The Basis for Luke Primacy
Answering Luke-Acts Objections
Answering Luke-Acts Objections

Answering Luke-Acts Objections

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” (ESV)


There was never a single registration conducted of the entire Roman empire.


The Greek word meaning “to register” (ἀπογράφεσθαι)is in Present Infinitive Passive case.

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This indicates that the writer means to say Augustus ordered registrations to be regularly taken across the Roman empire, rather than a single registration for the entire Roman empire. Emperor Augustus did order registrations often. In his autobiography, Augustus describes censuses in the Roman empire on several occasions [1]. One example is seen in historical records about the censuses conducted in Egypt, as shown in the table below [2]. Therefore, the account in Luke is consistent with other historical records.


  1. Res Gestae Divi Augusti, 8
  2. Roger S. Bagnall and Bruce W. Frier, The Demography of Roman Egypt, p. 5

“This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” (ESV)


Luke implies Jesus was born during the census of Quirinius who was governor of Syria, and during the lifetime of Herod the Great. Quirinius did not become governor of Syria until 6 AD, years after Herod the Great was dead. Luke misdated the registration.

Answer #1

Sir William Ramsay notes, “The only certain dates in the life of Quirinius are his consulship in 12 BC, his second government of Syria beginning in 6 AD, and his prosecution of his former wife, Domitia Lepida in 20 AD, and his death and public funeral in 21 AD [1].” In the years since he penned those words, no significant discovery has been made that positively dates other events in Quirinius’s life. 

Quirinius may have been the Legate of Syria twice. This idea comes from the inscription found near Tivoli in 1764, which probably belonged to the tomb of Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, “proconsul” (governor) of Asia and “legate divi Augusti” (imperial official) of Syria and Phoenicia in the time of Emperor Augustus (27 BC -14 AD) [2]. While critics have pointed out that Publius Quintus Varus was the Legate of Syria from 7-4 BC, there is some debate about who followed him as Legate in Syria. Holden and Geisler conclude, “The probability that Quirinius was governor of Syria on two different occasions also cannot be ignored – once while prosecuting military action against the Homonadensians between 12 BC and 2 AD, and then a second time beginning about 6 AD. [3]”

The Greek word ἡγεμονεύοντος (was governing) in Luke 2:2 is a verb.


Even if Quirinius was not the official Legate of Syria, he may have held a different role that would be considered governing, consistent with Luke’s description. One example of this comes from Josephus. We know Quintilius Varus was the governor of Syria from about 6-4 BC. Gaius Sentius Saturninus was the governor before him. Josephus mentions a man Volumnius, an associate of Saturninus, who was not the Senate’s appointed governor, yet he calls them both “governors.” [4]

Answer #2

The historical reference for this objection is Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian. Scholars agree that Josephus is not infallible, makes mistakes, places events out of chronology, and jumps around from various time periods [5] [6] [7]. Josephus misdates the construction of the Samaritan temple [8], places the Tabiad saga in the 1st century BC (most scholars say this took place in the 3rd century BC) [9], and claims Herod the Great was 15 when he was given the territory of Galilee (Josephus was most likely off by ten years) [10]. Daniel R. Schwartz notes that Josephus at times duplicates the same event that is reported in different sources he is working with, and then places them at different times. [11] [12]

This is not to say Josephus is completely unreliable, as he often gives reliable information [13] [14]. But sometimes, he does make mistakes, which gives us good reasons to question his claim. With all this in mind, John H. Rhoads makes a case that it is actually Josephus who gave us the inocorrect information, and that the writer of Luke, who is already a highly reliable historian, gave us the correct information.



  1. William Mitchell Ramsay, Was Christ Born At Bethlehem
  3. Joseph M. Holden and Norman Geisler, The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible, p. 154
  4. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, 16.9. 1, 2, 5
  5. “. . . Josephus’ sloppiness – which constitutes the unifying principle of what is otherwise an inept historiosophical patchwork,” Seth Schwartz, Josephus and Judean Politics, p. 197
  6. “The whole is not well structured, and gives the appearance of a patchwork of diverse materials,” John M. G. Barclay, Flavius Josephus, p. 361
  7. “Books 18-20 seem to be more of a patchwork,” Daniel Schwartz, A Companion to Josephus, p. 40
  8. The Samaritans in Flavius Josephus, p. 43
  9. Flavius Josephus Interpretation and History, pp. 141-145
  10. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, vol 1:275
  11. Daniel R. Schwartz, Agrippa I: The Last King of Judea, pp. 11-14
  12. Daniel R. Schwartz, Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity, pp. 202-217
  13. “. . . wherever [Josephus] can be tested, he can be seen to have been a pretty fair historian.” E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, p. 8
  14. “[Josephus] was sometimes misinformed, the reader will find Josephus an invaluable resource not to be neglected.” Everett Ferguson, Background and Early Christianity, p. 457

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene (ESV)

Objection #1

Luke uses the wrong term. Pilate was a prefect (νομάρχης), not a governor (ἡγεμών).


The term that Luke uses is not the technical term for “prefect,” and before 44 AD, the governor of Judea was technically a prefect. The term Luke uses is the common one, which was also used by non-biblical writers [1] [2].

Objection #2

According to Josephus, Lysanias was the tetrarch of Abila (Chalcis) from 40-36 BC, 60 years too early for reference.


Name coincidence. Luke and Josephus are most likely not talking about the same person. An inscription found on a temple [3] from the time of Tiberius names Lysanias as the Tetrarch of Abila, just as Luke has written.


  1. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, 18.3.1, 18.6.5,etc.
  2. Tacitus, Annals, 15.44
  3. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum 4521, 4523

“During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” (ESV)


“Any person being acquainted with the history and polity of the Jews, must have known that there never was but one high priest at a time…” [1]


Annas officially held office from 6-15 AD, but was deposed by Pilate’s predecessor Gratus. The Jews accommodated Roman interference by speaking of both the new Roman appointee and the original ritually appointed Jewish priest as “high priests.” The one with true authority is still Annas, while Caiaphas appears as a public figure. The same language is used by Josephus: “. . . but he sent two others of those that were of the greatest power among them, and both Jonathan and Ananias, the high-priests” [2].


  1. Rober Taylor, The Diegesis 3rd ed. (1845), p. 126.
  2. Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, 2.12.6

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (ESV)


1. Jesus is not in the bloodline of Joseph. The genealogy is meaningless as he is not the true father of Jesus. It is not clear why a genealogy of Joseph is given, since the whole point of a genealogy is bloodlines.

2. Admin is included in the earlier manuscripts and critical text between Amminadab and Arni. Admin being a son of Arni is not supported by the Hebrew Old Testament. The inclusion of Admin results in a total of 77 generations  from God to Jesus and appears to be contrived based on a hebdomatic principle of multiples of 7.

3. God is included as part of the genealogy. This suggests everyone in the bloodline, including Jesus, are straight line of descendants of God. By this logic, we all are descendants of God. Adding God in a genealogy of men is a questionable thing to do.


Although almost all manuscript witnesses contain the Genealogy, there are a couple that do not. One of these is the relatively early Codex Washingtonius (W032) attributed to the 4th/5th century. The other is the gospel manuscript 579 attributed to the 13th century. Both these manuscripts are classified as Aland category III texts. These texts are described by Aland as “Manuscripts of a distinctive character with an independent text… particularly important for the history of the text.” The manuscripts in category III are important when discussing the history of the textual traditions and to a lesser degree for establishing the original text. The manuscripts usually contain independent readings, and have a distinctive character.

Although the variants lacking the genealogy are in the minority, the presence of these variants combined with additional rationale, lead to the conclusion that the genealogy should be doubted as being original to Luke. Additional justification is as follows:

1. The mission attested to in the prologue (Luke 1:1-4) is in reference to the attempt of others to provide “a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us” (Luke 1:1). The author, having followed all things closely, wrote an orderly (chronological) account to the reader for “certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4) It is only the Gospel of Luke that attempts to put everything in chronological order. Additionally, genealogy is substantially beyond the scope of the narration considering the reference of Acts 1:1 “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,”
2. A genealogy would most logically be given at the beginning of a person’s life in reference to their birth. The genealogy in Luke is at a place after Jesus is baptized but before he is tempted in the wilderness. For laying things out sequentially, the more appropriate place to put it  would be in Chapter 2 after Jesus’ birth, or somewhere before he is born. Rather once Jesus was filled with the Spirit at his baptism (Luke 3:21-23), the genealogy is inserted before “Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days being tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2). The clear interpolation (as compared to Mark 1:9-13) disrupts the continuity of events right at the moment Jesus is anointed and empowered by God. The interruption between Jesus receiving the Spirit and being lead by the Spirit, is a major distraction. Considering there is nothing else in the Gospel as clearly out of order as the genealogy, this lends credence to the view that it is a later interpolation and addition into the text. 

Mark 1:9-13 (ESV)

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

3. The genealogy being speculative and difficult to verify would add excessive scrutiny to his Luke’s Gospel. It was the authors express intent is to provide accuracy and confidence in the work (Luke 1:1-4). Considering the motivation of the author is to tell the story of Jesus’ life based on reliable sources and what witnesses can attest to, it is unlikely that the author, who distinguished himself as the first Christian critical scholar and historian, would endorse a speculative genealogy that seems to be contrived to fit a hebdomatic principle of working in sevens for a total of 77 generations. The genealogy is outside the general character of Luke, being a narration attested by witnesses and reliable authorities, as opposed to being of a highly speculative nature, as compared to Matthew.

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” (ESV)


“A major collision between the gospel tradition and archaeology concerns the existence of synagogues and Pharisees in pre-70 C.E. Galilee. Historical logic implies that there would not have been any, since Pharisees fled to Galilee only after the fall of Jerusalem.” [1]


“The first-century Capernaum synagogue in which Jesus preached has probably been found. Because more than one synagogue may have existed in Capernaum at this time, we cannot be sure that this new find was Jesus’ synagogue. But this recently discovered first-century building is certainly a likely candidate . . . The conclusion that this was a first-century A.D. synagogue seems inescapable.” [2]


  1. Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man (2003), p. 14
  2. James Strange and Hershel Shanks, “Synagogue Where Jesus Preached Found at Capernaum,” Biblical Archaeology Review 9 (1983)

Clarifying Luke 14:26, “hate your own father and mother”


Luke 14:26-27 (ESV)   

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

This saying, like others embedded in the Gospels, contains an important Hebrew idiom.

To understand Luke 14:26, idiomatic expression is central to our very understanding of the verse. If we recognize the Hebrew meaning behind the Greek of Luke, it will become apparent that Luke is not saying what some people think it says. The hidden Hebrew meaning can be unmasked without good knowledge of Hebrew. Let’s look at some instances of the unique Hebraic use of the verbs “love” and “hate” elsewhere in the Bible.

Gen 29:31 reads, “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.” In this context, “hated” simply means that Jacob preferred his beloved Rachel. 

Rom 9:13 reads, ‘As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”’ Paul’s quotation of Malachi 1:1-2 upholds divine sovereignty in God’s election. No one who heard this statement in the days of the biblical prophet or read it at the time of Paul would have suggested that the Lord literally hated Esau. Rather it is an inverse way of indicating that God favored Jacob and, although Esau was the first son who would normally receive the inheritance, the inheritance was passed through the younger brother, Jacob. To express preferential treatment, the writer used “to love and hate” in a Hebraic sense. That is, it is in reference to bestowing relative favor or regard to one versus the other. The one who is not given preferential treatment is hated, and the one who is loved. 

Luke 16:13, provides further context for interpreting Luke 14:26:


Luke 16:13 (ESV) 

  13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

This corresponds with the idea of preference contained in the Hebraic expression to love and hate. Jesus’ use of the verbs to express the need for total preference for God over all other relationships and loyalties. Although Luke 16:26 is somewhat ambiguous when interpreted in English, it is most likely it is speaking of simple allegiance and not literal hate and love. The interpretation needs to harmonize with Jesus teaching throughout Luke and the Hebraic use of the words for love and hate in the Bible. 

We cannot serve two masters, we must choose our allegiance to one over the other. We must choose the things of God over worldly wealth. Wealth is not evil in itself, but we must hate it in contrast to the things of God. We should not serve mammon and become its slave. We disregard it in comparison to our loyalty to God. Likewise, we regard money as our servant rather than our master. 

The later revision of Matthew serves as an interpretive commentary of Luke. The author of Matthew attempts to clarify the more ambiguous wording in Luke.

Matthew 10:37-39 (ESV)
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew, in interpreting Luke, makes the notion of preference much clearer.

If we have our priorities set straight, the Lord is the master of our lives. We hate all else in contrast to our alliance to God, whether it be wealth or relationships.  This is along the lines of what Paul says in Philippians 3:7-11:

Philippians 3:7-11 (ESV) 

  7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

In the direct context of Luke 14:26, Luke 14:27 equates discipleship with death: “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” It is the continuation of Jesus’ saying of “hating” one’s father and mother. The Lord requires preeminence in our lives and no divided allegiance. We must sever relationships or pursuits that interfere with God’s will. We are called to die to ourselves and our worldly ambitions and loyalties, and not even fear death. Our allegiance to the Son of Man, in acknowledging his lordship before men, will gain us his acknowledgment before the angels of God: 

Luke 12:4-8 (ESV) 
  4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. 8 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9 but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.

Thus, the difficult verse of Luke 14:26 can be understood in the proper context that harmonizes with the rest of Luke. As we have seen, this interpretation of hate not being literal hate in this context is consistent with the Hebraic concept of love and hate. 

Reference Article: Steven Notley, Jesus’ Command to “Hate”, Jerusalem Perspective (2004)

The account of Jesus’ sweat as becoming as “great drops of blood” is not in some early manuscripts and is likely added later. It sounds unrealistic and hyperbolic. Scholars claim it doesn’t fit for one reason or another. Even if there were only a couple of witnesses that omitted it, it would raise suspicion. For something as sensational as this, if it is not nearly unanimous, its authenticity should be doubted. P75, A and W are important manuscript witnesses against it.

Luke 22:43-44 (ESV)

43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.


In Luke 24 Jesus ascends from Bethany on the day of his resurrection, but in Acts 1 he ascends from Jerusalem after 40 days.



Luke 24 does not say the ascension took place on the same day as the resurrection. This claim comes from the fact that there are no indicators of time in the narration of the events. This is a rhetorical technique called telescoping, which was common in writings of the time [1] [2] [3].


Luke 24:50-51 (ESV)
And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven

Acts 1:12 (ESV)
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

“As far as Bethany” and “mount called Olivet” are in the same area.