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The composition and date of Acts online

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to " Paul " was made in chapter 13. The Aramaic document very
probably kept the name bxy throughout. But to have preserved it
thus in the Greek translation, reserving the change until 15, 36 ff.,
would have been disturbing on more than one account. There was
no evident reason why the change of name should be made at the
point where Luke's own narrative began. The effect would certainly


also have been to make apparent the fact of composition. But the
main consideration was certainly this, that the logical place for in-
troducing the new name was the point where the " Apostle to the
Gentiles " began the great foreign labors which were his chief glory
and by reason of which the apostles held their council in Jeru-
salem. To the Jews and Christians of Palestine he was still " Saul
of Tarsus," but the name by which he was known all through the
Greek-speaking world was Paul. Naturally, therefore, the place to
begin the use of the latter name was the account of his first great
missionary journey.

There is good reason to believe that in 15, 35 we have the original
conclusion of Luke's Aramaic source. This is the natural place for
the Judean document to come to an end, for the story of the first
distinct period of the Christian church in Jerusalem has been written.
Peter has initiated the work among the Gentiles. Paul and Barna-
bas have gained their first great successes as foreign missionaries.
The Mother Church has sent out its circular letter, voicing its own
supreme authority and at the same time making Gentile Christianity
permanently free from the regulations of Judaism. The verses 15,
30-35 are admirably suited to bring the book to a close. The Gen-
tiles, represented by the foremost Gentile Christian city, Antioch,
receive their charter of freedom with joy; Judas and Silas return to
Jerusalem; Paul and Barnabas remain in Antioch, " teaching and
preaching, with many others, the word of the Lord."

The point of view and purpose of the whole document may be
described in this way. A man of Judea, presumably of Jerusalem,
undertook to set forth the main facts touching the growth of the
Christian church from the little band of Jews left behind by Jesus
to the large and rapidly growing body, chiefly Gentile, whose bran-
ches were in all parts of the world. He was a man of catholic spirit
and excellent literary ability. He wrote in Aramaic, and with great
loyalty to the Holy City and the Twelve Apostles, and yet at the
same time with genuine enthusiasm for the mission to the Gentiles
and its foremost representatives, especially Paul. His chief interest
was in the universal mission of Christianity (i, 8; 2, 5 ff.; 3, 25;
7, 48-53; I0 > i-"i J 8; ii, 21; 13, 46 ff.; 15, etc.). He was


secondarily interested to show what the far-seeing among the
Jewish Christians of his time must generally have acknowledged
that although the new faith was first developed, of necessity, among
the Jews, yet being rejected by the main body of them it passed out
of their hands. From the very beginning of his account, he had in
mind as its central feature the wonderful transition from Jewish sect
to world-religion. From the outset he purposed to show how Anti-
och became the first great Gentile center of Christianity; his pride
in Antioch was of course hardly equal to his pride in Jerusalem, but
was very real nevertheless. It is a skillful arrangement of his ma-
terial by which he makes it all lead up, in successive steps, to the
first great triumphs of the new faith on foreign soil, and to the true
climax in chapter 15. It may be added, that there is nothing in
Acts 1-15 which seems out of harmony with this general purpose.
There are unquestionably strong reasons for concluding that Luke
has preserved for us, practically intact, the whole of the Aramaic
narrative which had come into his hands; and perhaps equally co-
gent reasons for believing that this document had not been pieced
together from fragmentary written sources, but rather composed
entire by a single Judean narrator.

From their different points of view Luke and the Judean narrator
were aiming to set forth precisely the same thing. Their main
premises and chief arguments were practically identical, for the pur-
poses of such a history as this, and it was therefore an easy matter
for the Hellenist to continue from the point where the Jewish con-
vert had left off. Their joint work is truly typical of what was
taking place at that time on so great a scale.


The foregoing investigation has made it possible, through the dem-
onstration of the Aramaic Document and its translation by the
same writer who composed its sequel, to establish a degree of
probability never before attainable in regard to the authorship and
composition of the book; and it will readily be seen that the ques-
tion of dates, for Acts and the Third Gospel, is also considerably


Acts 15, 36-28, 31 was written by a contemporary and com-
panion of Paul. 1 The writer seems to have met the apostle first at
Troas, in the year 50,* and to have accompanied his party to Phi-
lippi. On the return of Paul to the latter city, in the year 58 or 59,
Luke again joined the apostle and his companions, and went with
them on their journey to Jerusalem. From this time on, he seems
to have regarded himself as one of Paul's adherents; and after the
two years' imprisonment of the latter at Caesarea (59-61) he accom-
panied him on the journey to Rome, arriving in 62.

Evidence that the account was written not long after the events
described is also to be found in the occasional presence in the narra-
tive of purely incidental details of personal interest, such as might
naturally be inserted by one to whom the occurrences were still fresh
in mind, and who was writing for men to whom the persons and
incidents mentioned were also well known. Such details are the
introduction of Mnason in 21, 16; the mention of the " sign of the
Dioscuri " in 28, n; the allusions to Jason (as a well-known per-
sonage) in 17, 5-9, and to Alexander in 19, 33. Hence also probably
the aujxrrtpuv and K rov otttov iitdvov, 19, 16, in the story of the sons
of the Jew Sceva 3 the anecdote being a familiar one. Other ex-
amples will occur to readers of the book. On the other hand, it must
be said that not even the story of the journey to Rome gives the
impression of a record made at the very time of the occurrences de-
scribed. It does not sound at all like a " journal " or " travel-
diary," but rather like subsequent recollection aided by the recollec-
tion of others.

Nothing can be learned with certainty from the manner in which
the book comes to an end. This much, however, may be said to be
highly probable: that 28, 31 formed the original and intended close
of the book; and that this verse was written after Paul had been
transferred from his " hired dwelling " to a veritable prison, and
before Luke had received news of his death. Paul had many friends

1 There seems to be no good reason why the church tradition, that the writer was
Luke, should not be retained, as certainly possible and perhaps well founded.
1 I follow the chronology adopted by Wendt, Komm., p. 64.
1 I can hardly believe that the word dpxteptws stood in the original text.


and followers in Rome, and the fact of his death or of his release
from prison would almost certainly have become known within a
short time. The year 64, then, may be regarded as the most probable
date of the writing of chapters 16-28. This whole second half of the
book could easily have been written at Rome within a few weeks'
time, Luke having there the aid of men (such as Aristarchus, and
perhaps Timothy) who had accompanied Paul in the journeys in
which he himself did not participate. This hypothesis at least agrees
with all the known facts.

Since II Acts was written as the sequel of I Acts, it is altogether
reasonable to suppose that the idea of writing this history was first
suggested to Luke when the Aramaic Document came into his hands.
We have no reason to suppose, but very good reasons against sup-
posing, that he had in mind such a history while he was making his
journeys in company with Paul. If the plan of writing it had already
occurred to him, we may be sure that he would have made notes of a
very different character from the incidental, loosely connected, and
often unimportant reminiscences which now occupy so large a part
of the work. We may conjecture that the Document came into his
hands either when Paul was in prison at Cae^area, during which time
(two years) Luke was very likely in Palestine, or even more
probably after his arrival in Rome in the year 62. 1 Judging from
the very cautious manner in which he handled the Document, not
venturing to alter it or omit from it, even when he believed it to be
wrong (see above), it would seem fairly certain that he did not know
who its author was, and had no means of finding out. He could
hardly have studied it in Palestine, moreover, without becoming
aware of the true meaning of certain passages which must have per-
plexed him, such as u, 27-30, and others, mentioned above, in which
the unfamiliar Palestinian idiom made trouble for him. The sup-
position that he found the Document in Rome is the one which best
suits the facts before us. The Document was written in Palestine
after the Council of the Apostles at Jerusalem in the year 49, prob-

1 An alternative amounting to the same thing is the supposition that he secured
the Document before leaving Palestine, but did not decide to make this use of it until
after his arrival in Rome.


ably very soon after that event and under the inspiration of the
wonderful beginning of the work among the Gentiles. It is a very
significant fact that its author did not know (see 15, 32 f.) that Silas
had started on a new missionary journey in company with Paul. A
man of his interests and information could not have remained for
many months in ignorance of this most important turn of events.
We are accordingly enabled to date the Document with unusual pre-
cision; it must have been composed late in the year 49, or early in
the year 50.

In relation to the Third Gospel, the Book of Acts was plainly an
afterthought. When Luke wrote his brief prologue to the former
treatise, he certainly did not have in mind the continuation which
included his own personal experiences. 1 On the other hand, in the
latter treatise, the extreme brevity of the address to Theophilus,
without explanation or further remark, makes the conclusion practi-
cally certain (as scholars have generally agreed) that the interval
between the two writings was a short one. Now the all-important
feature of Luke's own labors in compiling his Gospel history (see my
Translations made from the Original Aramaic Gospels, pp. 288-297)
was the searching out and employing of " authentic " documents,
that is, of Palestinian sources in their original Semitic form. The
collection of such material could only be made in Palestine, and
would necessarily occupy considerable time. It is certainly a strik-
ing coincidence, that a few years before the date which has seemed
most probable for the composition of Acts, Luke should have made
an extended stay in Palestine. It is a conjecture which is more than
merely plausible, that during the two years (24, 27) of Paul's im-
prisonment at Caesarea Luke was collecting, examining, and trans-
lating the materials for his Gospel. We may then venture the con-
clusion, that the Third Gospel was written before the year 61,
probably in the year 60.

1 The latter treatise, moreover, could not have been described in the same terms as
the former. In the Gospel, Luke did indeed " trace the course of all things accurately
from the first," with laborious comparison and criticism of authorities and incorpora-
tion of new Palestinian material. The Book of Acts, on the contrary, was not a work
of research, nor even of any considerable labor. It was merely the translation of a single
document a lucky find supplemented by a very brief outline of Paul's missionary
labors, enlivened by miscellaneous personal reminiscences.


To the hypothesis of such an early date for the Lukan writings
the advocates of a later dating have been wont to oppose two
objections which, if their validity could be established, would be
truly fatal. These are, first, the supposed evidence in Luke 21,
20-24 f a date subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem; and
second, the alleged dependence of Acts on Josephus.

Those who argue from the passage in the Gospel point to the diver-
gences from the parallel in Mark (13, 14-20). Thus Wendt, Komm.,
46 note, insists that since Luke predicts the siege and destruction of
Jerusalem, and also speaks of a period after the catastrophe during
which the Gentiles will triumph for a time (the /caipot eQvuiv), and
since these things are not in Mark, therefore the Third Gospel must
have been written after the year 70. Similarly Wellhausen, Evan-
gelium Lucae, 117 f., basing his whole argument on the assumption
that the only sources of Luke 21, 20-24 were the passage in Mark
and the actual progress of events. But may not the author of the
later passage also be supposed to have known the Old Testament
scriptures ? To be sure, it must be said that on the sole basis of
Mark the prediction would have been easy enough. When he speaks
of ep?7/xaxns, foretells the frantic flight of the citizens to the moun-
tains, and adds, that there will be then " such distress as there has
not been since the creation of the world, and never shall be," no one
could possibly doubt that the capture of the city, and its iprmuais,
were foretold. The language in Luke is very cautious. Jerusalem
had been " compassed with armies " and captured by these Roman
invaders more than once already; must not the great final catas-
trophe be incomparably more terrible than anything preceding, even
surpassing the slaughter and captivity in the days of Nebuchadrez-
zar ? So Mark had said. But this is not all. Verse 2 2 in Luke must
not be overlooked: these calamities are to come " so that all things
which are written may be fulfilled." This is a very significant addi-
tion, and it is not easy to understand how it can have been left out
of account by some of those who have compared the three Gospels
at this important point. The predictions in the Old Testament
were certainly explicit enough. The end of the present age is
described in Zech. 14, i ff. : "A day of Yahwe cometh, when thy


spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all
nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and
the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half the city shall go
forth into captivity." This last phrase indicates plainly enough the
interval between the slaughter and devastation and the final triumph
of Yahwe and his people, described in verses 3 ff. So also Daniel
had prophesied. The last and most terrible beast " shall wear out
the saints of the Most High " (7, 25), " and they shall be given into
his hand for a time and times (/catpcoy) and half a time." Dan. 8, 13
had declared that at the time of the DO$ veto, djuaprta epTjjuoxreajs
(the very thing spoken of by Mark), the sanctuary should be trampled
under foot, Lk., Trarovn&r] VTTO eOp&v. And again, in Dan. 12, i, 7,
the prophet foretold the time that must elapse between the eprjfjutxris,
when " there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there
was a nation even to that same time " (vs. i; Mark 13, 19), and
the day of final triumph when Michael shall stand forth and deliver
the holy people. The interval will be (vs. 7) " a time, times (xaipous),
and a half," until " they have made an end of breaking in pieces the
power of the holy people "; that is, to the end of the /catpot edi>&t>.
It appears, then, that every particle of Luke's prediction not pro-
vided by Mark was furnished by familiar and oft-quoted Old Testa-
ment passages. It is therefore obviously not permissible to call
Luke 21, 20-24 a vaticinium ex eventu, and it cannot be cited as
throwing light on the date of the Gospel.

The argument for the dependence of the Lukan writings on Jo-
sephus has been set forth exhaustively by Krenkel, Josephus und
Lukas. After examining his material, I agree with those scholars
who find only two of his " correspondences " worthy of serious atten-
tion; namely, the Theudas-Judas passage, Acts 5, 36 f., cf. Jos.,
Antt., xx, 5, i f.; and the " Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene " in Luke 3,
i, cf. Antt., xx, 7, i. On these two instances of agreement see
Schmiedel, Encyclopaedia Biblica, articles " Judas of Galilee," " Ly-
sanias," and " Theudas," and Burkitt, The Gospel History and its
Transmission, 105-110, both of whom accept Krenkel's conclusion;
also Wendt, Komm., 42 ff., who finds cogent evidence only in the
Theudas-Judas passage.


Josephus generally used written sources, and is following such a
source in Antt. xx, 5, i f.; see Holscher, Quellen des Josephus, 69 f.
In this written authority, Theudas " the prophet " and his band
were described, under the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus. Then
followed the account of his successor, Tiberius Alexander (xx, 5, 2).
The chapter telling of his administration seems to have contained,
in the source: (i) a brief account of the man himself, and of the
family to which he belonged; (2) some account of the famine of
that time (Jos. had already described this, xx, 2, 5, in another con-
nection); (3) the story of the execution, by crucifixion, of James
and Simon, the two sons of " Judas of Galilee." In telling their
story, the narrator must of necessity have told something about the
revolt led by Judas (Jos. remarks that he himself has told this
already, namely in xvii, 10, 5). The revolt was a thing of very
slight importance, hardly worthy of mention; but the execution of
the two sons by crucifixion imagine the horror it must have aroused
in Judea ! seems to have been the most striking event of the procu-
ratorship of Tiberius Alexander. Any history dealing with this
period would have been pretty certain to mention Theudas and
Judas at this point, and in this order, although the revolt under
Judas really happened much earlier. From some history of the kind,
in which the facts were not clearly stated, the author of Luke's
Aramaic source obtained his wrong impression of the order of events.
He could not easily have obtained it from the Antiquities, for the
correct statement is given there very plainly and briefly; and that
this was not his source, is shown by the number, " four hundred," in
Acts 5, 36. Josephus exaggerates, as usual, with his r6v Tr\ei<rTov
&X^ov. The writer in Acts, who is not at all inclined toward under-
statement, certainly did not get his number, 400, nor his impression
of the size of the disturbance, from the Antiquities, but from an older

Luke's statement in his Gospel, 3, i, that " in the fifteenth year
of the reign of Tiberius Caesar," etc., Lysanias was tetrarch of
Abilene, is a mistake, since the tetrarch of that name was executed
by Mark Antony in the year 36 B.C. Josephus, Antt. xx, 7, i, in
telling of the redistribution of Palestinian provinces by Claudius in


the twelfth year of his reign, says that Agrippa received the tet-
rarchy of Philip, and Batanea, also Trachonitis with Abila, "which
last had been the tetrarchy of Lysanias." Does not this show de-
pendence of Luke on Josephus ?

We know that long after the death of Lysanias the tetrarchy of
Abila continued to be called by his name. See for example Josephus,
Bell. Jud., ii, n, 5 (which is the parallel to Antt., xx, 7, i): ertpav
(3a<Ti\dav ri]v Avvaviov KaXovncvriv. If the province was "so-called,"
it is hardly necessary to argue further; but a few more facts may
be noted. The Antt. passage is entirely independent of that in
the Wars, belonging to a different context, and from a different
source the same source, according to Holscher, op. cit., as that
from which the Theudas- Judas passage was derived. Again, we
read in Antt., xix, 5, i: "A^i\av 8e rrjv Avvaviov . . . 7rpocreri0ei
K.T.I.; and Antt., xviii, 6, 10 tells how Agrippa was given the Abi-
lene, and calls it simply rty hvaaviov Terpapxiw. Holscher, 64 f.,
pronounces the source here different from either of the others above
referred to. There is no need, then, to ask where Luke got his
" Tetrarchy of Lysanias." He might have found it in any source he
laid his hand on, since it was the ordinary way of speaking of the
district of Abila; which, it may be added, would be pretty certain
to appear by the side of Trachonitis in any account of the distribu-
tion of these provinces. It is very natural that Luke should have
been misled.

The general conclusion may therefore be ventured, that in the
facts now known to us there is nothing opposed to the results
reached above in regard to the composition and dating of Acts.


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Online LibraryCharles Cutler TorreyThe composition and date of Acts → online text (page 7 of 7)