In the Book of Acts, there are “we” passages. They include Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; and 27:1-28:16. Essentially, they tell the story of Paul’s journeys using the first person plural (“we”). For many, this indicates that the author of Acts (probably Luke) accompanied Paul on his travels.
When I was a first-year student at DePauw, however, I read another idea by New Testament scholar David Barr. He said that the use of a first-person plural occurred in ancient writings when they were talking about sea travel. Here’s an informative article that I found about this (though I only scanned it). This sort of thing occurs in Homer’s Odyssey, for instance.
But there are times when the author of Acts uses “we” when discussing Paul’s adventures on land. Was “we” used for narratives about journeys—which encompass the sea travel and also the time spent on land?
In the Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period, I read Stefan Rebenich’s essay, “Historical Prose”. On page 307, Rebenich states:
The so-called “We-passages” probably do not show the author as a companion of Paul, but are rather a literary device of which Luke makes use, partly in accordance with tradition and partly at the instance of his sources.
On page 333, Rebenich talks about Ammianus, a fourth century C.E. Roman historian. Rebenich states that Ammianus departed from traditional history writing, in part by narrating in the “we-form”.
This raises questions in my mind. Where was the “we-form” found in the ancient world? Was it in histories, or poems, or both? Did it fall out of favor at some point in time? And why did Acts use it (assuming it wasn’t saying that Luke, the author of Acts, accompanied Paul on its trips)? Did the author of Acts use it to be more vivid in his narrative?