luke as a historian

On The Reli­a­bil­i­ty Of Luke As A Historian

Chris­t­ian apol­o­gists and mis­sion­ar­ies believe that Luke was inspired” and inerrant,” even though Luke him­self does not make such a claim in his books (Gospel accord­ing to Luke and Acts). luke as a historian One of the most pop­u­lar argu­ments often pro­posed by the mis­sion­ar­ies as evi­dence” that Luke was inspired”, or at least some­one who we can blind­ly trust with­out sec­ond thoughts, is as fol­lows : he was an excel­lent his­to­ri­an who con­duct­ed a care­ful inves­ti­ga­tion dur­ing the course of com­pos­ing his books. 

It is claimed that Luke accu­rate­ly named many coun­tries, cities, that he accu­rate­ly described cer­tain events of his time, cor­rect­ly named var­i­ous offi­cials with their prop­er titles and referred to places which have only recent­ly been dis­cov­ered. There­fore, this some­how proves”, accord­ing to the apol­o­gists, that Luke’s sto­ry can be trust­ed in its entire­ty and that there is no room for doubts regard­ing his claims whatsoever.

We refer to the author as Luke” sim­ply for the sake of con­ve­nience and not because we believe that Luke authored the third Gospel and the Book of Acts. We might as well call the author Max”, but because the third gospel is com­mon­ly known as the Gospel accord­ing to Luke,” the name Luke” is retained. 

Did Luke Author The Third Gospel and Acts ?

Accord­ing to crit­i­cal schol­ars, the third gospel, like all the gospels, is anony­mous­ly authored. That is to say, we real­ly do not know who authored it. Nonethe­less, even if we accept the tra­di­tion­al author­ship claim, it remains that Luke was a non-eye­wit­ness — he did not wit­ness any of the alleged events from the life of Jesus first hand. Luke was a fol­low­er of Paul. 

Accord­ing to the late Ray­mond Brown, it is pos­si­ble that Luke, a minor fig­ure who trav­elled with Paul for some time, wrote the third gospel and the book of Acts decades after Paul’s death. 

Brown writes :

We have no way of being cer­tain that he was Luke, as affirmed by 2nd-cen­tu­ry tra­di­tion ; but there is no seri­ous rea­son to pro­pose a dif­fer­ent can­di­date.1

Sim­i­lar­ly, Lee Mar­tin McDon­ald and Stan­ley Porter accept tra­di­tion­al Lucan author­ship but not whole­heart­ed­ly. They write (p. 295): We are inclined to accept Lucan author­ship, but not with­out some reser­va­tion …“2

Bart D. Ehrman, sum­ming up the stance of crit­i­cal schol­ars, writes :

Pro­to-ortho­dox Chris­tians of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry, some decades after most of the New Tes­ta­ment books had been writ­ten, claimed that their favourite Gospels had been penned by two of Jesus’ dis­ci­ples — Matthew, the tax col­lec­tor, and John, the beloved dis­ci­ple — and by two friends of the apos­tles — Mark, the sec­re­tary of Peter, and Luke, the trav­el­ling com­pan­ion of Paul. Schol­ars today, how­ev­er, find it dif­fi­cult to accept this tra­di­tion for sev­er­al reasons.

…none of these Gospels makes any such claim about itself. All four authors chose to keep their iden­ti­ties anony­mous.3

As for the dat­ing of Luke and Acts, most schol­ars place it in the 80 – 100 AD peri­od. For instance, Paula Fredrik­sen places Luke between c. 90 – 100.4 E. P. Sanders dates the final form of the gospels between the years 70 and 90.5 Theis­sen and Merz place Luke any­where between 70 C.E to 140150 C.E — more in the first half of this peri­od6 The late Catholic schol­ar and priest, Ray­mond Brown, placed Luke in the year 85 — give or take five to ten years7

Luke Nev­er Claimed To Be Inspired”

It should be not­ed that the author of the third gospel and Acts nowhere claims to have been inspired” by a high­er source to write his accounts. Such argu­ments are list­ed by one mis­sion­ary as follows :

    Inde­pen­dent archae­o­log­i­cal research has solid­i­fied the authen­tic­i­ty and the his­tor­i­cal reli­a­bil­i­ty of the New Tes­ta­ment. Some of the dis­cov­er­ies include :
  • Luke refers to Lysa­nias as being the tetrar­ch of Abi­lene at the begin­ning of John the Bap­tist’s min­istry, cir­ca 27 A. D. (Luke 3:1) His­to­ri­ans accused Luke of being in error, not­ing that the only Lysa­nias known was the one killed in 36 B. C. Now, how­ev­er, an inscrip­tion found near Dam­as­cus refers to Freed­man of Lysa­nias the tetrar­ch” and is dat­ed from 14 and 29 A. D.
  • Paul, writ­ing to the Romans, speaks of the city trea­sur­er Eras­tus (Romans 16:23). A 1929 exca­va­tion in Corinth unearthed a pave­ment inscribed with these words : ERASTVS PRO:AED:P:STRAVIT : (“Eras­tus cura­tor of pub­lic build­ings, laid this pave­ment at his own expense.”)
  • Luke men­tions a riot in the city of Eph­esus which took place in a the­atre (Acts 19:23 – 41). The the­atre has now been exca­vat­ed and has a seat­ing capac­i­ty of 25,000.
  • Acts 21 records an inci­dent which broke out between Paul and cer­tain Jews from Asia. These Jews accused Paul of defil­ing the Tem­ple by allow­ing Trophimus, a Gen­tile, to enter it. In 1871, Greek inscrip­tions were found, now housed in Istan­bul which read :


  • Luke address­es Gal­lio with the title Pro­con­sul (Acts 18:12). A Del­phi inscrip­tion ver­i­fies this when it states, As Lucius Junius Gal­lio, my friend, and the Pro­con­sul of Achaia …”
  • Luke calls Pub­li­cus, the chief man of Mal­ta, First man of the Island.” (Acts 28:7) Inscrip­tions now found do con­firm Pub­li­cus as the First man”. (Josh McDow­ell, The Best of Josh Mcdow­ell : A Ready Defense, pp. 110 – 111)

He goes on to present more sim­i­lar cita­tions and arguments :

The sig­nif­i­cance of such extra-Bib­li­cal evi­dence is of such mag­ni­tude that hon­est scep­tics are now forced to agree that the Bible is his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate and reli­able. One such per­son was Sir William Ram­sey, con­sid­ered one of the world’s great­est archae­ol­o­gists. He believed that the New Tes­ta­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly the books of Luke and Acts, were sec­ond-cen­tu­ry forg­eries. He spent thir­ty years in Asia Minor, seek­ing to dig up enough evi­dence to prove that Luke-Acts was noth­ing more than a lie. At the con­clu­sion of his long jour­ney, how­ev­er, he was com­pelled to admit that the New Tes­ta­ment was a first-cen­tu­ry com­pi­la­tion and that the Bible is his­tor­i­cal­ly reli­able. This fact led to his con­ver­sion and embrac­ing of the very faith he once believed to be a hoax.

Dr Ram­sey stated :

    Luke is a his­to­ri­an of the first rank ; not mere­ly are his state­ments of fact trust­wor­thy … this author should be placed along with the very great­est of historians.”

Ram­sey fur­ther said : Luke is unsur­passed in respects of its trust­wor­thi­ness.” (Josh McDow­ell, The Best of Josh Mcdow­ell : A Ready Defense, pp. 108 – 109)

First of all, we should note that there is noth­ing in the above which would indi­cate that Luke was inspired” or inerrant”, and that every­thing with­in his books can be trust­ed blind­ly. There is noth­ing here which would show that Luke was some­how spe­cial”. Far from being remark­able, the above are very ordi­nary exam­ples of Luke’s alleged accu­ra­cies. There is no rea­son to sup­pose that unless a per­son is inerrant or inspired, he or she can­not get such basic ele­men­tary facts straight. Such type of ordi­nary accu­ra­cies relat­ing to cer­tain fac­tu­al mat­ters is also to be observed in fic­tion­al books, which name, for instance, cities cor­rect­ly, etc.

So what if Luke was able to name the var­i­ous cities in exis­tence in his time, accu­rate­ly name offi­cials of his time with their cor­rect titles, name cer­tain coun­tries of his time, men­tion a the­atre he knew about which has recent­ly been dis­cov­ered and accu­rate­ly men­tion cer­tain reli­gious rites and prac­tices of the time ? There is noth­ing extra­or­di­nary“about this. This only shows that Luke was a per­son who had a basic edu­ca­tion and was famil­iar with his surroundings. 

If I am not con­sid­ered inspired and inerrant — despite accu­rate­ly nam­ing fifty coun­tries in exis­tence today, accu­rate­ly nam­ing var­i­ous world cities, accu­rate­ly nam­ing heads of state and var­i­ous oth­er offi­cials togeth­er with their cor­rect titles and ranks, accu­rate­ly nam­ing a few the­atres around Lon­don togeth­er with a few addi­tion­al tourist attrac­tion sites and accu­rate­ly describ­ing the work­ings and prac­tices of the local mosques and church­es — then why must Luke be con­sid­ered inerrant and inspired ? These are utter­ly ordi­nary mat­ters and such type of accu­ra­cies do not in any­way sug­gest that the per­son or book is extra­or­di­nary”, spe­cial”, or in any way heav­en­ly inspired”.

Sec­ond­ly, besides the above list­ed so-called won­der­ful accu­ra­cies”, there are also grave inac­cu­ra­cies with­in Luke’s gospel. The fol­low­ing are some inac­cu­ra­cies and dis­crep­an­cies with­in Luke’s Gospel and Acts over which there is wide­spread agree­ment among schol­ars, includ­ing devout Chris­t­ian scholars :

  • Luke forged a geneal­o­gy for Jesus(P) even though he(P) had no father. The geneal­o­gy has no his­tor­i­cal stand­ing. Worse, his geneal­o­gy con­tra­dicts the one forged by Matthew.
  • Luke pro­vides an infan­cy nar­ra­tive which is irrec­on­cil­able with the infan­cy nar­ra­tive pro­vid­ed by Matthew.
  • Luke men­tions a cen­sus under Quirnius dur­ing the birth of Jesus(P) which is almost uni­ver­sal­ly rec­og­nized as a major his­tor­i­cal blun­der on Luke’s part.

In addi­tion to the dif­fi­cul­ties raised by a detailed com­par­i­son of the two birth nar­ra­tives found in the New Tes­ta­ment, seri­ous his­tor­i­cal prob­lems are raised by the famil­iar sto­ries found in Luke alone.8 In Acts, Luke has Gamaliel refer­ring to a revolt by Theudas which in fact took place years lat­er after his speech. Again, there is wide­spread agree­ment among Chris­t­ian schol­ars that Luke was in error on this occasion.

There is also gen­er­al agree­ment among New Tes­ta­ment schol­ars that the speech­es found in Acts are either the cre­ations or adap­tions of Luke.9

Fur­ther­more, Luke’s sto­ry in Acts con­tra­dicts at a num­ber of points with the infor­ma­tion with­in the authen­tic Pauline epis­tles, some­thing also gen­er­al­ly acknowl­edged by schol­ars. Luke was thus an errant writer who made mis­takes and inac­cu­ra­cies in his writ­ings.10

How Luke Copied From Mark

Mov­ing on, inspired“Luke lift­ed 50% of his gospel from Mark — a sec­ondary source authored by a non-eye­wit­ness. Why would Luke do this if we are to sup­pose that he was accu­rate­ly research­ing the issues and shift­ing through reli­able first-hand sources ? We know from Luke’s open­ing words that he did not have high regard for the pre­vi­ous nar­ra­tives. Evan­gel­i­cal schol­ar Don­ald Guthrie writes :

Luke’s pref­ace is illu­mi­nat­ing in regard to his own approach to his task. He claims to have made a com­pre­hen­sive and accu­rate sur­vey over a con­sid­er­able peri­od, which throws a good deal of light on his seri­ous­ness of pur­pose. More­over, Luke admits that oth­ers had pre­vi­ous­ly attempt­ed the same task, but his words imply that he found them unsat­is­fac­to­ry…11

W.G. Küm­mel, in his clas­si­cal intro­duc­tion to the New Tes­ta­ment writes :

With his his­tor­i­cal work Lk joins their ranks [ranks of his pre­de­ces­sors who com­posed gospel nar­ra­tives], though he was not him­self a wit­ness from the begin­ning, because he feels the works of his pre­de­ces­sors to be in some way inad­e­quate.12

Ray­mond Brown, on the oth­er hand, says :

…nei­ther evan­ge­list [Matthew and Luke] liked Mark­s’s redun­dan­cies, awk­ward Greek expres­sions, uncom­pli­men­ta­ry pre­sen­ta­tion of the dis­ci­ples and Mary, and embar­rass­ing state­ments about Jesus. When using Mark, both expand­ed the Markan accounts in the light of post-res­ur­rec­tion­al faith.13

Yet Luke, our so-called reli­able” his­to­ri­an, copies no less than 50% of his book from Mark, regard­ed as an unsat­is­fac­to­ry source ! 

Ray­mond Brown men­tions some of the ways on how Luke had used Mark :

  • Luke improves on Mark’s Greek, bet­ter­ing the gram­mar, syn­tax, and vocab­u­lary, e.g., in 4:1, 31, 38 and pas­sim by omit­ting Mark’s overused imme­di­ate­ly”; in 20:22 by chang­ing a Latin­ism like ken­sos (=cen­sus) from Mark 12:14 ; in 20:23 by sub­sti­tut­ing the more exact crafti­ness, treach­ery” for the hypocrisy” of Mark 12:15.
  • Luke states at the begin­ning his inten­tion to write care­ful­ly and in an order­ly man­ner (1:3); accord­ing­ly he rearranges Mar­can sequence to accom­plish that goal, e.g., Jesus’ rejec­tion at Nazareth is put at the open­ing of the Galilean min­istry rather than after some time had elapsed (Luke 4:16 – 30 vs. Mark 6:1 – 6) in order to explain why his Galilean min­istry was cen­tred at Caper­naum ; the heal­ing of Simon’s moth­er-in-law is placed before the call of Simon and com­pan­ions (4:38 – 5:11 vs. Mark 1:16 – 31) in order to make more log­i­cal Simon’s will­ing­ness to fol­low Jesus ; Peter’s denials of Jesus are put before the San­hedrin tri­al in pref­er­ence to Mark’s com­pli­cat­ed inter­weav­ing of the two. At times Luke’s order­li­ness is reflect­ed in avoid­ing Mar­can dou­blets (Luke does not report the sec­ond mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of loaves) where­as Matt likes to dou­ble fea­tures and per­sons. Yet Luke has a dou­ble send­ing out of the apostles/​disciples (9:1 – 2 ; 10:1).
  • Because of changes made in mate­r­i­al received from Mark, Luke occa­sion­al­ly cre­ates incon­sis­ten­cies, e.g., although in Luke 5:30 the part­ners in the con­ver­sa­tion are the Phar­isees and their scribes,” 5:33 speaks of the dis­ci­ples of the Phar­isees,” as if the Phar­isees were not present ; although in 18:32 – 33 Luke takes over from Mark the pre­dic­tion that Jesus will be mocked, scourged, and spit on by the Gen­tiles, Luke (unlike Mark 15:16 – 20) nev­er ful­fills that pre­dic­tion ; Luke has changed the Mar­can order of the denials of Peter and the Jew­ish mock­ery of Jesus but for­got­ten to insert the prop­er name of Jesus in the new sequence, so that at first blush Luke 22:63, in hav­ing him” mocked and beat­en, seems to refer to Peter, not Jesus. See also n. 67 above.
  • Luke, even more than Matt, elim­i­nates or changes pas­sages in Mark unfa­vor­able to those whose sub­se­quent career makes them wor­thy of respect, e.g., Luke omits Mark 3:21,33,34 and (in 4:24) changes Mark 6:4 in order to avoid ref­er­ences detri­men­tal to Jesus’ fam­i­ly ; Luke omits Mark 8:22 – 26 which dra­ma­tizes the slow­ness of the dis­ci­ples to see, and Mark 8:33 where Jesus calls Peter Satan”; in the pas­sion Luke omits the pre­dict­ed fail­ure of the dis­ci­ples, Jesus’ find­ing them asleep three times, and their flight as report­ed in Mark 14:27,40 – 41,51 – 52.
  • Reflect­ing Chris­to­log­i­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties, Luke is more rev­er­en­tial about Jesus and avoids pas­sages that might make him seem emo­tion­al, harsh, or weak, e.g., Luke elim­i­nates : Mark 1:41,43 where Jesus is moved with pity or is stern ; Mark 4:39 where Jesus speaks direct­ly to the sea ; Mark 10:14a where Jesus is indig­nant ; Mark 11:15b where Jesus over­turns the tables of the mon­ey chang­ers ; Mark 11:20 – 25 where Jesus curs­es a fig tree ; Mark 13:32 where Jesus says that the Son does not know the day or the hour ; Mark 14:33 – 34 where Jesus is trou­bled and his soul is sor­row­ful unto death ; Mark 15:34 where Jesus speaks of God for­sak­ing him.
  • Luke stress­es detach­ment from pos­ses­sions, not only in his spe­cial mate­r­i­al (L), as we shall see below, but also in changes he makes in Mark, e.g., fol­low­ers of the Lucan Jesus leave every­thing (5:11,28), and the Twelve are for­bid­den to take even a staff (9:3).
  • Luke elim­i­nates Mark’s tran­scribed Ara­ma­ic names and words (even some that Matt includes) pre­sum­ably because they were not mean­ing­ful to the intend­ed audi­ence, e.g., an omis­sion of Boan­erges, Geth­se­mane, Gol­go­tha, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.
  • Luke may make Mar­can infor­ma­tion more pre­cise, pre­sum­ably for bet­ter sto­ry flow, greater effect, or clar­i­ty, e.g., Luke 6:6 spec­i­fies that the next scene (Mark 3:1 : again”) took place on anoth­er Sab­bath”; Luke 6:6 spec­i­fies the right hand” and 22:50 the right ear”; Luke 21:20 clar­i­fies or sub­sti­tutes for Mark’s abom­i­na­tion of des­o­la­tion”.14

The impor­tant point to note here is that Luke has used Mark and made a num­ber of changes to its con­tents. New Tes­ta­ment schol­ars com­pare Luke and Mark to see how Luke is using his source (Mark) and adapt­ing it. Mark is obvi­ous­ly not the only source employed by Luke, but since we know that he has altered the Markan sto­ries in a vari­ety of ways, it is only log­i­cal and rea­son­able to con­clude that Luke must have done the same with the oth­er sources at his dis­pos­al — he must have altered them as well to suit his agen­da and pre­sup­po­si­tions. The fact that Luke accu­rate­ly men­tions cer­tain ordi­nary details, such as nam­ing cities cor­rect­ly etc., does not fol­low that his sto­ry in its entire­ty can be trust­ed blindly. 

Thus, the state­ment that hon­est scep­tics are now forced to agree that the Bible is his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate and reli­able” is noth­ing more than non­sense. Crit­i­cal schol­ars cer­tain­ly do not regard Luke, or any book of the Bible, in its entire­ty to be his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate and reli­able” just because cer­tain ordi­nary details are record­ed accu­rate­ly with­in them.

Luke As A His­to­ri­an : Final Observations

Although we have not gone into detail regard­ing the above-men­tioned issues, the aim was to sim­ply high­light here some of the major prob­lems with­in Luke’s writ­ings over which we have a schol­ar­ly con­sen­sus. Con­trary to Ram­sey’s con­clu­sion (and bear in mind that he was an apol­o­gist and not a bal­anced his­to­ri­an) is the fact is that there is noth­ing super”, extra­or­di­nary” or spe­cial” about Luke’s writ­ings, even if we buy all of Ram­sey’s claims regard­ing Luke’s alleged accu­ra­cy on cer­tain issues. 

More­over, Luke also makes mis­takes, some exam­ples pro­vid­ed above. Of course, apol­o­gists will chal­lenge all of them but note that these are accept­ed as such and acknowl­edged by main­stream scholarship.

Instead, we come across a fair­ly ordi­nary writer who utilis­es sources at his dis­pos­al, mak­ing a vari­ety of changes to them to suit his the­o­log­i­cal agen­da and one who makes errors at times and also gets cer­tain facts right. None of the exam­ples pre­sent­ed by these apol­o­gists sug­gests that the Bible” (which is a col­lec­tion of many indi­vid­ual books and let­ters by authors of vary­ing degrees of edu­ca­tion and lit­er­a­cy) is his­tor­i­cal­ly reli­able” as a whole.

Mod­ern New Tes­ta­ment schol­ars do not entire­ly endorse Ram­sey’s claims per­tain­ing to Luke’ abil­i­ties as a his­to­ri­an and con­sid­er him to have exag­ger­at­ed his case. To be more pre­cise, the stud­ies by Ram­sey and oth­ers did at least estab­lish that Acts was not a com­plete fic­tion authored in the mid-late sec­ond cen­tu­ry peri­od. The author is like­ly to be one writ­ing some­time in the late first cen­tu­ry, some­one who was edu­cat­ed and well-trav­elled, and was using some tra­di­tions and sources at his dis­pos­al. There is no doubt that he does present accu­rate details, yet it is also a fact that his account is selec­tive, roman­ti­cised at times and the­o­log­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed. We know that the author was not just relat­ing bare inci­dents and events with­out changes but was adapt­ing them to suit his purposes. 

Hence his work (the gospel and Acts) needs to be used care­ful­ly and crit­i­cal­ly by the historians.

The late Ray­mond Brown made a remark that Luke would have been a fit­ting can­di­date for mem­ber­ship in the broth­er­hood of Hel­lenis­tic his­to­ri­ans, but he would nev­er be made the pres­i­dent of the soci­ety.15 Howard Mar­shall, on the oth­er hand, a major con­ser­v­a­tive evan­gel­i­cal schol­ar of our times who is quite char­i­ta­ble towards Acts, admits that :

…he [Ram­sey] was capa­ble of mak­ing asser­tions about Luke’s his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy which went beyond what could be shown by the avail­able evi­dence.“16

Mar­shall talks about the essen­tial” reli­a­bil­i­ty of Acts regard­ing his­tor­i­cal mat­ters and not its com­plete reli­a­bil­i­ty. Sher­win-White, for instance, believes that Luke makes mis­takes, but the main thrust of his book is to demon­strate that for the most part, Luke por­trays the first-cen­tu­ry Roman scene accu­rate­ly.“17

Do note that this does not mean that we can accept all of Luke’ sto­ries blind­ly. So, while many mod­ern schol­ars do not out­right dis­miss Acts and con­sid­er it to be more accu­rate than was pre­vi­ous­ly thought, it is nonethe­less rec­og­nized that its author is not with­out mis­takes and does colour sources at his dis­pos­al for the­o­log­i­cal and apolo­getic rea­sons. This means that not every­thing with­in his books is his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate, as alleged by Chris­t­ian missionaries.Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi, On The Reli­a­bil­i­ty Of Luke As A His­to­ri­an,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, March 14, 2010, last accessed May 27, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​b​i​b​l​e​/​l​u​k​e​-​a​s​-​a​-​h​i​s​t​o​r​i​an/
  1. Ray­mond E. Brown, S.S, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment (The Anchor Bible Ref­er­ence Library), 1997, Dou­ble­day, p. 326[]
  2. See Lee Mar­tin McDon­ald, Stan­ley E. Porter, Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty And Its Sacred Lit­er­a­ture, 2000, Hen­drick­son Pub­lish­ers. For a more crit­i­cal assess­ment, see Gerd Theis­sen and Annette Merz, who dis­miss the tra­di­tion­al author­ship claims about the gospels in their The His­tor­i­cal Jesus : A Com­pre­hen­sive Guide, 1998, SCM Press Ltd. See also W. G. Küm­mel, Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 1975, Revised Edi­tion, SCM Press Ltd. Hel­mut Koester also dis­cuss­es gospel author­ships in his Ancient Chris­t­ian Gospels : Their His­to­ry and Devel­op­ment, 1990, Trin­i­ty Press Inter­na­tion­al. Also Vin­cent P. Bran­ick, Under­stand­ing the New Tes­ta­ment and its Mes­sage : An Intro­duc­tion, 1998, Paulist Press[]
  3. Bart D. Ehrman, The New Tes­ta­ment : A His­tor­i­cal Intro­duc­tion to the Ear­ly Chris­t­ian Writ­ings, 2000, Sec­ond Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 52. For a defense of tra­di­tion­al author­ship claims, see the fol­low­ing books by evan­gel­i­cal schol­ars : Don­ald Guthrie, New Tes­ta­ment Intro­duc­tion (Mas­ter Ref­er­ence Col­lec­tion), Revised Edi­tion, 1990, Inter­Var­si­ty Press ; D. A. Car­son, Dou­glas J. Moo, Dr. Leon Mor­ris, An Intro­duc­tion to the New Tes­ta­ment, 1992, Zon­der­van Pub­lish­ing House.[]
  4. See Paula Fredrik­sen, From Jesus To Christ : The Ori­gins of the New Tes­ta­ment Images of Christ, Sec­ond Edi­tion, 2000, Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, New Haven and Lon­don, pp. 3 – 4, 19.[]
  5. See E. P. Sanders, The His­tor­i­cal Fig­ure Of Jesus, 1993, Pen­guin Books, p. 60.[]
  6. Gerd Theis­sen, Annette Merz, The His­tor­i­cal Jesus : A Com­pre­hen­sive Guide , 1998, SCM Press Ltd. p. 32[]
  7. Ray­mond E. Brown, S.S, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment (The Anchor Bible Ref­er­ence Library), 1997, Dou­ble­day, p. 247. Sim­i­lar dates are also pro­posed in the fol­low­ing sources : Gerd Lude­mann, Jesus After Two Thou­sand Years : What He Real­ly Said and Did, 2001, Prometheus Books ; Gra­ham N. Stan­ton, The Gospels and Jesus, Sec­ond Edi­tion, 2002, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press ; James L. Mays (Gen­er­al Edi­tor), The Harper­Collins Bible Com­men­tary, 2000, Harper­San­Fran­cis­co ; Don­ald Senior, Jesus : A Gospel Por­trait, New and Revised Edi­tion, 1992, Paulist Press ; W. G. Küm­mel, Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 17th Revised edi­tion, 1975, SCM Press Ltd ; Vin­cent P. Bran­ick, Under­stand­ing the New Tes­ta­ment and Its Mes­sage : An Intro­duc­tion, 1998, Paulist Press ; John P. Meier, A Mar­gin­al Jew : Rethink­ing the His­tor­i­cal Jesus : The Roots of the Prob­lem and the Per­son, Vol. 1, 1991, 1st edi­tion, The Anchor Bible Ref­er­ence Library, Dou­ble­day ; Also Geza Ver­mes, The Authen­tic Gospel Of Jesus, 2004, Pen­guin Books. These types of dates are accept­ed by the vast major­i­ty of New Tes­ta­ment schol­ars and the ref­er­ences pro­vid­ed above are only a few exam­ples. For much ear­li­er dates, see the afore­men­tioned intro­duc­tions by Don­ald Guthrie and Car­son. See also John A. T. Robin­son, Redat­ing the New Tes­ta­ment, 2000, Wipf & Stock Pub­lish­ers.[]
  8. Bart D. Ehrman, The New Tes­ta­ment : A His­tor­i­cal Intro­duc­tion to the Ear­ly Chris­t­ian Writ­ings, 2000, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, p. 109[]
  9. Mar­shall believes that most of the speech­es in Acts are based on tra­di­tion­al mate­r­i­al, but he adds that they were nev­er meant to be ver­ba­tim reports and that Luke has pro­vid­ed us with noth­ing more than brief sum­maries. Hence he leaves room for at least some Lucan cre­ativ­i­ty [I. Howard Mar­shall, Acts (The Tyn­dale New Tes­ta­ment Com­men­taries), 1980, Inter-Var­si­ty Press, WM. B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Co, p. 41]. More­over, he acknowl­edges that Luke could not have known what Fes­tus and Agrip­pa said to each oth­er in their pri­vate apart­ments (25:13 – 22 ; 26:30 – 32) nor could the Chris­tians have learnt what exact­ly was said by the mem­bers of the San­hedrin in closed ses­sions (4:15 – 17 ; 5:34 – 40). Nonethe­less, he spec­u­lates that per­haps Luke could have expressed the things that the pub­lic behav­iour of rulers indi­cat­ed that they had prob­a­bly said in pri­vate (so some inven­tion of speech by Luke did take place?) and that it is pos­si­ble that some sym­pa­thiz­er from the San­hedrin may have giv­en Chris­tians the gist of the con­ver­sa­tion (ibid.).[]
  10. Mar­shall admits that there are points of ten­sion between Luke’s por­trait of Paul and his own writ­ing, but insists that they are not so sub­stan­tial so as to make Acts entire­ly unhis­tor­i­cal (ibid.)[]
  11. Don­ald Guthrie, B.D., M. Th., New Tes­ta­ment Intro­duc­tion. The Gospels and Acts, 1966, Inter-Var­si­ty Press, p. 87[]
  12. W. G. Küm­mel, Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 17th Revised edi­tion, 1975, SCM Press Ltd, p. 129[]
  13. Ray­mond E. Brown, S.S, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 1997, (The Anchor Bible Ref­er­ence Library, Dou­ble­day, p. 115[]
  14. Ray­mond E. Brown, S.S, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 1997, The Anchor Bible Ref­er­ence Library, Dou­ble­day, pp. 263 – 265[]
  15. Ray­mond E. Brown, S.S, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment, 1997, The Anchor Bible Ref­er­ence Library, Dou­ble­day, p. 322.[]
  16. I. Howard Mar­shall, Acts (The Tyn­dale New Tes­ta­ment Com­men­taries), 1980, Inter-Var­si­ty Press, WM. B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Co, p. 34[]
  17. I. Howard Mar­shall, Acts (The Tyn­dale New Tes­ta­ment Com­men­taries), 1980, Inter-Var­si­ty Press, WM. B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Co, pp. 36 – 37[]


  1. Luke men­tions a cen­sus under Quirnius dur­ing the birth of Jesus(P) which is almost uni­ver­sal­ly rec­og­nized as a major his­tor­i­cal blun­der on Luke’s part.

    Relat­ed to this, for a long while schol­ars have ques­tioned the accu­ra­cy of Luke’s account of the cen­sus under the reign of Quirinius (Lk 2:2, cf. Ac 5:37). The rea­son for this skep­ti­cism is that the ancient evi­dence sug­gests that Quirinius was not gov­er­nor of Syr­ia until AD 6. The prob­lem, of course, is that Jesus was born at least ten to twelve years before this time. Hence many schol­ars have con­clud­ed that Luke sim­ply got his facts wrong.

    There is a plau­si­ble way of resolv­ing this appar­ent dis­crep­an­cy even apart from arche­ol­o­gy. Though Luke 2:2 is usu­al­ly trans­lat­ed some­thing like, This was the first (pro­tos) cen­sus that took place while Quirinius was gov­er­nor,” it’s pos­si­ble to trans­late pro­tos not as first” but as before.” So it’s pos­si­ble Luke is say­ing that the cen­sus that led Joseph and Mary to Beth­le­hem took place before the cen­sus tak­en under Quirinius in 6 BC – the bet­ter known one that caused an upris­ing. But arche­ol­o­gy now offers a bet­ter way of squar­ing Luke with the his­tor­i­cal evi­dence.. A coin has been dis­cov­ered that men­tions a Quirinius who was pro­con­sul of Syr­ia and Cili­cia from 11 BC until after 4 BC, thus reign­ing at the time of Jesus’ birth, as Luke says. It may be, there­fore, that the same man ruled twice, or that there were two rulers with this same name.

  2. There are many words used in this arti­cle in an attempt to dis­cred­it Luke’s writ­ing. No doubt the intent is to sway the read­er away from the Bible as Holy Scrip­ture with a hope of mov­ing them toward the Quran. Would you please pro­vide sol­id evi­dence that proves the Quran is an inspired, Holy book, giv­en by Allah ? 

    Thank you

  3. Thank you for inter­est­ing article.
    nd whay is much impres­sive, that you have built-in trans­la­tion to dif­fer­ent lan­guages, includ­ing mine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *