Paul vs. Luke

How Reliable is the Book of the Acts of the Apostles?

John Knox: (personal letter to Gerd Lüdemann, Colloquy on New Testament Studies, ed. B. Corley, p. 290)

1. the vastly inferior value of Acts as a source for Paul's career in comparison to Paul's own letters
2. the barest hint in the epistles is of more worth than even the most explicit statement of Acts
3. any statement in Acts that conflicts with the letters should thus be deemed in error
4. Acts merits full credibility only where the letters provide a supporting statement;
    never where an assertion is not confirmed by the epistles
5. particularly suspect are the statements in Acts that serve a special interest or purpose of the author

F. C. Baur: (Lüdemann, Colloquy, 290, nte 3)

"It would appear natural to suppose that in all the cases where the account in Acts do not altogether agree with statements of the Apostle, the latter must have such a decided claim to be considered authentic truth that the contradictions would scarcely be worth attention . . . The comparison of these two sources leads us to the conclusion that, considering the great differences between the two statements, historical truth must be entirely on one side or entirely on the other . . . For the history of the Apostolic Age the Pauline Epistle must in any case take precedence of all the other New Testament writings as an authentic source."

A Test Case:  Paul's Conversion

According to Paul's Own Letter to the Galatians (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

Paul's own very subdued reference to his "conversion"
in a heated argument in which he would have scored points
by referring to a dramatic "conversion" on the road to Damascus.

Does Paul's silence suggest that the Damascus event never occurred?

According to Luke's Book of the Acts of the Apostles

How do the 3 long, detailed versions of the Damascus experience
support the intention of the author of Luke-Acts to glorify Paul?

Could a.k.a. Luke have created this story to advance his agenda?
Could Paul really have been a serious matter of concern to:

Where Did Paul Get His Gospel?

The Last Temptation of Christ: Jesus meets Paul

Paul gives two versions:

At first Paul was Content to be associated with the "tradition"
that originated in Apostolic Circles:

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

But when the Controversy began,
Paul Disassociated himself from the Apostles,
Claimed his "Gospel" was a Revelation from Jesus
and not from any Human Source.

Paul Denied even going to Jerusalem
until Three Years after his "Conversion,"
and Stated that he Interacted only Briefly
with Peter and James:
Galatians 1:1-24

Luke gives another version:

Luke presents a Different Account
of what happened following Paul's "Conversion";
Luke Tells a Story of Close Collaboration
between Paul and the Jerusalem Community,
Shortly after Paul's "Conversion" in Damascus:
Acts 8:3-9:31

Paul in Conflict with "The Pillars"
Two Major Confrontations -

What Really Happened?

Which Came First?

The Jerusalem Council or the Incident at Antioch?

Paul's own version in his angry letter to the Galatians

The Jerusalem Council was first

The Incident at Antioch came afterwards

Confrontation between Peter and Paul in Antioch over kosher dining rules;
Torah-observant Jews eating with non-Jews

Agents from James in Jerusalem caused Peter to withdraw from these meals,
for fear of the "circumcision faction."

Other believing Jews also withdrew, including Barnabas, Paul's companion;
Paul writes:
"even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy"

Luke's whitewashed version in the Book of Acts

Luke Changes the Order and Character of these Events

There are Two Incidents at Antioch in Acts, and
Neither one involves Peter:

Antioch Incident 1:

  • "Individuals" from Judea cause controversy in Antioch over Circumcision

  • Luke has Paul come from Antioch to Jerusalem to address the Apostles

The Jerusalem Apostolic Council: Paul Triumphant

  • Peter, James, the Apostles, Elders, and the Whole Church Agree with Paul;

  • Assign Helpers to Compose a Letter of Complete Support for Paul's Position

Antioch Incident 2:

  • Back in Antioch a Disagreement breaks out between Paul and Barnabas

  • The Issue is whether to take John Mark with them on their Mission

  • Paul and Barnabas Split, go their separate ways

Luke's whitewash in Acts 15:30ff.

The Conflict between Paul and the Apostles Continues and becomes even more Severe. For more on the Conflict between the Self-appointed "Apostle" Paul and the Historical Disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, the "Pillars of the Church," Peter, John, and James the Just (one of Jesus' four brothers); See also Paul vs. the Apostles.