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Luke: Introduction, Outline, and Argument

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I. Introduction

A. The Author

There are three pieces of evidence to consider: title, external evidence, and internal evidence.

1. The Title

As with the other gospels, no MSS which contain Luke affirm authorship by anyone other than Luke.1 Once again, as with the others, this is short of proof of Lukan authorship, but the unbroken stream suggests recognition of Lukan authorship as early as the first quarter of the second century.

2. External Evidence

Attestation of Lukan authorship is found in the Muratorian Canon, the anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, and Jerome. These all not only affirm authorship of the gospel by Luke, but Lukan authorship for the book of Acts, too. Thus the external evidence is both unanimous and early. “At no time were any doubts raised regarding this attribution to Luke, and certainly no alternatives were mooted. The tradition could hardly be stronger . . .”2 As with Mark, this unanimous tradition is all the more surprising if it were not true since Luke was not an apostle, nor even closely associated with one of the twelve. Caird makes the interesting observation:

Not all the traditions of the early Church are to be accepted at their face value, but there are good reasons for accepting this one. . . . a book which was meant for publication must have borne its author’s name from the start. In this respect the literary conventions of the first century were stricter than ours, which allow an author to hide behind a pen-name. Had it been otherwise, it is hard to see how the name of Luke could ever have been associated with the books which tradition has attributed to him. Luke can scarcely be described as a prominent figure in the annals of first-century Christianity.3

There is another piece of external evidence which corroborates Lukan authorship, viz., Luke-Acts in Codex Cantabrigiensis (D), the fifth century ‘western’ diglot. Studies done on the singular readings of D (by G. E. Rice, E. J. Epp, etc.) show that it had certain theological tendencies. Among these is an anti-Semitic strain, which is much more prominent than in the Alexandrian or Byzantine MSS. But in particular, the anti-Semitic strain of D is found almost exclusively in Luke-Acts. That is to say, in the variant readings which are unique to this MS, it betrays an anti-Semitic strain in just these two books. What is to account for this? Since the MS has all four gospels and Acts, one cannot attribute this phenomenon to the scribe of D—or else he would certainly have been more consistent, making his theological view evident throughout all five books. Nor can we attribute this to Luke himself, for the Western text is decidedly inferior and secondary to the Alexandrian, in spite of its antiquity.4 If the theological slant of D in Luke-Acts is not due to Luke himself, nor to the scribe(s) of D, it most likely was created by an earlier scribe who copied only Luke and Acts and did not have the other gospels under the same cover. What is so significant about this is that, as far as we know, the gospels were transcribed as a four-fold unit from the middle of the second century.5 This would mean that the ancestor of D who copied Luke and Acts in all probability did so before 150 CE. Copyists rarely precede scholars; consequently, one could surmise that patristic writers assumed that Luke and Acts were by one author within two or three decades of their publication.6

3. Internal Evidence

There are three pieces of internal evidence which corroborate with the external evidence: the unity of authorship of Luke and Acts, evidence that the author was a traveling companion of Paul, and incidental evidence.7

a. Unity of Authorship of Luke and Acts8

There are five arguments which Guthrie uses to show common authorship:

(1) Both books are dedicated to the same man, Theophilus; (2) Acts refers to the first treatise, which is most naturally understood as the gospel; (3) the books contain strong similarities of language and style; (4) both contain common interests; (5) Acts naturally follows on from Luke’s gospel . . . It may safely be concluded that the evidence is very strong for linking the two books as the work of one man, a conclusion which few modern scholars would dispute.9

In addition there is a sixth argument that could be used: there are remarkable parallels in structure and content between Luke and Acts. To take but one example, “not only is Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem parallel to that of Paul, but also the events that take place when the two men reach the city, and after, are similar.”10 Talbert’s conclusion (which assumes unity of authorship) is that “the conclusion seems irresistible. This architectonic pattern which has Gospel and Acts correspond in content and in sequence at many points is due to deliberate editorial activity by the author of Luke-Acts.”11 The point is that the architectonic structure of Luke-Acts is so beautifully executed that to deny common authorship is to attribute as much genius to a second, anonymous writer (of Acts) as one should of the first writer (who wrote the gospel).12

b. Evidence that the Author was a Companion of Paul

The “we” passages in Acts (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1–28:16), prima facie, suggest a companion of Paul. On this supposition, this particular companion

(1) first joins Paul at Philippi [sic: Troas]; (2) reappears on Paul’s return visit to Philippi; (3) accompanies the apostle on the journey towards Jerusalem and stays with Philip at Caesarea, and (4) after Paul’s two years’ imprisonment at Caesarea, during which time there are no definite data regarding the author’s whereabouts, accompanies Paul to Rome and experiences shipwreck with him. It would also mean that the author could not be any of those companions of Paul who are mentioned by name in these sections (Silas, Timothy, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus, Trophimus).13

c. Indirect Evidence in Support of Lukan Authorship

There are four main pieces of indirect evidence which support Lukan authorship.

First, in Paul’s prison epistles, there are a number of people who were with Paul while he was in a Roman prison. There is a definite probability that the author of Luke-Acts was one of them. Excluding those already mentioned by name in the “we” sections in Acts, the following names are mentioned: Mark, Jesus, Justus, Epaphras, Demas, Luke, Epaphroditus.

Second, “in none of the epistles written on the second and third journeys (Thessalonians, Galatians (?), Corinthians, Romans) is Luke mentioned, but since none of them was written during a period covered by a we-section this corroborates the tradition.”14

Third, according to Col. 4:10 and Philemon 24, Luke and Mark were in close contact with one another. Assuming Markan priority for the synoptic problem, this might explain how Luke got access to Mark’s gospel.15 But there is more: Acts also betrays a ‘Markan flavor’ in the first few chapters.

Fourth, Col. 4:14 calls Luke ‘the beloved physician.’ In 1882 W. K. Hobart wrote his celebrated The Medical Language of St. Luke in which he argued that where Matthew and Mark use common, everyday terms, Luke often used medical terms in describing Jesus’ healings. This, however, was challenged by H. J. Cadbury three decades later (1920),16 who pointed out that Luke’s language was no different than that of any educated person. As Caird quips, if we should now appeal to Hobart’s tome, “this would make doctors of almost all the writers of antiquity . . .”17 Nevertheless, one should admit that Luke’s terminology is compatible with an educated person, and that a physician would fit this picture well. Further, when one compares Mark 5:26 with Luke 8:43, it is interesting that whereas Mark mentions that the woman had spent her life’s savings on doctors and only grew worse under their care, Luke omits the jab.

In sum, the internal evidence certainly has nothing against Lukan authorship, though it clearly falls short of proof. This is all the more reason to accept Lukan authorship, for this is the unanimous testimony from the fathers: “Granted that an ancient scholar might have deduced from the prologue to the Gospel that the author was not an apostle and from the ‘we’ sections of Acts that he was a companion of Paul, he still would have had no means of putting a name to the author if there had not been a valid tradition connecting the books with the name of Luke.”18

Assuming that Luke penned the gospel which bears his name, what do we know about him (apart from his occupation)? First, he was probably a Gentile since he is mentioned separately from the “men of the circumcision” in Colossians 4.19 Second, he may have been from Troas for the ‘we’ sections in Acts begin there.20 Beyond this there is very little information within the NT. However, the Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke (found not infrequently attached to Latin MSS of the gospel) adds some interesting information: (1) Luke was a native of Antioch, (2) he wrote the gospel in Achaea, (3) never married, (4) and died at age 84 in Boetia. Since the same source adds other, extremely doubtful information, all of the above is suspect as well.21

4. Arguments against Lukan Authorship

There are principally three arguments against Lukan authorship.

a. Historical Discrepancies

Many have pointed out apparent discrepancies between Paul’s biographical notes in his Hauptbriefe and other secure epistles with the information about Paul given in Acts. Three alleged discrepancies are particularly striking: (1) the number of visits Paul made to Jerusalem given in Acts and that given in Galatians;22 (2) the make-up of the converts in Thessalonica;23 and (3) Paul’s attitude toward the OT Law.

Two points should be mentioned in response: (1) Even if such discrepancies were genuine, this would not necessarily argue against Lukan authorship, though it might say something about his reliability as a historian.24 (2) All of the alleged discrepancies are capable of alternative explanations, thus rendering them “an insecure basis for rejecting the tradition.”25

b. Different Interpretations of the “We”’ Sections

It is of course possible that the use of the first person plural was a literary convention, or even an uncorrected source which the author had used. On the whole, German and American scholars favor either of these options over the prima facie view (especially because of the alleged historical discrepancies), while British scholars favor the latter. Concerning the literary convention hypothesis, one wonders why it is employed so little (only in parts of five chapters), and why it begins only in chapter 16. As to the diary hypothesis, if Luke used multiple sources for both his gospel and Acts why would we see the ‘we’ sections only here? Surely he received many first person reports (both written and oral) for the composition of both books.26 This view suggests that he was careful to change the first person plural all the way through both Luke and Acts until Acts 16! Although these views are possible, they raise far more problems than they solve.

c. Theological Difficulties

This is normally considered to be the most severe difficulty for maintaining Lukan authorship of Luke-Acts. There are two main difficulties to be dealt with: (1) Paul’s solution to the problem of the OT Law; and (2) the speeches attributed to Paul in Acts.27 Rather than deal with these twice, however, we will simply defer the reader to the introduction to Acts. Suffice it to say here that these difficulties are more apparent than real.

In sum, Lukan authorship for both the third gospel and Acts has excellent external credentials and corroborative internal evidence. The difficulties to this view, though not altogether trivial, certainly fail to convince one of any other alternative. Indeed, it is precisely because there are theological and historical difficulties between Acts and Paul that the argument for Lukan authorship is the most plausible: what later writer (for those who deny Lukan authorship all put Luke-Acts late), who had access to Paul’s letters, would create so many discrepancies in the portrait of his hero, the apostle Paul?28

B. Date

A number of factors and presuppositions affect the date of this book. Among the most important are: (1) authorship; (2) the solution to the synoptic problem; (3) whether the Olivet Discourse was truly prophetic or a vaticinium ex eventu; and especially (4) the date of Acts. Though most scholars date the book c. 80-90, our conclusion is that it should be dated substantially earlier.

(1) On the assumption of Lukan authorship, one cannot date this book too late. That is to say, since Luke was certainly an adult when he joined Paul in his second missionary journey,29 he would have probably thirty to fifty years to have written this work. However, apart from F. C. Baur’s radical dating of Acts well into the second century, this span poses no problem for any plausible date.

(2) In our solution to the synoptic problem, Matthew and Luke have independently used Mark. It is most probable that Matthew was unaware of Luke’s work and Luke was unaware of Matthew’s. If so, then both were probably written at around the same time. If Matthew is dated c. 60-65 CE, then Luke in all probability should be dated similarly.30

(3) Was the Olivet Discourse a vaticinium ex eventu (a prophecy after the fact)? It is safe to say that the assumption that it was is the single most important reason for overturning an early date (pre-70) for Luke (as it was for Matthew and Mark). We have dealt with this in our discussion of Matthew’s date and simply need to summarize our two points here: (a) only a denial of the possibility of predictive prophecy on the lips of Jesus would necessitate a late date; (b) the synoptic gospels are both vague and imprecise in their prophecies assuming that those prophecies were fulfilled in the Jewish War; but if there is more to come, and if the Olivet Discourse was given before 66 CE, then the discourse makes sense.

(4) The date of Acts is of course the most significant piece of evidence in dating Luke, for the gospel must precede Acts. We will deal with the date of Acts in some detail in our introduction to that book, but one point can be made here. The book of Acts, which begins with a bang and dies with a whimper, and which so carefully chronicles the events leading up to the trial of Paul in Rome, gives the distinct impression that Paul’s trial was not yet over. In other words, it is very doubtful that this book was written after 62 CE. If so, then Luke was not written after 62 CE.

At the same time, one has to ask how much earlier the gospel was than Acts. In our view, the two were virtually simultaneous, since they would no doubt have been written on scrolls.31 Customarily, the longest usable scroll was about thirty-five feet. Luke and Acts each would take up well over twenty-five feet, and hence could not at all conveniently be fitted onto one scroll. This fact, coupled with the internal continuity between the two books,32 strongly suggests that they were meant to be read virtually as a single document, written at almost the same time, bearing the same purpose(s).33

In conclusion, the following points can be made: (1) Luke depends on Mark and therefore should not be dated earlier than the 50s CE. The date of Mark, then, provides the terminu a quo for the date of Luke. (2) Luke neither knew of Matthew’s work, nor Matthew of Luke’s. If Matthew is dated c. 60-65, then Luke was probably written within the same time frame. (3) Luke was written before the start of the Jewish War because his Olivet Discourse includes vague and not-yet-fulfilled material. (4) If Acts is dated c. 62 CE, then Luke must precede it, though since both are really two halves of the same work, it is doubtful that it precedes it by much. Our conclusion is that Luke was written just before the end of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, c. 61-62 CE.

C. Sources and Method of Composition34

On the assumption of Markan priority, there is still a matter to be solved regarding Luke’s method of composition. There are two hypotheses in vogue: the Markan hypothesis and the proto-Luke hypothesis.

The proponents of the Marcan Hypothesis tell us that Luke, like Matthew, used Mark’s outline as the framework of his Gospel, into which he inserted the material from his other sources. They claim that after the first two chapters the non-Marcan material comprises four passages of very unequal length (51-11, 620–83, 951–1814, 191-27), together with some editorial insertions in 31–430 and 2214–2453 these passages being essentially Marcan; and that this material owes such semblance of continuity as it displays wholly to the Marcan framework in which it has been set. The advocates of the Proto-Luke Hypothesis assert that, up to the Passion narrative, the Gospel consists of alternate strips of Mark (431-44, 512–619, 84–950, 1815-43, 1928–2213) and of Q and L combined (11–430, 51-11, 620–83, 951–1814, 191-27), that in the Passion narrative there is a non-Marcan framework with Marcan insertions, and that the only reasonable explanation of this pattern is that Luke had already woven his Q and L material into a first draft of a Gospel before he became acquainted with Mark, so that this Proto-Luke provided the outline into which blocks of Mark were incorporated.

. . . the crux of the problem lies in two passages (31430 and 22142453), since there is little difference of opinion about the rest of the Gospel. . . . This controversy might appear at first sight to be of merely academic interest, but the verdict we give here will make a considerable difference to our estimate of the historical value of the Gospel. For the Marcan Hypothesis involves the corollary that Luke used wide editorial freedom in rewriting his sources. It is therefore well worth while to study the evidence in some detail.

1. The first point to notice is that Luke’s Gospel contains eleven doublets—sayings which occur twice in different contexts. . . . In ten out of eleven cases the reason for the doublet is that Luke has included one version of a saying from Mark and another version from one of his other sources. It follows from this that Luke’s three sources occasionally overlap, so that, if a passage in Luke has a Marcan parallel, this does not necessarily mean that he derived it from Mark . . . [Thus in Luke 3:1–4:13,] Luke is mainly dependent on Q and has used Mark, if at all, only in a supplementary way.

2. Where Luke is demonstrably using Mark, he normally follows Mark’s order . . . . But there are seventeen places where he diverges from the order of Mark . . . [After showing the tables, together with triple tradition in which Luke and Matthew are more dependent on Q than on Mark, Caird points out that] in a number of cases where Mark and Q overlapped, Luke has used the Q version to the exclusion of the Marcan one. . . . where Luke appears to diverge from Mark’s order he is actually following another source.

3. In Luke 2214–2453, out of a total of 163 verses, there are 87 verses which have some counterpart in Mark, but only 20 in which there is the sort of verbal similarity which is normally regarded as evidence of dependence. When Luke is indisputably following Mark, he uses 53 per cent of Mark’s words, but here he uses only 27 percent, and many of the words which he shares with Mark are words without which the Passion story could not have been told at all. . . . we are bound to conclude either that Luke has here drastically departed from his ordinary methods of composition or that he was relying principally on a non-Marcan source to which he made occasional additions from Mark. . . .

4. In 431–2213 Luke has regularly combined Q and L material in a composite narrative and has left the Marcan material in separate blocks. There are two possible explanations of this phenomenon. Either Luke valued Mark so highly above his other sources that he determined to keep it distinct from them, or he had already combined Q and L before he knew anything about Mark. It is not hard to make a choice between these alternatives. . . .  Two-thirds of his Gospel is drawn from other sources; he omitted nearly half the contents of Mark, including the so-called ‘Great Omission’ (Mark 645–826); and, where his sources overlapped, we have seen that he frequently preferred Q and L to Mark.

5. Matthew and Mark never refer to Jesus as ‘the Lord’ in narrative. Luke does so fourteen times. The usage is clearly editorial, for it occurs in both Q and L passages; but, as it never occurs when Luke is editing Mark, it cannot be regarded as characteristic of the final redaction of the Gospel. . . . This is intelligible if Luke composed his Gospel in two stages.

6. Luke’s Gospel contains two mission charges, one addressed to the twelve and drawn from Mark, the other addressed to the seventy and drawn from Q and L (93-9, 102-12). But when Jesus later reminds the twelve that they had gone out with no purse or bag or sandals (2235), he is echoing the charge given to the seventy. This editorial lapse is readily understandable if, when Luke first wrote the account of the Last Supper, he had only one mission charge to refer to.

7. There are several indications that 31-2 was originally intended to be the opening of the Gospel. . . . But if the birth stories were not included in the earliest plan of the Gospel, this is further evidence that the book went through two stages of composition.

These seven considerations together may not constitute a proof of the soundness of the Proto-Luke theory, but they do reveal the total inadequacy of its rival. As a working hypothesis for our present study, then, we shall assume that Luke began his literary undertaking by collecting information about Jesus from eyewitnesses and others, probably during the years when Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea. At the same time, or shortly afterwards, he combined the material he had accumulated with the teaching tradition of Q, so as to form the first draft of a gospel. Subsequently, when a copy of Mark came into his hands, he augmented his original document with Marcan insertions. He then added the infancy stories and the prologue to bring his work into its final form. And perhaps it is not out of place to add that in every stage of composition he left the imprint of his own peculiar artistry and charm.

Of these seven arguments, I find the second and fourth the most convincing, and the sixth the least convincing (in fact, of dubious value). Thus, where Luke is indisputably using Mark, he follows Mark’s order; otherwise he has already used prior sources and now simply weaves Mark’s material into the narrative. But for the most part, material taken from Mark is left intact precisely because Luke came across Mark at virtually the last stage of composition. This quite adequately explains the “Great Omission” (Mark 6:45–8:26), a feature which students in the Griesbach school have often used as an argument against Markan priority. If Luke came across Mark after he had already composed a rough draft of his gospel,35  realizing both that time was short36 and that his space was limited,37 certain editorial choices had to be made. And since Mark 6:45–8:26 did not materially help out the structure of Luke’s “travel narrative” (9:51–18:14) in which he “arranges his material in such a way as to focus attention on Jerusalem as a preparation for the passion narratives,”38 it most naturally would get the ax.

The significance of Luke’s method of composition is that it indicates that he was quite faithful to his sources. In other words, “Luke has made good his claim to be a trustworthy historian, provided that we do not make the blunder of judging him by the canons of modern, scientific historiography. His three sources, Mark, Q, and L, represent, in all probability, the traditions guaranteed by the three influential centers of Rome, Antioch, and Caesarea. The picture of Jesus which he gives is thus established ‘at the mouth of two or three witnesses’ . . .39

D. Destination

The gospel is addressed to one Theophilus. He is called “most excellent” (κράτιστε), a term usually indicating some sort of government official, or at least high social rank.40 It is possible to view the name as symbolic (“lover of God,” or “loved by God”), as if the real addressee needed to be incognito for some reason. But since this name was well attested up to three centuries before Luke wrote, it may well have been his real name. If Theophilus was a Roman official, then he certainly was a Gentile, and the contents of this gospel, as well as the Acts, bear eloquent testimony of a Gentile readership.41 As we shall see in our discussion of the purpose of Acts, Theophilus was not only a Roman official (in all likelihood), but also was in Rome.

Although Luke-Acts is addressed to Theophilus, something must be said for the probability that Luke intended to have this work published and consequently envisioned an audience broader in scope than one man. His prologue to both the gospel and Acts emulates so much the ancient historians’ prefaces that it is quite evident that he wanted the work published. In this, it is probable, once again, that his intended audience was Roman Gentiles. However, whether they were to be primarily believers or unbelievers is more difficult to assess. In fact, whether Theophilus was a believer or not is difficult to assess!42 The key issue is the meaning of κατηχήθης (“of what you have been informed” or “of what you have been taught”; from κατηχέω) in Luke 1:4. The term can refer either to Christian instruction (Acts 18:25; Gal. 6:6) or simply information, even a negative report (Acts 21:21, 24). Thus, even in the key term there is an impasse. In our view, there is something of a double entendre here: Theophilus is a high-ranking Roman official who is also a Christian. If his name is symbolic, then this is almost certainly the case.43 But since he seems to be a government official, then he has been “informed” about Christianity. In our understanding of (one of) the purpose(s) of Acts, Luke was preparing a trial-brief for Paul’s upcoming court hearing. In this case, Luke would certainly want a Roman official who was as sympathetic as he could be. κατηχήθης, then, seems to indicate that Luke wanted to set the record straight about the origins of Christianity (thus, information) while “Theophilus” suggests that this particular recipient had been more than informed—he had believed.44

E. Occasion and Purpose

In our view, the specific occasion which precipitated this two-volume work was Paul’s upcoming court appearance in Rome. We will deal with that in our introduction to Acts, without any defense of it here.

Regarding the purpose, this ties in quite closely with the occasion. However, it does seem that all of the gospels have more than one purpose. Guthrie well cautions us:

Whereas an author specifically states his own intentions, that must always be given more weight than any scholarly conjectures. Fortunately, Luke obliges us in his preface. . . . In short, Luke meant to write a historical account. [Yet,] in discussion of Luke’s purpose . . . it is impossible to treat this gospel apart from its sequel, the book of Acts. It may be reasonably supposed that any motives which become clearly apparent in Acts had their origin in the design of the gospel, and if this supposition is correct it is at least possible that the double work had an apologetic purpose. . . . Yet there is a sense in which the gospel is complete in itself.45

In our understanding of both the gospel and Acts, there is this twin purpose interwoven throughout: history and apologetic. The time at which Luke decided to publish this work strongly suggests an apologetic tone;46 but the explicit statement of his purpose indicates that he also intended to write an accurate account of the beginnings of Christianity. Suffice it to say here that the twin purpose of this two-volume work will be examined in greater detail in our discussion of Acts.47

F. Theme

Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man, rejected by Israel, offered to the Gentiles. In this presentation, Jesus is seen as a universal Savior. This theme dovetails nicely with the purpose and theme of Acts, for in Acts Luke is especially concerned with Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles.

II. Argument

The Gospel of Luke opens with a dedication of the work to Theophilus in which the author explains that he has carefully researched the data on the life of Jesus by consulting eyewitnesses and using the sources judiciously (1:1-4).

Luke then gives the most detailed description of the childhood of Jesus found in the canonical gospels (1:5–2:52). He presents Jesus’ infancy in a series of doublets—a motif which, we will see, is thoroughly Lukan throughout both Luke and Acts.

First, two births are prophesied (1:5-56), John the Baptist’s (1:5-25) and Jesus’ (1:26-38). There are many parallels between these two pericopes (e.g., announcement by an angel [1:11-17; 1:29-33], disbelief or doubt on the part of the recipient [1:18-22; 1:34-37], and response on the part of the mother-to-be [1:23-25; 1:38]). But there are three significant differences: (1) the angel comes to the father-to-be of John, while he comes to the mother-to-be of Jesus, and (2) though both births would be miraculous, the birth of Jesus would be unique, for he would be conceived by a virgin; (3) Zechariah’s questioning was met with the discipline of dumbness, while Mary’s question was answered positively. Whatever else this tells us, Jesus is already seen to be more significant than his forerunner.

Mary then visits Elizabeth (1:39-56) where a foreshadowing of Jesus’ greatness is seen in that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy (1:40, 42) and she exclaimed to Mary, “Blessed are you among women!” (1:42). The difference between the two is further seen in the difference between Elizabeth’s blessing of Mary (1:42-45) and Mary’s song to the Lord (1:46-55).

The second part of this first major section details the births of John and Jesus (1:57–2:52). Once again, there are parallels and, once again, these parallels show Jesus to be greater. John’s birth and infancy (1:57-80) parallel Jesus’ birth and infancy (2:1-52) in the following manner: first is the mention of the birth, then the circumcision, then Zechariah’s/Simeon’s song, and finally the growth of the child. But there is contrast too: Jesus’ birth is announced by angels to shepherds in a nearby field (2:8-20); at his circumcision, Anna prophesies along with Simeon’s song (2:25-38); and the growth of Jesus is detailed more completely (2:41-52). In Luke’s explanation of Jesus’ growth, there is an emphasis on wisdom (seen in the boy Jesus’ discussions of theology with the religious leaders in the temple [2:41-50] and in an explicit statement [2:51-52]), perhaps because “Greeks look for wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:22) and this Gospel is written for a Gentile audience.

The second major section, on the preparation of the Son of Man for public ministry (3:1–4:13), paves the way for Jesus’ Galilee ministry (4:14–9:50). Jesus’ preparation for public ministry is fourfold: (1) his forerunner prepares the hearts of the people, ultimately getting imprisoned for his efforts (3:1-20); (2) John baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River (3:21-22); (3) Jesus’ genealogy is inserted into the narrative to show that he is both Jew (son of Abraham, son of David) and man (son of Adam) (3:23-38); and (4) he is tempted by Satan (4:1-13) thus revealing his true humanity—and yet that he was not like other men.

All of this, in some sense, is prefatory. The rest of the Gospel is concerned with Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (4:14–9:50), his journey to Jerusalem (9:51–19:27), and his ministry and passion in Jerusalem (19:28–24:53). Thus the rest of the Gospel follows a geographical plan. As in Mark, Jesus’ turn toward Jerusalem (9:51) is the major transition in the Gospel.48

The third major section deals with Jesus’ Galilean ministry (4:14–9:50). His ministry starts afresh with a change in domicile from Nazareth to Capernaum, because of rejection at Nazareth (4:14-30) and acceptance at Capernaum (4:31-44). Because of the rejection at Nazareth, it was necessary for Jesus to authenticate his ministry in Galilee (5:1–6:16). He does this by calling four fishermen to become “fishers of men,” backing up his appeal with giving them a miraculous catch of fish (5:1-11). Then he heals a leper (5:12-16) as an example of catching men for the kingdom.

There are then several confrontations with the Pharisees (5:17–6:16) over Jesus’ authority over sin (5:17-26), his acceptance of sinners (5:27-32), and his authority over religious regulations (fasting in 5:33-39, the Sabbath in 6:1-11). What the Nazareth rejection foreshadowed has come true. But Jesus’ authority is vindicated every time. Hence, he selects twelve trainees to be his assistants (6:12-16).

An example of Jesus’ teaching is found next. In Luke’s presentation of the “Sermon on the Plain” (6:17-49), there is no emphasis on the OT law as there is in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. This fits in well with Luke’s purpose and audience. This form of the sermon is given to the disciples (cf. 6:20) to show them both the blessings of those who would inherit the kingdom of God (6:17-23) and the kinds of choices one must make if he is to follow Jesus completely (6:24-49).

Luke then skillfully shows that Jesus’ ministry was intended for all people, Jew and Gentile alike (7:1–8:18). This is seen especially in his healing of the centurion’s servant in Capernaum (7:1-10), his raising the widow’s son in Nain (7:11-17), and his anointing by a sinful woman at a Pharisee’s house (7:36-50).

Having established the widening scope and nature of Jesus’ ministry, Luke concludes his section on the Galilean ministry with a progressive revelation of Jesus’ true identity (8:19–9:50). The transition into this section (8:19-21) emphasizes that relationship to Jesus is accomplished by willingness to please God, not by blood-lines (8:19-21). The question of his identity is then heightened by his calming a storm (8:22-25): his disciples ask the question which governs the whole section: “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (8:25, NIV).

The Son of Man progressively answers this question by healing a demoniac (8:26-39), raising a girl from the dead (8:40-56), granting his disciples the power and authority to duplicate his feats (9:1-9), and feeding the five thousand (9:10-17). Because of such object lessons, the disciples are able to perceive better who Jesus is, as seen in Peter’s confession (9:18-20), followed by Jesus’ further revelations about his death and resurrection (9:21-27).49 Then, a few days later, another object lesson is given to a select few, viz., the Transfiguration (9:28-36). This event naturally caused the disciples to begin thinking about the kingdom and its glory. This is further highlighted by the healing of a demon-possessed boy (9:37-45) concerning which incident the crowds “were all amazed at the greatness of God” (9:43). The section concludes with the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom (9:46-50), revealing an obvious misunderstanding on their part as to what constitutes genuine greatness (9:48).

The fourth major section, the longest of the book, details Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (9:51–19:27). In his Galilean ministry, Jesus emphasized especially his identity. Now, as he moves toward Jerusalem, his mission (more than his person) becomes the focus.

The section begins with Jesus’ continued instruction in discipleship in light of his mission (9:51–11:13). Once the resolve to go to Jerusalem is disclosed (9:51), opposition to the Son of Man increases and is intertwined with his instruction to the disciples. The Samaritan opposition to him (9:52-56) is juxtaposed to a lesson on the cost of discipleship (9:57-62) and followed by the sending of the seventy-two (10:1-24)—no doubt so that they can get a better sense of what true discipleship entails (cf. 10:20). This first segment on Jesus’ instruction concludes with three more illustrations (the parable of the good Samaritan, Martha’s and Mary’s response, and Jesus’ teaching on prayer) of the cost of discipleship: (1) a true disciple loves without regard for race (10:25-37); (2) a true disciple places Jesus first (10:38-42); and (3) a true disciple is persistent in prayer (11:1-13).

The second part of the travel narrative involves the first cycle of major confrontations with the Pharisees (11:14-54). The Pharisees are so hard-hearted that they attribute Jesus’ miracles to the prince of demons (11:14-28) and demand more miracles as proof otherwise (11:29-32)! For this, Jesus pronounces six woes on them (11:37-52). Their response is to plot against him (11:53-54).

In light of the Pharisees’ rejection of Jesus, more instruction is given to Jesus’ disciples (12:1–19:27), punctuated only by a second cycle of confrontations with the Pharisees (14:1-24). The material in this section is somewhat randomly organized. There are several miscellaneous dominical sayings which seem to be given to impress Luke’s Gentile audience of the wisdom of the Son of Man.

The first set of instructions (12:1–13:35) has three parts: (1) a sermon concerning the proper attitude of a disciple, especially in the light of coming judgment (12:1–13:9), culminating in a parable which is effectively an appeal to recognize God’s gracious patience which is designed to lead one to repentance (13:1-9; cf. Rom. 2:4); (2) the healing of a crippled woman on the Sabbath in which the religious leaders’ rejection of Jesus is seen in sharp relief to the proper attitude of God’s elect (13:10-17); and (3) instructions on the nature of discipleship in the light of Jesus’ imminent death and the coming kingdom (13:18-35).

Then the second cycle of confrontations with the Pharisees (14:1-24) is staged at a Pharisee’s home. Rather than focusing on Jesus’ authority, however, this cycle emphasized the breadth of the gospel’s net to include sinners (14:15-24). This sets the stage for the final group of instructions.

The journey to Jerusalem concludes with instructions in discipleship in the light of Jesus’ impending death (14:25–19:27). Here especially we see miscellaneous dominical sayings, covering such diverse topics as the cost of discipleship (14:25-35), the value Jesus placed on sinners (15:1-32), a proper attitude toward money (16:1-15), a proper attitude toward the presence and coming of the kingdom (17:20-37), the necessity of reliance on God (18:15–19:10), and the like. Though Luke’s arrangement may be difficult to discern, his purpose is not. He wanted to give Theophilus (and his secondary audience, later Gentile readers) both examples of the wisdom of Jesus and reasons for seeing that Jewish hostility toward him was unfounded.50

Finally, Luke concludes his Gospel with Jesus’ ministry and passion in Jerusalem (19:28–24:53). The fifth major section reveals Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and subsequent heated debates with the religious leaders (19:28–21:38), followed by his death and resurrection (22:1–24:53).

Once again, Luke contrasts Jesus’ positive ministry with the rising opposition to him. He makes his so-called triumphal into Jerusalem (19:28-44) only to lament over the city’s lack of awareness of what this presentation really meant (19:41-44). Apparently, when he says, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace . . . ” (19:41), Jesus has in mind Daniel’s seventy week prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27), for after the end of the sixty-ninth week the nation would have no assurance that the Messiah would still be alive (“After the [seven plus] sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off” [Dan. 9:26a]).51 It is indeed his death which would ultimately bring the nation peace.

After this dramatic entry into the city, Jesus provides the catalyst for his own death by immediately cleansing the temple (19:45-46) and confronting the religious leaders in the temple (19:47–21:4). The emphasis throughout 19:45–21:38 is on opposition in the temple, culminating in the prediction of the temple’s fate (21:5-36). Luke is setting up a subtle contrast: if God’s true children do not need to be physically related to Israel, then true worshippers do not need to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Its final destruction will signal, once and for all, free access to God through another way. Luke concludes this major section by subtly contrasting the temple with the Mount of Olives (21:37-38), which hints at the difference between the old covenant with the new.52

The last major section of the Gospel focuses on the death and resurrection of the Son of Man (22:1–24:53). Preparations for Jesus’ death (22:1-53) are made by Judas (22:1-6), Jesus in relation to his disciples (22:7-38), and Jesus in relation to the Father (22:39-46). These preparations hit their climax in Jesus’ arrest (22:47-53).

The narrative now shifts to Jesus’ death (22:54–23:56) with an emphasis especially on the culpability of the Jewish leaders. But it begins with the sad note of Peter’s failure in his triple denial of Jesus (22:54-62), which the Lord had earlier predicted during their last Passover together (22:31-34). The men, probably Jewish (since they were dispatched by the Sanhedrin), guarding Jesus mock him (22:63-65). Jesus is then tried before the Sanhedrin (22:66-71) who needed permission from the Roman governor to kill him. So they took him to Pilate (23:1-5) who diplomatically handed him over to Herod Antipas since Jesus was from Galilee (23:6-11a). Herod sent him back to Pilate who attempted his release (since he recognized his innocence [23:22]), but needed to pacify the Jews (23:11b-25)—hence, he granted the mob’s demand for crucifixion.

The Son of Man was then crucified (23:26-49). The emphasis here is especially on Jesus’ innocence. This is seen especially in two vignettes: (1) Luke alone records that one of the criminals crucified with Jesus responded positively to him (23:40-43); and (2) the centurion’s exclamation that “Surely this was a righteous man” (23:47) is theologically softer than the parallel found in both Matthew and Mark (“This was the Son of God” [Matt. 27:54; Mark 15:39]).53 The passage is then concluded with Jesus’ burial (23:50-56) in the tomb of Joseph—“a member of the Council, a good and upright man” (23:50, NIV).

The final section of Luke’s first volume displays the resurrection of Christ in greater detail than is found in the synoptic parallels. Besides recounting the pericope of the empty tomb (24:1-12)—found in all the Gospels—Luke emphasizes Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. He appears on the road to Emmaus to two of his disciples (24:13-35), and then to the disciples in Jerusalem (24:36-43). In his final commission (24:44-49) the emphasis is placed on the Gentile mission. Luke concludes with Christ’s ascension into heaven (24:50-53), which overlaps with the beginning of his second volume, the book of Acts.

III. Outline54

I. Prologue (1:1-4)

II. The Infancy of the Son of Man (1:5–2:52)

A. Two Pregnancies predicted (1:5-56)

1. The Prediction of John’s Birth (1:5-25)

a. The Setting (1:5-10)

b. The Announcement of the Angel (1:11-17)

c. The Doubt of Zechariah (1:18-22)

d. The Response of Elizabeth (1:23-25)

2. The Prediction of Jesus’ Birth (1:26-38)

a. The Setting (1:26-28)

b. The Announcement of the Angel (1:29-33)

c. The Doubt of Mary (1:34-37)

d. The Response of Mary (1:38)

3. The Visit of Mary with Elizabeth (1:39-56)

a. The Setting (1:39-41)

b. Elizabeth’s Blessing (1:42-45)

c. Mary’s Song (1:46-55)

d. Summary (1:56)

B. Two Sons Born (1:57–2:52)

1. The Birth and Infancy of John (1:57-80)

a. The Birth of John (1:57-58)

b. The Circumcision and Maturation of John (1:59-80)

1) The Circumcision (1:59-66)

2) Zechariah’s Song (1:67-79)

3) The Growth of John (1:80)

2. The Birth and Infancy of Jesus (2:1-52)

a. The Birth of Jesus (2:1-20)

1) The Historical Setting (2:1-3)

2) The Birth in Bethlehem (2:4-7)

3) The Witnesses of the Birth (2:8-20)

a) The Announcement by Angels (2:8-14)

b) The Visit by Shepherds (2:15-20)

b. The Circumcision and Maturation of Jesus (2:21-52)

1) The Circumcision (2:21-24)

2) Simeon’s Song and Anna’s Prophecy (2:25-38)

3) The Growth of Jesus (2:39-52)

a) Statement: Growth in Wisdom (2:39-40)

b) Example of Growth in Wisdom: The Boy Jesus at the Temple (2:41-50)

c) Statement: Growth in Wisdom and Stature (2:51-52)

III. The Preparation of the Son of Man for Public Ministry (3:1–4:13)

A. Preparation by John the Baptist (3:1-20)

1. Setting (3:1-6)

a. Historical (3:1-3)

b. Prophetic (3:4-6)

2. The Preaching of John (3:7-18)

3. The Imprisonment of John (3:19-20)

B. Preparation by Jesus’ Baptism (3:21-22)

C. Preparation by Jesus’ Pedigree (Genealogy) (3:23-38)

D. Preparation by Jesus’ Temptation (4:1-13)

IV. The Son of Man’s Galilean Ministry (4:14–9:50)

A. The New Base of Operations (4:14-44)

1. Rejection at Nazareth (4:14-30)

2. Reception at Capernaum (4:31-44)

a. In the Synagogue (4:31-37)

b. At Simon’s House (4:38-41)

c. In a Solitary Place (4:42-44)

B. The Authentication of Jesus’ Ministry (5:1–6:16)

1. The Calling of the First Disciples (5:1-11)

2. The Healing of a Leper (5:12-16)

3. Confrontations with the Pharisees (5:17–6:16)

a. The Healing of a Paralytic (5:17-26)

b. The Calling of a Tax Collector (5:27-32)

c. Questions about Fasting (5:33-39)

d. Jesus’ Authority over the Sabbath (6:1-11)

1) Plucking Grain (6:1-5)

2) Healing a Man’s Hand (6:6-11)

4. The Election of the Twelve Disciples (6:12-16)

C. The Principles of Jesus’ Ministry: The Sermon on the Plain (6:17-49)

1. Blessings and Woes (6:17-26)

2. Love for Enemies (6:27-36)

3. Judging Others (6:37-42)

4. Two Kinds of Trees (6:43-45)

5. Two Kinds of Builders (6:46-49)

D. The Scope and Nature of Jesus’ Ministry (7:1–8:18)

1. A Centurion’s Faith (7:1-10)

2. A Widow’s Son is Raised in Nain (7:11-17)

3. Jesus’ Commendation of John (7:18-35)

a. The Doubts by John (7:18-23)

b. The Commendation by Jesus (7:24-30)

c. The Capriciousness of the Multitudes (7:31-35)

4. Anointed by a Sinful Woman (7:36-50)

5. The Women who Helped Jesus’ Ministry (8:1-3)

6. Parable of the Sower (8:4-15)

7. Parable of Lamp (8:16-18)

E. The Identity of Jesus Progressively Revealed (8:19–9:50)

1. Jesus’ True Mother and Brothers (8:19-21)

2. Calming of the Storm (8:22-25)

3. Healing of a Demoniac (8:26-39)

4. A Dead Girl and a Sick Woman (8:40-56)

5. The Sending of the Twelve (9:1-9)

6. Feeding the Five Thousand (9:10-17)

7. Peter’s Confession (9:18-27)

8. The Transfiguration (9:28-36)

9. Healing a Demon-Possessed Boy (9:37-45)

10. Greatest in the Kingdom (9:46-50)

V. The Son of Man’s Journey to Jerusalem (9:51–19:27)

A. Instruction in Discipleship in the Light of Jesus’ Mission (9:51–11:13)

1. Summary: Jesus’ Resolve to go to Jerusalem (9:51)

2. Samaritan Opposition (9:52-56)

3. The Cost of Discipleship (9:57-62)

4. The Sending of the Seventy-Two (10:1-24)

a. Jesus’ Message on Departure (10:1-16)

b. The Disciples’ Joy on Return (10:17)

c. Jesus’ Response on their Return (10:18-24)

1) To the Disciples: On Rejoicing (10:18-20)

2) To the Father (10:21-22)

3) To the Disciples: On Blessing (10:23-24)

5. The Parable of the Good Samaritan (10:25-37)

6. Martha’s and Mary’s Responses (10:38-42)

7. Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer (11:1-13)

a. The Lord’s Prayer (11:1-4)

b. Persistence in Prayer (11:5-13)

1) The Response of a Friend (11:5-10)

2) The Goodness of God (11:6-13)

B. Confrontation with the Pharisees: First Cycle (11:14-54)

1. Jesus and Beelzebub (11:14-28)

2. The Sign of Jonah (11:29-32)

3. Parable: The Lamp of the Body (11:33-36)

4. Six Woes (11:37-52)

5. The Plot of the Pharisees (11:53-54)

C. Instructions in Discipleship in the Light of the Religious Leaders’ Rejection (12:1–13:35)

1. A Sermon on the Attitude of a Disciple: In the Light of Coming Judgment (12:1–13:9)

a. Setting (12:1a)

b. Leaven of the Pharisees (12:1b)

c. Fearless Confession in Light of God’s Sovereignty (12:2-12)

d. Attitude toward Riches (12:13-34)

1) Parable of the Rich Fool (12:13-21)

2) Worry and Treasures (12:22-34)

e. Vigilance and Watchfulness (12:35-48)

f. Not Peace but Division (12:49-53)

g. The Signs of the Times (12:54-56)

h. Agreement with your Opponent (12:57-59)

i. On Repentance (13:1-9)

1) Repent or Perish (13:1-5)

2) Parable of the Fig Tree (13:6-9)

2. Healing a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath (13:10-17)

3. Instruction on the Nature of Discipleship: In the Light of the Coming Kingdom (13:18-35)

a. Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:18-19)

b. Parable of the Leaven (13:20-21)

c. The Narrow Door (13:22-30)

d. Prediction of Jesus’ Death: Second Mention (13:31-33)

e. Lament over Jerusalem (13:34-35)

D. Confrontation with the Pharisees: Second Cycle (14:1-24)

1. Eating at a Pharisee’s House (14:1-14)

a. Healing a Man on the Sabbath (14:1-6)

b. Places of Honor (14:7-11)

c. Invited Guests (14:12-14)

2. The Parable of the Great Banquet (14:15-24)

E. Instruction in Discipleship in the Light of Jesus’ Impending Death (14:25–19:27)

1. The Cost of Discipleship (14:25-35)

a. Hating Family (14:25-27)

b. The cost of Building (14:28-30)

c. The Cost of War (14:31-33)

d. The Purpose of Salt (14:34-35)

2. Teaching in Parables (15:1–16:31)

a. The Value of Sinners (15:1-32)

1) Parable of the Lost Sheep (15:1-7)

2) Parable of the Lost Coin (15:8-10)

3) Parable of the Lost Son (15:11-32)

b. Financial Stewardship (16:1-15)

1) Parable of the Shrewd Manager (16:1-9)

2) Faithfulness in Little (16:10-12)

3) Serving Two Masters (16:13-15)

c. Additional Instruction (16:16-18)

d. Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31)

3. Instruction on the Attitude of a Disciple: in the Light of the Coming Kingdom (17:1–19:27)

a. Sin, Faith, Duty (17:1-10)

b. Gratitude: Ten Lepers Healed (17:11-19)

c. Expectation: The Presence and Coming of the Kingdom (17:20-37)

1) The Presence of the Kingdom (17:20-21)

2) The Coming of the Kingdom (17:22-37)

d. Persistence: The Parable of the Dishonest Judge (18:1-8)

e. Self-Righteousness: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14)

f. Simple Faith Vs. Self-Reliance (18:15–19:10)

1) Illustration of Simple Faith: Childlikeness and the Kingdom (18:15-17)

2) Example of Self-Reliance: The Rich Ruler (18:18-30)

3) Prediction of Death and Resurrection: Third Mention (18:31-34)

4) Example of Simple (and Persistent) Faith: The Healing of a Blind Man at Jericho (18:35-43)

5) Repentance from Self-Reliance: The Response of Zachaeus, the Tax Collector (19:1-10)

g. Faithfulness: The Parable of the Ten Minas (19:11-27)

VI. The Son of Man’s Jerusalem Ministry (19:28–21:38)

A. The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (19:28-44)

1. Preparation: The Unbroken Colt: (19:28-35)

2. Coronation: The Recognition of Jesus’ Messiahship (19:36-40)

3. Lament over Jerusalem (19:41-44)

B. Religious Opposition in the Temple (19:45–21:38)

1. The Cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem (19:45-46)

2. Confrontation with the Religious Leaders (19:47–21:4)

a. The Plot to Kill Jesus (19:47-48)

b. The Authority of Jesus Questioned (20:1-8)

c. The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (20:9-19)

d. Paying Taxes to Caesar (20:20-26)

e. Marriage at the Resurrection (20:27-40)

f. Whose Son is the Christ? (20:41-44)

g. The Hypocrisy of the Religious Leaders (20:45–21:4)

1) Condemnation of Hypocrisy (20:45-47)

2) Commendation of the Widow’s Sincerity (21:1-4)

3. The Fate of the Temple and Jerusalem (21:5-36)

a. The Fate of the temple (21:5-6)

b. The End of the Age (21:7-36)

1) Signs of the End of the Age (21:7-11)

2) The Coming Persecution (21:12-19)

3) The Destruction of Jerusalem (21:20-24)

4) The Coming of the Son of Man (21:25-28)

5) The Parable of the Fig Tree (21:29-33)

6) Watch and Pray (21:34-36)

4. Summary: Jesus’ Ministry in Jerusalem (21:37-38)

VII. The Death and Resurrection of the Son of Man (22:1–24:53)

A. The Preparation for Death (22:1-53)

1. Agreement to Betrayal by Judas (22:1-6)

2. The Last Passover (22:7-38)

a. Preparations for the Meal (22:7-13)

b. The Last Supper (22:14-20)

c. Prediction of Judas’ Betrayal (22:21-23)

d. Greatness in the Kingdom (22:24-30)

e. Prediction of Peter’s Denials (22:31-34)

f. Preparations for Ministry after Jesus’ Death (22:35-38)

3. Praying in the Mount of Olives (Gethsemane) (22:39-46)

4. The Arrest of Jesus (22:47-53)

B. The Death of Jesus (22:54–23:56)

1. Peter’s Denials of Jesus (22:54-62)

2. The Mocking of the Soldiers (22:63-65)

3. The Trials of Jesus (22:66–23:25)

a. The Trial Before the Sanhedrin (22:66-71)

b. The First Trial Before Pilate (23:1-5)

c. The Trial Before Herod (23:6-11a)

d. The Second Trial Before Pilate (23:11b-25)

4. The Crucifixion of Jesus (23:26-49)

a. The Road to the Cross (23:26-31)

b. The Actual Crucifixion of Jesus (23:32-43)

c. The Death of Jesus (23:44-49)

5. The Burial of Jesus (23:50-56)

C. The Resurrection of Jesus (24:1-53)

1. The Empty Tomb (24:1-12)

a. The Women at the Tomb (24:1-8)

b. Peter at the Tomb (24:9-12)

2. Jesus Appears on the Road to Emmaus (24:13-35)

3. Jesus Appears to the Disciples in Jerusalem (24:36-43)

4. The Final Commission (24:44-49)

5. The Ascension (24:50-53)

1The simplest inscription is κατὰ Λούκαν, found in a B (“according to Luke”). As time progressed this became more elaborate: in the fifth century the title was customarily εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Λούκαν (D W [“The Gospel according to Luke”]), while still later it was called τὸ κατὰ Λούκαν ἅγιον εὐαγγέλιον (209 and others [“the Holy Gospel according to Luke”]), and even ἀρχὴ τοῦ κατὰ Λούκαν ἁγίου εὐαγγελίου (1241 [“The Beginning of the Holy Gospel according to Luke”]).

2Guthrie, 114.

3G. B. Caird, Saint Luke, 16-17.

4Cf. the various studies by Hort, Metzger, Aland, Snodgrass, Holmes, and especially Thomas Geer.

5So B. M. Metzger, personal conversation (March 1989); cf. also his The Canon of the New Testament and The Text of the New Testament.

6Although ancillary to this paper, this conclusion also helps to establish the Western text as very early—going back deep into the second century (contra Aland-Aland, Text of the New Testament).

7See Guthrie for an expanded treatment, 115-19. This section is merely a distillation of Guthrie’s arguments.

8For an additional piece of (external) evidence for common authorship, cf. the last paragraph in our discussion of external evidence.

9Guthrie, 115-16.

10C. H. Talbert, Literary Patterns, Theological Themes and the Genre of Luke-Acts, 17. Talbert notices, for example, that both Jesus and Paul are well received by the populace; they both enter the temple in a friendly manner; the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection, but the scribes support Jesus/Paul; they both “take bread, and after giving thanks, break it”; a mob seizes Jesus/Paul; Jesus/Paul is slapped by the priest’s assistant; each undergoes four trials.

11Ibid., 23. Although we would affirm this statement of Talbert, there is one caveat: Talbert goes on to suggest that Luke created much of his material, while we would argue instead that he selected and arranged it. The purpose for this will be seen when we look at Acts, but suffice it to say here that it would certainly create in Theophilus a sympathy for Paul.

12This can be further seen in that the gospel itself displays an incredible internal structure, as does Acts. Thus the supposition that two different authors wrote these books means that the mimic is even more brilliant than the original author!

13Guthrie, 116.

14Ibid., 117.

15This is doubtful, however, since only in c. 60 would Luke have met Mark, if Mark had been in Rome since the mid-50s. Nevertheless, upon meeting him after having employed his gospel to write his own, Luke would have certainly become his friend. Luke’s favorable attitude toward Mark—not just personally but as a reliable source on the life of Jesus—might be implied in his calling Mark an “assistant” (ὑπηρέτης) in Acts 13:5. “Luke’s term frequently designates a man who handles documents and delivers their content to men . . .” (Lane, Mark, 22). Lane goes onto mention Acts 26:16 where Paul is appointed as a ὑπηρέτης and witness to the truth, and Luke 1:1-2 where “the evangelist links the servants [ὑπηρέτης] of the word with those who were the eyewitnesses and guarantors of apostolic tradition.” The connection of ὑπηρέτης with both Mark and Luke’s sources suggests that Mark’s Gospel may well have been one of those sources which Luke used to compile his gospel—and one which he himself deeply appreciated.

16Style and Literary Method of Luke.

17Caird, Luke, 17.


19There is another subtle indicator of Luke’s race. In Acts 16, after the beginning of the first “we” section (16:11-17), Luke mentions that he was with Paul in Philippi up to the time that Paul cast out the evil spirit from the servant girl (v. 17—“she followed Paul and us”). Then, in 16:19, the person changes from first to third (“her owners . . . seized Paul and Silas”). In vv. 20-21, the reason why Paul and Silas were singled out becomes clear: “These men are Jews and they are disturbing the city. They advocate customs which it is not lawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” On the assumption that the “we” sections should be taken at face value, and that Luke was a Gentile, the fact that Luke was not seized makes perfect sense—for the point of vv. 20-21 has its sting in the fact that Paul and Silas are Jews. (What may further confirm this is that Timothy was a half-Jew.) In the least, if one wants to deny that Luke was a Gentile, he must explain why the first person plural is used in 16:17, but is immediately switched to third person when the Philippians make their accusation against the missionaries on the basis of their race.

20Guthrie mistakenly says that Luke was possibly from Philippi, supposing that the ‘we’ sections start there (118-19).

21However, more than one church father thought that Luke came from Antioch. Even codex D suggests this, for it begins the ‘we’ material at Acts 11:28!

22We will deal with this issue in our introduction to Galatians.

23We will deal with this issue in our introduction to 1 Thessalonians.

24The customary approach in critical circles when faced with such discrepancies is to give the benefit of the doubt to Paul, since his material is autobiographical. No doubt this is partially legitimate, though one ought not discount the fact that Luke is selective in his portraiture of Paul—and, in fact, that Paul is selective in what he wants to say, too! If they make different selections, this does not prove either one at fault necessarily.

25Guthrie, 120.

26One thinks in particular of Luke 2:19 (“Mary kept all these things in her heart”), in which Luke probably used the mother of Jesus as his source for the early life of the Messiah. (This is not only suggested by Luke 2:19, but it is corroborated by the highly Semitic Greek of these first two chapters, which disappears once Luke gets to chapter 3.)

27There is another discrepancy (or silence) between Paul and Luke-Acts that has been bantered about at SBL meetings in recent years: the lack of a substitutionary atonement in Luke-Acts (note in particular Luke’s omitting of Mark 10:45), while Paul is quite strong on this point. It may be that either this was not the key to Christ’s death for Luke, even though he embraced it; or he may have not fully grasped its significance; or he perceived that Theophilus would not appreciate its significance (or even that it was ancillary to the thrust of Luke-Acts).

28I have not seen this argument in print, though I believe it bears quite a bit of force. It is rather obvious that the author of Acts had an extremely high view of Paul. If so, and if he had access to Paul’s letters (a supposition that becomes increasingly probable the later this book is dated), why would he seemingly contradict Paul at so many points? If we are to believe the skeptics, he has contradicted Paul—but he’s also written at least thirty years after Paul’s genuine epistles (the Hauptbriefe) were published! This is a blatantly self-contradictory supposition. Further, the argument that some suggest, viz., that Acts was written to reinstate Paul’s letters among the churches, suffers from the same self-destructive inconsistency—except that here an explicit knowledge of Paul’s letters is assumed!

29It is certainly doubtful that he became a physician afterwards!

30This is not nearly as weighty an argument as the converse, viz., that Matthew should be dated near to the time of Luke. Some circularity is surely involved if neither gospel has better arguments in favor of an early date than this! In our view, however, the date of Acts becomes the single most important factor in the dating of the synoptic gospels. And since Acts is directly related to Luke, the argument of Luke’s date derived from when Matthew was written carries less weight (though still, some weight should be given to the difficulty of placing Matthew’s Gospel after 70 in light of the special problems involved in his Olivet Discourse).

31The codex form was not invented until the middle of the first century. Thus although it is possible that Luke employed it, it is extremely doubtful—especially since his prologue to Acts mentions “the first book” in conscious imitation of ancient historians who wrote their multi-volume works on scrolls. Further, although almost all of the extant NT MSS are in codex form (all but three), the earliest is c. 100-150 (P52), giving no help to first century practices. Finally, the vast bulk of extant second century (secular) writings is in scroll form, indicating that even though the codex might have been invented in the first century, it really did not “catch on” until the second or third. (Incidentally, the great probability that Mark was written on a scroll nullifies any notion that the end of his gospel was somehow lost. He meant to end it at 16:8.)

32The Gospel ends with the ascension and Acts virtually begins with it.

33In fact, there is really no substantial reason to deny that Luke and Acts might have been sent to Theophilus at exactly the same time. That there is some transition between Luke and Acts (the repetition of the ascension) would be only natural if Luke expected the work to be copied onto two scrolls; but this repetition does not need to suggest any gap in date any more than a modern author’s initial paragraph at the beginning of, say, chapter four summarizing the conclusion of chapter three implies any interval.

34I have found Caird’s treatment (Luke, 23-27) of this to be amazingly succinct and quite convincing. I shall simply quote excerpts from his discussion, with a final summary of our own.

35Unlike Matthew who used Mark as the narrative framework for his gospel.

36See the purpose of Acts.

37Due to the length of the scroll.

38Guthrie, 111.

39Caird, Luke, 27-28. Caird goes on to give a decent discussion on Luke’s accuracy as a historian (27-31). Incidentally, our only quibble over Caird’s “three influential centres” is that instead of Antioch and Caesarea we should think of Jerusalem (instead of Caesarea) and somewhere in Syria (not Antioch).

40Cf. its use in Acts 23:26; 24:3; and 26:25 of the Roman governors Felix and Festus.

41In particular, the exoneration at almost every turn of the Romans and the heavy blame on the Jews throughout both works, coupled with a quite universal outlook (culminating in the legitimacy of the Gentile mission of Paul), render this judgment certain.

42Cf. the helpful discussion in Caird, Luke, 44.

43Although Theophilus could mean “loved by God,” since the NT nowhere speaks of God having φιλέω toward unbelievers, to call this man “loved by God” probably implies that he was a believer. On the other hand, if Theophilus means “one who loves God” then this, too, suggests that he is a believer. That Luke plays on names in his second volume (cf. Talbert’s work, and classnotes of student in Zane Hodges’ “Acts” [Dallas Seminary, 1978]) suggests that the name here is symbolic, too.

44This issue is quite complicated and cannot be divorced from a carefully nuanced view of the multiple purposes of both Luke and Acts. One of the issues which seems to have been neglected is the amount of time Luke spends on Peter in Acts, and then parallels this with events in the life of Paul. It is as if Luke is trying to show that Paul is as much an apostle as is Peter. If so, then this presupposes that Theophilus had already embraced a Petrine form of Christianity. We will discuss this in our look at Acts, but suffice it to say here that Theophilus is in all probability a believer, though he had had doubts about Paul.

45Guthrie, 107-108.

46This is related both to our hypothesis of a trial-brief for Paul and to the larger issue of vindication of Christianity before the State.

47At the same time, one criticism should be mentioned here: If Acts is really intended (in part) to be a trial-brief for Paul, then how does Luke fit into this picture? Since both works really belong together, the purpose of Acts is seemingly the purpose of Luke-Acts. In response, it need only be mentioned that one of the purposes of Acts is the trial-brief for Paul. It is true that Luke does not neatly fit into this purpose, though it does fit into the broader picture of apologetic of Christianity before the Roman government. The occasion for Acts necessitated the publication of Luke, but it did not thereby dictate the purpose of Luke.

48In Mark, however, the revelation at Caesarea Philippi is more central, while in Luke, Jesus’ resolve to go to Jerusalem, mentioned after Peter’s confession, seems to be more central.

49What is found in the other accounts, but missing in Luke’s account is (1) the location (Caesarea Philippi), (2) Jesus’ admission of the source of Peter’s confession, and (3) Peter’s rebuke of Jesus for the prediction about his own death. Clearly, this confession does not play as big a role in Luke as it does in Matthew or Mark. Further, the disciples do not function as a foil for Luke (as they do in Mark), for the emphasis is on the fault of the Jews for killing Jesus, more than on the proper response of the disciples in following Jesus.

50This ties in well with Luke’s purpose in Acts, for he lays a clear stress on the fact that the Gentile mission was conceived by Jesus, not Paul.

51I find Hoehner’s analysis (in Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ) convincing: the prophetic clock began ticking on March 1, 444 BCE, when the decree to rebuild the walls was issued. Then, it continued successively for 69 weeks of prophetic years (= 360 day years), that is, for 173,880 days. The end of the 69th week was March 30, 33 CE—the very day Jesus made his “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem (on Palm Monday). What confirms this view is that in Jesus’ lament he speaks of eschatological judgment (which, in our hindsight, includes both the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and Daniel’s 70th week—that is, the tribulation) as does Daniel (Luke 19:43-44; Dan. 9:26-27).

52Luke’s presentation of material is almost exactly like Mark’s, most of which is duplicated in Matthew as well. For a more detailed look at the individual pericopae, one should consult those two Gospels.

53Regardless of which view one adopts for the synoptic problem, Luke must have altered what was in his source (whether Matthew or Mark). There seems to be a twofold reason for it: (1) to establish Jesus’ innocence before he emphasized his deity; and (2) to present in progressive fashion throughout two volumes evidence for the deity of Christ. It is too early for Luke to say much on this theme in the first volume.

54Outlining Luke is particularly difficult, for although one can readily see the macro-structure centering on geography, the micro-structure is not so easy to detect. It is as if Luke has given vignettes of Jesus’ teaching and actions, grouped in no particular order. Still, some sense can be made out of them, even though Talbert’s architectonic scheme overstates the case. We echo Fitzmyer’s sentiment, even though our outline is even more tightly organized than his: “At times some of the sub-divisions may seem arbitrary, and it is not easy to justify them” (J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke [Anchor Bible], 1:135).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines