Article: The Historicity of the book of Acts (2)

December 10, 2010

Some verses in Acts use the second person plural (‘we’), indicating that the writer is participating in the events he is describing. The traditional interpretation (that the writer was an eyewitness, the traditional Luke),[1] was challenged in the twentieth century.[2]

Although there currently exists no scholarly consensus on the “we” passages,[3] three interpretations in particular have become dominant: a) the writer was redacting existing written material or oral sources, whether by genuine eyewitnesses or not, b) use of the second person plural is a deliberate stylistic device which was common to the genre of the work, but which was not intended to indicate a historical eyewitness, c) the writer was a genuine historical eyewitness.[4]

Article here.

[1] ‘Irenaeus’s understanding of the “we” passages was for many centuries the accepted interpretation of them. Indeed, there was no serious challenge to the author-as-eyewitness solution until the beginning of the modern period a millennium and a half later.’, Campbell, ‘The “we” passages in the Acts of the Apostles: the narrator as narrative’, p.3 (2007).

[2] ‘By the second decade of the twentieth century, most Acts scholars were in agreement that the author had fashioned the narrative out of a variety of written sources. A number of them, however, did not accept the source-as-eyewitness solution to the “we” question.’, ibid., p. 6.

[3] ‘Present scholarship still struggles to make sense of the so-called “we-passages” in Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16.’, Rothschild, ‘Luke-Acts and the rhetoric of history’, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen testament 2. Reihe 175, p. 264 (2004).

[4] ‘Three interpretations dominate: 1) the author offers a perspective from his own life experience; 2) the author is in possession of an itinerarium source; and 3) first person plural pronouns represent stylistic insertions.’, ibid., p. 265.


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