What proofs are there to support “evidence that Luke is the writer of the Book of Acts?”
- The first verse of each Book is addressed to the same person.
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1)
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. (Acts 1)
This does not say it was Luke, but that it was writen by someone who wrote one of the gospels and ended his gospel account with Jesus being taken into heaven, as Luke 24:51 does. The Gospel of John does not include the story of the ascension, so that rules out John or its author. Mark 16:9 mentions the ascension, but the oldest manuscripts do not include those verses. Matthew cuts out at the Great Commission, just before the ascension, but does not mention it. Thus we have:
- Writer of Luke wrote Acts
- Writer of a lost gospel wrote Acts
- Writer of a known but rejected gospel wrote Acts
I doubt that Acts would be in the canon if its author wrote something heretical. And if that author lived long enough to write Acts, his gospel would have survived, or been rewritten by him.
Parts of the book of Acts are in third person. The author was not present. Other Parts of Acts were written in first person - the author was present. Luke was a traveling companion of Paul according to other sources.
One author believes that the gospel of Luke is Paul's Gospel, and that Luke was his scribe and research assistant. The idea is that each Gospel must have an apostolic sponsor. Many assume that Mark was overseen by Peter.
How do we know that Luke is the sole writer of the Acts of the Apostles?
From a Catholic viewpoint, the Catholic Encyclopedia has a great answer to this:
The authenticity of the Acts of the Apostles is proved by intrinsic evidence; it is attested by the concordant voice of tradition. The unity of style of Acts and its artistic completeness compel us to receive the book as the work of one author. Such an effect could never arise from the piecing together bits of writings of different authors. The writer writes as an eyewitness and compaction of Paul. The passages Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1; 28:16 are called the We passages. In these the writer uniformly employs the first person plural, closely identifying himself with St. Paul. This excludes the theory that Acts is the work of a redactor. As Renan has well said, such use of the pronoun is incompatible with any theory of redaction. We know from many proofs that Luke was the companion and fellow-labourer of Paul. Writing to the Colossians, in his salutation Paul associates with himself, "Luke, the beloved physician" (4:14). In 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul declares: "Only Luke is with me". To Philemon (24) Paul calls Luke his fellow-worker. Now in this article, we may suppose the Lucan authorship of the third Gospel as proved. The writer of Acts in his opening sentence implicitly declares himself to be the author of the third Gospel. He addresses his work to Theophilus, the addressee of the third Gospel; he mentions his former work and in substance makes known his intention of continuing the history which, in his former treatise, he had brought up to the day when the Lord Jesus was received up. There is an identity of style between Acts and the third Gospel. An examination of the original Greek texts of the third Gospel and of the Acts reveals that there is in them a remarkable identity of manner of thinking and of writing. There is in both the same tender regard for the Gentiles, the same respect for the Roman Empire, the same treatment of the Jewish rites, the same broad conception that the Gospel is for all men. In forms of expression the third Gospel and the Acts reveal an identity of authorship. Many of the expressions usual in both works occur but rarely in the rest of the New Testament; other expressions are found nowhere else save in the third Gospel and in the Acts. If one will compare the following expressions in the Greek, he will be persuaded that both works are of the same author:
Luke 1:1-Acts 15:24-25;
Luke 15:13-Acts 1:5, 27:14, 19:11;
Luke 1:20, 80-Acts 1:2, 22; 2:29; 7:45;
Luke 4:34-Acts 2:27; 4:27, 30;
Luke 23:5-Acts 10:37;
Luke 1:9-Acts 1:17;
Luke 12:56, 21:35-Acts 17:26.
The last-cited parallel expression, to prosopon tes ges, is employed only in the third Gospel and in Acts. The evidence of the Lucan authorship of Acts is cumulative. The intrinsic evidence is corroborated by the testimonies of many witnesses. It must be granted that in the Apostolic Fathers we find but faint allusions to the Acts of the Apostles. The Fathers of that age wrote but little; and the injury of time has robbed us of much of what was written. The Gospels were more prominent in the teachings of that day and they consequently have a more abundant witness. The canon of Muratori contains the canon of Scriptures of the Church of Rome in the second century. Of Acts it declares: "But the Acts of all the Apostles are written in one book, which for the excellent Theophilus Luke wrote, because he was an eyewitness of all". In "The Doctrine of Addai", which contains the ancient tradition of the Church of Edessa, the Acts of the Apostles are declared to be a part of the Holy Scripture (Doctrine of Addai, ed. Phillips, 1876, 46). The twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth chapters of St. Irenæus's third book "Against Heresies" are based upon the Acts of the Apostles. Irenæus convincingly defends the Lucan authorship of the third Gospel and Acts, declaring: "But that this Luke was inseparable from Paul, and was his fellow-labourer in the Gospel, he himself clearly evinces, not as a matter of boasting, but as bound to do so, by the truth itself. . . And all the remaining facts of his courses with Paul, he recounts. . . As Luke was present at all these occurrences, he carefully noted them down in writing, so that he cannot be convicted of falsehood or boastfulness, etc." Irenæus unites in himself the witness of the Christian Church of the East and the West of the second century. He continues unchanged the teaching of the Apostolic Fathers. In his treatise "On Fasting" Tertullian accepts Acts as Holy Scripture, and calls them the "Commentary of Luke". In his treatise On Prescription against Heretics 22, Tertullian is strong in asserting the canonicity of Acts: "And assuredly, God fulfilled his promise, since it is proved in the Acts of the Apostles that the Holy Ghost did come down. Now they who reject that Scripture can neither belong to the Holy Ghost, seeing that they cannot acknowledge that the Holy Ghost has been sent as yet to the disciples, nor can they presume to be a church themselves, who positively have no means of proving when, and with what infant-nursings this body was established." Again, in chapter xxiii of the same treatise, he issues a challenge to those who reject Acts: "I may say here to those who reject the Acts of the Apostles: It is first necessary that you show us who this Paul was; both what he was before he became an Apostle, and how he became an Apostle" etc. Clement of Alexandria is a clear witness. In Stromata V.11, he declares: "Most instructively, therefore, says Paul in the Acts of the Apostles: 'The God that made the world, and all things in it, being the Lord of Heaven and of earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands'" etc. (Acts 17:24, 25). Again, in chapter 12, he states: "As Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, relates that Paul said: 'Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things, ye are greatly superstitious'". In Hom., xiii, on Genesis, ii, Origen asserts the Lucan authorship of Acts as a truth that all the world accepted. Eusebius (Church History III.25) places Acts among ta homologoumena, the books of which no one has doubted. The authenticity of Acts is so well proved that even the sceptical Renan was forced to declare: "A thing beyond all doubt is that the Acts have the same author as the third Gospel, and are a continuation of the same. One finds no necessity to prove this fact, which has never seriously been denied. The prefaces of the two writings, the dedication of both the one and the other to Theophilus, the perfect resemblance of ideas and manner of expression furnish a convincing demonstration of the fact" (Les Apôtres, Introd., p. x). Again he says: "The third Gospel and the Acts form a well-ordered work, written with reflection and even with art, written by the same hand, and with a definite plan. The two works taken together form a whole, having the same style, presenting the same characteristic expressions, and citing the Scripture in the same manner" (ibid., p. xi).
The "We" Sections of Acts
Three times in the book of Acts, the writer employs the pronoun "we" when talking about travelling with St. Paul. These instances are in Acts 16:10-18, Acts 20:4-21:19, and Acts 27:1-28:30. This use of "we" informs us that the author was indeed a companion of St. Paul, so the assumption can be made that it is probably someone whom Paul would have referenced in his epistles. This rules out the men who Paul references in his epistles and who also are referenced in the third-person in Acts (Aristarchus, Tychicus, Timothy, and Mark), leaving St. Luke as only viable candidate.
The following may be of some interest: