Acts is not so much a history of the Apostolic Age as of the march of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome.
Probably known to Clement of Rome AD 96.
Objections to the theory that connects Lucan writings with Antioch.
If Theophilus was a Roman noble the Gospel may have been written and addressed to him when Governor of some province. Possibly, therefore, written in Corinth, the capital of Achaea. In that case it would be brought to Rome by the author himself.
Christianity and the Imperial House in Rome, AD c. 90. Acts is "the first of the Apologies," i.e. of defences of Christianity addressed to the educated Roman world.
Date of the gospel Not later than AD 85, more likely about AD 80.
This important for the indirect light which it throws on the local origin of sources of the Gospels. Authorship of Third Gospel bound up with that of Acts. The Tubingen view of Acts made untenable by subsequent research and discussion. The linguistic, archaeological evidence, and that from "undesigned coincidence," cannot even be summarised here; but considerations, some of them new, are offered, bearing upon the larger issues involved in the question of the Lucan authorship.
Everything points to Rome as the Church for which the Acts was written.
Considered as a history of the foundation of Christianity, Acts is entirely out of proportion. Not a word is said of Alexandria, while Antioch, the first centre of the Gentile mission and always the capital of Eastern Christianity, drops out of sight so soon as Paul has begun his great movement of expansion north and west. But the Acts is not intended to be a history of the first thirty years of Christianity. It is rather the story, of how that religion travelled from Jerusalem, the capital of Jewry, to Rome, the capital of the world. Its aim is to trace the transition of Christianity from a sect of Judaism into a world religion. The points, which the author most emphasises, are the crucial stages in this development. The Gospel is preached first to a Eunuch, a Jew by blood, but one who might not be a member of the Jewish congregation; then to the half-Israelitish Samaritans; then to Cornelius, a Gentile proselyte of the synagogue; lastly to the Gentile world at large; and this spiritual expansion, we are led to feel, has reached its consummation when, with the two years' preaching of Paul, the Church has been securely, and by apostolic authority, planted in the capital of the world. Lastly, the book ends with the announcement that the Jewish world has finally rejected Christ, with the unuttered implication that the capital of Christianity has been transferred from Jerusalem to Rome. In a word, the title of the Acts might well have been "The Road to Rome."
This inference from internal evidence should be taken in connection with
the probability that the Acts was known to the writer of the letter of the
Roman to the Corinthian Church, c. AD 96, ascribed to Clement.
more glad to give than to receive (Clem.ii.1)
seems to allude to the saying of Christ recorded Acts xx.35 but not elsewhere.
Again, Acts and Clement agree in conflating 1 Sam.i.14 with Ps.Ixxxviii.21 (Clem, xviii.1; cf. Acts i.22). Either, then, Clement quotes Acts or both draw on the same collection of Messianic proof texts. If the latter, it must have been a collection used in Rome at this date.
More significant is his allusion to Peter and Paul. Of Paul, Clement (v.6-7) says,
seven times in bonds,
hurried from place to place,
a preacher in both the East and the West ...
having taught the whole world righteousness
and reached the farthest limits of the West,
and having borne testimony before the governors ...
The concluding words depend for their rhetorical effect on the implication that the Apostle thus fulfilled the prophecy of our Lord:
Before governors and kings
shall ye stand for my sake
for a testimony unto them
It adds still more point to the whole passage if what goes before is regarded as being a similar allusion to the words,
Ye shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
and in all Judaea and Samaria,
and unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts i. 8),
which states the "programme" of the Acts.
True, only four imprisonments
—at Philippi, Jerusalem, Caesarea and Rome
— are expressly mentioned in Acts,
but the early tradition embodied in the Latin (Marcionite) Prologues added one more in Ephesus; and there may have been two periods of imprisonment in Rome. But Clement's arithmetic must not be pressed; "seven" is a sacred number into conformity with which Jews and Christians were always trying to squeeze facts. At any rate Clement's description of Paul's labours and sufferings is very much nearer to the story in Acts than it is to Paul's own summary in 2 Cor.xi.24 ff. There is another feature about this passage. Clement (v.3-5) is quite obviously trying to suggest a parallelism between the sufferings of "the two good Apostles," Peter and Paul. Peter is mentioned first; but all Clement has to say about him is that he
endured not one nor two but many labours,
and having thus borne testimony
went to his appointed place of glory.
οὕτω before μαρτυρήσας implies that the verb refers to the labours— not to martyrdom in the strict sense.]
Why has Clement definite details about Paul's sufferings but only vague generalities about those of Peter? This would be readily explained if Clement knew Acts which mentions two imprisonments of Peter, but nothing comparable to the long list of sufferings endured and dangers overcome which it records of Paul but knew nothing definite about Peter beyond what he found in Acts, except the bare fact (and possibly the time and place) of his death.
Eusebius τὸ μὲν λένος ὢν τῶν ἀπ’ Ἀντιοχείας (H.E. iii. 4).] says that Luke was of Antiochene lineage, and the Monarchian Prologue agrees (Syrus natione). This may be an inference from the occurrence of a "we section" in the Western text in Acts xi.28. But, if so, that only means that the early evidence for the Western reading is much increased; and as the reading is very likely correct, the inference may be so too. But no Church writer and no MS. "subscription" says that Luke wrote at Antioch; and the fact that the connection of Peter with Antioch—the proudest boast of that Church—is completely ignored is fatal to the theory of some modern scholars that the book was written in and for that Church. 124, 346) and some MSS. of the Peshitta state that Luke wrote in Alexandria. This is perhaps an inference from the statement in the Apostolic Constitutions that 'Luke, who was also an evangelist', consecrated the second bishop of that Church. But this is a document of Syrian origin and, as there is no at all early Egyptian tradition that connected Luke with Alexandria, it merely constitutes negative evidence that Syrian tradition did not connect the writing of the Gospel with Antioch.]
But though the Acts is a sequel to the Gospel, it does not necessarily follow that they were written in the same place, or that when Luke wrote the Gospel he already anticipated a sequel. Linguistic considerations, pointed out by Hawkins B text to be correct) between the Gospel and Acts in regard to the day of the Ascension, would favour an interval of time between the two works; and this may have corresponded to a change of residence. And there are four considerations — though none of them is at all conclusive — which may be urged in support of the view that the Gospel was written elsewhere than Rome., and the discrepancy (assuming the
The theory that the Lucan writings were primarily written to present the case for Christianity to certain members of the Roman aristocracy is borne out by a consideration of the internal circumstances of the Church in Rome during the latter part of the first century AD. Domitian was assassinated in September AD 96. Eight months before he had scandalised Rome by putting to death T. Flavius Clemens, his own first cousin, the husband of the only daughter of his only sister. Domitian himself was childless, but Clemens and his wife had two sons. These, by the express order of the Emperor, had been named Domitian and Vespasian respectively, after himself and his father, the founder of the dynasty. This, of course, constituted a public avowal of the Emperor's intention that one or other of these boys should ultimately succeed to the throne. In the year AD 95 Domitian had associated Flavius Clemens with himself as joint Consul, another mark of the highest honour. But secretly Domitilla, the wife of Flavius Clemens, was, if not actually a baptized member, at any rate an adherent, of the Church; and Clemens himself would seem to have been at least an inquirer. The evidence, archaeological and historical, for this remarkable fact is set out at length by Lightfoot, and more recent excavations at Rome suggest that at this particular date members of more than one aristocratic family were interesting themselves in Christianity. This is not quite so surprising as may appear. Juvenal complains of the "Orontes pouring into the Tiber" ; and not infrequently in Roman history did some oriental religion, in a more or less subterranean way, become for a time the vogue in the highest society at Rome. About this date Christianity for a few short years seems to have had its turn perhaps as a result of the general reaction against the spirit of Nero, and the effort of the Court to promote moral reformation, which characterised the reign of Vespasian.
Curiously enough, however, it never seems to have occurred to Church historians
to ask what is likely to have been the psychological effect, upon a community
situated as was the Christian Church of Rome in the first century, of the
adhesion to their body of the heir to the throne of Caesar
and that at a
moment when the reigning Caesar was, not only master of the world, but was
claiming and receiving the title Dominus Deus.
Had Domitian died a year before
he did, it might have been, not Constantine, but Flavius Clemens, whose name
would have gone down to history as the first Christian Emperor.
How different in that case might have been the fate both of the Empire and the Church? For the Church it was perhaps well that its capture of the Palace was postponed from the first century to the fourth. The conversion of Constantine and the state patronage of Christianity that followed were not an unmixed blessing for a Church, which had grown to maturity; to the infant Church they might have been fatal. But even in the time of Constantine no one foresaw these dangers; while in the first century the accession of a Christian Emperor would have been regarded by Christians not a few as almost the equivalent of the inauguration of the kingdom of God on earth.
A man in the position of Flavius Clemens could only have been led very gradually, step by step, to contemplate such a complete abandonment of national traditions and intellectual and social prejudice as, at that date, would have been involved in accepting Christianity. It would have been easier in Victorian England for Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, to become an avowed disciple of General Booth than for Flavius Clemens under Domitian to be even a secret sympathiser with the Christian Church. Domitilla, his wife, was sent into exile after her husband's execution, and the Church has always reckoned her as a "confessor"; but Clemens himself, though actually put to death on a religious charge, was not reckoned as a martyr. From this we may safely infer that the husband, at least, had never been actually baptized, nor in any way publicly avowed his adhesion to Christianity. What was noted about him, say secular historians, was a marked abstention from the public duties expected of a man in his position. This abstention is attributed by Suetonius to laziness; more probably it was due to the fact that public life at Rome necessarily involved participation in pagan sacrifices and amusements like gladiatorial shows, in which any one who was at all attracted towards Christianity would have found it more and more difficult conscientiously to take part.
But we are not here concerned with the views or feelings of Clemens himself.
What we have to consider is the probable effect on Christians at Rome of the fact that the wife of the heir to the throne was a member of their despised community, and of the hope that her husband might soon become one. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "not many mighty, not many noble" were members of their calling; and the letters which he writes, though to our taste vigorous and effective in style, would not altogether pass muster according to the conventional rules of writing on which at that period so much stress was laid in educated circles. Still less would the Gospel of Mark the only account which the Roman Church possessed of the life of Christ the Greek style of which is, next to Revelation, easily the worst in the New Testament. Once Christianity began to reach members of the high aristocracy, there would arise a new and insistent demand for a Life of Christ which would not only jar less on the literary taste of educated circles, but would also make it clearer than does Mark that Christ was, and knew Himself to be, no mere Jewish Messiah, but a World-saviour, the founder of a world-religion. The Third Gospel is an attempt, and an extraordinarily successful one, to meet this demand.
Again, to the Roman nobility the Church would appear to be a society of
peculiarly sordid origin.
The Roman despised the Jew, and he despised
Christianity had the reputation of being both Jewish
Worse than that, Nero had been able to make scapegoats of
the Christians precisely because there existed a popular belief that they
were a society of secret criminals, who, even if not actually responsible
for the burning of Rome, were at any rate quite capable of desiring or attempting
such an exploit.
Lastly, Nero's action had created a precedent, or at least
established a presumption, associating Christianity and crime;
and a Roman
noble, let alone one like Flavius Clemens who was soon to be responsible
for the supreme administration of the Empire and its laws, had a great respect
for law and precedent.
The Acts tells the story of the beginnings of the Church in a way that unobtrusively presents the answer to these objections.
It shows that Christianity,
though it no doubt began in Palestine,
is not really a Jewish but a universal religion;
nor can it be derided as "new-fangled."
Though in one sense recent,
it is the fulfilment of an ancient purpose of the God of the whole earth
—a purpose adumbrated by an age-long series of prophecies.
Precisely because it is essentially a universal religion,
the Jews—who must know best what their own religion is
—have rejected Christ,
have persecuted His Apostles,
and have opposed His religion at every stage.
Peter had difficulties with Jewish Christians;
Paul was bitterly persecuted by Jews;
simply because those two Apostles had always by word and deed showed that they regarded Christianity, not as a Jewish, but as a world-religion.
Thus Christianity is neither Jewish nor new-fangled
— indeed, seen in its relation to prophecy,
it is of immemorial antiquity.
Nor, again, is it anti-Roman or illegal.
Christ was accused before Pilate of "forbidding to give tribute to Caesar and saying that he is himself a King" (Lk.xi.2).
The Roman Procurator examines the case and three times declares him guiltless.
Again and again Paul, brought before Roman magistrates and accused by the malice of the Jews (Acts xvii.7) of fomenting sedition, has been declared guiltless in Roman law.
It requires very little historical imagination to see that the Gospel of
Luke and the Acts are precisely the kind of literature that would be needed
by the Church in Rome if it was to make further headway in the circle in
which Clemens and Domitilla were the leading figures. Indeed, it is
not impossible that Theophilus was the secret name by which Flavius Clemens
was known in the Roman Church.
Theophilus ( = devoted to God) would be a most appropriately chosen name. It has a more complimentary sound than θεοσεβής or "proselyte"; it just falls short of definitely asserting quite as much, and at the same time, being in actual use as a proper name, it had the advantage of being something of a disguise; and the title κράτιστε, "Your Excellence," implies that the person addressed was one of high position. Whether, however, "Theophilus" was Clemens himself, or some other member of the high aristocracy, the Acts is really the first of the Apologies. It is a forerunner of that series of "Defences of Christianity," addressed to reigning emperors and members of the Imperial House, which constitutes the larger part of the surviving Christian literature of the second century. On this view its ending, which otherwise seems so flat and pointless, is full of meaning. It is in a spirit of justifiable exultancy that its author leads up to the final words of Paul which, now that the heir apparent was an inquirer, would seem prophecy fulfilled "Behold, we go to the Gentiles, they will hear." And the calm confidence of the last two verses reflects the high hopes of what will happen under a Christian Caesar, as Luke records how, even under Nero, it had been possible for two years at Rome to proclaim Christianity μετὰ πάσης παρρησίας ἀκωλύτως, "with absolute freedom and without restraint." Thus read, the end of Acts is a real climax.
The date of the Gospel is determined as not being earlier than AD 70, by the alterations that Luke makes in the prophecy of the Abomination of Desolation. And here it is important to think clearly. Harnack and others have urged that there is nothing about the Fall of Jerusalem in Luke xxi.20 ff. (or in xix.41 ff.) which could not have been written before AD 70. Quite true; but the point to notice is that Luke, who in the context is closely following Mark, suddenly begins to modify the language of his source in an unusually drastic way, with the result that what in Mark i is a prophecy of the appearance of the Anti-Christ in the Temple becomes, in Luke's version, a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the enslavement of its population. Now, seeing that in AD 70 the appearance of the Anti-Christ did not take place, but the things that Luke mentions did, the alteration is most reasonably explained as due to the author's knowledge of these facts.
On the other hand, the Gospel of Luke was, we have seen (p.
407 f.), already on the way to becoming a standard work in the Church
of Ephesus when the Fourth Gospel was written.
If, then, John cannot be
dated later than AD 95, Luke cannot be much later than AD 85.
It will appear
shortly that a date later than AD 90 is not very likely for Acts;
as the Gospel was' written first, we arrive by another route at AD 85 as
a probable limit.
If, however, the Gospel was written some years before
the Acts, before Luke returned to Rome and as soon as he came across a
copy of Mark, a date like AD 80 seems more likely.
But in the case of the Third Gospel the questions of the date and actual place of writing are of less interest than that of authorship, for two reasons.
The authorship of Acts, however, cannot be discussed without raising the large issue, whether, and to what extent, inaccuracies and misconceptions of the historical development of the Apostolic Age are to be found in that book, and how far the existence of such is compatible with authorship by a companion of Paul. F. C. Baur, and his followers of the 'Tubingen School' vehemently denied such compatibility. The first effectively to expose the brilliant fallacies of Tubingen was Renan in his book The Apostles, 1866. Renan the sceptic, educated for the priesthood among the Breton peasants—where miracle is a matter of everyday expectancy—gifted also with a real feeling for style and character, had the requisite combination of freedom from apologetic bias and sympathy with the atmosphere of a believing age to approach the problem from the purely literary and historical point of view. But the Tubingen School were so enmeshed in the Hegelian conception that history moves in accordance with the formula "thesis, antithesis, and synthesis"— of which I shall say something shortly—that even to the present day their disciples have never quite succeeded in approaching the question in a purely critical and historical spirit. In the meantime, from the standpoint of linguistic analysis and archaeological research, Hawkins, Ramsay, Harnack and others have been steadily piling up an accumulation of evidence favouring the Lucan authorship. I had myself supposed the matter had been finally settled; it was, therefore, with a good deal of surprise that I read the judgement by the learned authors of The Beginnings of Christianity (vol. ii. p. 358) that, though ten years ago they "felt reasonably sure that the Acts was actually written by Luke, the companion of Paul," they had slowly come round to the view that only "the 'we sections' and probably the narrative adhering to them" are his work.
The evidence from language, archaeology, "undesigned coincidences," etc., for the Lucan authorship is familiar to students; but being of a cumulative character it could not possibly be presented in the space at my disposal. I propose, therefore, to confine myself to some remarks on certain of the larger issues, in particular those which, I gather, weigh most with such of the contributors to the above-mentioned work as reject the Lucan authorship.
The discussion is still haunted by the ghost of F. C. Baur; it is time this ghost was laid. Near the beginning of the chapter (vol. ii. p. 299) of The Beginnings of Christianity entitled "The Case against the Tradition" occurs the following sentence:
The element of greatness in the Tubingen criticism is to be found in the unity of the fundamental ideas by which it is dominated: We have to deal not with a rationalistic criticism of details, but with a brilliantly chosen point of view from which to examine and interpret the whole of the apostolic and post-apostolic age. In accordance with the Hegelian watchword that all which happens is determined by the sequence, Thesis, antithesis, synthesis, the Tubingen School constructed two periods: the first was one of embittered conflict between Paul and the Judaisers, who were at one with the original Apostles; and the second was a period of conciliation, which gradually made itself effective and marked the transition from primitive Christianity to Catholicism.
In the course of the chapter which I may, perhaps, be allowed to characterise as able, fair-minded, and incredibly learned Professor Windisch himself refutes one after another the actual conclusions of the Tiibingen School; the one thing he thinks can be saved from the wreck is their denial of Lucan authorship. For myself I have no quarrel either with the date, "the period of the eighties or nineties of the first century," which he suggests, or, except in some points of detail, with his general estimate of its historical value so far, at least, as the last three-fifths of the book is concerned. It is the very merits of the Professor's discussion of the subject which impelled me to exclaim, However did the sentence I have just quoted come to be written by anyone who had seriously reflected on the principles of criticism or on the nature of historical method?
History is the endeavour to find out what actually happened, not to force upon the evidence an a priori point of view—however "brilliantly chosen." The characteristic singled out by the Professor as constituting "the element of greatness" in the Tubingen criticism is precisely the one that all but deprives it of any right to be styled historical criticism at all. History written "in accordance with the Hegelian watchword that all which happens is determined by the sequence 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis,'" is not history at all. It is dogma disguised as history; it is "tendency-writing" of a far more misleading character than anything produced by the apologetic or theological bias of the writers whose view of history the critic professes to correct. One might as well say that "the element of greatness" in the editor of the books of Judges is "the brilliantly chosen point of view" which interprets the whole of the history of Israel in accordance with the Deuteronomic "watchword" that national prosperity and adversity are determined solely by obedience to the Law of the Central Sanctuary.
The Tubingen criticism was great, not because of, but in spite of, its "unity of fundamental ideas." It created an epoch in New Testament study through its appreciation of two points. First, the literature of early Christianity must be interpreted in relation to the practical and apologetic needs of the time; secondly, there is a development of theology within the New Testament itself, of which the Fourth Gospel is the crown. Owing, however, to the a priori "unity of conception," which Professor Windisch styles its greatness, this school completely misconceived the nature of those practical and apologetic needs; and it was thus led entirely to misrepresent both the causes and the course of that very evolution which it had the merit of being the first to detect.
Karl Marx was a contemporary of F. C. Baur, and he wrote the economic history of Europe on the basis of this same Hegelian triad of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. He, too, made an ideal construction of two periods. The former was a period of embittered conflict between the "thesis" of capitalism and the "antithesis" of proletarian revolt. The latter was to be the "synthesis" a period of universal brotherhood and goodwill, automatically resultant on the success of the class war. But recent events have shown that, in real life, things do not work out quite that way.
In the science of pure logic this business about thesis and antithesis has some real meaning. As applied to history it is a pedantic way of describing that tendency to react against the fashion last in vogue which politicians call "the swing of the pendulum." But it is worse than pedantic, it is seriously misleading; it ignores the fact that the pendulum only swings because there is a relatively stable pivot upon which to oscillate. In all communities where there is vigorous life three parties are always to be found the "die-hards," the "moderates," and the "red revolutionaries." If the society manages to hold together, it is usually because the majority hold something resembling the moderate, i.e. the "synthetic," view, and in the long run this in the main prevails. But I know no case in history where this has happened except, perhaps, under the strong hand of an autocratic power unless the synthetic party, or at least the synthetic spirit, has, though dormant for a time, been there from the beginning. The spirit of conciliation is not a thing that is born of internecine conflict.
The Epistle to the Galatians shows that at the date when it was written there was acute division of opinion with regard to the obligation of the Mosaic Law, especially as it affected the position of Gentiles in the Church. Paul is the leader of the progressives, James of the conservatives, while the leader of the moderates is Peter.
And if the question is asked, which of these is the more primitive? The answer is contained in the simple observation that Peter was one of those who forsook all to follow Christ; while James was one of the brethren who in his lifetime did not believe in Him, and even went so far on one occasion as to endeavour to arrest Him on hearing that He was of unsound mind. It would seem, then, that in this case the tendency which Baur would style "synthesis" was earlier in date than both the "thesis" (Judaistic Christianity) and the "antithesis" (Paulinism) which, according to the Hegelian programme, it ought to have succeeded.
But among men of goodwill it is usually the case that the leaders of any
party are far less intolerant than the rank and file and far more inclined
to stretch a point in order to meet their opponents halfway.
It was so in the early Church.
James, Peter, and John
—observe the order in which they are mentioned (Gal.ii.9)
—gave Paul and Barnabas "the right hands of fellowship,"
having "perceived the grace that was given" them.
They even went so far as to urge them to collect alms from Gentiles for the poor Christians of Jerusalem. We may be pretty sure, then, that those followers of James, who in his name protested against Peter's associating with Gentiles in Antioch, went to the full limit of their instructions. Again, there is no evidence that the persons who visited the Galatian and Corinthian Churches depreciating Paul and denying his Apostleship, did so with the authorisation of the older Apostles. At Corinth there were factions who said "I am of Peter" and "I am of Paul"; but Paul himself is emphatic in declining to recognise the difference as important.
Nothing better illustrates the a priori "dogmatic element," as
opposed to the empirical historic, in the Tubingen School than their rejection
of the story of the conversion of Cornelius at Caesarea as legendary, or
to be accepted with the utmost hesitation, on the ground
(a) that it attributes to Peter an attitude towards Gentiles of which at that date only Paul was capable;
(b) that guidance by a Vision is a sign of legend.
So far as visions are concerned, the turning points in the lives of half the saints have been accompanied by visions regarded by them as expressions of Divine direction; and in India and Africa today the same thing happens. These things are partly a matter of individual psychology, partly of race and training; and it so happens, as I am arguing elsewhere , that this particular Vision conforms to the laws of dream psychology in a way which guarantees it as a reasonably accurate report of an authentic experience.
As regards the major issue, why, we ask, if Peter was incapable of the attitude implied in the story, is he found at Antioch a few years later? Why, until the adherents of James bring pressure upon him, is he content to be eating and drinking with Gentiles in that city as though he shared Paul's view of the relative unimportance of the ceremonial law? Peter's visit to Antioch is not once mentioned in the Acts; the irrefutable evidence of Galatians attests it. But Antioch is a long way from Jerusalem, and Peter's behaviour there in regard to Gentiles is a very big step away from orthodox Jewish legalism. Geographically Caesarea is the halfway house to Antioch; psychologically the conversion of Cornelius and the need of justifying it to the Pharisaic Christians at Jerusalem is the halfway house to Peter's attitude at Antioch. So far, then, from being historically suspicious, the Cornelius incident is the missing link without which the behaviour of Peter, as attested by Galatians, is psychologically inexplicable.
Under pressure from "certain who came from James," Peter at Antioch
went back on his pro-Gentile liberalism.
It was doubtless represented to
him that if he continued thus openly to break the law he would ruin all possibility
of converting "the circumcision" to Christ.
Peter has been much
abused for giving way; but in all probability those who urged this judged
the situation correctly.
Peter was really face to face with the alternative
of, either ceasing to eat and drink with Gentiles, or wrecking that mission
to the circumcised which he felt to be his primary call (Gal.ii.9). Is he
to be blamed because he declined that risk?
To Paul, Peter's conduct
seemed a disingenuous abandonment of the principle of the equality of Jew
and Gentile before Christ
a principle which for him was involved in the religious
experience of the sufficiency for salvation of Faith without the Works of
But Paul's theoretical formulation of the relation between Faith
and Works is, as the history of later theology and exegesis shows, a difficult
and a subtle concept.
It is highly improbable that, at any rate in that abstract
form, it had ever entered Peter's head.
But to Paul its courageous assertion
seemed vital for the success of the Gentile mission
and from his point of
view he was undoubtedly right.
The fact is that the relations of Jew and
Gentile since the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabean revolt
had brought things to such a pass that to surrender the obligation of the
Law meant the failure of the Jewish mission, while to retain it was to sacrifice
It was one of those tragic situations that do sometimes occur
when the best men
for the best motives
feel compelled to differ upon a vital issue.
The decisive issue in the determination of the Lucan authorship is not, primarily, the value to be attached to a traditional ascription of authorship, however ancient and well attested. It is, in the first place, the question what is the best and most natural explanation of the occurrence of the first person plural in certain of the later chapters of the Acts. The natural and obvious explanation is that the author wishes, without unduly obtruding his own personality, to indicate that he is himself the authority for that part of the story. In view of the emphasis that he lays upon eyewitness in the preface to the Gospel, it is explicable that he should attach importance to it also in the Acts, when it could be indicated without any clumsy quotation of authorities.
An alternative explanation of the "we sections" is that the author
is incorporating the diary of an eye-witness written in the first person,
and has forgotten to alter the first person to the third;
or rather, seeing
that the "we sections" do not in themselves make a connected and
coherent story but are bound together by those that intervene, it must be
supposed that he has sometimes remembered and sometimes forgotten to make
the necessary alterations.
In an ill-educated, clumsy, and careless
compiler, or one, like the editor of the book of Nehemiah, who pieced together
matter from his different sources on a purely mechanical
"scissors and paste" method, this would be conceivable.
But the author of the Gospel and Acts,
though not, as has been rashly alleged,
"a great historian" in the modern sense,
is a consummate literary artist.
One of the sources, which he used for his Gospel, was Mark.
As this is still preserved,
we are enabled to study his methods of using sources.
Nothing could be further removed from "scissors and paste."
The material derived from Mark is completely re-written in Luke's own characteristic style. The way in which, by trifling modifications of his original, he removes either faulty grammar or literary obscurities or passages, which might cause disquiet of an apologetic character, shows an acute sense of the subtlest nuances of language and style. Accordingly, if in another work by the same author we find the first person occurring in a series of passages where the third might have been expected, we must conclude that it is not there by accident.
It is meant to suggest a meaning.
It occurs in the brief section (Acts xvi.10-18) including the voyage from Troas to Philippi and what happened there;
then it completely disappears for four chapters,
to reappear again at exactly the same geographical spot when,
on his return journey some years afterwards,
Paul again passes through Philippi (xx.5).
It then continues, except in scenes and on occasions when Paul might naturally be supposed to have been unattended, until the end of the book.
This cannot be accidental.
It is done with the express purpose of suggesting that the author was in the company of Paul for the whole of the concluding period covered by the narrative, but was not in his company on any previous occasion, except for the brief voyage from Troas and the visit to Philippi years before.
That an actual companion of Paul should have been with him on these occasions, and on these only, is in no way improbable.
That a person, who wished to create the impression that he had been a companion of Paul in order to give weight to his story, should limit his claim to be an eyewitness in this extraordinary way is quite incredible.
Paul was one of those great men who are a source of anxiety to their friends.
His language at times was most "impolitic."
Some of the things he said about the Law were enough to make the hair of a pious Jew positively stand on end.
Suppose a modern preacher were to say something like this:
"The Bible had its function in the Divine economy, but the salvation it offered was always unreal. The Bible is now obsolete; there is no longer such a thing as a revealed moral code; henceforth you are free from the bonds of the old religion. Believe, and do what you will—that is the good news I bring you."
Such a man would be promptly ejected from the ministry.
But if for "Bible" we write "Law,"
and for "salvation" "justification"
—and to a Jew these are the true equivalents
—that is exactly what Paul did say.
And to the average Jew the fact that Paul tempered these statements with qualificatory remarks, as that "the Law is just and holy and good," or that he insistently exhorted men to a life of righteousness, did not much affect the issue. If the Law is abrogated, it is abrogated, it matters little how politely it is bowed out; and if in the last resort every man is free to do what is right in his own eyes, it is a small thing that Paul's personal standard happens to be high.
The wonder is, not that the affair caused trouble in the early Church, but
that James, Peter, and John, after hearing him explain his position, still
felt able to give Paul "the right hands of fellowship"
Paul must have been exceptionally conciliatory on that occasion.
He was conciliatory at times.
He was a man of passionate outbursts;
and when conciliation was his mood, he would go to lengths
—the circumcising of Timothy is an example
—which principle could hardly justify.
To the Jews I became as a Jew,
to those that are under the Law as under the Law,
if so by any means I might save some.
Some pretty big concessions must have been in his mind when he wrote this
—perhaps some that he regretted.
I do not think Paul ever set his hand to the food-law compromise of the Apostolic Decree (Acts xv.29), written out in black and white. But it is quite likely that it does represent the agreement reached between him and the Three at Jerusalem, as interpreted and afterwards put in writing and circulated by them. We all know what sometimes happens when "complete agreement" is reached at an "informal conversation," and each party afterwards writes down his own interpretation.
That seems to me the point of James's reference to the Decree (Acts xxi.20-25);
he delicately insinuates that Paul is reputed to be not quite loyal to the agreement, and exhorts him to do some act which will make it clear to all men that he did not wish to repudiate observance of the Law so far as Jews are concerned.
Luke, we note, was present at this interview (Acts xxi.17 ff.),
and it is a natural inference that he derived his conception of events
(including the Council of Acts xv.)
from what James then said
—re-writing the scene in the form of a debate,
after the manner of ancient historians.
Luke no doubt is in error;
Paul had not set his seal to any compact
— the Decree had been sent out later
—but he had, perhaps, in his private conversations left the Three with the impression that he had assented to its substance.
And if Luke gathered this from James's speech,
and Paul did not at the time vehemently repudiate it,
his error is a pardonable one.
Luke is also accused of misrepresenting Peter.
But does he?
In the Quo vadis legend is crystallised the popular impression of Peter
—a wobbler, but on the right side in the end.
Peter, with hesitation it is true, baptizes the Gentile Cornelius.
A little later he is found at Antioch eating and drinking with Gentile Christians
—and thereby, of course, himself transgressing the Law of Moses.
This is too much for James.
If Peter is going to give up keeping the Law,
the mission to the Circumcision
— already jeopardised by the antinomianism of Paul
—will be totally wrecked.
He sends a deputation to remonstrate.
Peter —realising no doubt that what they say is true,
and that if he persists he will wreck the Jewish Mission
—withdraws, to the intense indignation of Paul.
About the same time a mission goes round the Pauline Churches
—with the cognisance, we must suppose, if not at the prompting, of James
—to try and bring them round to a sounder view of the Law;
and the emissaries roundly deny the claim of Paul to the name of Apostle at all.
But there is nothing at all about this in Acts!
Obviously, replies one school of critics,
because its author belonged to a later age when these things were forgotten.
That answer is possible;
but it strikes me as a little naive.
The silence of Luke is susceptible of another interpretation.
In real life there are things one does not mention because they are too well known things of which the proverb holds good, "The least said, the soonest mended." The most interesting incidents in the career of a public character are often those which his biographer is too discreet to print. And if that is so in our own age with its tradition of realism in literature, and its conception of history as a branch of science how much more so in an age in which the idealist tradition in art and letters reigned supreme, and in which the main purpose of history was supposed to be moral instruction.
Tacitus, Ann. iii. 65, "quod praecipuum munus annalium reor, ne virtutes sileantur, utque pravis dictis factisquo ex posteritate et infamia metus sit."]
The Acts was not written to record the things which would interest a modern critic, but, in the first place, to provide a Roman noble with the case for the Christian Church; and threatened institutions cannot afford to advertise internal "scandals." Moreover, it looks as if the author had also to consider the feelings of some difficult brethren inside the Church. A secondary purpose of the book is quite evidently to be an Apologia pro vita Pauli.
The hostility of the Judaistic party had pursued Paul to Rome.
They were active during his imprisonment (Phil.i.15 ff., iii.2).
If he calls them "dogs"
—not a term of endearment in the East
—we may be sure he was driven to it by sore provocation.
We can only guess at some of the things they had said of him
—the least would have been to accuse one who maintained that the Law was abolished of wishing to abolish morality itself.
And judging by the standard of veracity in what Greek and Latin orators say of one another, we may be pretty certain that they accused him of abolishing morality in practice as well as theory. If the Acts was written when this opposition had not quite died out, and when the reconciliation of the reconcilable was so recent that the situation was still delicate, a motive becomes apparent for the "dragging in" of certain trifling incidents quite irrelevant to the main course of the story. Why are we told so carefully that Paul circumcised Timothy, shaved his head in Cenchreae, was so anxious to attend the Passover, defrayed the expenses of a ceremonial purification? Because at the time when Acts was written it was necessary to prove to many excellent folk that Paul was not anything like so black as he was painted; he was not the antinomian his enemies made out. Not only did he keep the moral law, at times he went out of his way to keep the ceremonial as well.
Peter's position also required explanation.
He had committed himself to the Gentile mission;
but later on he had rather gone back on this
—and no doubt the Judaisers exaggerated the extent of his withdrawal.
Precisely because his later attitude was a shade ambiguous, it was necessary to emphasise the Cornelius incident for all that it was worth in order to show that after all it was Peter who, led by a Divine vision, himself in a sense initiated the Gentile mission.
The Acts reads like a vindication both of Peter and of Paul by one who realises
that, up to a point, they had laid themselves open to criticism, but who
nevertheless has for them that almost religious veneration which the East
still has towards the teacher and the prophet. D Old Lat. and (partly) Old Syr.] By the time that
1 Clement was written Peter and Paul are "the good Apostles," almost
ranking with the heroes of the Old Testament.
We infer that the period
when Peter and Paul required defending at Rome was well over by AD 96. Acts—known,
I suggest, to Clement—had done its work.
This would favour a date earlier, rather than later, than AD 90.
The Acts shows very little trace,
the Third Gospel none at all,
of anything that we can call specifically Pauline Christianity.
The question, then, arises,
can Acts have been written by a pupil of Paul?
But, I submit, to ask the question in this form involves a fallacy;
for there is not the slightest hint in the Acts that the author of the "we sections" was in any sense a "pupil" of the Apostle. The way in which the "we" suddenly appears would be far more natural if he was already a Christian when he first met Paul. If the Western text of Acts xi.28 is original and it is more easy to explain the excision in B א Byz. than the addition in D Lat. of
there was great rejoicing;
and when we were gathered together
—he was a member of the congregation at Antioch to which Agabus prophesied
the famine of AD 46.
Five or six years later he "happens"—I use the word advisedly
—to meet Paul at Troas and (Acts xvi.10 ff.) travels in the same boat as the Apostle to Philippi, where apparently he at that time resided. Of course he would become a member of the Church founded there by the Apostle in his very brief visit. Five or six years later still (Acts xx.6) he joins Paul on his way through Philippi to Jerusalem, most probably being chosen by that Church to accompany Paul and the delegates from other Churches to Jerusalem, in order to present their contribution toward that collection from the Gentile Churches which Paul had for some time past been organising.
So far there is nothing to suggest any specially close personal connection
with the Apostle.
But at Jerusalem Paul is arrested
and Paul is the greatest
champion of Gentile liberty and the most successful leader in the Gentile
Calamity elicits new loyalties.
Luke henceforth devotes himself to the service of the Apostle,
and is constant to the end—
only Luke is with me (2 Tim.iv.11).
But it does not for a moment follow that he accepted Paul's characteristic
If Luke had been converted to Christianity fifteen years or so before the time when he became really intimate with Paul, we should not expect him in any fundamental way to change his own religious outlook.
There is a further consideration:
Luke first met Paul shortly before he wrote 1 Thessalonians,
and he was in his company years later when he wrote the Epistles of the Captivity.
Now if we only possessed the letters written by Paul at the time Luke knew him best we should never have heard of "justification by faith" and the whole cycle of conceptions linked up with that phrase. Hence, if Paul's letters reflect at all adequately the oral teaching he was giving at the time he wrote them, it would not have been surprising if Luke had said nothing at all about the above-mentioned doctrine. But, as a matter of fact, in the first speech he assigns to Paul, in the synagogue at the lesser Antioch which, of course, he means to be understood as giving, not the speech actually delivered there, but the line of argument Paul employed when addressing a Jewish audience he makes this doctrine the climax to which the whole speech leads up. But he does not attempt to elaborate it, for two obvious reasons,
A critical historian should, unless the contrary be proved, assume that
the speeches in Acts are "Thucydidean," and are to be understood
in the same way as the speeches in any contemporary historian
that is to
say, though they are written " in character," their real purpose
is to afford the historian an opportunity for inculcating ideas which he
himself wishes to express.
Theologians have often called attention to the
primitive Christology of the speeches attributed to Peter
there is no essential difference between them and those attributed to Paul.
How could there be?
No one in those days had any notion of an "evolution
to Luke, as to all his contemporaries, that which was
true was Apostolic and, therefore, also primitive.
The theology underlying the speeches of Acts
—and, of course, for this purpose the speeches attributed to Peter must be supplemented by that ascribed to Paul on the Areopagus
—should be read as a presentation of Luke's own theology.
That is precisely their value to the historian.
To the Fathers Luke is the echo of Paul,
to the Tubingen School he stands for post-apostolic Christianity;
but those early speeches in Acts are too primitive for that
—they represent the average Gentile Christianity of Antioch.
What Acts really represents
modified a little by later experience and touched
only here and there with a phrase caught up from Paul
is pre-Pauline Gentile
But given the life history of its author that a natural reading
of Acts suggests--
that is what we should expect of the Syrian physician Luke.
[Since the War we have all become so much accustomed to glaring discrepancies between the accounts of the same event by persons presumably truthful and undoubtedly well-informed, that the sting has been drawn from the pet arguments of the older critics that the existence of discrepancies between Acts and the Epistles proves that Luke could not have been in personal contact with Paul. There is only one such that need concern us the visits of Paul to Jerusalem and the Apostolic Decree of Acts xv. I mention this because I can neither follow Harnack in accepting the Western text of the Decree (by which it ceases to be a compromise relating to unclean meats), nor would I commit myself unreservedly to the theory of Ramsay— further developed by Emmet— that the visit mentioned in Galatians ii. is the famine visit in Acts. Luke appears to think Paul had assented to the food-law compromise. I have already suggested how we can explain this mistake. There remains, however, the minor discrepancy in the number of visits to Jerusalem. Of this the simplest solution has always seemed to me to be that propounded by Renan. The delegates who brought the famine contribution from Antioch (Acts xi.30) were Barnabas and another; Luke erroneously imagined that other to be Barnabas's (future) colleague Paul. On Luke's representation of the phenomenon of " speaking with tongues " at Pentecost cf. p. 220 above.]
If the Lucan writings were first circulated in Rome it becomes unnecessary to decide the vexed question whether or not Luke had read Josephus. The question arises from the fact that Luke's statements violently conflict with those of Josephus in regard to the dates of Lysanias (Lk.iii.1-2) and Theudas (Acts v.34 ff). It has been maintained by distinguished scholars that Luke's statements can be accounted for on the theory that they are the result of a hasty perusal, and a consequently imperfect recollection and misunderstanding, of Josephus. Personally I am quite unconvinced that there is dependence of any kind. Schmiedel, whose statement of the case for dependence is the most elaborate in English, finds it necessary to suppose that Luke was using, not Josephus directly, but some notes that he had made after reading him. But if a gross mistake is to be attributed to imperfect notes, it would surely be more natural to suggest that the notes in question were taken down hurriedly at some lecture, rather than in the course of a perusal of a book, especially as it was not so possible with ancient methods of writing as with modern print to make mistakes through running one's eye rapidly over the page.
Now there is not the slightest improbability in the supposition that Luke had heard Josephus lecture in Rome. Josephus was granted by Vespasian rooms in the Imperial Palace, and remained in favour with subsequent emperors. Luke also, I have suggested, had a connection with the Flavian house. The writings of Josephus were addressed to the Roman world at large, and it would appear that after AD 70 he for the most part lived and wrote in Rome. In that case, unless his practice was quite different from that of contemporary writers, it would have been a matter of course for him to recite large portions of his works to public audiences before they were published in written form. Pliny and Juvenal constantly refer to this custom the latter to expatiate on the boredom it induced. Plutarch tells us that while in Rome, at about this date, he was so busy lecturing, and doing minor political business, that he never had time to master the Latin language an observation which incidentally reveals the extent to which Greek was a second language of the educated native Roman as well as of the immense city population of foreign origin. The Antiquities of Josephus was published c. AD 93. It is a long work and would have taken many years to compose probably most of the interval since the publication of his earlier work, The Jewish Wars, about AD 78. Josephus was extremely conceited, not at all the man to lose any opportunity for publicity, and he would do much to be in the literary and social fashion. Moreover, his writings were largely intended for propaganda purposes; he wished to do his best to reinstate the credit of the Jewish people. He would certainly have recited parts of the Antiquities at intervals during the ten years before its publication. Fashionable Rome felt bound in etiquette to attend the recitations of its noble friends; but a parvenu like Josephus would have been only too glad to fill up the back seats with unimportant people like Luke.
Inadequate attention has been given to the bearing of the Preface of the
Gospel on the question of authorship.
The other Gospels are anonymous;
Luke is not.
True, his name is not mentioned in the Preface,
but that applies to other Roman writers
—Livy and Tacitus, for example.
The author's name in such cases would be indicated on a title attached to the roll.
Luke's Preface would have no point at all if the original readers did not know the author's name. In effect, it is the author's apology for venturing to produce a Gospel at all. It implies that the Church for which he wrote already possessed a work of the kind, but that he claimed to be in a position to improve upon it. But unless his name was well known one might almost say unless he was known to have had some connection with Apostles this claim would not have been admitted. Moreover, knowing the use he made of Mark, we cannot doubt that in his reference to previous writers, though Q and other such collections may have been also in his mind, it is of Mark that he is mainly thinking. With the materials at his disposal he might well consider that he could improve upon a Gospel which had no account of the Infancy and the Resurrection Appearances, and very little discourse; but to say this bluntly would have been tactless, for Mark was the Gospel on which many of his readers had been "brought up." By the vague and general
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand ...
no one's feelings could be hurt.
Luke, unlike Matthew, left a considerable portion of Mark unincorporated; hence—at any rate at Rome—the new Gospel did not supersede the older and shorter work. The Roman Church was conservative; besides, its claim to possess the most reliable Apostolic tradition was strengthened by having two Gospels, one by a disciple of Peter and the other by a follower of Paul. But the concurrent use in the same Church of two versions of the story of the Life of Christ demanded a change in current nomenclature. We are so used to the idea of there being four Gospels, known always by their authors' names, that we are apt to forget the earlier period when no Church had more than one Gospel, and when this was commonly spoken of, not by its author's name, but simply as "the Gospel."But the moment two such works began to be current side by side in the same Church it became necessary to distinguish the Gospel "according to Mark" from that "according to Luke." Indeed, it is probably to the fortunate circumstance that Mark and Luke were so early in circulation side by side that we owe the preservation of the names of the real authors of these works.
The fact that two books on the same subject cannot be in circulation together without each bearing some name to mark their difference disposes of the suggestion of Mr. H. J. Cadburythat the attribution of the third Gospel to Luke may be merely an inference from the "we sections" of Acts. He suggests that some acute critic of the second century, searching for the author of an anonymous document presumed to be by a companion of Paul, proceeded by rejecting the names of any whose presence would not fit the notices in Epistles and Acts combined, and thus, by a process of elimination, arrived at the name "Luke." Such a theory overlooks the fact already noted that the Preface of Luke's Gospel would be meaningless unless its author's name was known to the original readers; while if these were members of a Church which already possessed a Gospel, the necessity of distinguishing the two would from the very first have prevented the names of either being forgotten. The point, therefore, to which Mr. Cadbury calls attention really cuts the other way for it would be very remarkable that the name which tradition ascribes to the Gospel should happen to be that of the only one of Paul's companions who (taking the "we sections" at their face value) could have written the Acts, unless it were the name of the actual author.
But it is not only on the merits of the argument that I personally accept
the Lucan authorship of the Gospel and Acts.
Even if the arguments were exactly
balanced, the principles of historical criticism, as I conceive them, would
suffice to incline the scale in that direction.
The first duty of the critical
historian is to ask, in regard to every statement made in his authorities,
is there any possible bias for which allowance should be made?
In the present
case we have not far to seek.
Wherever the earlier tradition was vague or
doubtful, a Catholic writer of the time of Irenaeus would be tempted to favour
that form of it which gave the maximum of Apostolic authority to those Four
Gospels which were regarded as the pillars of the Church.
Now two of these are assigned to Apostles;
two are not.
This distinction is, for the critic, of the first importance. The tradition which assigns two of them to Apostles is one whose credentials will need most careful cross-examination; and, if there be found any features in the Gospels themselves which make it hard to believe they were the work of Apostles, the tradition will require a proportionately greater amount of evidence to justify its acceptance. On the other hand, the ascription of the other two Gospels to persons who were not Apostles appeals at once to the critic as being almost certainly authentic, just because it runs counter to the natural bias of the age.
From the point of view both of sentiment and controversial advantage, it
would have been extremely convenient to assign the Gospel of Mark to Peter
and that of Luke to Paul;
and later writers do their best to effect this.
Paul's phrase "according to my Gospel" (Rom.ii.16) is interpreted
as a direct allusion to the Gospel of Luke, which is thus assumed to have
been written under his supervision.
Again, the Gospel of Mark was written,
according to Irenaeus (185) after the demise of Peter,
according to Clement (200) during Peter's lifetime, but without his approbation,
according to Eusebius (324) with his authentication,
according to Jerome (397) at his dictation.
[Cf. Iren. I. i. 1 (Gk. in Eus. H.E. v. 8); Clem. ap. Eus. H.E. vi. 14; Peter neither forbade nor commended; Eus. H.E. ii. 15 (φασί), Peter approves for reading in Church; Jerome, Ad Hedibiam, xi., "Marcum, cujus evangelium, Petro narrante, et illo scribente compositum est."
But Jerome knew better, for De vir. illustr. viii. he says the same as Eus. H.E. ii. 15.
I take this opportunity of suggesting an explanation of the curious "tradition" mentioned by Clement of Alexandria (ap. Eus. H.E. vi. 14) that "the Gospels containing genealogies were written first," This, I think, is not a tradition of fact but a traditional explanation of the lack of an account of the Infancy, Resurrection appearances, etc., in Mark, on the hypothesis that, when Mark wrote, the Roman Church already possessed an account of these things in Luke. Matthew, it was inferred from Papias, was originally in Hebrew, and the Greek translation would not yet have reached Rome when Mark wrote. The Gospel of Mark could conceivably be regarded as a supplement to Luke, for it contains much that is not in Luke; it could not be intended as a supplement to Matthew plus Luke. The idea that Luke wrote before Mark would naturally be suggested by the common Western order of the Gospels Matthew, John, Luke, Mark (Clement has a Western text), or by the order of Tertullian (Contra Marcionem, iv. 2), a contemporary of Clement John, Matthew, Luke, Mark.]
Indeed it would seem as if an attempt was made in some circles at a very early date to make the Apostle directly responsible for the Gospel; for Justin Martyr (155) quotes a statement that occurs in Mark as from the "Memories of Peter." Irenaeus had read Justin; and he must in any case have known that some people spoke of the second Gospel as Peter's. If, then, he does not accept it as Peter's work, we can only conclude that the tradition assigning the second and third Gospels to Mark and Luke was so definite, so widespread, and, by the time of Irenaeus, already so ancient, that it could not be displaced.
The attribution of one of the four canonical Gospels to Luke is even more
Mark at least was known to have lived in Jerusalem;
he may have witnessed some of the events he describes,
and he had some special connection with Peter, the leader of the Twelve.
Luke was not only not himself a witness,
he was a follower of an Apostle who was not himself a witness,
and he was only that during the last years of that Apostle's life.
With a very little "doctoring" of the text
— merely changing "we" to "they" in a few passages
—the Acts could have been made to read as the Commentarii of Paul,
writing of himself, like Caesar or Xenophon, in the third person.
The Gospel then could have been assigned to Paul himself.
But this was not done.
A critic, then, who knows his business that is, who recognises that his function is analogous to that of the judge (κριτής) and not of the counsel, whether for the defence or the prosecution before giving a verdict in favour of a tradition which ascribes a Gospel to an Apostle, will require an attestation stronger than a classical scholar would think necessary for a work attributed to Xenophon or Plato. On the other hand, only if overwhelming evidence is forthcoming that the internal characteristics of Mark and Luke cannot be reconciled with their traditional authorship will he decide that the tradition is open to serious question.
We thus arrive at the quite simple conclusion:
the burden of proof is on those who would assert the traditional authorship of Matthew and John and on those who would deny it in the case of Mark and Luke.