Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

“Looking At Luke”

I have a skeptical friend who has issues with the reliability of the Scriptures.  We were discussing the book of Acts and the spread of Christianity after the resurrection of Jesus.  My friend mentioned that the author of Acts does not identify himself in the text.  My friend wondered how we can have confidence that the author of Acts even witnessed the events first hand if we don't even know who the author was.  I mentioned modern scholars believe it was Luke who wrote Acts, and he did witness the events.  My friend wanted to know why modern scholars believe it was Luke and what historical information they are using to determine this.  How do we know Luke wrote the book of Acts?

Citing Sources

Dear Citing Sources,

We can’t know for sure that Luke wrote the book of Acts, but we can be completely confident that the author was fully and accurately aware of the events he describes… and we can even be pretty confident that it was Luke.  Acts is the second of two letters written to “Theophilus” (Acts 1:1); the first is the book of Luke (Lk 1:3).  Both Luke and Acts are immensely detailed accounts of the history of Christ’s life and the early church.  Both were published early on in the history of Christendom, during a time when the first generation of christians were still alive.  The early church embraced these two letters.  They never would have done this if the letters weren’t accurate because people in the churches could still testify from firsthand knowledge.  If the writer was lying or fabricating information – the church would have known it!

There are two main reasons that it is pretty confidently believed that Luke wrote them.  The first reason is that Luke is given credit for these books in the oldest surviving list of the New Testament (this list is called “the Muratorian Canon”).  As far as we know, Luke has always been given credit for writing these two books, and there is no evidence that gives us reason to doubt early church historians.  Secondly, many of the words used in Luke and Acts are technical words that wouldn’t be used by the average person – but would be used by a highly educated doctor (Luke was a doctor – Col. 4:14).  For example, in the gospel of Luke when Jesus talks about a camel going through the eye of a needle… the book of Luke is the only account to use the word for a surgeon’s needle.  This highly technical and detailed writing points toward a highly educated writer.  When you begin to narrow down the list of people who knew Paul and traveled with him… Luke is the only one that fits this pattern for the author of Acts.