Differing Doubts About the Authorship of Luke-Acts: Schröter and Wolter

Building on my post from two weeks ago, today’s post will begin a short series of posts on Luke-Acts, most of which will juxtapose the positions of Jens Schröter (Eng) in From Jesus to the New Testament and Michael Wolter (Eng) in The Gospel According to Luke. Today we look at the question of authorship.

While Schröter and Wolter both express themselves with caution regarding the question of the authorship of Luke-Acts, it is notable that their respective uncertainties are located at quite different points. Let me illustrate this with a quotation from each scholar, alternating between the English and the German text.

1. Jens Schröter (FJNT 287-288; VJNT 312-313)

Thus, the Muratorianum is of interest for our line of questioning first because it confirms the association of Luke/Paul, which is also found in Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen. This, however, is … not derived from Acts. Rather, it is clear that the name Luke was already attached to the Gospel and was transferred from there to Acts.

Das Muratorianum ist somit für unsere Fragestellung zum einen deshalb von Interesse, weil es die auch bei Irenäus, Tertullian und Origines begegnende Verbindung Lukas/Paulus bestätigt. Diese wird … jedoch nicht aus der Apg abgeleitet. Deutlich ist vielmehr, dass der Name Lukas bereits am Evangelium haftete und von dort auch auf die Apg übertragen wurde.

This finding is supported by the fact that in light of the observations on the four-gospel collection (cf. § 3 below) it can be regarded as completely improbable that the Gospel of Luke circulated anonymously for quite a long time and was first ascribed to the Paul-companion Luke in the course of the acceptance of Acts. Rather, the ascription of the third Gospel to Luke is an old tradition that arose at the latest in connection with the superscriptions of the Gospels.

Dieser Befund wird dadurch unterstützt, dass es angesichts der Beobachtungen zur Vier-Evangelien-Sammlung (vgl. unten unter 3.) als gänzlich unwahrscheinlich gelten kann, dass das LkEv längere Zeit anonym umlief und erst im Zuge der Aufnahme der Apg dem Paulusbegleiter Lukas zugeschrieben wurde. Die Zuschreibung des dritten Evangeliums an Lukas ist vielmehr eine alte, spätestens im Zusammenhang der Evangelienüberschriften entstandene Tradition.

To what this is to be traced remains mysterious to a certain extent. It is conspicuous at any rate that the subsequent invention of a tradition about the Gospel-writer Luke first produced the problem of legitimating this gospel, since one could not appeal for this to an eyewitness—unlike with Matthew and John and also unlike with Mark, which was at least supported by the authority of Peter.

Worauf diese zurückzuführen ist, bleibt einigermaßen rätselfhaft. Auffällig ist jedenfalls, dass die nachträgliche Erfindung einer Tradition über den Evangelienschreiber Lukas erst das Problem produziert hätte, dieses Evangelium zu legitimieren, da man sich hierfür – anders als bei Mt und Joh, anders auch als bei Mk, das wenigstens durch die Autorität des Petrus gestützt wurde – nicht auf einen Augenzeugen berufen konnte.

For my other Schröter posts, see here.

2. Michael Wolter (GAL 7-8; DLE 6-7).

Above all 2 Timothy 4.11 could have played an important role in this connection. When it states there that “only Luke is with me” and this letter also acts as if it were written by Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome with death before his eyes (1.17; 4.16ff), then it could only—so the conclusion had to run 2 Timothy was still regarded as authentic—have been this Luke from whom the report of the Pauline imprisonment in Rome comes, which one can read in Acts 27.17-31. …

Vor allem 2.Tim 4,11 könnte in diesem Zusammenhang eine wichtige Rolle gespielt haben: Wenn es hier heißt “nur Lukas ist bei mir”, und dieser Brief außerdem so tut als wäre er von dem in Rom gefangenen Paulus geschrieben worden, der den Tod vor Augen hat (1,17; 4,16ff), konnte es – so musste die Schlussfolgerung lauten, als man den 2. Timotheusbrief noch für authentisch hielt – eben nur dieser Lukas gewesen sein, von dem der Bericht von der paulinischen Gefangenschaft in Rom stammt, der in Apg 28,17–31 zu lesen ist. …

And because one had recognized already in the second century that the Gospel of Luke and Acts were written by the same author, it is not to be ruled out that the name Luke was first inferred for the author of Acts from 2 Timothy 4.11 and then transferred to the Gospel. …

Und weil man auch schon im 2. Jahrhundert erkannt hatte, das LkEv und Apg von ein und demselben Autor geschrieben worden waren, ist es nicht ausgeschlossen, dass der Name Lukas von 2. Tim 4,11 aus erst für den Verfasser der Apostelgeschichte erschlossen und dann auf das Evangelium übertragen wurde. …

Thus, it would have been only the above-cited information from 2 Timothy 4.11 with whose help one was able to give a name to the anonymous author of Luke–Acts. It is, however, also conceivable that the name Luke adhered to the Gospel already independently of Acts (in this vein, cf. now especially again Thornton 1991, 78; Jervell 1988, 80f; Schröter 2007, 312–13; 2013, 287–88).

Denkbar ist aber auch, dass der Name Lukas auch schon unabhängig von der Apostelgeschichte am Evangelium haftete (in diesem Sinne vg. jetzt vor allem wieder Thornton* 78; Jervell, Apg, 80f.; Schröter, Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament, 312f).

The consequences would be very far-reaching in this case, for this connection between the name Luke and the Gospel could only be traced back to historical recollection. How could one otherwise and without the detour via Acts explain that the composition of the Gospel of Luke was ascribed to Luke, of all people?

Die Konsequenzen wären in diesem Fall sehr weitgehend, denn auf anderes als auf historische Erinnerung ließe sich diese Verknüpfung nicht zurückführen. Wie wollte man sonst und ohne den Umweg über die Apostelgeschichte erklären, dass die Abfassung des LkEv ausgerechnet dem Paulusbegleiter Lukas zugeschrieben wurde?

Taking all things into consideration, however, we cannot get around the diagnosis that, with respect to the person of the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts, there are more questions than answers and earlier certainties have gone lost in the meantime, namely on both sides of the argument.

Aufs Ganze gesehen kommen wir aber nicht um die Feststellung herum, dass es in Bezug auf die Person des Verfassers von LkEv und Apg mehr Fragen als Antworten gibt und dass frühere Gewissheiten inzwischen verloren gegangen sind, und zwar auf beiden Seiten.

For my other Wolter posts, see here.


To me what is noteworthy about these two quotations is the very different location of the uncertainty. Schröter is quite certain that the name Luke was first attached to the Gospel and then to Acts, but apparently uncertain about how the name Luke became attached to the Gospel. By contrast, it seems that Wolter is uncertain about whether the name Luke was attached to the Gospel by way of Acts but quite certain that if it was not attached to the Gospel via Acts, then the only explanation for it being attached to the Gospel must be historical recollection.

For my other Luke-Acts posts, see here.

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Michael Wolter, Martin Hengel, and the Titles of the Gospels

Happy New Year! With reference to an article by Simon Gathercole and Michael Kok’s new bookJames McGrath and Michael Barber have recently written substantial posts on the titles of the Gospels (cf. now also Jonathan Bernier’s perceptive post). As a contribution to this discussion, today’s key quotation will look at the way in which Michael Wolter differs from the influential viewpoint of Martin Hengel (cf. here and here) in his treatment of the probable date of these titles. I found this to be an especially fascinating quotation and am curious to learn what others think of the way that Wolter attempts to reverse Hengel’s logic at a key point.

Translation and German Text

The Gospel According to LukeThe formulations εὐαγγέλιον κατά + name or κατά + name are the same in all the gospels. It can be inferred from this that they arose and were attached to the respective works at the earliest (not “at the latest” as Hengel 1984, 47 thinks) at the point in time when at least two different gospels existed alongside one another. The superscripts had the task of distinguishing the gospels from one another and avoiding mix-ups. This procedure took place not earlier than the first half of the second century (see also Petersen 2006, 273), for in the superscripts the word εὐαγγέλιον is used as a designation for a literary work and elsewhere this meaning is relatively certain first in the middle of the second century in Justin (Apologia i 66.3) and at best perhaps already attested in the 120s in the Didache (cf. Kelhoffer 2004; see also section 6.1 below).

Das Lukasevangelium (p. 4): Die Formulierungen εὐαγγέλιον κατά + Name or κατά + Name sind in allen Evangelien gleich. Daraus lässt sich schließen, dass sie frühestens (nicht “spätestens”, wie Hengel* 47 meint) zu dem Zeitpunkt entstanden sind und den jeweiligen Werken beigegeben wurden, als mindestens zwei verschiedene Evangelienschriften nebeneinander existierten. Die Überschriften hatten die Aufgabe, die Evangelien voneinander zu unterscheiden und Verwechslungen zu vemeiden. Dieser Vorgang wird nicht früher als in der ersten Hälfte des 2. Jahrhunderts stattgefunden haben (s. auch Petersen* 273), denn in den Überschriften wird das Wort εὐαγγέλιον als Bezeichnung für ein literarisches Werk gebraucht, und einigermaßen sicher ist diese Bedeutung ansonsten erst in der Mitte des 2. Jahrhunderts bei Justin (1. Apol. 66,3) und höchstens vielleicht schon in den 120er Jahren in der Didache belegt (cf. dazu Kellhoffer, “How Soon…”; see auch u. Abschn. 6.1).

Grammatical Analysis: I will provide a detailed analysis of the crucial first two sentences as a model sentence. The plural subject is Die FormulierungenName. The verb is sind/are. Here in takes the dative allen Evangelien/all the Gospels. The predicate is gleich/the same. I usually render lassen + infinitive as “can be x-ed”: here lässt sich schliessen = it can be inferred + daraus/from this. dass/that indicates what can be inferred. sie = they (= Die Formulierungen … Name). The verbs entstanden sind/arose (or emerged) and beigegeben wurden/were attached (or added) move, as usual, to the end of the subordinate clause. frühestens = at the earliest. nicht “spätestens” = not “at the latest”. wie Hengel meint = “as Hengel thinks/says, believes/holds/reckons/fancies(not sure what is the best translation of meinen here; “fancies” seems to strong and “believes” has its drawbacks; but “says” or “reckons” might be better than “thinks”).  zu dem Zeitpunkt … als = “at the point in time … when“. The dative plural den jeweiligen Werken/”the respective works indicates” what they are attached to. mindestens zwei verschiedene/at least two different modifies the plural noun Evangelienschriften = gospels (gospels seemed better than gospel writings or gospels writings), which is the subject of existieren/existed. nebeneinander = alongside one another (or next to one another). As a rule I use “one another” when more than two things are in view and “each other” when only two things are in view (since two or more are in view I used “one another” here).

Substantive analysis: As I noted above, I am curious what others think about Wolter’s argument that the uniform character of the formulations indicates that they were attached “at the earliest” (Wolter) rather than “at the latest” (Hengel) when at least two different gospels existed alongside one another.

For other posts (in alphabetical order by last name) on the titles of the Gospels, see e.g. Michael Barber (cf. here), Jonathan BernierNicholas Covington, Simon GathercoleBart Ehrmann (cf. herehere, here), Matthew Ferguson, Michael Kok, Michael Kruger (cf. here), James McGrath, Keith Reich.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.