The Book of Luke is Invalid

The Anti-Missionary’s Charge:

I do not understand why you would want to quote from Luke (Acts) who:

  1. was not Jewish and
  2. was never a disciple of Jesus

He was just a person with an opinion.

HaDavar’s Response:

Let me paraphrase what I believe your objection is.

I understand you to be stating that the Book of Acts is either invalid and/or unreliable because:

  1. a Gentile wrote it and
  2. because he was never a direct disciple of Jesus

Let me respond first to objection number one that Luke was a Gentile.

Rather than being a Gentile, it is very likely that Luke was Jewish. Let me paste in a quick paragraph from the New Bible Dictionary.

LUKE. Among the companions of Paul who send their greetings in his letter to Colossae there appears ‘Luke (Gk. Loukas) the beloved physician’ (Col. 4:14); the way in which he is described suggests that he had given medical care to Paul, no doubt during the latter’s imprisonment. In Phm. 24, probably written at the same time, he is described as a fellow-worker of Paul, which suggests that his help in the work of the gospel was not confined to his medical skill. There is a third reference to him in what appears to have been one of Paul’s last messages: ‘Luke alone is with me’ (2 Tim. 4:11), and this confirms the close link between the two men. He is generally thought to have been a Gentile, but E. E. Ellis (pp. 51-53) has argued that Col. 4:11 refers to a particular group within the wider circle of Jewish Christians, and that consequently Luke may have been a Jewish Christian of the Dispersion.(Emphasis mine)

The reference in Colossians 4:11 could very well refer to Messianic Jews who became believers in Yeshua from among the Pharisees. This group felt that Gentiles could not be saved unless they were circumcised first-which is the whole debate in the book of Galatians. As a result they were called the “circumcision party.” The circumcision party makes its first appearance in Acts 11:1-2:

Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him[1]

The reference to the “circumcised” cannot be Jewish Christians in general because they all were Jewish. Every single one of the men in this gathering were circumcised Jews, yet a distinction is made specifically identifying one group. Most likely the group that has been specifically identified are Jewish Christians from among the Pharisees. Jewish Christians from that mind set would be zealous for the Mosaic Law and Jewish traditions. This being the case is supported by Acts 15:5:

But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”[2]

The Jewish Christians who are speaking here are specifically identified as formerly belonging to the Pharisees. Eventually, those Jewish Christians with this mindset became know as the circumcision party, as we see in Galatians 2:12:

For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.[3]

When Paul makes his statement in Colosians 4:10-11 he is probably referring to this group:

Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him); and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.[4]

It is often assumed that Paul is referring to Messianic Jews only here. It is assumed he is stating that only three Jewish Christians were co workers with him. Since Luke is not part of this group it is assumed that he must be a Gentile. This seems unlikely because, at this time, the vast majority of believers in the Messiahship of Jesus were Jewish.

The more likely scenario is that there would be few co-workers from the Messianic Jews of Pharisaic background. The circumcision party opposed Paul’s position on the Law of Moses and circumcision. To exclude Luke from this group would only indicate that he did not belong to the Pharisees. It is just as likely that Luke was a Diaspora Jew who came to faith under Paul’s ministry. In addition, the Jewish community was “entrusted with the oracles of God,” (Rom. 3:2). Since every other book of the New Testament was written by Jews it appears most likely that the Book of Acts would be entrusted to a Jew to write as well. I do not think we should assume that Luke was a Gentile and reject his work on that basis.

In reference to your comment that Luke was “never a disciple of Jesus. He was just a person with an opinion.” I would have to disagree with you. I think Easton’s Bible Dictionary has said it well (emphasis mine).

LUKE, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO – was written by Luke. He does not claim to have been an eye-witness of our Lord’s ministry, but to have gone to the best sources of information within his reach, and to have written an orderly narrative of the facts (Luke 1:1-4).

You are quite correct, Luke was not a direct disciple of Yeshua. He was a disciple of Rabbi Shaul. However, he did careful research, which is his claim. The historical accuracy of his book is well substantiated today. The New Bible Dictionary summarizes the historical accuracy of his work:

The historical trustworthiness of Luke’s account has been amply confirmed by archaeological discovery. While he has apologetic and theological interests, these do not detract from his detailed accuracy, although they control his selection and presentation of the facts. He sets his narrative in the framework of contemporary history; his pages are full of references to city magistrates, provincial governors, client kings and the like, and these references time after time prove to be just right for the place and time in question. With a minimum of words he conveys the true local colour of the widely differing cities mentioned in his story. And his description of Paul’s voyage to Rome (27) remains to this day one of our most important documents on ancient seamanship.[5]

It seems to me that he is more than a guy spouting off his own opinion. Luke was a careful and accurate investigator whose work has stood the test of time and objective analysis. We can trust his account of the life of Jesus and of the early years of the Messianic Jews.

  1. ^ New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation

  2. ^ Ibid

  3. ^ Ibid

  4. ^ Ibid

  5. ^ Wood, D. R. W., Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary. Includes index. (electronic ed. of 3rd ed.) (Page 11). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.