Is the account of Paul’s life in Acts at odds with what Paul says himself? If not, are the stories in Acts just invented out of whole cloth?
Some people who responded to my previous post on the historical trustworthiness of the book of Acts suggested that maybe its author “Luke” (we don’t know the author’s real name, so we may as well call him this) wasn’t just makin’ stuff up, but had sources of information available to him for the book of Acts, just as he clearly did for the Gospel (e.g., the Gospels of Mark and Q).
I think this is absolutely right, he almost certainly did have sources. It should be clear that he wasn’t simply creating complete fictions about Paul: that there are numerous close parallels in Acts to what Paul has to say about himself. So there is a historical gist to his accounts on some level. At the same time, almost all these parallels also contain striking discrepancies from Paul. So Luke had sources, but the sources were not completely reliable; and he apparently altered them as he saw fit (just as he altered Mark when he was using it).
So my overall view of Acts is that it is about as reliable for the historical Paul as