Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of Luke is called "the most beautiful book ever written." It is the first historian's account of the life of Jesus, as written in perfect Greek. Luke did not claim to be an eyewitness, but instead one who has "carefully investigated everything from the beginning" (Luke 1:3 ) who wanted to "write an orderly account" so that the Greek man Theophilus (or the entire world, as the name means "loved by God") would "know the certainty of the things" he had been taught. (Luke 1:3-4) The author Luke was a Gentile, as confirmed by Paul at Colossians 4:11,14. The Gospel of Luke is the 3rd and longest Gospel, placed after Matthew and Mark and before the Gospel of John. Papyrus 4 and Papyrus 75 are two early surviving scrolls of this Gospel.
Unique to the Gospel of Luke are:
- The beautiful, emotion-inducing parables of the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, and the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31 );
- The encounter with disciples on the road to Emmaus, whose "eyes were kept from recognizing him";
- The comparison trap highlighted by the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14 ;
- The promise of paradise to one crucified alongside Jesus; and
- Details about origins and birth of Jesus.
Luke may have been inspired by the Epistles to the Hebrews, which is perhaps the best-written Greek work in all of history, and which some of Luke's writings (especially parts of the Acts of the Apostles) appear to imitate in style and word choice. Luke is considered one of the synoptic gospels and Luke is generally considered to have borrowed from Mark as one of his sources, as did Matthew. It is unknown if Matthew or Luke borrowed from each other or which came first; some material is common to Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark.
The Gospel of Luke does not name its author, but as a companion volume to the book of Acts, it can be inferred by the use of "we" when describing part of Paul's journeys that the author traveled with Paul and Luke, the doctor, becomes the most likely candidate. The extremely sophisticated Greek of Luke also argues for a man who was very educated as does his attention to detail and the medical language in use matches that of other ancient Greek doctors. The ancient church father Irenaeus ascribed the work to Luke as does the Muratorian Canon. It is also mentioned by Clemente of Alexandria.
Place of Writing
Based on the descriptions of places in Palestine, it is generally assumed that the reader was unfamiliar with that land. It's not known where Luke was written, but it is assumed it is outside of Palestine and to an audience that is non-Jewish.
Luke is generally believed to have been written in the 70's or 80's, but it is also possible it was written in the late 50's or early 60's based upon the abrupt ending in Acts.
The arguments for an earlier date are as follows:
- Why wouldn't Luke have continued the history in Acts if he had written it later?
- Why wouldn't he have mentioned the martyrdom of Paul?
- Why is there no mention of the fall of Jerusalem (which took place in 70 A.D.)?
- See, e.g., NRSV Study Bible at 1502.
- The Gospel of Luke is the finest Greek among the Gospels, while the Epistle to the Hebrews is the finest Greek in all of literature.
- Luke 24:13-35.