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Book of Acts of the Apostles

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Acts
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Estimated Range of Dating: 80-130 A.D.

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The first question that confronts one when examining Luke and Acts is whether they were written by the same person, as indicated in the prefaces. With the agreement of nearly all scholars, Udo Schnelle writes, "the extensive linguistic and theological agreements and cross-references between the Gospel of Luke and the Acts indicate that both works derive from the same author" (The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings, p. 259). This implies the implausibility of the hypothesis of such as John Knox that Marcion knew only Luke, not Acts, and that Acts was an anti-Marcionite production of the mid second century.

The next higher critical question is, if Luke and Acts were written by the same person, who was that person? The oldest manuscript with the start of the gospel, Papyrus Bodmer XIV (ca. 200 CE), proclaims that it is the euangelion kata Loukan, the Gospel according to Luke. This attestation probably does not stem from reading Irenaeus (Adv. haer. 3.1.1) or Tertullian (Adv. Marcionem 4.2.2), nor Clement of Alexandria (Paedagogus 2.1.15 and Stromata 5.12.82), who also ascribe the third Gospel to one called Luke. Indeed, considering that the immediate recipient of Luke is mentioned in the preface, and given that the author of the third Gospel is aware that many other accounts have been drawn up before him, it is entirely probable that the author had indicated his name on the autograph. (The "most excellent Theophilus" mentioned in the preface of Luke is most likely his patron, as seen in the similar references to "most excellent X" in the prefaces to the De libris propriis liber of Galenus, the De antiquis oratoribus of Dionysius Halicarnassensis, the Scriptor De Divinatione of Melampus, the Peri ton kata antipatheian kai sumpatheian of Nepualius, and both Josephi vita and Contra Apionem of Josephus.) This Luke has traditionally been identified as the one named in Philemon 24 as a co-worker of Paul. Does the internal evidence support the idea that the author of Luke-Acts had known Saul of Tarsus?

Chief among the features of Luke-Acts that have always been thought to support the idea that the author knew Paul are the "we passages" found in 16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-18, and 27:1-28:16. For example, Acts 16:10-17 reads, "We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace, and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We spent some time in that city. ... As we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl with an oracular spirit, who used to bring a large profit to her owners through her fortune-telling. She began to follow Paul and us, shouting, 'These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.'" Paul exorcised her and was imprisoned for his trouble. Paul was saved as an answer to his prayer, and he proceeded to travel through Thessalonica, Beroea, and Athens. Paul set sail for Syria by way of Ephesus, landed in Caesarea, and went to Antioch. After travelling around Galatia and Phrygia, Paul came to Ephesus in Asia Minor where Apollos was baptizing in the name of John. After an upset with the silversmiths in Ephesus, the first person narration picks up again as follows: "When the disturbance was over, Paul had the disciples summoned and, after encouraging them, he bade them farewell and set out on his journey to Macedonia. As he travelled throughout those regions, he provided many words of encouragement for them. Then he arrived in Greece, where he stayed for three months. But when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return by way of Macedonia. Sopater, the son of Pyrrhus, from Beroea, accompanied him, as did Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia who went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. We sailed from Philippi after the feast of Unleavened Bread, and rejoined them five days later in Troas, where we spent a week. On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight. ... We went ahead to the ship and set sail for Assos where we were to take Paul on board, as he had arranged, since he was going overland. When he met us in Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. We sailed away from there on the next day and reached a point of Chios, and a day later we reached Samos, and on the following day we arrived at Miletus. Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus in order not to lose time in the province of Asia, for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if at all possible, for the day of Pentecost." (Acts 20:1-16) Notice that the first passage refers to "Paul and us" and that the "we" who sailed to Assos are distinct from Paul, who travelled overland. Notice also that the "we" narration drops off at Philippi and then picks up in the second passage with "We sailed from Philippi." This nonchalant and matter-of-fact dovetailing convinces me that the author of Acts was among those who were left behind at Philippi and joined up with Paul to sail from there later. The distinction between Paul and "us" discredits the idea that the first person perspective in these passages is some kind of literary device, which would take the perspective of Paul (for example increasing the drama of Paul's adventure or increasing the connection of Paul to the group), and for which there is no precedent in ancient literature. The alternative is that the author of Acts was making a false affectation to being a companion of Paul. This prompts the question of why the author made this claim in such a subtle way, instead of ensuring that the reader could not miss it by emphasizing the point, as apocryphal writers often did. It also leaves us wondering as to why the false claim to participation is restricted to a few passages, leaving Paul alone for most of the narrative--though this is understandable if the author's participation was in fact sporadic. The most probable conclusion is that Luke had travelled with Paul at times, a fact of which Luke's patron Theophilus was already aware.

Other arguments are made concerning the authorship of Acts, but none of them are conclusive. The thesis that the vocabulary of Luke-Acts is special to a physician was deflated by H. J. Cadbury in his dissertation The Style and Literary Method of Luke (the saying goes that Cadbury earned his doctorate by depriving Luke of his!). The argument that the final voyage to Rome is an especially accurate depiction of sea travel can be met with the reply that the author (not Luke) had sailed that way at a later time or appropriated a sailor's account of the same. The cleavage between the theology of Luke and Paul is simply a consequence of the student going off in his own direction, a venerable tradition. The disagreements noted between the narrative of Acts and the letters (mainly Galatians) may frequently be reconciled, but in any case are explained if the author of Luke-Acts didn't own any copies of Paul's letters to which he could refer. It is, after all, improbable that Paul would dispatch a letter both to a church and then to all his sometime companions. The ignorance of the letters of Paul on the part of the author of Luke-Acts actually speaks for a date before ca. 100, after which these letters were collected, published, and canonized.

So we come upon the third question of higher criticism, the date of Luke-Acts. It is sometimes put forward that the Gospel of Luke may be as early as 62 CE because Acts does not narrate the martyrdom of Paul. The ending of Acts is an old problem that has prompted many theories. Luke Timothy Johnson writes (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 474-476):

As early as the Muratorian Canon (late second century), an explanation for Luke's incompleteness at this part of the story seemed caled for, and the compiler of that canonical list explained that Luke did not tell of the martyrdom of Peter or Paul's subsequent journey to the West, because he wanted to relate only those things that had occurred in his presence! Other "explanations" of greater or lesser probability have not been lacking: that Luke finished this volume before Paul's case came to its conclusion--and necessarily, if it was intended to present his case! Alternatively, that Luke died before he could finish this volume, or before he could undertake still a third volume that he contemplated. This last theory has recently taken on new life in the proposal that the Pastoral Letters are written by Luke as the third volume of Luke-Acts.

Such theories are demanded only if Luke is regarded as the sort of historian whose main purpose is factual completeness and accuracy. In fact, however, we have seen that everywhere Luke's account is selected and shaped to suit his apologetic interests, not in defiance of but in conformity to ancient standards of historiography. The questions are generated as well by the presumption that it is Paul's fate which most concerns Luke, and a failure to clearly indicate his end demands an explanation. But in fact, we have seen that Luke's argument involves far more than Paul's personal destiny. As important as Paul is to Luke and as dominant as he has been in the second half of Acts, he remains for Luke ultimately only another in a series of prophetic figures through whom God's message of salvation is brought to the people.

It is through attention to Luke's overall narrative interests that we are best able to appreciate this ending not as the result of historical happenstance or editorial ineptitude, but as a deliberately and effectively crafted conclusion to a substantial apologetic argument. Even concerning Paul's fate, Luke has left us with no mystery. By this time, the reader must appreciate that all prophecies spoken in the narrative will reach fulfillment--even if their fulfillment is not recounted in the narrative itself! Thus, the reader knows on the basis of authoritative prophecy that Paul made his defense before Caesar (27:24), and knows further that Paul died as a witness to "the good news of the gift of God" (20:24) because of the prophecies the narrative itself contains to that effect (20:22-23, 29, 38; 21:10-14). But the fact that Luke does not find it necessary to tell us these events is a most important clue as to how we should read the conclusion of his work: the point is not the fate of Paul, but the fidelity of God.

So when Paul arrives in Rome his first step is to invite the Jewish leaders to his presence. In his initial meeting with them, Paul makes clear not only his innocence of any charges worthy of death, but more importantly, his complete lack of animus against Judaism. He has not come as one bearing "a charge against my nation" (28:19). Indeed, his desire to speak at length with them has nothing to do with his own fate but with his message, which concerns "the hope of Israel" (28:20). Even after his repeated rejections by his fellow Jews which caused him to turn to the Gentiles (13:46-47; 18:6), even after their seeking to kill him in Jerusalem by treachery (23:12-15), and cooptation of the Roman system (25:1-5), Paul still seeks out his own people. The reason is not his personal heroism but God's fidelity to the promises. They have still another chance to respond.

The initial reaction to the Jewish leaders is carefully neutral. They have heard bad things about "this sect" but have had no instructions concerning Paul himself. They are therefore willing to hold a second and more formal meeting. The effort Paul expends in that second conference is extraordinary: from morning to evening he argues the case for Jesus. As we would expect, he bases his appeal on "the Law and the Prophets" (28:23). The response is mixed. Some of the Jewish leaders are positively inclined, some are disbelieving (28:24). It is difficult to assess accurately what Luke intends the reader to understand by this: do we have another instance of the "divided people of God," so that even among the Jewish leaders there is a realization of the restored people? Perhaps, but the fact that they all leave while "disagreeing with each other" (28:25) holds out only minimal hope.

The final word spoken to the Jewish leaders is therefore one of rejection, but it is a rejection that they have taken upon themselves. Luke now has Paul stand truly as a prophet, speaking against the people of Israel as the prophets of old had done. Luke had not made full use of the Isaiah 6:9-10 passage in his Gospel, for that was the time of the first visitation of the prophet, and the rejection of that prophet was mitigated by the "ignorance" of the people. It has been the argument of the narrative of Acts that God did not stop making the offer of salvation to Israel through the proclamation of the raised Prophet Jesus. Only now, after so many attempts at persuading this people, is it time to employ this most chilling prophecy, spoken first of the ancient people but now "fulfilled" in the events of Luke's story. Paul has "gone to this people" and spoken the Word. And they have neither heard, nor seen, nor understood. But as the LXX version of the text makes clear, the blame is not God's nor is it the prophet's. The message itself does not deafen, or blind, or stun. It is because the people have grown obtuse that they do not perceive in the message about Jesus the realization of their own most authentic "hope."

For the final time, therefore, Paul announces a turn to the Gentiles with a ringing affirmation: the salvation from God has been sent to them, and they will listen! Luke's readers recognize this as the prophecy that has indeed taken place "among us" (Luke 1:1), and which has generated the question that made the writing of this narrative necessary in the first place: how did the good news reach the Gentiles, and did the rejection of it by the Jews mean that God failed in his fidelity to them? Luke's answer is contained in the entire narrative up to this point. In every way, God has proven faithful; not his prophetic word and power, but the blindness of the people has lead to their self-willed exclusion from the messianic blessings.

The final sight Luke gives us of Paul is, in this reading, entirely satisfactory. Absolutely nothing hinges on the success or failure of Paul's defense before Caesar, for Luke's apologetic has not been concerned primarily with Paul's safety or even the legitimacy of the Christian religion within the empire. What Luke was defending he has successfully concluded: God's fidelity to his people and to his own word. And that point concluded, the ending of Acts is truly an opening to the continuing life of the messianic people, as it continues to preach the kingdom and teach the things concerning Jesus both boldly and without hindrance, knowing now that although increasingly Gentile in its growth, its roots are deep within the story of people to whom God's prophets have unfailingly been sent.

Hans Conzelmann is more brief: "The final point is made clearly: διετια, 'unhindered'--an appeal to Rome. The reference to the διετια, 'two years,' certainly assumes that this situation of Paul was terminated. The farewell speech in Miletus leaves no doubt as to how this came about: Paul was executed. But Luke did not wish to tell about that. The purpose of the book has been fully achieved; therefore we ought to reject all hypotheses which understand the book as incomplete or which declare the ending to be accidental." (Acts of the Apostles, pp. 227-228)

That Luke was aware of Paul's death is indicated in Paul's farewell speech at Miletus: "But now I know that none of you to whom I preached the kingdom during my travels will ever see my face again. . . . When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship." (Acts 20:25-38)

Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes: "In any case, it may seem strange that the reader is not told anything about the death of Paul, the hero of the second half of Acts. Yet the ending, such as it is, may not be as puzzling as some think, because it does record that Paul continued to preach the kingdom of God, even in Rome, 'with all boldness and without hindrance' (28:31). That is the note of triumph on which Luke wanted his story to end. The gospel was thus being preached at Rome, the 'end of the earth' (1:8), 'and without hindrance' (28:31). The reader of Acts already knows that Paul's personal end was not far off; the Lucan Paul intimated as much in his speech at Miletus, and so Luke felt no need to recount it. Homer's Iliad is not seen to be incomplete because it does not describe Achilles' death!" (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 791-792)

The ending of Acts is part of Luke's narrative plan from the beginning. The ending of Acts with Paul in Rome forms an inclusio with the words of Jesus at the ascension in Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." The city of Rome was considered an extremity to the West, and the book of Acts portrays the fulfillment of this exhortation, carried throughout the narrative, with the climax of the confident and unhindered preaching of Paul in the capital of the Empire. This is not to suggest that Luke saw the preaching of Paul at Rome as being a one-off supernatural fulfillment of the commission, such that it would not have been in the works during the earlier evangelisation or that it could not have continued with other prophets. But the ending of Acts recalls the beginning and indicates that Luke has completed his work as intended. Paul's death at the hand of Roman authority does not advance Luke's point about the faithfulness of God to His people in the spread of the gospel, first to the Judeans, but expanding to the Gentiles, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But Acts 28:25-28 does advance that point:

They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 'Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving." For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!"

Why would Luke have waited twenty years or more from his arrival in Rome with Paul to his composition of Luke-Acts? The explanation could be very simple: after twenty years, Luke had received a copy of Mark's Gospel and decided to write his own version of the story, putting things in order (over against the "many" who have written before him) based on his own investigations, in response to the prompting of his patron, most excellent Theophilus. See the prologue--it doesn't say, "Whew! I just got to Rome and Paul might be killed soon, so let me tell the story of how it all began when I'm still busy making it happen!" Rather, it says, "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Perhaps Luke took a visit to the holy land to do more investigation of the subject and interview these servants of the word. In any case, the author of Luke in the prologue indicates that he wrote his great work at a time that was (1) at the prompting of Theophilus, likely his patron and (2) when "many" had already written accounts, which Luke would like to set in order and (3) after carefully investigating everything as handed down by the servants of the word. This fits best a time after which Luke had settled down to do teaching of his own, not when he was waiting on the results of the trial of his mentor Paul.

F. F. Bruce writes on the occasion of Luke's writing (The Book of Acts, pp. 10-12):

It is necessary, then, to look for an appropriate life-setting for a work which strikes the apologetic note in just this way. One attractive suggestion points to the period A.D. 66 or shortly afterward, when the chief accusers of Paul, the Judean authorities, ahd so completely discredited themselves in Roman eyes by the revolt against imperial rule. True, Paul himself was dead by then, but the accusations against him, especially that of fomenting public disorder, continued to be brought against Christians in general, and his defense, which could have been seen as vindicated in the event, might be validly pleaded on their behalf. In those years it would have been quite effective to emphasize that, unlike the rebellious Jews, Christians were not disloyal to the empire--that, in fact, it was the rebellious Jews themselves who had always done their best to disown Christianity.

The argument that there is nothing in Acts--or even in Luke--that presupposes the Jewish revolt and the resultant destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem (A. D. 70) has been used in defense of a pre-70 dating for the twofold work--early in the twentieth century by Adolf Harnack and over sixty years later by J. A. T. Robinson. Indeed, it has been further argued, since there is no allusion to two earlier events--the Neronian persecution and the execution of Paul--that the composition of Luke-Acts should probably be dated not later than A.D. 65. So far as the Neronian persecution is concerned, even Tacitus (no friend to Christians) admits that it was the action of one man's malignity rather than an expression of public policy, and the official reprobation of Nero's memory and actions at his death could have been held to cover his persecution of the Christians of Rome. So Luke's recording of favorable judgments which had been passed on Christianity by other Roman authorities might have been intended to suggest that Nero's anti-Christian activity was an irresponsible and criminal attack by that now excrated ruler on a movement whose innocence had been amply attested by many worthier representatives of Roman power.

Again, whether Paul's execution was or was not an incident in the Neronian persecution, the fact that it is not mentioned in Acts is not a decisive argument for the dating of the book: Luke's goal has been reached when he has brought Paul to Rome and left him preaching the gospel freely there. Certainly, Paul's arrival in Rome, his gospel witness there for two years, the legal procedure involved in the bearing of his appeal to Caesar, must have brought Christianity to the notice of classes in Roman society on which it had until then made no impression. The interest that was now aroused in it did not die out, but maintained itself and increased, until under Domitian (A.D. 81-96) it had penetrated the highest ranks of all. At any time in this period a work which gave an intelligible history of the rise and progress of Christianity, and at the same time gave a reasoned reply to popular calumnies against it, was sure of a reception amongst the intelligent reading public--or rather listening public--of Rome, of whom Theophilus was probably a representative. Its positive defense was best expressed in the words of Paul, the Roman citizen, whose appeal to Caesar was made not only on his own behalf but on behalf of the Christian community and its faith.

It is difficult to fix the date of composition of Acts more precisely than at some point within the Flavian period (A.D. 69-96), possibly about the middle of the period. The arguments by which Sir William Ramsay, late in the nineteenth century, concluded that it was composed about A.D. 80 are precarious, but nothing that has been discovered since then has pointed to a more probable dating. One consideration, admittedly subjective, is the perspective from which the work has been composed. The relations between Peter, Paul, and James of Jerusalem are presented in a way which would be more natural if all three of them had died and the author had been able to view their lasting achievements in a more satisfactory proportion than would have been so easily attained if they had still been alive. Certainly the impression he gives us of their relations is not the impression received from Paul's letters, and this is more intelligible if they had been dead for some years and their disagreements (in the eyes of a man like Luke, at any rate) no longer seemed as important as they would have done at the time.

Eckhard Plumacher, translated Dennis Martin, comments on the purpose of Luke-Acts: "Given the delay of the parousia, Christians needed to find their place in the world. Yet this world was...becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity...On the one hand he opposed the sort of uncompromising Christian hostility toward the state and the society that is visible in the renewal of apocalyptic expectations shared by the Apocalypse of John. On the other hand he did not want to be content and not stand out...Instead, the triumphal images in Acts 14:8-18, 16:16-40; 17:16-33; and 19:23-40 were intended to show that Christianity despite all resistance to it had always managed to succeed in the world. Such lively and therefore convincingly portrayed examples of successful actions in the past were supposed to arouse in the reader the hope that what was so clearly described in the past could become reality in the reader's present." (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, p. 400)

Consider Luke 17:20-21, "Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, 'The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, "Here it is," or "There it is," because the kingdom of God is within you.'" In Luke 21:24, the author indicates a space of time between the destruction of Jerusalem and when "the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled," when the cosmic signs will appear ushering in the Son of Man, signs which Mark places near after the tribulation accompanying the First Jewish Revolt (Mark 13:24-29). Bart Ehrman also points out that Luke seems to discourage near-future eschatological expectations: "Luke could provide no absolute assurance of this, however, so he emphasizes to his readers that their ultimate concern should not be with the future but with the present. Thus they should act on the social implications of Jesus' message in the Gospel (by helping the poor and the oppressed) and continue spreading the good news in Acts. The author wants to stress that the delay of the end cannot be used to nullify the truth of the Christian message. It is likely that some nonbelievers in the author's locality were using the delay precisely to this end, by pointing out that Jesus' failure to return in judgment was a sure sign that the Christians had been wrong all along. In opposition to such a view, Luke stresses that God did not mean for the end to come right away. More importantly, he indicates that despite the delay there is good reason to believe that God was and still is behind the Christian mission. Otherwise, from Luke's perspective, it would be impossible to explain the miraculous success of the Christian mission throughout the world. The hand of God was behind this mission, and there was nothing that any human could ever do to stop it." (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, p. 131)

Helmut Koester writes: "This same Paul, the greatest of the early Christian missionaries, was the chosen vessel to carry the gospel to Rome, the capital of the world. Luke knew from his source that Paul had been arrested during his last stay in Jerusalem, information that enabled him to treat the position of Christianity toward the Roman authority at some length. On the one hand, Paul points out that his entire activity, the founding and establishment of a worldwide Christian church among the gentiles, is due to divine initiative and direction. For this purpose, the readers of Acts see Paul repeat the story of his calling twice (22:3-21; 26:9-20). On the other hand, Paul's speeches in these last chapters of the book leave no doubt that Christianity is by no means a novel invention designed to disturb the religious peace of the empire. Luke is here defending Christianity against accusations of disrespect for ancient and venerable religious traditions. Paul has to emphasize repeatedly in his defense that he is indeed a Pharisee, which is to say, a Jew who had never done anything against the religion of his fathers (22:1ff; 23:1, 6; 24:14ff; 25:8; 26:2ff). In Luke's presentation, Paul is doing more than appeal to the emperor on his own behalf (25:10), he is also making a general appeal to the official Roman position in matters of religious policy, since he can portray himself as the prototype of the pious Roman citizen who has never offended 'against the law (of the Jews), nor against the temple, nor against Caesar' (25:8). Paul's trial is designed to demonstrate that his conviction [of crime] (and thus the conviction of any Christian) would be a violation of the principles of Rome's policies in matters of religion. This also explains why Luke was not interested in describing the conviction of either Paul or of Peter, both of whom were executed at the time of Nero by a Roman tribunal. Rather, Luke takes great care to point out that Paul, a Roman citizen, is treated with the necessary respect by the Roman officials and soldiers (22:24-29), that he remains in the full possession of his miraculous powers during his eventful travel to Rome, even though a prisoner (27:1-28:16), and that he is able to 'preach the kingdom of God and teach about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered' in the capital (28:31)." (History and Literature of Early Christianity, p. 323)

Another detail is worth noting. In Acts 25:13, Luke writes, "When a few days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea on a visit to Festus." Luke assumes a knowledge of who this Bernice was in his Greco-Roman readers. This would be most easily assumed after she had been made famous by her affair with the emperor Titus in c. 69 CE. Juvenal mentions her in his Satires in the book on "The Ways of Women," while Suetonius comments on "his notorious passion for queen Berenice, to whom it was even said that he promised marriage" (Titus 7.1). This lends further probability to a post-70 date of Acts.

Given the purposes of Luke, it should not be assumed that he would wish to narrate the unjust execution of Paul during the Neronian persecution. Rather, Luke chooses to wrap up his story, planned from the outset, with Paul preaching in the capital without drawing the opprobrium of Roman authority, and with the messianic message of Jesus being presented first to the Jew and then to the Gentile under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Luke's emphasis is on the success of the Christian mission, not the demise of Paul. Luke didn't suddenly lose interest in the details of Paul's life story, but rather tells Paul's story as part of his historical apologetic for Christianity, not as an end in itself. Several specific indications point to a time of writing when Luke had time to research, reflect, and plan the execution of his work, and the opposite opinion rests solely on an incorrect apprehension of the incompleteness of Luke's narrative.

Stevan Davies writes (Jesus the Healer, p. 174): "Luke wrote at least sixty years after Pentecost and perhaps closer to a century after that event. Scholarship on the subject presently vacillates between a late first century and an early to mid-second century date for Luke's writings." I would throw my lot in with those who favor a late first century date. If the Acts of the Apostles were written in the mid second century, it is hard to understand why there would be no mention or even cognizance of the epistles of Paul, which were being quoted as authoritative by writers before that time, especially since Acts has thousands of words devoted to recording things about the life of Paul, unlike Justin Martyr (whose apologies don't quote Paul). The idea that Acts didn't mention the letters of Paul because they were in Marcionite use (as is plausible for Justin) founders on the unity of the Luke-Acts composition. And, of course, if the author of Acts was a companion of Paul, it is improbable to place it very long after the turn of the century, even if St. Luke lived to the ripe old age of eighty-four in Boeotia as the Anti-Marcionite Prologue avers. I have not done enough research to come to a conclusion on whether Luke used Josephus' Antiquities, which would demand a date after 93 CE. Marcion had a form of the Gospel of Luke from which he derived his Gospel of the Lord, which sets an upper bound of around 130 CE. A date for Luke-Acts in the 90s of the first century or first decade of the second would account for all the evidence, including the alleged use of Josephus and the apparent authorship by a sometime companion of Paul. If Luke did not use the Antiquities of Josephus, a date in the 80s is permissible.


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