Does the Lack of Mention of Paul’s Death in the Book of Acts Indicate that Acts was Written Prior to His Death?

Image result for image of the beheading of paul

This is part 1 of my review of The Case for Christ by atheist-turned-evangelical-Christian Lee Strobel.

Strobel, recounting his interview of conservative Christian New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg,  on the reliability of the Gospels, page 35:

Blomberg:  We don’t find out from Acts [what happened to Paul] , probably because the book was written before Paul was put to death.  That means Acts cannot be dated any later than AD 62.  Having established that, we can then move backward from there.  Since Acts is the second of a two-part work, we know the first part—the Gospel of Luke—must have been written earlier than that.  And since Luke incorporates parts of the gospel of Mark, that means Mark is even earlier.  If you allow for a year for each of those, you end up with Mark written no later than about AD 60, maybe even the late 50’s.  If Jesus was put to death in AD 30 or 33, we’re talking about a maximum gap of thirty years or so.”

Gary Holy Conjecture, Batman!!!

What proof does Blomberg have that just because Paul’s death is not mentioned at the end of the Book of Acts that the Book of Acts must have been written prior to his death?  Answer:  Pure conjecture!  But then Blomberg has the audacity to follow up with this statement:  “…having established that…”

What exactly did you “establish“, Mr. Blomberg?

You gave no evidence for you conjecture whatsoever.  It is certainly possible that the omission of Paul’s death is a signal from the author of Acts that his book was written prior to Paul’s death, but such a possibility is certainly not sufficient to “establish” anything.  There are many possible explanations for why an author writing after Paul’s death would not include his death in the narrative.

But this is typical of conservative Christian apologetics.  They grasp at the slightest possible “straw” that might bolster their belief system, and then “establish” a case on it.  They use a few nonspecific statements allegedly made by a second century Bishop in Asia Minor, Papias, upon which to establish the traditional apostolic authorship of the Gospels!  Two other examples of this behavior is conservative scholar Richard Bauckham’s claim of the presence of an “inclusio” in the Gospel of Mark “establishing” that Peter is the source of this gospel, and, his baseless assertion that the reason that Mark names only some of the characters in his gospel is to indicate that the one’s he identifies by name were entrusted by the Early Church to maintain the accuracy of the story in which they participated.  Pure conjecture!

Good grief.


7 thoughts on “Does the Lack of Mention of Paul’s Death in the Book of Acts Indicate that Acts was Written Prior to His Death?

  1. From the orig post: “Answer: Pure conjecture!”

    Yes. It is. Precisely as are the claims that the Gospels were written post 70 AD.

    Don’t be pointing the finger screaming “conjecture, conjecture” unless you’re willing to point it at both sides, because both sides pull this kind of crap.

    If you’re really interested in finding out the truth, you’re not going to get there with the well-overdone bias you have.


    1. I left the following question on Bart Ehrman’s blog yesterday:

      Gary: What percentage of today’s critical NT scholars would YOU say believe in the historicity of an Empty Tomb of Jesus, and then more specifically, what percentage of today’s critical NT scholars would you say believe in the historicity of Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb as the empty tomb of Jesus?

      Ehrman responded today: I don’t know the percentage, but I would say the great majority.


  2. Pauls death may not be mentioned in Acts because
    (a) it hadn’t occurred by the time of the writing
    (b) the book was written after Pauls death, but the writer didn’t want to mention it.

    Why *wouldn’t* the writer want to mention Pauls death? Was he thinking “I want people, 2000 years from now, to think this was written *before* Pauls death”? I so very seriously doubt it. In fact, I seriously doubt anybody else would think that.

    Was he trying to make people “back then” believe that the document was written *before* Paul’s death? I doubt it. It wouldn’t have given the document any more “validity” to do so. Let’s say that Acts had been written a year after Paul’s death – why wouldn’t the writer want to include his death in the book? Was it supposed to be for the purpose of making people think Paul was still alive? Like, he wasn’t supposed to die or something? The NT certainly attests to the deaths of some other very important people, like Jesus, John the Baptist, James, Stephan… Why not Paul? Heck, it would have just been adding Paul to the List of Martyrs. Besides, it was only going to be a matter of time before word got out that Paul was dead. So, there hardly seems any rational for the writer, in this case, to not include Paul’s death.

    So, lets say that Acts was written 30 years after Paul’s death – a total “forgery”. What possible difference would it have made if the document included – perhaps ended with – Paul’s death? Did not the whole of the Christian community almost assuredly know of Paul’s death by then? What is gained by *not* including Paul’s death? If the book covered the history clear up until Paul’s imprisonment in Rome (which it does), then what possible gain is there to not go ahead and report Paul’s death? It’s not as if including Paul’s death would somehow “signal” that “this book is a forgery”. So, I fail to see any gain whatsoever, even in the event that Acts was a forgery, not to include Paul’s death.

    But, we’re not concerned whether Acts is forgery right now. We’re looking at it as if it was really a continuation of the Gospel of Luke, and trying to figure out whether it, and the Gospel of Luke, might have been written *before* Paul’s death.

    So, if that’s what we’re trying to do, then I’m just having a great difficulty imagining a reason why the writer of Acts would consciously make the decision to leave Paul’s death out of the document, it it was indeed written *after* Paul’s death. There is no purpose served by doing so. And, knowing that Paul had indeed “kept the faith”, and persevered to the end, even unto his own death, could have been a tremendous encouragement for the rest of the believers who could have been strengthened by such resolve.

    Bottom line: Unless somebody can make a really convincing case as to why the writer, writing *after* Paul’s death, would have omitted his death, then I’m with the bunch that believes Acts was written *before* Paul died.


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