- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

The Bible books of Luke and Acts were written to defend St. Paul's missionary work in the face of Roman persecution, according to a new theory.
Luke wrote his Gospel about the life of Jesus, which included the Resurrection celebrated at Easter, as well as the letter called Acts, to win over a Roman investigator, said author John W. Mauck, a Presbyterian and trial lawyer in Chicago.
"Luke is arguing the veracity of the faith, but more particularly he argues for its legality at a time when Rome said only Judaism was legal," said Mr. Mauck. "Luke is saying we are authentically Jewish."
In the eyes of Rome, that would legalize the group called "the Way," which said Jesus was the Messiah.
Mr. Mauck's book, "Paul on Trial," is the first work that says Acts was a legal brief defending Paul and others from execution by Rome. The Gospel of Luke was a background document explaining who Jesus was.
Some Christians have been dissapointed with the new theory, but theologians welcomed the legal insight into the times, said Mr. Mauck.
"No theologians have attacked this idea yet," he said. "Lawyers say it looks really solid."
Bible scholar Bruce Metzger of Princeton Theological Seminary said Luke's works were persuasive, and could have been legal.
"I would not narrow the defense to Paul, because it seemed a defense of all early Christian leaders," he said. "Luke wrote to say they were not controversial. He was being explanatory to make friends and influence people."
Mr. Mauck said his theory increases the credibility of Luke, a travelling companion of Paul's, and his works as accounts of Jesus and the early church. It establishes an earlier timeframe for his works.
If Luke had fabricated accounts about Jesus' body missing from the tomb, or about thousands of converts in Jerusalem, Rome's investigator could have found out and retaliated.
"I'm not saying this proves the Resurrection," Mr. Mauck said. "But it puts one more piece of evidence on the scales, and explains why Luke would not falsify his account."
During St. Paul's final arrest while doing missionary work around the Mediterranean, he had demanded a trial in Rome as a Roman citizen.
He arrived there under arrest probably in 60 A.D., about 27 years after Jesus' execution in Jerusalem. Two years later Nero, who ruled until 68 A.D., ordered Paul's execution.
Mr. Mauck said the legal intent of Acts shows up in Chapter 18, where Jewish leaders go before the proconsul of Corinth, Gallio, to charge Paul with "persuading men to worship God contrary to the law."
Roman law allowed only emperor worship and Jewish temple worship.
But Gallio, as if in a lower court ruling, dismissed the case, telling the Jewish leaders that since the dispute was a matter of "your own law, see to it yourself; I refuse to be a judge of these things."
Luke had hoped that Rome's prosecutors would similarly see Paul's missionary work as not Rome's business.
What is more, Luke and Acts were written to "most excellent Theophilus," thought to be an early Christian.
"I believe Theophilus was Nero's chief pretrial investigator," Mr. Mauck said. "Such a position existed, and it was addressed as 'most excellent.'"
That person, Mr. Mauck has written, "had the duty, resources, legal authority and expertise to investigate a 'special public trial,'" especially one with sedition charges, as presssed against Paul.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide