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An Introduction to the New Testament



Occasion. The commanding feature of the Christian story, from the work of Paul onward, is the swift spread of the Christian movement over the Greek world. That movement first emerges into the clear light of history with the letters of Paul, written in Greek to Greek churches, and, as Harnack once remarked, Christianity remained a Greek movement almost to the end of the second century. Paul's letters and the earliest gospels were written by Christian Jews, it is true, but they were written in Greek. It was inevitable that the Greeks would soon seize the pen and begin to produce their own Christian literature. The first of them to do this was Luke.

No finding of modern New Testament study is more assured than that Luke and Acts are not two books, written at different times, but two volumes of a single work, conceived and executed as a unit. This distinction may not seem significant, but it is, as a matter of fact, of the utmost importance. It is one thing to write a pamphlet or a book; it implies a certain degree of reflection, research, and organization. It is a very different thing to plan a book in two volumes, each in some degree a unit in itself but even more an integral part of a larger whole. Further, to recognize that Luke and


Acts form two volumes of a single work enables us, so to speak, to gather all the light that each one of them has to throw on authorship, purpose, sources, date interest, etc., and focus it upon both of them.

What are the grounds for this opinion? In the first place, the preface of Luke's gospel is, upon closer scrutiny seen to be really the preface of the larger work. There is nothing in it to limit it to the gospel; it definitely aims at recording the development of the Christian movement from the very beginning.

This idea is supported, in the second place, by a glance at the opening lines of Acts, which simply pick up the thread laid down in the earlier preface in the briefest fashion.

Third, these opening sentences of Luke and Acts are very much like the opening sentences of Josephus in his Against Apion, books i and ii. These latter afford close parallels to the two much-discussed opening paragraphs in Luke-Acts-that at the beginning of book ii referring to and resuming from that at the beginning of book i. The parallel is in fact so close as to lead some to think Luke must have seen this work of Josephus. But this is unnecessary; it is enough that this was the literary fashion of those times.

A fourth point is that the Gospel of Luke does not reach the goal it sets itself-the impartation of the Spirit to the disciples. The gospel tells them, 24:49, "I will send down upon you what my Father has promised. Wait here in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." The fulfillment of this promise does not come until the second chapter of


Acts. It is hard to believe that Luke would think his story was told, with such a forecast left hanging in the air unfulfilled. But of course this is simply the art of the continued story-to foreshadow in one installment something of great importance that is to be related in the next. By these verses Luke links book ii to book i in unmistakable fashion.

Of course, all this would be much clearer if the Acts had not been anciently separated from the Gospel of Luke when the gospel was gathered into the great quartet of gospels early in the second century. It is the fact that, as we first know these books, John comes between Luke and Acts that obscures their continuity and actually hides it from us.

Sixty years after the death of Christ the success of the Christian movement in the Greek West awakened some Christians to the fact that it was no narrow local affair but was fast swinging into the great race with the ethnic, mystery, and philosophical religions for the mastery of the ancient world. The Greek mission was a success, and some record must be made of its beginnings before it was too late.

The first great element in the record was naturally the work of Jesus himself, and this claimed the first volume. For this there was also a special need, since written narratives about it were so numerous and conflicting, while the Oral Gospel would naturally undergo alteration and improvement as it was handed on among Greek groups, less schooled to faithfulness to the letter than were Jews. This is the picture so comprehensively sketched in Luke's first lines-a marvelously


compact account of situation, purpose, dedication, sources, and method.

Here, at last, is a writer conscious of the great outside world-organization, who tries to fix his narrative when he can, against the background of imperial chronology. "In the fifteenth year of the emperor Tiberius" was once thought an eccentricity on Luke's part, but is really just the way in which papyrus documents in the first century are regularly dated. To Luke we owe our only definite information about dates in the gospel story.

Jesus' work was among the Jews of Palestine, but the narrative is not without hints of the writer's broader view of him and his mission. The genealogy does not stop with Abraham but pursues Jesus' lineage back through the antediluvians to Adam, the son of God, 3:23-38. The hero of one of the most notable parables is a Good Samaritan, 10:30-37; and of the ten lepers cured, only one came back to thank Jesus, and he was a Samaritan, 17:16-foreshadowings of the future Samaritan mission. Acts 8:4-25. Salvation is to be preached to all the heathen in Jesus' name, Luke 24:47. And yet the wonder is that the evangelist has so far succeeded in keeping his wider outlook and his knowledge and consciousness of the great developments that lay just ahead from coloring his gospel picture.

Contents. The infancy narratives, 1:5-2:52, offer an interesting contrast to those of Matthew. They describe the foretelling of the birth and work of John in ways often reminiscent of the narrative of I Samuel,


chapters 1 and 2. Luke's angels are no mere dream visitants, as in Matt. 1:20; 2:13, 19, but appear in broad daylight or at least in waking hours, Luke 1:11, 26-2:9; Acts 12:7-10. The women are not mute and passive in Luke's story but become the leading figures in it, breaking forth, like Samuel's mother Hannah, into inspired song. These songs and hymns in Luke, chapters 1 and 2, are the beginnings of Christian hymnology, and at once suggest the time of the Revelation with its great choruses and antiphonies. Here the stream of Jewish psalmody is seen entering its new Christian channel.

It is not without significance that Luke does not begin his gospel in Galilee or even at Bethlehem, but chooses a scene in Jerusalem and actually in the very heart of the Temple there. We remember that his narrative ends in Rome, the center of the ancient world. The holy Spirit is already, from the beginning, appealed to by the evangelist as the explanation of all that is wonderful in his story: the birth of Jesus, the psalms of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the clairvoyance of Symeon, 1:35, 42, 67; 2:27. While still a boy of twelve, long before his baptism, Jesus is conscious of his divine sonship, and thinks of the Temple as his Father's house.

The more historical body of the gospel opens with an elaborate effort to date the work of John the Baptist in the usual ancient way, by regnal years of the Roman emperors. So common was this method that Greek papyrus documents dated in this way have been published from every single year of the first century.


It is important here as reflecting the writer's interest in relating the Christian story to its historical background in the great world. It is plain that we are in the presence of an intelligent and cultivated man, acquainted with the literary habits of his day (preface, dedication, sources) and concerned about dates and reigns.

Luke's genealogy differs from Matthew's not only in not following the royal line of descent from David down, but in pushing the ancestry back beyond Abraham to Adam, the son of God, 3:23-38. Jesus announces himself as Messiah in the synagogue at Nazareth, quoting Isaiah, chapter 61, in what has been called the "frontispiece" of the Gospel of Luke. Luke has taken some pains to make this the beginning of his account of Jesus' ministry, for he has transposed a section of Mark, 6:1-5, to bring this about.[1] Jesus goes to Capernaum and Galilee; calls four disciples; appoints the Twelve, naming them apostles;

and preaches the Sermon on the Plain, 6:17-49. He and his apostles move about Galilee together, then he sends them out in pairs, in the midst of growing opposition. At last he moves toward Jerusalem, 9:51. "It is not right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem," 13:33. On the way he utters the striking parables of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, chapters 10, 15, 18. In Jerusalem the drama of denunciation, betrayal, and death is portrayed, but this time with fuller resurrection

[1] His only other substantial disturbance of Mark's order is in 5:1-11, where he makes Mark 1:16-20 follow Mark 1:39.


accounts, much more material in character and culminating in the Ascension-the necessary sequel of Luke's doctrine of material resurrection if Jesus was to take his place at God's right hand. This concrete strain in Luke pervades both volumes; angels are for him visible, audible, and tangible, Luke 1:11, 28; Acts 12:7; the coming of the Spirit on the disciples in the Acts and Paul's conversion, both essentially spiritual experiences, are attended with striking physical manifestations, as was the coming of the Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism when "the holy Spirit came down upon him in the material shape of a dove," 3:22, The first volume closes, not like Matthew with reunion in Galilee and the Great Commission, but with the disciples gathered in Jerusalem awaiting the power from on high that is to clothe them, 24:49, 52-a strong hint that there is more to come.

Renan calls it the most literary of the gospels and the most beautiful book in the world, but of course it must not be viewed as a book at all but only as the first volume of one, and its interests-social, humanitarian, universal, educational, literary, and apologetic-are simply those of the larger work of which it is a part.

As we enter volume two, the writer's larger purpose becomes more clear. He proposes to sketch the beginnings of Christianity, especially of Greek Christianity, into which the Christian movement had developed. The thread of the narrative is no mere biography but the providential fashion in which the


gospel had groped its way out of Judaism into widening circles-Roman and Ethiopian, proselyte and Samaritan-until at length, in Antioch, the apostles began to preach to Greeks with no Jewish preparation and then to the whole Mediterranean world. No man plans it, not even the apostles. It happens involuntarily but inevitably, in an almost casual way, by human contacts.

Philip, trudging southward, falls in with the traveling car of an Ethiopian proselyte and enters into conversation with him over a passage of Isaiah which the man (quaintly enough) was reading aloud-to himself! The Ethiopian is converted and goes joyfully on his way, while Philip hurries on his. They have simply brushed against each other on their travels, but the Christian faith has been imparted by the casual contact.

Peter is the chief figure at first in Jerusalem, but it is Paul who soon leads the missionary campaign westward from Antioch. With him the gospel presently passes out of Asia, the continent of its origin, into Europe, the continent of its destiny. A man of Macedonia in a dream calls Paul to help them. So at length the gospel is planted in Rome, the center and capital of the world.

Old chapter and verse divisions, sometimes worse than meaningless, 21:40, have blocked and obscured the swiftly running current of the Acts with its rapid, exciting action, which ought by all means to be read, as it was intended to be read, at a single sitting. Where within eighty pages will be found such a


varied series of exciting events-trials, riots, persecutions, escapes, martyrdoms, voyages, shipwrecks rescues-set in that amazing panorama of the ancient world-Jerusalem, Antioch, Philippi, Corinth, Athens, Ephesus, Rome? And with such scenery and settings-temples, courts, prisons, deserts, ships, seas, barracks, theaters? Has any opera such variety? A bewildering range of scenes and actions passes before the eye of the historian. And in them all he sees the providential hand that has made and guided this great movement for the salvation of mankind.

The narrative which began in Jerusalem culminates in Rome, where Christianity has already been mysteriously established. The style, which is full of strange variety in the opening chapters of the Acts, settles into the writer's own manner when Paul takes the center of the stage-a strong hint that the author is here on his own ground.

Acts may appear at first little more than a storybook of the early Christian movement, but this means only that the writer has skillfully concealed his didactic and left the intrinsic interest of his materials to carry the reader on. Each story has a point of its own, but the whole has a larger meaning of its own too, which the writer has not spoiled by elaborating but has left to the intelligence of his readers. And he has told his story to the end, for with Christianity established in Rome accounts of its further extension to obscure places in Gaul or Spain would be sheer anticlimax. There is an obvious propriety in a narrative which, beginning in Jerusalem, the historic seat of the


old religion, ends in Rome, the center of its field, which was to be the world, Luke 24:47; compare Matt. 13:38.

Modern historians realize that history is not just a record of wars and dynasties but has to do with new ideas, currents of thought, and attitudes of mind. The rise of Christianity seemed a matter of no consequence to the ancient classical historians. But Luke saw something of its importance, and we cannot be too grateful that he wrote of it as he did. In this respect be was a sounder historian than they. There are, of course, a hundred questions we wish he had answered, but he had his goal in view and kept to it. To have added an obituary of Paul at the end of the Acts, just because Paul was dead. Acts 20:25, 38, would have seemed to compare his martyrdom with that of Jesus and have made it necessary to report Peter's death too. It would also have changed the book's direction at the very end, for it is not a biography of Peter and Paul but an account of the progress of the Greek mission up to its establishment in the capital of the world.

Problems. Two volumes. Some have thought that Luke meant to write a third volume, because he refers to what we call the Gospel of Luke as his "first." But the Greeks were just as much accustomed to speak of the first of two as the first as we are. None of us ever speaks of "the former volume" of a two-volume work; we always say "the first volume" or "Volume I." And what Luke could have reserved for such a volume, unless it be the martyrdoms above mentioned, it is difficult to see. These scholars forget Luke's


manifest fondness for great cities as starting and stopping points in his narratives. He did not need to begin either volume in Jerusalem; Matthew did not begin or end his gospel there, nor did Mark, if as we have seen his conclusion was like Matthew's. But Luke begins both volumes in Jerusalem and ends the first one there. Where better could the whole work end than in Rome?

If anyone has any doubt that Luke and Acts are two volumes of a single work, and that this is what their opening lines are meant to convey, a glance at the opening lines of Josephus' Against Apion, books i and ii, will dispel them. They are as follows:

In my history of our Antiquities, most excellent Epaphroditus, I have, I think, made sufficiently clear to any who may peruse that work the extreme antiquity of our Jewish race, the purity of the original stock and the manner in which it established itself in the country which we occupy today. .... Since, however, I observe that a considerable number of persons, .... discredit the statements in my history concerning our antiquity, .... I consider it my duty to devote a brief treatise to all these points, in order at once to convict our detractors of malignity and deliberate falsehood, to correct the ignorance of others, and to instruct all who desire to know the truth concerning the antiquity of our race.

Book ii begins in this way:

In the first volume of this work, my most esteemed Epaphroditus, I demonstrated the antiquity of our race, corroborating my statements by the writings of the Phoenicians, Chaldaeans, and Egyptians. .... I also challenged the statements of Manetho, Chaeremon and some others.


I shall now proceed to refute the rest of the authors who have attacked us. [1]

The resemblance to Luke's opening lines in his two "books" or volumes (logoi) is clear. Luke followed the literary fashion of his day in these opening sentences, dealing in them, like Josephus, with occasion, dedication, and purpose.

Date. We have seen that the idea of writing such a work as Luke-Acts on the beginnings of the Christian movement could hardly have occurred to anyone until the Greek mission was a marked success and a great future had begun to open before the Christian faith. And wherever we test the book, it gives unmistakable signs of lateness of date, such as:

1. Its literary form-carefully organized into two volumes, each with its own distinct sphere and field and yet integrated with the other so as to be practically inseparable.

2. Its literary features: preface, dedication, account of sources, purpose, and method.

3. Its infancy interest, pushed back to the birth of John. One is reminded that in the Book of James [2] (the Protevangelium), half a century or more later, this infancy interest is pushed still farther back to the nativity of the Virgin herself.

4. Its resurrection interest, including a whole series of appearances, visits, eatings, penetration of locked doors, protracted through forty days. This is in

[1] Thackeray's translation; cf. H. J. Cadbury, in Jackson and Lake, Beginnings of Christianity (London, 1922), II, 491-92.

[2] M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, 1924), p. 38.


marked contrast to Matthew's (which was probably also Mark's) account and is much nearer to the second-century representations of Jesus' long post-resurrection conversations with the apostles, e.g., the Epistle of the Apostles, ca. A.D. 150. [1]

5. Its doctrine of the holy Spirit, which pervades both volumes. The holy Spirit is to come over Mary, 1:35; it fills Elizabeth, 1:42, and Zechariah, 1:67. It came down upon Jesus, 3:22; he was full of the holy Spirit, 4:1. It is on almost every page of the Acts, the whole narrative of which seems to float upon a sea of it. Luke evidently has a definite and developed doctrine of the holy Spirit, which was the fruit of no little religious reflection.

6. The interest in punitive miracle, a feature conspicuous in the Elijah-Elisha cycles of Kings but wholly wanting from Mark and Matthew. It marks the opening scene of Luke (Zechariah is struck dumb) and plays a prominent part in the Acts: Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead, 5:5, 10; Elymas is struck blind, 13:11; compare 12:23. In this trait we are on our way to the fondness for punitive miracle in the infancy gospels of the second century, which also found it edifying, e.g., the Gospel of Thomas. [2]

7. The passing of the Jewish controversy; this interest, so acute in Paul's day, has become a dead issue when Luke is written.

8. The interest in Christian psalmody. Luke preserves hymn after hymn, 1:42, 46, 68; 2:14, 29-the

[1] M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, 1924), p. 485.

[2]Ibid., p. 49.


Magnificat, the Benedictus, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Nunc Dimittis. Nowhere else do we find any such early interest in Christian poesy, except in Eph. 5:14 and in the arias, choruses, and antiphonies of the Revelation. Already that liturgical endowment, which Walter Pater once said was one of the special gifts of the early church, [1] was beginning to appear.

9. Church organization; the Twelve appear in the Acts as a sort of college of apostles, stationed in Jerusalem, watching over the progress of the Christian mission. With them are associated the elders, 15:2, 6, 22; 16:4, etc. Paul is represented as appointing elders in each church, 14:23, so the presbyteral organization is recognized as established, though Paul himself in his list of types of Christian leadership in I Cor. 12:28 says nothing about elders. The office of deacon is also traced back to the earliest days of the church and given added dignity and luster by the story of Stephen, chapters 6, 7. Luke's account of Ananias and Sapphira shows an interest in church funds when he wrote the Acts, and the story of Dorcas sewing for the poor, 9:39, also points to a considerable degree of organization. The point made here is not as to the fact of such embezzlement or charitable doings in the church, but of the writer's interest in recording them. Here belongs also the emphasis upon baptism as a condition of church membership, forgiveness, and salvation that is so characteristic of the Acts. 2:38; 8:12, 36; 9:18; 10:47; 16:15, 33.

10. The Speaking with Tongues; this was simply

[1] Marius the Epicurean, p. 277.


ecstatic utterance with Paul, I Corinthians, chapters 12-14, but in the Acts it has come to be a miraculous endowment with the power to speak foreign languages, Acts 2:4-11.

11. Paul is dead; that he is still living when the curtain falls upon the Acts in 28:30, 31, is outweighed by his farewell to the Ephesian elders, 20:25, with its solemn declaration that none of them would ever see his face again, underscored by its repetition in 20:38: "they were especially saddened at his saying that they would never see his face again." Such presentiments are remembered and recorded only when they have proved true.

12. Paul has risen to hero stature. He is not only dead; he has become a hallowed memory. He is no longer a man struggling and grappling with difficulties, as in his letters; he has become a heroic figure and towers above priests, officers, governors, and kings. This is simply the retrospect of history. Lincoln rose in a generation into a heroic figure, very different from the man his contemporaries knew. The manner of his death no doubt contributed to this, but Paul's death too made its contribution to the reverence in which he came to be held, for he was probably the first of the Roman martyrs. Time has to play its part in the development of these attitudes. The success of the Greek mission naturally drew attention to the figure of the leader of that movement.

13. The emergence of the sects; men of their own number were appearing and teaching perversions of


the truth in order to draw the disciples away after them, 20:30. Apart from this reference to them in Acts the first we hear of the sects is in Eph. 4:14; compare 4:3-6, and in the Revelation, where the mysterious sect of the Nicolaitans is mentioned with abhorrence, 2:6, 15. Early in the second century the Docetists appear (cf. I, II John, Ignatius), then the Marcionites and Gnostics, and then the Montanists. Here, again. Acts seems to belong to the time of Ephesians and the Revelation.

14. Nonacquaintance with Paul's collected letters. The letters of Paul would have been of great value to the writer of the Acts; if he had known them, he could not have helped making use of them along with the numerous sources he mentions in his preface. It is next to impossible, if one knows Paul's letters, not to reveal the fact when writing about his life and work. In fact, they are ideal materials for such a task. But the Acts nowhere betrays any knowledge of them.

15. The situation presupposed by the conception of such a work-the wide success achieved by the Greek mission.

Luke-Acts might be still more definitely dated if it could be shown that Luke made use in it of the Antiquities of Josephus, which appeared in A.D. 93. The chief points of resemblance are the Theudas-Judas passage, Ant. xx. 5. 1, 2 (cf. Acts 5:36, 37), and the Lysanias reference, Ant. xx. 7. 1 (cf. Luke 3:1, 2), but, in both, matters are so very differently understood and stated in the Acts that it seems more probable that the two


accounts are not immediately related to each other. [l] If Luke did use Josephus, he put the Judas of the time of Quirinius' census after the Theudas of the times of Fadus, forty years later, and represented Lysanias as still tetrarch of Abilene sixty-five years after his death. Even the best of modern critical writers do not always escape just such errors, but it would be strange for Luke to do this if he really had Josephus.

It is not too much to say that, wherever we sound the book of Acts, the result is the same; it reveals itself as a work of the last decade of the first century. Even two or three of the considerations just listed would make such a date highly probable, but taken altogether they are overwhelming. Such points are too often dismissed as "difficulties" or dealt with atomistically-one at a time-the others being momentarily put aside. But it is their cumulative effect that is so significant. They are, as a matter of fact, clues to the solution of the problem of the date of the two volumes, and they may fairly be said to demonstrate that Acts (and Luke of course with it), was written about A.D. 90, about the time of Ephesians and Revelation but probably before the regulations of Domitian had brought the church acutely into collision with the empire over the matter of emperor worship.

Scholars have been too much absorbed with the subject matter of Acts and sought to base a date upon it, whereas their real concern in seeking to determine the

[1] Cf. A. H. McNeile, Introduction to the Study of the New Testament (Oxford 1927), pp. 34, 35.


date of the work is not so much with subject matter as with the use made of it and the contemporary interests reflected by the writer, which must be scrupulously distinguished.

Author. The literary problem of Luke-Acts is how, at the late date at which the work was evidently written, the writer could have obtained the body of primitive material embodied in the Acts. This is a very real and difficult problem. The primitive material has led some very able scholars to lose sight of the main facts of date, purpose, and occasion that we have just surveyed and to affirm a date soon after A.D. 60. [1] But this we have seen to be impossible, in view of all the prevailing traits of the work. The whole color of the book-the very occasion for writing it-belongs a generation later. But how at that time could the writer have obtained his material?

Now it is a mistake to suppose that a writer gathers literary material only for an immediate purpose. People with a literary bent are constantly gathering materials, though they may have no idea of how they will use them. Anyone who writes at all will agree to this. Most modern writers frequently use, for a new project, material they have had for years and have perhaps already made use of in other ways-lectures, speeches, letters-or have simply kept in reserve in their notebooks, through a feeling that some day it would be useful. Sometimes it is the possession of such

[1] A. Harnack, The Date of the Acts and of the Synoptic Gospels, trans. J. R. Wilkinson (London, 1911), pp. 91, 124.


materials that, as some new situation arises, suggests the book that may be written.

This is the familiar experience and even practice of everyone who writes or preaches. Yet it must be stated, for obliviousness of it has seriously affected research in the origin of Luke-Acts. Such literary methods are not novel; they were familiar to ancients like Xenophon-and Luke, the great story-teller of the New Testament. Such minds are like magnets; they constantly draw to themselves and retain things they see the value of, long before they see how best they can use them.

It is illuminating to remember how Greek historical writing began in those very Ionian cities from which Luke is supposed to have come. Travel-loving Greeks from them went out to the East and visited Babylon and Egypt, saw the sights, heard what the priests had to say of their ancient glories, and returned to tell the stay-at-home Greeks the story. Such travel narratives were called logoi, "accounts," and one of these logographers was Hecataeus of Miletus. Another did it so surpassingly well that his work was the beginning of history; his name was Herodotus. [1]

Why was it necessary for these outsiders to be the describers of those wonders of oriental travel? Why did not their contemporaries in Babylon and Egypt do it? Why are not the ballads and legends of the Kentucky mountaineers written down by the mountaineers? Why did not the Ojibways record their

[1] W. C. Wright, A Short History of Greek Literature (New York, 1907), chap. ix.


legends and traditions, instead of leaving that work to an outsider like Schoolcraft? For two reasons: one, they did not have the gift and, another, they did not have the public. It was the visitor of insight and literary ways who saw what could be made of it and knew how to do it, and knew where there was a public that would be interested in it.

Now imagine Luke, a Greek from those same Ionian cities, traveling with Paul to Palestine, Acts 20:6; 21; 7,15,17, etc., and remaining there more than two years, though he may have come and gone more or less during that time. Still he is again with Paul when Paul is sent west for trial, 27:1, and the likelihood is that he stayed in Palestine all that time. There, with the Greek bent for taking notes, what treasures of early Christian song and story he could accumulate! [1]-Not to write Luke-Acts with-no one had thought of such a thing-but because he was the kind of man who could write Luke-Acts-the literary type of man, the Christian successor of Hecataeus and Herodotus, a logographer like them. These materials he would use in his preaching through the years: stories of Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul. Then, long after, when the movement had proved its greatness and the idea of writing its history came to him and he began to look about for materials, beside his written sources for the gospel, he had his own memories of these old stories gathered in Palestine thirty years

[1] "Luke during the two years he was at Caesarea in the company of Paul made good use of his opportunities of collecting information and made copious notes" (B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels [New York, 1925], p. 218).


before and often retold by himself in his preaching, and these, with his own knowledge of Paul and his travels, gave him the materials for the Acts volume. After all, the early part, not about Paul, is of no great bulk; only a dozen chapters-thirty pages.

So we may reasonably think of Luke as the Christian logographer. It is interesting to note that he calls his first volume a logos, Acts 1:1. Certainly his work has functioned just as did that of Herodotus, for it was the beginning of Christian history. It has sometimes been assumed that a companion of Paul could not have lived to write of him as late as A.D. 90, but I think most of the writers who say this are themselves older than Luke would have needed to be when he wrote Luke-Acts. Luke joins Paul's party bound for Palestine not earlier than A.D. 55. He was probably a young man, for such men find it easier to leave home and move about the world with their chosen leaders than middle-aged men with families and responsibilities. Suppose he was twenty-five or thirty years old. By A.D. 90 he would be sixty or sixty-five, not too infirm we may suppose to have written a book of one hundred and sixty columns of Greek.

But suppose we abandon the effort to identify the author, and content ourselves with describing him in terms of his own writing. He was a Greek, a companion of Paul on his journeys, 16:11, 15, etc.; with him in Palestine, 21:17, 18; with him on his voyage to Rome, 27:1; 28:14; who late in life was moved to write the story of Christian beginnings. Why should we feel obliged, or even justified, in seeking some other


name for this adventurous man than that of Paul's dear doctor, Luke? (Col. 4:14). He is mentioned only once in the first hundred years of Christian literature (that is, before the Pastorals) and is a wholly obscure and colorless figure-except as the writer of Luke-Acts which at once transforms him into the most voluminous contributor to the New Testament and the writer of one-fourth of its contents. Tradition calls the man who thought of this and executed it "Luke," and I can find no serious objection to this. It is one thing to have lost the name of the Jewish author of Matthew, but his gospel was anonymous, while Luke's work is dedicated to Theophilus and so can hardly have been anonymous. Moreover, it was more like the Greeks to claim their literary productions and write under their own names. The literature of Western Asia, as Edouard Meyer once observed, was prevailingly anonymous; the Hebrew literary prophets stand out as striking exceptions.

We-sections. Further, in the Acts the first person of Luke 1:2, 3 is resumed from time to time in the accounts of Paul's movements, and the natural implication is that the author himself is with the apostle on these journeys. [1] Modern learning has named these portions of Acts the We-sections and has sometimes sought to account for them in other ways; such as that the editor of the Acts in these places is drawing upon a diary of one of Paul's traveling companions, which had fallen into his hands. There are a number of critical difficulties with this view. For one thing,

[1] 16:10-18; 20:5-16; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16.


no 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. The We-sections thus resume their normal place as the most important guide to the authorship of the book, showing conclusively that it was written by a companion of Paul.

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.

That Luke is not a good Paulinist is another point raised against the tradition that he wrote the Acts. But here, again, we are in danger of being artificial and doctrinaire. A great Old Testament scholar in his teaching constantly and characteristically used the phrase "idealized history." But his leading pupil and successor never used that expression; his pupils never heard it or heard of it. Some might argue that the younger man could never have known the older, much less have been his disciple. But as a matter of fact he studied under him, occupied his study with him for years as his literary secretary, became his colleague and assistant, and finally his successor. If this can


happen in the twentieth century, why should it not in the first? The truth is, we have been too stringent in our ideas of what was possible or impossible in the relations of these ancient persons. Moreover, it must be admitted that Paul himself was not always a perfectly sound Paulinist; compare Gal. 3:28 and I Cor. 14:34, 35.

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.

Sources. The material of Luke's story has been so skillfully divided into two equal parts each about the maximum convenient length for an ancient papyrus roll that the first volume, or logos, has just the proportions of a gospel and since A.D. 125, at least, has circulated with those of Matthew, Mark, and John. The preface introduces us to a time when the old familiar Oral Gospel had undergone local modifications in the Greek world, Luke 1:2, while narratives of varying scope had come into existence under its shadow, 1:1, as we have seen Mark doing. Luke refers frankly to these sources, which he says came from many hands, and this remark of his is usually regarded as a pardonable hyperbole.


The more we explore this first volume critically, however, the more sources it seems to resolve into. There is, of course, first and foremost the Gospel of Mark which Luke has used less fully than Matthew but a good deal more faithfully. Perhaps three-fifths of Mark can be identified in Luke. But every section of Mark that Luke has taken over except two stands in exactly the Marcan order; that is, wherever Mark is used, the sequence of sections is just what it was in Mark. This makes Luke the joy of the harmonist, just as Matthew is his despair. A glance at the pages of any gospel harmony, Greek or English, will illustrate this procedure of Luke's.

Luke has made one considerable omission of Marcan material, 6:47-8:26. For some of it he had parallels elsewhere, Luke 11:29; 12:1. Some of it may have been distasteful to him, 7:24-37; 8:22-26. Some of it he probably rightly dismissed as a duplication of other Marcan material, 8:1-10. The walking on the sea, 6:45-56, may have seemed to him a duplication of the stilling of the storm, 4:35-41, which he had already used. The explanation of Jewish ceremonial customs, 7:2-4, he might well regard as superfluous, as Matthew did. This leaves very little of the section which Luke would have required, and it must be remembered that each of his two volumes contains about as much as a convenient Greek papyrus roll could hold. This seems a more natural explanation of the absence of this section of Mark from Luke's gospel than to suppose that Mark is already so dilapidated through


neglect that Luke's copy has in it a gap of such size except at one end of the roll it formed.

We have already spoken of the presence in Luke of two bodies of non-Marcan material: one Galilean comprising 3:7-18; 4:2-13; 5:1-11; 6:20-8:3, and one Perean, 9:51-8:14, plus 19:1-28, which may be regarded as two distinct sources or less probably as two pieces of a single source. In either case this material was much of it known to Matthew, perhaps in a less developed form.

It has in recent years been established that Luke also possessed a Passion narrative, [1] from which he took over such passages peculiar to his gospel as 19:37, 39, 41-44; 22:15-17, 27-32, 35-38; 23:5-10, 12-15, 27-31, etc. His infancy narratives, chapters 1 and 2, are peculiar to him and may represent another written source or have come to him orally during his visit to Palestine, Acts 21:3 f.

How far the oral tradition entered into Luke's work it is difficult to say, but with this assortment of documents there is not much room left for its use. He makes one unmistakable allusion to it. Acts 20:35. It was clearly Mark that supplied his framework. But the statement of his preface that many writers had undertaken to compose accounts of the Christian movement, 1:1, would seem to be fairly justified by the array of written sources he evidently did make use of. He may have known of others that he did not use and probably assumed the existence of still others

[1] Alfred M. Perry, The Sources of Luke's Passion Narrative (Chicago, 1920).


unknown to him, although his claim to have investigated it all carefully from the beginning, 1:3, shows that he did not proceed without making careful search for worth-while material.

It was the sheer variety and multiplicity of these reports of the life and work of Jesus, oral and written, that impelled him to seek to organize and unite them, so that cultivated adherents of Christianity like Theophilus might indeed be reliably informed about the things they had been orally taught, 1:4. This is the testimony of the preface, and this is the testimony of the gospel itself, objectively examined. [1] The theory that Acts 1:1-15:35 was written in Aramaic in Palestine about A.D. 50, and first seen by Luke in Rome about A.D. 62, two years after he had written his gospel, is incompatible with the amazing array of coincidences of information or predilection shown in the two works. I have noted thirty-five of these in New Solutions of New Testament Problems (Chicago, 1927), pages 82-84.

Dr. Riddle has urged the apologetic tone of Acts as pointing to the middle years of Domitian. [2] That is without doubt its period, and there is certainly in it a strong strain of Christian apologetic, that is, against civil persecution by the state; all Paul's trials recorded in the Acts tend to show him innocent and acquit him. But any connection with Paul's final trial is negatived

[1] Cf. E. D. Burton, Principles of Literary Criticism and Their Application to the Synoptic Problem (Chicago, 1904), pp. 52-53.

[2] D. W. Riddle, "The Occasion of Luke-Acts," Journal of Religion, X (1930), 545-62


by all the considerations we have reviewed above bearing upon its date. Paul is certainly dead when Acts is written and has been dead a long time. The idea formerly advanced that Acts is a brief for Paul's trial also loses sight of the all-important fact that Acts is not a separate, independent work but the second volume of a larger work, as we have seen.

The place of the writing of Acts can hardly have been Rome, as Streeter urges: "Everything," he says "points to Rome as the church for which the Acts was written." [1] Certainly not everything. The Acts has more to say of Paul's work in Ephesus than of what he did in any other city he evangelized, 18:19-21, 24-20:1. Furthermore, it is a striking feature of the Acts that, when Paul made his last voyage about the Aegean, the only church to which Acts records his making a formal farewell was Ephesus; 20:17-38. It was at Ephesus, as we shall see, that Paul's letters were collected and published soon after the appearance of Luke-Acts. The literary history of this period of Christianity centered in Asia and about Ephesus. If Rome had recently produced Acts or Luke-Acts, Hebrews a little later could hardly have rebuked the Roman church for having failed to teach the churches, 5:12. The peculiar interest Luke has in the church at Ephesus makes it probable that it was there that the Acts, and hence Luke-Acts, were written. Of course, his name has long been conspicuously associated with that site-"Ayasalook," Hagios Loukas-but such

[1] Streeter, The Four Gospels (New York, 1925), p. 531.


associations are of little confirmatory significance unless they can be pushed back at least to the second century. [1]


Cadbury, Henry J. The Making of Luke-Acts (New York, 1927).

Foakes-Jackson, F. J. The Acts of the Apostles, "The Moffatt New Testament Commentary" (New York, 1931).

Foakes-Jackson, F. J., and Lake, K. The Beginnings of Christianity, Part I: "The Acts of the Apostles," Vols. I-V (New York, 1920-33).

Plummer, Alfred. The Gospel According to St. Luke (4th ed.; New York, 1901).

[1] Eusebius' connection of Luke with Antioch, Church History iii. 4. 7 ("he was of Antiochian parentage"), even if true has no bearing upon the place of the writing of Luke-Acts.

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