Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Harnack on Luke's Paul vs. the "Paul of the Epistles"

As I continue to teach Luke-Acts this semester at the Augustine Institute, I'm working through various issues related to the study of that corpus.

This week in class we tacked the question of whether the author of Luke-Acts is indeed the same Luke mentioned by Paul in his letters (cf. Phlm 24; cf. Col 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11).

Of course, one of the arguments many have found compelling against such an identification is that the Paul of Acts seems different from the Paul of the Epistles. For some, the differences are so pronounced it precludes the possibility that the "historical Luke" is the actual author.

In his massive 4 volume commentary on Acts*, Keener has a comprehensive treatment of the debate (vol. 1:221-257) that spans the history of scholarly opinion on the matter. In the end, he concludes the similarities between the Paul of Acts and the Paul of the Epistles far outnumber the dissimilarities, pointing out that ancient historians had a lot of room for "elasticity" in their presentation as well.

I might also point out that the question seems to flatten the nuances of the epistles. Is the Paul of Galatians the "same" as the Paul of Philippians? Certainly, a careful study of his letters reveals that Paul had many dispositions and was a complex, fascinating individual--he was hardly a two-dimensional character!

Obviously this is a thorny and complex issue; I hesitate to even bring it up in a short blog post!

What struck me as "blog worthy" though was a quote Keener includes from Harnack:
“The agreement which in these numerous instances exists between the Acts… and the Pauline epistles, although the latter are only incidental writings belonging to the later years of the Apostle, is so extensive and so detailed as to exclude all wild hypotheses concerning those passages of the Acts that are without attestation in those epistles.”—Adolf von Harnack, Acts of the Apostles (London: Williams and Norgate, 1909), 272.
Not something I expected from Harnack.

(On the side is an image of St. Paul taken from the Basilica of San Paulo in Rome. There's lots to like about this image: it has his name in Greek and Latin. It also depicts him holding a scroll with the famous Christ-Hymn of Philippians 2).

1 comment:

Richard Fellows said...

Luke certainly wrote Luke-Acts, but who do we mean by "Luke"? How much did the author of Colossians really know about the Luke of Phlm? Did he consider him to be a gentile? These are the tricky questions, for me.

I agree that the Paul of Acts is not so different from the Paul of the letters. Much of the supposed discrepancy is due to a misreading of Galatians.