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Luke in Troas and Philippi

Posted by on Sep 1, 2011 in scripture | 5 comments

Luke in Troas and Philippi

As we’re studying through the book of Acts together, I’ve run across several interesting tidbits of information, some of them I’ve shared on this blog. Some of information is just that, information. Some of them actually help me understand more about the church as described in Acts.

For example, consider Luke. Now, I think that Luke wrote the book of Acts as well as the Gospel of Luke. I think the “we” passages (where Luke changes from third person pronouns like “they” to first person pronouns like “we”) indicate where Luke was traveling with Paul and the servants of the gospel who were with him.

Interestingly, the first “we” passage occurs when Paul, Silas, and Timothy (at least) are in Troas:

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the(1 )district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. (Acts 16:6-12 ESV)

Did you catch the change in pronouns? It happened in the city of Troas. In Acts 16:8, “they” went down to Troas. But, in Acts 16:10, while still in Troas, “we” sought to go to Macedonia, and in Acts 16:11, “we” sailed from Troas to Samothrace.

So, apparently, Luke joined the team traveling with Paul while they were in Troas.

But, something else happens later in Acts 16 while they were all in Philippi:

So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. (Acts 16:11-12 ESV)

So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed. (Acts 16:40 ESV)

Luke was with Paul when they came to Philippi, but he did not leave with them. (By the way, Luke rejoins Paul at least by Acts 20:5, when they were on the way back to Troas.)

There are several ways to explain Luke’s absence when the group left Philippi, but they primarily boil down to 2 options: 1) Luke remained in Troas, or 2) Luke had previously traveled somewhere else.

We see both options taking place with other people who travel with Paul. In either case, Luke could have given up the traveling lifestyle, or he was continuing to work as a servant of the gospel wherever he went.

What do you think happened to Luke?


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  1. 9-1-2011

    In my opinion Luke stayed to help strengthen and build up the church in Philippi. Of course it is possible he did other things during that time as well. But it was often Paul’s tendency to leave brother so-and-so here, send sister so-and-so there, and so forth in order to complete what he felt was lacking in the life and faith of certain churches.

    Sound plausible enough?

  2. 9-1-2011

    My first thought was the same as Josh’s. That he stayed behind in Philippi. My other question, however, is what was Luke doing in Troas. Did he live there? Did he become a believer there?

  3. 9-1-2011

    Josh and Dan,

    I agree. Certainly, Paul could have sent Luke to another city, or Luke could have given up for a time. But, since Luke joins up with Paul again when he travels back through Macedonia toward Troas (Acts 20:3), it’s seems more likely that Luke was staying in Philippi during that time.

    The picture in Acts of believers (not just Paul) going from place to place, staying in one place for a while, traveling in groups (usually) or alone (occasionally) is a beautiful image that I think the church today can learn from.

    It’s hard to tell if Luke was originally from Troas, or if he just happened to be there when Paul and his group came through. Even though they traveled through several cities, Luke does seem to focus on Troas in Acts 20:7ff. Perhaps that shows that the city held a special place for him.


  4. 9-1-2011

    Could there be a clue in the term “brothers” in verse 40? Would Luke consider himself part of “the brothers” or no?

    So, if Luke considered himself part of the brothers, he may have written it “And when they had seen us, they encouraged us and departed.”

    If Luke didn’t seem himself as part of the brothers, he may have written it as it appears now. But, that doesn’t determine if he was there or not. Did Luke leave when the uproar occured and was he reporting based on his research, or did he simply see himself distinct from the brothers?

    My personal bias would be to think that Luke is reporting from his research and interviews about what happened after Paul and Silas were released from prison because I think Luke would have used a first-person plural pronoun when referring to who Paul and Silas encouraged. But, I can’t be dogmatic about it.

    Love the question, Alan.

  5. 9-1-2011

    Dan G.,

    That’s a great observation. From Luke’s use of 1 person plural pronouns, we would expect him to say, “They [Paul and Silas] encouraged US, departed” in Acts 16:40.

    Perhaps that shows that Luke was not in Philippi when Paul and Silas left. Their departure was abrupt, so maybe Luke was traveling around the area of Philippi to evangelize. I can only hypothesize this, but it does seem to be Paul’s practice at least in Ephesus. From the base in Ephesus, Epaphras traveled to Colossians, and Paul never visited there himself. (Colossians 1:7)