Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Why didn’t Luke mention the deaths of Paul, Peter and James in the book of Acts?

J. Warner Wallace makes the case for an early date for Luke’s gospel.


I make a much more elaborate and cumulative case for the early dating of the gospels in Cold Case Christianity, but a portion of this case revolves around Luke’s omission of three important deaths in the Book of Acts: the deaths of Paul, Peter and James. A recent listener to the Stand to Reason “Please Convince Me” Podcast recently wrote: “Firstly, perhaps such historical events were simply beyond the scope of the author of Acts? It has been suggested that the author may have been aware of the aforementioned events, but he chose instead to end his account thematically with the Gospel finally reaching the heart of Gentile civilization, Rome… Is it really viable to suggest that these possibilities are less reasonable than the early dating hypothesis?” One of the evidences in the Book of Acts that makes the omission of Paul, Peter and James’ death so powerful is the inclusion of two other deaths in the narrative: the deaths of Stephen and James, the brother of John:

Acts 7:58-60
When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of da young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 12:1-2
Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.

As important as Stephen and James, the brother of John, were to the early Church, it can hardly be argued that Paul, Peter and James, the three most important Christian leaders of the first century and the primary characters of the Book of Acts narrative, would not be considered important enough to describe their deaths. Is it possible (viable) that Luke “may have been aware of the aforementioned events, but chose instead to end his account thematically with the Gospel finally reaching the heart of Gentile civilization, Rome?” Of course it’s possible, because anything and everything is possible. But it’s not reasonable.

I am one of those people who thinks that all three synoptic gospels should be dated prior to 65 A.D. and this is one of my main reasons for thinking so. I might be willing to concede later dates in a debate situation, but I think that the synoptic gospels were written from 40 to 65 AD.

By the way, if you haven’t got your copy of Cold Case Christianity, what are you waiting for? The thing is getting rave reviews from everyone!

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. Mathetes says:

    I think you’re right about the dates. Wallace makes a great common sense argument for early dating. Also, I recently listened to his talk that he gave to Reasonable Faith Belfast. I was embarrassed to find out for the first time that Luke is quoted in 1 Timothy. There’s only one way to evade an early date for Luke – assume that Paul didn’t write 1 Timothy. Together with the points in your post, however, the early dating explains a lot.

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