Luke vs. Paul – Truth or Confusion

26 Apr
Paul and Ananias

from Google Images

If the Bible can be proved to be in error, what would be our authority for truth about God? Unless we have certain truth about God, all we could have concerning an unseen God would be pure conjecture. Isn’t that so? It would be something like—your guess is as good as mine. Who could authoritatively tell us what God is really like, and who could prove that the false prophet is… well, false? I’ve been reading various websites that concern themselves with disproving the word of God by presuming contradictions in Paul’s conversion either within Luke’s three accounts of the event or between Acts 9 and Paul’s letters, especially Galatians. I thought it would be fun if we dwelt upon these things for a few blog-posts.

One such website sees a contradiction between Galatians 1:16 and Luke’s account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:3-20. According to the administrator of the site, Paul’s vision was clear and he didn’t confer or discuss it with anyone, because this is what Paul claims in Galatians 1:16.

The problem is, Paul makes no such statement in Galatians 1:16. The context of Paul’s letter is one of defense. Whoever had corrupted his Gospel to the Galatians did so by claiming Paul’s Gospel was subject to the Gospel of the Apostles in Jerusalem. He was accused of receiving it from them but apparently changed some things or left some important matters out. In his letter to the Galatians Paul was defending himself against THIS accusation (cf. Galatians 1:6-8; 3:1; 5:10), namely, that Paul received his Gospel from the Twelve and, therefore, could not add to it or take anything away from it. Paul’s defense was that, since he received his Gospel from the Lord and not the Twelve, it must be given an equal place with the the Gospel to the Jews. This was Paul’s argument in Galatians. Therefore, any discussion he may have had with Ananias (who was not one of the Twelve) would be another matter entirely and could not be a contradiction of Galatians 1:16.

Luke is accused of claiming Paul needed help understanding his vision of Jesus, but Luke makes no such claim nor does he even imply that Paul was confused. Consider, for example, that Luke mentions that, while Paul was in Damascus waiting, the Lord had continued to reveal himself to Paul and what should occur (Acts 9:12). The Lord even told Paul the name of the one who would heal him. Moreover, Ananias was told that the Lord would reveal (implying later visions) to Paul things he would suffer for his name sake (Acts 9:16). So, more and more would be revealed to Paul in other visions as time went on. Rather than Ananias telling Paul what Paul’s own vision was all about, I see the coming of Ananias as confirmation from the Lord of all that occurred to Paul. Although the Lord revealed everything to Paul, he had no way of knowing if he was dreaming or hallucinating, but the matter was established with two witnesses. Ananias’ healing Paul, while repeating some of the words the Lord had spoken to him, confirmed to Paul all that he had experienced.

Another problem some critics see is that Luke makes no mention of Paul’s three years in Arabia. However, why would this be considered a contradiction or a flaw in Luke’s account? Luke makes no mention of the collection of the saints throughout Galatia, Asia and Greece for the poor at Jerusalem either. Does this mean Luke knows nothing about it? I hardly think so. A scroll had limited space and an author had to stick with the theme that established the point he wished to make. Any tangent or repetition occurring in his work would be very important to the author. Paul mentions his labor in Arabia only once, and that only to establish the importance of his work elsewhere. If that trip wasn’t considered important to Paul, why should it be considered important to Luke? Luke gives the briefest account of Paul’s activity in order to show the rapid spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. He cannot spend too much time and precious manuscript space on matters that do not support his overall theme.

Nevertheless, at least one website administrator not only believes that Luke contradicts Galatians 1:16 by recording Ananias’ meeting and subsequent discussion with Paul, but he also has Paul almost immediately leaving Damascus for Jerusalem to consult with the Apostles. However, as I said above, Paul’s discussion with Ananias does not contradict Paul’s statement in Galatians, and neither would Luke’s failure to mention Paul’s three year excursion into Arabia mean he didn’t know about it or contradicts what Paul says about himself in Galatians.

A meeting with the Apostles, especially Peter, was necessary for both Paul and Jerusalem. First of all, the Apostles needed to know what the Lord had revealed to Paul. It was always known that the gentiles would be converted, but it was never understood how that would occur. It was assumed that they had to become Jews—i.e. embrace the only faith begun by God, a natural understanding, but fundamentally wrong. Secondly, Paul needed to know the oral traditions – i.e. the history of Jesus’ ministry. Whether in hard copy or orally rehearsed before him, Paul needed to be informed of the details of Jesus public ministry, and that must come from the Apostles. This is why Paul, himself, admits that he spent 15 days with Peter (Galatians 1:18). Why would he spend two weeks with Peter, if a conference between them wasn’t necessary? We agree the meeting between the two wasn’t to learn what Paul should do concerning his vision, but a conference with Peter lasting 15 days did occur and this by Paul’s not Luke’s admission.


Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Textual Criticism


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5 responses to “Luke vs. Paul – Truth or Confusion

  1. Robert-preneur

    November 21, 2012 at 18:08

    Couldn’t agree with you more Ed. I started a new blog, The Tao of Christ, and address the politics issue in my second post. Would love your input if you get a chance. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
    Your brother in Christ

  2. Ed Bromfield

    November 21, 2012 at 08:29

    Hi Robert,
    I used to spend time on Belief Net and then Belief Corner, but things got bad at both places. I remember the Christian boards were the most popular. When it started to get ugly on Belief Net, a lot of Christians simply left, and there simply was no one for the ugly people to discuss with except with one another. A few came back, I think, but, if memory serves, it was never like it had been–with Belief Corner especially, since that is a much smaller forum.

    The really sad part is I think I know why folks are so mad at us. It has to do with an “us against them” kind of thing in politics. I don’t believe God or good behavior can be legislated. God showed us this through the Jews. We just simply never caught on. Our responsibility is to treat others like we want to be treated and let folks know about Jesus. That’s it, as far as I can see. Well, it’s been nice talking to you. You take care and Lord bless you.


  3. Robert-preneur

    November 20, 2012 at 14:53

    Hi Ed
    Yes, the discussion boards even at Amazon can get ugly. I posted to discussions for a while than began to wonder what good it was really doing. I remember one poster was very friendly to me until she realized I was a Christian. It was as if she had suddenly become aware that the person who was playing with her daughter was a convicted child molester. The rage! It’s a challenge to respond with love to such reactions.
    I can say that the discussion boards are good character builders.
    God bless brother

  4. Ed Bromfield

    November 8, 2012 at 19:51

    Greetings again Robert and thanks for your comment. I did a search for the ‘Amazon Christianity discussion board’. I had no idea that I could shop at Amazon and discuss Christian issues as well. Am I at the correct place? I used to post on two discussion boards in the past, but things really got to be unfriendly. One can only post so long under those conditions. I don’t especially mind being told I’m a fool now and then; it keeps me honest, but if everyone is doing it everyday, the ‘fun’ isn’t there anymore. I may try this board out and see what it is like. I do remember discussing with a poster named Celsus (I saw he was posting over at Amazon). He was never nasty, but he really was a challenge, if he is the same guy. :-)

    Lord bless you, Robert.


  5. Robert-preneur

    November 8, 2012 at 18:30

    Hi Ed
    Interesting post. It’s been awhile but I’ve had some vigorous debates on the Amazon Christianity discussion board about these kinds of issues. You do a great job of dissecting what are confused as discrepancies between Luke and Paul. I enjoyed reading it. I’m glad I found your blog.
    God bless

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