Chapter 1. Luke's Portrait of Paul
Before approaching the letters of Paul it will be useful to establish an outline of the story of Paul's missions which form their background and context. This can be done only after aninvestigation into the Acts of the Apostles and Luke's way of writing history. The data of Paul'sletters and of the Acts are not identical. The letters, however, are the primary sources for theauthor's life and the Luke's story in the Acts is only a secondary source, so that in cases of factualdispute preference should be given to the letters.In his article on Paul in the
New Jerome Biblical Commentary
givesthe appearance of maintaining the traditional position, using the data of Acts,while in fact carefully leaving the two unreconciled by relating the data of Acts inthe present tense (dramatic!) and the data of Paul's writings in the past (historic!)tense.In fact Luke is a good historian, but that this does not necessarily imply that he writes accordingto the modern canons of historical writing. He is a historian of his own times, and uses theconventions then current. It will therefore first be important to understand how Luke writeshistory.
1. Basics - the Traditional Data
Before we go any further, it will be useful to have firmly in mind two traditional sets of data:
A. Paul's life according to the Acts
Conversion46-49 First Missionary Journey (southern Turkey)49 Council of Jerusalemc.
Second Missionary Journey (Asia Minor & Greece)Third Missionary Journey (Greece & Asia Minor)58 Arrest in Jerusalem60 Journey to Rome62 Release at Rome - [further missionary journeys to East and Spain64 Martyrdom in Rome during Nero's persecution]The evidence for the two ‘firm’ dates given here (36 and 52 A.D.) is as follows:36 The date of Pilate's withdrawal from Palestine on the orders of the governor of Syria.Since a capital sentence was reserved to the Roman governor, it is assumed that the martyrdomof Stephen took place in the interregnum between governors, because only then could the localgovernment get away with passing such a sentence. Luke states that the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of Saul, who fully approved of the killing (Ac 7.59-8.1). If this is not a mereliterary artifice - a decision which depends on one's view of Luke's way of writing history - itshows that Stephen's martyrdom preceded Paul's conversion. The alternative explanation is that3
(London, Geoffrey Chapman, 1990) Article 79, 'Paul'