Luke-Acts: The Primary Witness of Apostolic Christianity
Luke-Acts: The Primary Witness of Apostolic Christianity

Luke-Acts: The Primary Witness of Apostolic Christianity

Reasons for favoring Luke-Acts over Matthew, Mark, and John

  1. The author is the only New Testament writer that also wrote the book of the Acts of the Apostles: The historical account of the spread of the early church and what the Apostles preached.
  2. The author claims to have traveled with the apostles (Acts 16:11-15). A difficult claim to make if and would be likely be disproved at the time it were not true.
  3. Luke acknowledges that many had previously attempted to compile a narrative and he felt it necessary to do so in order that believers may know the exact truth about the things they have been taught (Luke 1:4)
  4. Luke was written last and had access to Mark and Matthew when composing his narration.
  5. Luke claims to have investigated everything closely from the beginning. And the level of detail he provides substantiates having more specific historical information than Mathew and Mark. 
  6. Luke is the only synoptic gospel that is structured like a historical narrative in which everything is in chronological order.
  7. Luke-Acts is the most detailed of the three with respect to historical references and it’s reliability can be strongly defended
  8. The use of language in Luke is more advanced indicating that the author had a technical/medical background.
  9. Both Luke and Acts is addressed to Theophilus which means “God-Seeker” or “friend of God”. This pertains to a general audience of those who seek after God. 
  10. Matthew has problematic readings that are not supported by any other new Testament books and does not harmonize well with the rest of the New Testament. See the Credibility of Matthew section below. For example the birth narrative of Matthew is very problematic. There is no historical record of Harod committing a mass genocide “Massacre of the Innocents”. 
  11. Regarding Mark, Luke clearly made reference to this work and made corrections and clarifications where necessary. Also, during copying and transmission many variants were added to Mark harmonize it with Matthew. Mark was copied less frequently than Matthew and Luke in the first two centuries and there are few Greek manuscripts that attest to the original text. Versions of Mark also have different endings.  Scholars use early Latin texts of Mark to get a better indication as to the original reading of Mark.
  12. John, as well as the Johannine epistles, belong to the post-apostolic period (90-150 AD) and are likely a product of the early 2nd century. John cannot be regarded as historically accurate as it exhibits clear inconsistencies with the Synoptic gospels, it’s contested authorship and devised structure. It is not until sometime after 140-170 AD that text from the forth gospel starts to be referenced in the writings of early Christian apologists. See the section on John below for references.

Luke- Acts as the Apostolic Authority

Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Acts 1:1-2 (ESV) ​

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

Luke-Acts References

Matthew References

“It cannot be denied that the records which we have reason to believe were made by Mark and Luke, come to us with a guarantee which is lacking here (in Matthew).” – The Gospels as Historical Documents, Part II, The Synoptic Gospels, V. H. Stanton, p. 369

Matthew has a number of issues that calls its credibility into question. These are summarized in the paper at the download link below. First, introductory notes about Matthew are provided relating to the source material, authorship, and structure. The Farrer theory provides additional rational for holding Matthew with increased skepticism considering the likelihood that Luke excluded much of the content from Matthew. Major contradictions of Matthew with other Gospel accounts are shown in the following section. Most of the contradictions in the New Testament are Matthew conflicting with Mark, Luke, and John. Other issues with Matthew are described in terms of problematic passages and inconsistent language. Finally, evidence is provided against the traditional wording of Matthew 28:19 that indicates the trinitarian baptismal formula was added later and is not original to Matthew.

Mark References

John References

“The difference between the Synoptic representation of the person and the Ministry of Jesus and that in the Fourth Gospel is such that we are compelled to ask whether we can use them both. To many critics… they give their preference to the Synoptics. Although they do not by any means regard them as fully trustworthy, they hold them to be so by comparison with the fourth evangelist. It is held that a presumption in favour of the Synoptic accounts is raised by their greater naturalness and lifelikeness, and the absence of the appearance of any such special doctrinal purpose as there is in the case of the Fourth Gospel, by which their character as narrators might be impaired. And it is held also that the result of a detailed comparison is to demonstrate their superiority to such an extent and in so many instances that, even where the best case can be made out for the Fourth Gospel, it is most probable that the others are in the right.” – The Gospels as Historical Documents, Part III, The Forth Gospel, V. H. Stanton, p. 209