Talk on Luke-Acts – the ascension problem

I gave a talk at the Willow Pump Station at UHD last Thursday, delineating my theory on the authorship of Luke-Acts. In short, I no longer think Luke and Acts were written by the same person. In this wild and crazy idea, I join Patrica Walters (2009) and A.C. Clark (1933) as well as, I suppose, F.C. Baur and a few others. I think an imitator of the Gospel of Luke’s style wrote Acts, making it a very long piece of false writing, as well as a fine piece of Paulinist apology – someone wearing a ‘Luke hat’, in other words (a metaphor gifted to me by a commenter), wrote it.

Why do I hold this position? Two reasons.

First, as Walters has ably demonstrated, the stylistic studies ‘proving’ common authorship are similarity hunts. They fail a very basic methodology test.  Studying both similarities and differences, like Clark, ends on a far more cautious note of agnosticism.

Two,  there’s that pesky ascension, depicted at the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts, which I spent most of my talk on. In short, if we are to take the author of Luke’s introduction to heart, the two ascensions should square up on very basic things like 1) when the ascension occurred, 2) what Jesus said, and 3) the presence of angels. They do not. The typical  counterarguments to  multiple problems with the ascension amount to special pleading. What we have points to something far more shady.

I should note that I am aware of the various arguments for multiple authors/redactors working on Luke/Acts, the influence of sources and Aramaic, and the possibility of Marcion’s gospel predating Luke. I’m just saying that none of them explain the ascension problem satisfactorily, enough that if you look at the major commentaries on Luke and Acts – Conzelmann, Pervo, Parsons, Fitzmyer, etc – they avoid or sidestep the issue.

So what’s the ‘so what’? Why care if Luke and Acts had separate authors? It mostly changes how Acts should be interpreted; its contents, already historically suspicious, become even more suspicious. It also introduces the idea of not just a Pauline ‘school’ of writing, but a Lucan one as well!

My talk was designed for a lay audience, so it will take me some time to work it into an article that will likely position itself as an extension of Walters’s arguments.

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