Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | January 15, 2020

Luke Does Apologetics with a Pen

(5 Minute Read plus video)

Luke the Evangelist
1610-1614 painting by El Greco

Famous First Words

It was a dark and stormy night . . .

This iconic and much-scorned line opened the 1830 novel Paul Clifford. It is the fictional story of a man in the closing days of the 18th century who lives both a public life as an esteemed gentleman and a secret life of robbery as a swashbuckling highwayman.

Pen & Sword

The famous “dark and stormy night” line opening Paul Clifford was penned by the same author who wrote this famous adage:

The pen is mightier than the sword.

British nobleman, politician, and novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) was the first to use this specific phrasing of the “pen over sword” idea. In his 1839 historical play Richelieu portraying the life of the 17th-century French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu, Bulwer-Lytton placed the adage in Richelieu’s mouth.

But this concept long pre-dated Bulwer-Lytton’s formulation.

A version appears in the New Testament by the author of Hebrews:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NASB)

In Act II of the play Hamlet (circa 1600) by William Shakespeare, Rosencrantz says,
“… many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.”

In 1792 Thomas Jefferson writing to Thomas Paine said,
“Go on then in doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword.”

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) said (in French),
“Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

Since Bulwer-Lytton’s day, the phrase or idea has been used many times including the following instances:

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) by Mark Twain, the motto appears in an illustration of Tom’s schoolroom.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson used the slogan “He proved the pen mightier than the sword” in his 1916 presidential re-election campaign.

In the 1989 action/adventure movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy’s father Henry Sr. is a renowned author and a professor of medieval studies at Princeton University. In extreme peril, Henry shoots ink from his pen into the eyes of his Nazi captor, disabling him. Henry’s companion Marcus Brody then says, “Henry, the pen. Don’t you see? The pen is mightier than the sword!”

This YouTube clip from the movie shows Indy’s rescue of his father from the Nazi tank including the “pen is mightier than the sword” scene inside the tank. (Clip contains intense battle scenes.)


Luke Chooses Pen Over Sword

Dr. Luke authored two books of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke’s writings comprise the most words by any single New Testament author, more than a quarter of the New Testament.

Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) was a New Testament scholar and archaeologist who was the foremost authority of his day on the history of Asia Minor. He once doubted Luke’s reliability, but his extensive archaeological and historical work in New Testament lands convinced him of Luke’s superb historical accuracy. In his 1915 book The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Ramsay said of Luke’s Acts of the Apostles,
“Further study … showed that the book could bear the most minute scrutiny as an authority for the facts of the Aegean world, and that it was written with such judgment, skill, art, and perception of truth as to be a model of historical statement. . . . You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s. . . . Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy … [he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” (pp. 85, 89, 222)

Luke tells about Peter’s use of a sword to defend Jesus when the Jewish leaders arrested Jesus. Peter drew his sword and cut off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. Jesus rebuked Peter for this use of the sword, and then He healed the servant’s ear. (Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10-12)

But Luke chose to use a pen (quill) to defend Jesus’ claims and to present them clearly. In his gospel account, Luke writes of the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. He begins Acts where the Gospel of Luke ends and reports on the ascension of Jesus, the apostles’ founding of the Christian church, and the spread of the Gospel message throughout the Roman Empire.

Dr. Luke used a pen rather than a sword to accomplish his purpose of persuading people of the truth about Jesus of Nazareth. He carefully investigated and recorded the words and works of Jesus so that all posterity could have accurate knowledge about Jesus.
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4 NASB)

Dr. Luke’s pen work was in obedience to Jesus’ command to His disciples at His ascension to preach His message to all nations:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NASB)

Dr. Luke’s apologetic for the Christian faith consisted of reporting Jesus words and deeds in the Gospel of Luke and the works and words of the apostles, especially Peter’s and Paul’s arguments, in Acts.

To these [apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3 NASB)

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. . . . Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Peter on Pentecost in Jerusalem, Acts 2:22-24,36 NASB)

You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing…They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible…to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God…after He arose from the dead. This is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.
(Peter to Cornelius and friends, Acts 10:38-43 NASB)

And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2-3 NASB)

So he [Paul] was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. . . . So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
(Paul on Mars Hill in Athens, Acts 17:17,22-31 NASB)

Do You Get the Point?

Zealots of many varied philosophies and beliefs have tried to use the sword to enforce their religious or philosophical belief systems. But throughout the ages this sword approach has always failed. The persuasive pen has always worked better. “The pen is mightier than the sword” has proved true throughout history.

Luke’s “pen work” has endured for two millenia, leading countless men and women to faith in Christ and instructing countless disciples.

Peter tried to defend Jesus with a sword. Luke presented and defended the claims of Jesus with his pen. Truly, Luke’s pen is mightier than Peter’s sword!

Questions to Ponder

1. When you encounter Jesus’ present-day detractors, do you tend to strike out in a combative way? How can you prepare to respond “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25)
2. When you feel attacked, how will you use godly words to respond instead of aggression or retaliation?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the ninth post in the series on Apologists in the Bible. An apologist is one who gives a logical argument in defense of faith in God.
Read the prequels:
1. Elijah Does Apologetics
2. Peter Does Apologetics
3. Paul Does Apologetics
4. John Does Apologetics
5. Jesus Does Apologetics
6. Job Gets a Dose of Apologetics
7. Matthew Does Apologetics with a Sword
8. David Does Apologetics with a Sling

Read the sequel:
10. Moses Does Apologetics with Plagues

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday January 15, 2020 A.D.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NASB)

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