The abrupt stop of the historic information in the book of Acts leads to the conclusion that the history stops because that was when Luke wrote Acts and his Gospel. Note where the history stops:

There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. (Acts 28:14, ESV)

He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Ac 28:30–31, ESV)

How possible is it that the Gospel of Luke and Acts were written for Paul’s defense while in prison that time in Rome? The Gospel would explain Christ and much of Acts is Paul’s history.

This gives some scriptural support, "Luke alone is with me." (in 2 Tim. 4:11, ESV)

  • Where did you get the notion that Luke wrote either his Gospel or the Acts of the Apostles for 'a defense of Paul' to begin with? Sep 10, 2018 at 20:40
  • @ Sola Gratia: I remember hearing this as possible when in school years ago. However, here is something recent (gotquestions.org/Theophilus-Luke-Acts.html): "… another theory about ... Theophilus is ... the Roman lawyer who defended Paul during his trial in Rome. ... this theory believe that Luke’s purpose in writing Luke and Acts was to write a defense of Christianity, ... "
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 10, 2018 at 21:24
  • The main reason for asking this question is the answers to the previous Luke/Acts questions, such as who is Theophilus?, did not consider this possibility. I wanted to see if it was a valid possibility.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 10, 2018 at 22:46

5 Answers 5


The view that Luke-Acts was written by Luke for Paul's trial is championed in this book entitled "Paul On Trial". Here is the Google Books description:

Paul On Trial book cover

John W. Mauck Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001 - Religion - 236 pages 0 Reviews

JOHN W. MAUCK provides an exciting new way of understanding the Book of Acts. With great skill and powerful arguments, the author contends that Acts was written primarily to defend Paul for his forthcoming trial in Rome. After reading Mauck's volume, the read we will not only gain a fuller understanding of Acts, but also obtain rock-solid arguments for defending Christianity and understanding its Jewish roots.

What's Inside: A fresh study of Acts as a legal "brief"

Insights gained from understanding of Roman law

Numerous Charts that outline Luke's "argument"

Recorded speeches viewed as "witness testimony"

A section-by-section review of all of Acts

A powerful apologetic defending the claims of Christianity


"The book is a terrific addition to any lawyer's library. It makes the Book of Acts come alive with new and useful insights." -- Samuel B. Casey, Executive Director, Christian Legal Society

"It makes a constructive, fresh, and fascinating contribution to the understanding of Acts." -- Dr. Donald Hagner, Author of Matthew in WBC, Fuller Theological Seminary

I have not read the book but have long been fascinated by the idea. It does make one wonder if there were ever a time when anyone in a legal service would read such a huge document that probably filled a shelf in its original form!

So the book presents the case for it being a brief and to the degree you are convinced by the author is an indicator of the strength of the argument.

  • 1
    Recognition of Mauk's work: "But if Acts is meant, in part, as some sort of “trial brief,” then the reason it doesn’t get to the trial makes sense.)" -- Komoszewski, J. E., Sawyer, M. J., & Wallace, D. B. (2006). Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture (p. 28). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 10, 2021 at 18:40
  • It's available quite inexpensively here: abebooks.com/servlet/…-ISBN--used
    – Ruminator
    Jul 10, 2021 at 18:46

You question contains an intriguing possibility about data that we do not know. What we do know is:

  • Both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were written by Luke (from the Latin Lucas) a gentile physician and believer (Col 4:10-14).
  • Early tradition makes Luke a native of Antioch in Syria. He was obviously well educated as the Greek that He employs in writing both his Gospel and Acts is more complex and uses a much larger vocabulary than most other NT authors.
  • Luke's stated (explicit) purpose in writing these documents is set out in their respective prologues - to inform "Theophilus", an unknown person.
  • The content of Luke's works is both narrative/historical and theological- he includes much about the work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it has often been observed that the book of Acts would be better titled, "The Acts of the Holy Spirit".

Now to the question at hand. If Luke intended the book of Acts as a legal brief, then it possibly contained more material than is necessary. However, the last third of the book would be an excellent defence - but why include so much about the ship-wreck and the details of the journey (Acts 27)? Certainly, Acts 23-26 is an excellent legal defence. But that does not explain the Gospel of Luke.

Perhaps, Luke was asked to help prepare Paul's legal defence and included some of the material in Acts - this is quite possible and even probable but is based on what is unknown. If Theophilus were Paul's lawyer in Nero's court (which we do not know) that would strengthen the conclusion, but such a person would have a Latin name not such a conspicuously Greek name.

  • While the last third of Acts would be a good defense today, we need to consider all the false roomers about Christianity spread at that time. However, I'm surprised the account in Matthew 28:11-15 isn't in Luke if Luke were defending Christianity.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 11, 2018 at 20:23
  • @Perry Webb - Good point. Acts reads more like a defence of Christianity generally than just Paul.
    – user25930
    Sep 11, 2018 at 21:28
  • The reference in Acts may explain why the account in Matthew 28:11-15 wasn't included in Luke's Gospel if it was defending Christianity related to Paul's defense. Apparently, Paul's defense was helped by the Jewish leaders in Rome: >After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. (Ac 28:17, ESV).
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 14, 2018 at 21:17
  • That is obviously true but still ignores the fact that it took at least two years for Paul's trial to get to Nero (Acts 28:30), and, many of the Jews were alienated by Paul's messages (v24, 25).
    – user25930
    Sep 14, 2018 at 21:40
  • Apparently, Roman courts also weren't very fast. My understanding is Paul was eventually released from this imprisonment, then later imprisoned under Nero, when he was beheaded.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 14, 2018 at 21:43

The article you mention in your comments explains that there are several theories as to who Theophilus was, none of which can be substantiated.

With regard to Luke and his purpose in writing his gospel account and Acts of the Apostles, the article concludes:

While each of these theories holds possibilities, it seems most likely that Theophilus was a high-ranking or influential Gentile for whom Luke wanted to provide a detailed, historical account of Christ and the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Whether this Theophilus was a wealthy relative of Caesar, an influential government official, a wealthy benefactor who supported Paul or Paul’s Roman lawyer does not really matter. We cannot know for sure who Theophilus was, but we can know what Luke’s intentions for writing were. His stated reason for writing to Theophilus was “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4). Luke wrote an historical account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and detailed the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. His intention was to give Theophilus certainty that the “things he had been taught” were indeed true and trustworthy. Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/Theophilus-Luke-Acts.html

To suggest that the "Gospel of Luke and Acts were written for Paul’s defense while in prison that time in Rome" is an interesting, but speculative, theory.


Composing the Gospel from several written sources was certainly not a quick effort. Although it is not critical to the Romans, it would not be necessary to do this for the defense of his friend and teacher Paul.

Luke states in the beginning of the Acts that he had already written the Gospel. So he wrote another long story after it. You would not write two books subsequently for the same use to defend Paul.

No Roman judge would read two long books. Something more focused and less time-consuming would have done better.

Theophilos is not necessarily a given name; it is an adjective in substantive use meaning «God-loving». There was no difference made using capital letters for names in that time; the minuscule Greek letters did not yet exist. Capitalisation is a later interpretation. It is more likely that Luke did not write for a particular person but to the God-loving reader, whoever it is.

From this, it is very unlikely that the purpose of the Gospel and the Acts is the defense of Paul.

  • "No Roman judge would read two long books. Something more focused and less time-consuming would have done better." How about a lawyer or investigator?
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 20, 2021 at 13:50

The purpose of Luke's writings was clearly stated in Luke 1:

1 Many have undertaken to compose an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by the initial eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3Therefore, having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke was being objective here. Having spent much time personally traveling with Paul, Luke couldn't help but being influenced by Paul. Still, I do not think that there was any hidden agenda in Luke's writings. His stated agenda was being truthful and objective while defending his friend, Paul, at times.

  • But we are left with the question who was "most excellent Theophilus." That sounds like Luke was addressing a government official. We can't answer that question, but it gives us reason to ask about Paul's defense. Another reason is how Acts ends.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 20, 2021 at 13:48
  • @PerryWebb the «most excellent» in the Greek original is only «ὦ». That is not reserved to government officials, I would rather translate it with «dear»
    – SDG
    Aug 20, 2021 at 14:40
  • κράτιστε Θεόφιλε (Luke 1:5); ὦ Θεόφιλε (Acts 1:1) most excellent is in Luke, not Acts.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 20, 2021 at 15:04

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