What do you think about the claim that Luke produced two different editions of Acts?
QUESTION: I’ve recently watched a debate between Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace about the reliability of The New Testament text. Bart Ehrman brought up a point that the Acts of the apostles or Acts was transmitted in two different editions. I was wondering have you ever read the edition that’s different from our Acts in the bible? And do you think that Luke wrote both editions? The best theories I’ve found on this subject are under manuscripts on a wikepidea page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_the_Apostles). Thanks!
Bart Ehramn is a top-notch scholar. You can almost always trust the fact that he presents to be reliable. At the same time, you should remember that he has rather stark biases and a strong agenda. It can be difficult to separate his consistently top-notch scholarship from his agenda-driven interpretations of that scholarship, but in order to use him as a source, this is needed.
As for this particular question, neither I nor Bart Ehrman have ever seen this supposed other edition of Acts. This is a speculative theory and the other edition is the product principally of Ehrman’s imagination. I would claim that it is a highly speculative theory. For decades, liberal scholars (and some conservative as well) have talked about the Q source for Mark and Matthew. No one has ever seen a copy of this supposed document. It exists only in the minds of scholars. This does not prove that there was NOT a Q document–in fact it is possible there was an earlier document used by Mark, but we should remember that this is all speculation based on completeley indirect “evidence.” It is fine to read Ehrman. Even if his speculative theory is not true, he will give you some helpful information, but please take his two edition of Acts theory with a massive grain of salt.
As for the actual theory, it is true that the “Western” text type of Acts has some additional material than the traditionally accepted Acts. It is hard to be absolutely sure what happened, but the most likely explanation is that those who produced the manuscript line known as the Western added some material to Acts which they believed was legitimate apostolic tradition. They may have been sincere in their efforts, but in the end this was not helpful. The evidence does not favor the two-edition theory. Rather, it seems to favor the conclusion that later editors added some material to the original Luke, long after he wrote the letter.