CLASS NOTES: THE GOSPEL OF LUKEThe Gospel of Luke holds a number of distinctions. It is the longest Gospel (if one goes bycontent rather than chapters). It contains the largest amount of unique material among theSynoptic Gospels. It is the only Gospel that is linked to another book, i.e. the Book of Acts. It isthe only book in the New Testament that appears to have been written by a Gentile. But perhapsmost importantly, it is the Gospel that shows most clearly that Jesus, the Son of Man, is theSavior for all people.INTRODUCTIONAuthorshipAlthough the Gospel of Luke is technically anonymous, Christians have traditionally attributedauthorship to Luke, a physician associated with Paul. We will briefly discuss the internal andexternal evidence in favor of this traditional authorship.Direct internal evidence in the Gospel for Lukan authorship is practically nonexistent. W. K.Hobart attempted to argue for Lukan authorship of the Gospel of Luke by noting that the Gospeloften utilized medical terms in relation to Jesus’ healings as opposed to non-medical terms usedby Matthew and Mark.1 But H. J. Cadbury2 and others have cast considerable doubt on Hobart’sassertion.Unlike the internal case, a strong case for Lukan authorship can be made from the externalevidence. One can begin with the title itself. While titles were probably not part of the originalautographs, they are often indicators of early church tradition. The oldest extant Greekmanuscript for Luke 75 contains the title “Gospel according to Luke.” Indeed, there is no othertextual tradition for the author being someone other than Luke for this Gospel. There are alsoseveral early references which support Lukan authorship For example, Irenaeus (Adv. Haer.3.1.2; 3.14.1., c. 130–202), Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215), Tertullian (c. 150–220), theAnti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark (c. 160–180), and Origen (c. 185–254) are consistent in theirsupport of Lukan authorship. The Muratorian Canon (A.D. 170) states “The third book of theGospel is that according to Luke. Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ,when Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own name,according to [the general] belief. Yet he himself had not seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore,as he was able to ascertain events, so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John.”3But the strongest case for Lukan authorship is made by linking the Gospel of Luke to Acts and1William Kirk Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke; a Proof from Internal Evidence That "The GospelAccording to St. Luke" And "The Acts of the Apostles" Were Written by the Same Person, and That the Writer Was aMedical Man (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co., 1882).2Henry Joel Cadbury, The Style and Literary Method of Luke (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1919).3Translation from Bruce Manning Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, andSignificance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 305.1
Charles SavelleCenter Point Bible Institute2identifying Luke through careful analysis of the “we passages” in Acts (16:10–17; 20:5–15;21:1–18; 27:1–28:16). Concerning the former, Guthrie has noted five links between the twobooks. “(1) Both books are dedicated to the same man, Theophilus; (2) Acts refers to the firsttreatise, which is most naturally understood as the gospel; (3) the books contain strongsimilarities of language and style; (4) both contain common interests; (5) Acts naturally followson from Luke’s gospel, although many scholars have found difficulties over the connecting links.It may safely be concluded that the evidence is very strong for linking the two books as the workof one man, a conclusion which few modern scholars would dispute.”4 So if the Gospel and Actswere written by the same person, and if one can identify Acts with Luke, then Luke would be theauthor of Acts. In conclusion, there is little reason, internally or externally to doubt thetraditional identification of Luke as the author.Having identified the author, three points merit consideration concerning the author. First, thereis solid evidence that although Luke was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ life (Luke 1:1–4), he wasassociated with the apostle Paul (2 Tim 4:11; Phlm 24; implied in the “we” passages 16:10–17;20:5–15; 21:1–18; 27:1–28:16). Second, Luke was probably a Gentile (Col 4:10–14). If correctthis would likely make Luke the only Gentile author in the New Testament.5 Third, Luke was aphysician (Col 4:14).DateDating Luke is largely dependent on the relationship of the Gospel of Luke to Acts, the relationof the Olivet Discourse in Luke 21:5–36 to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and how oneresolves the so-called Synoptic problem. Concerning the first issue we have already noted thelink between Luke to Acts. Since the prologue in Acts 1:1–2 suggests that Luke was written first,then the Gospel had to be written prior to Acts. The issue of dating Acts is complicated bydifferences of opinion regarding the ending of Acts. Some suggest that the ending of Acts withPaul under Roman arrest (c. A.D. 60–62) is indicative of the time of writing. That is, Luke wrotebefore Paul was put to death in the mid-to-late sixties. Others suggest that Luke had otherreasons for ending Acts where he does, reasons which have nothing to do with chronology.While, one cannot be dogmatic here, the former seems more likely than the latter. This wouldmean that if Acts was written around A.D. 62, then Luke would have to be written before then.This early date is also consistent with our view of the Olivet Discourse which is best understoodas a prophecy which includes the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Concerning the Synopticproblem we have already noted in our discussions of Matthew and Mark that we believe thatMarkan priority provides the most satisfactory explanation of the similarities and differencesbetween the Synoptics. Since we have dated Mark to the mid fifties, and since Luke used Mark,then Luke would have to be written after the mid fifties. In our understanding, Luke neither knewof Matthew’s work, nor Matthew of Luke’s work. This means that both Matthew and Luke wereprobably written around the same time. Since the terminus ad quem would be 62 and theterminus a quo would be around 55, we suggest a date around A.D. 60–61. This date allowssufficient time for Mark’s Gospel to circulate and be used by both Matthew and Luke.45Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 4th ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 115-16.Robert G. Gromacki, New Testament Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), 109.
Charles SavelleCenter Point Bible Institute3Original RecipientsThe Gospel of Luke was written to a certain Theophilus (1:1–4; cf. Acts 1:1). Little is knownabout Theophilus. Although Theophilus literally means “lover of God” or “dear to God”6commentators disagree whether he was a believer or not.7 The fact that Luke identifies him as“most excellent” (kravtiste; Luke 1:3) may suggest that he was a Roman official (cf. 23:26;24:3; 26:25)8 although some contend that it was merely a form of polite address.9 It is alsopossible that Theophilus was Luke’s patron, that is, the one who financed the writing of LukeActs. Theophilus’ identity aside, it seems likely that Luke had intended a broader readership thanjust one man. The specific identity of this broader readership is uncertain although it wasprobably predominantly Gentile. To this end, J. A. Martin has noted that several lines ofevidence point to a Gentile audience including, frequent explanations of Jewish localities (4:31;8:26; 21:37; 23:51; 24:13), the genealogy of Jesus traced back to Adam rather than to Abraham,as in Matthew’s Gospel (3:23–38), reference to Roman emperors in designating the dates ofJesus’ birth (2:1) and of John the Baptist’s preaching (3:1), use of terms more familiar to Gentileaudiences, the use of the Septuagint when quoting from the Old Testament, and a lack ofemphasis on Jesus’ fulfilling prophecies presumably because this was not as important to aGentile audience.10 It is also likely that Luke was written to a Christian audience. As R. Steinnotes,It is clear that Luke expected his readers to be familiar with the Gospel traditions.They had been taught them (1:4), and he expected them to understand such expressionsas the “Son of Man” and the “Kingdom of God,” which he never explained. At times heeven omitted parts of the tradition he assumed his audience would “fill in” by theirprevious knowledge. There are also present various teachings (12:35–48; 16:1–9 [esp. vv.8–9]; 17:7–10) and worship materials (the Lord’s Prayer and Lord’s Supper) that applyspecifically to Christians. In general the Third Gospel does not appear to be anevangelistic tract addressed to unbelievers, for Luke did not seek to explain difficult orconfusing issues as he would have done if writing to non-Christians.116The literal meaning of Theophilus has led some to suggest that Theophilus is not to be understood as a propername, but should be taken symbolically for Christians. That is, Luke was addressing believers in general and not aparticular person. While it seems clear that Luke was written with an ultimately broader audience in mind, there isno reason why Theophilus should not be understood as a real person. Furthermore, as Longemecker suggests, “It isprecarious to suppose (cf. Origen and others after him) that "Theophilus" (etymologically, "Friend of God" or"Loved by God") is a symbolic name for either an anonymous person or a class of people” (Richard N.Longenecker, “Acts,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol. 9, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1981], 253).7Some commentators who suggest that Theophilus was an unbeliever include G.B. Caird, The Gospel of St. Luke(Baltimore: Penguin, 1963), 44. Some commentators who suggest that Theophilus was a believer include D. Bock,Fitzmeyer, Marshall, Polhill.8“The adj. kratistos was the Greek equivalent of Latin egregious, a title often used for the ordo equester, the‘knights’ of Roman Society” (Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, The Acts of the Apostles, Anchor Bible [New York: Doubleday,1998], 195).9Longenecker, “Acts,” 253.10John A. Martin, "Luke," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B.Zuck (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1983), 200–1.11Robert H. Stein, Luke, ed. David S. Dockery, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman,1992), 27.
Charles SavelleCenter Point Bible Institute4Historical SettingThe Gospel does not identify a specific historical setting. As noted above the Gospel wasaddressed to Theophilus and perhaps to a broader Gentile audience. In either case a believingaudience was probably in view. Attempts to be more specific concerning the specificcircumstances would be speculative. Where Luke wrote from is also uncertain though some havesuggested Rome.PurposeThe Gospel of Luke contains no explicit statement of purpose. This ambiguity has not preventeda number of proposals regarding the purpose. Indeed. Bock has identified eleven suchproposals.12 While interacting with the above proposals would certainly be an interestingendeavor, we will choose a simpler course. At its heart, the purpose of Luke appears to be mainlyhistorical. Guthrie agrees. He states, “Luke meant to write a historical account.”13 Furthermore,as Witherington notes, “Luke’s claims about investigation in Luke 1:1–4 suggest a historicalnarrative is to follow, and by describing and explaining a sequential development in Luke andActs, not merely reporting it, he met the most essential requirement of Greek historiographyalready set forth in Herodotus’s seminal work.”1415 Related to this historical interest is the desireto teach Theophilus (1:4).Literary Features and StructureLuke is most obviously gospel (1:1). A Gospel in its broadest sense is a recounting of the Jesusstory. But what characterizes a gospel? Mark Strauss has helpfully identified three characteristicsof a gospel.16 First, the Gospels are historical literature, that is, “they have a history ofcomposition,” “they are set in a specific historical context,” and “they are meant to conveyaccurate historical information.” Second, the Gospels are narrative literature and “not merelycollections of reports or sayings of the historical Jesus.” Third, the Gospels are theologicalliterature, that is, “theological documents written to instruct and encourage believers and toconvince unbelievers of the truth of their message. One further note concerning genre can bemade. There is a developing consensus that the Gospels bear close similarities in form to GrecoRoman biographies.1712Darrell L. Bock, Luke, Volume 1: 1:1–9:50, ed. Moisés Silva, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NewTestament, vol. 3A (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 14.13Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 106.14Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998),13.15David A. deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods, and Ministry Transformation(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 348.16The substance of this paragraph is summarized from Mark L. Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introductionto Jesus and the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 27–9.17See Richard A. Burridge, What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Greco-Roman Bibliography, ed. Astrid Beckand David Noel Freedman, 2d ed., Biblical Resource Series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).
Charles SavelleCenter Point Bible Institute5The Greek of Luke is generally considered to be good. His style is diverse ranging from classical(prologue), to semitically tinged/septuagintally influenced (the infancy narratives), to goodliterary Koine.18 Concerning Luke’s literary facility, W. L. Liefeld states, “While there is nouniform agreement today regarding Luke's background or the reasons for his distinctive sty