Luke-Acts Wasn’t Written By Luke

Today we are taking a look at a section of my debate with Jonathan McLatchie. We are examining whether Luke-Acts was written by an Eyewitness to Jesus or written within the lifetime of Eyewitnesses. McLatchie is convinced that Luke-Acts was actually written by Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, and it was written during the lifetime of eyewitnesses.

He denies that Josephus was being utilized by the author of Luke and that Pervo and Carrier are out on a limb when they discuss the dating of Acts. We are going to discuss how Luke-Acts is definitely using Josephus as a source and why the “we” passages do not prove the travelling companion of Paul wrote Luke-Acts.

Luke-Acts heavily uses Josephus

There isn’t any good evidence in Luke-Acts suggesting it was written within the lifetime of any eyewitnesses. There is significant evidence to suggest that Luke-Acts employs not only Josephus but Homer and the Septuagint. Luke-Acts has significant reworkings of the Elijah-Elisha narrative that cast Jesus and Paul as those characters. This is extensively discussed by not only Richard Carrier but also Thomas Broadie who is a Christian  Mythicist.

The fact that Luke-Acts used Josephus is well attested to by Richard Pervo, Barbara Shellard, Steve Mason,  Gregory Sterling, Heinz Schreckenberg, and Max Krenkel. They all support the fact that Josephus was used to give Luke-Acts some air of historical background. 

This firmly places Luke-Acts being written after 93 ce. There are some great arguments placing Luke-Acts being written much later around 115 CE but the best that we can conclude is that Luke-Acts was written between 93 CE – 130 CE. If you want more detailed information Dating Luke-Acts including the late date for it, I would suggest Richard Pervo’s Dating Acts. MacDonald also argues for these later dates in his Two Shipwrecked Gospels book. 

McLatchie seems to think that Pervo and Carrier are “out on limb” with the dating of acts but it seems like they are on a firm limb with plenty of support.

“We” Passages Are Not Evidence

Dennis MacDonald has also shown that Luke-Acts uses Homer to generate portions of their narrative. Namely the shipwrecks of Odysseus. This plays into the “we” passages that McLatchie mentions. There is a historical precedent of writing fiction in the first person. Most notably by Homer in the Odyssey. All of these we passages just so happen to appear around the sea travel sections of Acts.

The “we” passages are not a convincing argument considering the use of Josephus and the fact that these passages are connected to Homer’s The Odyssey. Paul does mention being shipwrecked three times which may have inspired the author of Luke-Acts to provide some shipwreck stories using Jonah, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid.