I am circling around the ultimate question of this thread, whether Luke the gentile physician, the companion of Paul, wrote the Gospel of Luke. The first step was to show that Paul never *mentions* Luke as a gentile physician in any of his undisputed letters. The second step involves asking the question of whether *any* companion of Paul – whether Luke or someone else – wrote the books of Luke and Acts. The argument that one did is based on the “we-passages” that I mentioned in the previous post. Now I want to advance the argument by saying that I don’t think the we-passages indicate that a companion of Paul wrote Acts (or, by inference, Luke) because I think there is good counter-evidence to indicate that Acts (and Luke) were decidedly NOT written by someone who was familiar, personally with Paul.

Here I’ll reproduce my comments on it from my college-level textbook, more accessible than some of my other posts recently. The basic point I’m making at this stage is that the book of Acts is not at all reliable in its report of Paul; the implication of that will be (in a subsequent post) that a companion of Paul almost certainly didn’t write it; that in turn will mean that the “we-passages” have to be explained on other grounds; and altogether it will suggest that Luke was not written by Luke the gentile physician (or more accurately: if it was, we have no evidence of it).

So, for now, the reason for thinking a companion of Paul did not write Acts: viz, its author does not seem to have known about Paul’s life and teachings very well.

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What, though, about the book of Acts, Luke’s account of the history of the early Church, which features Paul as one of its chief protagonists? For a historically reliable account of what Paul said and did, can we rely on Luke’s narrative?

Different scholars will answer this question differently, some trusting the book of Acts with no qualms, others taking its accounts with a grain of salt, and yet others discounting its narrative altogether — that is, discounting its *historical* credibility for establishing what Paul said and did, not necessarily discounting its importance as a piece of literature. My own position is that Acts can tell us a great deal about how Luke *understood* Paul, but less about what Paul himself actually said and did. for discerning the reliability of Acts we are in the fortunate situation that Paul and Luke sometimes both describe the same event and indicate Paul’s teachings on the same issues, making it possible to see whether they stand in basic agreement.

 

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