Jesus's Words

Chapter 14: Acts, Part False, Part True: Author Not Saint Luke

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Section 2: Time Between Resurrection and Ascension—Acts Contradicts Luke

In the first place then, Saint Luke cannot have been the author of the Acts.

The reason is very simple. In respect of the time between Jesus's resurrection and his ascension,—the one of these narratives gives one account, the other, another account: and, so wide is the difference between the two, that by one and the same person they could not have both been given. According to Saint Luke, the time during which, after his resurrection, and before his ascension, Jesus was seen by his disciples, extended not beyond one day: according to the Acts, it extended as far as forty days. By Saint Luke, that the time was not more than a day, is not indeed said in so many words; but upon examination of the text, it will be found, that, consistently with the particulars given, no longer duration can be assigned to it. In the Acts, that the time, during which he continued showing himself after his passion, Acts 1:3,79 to the Apostles, was "forty days," is affirmed in those very words.

The point here in question, be it observed, is not truth, but consistency: not the truth of either of the two accounts; but their consistency, the one with the other: and, instead of consistency, so palpable is the inconsistency, that the conclusion is,—by no one man, who did not, on one or other of the two occasions, intend thereby to deceive, can both of them, morally speaking, have been penned.

Now for the proof. First, let us hear Saint Luke: it is all of it in his last chapter—the 24th. In verse 10, mention is made of certain women, three named, others not named. they came unto the sepulchre...And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.Luke 24:1, 3 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.Luke 24:9 Thereupon it is, that, of all them, "two" ver. 13, of whom Cleopas, ver. 18, was one, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together...Luke 24:13-14a it was that Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.Luke 24:15b whereupon between him and them a conversation therein reported, ensued. The conversation,—the same conversation, as reported in verses from 16 to 27,—continues till their arrival at the village, ver. 28, namely, Emmaus, as per ver. 13. According to the next verse, ver. 29, "the day," namely, that same day, "being far spent," at that same place, "he went in to tarry with them," they having "constrained him." Then also it is that, as he sat at meat with them...and they knew him; and he.Luke 24:30-31a Moreover, "at that same hour" it is, ver. 33, that And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.Luke 24:33-34 Then it is also, that they reporting what had passed, And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.Luke 24:36 Thereupon follows a conversation, reported in verses from 37 to 49, in the course of which he, ver. 43, "did eat before them." Then it is, that, immediately after the last words, which, in ver. 49, he is stated to have uttered, come these words, ver. 50, And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.Luke 24:50-53 And chapter, and with it, the gospel ends.

So much for Saint Luke. Now for the author of the Acts, chapter 1, ver. 3, "To whom," says he, namely the Apostles, ver. 2, "he," namely Jesus, To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days...Acts 1:3

Thus while, according to the author of the Acts the time—during which Jesus was seen by the persons in question was not less than forty days,—according to Saint Luke, the whole time, during which this same Jesus was seen by those same persons, was not more than one day. And who was this historian, who, on the supposition of the identity, speaking of this all-important scene, on one occasion says, that it lasted no more than one day; and, on another occasion, professing, Acts 1:1, to be giving continuance to such his former discourse, declares, in so many words, that it lasted "forty days"? It is Saint Luke, one of the Apostles of Jesus;—one, of the eleven, before whose eyes, everything of that which has just been read, is stated as having passed.

With all this before him, does the editor of the edition of the Bible, called Scholey's Bible, in a note to the commencement of the Acts, very composedly assure us, that "from its style, and other internal marks, it is evidently the production of Luke": quoting for his authority, Bishop of Lincoln's Elements of Christian Theology, vol. 4. Who this same Bishop of Lincoln was, by whose Elements of Christian Theology, instruction such as this is administered, let those inquire, in whose eyes the profit of the inquiry promises payment for the trouble. From any such particular inquiry, the profit will perhaps appear the less, the greater appears the probability, that, in the minds of all Bishops,—from the first that ever committed his instructions in theology to the press, down to those by whom the Christian world is illuminated at this present writing,—the same sort of discernment, or the same sort of sincerity, has all along had place.

When 20,000l, a year—or though it were but 20l, once told—or, though it were but salvation from everlasting torment—is to be gained; gained, by the perception, that two men, the one of whom writes in point-blank contradiction to the other, are one and the same man,—the task is not, naturally speaking, of the number of those, by the performance of which much wonder need be excited.

The sort of improvement, made by the author of the later history, upon the account given in the earlier, has now been seen. Would anyone wish to see the inducement? He will not have far to look for it. For making the impression, which it was his desire to make,—the one day, allotted to the occurrence by one of the company, was not, in the estimation of the anonymous writer, sufficient. To render it sufficient, he calls in the powers of arithmetic: he multiplies the one by forty; and thus, to the unquestionable satisfaction of a host of mathematicians,—Barrow, Newton, and so many other mathematical divines, not to speak of Locke, of the number—thus is done what is required to be done: thus, by so simple an operation, is the probative force of the occurrence multiplied forty-fold.80


79 As to the word passion, that by this word could not have been meant the same event as that denoted by the word resurrection, cannot but be acknowledged. But, with regard to the alleged inconsistency, this distinction will not be found to make any difference: for, as will be seen, it is not till after his resurrection, that, by Saint Luke, Jesus is represented as having begun to show himself.

80 In chapter XII. of this work, section 1, notice has already been taken, of a similar operation as having been performed by Paul himself: of the improvement made in that case, the subject was the number of the witnesses: according to the real Apostle, who was one of the company, the number, as we have seen, was eleven, and a few more: this number, whatever it was, the self-constituted Apostle, who knew nothing about the matter, took in hand, and multiplied till he had raised it to five hundred. Thus, with or without concert, with like effect,—and it is almost needless to say, with the same object, and from the same inducement,—may be seen the master and the journeyman, working on different occasions, but with well-matched industry, at the manufacturing of evidence. Add now together the results of the two operations, and note the aggregate. Number of witnesses, according to Luke, say,—for the sake of round numbers,—twenty; though there seems little reason to suppose it so great: addition made to it by Paul, 480. Number of days,—during which, as above, they continued seeing and hearing what they saw and heard,—according to Saint Luke, but one: according to Paul's attendant, 40. Multiply together the two improvements, that is to say, the 480 by the 40, you have 19,200 for the sum total of probative force, added by the arguments of the author of the Acts to the amount of the original quantity, as reported by Saint Luke.

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