Getting into the Acts

(Posted by Paige)

Two research questions for the scholarly amongst us:

1. Do you know of any book or article-length treatments of Luke’s Greek, covering both Luke and Acts? He uses so many unique words that I’d love a guide through the Lukan Lexicon.

2. Has anybody ever written about the similarities between Stephen’s speech and the book of Hebrews? I’m noticing some intriguing connections, both lexical and conceptual. Don’t know what to make of them yet, but I find them striking. Who else has thought this through?

Thanks, all!


  1. Adam Parker said,

    December 29, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    My friend Josh Walker co-authored a chapter to a book edited by Stanley Porter on Paul. In that chapter, Walker and Pitts examine the linguistic similarities of Hebrews and the speeches in Acts.

    We wrote a blog post about this a little over a year ago where I bragged on him a bit. It includes a link at the end of the article linking to Porter’s book.

  2. paigebritton said,

    December 29, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Hey, thanks! I’ll check that out.

  3. Chris Engelsma said,

    December 29, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    In A.T. Robertson’s big Greek grammar, he has a chapter on each author’s Greek. I require this as reading in my Greek course.

  4. paigebritton said,

    December 29, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for that idea! I’ll look into it. (I’m assuming you said it twice — new commenters get hung up in the “pending” queue till we get to you!)

  5. Phil Derksen said,

    December 29, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    David Allen’s “Lukan Authorship of Hebrews” extensively explores the grammatical and thematic issues you mentioned.

  6. paigebritton said,

    December 29, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Interesting! I didn’t expect the trail to lead to such a tight connection between Luke and Hebrews (or Paul and Hebrews)!

  7. paigebritton said,

    December 30, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I will have to read the arguments for the Lukan authorship of Hebrews, but my initial thought is that this is unlikely, just considering the pastoral voice of the sermon-letter (same reason I don’t think it could have been written by a woman). Maybe there’s missing data about Luke himself, but he seems to have been called and gifted as a physician and a journalist, not a church planter or pastor.

  8. roberty bob said,

    December 30, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Both Stephen and Hebrews give the attribution to Moses of being “no ordinary child.” Stephen even attributes to Moses of being “powerful in speech [Moses rejected this notion out of hand!] and action.”

    Both Stephen and Hebrews show how Moses self-identified with his fellow Hebrews. Stephen goes into detail over the incident in which Moses mistakenly believed that his act of killing the Egyptian who was beating up a fellow Hebrew might have endeared him to the Hebrews. As events unfolded, Moses’ right to deliver the Hebrew people out of Egypt met with robust challenge. In this way he [Moses] was despised and rejected, even as the true Successor of Moses’ prophetic ministry — of whom Stephen spoke — would be rejected. Both Stephen and Hebrews warn of judgment to come upon those who reject Moses’ successor.

    Stephen also notes that that it was the Angel in the Bush who appointed Moses to lead the Exodus, and that it was the Angel who spoke to Moses on the Holy Mount. Hebrews addresses the congregation from out of that understanding — that the Angel (or angels) mediated the covenant that came into effect in the Mosaic administration, and then goes on to assert that Christ is superior to the angels.


    These are the connections that I noticed at a glance, so I’m guessing that these are the obvious ones. Surely there are more. It does cause one to wonder about how closely the author of Hebrews is related to Luke. Of the pool of candidates for Hebrews authorship, Apollos is my first choice. I think that he could have made Luke’s acquaintance somewhere along the way.

  9. paigebritton said,

    December 30, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Yes, I noticed the same things, but my conclusion was different — it didn’t seem to point to a connection with Luke, but a connection with Stephen. We get Luke’s koine word choices, but Stephen’s content.

  10. roberty bob said,

    December 30, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    What are the possibilities here?

    1 the author of Hebrews was in the congregation for Stephen’s sermon and was so impacted by what he heard that he even remembered the attribution to Moses being no ordinary child.

    2 a transcript of Stephen’s sermon was in circulation throughout the Christian churches; Luke would later see this transcript with his own eyes, and incorporate it The Acts of the Apostles. The author of Hebrews also had the opportunity to read this transcript.

    3 Luke, while in the process of compiling material for Luke – Acts, engaged in significant conversation with the author of Hebrews, sharing some of his gatherings.


    If the author of Hebrews borrows from Luke’s koine word choices, then I would opt with my #3 possibility — a sure connection with Luke.

    What if the Apostle Paul, with Luke as mission partner and journalist, set apart some time with Apollos [Paul’s team did get the gifted Apollos up to speed, did they not?] in order to equip him for an effective ministry among the Jews? What if Luke shared some of his gatherings for the Luke – Acts project . . . and that the Stephen segment struck a chord with the man who would one day be inspired to write the Epistle to the Hebrews?

  11. De Maria said,

    December 31, 2014 at 7:26 am

    You’re overlooking the obvious. St. Paul was there when St. Stephen uttered those words. St. Luke was a companion of St. Paul. St. Paul is the author of Hebrews.

  12. roberty bob said,

    January 1, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    to #11 . . .

    You are right. Saul was listening to Stephen’s sermon, and was no doubt profoundly impacted by it.

    I could accept St. Paul as the author of Hebrews. Hebrews reads more like a sermon [formal and lengthy, to be sure], so it need not resemble the Epistles of Paul. If Paul was not the author, then someone closely associated with Paul, and with a focused ministry to Hebrew Christians [Apollos? Barnabas? Priscilla?], would be the top prospect.

  13. De Maria said,

    January 1, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    It is not unknown that St. Paul would have others to write for him. For instance:

    Romans 16:22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.

    Apparently, like those kids who steal a quick “Hi mom!” when they’re interviewed on TV, Tertius, the man who actually put pen to paper, stole a quick hello in the midst of all the endings which St. Paul appended to the Epistle of the Romans.

    Or, perhaps, it was he, Tertius, who appended all those endings after St. Paul had ended his discourse. Maybe he added them at the behest of his friends.

    It kind of reminds me of phone calls with beloved people who are far away and everyone is waiting for you to hand over the phone. Then, the other person says, “I’ve got to go.” And everyone says, “Tell him this and that, tell him we send our love. Tell him to call.” Etc. etc.

  14. De Maria said,

    January 1, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    If Paul was not the author, then someone closely associated with Paul, and with a focused ministry to Hebrew Christians [Apollos? Barnabas? Priscilla?], would be the top prospect.

    How about St. Timothy? Isn’t his mother a Hebrew?

    Acts 16:1-3Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

    16 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: 2 which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

    He would have been well versed in the Hebrew since his mother taught him the Hevrew Scriptures from his youth:

    2 Tim 1:5 when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice;

    2 Tim 3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures,

    That also makes sense to me because of the ending:

    23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.

    St. Timothy had been his messenger in other occasions:

    1 Corinthians 4:17
    That’s why I have sent Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord.

    Philippians 2:19
    If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon

    1 Thessalonians 3:2
    and we sent Timothy to visit you.

    St. Timothy was a busy man.

    I’m of the opinion, that St. Timothy had to go somewhere, first, but when he returned, St. Paul would send him, with the letter, to see the Hebrews.

    I don’t believe that St. Paul ever expected to be set free nor to accompany St. Timothy. Maybe he was just hoping he could join them soon.

    Per St. Thomas Aquinas:

    773. – Then he recommends the one through whom he writes, saying, You should understand that our brother Timothy has been released, namely, from prison, where he was with the Apostle. Or released by me to preach and come to you, both because he had been circumcised (Ac. 16:3) and because, with whom I will see you, if he comes soon. In this he shows the love he had for them. He also shows this because, even though he did not visit them, he was suffering in Rome and was uncertain whether he would be set at liberty for a while.

  15. Cris Dickason said,

    January 7, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    After I read this post, I happened to be listening to Acts chs 6 through 12 while hitting the treadmill after some weight work (mind you, when I’m doing a 5 or 6 mile run it’s got to be Irish fiddle music to motivate & pace me). But walking the treadmill I thought I could listen to Acts (our mid-week groups are going through Acts, 1st section after the holidays is Acts 6:1-15. Subconsciously primed by your question no doubt, in the middle of ch 7 I was indeed cross in my mind to passages and thought patterns from Hebrews!
    So I had to pass that thought and the following along:
    Language & style of NT writers, older but still worthwhile might be:
    * The language of the New Testament (The Theological educator) by William Henry Simcox

    * The Writers Of The New Testament: Their Style and Characteristics by William Henry Simcox >> chapter on The Epistle to the Hebrews (with its relations to SS Paul and Luke)

    Simcox is available at archive dot org.

    Stephen & Hebrews:

    W. Manson – The Epistle to the Hebrews (1951) includes the Stephen connection. Has a thesis that theb outcome of Stephen’s influece is seen in Hebrews. Manso also has an essay in his book, Jesus and the Christian (1967), pp 199-207, esp. p. 202

    >> This info is from Ralph P. Martin, NT Foundations: A Guide for Christian Students, volume 2: The Acts, the Epistles, the Apocalypse. Chapter 6 touches on Acts 6 (&7)!

  16. Cris Dickason said,

    January 7, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    >> cross in my mind << should be cross-referencing in my mind…

  17. paigebritton said,

    January 7, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for the references, Cris! Isn’t that an interesting connection? There were all kinds of intersections of minds and stories during that crazy era that we only get to glimpse peripherally.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: