Who Wrote Luke?

Question of the week:  Who wrote Luke?

The Chief Editor learned in his small town Sunday school class that Luke was a physician who traveled with Paul and wrote both the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the apostles. Where did that come from? 

  • It’s kinda in some of Paul’s letters, but not really. First, the letter to the Colossians mentions a physician that was a companion of Paul’s. The same letter also has a minor reference to a Gentile named Luke (it seemed important for the writer to note Luke was a Gentile). But there is never a sentence that puts the two together. Plus most Biblical scholars think Paul did not write Colossians anyway (another rabbit trail for future 3BTs). And the author of Luke/Acts never says who he is, other than implying he was a traveling companion of Paul, but probably not as seen in the next bullet.
  • OK, fine. So Luke was probably not a physician and may not have written the Gospel of Luke nor Acts. And while we’re at it, whoever wrote Acts got some of the sequences of events mixed up compared to what Paul writes. For example, in Galatians Paul says he did not go to Jerusalem after his vision on the road to Damascus. But in Acts it says he went straight to Jerusalem after the conversion to consult with ‘the boys.’ And there seems to be some confusion over whether Timothy was left in Athens or not. If there was really someone who was a traveling companion of Paul that wrote Luke/Acts, you’d think the record of occurrences would be more consistent.
  • What difference does it make? It’s part of trying to piece the puzzle together what really happened in that early development of Christianity in the 30-70 CE period. Whoever wrote Acts had an agenda — make it look like Paul and the other apostles got along famously and they all were on the same page when it came to preaching the good news. But Paul’s letters (Galatians in particular) are pretty clear he wanted to make a clean break from the Jewish ‘law’ as espoused by James and the apostles in Jerusalem. In Galatians, Paul swears he did not go back to Jerusalem after his conversion, in contradiction to Acts (which was written 20 years later). This means that either Paul a) wants to emphasize that his conversion and teachings are directly from God without interference by the brethren in Jerusalem, or b) Paul is … how should we say … stretching things a bit. The second choice seems unlikely, but it does beg the question of why it was important for Paul to write in Galatians 1:20 “In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie.” 

Question of the week:  What makes the Gospel of John and the epistles of John different from the other New Testament writings?

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