Paul and Luke

Aractus 03, November, 2010

To those who may not think there’s more to the last blog entry, you’re dead wrong. I’ve begun work on new research, and once that is complete I will do a blog entry on it.

Today we’re going to talk about the reliability of the NT books, in particular those by the Apostle Paul, and also Luke-Acts. Paul is the author of 13 books of the New Testament, almost half of the 27 books, some believe he may also be the author of Hebrews – but I’m not of that view personally. Here is a list of all the authors of the NT:

Matthew (Levi): Gospel of Matthew
John Mark: Gospel of Mark
Luke (the historian): Gospel of Luke, Acts
John: Gospel of John, I John, II John, III John, Revelation
Apostle Paul: Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon
James the brother of Jesus: James
Simon Peter: I Peter, II Peter
Jude the brother of Jesus: Jude
Unknown: Hebrews

Some so-called Scholars today contend the authorship of some of the books, but do so without sufficient evidence. The canonization of the NT scripture was completed early 2nd century, and any writings written under pseudonyms or assumed authorship were discarded and considered unreliable. The three synoptic Gospels do not introduce the author by name, nor does the book of Acts. However the earliest existing manuscripts of these Gospels all contain in Greek lettering “according to (author)” clearly implying that the authorship was known. When you consider that Luke’s Gospel and his second work – the book of Acts – can be clearly attributed to him on external evidence only, it then proves that the lettering that appears on Matthew and Mark’s Gospels attributing to their authors was indeed intended to let the reader know with certainty who the author was. The synoptic Gospels would not have been canonized if in the early 2nd century there were reasonable doubts about their authorships.

Scholars pretty much unanimously agree that the Gospel of Luke was the last of the Synoptic Gospels to be written. Luke wrote both his books to the same gentleman – Theophilus. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus is recorded in Acts 9 by Luke, Acts ends with Paul under house arrest awaiting trial, which means it was written by Luke c. 62AD up to 5 years before Paul’s death. Paul was released from house arrest in c. 62AD, and later when he is re-arrested he writes his last three letters before being executed. II Timothy is believe to be the last letter Paul wrote that is in the Bible, and he mentions that Luke is with him – in fact he mentions that only Luke is with him.

Paul and Luke were close associates and friends. Therefore to have ended Acts with Paul under house arrest and awaiting trial proves that Luke wrote Acts c. 62 before Paul’s release and subsequent re-arrest; and as Luke mentions in his introduction in Acts that this is his second writing to Theophilus, we know that he already wrote Luke beforehand – probably any time within 1 year before Acts.

Some liberal scholars will argue that Luke had to have been written after c. 70AD because it contains a vivid prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20-24). Instead, this proves that Jesus prophecy is valid (see Deut 18:21-22).

The Apostle Paul was originally known as Saul and persecuted the early Christians before his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. While on his way to persecute Christians, Jesus appears before him, speaks to him, causes him to become blind, and then sends him to Judas’ house and sends a man named Ananias to heal Saul’s sight, three days later. In this way, Jesus chose Saul while he was persecuting the Church to be a disciple and to work for the Church.

Ananias interjects and says that Saul does evil and has authority from the high priests to persecute Christians. But he does what he is told, lays his hands on Saul and says “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit”, Saul’s sight is restored, he receives the Holy Spirit and he immediately begins his ministry.

Paul refers to this event several times in his own writings. That while he was still a sinner he was chosen to be a disciple of the Lord.

Atheists often argue that Christians don’t believe in hard evidence, well, this is hard evidence. This is not some obscure story told once by a single author about a mythical figure who was long-since dead. Rather it was written while Paul was alive and under house arrest by a close friend of his! In Paul’s letters written before this date he affirms his conversion, as he does in his letters written after this date too.

For over 2,000 years one single piece of writing written 2,000 years after the last pyramid was built in Egypt by a Greek historian convinced everyone that the Pyramids were built by slaves, until recently when archaeologists excavated the skeletons of the Egyptian workers, not slaves, that built the pyramids!

All the evidence proves that Paul experienced a life-changing event when he was confronted by Jesus (after Jesus had been crucified on the cross). This isn’t a case of having an obscure piece of information written thousands of years after an event has taken place (it was written about 30 years after the event happened, and while Paul was still alive)

The account is detailed and complete. It notes that the event took place at midday and that the light that blinded Paul was brighter than the midday sun, how could such an event be faked? The voice of Jesus speaks to Paul, and his companions hear it – yet only Paul understands it. How is this possible? We also know Ananias was a reputable man and a Jewish Christian, who responds to heal a man who has been persecuting the Way (early Christians), indeed Paul had been delivering them over to be killed. Yet this man is willing to heal Paul and to baptize him?

None of these facts make any sense if Paul did not have a real revelation. To claim that Luke made up the story would be to suppose Luke was a deceitful man. Yet Luke considered himself a serious historian and being a companion of Paul he participated in Paul’s ministry, and so we can be confident that if he was to lie about Paul’s conversion then Paul himself had to have also been involved in orchestrating the lie. But Paul is an honest man as well. There’s no evidence that either of them were deceitful in their ways!

Now I’m not one to read too much into liberal theology, but one of the reasons we can be confident in Luke’s writings is that Luke starts out his Gospel by saying he has carefully researched everything so that the reader can have certainty in the truth of his writings (as he was not an eye-witness of Christ), and that half way through the book of Acts Luke begins giving eye-witness accounts, which show that he was a companion of Paul – also revealed by Paul’s writings. Furthermore, as Luke mentions by name many people and places, the reliability of his accounts is also proven by corroborating archaeological evidence and other writings. Given the length of the book and the amount of verifiable information found within – along with the fact that it does not contradict anything – it would be a very stupid assumption to make that it was written at anytime other than c. 62AD and that it contains anything except truthful accounts.

There are a handful of isolated accounts which scholars cannot verify through external evidence, but doesn’t mean they’re unreliable. The birth of Christ coincides with a census according to Luke, but it could not have been the Census of Quirinius since that happened in 6-7AD and about that there is little doubt.

Luke’s account could not have been talking about that census, since not only would it have happened after Christ’s birth – it would be difficult for him to come to an incorrect date. Given the detailed account of the birth, and the fact that census plays a significant role that actually determines how and where his birth took place, this cannot be dismissed as an error in any case. Rather, Luke is simply speaking about a census we don’t know anything more about from other sources. Furthermore we can calculate dates later on that would prove Jesus was too young if he was to be born 6AD to begin his ministry which required him to be at least 30 years of age (by Jewish Law). We simply don’t know enough about the career of Quirinius, the Roman taxation system of the time and the Census’ undertaken by Augustus.

Let’s backtrack a little bit. Caesar Augustus’ rule lasted 44BC to 14AD – quite a career. In 6-7AD the Census of Quirinius was given, this is a firm census and we know a lot about it. It was undertaken because the military was underfunded and required funding, so Augustus determined a 5% inheritance tax, which did not apply to very poor persons or very near relatives to the deceased. Even assuming Luke isn’t talking about this census in his Gospel it is clear why it could be mistaken as this census.

What however, we do know and critics usually don’t tell you is that this was actually the second time this tax was introduced due to it failing the first time. This is an important fact, because it requires that a census was conducted the first time around as well. This gives us a tangible event that may have been the census that took place at the time of Jesus’ birth. We also do not know when the first census was taken in order to introduce the taxation; there is not enough historical information on this. Furthermore critics will not tell you that in Acts 5:37 Luke specifically talks about Judas rebelling against the taxation introduced using the Census of Quirinius, and in fact Luke refers to it as “the days of the census”! This event is corroborated by Josephus who completed his works after Luke’s death. Luke’s Gospel distinguishes the Census at Jesus’ birth by calling it the “first”. Quirinius was only governor of Syria in 6-7AD and only one Census was conducted at that time, yet Luke writes in his Gospel that Jesus was born during the “First” Census when Quirinius was Governor; or the Greek could read that it was the census “Before” Quirinius was Governor; acknowledged in the footnotes of most Biblical translations.

In any event it seems clear that Luke is not talking about the later Census when he mentions Jesus’ birth, it seems even clearer as he uses Quirinius’ name in reference to the Census of 6-7AD that it was in fact the “first” census used to introduce the 5% inheritance tax. And it does not conflict with any known historical facts, despite what critics might say. At the end of the day if you’re going to claim Paul and Luke are liars you need to do more then simply “point out what can’t be verified historically”, you actually need to find something that is in actual conflict with recorded history.

Until next time,


Make a Comment

Hey! Pay Attention: