Luke's Role in the Writing of Acts
by Bobby Bruno 3/20/2014 / Christian Apologetics
The three roles that John Stott states in his book "The Message of Acts (1990)" for the purpose that Luke wrote the book of acts are historian, diplomat, and theologian-evangelist. The role I choose for the reason Luke wrote Acts is the same one he chose for himself historian. If it is true, as is believed by many scholars, that Acts is indeed a continuance from Luke's Gospel, then the strength of my choice comes from Luke's own mouth in Luke 1:1-4, especially verse three where Luke states that "I, too, have followed everything closely from the beginning. So I thought it would be a good idea to write an orderly account for Your Excellency, Theophilus" (GW). To me an "orderly account" is a rendering of exactly what happened, step-by-step, to the parties mentioned in the book. When you read Acts 1:104, it reads like a step-by-step accounting of what really happened. There is a word that Luke uses at the beginning of Acts 1:2 that give strength to the notion that Luke was writing historically about what he witnessed and that word was "until." This word means "a function word to indicate continuance to a specified time (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). For me, this says that Luke was writing both his Gospel and the book of Acts as would a historian moving along someone's past life moment by moment, day by day.
One of the strengths John Stott chose for claiming Luke as a historian are what Stott calls the Luke's "we-sections" (p. 23) in the book of Acts. These "we-sections" let us know that Luke actually witnessed these things he wrote with his own eyes, ears, and other senses. While this is a very good strength, is it strong enough to hold up to the fact that there are also sections in Acts where Luke speaks in the "they" tense? One weakness for Luke as author of these "they" portions could be that if this is an accounting from the hand of one man, then why did Luke not continue writing in the "we" tense? Were these portions actually written by Luke or not? Could Luke be writing in the "they" tense simply because, even though he was a witness to what he wrote, he may have not actually been involved in acting out what he witnessed; the same as if I were with friends who were drunk and I was not, but had to report on their conduct as I watched them beat up an old man? I didn't help them, but I still witnessed the beating. No matter how he wrote the book of Acts, Luke wrote down a faithful accounting of the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit guided and heavenly minded, Luke helps us understand all that it took to follow Jesus' command to go to all the nations of the world and proclaim the Good News. Thanks to men like Luke, we, today, have life in the Spirit and life everlasting and a calling on our lives to proclaim the same message that has been proclaimed since the very beginning Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Stott, J. (1990). The message of acts. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press
Question: "It is true he was indeed a physician but we never really read about him doing any medical work, so his role as a Doctor is out."
Author Response: I read in the Stott book and in another textbook I have about the book of Acts that if one looks closely, they can see Luke the Physician throughout his writings; for example, when the scales fell off of Paul's eyes after he had seen the risen Christ only a doctor would have written that the scales "fell off" of Paul's eyes. Also it is said in the Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament (2004) that "The mention of the scales, or incrustations, such as are incidental to ophthalmia, is characteristic of the physician, and ἀποπίπτειν, to fall off, was used technically by medical writers of the falling of scales from the skin, and of particles from diseased parts of the body. "We may suppose that Luke had often heard Paul relate how he felt at that moment" (Hackett)." I believe that there are other instances also where Luke writes medically in words only a doctor could have written with an educated eye on the human body and spirit. There's a great Bible study for you!
Question: "With that being said, one may argue that Luke was making things up"
Author Response: When I hear about those who believe that Luke made up all of his facts in his Gospel and in Acts, I have to laugh and agree with those scholars who also laugh at these people. For Luke to have made up all of his facts would have been to the detriment of his career. We know that, since he wrote these accounts during the time right after Christ had risen, Luke had many witnesses that had seen and heard Jesus to draw his facts from. Luke even tells us that he wanted to make sure that a complete and accurate accounting of the life, death, resurrection of Christ and the starting of His church, was as complete and accurate as he could make it. It is believed that Mary, Jesus's mother, was alive then for him to interview. Why would Luke even attempt to tell a lie when so many of his readers had also been with Jesus during His time on earth and when He showed Himself after His resurrection? All they would have to do is expose Luke for a fraud which would have made him many enemies and might have virtually killed his medical practice. My reading of the kind doctor is that he was a humble man who only wanted to know the truth and then tell it to others so that they, too, could make an informed decision about this Messiah, Jesus Christ. Luke told the truth. If he hadn't then the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts would not have been included in the Holy Spirit-guided Bible.
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.