The Basis for Luke Primacy
Paul Attests to Luke-Acts Primacy
Paul Attests to Luke-Acts Primacy

Paul Attests to Luke-Acts Primacy

Paul Attests to Luke-Acts Primacy

Luke is the only Gospel that Paul referred to as Scripture. There are several places in which Paul makes reference to the material that is exclusively in the Gospel of Luke. He actually references material in Luke not found in other Gospels and refers to Luke as “Scripture”. Paul relies on the testimony of Luke-Acts for reiterating what are the essentials of the faith – in the same context, twice referring to it as “Scripture.” Paul gives the account of the Lord’s Supper in a way that is consistent with Luke, but not with Mark/Matthew. In other places, Paul draws parallels with Luke with content that Luke contains not exhibited in the other Gospels. Accordingly, Paul is the first and chief witness attesting to the primacy of Luke. Of all the Gospels, he has the most affinity with it while also recognizing it as Scripture. None of the Gospels match Paul’s teaching on the Law as close as Luke. Moreover, there are numerous undesigned coincidences with Paul’s remarks in his epistles that attest to the validity of Acts.

1. The Apostle Paul himself quotes Luke as Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18

The first quotation of 1 Tim 5:18 from “Scripture” is found in Deuteronomy 25:4, but the second quotation, “The laborer deserves his wages,” is found nowhere in the Old Testament. It does occur, however, in Luke 10:7 (with the same words in the Greek text). So, here we have Paul apparently quoting a portion of Luke’s gospel and calling it “Scripture,” that is, something that is to be considered part of the canon.

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Someone might object that Paul could be quoting an oral tradition of Jesus’ words rather than Luke’s gospel, but it is doubtful that Paul would call any oral tradition “Scripture,” since the word (Gk. γραφή, G1210, “writing”) is always in New Testament usage applied to written texts, and since Paul’s close association with Luke makes it very possible that he would quote Luke’s written gospel. 

(Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 61-62).

1 Timothy 5:17-18 (ESV)

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Luke 10:7 (ESV)

7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.

Analysis of the Greek

The Greek in the two quotes is the “same,” with some qualifications:
Luke 10:7     ἄξιος  γὰρ ὁ   ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ   [ἐστίν ?]
Lit. Trans.   Worthy for the laborer the wages  of him  [is]
1 Tim 5:18b   Ἄξιος      ὁ   ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ

The post-positive γὰρ (“for”) is found in Luke, since in that passage Jesus is stating the clause as a “reason” for remaining in a house as the disciples are out ministering, so the quotation of Paul would not carry that over.

The ἐστίν (“is”) may or may not be in the original Luke 10:7 passage. It is found in the majority of texts, but not in all texts, the NA28 not including it, and citing in the apparatus the witnesses for each as such:

[Including it] A C K W Γ Δ Θ Ψ ƒ1.13 33. 565. 1424. 2542 𝔐 syh

[Excluding it] 𝔓75 א B D L Ξ 579. 700. 892. 1241.  2211 i

However, even if the ἐστίν is valid in Luke 10:7, the observation of a direct quotation is not inaccurate, as the omission of the “being” verb ἐστίν in Greek is a common elision of text, and otherwise still has the quote (1 Tim 5:18) with the same wording and the same meaning as the source (Luke 10:7)

Who is taking from whom?

Some might suggest that Luke is echoing Paul rather than Paul echoing Luke. The reversal is of low likelihood for the following reasons:

  1. Paul refers to the quote as “the Scripture” (ἡ γραφή), an explicit reference to the written word, this goes against a quotation of an oral tradition.
  2. So if Luke got it from Paul’s preaching (oral), and penned it based off Paul’s testimony, then it would be very odd for Paul to then turn around and reference it in such an authoritative way as a written document, rather than testify to it himself (without call to the authority of Scripture).
  3. Therefore, it seems that Luke’s account of Christ’s words in Luke 10:7 that Paul is quoting was something Paul became aware of from his familiarity with Luke’s gospel account.

2. The Gospel “According to the Scripture” that Paul is referring to is that of Luke-Acts

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 Paul refers twice to core aspects of the gospel that occurred “in accordance with the Scriptures.” The scripture that is being referenced is Luke-Acts. Luke-Acts establishes that Christ died for our sins. Luke-Acts establishes that he was buried, that was raised on the third day. And Luke-Acts presents the order of resurrection appearances as affirmed by Paul. The appearances as conveyed in Matthew and Mark are inconsistent with Paul’s affirmation of the order of appearances. 

Thus, Paul is referring to Luke-Acts as scripture and is using the testimony of Luke-Acts as a basis for summarizing the core essentials of the Christian Faith. Paul attests to Luke-Acts primacy by using it as a foundational authority for the Gospel. 

1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (ESV), Paul’s use of Luke-Acts to attest to the fundamentals. 

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Luke 24:33-40 (ESV), Christ appeared to Simon Peter then to the Twelve

33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. 36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

Acts 1:1-3 (ESV), Additional Appearances of Jesus 

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Acts 1:21-26 (ESV) Additional men accompanied the Apostles during the visitations of Jesus

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

3. Paul Recounting of the Lord’s Supper is consistent with Luke (Not Mark/Matthew)

Paul’s account of the Lord’s Supper is more consistent with Luke than Mark/Matthew, indicating that Paul shares the tradition with Luke. Paul and Luke have more affinity with each other. Matthew and Mark do not share this affinity with Paul. 

1 Cor 11:23-25/(Luke 22:19-20) (ESV)

23 he took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said,

“This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 

25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, 

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Mark 14:22-24 (Matt 26:26-28) (ESV)

22 he took bread, and after blessing it  broke it and gave it to them, and said, 

“Take; this is my body.”

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, 

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.


The Lord’s Supper – James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle,  1998, pp. 606-607

“Paul Himself records the tradition authorizing the Lord’s Supper as the account of the last supper of Jesus with his disciples, which Paul himself received and passed on to the Corinthians at the foundation of their church. A comparison of this tradition with its variant versions is instructive. Two features of this common tradition call for comment:

First, there were clearly two slightly (but significantly) different versions of the form and wording used at the last supper among the churches. One we may call the Mark/Matthew version; the other was common to Paul and Luke. It should be fairly evident even from the brief comparison that neither can be completed derived from the other. The most obvious explanation of their otherwise striking closeness is that they come from a common source or tradition. There is a dispute as to which is likely to have been closer to the common original. But since Paul makes so little use on his own behalf of the “new covenant” tradition (the emphasis on which constitutes the most distinctive feature of the Paul/Luke version of the cup word), the case for seeing the Paul/Luke version as closer to the original form probably has the edge. 

It also follows, secondly, that each version of the tradition constitutes some development of the original. There are indications, in turn, that Matthew has elaborated the common Mark/Matthew version and that Luke has elaborated the common Paul/Luke version. More strikingly still, Paul’s version shows a further elaboration at the end. His version continues (1 Cor 11:25b-26).”

4. Paul parallels 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 with Luke 21:34-36

There are particularly compelling parallels between Luke 21:34-36 and 1 Thess 5:2-6, and strong indications that Paul is making reference to Luke.

“Both have as their subject the Day, which, it is warned, will come upon those unprepared suddenly and unexpectedly (“as a trap,” Luke 21:34); both emphasize that there will be no escape (cf. Luke 21:35); both encourage believers to watch in light of that coming “Day”; both use the same verb (ἐφίστημι) and the same adjective, αἰφνίδιος (“suddenly”) of the “Day”—and the latter is used only in these two places in biblical Greek.” ((Three Views on the Rapture (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 185).

This parallel with Paul is exclusive to the Gospel of Luke. Matthew and Mark lack this parallel. This demonstrates that Paul has more affinity with Luke than any of the other Gospels.  

1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 (ESV)

2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

Luke 21:34-36 (ESV)

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

List of Parallels Between Luke 21:34-36 and 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6

  1. “the Day” as subject (Lk 21:34; 1 Th 5:2); NOTE: Moo is linking “that day” of Lk 21:34 to Lk 21:27 and the coming of Christ.
  2. Comes unexpectedly upon the unprepared (Lk 21:34 “like a trap”; 1 Th 5:2 “like a thief in the night” [cf. 1 Th 5:4 also])
  3. no escape (Lk 21:34-35; 1 Th 5:3); NOTE: the failure to escape in Luke is conceptualized in the “trap” and it coming upon “all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.”
  4. Believers are encouraged to watch (Lk 21:34, 36; 1 Th 5:6)
  5. verbal choice of ἐφίστημι for the event (Lk 21:34, ἐπιστῇ [Aorist Active Subjunctive], “will come”; 1 Th 5:3, ἐφίσταται [Present Mid./Pass. Indicative], “will come” or more literally, “comes”); NOTE: the word has the idea of being “present” or “at hand,” and given the context similarities makes the parallel word choice a stronger argument for some literary dependence.
  6. Unique correlation of adjective choice of αἰφνίδιος for the event (Lk 21:34; 1 Th 5:3); NOTE: this may be one of the most compelling points about some literary dependency, as the only two uses of this word in the NT appear in these two passages that do have such apparent similarities of topic.
  7. Avoiding drunkenness in anticipation of these events (Lk 21:34 “not be weighted down with … drunkenness”; 1 Th 5:6 “be … sober”)

5. Luke-Acts has the strongest affinity with Paul’s teaching on the Law

None of the other Gospels come as close to paralleling Paul’s teaching on the Law as Luke does, which Acts confirms. The passage of Luke 16:14-18 has no matching parallel in the other Gospels. Acts 15:8-11 contain the same core elements. These elements are echoed/paralleled in Romans 2:12-29, Romans 3:19-31, and Galatians 2:15-21.

Common elements:

  1. God knows the heart (Luke 16:15)
  2. Now there is a new way to receive grace (through the Lord Jesus Christ) (Luke 16:16)
  3. Those who receive the kingdom of God, gain it by forcing their way into it (i.e., dyeing to flesh/faith) (Luke 16:16)
  4. This grace is available to all (not just the Jews) (Luke 16:16)
  5. Without the Gospel, are condemned under the Law (Luke 16:17-18)

Luke 16:14-18 (ESV) 

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. 16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. 18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Acts 15:8-11 (ESV) 

  8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Romans 2:12-29 (ESV)

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Romans 3:19-31 (ESV)

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Galatians 2:15-21 (ESV) 

  15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

6. Paul echoes Luke 6:27-28 in Romans 12:14

The language of Paul in Romans 12:14 echoes Luke 6:27-28. Matthew lacks reference to bless verse curse, and there is no parallel in Mark. Again, Paul has more affinity with Luke than in the other Gospels. 

Romans 12:14 (ESV)

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Luke 6:27-28 (ESV)

27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Matthew 5:44 (ESV)

44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

7. Paul’s identity and principal hope of the Philippians is consistent with Acts

In Philippians 3:4-11, Paul identifies himself as a Pharisee who is willing to suffer the loss of all things, and share in the sufferings of Christ so “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” In Acts 23:6 we see Paul identify himself as a Pharisee who is on trial because of the hope of the resurrection from the dead. In both cases, Paul identifies himself as a Pharisee, who is suffering on account of his hope in the resurrection from the dead. 

Philippians 3:4-11 (ESV)

4 though I myself have areason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 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.

Acts 23:6 (ESV) 

  6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”

8. Affinity with Paul’s references to others and the accounts of Acts

There are undesigned coincidences between 1 Corinthians 3:12 and 1 Corinthians 3:6 with Acts 18 and 19. Acts interlocks with the Corinthian epistles. They mesh perfectly and attest that Paul’s statements verify the legitimacy of Acts as a historical record.

1 Cor 1:12 and 1 Cor 3:6 both suggest that Apollos had been at Corinth; the second also suggests that Paul had preceded him there. In the book of Acts, we find a description of Paul’s travels and a few remarks about Apollos’s life. After his first visit to Greece, Paul went from Corinth to Ephesus (when Paul “planted), where he left his companions Priscilla and Aquilla; he returned to Palestine, stopping in Jerusalem, and then went north into Asia Minor (Acts 18:19, 23), ultimately making his way back to Ephesus. It is during the period of these later travels that Apollos comes on the scene, being instructed in Ephesus by Priscilla and Aquilla (Acts 18:26) and passing from them over to Achaia, where “he greatly helped those who through grace had believed” (Acts 18:27). Later that Apollos was in Corinth while Paul was traveling back to Ephesus (Acts 19:1).

Another point of coincidence is between this passage of Acts and an expression Paul uses in the second epistle to the Corinthians. “Do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?” The question he asks is rhetorical: “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all” (2 Corinthians 3:1-2). The book of Acts provides a clue to Paul’s language; for when Apollos made his own trip to Corinth, “the brothers … wrote to the disciples to welcome him” (Acts 18:27). 

1 Corinthians 1:12 (ESV)

12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

1 Corinthians 3:6 (ESV) 

 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

2 Corinthians 3:1-2 (ESV) 

1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.

Acts 18:1-4 (ESV)

1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Acts 18:18-28 (ESV)

18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. 24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Acts 19:1 (ESV)

1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.


9. Affinities between Romans and Acts

There are undesigned coincidences between Romans 16:1-4 with Acts 18. Acts interlocks with the Roman epistle. The apparently barren lists of greetings furnish us with numerous points of indirect correspondence—consistency and even harmony, but without verbal borrowing—with the events in the historical narrative of Acts. They mesh perfectly, attesting that Paul’s statements verify the legitimacy of Acts as a historical record.

We typically pass over certain parts of Paul’s letters, such as the long lists of greetings. Yet, such passages furnish us with a clear example of coincidence without design. Take For example Romans 16:1-4. There are five parallels with Acts 18:

  1. This greeting appears in the epistle to the Romans suggests that Prisca and Aquila are inhabitants of that city. According to Acts 18:2, Paul encounters “Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.” So Prisca (a diminutive form of “Priscilla”) and Aquila were originally inhabitants of Rome, perhaps recently returned once the expulsion under Claudius ceased to be enforced.
  2.  Paul calls them “fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” Acts 18 gives an indication of what they did to deserve that commendation. In Acts 18, we find that Paul stayed with them (Acts 18:3), and when he left, they departed with him (Acts 18:18). Acts gives an indication that it would be a fair inference that they were fellow workers with Paul. But Paul’s greeting in Romans makes this fact explicit.
  3. Paul says that they “risked their necks” for his sake. Acts 18:12-17 tells us how so. This is where Paul is dragged before the Roman tribunal and Sosthenes is beaten by the mob. If Aquila and Prisca were Paul’s fellow workers Christ Jesus in Corinth, it is clear that they, too, were exposed to dangers.
  4. Paul indicates that the churches of the Gentiles give thanks for them. Considering the theme of the entire letter of Romans, this singling out of the Gentiles seems to have special significance. Now going back to Acts 18:2, we find that Aquila was a Jew, expelled from Rome when the emperor Claudius, decided to evict the Jews. Yet they were working with Paul, who in this very city declared that he was turning from the Jews to the Gentiles and from that time forward conducted a highly effective mission among them (Acts 18:5-11). So, Prisca and Aquila, though Jews, took part in the ministry to the Gentiles. And that is how they earned the thanks of the Gentile churches.
  5. In reference to Paul saying, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” Why commend a servant of the church at Cenchreae? Paul is writing, apparently, from Corinth. Cenchreae is in the neighborhood of Corinth. We find from the book of Acts that Paul himself, upon leaving Corinth, visited Cenchreae. (Acts 18:18)

Romans 16:1-4 (ESV)

1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. 3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.

Acts 18:1-4 (ESV)

1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Acts 18:5-11 (ESV)

5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Acts 18:12-17 (ESV)

12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

Acts 18:18 (ESV)

18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila


10. Paul’s sending of Timothy in 1 Corinthians, clarified by Acts

In 1 Corinthians 4:17, Paul explains that he has sent Timothy, “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ …” From that passage alone, however, we cannot tell whether he has sent him before the letter or with it, in which case the language of “sending” would be the anticipation of the act. The language of 1 Corinthians 16:10-11 makes it plain that Paul had sent Timothy before writing the letter, as he speaks of Timothy’s arrival as something independent of their receipt of the letter itself.
The comparison of these two passages raises an interesting question. If Timothy had been sent first, why should he not arrive first? And if he arrived first, what use would it be to send, after the fact, instructions on how they were to receive him? The only plausible resolution is that Timothy, though sent first, must have taken some indirect route to Corinth. Taking a ship would be the fastest method of travel from Ephesus, where Paul was writing, to Corinth.
Acts 19:21-22 tells us that Timothy, when he left Ephesus, took the land route, and went up through Macedonia. Here we see the characteristic of undesigned coincidences that neither the historical account nor the letters could plausibly be said to have been written up from the other. The letter does not mention Timothy’s journey through Macedonia at all; the book of Acts does not mention Paul’s letter. But what we find in the book of Acts is the only plausible way of reconciling those stray comments in Paul’s letter.

1 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV)

17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

1 Corinthians 16:10-11 (ESV)

10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Acts 19:21-22 (ESV)

1 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

Stemma of Synoptic Gospels incorporating Paul’s reliance on Luke (Proto-Luke)

The diagram below provides stemma which can be harmonized with much scholarship. Paul is writing early and is making reference to Luke (or a Gospel very much like Luke having the particular text unique to Luke). This stemma is a harmonization of the Jerusalem School described in Lukan Priority and the Jerusalem School and Implications of the Farrer Hypothesis. According to the stemma, Matthew and Luke, and perhaps Mark as well, were acquainted with an anthology (A) of Jesus’ words and deeds taken from the Greek translation of the Hebrew biography. Anthology (A) could be thought of as containing both a Proto-Narrative and sayings of Jesus. Luke alone was acquainted with a second source, a reconstruction (R) being a Greek biography that attempted to reconstruct the story order of the original Hebrew text and its Greek translation. Mark used Luke (or Proto-Luke) while only rarely if at all, referring to the anthology, while Matthew used Mark and the anthology. The final canonical version of Luke takes into account all predecessor sources. This stemma provides the answer of how Paul is referencing what appears to be Luke while at the same time the final canonical Luke comes after both Mark and Matthew (affirmed by the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre hypothesis).