2013-11-22

The Author of Acts

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by Neil Godfrey

Dennis E. Smith
Dennis E. Smith

Dennis E. Smith, one of the editors of the Acts Seminar Report, published as Acts and Christian Beginnings, includes in that publication a short essay on on the identity of the author of Acts (pp. 9-10).

Smith begins by noting that the first writer we know who identified the author of Acts as Luke, a companion of Paul, was Irenaeus who wrote in the late second century. We can read Irenaeus making this assertion in Against Heresies, 3.14.1:

But that this Luke was inseparable from Paul, and his fellow-labourer in the Gospel, he himself clearly evinces, not as a matter of boasting, but as bound to do so by the truth itself. For he says that when Barnabas, and John who was called Mark, had parted company from Paul, and sailed to Cyprus, “we came to Troas;”(10) and when Paul had beheld in a dream a man of Macedonia, saying, “Come into Macedonia, Paul, and help us,” “immediately,” he says, “we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, understanding that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel unto them.

So Irenaeus was the first to rely upon the prima facie inference of the “we passages” in Acts and conservative scholarship through to the twenty-first century, despite twentieth century research into the the matter, has not uniformly advanced in learning since.

Dennis E. Smith points out that Irenaeus was

evidently thinking of the person mentioned in Col 4.14, Phlm 24, and 2 Tim 4.11

who was named Luke and who was a close companion of Paul. Irenaeus was also of the belief that the real Paul wrote all three of those letters and was also the author of the Gospel of Luke. Modern scholarship has largely followed the reasoning and conclusion of Irenaeus insofar as the same author who wrote Acts was also responsible for the Gospel of Luke, but (contrary to what one may expect from web and blog-active New Testament scholars)

few have accepted the theory that a companion of Paul was the author.

So critical readers here can be assured that, according to the word of Smith and Tyson and contrary to some prominent web/blogging scholars, “the majority of critical scholars” do not accept that the author of Acts was a companion of Paul.

Problems arising from the author of Acts being a companion of Paul

1. Why does the author not make a single explicit reference to Paul’s obviously abundant literary activity?

2. Why does the author of Acts make virtually no reference to the “real” theological views of Paul as found in his letters?

3. Why does the Acts author “almost always deny the title apostle” to the one who so verbosely and strenuously claimed it?

Damn, now we don’t have a name

But if we cannot accept that Luke was the author of Acts then, darn it, we have no name at all to apply to its author. Hence we will continue to refer to this writer as Luke, but only for the sake of convenience.

 

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4 Comments

  • 2013-11-22 22:28:01 UTC - 22:28 | Permalink

    Smart cautious guy (but I say the name is ‘Irenaeus’ all the same) …

    And you know they’re never going to admit this because there are only so many legs you can take off of a table before it stops being a table.

  • 2013-11-22 23:46:02 UTC - 23:46 | Permalink

    How about calling the author of Luke and Acts “Lucy”? Randel helms argues that the author was a well-off, Gentile widow who had lost a child.

  • Jens Knudsen (Sili)
    2013-11-25 18:31:46 UTC - 18:31 | Permalink

    Why not The Author Formerly Known As Luke?

  • john dauria
    2018-05-31 07:29:19 UTC - 07:29 | Permalink

    ” modern scholarship has largely followed the reasoning and conclusion of Irenaeus insofar as the same author who wrote Acts was also responsible for the Gospel of Luke” …but you have just contradicted yourself as you point out I was of the opinion that there were 2 different authors . For Luke and Acts

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