PDF File. Authorship of the Gospel of Luke[add_to_cart id=”2811″]

Matthew Henry’s Commentary


This evangelist is generally supposed to have been a physician, and a companion of the apostle Paul. The style of his writings, and his acquaintance with the Jewish rites and usages, sufficiently show that he was a Jew, while his knowledge of the Greek language and his name, speak his Gentile origin. He is first mentioned Acts 16:10, 11, as with Paul at Troas, whence he attended him to Jerusalem, and was with him in his voyage, and in his imprisonment at Rome. This Gospel appears to be designed to supersede many defective and unauthentic narratives in circulation, and to give a genuine and inspired account of the life, miracles, and doctrines of our Lord, learned from those who heard and witnessed his discourses and miracles.

Eason’s Bible Dictionary

Luke, Gospel according to: was written by Luke. He does not claim to have been an eye-witness of our Lord’s ministry, but to have gone to the best sources of information within his reach, and to have written an orderly narrative of the facts (Luke 1:1-4). The authors of the first three Gospels, the synoptics, wrote independently of each other. Each wrote his independent narrative under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Each writer has some things, both in matter and style, peculiar to himself, yet all the three have much in common. Luke’s Gospel has been called “the Gospel of the nations, full of mercy and hope, assured to the world by the love of a suffering Saviour;” “the Gospel of the saintly life;” “the Gospel for the Greeks; the Gospel of the future; the Gospel of progressive Christianity, of the universality and gratuitousness of the gospel; the historic Gospel; the Gospel of Jesus as the good Physician and the Saviour of mankind;” the “Gospel of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man;” “the Gospel of womanhood;” “the Gospel of the outcast, of the Samaritan, the publican, the harlot, and the prodigal;” “the Gospel of tolerance.” The main characteristic of this Gospel, as Farrar (Cambridge Bible, Luke, Introd.) remarks, is fitly expressed in the motto, “Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38; comp. Luke 4:18). Luke wrote for the “Hellenic world.” This Gospel is indeed “rich and precious.”

“Out of a total of 1151 verses, Luke has 389 in common with Matthew and Mark, 176 in common with Matthew alone, 41 in common with Mark alone, leaving 544 peculiar to himself. In many instances all three use identical language.” (See MATTHEW; MARK; GOSPELS.)

There are seventeen of our Lord’s parables peculiar to this Gospel. (See List of Parables in Appendix.) Luke also records seven of our Lord’s miracles which are omitted by Matthew and Mark. (See List of Miracles in Appendix.) The synoptical Gospels are related to each other after the following scheme. If the contents of each Gospel be represented by 100, then when compared this result is obtained:

Mark has 7 peculiarities, 93 coincidences. Matthew 42 peculiarities, 58 coincidences. Luke 59 peculiarities, 41 coincidences.
That is, thirteen-fourteenths of Mark, four-sevenths of Matthew, and two-fifths of Luke are taken up in describing the same things in very similar language.

Luke’s style is more finished and classical than that of Matthew and Mark. There is less in it of the Hebrew idiom. He uses a few Latin words (Luke 12:6; 7:41; 8:30; 11:33; 19:20), but no Syriac or Hebrew words except sikera, an exciting drink of the nature of wine, but not made of grapes (from Heb. shakar, “he is intoxicated”, Lev. 10:9), probably palm wine.

This Gospel contains twenty-eight distinct references to the Old Testament.

The date of its composition is uncertain. It must have been written before the Acts, the date of the composition of which is generally fixed at about 63 or 64 A.D. This Gospel was written, therefore, probably about 60 or 63, when Luke may have been at Caesarea in attendance on Paul, who was then a prisoner. Others have conjectured that it was written at Rome during Paul’s imprisonment there. But on this point no positive certainty can be attained.

It is commonly supposed that Luke wrote under the direction, if not at the dictation of Paul. Many words and phrases are common to both; e.g., compare:

Luke 4:22; with Col. 4:6. Luke 4:32; with 1 Cor. 2:4. Luke 6:36; with 2 Cor. 1:3. Luke 6:39; with Rom. 2:19. Luke 9:56; with 2 Cor. 10:8. Luke 10:8; with 1 Cor. 10:27. Luke 11:41; with Titus 1:15. Luke 18:1; with 2 Thess. 1:11. Luke 21:36; with Eph. 6:18. Luke 22:19, 20; with 1 Cor. 11:23-29. Luke 24:46; with Acts 17:3. Luke 24:34; with 1 Cor. 15:5.

Erdmann’s Bible Dictionary

The third and longest book in the NT, sometimes called the Third Gospel.

Questions of introduction typically include authorship, composition, date, and provenance — all of which are problematic in the study of Luke. Concerning authorship, the most likely candidate is Luke the physician and sometime companion of Paul (Phlm. 24; Col. 4:14; cf. 2 Tim. 4:11; Acts 16:10-17; 20:5—21:18; 27–28). He is thus identified in several 2nd-century witnesses (Papyrus Bodmer XIV, the Muratorian Canon, Irenaeus Adv. haer.; for later testimony cf. Eusebius HE). However, the author himself has not included his name within or as a title to the Gospel, which suggests that his identity may not be critical to our reading. “Luke,” as the voice through which the story of Jesus’ mission and message is here related, functions more closely as “narrator” than “author.”

The narrator refers to his use of sources and research (1:1–4), which many scholars today assume included at least the Gospel of Mark. According to the two-source theory, a second source was Q, though it remains unclear whether Q material came to Luke orally or in written form. (According to the Griesbach hypothesis, Luke used only Matthew’s Gospel.) Some scholars also refer to Luke’s use of the “L” tradition, including material without parallel in Matthew or Mark, but again it is unclear in what form this material might have come to Luke. Many of the distinctive features of Luke would be catalogued with “L”: the parables of the Good Samaritan, the lost son, and the Pharisee and toll collector (10:29–37; 15:11–32; 18:9–14); and material concerning the positive role of women in Jesus’ ministry and the problematic role of wealth and possessions for those who want to follow Jesus.

How one dates the writing of the Third Gospel rests in large part on how one understands these source-related questions. If Luke made use of Mark, then obviously he could not have written before its completion. Since Mark is typically dated in the late 60s, this would require Luke to have been written no sooner than the early 70s. Some scholars find evidence in 21:20–24 that the narrative was written in light of the actual fall of Jerusalem, but the details of this text are as likely to have been drawn from records of the siege and fall of cities in the LXX. The earliest references to Luke and Acts in other written sources come from the mid-2nd century, so the Gospel would presumably have been written in the period 70–140 C.E. Insofar as Acts seems not to evidence firsthand knowledge of the Pauline corpus, and since it is likely that Paul’s letters would have been collected in the late 1st century, the writing of Luke is pushed into the earlier part of this time frame. Hence, most think in terms of a range from the mid-70s to mid-80s.

Even fewer data are available for determining the precise location from which the Gospel was written, though an urban center outside Palestine is probable. Nor can mention of Theophilus in 1:3 aid in discerning its readership. As literary patron, Theophilus would have helped to circulate Luke and Acts for copying, but this does not mean that he is Luke’s primary audience or even representative of those to whom Luke is writing. What is [p. 829] evident is that Luke is concerned with Christian mission and identity and the forms of Christian discipleship suited to life in the Roman Empire.

The identification of the genre of the Gospel is closely tied to the question of the unity of Luke and Acts. In its current canonical position, Luke has been easily identified as a “gospel,” a particular form of Greco-Roman biography. Such an identification is complicated by the book’s manifest relation to the Acts of the Apostles, which claims to continue the story begun in Luke (cf. 1:1–4; Acts 1:1-2). Moreover, it is a near certainty that in Luke’s day “gospel” did not exist as a literary form, so one would be amiss to think that Luke set out to write one or that his readership would have understood his work within such categories. Luke refers to his predecessors as “narratives,” not “gospels.”

Most now agree that Luke and Acts were written by the same person and that Acts forms some sort of sequel to the Gospel. The theological and narrative unity of Luke-Acts, largely taken for granted since the early 20th century, are now contested, On the one hand, it is easy to find in Luke-Acts the temporal sequence (beginning, middle, and end) and principal aim characteristic of narrative unity. Thus, Luke-Acts recounts the working out of God’s purpose to bring salvation in all of its fullness to all people. This aim is anticipated by God’s messengers and made possible by the birth and growth of John and Jesus in households oriented around the purpose of God (Luke 1:5-2:52); made probable through the preparatory mission of John and especially the life, death, and exaltation of Jesus, with its concomitant commissioning and promised empowering of Jesus’ followers to extend the message to all people (Luke 3—Acts 1); realized as the Christian mission is directed by God to take the necessary steps to achieve an egalitarian, multi-ethnic community (Acts 2-15); and finds its denouement as Luke highlights growing Jewish antagonism to the Christian movement, and thus the increasingly gentile make-up of the Church (Acts 16-28). Accordingly, incidents in the Gospel anticipate aspects of the story narrated only (finally) in Acts. Notably, in 2:25–35 Simeon realizes that in Jesus a salvation has come that will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (v. 32), but throughout the Gospel Jesus interacts only rarely with non-Jews. One must wait for Acts to see how the gentile mission is begun, legitimated, and takes firm shape at the behest of God. The last chapter of Luke closes off significant aspects of the story’s plot, but there is a more overarching intent at work, the redemptive purpose of God for all people. Seen against this purpose, the Gospel is incomplete in itself, for it opens up possibilities that go unrealized in the Gospel only to materialize in Acts. On the other hand, some scholars have been more impressed by the degree to which the Third Gospel and Acts are each self-contained, each with its own aims and perspectives.

Since the seminal work by H. J. Cadbury, a broad consensus has emerged that Luke 1:1-4 belongs squarely within the literary tradition of ancient historiography. In addition to the preface, Luke’s work shares many other features of Greco-Roman historiography: a genealogical record (3:23–38); the use of meal scenes as occasions for instruction; travel narratives; speeches; letters; and dramatic episodes, such as Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth (4:16–30) and Paul’s stormy voyage and shipwreck (Acts 27:1-28:14). This has led to the identification of Luke-Acts as historiography and to further attempts to designate the sort of history-writing it most approximates. For some Luke has always seemed too motivated by his theological agenda to be regarded as a historian, but no ancient historian was without motive, be it theological, apologetic, pedagogical, or whatever. The modern dichotomy that pits history over against interpretation has grown out of problematic philosophical (and especially epistemological) commitments and is rightly being abandoned. Others find the closest generic parallels in Greco-Roman biography. Taken on its own, the Gospel of Luke can be classified as biography; understood in relation to Acts, this designation is less easy to sustain. More importantly, the Third Gospel is primarily focused on God and the fulfillment of God’s ancient purpose, so it can only in a secondary sense be classified as an account of the life of Jesus. What is nonetheless clear is that Luke, perhaps more than the other Evangelists, has been influenced by Greco-Roman literary forms, especially those related to the biographical genre, even if other formal features and the theocentric focus of his narrative preclude identification of Luke-Acts as “biography.”

Identification of Luke-Acts as ancient historiography adds to the expectations we may bring to the narrative. Alongside those raised by Luke’s professed intentions (1:1–4), we may anticipate a narrative in which recent history is given prominence. Issues of both causation and teleology are accorded privilege, and determined research is placed in the service of persuasive and engaging instruction.

Luke’s message is fundamentally oriented toward the theme of salvation — its derivation, scope, and embodiment. Within the conflicted world of the 1st-century Mediterranean, views of the divine purpose like that sponsored in Luke-Acts — views that run roughshod over important conventions of social honor and religious status in their announcement of the nature and magnitude of salvation — would naturally have been the source of controversy and uncertainty. Against this backdrop, the purpose of Luke-Acts would have been to strengthen the Christian movement in the face of opposition by ensuring believers in their interpretation and experience of the redemptive purpose and faithfulness of God and by calling them to continued faithfulness and witness in God’s salvific project. The purpose of Luke-Acts, then, would be primarily ecclesiological — concerned with the practices that define and the criteria for legitimating the community of God’s people, and centered on the invitation to participate in God’s redemptive project.
Not surprisingly, then, the Gospel of Luke is [p. 830] centered on God. Even if God does not appear often within the narrative, the design guiding the progression of the narrative is God’s. He is “God my savior” (1:47), and reveals his purpose in multiple ways — the Scriptures, heavenly messengers, and the divine choreography of events. The motif of the divine purpose also surfaces via a constellation of terms expressive of God’s design (e.g., “purpose,” “it is necessary,” “to determine”). God’s will is accomplished in the Gospel through the Spirit-anointed ministry of Jesus (cf. 4:18–19), and it will be continued in Acts by means of Spirit-empowered witnesses (cf. 24:44–49). Especially in the central section of the Gospel concerned with the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (9:51—19:46), Jesus attempts to transform the view of God held by his followers in order that they might recognize God as their Father, whose desire is to embrace them with his gracious beneficence (e.g., 11:1–13; 12:32).

Luke’s emphasis on the divine purpose serves his ecclesiological and hermeneutical interests. As the Christian community struggles with its own identity, not least over against those who also read the Scriptures but refuse faith in Christ, the coherence between God’s ancient agenda and the ministry of Jesus becomes crucial. In fact, Jesus’ struggle with the Jewish leadership and with Jewish institutions is essentially this: Who understands God’s purpose? Who interprets the Scriptures faithfully? For Luke, the advent of Jesus is deeply rooted in the ancient covenant, and his mission is fully congruent with God’s intent. This is shown above all by the scriptural pattern of his life and by the divine vindication pronounced over him in his resurrection and ascension.

God may control the agenda of the story, according to Luke, but the main character in Luke’s first volume is Jesus. Compared with characters within the narrative, Luke’s own audience is fortunate in its ability, from the very beginning, to perceive Jesus’ identity and role in God’s redemptive plan. Jesus is portrayed as a prophet, but as more than a prophet; he is the long-awaited Davidic Messiah, son of God, who fulfills in his career the destiny of a regal prophet for whom death, though necessary, is not the last word. For Jesus’ disciples, the struggle is not so much to discern who Jesus is, but how he can fulfill his role. Their own views of God and the world remain conventional throughout most of the Gospel; hence, almost to the very end, they lack the capacity to correlate Jesus’ exalted status as God’s Messiah with the prospect and experience of his heinous suffering.

Early on, Jesus is identified as savior (2:11), a role he fulfills in numerous ways. Among the most visible, his miracles of healing and the expansive nature of his table fellowship embody the truth of the in-breaking kingdom of God. Through these avenues, Jesus communicates the presence of divine salvation for those whose position in society-at-large is generally on the margins. This is “good news to the poor” (4:18–19). Such behaviors are matched by Jesus’ teaching, which occupies major sections within the Gospel, especially in the accounts of his journey to Jerusalem. What is often striking about his instruction is orientation toward a reconstructed vision of God and the sort of world order that might reflect this vision. Jesus, as Son of God, is God’s representative, whose life is characterized by obedience to God and who interprets for others (if they will only listen) God’s nature and plan and the contours of appropriate response to God.

The call to discipleship in Luke is fundamentally an invitation for persons to align themselves with Jesus, and thus with God. This means that, for membership among the people of God, the focus is removed from issues of inherited status and a premium is placed on persons whose behaviors manifest their unmitigated embrace of the gracious God. Genuine “children of Abraham” are those who embody in their lives the beneficence of God, and who express openhanded mercy to others, especially toward those in need. Jesus thus calls on people to live as he lives, in contradistinction to the agnostic, competitive form of life marked by conventional notions of honor and status typical of the larger Roman world. Behaviors that grow out of service in the kingdom of God take a different turn: Do good to those who hate you. Extend hospitality to those who cannot reciprocate. Give without expectation of return. Such practices are possible only for those whose convictions and commitments have been reshaped by transformative encounter with the goodness of God. Within the Third Gospel, the chief competitor of this focus stems from Wealth — not so much money itself, but the rule of Money, manifest in the drive for social praise and so in forms of life designed to keep those with power and privilege segregated from those of low status, the least, the lost, and the left-out.

Throughout, the Lukan narrative focuses on a pervasive, coordinating theme: salvation. Salvation for Luke is neither ethereal nor merely future, but embraces life in the present, restoring the integrity of human life, revitalizing human communities, setting the cosmos in order, and commissioning the community of God’s people to put God’s grace into practice among themselves and toward ever-widening circles of others.

Bibliography. F. Bovon, Luke the Theologian. PTMS 12 (Allison Park, Pa., 1987); P. F. Esler, Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts. SNTSMS 57 (Cambridge, 1987); J. B. Green, The Theology of the Gospel of Luke (Cambridge, 1995); H. Moxnes, The Economy of the Kingdom: Social Conflict and Economic Relations in Luke’s Gospel. OBT 23 (Philadelphia, 1988).
Joel B. Green

McGarvey’s Guide to Bible Study

3. Luke. The third Gospel differs from the first and second more than the latter do from each other. It records some events in common with the other two, but the plan of the author, as well as his subject matter, is quite different. In comparing his accounts with those of the other two, the differences sometimes appear much like contradictions, and so they have been pronounced by unfriendly writers. But it is never just to charge two or more writers with contradicting one another, which is the same as charging one or more of them with error, when there is any reasonable supposition that will permit all their statements to be true. Sometimes we have to study very carefully before we can find such a supposition, but as we are bound in justice to do it when we can, we must be slow to charge contradictions. This is a right rule in respect to all writers and speakers, and more especially should we observe it in respect to the inspired writers of the New Testament.

Luke’s first part, like Matthew’s, is devoted to the infancy and the early life of Jesus, concluding with his temptation; and the amount of space which he gives to it about the same as Matthew’s, but he fills it with incidents nearly all of which are different from those given by Matthew. In order to learn all we can about this part of our Lord’s life, we have to study the first part of Luke and that of Matthew together; and it would be well for the student to do this before he reads farther in this Gospel.

In the second part, Luke gives his attention, like Matthew and Mark, to the ministry of Jesus in Galilee, saying nothing about some visits to Jerusalem which we know from John’s Gospel were made during this period. This part extends from Luke 4:14 to Luke 9:62, less space than is given it by either Matthew or Mark. Then follows the part of Luke in which he gives the most new information, and the whole of it is both instructive and charming. It includes chapters ten to eighteen, more than either of the other parts. His last, or fourth part, like that of the other two Gospels, is devoted to the closing scenes of the last six months, and it includes his last six chapters.

Luke was a physician, as we learn from Paul (Colossians 4:14); and as Paul in the same passage seems to distinguish him from “those of the circumcision” (Colossians 4:10, 14), it is inferred that he was a Gentile. If so he was the only Gentile who wrote any part of the New Testament. Like Mark, he was not an apostle; and consequently he did not write as an eye-witness; but he informs us, in the opening paragraph of his book, that he had obtained his information from eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, and that he had traced everything accurately from the beginning. As his book is addressed to one Theophilus, whose name is a Greek word, it appears that he intended it primarily for Greek readers. He addresses Theophilus by the title “most excellent” (Luke 1:3), the usual Greek form of address to a man of high rank in the political world, from which it appears that at least a few such men had been brought into the church when Luke’s Gospel was written.17

All three of the Gospels which we have now noticed are supposed, to have been written not earlier than the year 60 A.D.

17 Luke’s Gospel is his introduction to the story of the Apostolic Church and the ministry of Paul which is given in Acts. It emphasizes the compassionate love of Jesus for humanity. It is the Gospel of Society.—W.

Scofield’s Study Bible


Author: Theme: Date of writing:
Luke Christ, the Man c. a.d. 60


Luke, who wrote the third Gospel and Acts, was known as “our dear friend . . . the doctor” (Colossians 4:14). He was a companion and fellow worker with Paul (Philemon 24). Compare the Introduction to Acts.

This book, the longest of the Gospels, was written principally for the Greeks. Its emphasis is on the perfect humanity of Christ, whom it presents as the Son of Man, the human-divine Person, and whose genealogy it traces to Adam. Luke’s narrative of the birth and infancy of the Lord is from the point of view of the virgin mother. He alone tells of Christ’s boyhood and reveals more of His prayer life than the other Synoptics. The parables found in this Gospel show Christ’s concern for lost humanity. In the accounts of certain miracles, the trained observation of a physician is evident.

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