WAS IT FORGED: Acts of the Apostles

CPH LOGO Founded 2005 - 03

Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Growing and Free for All


The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

NOTE: Nineteen articles will begin with these same two introductory paragraphs but will then speak specifically about the Bible book in question.

It has often been said [by whom?] that it was an accepted practice in antiquity for a writer to attribute his work to a well-known figure from the past or a teacher who has greatly influenced him. The practice would have been condemned as dishonest by all authorities in antiquity. The book Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Agnostic New Testament Bible scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman contends that this is incorrect. Falsely attributed writings are often referred to as “pseudepigraphs,” but Ehrman maintains that the more honest term is “forgery.” The book suggests that 11 or more books out of the 27 books of the Christian New Testament canon were written as forgeries. This article and others will debunk this claim. In his book, Ehrman points out numerous inconsistencies which he finds within the New Testament which appear to support many of his claims, such as the fact that in Acts 4:13, the statement is made that both Peter and John were illiterate, yet in later years entire books of the Bible were then alleged to have been written by them. This last argument is quickly debunked on two grounds: (1) it was not years later that they wrote their books, it was over thirty years later, and in the case of John, it was over sixty years later; (2) the Greek means unlettered (YLT) that is, not educated in the rabbinic schools; not meaning illiterate. Nevertheless, below are three articles that destroy this argument of Ehrman.

Were Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Christians Illiterate, Uneducated?

What Do We Know About Books, Reading, and Writing; Literacy In Early Christianity?

The Early Christian’s View of the Integrity of the Greek New Testament Books

False attributions

In addition to the eleven books of the New Testament Ehrman identifies as forgeries, he discusses eight originally anonymous New Testament texts that had names of apostles ascribed to them later and are falsely attributed. These are not forgeries since the texts are anonymous but have had false authors ascribed to them by others.


Norman L. Geisler writes,

Who Wrote It?

The author of the book of Acts is Luke, a companion of the apostle Paul (Philem. 24; Acts 16:9–10; 20:1, 4–5). By profession he was a physician (Col. 4:14). Many believe he was a Gentile because he was not listed with those “of the circumcision” in Colossians 4:11 but is mentioned in verse 14. However, this may be a more technical term for Jews, and Luke may have been a Gentile proselyte to Judaism. Luke may have been a native of Antioch of Syria, given the number of times he refers to it (Acts 6:5; 11:19–27; 13:1–3; 14:26–28; 15:1–2, 22, 30–40; 18:22). He lived at Philippi for a while (16:11–17, 40; 20:5) and was with Paul when Colossians and Philemon were written (Col. 4:14; Philem. 24). He was faithful to Paul to the end (2 Tim. 4:11). He was also the author of the Gospel of Luke, as is evident from a comparison of Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1, which are addressed to the same person, and Acts 1:1 refers to his “former account” (or treatise). Also the same polished Greek, the same style, and the same Pauline content are used in both.


Internal Evidence

The internal evidence for Luke’s authorship of this book is strong: (1) The “we” sections (Acts 16:10–17; 20:5–21:18; 27:1–28:16) indicate he was on those occasions a companion and fellow traveler of Paul. (2) The rest of the book is by the same author, as is evidenced by the same style and unity. (3) Alleged differences in style (for example, his use of shorter words) can be explained by his use of sources that differed from his own style and the influence of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the LXX) used in his work. (4) Alleged differences in theology overlook the important similarities (for example, Paul preaching justification in Acts 13:39) and neglect to note that differences are due to Luke’s interest being more ecclesiastical (see Acts 15) and Paul’s more theological (see Galatians). (5) Medical language suggests that a physician was the author (see Col. 4:14). (6) It must have been Luke by the process of elimination. It was not Timothy (16:1), not Silas (v. 25), not Titus (who wasn’t on Paul’s third journey), not many others (20:4), since the author of Acts writes of these people in the third person. Hence, by the process of elimination, the only one left who fits the evidence is Luke.

External Evidence

The evidence outside Acts is also strong for Luke’s authorship. As noted, it was written by the same author as the Gospel of Luke (Acts 1:1). For another thing, the early Fathers of the church attribute it to Luke. It was cited numerous times by them, including Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, the Didache, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. Even the Gnostic heretic Marcion accepted Luke. Further, the Gospel of Luke, written by Luke, is cited by Paul in a canonical book of the New Testament (1 Tim. 5:18 cites Luke 10:7). Finally, there is overwhelming archaeological confirmation of it being written by a knowledgeable companion of Paul and a contemporary of the events, as Luke was.3

When Was It Written?

Acts ends with Jerusalem and the temple still standing and Paul alive and well in a Roman prison. This indicates that Acts was written before Jerusalem fell in AD 70 and before Paul was martyred by AD 68. Further, there is no indication the Jewish War had begun (in AD 66). Nor had Nero’s persecutions commenced (in AD 64). What is more, James the brother of Jesus is still alive, and he died, according to Josephus, in AD 62. On the other hand, the book of Acts must have been written after AD 54 when Gentiles were attracted to Christianity (Acts 18:2, AD 54), since Luke gears his message to them. Most likely it was written when Luke had time while Paul was in jail (Acts 23). Since Paul came to Rome in AD 50 and was there two years (28:30), about AD 61 to 62 is the likely date.

To Whom Was It Written?

The book of Acts is addressed to Theophilus (lover of God). Certain things are known about the person to whom Luke wrote. He was Greek and a person of rank who was addressed as “most excellent” (see 23:26; 24:3; 26:25). Theophilus was a common name among Jews and Gentiles (like John). It is possible he was a young Christian—needing confirmation of his faith (see Luke 1:4). Maybe Acts was intended for the wider Greek public (i.e., any lover of God), but a specific person seems to be addressed in the first verse. Some argue that Acts was a legal brief in defense of Paul to the Roman court, and no doubt the book had a wider audience in view as well. It was not uncommon to address a book to a noble individual and also intend it for a wider audience.

Where Were the Readers Located?

The readers of Acts were located in Antioch of Syria and they were generally Gentiles.

Why Was It Written?

The reasons for writing Acts may be divided into several categories. Historically, it provided an accurate record of early Christianity. Spiritually, it was written to confirm the faith of Theophilus (Acts 1:1; Luke 1:4), who was probably a young Greek convert. Legally, it explained Paul’s journeys in the right light, showing that he wasn’t a traitor to Rome, thus vindicating him of the charges against him. Polemically, it showed that Paul was not an apostate from Judaism or the law. Ecclesiastically, it aimed to show the unity of the Christian movement in the doctrine of the apostles (Acts 1:2; 2:42). Missiologically, it provided the Christian reader with an accurate account of the spread of early Christianity. And finally, apologetically it showed how God authenticated early Christianity by miracles through the apostles (1:3).[1]


John B. Polhill writes,

The Author of Acts

Scholars of all persuasions are in agreement that the third Gospel and the Book of Acts are by the same author. There are always a few dissenting voices on any issue, and some would argue for separate authorship of the two volumes. The evidence is decidedly against them. Not only is there the unanimous voice of the tradition from Irenaeus on, but the internal evidence of the two books points to their common authorship.

(1) Relationship to Gospel of Luke

For one, a common style and vocabulary run throughout the two books. Many common themes also bind the two volumes together (cf. section 11). Above all is the claim of the author himself as reflected in the prefaces to each of the books. Both Luke and Acts are dedicated to the same person, Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1); and Acts 1:1 refers to his “former book,” which dealt with “all that Jesus began to do and to teach”—namely, the Gospel of Luke.

Finally, the conclusion to Luke’s Gospel provides an introduction to the Book of Acts. Jesus’ final words to his disciples are a virtual summary of the main themes of the first chapters of Acts—the waiting in Jerusalem until clothed with the power of the Spirit, the preaching to all the nations beginning with Jerusalem, and the fulfillment of the Scriptures in the death and resurrection of the Messiah, which is the central topic of Peter’s sermons in Jerusalem (Luke 24:44–49). Then there is the ascension. In all the New Testament the ascension narrative is related only in Luke and Acts, though several passages in the epistles refer to Jesus seated at God’s right hand (e.g., Heb 1:3). It closes the Gospel of Luke and opens the Acts of the Apostles, binding Luke’s two volumes together.

(2) “We” Narratives

Beginning with Irenaeus, the tradition has maintained that this single author, whose two volumes comprise nearly 27 percent of the entire New Testament, was Luke. For Irenaeus the occurrence of the first-person plural in the later chapters of Acts pointed to the author of the book as having been a traveling companion of Paul. Often referred to as the “we” narrative, the passages involved are 16:10–17, which relates Paul’s voyage from Troas to Philippi; then 20:5–21:18, covering Paul’s journey from Philippi to Jerusalem; and finally 27:1–28:16, involving the journey from Caesarea to Rome. This “we” has always been a crux in the debate over Lukan authorship. Those who follow the traditional view concur with Irenaeus in seeing it as an indication that the author of Luke-Acts was present with Paul on these occasions. Others argue that the “we” is an indication only that the author of Luke-Acts used a source from a traveling associate of Paul (see section 5).

(3) Medical Theory

Who was Luke? Very little is said about him in the New Testament. He is mentioned three times, all in the “greetings” sections of Paul’s epistles. In Col 4:14 Paul sent greetings from Demas and “our dear friend Luke, the doctor.” In Philemon he is again linked with Demas in the sending of greetings. In 2 Tim 4:11, in something of a despondent mood, Paul lamented that everyone had either deserted him or gone to minister elsewhere and noted that “only Luke is with me.” All the direct New Testament testimony to Luke yields but scant information. He was an associate of Paul. He was with him when Colossians, Philemon, and 2 Timothy were written—periods of imprisonment for Paul. Finally, he was a physician, which would indicate a person of some education and social standing.

Luke’s status as a physician became the basis for an elaborate argument which was first proposed by W. Hobart in the late nineteenth century. The subtitle to his volume is perhaps the best commentary on the purpose of his work: “A proof from internal evidence that the Gospel according to St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were written by the same person and that the writer was a medical man.” Drawing from the Greek medical writers, particularly Galen and Hippocrates, Hobart sought to demonstrate that the author of Luke-Acts used the same “technical” medical terminology and was thus a doctor. In this way he sought to undergird the traditional authorship of Luke and Acts. His work was taken up and refined by one of the leading German scholars of the day, A. Harnack.9 In this country the “medical theory” was strongly advocated by A. T. Robertson. The argument, however, was flawed. Hobart and Harnack had failed to examine the frequency of the alleged “medical” terminology in the nonmedical Greek writers. H. J. Cadbury undertook such a comparison and found that all these terms occur in nonmedical writers, such as Josephus, Plutarch, Lucian, and even in the Septuagint. In a close investigation of portions of Lucian, he found the frequency of the “medical” words to be twice that found in Luke-Acts. His conclusion was that Luke used the language of the best Hellenistic writers, not the technical vocabulary of a physician. He was quick to point out that this in no way disproved that Luke was a physician. It might be added that for one who assumes the traditional Lukan authorship, it perhaps also demonstrates that Luke was more concerned with communicating his message to as wide a circle as possible than with impressing through his expertise.

A large group of German and American scholars do not find the traditional authorship of Luke-Acts tenable, generally on the grounds that the Paul of Acts is so different from the Paul of the epistles that a companion of the apostles could not possibly have written it. These scholars point out (1) that the Paul of Acts is presented as a miracle worker and a skilled orator, contrary to Paul’s epistles; (2) that the theology of Acts is lacking the central tenets of Paul’s theology, such as justification and the atoning death of Christ; and (3) that the title of “apostle” is denied Paul in Acts, the title he clearly preferred to use for himself. Some also argue that the “law-abiding” Paul of Acts who circumcised Timothy and took Nazirite vows was totally incompatible with the grace-centered Paul of the epistles. Likewise, specific incidents recounted in Acts such as the Jerusalem Conference of Acts 15 are seen to be in conflict with Paul’s allusions to the same events in his epistles. (Each of these arguments is treated in the commentary at the appropriate places where the issues arise.)

Two things need to be noted in the discussion, however. One is simply that Luke was not Paul, nor was he addressing the same issues Paul treated in his epistles. One would hardly expect Luke’s view of Paul to be the same as Paul’s or Luke’s theological emphases to be the same as those of the apostle. Not even Paul’s own epistles reflect the same emphases one from another—the particular situation directs the emphases. One would never guess Paul’s emphasis on justification as found in Galatians from reading 1 Corinthians. The second point is that those who point to the differences between Acts and Paul’s epistles rarely note the many remarkable coincidences between the two. Again this is pointed out regularly in the commentary.

Traditional Lukan authorship is assumed throughout this commentary. Having said this, can we know more about the author than the bare bones that he was a physician and a traveling companion of Paul by the name of Luke? The answer is “not much.” A good guess is that he was a Gentile, judging from the quality of his Greek. It has sometimes been suggested that he may have been a freedman, since physicians were often drawn from the slave class; and the name Luke (Loukanos/Lucius) was a common name among slaves. From the time of Jerome on, the tradition that he came from Antioch has been strong. The Western reading of Acts 11:28 introduces “we” into the narrative, which, if genuine, would place Luke in Antioch at the beginning of Paul’s missionary career and would link up quite nicely with the Lucius in the Antioch church at Acts 13:1. But a weakly attested Western reading and a Cyrenian by the Latin name of Lucius are a rather slim basis for elaboration of the tradition surrounding Paul’s Greek-named associate Luke. Further, judging from the “we” narrative, the evidence seems to point to Luke’s joining Paul somewhere in the vicinity of Troas (Acts 16:10). A better case could perhaps be made for Luke’s coming from Pisidian Antioch (Rackham) or Macedonia (Ramsay). Judging from the external evidence, not much can be said about Luke apart from shaky later tradition and the realm of pure speculation. Internally, a great deal can be known about him because he revealed much about himself, his community, and his faith in the legacy of his writings. (Cf. section 7.)

  1. The Date of Acts

The opinion among scholars about the date when Acts was written varies greatly, ranging all the way from as early as a.d. 57/59 to a.d. 150. Though someone represents nearly every point on this ninety-year spectrum, there are in general three distinct viewpoints. First, a large group of scholars date Acts before a.d. 64. This view is always combined with the traditional Lukan authorship and is primarily advanced in an attempt to explain the ending of Acts, which mentions a two-year house arrest of Paul in Rome but says nothing about the outcome of Paul’s arrest (Acts 28:30f.). The abrupt ending would be explained if Luke wrote Acts at precisely this point—two years after Paul’s arrival in Rome and before his case came to trial. All this fits quite well, since the “we” narrative has brought Luke to Rome (cf. 27:1–28:16); and the epistles to Colosse and Philemon, which have traditionally been ascribed to Paul’s Roman imprisonment, both mention Luke as being present with Paul during this period. Luke is thus seen to have written Acts at precisely this point and concluded his story after “two whole years” in Rome.

Advocates of this view appeal to other features of Acts, such as the primitive theology of Peter’s speeches, the fact that the Neronic persecution (a.d. midsixties) is nowhere alluded to, and that Luke showed no acquaintance with Paul’s epistles. None of these would preclude a later date, however, and the most attractive feature of the early dating remains its giving an explanation for the ending of Acts. This, however, should not be the determining factor in deciding on the date of Acts. Perhaps Luke ended Acts as he did because he had fulfilled his purposes.20

The relationship to the Gospel of Luke has led many scholars to opt for a later dating of Acts. These can be described as those advocating a “middle-dating” position. The spectrum runs from a.d. 70 to a.d. 90, with most falling about midway. Luke wrote his two volumes in sequence, which is the most natural assumption and certainly the indication of the preface to Acts (“my former book” means the Gospel of Luke, Acts 1:1). It follows that Acts must be dated subsequent to Luke. Two problems exist with dating the Gospel as early as a.d. 62. First, Luke’s Gospel quite possibly reflects an awareness of the fall of Jerusalem, which took place in a.d. 70. In the Gospel of Luke are three predictions of the judgment that was to befall Jerusalem (19:41–44; 21:20–24; 23:28–31). That Jesus predicted the destruction of the city is related in the other Gospels as well (cf. Mark 13:14), so it is not a question of Luke having introduced something “after the event,” as has often been maintained. It is a matter of an emphasis unparalleled in the other Gospels. Luke chose to include in his Gospel a sizable body of oracles against Jerusalem from the tradition of Jesus’ words. The stress they are given lends the impression that Luke had a vivid recollection of the fall of the city and how tragically true the Lord’s predictions had proved to be.23 This remains a matter of impression and in no way could stand on its own as a decisive argument for a date after a.d. 70.

The second consideration that speaks against an early date for the Gospel of Luke is the likelihood that Luke used the Gospel of Mark as one of his sources. In his preface (Luke 1:1), Luke referred to many who had undertaken to compile a gospel narrative before him. Since nearly all of Mark is paralleled in Luke’s Gospel, Mark was likely one of those to whom Luke was referring. Irenaeus indicated that Mark wrote his Gospel based on the memoirs of Peter and after the death of Peter.25 Tradition links Peter and Paul together as martyrs during the Neronic persecution in Rome in the midsixties. This thus places the Gospel of Mark sometime after a.d. 65. It is possible that Luke had immediate access to Mark and composed his Gospel shortly after Mark. More likely some time elapsed between the two Gospels. Combining this consideration with the first possibility that the Jerusalem oracles point to a date after the destruction of Jerusalem, the Gospel of Luke seems best dated after a.d. 70. There is no reason to believe that Acts did not follow shortly after it. Of those who advocate a “middle date,” scholars who follow traditional authorship generally date the book toward the earlier end of the spectrum, during the decade of a.d. 70–80.

Those who would opt for a “late” dating of Acts are in a decided minority. These fall into two groups. First are those who date the book around 95–100. Usually these scholars believe that Luke was dependent on the Antiquities of the Jewish historian Josephus published in a.d. 93. Acts is believed to show dependence on Josephus mainly in the speech of Gamaliel in 5:35–39, the story of Herod’s death in 12:20–23, and Lysias’s reference to the “Egyptian” in 21:38. None of these passages, however, shows the least literary dependence on Josephus; and at most they reflect commonly known Jewish events. It has also been argued that the apologetic emphasis in Acts reflects a situation of persecution such as that of Domitian in the nineties. In fact, the picture of the favorable relationship between Christians and the Roman authorities would point in the opposite direction—to an earlier period before imperial persecutions had begun. Other proponents of a late date tend to place Acts between a.d. 125 and 150. These scholars are impressed by language that Acts has in common with the Apostolic Fathers, or they see its emphasis on the Jewish roots of Christianity as a polemic against Marcion.29

In Acts too many evidences exist of an earlier period to be convinced by those who would date it later—the primitive Jewish-Christian Christology of Peter’s sermons, the simple organization of the churches, the concern with Christianity’s relationship to Judaism. Of course, it can always be argued that Luke had access to good early sources. More likely the freshness of Luke’s account is due to his own involvement in and proximity to the matters he related in his account of the early Christian witness. There are solid reasons for dating the book after a.d. 70 but no convincing reason for dating it later than sometime during that decade.[2]


Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen write,


In his Gospel, Luke provides a few time references to demonstrate that his Gospel message is founded on historical fact:

In the days of Herod king of Judea [1:5]

In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus [2:1]

And in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene [3:1]

Luke’s history is devoid of any exact dates. Nevertheless, historical precision is more pronounced implicitly in Acts than in Luke’s Gospel. We are able to ascertain some time references in Acts. The book itself appears to be written as a chronology of events that, with few exceptions, are listed in sequential order.

  1. Ascension and Pentecost

From historical and archaeological sources we glean sufficient information concerning the life of Paul to enable us to construct a chronology for Acts. However, scholars differ in their assessment of these dates and frequently show little unanimity. We begin with the opening verses of Acts, which relate Jesus’ appearances during the forty-day period before his ascension. The resurrection, appearances, and ascension of Jesus presumably took place in the spring of a.d. 30. Subsequently, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost occurred ten days after Jesus’ ascension.

  1. Paul in Damascus

The first few chapters of Acts provide no references to events that point to verifiable dates. Not until Paul’s escape over the city walls of Damascus do we gather tentative chronological evidence (9:23–25; 2 Cor. 11:32–33). Aretas IV, king of the Nabataeans, ruled Damascus for a few years from a.d. 37 to 40; “whether he seized it by force or obtained it by imperial favor” remains a question. Nevertheless, no Roman imperial coins of the era of Caligula (a.d. 37–41) and Claudius (a.d. 41–54) have been found in Damascus. This fact seems to suggest that Damascus was ruled by the Nabataeans beginning in a.d. 37 and, consequently, we surmise that Paul escaped from Damascus in that year.

The Epistle to the Hebrews PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL
  1. The Famine in Jerusalem

In Acts 11:27–28, Luke records a prophecy from Agabus that “there would be a severe famine all over the Roman world.” And he asserts that “this happened during the reign of [Emperor] Claudius.” The expression all over the Roman world ought not to be taken literally, for then Antioch, which sent aid to Jerusalem (11:29), would also have been stricken by that famine. However, in the New Testament the Greek term oikoumenē (the inhabited world) is often used as a mere generalization. (For example, Paul and Silas are accused of “causing trouble all over the world” [17:6] when, in fact, they are preaching the gospel in Macedonia.) Therefore, we presume that Luke knew that the effects of the famine were more severe in one place than another.

The information we glean from writers in the first few centuries of the Christian era seems to suggest that the famine took place in the second half of the fifth decade, a.d. 46. In that year, Queen Mother Helena from Adiabene (a state east of the Tigris River in ancient Assyria) and her son, King Izates, both converts to Judaism, came to Jerusalem. When they became aware of a severe famine in that city, they bought grain from Egypt and figs from Cyprus for the famine-stricken people of Jerusalem. Likewise, the Christians in Antioch extended their loving concern to fellow believers of the mother church in Jerusalem by commissioning Barnabas and Saul (Paul) to bring them relief (11:29–30).

  1. Peter’s Release

Luke reports this incident in the context of the founding and development of the Antiochean church. Next, he continues his chronological sequence and relates the demise of the apostle James (12:2), the imprisonment and release of Peter (12:3–17), and the death of King Herod Agrippa I (12:21–23).

Herod Agrippa I spent some time in Rome, where he eventually befriended Gaius Caligula, who after the death of Tiberias in a.d. 37 became emperor. Caligula gave him the tetrarchies of Iturea, Traconitis, and Abilene: an area east and north of Galilee. He also conferred on Agrippa the right to call himself king. Falsely accusing his uncle Antipas of conspiracy before the emperor, Agrippa contrived his uncle’s downfall and obtained Antipas’s tetrarchy of Galilee and Perea in a.d. 39. When Emperor Caligula was assassinated in a.d. 41, Agrippa was in Rome, befriended Claudius the new emperor, and received from him the rule over Judea and Samaria. The territory of Agrippa was as large as that of his late grandfather Herod the Great.

In Jerusalem, Agrippa killed James and then arrested Peter with the intention of killing him after the Passover (12:2–4). After Peter’s release from prison, Agrippa left for Caesarea and there faced a delegation from Tyre and Sidon. This delegation came to Caesarea to settle a dispute with Agrippa; they desired to seek reconciliation because they depended on Agrippa to sell them grain (12:20). Luke writes that “on the appointed day Herod wore his royal robe and sat on his throne” (12:21). And Josephus, whose account of this event corresponds closely with that in Acts, says:

After the completion of the third year of his reign over the whole of Judaea [a.d. 44], Agrippa came to the city of Caesarea, which had previously been called Strato’s Tower. Here he celebrated spectacles in honour of Caesar, knowing that these had been instituted as a kind of festival on behalf of Caesar’s well-being.

These games were held either on March 5 (the anniversary of the city of Caesarea) or on the first of August (known as the emperor’s month). Here the king was acclaimed as a god and not as a man. And as a consequence, divine justice caused his sudden death.

Of these two dates (March 5 or August 1), the second is preferred for two reasons. First, Agrippa deliberately attacked two of God’s servants by killing James and imprisoning Peter. When the guards were unable to explain Peter’s escape, Agrippa meted out swift judgment and had them killed (12:19). Besides, when the king arrived in Caesarea, he incurred God’s wrath, met swift judgment, and died a painful death. Second, the delegation from Tyre and Sidon sought peace in order to buy grain. August was the time when grain purchases would be made after the wheat harvest came to an end in June and July.

We conclude that Peter was released from prison during the Passover feast (April) of a.d. 44, and that Agrippa died in August of that same year. Should we set the date for the games in Caesarea five months earlier on March 5, we would have to say that Peter’s imprisonment and release occurred in the spring of a.d. 43.

  1. First Missionary Journey

After the interlude of Peter’s escape from prison and Agrippa’s death, Luke mentions the return of Barnabas and Saul (Paul) to Antioch (12:25). The Antiochean church ordained these men as missionaries to the Gentiles and sent them on their way to Cyprus. There they met the proconsul Sergius Paulus, who became a Christian (13:7, 12). Archaeological evidence, discovered at Kythraia in north Cyprus, points to Quintus Sergius Paulus, who was proconsul during the reign of Claudius (a.d. 41–54). Because proconsuls usually served only one year in a certain area, this particular person could have held office in a.d. 46 at the beginning of the first missionary journey.

  1. Second Missionary Journey

Paul’s second journey must be viewed in the light of two incidents: the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius (18:2), and Paul’s appearance before the judgment seat of the proconsul Gallio (18:12).

Population estimates of Jews dwelling in Rome during the middle of the first century are placed at least at forty thousand. When Christians began to acquaint the Jewish people in Rome with the message of the gospel, reaction set in and tumults broke out in the streets. Suetonius, a Roman historiographer, relates that Claudius “expelled the Jews because they were continually rioting at the instigation of Chrestus.” Unfamiliar with the Greek name Christos, this writer misspelled it; and being unfamiliar with Christianity, he thought that “Chrestus” himself led the riots.

Suetonius gives no date of this incident. Orosius, a writer in the fifth century, states that the expulsion occurred in the ninth year of Claudius’s reign. If Orosius is correct, Claudius’s ninth year is a.d. 49. This date fits the chronology of Paul’s second missionary journey. Orosius records that he received his information from Josephus, but in the extant writings of Josephus this incident is not reported. Although the information from Orosius cannot be verified, the date itself is credible in view of Paul’s arrival in Corinth about a.d. 50.

While Paul stayed in Corinth, “the Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat” of Gallio, the proconsul (18:12). Paul had met fierce opposition from the Jews who refused him entrance to the local synagogue. With a following of Corinthians, Paul founded a church and stayed in the city a year and a half. During this time, Gallio came to Achaia as proconsul. Inscriptions reveal that he served in that capacity in a.d. 51–52, possibly from July of 51 to June of 52. “It is a near certainty, then, that Paul’s eighteen months in Corinth lasted from the Fall of a.d. 50 to the Spring or early Summer of 52 (according to the Western text of Acts 18:2 he attended a festival in Jerusalem soon after leaving Corinth.”)

  1. Paul’s Imprisonment

At Paul’s return to Jerusalem on concluding his third missionary journey, he was imprisoned for two years in Caesarea (24:27). Governor Felix, married to the Jewess Drusilla, frequently talked to Paul but left him in prison when Felix was succeeded by Governor Festus.

Josephus records interesting details about Drusilla. She was born in Rome in a.d. 38, the third child and younger daughter of Herod Agrippa I. When Agrippa died in a.d. 44, the six-year-old Drusilla had already been promised in marriage to Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus, king of Commagene. Since Epiphanes refused to submit to circumcision and thus rejected the marriage, Drusilla was given in marriage by her brother Agrippa II to Azizus, king of Emesa in northern Syria.41 This occurred when she was fourteen years old. The following year, Governor Felix persuaded her to leave her husband and become his wife. Suetonius notes that Drusilla became Felix’s third wife. Felix and Drusilla had one son, Agrippa, who died when Vesuvius erupted in a.d. 79. We infer that Paul spoke to the governor and his wife about Jesus Christ (presumably in the second half of the sixth decade, certainly after a.d. 54).

Felix became procurator of Judea in a.d. 52, after Claudius had deposed Ventidius Cumanus. Josephus reports that this took place in the twelfth year of Claudius’s reign. But how long was Felix in office? Guided by a comment of Tacitus (that Pallas, the influential brother and protector of Felix at Nero’s court, fell from grace in a.d. 55), some scholars contend that Felix’s governorship lasted from 52 to 55 and that the downfall of Pallas caused Felix’s recall to Rome (24:27). But in light of a number of factors we favor a longer term of office. First, in his speech before Felix, the lawyer Tertullus praises the governor for giving the Jews “lasting peace” (24:2). Paul, in a similar vein, notes that Felix had been governor for “a number of years” (24:10). Next, Felix kept Paul for two years in the Caesarean prison. We can hardly refer to a three-year term as a long period that produced lasting peace, especially not when Paul’s initial trial before Felix was slated at the beginning of Paul’s imprisonment. Last, the removal of Pallas need not be understood as a cessation of his influence at Nero’s court. Pallas wielded considerable influence because of his wealth, which Nero eventually appropriated in a.d. 62 when he killed Pallas.

We are unable to pinpoint the date of Felix’s recall to Rome and the arrival of Porcius Festus in Caesarea (25:1). But two indications suggest a date of a.d. 59 or 60. First, coins marking the fifth year of Nero’s reign (a.d. 58/59) began to circulate in Judea. We surmise that the introduction of these coins resulted from the arrival of the newly appointed Governor Festus. Second, Felix assumed office in a.d. 52 and Festus’s successor, Albinus, became governor in a.d. 62. Therefore, the governorships of both Felix and Festus fill a ten-year period. Josephus reports a number of events relating to Felix but hardly any referring to Festus. He leaves the unmistakable impression that Festus’s term in office was short, perhaps three years, because Festus died in office.

Granted that Josephus furnishes no time references, we are inclined to say that Felix’s term as governor lasted seven years and that of Festus three years. To be precise, Festus became procurator in a.d. 59. By contrast, if Felix were recalled by Nero to Rome in the summer of a.d. 55 within nine months after Nero became emperor, the numerous incidents that Josephus records of Nero’s administration would have to be crowded into this nine-month period. And that seems unlikely. Hence, we opt for an seven-year span of Felix’s rule.

Within weeks of Festus’s arrival in Caesarea, the new governor sought the advice of Agrippa II in regard to Paul the prisoner (25:1, 6, 13–22), arranged passage for Paul aboard a ship, and sent him to Rome. Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Malta in October of 59 and in February of 60 continued his trip to Rome. There, as a prisoner, he spent two years in his own rented house and was released in a.d. 62.

  1. Chronology

On the basis of a few fixed dates and a number of likely hypotheses I venture to draw up the following chronological list:



Birth of Paul

A.D. 5



Paul’s conversion


Escape from Damascus


Death of Agrippa I


Famine relief for Jerusalem


First missionary journey


Jerusalem Council


Jews expelled from Rome


Second missionary journey


Third missionary journey


Paul in Macedonia


Arrest and imprisonment


Voyage and shipwreck


House arrest in Rome


To Spain, Crete, Macedonia


Arrest and imprisonment


Death of Paul

67 or 68

Author, Date, and Place

  1. Who Wrote Acts?

The early church of the first and most of the second century is silent on the authorship of Acts. In a.d. 175, the Muratorian Canon records these words: “However, the Acts of all the Apostles were written in one volume. Luke addresses it to the most excellent Theophilus.” From this era we have the anti-Marcionite prologue to Luke, which notes that Luke himself wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Around a.d. 185 Irenaeus speaks in similar terms. And at the beginning of the third century, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian declare that Luke is the author of both the Gospel and Acts. The external evidence, accordingly, is unanimous and strong in declaring Luke the author of Acts.

As is evident from the anti-Marcionite prologue, which was written between a.d. 160 and 180, tradition reveals certain aspects of Luke’s life:

Luke is a Syrian, a native of Antioch, by profession a physician. He was a disciple of the apostles and afterwards accompanied Paul until the martyrdom of Paul. He served the Lord without distraction, without a wife, without children, and at the age of eighty-four he fell asleep in Boeotia, full of the Holy Spirit.

Paul also notes that Luke was a physician by profession (Col. 4:14). From an analysis of Luke’s vocabulary in both the Gospel and Acts, we learn that the writer could have been a medical doctor who in his writings reflects his profession. Both Eusebius and Jerome testify that Luke hailed from Antioch. In Acts, the writer seems to have a proclivity for mentioning Antioch. Out of the fifteen times that Antioch in Syria is mentioned in the New Testament, fourteen instances occur in Acts. For Luke, Antioch is important because here the church had the vision to send forth missionaries to the Greco-Roman world. If he resided in Antioch, Luke would have met Barnabas (11:22), Paul (11:26), and Peter (Gal. 2:11). And in this city he undoubtedly heard the gospel message, was converted, and became a disciple of the apostles.

Luke’s Gospel and Acts are closely related because of the dedication of these two books to Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). Incidentally, the address most excellent Theophilus seems to imply that Theophilus belonged to a high-ranking social class (compare 23:26; 24:3; 26:25). Also, the introductory verse of Acts (1:1) reveals that it is the second volume Luke has written and a continuation of the first volume (the Gospel).

The name Luke, however, is absent from both his Gospel and Acts. The Gospel became known as “the Gospel according to Luke,” yet the major manuscripts omit the name of Luke in the title of Acts. This is no obstacle if we consider that none of the evangelists mentions his own name in the Gospel account he wrote.

Luke became a follower of Paul, as we are able to ascertain from the “we” passages in the second part of Acts (16:10–17; 20:5–21:18; 27:1–28:16). He was with Paul on the second missionary journey, accompanied him from Macedonia to Jerusalem at the conclusion of the third missionary journey, apparently stayed in Judea and Caesarea while Paul was in prison, and finally traveled with Paul to Rome. In his epistles, Paul himself testifies to the fact that Luke was his companion and fellow worker (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24).

Paul’s helpers included Timothy, Silas, Titus, Demas, Crescens, and Luke, but as the author of Acts we have to rule out everyone except Luke. Crescens is relatively unknown (2 Tim. 4:10); Demas was Paul’s fellow worker (Col. 4:14; Philem. 24) but later deserted him (2 Tim. 4:10). Although Titus accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem and worked in the churches of Corinth, Crete, and Dalmatia, he appears not to have been one of Paul’s companions whom the apostle mentions in the greetings of his epistles. The names of Silas and Timothy appear in the “we” passages of Acts, but both men are referred to in the third person. By process of elimination, we arrive at the conclusion that Luke is the most likely person to have composed the books attributed to him.

  1. When Was Acts Written?

The earliest possible date for the composition of Acts is a.d. 62, which is the year of Paul’s release from Roman imprisonment and is the last time reference (“two full years” [28:30]) in Acts. A terminal date for the writing of this book is a.d. 96, because Clement of Rome was acquainted with Acts. The composition date, therefore, lies in that thirty-four-year period.

Scholars who have adopted the late-date theory advance three points. First, they call attention to Luke 19:43–44 and 21:20–24, where the writer is describing the fall and destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. This means that the composition of the sequence Luke-Acts must be placed after the devastation of Jerusalem. Next, the Gospel of Mark, written about a.d. 65, is basic to Luke’s Gospel. Sequentially, then, Luke’s Gospel and Acts must have been composed after Mark’s Gospel appeared, and thus originated in the seventies or eighties. And last, Luke relied on the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, who completed the Jewish War in the early seventies and his Antiquities around a.d. 93.

The objections to a date after a.d. 70 are numerous and weighty and seriously undermine the late-date theory. We list and discuss these objections seriatim.

  1. Proportionally in Acts, Luke devotes more space to Paul than to any other person. This is understandable because he became Paul’s travel companion and fellow worker. Yet Luke breaks off his chronology of Paul’s life with the message that the apostle spent two years under house arrest in Rome (28:30). He reports nothing about Paul’s continued journeys, his second arrest and imprisonment in Rome (where Luke was present [2 Tim. 4:11]), and Paul’s death.

The argument that Luke intended to write a third volume to complete a trilogy is speculation and has no support in antiquity and history. If, according to the pastoral Epistles, Paul visited Ephesus after his Roman imprisonment (1 Tim. 3:14), Luke would not have described Paul’s emotional parting from the Ephesian elders (20:25, 38) without some additional clarification. And if indeed Paul visited Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28), as Clement of Rome seems to assert when he writes that Paul “reached the limits of the West,” Luke undoubtedly would have noted this in the conclusion of Acts to show that Jesus’ command (to bear his witness to the ends of the earth) had been fulfilled. If Luke was present with Paul in prison, we would expect that he also knew of Paul’s death. But Luke reports nothing about the apostle’s arrest, imprisonment, and execution.

  1. The last word (in the Greek) in the Book of Acts is “unhindered.” That is, in Rome Paul preached the gospel of God’s kingdom and the message of Jesus Christ “boldly and unhindered” (28:31). By implication, Luke tells the reader that the Roman government did not prohibit the proclamation of the gospel and the founding of the church. Luke ends his second volume on a joyful note: the state does not object to the work of the church. He reflects the social and political conditions of Rome at the time of Paul’s release. While Paul was in Roman custody, Roman officials protected him from physical harm (21:30–36). They gave him opportunity to defend himself and allowed him to explain the gospel message (22:1–21). They were kindly disposed to Paul during the voyage to Rome (27:43) and his house arrest in the imperial city (28:30–31). Indeed, Rome did not hinder the progress of the gospel in those years. This changed when Nero began to persecute the Christians after Rome was burned in a.d. 64.

If Luke had written Acts in the seventies, he would have done violence to his sense of historical integrity by not reflecting these cruel persecutions instigated by Nero. “For any Christian to write, thereafter, with the easy optimism of Acts 28 would require an almost subhuman obtuseness.”

  1. The Book of Acts reflects a theology that is reminiscent of the first three decades after Pentecost. Consider the following points: First, Luke identifies Jesus as Jesus of Nazareth (3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 10:38–40; 22:8; 26:9), and he calls converts “disciples” in Jerusalem, Damascus, Joppa, Antioch, Lystra, and Ephesus. Next, the church itself consisted of numerous congregations that met in individual homes. “Each group came to be known as an ekklesia in a local area.” Last, the content of Acts does not exhibit any theological and ecclesiastical concerns that pertained to the church of the last decades of the first century.
  2. The historical accounts of Acts at times have a parallel in the works of Josephus. But this fact does not signify that Luke depended on Josephus to furnish him with historical details. On the contrary, a comparison of parallels from Luke and Josephus clearly indicates that the two writers relied on independent traditions. For instance, both authors have a reference to the Egyptian revolutionary who led his followers into the desert. Luke writes that there were four thousand terrorists (21:38), but Josephus relates that the Egyptian had an army of thirty thousand men of whom four hundred were killed and two hundred were taken prisoner. In another report he writes that most of the Egyptian’s force were killed or imprisoned. With respect to these numbers, Josephus’s historical accuracy is definitely called into question. Conclusively, a careful analysis of Josephus’s writings shows that Luke did not depend on Josephus for historical accounts.
  3. If Luke wrote his Gospel after a.d. 70, then his words concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:43–44; 21:20–24) are descriptive history. If we acknowledge that Luke received from tradition (Luke 1:2) the words of Jesus’ prophecy about Jerusalem and if we assume that he knew their fulfillment, Luke could have composed his books after Jerusalem’s ruin. But if this assumption is true, we would have expected striking details concerning the historic event of Jerusalem’s destruction.

Luke’s writings on this point are devoid of any hint that the author is presenting history instead of prophecy. If we believe that Jesus spoke words of genuine prophecy concerning Jerusalem some forty years before its destruction, we are able to date the composition of both the Gospel and Acts before a.d. 70.

If scholars were able to express genuine unanimity on ascribing exact dates to the composition of the other synoptic Gospels, they would have no difficulty assigning a date to Luke’s Gospel and Acts. Because of this lack of consensus, we submit that an early date for Luke’s writings is plausible. We accept as genuine prophecy the words recorded in the discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem, as spoken by Jesus himself (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 19:41–44; 21:5–36). And for the composition of Acts, we suggest a date prior to July 19, a.d. 64, when Rome was burned and the Neronian persecutions against the Christians began. A date later than the summer of 64 would have caused Luke to alter the ending of Acts.

  1. Where Was Acts Written?

We have no indication where Luke composed Acts. Had he written parts of it already before he accompanied Paul on his voyage to Rome? Was he able to keep his documents safe during the shipwreck at Malta? Did he complete the book in Rome during the two years of Paul’s house arrest? We can multiply the questions but cannot give definitive answers. Some scholars point to Achaia as a possible place of composition, others to Rome.[4]

[1] Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 109–111.

[2] John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 23–31.

[3] Christian Publishing House would argue that Pentecost was in 33 A.D.

[4] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, vol. 17, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 13–24.



4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2
The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02
English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II


How to Interpret the Bible-1 INTERPRETING THE BIBLE how-to-study-your-bible1
israel against all odds ISRAEL AGAINST ALL ODDS - Vol. II


THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST by Stalker-1 The TRIAL and Death of Jesus_02 THE LIFE OF Paul by Stalker-1


The Epistle to the Hebrews PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL
Young Christians


9798623463753 Machinehead KILLER COMPUTERS


Explaining the Doctrine of the Last Things Understaning Creation Account
Homosexuality and the Christian second coming Cover Where Are the Dead
Human Imperfection HUMILITY




Powerful Weapon of Prayer Power Through Prayer How to Pray_Torrey_Half Cover-1


THERE IS A REBEL IN THE HOUSE thirteen-reasons-to-keep-living_021 Waging War - Heather Freeman
Young Christians DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS 40 day devotional (1)
Homosexuality and the Christian THE OUTSIDER RENEW YOUR MIND


APPLYING GODS WORD-1 For As I Think In My Heart_2nd Edition Put Off the Old Person
Abortion Booklet Dying to Kill The Pilgrim’s Progress
ARTS, MEDIA, AND CULTURE Christians and Government Christians and Economics


Book of Philippians Book of James Book of Proverbs Book of Esther
40 day devotional (1) Daily Devotional_NT_TM Daily_OT
DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS 40 day devotional (1)


The Church Community_02 THE CHURCH CURE Developing Healthy Churches

Apocalyptic-Eschatology [End Times]

Explaining the Doctrine of the Last Things Identifying the AntiChrist second coming Cover
ANGELS AMERICA IN BIBLE PROPHECY_ ezekiel, daniel, & revelation


Oren Natas_JPEG Sentient-Front Seekers and Deceivers
Judas Diary 02 Journey PNG The Rapture

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: