Luke’s Silence regarding Paul’s Collection for Jerusalem

The silence in Acts regarding Paul’s collection for Jerusalem has been described as “thunderous,” “striking,” and “extremely surprising.” Apart from a single (and contested) reference to the collection in Acts 24:17, Luke seems to have overlooked the project that occupied so much of the Apostle’s time, attention, and theological reflection. The silence is surprising not only because we know from his epistles that it was one of Paul’s major concerns, but also because such a collection perfectly represents many of Luke’s key emphases in the book of Acts: for example, the sharing of possessions, the legitimacy of the Gentile mission, and the unity of the church. One wonders why something so important to Paul and so suitable to Luke’s aims receives virtually no direct attention in Acts.

Many readers of Acts have felt compelled to offer an explanation for Luke’s silence regarding the Jerusalem collection. Reasons given for the omission range from the skeptical (Luke was embarrassed by the failure of the collection), and the scarcely believable (Luke was ignorant of the collection), to the vague (Luke had more pressing concerns) and intriguing (it would have been too dangerous for Luke to mention). The present paper surveys the various explanations that have been given to this question and offers some analysis of their respective strengths and weaknesses. First, the various explanations for Luke’s silence are described. Second, some consideration is given to explanatory power and overall likelihood of each view. Third, suggestions are made regarding the best way to account for Luke’s apparent failure to narrate the story of Paul’s collection for Jerusalem.

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