Skip to main content

Full text of "The Authorship of the "We" Sections of the Book of Acts"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world byJSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 




Pomona College 

How alluring and yet how elusive is the personality of 
the self-effacing Diarist of the Acts! Modest to the last 
degree and yet dignified in his quiet assurance that he is 
an integral part of the most significant spiritual fellow- 
ship of his day, a hero worshiper, lost in admiration for 
his leader and yet singularly correct in his identification 
of really great events, and always unwaveringly convinced 
that he is observing and recording consequential affairs, 
he nobly deserves his place in the comradeship of the 
Book. The more, therefore, should we like to draw this 
quiet workman out of his namelessness, and set him in his 
true place as pioneer of those historians of the clearer in- 
sight to whom the expanding church of Jesus Christ has 
seemed the central fact of the world's life. Can we do him 
this right ? I venture to hope that it may yet be possible. 

The consequences, however, are far from being merely 
a matter of personal justice and recognition. No ques- 
tion is more fundamental to the whole structure of the 
higher criticism of the New Testament than is the long- 
debated problem of the authorship of these diary pas- 
sages of Acts, bearing as they do every mark of being the 
priceless record of an actual eyewitness to the events 
described. As such they are the earliest bits of assured 
first-hand testimony which the New Testament docu- 
ments afford. This primacy alone would make them of 
inestimable importance. But farther than this, they are 
inextricably interwoven with the problem of the author- 
ship of the whole book of Acts, and so also of the Gospel 
of Luke. Indeed if we could unfold the original mystery 


of these sections, it is at least possible that a flood of 
light would thus be thrown on both the literary and his- 
torical habits of the author of Luke-Acts and so not only 
on the validity and historicity of his results in both books, 
but also upon the whole Synoptic problem and the bases 
which lie under it. Indeed there is much to indicate that, 
with all the study which has heretofore been devoted to 
the Acts, it is not unlikely that just now the largest hope 
of critical progress in the New Testament resides in this 
book; and if so, the question of the authorship of these 
particular sections is of new significance. 

Let us restate the elements of the problem. The " we " 
passages begin with Paul's departure from Troas on his 
second missionary journey. Thence the Diarist accom- 
panies him to Philippi, where the " we " is discontinued. 
Apparently leaving this companion here, Paul goes on 
his way to Thessalonica and Achaia and thence to Ephe- 
sus and Jerusalem. The third missionary journey brings 
Paul back to Ephesus for a long stay and thence to Mace- 
donia and Greece, whence he once more travels north to 
Philippi, where the " we " passages again begin. Thus 
after a separation of six years the Diarist apparently re- 
joins his leader at the very point where they had parted, 
the obvious inference being that the intervening years 
had been spent by him in some association with the 
Philippian church. Following the reunion a scattered 
use of the plural pronoun in the subsequent chapters of 
Acts indicates that he then accompanied Paul on the 
eventful journey to Jerusalem and Caesarea and thence, 
in due time and on the same ship, to Rome, where the 
book of Acts suddenly, even abruptly, ends. This com- 
panionship from Philippi to Rome, covering the most 
intimate relations, must have occupied about three years. 
That a man should share with Paul these stirring events 
and be involved in such an endearing fellowship of suf- 
fering and peril during these conspicuous and conse- 


quential years, and yet slip through the meshes of all the 
comprehensive personal references to the Pauline group, 
seems absolutely incredible. Paul's friends troop through 
the Acts and crowd the salutatory passages of the Epistles, 
yet historical cross-questioning has dismissed them all 
from probable identity with the Diarist. Gradually this 
process of elimination has seemed to leave but one pos- 
sible name. Surely this dear companion cannot be un- 
mentioned in the Pauline literature; he must be here; 
but of all Luke is the only possibility. So the argument 
has run. Strange indeed it would be if this long-time 
companion, whose acquaintance must have been scattered 
all along the line of his thousands of miles of travel with 
St. Paul, should never be mentioned in the greetings of 
salutation or remembrance; and yet are we right in the 
final selection among those who do appear ? Was it 
Luke ? Notwithstanding all repeated argument, the 
doubt has never rested. 

Tradition indeed has consistently assigned the com- 
pleted book of Acts to Luke. We may well surmise, 
however, that early opinion based itself merely on the 
same hopeless process of reduction which has been the 
despair of later critics, only Luke being left apparently as 
a possibility after the enforced elimination of every other 
hypothesis of authorship. Then too to those who under- 
stand the naivete of early criticism it is highly suggestive 
that the phrase, " Only Luke is with me," furnishes 
exactly the soil out of which such a tradition would be 
most likely to grow. Nevertheless tradition, whatever its 
worth, is unanimously in favor of Luke. The consensus 
begins with the Muratorian fragment (170 a.d.), is ac- 
cepted as a matter of course by Irenseus, a few years 
later, and is axiomatic with Eusebius; but beyond the 
mere matter of authorship there is no information addi- 
tional to the biblical facts unless it be the Eusebian state- 
ments {Hist. Ecc. Ill, 4.6) that Luke was of Antiochean 


origin and (Hist. Ecc. II, 22.6) that probably the book 
was written at Rome during Paul's second imprisonment. 
This of course refers to the book as a whole and leaves un- 
touched the question of the original authorship of the 
" we" sections. Following this lead, however, those who are 
committed to the late date of the Acts, have sought refuge 
in the suggestion that Luke was really the author of these 
sections only, and that it was around this modicum of 
truth that the misconception which attributed the whole 
book to him grew up. On the other hand, those who as- 
sign to him the authorship of the completed Acts have 
felt the special diflS^culty of refusing him these portions of 
the book recording, as they do, those very experiences 
which it seems most possible that he might have shared 
personally. The atmosphere of the later days of the 
first century which seems to surround the Acts, together 
with the growing evidence of the composite nature of the 
book, certainly make it clear that the theory of the Lukan 
authorship of the whole book has much to explain; but 
in either case the theory of the Lukan origin of the " we " 
passages is germane and has thus a substantial basis in 
tradition. Is this tradition correct ? 

In answering the question our first duty is to discover 
from the " we " sections, if possible, the movement of 
events and the personal niche into which the undis- 
covered writer must fit. Of course it is possible that the 
original diary was much longer than is our present docu- 
ment, and that the compiler of the Acts used therefore 
only those sections which he found particularly apropos. 
If this is the case, the complete document might seriously 
modify or complicate the history of the Diarist as it lies 
on the surface of these excerpts. But there is certainly 
a strong presumption against this theory of abbreviation, 
particularly if the omitted sections included farther ac- 
counts of any personal relations with or even impressions 
of St. Paul. The compiler of Acts leans so heavily on 


this document and evidently trusts it so absolutely that 
it seems unlikely, to say the least, that he would com- 
pletely delete other portions which recorded further per- 
sonal companionship with Paul. On the other hand, the 
" we " document, as it now appears, so evidently exists for 
the primary purpose of telling Paul's story that, in case it 
was originally longer, it almost certainly included the 
accounts of any additional relations which the author 
shared with Paul, if such there were. Of course such an 
argument cannot be final. It is only this: We have no 
suggestion of a longer document, and such negative 
evidence as we have looks quite in the direction of 
the view that we have in the " we " passages substan- 
tially all that this document ever contained regarding the 
author's personal fellowship with Paul. And the probable 
correctness of this view will be immeasurably increased 
if we can find any otherwise probable person whose 
movements fit well into the record as indicated by the 
document in its present form and limits. 

A careful review of the document and also of the cir- 
cumstances under which the Diarist first appears just as 
Paul is leaving on his first European adventure, suggests 
that this new companion must already have been a man 
of some proved capacity for evangelistic pioneering when 
he thus steps into our sight. We may certainly assume 
that no doubtful novice would be associated with a group 
which is about to enter upon such an epochal under- 
taking. Nevertheless, if we take the facts as they appear 
on the surface, this comrade had not previously been as- 
sociated with Paul. For some reason his fortunes ap- 
parently first fall in with Paul's at Troas. At least this 
should be our experimental hypothesis, and our initial 
effort should be to find someone whose biography will 
fit into such circumstances and conditions. From Troas 
he will then go with his leader to Philippi. Here he will 
be on new ground, for the whole group is evidently 


breaking fresh soil. They have no friends; no one 
meets them. Their first permanent lodging-place is in 
the home of a casual new acquaintance, the purple- 
seller, Lydia, into contact with whom the work acciden- 
tally brings them. From the day that the Diarist starts 
for Macedonia, concluding that with Paul God had 
" called us to preach the gospel unto them," it is evident 
that he was feeling his way into new surroundings. He 
is apparently not a Macedonian. 

But soon the situation changes. Following, for the pres- 
ent, the omissions as well as the admissions of the docu- 
ment as our guide, it appears that Paul leaves the Diarist 
at Philippi. The latter is not the founder of this church; 
Paul is that; but he remains there possibly for six years, 
and is doubtless the chief constructive influence in the 
church. The qualities which suggested him originally for 
the enterprise point him out now to carry on the work 
in this important center and inevitably involve him in the 
gathering affection of this company of Christians. His 
life merges with their life, and it would only be what is 
natural should he become their most conspicuous repre- 
sentative and leader. 

The Philippian church was par excellence a generous 
church. Paul had repeated occasion to refer to this out- 
standing characteristic. In the Epistle to the Philip- 
pians he records the fact that across all the stretch of 
time and distance this church was mindful of him and 
remembered him with gifts sent to distant Rome, the 
memory of which kindness was like sweet incense; and 
he recalls also that this generosity had been typical of 
the church from " the beginning of the gospel," for " even 
in Thessalonica," whence Paul went from Philippi, " ye 
sent once and again unto my need," and " no church had 
fellowship with me in the matter . . . but ye only." 

Such a church must inevitably have responded to the 
appeal of Paul for the offering for the Jerusalem church. 


This project of a general " collection " looms large in 
Paul's mind. Doubtless it had an irenic motive, but it 
was also important as a call to the development of a 
fundamental Christian grace. His letters to the churches 
flame with urgency that they make ready by a definite 
program for the hour when this gift shall be carried to 
Jerusalem. The formal presentation is to be a notable 
event, to be accomplished by a deputation composed of 
messengers (1 Cor. 16 3, 4) selected by the contributing 
churches in company with Paul himself, if he can go. 
This deputation is gathering about Paul when, after the 
six intervening years, he is rejoined at Philippi by the 
Diarist, who proceeds with the company to Jerusalem. 
Obviously the church at Philippi will have its leading 
part in this generosity. There would have been no title 
ever again to grateful remembrance in Paul's mind if it 
failed now. Giving generously, the Philippian church will 
also naturally have its delegate in the deputation. The 
Diarist gives us the names of the delegates (Acts 20 4). 
Various sections of the church are represented. Two go 
from the neighboring church of Thessalonica. Others 
represent various fields. But no one is named from Phil- 
ippi. This situation can only be explained by the natural 
conclusion that the Diarist was the Philippian represen- 

The importance of this collection-project as it lay in 
Paul's mind cannot be overstated. The fact that it was 
of really primary significance and of the highest ecclesiasti- 
cal consequence is to be gathered from the constant refer- 
ence to it in his Epistles. It is hardly open to question 
that the two brethren (II Cor. 8 18-23) who went to Corinth 
to forward the matter there were already the appointed 
representatives of the churches of Asia, that they there- 
fore reappear in the deputation as it is later named 
(Acts 20 4), and that it is because of their commission to 
this important and responsible service that Paul digni- 


fies them by the title of " apostles." In view of this 
designation, we shall expect the Diarist, as a member of 
the same group, to be held in hke esteem, and we may hope 
to identify him under the same title of honor and authen- 
ticated responsibility; he will be an " apostle " — if this 
chain of consequences which we have thus followed is 

In any case men are known by the company they keep, 
and we may well draw near to the comrades of the 
Diarist for such suggestion as they have to give. Of 
three we know little, but of the others there is something 
of significance to say. It is the presence of Trophimus 
at Jerusalem that indirectly causes the trouble which 
ultimately sent Paul, a prisoner, to Rome (Acts 21 29), 
and if II Timothy 4 20 is trustworthy, he was at a later 
day a traveling companion of St. Paul. Of the remaining 
four, half of the whole number — Timothy, Tychicus, 
Aristarchus, and the Diarist — the singular fact is to be 
recorded that they not only accompanied the apostle to 
Jerusalem but they continued with him or followed him 
to Rome. In other words, the Diarist is a member of a 
deputation which is not only of such a formal ecclesiasti- 
cal nature that its members might be designated as the 
" apostles " of the churches, but at the same time also, 
of such a private nature that they are in some peculiar 
way committed to the personal interests of Paul and to 
such fortunes or misfortunes as may befall him individu- 
ally. Under such a dual relation as this the Diarist, if 
we identify him, must make his appearance. 

With such a company the author of the " we " sections 
goes on his way from Philippi to Jerusalem. He is pres- 
ent at the conference with James and the other elders. 
Exactly how near he was to the person of Paul during the 
dramatic events of his arrest and subsequent local trials 
we do not know, but the intimacy of the account indicates 
that he was not far away. In any case he is one of the 


two companions who, putting their lives in jeopardy, 
share the perils of Paul's voyage to Rome, as he goes 
under guard to make his appeal to Caesar. The Diarist 
specifies that Aristarchus, one of the deputation, is the 
third member of the group (Acts 27 2). The plain indica- 
tion is that his companionship — and if so, that also of 
the Diarist probably — is voluntary, but it nevertheless 
must have involved a sharp and perhaps compulsory sub- 
mission to the limitations of the prisoner for whose sake 
they were known to be aboard. It is highly probable 
therefore that it is to this occasion which Paul refers 
when he later speaks of Aristarchus as his " fellow pris- 
oner " (Col. 4 10), for Paul was not unaccustomed perman- 
ently so to identify those who had once shared his prison. 
He calls them fellow prisoners not as in the present but 
as having had this relation in the past. Indeed this is 
his only manner of using the term elsewhere (Rom. 16 7; 
Philem. 23). If it is indeed thus with Aristarchus, we 
have every reason to expect that Paul would think of 
the Diarist as also a " fellow prisoner," and if we shall 
later find that Paul does thus think of him, it will in turn 
strengthen our conviction that it is this experience with 
Aristarchus to which Paul refers when he describes him 
as a " fellow prisoner." 

Thus after anxious days, in which his own life has been 
absolutely subordinated to Paul's fortunes, the Diarist 
comes to Rome, Up to this point he has followed the 
events of his leader's life with an absorbed and concen- 
trated interest. He has absolutely risked all to see how it 
should fare with his hero at the final tribunal of imperial 
Rome. Now that leader is on the threshold either of an 
acquittal, which is to set him free for a world service, or 
else of a conviction which shall permanently terminate 
the great career; and yet just before this event is reached, 
the record stops. 


What can this sudden ending indicate ? The strange- 
ness of it all has begotten the theory that the Diarist, or 
perhaps, if he was a different person, the author of the 
book of Acts was really not intending to recount Paul's 
fortunes save as they were involved in the larger theme — 
how the gospel came to Rome. But if so, he passes over 
with absolute unconcern the fact that the gospel was 
already in Rome when Paul arrived, as the Epistle to 
the Romans and other evidence makes clear, and he 
shows no interest whatever in the origin of the Roman 
church. And even if this theory could possibly be correct, 
it does not explain why, after all our breathless sus- 
pense, the personal outcome to St. Paul should be elimi- 
nated as of no legitimate interest. There are but two 
possible theories of explanation for this strange con- 
clusion. Either the diary has for some reason been 
decapitated, or else the manuscript came to an end 
because imperative events terminated the companionship 
thus suddenly. Now of course mutilation is always a 
possibility. As at the beginning of the manuscript, so at 
the end there may have been a process of surgery; but, 
as at the beginning so at the end, the conditions are such 
as to make this a secondary hypothesis, and our first 
search must be for some one whose companionship with 
Paul, otherwise also conformable to the Diarist's experi- 
ences, comes suddenly and perhaps unnaturally to an end 
soon after the arrival at Rome. 

Such in general is the Diarist's history, and such is the 
niche into which the man and his experiences must be 
adjusted. The details may not be all exact but the main 
movement is unquestionably correct, and the more ex- 
actly the details correspond, the better the identification. 
Can such a person be found ? As we have thus reviewed 
his history and the qualities and abilities which it de- 
manded, the more impossible it seems that so conse- 


quential a person should slip unidentified through that 
remarkable drama in which he played so notable a part. 
Who then can he have been ? 

Was it Luke ? Assuming this theory, the meagreness 
of the information regarding him is our first diflSculty. 
So far as the biblical record goes, there is only Paul's 
statement (Col. 4 14; Philem. 24) during the first Roman 
imprisonment, that Luke, the beloved physician, sends 
salutation, and his additional and necessarily doubtful 
memorandum in the later Roman imprisonment (II Tim. 
4 lO) that only Luke is with him. So far as tradition is 
concerned there is only the record that he was a native 
of Antioch and that the completed book of Acts was his 
work. And this notwithstanding the fact that if he was 
the Diarist, he was an intimate and long-time companion 
of Paul in extended journeys, absorbing experiences, and 
extreme perils — an outstanding companionship. And 
yet while other comrades appear and reappear in saluta- 
tions to and from the churches along the way and are 
mentioned as fellow prisoners, fellow travelers, apostles, 
etc., Luke slips by with never such a suggestion and only 
as one of the Roman group. How improbable this 

But the moment we seek to put Luke in the Diarist's 
place by means of the slight data we possess, the detailed 
difficulties accumulate. If Luke was an Antiochean, why 
does his companionship begin at far-off Troas ? He 
must have known Paul at Antioch. Why no mention of 
the companionship which brought them the long journey 
to Troas ? Or if such a record was there originally, then 
why was it submerged or eliminated when the rest of the 
document is counted so valuable and is used with such 
constant trustfulness and interest ? That Luke qualifies 
as the Diarist on the theory that he had lived in Philippi 
seems to me wholly unwarranted, as appears from the 
attitude of the missionary party to their evidently new 


surroundings on reaching that city, and the suggestion 
of such a citizenship indeed appears to proceed wholly 
from the interesting desire to identify the Diarist with 
the " man from Macedonia " (Acts 19 9), a supposition 
which, while surely picturesque, is certainly contrary to 
the most natural interpretation of the following verse. 

Proceeding then to the Diarist's prolonged residence at 
Philippi where he nurtured and developed the church 
from infancy to notable strength and prestige, how 
strange it is that no mention is made of him in the Epistle 
to the Philippians! This Epistle was written from Rome. 
If Luke was the Diarist, he was of course in Rome with 
Paul. He is mentioned as being there in Colossians and 
Philemon, evidently written almost contemporaneously. 
Other companions are mentioned in the Philippian Epistle, 
but this long-time sponsor of the Philippian church, if 
Luke be that, is never mentioned ! The only possible ex- 
planation for such a strange fact is that Luke was away 
on a short visit. But even so, is it not strange that no 
mention even is made to this church of the pastor who 
has been Paul's long, devoted, and imperiled companion 
and to whom he is so profoundly indebted ? Would it 
not be the obvious thing to explain the strange omission 
by at least a reference to the absence ? How can less be 
possible ? 

And now of the journey from Philippi to Rome. If we 
are correct in identifying Tychicus and Trophimus as the 
brethren referred to in II Cor. 8, 18, 22, then it follows that 
Paul dignified the members of this deputation by the 
apostolic title (II Cor. 8 23), a recognition held in such 
high esteem by him that he coimts himself a modest 
member of that high company. But if Luke was a mem- 
ber of this delegation, no such title is ever bestowed upon 
him. Again of the two companions with Paul on the 
sea-voyage from Csesarea to Rome, if Aristarchus is later 
called a " fellow prisoner " (Col. 4 lO), certainly no such 


title is bestowed anywhere on Luke. He is simply the 
beloved physician and one of a large group of fellow 
laborers (Philem. 24). And of all the journey and ship- 
wreck, no word ! 

Finally we come on to assured ground. Luke is evi- 
dently a somewhat intimate companion with Paul at 
Rome. This companionship is continued indefinitely, 
and, if we accept at all the guidance of II Tim. 4 11, reap- 
pears in the second Roman imprisonment, where he is 
left, the only living witness, to give his invaluable testi- 
mony. But the surer we are of this, the more inevitably 
does the question arise why this faithful Diarist should 
have left the record of his hero, just as he was on the very 
threshold of a decision at the hands of the world's high- 
est tribunal, with no word of the result or of those sub- 
sequent events with which Luke of all others was surely 
familiar. How strange the conclusion by which an in- 
formed comrade withholds the d6nouement of Paul's 
whole dramatic appeal to Rome ! Granted even that the 
personal outcome was not the main concern of the writ- 
er's purpose in the book of Acts, it yet remains most in- 
explicable that this loyal lieutenant, risking all in a 
crusade with his captain, should dismiss the outcome of 
those fortunes as unworthy even of passing mention. 
But of all this there are only the two closing verses of the 
Acts. The record ends with the arrival at Rome. All 
else is silence. Again the question presses home with 
redoubled force: Why does the diary end here .'* Was 
it originally longer, and if so, why was it abridged ? To 
be sure, all this is negative evidence. But how over- 
whelmingly cumulative it is! The Lukan theory cer- 
tainly raises more questions than it solves. Is it the best 
we can do ? If so, we are left in dismay. 

I believe this is by no means the best we can do, 
and I desire to point out the remarkable array of facts 
which indicate that Epaphroditus (Phil. 2 25; 4 18) who. 


as I believe, is identical with Epaphras (Col. 1 7, 4 12; 
Philem. 23) is the lost Diarist. 

The view that these two names belong to one and the 
same person has long been recognized as the simplest and 
most plausible theory, but thus far it has run athwart 
difficulties which have seemed very perplexing but 
which may presently be entirely cleared away. Epaphras 
is a shortened form of Epaphroditus. The latter name is 
used in the Epistles to PhiKppi and Ephesus; the former 
in the Epistles to Colossse and Philemon of Colossse. All 
the Epistles were written at Rome and at almost the 
same time. To hold that these names represented two 
persons involves the difficult replacement of one man by 
another of like name in the little circle of workers at 
Rome. One man is present, the other absent; the second 
arrives and the first disappears; and the names so 
nearly identical, and neither appears elsewhere. But in 
view of the difficulties mentioned above it has seemed the 
simplest theory. 

These difficulties are all contained in the misinterpre- 
tation of Philippians 4 18, and it is on this rock that the 
whole search for the Diarist has been diverted from its 
true course. In this passage Paul, writing of course from 
Rome, expressed gratitude to the PhiUppians, " having 
received from Epaphroditus the things from you." This 
has been uniformly assumed to mean that after Paul 
reached Rome the Phihppians becoming aware of his need 
sent Epaphroditus to him bearing certain tokens of love. 
If Epaphroditus thus came direct from Philippi to Rome 
after Paul arrived there, he could not have been the 
Diarist who journeyed with Paul via Jerusalem. But a 
more careful examination of the passage, however, makes 
it unlikely that Epaphroditus was in this sense the bearer 
of these gifts; ^ and it will be pointed out that the con- 

• The linguistic facts clearly support the suggestion here made. " From Epaph- 
roditus " exactly duplicates the preposition of " from you." It is the iropd of 


ditions and simplicities of the situation are better satis- 
fied if we suppose that Epaphroditus was already in Rome 
with Paul, and that the Philippian church with char- 
acteristic thoughtfulness sent a gift to their pastor who 
we know was ill in Rome, and included with it some re- 
membrance to Paul, which was passed on to him from 
Epaphroditus. In any case Paul could not have better 
described a gift received under such wholly plausible 

Indeed when we come to study the details of the event 
this view strangely fits in with the known facts. Epaph- 
roditus had been seriously ill at Rome; his life had been 
despaired of, and we know farther that the Philippian 
church had heard of his condition and was seriously dis- 
traught over it (Phil. 2 26). How could it be possible — 
particularly if there had been a long and hazardous sepa- 
ration — that the Philippian church should do other than 
send succor to their absent pastor Y And, so doing, how 
could they possibly fail to make some kindly enclosure to 
Paul ^ The fact is, as we shall see, that many cumula- 
tive indications point to the conclusion that Epaphroditus 
had made the long journey with Paul as the Philippian 
representative, and that his supposed journey from Phi- 
lippi direct to Rome bearing the Pauline gift is wholly a 
misinterpretation of the passage referred to. Per contra, 
it is only necessary to point out the difficulties of any 
other view. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the de- 
clared ignorance of Paul regarding the condition of the 
Philippian church, when he addressed the Epistle. If we 
accept the theory of a special journey, only a few months 
at most can have elapsed since Epaphroditus left Philippi, 
well aware of the situation through long years of spiritual 
intimacy and leadership; and yet Paul proposed to send 

source which is used in each case and not the iid of agent. Regarding the distinction 
Paul is extremely careful. Bomans 1 £ presents an exact parallel, where agency is 
intended. See also Gal. 1 1, l«. 


Timothy thither that he may secure report of the state 
of the church (Phil. 2 19); as if Epaphroditus, "brother, 
fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier," was not qualified to 
give such a report. But if it is four years since such per- 
sonal news has come, the situation becomes entirely 

But this difficulty is only the beginning of the consider- 
able series of perplexities in which the theory involves us. 
It is evident that some little time must have elapsed 
after Paul's arrival in Rome before the Philippian church 
could know that he was there, or, even so, would long 
remain there. Indeed the supposition was quite other- 
wise. He had appealed for a Roman release. Moreover 
there was nothing to indicate that he was in any such 
special need as to warrant so notable an embassy. Nor 
is there anything in Paul's remark to indicate that the 
PhiUppian gift was of such a material or consequential 
size as to demand so important a bearer. The reference, 
crowded as it is into the closing paragraphs of the Epistle, 
is quite to the contrary. How improbable that the Philip- 
pian pastor should be sent on this long journey with such 
a present ! This is very different from asking a convenient 
traveler to bear help to their own pastor who, they know, 
is seriously ill in Rome and of whose illness we are par- 
ticularly informed that the Philippians had heard. 

Then, too, the theory involves an amazingly swift and 
complicated program for Epaphroditus. First, the Philip- 
pian church must become aware that Paul is in Rome 
and that the conditions are such as to keep him there. 
Then there must be the movement to send him a gift of 
such consequence that no one less than the pastor should 
be sent to bear it. Then there is the journey. Then 
there must have been some experience in which the mes- 
senger hazarded his life for Paul's sake (Phil. 2 30). 
Then, if Epaphroditus and Epaphras are identical, he 
must somehow have been arrested and singularly enough 


become Paul's fellow prisoner (Philem. 23) ; then there 
must have followed the long, serious sickness — so pro- 
longed indeed that the Philippian Christians can hear of 
it, and Epaphroditus be so troubled by the knowledge 
that they have heard of it (Phil. 2 26) that on his recovery 
he is eager to be back among them. Surely this is a tol- 
erably eventful experience if it must be crowded into this 
short trip. By far the simpler view is that Epaphroditus 
never made such a trip, and if not, that he came to Rome 
with Paul as the Diarist. 

Once we are relieved of this burdensome misconcep- 
tion, how simply and accurately every item slips into its 
natural place. The " we " document begins at Troas, 
which was in the same Roman province with Colossse 
where Epaphroditus had been at work (Col. 17; 4 12, 13). 
Let us revive the situation in our minds. As Paul was 
starting for Antioch in the third journey his party had 
suddenly been disrupted by the loss of his strong com- 
panion Barnabas. He then took Silas, but in no sense 
could the latter make good the place of the former; he 
was distinctly a satellite. So Paul is on the watch to 
recruit his broken group. At Lystra he claims Timothy, 
also a distinctly younger disciple. What more natural 
than at Troas, facing the immediate call into the Great 
Adventure, he should feel the need of some experienced 
and successful pioneer of the gospel, and again what 
more natural than that he should turn to the approved 
founder of the near-by churches of Colossse, Laodicea, 
and Hierapolis (Col. 4 13). Of this notably successful 
evangelist Paul must have long known, but all the evi- 
dence goes as well to show that thus far they had never 
labored together. So large a field must have long and 
exclusively occupied Epaphras, and, on the other hand, 
we know in particular that Paul had never visited these 
churches (Col. 2 l). On this very journey we are specifi- 
cally told that Paul passed hurriedly to the north of this 


region, " having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to 
speak the word in Asia " (Acts 16 6), and hastened direct 
to Troas. There, suddenly called to venture on the 
European crusade, he solicits the experienced services of 
Epaphras, near at hand, who joins him at Troas. In a 
word, the Diarist has had no previous personal experience 
with Paul to record. The document began at Troas sub- 
stantially as we now have it, and no excuses are neces- 
sary for any elimination of earlier portions. 

So the Diarist comes to Philippi. Here also the events 
are equally obvious. The experience of Epaphras at 
Colossee has fitted him for the constructive work in the 
first European center. He has been known more famil- 
iarly in his native region as Epaphras. Hei'e he takes the 
more dignified title of Epaphroditus. Here the Diarist, 
whoever he is, stayed for the six eventful and formative 
years weaving his life into the affections of the Philip- 
pian Christians. Who can this possibly be but Epaphro- 
ditus, as his likeness is drawn for us in the Epistle of 
Paul to the PhiUppians ? We are here told in detail that 
Epaphroditus belongs to the Philippian church; he is 
their outstanding representative (Phil. 2 25) ; their hearts 
are boimd up in him and he is longing to be back with 
them; and to them Paul sends him back, with the Epistle, 
as evidently to his own people (Phil. 2 25, 26). While he 
is still remembered affectionately in Colossse, his home 
and heart have been essentially transferred to the loving 
and generous church at Philippi. So exactly does the 
photograph fit and so accurately are we led by the ap- 
pearance of this plural personal pronoun. 

But if all this is true to life, how much more amazingly 
clear and detailed is the identification of Epaphroditus in 
the journey from Philippi to Rome. As pointed out 
above, the Diarist was obviously the representative se- 
lected for Philippian membership in the collection depu- 
tation. How accurately the experiences of Epaphroditus 


fit into such a commission both in its public capacity and 
in its personal relations to Paul is fully set forth in Philip- 
pians 2 25-30. Now that we are relieved of the miscon- 
ception that these verses relate to a later journey, we see 
at once how adequately and exactly the passage refers to 
the conditions and circumstances of the Diarist's journey. 
Instead of the unaccountable silence regarding him in all 
Pauline literature which has seemed so amazing, we at 
once find that this situation has been due only to our 
oversight of most ample and appreciative references to 
him which are really wonderfully clear. 

We have seen, for example, that Paul's conception of 
the deputation is so lofty that he calls the members of it 
apostoloi, using this rare and sacred designation. Now 
strangely enough he gives this very designation to Epa- 
phroditus (Phil. 2 25) setting him forward alone out of 
the Roman group, with the exception of Timothy, also 
a member of the same deputation, to bear this title. Con- 
ceiving that this designation of Epaphroditus referred 
merely to the supposed later journey of personal service, 
the English translators have been unable to understand 
Paul's use of this high term for a simple and individual 
kindness to himself, and have softened the word into 
" messenger." ^ Thus is Paul supposed to doze regarding 
his high church conception of apostleship. But Epa- 
phroditus' title to the name is now perfectly clear; with 
the rest of the deputation he is to Paul, for that reason, 
an apostle. 

' strangely enough, the only other place where the accurate translation is thus 
abandoned by the Revisers is in the reference (II Cor. 8 *») to the other members of 
the same deputation. Not realizing that they are such, and that they have already 
thus been appointed not only to carry the collection but also to promote it, and 
failing also, as I think, to realize how large the whole project bulked in Paul's mind, 
they have here also softened the word into "messenger," thus throwing confusion into 
the whole Pauline use of the word. The identification of all these members of the 
group as in Paul's mind entitled to the name " apostle," helps most significantly 
to clarify for us the whole Pauline conception of this ofiSce, regarding which he is 
so deeply concerned (I Cor. 9 i, etc.). 


We have seen, however, that membership in that group 
was not solely a public ministry. In some sense it involved 
a commitment to Paul's personal fortunes or misfortunes. 
Four of the group, at least, did not stop at Jerusalem, 
having fulfilled the collection service, but went on to 
Rome, though only two, Aristarchus and the Diarist, 
seem to have traveled in the same ship with Paul. This 
dual relationship is exactly reflected in this Philippian 
reference to Epaphroditus. He is there " your apostle 
and minister to my need." Is it possible that the actual 
relation of the Diarist to Paul could in any way be better 
described ? 

And now about the experiences of the journey itself, 
its labors, its risks, its hardships, its intimacies, and finally 
its perilous shipwreck and the rescue; has this all slipped 
from Paul's memory, and particularly has the Diarist, the 
only comrade with him and Aristarchus in the ship of his 
imprisonment — has he disappeared ? Not at all. In 
later years, as has been pointed out, Aristarchus was 
remembered as a " fellow-prisoner " (Col. 4 10), and so 
also (Philem. 23) is Epaphroditus. And he is the only 
other person at Rome besides Aristarchus who is so de- 
nominated. And as for the other circumstances of the 
journey, what could be more adequate and exact than the 
passage in Philippians (2 25-30) : " I . . . send to you 
Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow- 
soldier, and your apostle and minister to my need . . . 
for indeed he was sick nigh unto death; but God had 
mercy ... on me . . . that I might not have sorrow 
upon sorrow. . . . Receive him . . . and hold such in 
honor; because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto 
death, hazarding his life to supply that which was lack- 
ing in your service toward me." So tenderly and loyally 
does Paul remember his comrade of the terrible voyage. 

Thus did the Diarist Epaphroditus come to Rome. 
From that time on the developments are equally natural 


and simple. Arrived in Rome, Epaphroditus soon falls 
seriously ill (Phil. 2 27). Perhaps it is not rash to sug- 
gest that the record indicates that the exposures and 
dangers of the voyage had something to do with this. 
At any rate the active companionship with Paul ends. 
The illness is long enough continued for the Philippian 
church to hear of it (Phil. 2 26) and to send some minis- 
tration to his need, in which was also included a remem- 
brance to Paul (Phil. 4 18). Convalescing, Epaphroditus 
turns longingly (Phil. 2 26) to the faithful friends of the 
Philippian church from whom he has now been separated 
for years and among whom his affections have taken 
deepest root. He is indeed Paul's companion only by 
virtue of the fact that he is the officer and representative 
of that church. If Paul desires a detailed and personal 
report of conditions at Philippi, another messenger must 
go (Phil. 2 19), for Epaphroditus departs not to return; 
his companionship with Paul is over at least for many a 
day. This disposition to return fits in with the mood of 
Paul to communicate with the church at Philippi. In- 
deed this mood seems to be more inclusive. In his con- 
finement he broods over the condition of the churches 
which he has cherished. Every word regarding them is a 
matter of deep concern to him. Not only Philippians 
but Colossians and Philemon are the evidence, to say 
nothing of the Ephesian and Laodicean Epistles. These 
were evidently written not far apart, and it is at least 
possible that the convalescent Epaphroditus carrying 
the Epistle to the Philippians is accompanied nearly to 
his home by Tychicus (Col. 4 7, 8), bearing the Colossian 
Epistle. Indeed it looks as if the delegation of the churches 
was now finally breaking ranks. In such company and 
under such circumstances does Epaphroditus turn home- 
ward and disappear from us down the Philippian way. 

The final and perhaps, individually, the most striking 
piece which now fits into the convincing completeness of 


this remarkable mosaic is the very fact which heretofore 
has been so inexplicable — the " we " record ends after 
the first few days in Rome. This is precisely where it 
should end — with the termination of the intimate com- 
panionship of Paul and Epaphroditus. It is not unlikely 
that the diary was cut short by the illness of the writer 
and that the record was never resumed. In any case, 
here is no strange decapitation of a priceless document. 
It began with the writer's personal experience of Paul; 
it was dropped when they temporarily separated; and it 
ended with their parting at Rome; and the manuscript 
in its entirety is embedded in the book of Acts exactly 
as its evident value would lead us to expect. 

The particular thesis is here ended; but from this new 
assurance we inevitably look off into other and most sug- 
gestive areas. Did the invalided Epaphroditus ever reach 
Philippi ? Did his record include originally only the 
strictly " we " passages, and were the interstices filled 
in later or by other hands ? With his historical interest 
facilitated by his long delay at Jerusalem, was it he 
who accumulated the other memorials of the early church 
which are involved in the Acts, and did he carry them 
back to Philippi where they were later woven into the 
one fabric ? Or was his document with others left at 
Rome in the hands of Luke, his attending physician, and 
was it there inwrought, a shining thread, into another's 
narrative of the advancing dominion of the Master ? Is 
it possible that Luke's association with the Acts is due 
to the fact that the basal documents were passed on to 
the Redactor through him ? Or is it more likely that the 
elimination of Luke from earlier association with Paul, and 
so from any personal acquaintance with the details of 
the ecclesiastical beginnings, makes it possible that he was 
comparatively young when he first appears at Rome, 
and therefore was perhaps himself this late, and in many 
respects, uninformed Redactor ? Was it his deliberate 


thought to confine himself m Acts to an editing of the 
manuscripts of others, as he did also in the Gospel, thus 
covering a period with which he, and possibly Theophilus, 
had no personal association ? Was it perhaps his plan 
to add a third book which should give his own reminis- 
cences of later days, thus taking up the thread himself 
where others had left it ? These are most interesting 
questions. In the growing light that is falling upon these 
early days of the church and the identification of the 
Aramaic Greek sections of the earlier part of the book, 
it may not be impossible that these questions shall yet 
have their illuminating answers.