Does the Absence of the Deaths of Peter and Paul in Acts Prove It Was Written Early?

To answer that question, here is New Testament scholar John Nolland, an Anglican, in volume one of his commentary on the Gospel of Luke for the Word Biblical Commentary series ([Nashville: Word, Inc., 1989], xxxviii):

The argument that Acts must have been written prior to the outcome of Paul’s trial, because if Luke had known of the outcome he certainly would have reported it, fails through its failure to take full account of the role of schematization in Luke’s editorial process. For Luke, Paul’s journey to arrest in Jerusalem and his shipwreck and rescue constitute the repetition in Paul’s life of the pattern of Jesus’ going to suffering in Jerusalem and his subsequent resurrection. Paul’s unhindered ministry in Rome is Luke’s final note. Neither a death sentence nor a release and departure from Rome would have served any purpose for Luke. In any case Luke betrays his awareness that the situation depicted in Acts 28:30-31 had its terminus by reporting the two-year duration of this opportunity.

Nolland, it should be noted, believes that there are “no decisive arguments” against the traditional authorship of the Gospel (p. xxxvii), attributed to Luke the physician, and that the so-called “We Passages” found in later portions of Acts are “best explained as indicating the personal presence of the author” (p. xxxiv). So, he’s hardly a “liberal” trying to cast aspersions on the reliability of the New Testament. He just doesn’t think that the argument proffered by many an apologist that Luke doesn’t mention the deaths of Peter or Paul because he was writing before they had happened works. It’s a lazy argument.

2 thoughts on “Does the Absence of the Deaths of Peter and Paul in Acts Prove It Was Written Early?

  1. Is John Holland, mentioned in the first paragraph the same person mentioned in the second paragraph by the name Nolland, while one or the other had a typo?


    1. I have a typo! It’s Nolland. Thanks for catching that!


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