Freethought Archives > Walter R. Cassels > Supernatural Religion

PART FOUR

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES

CHAPTER 1.

THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCE

BEFORE we proceed to examine the evidence for miracles and the reality of Divine Revelation which is furnished by the last historical book of the New Testament, entitled the "Acts of the Apostles," it is well that we should briefly recall to mind some characteristics of the document, which most materially affect the value of any testimony emanating from it. Whilst generally asserting the resurrection of Jesus, and his bodily ascension, regarding which indeed it adds fresh details, this work presents to us a new cycle of miracles, and so profusely introduces supernatural agency into the history of the early Church that, in comparison with it, the Gospels seem almost sober narratives. The Apostles are instructed and comforted by visions and revelations, and they, and all who believe, are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak with other tongues. The Apostles are delivered from prison and from bonds by angels or by an earthquake. Men fall dead or are smitten with blindness at their rebuke. They heal the sick, raise the dead, and handkerchiefs brought from their bodies cure diseases and expel evil spirits.

As a general rule, any document so full of miraculous episodes and supernatural occurrences would, without hesitation, be characterised as fabulous and incredible, and would not, by any sober-minded reader, be for a moment accepted as historical. There is no other testimony for these miracles. Let the reader endeavour to form some conception of the nature and amount of evidence necessary to establish the truth of statements antecedently so incredible, and compare it with the testimony of this solitary and anonymous document, the character and value of which we shall now proceed more closely to examine.

It is generally admitted, and indeed it is undeniable, that no distinct and unequivocal reference to the Acts of the Apostles, and to Luke as their author, occurs in the writings of Fathers before one by Irenaeus [568:1] about the end of the second century. Passages are, however, pointed out in early writings as indicating the use and consequent existence of our document, all of which we shall now examine.

Several of these occur in the Epistle to the Corinthians, ascribed to Clement of Rome. The first, immediately compared with the passage to which it is supposed to be a reference, is as follows:
 

EPISTLE, c. 11 ACTS 20:35
Ye were all humble-minded, not boasting at all, subjecting yourselves rather than subjecting others, more gladly giving than receiving. ……and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Pantes te etapeinophroneite, mêden alazoneuomenoi, hupotassomeni, mallon ê hupotassontes, hêdion didontes ê lambanontes…… ……mnêmoneuein te tôn logon tou kuriou Iêsou, hoti autous eipen, Makarion estin mallon didonai e lambanein.

The words of the Epistle are not a quotation, but merely occur in the course of an address. They do not take the form of an axiom, but are a comment on the conduct of the Corinthians, which may have been suggested either by written or oral tradition, or by moral maxims long before current in heathen philosophy. [568:2] It is unnecessary to enter minutely into this, however, or to indicate the linguistic differences between the two passages, for one point alone settles the question. In the Acts the saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," is distinctly introduced as a quotation of "words of the Lord Jesus," and the exhortation "to remember" them conveys the inference that they were well known. They must either have formed part of Gospels now no longer extant, as they are not found in ours, or have been familiar as the unwritten tradition of sayings of the Master. In either case, if the passage in the Epistle be a reference to these words at all, it cannot reasonably be maintained that it must necessarily have been derived from a work which itself distinctly quotes the words from another source. The slight coincidence in the expression, without indication that any particular passage is in the mind of the author, and without any mention of the Acts, is no evidence of the existence of that work.

A few critics point to some parts of the following passage as showing acquaintance with Acts: "Through jealousy Paul also pointed out the way to the prize of patience, having borne chains seven times, having been put to flight, having been stoned; having become a preacher both in the East and in the West, he gained the noble renown due to his faith; having taught the whole world righteousness, and come to the extremity of the West, and having suffered martyrdom by command of the rulers, he was thus removed from the world and went to the holy place, having become a most eminent example of patience." [569:1] The slightest impartial consideration, however, must convince anyone that this passage does not indicate the use of the Acts of the Apostles. The Epistle speaks of seven imprisonments, of some of which the Acts make no mention, and this must, therefore, have been derived from another source. The reference to his "coming to the extremity of the West" (terma tês dyseôs) whatever interpretation be put upon it, and to his death, obviously carries the history further than the Acts, and cannot have been derived from that document.

The last passage which, it is affirmed, shows acquaintance with the Acts of the Apostles is the following: "But what shall we say regarding David who hath obtained a good report (epi tô memarturêmenô Daueid)? unto whom (pros hon) God said: 'I found a man after mine own heart, David the son of Jesse: in everlasting mercy I anointed him."' [569:2] This is said to be derived from Acts 13:22, "And when he removed him he raised up to them David for king; to whom also he gave testimony (hô kai eipen martyrêsas): I found David the son of Jesse: a man after mine own heart, who will do all my will." [569:3] The passage, however, is compounded of two quotations loosely made from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, from which all the quotations in the Epistle are taken. Ps. 88:20, "I found David my servant; in holy mercy I anointed him." [569:4] And 1 Sam. 13:14, "A man after his own heart." [569:5] Clement of Alexandria quotes this passage from the Epistle, and for "in everlasting mercy" reads "with holy oil" (en elaiô hagiô) as in the Psalm. [569:6] Although, therefore, our Alexandrian MS. of the Epistle has the reading which we have given above, even if we suppose that the Alexandrian Clement may have found a more correct version in his MS., the argument would not be affected. The whole similarity lies in the insertion of "the son of Jesse," but this was a most common addition to any mention of David, and by the completion of the passage from the Psalm, the admission of "who will do all my will," the peculiar phrase of the Acts, as well as the difference of introductory expressions, any connection between the two is severed, and it is apparent that the quotation of the Epistle may legitimately be referred to the. Septuagint, with which it agrees much more closely than with the Acts. In no case could such slight coincidences prove acquaintance with the Acts of the Apostles. [570:1]
 


Only one passage of the Epistle of Barnabas is referred to by anyone as indicating acquaintance with the Acts. It is as follows, c. 7: "If therefore the son of God, being Lord, and about to judge quick and dead (kai mellôn krinein zôntas kai nekrous), suffered," etc. This is compared with Acts 10:42 "…and to testify that it is he who has been appointed by God judge of quick and dead" (hoti autos estin ho hôrismenos hupo tou theou kritês zôntôn kai nekrôn). Lardner, who compares the expression of the Epistle with Acts, equally compares it with that in 2 Tim. 4:1 "…and Christ Jesus who is about to judge the quick and dead" (mellontos krinein zôntas kai nekrous), to which it is more commonly referred, [570:2] and 1 Pet. 4:5 "…to him who is ready to judge quick and dead" (krinai zôntas kai nekrous). He adds, however: "It is not possible to say what text he refers to, though that in Timothy has the same words. But perhaps there is no proof that he refers to any. This was an article known to every common Christian; whereas this writer (whoever he be) was able to teach the Christian religion, and that without respect to any written gospels or epistles." [570:3] It is scarcely necessary to add anything to this. There is, of course, no trace of the use of Acts in the Epistle.
 


It is asserted that there is a "clear allusion" [570:4] to Acts in the Shepherd of Hermas. The passages may be compared as follows:
 

VIS 4:2 ACTS 4:12
…and didst open thy heart to the Lord, believing that by no other couldst thou be saved than by the great and glorious name. And there is salvation in no other: for neither is there any other name under the heaven that has been given among men whereby we must be saved.
...kai tên kardian sou ênoixas pros ton kurion, pisteusas hoti di' oudenos dyne sôthênai ei mê dia tou megalou kai endoxou onomatos. kai ouk estin en allô oudeni hê sôtêria, oude gar onoma estin eteron hupo ton ouranon to dedomenon en anthrôpois en ô dei sôthênai hêmas.

The slightest comparison of these passages suffices to show that the one is not dependent on the other. The Old Testament is full of passages in which the name of the Lord is magnified as the only source of safety and salvation. In the Pauline Epistles likewise there are numerous passages of a similar tenor. For instance, the passage from Joel 2:32 is quoted Rom. 10:13, "For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (pas gar hos an epikalesêtai to onoma kuriou sôthêsetai). [571:1] There was, in fact, no formula more current either amongst the Jews or in the early Church; and there is no legitimate ground for tracing such an expression to the Acts of the Apostles.

The only other passage which is quoted [571:2] as indicating acquaintance with Acts is the following, which we at once contrast with the supposed parallel:
 

SIMIL. 9:28. ACTS 5:41
But ye who suffer on account of the name ought to praise God, that God deemed ye worthy to bear his name, and that all your sins may be redeemed. So they departed rejoicing from the presence of the council that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name.
Humeis de oi paschontes eneken tou onomatos doxazein opheilete ton theon, hoti axious humas hêgêsato ho theos hina toutou to onoma bastazête, kai pasai humôn ai amartiai iathôsin. Oi men oun eporeuonto chairontes apo prosôpou tou synedriou, hoti katêziôthêsan huper tou onomatos atimasthênai.

Here again a formula is employed which is common throughout the New Testament, and which, applied as it is here to those who were persecuted, we have reason to believe was in general use in the early Church. It is almost unnecessary to point out any examples. Everywhere "the name" of God or of Jesus is the symbol used to represent the concrete idea, and in the heavenly Jerusalem of the Apocalypse the servants of God and of the Lamb are to have "his name" on their foreheads. The one expression, however, which is peculiar in the passage: "counted worthy" -- in the Acts katêziôthêsan, and in the Shepherd axious hêgesato -- is a perfectly natural and simple one, the use of which cannot be exclusively conceded to the Acts of the Apostles. It is found frequently in the Pauline Epistles, as for instance in 2 Thes. 1:5, where, after saying that they give thanks to God for them and glory in the churches of God for the patience and faith with which the Thessalonians endure persecutions, the writer continues: "which is a token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy (kataziôthênai) of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer (paschete)"; and again, in the same chapter, v. 11-12, "Wherefore we also pray always for you that our God may count you worthy (axiôsê) of the calling, and fulfil all good pleasure of goodness and work of faith with power; that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you (endoxasthê to onoma tou kuriou hêmôn Iêsou en humin) etc. The passage we are examining cannot be traced to the "Acts of the Apostles." It must be obvious to all that the Shepherd of Hermas does not present any evidence even of the existence of the Acts at the time it was written.
 


Only two passages in the Epistles of Pseudo-Ignatius are pointed out as indicating acquaintance with the Acts, and even these are not advanced by many critics. We have already so fully discussed these Epistles that no more need now be said. We must pronounce them spurious in all their recensions, and incapable of affording evidence upon any point earlier than towards the end of the second century. We might, therefore, altogether refuse to examine the passages; but, in order to show the exact nature of the case made out by apologists, we shall briefly refer to them. We at once compare the first with its supposed parallel: [572:1]
 

EP. TO SMYRN. 3 ACTS 10:41
But after the resurrection he did eat and drink with them, as in the flesh, although spiritually united to the Father. …even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
Meta de tên anastasin synephagen autois kai synetien hôs sarkikos kaiper pneumatikôs tô patri. …hêmin oitines synephagomen kai synepiomen autô meta to anastênai auton ek nekrôn.

There is nothing in this passage which bears any peculiar analogy to the Acts, for the statement is a simple reference to a tradition which is also embodied both in the third Synoptic [573:1] and in the fourth Gospel; [573:2] and the mere use of the common words phagein and pinein could not prove anything. The passage occurs in the Epistle immediately after a quotation, said by Jerome to be taken from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, relating an appearance of Jesus to "those who were with Peter," in which Jesus is represented as making them handle him in order to convince them that he is not an incorporeal spirit. [573:3] The quotation bears considerable affinity to the narrative in the third Synoptic (24:39), at the close of which Jesus is represented as eating with the disciples. It is highly probable that the Gospel from which the writer of the Epistle quoted contained the same detail, to which this would naturally be a direct descriptive reference. In any case, it affords no evidence of the existence of the Acts of the Apostles.

The second passage, which is still more rarely advanced, is as follows:
 

EP. TO PHILAD. 11 ACTS 20:29
For many wolves (which appear) worthy of belief, make captive by evil pleasure the runners in the course of God. I know that after my departing grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Polloi gar lukoi axiopistoi hêdonê kakê aichmalôtizousin tous theodromous. Egô oida hoti eiseleusontai meta tên aphixin mou lukoi bapeis eis humas, mê pheidomenoi tou poimniou.

The only point of coincidence between these two passages is the use of the word "wolves." In the Epistle the expression is polloi lukoi axiopistoi, whilst in Acts it is lukoi bapeis. Now, the image is substantially found in the Sermon on the Mount, one form of which is given in the first Synoptic, 7:15-16, and which undeniably must have formed part of many of the Gospels which are mentioned by the writer of the third Synoptic. We find Martyr twice quoting another form of the saying, "For many (polloi) shall arrive in my name, outwardly, indeed, clothed in sheep's skins, but inwardly being ravening wolves (lukoi arpages)." [573:4] The use of the term as applied to men was certainly common in the early Church. The idea expressed in the Epistle is more closely found in 2 Timothy 3:1 f., in the description of those who are to come in the last days, and who will (v. 6) "creep into the houses and make captive (aichmalôtizontes) silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts." The passage cannot be traced to the Acts, and the Ignatian Epistles, spurious though they be, do not present any evidence of the existence of that work.
 


Only two sentences are pointed out in the Epistle of Polycarp as denoting acquaintance with the Acts. The first and only one of these on which much stress is laid is the following:
 

EPISTLE 1 ACTS 2:24
Whom God raise (êgeiren), having loosed the pains of hell (hadou). Whom God raised up (anestêsen), having loosed the pains of death (thanatou).

It will be obvious to all that, along with much similarity, there is likewise divergence between these sentences. In the first phrase the use of êgeiren in the Epistle separates it from the supposed parallel, in which the word is anestêsen. The passages in the Pauline Epistles corresponding with it are numerous (e.g., 2 Cor. 4:14, Ephes. 1:20). The second member of the sentence, which is of course the more important, is in reality, we contend, a reference to the very Psalm quoted in Acts immediately after the verse before us, couched in not unusual phraseology. Psalm 16:10 (Septuagint. 15) reads: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell" (hadên). [574:1] In Ps. 18:5 (Sept. 17:5) we have, "The pains of hell (ôdines hadou) compassed me about." [574:2] The difference between the ôdinas tou hadou of the Epistle and the ôdinas tou thanatou of the Acts is so distinct that, finding a closer parallel in the Psalms to which reference is obviously made in both works, it is quite impossible to trace the phrase necessarily to the Acts. Such a passage cannot prove the use of that work, but, if it could, we might inquire what evidence for the authorship and trustworthiness of the Acts could be deduced from the circumstance? [574:3]

The second passage, referred to by a few writers, is as follows:
 

EPISTLE 8. ACTS 5:41
Let us therefore become imitators of his patience, and if we suffer for his name, let us praise him. So they departed from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name.
Mimêtai oun genômetha tês hupomonês autou, kai ean paschômen dia to onoma autou, doxazômen auton. Oi men oun eporeuonto chairontes apo prosôpou tou synedriou, hoti katêxiôthêsan huper tou onomatos atimasthênai.

It is not necessary to do more than contrast these passages to show how little the Epistle of Polycarp can witness for the Acts of the Apostles. We have already examined another supposed reference to this very passage, and the expressions in the Epistle, whilst scarcely presenting a single point of linguistic analogy to the sentence in the Acts, only tend to show how common and natural such language was in the early Church in connection with persecution. Whilst we constantly meet with the thought expressed by the writer of the Epistle throughout the writings of the New Testament, we may more particularly point to the first Petrine epistle for further instances of this tone of exhortation to those suffering persecution for the cause. For instance, 1 Pet. 2:19 f., and again 3:14, [575:1] "But if ye even suffer (paschoite) for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye." In the next chapter the tone is still more closely analogous. Speaking of persecutions, the writer says, 4:13, "…but according as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings rejoice," etc. 14. "If ye are reproached in Christ's name (en onomati Chr.), blessed are ye, for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you." 15. "For let none of you suffer (paschetô) as a murderer," etc. 16. "But if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him praise God in this name (doxazetô de ton theon en tô onomati toutô) etc. Nothing but evidential destitution could rely upon the expression in the Epistle of Polycarp to show acquaintance with Acts.
 


Few Apologists point out with confidence any passages from the voluminous writings of Justin Martyr, as indicating the use of the Acts of the Apostles. We may, however, quote such expressions as are advanced. The first of these is the following: "For the Jews, having the prophecies and ever expecting the Christ to come, knew him not (êgnoêsan); and not only so, but they also maltreated him. But the Gentiles, who had never heard anything regarding the Christ until his Apostles, having gone forth from Jerusalem, declared the things concerning him, and delivered the prophecies, having been filled with joy and faith, renounced their idols and dedicated themselves to the unbegotten God through the Christ." [575:2] This is compared with Acts 13:27, "For they that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers not knowing this (man) (touton agnoêsantes), nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, fulfilled them by their judgment of him," etc. 48. "But the Gentiles, hearing, rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord," etc. We may at once proceed to give the next passage. In the Dialogue with Trypho, Justin has by quotations from the prophets endeavoured to show that the sufferings of Christ and also the glory of his second advent had been foretold, and Trypho replies: "Supposing these things to have been as thou sayest, and that it was foretold that Christ was to suffer (hoti pathêtos Christos proephêteuthê mellein einai), and has been called a Stone, and after his first coming, in which it had been announced that he was to suffer, should come in glory, and become judge of all, and eternal king and priest," etc.; [576:1] and in another place: "For if it had been obscurely declared by the prophets that the Christ should suffer (pathêtos genêsomenos ho Christos) and after these things be lord of all," etc. [576:2] This is compared with Acts 26:22, "… saying nothing except those things which the prophets and Moses said were to come to pass, (23) whether the Christ should suffer (ei pathêtos ho Christos), whether, the first out of the resurrection from the dead, he is about to proclaim light unto the people and to the Gentiles." It is only necessary to quote these passages to show how unreasonable it is to maintain that they show the use of the Acts by Justin. He simply sets forth from the prophets, direct, the doctrines which formed the great text of the early Church. Some of the warmest supporters of the Canon admit the "uncertainty" of such coincidences, and do not think it worthwhile to advance them. There are one or two still more distant analogies sometimes pointed out which do not require more particular notice. [576:3] There is no evidence whatever that Justin was acquainted with the Acts of the Apostles. [576:4]
 


Some writers claim Hegesippus as evidence for the existence of the Acts, on the strength of the following passages in the fragment of his book preserved by Eusebius. He puts into the mouth of James the Just, whilst being martyred, the expression: "I beseech (thee) Lord God, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." This is compared with the words said to have been uttered by the martyr Stephen, Acts 7:60, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." The passage is more commonly advanced as showing acquaintance with Luke 23:34, and we have already discussed it. [576:5] Lardner apparently desires it to do double duty, but it is scarcely worthwhile seriously to refer to the claim here. The passage more generally relied upon, though that also is only advanced by a few, [576:6] is the following, "This man was a faithful witness both to Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ" [577:1] (Martys outos alêthês Ioudaiois te kai Ellêsi gegenêtai, hoti Iêsous ho Christos estin). This is compared with Acts 20:21, where Paul is represented as saying of himself, "…testifying fully both to Jews and Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Diamartyromenos Ioudaiois te kai Ellêsin tên eis theon metanoian, kai pistin eis ton kurion hêmôn IC.). The two passages are totally different both in sense and language, and that the use of Acts is deduced from so distant an analogy only serves to show the slightness of the evidence with which Apologists have to be content.
 


Papias need not long detain us, for it is freely admitted by most divines that he does not afford evidence of any value that he was acquainted with the Acts. For the sake of completeness we may, however, refer to the points which are sometimes mentioned. A fragment of the work of Papias is preserved giving an account of the death of Judas, which differs materially both from the account in the first Synoptic and in Acts 1:18 f. [577:2] Judas is represented as having gone about the world a great example of impiety, for, his body having swollen so much that he could not pass where a wagon easily passed, he was crushed by the wagon so that his entrails emptied out (hôste ta enkata autou ekkenôthênai). Apollinaris of Laodicaea quotes this passage to show that Judas did not die when he hung himself, but subsequently met with another fate, in this way reconciling the statements in the Gospel and Acts. [577:3] He does not say that Papias used the story for this purpose, and it is fundamentally contradictory to the account in Acts 1:18-19: "Now this man purchased a field with the reward of the unrighteousness, and falling headlong burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out" (kai exegythê panta ta splanchna autou). It is scarcely necessary to argue that the passage does not indicate any acquaintance with Acts, [577:4] as some few critics are inclined to assert. [577:5]

The next analogy pointed out is derived from the statement of Eusebius that Papias mentions a wonderful story which he had heard from the daughters of Philip (whom Eusebius calls "the Apostle") regarding a dead man raised to life. [578:1] In Acts 21:8-9, it is stated that Philip the evangelist had four daughters. It is hardly conceivable that this should be advanced as an indication that Papias knew the Acts. The last point is that Eusebius says: "And again (he narrates) another marvel regarding Justus who was surnamed Barsabas; how he drank a baneful poison and by the grace of the Lord sustained no harm. But that this Justus, after the Ascension of the Saviour, the holy apostles appointed with Matthias, and that they prayed (on the occasion) of the filling up of their number by lot instead of the traitor Judas, the scripture of the Acts thus relates: 'And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said,' etc." [578:2] Whatever argument can be deduced from this obviously rests entirely upon the fact that Papias is said to have referred to Justus who was named Barsabas, for of course the last sentence is added by Eusebius himself, and has nothing to do with Papias. This is fairly admitted by Lardner and others. Lardner says: "Papias does undoubtedly give some confirmation to the history of the Acts of the Apostles, in what he says of Philip; and especially in what he says of Justus, called Barsabas. But I think it cannot be affirmed that he did particularly mention, or refer to, the book of the Acts. For I reckon it is Eusebius himself who adds that quotation out of the Acts, upon occasion of what Papias had written of the before-mentioned Barsabas." [578:3] There is no evidence worthy of attention that Papias was acquainted with the Acts.
 


No one seriously pretends that the Clementine Homilies afford any evidence of the use or existence of the Acts; and few, if any, claim the Epistle to Diognetus as testimony for it. [578:4] We may, however, quote the only passage which is pointed out: "…these who hold the view that they present them (offerings) to God as needing them might more rightly esteem it foolishness and not worship of God. For he who made the heaven and the earth, and all things in them, and who supplies to us all whatever we need, can himself be in need of none of those things which he himself presents to those who imagine that they give (to him)." [579:1] This is compared with Acts 17:24, "The God that made the world and all things in it, he being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; (25) neither is served by men's hand as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life and breath and all things." There is nothing here but a coincidence of sense, though with much variation between the two passages; but the Epistle argues from a different context, and this illustration is obvious enough to be common to any moralist. There is not a single reason which points to the Acts as the source of the writer's argument.
 


Basilides and Valentinus are not claimed at all by Apologists as witnesses for the existence of the Acts of the Apostles, nor is Marcion, whose canon, however, of which it formed no part, is rather adverse to the work than merely negative. Tertullian taunts Marcion for receiving Paul as an apostle, although his name is not mentioned in the Gospel, and yet not receiving the Acts of the Apostles in which alone his history is narrated; [579:2] but it does not in the least degree follow from this that Marcion knew the work and deliberately rejected it.
 


A passage of Tatian's Oration to the Greeks is pointed out by some [579:3] as showing his acquaintance with the Acts. It is as follows: "I am not willing to worship the creation made by him for us. Sun and moon are made for us; how, therefore, shall I worship my own servants? How can I declare stocks and stones to be gods? But neither should the unnameable (anônomaston) God be presented with bribes; for he who is without need of anything (pantôn anendeês) must not be calumniated by us as needy (endeês)." [579:4] This is compared with Acts 17:24-25, quoted above, and it only serves to show how common such language was. Lardner himself says of the passage: "This is much the same thought, and applied to the same purpose, with Paul's, Acts 17:25, as though he needeth anything. But it is a character of the Deity so obvious that I think it cannot determine us to suppose he had an eye to those words of the Apostle." [579:5] The language, indeed, is quite different, and shows no acquaintance with the Acts. Eusebius states that the Severians who more fully established Tatian's heresy rejected both the Epistles of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles. [580:1]
 


Dionysius of Corinth is rarely adduced by anyone as testimony for the Acts. The only ground upon which he is at all referred to is a statement of Eusebius in mentioning his Epistles. Speaking of his Epistle to the Athenians, Eusebius says: "He relates, moreover, that Dionysius the Areopagite who was converted to the faith by Paul the Apostle, according to the account given in the Acts, was appointed the first bishop of the Church of the Athenians." [580:2] Even Apologists admit that it is doubtful how far Dionysius referred to the Acts, [580:3] the mention of the book here being most obviously made by Eusebius himself.
 


Melito of Sardis is not appealed to by any writer in connection with our work, nor can Claudius Apollinaris be pressed into this service. Athenagoras is supposed by some to refer to the very same passage in Acts 17:24-25, which we have discussed when dealing with the work of Tatian. Athenagoras says: "The Creator and Father of the universe is not in need of blood, nor of the steam of burnt sacrifices, nor of the fragrance of flowers and of incense, he himself being the perfect fragrance, inwardly and outwardly without need." [580:4] And further on: "And you kings indeed build palaces for yourselves; but the world is not made as being needed by God." [580:5] These passages occur in the course of a defence of Christians for not offering sacrifices, and both in language and context they are quite independent of the Acts of the Apostles.
 


In the Epistle of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons, giving an account of the persecution against them, it is said that the victims were praying for those from whom they suffered cruelties: "like Stephen the perfect martyr: 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' But if he was supplicating for those who stoned him, how much more for the brethren?" [580:6] The prayer here quoted agrees with that ascribed to Stephen in Acts 7:60. There is no mention of the Acts of the Apostles in the Epistle, and the source from which the writers obtained their information about Stephen is of course not stated. If there really was a martyr of the name of Stephen, and if these words were actually spoken by him, the tradition of the fact, and the memory of his noble saying, may well have remained in the Church, or have been recorded in writings then current; from one of which, indeed, eminent critics conjecture that the author of Acts derived his materials, [581:1] and in this case the passage obviously does not prove the use of the Acts. If, on the other hand, there never was such a martyr by whom these words were spoken, and the whole story must be considered an original invention by the author of Acts, then in that case, and in that case only, the passage does show the use of the Acts. [581:2] Supposing that the use of Acts be held to be thus indicated, what does this prove? Merely that the Acts of the Apostles were in existence in the year 177-178, when the Epistle of Vienne and Lyons was written. No light whatever would thus be thrown upon the question of its authorship; and neither its credibility nor its sufficiency to prove the reality of a cycle of miracles would be in the slightest degree established.
 


Ptolemaeus and Heracleon need not detain us, as it is not alleged that they show acquaintance with the Acts, nor is Celsus claimed as testimony for the book.
 


The Canon of Muratori contains a very corrupt paragraph regarding the Acts of the Apostles. We have already discussed the date and character of this fragment, [581:3] and need not further speak of it here. The sentence in which we are now interested reads in the original as follows: "Acta autem omnium apostolorum sub uno libro scribta sunt lucas obtime theofile conprindit quia sub praesentia eius singula gerebantur sicute et semote passionem petri euidenter declarat sed et profectionem pauli ab urbes ad spania proficescentis."

It is probable that in addition to its corruption some words may have been lost from the concluding phrase of this passage, but the following may perhaps sufficiently represent its general sense: "But the Acts of all the Apostles were written in one book. Luke included (in his work) to the excellent Theophilus only the things which occurred in his own presence, as he evidently shows by omitting the martyrdom of Peter and also the setting forth of Paul from the city to Spain."

Whilst this passage may prove the existence of the Acts about the end of the second century, and that the authorship of the work was ascribed to Luke, it has no further value. No weight can be attached to the statement of the unknown writer beyond that of merely testifying to the currency of such a tradition, and even the few words quoted show how uncritical he was. Nothing could be less appropriate to the work before us than the assertion that it contains the Acts of all the Apostles; for it must be apparent to all, and we shall hereafter have to refer to the point, that it very singularly omits all record of the acts of most of the Apostles, occupies itself chiefly with those of Peter and Paul, and devotes considerable attention to Stephen, and to others who were not Apostles at all. We shall further have occasion to show that the writer does anything but confine himself to the events of which he was an eye-witness, and we may merely remark in passing, as a matter which scarcely concerns us here, that the instances given by the unknown writer of the fragment to support his assertion are not only irrelevant, but singularly devoid themselves of historical attestation.
 


Irenaeus [582:1] assigns the Acts of the Apostles to Luke, as do Clement of Alexandria, [582:2] Tertullian, [582:3] and Origen, [582:4] although without any statements giving special weight to their mention of him as the author in any way counterbalancing the late date of their testimony. Beyond showing that tradition, at the end of the second century and beginning of the third, associated the name of Luke with this writing and the third Gospel, the evidence of these Fathers is of no value to us. We have already incidentally mentioned that some heretics either ignored or rejected the book, and to the Marcionites and Severians we may now add the Ebionites [582:5] and Manicheans. [582:6] Chrysostom complains that in his day the Acts of the Apostles were so neglected that many were ignorant of the existence of the book and of its authors. [582:7] Doubts as to its authorship were expressed in the ninth century, for Photius states that some ascribed the work to Clement of Rome, others to Barnabas, and others to Luke the Evangelist. [582:8]

If we turn to the document itself, we find that it professes to be the second portion of a work written for the information of an unknown person named Theophilus, the first part being the Gospel, which, in our canonical New Testament, bears the name of "Gospel according to Luke." The narrative is a continuation of the third Synoptic, but the actual title of "Acts of the Apostles," or "Acts of Apostles" (Praxeis tôn apostolôn; Praxeis apostolôn), [583:1] attached to this deuteros logos is a later addition, and formed no part of the original document. The author's name is not given in any of the earlier MSS., and the work is entirely anonymous. That in the prologue to the Acts the writer clearly assumes to be the author of the Gospel does not in any way identify him, inasmuch as the third Synoptic itself is anonymous. The tradition assigning both works to Luke, the follower of Paul, as we have seen, is first met with towards the end of the second century, and very little weight can be attached to it. There are too many instances of early writings, several of which indeed have secured a place in our canon, to which distinguished names have been erroneously ascribed. Such tradition is notoriously liable to error.

We shall presently return to the question of the authorship of the third Synoptic and Acts of the Apostles, but at present we may so far anticipate as to say that there are good reasons for affirming that they could not have been written by Luke, the follower of Paul.

Conclusion from External Evidence
Confining ourselves here to the actual evidence before us, we arrive at a clear and unavoidable conclusion regarding the Acts of the Apostles. After examining all the early Christian literature, and taking every passage which is referred to as indicating the use of the book, we see that there is no certain trace even of its existence till towards the end of the second century; and, whilst the writing itself is anonymous, we find no authority but late tradition assigning it to Luke or to any other author. We are without evidence of any value as to its accuracy or trustworthiness, and, as we shall presently see, the epistles of Paul, so far from accrediting it, tend to cast the most serious doubt upon its whole character. This evidence we have yet to examine, when considering the contents of the Acts, and we base our present remarks solely on the external testimony for the date and authorship of the book. The position, therefore, is simply this: we are asked to believe in the reality of a great number of miraculous and supernatural occurrences which, obviously, are antecedently incredible, upon the assurance of an anonymous work of whose existence there is no distinct evidence till more than a century after the events narrated, and to which an author's name -- against which there are strong objections -- is first ascribed by tradition towards the end of the second century. Of the writer to whom the work is thus attributed we know nothing beyond the casual mention of his name in some Pauline Epistles. If it were admitted that this Luke did actually write the book, we should not be justified in believing the reality of such stupendous miracles upon his bare statement. As the case stands, however, even taken in its most favourable aspect, the question scarcely demands serious attention, and our discussion might at once be ended by the unhesitating rejection of the Acts of the Apostles as sufficient, or even plausible, evidence for the miracles which it narrates.
 


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