of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will


Brother Ed, I was wondering, how do you handle reading Luke since he was a follower of Paul?  Wouldn't you think he picked up a lot of his ideas from him?  He wasn't a disciple of Jesus and we don't know if he ever knew him.


What about Luke?  That's a very, very good question, considering that Paul, the false apostle, was his mentor that probably converted him.  And yet, he is my favorite evangelist!  He was a faithful historian and biographer of the Lord, including many hard sayings that the others omitted; then there are those wonderful parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son!  When reading Luke -- either the gospel or Acts -- I sense a much closer kindred spirit than when reading the others, wonderful as they are.  Also, he is the one who was careful to include and record most accurately the key utterance of the Lord (Luke 22:18) that opens the door to the glorious vision of the kingdom of the Father.

Consider how close the man was to Paul, to whom he was a protégé in the bonds of a strong affection for a beloved teacher. A physician by occupation, he accompanied Paul on his journeys, in particular the last one to Rome.  While there, Paul wrote to Timothy:

[11] Luke alone is with me.
What a faithful disciple!  I believe that Luke was one of Paul's converts on his first missionary journey, in the city of Antioch in Pisidia1.  Luke was a Greek, uncircumcised, a Gentile who was attached to the synagogue in Antioch (not Syrian Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians).  If you will read Acts 13:13-52 with this possibility in mind, you should glean similar insights.  The event is described by an eyewitness, not by one relaying an account heard from someone else.  Note v. 16:
So Paul stood up and motioning with his hands, said, "Men of Israel, and you that fear God, listen . . .."
Two things are significant.  The detailed description of Paul standing up and motioning with his hands suggests an eyewitness, especially since it was the general rule in synagogues that the speaker sat rather than stood.  Then there is that address to "you that fear God."  This is not a general address, but is made to a specific category distinct from the "men of Israel."  We know from other sources that the synagogues in Gentile communities such as Antioch often included in their congregations Gentiles of good will who also believed in God as taught by the Jews.  These  were admitted as members in the special category of "God fearers."  They were converts to Judaism, usually from the worship of idols, who did not want to become fully Jews by being circumcised, nor did the Jews encourage them to do this.  I believe Luke was one of them. 

Luke's description of this event is unique in its reference to "you that fear God."  We see again in v. 26 and yet again in v. 43 (devout converts to Judaism).  There is no other event in Acts told with such enthusiasm, no other reference to the God fearers, and no other sermon of Paul related with so much attention to detail.  For these reasons I believe Luke was one of the "Godfearers" at Antioch who responded to Paul's invitation.

Then in Chapter 14,
Paul passed through Antioch again on the return journey:
[22] strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Do you notice the "we?"  I see Luke sitting there, rejoicing as he listened intensely to Paul.

On Paul's second journey, he passed through Pisidia and visited Antioch again, then passed on to Troas, where he saw his vision of the "man from Macedonia."  Then Luke writes:
[10] And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Again, Luke is with them!  See the "we?" I conclude that, on Paul's second journey, while passing through Antioch, Luke joined the entourage and thereafter stayed as close to Paul as he could.  He journeyed with him on the last, fateful journey to Jerusalem (21:15f).  He met the Apostles and James, the Lord's brother (v. 21:18).  Then he later journeyed with Paul to Rome and remained with him there.

But something most certainly took place in Luke's mind, perhaps in Jerusalem, even though we do not get a hint of it as Luke records the events there in Acts.  Knowing what we now now about the great differences between Paul's gospel and the Lords, and therefore between Paul's views and those of the Apostles who had received the gospel directly from the Lord, we can be sure that Luke's contact with the Apostles and other disciples in Jerusalem raised some very serious questions. Luke could not have failed to notice the vast differences between the gospel of his beloved mentor and that of the Apostles.  How could he not have spent time with the Apostles and not have noted a strained relationship -- a strain that shows up most plainly in Paul's letter to the Galatians?

This would have had no immediate outward effect.  Here is where I begin to identify with Luke in a very personal way because, like him, I began my discipleship as a devotee of Paul, believing everything Paul taught was of the Lord.  I preached it, and like Luke, I remained devoted to Paul for many, many years.  And I can say from personal experience that, having had such an experience with Paul, it can take a long, long time to break from the illusions and see him as he really is.  Paul was a dynamic presenter of his gospel, a con artist without peer.

For me, it required about forty - five years, and I did not fully detach from Paul until I had written the book Jesus: the Rock of Offense.  That was 1995, and if you read that book, you can see the lingering influence of Paul.  I wrote it for my own benefit while seeking to clarify the gospel according to Jesus.  I could see that something was not right, for there were too many doctrines in Paul that are strange to Jesus as presented in the gospels, especially the gospel of Luke!  Yet I remained attached to Paul and could not yet acknowledge that he was a false apostle.  So, in an effort to settle the turbulence in my mind, I decided to focus only on Jesus of the gospels and attempt to define his gospel without other influences, including that of Paul.

Luke wrote his gospel many years after the death of Paul.  Why did he write it?  It is my belief, born of my sense of closeness to him that, like me, he was compelled after many years to research the gospel and bring closure to his mind and heart as to its true nature.  Like me, he had spent many years in great confusion as the testimony of the Apostles grated with his devotion to Paul.  And he wrote, not Paul's gospel, but that of Jesus according to specified sources:

1] Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us,
2] just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word,
3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent The-oph'ilus,
4] that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.
This did not include Paul.  Who could these persons be if not the apostles, or at least others who were very close to Jesus, such as his mother or his brethren? 

Luke is the only evangelist who specified his sources.  This simple fact invites our confidence in what he wrote.

The heart of the evangelist was in turmoil at some point after his contact with the apostles. He would write the story first for his own benefit.  He must find some reconciliation of Paul with the Apostles if at all possible.  Therefore he researched the events surrounding Jesus with rigid honesty, letting nothing significant remain unreported, hoping thereby to bring light into his troubled soul. It is his earnest quest for a reconciliation that makes his
the most complete and accurate gospel.

But, far from relieving the inner tension, it only made it worse.  Now he knew without a doubt the true gospel and it did not correspond to Paul's.  What else could he do? 

"Surely there must be something very significant I have overlooked," he must have said to himself. But what else could he do?  He who was Paul's most loyal protégé simply could not bring himself to detach from him.  It was still unthinkable that Paul was a false apostle, and yet, what was the explanation?

Poor Luke!  How I can empathize with him, for I know the feeling in all of its intensity.  For me, it contributed at one point to a severe breakdown (that was 1967).  What more could he do?

There was one more thing that must be done.  He could continue writing, researching the common history of the earliest disciples, including Paul and Paul's relationship with those who were from the beginning eyewitnesses of the Word, in a last effort to find a way to reconcile the two and finally redeem Paul in his mind and heart.  The resulting document is the one we know as The Acts of the Apostles.  Throughout it we see Luke, ever the faithful disciple and supporter, not afraid to acknowledge his close association; indeed, taking pride in it.

But he could not finish!  As he wrote, he discovered contradictions in Paul that he could no longer deny.  He realized his worst fears.  He had satisfied himself to his great disappointment and he whose ultimate devotion was, or came to be, only to the Lord Jesus, could not go on.  It was there he brought the writing to closure in the kindest way possible, leaving Paul in his Roman imprisonment.

Do you see why I feel so close to Luke?  And how I have come to understand my own experience as corresponding to the pattern set by that of Luke?  It is a terrible thing for a true disciple of Jesus to discover, after years of devoted service and honor, that one's spiritual mentor and beloved teacher is a false apostle.  It is wrenching to acknowledge this truth publicly.  It is also one of the most profound and liberating experiences I have had, and it has occupied most of my life.

Brother Luke, I love you!

1. For an extended discussion, see this old volume: The Life and Letters of St. Paul, David Smith, Harper and Brothers.