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Bible Gemz 1329 - How do we know Luke wrote Acts? (Acts 1:1-3)

January 15, 2019

 

A good thing to do before you begin studying any book of the Bible is to look at the details of the book in overview, as I suggested you do in the last Gemz at the end of Luke. (#1327)

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 

until the day He was taken up to heaven after giving His chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 

During the forty days after His crucifixion, He appeared to the apostles from time to time, and He proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive. And He talked to them about the Kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1-3)

 

One consistent question a number of you have asked me as you have read the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is, “How do we/you know Luke wrote Acts, because his name is not mentioned anywhere in it?” A good question. A good way to find out is to read the book for yourself as I suggested in Gemz 1327, in its entirety. Yes, that's right, all of Acts. I have been delighted with a number of you who have told me you are reading it through multiple times. One person read it through twice just a few nights ago. Yes, twice in the same night! Took him most of the night and he WAS having trouble sleeping. Most impressive. When you read a book as a whole, you notice things you don’t notice when you read it in little pieces. As some of you have noticed, Luke’s name doesn't appear. So the question arises, how do you know Luke wrote Acts if his name is not mentioned? Nice one, it shows you are thinking about this. 

When you started reading Actsdid the first lines trigger a memory or a recognition for you? Compare the first three verses of Acts (above) with the first four verses of Luke (below). 

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 

They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 

Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 

so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. (Luke 1:1-4)

 

I have highlighted the words above which glue it all together. Both letters (works) are addressed to Theophilus and in his second book, Acts, Luke refers to his first book, the Gospel of Luke.

 

In Gemz 727 I wrote the following:

There is no serious challenge to the authorship of Luke. None of the Gospels are signed by the writer. It was not the done thing among the Gospel writers it seems. They didn’t want to draw attention to themselves but rather wanted all the attention to be put on Christ. For that reason there is no indication within the gospel as to who wrote it but there is almost universal agreement that it was Luke the physician who wrote it. The ancients were universally agreed that the writer was Luke. The first writers who definitely name Luke as the author of the Third Gospel belong to the end of the 2nd century. They are the Canon of Muratori (Hippolytus), Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria. However, there is still debate among some scholars as to the authorship of the 3rd Gospel.   There are some commentators and "scholars" who dispute that it was Luke who wrote the Gospel. The debate associated with authorship can be long and tedious and I don't want to get into that. 

 

Suffice to say it is clear that Luke and Acts are linked together. A careful look at the opening to both books indicates that we have the first and second book by the same author. Both are written to Theophilus. Thus in looking at authorship we must also take into account the book of Acts. When we do that, the argument is clearer. The author was a companion of Paul. The “we” sections prove that (Acts 16:10-17; Acts 20:6-16; 21; 27; 28). These sections have the fullness of detail and vivid description natural to an eye-witness. This companion was with Paul in the second missionary journey at Troas and at Philippi, joined Paul's party again at Philippi on the return to Jerusalem during the third tour, and probably remained with Paul till he went to Rome. Some of Paul's companions came to him at Rome. The medical language of Acts argues for Luke. The writer was a physician. The style and language of both books is that of a physician. The writer uses medical terms in a technical sense. The terms of the diagnosis in Acts 28:8 “are medically exact and can be vouched for from medical literature”. The interest of the writer in matters of disease is also another indication, compare Luke 8:43. Luke was a companion of Paul during his later ministry and was a physician. (Col 4:14). Hence, Luke fulfills all the requirements of being the author. 

 

(1) The author of the Third Gospel is the author of the Acts. 

(2) The author of Acts was a companion of Paul. 

(3) The author of Luke and Acts was a Physician.  Luke was a physician.

 

The fact that the author was not an apostle affected the order of the book in some lists. Most manuscripts and versions have the common order of today, but the Western text family have a different order: Matthew, John, Luke, Mark.  The Old Latin has Luke second: John, Luke, Mark, Matthew; while the Curetonian Syriac has Luke last of the four. The objective was probably to place the books by apostles together, before books by non-apostles.

 

The fact that these two books hang together in a series is what has influenced me to cover both Luke and Acts together in Gemz over the next years. They have been referred to as New Testament History I and II so we will treat them that way.  

 

Or you could consult the commentaries or the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE in E-Sword) where you would find the following comments.

 

Assuming the unity of the book, the argument runs as follows: The author was a companion of Paul. The “we” sections prove that (Act_16:10-17; Act_20:6-16; 21; 27; 28). These sections have the fullness of detail and vivid description natural to an eye-witness. This companion was with Paul in the second missionary journey at Troas and at Philippi, joined Paul's party again at Philippi on the return to Jerusalem during the third tour, and probably remained with Paul till he went to Rome. Some of Paul's companions came to him at Rome: others are so described in the book as to preclude authorship. Aristarchus, Aquila and Priscilla, Erastus, Gaius, Mark, Silas, Timothy, Trophimus, Tychicus and others more or less insignificant from the point of view of connection with Paul (like Crescens, Demas, Justus, Linus, Pudens, Sopater, etc.) are easily eliminated. 

 

Curiously enough Luke and Titus are not mentioned in Acts by name at all. They are distinct persons as is stated in 2Ti_4:10. Titus was with Paul in Jerusalem at the conference (Gal_2:1) and was his special envoy to Corinth during the time of trouble there. (2Co_2:12; 2Co_12:18.) He was later with Paul in Crete (Tit_1:5). But the absence of mention of Titus in Acts may be due to the fact that he was a brother of Luke (compare 2Co_8:18; 2Co_12:18). So A. Souter in DCG, article “Luke.” If Luke is the author, it is easy to understand why his name does not appear. If Titus is his brother, the same explanation occurs. As between Luke and Titus the medical language of Acts argues for Luke. The writer was a physician. This fact Hobart (The Medical Language of St. Luke, 1882) has demonstrated. Compare Zahn, Einl, 2, 435ff; Harnack's Luke the Physician, 177ff. The arguments from the use of medical terms are not all of equal weight. But the style is colored at points by the language of a physician. The writer uses medical terms in a technical sense. This argument involves a minute comparison with the writings of physicians of the time. Thus in Act_28:3 katháptō, according to Hobart (288), is used in the sense of poisonous matter invading the body, as in Dioscorides, Animal. Ven. Proem. So Galen, De Typis 4 (VII, 467), uses it “of fever fixing on parts of the body.” Compare Harnack, Luke the Physician, 177 f. Harnack agrees also that the terms of the diagnosis in Act_28:8 “are medically exact and can be vouched for from medical literature” (ibid., 176 f). Hobart has overdone his argument and adduced many examples that are not pertinent, but a real residuum remains, according to Harnack. Then pı́mprasthai is a technical term for swelling. Let these serve as examples. The interest of the writer in matters of disease is also another indication, compare Luk_8:43. Now Luke was a companion of Paul during his later ministry and was a physician. (Col_4:14). Hence, he fulfils all the requirements of the case. 

The argument thus far is only probable, it is true; but there is to be added the undoubted fact that the same writer wrote both Gospel and Acts (Act_1:1). The direct allusion to the Gospel is reinforced by identity of style and method in the two books. The external evidence is clear on the matter. Both Gospel and Acts are credited to Luke the physician. The Muratorian canon ascribes Acts to Luke. By the end of the 2nd century the authority of the Acts is as well established as that of the Gospel (Salmon, Introduction to the New Testament, 1885, 366). Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, all call Luke the author of the book.

 

The argument is complete. It is still further strengthened by the fact that the point of view of the book is Pauline and by the absence of references to Paul's epistles. If one not Paul's companion had written Acts, he would certainly have made some use of them. Incidentally, also, this is an argument for the early date of the Acts. The proof that has won Harnack, the leader of the left in Germany, to the acknowledgment of the Lukan authorship of Acts ought to win all to this position.

 

We will discuss the probable date of when Luke wrote Acts later. I plan to deal with a number of introductory issues before we start looking at the words Luke wrote in this second account. 

 

I also hope in your reading in overview, you have picked up a number of interesting things about how the book is laid out and stitched together. Yes, there is a lot to talk about. I suspect it will take me more than 600 Gemz to cover Acts. Remember Acts is longer than Luke by 4 chapters and there are some complications to discuss. But there are no parallel passages to investigate as we had when we covered Luke’s Gospel. But we are working at a pace of only three Gemz per week. So I calculate it will take us at least four years given the pace of Luke. 600 Gemz at three a week is 200 weeks – four years give or take. Hey this is related to Deeper Bible. Make sure you have a packed lunch or a refrigerator filled with food and coffee fed to you intravenously. 

 

Fasten your seatbelt and let’s get started. 

 

 

Those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything.  Senny Linggarjo

 

Bible Study, like most skills of any value, requires discipline.

 

Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you!

 

The strongest people aren't always the people who win, but the people who don't give up when they lose!  Rick Godwin

 

 

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