This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Friday, April 22, 2011

New evidence that Lucius/Luke wrote Acts

In Rom 16:21-23 Paul sends greetings to the Romans from 8 individuals, including Lucius (which is the full form of the name "Luke"). I have suggested before that they are listed in descending order of their prominence in the church, but I now think we can be more precise about what kind of prominence pertains here. Paul will have sent greetings from those who were known to many of the members of the church of Rome. The greeters were therefore those who, by traveling among the churches, had met believers who subsequently moved to Rome (Tertius may be an exception since he had developed a connection with the addressees simply by writing down the letter). Many (or all?) of those greeted in Rom 16:3-15 had moved to Rome as believers from elsewhere, and the recent death of Claudius in 54 may have allowed the return to Rome of those whom he had expelled. Prisca, Aquila, Andronicus, Junia, Epaenetus, and Rufus and his mother had all moved to Rome from elsewhere. There must have been many Christians with Paul in Corinth when he wrote Romans, but only those who had travelled among the churches would have been known to more than a few of the believers in Rome. Two points confirm that Rom 16:21-23 is not a list of those who happened to pass through Paul's room when he was dictating the letter, but is rather a list of those who had traveled.

Firstly, it is significant that no women are listed among the greeters. This is in contrast to Rom 15:1-15, which mentions 27 people, of which 10 are women. The absence of women in Rom 16:21-23 is explicable if only travelers are listed, since women did not travel (see here).

Secondly, many of those listed are known to have travelled. Timothy had travelled extensively with Paul. I have argued that Jason was from Thessalonika and was Aristarchus, who was Paul's travel companion (Acts 19:29; 20:4). Sosipater was Sopater, another traveller (Acts 20:4). Gaius was, I have argued, Stephanas, who had been to Ephesus on church business. Erastus was the Erastus who had travelled around the Aegean with Timothy (Acts 19:22).

This analysis shows that Lucius too must have travelled among the churches. Indeed, he is mentioned second only to Timothy, and his prominence in the list suggests that he had been a more prolific traveller than the others (Jason, Sosipater, Gaius, Erastus and Quartus). But how widely had he travelled? I suggest that a clue can be found in 2 Cor 8:18-19 where we read of a "brother" who
"is famous among all the churches for his proclaiming the good news; and not only that, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us while we are administering this generous undertaking for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our goodwill"
This brother had been appointed to accompany Paul to Judea so he was almost certainly with Paul when Paul wrote Romans just before leaving for Judea. He was well known  in "all the churches" so he was presumably known to many who had moved to Rome. It is very likely, therefore, that he is one of those who sent greetings in Rom 16:21-23. He cannot have been Timothy, not least because Timothy was Titus. Therefore he was either Lucius or he was one of those mentioned after Lucius (Jason, Sosipater, etc.). Therefore Lucius was either the man who was famous among the churches, or he was even more prominent than him.

He must surely have been the author of Acts because:

1. It is unlikely that Acts would have failed to mention one who travelled among the churches so extensively.
2. The author of Acts would almost certainly have sent greetings to the church of Rome since he would have known many of them through his extensive travel, and he was with Paul in Corinth at the time that Romans was written since he planned to travel with Paul to Judea (Acts 20:2-5). Ro 16:21-23 contains a complete list of the prominent believers who were in Corinth at the time. See also my discussion here.
3. The name "Lucius" is the full form of the name "Luke", which the church fathers unanimously attach to Luke-Acts.

In Philemon 23-24 Paul sends greetings from Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke. Again there are no women among the greeters, which suggests that Paul is here sending greetings from those who knew Philemon from visiting his town. This is supported by the fact that Aristarchus frequently travelled on church business (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2). Epaphras was also a church envoy if I am right to equate him with Ephaphroditus (see here). For what it is worth, the disputed letters also assume that Epaphras (Col 4:12), Mark (Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11), and Demas (2 Tim 4:10) were traveling co-workers of Paul.

I think we can be confident, therefore, that Luke was a traveling co-worker of Paul. This point tightens the argument for equating him with the Lucius of Rom 16:21 and the author of Acts.

For more on why the author of Acts = Luke = Lucius, see my earlier posts here, here and here.


  1. Richard:

    I don't know why my earlier comment didn't appear. Let me try this again. . .

    This was a a great post! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    One thought. In 1 Cor 8 Paul speaks of the brother οὗ ὁ ἔπαινος ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ διὰ πασῶν τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν

    Translators will often put this as the brother who is known "for his work in the Gospel" or for his "preaching of the Gospel", but that's not exactly what the Greek says, is it?

    What if this figure is Lucias? There Paul would be describing him in terms of one who is known throughout all the churches and is associated with "the Gospel". That would seem very, very interesting.

    What think ye?

  2. Thanks, Michael. Me thinks you are right. This 'brother' and the author of Acts and the Lucius of Rom 16:21 would all have been known to many of those who had moved to Rome, so this three-way identification makes sense. Also, as you say, this brother's association with the Gospel is interesting. It fits the author of Acts, since he was a fellow-missionary of Paul. Some have speculated that the reference is to a written gospel of Luke, but I don't think this conclusion is necessary.

    A slight possibility is that this brother was Jason, who is also high up in the list of greeters. This would make Lucius even more famous than this brother, since he is mentioned before him.

    You may be interested in my thoughts on why the three anonymous brothers in 2 Cor are kept anonymous. See here.

    If we are right that this brother was Luke/Lucius, then it seems that seems that the author of Acts was well known and widely trusted on money matters, which is also interesting.

  3. Please elaborate on the following: "(This well known brother) cannot have been Timothy, not least because Timothy was Titus." Are you saying that Timothy was the same person as Titus, or is that sentence have a missing word? Thanks in advance.

    I cannot agree with all your thoughts yet about the authorship of Luke and Acts, but without going into the research here - one example of disagreement is that "women do not travel", yet in Romans Paul seems to contradict that belief: "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae".

    Thank you for laying out some very interesting facts here. Well written.

    1. Yes, Titus was Timothy. See here.

      Women did not travel, except in the company of male members of their households (the densely populated Nile delta seems to have been an exception). Phoebe was a benefactor and therefore wealthy enough to afford protection from servants/slaves. In any case, my assumption is that Phoebe was not traveling on church business but was rather returning to Rome with her family, just as Prisca and Aquila had returned to Rome.