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Luke Is A Legitimate Non-Pauline Gospel History

A ministry-friend who questions Paul just wrote a book dismissing Luke's Gospel as Pauline. I believe this is a serious mistake. This new book on Paul makes no attempt to be scholarly, lacking any citations or references. However, I am concerned that other ministry-friends may share the assumptions of this author, be influenced by him, and similarly reach such an incorrect view of Luke's Gospel. Precious important words of Jesus would be lost this way if we drop Luke's gospel as a valid historical account of Jesus' ministry. (Luke only claims he is writing as an historian, and not under inspiration, FYI. See Luke 1:1-2. But it is still a vital part of the witness of Jesus' words.)

This new book first claims that Luke omits key law-supporting passages in Matthew. (This is incorrect.) The new book also claims Luke never mentions the Law -- not even using the word for "Law" supposedly. (This is grossly incorrect.) Finally, this new work claims Luke praises the Pharisees as law-abiding and good "doctors of the law," teaches salvation by faith alone, etc., to help sustain Paul. (This too is completely wrong.)

This new book relies upon tarring Luke by his mere association with Paul. Then this dear brother-author does not read Luke with any care to see whether such bold assertions were correct. 

Clearly, Luke is guilty of none of these things.  Luke clearly supports the same view of Jesus and His Gospel which we find in Matthew. And it is not by duplicating passages in Matthew. This means Luke represents unique passages that further support the Matthean-view of Jesus which would be lost if we accepted the view that Luke is an unreliable Pauline text.  

Luke Allows Recovery of Original Hebrew Matthew

In fact, Luke's Gospel appears to be a translation of the Hebrew Matthew -- the original Matthew -- with some passages closer to that version than even the Greek translation of the Hebrew Matthew we know today as the Gospel of Matthew.

James R. Edwards, an evangelical expert on the now lost Hebrew Matthew (once stored at Caesarea by the Ebionites), explains that this Hebrew work of Matthew remained through the Fourth Century an approved reference to "resolve exegetical difficulties in canonical texts." (James R. Edwards, "The Hebrew Gospel in Early Christianity," 'Non-canonical' Religious Texts in Early Judaism and Early Christianity (Ed. Lee Martin McDonald & James Charlesworth)(A&C Black, 2012) at 129.)

Edwards explains that Epiphanius' eight quotations from the Hebrew Gospel in the late 300s, like quotes by Ignatius and others, "correspond more closely with Luke than with Matthew and/or Mark;" and these quotes are not abridgments or summaries of the canonical gospels, but rather are "quotations from an original Hebrew Gospel authored by Apostle Matthew."  Id., at 130. See pp. 119-20 (viz. Luke 24:39 ("ghost not have flesh" v Hebrew Matthew "I am not a disembodied ghost"); see also p. 131 (Hebrew Matthew's "thirty years of age," "Lake Tiberias," "Simon the Zealot," "a certain man named Jesus" are uniquely in Luke in 4 Gospels.)

No wonder that in 180 AD Irenaeus said that the Ebionites accepted "the word's of [Luke's] Gospel." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.15.) Luke was an effort to set forth the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew preserved by the Ebionites at the Library of Caesarea.

On the likelihood that the Ebionites (Hebrew for "the Poor") is the original name of the apostolic-twelve's church at Jerusalem under Bishop James, and continued with that name for several centuries, see this link.

Scholars Realize Luke's Gospel and Acts Are Both At Odds With Paul's Epistles

Moreover, the Jesus portrayed in Luke's Gospel is so doctrinally at odds with Paul's epistles that scholars concur that Luke had no knowledge of Paul's epistles when he wrote the Gospel or Acts. The discrepancies are embarassing to either Paul or Luke, depending upon who is responsible for the differences.

First, neither Luke's Gospel nor Acts says anything helpful to the acceptance of Paul's epistles because much is contradictory to them, both factually and doctrinally.

This was first exposed by theologian F.C. Bauer (1790-1860), a professor at Blaubeuren Theological Seminary.

Recently, Christian scholars Hengel and Schwemer in their book Paul: Between Antioch and Damascus (Westminster John Knox Press, 1997) at 322 say "since F.C. Bauer and his pupils, there has been no evidence that knowledge of Paul's letter by Luke can be demonstrated. Hengel et al add:

"When Luke was writing, Paul's letters may have been in the archives of one community or another. The use of them begins only with I Clement or shortly after 100 CE....They will have been collected and edited around this time" while Luke wrote "twenty years earlier."

Pauline and non-Pauline scholars acknowledge the same truth about Luke's Gospel carries over into the book of Acts.

In R.B. Rackham's article, "The Acts of the Apostles, A Plea for an Early Date," Journal of Theological Studies (London: MacMillan, 1900) Vol. 1 at 76, this pro-Paul writer acknowledges that Luke could not have known of Paul's epistles because of the material discrepancies between Acts and Paul's Epistles which, had Luke known of said epistles, "we cannot imagine his leaving such inconsistencies in their present form." The full quote reads:

It is clear that the writer [Luke] has not used our Epistles of St. Paul as his authorities. They can be fitted in, but there was no special desire of illustrating or even harmonizing with them. This is evident from some apparent discrepancies, especially between the Acts and Galatians. If St. Luke wrote at a date when the Epistles were the public property of the Church and widely read, we cannot imagine his leaving such inconsistencies in their present form. ...The letters of St. Paul were numerous, our Epistles had not won their pre-eminent position, and as yet they were the private property of the Churches to whom they were addressed....St. Luke was writing at a time when the Epistle to the Galatians was not yet widely circulated. That Epistle contained the record of St. Paul's 'secret history' poured out to his apostate children. Id., at page 84 (emphasis added).

(Richard Beiward Rackham was a highly prolific evangelical scholar, writing Acts of the Apostles:An Exposition (1901); Authority in the Matter of Faith (with Baptist scholar, A. Robertson); The Voice of the Church and the Bishops (1896), etc.)

Thus, from such differences, Rackham deduces Luke could not have known of Paul's epistles. Luke's obvious desire to vindicate Paul in the upcoming trial at Rome would be negated by those epistles. Had Luke known of the epistles, Luke obviously would have either narrowed his favorable account about Paul to not conflict with them, or abandoned a favorable view of Paul because Luke's account of Jesus' doctrines varied from Paul's doctrines in the Pauline epistles. 

In fact, this is now generally recognized. For Pauline scholars have had to insist that Paul's letters are more valid representations of Paul's own views even though Luke inexplicably contradicts the views Paul had of himself and Paul's doctrines in the epistles. For example, Christian scholars who are pro-Paul realize Luke's Acts does not support the claim of an apostleship from Jesus that Paul makes in Paul's epistles. In "Historical Reliability of Book of Acts," Wikipedia (2013), we read:

A key contested issue is the historicity of Luke's depiction of Paul. According to the majority viewpoint, Acts described Paul differently from how Paul describes himself, both factually and theologically.[4] Acts differed with Paul's letters on important issues, such as the Law, Paul's own apostleship, and his relation to the Jerusalem church.[5] Scholars generally prefer Paul's account over that in Acts.[6]

Apostleship Contradiction. For example, Acts contradicts Paul's claim to being an apostle of Jesus Christ -- something Paul repeats numerous times in his opening line of his epistles. However, in none of the three appearance-accounts in Acts - in chapters 9, 22 and 26 -- does Luke record the "Jesus" of Damascus as making Paul an apostle. By Luke also recording in chapter one of Acts that the the Lord Jesus chose Matthias as the 12th by means of a lot (Acts 1:24-26), there was no room for the "Jesus of Damascus" in Acts 9 to name Paul the 12th. Hence, we read from conservative evangelical scholars:

"In Acts...Paul is denied the title of Apostle." (Hengel & Schwemer, Paul between Damascus and Antioch  (John Knox Press, 1997) at  at 321 n. 3.) 

Even a Paul defender, George Reber angrily accuses Luke in Acts of trying to promote Peter at Paul's expense by denigrating whether Paul was an apostle:

"The first half of the Acts was written, as will be shown, expressly to exalt Peter over him and degrade him [i.e., Paul] from the rank of an Apostle.

(George Reber, The  Christ of Paul (1876) at page 54.) 

Paul's Self-Professed Blamelessness. As a further example of how Acts is at odds with Paul's own accounts, Paul tells the Philippians that before the Damascus-experience that he (Paul) was "blameless" according to the Law. In Philippians 3:4-6, we read: "I have reasons for such confidence. If someone thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: ... in regard to the law, a Pharisee;as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless." (Phil. 3:4-6 NIV.)

But Luke could not have known of this, for then Luke embarassingly would be recording in Acts that Paul was an accessory to the extra-judicial killing (hence murder) of Stephan (Acts 6:8-8:1) and was "breathing murder" against other disciples of Jesus. (Acts 9:1.) The law clearly says "thou shall not murder...." In the contexts where Paul was killing people, it only had an exception for judicial punishments after trial with two witnesses as set forth in the law. Thus, Luke's portrayal of Paul as a lawbreaker, even a murderer, during his time as a Pharisee contradicts Paul's epistolary claims to the contrary. Would Luke have knowingly done so?

Paul's Galatians Claim "Not One Hour." Also, Luke's account that Paul had Timothy circumcised in Acts 16:3 completely contradicts Paul's account in Gal. 2:4-5 after the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 that he did not submit, "not even for an hour" to demands that Gentiles be circumcised by the party who insisted upon it. (Timothy's father was Gentile. Acts 16:1.) This contradiction was so embarassing that the Latin Bible version D from about 350 AD removed the "not." This freed the first Latin commentary on Galatians in about 356 AD by Marius Victorinus to say there are "codices in Latin" that say "for an hour we submitted in subjection," and hence "the apostle was under no pressure to lie" in Gal. 2:4-5. (Stephen A. Cooper, Marius Victorinus' Commentary on Galatians (Oxford: 2005) at 270.) This was a dishonest alteration of Paul clearly to concoct proof possibly that Paul was not deceptive or a liar. As Cooper says more gingerly, removing "not" was an effort at "harmonization" that "probably led to the suppression of 'not' in Gal. 2:4 in the early Western textual tradition...." Id. at 270 fn. 97.

Thus, the translators in 350 AD were corrupted, and erased a contradiction to help Paul not appear false. Fortunately, none of the modern translations follow the D corrupted form. All translations have the "not."

But this means the original contradiction remains. Only one question results: is Luke lying about Timothy's circumcision? or is Paul lying that he never had anyone submit for even an "hour" to that requirement?  Between Luke and Paul, who endorsed lying to spread the Gospel? Only Paul. See Guile and Paul. Hence, Luke again remains the more likely truthful and reliable source on what Paul revealed to Luke.

Historical Note on Circumcision Issue.

Incidentally, in Acts 15:1-2, Luke says it was "certain men" from Judea who who insisted salvation of a Gentile turned on circumcision. (This was a doctrine of the Pharisees, FYI.) However, the Mosaic Law did not have that requirement at all to Gentiles living in Israel; it applied only to "sons of Israel." (Lev. 12:1-3.) Yet, Gentiles had the right to belong to any tribe they settled within, and could inherit land with other Israelites. Circumcision thus was no requirement for citizenship of a Gentile in Israel. See Law Applicable to Gentiles. Consistent with the Law, the bishop James with concurrence of the 12 apostles ruled on the issue on any necessity of circumcision by issuing only 4 rules from the Law that Gentile had to follow as a minimum, e.g., do not eat meat sacrificed to idols; and that the Gentiles would learn how the rest of the Law applied to them in weekly Torah readings on Sabbath. See Acts 15:18-21 NKJV.

Scholars Realize Luke's Gospel and Acts Are Both At Odds With Paul's Epistles - Continued

Paul's Pretense with Timothy and in Acts 21.

Furthermore, Luke had he known of the epistle to the Galatians could not have relayed Paul's circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3, or Paul's shaving his head as part of the vow in Acts 21 to keep James happy. For had Luke read Galatians, Paul is condemning Peter for alleged "hypocrisy" for not eating with Gentiles to placate Jews who were Christians who wanted Peter as a Jew to follow a Jewish custom supposedly not to eat with Gentiles. (Peter more likely was simply not eating with Gentiles who were eating meat sacrificed to idols, as Paul expressly allows 2x, and thus did not want to rudely reject an offer of food, seeming thereby to be impolite.) For then Luke would know that Paul in Galatians would be scaling the heights of hypocrisy by critizing Peter for the exact same supposed pretense that Paul himself did in Acts 16:3 and Acts 21 and defended as ethical in Romans 3:7 etc., -- using strategies of pretence in dealing with Jews. Hence, this is more proof that Luke is unaware of Paul's epistles, for his account, when read in context with Paul's epistles, makes Paul appear to be an extreme hypocrite -- criticizing others as sinning for what Paul himself justified as no sin at all!

Doctrinal Conflicts Between Acts and Paul's Epistles. Moreover, doctrinally, Luke has many unique passages that confirm what Jesus says in Matthew about the necessity of works for salvation, and justification by repentance from sin, at total odds with Paul's Epistles. For example, in Luke 13:23-24, Jesus is asked whether few or many will be "saved," to which Jesus answers "work hard" (NLT) "make every effort" (NIV) or "strive" (KJV) to "enter by the narrow door," for "many will try to enter but will not be able to do so." Jesus' Greek word was“agonizomai," which Vine explains means "to strive as in a contest for a prize; straining every nerve to obtain the object. ” W.E. Vine, Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co. 1966) at 41.

Paul's most famous epistolary doctrine of justification by faith is destroyed by Luke's unique account of the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. In Luke 18:14, the Tax Collector repents of sin, beating his breast in sorrow, and he goes home "justified," but the Pharisee who believed in the true God but thought he had nothing to repent about goes home unjustified. Justification by faith is wholly incompatible with a justification by turning in repentance away from sin. 

No doubt for these and the many other examples cited below, Ben Witherington, a Christian evangelical scholar, says in The Paul Quest: A Search for the Jew of Tarsus (2001) at 153 "it appears that the author [of Acts] does not know Paul's letters, or at least the capital Paulines...."

Hence, Luke is a highly non-Pauline writer -- even viewed as contradicting or undermining Paul's self-reporting about his supposed apostleship, facts about Paul, his pre-conversion life, and about Paul's doctrine.

The unique portions of Luke which undermine the doctrine in Paul's epistles arguably are highly authentic. As mentioned above, Edwards made a compelling case recently that Luke is another repository of the first gospel -- the Hebrew version of Matthew's Gospel, written by the hand of Matthew prior to its Greek translation -- the origin of the present Matthew. (See James R. Edwards, The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition (2009).) For example, Luke often begins sentences with "And" which is a common form in Hebrew to start a sentence, but not in Greek. Those verses thus evince the original text was Hebrew, and Luke was translating it himself or with help. 

Ebionites Knew This Long Ago 

The early church were known as the Ebionites before being first called Christians at Antioch. See link. The Ebionites were served by the bishop James, the brother of Jesus. Irenaeus clearly believes that they used the words of Luke's gospel to supplement Matthew to draw out additional teachings of Jesus. So Irenaeus (died 202 AD) says the Ebionites should also accept Paul due to words Luke quotes from Ananias' vision of Jesus recorded in Acts. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 3.15.1. Putting aside the validity of Irenaeus' argument for a moment, this means the Ebionites used the words of Jesus from Luke's gospel. And thus Irenaeus said this should imply Paul is validated by the words of Ananias that Luke quotes in Acts. This means the Ebionites accepted Luke's gospel.

Incidentally, Irenaeus' argument was misplaced about whether Ananias' statement about Paul was as valid as a statement Luke records in the gospels. For Luke was not vouching that Ananias had his vision to explain Paul's experience, and "Jesus" decision to make Paul a "witness" (not an apostle). Luke was simply recording what Ananias told Paul, which Paul could not more know was true than could Luke. As Luke explained in both the first verses of Luke and Acts, he was simply relying upon witnesses to write his gospel and Acts. Luke was not claiming personal inspiration.

Thus, unlike the Ananias-Paul encounter, the eyewitnesses to Luke's gospel had to be the twelve apostles. Jesus promised us the twelve would have inspired recollections. Luke's gospel thus has automatic reliability even though it was written as history, but this is not because we attribute "inspiration" to Luke when he expressly disavowed that as the basis to either his gospel or Acts.

By contrast, the eyewitness to Ananias' statement 20 years prior to Luke writing Acts was either Paul or Ananias, or both. This means Jesus' promise of inspiration did not apply to Paul, as he is outside the twelve apostles. As to Ananias, Luke offers us no proof that he was a prophet having visions from the true Jesus. Luke is simply faithfully recording what either Paul or Ananias said; it did not prove these statements were true. Hence, the Ebionites were correct to weigh statements attributed to Jesus by either Paul or Ananias in Acts differently than statements the apostles shared with Luke to write his gospel. 

Hence, what did the Ebionites know about the validity of Luke's gospel that we should know? That precisely Luke's Gospel presents the same Jesus as Matthew did. And that Acts when weighed as Paul's version of facts against evidence that may come up later -- Paul's epistles -- Paul's version presented to Luke may not end up as accurate as Luke assumed. 

 

Let us now review further examples to prove Luke is non-Pauline.

Luke's Gospel Passages Which Undermine Paul's Epistles

First, Luke has a unique parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. This teaches clearly that the one who repents over sin (not making any change in beliefs) goes home "justified," but the Pharisee who prided himself on fasting and tithing, and assuming he did no wrong otherwise, goes home unjustified. (Luke 18:9-14.) 

This teaching of justification by repentance from sin is antithetical to Paul's doctrine of justification by faith. And it is similarly negative about the Pharisees.

This Gospel message is also comparable to Luke's depiction in Acts of the repentance-conversion message from Apostle Peter in Acts 2:38-41. There Peter tells Jews that they missed Jesus was Messiah and Master, and instead urged Pilate to crucify him. Luke records many listening were "cut to the heart" by this message. Then Luke records that Peter urged them to "repent" from this sin of refusing Jesus' release offered by Pilate, and "be baptized." (Acts 2:38) Then in verses 40-41 it says,  "With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." (Acts 2:40-41 NIV.) Luke here clearly did not imply that the mental "acceptance" of Peter's message saved them; it was the obedience to the message that saved them: repentance from sin and baptism in Jesus' name. In verse 44, Luke then calls them those who "believed," but Luke does not depict the mere process of 'belief' is what saves, but the acceptance of the call to obedience of repentance and baptism in verses 40-41 just before verse 44. This is not unlike what Luke wrote in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke's Gospel. There the tax collector who repents of his sins is "justified," but the Pharisee who prayed to God but did not repent of his sin went home "unjustified."

Luke's Gospel likewise has a unique parable of the Prodigal that is also at odds with Paul's epistles' doctrine on faith-alone salvation. (Luke 15: 11-32.) This parable teaches that a son who sins is "dead" and thus lost, but that when "he comes to his senses" and repents of sin, and returns home, the father says the son is "alive again." This is a synonymn of born-again. Thus, Luke says that Jesus teaches the born-again experience is not merely by faith, but by repentance from sin and toward the Father. Cf. Luke 13:2-5 (Jesus teaches "repent or perish").

Again, a salvation by repentance and obedience is antithetical to Paul's teaching of salvation by faith, and, as most interpret Romans 4:3-5, without any need of repentance from sin at all. 

Likewise, salvation by works worthy of repentance is again underscored in Luke's unique account in Luke 19:8 et seq. about Zaccheus, a tax-collector. Zaccheus promises to pay the poor four-fold what he stole from people as a tax collector. This four-fold payment to the poor precisely fits the works worthy of repentance which under the Mosaic Law a thief must do when he steals (a) from some he no longer can find (i.e., the poor are a substitute per Exodus 22:1-9); and (b) no longer has the original item he stole (in which case payment must be four-fold the value of what had been stolen, per example in Numbers 5:5-8). Luke obviously unaware of contrary principles in Paul's epistles, quotes Jesus saying this work exactly worthy of repentance by a thief meant "salvation has now come to this house." (Luke 19:9.)

In the same vein, one familiar with the repentance-free salvation construed from Romans 4:3-5 is surprised to hear Luke quote Paul in Acts 17:30 say: "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." Paul was referring to idolatry in the prior verse -- not the lack of faith.An equal shock is when one listens to Paul summarize his gospel identical to Jesus' gospel of "works worthy of repentance" -- Paul telling a court in Acts 26:20 (ASV) that he "declared [his gospel] both to them of Damascus first and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judaea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance."

These two passages in Acts -- Acts 17:30 and Acts 26:20 -- thus are more examples where Luke is unaware that a contrary principle can be found in Paul's epistles. At the same time, Luke is endorsing Jesus' true gospel that fills Luke's Gospel when Luke is repeating what Paul said under oath in court about a salvation by repentance and works-worthy-of-repentance. (On Jesus' teaching of these essential components of salvation, see our webpage.) Obviously, Luke is completely unaware Paul's testimony to Agrippa contradicted Paul's repentance-free, faith-alone, and no-works-necessary gospel found in several of Paul's epistles. Hence, Acts like Luke's gospel are both totally non-Pauline, even when Luke quotes Paul!

The most non-Pauline aspect of the Gospels is Jesus' view of the Law's continuity. Luke here makes a key contribution in favor of Jesus's non-Pauline Gospel. For Luke's Gospel contains another time than just Matt 5:17-19 where Jesus says not one jot or title of the Law will expire until heaven and earth pass away. In Luke's Gospel, Jesus says this another time in an another setting. See Luke 16:17. And in the next few verses, Jesus applies a passage of the Mosaic law. Thus, clearly Luke tells of a distinctly different event but with a message similar to Matt 5:17-19 where Jesus again teaches on the continuity of the Law in the New Covenant. Luke 16:16-17 reads in pertinent part:

16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law. (Luke 16:16-17 NIV.)

Matthew's similar quotation in chapter five is within the Sermon on the Mount. By contrast, Luke 16 is clearly at a different time when Jesus' disciples alone gather around Jesus. This is ten chapters after Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount in Luke 6:20-49.

(Incidentally, most scholars agree the Sermon in Luke is an exposition on the 10 Commandments even though often discussed as paraphrases. See Luke 6:20-40, Sermon on the Plain. This article includes a detailed comparison to Matthew. Again, a Gospel that emphasizes the Law, as Jesus taught and found in Luke's Gospel, is 100% non-Pauline.)

As a result, the fact Luke 16:16-17 -- not part of Luke's Sermon on the Mount -- is different than Matthew's account at 5:17-19 within the Sermon on the Mount proves Luke has preserved a second time where our Lord emphasizes the continuity of the Law. Jesus says in Luke 16:17 not the least stroke will disappear out of the Law, and then explains a passage from the Law in the next verse. Jesus illustrates verse 17 by explaining a Mosaic law on divorce that has a continuing validity.

Thus, clearly Jesus in Luke affirms the Law's continuity. Hence, no one can misconstrue verse 16 (i.e., the Law and Prophets were proclaimed until John) to imply the Law is defunct once the Gospel comes into play. Rather, the Gospel is built on the Law -- it will proclaim the good news that those who were disobedient to the Law can receive forgiveness and atonement through a blood sacrifice of Jesus - when such atonement principle itself can only be found in the Law.

This passage therefore of Luke 16:17 is very harmful to the validity of Paul. It thereby destroys the argument of those who assert Luke is Pauline, and skewed to help Paul. The truth is quite the opposite.

What further underscores that Luke supports a law-endorsing Jesus is found in Luke 18. It duplicates most of Jesus' words found in Matthew 19:16-26 on the answer to the young rich man on how to have eternal life. The answer Jesus gives in both is that salvation comes by obedience to the Law combined with repentance from sin. This rich ruler suffered evidently from greediness which had harmed the poor, and Jesus told him, in effect, to make amends, i.e., perform a work 'worthy of repentance.' The passage reads in Luke:

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:18-29 NIV.)

And this passage promises eternal life in verse 29 not for faith, but to those who have sacrificed in this life. Again, this is a doctrine that does not fit the faith-alone verses in Paul's epistles. Luke is clearly contrary to the Paul revealed in Paul's epistles.

Luke quotes Jesus shortly thereafter similarly saying that those who resurrect were found "worthy to obtain the resurrection from the dead." (Luke 20:35.) Yet, this contradicts Paul's epistles that salvation is by grace through faith, not works (Eph 2:8-9). Jesus sees in this passage that God's favor ("charis" = "grace") comes upon you by you being worthy -- just as Jesus four times uses the word "grace" / favor to mean merited grace / favor. See Luke 6:32-34  & Luke 17:8-9 (English Bibles mistranslating it as either "thanks" or "credit.)

Most startling of all, Luke (in one more incident than Matthew had) identifies where Jesus again teaches to obey commands in the Law for eternal life. First in Luke 10:25-28 KJV we read:

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

Luke likewise has unique criticisms of the Pharisees by Jesus that do not appear in Matthew or Mark. And thus, the claim that Luke treats Pharisees well is certainly false. For example, in Luke 16, we read:

13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. (Luke 16:13-14 NIV.)

Hence, it is incorrect to claim Luke portrays the Pharisees as law-abiding, and good teachers.

Another example of a non-Pauline text is Luke's distinct version of the Parable of the Sower in Luke chapter 8. We discuss this parable in depth in chapter 18 of Jesus' Words on Salvation. In Luke 8:13, Jesus portrays the second type of lost person as one who "believes for a while," but then falls into temptation. It has the same fate as the seed that fell on rocky ground that never took root at all. Hence, the second seed represents a believer who falls later into sin. Luke portrays this person in context as not saved at all, but lost

Incidentally, in Luke 8:13, "believing" -- pisteuo -- is the Greek verb, and the same word as in John 3:16. In this standard translation as "believing," this believing did not save the second seed. Only the "noble and good heart," which existed prior to hearing the gospel, is saved, and endured. (But Paul, as you may recall, said none is righteous who have not yet accepted his Gospel. Jesus sees things differently than Paul on this second and related issue.)

And Luke's version of the Sower Parable which destroys faith alone doctrine is different in Matthew by essentially one word. Do you have a guess what word it may be? This word pisteuo. Matthew says instead the second seed was "received;" he is not as explicit that this means believed. Luke says the second seed "believed" for a while (in the standard translation of pisteuo), and fell away, depicting such one-time faith as insufficient for final salvation. Hence, Luke's Gospel undermines the faith-alone doctrine of Paul even more than Matthew's Gospel does.

Incidentally, here, Luke may have been translating the original Hebrew Matthew better than the Greek translator of the Hebrew Matthew by Luke rendering the Hebrew as "believed." Jerome in the late 300s said that a Greek translator rendered the Hebrew Matthew into what we have today as the Greek Matthew, but apparently not every section. And perhaps not as well as Luke did in Luke 8:13.  (On the Hebrew version of Matthew being its original form, see our article The Hebrew Version of Matthew.)

One of the greatest preachers, John Donne (1572-1631), said this Parable of the Sower contains a great warning to Christians about having believed and losing salvation. This is because the second seed represents believers:


[Y]et we may relapse into former sins, or fall
into new, and come to savour only of the
earth...[W]e may have received the good seed,
and endured for a while, as St. Matthew
expresses Christ's words; Received it and
believed it for a while, as St. Luke expresses
them, and then depart from the goodness
which God's grace had formerly wrought in us,
and from the grace of God itself.

John Donne, “Sermon on ‘Easter’ 1626,” The Works of John Donne, D.D. (Henry Alford, ed.)(London: John Parker, 1839) Vol. 1 at 378

Thus, Luke once more has a non-Pauline passage -- the Sower Parable -- with a unique variant that disproves Paul's core doctrine -- that salvation is by faith alone. Instead, Luke depicts the only saved person as the 'good and noble heart' who hears the word, and who by patient endurance produces good fruit. Those who sinned and fell away from their first 'belief' are seen as the lost. This again underscores this passage in Luke destroys the faith alone doctrine.

Luke uniquely has a passage that again destroys doctrines of Paul - this time three such doctrines -- [1] faith alone, [2] eternal security and [3] no one is ever righteous by obedience. Each doctrine is destroyed by Jesus' Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15:1-7. Yet, it is a parable uniquely found in Luke's Gospel. Jesus says there are 100 sheep of a shepherd, and one wanders away and becomes "lost," and the good shepherd goes after to seek the lost sheep. Jesus then directly explains this as about a shepherd's sheep who has fallen into sin and needs repentance. For Jesus then says there is more joy in heaven over "one sinner who repents" (not about coming to faith in the shepherd / God, which is already assumed because the sheep at one point already belonged to the shepherd) than over the 99 "righteous persons who had no need to repent," impliedly meaning the righteous are believers who did not sin like the lost sheep. Hence, Luke depicts Jesus as rejecting (a) eternal security for the lost sheep -- for Jesus is telling the Pharisees that he is sitting at a meal with the lost to appeal to them to repent and not remain lost; (b) there are righteous believers measured by whether they sin or not; and (c) their salvation versus becoming lost depends upon more than faith that made them previously a 'sheep' of the shepherd -- it also depends upon obedience / rejecting sin.

Incidentally the Sower Parable also is at odds with Paul's notion that none are righteous in their soul prior to the Word being sown. See, Romans 3:10-18 (Paul relying upon an out-of-context use of a Psalm). For Jesus in the Sower Parable identified someone who prior to hearing the gospel has a "good and noble" heart. (This is the person who received the gospel, and had works to show, while all the others either did not believe or did believe but fell away, and were lost.)

Likewise, Luke records the parents of John the Baptist as "righteous" in the same vein. These two passages are much like Luke records about Cornelius in Acts 10. In that chapter, Luke describes a Gentile who never heard of Christ but whose charity and good works were a "sweet savor" to God. Thereupon, God then directed Peter to evangelize Cornelius about Jesus.

Thus, on that issue of Paul's out-of-context application of 'no, not one is righteous' from a Psalm, such a view is systematically destroyed by Luke's Gospel and Acts: the Sower Parable on the "good and noble" heart existing prior to evangelization; Luke's depiction of the "righteous" parents of John, and Luke's portrayal of Cornelius in Acts 10. Each example refutes the picture in Paul that no one is righteous / has a good heart, before having the 'gospel belief' Paul insisted one must have to be saved.

Then of course, there are many examples of Luke repeating passages in Matthew that are non-Pauline. For example, Luke in 6:46 extols the necessity of obedience aside from merely calling on the Lord's name: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" Jesus then equates the one who does not "listen to my words" to the one who builds a house on sand, and then the winds and rains come (i.e., the stress of this world) and its end is "complete destruction." (Luke 6:48 NIV.) See parallel in Matthew 7:21-27 (NIV).

This contradicts Paul who says contrarily: "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9, NIV.)

(Incidentally, Paul's quotations to support this view are (a) out-of-context; and (b) relied upon a mistranslation by the Septuagint Greek of Isaiah 28; and (c) added new words not even in the passage from Isaiah, as confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls version of Isaiah that predate Paul. See this article.)

And Luke has a parallel to the anti-Pharisee / pro-law statement of Jesus in Matthew 23:23. In Matthew, the Pharisees are depicted as tithers who fail to follow any other portion of the Law.  In Luke 11:42-44 (KJV), we similarly read a very negative statement about the Pharisees' position on the Law, as they emphasized only the Law of tithing on food (which they evidently benefited from) and otherwise left "judgment [i.e., the Law's decrees being applied] and the love of God" undone: 

42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone

43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. 

44 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. 

Accordingly, Luke's Gospel is not only non-Pauline; it is clearly contrary to the epistles of Paul time and time again.

And Luke's Gospel is uniformally derogatory about the Pharisees for traits that Paul himself evinces in his epistles, such as Paul's denouncing the Law generally while Paul cites portions of the Law to argue in favor of financial support of those who minister (like himself). (See "Paul's Self-Serving Use of Law To Urge Support for Preachers / Teachers.")

Thus, the Paul of the Epistles would be destroyed by reading Luke's Gospel as a comparison to them. But it is obvious, the Paul depicted in Acts has none of those traits viewable only in Paul's Epistles.

And therein lies an interesting issue of why did Luke not know of the epistolary Paul. How or more importantly why did Paul not expose Luke to Paul's true doctrines that he shared with his trusted followers in the epistles?

Acts: Luke Was Still Ignorant On Epistolary Doctrines of Paul

Luke's Acts is designed to make Paul look good in light of what Jesus taught in Luke's Gospel. Thus, Paul in Acts is law-obedient when requested by James in Acts 21; endorses the Law in Acts 24:14 -- "I believe in all things that are according to the Law and prophets." And Luke quotes Paul saying in court (under oath therefore) before the Sanhedrin that he has lived "in all good conscience" (i.e., without sin) before God till this day" (Acts 23:1). Paul was claiming to be a righteous person his entire life -- as righteous as knowingly possible.

Paul twice in Acts shortly thereafter affirms the continued validity of the Law / Torah on two independent issues. When Paul claims in a religious court not to recognize the High Priest was the one who ordered Paul struck in the face for lying (even though the High Priest's garments are unique in 8 ways--link), Paul then reviles the high priest as a "whitewashed wall" (a urinal wall) and curses him -- "God will strike you." (Acts 23:3.) This leads to Paul twice affirming the Torah in Luke's hearing.

First, Paul affirms that the High Priest ordered Paul struck "contrary to the law." Paul is correct. There is no legal sanction for the High Priest's act. The High Priest did so because he was incredulous that Paul had lived in "all good conscience" his entire life up to that time.

Incidentally, the likely reason is the High Priest knew of the event where Paul had James, the brother of Jesus and Bishop of Jerusalem, who was highly regarded by the Jews at Jerusalem, chased up the steps to the pinnacle of the Temple, and Paul then threw James down, severly injuring him and leaving him for dead. In doing so, Paul violated all the rules of needing a charge and then a fair trial. See link.

Even though the High Priest was correct that Paul was lying that he had lived in all good concience, e.g., Paul himself participated in the murder of Stephen in Acts 7 without a formal charge, as well as the injury to Bishop James, Paul was correct that it is not lawful to strike an accused in court for perceived lying. So Paul properly cited the Law / Torah as applicable to protect himself. Paul did not claim then that the Law had been "loosed" between the husband (God) and his wife (Israel), and brought to an "end," as Paul taught in Romans 7:1-7.

Then Paul affirms the Law a second time in Acts 23 when Paul loosely quotes the Torah / Law "you shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people" (Acts 23:4). (The verse is Exodus 22:28 and correctly says "you shall not revile God or curse a ruler of your people.") Paul first spoke evil of the High Priest as a whitewashed wall. This is a urinal wall dusted white to reduce the odor (link). Then Paul cursed him by saying "God will smite you." (Link.) Paul when asked "do you revile the High Priest?" then admits his words would violate the Law but then excused himself because "I did not know" the one giving the order was the High Priest. Thus, Paul twice affirms in Acts 23 the Law -- the same Law which he said was loosed between Israel and its Husband in Romans 7:1-7. The reaffirmation by Paul twice in Acts 23 of the Mosaic Law obviously led Luke again to further assume Paul treats the Law with an ongoing validity, just as Jesus taught in Luke 16.

 

Thus, clearly Luke did not know of the contrary epistolary doctrines of Paul with which we are all familiar. Paul teaches the Law is "dead" (Romans 7:1-7), and thus it is all past tense. Paul also believes that "no not one is righteous...." (Romans 3:10). If Luke knew that, would Luke truly depict Paul as saying he lived in "all good conscience" his entire life up to that point of Acts 23:1? Of course not. 

Thus, if Luke did know of these contradictions, and wished to remain loyal to Paul, Luke would not write a gospel or even Acts so damaging to Paul, revealing contradiction after contradiction of how Paul spoke in front of Luke and how Paul spoke in his epistles. Evangelical scholar R.B. Rackham acknowledged this fact long ago.

For Luke portrays Jesus in Luke's Gospel as having doctrine that is antithetical to Paul whom Luke is trying to portray favorably in Acts.  Certainly, Luke was unaware Paul's epistles taught abrogation of the Law. Otherwise, if Luke knew this, Luke would not have wished to open up Paul for ridicule and giving false testimony by recording (rather than ignoring) that Paul says the following in Acts 24:14 in the courtroom with Felix, a Roman ruler:

"14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets...." (Acts 24:14 NIV.)

In context, Paul was being charged with letting an uncircumcized Gentile enter a Temple area where the uncircumcised were not permitted. Paul was trying to imply to Felix he would obey the Law & Prophets, and would not have violated the command against an uncircumcised Gentile entering the Temple proper. That command happens to be a command only in Ezekiel - a Prophet. See our article "Trophimus."

Thus, had Luke known / heard Paul testify that he believed in all parts of the Law and Prophets before Felix, implying Paul felt obligated to follow the Law and Prophets, but Luke had read Paul's epistles that speak to the contrary, Luke would know that Acts 24:14 would lead to ridicule of Paul as untruthful.

Because Luke's agenda to portray Paul favorably in Acts is self-evident, it follows that Luke could not have known Paul's epistolary works say "I am not under the Law," and Christ was "the end of the Law" (See Romans 7:1-7). Indeed, how could Luke include Paul's contrary testimony before Felix if Luke knew of all of Paul's epistles? For had Luke known of the epistles of Paul, then clearly Acts 24:14 would prove Paul was testifying in an untruthful manner in front of Felix, saying "I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets." Paul certainly was implying to Felix that he, Paul, was duty bound to obey both which Paul's epistles make clear that Paul does not believe that to be true.

How Could Luke Not Have Known Paul's True Doctrines?

But wasn't Luke a frequent companion of Paul? How could Luke escape hearing enough of Paul's doctrines with which we are familiar to realize he better omit Acts 24:14 to prevent Paul from being exposed as untruthful?

The answer is one of only two realistic possibilities: (1) Paul treated the recipients of his epistles as a unique circle to which Luke did not belong or qualify because of Luke's predilection, evident in his gospel, to favor Jesus's position in favor of the Law's validity and that justification was by repentance, and not by faith alone; or (2) Luke barely had contact with Paul during missionary activities even if Luke accompanied Paul on those journeys.

The only other possibility implicates Luke in deliberately keeping secret Paul's "secret" doctrine. R.B. Rackham suggested that possibility, and tries to put a good spin on it:

But St. Luke was writing for the Church at large, and gives, so to speak, the view from outside, the official report, what had transpired and had been made public. Secret conferences, secret motives and ideas in St. Paul's mind, may have been known to him, but they were private property as it were, suitable for an autobiography rather than for a book of ' Acts of Apostles.' St. Luke was addressing the general church public, who neither knew St. Paul's inner history, nor had any claim to know it. (R.B. Rackham's article, "The Acts of the Apostles, A Plea for an Early Date,"  Journal of Theological Studies (London: MacMillan, 1900) Vol. 1 at 84.)

But Rackham's suggestion would imply that if Luke did know Paul's non-public doctrine, and knew it contradicted the portrayal Luke was relaying in Acts (and contradicted the Christ of Luke's own Gospel), then Luke was engaged in duplicity. Nothing in Luke's rendering of the Gospel of Jesus Christ nor of Acts suggests such a morality was acceptable to Luke.

What then is more likely?

Between the two men, only Paul shamelessly endorses using "guile" to catch recruits and "being all things to all men" by conforming to the morals of whomever he is with. See our article Guile in Paul.

Nor could a true Paulinist accept this possibility that Luke was suppressing material facts and deliberately covering up Paul's 'secret' doctrine at odds with the public Paul. Such a view deprives Luke of any trustworthiness at all for it means he was hiding contradictions between the secret Paul and the public Paul. Then who would believe Luke's account of Paul's Damascus experience -- the only event that legitimizes Paul -- if Luke were deliberately engaged in nothing less than deception to help Paul, which this necessarily would imply?

No! Rackham's suggestion does not fit the character of Luke. Thus, the true solution remains as a mix of the other two possibilities. First, Luke was not part of the unique circle to whom Paul imparted his anti-Law and faith alone view. And second, Luke's presence with Paul is very miniscule until the arrest of Paul and Paul's being taken by ship to Rome. And under arrest, Paul was in no place to preach and teach. Luke did not know the Paul he met and travelled with in Acts had a secret doctrine he did not disclose in front of Luke.

The "we" passages in Acts prove Luke accompanied Paul on what are called the second and third missionary journeys as well as Paul's voyage as a prisoner to Rome. See Acts 16:10-17 (Lydia's conversion at Philippi), 20:5-15 (Troas / departure Ephesus), 21:1-18 (Tyre to Jerusalem), and 27:1 to 28:16 (Jerusalem to Rome).

If you exclude the voyage to Rome -- when Paul is a prisoner and hence not in a position to teach and preach anything, Luke's only personal exposure to Paul's teachings covers events summarized in 36 verses of Acts. That is relatively small.

All other passages in Acts show no personal acquaintance with Paul. It is all second-hand. In fact, Luke never places himself in any conversation with Paul even on the voyage to Rome. For example, Luke never says "Paul told me." "I heard Paul say," etc. Luke always portrays Paul as if Luke is listening to second-hand reports. Luke never once steps out of that narrator role, and says as a witness himself of the events that "I heard Paul say...."

Hence, Luke's exposure to Paul's teachings was apparently limited and insubstantial. Unless he saw Paul's epistles, Luke easily could not be aware that they contain teachings at odds with the true Jesus whom Luke knew through his study to write Luke's Gospel.

Accordingly, one may infer that Paul did not reveal himself fully in front of Luke. Even when Luke was with Paul as a missionary companion, Paul never revealed his true views on the Law or justification by faith alone. Paul reserved those "mysteries" to the recipients of his letters.

Why again would Paul do this? Because Luke's gospel has Jesus endorse the Law, we can assume Luke was himself desirous of keeping the Law. And Paul found out that fact, and was circumspect when around Luke.

Indeed, Paul viewed his gospel as something "hid" from others from the beginning of the world. (2 Cor. 4:3; Eph. 3:9). Paul thus could easily justify not disclosing to Luke his true doctrines, and in fact misleading Luke at Acts 24:14 that he endorsed the Law.  

Thus, this pro-Law view from Jesus which clearly formed  Luke's outlook likely explains why Luke did not know of Paul's contrary doctrine on the Law. Paul evidently learned of Luke's predilections. Paul, being desirous that an important figure like Luke would praise himself (Paul),  kept to himself his true views when around Luke.

While this may sound a bit manipulative, Paul confesses to this strategy in his epistles. For Paul explains that he would fit in with the morals of whomever he was with. Paul said that if he was with someone who obeyed the Law, Paul would do so likewise. In other words, we can say that Paul confessed he would give a false-impression that he was law-adherent around those who did not realize the Law was supposedly defunct. As astonishing as this may sound, Paul wrote:

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;  to those who are without the law as without the law that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1Corinthians 9:19-22

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." 1Corinthians 10:31-33

Hence, the reason Luke never backs off in Acts from a Paul who we all know clearly abrogates the Law in his epistles is because Luke was a God-fearing Gentile who still believed, per Jesus, that the Law continued. And while Luke was not a Jew, Paul's 'all-things-to-all-men' principle would say that to one who obeys the Laws of the Jews like Luke, "I became as one who obeys the Laws of the Jews." And thus Paul would not let Luke hear Paul teach otherwise, lest Luke be offended and dislike Paul. Thus, this explains why Luke portrays Paul positively in Acts in many circumstances, and does not portray Paul as an apostate from the Law and Prophets but instead as an adherent. Paul kept Luke in the dark, and at 24:14 of Acts, Paul lied in court and clearly misled Luke that Paul endorsed "all points according to the Law and prophets." (Whether lying in court in violation of the Ninth Commandment is ever justified is beyond the scope of this article.)

Conclusion

Just because Luke accompanied Paul on the trip from Jerusalem to Rome for Paul's trial, and on two brief journeys, does not mean Luke knew of Paul's teachings against the law, or that salvation is by faith alone. In fact, clearly Luke did not know the epistolary-Paul. For Luke depicts Paul as a law adherent (Acts 24:14), and not as an apostate from the Law. Luke also depicts Paul teaching a salvation by "works worthy of repentance" in Acts 26:20, surely proving that Luke never knew of the 'faith alone' doctrine frequently found in Paul's epistles.

And hence, Luke's affection for Paul stirred no response within Luke to skew the Jesus whom Luke presents in his Gospel. Luke does nothing in his Gospel that can be suspected of being skewed to help confirm Paul's doctrines revealed in Paul's epistles. Thus, Luke's Gospel is a trustworthy work.

In fact, Luke's Gospel is so trustworthy and antithetical to the epistolary Paul (i.e., the Paul of Paul's letters) that one can infer from reading Acts that Luke never heard any of the anti-Law lessons that fill each of Paul's major letters: Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Corinthians. Luke was a dupe of Paul's false testimony to Felix that "I believe in all points that are according to the Law...." (Acts 24:14.)

Thus, in writing the gospel, Luke was un-influenced by the Pauline doctrines which are now synonymous with Paul, but back then were only shared by Paul with those whom Paul safely could trust would not be offended. Paul obviously did not share his true doctrines with someone like Luke whom Paul must have realized knew Jesus's doctrines on salvation (such as repent-or-perish), justification by repentance (not faith) from the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, etc., all at odds with Paul's epistolary doctrines.  

Paul clearly had a secret doctrine -- imparted like a mystery. Thereby, even someone like Luke who even shared a voyage with Paul in police custody and two other brief journeys never heard those 'mysteries' which Paul imparted by letters solely to trusted confidants who would not be offended by the message. 

 (1/23/2013, revised 1/07/2016)


Study Notes


1. Luke also records in Acts that Paul taught repentance was crucial, which most interpret Paul in Romans 4:3-5 to say is not crucial. For there Paul says God justifies us while 'ungodly.' Yet Luke in Acts conveys a different message from Paul. In Acts 17:30 ALT, we read: "Therefore indeed, [these] times of ignorance having overlooked, God is now giving strict orders to all people everywhere to be repenting."


2. Some contend that Luke-Acts equates all Pharisees with doctors of the law, and this is intended by Luke to compliment the Pharisees. This is for purposes of arguing Luke was trying to vindicate the Pharisees, and this supposedly destroys the reliability of Luke's Gospel and Acts in light of the valid Matthew.

However, in Acts 5:17, Luke uses "doctors of the law" as distinct and different from the Pharisees. See Luke 5:17 ("the Pharisees and doctors of the law").

When I asked a colleague for the proof that Luke does equate "doctors of the law" with the Pharisees, I was advised to read Luke 5:17 in conjunction with Acts 5:34.

However, Acts 5:34 merely says Gamaliel was a doctor / teacher (rabbi) of the law.  This does not prove all Pharisees were doctors / teachers of the law. It proves only that Gamaliel was regarded as one. It means Gamaliel was not only a Pharisee, but also a Rabbi (teacher) of the law. It does not logically follow that all Pharisees were Rabbis. For example,  Luke did not likely mean to suggest by saying Gamaliel was a Rabbi that we should infer Paul was a Rabbi (teacher / doctor of the law) before his Damascus experience when Luke says later that Paul told a crowd in Acts 23:6 "I am a Pharisee." 
More important, the entire effort to construe "doctors of the law" as a compliment is pointless because even if Luke calls the Pharisees "doctors" (teachers / rabbis of the law), it does not prove he does so to praise them. Rather, Luke likely would be simply stating a fact. For otherwise, the Pharisees are condemned in Luke's Gospel over and over again in the sternest condemnatory language.  For example:

14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. (Luke 16:13-14 NIV.)

 And in Luke 11:42-44 (KJV), we read:

42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.

44 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.

Hence, the notion the Pharisees are called as a group "doctors" (teachers of the law) is unfounded. Gamaliel was, but this does not prove all Pharisees were also all Rabbis (teachers / doctors of the law). More important, Luke portays the Pharisees negatively, and thus if a positive potrayal of the Pharisees suggests a pro-Paul bias, we can say emphatically that no such positive portrayal of the Pharisees exists in Luke's writings.


3. Irenaeus in Against Heresies in Chapter 15, recounts the service of Luke to Paul on their journey to Rome. See this link.


4. The book by my ministry friend contends that Josephus wrote Acts. The evidence is speculative, mostly having to do with each recording a similar shipwreck they were involved in. But that journey was on a common thoroughfare, and shipwrecks were common. It would be like saying if two supposed men each write about a car-crash at a certain intersection allows us to infer it is one, not two men who are writing the story.

There are others who contend Luke was really Plutarch writing. See this link. This is also speculative, as the links are that they inferentially had similar backgrounds and education. 


Usage of Pisteuo in Acts by Luke Encompasses Obedience, and Is Not Mere Belief

Wayne Jackson in Belief as Used in the Book of Acts in the Christian Courier -- an evangelical outreach -- explains the meaning of pisteuo can be "to believe" but also "to trust" and "to obey." He says John 3:36 proves the "to obey" meaning, as the contrast is with a verb to "disobey." Jackson also points out that John 2:24 proves the "trust" meaning as Jesus would not "pisteou" certain men... he did not trust them.

So then Mr. Jackson examines how did Luke use pisteuo in the book of Acts ... as mere belief, or the acts of obedience / repentance that were discussed in the same context?

(1) Following Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, certain devout Jews inquired: “What shall we do?” The apostle commanded them to repent of their sins and be baptized for the remission thereof (Acts 2:38). Those who “received his word were baptized” (v. 41).

Luke then says: “And all that believed were together” (v. 44). “Believed” sums up the obedience described previously.

(2) On the initial day of its existence, the church consisted of at least 3,000 souls. Later, Luke records that many others heard the word and “believed; and the number of men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). It is obvious that the 5,000 mentioned here included the 3,000 referenced earlier, and that the “believed” of this passage means precisely what it did in [Acts] 2:44.

(3) After the baptism of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, Peter went to Jerusalem to defend his actions before a rather hostile Jewish audience (cf. [Acts] 11:2). He argued that God had authenticated the Gentiles’ acceptance by giving them the Holy Spirit. 

The apostle then said: 

“If then God gave unto them the like gift as he did also unto us, when we [Jews] believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?” ([Acts] 11:17). 

Note that the entire conversion process of the Jews (cf. [Acts] 2:38) is simply referred to as “when we believed.”

Of note, when Peter says in Acts 11:17 "when we believed on the Lord Jesus" the Greek is: "pisteusasin epi" Jesus -- meaning "believed upon...." -- the verb being an aorist participle active in the dative.

The next example of usage has the same contrast between pisteuo and apeitheo that exists in John 3:36, revealing there pisteuo should be rendered as obey. Mr. Jackson writes:

(4) In the course of his first missionary journey, Paul, together with Barnabas, came to the city of Iconium. They entered into a synagogue of the Jews and proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

There was an encouraging response for Luke says that “a great multitude both of Jews and Greeks believed” ([Acts] 14:1). Note the sentence that follows. “But the Jews that were disobedient stirred up the souls of the Gentiles, and made them evil affected against the brethren” ([Acts 14:2] ASV).

The term rendered “disobedient” in the ASV is apeitheo, which carries the idea of refusing to be persuaded, a failure to comply (Thayer, p. 55). Moulton and Milligan, prominent experts in the Greek papyri, cite numerous examples of where apeitheo means “to disobey.” In conclusion they stated: “We have not sought for more instances, but it has seemed desirable to give rather plentiful illustrations to prove a case which is very important for doctrine” (p. 55).

The article's footnote provides Moulton's cite as: Moulton, J.H. & Milligan, G. (1963) The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated from the Papyri (London: Hodder & Stoughton).

It seems Moulton and Milligan know very well that whether John 3:16 means "believe" or "obey" turns on the identical contrast in John 3:36 where pisteousin eis is contrasted with the verb apeitho -- meaning disobey. This tells you the meaning and intent of the word pisteuosin as a contrast to make one's meaning clear. Mr. Jackson then applies that lesson to construe Luke's meaning in Acts 14:1. The Jews and Greeks in other words obeyed the Good News. Moulton and Milligan thus imply that knowing how pisteuo is used as a contrast to apeitheo has a "very important" impact on "doctrine." They are alluding to John 3:16, and its identical contrast with apeitho in John 3:36.

Mr. Jackson then reviews other examples. Finally, he states his conclusion:

Belief, because it is the foundation of one’s surrender to Christ, and because it is the motivating factor for further obedience, is employed by Luke to reflect the entire process in becoming a Christian — including repentance, acknowledgment of Jesus as the Son of God, and immersion in water. How can anyone contend that the sole mental act of “believing” in Christ represents the entire plan of salvation?

Again the link for his article is found here. Wayne Jackson is also the author of the well-received book Acts from Jerusalem to Rome (2005) available at this Amazon link.

Luke's Naivete.

Luke in Acts 23 gullibly records Paul's assertion that Paul was unaware that he did not know it was the High Priest speaking. For Paul had to know from 8 different distinct items of dress that the High Priest was speaking. Thus, Paul literally apparently lied twice in a span of two verses -- first, lying that he had lived in "all good conscience" his entire life and second that he did not know the High Priest was speaking. Luke as a gentile would not know the dress of the High Priest was distinct, but could Paul, a Pharisee, not have known? This shows how gullible and trusting was Luke, and how Paul took advantage of Luke's lack of knowledge of certain details in the Law to dupe Luke. 

Parable of the Good Samaritan: Jesus' Subtle Message?

Another subtle message apparently about Paul and his writings, and doctrines, is the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-27. Ironically, it comes from Luke, yet undermines the need to accept Paul's writings, as we shall discuss.

Did Jesus plan this to protect us when we saw the implications? Why would one think so? Consider that the Samaritans only accepted the Law given Moses. They rejected the Prophets. But this refusal to add anything to the Law was not a problem for their salvation. In other words, all they needed and accepted was the Law. Jesus implies the good samaritan is saved, which would shock the religious authorities because Samaritans reject the Prophets, and only heed the Law given Moses. Jesus' point is that the Levite who accepts the Law and the Prophets does not obey either of them in his passing by the injured person on the highway. So righteousness does not depend upon accepting anything other than the Law. The prophets may help but in the end, the Levite who accepts them is lost, but the Samaritan who rejects them is saved / righteous. So what should be the application of this parable to one like the Ebionites who rejected Paul's writings, and accepted the Law? Jesus' answer is that there is no change in their salvation. The real risk is if the teacher -- Paul -- negates the Law which the Samaritans were obeying unto righteousness.