence from Lystra showing that the grouping of Zeus and Hermes was unique to this region. The inscriptions were published and discussed in W.M. Calder’s, “A Cult of the Homonades,” CR 24 (1910), pages 76-81. Further, these passages recount how the locals started worshiping Paul and Barnabas as if they were the gods Hermes and Zeus. This fits well with their religious beliefs about those two gods. As Professor Hemer writes:
The story named appropriate gods. A statuette of Hermes and an eagle, bird of Zeus, have been found near Lystra; the two gods are coupled in an inscription from the general region; on a sculptured relief, we can see how people locally pictured these divinities, round-faced and solemn, with long hair and flowing beards, a searching gaze and the right hand held prominently across the chest. Such a Zeus looks uncommonly like our image of a wandering Christian holy man: in these reliefs, we, too, can sense the elusive features of Paul or Barnabas.
22. Worship of Artemis
Acts 19:24-41, associates the worship of Artemis with the city of Ephesus. This has been proven by numerous inscriptions uncovered in the ruins of Ephesus.
IV. Familiarity with Political and Religious Leaders
Whether discussing Judea, Galilee, or some Roman province or free city, the author of Acts accurately describes the titles and positions of many different political and religious leaders.
1. Annas as High Priest After Formal Deposition
“[A]nd Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.” Acts 4:6.
“Annas is pictured as continuing to have great prestige and to bear the title high priest after his formal deposition by the Romans and the appointment of Caiaphas.” (Josephus, Ant. 126.96.36.199-35; 188.8.131.52).
2. Cyprus Ruled by a Proconsul Named Quintus Sergius Paullus
Acts 13:7, correctly says that Cyprus was ruled by a proconsul when Paul visited. This has been confirmed by substantial inscription evidence.
There is inscription evidence that Quintus Sergius Paullus was indeed the proconsul of Cyprus under the reign of Claudius.
3. Synagogue in Corinth
Acts 18:4-7, reports that Paul taught in a synagogue in Corinth. There is evidence that Corinth had a synagogue at this time.
4. Achaia was Ruled by a Proconsul
Luke knows that Achaia was ruled by a proconsul during this time period. Achaia was ruled by a proconsul from 27 BC to 15 AD, and then again after 44 AD. Acts 18:12. It also appears likely that Luke correctly identifies Gallio as the proconsul (as verified by an inscription).
5. The Chief Man of Malta
“Now in the country surrounding that place were the lands belonging to the chief man of the island.” Acts 28:7.
The unique phrase – “chief man” – used for the leader of Malta has been confirmed by the discovery of inscriptions in the area.
6. Sadducees as Opponents of Paul
“But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, ‘Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!’ As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’ And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.” Acts 23:6-10.
Acts portrays the Sadducees as the main opponents of Paul. The Sadducees were basically extinct by the middle of the 2nd-century so it is unlikely that someone writing 100 years after the event would create them as Paul’s opponents. It is more likely that the Pharisees – whose Rabbinic descendents were still in contest with Christians – would be cast as the villains. Also, Acts is correct about the Sadducees’ disbelief in the resurrection.
Acts 23:24, has Felix as ruler in the correct time frame. Tacitus, Hist. 5.9.
8. Politarchs in Thessalonica
Acts 17:1-9, uses the term “politarchs” for a board of magistrates in Thessalonica. Recent archaeological discoveries of inscriptions in the area near Thessalonica have found the term “politarch” and proven Luke to be correct. No less than eighteen inscriptions from 100 BC to 200 AD refer to the politarchs of Thessalonica.
“The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.” Acts 17:10.
According to Colin Hemer, “Beroea is a suitable immediate refuge as a place off the major westward route, the Via Egnatia.”
10. Proconsuls and Governors
Acts correctly and consistently differentiates between the Roman rulers of senatorial provinces from the Roman rulers of imperial provinces or minor provinces. The former are proconsuls (Acts 13:7; 18:2; 19:38) whereas the latter are governors (Lk. 2:2; 3:1; Acts 23:24; 26:30).
V. Familiarity with Other Historical Events
Acts also correctly narrates other historical events.
“One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius.” Acts 11:28.
There is substantial confirmation of widespread famines in the Roman Empire during the reign of Claudius. “The reign of Claudius was in fact marked by a long series of crop failures in various parts of the empire–in Judea, in Rome, in Egypt, and in Greece. The Judean famine seems to have taken place during the procuratorship of Tiberius Alexander (A.D. 46-48), and Egyptian documents reveal a major famine there in A.D. 45-46 due to flooding.”
2. Expulsion of the Jews
“And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.” Acts 18:2.
The expulsion of the Jews from Rome is confirmed by the Roman author Suetonius in his Life of Claudius, 25.4. He records that following a disturbance at the instigation of “Christus,” the Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. Thus, not only is the fact of the expulsion confirmed by independent account, so is the timing and the ruler involved.
3. Paul the Tentmaker
“[A]nd because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.” Acts 18:3.
“Paul’s trade, if understood as that of ‘tentmaker,’ is interestingly appropriate to his Cilician origin.” The material “cilicium,” a cloth of woven goat hair, was a standard material used in the creation of tents. Notably, “cilicium originated in and was named for Paul’s native province of Cilicia.”
VI. Familiarity with Roman Citizenship and Legal System
To a remarkable degree, Acts narrates Paul’s involvement in the Roman legal system (including local systems). It discusses his citizenship as a Roman and its implications, as well as narrating several actual legal proceedings before Roman and local officials. The most significant of these are:
● Acts 16:16-40 (arrest, trial, and release in Philippi)
● Acts 18:12-17 (before Gallio in Corinth)
● Acts 19:17-20:1 (disturbance and assembly in Ephesus)
● Acts 21:26-22:30 (Jerusalem riot)
● Acts 23:11-24:27 (Paul before Felix)
● Acts 24:27-26:32 (before Festus and appealing to Rome)
Regarding Paul’s arrest and trial in Philippi, Sherwin-White notes that “the procedure followed at Philippi is in good order . . .” Brian Rapske, in his excellent work, Paul in Roman Custody, The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting, agrees and details the accuracy of the account, including the reference to Paul as a servant of the “Most High God,” which was a pagan term often used to describe “Zeus or other pagan deities.” The phrase that “the crowd joined in the attack” is notable because it does not describe a riot or state of confusion as in Acts 19 (Ephesus) and Acts 21 (Jerusalem). The attack in this case was a legal one. The crowd’s participation was orderly and part of the system. “The character of the ‘joining in’ expressed by the sun– compound must indicate a degree of articulateness and orderliness in keeping with both the judicial content and the character of the rhetor’s presentation of the case.” This practice has been confirmed by other ancient sources. Further, the stripping of the garments, beating with rods, being cast into the “inner prison,” and being placed in stocks are likely punishments given the context. Finally, the fear with which the authorities react upon learning that Paul and Silas were Romans is entirely appropriate for the time period.
When we come to the events in Ephesus, the accuracy continues. “The evidence of Acts not only agrees in general with the civic situation in Asia Minor in the first and early second centuries A.D., but falls into place in the earlier rather than the later phase of development. . . . The author of Acts is very well informed about the finer points of municipal institutions at Ephesus.” The accuracy includes the arrest by the city magistrates and their police instead of Roman authorities and soldiers, the debating of civic policy by an assembly, and the prominence accorded to the town clerk.
As for the other official proceedings, Sherwin-White notes:
It is similar with the narrative of Paul’s judicial experiences before the tribunals of Gallio, Felix, and Festus. As documents these narratives belong to the same historical series as the record of provincial and imperial trials in epigraphical and literary sources of the first and early second-centuries A.D. They stand closest of all perhaps to the well-known Acts of the Pagan Martyrs, but are markedly superior to these in clarity and accuracy of detail. The trials in Acts belong unmistakably, as has been shown at extreme length above, to a particular phase in the history of Roman provincial jurisdiction.
The author of Acts not only accurately narrates various aspects of the Roman legal systems, he places them in the right time period and context.
VII. Acts and the Pauline Epistles
Many of the events and persons in Acts are confirmed by the Pauline epistles. The sum of these agreements, and the fact that Acts does not use Paul’s letters as source material, shows that the author of Acts possessed a rich amount of accurate information about Paul’s post-conversion life and activities.
A. Correlation, Confirmation and Coherence
Acts specifically lists and discusses accurately Paul’s companions and cities in which he ministered. There are also agreements of high specificity, such as when and where Paul met certain companions. There are details about when and where Paul was traveling that show strong agreement and consistency.
1. Paul was a Jew
Paul was a Jew. Phil. 3:5 (“Of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews”).
2. Paul was a Pharisee
Paul was a Pharisee. Acts 23:6 (“But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged.”) and Phil. 3:5 (“I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee.”).
3. Paul’s Hebrew Name and the Tribe of Benjamin
Acts 13:21 (“And afterward they asked for a king, so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.”) and Phil. 3:5 (“circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, concerning the law, a Pharisee”).
This is what Colin Hemer calls “a classic instance of undesigned coincidence.” Basically, Paul’s Hebrew name – Saul – is known only from Acts. Paul’s tribe is known only from Philippians. The coincidence is that “Saul” was a more common name in the relatively small tribe of Benjamin, who counted Israel’s first king as a member of their own tribe.
4. Paul Engaged in Harsh Persecution Against the Early Christian Movement
Paul, before becoming a Christian, was an official who engaged in persecution targeted at Christians. Paul’s persecution of the early church is described in many places in Acts (7:58, 60; 9:1-3; 26:9-12; 22:1-5, 7-8, 20) as well as in Paul’s epistles (Gal. 1:13, 23; Phil. 3:6. See also 1 Tim. 1:13-25).
5. Paul Converts to Christianity After Persecuting Christians
After an encounter with the risen Christ, Paul converts to Christianity. His conversion is recounted in many places in Acts (9:1-19; 22:6-16; 26:12-18) as well as Paul’s undisputed epistles. (Gal. 1; 1 Cor. 15:8-9).
6. The Sequence of Christ’s Appearance to Paul
Both Acts and 1 Corinthians place the appearance of the risen Christ to Paul after appearance to the disciples. Acts 22:6-11, 26:13-19 and 1 Cor. 15:8-9.
7. Paul’s Conversion was related geographically to Damascus
Paul’s conversion occurred within geographic proximity to Damascus. Acts 9:2, 22:6, 26:18 and Gal. 1:17.
8. Paul Called to a Gentile Mission
Paul received a special call to conduct a ministry to the Gentiles. Acts 9:15, 13:26, 22:21 and Rom 1:5 (“through whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name”) and Gal. 2:2, 7.
9. Paul Had an Initial Ministry in Damascus
Paul conducted an initial Christian ministry in Damascus after his conversion. Explicit in Acts 9:20, 22 (“Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. . . . But Paul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”) and implied by Gal. 1:17 (“nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus”) and especially 2 Cor. 11:32-33, which indicates that he had already generated a substantial level of hostility by his activities in Damascus.
10. Paul’s Dramatic Escape from Damascus
Paul dramatically escaped an attempt to apprehend him in Damascus by being lowered by his disciples through the city wall in a basket.
Acts 9:24-25 (“But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket”) and 2 Cor. 11:33 (“In Damascus, the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to apprehend me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.”).
11. Paul Travels from Damascus To Jerusalem
Paul traveled from Damascus to Jerusalem specifically intending to meet with the leaders of the Church. Although Acts says that Paul was brought to the “apostles” whereas Paul specifically states he met only Peter and James, Acts could simply be wrong, exaggerating, simplifying, or treating Peter as a representative of “the apostles.” In any event, the timing, geography, and occasion are the same. Acts and Galatians suggest that it is an extended visit. Acts 9:26-29 and Gal. 1:18-19.
12. Paul Travels from Jerusalem to Syria
After meeting and preaching in Jerusalem, both Acts and Galatians report that Paul left that city and proceeded to Syria.
Acts 9:30 (“And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.”) and Gal. 1:21 (“But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. . . . Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia”).
13. Paul’s Second Visit to Jerusalem
This correlation depends on acceptance of the early Southern Galatian View (“SGV”), where Acts 11 = Gal. 2. Because this understanding is disputed by many scholars, only a couple of the examples require acceptance of the SGV. I have explicitly identified them. The SGV is discussed in more detail in the section on Lukan authorship.
Acts 11:28-30 (“Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”) and Gal. 2:1 (“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me.”).
14. Paul Goes to Jerusalem by Revelation
This is another SGV correlation. It emphasizes that in Acts a prophet announces that there will be a famine, so Paul takes relief to the Jerusalem Church. In Galatians, Paul notes that he went up to Jerusalem by “revelation” and later notes that when he left, James asked him to “remember the poor.”
Acts 11:28 (“Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.”) and Gal. 2:2 (“And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.”).
15. Paul’s Relationship with Barnabas
Both Acts and Paul report the close association of Paul and Barnabas, and their joint efforts among the Gentiles in Antioch.
Acts 11:30 (“This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”) and Gal 2:1 (“Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also”), Gal. 2:9 (“and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised”) and, Gal. 2:11 (“But when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed . . . even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy”).
16. Paul’s Enemies Stoned Him Prior to His Writing 2 Corinthians
Acts and 2 Corinthians report that Paul was stoned by his enemies. Acts 14:19 (“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead”) and 2 Cor. 11:25 (“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep”). The generally accepted reconstructed chronology of Paul’s activities places the stoning described in Acts prior to 2 Corinthians.
17. Justification by Faith
Acts portrays Paul as teaching a doctrine of salvation from the law through faith in the risen Christ – very similar to Paul’s teachings in his letters.
Acts 13:38-39 (“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”) and Gal. 1:6 (“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel”); 2:16 (“knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”).
18. Description of Jesus’ Crucifixion as Being Nailed to a Tree
In a reference to Deut. 21:22-23, Acts has Paul using an uncommon description of Jesus’ crucifixion as being on a “tree” rather than a cross. In Galatians, Paul uses the same phrase to describe Jesus’ crucifixion.
Acts 13:29 (“Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.”) and Gal. 3:13 (“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’”).
19. Paul’s Opposition to Promoting Circumcision
According to Acts and Paul’s epistles, Paul was strongly opposed to those seeking to encourage or require Gentile Christians to be circumcised. Both sources also record that there was a pro-circumcision party that came from Jerusalem to teach the Gentile Christians to accept circumcision.
Acts 15:1, 5 (“And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’. . . But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’”) and Gal. 2:12 (“for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision”); 5:2-6 (“Indeed, I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”); 6:12-15 (“As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these try to compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, but which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”).
20. Discouragement of Certain Practices to Gentile Christians
In Acts, the Jerusalem Council sent a letter to the Gentile Churches discouraging them from eating food sacrificed to idols and instructing them to refrain from sexual immorality, while recognizing their general freedom from other Old Testament restrictions. In Paul’s letters, he discouraged Gentile Christians from eating “things polluted by idols” and from “sexual immorality” although he recognized their general freedom from other Old Testament restrictions.
Acts 15:20 (“but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood”), 29 (“that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality”) and 1 Cor. 8:1-13 (“Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing. . . . Therefore if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat”); 10:18-30 (“Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? I do not want you to have fellowship with demons”); 1 Cor. 5:1 (“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles”); 6:12-20 (“Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. . . . Flee sexual immorality”).
21. Timothy, Companion of Paul
Timothy was a companion of Paul during his ministry to the Gentiles. Acts 16:1; 17:14-15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4, and Rom. 16:21 (“Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen”); 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10; 2 Cor. 1:1, 19; Phil. 1:1; 2:19; Col. 1:1.
22. Paul’s Flexibility
Although adamantly opposed to requiring circumcision, Acts report that Paul circumcised Timothy – one of his coworkers – fits well with his motto that he would be “all things to all people.” Moreover, despite his emphasis on freedom from the law, he was willing to be very Jewish.
Acts 16:3 (“Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.”) and Acts 21:23-24 (“Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.”) and 1 Cor. 9:19-22 (“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”).
23. Paul’s Association With the Philippian Church
Acts and Paul agree that he had a longstanding and important relationship with the Christian Church in Philippi. Acts 16:12-40 (Paul’s ministry there/Paul and Silas imprisoned there) and Phil. 1:5 (“For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now”).
24. Paul Beaten with Rods
Acts and 2 Corinthians report that Paul suffered beating by rods. Acts 16:22-23 (“Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison.”) and 2 Cor. 11:25 (“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep.”).
25. Paul and Companions Persecuted in Philippi
Acts’ account that Paul was physically persecuted while ministering in Philippi is confirmed by 1 Thessalonians. Even Acts’ use of the plural (“they had laid many stripes on them”) is confirmed (“we had suffered”).
Acts 16:22-23 (“Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer keep them securely.”) and 1 Thess. 2:2 (“But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in such conflict.”).
26. Paul and Silvanus’ Letter to Thessalonica
Acts records that Silas/Silvanus was a close companion of Paul who ministered in and suffered with the Thessalonian Church, whereas Paul’s two letters to the church in Thessalonica are the only ones that include Silas/Silvanus as an author. Acts 16 & 17 and 1 & 2 Thess.
27. Aquila/Priscilla Connected with Corinth
Both Acts and 1 Corinthians indicate that Aquila and Priscilla had an important connection with Corinth, and had likely dwelt there at one time.
Acts 18:1-2 (“After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them.”) and 1 Cor. 16:19 (“The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisa greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.”).
28. Timothy Returns to Paul in Corinth
Acts reports that Timothy returned from Macedonia and rejoined Paul in Corinth. This is confirmed by Paul in 1 Thess.
Acts 18:5 (“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. . . . When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was constrained by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.”) and 1 Thess. 3:6 (“But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you. . . .”).
29. Silas & Timothy With Paul for First Preaching in Corinth
Both Acts and 2 Corinthians report that Paul had the same companions when he first preached in Corinth. This is an important agreement given that both Paul’s letters and Acts have Paul working with a diverse number of companions in a diverse number of places.
Acts 18:5 (“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. . . . When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was constrained by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.”) and 2 Cor. 1:19 (“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us–by me, Silvanus and Timothy–was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.”). Furthermore, this is attested by “implication in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, since both are written as from Paul, Silvanus and Timothy.”
30. Cenchrea & Phoebe
Acts records that Paul underwent a Jewish ritual in Cenchrea, whereas Romans suggests that Paul indeed had a relationship with that city and its Christians. Acts 18:18 (“He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.”) and Rom. 16:1 (“I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea. . . . “).
Once again, the correlation is tangential, but real. It is not something that points in any way to literary dependence.
31. Paul Leaves Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus
Acts’ report that Paul left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus is confirmed by 1 Corinthians, written from Ephesus, which reports that Aquila and Priscilla hosted a house church there.
Acts 18:19 (“So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow. And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.”) and 1 Cor. 16:19 (“The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.”).
32. Apollos, Aquila, and Priscilla
Paul’s relationship with Apollos is confirmed, as well as Apollos’ relationship with Corinth.
Acts 18:27 (“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scripture, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the Synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him and when he arrived greatly helped those who believed through grace, for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”) and 1 Cor. 1:12 (“Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ’“); 3:6 (“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase”); 4:6 (“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other”).
33. Sending of Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia
Colin Hemer explains this correlation involving two of Paul’s companions, Timothy and Erastus:
Paul’s sending of Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia is to be placed near the end of his Ephesian residence (c. 52-55). The Corinthian correspondence gives evidence for a previous visit of Timothy to Corinth from Ephesus (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10) and also of Titus (2 Cor. 8:6; 12:18) as well as the “painful” visit of Paul himself (2 Cor. 2:1). The present mission to Macedonia is an advance of Paul’s progress there to meet Titus (2 Cor. 2:13), from whom he anxiously awaited news in Corinth.
Acts 19:22 with 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10, 2 Cor. 2:13; 8:6; 12:18.
34. Ephesian Riots
Acts reports a riot concerning Paul in Ephesus, which aligns with the tribulations Paul’s Corinthian correspondence mentions while he was in Ephesus.
Acts 19:23-41 and 1 Cor. 15:32 (“If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me?”) and 2 Cor. 1:8-10 (“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us.”).
35. Aristarchus, Thessalonian Companion of Paul
Acts specifically mentions Aristarchus as a companion of Paul and identifies him as a Thessalonian. Paul’s own correspondence confirms that he had a companion named Aristarchus.
Acts 19:29 (“So the whole city was filled with confusion and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions”); 20:4 (“And Sopater of Baroea accompanied him to Asia–also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.”); 27:2 (“So entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us”) and Col. 4:10 (“Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him).”) and Plm. 24 (“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers”).
36. Travel Through Macedonia
Acts 20:1 and 2 Cor. 2:12-13 discuss Paul’s travels through Macedonia, which is in accord with his travel plans that were laid out in Acts 19:21 and 1 Cor. 16:5.
Acts 20:1 (“After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to him, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia.”) and 2 Cor. 2:12-13 (“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother, but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.”).
Acts 19:21 (“When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome’”) and 1 Cor. 16:5 (“Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia)”).
37. Paul Travels to Greece
Acts records that Paul traveled from Macedonia to Greece, just as Paul stated his intentions were in 1 Corinthians.
Acts 20:2 (“Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece.”) and 1 Cor. 16:3 (“And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters, I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.”).
38. Paul’s Departure to Jerusalem
Acts records that Paul traveled to Greece and spent three months there, which accords with his stated intention in 2 Corinthians to spend the winter in Corinth.
Acts 20:3 (“He came to Greece, and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.”) and 1 Cor. 16:5 (“But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go.”).
39. Sopatar/Sosipater (the Macedonian)
Acts reports that Sopater of Beroea (a Macedonian city) traveled with Paul. This is confirmed by Paul’s own letters which recount the presence of his companion Sosipater (a more formal version of the name), who Paul also indicates is a Macedonian.
Acts 20:4 (“And Sopater of Barea accompanied him to Asia–also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.”) and Rom. 16:21 (“Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, greet you.”) and 2 Cor. 9:4 (“Lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared we (not to mention you) should be ashamed of this confident boasting.”).
40. Tychicus, Companion of Paul
Acts mentions Tychicus as a companion of Paul who was from Asia and traveled with him to Macedonia. As discussed above, it also mentions Aristarchus as a companion of Paul on the same journey, though Aristarchus was from Thessalonica. Paul’s letters also discuss a companion of Paul named Tychicus.
Acts 20:4 (“[H]e decided to return through Macedonia. And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia–also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.”) and Eph. 6:21 (“But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose. . .”) and Col. 4:7-10 (“Tychicus, who is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. . . .”).
41. Ministry in Troas
Acts and Paul’s letters report that he ministered and traveled through Troas. Acts 16:8-9, 20:6-12 and 2 Cor. 2:12-13.
42. Paul’s Suffering at Ephesus
Acts reports that Paul suffered persecution in Ephesus. This is confirmed by undisputed Paulines.
Acts 20:19 (“And when they had come to him, he said to them: ‘You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews. . . .’”) and 1 Cor. 15:32 (“If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’”) and Rom. 9-11.
43. Opponents Ardent for the Law
Acts and Galatians agree that there were many Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who were zealous for the law.
Acts 21:20 (“And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, ‘You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.”) and Galatians.
44. Silas & Timothy left in Macedonia
Acts reports that on one of Paul’s journeys, he left Timothy behind when he departed from Macedonia. This is confirmed by 1 Thess.
Acts 17:14-15 (“Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there.”) and 1 Thess. 3:1-6 (“Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For in fact he told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulations, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain. But now that Timothy has returned to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you.”).
45. The Collection for the Jewish Church
Paul traveled to Jerusalem to deliver a gift to the Jerusalem Church.
Acts 24:17 (“Now after many years, I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation.”) and 1 Cor. 16:1-4 (“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also. . . And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. . . . “) and 2 Cor. 8:1, 9, 16 (“Collection for the Judean Saints”) (“Moreover brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: . . . . They were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering of the saints. . . . For you know the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich”) and Rom. 15:25-28 (“But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.”).
46. The Route Taken by Paul to Jerusalem
The route Paul takes to get to Jerusalem with the collection is the same in Acts and his letters.
Acts 19:21(“When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem”); 24:17 (“Now after many years I came to bring alms and offering to my nation”) and 1 Cor. 16:3-8 (“And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me. Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). But it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits.”) and 2 Cor. 8, 9.
47. Imprisonment in Rome
Acts records Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, which matches the context of the “captivity epistles,” which were written while Paul was in Rome.
Acts 28:30-31 (“Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”). The undisputed Philippians and Philemon confirm that Paul was imprisoned in such a way that also allowed him some measure of freedom, to write letters for example. Colossians, taken as authentic by what is likely a majority of New Testament scholars, and Ephesians also support such a circumstance.
48. Special Influence of James in Jerusalem Church
Acts and Galatians agree that James had special influence and was a leader in the Jerusalem Church. They also suggest that his influence was respected beyond Jerusalem. Acts 15:13 and Gal. 1:19; 2:12; 1 Cor. 15:7.
49. Thessalonian Christians Persecuted by Own Countrymen
Acts report of the Christian converts in Thessalonica being persecuted by their own countrymen is confirmed by 1 Thessalonians. Acts 17:5-9 and 1 Thess. 2:14 (“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Jews.”).
50. Table-Fellowship Controversy in the Early Church
The early church endured controversies over table-fellowship – whether Jewish Christians should eat with Gentile Christians. Significantly, both Acts and Galatians agree that Peter had previously engaged in table-fellowship with Gentile Christians.
Acts 11:3 (“And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them. But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning”) and Gal. 2:11-14 (Peter lapses after previously engaging in table-fellowship with Gentile Christians).
51. Jerusalem Church Welcomes Christian Gentiles
Acts and Paul agree that Gentiles were accepted by the Jerusalem Church as Christians without first converting to Judaism. Galatians 2 and Acts 15.
52. Paul’s Ministry in Athens
Both Acts and Paul mention his ministry in Athens, though neither indicates that he had much success there. 1 Thess. 3:1 (“Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone”) and Acts 17:15-22 (“Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left. Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, ‘What would this idle babbler wish to say?’ Others, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’-- because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.’ (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.) So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.’”).
53. Ephesian Ministry
Acts reports that Paul had a very successful ministry in Ephesus. Acts 19:10 (“This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”). Paul confirms this in his own letters. 1 Cor. 16:8-9 (“But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”).
54. Erastus, the City Treasurer
Acts knows that Erastus was a companion of Paul. Acts 19:22 (“And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while”) with Rom. 16:23 (“Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother.”).
In sum, the author of Acts was familiar with Paul’s missionary activities and co-workers. Indeed, he seems to have known quite a lot about what Paul was doing, where he was going, and who he was doing it with. As Colin Hemer concludes, “[t]he author of Acts is not vaguely familiar with the story of Paul, but has a considerable amount of detailed knowledge, about Paul’s journeys, the churches that he founded and the people he worked with.”
B. Acts Did Not Use Paul’s Letters as Source Material
The previous section raises the question of whether the author of Acts relied on Paul’s letters in writing his narrative. Despite Acts’ extensive knowledge of information about Paul’s ministry, the vast majority of scholars from diverse backgrounds conclude that he did not use Paul’s letters as source material. The arguments supporting this conclusion are persuasive.
First, the manner of the purported use of Paul’s letters by the author of Acts would be inconsistent with how he uses sources elsewhere. We have a track record to examine – the Gospel of Luke. As Paul Barnett remarks, we have “an objective means by which we can measure Luke’s use of texts that were at his disposal.” The result? In his Gospel, the author of Acts faithfully used the pre-existing sources of Mark and Q (or Matthew). Though the author tends to smooth out the Greek and clarify some things for his audience, when we compare the Gospel of Luke to its sources, the reliance is obvious. “[W]hen passages in Luke are set alongside passages from Mark, Luke proves to have been a sober and careful scribe.” Further, Luke does not scatter his scources throughout his text. He reproduces them in large chunks. “Luke has tended to insert this material in blocks that preserve the sequences of his source.” Is this practice how the author supposedly used Paul’s letters in Acts? Not at all. Accordingly, “in view of the considerable evidence that Luke and Acts are two volumes of one work, the burden of proof must be on those who want to suggest that Luke chose to deal with his source material (or lack thereof) in Acts significantly differently than he did in his Gospel.”
Second, the author of Acts fails to refer to or emphasize important events mentioned in Paul’s letters that would have been relevant to his own writing. As Luke T. Johnson notes, “Luke [does] not tell us a great deal that he could have told us if he were using Paul’s letters–about the Galatian mission, for example, or the Corinthian controversies.” It could be argued that some of the omissions in Acts are explained by the author’s desire to avoid putting the early church in a bad light. Although at first glance this argument seems persuasive, it is clear from the Gospel of Luke that the author of Acts can narrate the failings of Jesus’ disciples, including Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, the disciples’ sleeping instead of praying, and their disbelief about the resurrection culminating in Jesus telling two of his followers that “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”
Acts also narrates some unflattering events in the early Church – such as, the controversy over circumcision, Paul’s disagreement with Barnabas over the dismissal of John Mark, the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira, the disagreement between the Hellenists and the Hebrews about caring for widows, and the original fear and distrust of the Jerusalem Christians towards Paul. Thus, the notion that Acts sought to portray early Christianity without blemish is mistaken. In any event, there are relevant but uncontroversial details in Paul’s letters which are not reproduced in Acts (such as Paul’s ministry in Arabia and that Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin). Accordingly, the absence from Acts of relevant information found in Paul’s letters suggests that the author of Acts did not use those letters as source material.
Third, on points where Paul’s letters and Acts seem to overlap, there are differences that preclude literary dependence. As stated by Prof. Johnson, “in the places of overlap there are so many points of discrepancy that the hypothesis of independent information rather than of literary dependence seems more likely.” Specific examples are discussed below with references to the points of agreement noted above:
• Regarding No. 3, Acts’ failure to note that Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin.
• Regarding No. 10, Acts attributes the pursuit of Paul in Damascus to Jewish leaders, whereas Paul mentions only King Aretas.
• Regarding No. 11, the differences in Paul’s description of his meeting with Paul and James indicate that it is not a literary source for Acts’ description of Paul’s first post-conversion Jerusalem visit.
• Regarding No. 12, Paul refers specifically to Caesarea and Tarsus, whereas Galatians more broadly mentions Syria and Cilicia.
• Regarding No. 28, Acts uses the name “Priscilla” whereas Paul uses the more formal “Prisca.”
• Regarding No. 30, Acts’ use of the term “Silas” instead of “Silvanus” indicates that Paul’s letters were not the source for this information. Silvanus was identified by that name in 2 Corinthians, 1 Thess., and 2 Thess.
• Regarding No. 40, Acts uses the less formal “Sopater” whereas Paul uses the formal “Sosipater.” Also, Paul refers to one of his companions being a Macedonian whereas Acts specifically mentions that companion being from a city in Macedonia.
• Regarding No. 55, Acts omits reference to Erastus as the city treasurer (as he is identified by Paul). This is noteworthy given Luke’s attention to titles elsewhere.
• Regarding No. 46, the collection for the Jerusalem Church plays a more important part in Paul’s letters than it does in Acts. Paul mentions it in his most influential letters, including Romans and 1 Corinthians. Acts only has Paul mention it in passing.
Finally, and perhaps most important, the linguistic evidence is decidedly against any reliance by Acts on Paul’s letters. John Knox, who had a strong motive to find evidence of Lukan dependence on Paul’s letters, concedes that there is none:
As a matter of fact, in the absence of adequate evidence of verbal dependence (and this, it will be agreed, we do not have in the case of Acts), can there ever be, in a situation like this, any certainty of dependency at all? Indeed, the lack of verbal conformity may have the effect of reversing the argument. Can it be supposed that Luke used the letters of Paul as sources for facts or data but succeeded in avoiding (or would even have tried to avoid!) any trace of their actual language? In a word, so important is verbal reminiscence that one is almost justified in saying that in the absence of it every possible piece of evidence of Luke’s having used the letters increases the probability that he did not use them. The citing of evidence, therefore, tends to defeat itself and to point more and more to the conclusion that Luke got his data on Paul’s life and teaching from other sources. . . . .
So far as the evidence goes, then, I should say that no convincing case can be made for Luke’s reliance on the letters of Paul or for his knowledge of them at all.
The evidence demonstrates that the author of Acts did not use Paul’s letters as source material for his narrative. The implications of this are significant. It demands a different explanation for Luke’s extensive and accurate knowledge about the life of Paul. Luke had an incredible amount of independent but accurate information about early Christianity. Furthermore, the subjects upon which the Pauline corpus and Acts agree may be deemed all the more reliable. “If two independently created sources agree on a matter, the reliability of each is measurably enhanced.”
Having reviewed Acts’ accuracy on varied subjects, we can now judge what kind of historian is its author. The evidence suggests that we should come to the same conclusion as Prof. Johnson:
How reliable is Luke as a historian? Taking into account his fidelity to the one source we can check, his general accuracy in matters we know about from archaeological or documentary sources, and the overall agreement between his description of Paul’s movements and the descriptions in the Pauline letters, we conclude that Luke is accurate in what he tells us.
This is the same conclusion as classical historian A.N. Sherwin-White: “[A]ny attempt to reject [Acts’] basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.” The confirmed accuracy of Acts on so many details is not without significance for those details for which we have no independent evidence. Pursuant to the long-standing maxim of the study of history, “[t]he source whose account can be confirmed by reference to outside authorities in some of its parts can be trusted in its entirety if it is impossible similarly to confirm the entire text.”
CHAPTER 3: THE DATE OF THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
The question of when Acts was written has found many answers. On the early end are those who date Acts to the early-to-mid 60s AD because of the abrupt ending and other indications. On the late end are those who do not date Acts until the earliest explicit reference to it later in the second century. The evidence, taken as a whole, supports a date somewhere between 62 and 90 A.D.
I. Allusions to Luke-Acts
The earliest Acts could have been written is established by the events it mentions. The narrative ends with Paul alive in Roman custody. This places the earliest possible date of authorship around 62 AD. As discussed below, the latest possible date is set by the use of Acts by other Christian authors. Allusions and references to Luke are also relevant. These attestations demonstrate that Acts could not have been written any later than 120 AD.
A. Possible Early Allusions
There are possible allusions to the Acts of the Apostles in 1 Clement 2:1, (“giving more gladly than receiving”), with Acts 20:35; 1 Clem. 2:2 (“pouring out of the Spirit”) with Acts 2:17; Ignatius’ Magn. 5:1 (“to go down to his own place”) with Acts 1:25; Smyrn. 3:3 (Jesus “eating and drinking” with his disciples after the resurrection) with Acts 10:4; Barnabas and the Didache (Barn. 19:8 and Did. 4:8, “you shall not say anything is your own”) with Acts 4:32; and, Polycarp (2:1, “judge of the living and the dead”) with Acts 10:42. These similarities, however, are only suggestive. Some are not sufficiently distinct and others may be traced to traditions common among the churches independent of the Acts of the Apostles.
B. 2 Clement
2 Clement 4:5: “And it is not fitting that we should fear men, but rather God. For this reason, if we should do such [wicked] things, the Lord hath said, “Even though ye were gathered together to me in my very bosom, yet if ye were not to keep my commandments, I would cast you off, and say unto you, Depart from me; I know you not whence ye are, ye workers of iniquity.”
Luke 13:26-27: “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from me, all you evildoers.’
2 Clem 6:1: “But the Lord saith, No servant can serve two masters. If we desire to serve both God and mammon, it is unprofitable for us”
Luke 16:13: “No servant can serve two masters for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
2 Clement 13:4: “For, whenever they hear from us that God saith, “No thank have ye, if ye love them which love you, but ye have thank, if ye love your enemies and them which hate you” – whenever they hear these words, they marvel at the surpassing measure of their goodness; but when they see, that not only do we not love those who hate, but that we love not even those who love, they laugh us to scorn, and the name is blasphemed.”
Luke 6:32: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love then. . . . But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”
Notably, the phrase, “God saith” is a common phrase used to refer to the citation of scripture, not oral tradition. This indicates a written source. Though two of the three passages are common to Matthew and Luke, 2 Clement follows the Lukan version. Luke 16:13 is from the special Lukan material, with no known counterpart. The case for dependence on the Gospel of Luke, therefore, is persuasive. And, given common authorship, Acts would not be too far removed in time. This is especially true if, as seems likely, Luke was written with Acts in mind. In other words, they are one literary unit.
C. Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr wrote several apologetic works. Most relevant here is his First Apology, written no later than 155 AD. Therein, he paraphrases and alludes to the Acts of the Apostles.
First, Acts 1:1-9 is paraphrased by Martyr in First Apology 50.12.
The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
[A]fterwards, when He had risen from the dead and appeared to them, and had taught them to read the prophecies in which all these things were foretold as coming to pass, and when they had seen Him ascending into heaven, and had believed, and had received power sent thence by Him upon them, and went to every race of men, they taught these things, and were called apostles.
First Apology 50.12.
Second, in First Apology 39.3, Martyr refers to the apostles as “illiterate, of no ability in speaking,” which is similar to Acts’ description of Peter and John at 4:13. The description is unique and both use the Greek term idiotes in their description.
Third, in his Second Apology, Martyr may demonstrate an awareness of Paul’s Areopagus speech and his references to “the unknown God” (Acts 17:23). He too is aware of the tribute paid by the Greeks to a God who is not known to them. However, Martyr does not explicitly associate this with Paul’s speech. The usage is, therefore, inconclusive.
Fourth, First Apology 10.1 (“God does not need the material offerings which men can give, seeing, indeed, that He Himself is the provider of all things.”) appears to be based on Acts 17:25 (“nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things”).
The first, second, and fourth allusions combined persuasively demonstrate Justin Martyr’s awareness of Acts around 155 AD. Whereas Gospel-like traditions conveying sayings or deeds of Jesus might still be trickling down through the churches via oral tradition, evidence of comparable independent traditions of early Christian history is less apparent. It seems unlikely such was the case with most of the material in Acts. Therefore, the similarities between Justin Martyr’s First Apology and Acts is probably the result of Martyr’s dependence on Acts.
Marcion was a heretic of the early Church. In another article I provide additional background of his writings and significance to early Christian history. Around 130 AD, he used a version of the Gospel of Luke that he had whittled down to his liking. This not only demonstrates the existence of the Gospel of Luke, but indicates the existence of two traditions by that time – Marcion’s and the “orthodox” version. Given Marcion’s reworking of an existing version of Luke, it must have been earlier than 130 AD.
Although Justin Martyr’s use of Acts is helpful, the most relevant material for dating Acts is 2 Clement and Marcion. 2 Clement could be dated as early as 120 AD. Marcion must have used an existing version of the Gospel already established in the early churches by 130 AD. Thus, a last possible date of 120 AD is the most reasonable conclusion based on the earliest external references to Luke-Acts.
II. Paul’s Letters Widespread by the Second Century
By the second century, Paul’s letters had been circulated among geographically diverse churches. Not only is this relevant to understanding Acts’ relationship to Paul, it goes far in rebutting the already marginal theory that Acts – as an orthodox response to Marcion – would have been afraid to use Paul’s letters. Certainly, other orthodox Christian writers in the late first century and early second century had no such fear – they used Paul’s letters to a great extent. Finally, the availability and importance of the Pauline canon by the second century is relevant to dating Acts.
A. Allusions and Citations by Early Christian Writers
When determining whether an early Christian writer referred to one of Paul’s letters, we are on easier ground than hunting for allusions to the gospels. For most of Paul’s letters, it is undisputed that they were written around the mid-first century. Thus, there is no doubt of their existence and it renders irrelevant the classic “chicken-egg, which came first?” conundrum. Furthermore, though there likely was an “oral tradition” phase of gospel material prior to their being written down, the same is unlikely for Paul’s letters. Though Paul undoubtedly uses some traditions, by far most of his letters were free hand writings in response to specific situations as they arose among the churches. As a result, it is less likely that correlations are the result of common oral tradition. Finally, explicit attribution was not a regular practice among the Apostolic Fathers. We know from their use of the Old Testament that they would often times quote or allude to a written source without identifying what the source was or even that there was a source.
1. 1 Clement (95 AD)
Letters Cited: 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans
1 Clement, written by a leader (or leaders) in the Roman church to the Corinthian church, explicitly refers to and quotes 1 Corinthians, and quotes 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans. That the author of 1 Clement is familiar with Romans is unsurprising. After all, Paul wrote that letter to the Roman church. But knowledge of the letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians is quite informative because those letters were not associated with Rome. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8). Although Galatians is not so explicit, no theory of its origins attributes its province to Rome. So, at the very least, the first epistle to the Corinthians and the epistle to the Galatians had circulated beyond their churches of origin and the churches of their destination by the end of the first century. It also appears that Clement presumes that the Corinthians know Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, indicating that it had circulated beyond its province. Finally, the author’s reliance on 1 Corinthians to help resolve a dispute demonstrates the high regard in which it was held.
a. Citation of 1 Corinthians
As indicated above, the author of Clement explicitly refers to one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Which letter to the Corinthians is made clear by his quote from 1 Corinthians when emphasizing his point about avoiding division in the church.
Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle. What wrote he first unto you in the beginning of the Gospel? Of a truth he charged you in the Spirit concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos, because that even then ye had made parties. Yet that making of parties brought less sin upon you; for ye were partisans of Apostles that were highly reputed, and of a man approved in their sight.
1 Clement 47.
Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.
1 Cor. 1:12-15.
b. Citation of 2 Corinthians
1 Clement shows familiarity with Paul’s recounting of his travails in 2 Corinthians.
Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned.
1 Clement 5:6.
Are they servants of Christ? – I speak as if insane – I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
2 Cor. 11:23-25.
Although the Greek is not the same, Clement recounts Paul’s suffering, including his being imprisoned and stoned. Further, there “is the massive fact of the list itself. The suggestion of such a list would almost certainly come from a recollection of the list in II Corinthians.” Accordingly, though a direct literary contact is elusive, it is likely that the author of 1 Clement had read 2 Corinthians.
c. Citation of Romans
The similarities in the language and the context of 1 Clement make clear its reliance on the Epistle to the Romans.
If our mind be fixed through faith towards God; if we seek out those things which are well pleasing and acceptable unto Him; if we accomplish such things as beseem His faultless will, and follow the way of truth, casting off from ourselves all unrighteousness and iniquity, covetousness, strifes, malignities and deceits, whisperings and backbitings, hatred of God, pride and arrogance, vainglory and inhospitality. For they that do these things are hateful to God; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent unto them. For the scripture saith; But unto the sinner said God, Wherefore dost thou declare Mine ordinances, and takest My covenant upon thy mouth? Yet thou didst hate instruction, and didst cast away My words behind thee. If thou sawest a thief, thou didst keep company with him, and with the adulterers thou didst set thy portion. Thy mouth multiplied wickedness, and thy tongue wove deceit. Thou sattest and spakest against thy brother, and against the son of thy mother thou didst lay a stumbling-block. These things thou hast done, and I kept silence. Thou thoughtest, unrighteous man, that I should be like unto thee. I will convict thee, and will set thee face to face with thyself.
1 Clement 35.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
1 Clement has taken the list of vices from Paul and adapted it somewhat for his own use and with his own flavor. As Professor Corwin notes:
The catalog of defects in 1 Clement 35:5-6 is structured on that of Roman 1:28-32; Clement simply restructures it according to his ideas. Sanders clearly demonstrated the indisputable dependence; A. Vogtle has already explained the change of some terms of Rom. as related to Clement’s context. The fidelity with which Clement follows here the Pauline text comes from the fact that the catalogues of vices represented the literary genre of the invectives of the diatribe’s preachers. In order to follow the diatribe, Clement, therefore, did not have to abandon Paul. He merely emphasizes through slight modifications the Greek and Stoic character of the Pauline catalog.
d. Citations of Galatians
There are some unique points of contact between 1 Clement and the Epistle to the Galatians that strongly suggest the author’s reliance on Paul’s letter. 1 Clement 5’s use of the term “pillars” for the Apostles is striking given that the only other writing that uses that term for those men is the Epistle to the Galatians. Gal. 2:9 (“and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right”).
Additionally, 1 Clement imitates the rather unique approach of speaking of Christ being crucified in the presence of those to whom he writes. Compare Gal. 3:1 (“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?”) with 1 Clem. 2:1 (“Content with the provision which God had made for you, and carefully attending to His words, you were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes.”).
2. The Epistles of Ignatius (105-115 AD)
Origin: Antioch (Ignatius’ hometown)
Destinations: Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna
Letters Cited: 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians (perhaps 1 and 2 Timothy and others)
Though Ignatius tends not to identify his sources, Old or New Testament, there is no doubt that he referred to many of Paul’s letters. Ignatius’ citations to 1 Corinthians are overwhelming. Additionally, “[w]e know from Ignatius himself that he was acquainted with more than one letter, for he writes to the Ephesian church (12.2) that the apostle Paul mentioned them ‘in every letter.’” Scholars have seen this reference not necessarily to all the letters which mention Ephesians (such as 1 and 2 Timothy), but as the “polite exaggeration of Ignatius to the Ephesians” which “is taken as further evidence that he was familiar with an early collection of Paul’s letters.”
It should be remembered that Ignatius was not writing from his Bishop’s office in Antioch, with his library spread out before him. Rather, he wrote while traveling – in the custody of unfriendly soldiers – to Rome to become a martyr. Due to his circumstances, Ignatius’ allusions were based on memory rather than on close readings. As a result, his allusions may be “free and inexact.” Nevertheless, many literary contacts with Paul’s letters are obvious. All told, Ignatius’ letters demonstrates that at least 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Galatians, Colossians and Philippians, were widely circulating though churches unrelated to their province by the end of the first century.
a. Citations of 1 Corinthians
The most obvious reliance by Ignatius is on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. As Prof. Corwin notes:
Ignatius himself knew best 1 Corinthians and the gospel of Matthew, which was the favorite if not the only gospel used. These two of the New Testament books provide the largest number of direct quotations in the letters. Because his references to 1 Corinthians are relatively clear and numerous, they make us aware of his freedom in paraphrasing and in using a quotation in changed context.
Similarly, Robert Grant concludes that “[i]t is very clear that he knew 1 Corinthians practically by heart. It would appear that there are not fewer than forty six allusions to it in his letters.”
Notably, 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus and sent to Corinth. But Ignatius was the Bishop of Antioch. So, by the end of the first century, 1 Corinthians had been widely circulated. Not only to Antioch, but to Rome as well. And, likely, to the destination churches of Ignatius’ own letters.
Grant begins his analysis with Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians:
There is little doubt about a passage like this [Eph. 17:2-18:1]:
Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us? Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal. “Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent?
Here Ignatius is obviously following 1 Corinthians 1:18-20 with remarkable care.
Compare Ignatius’ Ephesians 17 with the relevant Pauline passage:
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
1 Cor. 1:18-20.
Grant continues: “[H]e also quotes isolated phrases from the epistle–for example, in Trallians 12:3 and in Romans 5:1.”
I need your love, so that I may be judged worthy of the lot which I am set to obtain, ‘lest I be found a castaway’ [1 Cor. 9:27].
I become more of a disciple because of their wrongdoing, ‘but not by this am I justified’ [1 Cor. 4:4].”
Compare with Ignatius:
“[A]nd pray ye for me also, who need your love in the mercy of God, that I may be thought worthy of the lot to which I press forward to attain, that I may not be found a castaway.” [Trallians 12:3]
“But I am the more instructed by their injuries [to act as a disciple of Christ]; “yet am I not thereby justified.” [(Ignatius’) Romans 5:1]
There are many other allusions, but these are sufficient to prove reliance.
b. Citation of Ephesians
Many scholars have noted that in his own letter to the Church in Ephesus, Ignatius relies on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. This conclusion is facially probable because Ignatius explicitly refers to Paul’s letters which discuss the Ephesians. Having established Ignatius’s familiarity with Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, the introductions to both letters are suspiciously similar. Packed into the first sentence of Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians and Paul’s Ephesians 1:3-6 are the same or similar Greek terms when referring to Jesus and God the Father, emphasis on Christians being chosen by God before creation, arguing that the pre-creation calling was related to showing the Glory of God, and emphasizing that this was all in accordance with the will of the Father.
The text of Ignatius’ own letter to the Ephesians further supports this point:
[I]n the following verses, Paul develops the theme of the unity of Christians in Christ. As for Ignatius, he insists on this unity throughout his letter. It can, therefore, be inferred that, in drafting the address of his letter, the bishop of Antioch remembered what [he believed] Paul wrote at the beginning of the epistle that he sent to this same church at Ephesus. . . . Ignatius seems, therefore, to be inspired by the first sentences of the Pauline epistle; the presence of the same terms implies his literary dependence on Paul.
According to Prof. Jefford, “there is even some reason to believe that the bishop constructed his work according to the framework of the New Testament letter to Ephesus. In many respects, it is with both the theology and the works of Paul that we find the key to Ignatius’ own theological speculation and concern for the Christian life.”
c. Citation of Galatians
There are several points of contact between Ignatius’ letters and Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. In his letter to the Magnesians, Ignatius warns against “Judaizers” much the same as Paul did in his letter to the Galatians. Compare Magn. 8:1 (“Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace”) with Gal. 5:4 (“You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”). The emphasis on Jewish law and losing grace is suggestive, though not in and of itself determinative. But compare Ignatius’ Rom. 7:2 (“My lust hath been crucified, and there is no fire of material longing in me, but only water living and speaking in me, saying within me, Come to the Father.”) with Gal. 5:24 (“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”) and Gal. 6:14 (“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”). Together, these indicate dependence on Galatians.
d. Citation of Philippians
After reciting some of the challenges he had faced, Paul declares, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. Similarly, after reciting a list of hardships, Ignatius declares, “Though this is difficult, yet Jesus Christ, our true Life, has power to effect it.” Smyrn. 4:2.
Barnett calls this a “rather clear echo of Phil. 4:13” and states:
The probability that it indicates literary acquaintance is heightened by the fact that the statement forms the climax of an enumeration of the suffering Ignatius had endured. Both men testify to their spiritual empowerment for all trials through their fellowship with Christ.
There is also a possible allusion in Smyrn. 11:3 to Phil. 3:15.
e. Citation of Colossians
Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians uses the same Greek terms as Paul’s letters to the Colossians to describe a fellow servant.
As to my fellow-servant Burrhus, your deacon in regard to God and blessed in all things, I beg that he may continue longer, both for your honour and that of your bishop.
(Ignatius’) Ephesians 2:1. See also Philad. 4:1, and Smyrn. 12:2.
[J]ust as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,
The reliance is firmly established. As Prof. Barnett, notes:
The term sundoulou occurs only in the Pauline letters only in Col. 1:7 and 4:7. In the one instance it is applied to Epaphrus and in the other to Tychicus. In each case pistos diakonos is a further element in the characterization. In the letters of Eph. 2:1, Philad. 4:1, and Smyrn. 12:2, each time in connection with sundoulou. The usage in these instances strongly suggests acquaintance with Colossians.
3. The Epistle of Barnabas (80-130 AD)
Place of Origin: Alexandria
Letter Cited: Ephesians
Though the dating of Barnabas is less secure, it stands as evidence that by the early second century the author of this epistle was aware of and relied on the Epistle to the Ephesians as authoritative instruction.
Compare Barn. 6:14b-15 (“for He Himself was to be manifested in the flesh and to dwell in us. For a holy temple unto the Lord, my brethren, is the abode of our heart.”) with Ephesians 3:17 (“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”) and Ephesians 2:20-22 (“Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”). Though the theology of the body being a dwelling place – temple – for Christ may not be unique enough to indicate direct dependence, the similarities in the Greek add more weight. The Greek used for “abode” and “dwelling place” is katoiketerion. The Greek used for “holy temple” is hagios naos. The Greek used for “heart” is kardia. The correspondence between thought and language clustered in Ephesians is persuasive.
4. The Epistle of Polycarp (120-130 AD)
Letters Cited: Philippians, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans, 1 Timothy (perhaps 2 Timothy and Titus)
Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna (in Asia Minor) definitely knew Paul’s letter to the Philippians, as well as Ephesians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, and 1 Timothy, though none of them are related to Smyrna. Professor Jefford agrees: “In evidence among Polycarp’s sources are the authentic letters of Paul, the so-called Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy and Titus), 1 Peter and 1 John.” That Polycarp jams so many references to Paul’s epistles into just one letter is powerful evidence that the Pauline corpus was well-established and widely circulated by the early second century.
a. Citation of Philippians
In his letter to the Philippians, Polycarp explicitly refers to Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians and demonstrates knowledge of its contents.
For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbor, “is the mother of us all.” For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he hath fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that hath love is far from all sin. (Chapter 3).
b. Citation of 1 Corinthians
In Philippians 11:2, Polycarp makes an explicit reference to the teachings of 1 Corinthians: “‘Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world?’ as Paul teaches.” Compare with 1 Cor. 6:2: “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” There can be no doubt, therefore, that Polycarp and the Church of Smyrna had this letter. It also suggests that the Church of Philippians knew 1 Corinthians as well.
c. Citations of 2 Corinthians
Compare Polycarp’s Philippians 2:2 (“Now He who raised him from the dead will also raise us.”) with 2 Cor. 4:14 (“knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us”). The similarities in the Greek are even more suggestive. 2 Cor. 4:14 contains all of the terms present in the corresponding passage. “In addition to the words `o evgeiras applied to God as in Paul, the kai `hmas is remarkable: it recalls clearly 2 Cor. and compels recognition of a literary contact.” See also below, where dependence of Phil. 4:1 on 2 Cor. 6:7 (and/or Roman 6:13) is shown.
d. Citations of Romans
Polycarp’s reference to the “armor of righteousness” also appears to be dependent on Paul. Paul uses a similar phrase in Rom. 6:13 and 2 Cor. 6:7 (“instrument of righteousness”). In the Greek, “instrument” and “armor” come from the same Greek word (“hoplon”). Compare Pol. 4:1, oplois ths dikaiosunhs with 2 Cor. 6:7, oplwn ths dikaiosunhs. The similarities in language would not be sufficient to claim dependence, but here it is accompanied with the introductory formula “we know then.” This phrase, and its similar “knowing that,” is meant to “introduce a reference to a written document.” Thus, its use – combined with the similarities with Romans – indicates that Polycarp relied on Paul’s letter to the Romans. Further, because the formula only works if the receiving party is also aware of the letter, it also appears that the Philippian church was in possession of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Additional support for Polycarp’s knowledge of Romans is found in Polycarp 6:2: “we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself.” This is very similar to Romans 14:10b, 12: “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. . . . So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.” The Greek is nearly identical. For example, Rom. 14:10: “pantes gar parasthsomeqa tw bhmati tou qeou” (with Phil. 6:2: “pantas dei parasthnai tw bhmati tou Christou”. Massaux notes that Polycarp may have changed “gar” to “dei” under the influence of 2 Corinthians, which Polycarp also knows.
e. Citation of Galatians
Polycarp’s Philippians 5:1: “Knowing then, that “God is not mocked,” we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory.” Paul uses the exact same phrase in Gal. 6:7 (“God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”). Moreover, we have Polycarp again signaling a citation by the use of the phrase, “knowing then.” Additional evidence of literary dependence is that “this citation is found literally in Gal. 6.7 [ ] in a similar context which invites us to act according to the law (Gal. 5:14) and which enumerates a series of prescriptions.” Finally, Gal. 6:7 is the only place anywhere in the New Testament that uses the same Greek verb for “mocked that Polycarp does: “mukthrizetaix.”
f. Citations of Ephesians
Compare (Polycarp’s) Philippians 1:3 (“knowing that by grace you are saved, not through works but by the will of God through Jesus Christ”) with Ephesians 2:5-9 (“even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast”). Polycarp once again signals his dependence on an existing writing by using the phrase “knowing that.” That the writing being referred to is Ephesians is very likely. Not only are the ideas the same in the above-referenced verses, but so is the Greek for “by grace you have been saved” and “not as a result of works.” As Massaux notes, “[t]his observation is sufficient to allow the assertion that Polycarp depends here on the text of Eph.” Even so, more evidence is available to us. Compare Polycarp’s 12:1 (“Be ye angry, and sin not,” and, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”) with Eph. 4:26 (“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”). Both Polycarp and Ephesians paraphrased two different verses and linked them together to articulate the same sentiment. Thus, the case for Polycarp’s dependence on the Letter to the Ephesians is strong. Furthermore, that Polycarp uses the phrase “knowing that” suggests that Ephesians was known in his home church of Smyrna, as well as the audience of his letter, the Church in Philippi.
g. Citation of 1 Timothy
Compare (Polycarp’s) Philippians 4:1 (“But the love of money is the root of all evils. . . . “) with 1 Tim. 6:10 (“For the love of money is the root of all evil.”). That this is not merely a shared opinion is demonstrated by the fact that Polycarp immediately follows the phrase with another one from 1 Timothy. (Polycarp’s) Philippians 4:1 (“Since we know then [that] we have brought nothing into this world and can take nothing of it either, let us arm ourselves with the armor of righteousness and learn first to advance in the commandment of the Lord”). As mentioned above, the phrase “we know then” is an introduction of a literary citation. Moreover, the passage being introduced quotes verbatim many of the terms in 1 Tim. 6:10 (“for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out”).
h. References to 2 Thessalonians
Compare 2 Thessalonians 11:3-4:
We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.
with Polycarp’s Philippians 11:3-4:
But I have neither seen nor heard of any such thing among you, in the midst of whom the blessed Paul laboured, and who are commended in the beginning of his Epistle. For he boasts of you in all those Churches which alone then knew the Lord; but we [of Smyrna] had not yet known Him. . . . And be ye then moderate in regard to this matter, and "do not count such as enemies," but call them back as suffering and straying members, that ye may save your whole body. For by so acting ye shall edify yourselves
Many scholars conclude that there is some form of dependence here because of 1) the explicit reminiscence of Paul’s letters; 2) the similarities in the latter half of Phil. 11:4 (Paul boasting about the faithfulness of the church to other churches); and 3) the similarities between Phil. 11:4 (“be ye then moderate in regard to this matter, and do not count such as enemies”) and 2 Thess. 3:15 (“Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”). The problem, of course, is that Polycarp is writing to the church in Philippi and Paul was addressing 2 Thessalonians to the church in Thessalonica.
Two solutions have been offered. Massaux suggests that “due to a memory lapse, the Bishop of Smyrna attributed to the Philippians what Paul said about the Thessalonians.” This is certainly possible, especially if Polycarp was writing based on his memory rather than having all of Paul’s letters spread out before him. On the other hand, Barnett, following Harnack, believes that “Polycarp knew the letters of Paul as a collection, and he probably regarded the message of each letter as for every congregation. He might, therefore, very logically take II Thess. 1:3, 4 as applicable to the Philippians.”
i. Reference to a Collection of Ignatius’ Letters
Polycarp’s letter is also useful in what it tells us about early Christian attitudes towards letter collections. From Polycarp 13 we learn that the church in Philippi had requested that Polycarp send all of Ignatius’ letters to them for their collection. The significance of this is twofold. If the Philippians were so keen on collecting the letters of Ignatius, how much more keen would they be on collecting the letters of the Apostle Paul – writing earlier and with more authority? It seems that letter collecting was important to the early Church. The second point is that Polycarp already had a number of Ignatius’ letters – more than the one we know Ignatius wrote to him. Again, if Ignatius’ letters were already collected by Polycarp in Smyrna, how much more likely that Paul’s were as well? Thus, Polycarp’s letter also demonstrates the likelihood of an early Christian effort to gather a collection of Paul’s letters.
5. 2 Clement (120-140 AD)
Place of Origin: Rome/Corinth
Letters Cited: 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians
Though the provence and date of 2 Clement is uncertain – either Rome or Corinth are the most likely places of origin –, this homily provides additional evidence of the wide circulation of and reliance on 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians in the Christian churches by the early second century.
a. Citation of 1 and 2 Corinthians
2 Clem. 9:3 (“We must therefore preserve the flesh as the temple of God.”). As noted by Massaux, the expression “temple of God” applied to the human body “is quite Pauline.” Massaux, op. cit., page 17. Corresponding Pauline passages include 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; and 2 Cor. 6:16.
From the point of view of meaning, the parallel closest to this passage is 1 Cor. 6:19, where the Apostle aims at individual Christians and recommends purity of their body, just as Pseudo-Clement does in the immediate context (2 Clem. 8:6).
b. Citation of Galatians
There is also the curious similar use of Isaiah 54:1. In 2 Clement 2:1 and Galatians 4:27, the authors quote Isaiah 54:1 and equate the church with the barren woman of Isaiah.
Other specific images and allusions in the homily recall the writings of Paul. The first is the image of the potter and the clay at 8.1-3. As observed above, our author presumably borrows this image from Jeremiah 18. Yet, once again, Paul himself makes a similar allusion in Romans 9:19-24. Additional parallels may derive from Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians. Recall the plea in 2 Clement 7:1-6 that each Christian compete as an athlete of God; this seems to reflect Paul’s imagery in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. So too our author’s warning in 3.1 not to worship or make sacrifices to dead gods probably should be read against Paul’s own command in 1 Corinthians 8:1. And finally, 2 Clement’s association between the human body as the church into which Christ has come bears interesting parallels with Paul’s insistence that the body is the temple of Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Such imagery strongly suggests that our author had an extensive knowledge of Paul’s theology, and probably had access to some form of 1 Corinthians.
6. Marcion (130 AD)
Letters Cited: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians,
Ephesians, Philemon, Galatians, Colossians, Philippians
Marcion promoted his own – albeit corrupted – collection of Paul’s letters, which included Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philemon, Colossians, and Philippians. Tertullian provides a detailed, often line-by-line, response to Marcion’s version of Paul’s canon in his five volume Against Marcion. Because the evidence of extensive Marcion redactions to the Pauline epistles is undeniable, his collection of a corrupted version of such texts in the early second century is strong evidence that there existed a widely circulated Pauline corpus by the early second century.
7. 2 Peter (mid-first or early-second century AD)
The Second Epistle of Peter is relevant because it mentions at least some of Paul’s letters.
[R]egard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
2 Peter 3:15-16
Unfortunately, it is difficult to assess the evidence of this letter because its date and province are so disputed. Tradition favors Petrine authorship and a date around 65-68 AD. Many contemporary scholars reject Petrine authorship and accept a date as late as the early-second century. As for its audience, the letter says simply that it is addressed “[t]o those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:1. Nor is it clear which Pauline letters the author of 2 Peter was addressing. Under either dating, it shows that some of Paul’s letters were known by some group of Christians and this author had a high view of Paul’s authority (comparing his letters to “the Scriptures”).
8. Other Second Century Writings
In his indispensable three-volume analysis of the use of the New Testament scriptures by the early Christian writers, Massaux also concludes that 1) the Shepard of Hermas (100-160 CE), relies on 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 2 Corinthians, and Romans; 2) the Odes of Solomon (100-200 CE), relies on 1 Corinthians, Colossians, Romans, and Philemon (with other allusions likely); and 3) the Christian Sibylline Oracles (second century), relies on Romans and 1 Corinthians. Again, while the province of these documents cannot be firmly established, they provide further confirmation that Paul’s letters were widely circulated and considered authoritative by the early second century.
This analysis of the early Christian writers firmly establishes the widespread use, as authoritative, of Paul’s letters by the late-first century to early-second century. Indeed, from 1 Clement (94 AD) into the early second century we Christian writings that does not refer to some of Paul’s letters as authoritative are exceedingly rare. It seems clear that by the end of the first century at the latest, the Pauline corpus was widespread and significant enough to demand Luke’s attention. It is very unlikely that he would ignore them as potential sources (unless he had better sources – unlikely in the second century) and is just as unlikely that his audience would not be expecting to hear about the letters.
B. Did Acts Choose to Ignore Paul’s Letters?
It has been argued by John Knox and others that the author of Acts was well aware of Paul’s letters but simply chose not to use them because they were being used by early heretics. Thus, the failure to use the letters is irrelevant to dating. The main problem with this theory is that the evidence indicates that there was never any fear of Paul’s letters among the “orthodox.” From 1 Clement, to Ignatius, to Polycarp, there is no hesitation in using Paul’s letters. Indeed, they are assumed to be known and respected by the respective destinations of the letters. In short, the evidence completely contradicts Knox’s proposed explanation.
A related argument that I have encountered on the Internet actually assumes that Paul’s letters were widely circulated and canonized very early. So early in fact, that even if written in the first century, the author of Acts must have known all the letters and simply chose to ignore them. Because he either ignored the letters in the first century or in the second century, the lack of reliance on Paul’s letters is deemed irrelevant to its date. This argument, however, likewise fails to persuade.
As an initial matter, though 2 Peter may be taken as some evidence of an early circulation and respect for Paul’s letters (most proponents of a late dating of Acts would also argue for a late dating of 2 Peter), it is simply incomparable to the evidence for a wide-spread canon of Paul’s epistles in the late-first century to early-second century. Additionally, even if the letters of Paul were immediately granted wide-spread circulation and respect, it is understandable that a companion of Paul would write without recourse to his letters, whereas it is very unlikely that a second-century admirer would. As Prof. Ellis notes, a companion of Paul would have little need to rely on his letters:
It is conceivable that a companion would present Paul independent of his letters and in some diversity from them. But would a post-apostolic admirer of the Apostle have done so? The apocryphal ‘Acts’ and ‘Apocalypse’ of Paul show that later writers clothed their ‘Paul’ with clear allusions to his letters. The independent case of Luke-Acts argues against authorship by a later admirer. It lends some support to Lukan authorship, for only a colleague would write the story without recourse to Paul’s letters. 
Indeed, the Acts of Paul not only alludes to Paul’s letters, but it narrates Paul’s receiving another letter from Corinth and writing a response. Again, this is not surprising from an author that knew Paul primarily as a letter writer.
Accordingly, the failure of Acts to rely on Paul’s letters remains persuasive evidence of a first-century composition date.
III. Avoiding Anachronisms
To a rather remarkable degree, Acts is devoid of anachronisms that would betray second-century authorship. If written into the second century, he again and again passes up opportunities to betray preceding events.
A proposal that Luke was written about 130 (close to the latest possible date) would have to concede that the author shut out of his mind, or at least kept out of his work, at least 50 years’ worth of events. There is, for example, no reference, even in coded language, to the persecution of parts of the church under Domitian (in the mid-90s). The author of Luke-Acts held the view that God punished the Jews for rejecting Jesus, and he seems to have seen the destruction of the temple (70 AD) in this light (see below). But in 115-117 there were major revolts of the Jews against Rome in Egypt, Cyrene and Cyprus, revolts which destroyed cities and led to much bloodshed. There is no hint of further ‘punishment’ of the Jews in Luke-Acts, which counts as evidence for dating his work before 115-117, and possibly before the mid-90s. A theory that Luke wrote very late must be based on the supposition that he successfully maintained his focus on an earlier period. Few authors can be entirely successful in such an effort.
The flip side of the coin is that Luke’s theology often seems to be what some call “primitive”:
The picture Luke paints of life in the earliest Palestinian churches is consistent with what we would expect. Much of the theology which he attributes to those earliest Christian believers has a far less sophisticated character than the theology of Paul or the church, later in the first century. For example, Jesus is still referred to as ‘the Messiah’ (Christ) in Acts 2:36; 3:20; 4:27, and he can be called ‘the Servant of God’ (Acts 3:13, 26; 4:25-30), or even ‘the Son of Man’ (a title much used by Jesus himself but found nowhere in the rest of the New Testament except Acts 7:56), and the church itself is ‘the Way’ (Acts 9:2; 19:9-9, 23; 24:14, 22). . . . [A]ll this as ‘extraordinary realistic … the narratives of Acts are full of elements taken directly from the life and experience of the church’.
Also notable is that Acts highlights problems that would have been irrelevant in the second century, such as the Jewish-Gentile controversy that the early Church faced as the new faith spread beyond its Jewish beginning.
It is significant that the major interests of the author of Acts are those prevalent in the earliest period of church history, but which were not so relevant in later times. The Jewish-Gentile controversy is dominant and all other evidence apart from Acts suggests that this was a vital issue only in the period before the fall of Jerusalem. Even by the time of Paul’s later letters it had ceased to be a burning issue. Moreover, the question of Gentile inclusion was taken for granted when once the universal character of the Christian church had been established. Again, the preoccupation with food requirements in the report of the decisions of the Jerusalem Council points to an early stage of Christian development. Before the fall of Jerusalem all these factors were of vital importance.
Additionally, as noted above, Acts’ discussion of the relevant legal systems is remarkably accurate and time appropriate. Most significant is Acts’ treatment of Paul’s Roman citizenship in general. The importance that Acts places on Paul’s Roman citizenship was true during the early to mid first century, but had dissipated by the end of the first century.
The general importance attributed to the Roman citizenship in Acts fits the early period . . . . [W]hat calls for attention is the tone, the indignant tone, in which these things are mentioned, and the alarmed reaction of those who find that unwittingly they have maltreated a Roman citizen.
The significance of Roman citizenship changed by the end of the first century. As Sherwin-White notes, “[t]he force of this feeling ultimately petered out with the large extension of the citizenship through the provinces, just as the privileges of Romans came to be whittled down at a similar rate.” Further,
Acts breathes the climate of the earlier phase. Fifty years later the literary Pliny, though steeped in Cicero, when he comes to deplore the savagery of proconsul towards Roman citizens forgets to dwell on their privileged status as citizens, and characteristically for his generation, concentrates on the social status of a victim who was a Roman knight, instead of his legal status as a citizen. The dramatic date of Acts belongs to the period when the spread of Roman status in the provinces was still on a small scale. The scale of extension was a matter of great debate at Rome in the time of the emperor Claudius. There was still organized opposition at Rome to the over-rapid extension of Roman privilege in the provinces at that time. In the half-century after Claudius the tide of extension flooded fast and high, though, as will presently appear, not so fast or so high in the eastern provinces as in the west. In references to the citizenship, Acts get things right both at the general level, in its overall attitude, and in specific aspects such as were discussed in the last lecture–the type of names and the centurions, the prevalence of bribery in this context under Claudius.
In sum, the absence of obvious anachronisms and correct, time-sensitive characterizations of the early Church and Roman legal proceedings, adds weight to a first-century date for authorship.
IV. The Western Text of Acts
There are two well-attested and early manuscript traditions for the Acts of the Apostles. The Alexandrian (or Egyptian) text is the one used for our English translations of Acts. The other, the Western Text, is longer and commonly believed to be an expansion on the Alexandrian text (or a common ancestor). The primary Greek witness for the Western Text is the Codex Bezae, probably written in Western Europe during the fifth century. Codex Bezae contains both Greek and Latin texts of Acts. It is also attested by the Harclean Syriac version:
The Harclean Syrian has frequently been taken to be a revision made in 616 by Thomas of Harkel (Heracleia) of the Philoxenian version of 508. Thomas’s revision consisted apparently for the most part in bringing the Philozenian into line with the prevalent text, but in Acts he also gives a large number of ‘Western’ readings mainly in marginal notes (hcl.mb), but also in some 95 asterisked additions in the body of his text, with the result that, next to D, the Harclean Syrian is our most important authority for the ‘Western’ text of Acts.
Other early evidence includes three partial Greek manuscripts dating from as early as the third century. “[P38] belongs to the end of the third century or beginning of the fourth, and its text is decidedly Western.” P28 and P48 also date from the third or fourth centuries and are noteworthy because of their Egyptian (“Eastern”) origins. Earlier still are the Old Syriac and Old Latin manuscript traditions, “both of which go back to the later decades of the second century.” Significantly, the Syrian and Latin traditions are independent of each other – attesting to an earlier common source.
Finally, there are the early Christian writers who rely on the Western Text of Acts. “Early church fathers show familiarity with the Western tradition, among them Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine. In short, the Western tradition is well-attested in the very early witnesses, some of which date back to the second century.” Fitzmyer notes especially the use of the Western Text by the Latin Fathers, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine. He also finds significant the use of the Western Text by Ephraem of Syria in a commentary dating from the fourth century.
Given the diversity of Western Text traditions, scholars put its origins as early as the mid-second century. C.H. Talbert sees in the Western Text a persuasive argument for a first-century dating. “[S]ince the Western text of Acts is very early – at least mid-second century – if Acts is late, there is no time for these variants to arise.”
The ending of Acts and patristic references to Acts set a range of possible composition dates between 62 AD to 120 AD. That Acts shows no dependence on Paul’s letters – widely used by the early second century – counts towards a first-century date. That Acts avoids anachronisms and accurately represents the significance of Roman citizenship and legal proceedings for that time period reinforces a first-century date. My conclusions regarding authorship – discussed in the next section – add further weight to this conclusion. All told, a date between 62 AD and 90 AD is the best answer to the evidence.
CHAPTER 4: THE AUTHOR OF THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
Who wrote the Acts of the Apostles? Though the author refers to himself in the preface and – as we will see – at times in the narrative, he never identifies himself. Thus, the work is “anonymous.” This term is misleading, however, as there is no doubt that the first readers and distributors of Acts knew the author’s identity. Below I will review the so-called “we-sections” of Acts, external evidence, and further internal evidence, to identify its author.
I. The We Passages of Acts as Evidence of Authorial Participation
The most important evidence of Acts’ authorship by a companion of Paul is the “we sections” (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16) – where the author transitions from describing events in the third person to describing them in the first person plural. “The most natural explanation is that the author himself was present during those phases of his story which he records in the 1st pers. – that the ‘we’ of those sections includes the ‘I’ of 1:1. . . . The unobtrusive introduction of these ‘we’ sections into the main narrative of Acts, by a simple transition from the 3rd pers. to the 1st pers. plur. is best accounted for if this is the author’s delicate indication that at certain points in the course of events he himself joined Paul and other fellow travelers.” Classical historian Robin L. Fox reaches the same conclusion: “despite attempts by scholars to deny the obvious, it stands out as the work of a companion of Paul.” Accordingly, the best reading of the text indicates that its author participated in some of the events about which he wrote.
II. Objections to Authorial Participation
Various objections to the idea that the author of Luke was a companion of Paul have been offered. None are convincing.
A. Literary Device to Narrate Sea Voyages
One of the more popular attempts to reject the “we-passages” as evidence of authorial participation is the theory popularized by Vernon Robbins, that the first-person plural is a literary device used to narrate sea-voyages and is not meant to signal the author’s participation. Some commentators – such as Robert Price and Earl Doherty – have uncritically accepted his theory as established. But for those scholars who have actually taken the time to evaluate the basis of Robbin’s theory, there appears to be a unanimous conclusion that it lacks merit.
Available online are two articles refuting this application of Robbins’ theory. The first is mine and concludes:
Critical scholarship’s conclusion that Robbins has failed to demonstrate that Acts’ “we passages” are the product of a common Hellenistic literary device for portraying sea voyages is borne out. The examples offered by Robbins fail to support his theory. In fact, many of them–such as the Voyage of Hanno–actually reiterate that the use of the first-person plural in a narrative was intended to communicate authorial participation. Moreover, although there is no evidence that such a literary device existed, even if it did it does not appear that Luke employed it. Luke is just as likely to use the first-person plural to describe events on land and the third-person perspective to narrate sea voyages. None of Robbin’s proffered criteria could explain this seeming arbitrary use of the first-person plural.
Peter Kirby also provides a persuasive review of Robbin’s theory as applied to the study of Acts. His conclusion is the same as mine:
There are no known examples of a simply generic first person plural (where the person speaking is not present but rather employing an expected style) in an ancient sea voyage story, and this suggests strongly that an ancient author would not have slipped into the first person plural in response to a supposed demand of a sea travel genre. There is no precedent, and, thus, there is no such literary device.
Thus, Robbins’ theory that the we-passages are not meant to be read as indicating authorial participation fails.
B. Literary Device to Emphasize Important Events
Some have argued that the “we-passages” were just a literary device intended to emphasize important aspects of the ministry of Paul. Others have argued that perhaps they are simply a false claim to participation to heighten the author’s stature. Neither theory has much to recommend it.
It is done with the express purpose of suggesting that the author was in the company of Paul for the whole of the concluding period covered by the narrative, but was not in his company on any previous occasion, except for the brief voyage from Troas and the visit to Philippi years before. That an actual companion of Paul should have been with him on these occasions, and on these only, is in no way improbable. That a person, who wished to create the impression that he had been a companion of Paul in order to give weight to his story, should limit his claim to be an eye-witness in this extraordinary way is quite incredible.
I would add that the most significant omission of the use of the we-passages – if the purpose was to legitimate the account – is in the Gospel of Luke. In other words, when Luke is actually narrating the means of salvation, he makes no claim to participation at all.
C. A Travel Diary of a Companion of Paul
A more plausible explanation is that the “we sections” reflect the author’s use of another person’s diary – a person who was a companion of Paul. Though this would explain the accuracy and vividness of those sections, it ultimately fails for lack of evidence.
The argument that Luke is quoting or heavily reliant on someone else’s diary or journal in the ‘we’ passages is weak for the very good reason that the style, grammar, and vocabulary of the ‘we’ passages are very much the same as that found elsewhere in Luke-Acts. In other words, apart from the mere use of ‘we’ itself, the theory of a non-Lukan source here has little concrete linguistic evidence to support it.
J.C. Hawkins’ exhaustive study of the language of Luke and Acts concluded that there was no literary basis to distinguish the “we” passages from the rest of Acts as a whole. “[T]here is an immense balance of internal and external linguistic evidence in favor of the view that the original writer of these sections was the same person as the main author of the Acts and of the Third Gospel.”
Although it could be argued that the author of Acts rewrote the diary in his own style, it does not explain why he retained the first-person plural. It seems unlikely that he would have left it in for emphasis because he never once hints who the source might be. “Another author incorporating into his history the diary of an eyewitness would probably have named the writer of so important a contemporary document, on order to enhance its value in the eyes of the readers.” Furthermore, there does not seem to be any convention for such use of sources. Goodspeed offers additional reasons to doubt the diary theory:
[N]o evidence has been offered that the ancients kept diaries; the supposed parallels in Xenophon’s travel notes-so many days, so many stages, so many parasangs-is not a case in point, but quite the contrary. There we have Xenophon, a literary man, making his own travel notes and later using them himself, exactly as Luke seems to have done.
And, further, what a marvel it would be for such a diary, kept supposedly by one of Paul’s travel companions, to have survived for thirty or forty years and then fallen into the hands of the man who had conceived the idea of writing the history of those travels! And above all, how strange it is that, in using it, he should have forgotten that it was not his own work and mistakenly copied the first persons unaltered in it in seventy-seven instances, when he should of course have changed every one of them to the third person! We must here remember that this author of Luke-Acts is no stranger to us, for we have seen him carefully using the Gospel of Mark and other sources in his gospel and making no such crude blunders as this.
On the whole, it is safe to say that the idea that the we-sections were drawn by the author from somebody else’s diary must be given up, simply because it involves such a series of improbabilities, none of which has been grappled with, much less answered, by its advocates. 
D. Theological Differences
Another objection that is often raised against the authorial-participation theory is the supposed irreconcilable theological differences between Paul and the author of Acts. This counter argument fails for a number of reasons.
First, it rests on the false premise that all of Paul’s companions agree with – and express in the same terms – all of Paul’s theological beliefs for their entire lives.
The lack of an authentic ‘Paulinism’ in Luke is no counter-argument against the later traveling companion and eyewitness. Not every one of Paul’s traveling companions need have remained theologically and authentically “Paulinist” all his life. In the case of Luke, contact with the bearers of the specific Palestinian Jesus tradition which he worked into his Gospel will also have brought about a certain theological change of position, possibly already during the time of Paul’s captivity in Caesarea.
Further, “[w]e cannot know to what extent Paul was understood by his companions in his specific theology.”
Second, this argument ignores the important points of agreement between Acts and Paul, even on matters of theological perspective. The author of Acts demonstrates familiarity with core beliefs stated in Paul’s letters (such as salvation by faith, the Eucharist, the Gentile mission, and resistance to circumcision for gentiles).
Third, though informative, Paul’s letters are not an exhaustive articulation of his theological beliefs. They were written mainly to people who had already converted to Christianity and in response to specific occasions, such as the eruption of potential heresy or divisions. On the other hand, much of Acts recounts Paul’s missionary activities to unbelievers. Additionally, the author of Acts was writing with his own theological purposes. We should not expect him to necessarily share Paul’s focus in his letters, but must recognize that he had his own story to tell. It is naïve to expect complete harmony from accounts with such disparate ends.
Finally, if Acts is dated after the fall of Jerusalem (70 AD), the usual arguments about theological differences fail to account for the passage of time and occurrence of significant events.
Against this, however, is urged that the writer cannot have been a follower and companion of Paul, for he is not a good Paulinist and the picture he gives of Paul’s attitude to Jewish ritual is hopelessly out of keeping with Paul’s own account of it in Galatians and elsewhere. But with the lapse of time the Jewish question had ceased to be important in the early church; it had become a dead issue. The passage of time has precisely the same effect upon modern writers who deal with events in which they have participated; it would be easy to illustrate this. The mistake we have been making about the Acts is that we have dated it too early; in a document contemporary with Paul such a picture of his attitude toward Judaism is indeed inconceivable in one of his followers or in anyone else. But the Acts was not written in Paul’s day, as we have seen. Changing issues in a living movement would lead any writer, whether a companion of Paul or not, to changed interests and emphases….
Surely it is in the highest degree artificial to turn away from the natural interpretation of the We-narratives and regard them with suspicion and distrust as though the writing of Luke-Acts were a crime, the perpetrator of which had taken great pains to cover his tracks and conceal his identity. The objections usually urged against the Lucan authorship of Luke-Acts fade out when the true date of the work is perceived. They are all sufficiently explained by the lapse of a generation.
E. Different Portraits of Paul
There are a series of related arguments complaining of differences between the portrayals of Paul in Acts and Paul in his own letters. For convenience, I shall refer to the arguments made by an Internet commentator, who has amassed these arguments on one site. Ultimately, all of the arguments rest on the premise that no companion of Paul could have portrayed Paul so drastically different than Paul portrays himself. There are a couple of basic problems with this premise. First, Paul’s letters were highly occasional. He wrote not to give a comprehensive history of his life or a systemic theological presentation of his beliefs, but in response to specific problems or issues that had arisen. In short, they cannot be assumed to give us a complete and accurate portrayal of Paul. Second, even a companion of Paul would write with his own purposes and his own understanding of theology and events. A companion of Paul who was apparently not a convert of Paul, who traveled with him only occasionally, who had significant contact with other prominent early Christian leaders, and who was writing possibly decades after Paul’s death, should not be assumed to share slavishly Paul’s perspective and view of events.
1. Paul as an Apostle
One of the less impressive arguments against Lukan authorship of Acts is that Luke and Paul disagree on what it means to be an apostle. There is no doubt that Paul claimed to be an apostle because he was called by Jesus to serve as a messenger to the Gentiles. Paul’s role as an apostle is attested in the following places: Rom 1:1; 11:13; 1 Cor. 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:1; 12:12; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1:11; and Titus 1:1. While it is true that in 1 Cor. 15:9, Paul associates his being an apostle with being commissioned by the risen Jesus, it is also true that this is not the only way in which he uses the term. The world itself is something akin to “sent messenger.” Paul refers to apostles (“apostolos”) that he has sent out as his representatives to another church in 2 Cor. 8:23. A similar usage of the term is found in Phil. 2:25. This also appears to be his use of “apostles” in 1 Thess. 2:6. Some of the rest of the references do not lend themselves to an easy understanding of the precise definition beyond being specially called to act as a representative of Christ, mostly likely in the founding of churches.
The situation is further muddied by yet more variety in the use of the term among early Christians. A curious example of how the term could be used differently comes from the Epistle to the Hebrews. The author of Hebrews refers to Jesus himself as “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.” (Heb. 3:1). The Gospel of Matthew uses it to refer to the twelve disciples (Mat. 10:2), as does the Gospel of Mark (Mark 6:30). The usage in Mark is interesting in its focus on being sent by Jesus. The twelve are sent out as “disciples” but when they return from their missions they are “apostles.” (Mark 6:7, 30). Given the temporal primacy of Mark and the popularity of Matthew, this association of the term with the Twelve was, at the least, quite common in the early Christian churches. Luke, for the most part, follows Matthew and Mark by using “apostles” to generally refer to the Twelve.
One skeptic argues: “In Acts, however, the apostleship was presented as an office which could only be conferred on someone who had been with Jesus when he was alive and must be one of the twelve.” But this case is badly overstated. The verses he cites to claim that Acts unequivocally states that no one could be an apostle without having broken bread with Jesus are not applicable. In Acts 1:21-25, Peter describes how the Twelve chose a successor to Judas. Although Peter says that Matthias will take his place in this “ministry and apostleship” from which Judas turned aside, he does not equate “apostleship” exclusively with being a member of the Twelve anymore than he equates having a “ministry” exclusively with being a member of the Twelve.
The skeptic’s other reference, Acts 10:41, does not mention any “criterion for apostleship.” In fact, it does not refer to apostleship at all. The same is true of Acts 13:30-31. Therein, Acts refers to those who followed Jesus from Galilee through the resurrection. They are witnesses (“martus”) to Jesus’ ministry and resurrection, not necessarily apostles. Nowhere is Paul “made to accept” that he is not an apostle because he did not follow Jesus from Galilee through his resurrection. Additionally, as the skeptic must concede (albeit in tiny print in an endnote), the author of Acts specifically refers to Paul as an apostle twice in Acts 14:4 and 14:
“But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles,” and,
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out.”
The commentator argues that it is irrelevant that Acts specifically refers to Paul as an apostle on two occasions because the author is relying on a source for verse 14. Of course, the author of Acts is also relying on a source (Mark) and his usage in Luke when he refers to the Twelve as apostles. And here we perhaps have the crux of the explanation. The author of Acts is somewhat boxed in by the established usage of the term “apostles” in his most important gospel source, Mark. Having faithfully followed Mark’s use of the term in the Gospel of Luke (and consistent with Matthew and most likely a widely established usage at the time he wrote), the author of Acts continues to use the same term in the same way in his second volume. Nothing about this is inconsistent with the author having been a companion of Paul. Simply because the author traveled with Paul on occasion does not mean that he was obligated to make an issue out of how the term apostle was used.
If it is true – as many claim – that the author of Acts was attempting to portray a positive portrait of the early Church, and if there was a more accepted understanding of the term “apostle,” why is he obligated to rock the boat? There is no compelling reason to pick such a fight. Even if it were not a point of contention at the time he wrote, why would he be obligated to use the term in a way that might confuse a good portion of his readers? He is not. Moreover, the author of Acts may simply have wanted to be consistent in how he used the terms in both volumes. Following his primary gospel source he used “apostles” to refer to the Twelve and, rather than jump ships midstream, continued with that usage of the term in Acts. Surely even a friend of Paul could use the term apostle in the same way he used it in his first volume without denigrating Paul. Afterall, Acts was written probably 10 or 15 years after Paul’s death. It is not a biography of Paul or even a defense of his ministry. Rather, it is a history of the progress of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. Peter, James, and John carry the torch in the first half. Paul in the second.
In any event, whatever the subtleties of Acts’ and Paul’s use of the term “apostle,” they both agree about the facts underlying the basis of Paul’s apostolic claim. Paul encountered the risen Jesus and was given special authority to be his messenger to the Gentiles. Thereafter, Paul carried out a successful ministry to the Gentiles. As F.F. Bruce notes, “when Paul in letters argues for the validity of his apostleship by an appeal to his achievements, the record of Acts provides abundant independent confirmation of his argument.”
Finally, let us return to our two exceptions in Acts – where the author does refer explicitly to Paul as an apostle. While we probably cannot know why the author of Acts slips into using the term to refer to Paul, what vs. 4 and 14 do tell us is that the author was not ignorant of Paul’s usage of the term. Paul thought of himself as an apostle. 1 Cor. 9:6 reveals that Paul thought Barnabas was one as well. The author of Acts knows that Paul was called an apostle. He apparently knows that Barnabas was called one as well.
In sum, there is no reason to doubt the authorship of Acts by a companion of Paul because of how the term apostle is used.
2. Paul’s First Visit to Jerusalem
Another argument raised by the commentator is that there “is also a discrepancy in the actual timing of Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem.” Here is how Paul describes the timing of that visit:
But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother.
According to the skeptic, “in Paul’s own words, he did not go to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion. Paul’s itinerary here is Damascus-Arabia-Damascus-Jerusalem. The first Damascus is implied since Paul said he went back there.”
As an initial point, the ancients often counted years inclusively. So part of a year could count as a year. (See also v. 43). As a result, even Paul is a little vague about the amount of time he waited before going to Jerusalem after his conversion. It was at least two full years, but beyond that we cannot be more specific.
In any event, does Acts contradict this two-to-three year period between Paul’s conversion and his first visit to Jerusalem? According to this commentator, the answer must be yes.
The picture painted by Acts is very different. Acts chapter 9 narrated Paul’s conversion on the way to Damascus (9:1-10). He was miraculously healed a Christian in Damascus called Ananias (9:10-19) and "for several days" (9:19) preached in Damascus. Then "after some time" the Jews plotted to kill him and Paul had to escape in a basket lowered from the city wall. (9:23-25). Then Paul’s trip to Jerusalem followed in Acts 9:26. Thus there is no mention of a trip to Arabia and certainly no indication that three years had passed.
It is clear, however, that there is no contradiction here because Acts does not tell us just how long Paul was in Damascus. Just ask this question: What is the difference in time between how long Acts says Paul waited before going to Jerusalem and how long Paul says he waited before going to Jerusalem? Cannot answer the question? That is because Acts does not tell us how long Paul waited before going to Jerusalem. Either he did not know or did not think it worth mentioning. Ancient historians were wont to summarize and generalize, especially if they lacked exact information; but sometimes simply to move the narrative along.
Furthermore, when we look at what Acts actually says about Paul’s stay in Damascus, it is clear that there is no contradiction – Acts also contemplates a lengthy period of time before Paul goes to Jerusalem.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." All who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah. After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
It must be conceded of course that Acts does not explicitly refer to a trip to Arabia, but omission of such a tangential subject is hardly surprising and does not preclude authorship by someone who knew Paul. Luke had his reasons for writing Acts, and it was not to write an exhaustive biography about Paul. “Here as elsewhere Luke operates as a Hellenistic historian, not as a biographer. He is interested in significant deeds that affected the flow of history, not in biographical vignettes.” Not even Paul details how long he was in Arabia or for what reason. His focus too is Damascus. Moreover, though unnecessary for a defense of Lukan authorship, some commentators have noted that the mention of two temporal indicators by Acts (v. 19b, “now for several days he was with the disciples in Damascus” and v. 23, “when many days had elapsed”) indicates an interruption of Paul’s say in Damascus, such as for a trip to Arabia.
Turning our attention to the length of time in Acts that Paul delayed going to Jerusalem, the argument against authorship rests on the assumption that the phrase “after some time had passed” must mean a period of less than two years. But such a conclusion is baseless. As Gerd Ludemann notes, this phrase is “a common Lukan indication of time” that “permits no conclusion regarding specifications of periods of time in Acts or regarding Luke’s knowledge of such.” Martin Hengel notes that the use of this phrase “with a temporal meaning is a favourite word of Luke’s and indicates a lengthy period of time.” The phrase is used in Acts 18:18 for a period of about a year and half. Interestingly, this phrase is used in 1 Kings 2:38 to refer to a period of three years.
Although chronologically imprecise, Luke does give a couple of clues suggesting that Paul’s stay in Damascus was lengthy. Paul “became increasingly powerful” in his public speaking. More significant is that when Paul’s life was threatened, “his disciples” acted to deliver him. As John B. Polhill notes, “that Paul had ‘disciples’ at this point is somewhat surprising.” Of course, if Paul had spent at least two-three years preaching and converting Jews at the Synagogue, he could have acquired disciples while in Damascus. A short stay in Damascus for Paul would not seem to leave time for Paul to acquire his own disciples.
Clearly, therefore, the commentator is wrong to argue that Acts and Paul conflict over the period of time between Paul’s conversion and his first visit to Jerusalem. To the extent the account in Acts’ suggests a time period, it is a lengthy one that does not at all contradict Paul’s two-to-three year period.
However, this does not resolve all of the tension between Acts and Galatians. Acts says that Paul met with “the apostles” (Acts 9:27), whereas Galatians says he met only with James and Peter (Gal. 2:9). Luke is likely generalizing here as writers of ancient historiography are wont to do. In fact, Bruce mentions that Luke may be using a “generalizing plural” in his reference to the apostles. Nothing about such a generalization would count against authorship by a companion of Paul. Indeed, even if this is not a generalization, it could be argued that Luke is relying on a Pauline source here given that Paul would have considered Peter and James to be “apostles.”
Finally, after Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem, he remarks that he was “still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea.” (Gal. 1:22). In Acts, however, Paul is said to have persecuted the church in Jerusalem. (Acts 8:1ff). Even so, it first has to be remembered that Paul himself claims to have wrecked great havoc on the Church prior to his conversion (Gal. 1:13). Moreover, if not being known by sight is to be taken to mean by the Christians in Jerusalem, Paul would be contradicting his own statement about spending 15 days with Peter and meeting James (Gal. 3:18-19). So, there are good reasons to believe Paul meant something other than to say that no Christian in Jerusalem had seen him. As James Dunn explains, “[s]ince Paul must have been ‘seen’ by at least a few of the (non-leading) Jerusalem believers, ‘the churches in Judea’ presumably were not intended to include Jerusalem with which he had already dealt.” Dunn also provides several helpful examples of generalized references to Judea as distinct from Jerusalem: Matt. 3:5; 4:25; John 3:22; Acts 10:39. Even Josephus makes such a distinction in Antiquities 10:184. Accordingly, that Paul was not known by site to the churches in Judea does not foreclose the fact that Paul was known to some Christians in Jerusalem. Thus, there is no reason, based on these verses, to doubt Lukan authorship.
3. Paul the Orator
Next up in the commentator’s arguments against Lukan authorship is the supposed disagreement between Paul’s rhetorical skills as depicted in Acts and in Paul’s letters. According to the commentator, “Paul is everywhere presented in Acts as an outstanding orator. He defended himself with eloquence in front of Tertullus (Acts 24:1-21). Through his mastery of public speaking, Paul was able to keep a tumultuous Jewish crowd silent for some time (Acts 21:40-22:21).” But when it comes to Acts, “the picture we get from Paul’s own letters is the exact opposite! Paul himself recounted his opponents’ critique of him: “For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible." 2 Cor. 10:10.
However, this argument presumes to judge the speaking skills of Paul – in the running for the most influential evangelist of all time – from 2,000 years distance based on the insults cast by Paul’s enemies. Why should we take Paul’s enemies at their word? Afterall, Paul pushes back. To those who concede the strength of his letters while diminishing the power of his oration, Paul warns, “Let such people understand that what we say by letter when absent, we will also do when present.” 2 Cor. 10:11. That does not sound like a concession. Additionally, “[t]here are those who take this and others his utilization of the categories of rhetoric, especially that of assuming a suitable level of humility with regard to his oratorical skill. This is especially appropriate in a book such as 2 Corinthians, where Paul wishes to be seen boasting not in his own abilities, but in what has been accomplished among the believers in Corinth – they are his commendation.” Note Paul’s statement in 2 Cor. 3:1-3:
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Furthermore, Corinth itself was a city known for the high value it placed on formal rhetoric. Their accusation against Paul could be nothing more than the snobbish assessment that Paul was not as skilled in formal rhetoric as they were. Another significant factor to consider is Paul’s success as an evangelist. Paul was not simply a letter writer, he was a founder of churches. If Paul was such a failure at public speaking, how did he establish so many churches in so many different cities? Could Paul have been such a successful evangelist if he was a pathetic speaker? Very unlikely. Especially when the countervailing evidence is an insult cast against Paul by his enemies that Paul rejects. Furthermore, to laud Paul’s letters but not his orator skill is problematic. “[T]here is a basic contradiction in this criticism, since the theological content of his preaching must have been overwhelming: otherwise he could not have written such letters and have been successful as a missionary.”
In the final analysis, however, this argument is simply not very relevant to the issue of authorship. Having chosen to select Paul as his hero for the second half of Acts, the author – even if a companion of Paul – is not obligated to portray Paul as a bumbling idiot of a speaker. Of course, a bumbling idiot of a speaker would not have been the successful evangelist that Paul was, and would not have merited such a place in Acts’ history in the first place. Stacked up against such a weight of counter evidence, the statement in 2 Cor. 10:10, is insufficient to raise an issue as to Lukan authorship.
4. Paul the Miracle Worker
It is also argued that Paul portrays Acts as a miracle worker while Paul’s letters do not.
Acts presents Paul as a miracle worker. The performance of miracles forms a major part of Paul’s apostleship. He was supposed to have made a blind man see again (Acts 13:6-12), to have enabled a cripple to walk (Acts 14:8-10) and to have raised a young man from the dead (Acts 20:7-2). Even his handkerchief had miraculous powers (Acts 19:12)! His miraculous powers also enabled him to survive stoning unscathed, although those who stoned him thought he was dead (Acts 14:19-20) and to survive what would have been a lethal snakebite (Acts 28:3-6).
This argument begins by overstating Acts’ portrayal of Paul as a miracle worker. It is true that the author of Acts narrates the performance of three miracles by Paul (Acts 13:6-12; 14:8-10; 20:7-12), as well as the people healed by contact with clothing that had been in contact with Paul (Acts 19:12). This latter, however, is more similar to the purported healing effects of relics or sacred shrines than portraying Paul himself as a miracle worker. The raising of the dead boy is portrayed as a miracle, but it is soft pedaled as Paul himself says that the boys’ spirit had not left him. Regarding Paul supposedly surviving (it nowhere says that he was unscathed) being stoned by his “miraculous powers,” Acts 14:19-20 does not attribute Paul’s survival to his miracle working. Even if the statement, “But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city,” means to imply the laying on of hands and healing of Paul (which I doubt), the miracle working is not done by Paul. In fact, by stressing that Paul only appeared to be dead, the author of Acts appears to be ruling out a miracle altogether. Further, we know from Paul’s own letters that he survived many beatings, including a stoning. 1 Cor. 11:25.
Finally, as noted by Stanley Porter, there is decidedly less emphasis on miracles in the “we-passages” than in the rest of Acts, as well as the fact that the “we-passages” often pass over opportunities embellish Paul’s miracle working. (“The author of the ‘we’ source provides a credible portrait of Paul the apostle, without exaggeration or embellishment. Not only is Paul not depicted as a miracle worker, but clear opportunities to depict him as such are passed by.”). So, compared to the miracle working of his first volume, Acts is actually quite tame. Next, the commentator states:
Yet we find very little of such claims of miracles in the authentic epistles. In his own statements about this Paul used vague terms like "signs of the Apostle" (II Corinthians 12:12), "demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (I Corinthians 2:4) and "the power of signs and wonders" (Romans 15:18-19). Paul’s tone in these remarks was generally defensive, showing us that these were made in defense against some accusations of his opponents. In II Corinthians (chapters 10-12) for instance, he was defending against the critiques of his presence and public speaking skills (10:7-11), of his status as an apostle (11:7-15) and that he was granted no vision (12:1-10). Within this context then, the criticism which forced Paul into verse 12:12 must be that he had performed few and unimpressive miracles.
This argument is wrong on at least two counts. First, there is no evidence that Paul’s opponents denied he performed miracles. Second, Paul clearly claims to have performed miracles.
The skeptical commentator vaguely claims that Paul was being “defensive” about something when he discussed his miracles. The only example he gives, however, has Paul defending himself about his public speaking skills. Nothing is said about his miracle working. Indeed, if anything, the miracle working is conceded. In fact, there is no evidence in any of Paul’s letters that he was accused of an inability to perform miracles. Instead, Paul’s performance of miracles seems assumed by those he writes to and is expressly claimed by Paul himself.
First, let us look closer at 2 Corinthians. Therein, Paul states that he performed the “signs of a true apostle” among them.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.
2 Corinthians 12:7-12.
There is no doubt that Paul here is claiming that he performed miracles among the Corinthians. In addition to referring to “signs and wonders” (about which see more below), Paul also refers to miracles. This term, "dunamis," is used elsewhere to refer to miracles, not visions or speaking in tongues. Consider Heb 2:4 (“God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”) especially, as well as Luke 10:13 (“For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.”); Mark 6:2 (“Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands?”); Matthew 11:23; Acts 2:22 (miracles performed by Jesus) and, perhaps most notably, Acts 19:11 to refer to the miracles performed by Paul (“God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,”). Given our comparison of Acts and Paul’s letters, the use of the same language for miracles by Paul in Acts as used by Paul to refer to the miracles he performed is all the more relevant.
Additional evidence of Paul’s status as a miracle worker is gained from his first letter to the Corinthians:
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. . . .
1 Corinthians 2:2-4.
According to Graham H. Twelftree, “[i]n contrasting his weakness, fear and spoken word with the demonstration of the gospel, Paul is probably referring not only to the Corinthians’ encounter with God’s power to transform their lives in conversion, . . . but also to the miracles involved in his mission as the demonstration or proof of his gospel (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9-10; 1 Thess. 1:9). For in Romans 15:19 the power of the Holy Spirit is paralleled with the power of signs and wonders, and when the Galatians received Paul’s message they experienced the gift of the Spirit and miracles.” Given Twelftree’s reference to Romans, we turn there next.
Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
Paul claims that miracles were performed “through me.” Though it has been suggested that perhaps Paul is only referring to visions or feeling the powerful presence of God, the language of “signs and wonders” is typical Jewish language for miracles. It is used before Paul in the LXX and after Paul throughout the rest of the New Testament, to refer to miracles. Not to visions. Regarding the LXX, consider the references to the miracles performed by Moses: Exod. 7:3; Deut. 4:34; 29:2; 34:11; Ps 135:9; and, Isa. 8:18. In the NT, consider John 4:48 (Jesus’ healing a very sick child); Matthew 24:24 (wonders performed by false prophets); Acts 4:30 (healing miracles performed by the disciples); 14:3 (miracles performed “by the hands” of Paul and Barnabas); 15:12 (miracles performed by Paul and Barnabas). For the same terms, but reversed ("wonders and signs"), consider Acts 2:22 (miracles performed by Jesus), 43 (miracles performed by the apostles); 7:36 (miracles performed during the Exodus). That Paul came up with his very own unique meaning for this phrase that was unrelated to how Jews and Christians alike used it is unlikely.
The similarity of Rom. 15 to Paul’s reference to the power of God’s spirit through him in 1 Corinthians 2:4 is all the more reason to read that verse as referring to Paul’s performance of miracles.
So, Paul three times claims to churches he founded that he performed miracles amongst them. In fact, the miracles he performed played a role in convincing them to follow Christ and in the founding of their churches. This claim was made to people who would have known if they were baseless. Additionally, Paul claims to the Christians in Rome that he has performed miracles. Accordingly, Paul clearly and explicitly claimed to have performed miracles as part of his work in establishing churches.
Thus, arguments against Lukan’s authorship based on the supposed difference in portrayals of Paul’s miracle working are baseless. Even if some of Paul’s enemies denied he had performed any miracles – and there is no evidence of this – Paul’s letters clearly showed that he believed he had performed miracles and that some in the churches he founded agreed with him. Why would Luke, a companion and friend of Paul, side with Paul’s opponents against the word of Paul himself?
5. The Jerusalem Council
Some have argued that Luke could not have written Acts because of the different ways in which Acts and Paul describe the Jerusalem Council. However, the author of Acts does not claim to have been present at the Jerusalem Council. Moreover, this argument assumes that the events depicted in Acts 15 (the Jerusalem Council) correspond with the events described by Paul in Galatians 2 (Paul’s meeting with the Jerusalem Church “pillars”). Here is how they see the trips to Jerusalem playing out:
1. Acts 9:26-28 = Gal. 1:18-20 (First Post-Conversion Trip to Jerusalem).
2. Acts 11:27-30 = No Pauline Corollary (Famine Visit).
3. Acts 15:2-30 = Gal. 2:1-10 (the Jerusalem Council).
4. Galatians written to Northern Galatian churches founded on Paul’s 2nd missionary journey.
The problem usually raised is that Acts’ account of the Jerusalem Council differs too much from Paul’s account in Galatians. Paul recounts a private meeting with John, James, and Peter addressing the issue of circumcision, whereas Acts recounts a bigger meeting about gentile adherence to the law, with the circumcision party as well as the broader leadership of the Jerusalem Church (including James and Peter) participating. It is also argued that Paul is clear that at the time he wrote he had made only two post-conversion trips to Jerusalem, whereas Acts lists at least three by that time.
As an initial matter, a number of scholars have recognized the differences in the two accounts while still accepting Lukan authorship. Joseph Fitzmyer, for example, accepts Lukan authorship but equates Acts 15 with Galatians 2. He notes the differences but concludes that, “None of these differences . . . is significant enough to undermine the substantial agreement of the two reports, Lucan and Pauline.” Martin Hengel also emphasizes the similarities. While acknowledging disagreements between the two accounts, Hengel emphasizes the different perspectives and, quite different, motives driving the respective accounts. Fitzmyer and Hengel also believe that Luke used sources in addition to Paul to recount the events in Jerusalem relating to the Gentile controversy. Nothing about the differences, in the opinion of some of the most respected New Testament scholars, necessarily precludes Lukan authorship.
A significant minority of scholars, however, believes that the above time-table is flawed in its assessment of the writing of Galatians. Although it is generally agreed that the Jerusalem Council took place around 49-50 AD, many highly respected New Testament scholars – F.F. Bruce and Richard Longenecker among them – believe that Galatians was written before the Jerusalem Council even took place: around 48-49 AD. As a result, Gal. 2 is not to be equated with Acts 15, but with Acts 11 (the Famine Visit). The time-table of this theory is as follows:
1. Acts 9:26-28 = Gal. 1:18-20 (First Post-Conversion Trip to Jerusalem).
2. Acts 11:27-30 = Gal. 2:1-10 (Famine Visit + Private Meeting with Pillars).
3. Galatians written to Southern Galatian churches founded on Paul’s 1st missionary journey.
4. Acts 15:2-30 = No Pauline Corollary (the Jerusalem Council).
In this scenario, Paul traveled to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus with money from the Antioch church to assist those suffering from famine in Jerusalem. Acts 11 notes that there were prophets who had earlier told of a widespread famine. As a result, the Antioch church collected together relief and sent it with Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem. This correlates well with the otherwise unexplained statement in Galatians 2 that they went up to Jerusalem “because of a revelation.” It also would explain the final exchange between the pillars and Paul as Paul was returning to Antioch: “They only asked us to remember the poor–the very thing I also was eager to do.”
Thus, it appears that Paul traveled to Jerusalem because of the revelation about providing relief to the poorer church there. While in Jerusalem, the issue of circumcision came up in a private meeting with James, Peter, and John. At the conclusion of the trip, the pillars ask Paul to remember the poor and Paul notes that this was already what he was intent on doing.
There are other issues, such as indicia in Galatians that it was written very early, that it was written to churches in Southern Galatia, and that it was written before Paul’s second missionary journey. Fuller-length treatments of these issues can be found in Ben Witherington’s commentary on Galatia, Grace in Galatia, and David Wenham’s article in The Acts of the Apostles in its Ancient Literary Setting. All told, “[t]he simplest solution which results in the most satisfactory and convincing reconstruction and leaves the fewest loose ends . . . is that Galatians 2:1-10 corresponds to the “famine visit” of Acts 11:30.”
III. Additional Internal Evidence of Authorship
A. Detail in the “We Passages”
Although there are no discernable linguistic differences between the we-passage sections of Acts and the rest of the book, there is a stark difference in the literary vividness. This difference has been noted by many scholars.
The we-sections are disproportionately lengthy and detailed, in comparison with the rest of Acts, which, in narrative, is usually brisk and succinct. The fact that the we-sections have not been cut to a suitable length strongly suggests that they are extended personal reminiscence in which eyewitnesses sometimes indulge.
No expertise is needed to observe this phenomenon. Prof. Gilchrist suggests the following distinctions that any layperson may observe in a careful review of the text:
(a) The main body of Acts names the places visited by Paul during the triumphant progress of the gospel; but the we-sections lose their sense of proportion, even naming islands glimpsed in the distance (Acts 20.13-15; 21.1-3). (b) Acts keeps the mission always to the fore: the we-sections wander from the point. (c) Except in the we-sections, Acts is scarcely interested in Paul’s perils at sea (2 Cor. 11.25); but in Acts 27 and 28, every detail is mentioned. (d) Almost everything in the main body of Acts has theological significance: but why, for example, do the we-sections recount an unexplained thirty-mile walk (Acts 20.13)?
The best explanation for the increased attention to detail and vividness of the narrative in the we-sections is that we take it at face value; the author was present during those parts of the story.
B. The Accuracy of the Traditions in Acts
As discussed in Chapter 2, Acts contains a remarkable amount of accurate information about the time of which he writes. Most notable here is the author’s detailed knowledge about Paul and his ministry. Other than Acts itself and the Pauline corpus, there is no evidence that a substantial amount of such information was preserved in any other tradition. On the other hand, knowledge of other early Christian events not involving Paul is more limited in Acts. That Acts was written by a companion of Paul is the best explanation for the knowledge demonstrated therein.
C. Is There a Doctor in the Text?
There are a number of features about the Gospel of Luke that are suggestively related to physicians and/or the ancient practice of medicine. Although this evidence may not be enough to establish authorship by a physician – such as Luke – it adds weight to the cumulative case for Lukan authorship.
1. Redacting out a negative portrayal of doctors
The narrative of the bleeding woman who sought healing from Jesus is found in all of the synoptic gospels. Mark emphasizes that she “had endured much at the hands of many physicians” and had “spent all that she had” on them but had received no help. Mark 5:24-34. Luke, on the other hand, leaves some of this text out. He does not mention that the woman had spent all her money attempting to get healed. Nor does he mention that “physicians” had not been able to help her. He simplifies all of this by merely noting that she “could not be healed by anyone.” Luke 8:43-47. Matthew simplifies the story down so far he makes no mention of any attempts to be healed. Matthew 9:20-22. Unlike Matthew, however, Luke is not abbreviating the story. He simply generalized a small part of the text, so as to avoid singling out physicians. The explanation for this redaction is not apparent, unless we take the idea of Lukan authorship seriously.
2. A high fever
It is also notable that when writing about Peter’s sick mother-in-law, the Gospel of Luke – otherwise dependent on Mark – adds a medical term to specify the severity of the fever involved.
Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.
The Gospel of Matthew follows closely the Markan text.
When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him.
Both Mark and Matthew chose to indicate the severity of the fever by indicating that Peter’s mother-in-law was bedridden. But the Gospel of Luke takes a different tact:
Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her. And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them.
The Greek term translated “high” is an “ancient medical term […] for a high-grade fever that might have included dysentery.” The distinction made by physicians was between “great” or “high” fevers and “small” ones. Other commentators believe Luke was simply emphasizing the greatness of Jesus’ miracle. Even if true, this does not rebut the point about the use of medical terminology. After all, Mark leaves no doubt that the fever is a significant one as Peter’s mother-in-law was bedridden by her sickness. So, too, with Matthew. The fact that Luke was the only one who chose to use a medical term to emphasize the sickness – he leaves out the reference to her “lying sick in bed” – is still a notable distinction indicating a greater awareness of the medical arts. Whatever his motive, Luke is aware of the appropriateness of the more precise description.
3. The influence of technical treatises on the Preface
There is evidence that the Prefaces to Luke and Acts were influenced by the prefaces used in ancient technical treatises – such as were used in the medical field. If the author of Acts were a doctor attempting to write history, an “amateur historian” as Professor Aune describes him, the prefaces we have are the prefaces we might expect. In other words, the author was attempting to write according to the conventions of ancient historiography but was influenced by the writings peculiar to his trade.
4. Medical vocabulary
In 1882, W.K. Hobart published The Medical Language of St. Luke, in which he provided extensive linguistic evidence that the vocabulary of Luke was paralleled the language of Greek medical writings. This seemed strong evidence of authorship by a physician, such as Luke. However, in 1920 H.J. Cadbury published a study demonstrating that the language Hobart had relied on was not unique to medical writings, but in many cases was simply the language of educated Greeks. So Hobart’s correlations cannot bear the weight they were intended to.
All that can be said of the state of the question is that the vocabulary of Luke-Acts points to a Greek author of high learning and culture. Though this is consistent with a physician, it is also consistent with just about anyone in a position to write what he did for a patron such as Theophilus.
IV. External Evidence of Authorship
Early Christian writers beginning in the second century maintained that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were authored by Luke the Physician, a companion of Paul. This section will examine the external evidence for authorship of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The Luke of tradition is identified by Paul in Philemon 24 as a “fellow worker” and Col. 4:14, where he is identified as “the beloved physician.” He is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:11, as Paul’s “sole companion.”
A. The Papyrus Bodmer–P75 (175 - 225 AD)
The earliest manuscript of the Gospel of Luke, P75, is found in the Bodmer Papyri. The title “evangelion kata Loukan” (“Gospel according to Luke”) is found in P75. Dating between 175 and 225 AD, this manuscript proves that by around the end of the second century, the authorship of Luke was so strongly associated with this Gospel that it had worked its way into the manuscript tradition.
Is it possible that this written association with Luke goes back to the original autograph? Many scholars believe that it does. Luke obviously wrote for a patron of high status. At that time in the Hellenized world, private libraries were common among the rich. Labeling books by their author was an innovation of the Greeks. “Before placing a book-roll in the library it would be tagged for ready reference with a title and the author’s name. In all likelihood Luke’s volumes were so tagged by Theophilus since this was the common custom.” Accordingly, there is a strong possibility that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were labeled by author from the beginning of their existence.
B. Justin Martyr (155 AD)
Justin Martyr is one of the first Christian apologists. Though he does not specifically name Luke as the author of the Gospel or Acts, he provides some useful information on the subject: “For in the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them. . . .” Dial. 103:19
Martyr’s comment indicates that around the middle of the second century, the church was circulating writings that were held to be authored by “those who followed” apostles. It also seems clear that Martyr knew of more then one book so ascribed (“those,” obviously, is plural). Obvious candidates would be Mark and Luke (and, by association, Acts).
C. Iranaeus (175 AD)
The earliest surviving explicit references to Luke as the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts are by Irenaeus. In Against Heresies, he writes:
After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him (Paul). Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.
That this Luke was inseparable from Paul and was his collaborator in [preaching] the gospel, he himself makes clear, not by boasting, but led on by the truth itself. For after Barnabas and John, who was called Mark, had parted company with Paul and had sailed for Cyprus, he says ‘We came to Troas. When Paul saw a man of Macedonia in a dream saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia,’ Paul, and ‘help us’, immediately he says, ‘we sought to set out for Macedonia, realizing that the Lord had summoned us to preach the gospel to them. So we set sail from Troas and steered our course toward Samothrace. Then he carefully indicates all the rest of their journey as far as Philippi, and how they delivered their first address. . . . And later he recounts ‘But we sailed from Philip after the days of Unleavened Bread and arrived at Troas . . . where we stayed seven days. All the rest with Paul he sets forth in due order. . . . In this way he shows that Luke was always associated with him and inseparable from him.
D. Clement of Alexandria (182-200 AD)
A theologian in charge of the Christian school at Alexandria, Clement refers to Luke-Acts in the late second century:
It remains that we understand, then, the Unknown, by divine grace, and by the word alone that proceeds from Him; as Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates that Paul said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For in walking about, and beholding the objects of your worship, I found an altar on which was inscribed, To the Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.
E. Tertullian (202-04 (AD)
A Christian of the late-second and early-third centuries, Tertullian is the earliest Latin Church writer. He was quite prolific, but for our purposes it is his writings against Marcion that are of interest. Here are the relevant selections:
Luke, however, was not an apostle, but only a man of apostolic times; not a master, but a disciple, inferior indeed to a master–and at least as much later (than they, as the Apostle whom he followed, undoubtedly Paul (was later than the others).
Tertullian also referred to Paul as Luke’s “inspirer” and Luke’s Gospel as “the gospel of his teacher” or a “digest” of Paul’s gospel. (4.5.2-5).
F. Muratorian Fragment (170-180 AD)
The Muratorian Fragment is a list of New Testament books preserved in Latin. It is the earliest canonical list and may have been written in Greek. Though a few scholars have dated it to the fourth century, the majority position remains the late-second century. It refers to Acts as “the Acts of all the apostles.” This ancient document states:
The third book of the Gospel: According to Luke. This Luke was a physician. After the ascension of Christ, when Paul had taken him along with him as one devoted to letters, he wrote it under his own name from hearsay. For he himself had not seen the Lord in person, but, insofar as he was able to follow (it all), he thus began his account with the birth of John.
G. Anti-Marcionite Prologue of the Gospel of Luke (150-190 AD)
Some early Latin codices containing the gospels also have the same prologues respective to each gospel. Uniquely, the prologue for the Gospel of Luke (which mentions Acts) is also preserved in Greek. As a result of the anti-Marcionite tendencies of all of the prologues, they are known as the “Anti-Marcionite Prologues.” The prologues to the Gospels of Luke and John, however, appear especially intended to counter Marcionite thought. Moreover, there is good reason to think that the prologue for the Gospel of Luke was earlier than the rest.
The anti-Marcionite features of the Luke prologue are the emphasis on “the integrity of the first chapters of Luke [which Marcion had cut from his version] with the gospel as a whole and the essential character of John the Baptist’s ministry in Luke 3:2-22.” These features are obvious responses to Marcion, who was active in the early-to-middle second century.
Accordingly, when combined with the fact that this is the only one of the prologues preserved in Greek, there is good reason to date the anti-Marcionite prologue of the Gospel of Luke from the mid-to-late first century.
Here is the portion of the prologue related to authorship:
Luke was a Syrian of Antioch, by profession a physician, the disciple of the apostles, and later a follower of Paul until his martyrdom. He served the Lord without distraction, without a wife, and without children. He died at the age of eighty-four in Boeotia, full of the holy Spirit. . . .
Though gospels were already in existence, that according to Matthew, composed in Judea, and that according to Mark in Italy, he was prompted by the Holy Spirit and composed this gospel entirely in the regions about Achaia. He made very clear in the prologue that other (gospels) had been written before him, but that it was necessary to set forth for Gentile converts the accurate account of the dispensation that they might not be distracted by Jewish fables or deceived by heretical and foolish fantasies, and so miss the truth itself. From the very beginning (of his gospel) we have received as of no little importance (the story of) the birth of John, who is the beginning of the Gospel. He was the Lord’s precursor, the one who shared in the articulation of the good news, in the ministering of baptism, and in the company of the Spirit. Of this dispensation a prophet among the Twelve makes mention. Later the same Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles.
H. Additional References
Origen, Jerome, and Eusebius also record explicit traditions attributing the Gospel of Luke and/or the Acts of the Apostles to Luke. Though in and of themselves the references may be too far removed to be considered direct evidence of authorship, they are notable in their unanimity and failure to record any competing traditions:
The many passages in St. Jerome, Eusebius, and Origen, ascribing the books to St. Luke, are important not only as testifying to the belief of their own, but also of earlier times. St. Jerome and Origen were great travellers, and all three were omniverous readers. They had access to practically the whole Christian literature of preceding centuries; but they nowhere hint that the authorship of the Gospel (and Acts) was ever called in question. This, taken by itself, would be a stronger argument than can be adduced for the majority of classical works.
These witnesses add weight to the already well-established tradition of Lukan authorship and to the significance of the absence of any competing traditions.
I. Summary of Early Church Witnesses
Because the Apostolic Fathers were largely aware of each other’s writings, it is unclear how many independent traditions this recitation of sources evidences. However, the tradition in P75 appears to be independent of that in Irenaeus and Clement. Moreover, it is significant that – though the attributed author is no apostle – there is no dispute as to authorship.
It has been argued that the external evidence should be dismissed because it is based entirely on surmises of the early Church fathers, gleaned from readings of the text of Acts. But an out-of-hand dismissal of this evidence is not called for:
It will not be denied that an initial conjecture may
be repeated by successive witnesses until it becomes mistaken for fact, as the
history of modern criticism abundantly illustrates, but Cadbury’s suggestion
involves a remarkable and highly improbable process. Where various possibilities existed, what governed the choice of
Luke? Cadbury, with some hesitation,
suggests a process of elimination, but does not explain how it is that such a
process led so inevitably to Luke. Why
not Mark or Epaphras? In any case, why
did not the second-century church attribute both the third gospel and Acts to
an apostolic name rather than the insignificant Luke? And how did the inference drawn from the books themselves gain
such undisputed sway among the Church Fathers?
These questions need more concrete answers than Cadbury gives before the
tradition can so readily be set aside as relatively unimportant in discussion
Even if the early Christian reader was astute enough to narrow the possibilities down to those companions of Paul mentioned in the captivity epistles – thus coordinating the final “we section” with Paul under arrest in Rome, Luke is not the only or the most obvious choice. Among those other companions of Paul present at that time but not mentioned in Acts are Jesus Justus, Epaphras, Demas, and Epaphroditus. Finally, it must be recognized that the early Christian writers discussed above nowhere say that they discerned the identity of the author by evaluating the text. Accordingly, the unanimous evidence of church tradition, beginning in the mid-second century, strongly attests to Lukan authorship.
The internal evidence for authorship by a companion of Paul is convincing. Once such authorship is accepted, the external evidence and some internal hints convincingly point to Luke, the physician, as the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts. The implications of this conclusion are significant. Professor Fox summarizes the incredible value that Lukan authorship bestows on Acts:
I regard it as certain, therefore, that he knew Paul and followed parts of his journey. He stayed with him in Jerusalem; he spent time in Caesarea, where he lodged with an early member of the Seven, Philip, who had four prophetic daughters, all virgins (Acts 21:8-9). It must have been quite an evening. He had no written sources, but in Acts he himself was a primary source for a part of the story. He wrote the rest of Acts from what individuals told him and he himself had witnessed, as did Herodotus and Thucydides; in my view, he wrote finally in Rome, where he could still talk to other companions of Paul, people like Aristarchus (a source for Acts 19:23 ff.; cf Acts 27:2, 17:1-15) or perhaps Aquila and Priscilla (whence 18). From Philip he could already have heard about the Ethiopian eunuch (Philip met him), or Stephen and the Seven (Philip was probably one), or the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius in Caesarea (Philip’s residence); from the prophet Agabus, whom he met at 21:10, could come knowledge of Agabus’ earlier prophecy in 11.28.
CHAPTER 5: DID LUKE USE JOSEPHUS’ ANTIQUITIES
Some have argued that the author of Acts could not have been a companion of Paul because he relied on Josephus’ Antiquities, published in 93 AD. Even if true there is nothing about the use of Antiquities that would preclude authorial participation. For example, if the companion of Paul was 25 while traveling with Paul he would be 63 when Josephus published Antiquities. As Peter Kirby has recognized, therefore, authorship by a companion of Paul would not preclude a date of Acts up until the second century. Nevertheless, the question of the relationship between Acts and Antiquities raises other important issues.
I. A Convincing Consensus Against Dependence
There is a broad consensus against Luke’s dependence on Josephus. In fact, the scholarly community has so aligned against this proposition that a leading scholar, who is no conservative, has pronounced that “[t]he dependence of Acts upon Josephus has rightly been given up.”
In addition to the general weakness of the case for dependence – discussed in detail below – I begin the discussion by outlining three reasons for rejecting Lukan dependence on Antiquities.
First, “[t]here is no evidence for direct literary relationship between them.” Discussing the usual passages used to support dependence, Polhill notes that “[n]one of these passages . . . shows the least literary dependence on Josephus.”
Second, the subject matter that the two writings have in common would have been common knowledge for Jews or those with Jewish sources. There is simply no reason to suppose that the author of Luke-Acts could only have learned the things he writes about from Josephus. Indeed, he demonstrates a vast amount of accurate knowledge about Jewish and Gentile history, politics, geography, and religion that is independent of Josephus. Furthermore, as admitted by one of the few proponents of Lukan dependence on Antiquities, although few other accounts of ancient Jewish history have survived to this day, there were many others that survived to the late ninth century.
Third, the points of contact proponents of dependence rely on are actually so different that they defeat the argument. “If either used the other, he misused him. They are surely independent, and follow independent, indeed conflicting, sources.”
Accordingly, the combination of an absence of literary evidence of dependence, the general availability of the information recounted by both authors, and the divergent nature of the points of contact, have convinced the vast majority of scholars that Acts did not use Antiquities as a source.
II. Examining the Case for Dependence
Despite the consensus of scholars to the contrary, in his 1992 book Josephus and the New Testament, Steve Mason argues that Luke-Acts is dependent on Antiquities. Mason candidly concedes that he is fighting an uphill battle: “Neither position has much of a following today, because of the significant differences between the two works in their accounts of the same events.” Whatever acceptance Mason’s work has achieved among Internet skeptics, it has not caused any discernable shift in scholarly attitudes.
Mason’s arguments are not novel and rest on the already refuted notion that the discrepancies between Luke-Acts and Josephus can be accounted for by poor reading or poor memory on Luke’s part. B.H. Streeter responded to this theory several decades ago and carried the academic day. Nevertheless, Mason argues that there are three points of correlation between Acts and Antiquities that demonstrate literary dependence.
A. The Census
First, Mason argues that Luke’s reference to the census under Quirinius is dependent on Josephus’ Antiquties.
In the few lines that he devotes to the census, Luke manages to associate it with both Quirinius, governor of Syria, and Judas the Galilean. These points agree with Josephus’ presentation in a conspicuous way. Because of his literary aims, Josephus is the one who makes the point that the census symbolized Roman occupation and so was opposed by the arch-rebel Judas the Galilean. We suspect that other writers would not have given the census such prominence or made such connections with the rebel psychology. These observations suggest that Luke was familiar with Josephus’ work.
Otherwise, it would be a remarkable coincidence that he also chooses to feature the census and to mention its connection with Judas the Galilean. Yet if Luke had known Josephus, it is difficult to understand why he placed Quirinius’ census at the end of Herod’s reign, flatly contradicting Josephus. Perhaps these circumstances are best explained if Luke knew some highlights of Josephus’ story but did not recall or was not concerned with the details.
This argument is unconvincing because it assumes that Josephus was the only person who would have reported (or remembered) the events at issue. The only justification Mason offers for this assumption is that he “suspects” it is so. The census under Quirinius, however, was a defining event because it demonstrated Rome’s assumption of direct control over Judea. It was this direct assumption of power that caused the revolt lead by Judas the Galilean.
Why mention Quirinius at all in this verse? . . . The simple answer to this is that the census under Quirinius marked a turning point and was decisive in the flow of Jewish history. Certainly it was so for Josephus, and even Tacitus Ann. 2.42 (following the discussion of the humbling of Archelaus the Older, discussed above) makes mention of the problems of taxation in Syria and Judaea, quite likely in reference to the Quirinian census and the events surrounding it. It would only be natural that this census was a memorable one, . . . if for no other reason than because it caused a rebellion!
Accordingly, given the significance of the census under Qurinius, its demonstration of Rome’s assumption of direct control over Judea, and the rebellion by Judas it caused, there is no reason to believe that Luke must have obtained this information from Antiquities.
B. The Rebels
Mason finds it significant that both Acts and Josephus mention three “rebel leaders”: Judas, Thuedas, and the Egyptian. “When we turn to Luke-Acts, we are struck by two facts: (a) the author happens to mention the same three figures who are featured by Josephus, and (b) he associates them in ways reminiscent of Josephus’ narratives.” Though Mason is correct that both authors mention Judas, Thuedas, and the Egyptian, the way in which they describe these figures points against, not towards, literary dependence.
First, it is somewhat misleading to say that Luke mentioned the “same three figures” as “featured” in Josephus. Josephus names and discusses more than these three figures. Indeed, in addition to Judas, Thuedas, and the Egyptian, Josephus mentions eight other such leaders in Antiquities alone:
● Eleazar, the son of Dineas;
● Sadduc, a Pharisee;
● Simon, the son of Gioras;
● Manahem, the son of Judas;
● John of Gischala;
● Eleazar the arch-robber; and,
● James and Simon, sons of Judas.
Josephus discusses even more rebels in Wars, such as “that arch-robber Hezekias,” “the two thousand of Herod’s veterans,” and “Athrongeus.” Thus, at most Luke mentions 3 of 14 rebel figures (or groups) also mentioned by Josephus.
Second, Mason’s argument assumes that Josephus’ mention of the three was arbitrary, rather than related to their actual historical prominence. Because of the notoriety of the three mentioned by Luke and Josephus, knowledge of them would hardly be restricted to Josephus. As we saw above, Luke had access to other Jewish sources so there is no need to suppose Lukan dependence on Josephus for this information.
If we return for a moment to the list Mason gives of important correspondences in major figures and events between Josephus and Luke, it will be immediately seen that in each case we are talking about major political figures whose lives and exploits were widely known among Jews, especially among Jews in the Holy Land. It is far from unlikely that Luke could have had independent information of these figures and their lives from sources other than Josephus.
Third, the well-known dispute between Luke and Josephus as to the number of followers that the Egyptian had demonstrates that Luke is relying on a separate – and more accurate – source. Josephus puts the number of rebels at 30,000, whereas Luke uses the more likely number of 4,000. Luke also notes the leader’s death, whereas Josephus is silent as to his fate. As a result, it seems more reasonable to conclude that the reason Luke’s account is more accurate is because he had independent information.
Further counting against Mason’s arguments that Luke had a poor memory and that numbers in ancient times were fluid, is Luke’s use of numbers found in Mark. For example, Mark mentions the feeding of 5,000 men, with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and so does Luke. Indeed, Josephus shows much more of a propensity to play with his numbers than Luke.
Witherington offers these further criticisms of the poor-memory/hasty-perusal theory:
Poor memory might lead to a jumbling up of some facts, but it hardly accounts for the difference in the numbers of followers – are we to think Luke picked a number at random, not remembering at all what Josephus said? Is it not more plausible to conclude that Luke and Josephus had independent traditions about the Egyptian that differed on some important matters? . . . .
Mason points to the same order in Josephus’ discussion of these two figures in Ant. 20.97-99, 100-102. He suggests that Luke remembered the order of Josephus’s discussion but forgot that Josephus had indicated that Judas was a much earlier figure. In short, his memory was selective and what he remembered was not the actual substance of Josephus’ account but the order. It must be admitted that this seems strange, especially when one is talking about an ancient historian like Luke who was far more likely to concentrate on matters of substance than matters of chronological order.
Fifth, from what we know of the author of Acts, he would not have made such sloppy use of one of his sources. Mason’s theory fails to deal with what we know about the author’s use of sources in Luke. As discussed above, the author of Acts made extensive use of Mark and Q (or Matthew) in writing his Gospel. Although Luke smoothed out the Greek he is a sober editor of his source material rather than a creative author. He did not use sources carelessly or half-remembered.
Finally, Acts accurately recounts many events confirmed by sources other than Josephus. First, there are those Jewish events or people reported by Josephus but also attested by independent sources. Such is true of their accounts of the death of Herod, the reference to the penalty of death for Gentile entry into the Temple, the Pharasiac belief in resurrection, and John the Baptist. Additionally, the following facts from Chapter 2, Section 2, though mentioned by Josephus, are confirmed by other Jewish sources: Nos. 2 (Court of the Gentiles), 3 (Gentile incursion into Temple punishable by death), and 9 (Time of Prayer on the Temple). Second, there are those Jewish events or people that are not mentioned by Josephus but confirmed by other sources. This includes Luke’s account of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome, which is not mentioned by Josephus, but is confirmed by the Roman historian, Suetonius, The Life of Claudius 25.4. Additionally, the following facts from Chapter 2, Section 2 are confirmed by other sources but not mentioned by Josephus: Nos. 5 (Prayer in the Sixth Hour), 6 (Description of the Temple), 8 (Priestly Duties Selected by Lot), 10 (Lame Man Not Allowed Into Temple), 11 (Solomon’s Portico), 12 (A Sabbath Day’s Journey) and 13 (Field of Blood). Clearly, therefore, Luke wrote with access to other sources of Jewish information independent of Josephus.
C. Supposed Linguistic Similarities
Although most scholars have found no linguistic evidence demonstrating Acts’ use of Antiquities. Mason amasses what evidence he can to argue for dependence. None of it is persuasive.
The most prominent of the scant linguistic similarities Mason’s relies on is Josephus’ and Luke’s use of the term sicarri to refer to a group of Jewish rebels. Mason goes on to argue that “[i]t is even more remarkable because sicarii is a Latin term for assassins. Josephus seems to have been the first to borrow this word and make it a technical term for the Jewish rebels in his Greek narrative. How then did Luke, who also writes in Greek, happen upon the word?”
Mason’s assumption that Josephus was the first to use the term sicarii to refer to these Jewish rebels is unsupported. Indeed, there seems to be no reason why Josephus would “borrow” the term in the first place. Josephus spoke and wrote in Aramaic and (less proficiently) Greek. None of his writings are in Latin. It is much more likely that Josephus used this term because these Jewish rebels were already known by that term. After all, the people most likely to use a Latin term to describe assassins in Palestine would be Roman soldiers and officials stationed in Palestine. This accords well with Luke’s use of the term. Acts does not have a Jew or a Greek use the phrase, but a Roman soldier. This rather obvious point is absent from Mason’s discussion.
Notably, the term also found its way into other Jewish literature with no apparent connection to Josephus.
In Latin “sicarius” is a common term for an assassin, as in the title of the law promulgated by Sulla, the “Lex Cornclia de Sicariis”; and the word has the same general meaning in the Mishnah (Bik. i. 2, ii. 3; Git. v. 6; Maksh. i. 6). The Mishnah mentions a “sikarikon” law enacting that title to a piece of property held by a “robber” may be taken in case it has been first purchased from the owner and then from the “robber” (such being the meaning of the word in this passage), but not vice versa.
Thus, there is no reason to assume that Luke could only have learned of this term from Josephus. It is much more likely that it was a common term used to describe zealots.
2. The Egyptian
In a related argument, Mason finds it significant that Luke and Josephus both refer to this rebel as “the Egyptian.”
Presumably, his parents did not call him ‘the Egyptian,’ but gave him a personal name. It is easy enough to understand why Josephus should have chosen the geographical epithet alone, given his hostility toward Egyptians. It is harder to explain Luke’s use of this term, rather than a personal name, if he had independent access to information. There were many Jews from Egypt in Judea.
Again we see Mason assuming that Josephus himself must have coined the term at issue: the Egyptian. If this leader was known by another name it is odd that Josephus does not mention it. That he did not like Egyptians is not an adequate explanation for such an omission, as Josephus could just as easily have identified his nation of origin as well as his name (as he does for other Egyptians at Ant. 1:94; 1:187; 1:220; 2:39; 6:360). It seems more likely that this was simply how this particular rebel was known. As for there being “many Jews from Egypt,” this is irrelevant. The issue would be how many Egyptian Jews were significant rebel leaders during the first century prior to 70 AD. If there were many, no doubt Josephus would not have passed up the opportunity to disparage Egyptians again. Thus, the more likely explanation is that significant Egyptian rebel leaders in Judea were so rare that it the appearance of one was occasion enough for him to be known by his nationality.
3. Philosophical Schools
Mason’s last attempt to demonstrate literary dependence also falls short. Mason is impressed by the fact that Luke and Josephus describe Jewish sects as Greek philosophical schools:
It is truly remarkable that Acts takes over Josephus’ classification of the Pharisees and Sadducees as “philosophical schools” (haireseis; 5:17; 15:5; 26:5), as if this terminology were self-evidently appropriate.
Given the common Hellenized audience and social setting of the authors of Acts and Antiquities, it likely was “self-evidently appropriate” for them to describe Jewish sects in this manner. How else is a writer to explain Jewish sects to a Greek audience? Especially given that the author of Luke-Acts was a Greek himself. Therefore, this correlation is unremarkable and best explained by sharing similar audiences.
There are terms related to philosophy that Mason relies on to argue dependence. He notes that Josephus and Luke refer to tradition being “handed down.” But this is typical Jewish, especially Pharisiac language, and it should therefore come as no surprise that it is used by Luke to refer, well, to the handing down of tradition. Paul also uses this language in 1 Cor. 11:23 and 15:23, as do other early Christians in Jude 1 and 2 Peter 2:21. The same may be true for Luke and Josephus’ use of the phrase “most precise school” to describe the Pharisees. Though parallels are not found beyond Luke and Josephus’ writing, it is a flattering presentation that could have been used by the Pharisees themselves. It seems that the two ancient historians most knowledgeable about Pharisees writing to a Greek audience are Luke and Josephus. Again, the congruence is not notable. The rest of Mason’s linguistic examples are not unique words or phrases, but par for the course in presenting such ideas to a Greek audience.
Mason goes on to argue that Luke’s failure to mention the Essenes – juxtaposed with Josephus’ positive description of them – points towards dependence:
The obvious explanation for this omission is that in Luke’s portrayal the Christians take the place of the Essenes. Recall that Josephus had depicted that group as the most philosophical of all Jews, sharing everything in common, living peaceful and disciplined lives, and accordingly having powers of healing and prophecy. In Acts, it is the school of the Nazarenes, or Christians, that fulfills this role. They share their goods, live in peace, practice healing, exorcism, and prophecy, and shame all other Jews with their love of the truth. To include the Essenes in his narrative would have caused needless problems for the author of Acts, for that group would have been in direct competition with the Christians!
The problem here is one of proportionality. Luke does not put Christianity forward as one of many Jewish philosophical schools, but as the fulfillment of all Jewish expectations. Josephus’ own presentation of the schools of Judaism is not so slanted in favor of the Essenes. They are one sect among many. Better in some ways, but not the only true Judaism.
Further, there is a more likely explanation for Luke’s silence about the Essenes. Having largely isolated themselves in the wilderness and disassociated themselves from the Temple, the Essenes would have had little contact with Jesus during his ministry. Their numbers were relatively few. They did not have political or financial power like the Sadducees or the Pharisees. They simply were not competitors with Jesus or Christianity. It appears that given their popularity and similarities in doctrine with Christians, the Pharisees were the real Jewish competitors with Christianity. But rather than replace the Pharisees, Luke-Acts highlights the conflicts with (in Luke) and conversions from (in Acts) that sect. Afterall, no other early Christian writer (not even the other gospels) mentions the Essenes. Nor do the Rabbis for that matter.
In all candor, I found Mason’s attempt to link Luke’s vague presentation of Jewish sects in philosophical terms with Josephus explicit description of Jewish sects as philosophical schools to be the most unpersuasive part of his argument.
In sum, the evidence supporting dependence is weak and outweighed by the arguments against it. Though Luke and Josephus may have shared similar sources, Luke did not rely on Josephus to write Acts.
III. An Alternative to Dependence
Even if Mason is correct about Josephan influence on Luke-Acts, it does not follow that Luke must have used Antiquities or Wars as a source. Because the author of Luke-Acts likely spent time in Rome and likely had a Roman sponsor of some esteem it is possible that Luke heard Josephus recite parts of his literary histories in public. So, to the extent some explanation is needed for Luke’s similarities and differences with Josephus, this seems a better explanation than Luke simply did not read Josephus carefully or forgot most of what he read. Mason acknowledges this alternative possibility.
Although Professor Streeter rejects the entire notion of dependence, if there is reliance, he explains the reasons that it was more likely from an earlier lecture of Josephus:
[I]f a gross mistake is to be attributed to imperfect notes, it would surely be more natural to suggest that the notes in question were taken down hurriedly at some lecture, rather than in the course of a perusal of a book, especially as it was not so possible with ancient methods of writing as with modern print to make mistakes through running one’s eye rapidly over the page.
Now there is not the slightest improbability in the supposition that Luke had heard Josephus lecture in Rome. Josephus was granted by Vespasian rooms in the Imperial Palace, and remained in favour with subsequent emperors. Luke also, I have suggested, had a connection with the Flavian house. The writings of Josephus were addressed to the Roman world at large, and it would appear that after A.D. 70 he for the most part lived and wrote in Rome. In that case, unless his practice was quite different from that of other contemporary writers, it would have been a matter of course for him to recite large portions of his works to public audiences before they were published in written form. Pliny and Juvenal constantly refer to this custom–the latter to expatiate on the boredom it induced. Plutarch tells us that while in Rome, at about this date, he was so busy lecturing, and doing minor political business, that he never had time to master the Latin language–an observation which incidentally reveals the extent to which Greek was a second language of the educated Roman as well as the immense city population of foreign origin. The Antiquities of Josephus was published c. A.D. 93. It is a long work and would have taken many years to compose–probably most of the interval since the publication of his earlier work, The Jewish War, between 75 and 79. Josephus was extremely conceited, not at all the man to lose an opportunity for publicity, and he would do much to be in the literary and social fashion. Moreover, his writings were largely intended for propaganda purposes; he wished to do his best to reinstate the credit of the Jewish people. He would certainly have recited parts of the Antiquities at intervals during the ten years before its publication.
Accordingly, although I do not believe there is any need establish a point of contact between Josephus and Acts, if one is needed then Streeter’s hypothesis is more convincing than Mason’s theory of direct literary dependence.
Having reviewed the arguments in favor of Lukan dependence on Antiquities, it is clear that the majority position is well-taken. There is no need to conclude that Luke-Acts is literarily dependent on Antiquities.
CHAPTER 6: CONCLUSIONS
1. Acts was written as a work of ancient historiography, describing real people and events. As an ancient historian, Luke would have written “with three combined purposes, though the emphasis could vary greatly. History ought to be truthful, useful, and entertaining, but it should not be entertaining at the expense of truth or utility.” The additional purpose of his writing may have been to continue writing, as an extension of the Old Testament, the history of God’s salvation. But to express this history it seems that it was most influenced by Greek historiography.
2. Though the author of Acts faced the daunting obstacles of any ancient historian – as there were very few accurate maps to help understand geography and few, if any, sources of information about local customs and practices, as well as an ever changing legal and political regime – he writes with a high level of accuracy regarding geography, local details, Jewish customs and beliefs, current events, political situations, and Roman legal proceedings. The author’s accuracy suggests excellent sources and/or personal participation.
3. Although Luke did not use Paul’s letters as source material, he accurately records a substantial amount of information about Paul’s ministry and the early Church. He shows detailed knowledge about Paul’s missionary routes, the timing and sequence of his travels, Paul’s teachings, and – especially – Paul’s companions. Again, the high level of accuracy suggests excellent sources and/or personal participation.
4. The notion that Acts does not rely on Paul’s letters because of a fear of using documents appropriated by heretics – such as early Gnostics or Marcionities – is unsupported. There is no evidence that any of the “orthodox” Christians had any reservations about using Paul. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary. Almost all the “orthodox” Christian writers of this time period relied on Paul’s letters. Indeed, two of the most significant early church writers, Ignatius and Polycarp, are two of the most enthusiastic users of the Pauline corpus. The better explanation for Luke’s failure to use the letters of Paul as a source is that he wrote before they became so widely circulated and accepted as authoritative. Moreover, it is more likely that a companion of Paul would rely on his independent knowledge to write about Paul, rather than seeking out the letters of Paul.
5. Acts was written between 62 and 90 AD. The fact that Acts does not narrate Paul’s death, and that Luke refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, are too uncertain of basis to further limit the range of dates within which Acts was written.
6. The author of Acts was a sometime companion of Paul. The most likely identity of that companion is Luke the Physician. The objections to Lukan authorship are unpersuasive.
7. The theory that Luke used Josephus’ Antiquities is unpersuasive. Rather, the evidence demonstrates that Luke and Josephus shared some sources in common mostly regarding notable events in Jewish history.
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 David E. Aune, The New Testament in Its Literary Environment, page 13.
 A.R. Cross, "Genres of the New Testament," in Dictionary of New Testament Background, eds. Craig Evans and Stanley E. Porter, page 402.
 Richard Burridge, Four Gospels, One Jesus, page 5.
 Richard Burridge, What Are the Gospels, page 69.
 John B. Polhill, Acts, page 42.
 Aune, op. cit., page 79.
 Luke T. Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, page 200.
 Joel B. Green, “Internal Repetition in Luke-Acts,” in History, Literature and Society in the Book of Acts, page 286.
 Daniel Marguerat, The First Christian Historian, page 16.
 Professor David Balch also makes a strong case for both Luke and Acts being ancient historiography by comparing them with Dionysius’ Roman Antiquities. Balch, David, “The Genre of Luke-Acts,” SWJT (Fall 1990), pages 5-19.
 Jacob Jervell, “The future of the Past,” in History Literature and Society in the Book of Acts, ed. Ben Witherington, pages 103-28.
 Darryl W. Palmer, “Acts and the Ancient Historical Monograph,” in The Book of Acts in its Ancient Literary Setting, eds. Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke, page 17.
 W. Ward Gasque, “A Fruitful Field, Recent Study of the Acts of the Apostles,” Interpretations 42.04 (1998), pages 119-20.
 Palmer, op. cit., page 111.
 Ibid., pages 113-15.
 C.H. Talbert, Acts, pages 1-3.
 Aune, op. cit., page 79.
 Diog. Laert. 3.46-47, as cited by David L. Balch, “The Genre of Luke-Acts,” SWJT, Vol. 33 (Fall 1990), page 7.
 This genre is also referred to as “ancient romance.”
 See, e.g., David A. Aune, The New Testament in Its Literary Environment; F.F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles; Ben Witherington, A Socio Rhetorical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles; John Polhill, Acts; Stanley Porter, Paul in Acts; William F. Brosend, II, “The Means of Absent Ends,” in History, Literature and Society in the Book of Acts.
 Gasque, op. cit., page 119.
 Loveday Alexander has argued that rather than being typical of ancient historiography, the prefaces of Luke-Acts are examples of technical prefaces, such as might be in a medical treatise of the time. Many scholars have been convinced by Alexander that the author of Acts may have been influenced by technical treatises, but still see it as an example of ancient historiography. Loveday Alexander, “Luke's preface in the context of Greek preface-writing,” Novum testamentum, 28 no 1 Ja 1986, pages 48-74. As asked by one reviewer, “What would a preface look like if someone from the intermediate sociocultural stratum (who also worked within the scientific tradition and was familiar with its literature) wanted to write historiography?” Douglas F. Huffman, “Review,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 40.1 (1997).
 The use of a preface in a second work to relate back to an earlier preface in a previous work is not uncommon for ancient works of history (e.g., the histories of Diodrus Siculus).
 Jervell, op. cit., page 119.
 Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament, page 254.
 Pervo, op. cit., page 5.
 Porter, op. cit., page 16 ("Pervo must minimize . . . the historical preface, because they are not found in ancient novels.”) (emphasis added).
 Marguerat, op. cit, page 11.
 Pervo, op. cit., page 144, n. 22.
 S.C. Fredericks, “Lucian’s True History as SF,” Science Fiction Studies No. 8, Vol. 3, March 1976, available online at http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/8/fredericks8art.htm (accessed April 24, 2005).
 Witherington, op. cit., page 11.
 Pervo, op. cit., pages 48-50.
 J. Lee Magness, “Senas and Absence,” Semeia Stuides (1986), page 42 (“In general, the romances achieve full disclosure.”) and Tomas Hagg, Narrative Technique in Ancient Greek Romances, page 310 (1971) (describing the key characteristics of ancient romances as, “[t]he straightforward mode of narrative . . . a beginning ab ovo, a linear succession of events, and a definite end.”).
 Brosend, op. cit., page 354.
 Pervo, op. cit., page 1 ("I do not seek to demonstrate once again the presence of historical problems in Acts.").
 Balch, op. cit., page 10.
 Porter, op. cit., page 17.
 Cross, op. cit., page 404 ("[T]he aim to edify and entertain was by no means peculiar to novels.").
 Mason, op. cit., page 264.
 Marion L. Soards, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 58.2 (Summer 1990), pages 307-10.
 Brosend, op. cit., page 354.
 Porter, op. cit., page 17.
 Pervo, op. cit., page 76.
Ibid. Additionally, Thucycidides is often seen as setting the bar for ancient historiography.
 Of course, there were some ancient historians who were free with their composition, but this hardly helps Pervo's point. As mentioned above, Luke might simply be one of those historians who used a freer hand in his speeches than some others. But the evidence suggests not. As I conclude here (http://christiancadre.org/member_contrib/cp_acts.html), Luke appears to have followed the path of the ancient historian who tried to record the sense of what was actually said. In any event, whether Luke was faithful in recording his speeches or not, nothing about that fact counts against his writing ancient historiography.
 Pervo, op. cit., page 76.
 Brosend, op. cit., page 354.
 Soards, op. cit., pages 307-10.
 Edgar J. Goodspeed, A History of Early Christian Literature, revised and enlarged by Robert M. Grant, page 64.
 Richard Baukham, “The Acts of Paul as a Sequel to Acts,” in The Book of Acts in its Ancient Literary Setting, pages 135-36.
 Goodspeed and Grant, op. cit., page 64.
 Aune, op. cit., page 77.
 Martin Hengel, “The Geography of Palestine in Acts,” in The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting, page 31.
 Hengel, op. cit., page 29.
 Ibid., pages 29-30.
 Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, pages 39-41. I relied on pages 38-45 of Backgrounds for much of the background information in this paragraph.
 F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents, page 82.
 Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul, page 103.
 Ibid., page 42.
 Polhill, op. cit., page 88.
 Hengel, op. cit., page 46.
 Polhill, op. cit., page 91.
 Hemer, op. cit., page 109.
 Bruce, op. cit., page 319.
 Hemer, op. cit., page 111.
 Ibid., page 112.
 Ibid., page 179.
 Hemer, op. cit., page 113.
 Ibid., page 108. See also Bruce, op. cit., 368.
 Hemer, op. cit., page 115.
 Corpus Inscription Iudaicarum, 693.
 Heber, op. cit., page 117.
 Robin L. Fox, The Unauthorized Version, page 100.
 Hemer, op. cit., page 108.
 T.B. Mitford, The Inscriptions of Kourion, page 169.
 Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanaspertinentes (ed. R. Cagnat, I-IV, 1911-14), section 3.935, as cited by F.F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, page 297.
 Fitzmyer, op. cit., page 626.
 Bruce, op. cit., page 395.
 E.D. Burton, "The Politarchs," AJT 2 (1898), pgs. 598-632.
 Hemer, op. cit., pages 115-16.
 Bruce, op. cit., pages 31-32, citing H.J. Mason, “The Roman Government in Greek Sources,” Phoenix 24 (1970), pages 150-59.
 Polhill, op. cit., page 275.
 Hemer, op. cit., page 119.
 Polhill, op. cit., page 383.
 A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Law and Society in the New Testament, page 82.
 Ibid., page 116.
 Ibid., page 122.
 Ibid., pages 125-27.
 Sherwin-White, op. cit., 82, 84, 87.
 Ibid., page 121.
 Hemer, op. cit., page 183.
 David Wenham, "Acts and the Pauline Corpus II. Pauline Parallels," in The Book of Acts in its Literary Setting, ed. Bruce D. Winter, Andrew D. Clarke, page 245.
 Hemer, op. cit., page 188.
 Ibid., page 256.
 Hemer, op. cit., page 377 (It is "widely accepted” that Acts “betrays no knowledge of the Pauline Epistles").
 Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity, page 209.
 John Nolland, Luke 1-9:20, at xxxi.
 Ben Witherington, “Editing the Good News,” in History, Literature and Society in the Book of Acts, ed. Ben Witherington, page 346.
 Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles, pages 4-5.
 John Knox, "Acts and the Pauline Letter Corpus," in Studies in Luke-Acts, ed. Leander Keck, page 282.
 Martha Howell and Walter Prevenier, From Reliable Source, An Introduction to Historical Methods, page 70.
 Johnson, The New Testament Writings, page 201.
 Sherwin-White, op. cit., page 189.
 Howell and Prevenier, op. cit., page 70.
 Clayton N. Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers, page 122.
 Jefford, op. cit., page 123.
 E. Earle Ellis, The Gospel of Luke, page 39.
 I discuss the unity of Luke-Acts in a post on my blog, http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2005/04/unity-of-luke-acts-modern-scholarship.html.
 The notion that Acts is dependent on Justin Martyr has been advanced by J.C. O’Neill, but his theory has not received acceptance from other scholars.
 Albert E. Barnett, Paul Becomes a Literary Influence, pages 90-91.
 Massaux, op. cit., page 43.
 Virginia Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch, page 67.
 Daniel Hoffman, “The Authority of Scripture and Apostolic Doctrine in Ignatius of Antioch,” JETS 18/1 (March 1985), page 75.
 Hoffman, op. cit., page 74.
 Barnett, Paul Becomes a Literary Influence, page 152.
 Corwin, op. cit., page 66.
 Robert Grant, After the New Testament, page 39.
 Jefford, op. cit., page 122.
 Robert Grant, op. cit., page 39.
 Massaux, op. cit., page 106.
 Jeffords, op. cit., page 67.
 Barnett, Paul Becomes a Literary Influence, page 164.
 Ibid., page154.
 Jefford, op. cit., page 81.
 Massaux, op. cit., page 36
 Ibid., page 35.
 Massaux, op. cit., page 36.
 Op. cit., page 35.
 Massaux, op. cit., page 40.
 Barnett, op. cit., page 179.
 Massaux, op. cit., page 17.
 Jeffords, op. cit., page 131.
 Ellis, op. cit., page 50.
 E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels, page 17.
 John Drane, Introducing the New Testament, page 240.
 Guthrie, op. cit., page 359.
 A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Law and Roman Society in the New Testament, page 172.
 Sherwin-White, op. cit., page 173.
 Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, pages 71-72.
 Ibid., page 72.
 John Polhill, Acts (The New American Commentary), pages 39-40.
 Joseph Fitzmer, The Acts of the Apostles, page 70.
 C.H. Talbert, “An Introduction to Acts,” Review and Expositor, 441 (Fall 1974).
 Bruce, op. cit., page 4.
 Fox, op. cit., page 129.
 Review of Luke: A Critical Study, by Friedrich Schleiermacher ("In light of the work of Vernon Robbins, who adequately accounts for the "we" passages in Acts as a convention of ancient sea voyage narratives, may we not recognize and dismiss the tired old "We Source" as another harmonizing device of the same type?"), available at http://www.depts.drew.edu/jhc/schleier.html; Earl Doherty ("The puzzle was solved when Vernon Robbins . . . made a splendidly simple observation. All such passages in Acts begin with and mostly encompass sea voyages. . . . Luke is employing a stylistic device of Hellenistic literature."). The Jesus Puzzle, page 360, fn. 123
 See Stanley Porter, Paul in Acts, pages 12-24; Susan M. Praeder, "The Problem of First Person Narration in Acts." NovT 29, pages 193-218 (1987); Joseph Fitzymer, Luke the Theologian, pages 16-23; Colin Hemer, First Person Narrative in Acts, 27-28, TB 36, pages 70-109 (1985); Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles, pages 483-84; C. K. Barrett, "Paul Shipwrecked," in Scripture: Meaning and Method, pages 53-55.
 Christopher E. Price, “The We Passages as a Literary Device or Sea Travel? A Critique of Vernon Robbins, http://www.christiancadre.org/member_contrib/cp_wepassages.html, accessed on April 24, 2005.
 B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, A Study of Origins, page 549. See also Kummel, op. cit., page 131 ("[T]he author hardly would have inserted the 'we' so sporadically if he intended by these insertions to give his account the appearance of an eyewitness report."); Ellis, op. cit., page 44 ("Their occurrence is too occasional and unobtrusive to bear an artificial claim to 'eyewitness status.'").
 Witherington, op. cit., page 53.
 Hawkins, Horae Synopticae, page 188.
 Bruce, op. cit., page 4.
 Ellis, op. cit., page 44 ("[T]here are few, if any, parallels in ancient writings for a writer to use another's notes in this fashion.").
 Edgar J. Goodspeed, An Introduction to the New Testament, pages 201-02 (University of Chicago Press 1937), available online at www.earlychristianwritings.com/goodspeed/ch12.html
 Hengel, op. cit., page 9.
 Feine-Behm Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament, page 129.
 Goodspeed, op. cit., pages 202-04.
 F.F. Bruce, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, page 156.
 F.F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, page 241.
 Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles, page 323, n. 77.
 Gerd Ludemann, Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles: Studies in Chronology, page 241.
 Hengel, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch, page 345-46, n. 219.
 John Polhill, The New American Commentary, Acts, page 241.
 F.F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, page 243.
 James D.G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, page 81.
 Stanley E. Porter, Paul in Acts, page 196.
 Hengel, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch, pages 3-4.
 Porter, Paul in Acts, page 62
 Graham Twelftree, “Signs, Wonders, Miracles,” in Paul and His Letters, page 876.
 Joseph Fitzmyer, Romans, page 713.
 There is another likely reference to miracles in 1 Thessalonians:
Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5.
Paul is clear that he did not just preach, but convinced them of the Gospel “in power and in the Holy Spirit.” Again Paul is claiming before and audience that would know that he performed miracles in their midst.
 Joseph Fitzmyer, Acts of the Apostles, page 540. See also John B. Polhill, Acts (The New American Commentary).
 Martin Hengel, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch, pages 204-21.
 Ben Witherington, Grace in Galatia, pages 2-20; David Wenham, “Acts and the Pauline Corpus,” in The Book of Acts in its Literary Setting, pages, 226-43. See also F.F. Bruce, “Galatian Problems,” BJRL, 51-55; Colin Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, pages 247-70, 277-307; Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, pages 465-83. There is also a helpful overview of the respective arguments in H. Wayne House’s Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament, pages 136-139.
 Richard N. Longenecker, The Ministry and Message of Paul, page 39.
 J.M. Gilchrist, “The Historicity of Paul’s Shipwreck,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, page 37. See also Barnett, op. cit., page 209 ("Where the author is part of the narrative in the 'we' passages, the detail given is more intense than in other passages where he is dependent on the oral testimony of those who had been present, which the author has noted."); Jervell, op. cit., page 117 ("There is a wealth of details in these sections compared to other parts of Acts, even details with no significance for his account.").
 Gilchrist, op. cit., page 37.
 There is some dispute about the original phrasing of this verse. The New Living Translation and the KJV retain in Luke the reference to the woman spending her money on doctors. The NIV and NAU, however, leave out the entire section. The NRSV places the words in brackets, “indicating doubt whether they have the right to stand there.” Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, page 121. For me, this particular question is resolved by the manuscript evidence and the indicia of redaction. Such a simplification is typical of Luke’s use of Mark. More important, the phrase is not found in P75, the earliest of the Lukan manuscripts. Nor is it found in various other early Western and Alexandrian Witnesses. Indeed, Metzger describes the manuscript evidence as “well-nigh compelling.” Ibid.
 Darrell Bock, Luke 1:1-9:50, page 436.
 JBL 45 (1926) 194-95, as cited by John Nolland, Luke 1:1-9:20, page 211.
 Loveday Alexander, “Luke's preface in the context of Greek preface-writing,” Novum testamentum, 28 no 1 Ja 1986, pages 48-74.
 “The Style and Literary Method of Luke,” Harvard Theological Studies (1920), pages 39-72.
 R.F. Strout, LQ, 1956, 7.
 Ellis, op. cit., page 65.
 Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, page 243.
 F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, page 255.
 H.J. Cadbury, “The Tradition,” in The Beginnings of Christianity, ed. Foakes Jackson-Lake, pages 209-264.
 Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, page 115. See also Fitzymer, op. cit., page 41 ("But the argument that the second-century church inferred from the NT itself that Luke was the author, while in se possible is all too pat. That an individual in the second century–or even several individuals–might have so reasoned is certainly possible; but that such inferences from the NT text are the sole basis of an otherwise uncontested or unambiguous tradition (unlike that of the First Gospel) is difficult to accept.").
 Fox, op. cit., page 210.
 F.B. Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament, page 132. See also Ellis, op. cit., page 55 ("The argument that Luke used the historian, Josephus (AD 93), was never fully convincing. . . . Today it is seldom pressed.").
 Polhill, op. cit., page 30.
 Mason, op. cit., page 19.
 Hemer, op. cit., pages 372-73.
 Mason, op. cit., page 251.
 Streeter, op. cit., pages 557-58.
 Mason, op. cit., page 276-77.
 Brook Pearson, "The Lucan Censuses, Revisited," Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61:2 (April, 1999), pages 277-78.
 Mason, op. cit., page 278.
 Witherington, op. cit., page 237.
 Ibid., page 238, fn. 175 ("In view of Josephus’s track record with numbers, it is easier to believe he exaggerated, turning four thousand into many more, than that Luke, who had no obvious reason to change the figures, did the opposite.").
 Witherington, op. cit., pages 237-38.
 Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, page 44 ("One of the most important points of contact between the two relates to the death of the elder Agrippa it is quite plain that here each is independent of the other.").
 Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul, page 103.
 Mason, op. cit., page 281.
Richard Gottheil, “Sicarrie,” http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=681&letter=S&search=sicarius (accessed on April 24, 2005).
 Mason, op. cit., page 280.
 Mason’s additional arguments that the sicarri would not have gone into the wilderness or been associated with the Egyptian are unpersuasive speculation. Simply because the name derives from daggers does not mean they would not hide out where most rebels hid – in the desert. Moreover, as Mason himself realizes, caution must be exercised when reading Josephus’ account of the rebels, because his political and apologetic interests significantly affect his narrative.
 Mason, op. cit., page 137.
 Mason, op. cit., page 141.
 Mason also refers to some “minor parallels” that he concedes, “[b]y themselves, […] are too vague to establish a relationship between the texts.” Mason, op. cit., page 283. As such, I do not address them. To see them discussed, however, you may read J.P. Holding’s article on the subject.
 Streeter, op. cit., pages 557-58.
 Aune, op. cit., page 95.