The Basis for Luke Primacy
Answering Luke-Acts Objections

Answering Luke-Acts Objections

The entries below answer common objections to Luke-Acts Primacy

“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.

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.


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]

The koine Greek term for governor in Luke 2:2 is “hegemoneuo”. “Hegemoneuo” does not refer to a specific position within the Roman government but is a general term that can be used to refer to different positions within Roman leadership. Both Luke, Josephus, and even Caesar use this term this way. Luke also does not directly say that Quirinius oversaw the census, just that it happened while he was in Syria. So, it is not necessary to prove that Quirinius was the Legate of Syria at this time, it only needs to be shown that he was in Syria in an official governing role. Also, we know that it is possible that more than one person could be “hegemoneuo” in Syria at one time. Josephus describes in one incident two governors of Syria, “Caesar had ordered the court to be assembled…The presidents set first, as Caesar’s letters had appointed, who were Saturninus, and Pedanius, and their lieutenants that were with them, with whom was the procurator Volumnius.” Tacitus states “Each province had its equestrian procurator who in the eyes of the provincials was almost as important as the governor himself.” (Tacitus, Aric., 15). So Quirinius could have had a role as a “hegemoneuo” even during the known periods where someone else was Legate of Syria.

Josephus is a flawed historian

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

And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David (ESV)


Joseph wouldn’t have to register in Judea if he was from Galilee.


“The obligation on all persons to be enrolled at their domiciles of origin, which made it necessary for Joseph to return to Bethlehem, has been illustrated from an edict of AD 104, in which C. Vibius Maximus, Roman prefect of Egypt, gives notice as follows: ‘The enrollment by household being at hand, it is necessary to notify all who for any cause whatsoever are away from their administrative divisions to return home in order to comply with the customary ordinance of enrollment, and to remain in their own agricultural land.'” [1]


  1. F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, pp. 86-87

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. Messiah was promised to come from the line of David’s son Solomon. However, Luke gives us the line of David’s son Nathan. 

2. 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 genealogy is bloodlines.

3. 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.

4. God is included as part of the genealogy. This suggests everyone in the bloodline, including Jesus, are a 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 does 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, leads 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. The genealogy is a disruption to the sequential structure of Luke.  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. Luke giving us the line of David’s son Nathan, instead of Solomon, does not fit the motive of the writer to make sure we have certainty concerning the things we have been taught. (Luke 1:3-4) It would go against the representation that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.
3. A genealogy would most logically be given at the beginning of a person’s life regarding 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 led 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. 

4. The genealogy being speculative and difficult to verify would add excessive scrutiny to his Luke’s Gospel. It was the author’s 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)


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.


  1. Lucian, Vera Historia, 56-57
  2. Cicero, De Oratore, 3.27.104-05
  3. Quintillian, Institutio Oratoria, 8.4

Objection #1

On three occasions, Acts narrates the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus, chapters 9, 22, and 26. Compare them closely to one another, and you find odd contradictions.

1) Acts 9:7 vs Acts 22:9: In chapter 9 Paul’s companions hear the voice of Jesus, but they don’t see anyone. In chapter 22 they see the light but don’t hear anything.

2) Acts 9:7 vs Acts 26:14: In Chapter 9 the companions are left standing while Paul falls to the ground. In Chapter 26 they are all knocked to the ground.

3) Acts 9 and 22 vs Acts 26: In chapters 9 and 22 Paul is told to go to Damascus to be instructed by a man named Ananias about what to do next. In chapter 26 Paul is not told to go be instructed by Ananias, instead Jesus himself instructs him. Is Paul instructed by Ananias or not?


1) The apparent contradiction is seen by not thoroughly understanding and translating the Greek text. The Greek word ἀκούω has a big range of meanings and can refer to both “hearing,” but also to “understanding” what one has heard. [1]

2) The expression “stood speechless” can be taken as an idiomatic expression which means to be stunned, arrested at the moment, not that they were standing still the whole time.

3) Paul does not say in his speech in Acts 26 that he was not told to go be instructed by Ananias; Paul simply does not mention Ananias.

Objection #2

When Paul discusses his conversion in Galatians 1, he insists that after he had his vision of Jesus, he did not go to confer with other apostles in Jerusalem. In Acts 9, the first thing he does when he leaves Damascus, he makes a beeline to Jerusalem to confer with other apostles.


Telescoping is a method used throughout scripture, and it is used here as well. Time in Acts 9, between verses 25 and 26, does not have to be instant, but can be any amount of time. With Galatians 1 in context, we can see what happened between Acts 9:25 and Acts 9:26.

Acts 9:23-26 (ESV)
When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.

Galatians 1:15-17 (ESV)
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.


  1. The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament – ἀϰούω [etym. complex]—1. primary sense hear Mt 13:9, 13; with focus on willingness to listen to or heed the substance of what is said 17:5; Ac 28:28.—2. ‘hear with comprehension’, understand 1 Cor 14:2Gal 4:21.—3. ‘receive information aurally’, hear, hear about Mt 14:13Ro 10:18; pass. be said/rumored 1 Cor 5:1; with focus on receipt of specific instruction learn 1 J 1:5 al.—4. Legal term: hear a case, grant a hearing  7:51; Ac 25:22


In Acts 16:1-3, Paul is said to have circumcised his co-worker, Timothy, born to a Jewish mother and a Greek father, to appease the Jews with whom they were to come in contact. Yet in Galatians 2:3 Paul resisted having the Greek Titus circumcised when he accompanied him to Jerusalem. Acts is not reliable in presenting the historical Paul.


Paul acted according to the principle of conciliatory accommodation (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), and not out of concession to the Judaistic dogma of the necessity of circumcision. He acted to leave no cause of offense at his work among the yet unconverted Jews of that region, and not to please Christian Judaists. If it was Christian Judaists that had demanded the circumcision of Timothy, as they did that of Titus at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:3), Paul would resist them, just as he did in the case of Titus.

Objection #1

In Acts 17 when Paul traveled to bring the gospel to Athens, he came by himself, without Timothy or any of the other apostles. In 1 Thess 3, we learn that he came to Athens precisely in the company of Timothy, not by himself.


1 Thess 3 does not state if Paul came to Athens alone or not. Acts 17 reports that a message was sent back urging Timothy to join Paul as soon as possible. According to 1 Thess 3, Timothy was in Athens shortly afterward.

Acts 17:14-15 (ESV)
Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. 

1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 (ESV)
Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith 

Objection #2

In Acts 17, Paul says pagans worship idols out of ignorance and do not know better. God overlooked their mistake, and now gives them a chance to repent. In Romans 1, Paul says pagans worship idols when they did know who the one God is, and they rejected that knowledge, in full consciousness of what they were doing. And because of that, God has cast his wrath down upon them.


In Acts 17 Paul points to the ignorance of worshiping the “unknown god,” and is not talking about idol worship. Paul uses a rhetorical hook to tell them about the one true God.

Acts 17:22-31 (ESV)
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

In the relevant scholarly literature, it has actually been claimed that Luke used the writings of Josephus (specifically ‘Antiquities of the Jews’).[1] Since Josephus wrote in 93 CE, this would date Acts no earlier than this time.[2]

The following passages are typically claimed as examples of Luke’s dependence on Josephus.

* Luke 3:1: Josephus and Luke record the census of Quirinius, but Luke’s differs from that of Josephus and cannot be verified independently; both Luke and Josephus refer to Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene

* Luke 13:1: Luke’s description of the murder of the Galileans is similar to Josephus’ description of an assault on Samaritans[3]

* Acts 5:36-37: Luke mentions Theudas and Judas the Galilean, but reverses the order in which Josephus listed them, dates Theudas 15 years before the date Josephus gives[4]

* Acts 11:28-9: Luke and Josephus both record famine during Claudius’ reign[5]

* Acts 12:21-3: Luke describes Agrippa I’s death in a manner similar to Josephus, but with certain differences[6]

* Acts 21:38: Luke describes ‘the Egyptian’ rebel leading sicarii into the wilderness but Josephus’s reference to sicarii in the wilderness is separate from his reference to ‘the Egyptian’[7]

* Acts 25:13, 23; 26:30: Like Josephus, Luke implies that Agrippa II and Berenice are married, or consorts[8]

* Acts 24:24-6: Like Josephus, Luke shows he is aware Drusilla (the wife of Felix), is a Jew

The claim is so insubstantial that most scholars consider it highly debatable at best,[9] rejecting it on a range of grounds and arguing Luke and Josephus used common traditions and historical sources.

  1. ‘Arguments for the dependence of passages in Acts on Josephus (especially the reference to Theudas in Acts v. 37) are equally unconvincing. The fact is, as Schurer has said: “Either Luke had not read Josephus, or he had forgotten all about what he had read”‘ [10]
  2. ‘But it is hardly logical to hold that Luke depends on Josephus and yet be obliged to admit that Luke shows wide divergence from him in relating events that are supposedly the same.’ [11]
  3. ‘The argument that Luke used the historian, Josephus (ad 93), was never fully convincing (HJ Cadbury, BC 11, 357). Today it is seldom pressed.’ [12]
  4. ‘Sterling concludes that, while it is impossible to establish a literary dependence of Luke-Acts on the writings of Josephus, it is reasonable to affirm that both authors not only had access to similar historical traditions but also shared the same historiographical techniques and perspectives.’ [13]
  5. ‘After examining the texts myself, I must conclude with the majority of scholars that it is impossible to establish the dependence of Luke-Acts on the Antiquitates. What is clear is that Luke-Acts and Josephos shared some common traditions about the recent history of Palestine.’ [14]
  6. ‘It seems probable that Luke and Josephus wrote independently of one another; for each could certainly have had access to sources and information, which he then employed according to his own perspectives. A characteristic conglomerate of details, which in part agree, in part reflect great similarity, but also in part, appear dissimilar and to stem from different provenances, accords with this analysis.’ [15]
  7. ‘A. T. Robinson, Redating, p. 88, regards the Josephus line of approach as almost totally abandoned.’ [16]
  8. ‘From Krenkel’s remarks it can be seen that this proof can be offered only with very powerful mental contortions. See Hemer, Acts (n.37), 95: ‘the theory of Lukan dependence on Josephus has had in its day a certain vogue, and has been used as a major argument for the late dating of Luke-Acts’; cf. also Sterling, Historiography (n.37),365f. n.281.’ [17]
  9. ‘Nevertheless, direct literary dependence on Josephus by Luke is consistently dismissed for various reasons.’ [18]
  10. ‘The relationship between Luke and Josephus has produced an abundant literature, which has attempted to show the literary dependence of one on the other. I do not believe that any such dependence can be proved.’ [19]
  11. ‘Most scholars today deny any dependence one way or the other, and we think this judgment is correct.’ [20]
  12. ‘When we consider both the differences and the agreement in many details of the information in the two accounts, [of the death of Herod Agrippa I] it is surely better to suppose the existence of a common source on which Luke and Josephus independently drew.’ [21]
  13. ‘Some attempt to argue a literary dependence on Josephus, and date Luke-Acts after 93CE. But, without a doubt, Luke’s theology is of an earlier type than Justin.’ [22]

This consensus is even acknowledged by those who argue for Luke’s dependence on Josephus, or the other way around.

“Neither position has much of a following today, because of the significant differences between the two works in their accounts of the same events.”[23]


[1] ‘This theory was maintained by F. C. Burkitt (The Gospel History and its Transmission, 1911, pp. 105–110), following the arguments of Krenkel’s Josephus und Lucas (1894).’, Guthrie, ‘New Testament Introduction’, p. 363 (4th rev. ed. 1996); Two recent examples are Richard Pervo’s ‘Dating Acts’ (2006), and ‘Acts: A Commentary’ in the series ‘Hermeneia: a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible’ (2008), and Steve Mason’s ‘Josephus and the New Testament’ (1992); Pervo’s is considered an academic argument worthy of response (though it has failed to convince most scholars), whereas Mason’s is rarely referred to in the relevant scholarly literature.

[2] ‘If Acts is dependent on Josephus for information, it cannot be earlier than 93. But such dependence is not proved and is highly unlikely.’, in Douglas & Tenney, ’New International Bible Dictionary’, p, 13 (1987).

[3] ‘A number of events to which allusion is possibly being made are discussed by J. Blinzler*, 32–37. These include: 1. the affair of the ensigns in Jos. Bel. 2:169–174; Ant. 18:55–59, but this took place in Caesarea in AD 26; 2. the tumults associated with the building of an aqueduct (Jos. Bel. 2:175–177; Ant. 18:60–62), but this incident involved the murder of Judaeans with cudgels outside the temple; 3. an attack on some Samaritans (Jos. Ant. 18:85–87), but this took place in AD 36; 4. the slaughter of about 3,000 Jews offering Passover sacrifices by Archelaus in 4 BC (Jos. Bel. 2:8–13; Ant. 17:213–218). This incident, however, took place some thirty years earlier and was committed by a different ruler; moreover, the murder of 3,000 men would not bear comparison with an accident to 18. It is wisest to conclude that the event is not attested from secular sources. This, however, is no argument against its historicity, since Josephus’ account of Pilate’s career is very incomplete (cf. Philo, Leg. 299-305). Pilate would have been in Jerusalem at Passover time, and the Galileans had a reputation for rebelliousness. The suggestion that Zealots were involved (O. Cullmann, The State in the NT, London, 1957, 14) lacks proof.’, Marshall, ‘The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text’, New International Greek Testament Commentary, p. 553 (1978).

[4] ‘There are two problems: (1) Since Gamaliel was speaking well before AD 44 (the year in which Herod Agrippa I died, 12:20-23), a reference to the Theudas mentioned in Josephus would be anachronistic on his lips. (2). Gamaliel goes on to describe the rising of Judas after this; but the rising of Judas took place in AD 6 before the Theudas incident in Josephus. So, it is argued, Luke makes Gamaliel commit an anachronism and put the two stories in reverse chronological order. It has been argued that Luke was led to this error by misreading Josephus who goes on after the Theudas story to mention the sons of Judas and then to explain parenthetically who this Judas was and how he had led a revolt against Rome. But this supposition is highly unlikely, since Josephus’ works were not published till c. AD 93, and since Luke cannot possibly have got the details of his story (the 400 men) from him. No plausible explanation of Luke’s alleged error has been offered. There is, therefore, much to be said for the suggestions either that Josephus got his dating wrong or (more probably) that Gamaliel is referring to another, otherwise unknown Theudas. Since there were innumerable uprisings when Herod the Great died, and since ‘Josephus describes four men bearing the name of Simon within forty years and three that of Judas within ten years, all of whom were instigators of rebellion’ (cited by Knowling, p. 158), this suggestion should not be rejected out of hand.’, Marshall, ‘Acts: An Introduction And Commentary’, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, volume 5, pp. 122-123 (1980).

[5] ‘Famines are mentioned in various parts of the empire during the time of Claudius. Josephus tells of a famine in Palestine during the governorship of Tiberius Alexander (46/48 C.E.):’, Conzelmann, Epp, & Matthews, ‘Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles’, Hermeneia, p. 90 (1987).

[6] ‘The details of Herod’s death are recorded slightly differently by Josephus, but the accounts are complementary. …Luke’s description of Herod as being eaten by worms is probably directly related to the abdominal pains referred to in Josephus’ account.’, Carson, ‘New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition’ (4th ed. 1994).

[7] ‘According to Josephus (Bel. 2:261–263) there had been an Egyptian false prophet who had led 30,000 men to the Mount of Olives in order to take Jerusalem; he promised that they would see the walls of the city fall down. The governor, Felix, killed or captured his followers, while the prophet himself managed to escape. Clearly the tribune thought that this person had reappeared; the discrepancy between the number of his followers in Acts and in Josephus reflects the latter’s well-known tendency to exaggeration, and the tribune’s estimate will have been nearer the mark.’, Marshall, ‘Acts: An Introduction And Commentary’, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, volume 5, p. 371 (1980).

[8] ‘There was gossip about the relationship between the brother and sister (Josephus Ant. 20.145; Juvenal Sat. 6.156–60). ‘,Conzelmann, Epp, & Matthews, ‘Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles’, Hermeneia, p. 206 (1987).

[9] ‘The use of the LXX is not debatable, but the influence of Josephus and Paul has been and is subjected to considerable debate.’, Tyson, ‘Marcion and Luke-Acts: a defining struggle’, p. 14 (2006).

[10] Geldenhuys, ‘Commentary on the Gospel of Luke’, p. 31 (1950).

[11] Harrison, ‘Introduction to the New Testament’, p. 240 (1971).

[12] Ellis, ‘The Gospel of Luke’, p. 55 (1977).

[13] Verheyden, ‘The Unity of Luke-Acts’, p. 678 (1990).

[14] Sterling, ‘Historiography and Self-Definition: Josephos, Luke-Acts, and Apologetic Historiography’, Supplements to Novum Testamentum, pp. 365-366 (1992).

[15] Schreckenberg & Schubert, ‘Jewish Historiography and Iconography in Early and Medieval Christian Literature’, Compendia Rerum Iudicarum Ad Novum Testamentum, volume 2, p. 51 (1992).

[16] Guthrie, ‘New Testament Introduction’, p. 364 (4th rev. ed. 1996).

[17] Hengel & Schwemer, Paul between Damascus and Antioch: the unknown years’, p. 325 (1997).

[18] Denova, ‘The Things Accomplished Among Us: prophetic tradition in the structural pattern of Luke-Acts’, p. 207 (1997).

[19] Marguerat, ‘The First Christian Historian: writing the “Acts of the Apostles”‘, p. 79 (2002).

[20] Heyler, ‘Exploring Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students’, p. 362 (2002).

[21] Klauck & McNeil, ‘Magic and Paganism in Early Christianity: the world of the Acts of the Apostles’, p. 43 (2003)

[22] Hear, ‘Simon Magus: the first gnostic?’, p. 71 (2003).

[23] Mason, ‘Josephus and the New Testament’, p. 185 (1992).