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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Luke

- Luke

by Charles John Ellicott

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. LUKE.

Luke.

BY
THE VERY REV. E. H. PLUMPTRE, D.D.,

Late Dean of Wells.

INTRODUCTION
TO
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. LUKE.

I. The writer.—But one person bearing the name of Luke, or, in its Greek form, Lucas, appears in the New Testament; and of him the direct notices are few and meagre. He is named as being with St. Paul during his first imprisonment at Rome, and is described as “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). He is still with him, stress being laid on his being the only friend who remained, when the Apostle’s work was drawing to its close (2 Timothy 4:11). Beyond these facts all is inference or conjecture. Both conjecture and inference are, however, in this case, full of interest, present many unexpected coincidences, and, by the convergence of many different lines of circumstantial evidence, raise the probabilities which attach to each taken separately into something not far from certainty as to their collective result.

The name itself is suggestive. It does not appear as such in any classical writer, or on any Greek or Latin inscription. Its form, however, shows that it is a contraction from Lucanus, as Apollos is from Apollonius, or Silas from Silvanus, and not, as some have thought, another form of Lucius.[10] This name, again in its turn, was not a common one, and we naturally ask what associations were connected with it. Its most probable etymology points to its being derived from the region of southern Italy known as Lucania. Lucas, or Lucanus, would be a natural name for a slave or freedman, having no family name as his own, who had come, or whose father had come, from that region. Assuming, for the present. St. Luke’s authorship of the Acts, we find in the supposition that this was the origin of his name an explanation of the obvious familiarity with Italian topography shown in his mention of Puteoli, Appii Forum, and the Three Taverns, in Acts 28:13-15. The name Lucanus, was, however, borne at this time by a writer, M. Annæus Lucanus, who stands high in the list of Latin poets, as the author of the Pharsalia, an epic which takes as its subject the great struggle for power between Julius Cæsar and Pompeius. As he was born, not in Italy, but in Spain (at Corduba, the modern Cordova), the name with him must have had another than a local significance. Was there any link of association connecting the two men who bore a name which was, as we have seen, far from a common one? We are here in a region of conjecture; but on the assumption that there was some such link, we have a probable explanation (1) of the favour shown to St. Luke’s friend and companion, the great Apostle of the Gentiles. by the uncle of the poet, J. Annæus Gallio, the Proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:14-17), and (2) of the early tradition of a friendship between St. Paul and another uncle, the Stoic philosopher, Seneca, issuing in the correspondence of fourteen letters, which, in the time of Jerome (de Vir. Illust. c. 12) and Augustine (Epist. cliii. 14), was read with interest, and often quoted as a fragment of Apostolic literature. The letters that are now extant under that name are, in the judgment of well nigh all critics, spurious; but the fact that a writer in the third or fourth century thought it worth while to compose such a correspondence, implies that he was able to take for granted a general belief in the friendship which it pre-supposes; and the many coincidences of thought and language between the Apostle and the Philosopher (as seen, e.g., in the “Essay on St. Paul and Seneca,” in Dr. Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians) are at least striking enough to suggest, if not intercourse, at least some derivation from a common source. Seneca was, it must be remembered, officially connected with the Court of Nero during St. Paul’s imprisonment; and when the fame of the prisoner and of his doctrine was spread through the whole Prætorium (Philippians 1:13), and congregations of disciples were to be found even among the slaves of the Imperial household (Philippians 4:22), it was not likely that a man in his position should remain ignorant of the teacher whose influence was spreading so widely. If the friend and companion of the prisoner bore the same name as the nephew of the philosopher, that coincidence would help to attract attention. If, as the coincidence itself suggests, there had been any previous connection between the two, we have an hypothesis into which all the facts of the case fit in with an almost surprising symmetry. The poet Lucan, we may note, was born A.D. 39. The date of St. Luke’s birth we have no materials for fixing, but the impression left by the facts of the case is that he was about the same age as St. Paul,[11] and therefore older than the poet by thirty or forty years. Was the one named after the other? And does this imply a connection of the whole family with the beloved physician? This, it is obvious, would give an additional support to the superstructure of inferences already raised.[12]

[10] It follows from this that the Evangelist cannot be identified, as some have thought, with Lucius of Cyrene, who is mentioned as prominent among the prophets and teachers at Antioch (Acts 13:1), or the Lucius who is named as a kinsman of St. Paul’s (Romans 16:21). If that identification had been possible, the traditional fame of Cyrene for its School of Medicine (Herod. iii. 131), would have had a special interest in connection with St. Luke’s calling.

[11] St. Paul, e.g., never speaks of him as he does of younger disciples, like Timothy or Titus, as his “child,” or “son, in the faith.”

[12] ‘Lucan, as has been said above, was born at Cordova. Now, it is remarkable that when St. Paul was planning an extended journey with St. Luke as his companion, Spain, and not Rome, was to be its ultimate goal (Romans 15:28). That country had a large element of Jews in its population in the third and fourth centuries, and it is probable that they had settled there, as in Cyrene and Carthage, from an early period of the Dispersion. Cordova, as one of the chief seats of Roman culture, was certain to attract them, and we find it at a later period one of the chief seats of mediæval Rabbinism, with a fame already traditional. Another point of some interest still remains to be noticed. The poet was a fellow-pupil with Persius, under one of the great Stoic teachers of the time, L. Annæus Cornutus (the name is that of the gens of Seneca and Gallio), and Persius, as we have seen (Note on Mark 6:0), had at least some points of contact with the Herods.

The incidental mention of St. Luke’s name in Colossians 4:14, places us on more solid ground. He is emphatically distinguished from “those of the circumcision”—Mark and others who are named in Colossians 4:10-11. He was, i.e., a Gentile by birth, and this fact, it is obvious, is important on all the questions affecting his relations with the Apostle of the Gentiles, and the aim and characteristic features of his writings.

The fact that he was “a physician” suggests other inferences. That profession in the early days of the Empire was filled almost exclusively by freedmen, or the sons of freedmen (the Libertini of Acts 6:9), who, shut out more or less completely from military or official life, were led to devote themselves to science, or art, or literature. The well-known list of the members of the household of the Empress Livia, the wife of Augustus, compiled from the Columbarium,[13] a sepulchre which was opened at Rome in A.D. 1726, presents many examples of names with the word medicus attached to them; among them may be noted that of Tyrannus, the name which appears in Acts 19:9 as the owner of the “school” or lecture-room at Ephesus, in which St. Paul received his disciples. Where, we ask, was one who made choice of that profession likely to seek for his education? The answer to that question leads us into yet a new region of coincidences. On the one hand, the town of Crotona, in Southern Italy, had a reputation of some centuries standing for its School of Medicine (Herod. iii. 131), and this would fall in with the hypothesis of the Evangelist’s Lucanian origin. On the other, of all the medical schools of the time, there were none that stood higher in reputation than that of Tarsus, and few that stood so high. The leading physicians of the time, Aretæus the Cappadocian, Dioscorides of Anazarba in Cilicia, Athenæus of the Cilician Attaleia, could hardly have received their training elsewhere. Within a few miles of Tarsus, at Ægæ, on the coast of Cilicia, was a great Temple of Æsculapius, which, as resorted to by sick persons from all countries who came to consult the priests of the Temple (the Asclepiadæ, i.e., the guild or brotherhood of Æsculapius), offered the nearest analogue to a modern hospital, as a place for observation and practice. If Tarsus were thus the place, or one of the places, to which Luke went to gain his professional knowledge and experience, we have again what explains many of the facts, more or less perplexing, in the Apostolic history. There is no record of St. Paul’s first meeting with him, or of his conversion to the faith. If, with almost all interpreters of repute, we see in the sudden use of the first person plural in Acts 16:10 a proof of companionship then beginning between the writer of the book and the Apostle whose labours he narrates, the naturalness with which it comes in must be admitted as primâ facie evidence of previous acquaintance. But there were other names at that time connected with Tarsus which have an interest for the Christian student. All that we read in the Acts suggests the thought that the Cypriot Jew, the Levite, Joses Barnabas, the Son of Consolation, received his education at Tarsus, and there learnt to love and honour the tent-maker Rabbi, for the reality of whose conversion he was the first to vouch (Acts 9:27), to whom he turned when his work pressed hard on him, as the fellow-labourer most like-minded with himself (Acts 11:25), the separation from whom, when they parted, brought with it a bitterness which is hardly intelligible, except on the assumption of a previous affection that was now wounded to the quick (Acts 15:39). Not altogether, again, without some points of contact with St. Luke, is the fact that the great geographer Strabo, a native of Cappadocia, whose full description of Tarsus (Geogr. xiii. p. 627) is obviously based upon personal observation, may have visited that city about A.D. 17, and on the supposition, either of actual contact, or of the attention called to his writings among the students of what we may well call the University of Tarsus, we may legitimately trace his influence as working indirectly in the uniform accuracy of all the incidental geographical notices that occur in St. Luke’s Gospel and in the Acts. (See the Notes on those books.) At Tarsus also, at or about the same period, was to be seen another conspicuous character of the time, the great wonder-working impostor, Apollonius of Tyana, whose life was afterwards published as a counterfeit and rival parallel to that of Christ, and in whom St. Luke might have seen the great prototype of all the “workers with curious arts,” with their books of charms and incantations, whom he describes as yielding to the mightier power of St. Paul (Acts 19:11-12).

[13] The word means literally a “dove-cote,” and was applied to the sepulchre as consisting mainly of what we should call “pigeon-holes,” in each of which stood a small bin containing the ashes of the dead.

St. Luke’s character as a physician may be considered from three distinct points of view, each of which has a special interest of its own. (1) As influencing his style and language; (2) as affecting his personal relations with St. Paul; and (3) as giving him opportunities for acquiring the knowledge which we find in the books commonly ascribed to him. Each of these call for a special, though brief, notice.
(1) The differences of style in St. Luke’s Gospel as compared with the two that precede it, the proofs of a higher culture, the more rhythmical structure of his sentences, which are traceable even by the merely English reader, in such passages, e.g., as Luke 1:1-4, are in the Greek original conspicuous throughout, the only exceptions being the portions of his Gospel which, like Luke 1:0, from Luke 1:5, and Luke 2:0, are apparently translations from a lost Hebrew or Aramaic document. The use of technical phraseology is, in like manner, traceable in his mention of the “fevers (the word is plural in the Greek), and dysentery,” of which Publius was healed at Melita (Acts 28:8); in the “feet” (not the common πόδες, podes, but the more precise βάσεις, baseis) “and ankle bones” of Acts 3:7; in the “scales” that fell from St. Paul’s eyes (Acts 9:18); in the “trance,” or, more literally, ecstasy, connected with St. Peter’s vision (Acts 10:9-10), as brought on by the Apostle’s exposure to the noontide sun after long-continued fasting; in the special adjective used for “eaten of worms,” in Acts 12:23; in his notice of the “virtue,” or healing power, that flowed forth from our Lord’s body (Luke 8:46); and of the sweat in “clots,” or drops like as of blood, that issued from it in the Agony of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44).

(2) It is noticeable in tracing the connection of St. Paul and St. Luke, that on each occasion when the one joins the other for a time, it is after the Apostle had suffered in a more than common degree from the bodily infirmities that oppressed him. When they met at Troas, it was after he had been detained in Galatia by “the infirmity of his flesh” (Galatians 4:13). When the one joins the other in the voyage to Jerusalem, it is after St. Paul had had “the sentence of death” in himself, had been “dying daily,” had been “delivered from so great a death,” had been carrying about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 4:10-12; 2 Corinthians 4:16). From that time St. Luke seems scarcely to have left his friend, except, perhaps, for short intervals; and the way in which St. Paul speaks of him as the beloved physician,” makes it almost a matter of certainty that it was by his ministrations as a physician that he had made himself “beloved.” The constant companionship of one with St. Luke’s knowledge and special culture was sure, sooner or later, to affect St. Paul’s thoughts and language, and traces of this influence are to be found in many of the Epistles. Most of these are naturally more manifest in the Greek than in the English words; but we may note as examples the frequent use of the ideal of “health “as the standard of life and teaching, as seen in the phrases “sound,” or better, healthy, “doctrine” (ὑγιαινούσῃ) of 1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:3, 2 Timothy 1:13; and in the “doting,” or better, diseased of 1 Timothy 6:4; in the spread of error being like that of a gangrene or cancer (2 Timothy 2:17); in the word for “puffed up,” which implies the delirium of a fever of the typhus type (τυφωθεὶς, typhôtheis) in 1 Timothy 3:6; 1 Timothy 6:4, 2 Timothy 3:4; in the conscience seared, or better, cauterised, till it has become callous (1 Timothy 4:2); in the malady of “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3); in the “bodily exercise” or training (literally, the training of the gymnasium) that profiteth little (1 Timothy 4:8); in the precept which enjoined on Timothy, as a means of keeping his mind in a state of equilibrium and purity, uncontaminated by the evil with which his office brought him into contact, to “drink no longer water” only, but “to use a little wine, for his stomach’s sake and his often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23); in the judgment that a reckless disregard of the body is of no value as a remedy against what is technically called fulness (not “satisfying”) of the flesh (Colossians 2:23). These words are, in almost all cases, characteristic of the Greek of Hippocrates and other medical writers, and the same may be said of the Greek words used by St. Paul for “dung” (σκύβαλα—skyhala, Philippians 3:8), for “occasion” (ἀφορμὴνaphormè, 1 Timothy 5:14), for “gazing” or “looking earnestly” (ἀτενιζων, 2 Corinthians 3:7-13 : the word is used twelve times by St. Luke, and by him only), for “charge” (1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:18), for “contention” (i.e., paroxysm) in Acts 15:39.

(3) It is obvious that in the East, then as now, the calling of a physician was a passport to many social regions into which it was otherwise difficult to find access. A physician of experience arriving in this or that city, would be likely to become acquainted, not with the poor only, but with men of official rank and women of the higher class. How far, and in what special way this helped St. Luke to obtain the information which he wanted for his Gospel, will call for inquiry further on. Here it will be enough to note that such channels of information were sure to be opened to him.
If, on the data that have been given, it is reasonable to suppose that St. Paul and St. Luke had met at Tarsus, it is almost a matter of certainty that their friendship was continued at Antioch. Here the tradition, given by Eusebius (Hist. iii. 4), that St. Luke was a resident in the latter city, agrees with the natural inference from the prominence which he gives to the Christian society there as the mother of all the Gentile churches (Acts 11:19-30), from his knowledge of the names of its pastors and teachers (Acts 13:1-3), from the fulness with which he relates the early stages of the great controversy with the Judaisers (Acts 15:1-3; Acts 15:22-35). From Antioch. however, accepting as before the natural conclusion from the change of pronouns, he must have gone to Troas (Acts 16:10), and probably begun or continued there his labours in the gospel, which in a later time won St. Paul’s glowing praise (2 Corinthians 8:18).[14] Thence he went with St. Paul to Philippi, and, as far as we can judge, remained there during the whole period of the Apostle’s work at Corinth and Ephesus, the friend and guide of Lydia and Euodias, and Syntyche and other women who laboured with him in the gospel (Philippians 4:2-3), until after a visit to Corinth (2 Corinthians 8:18), he joined him again, and the Apostle returned from his winter sojourn in that city at Philippi, was with him once more at Troas, sailed with him to Miletus, and so to Tyre and Ptolemais and Cæsarea, went up with him to Jerusalem, and remained with him or near him during his two years’ imprisonment under Felix or Festus (Acts 20-26). Then came the voyage to Italy, narrated with the graphic precision of an eye-witness, and throughout in the first person plural (Acts 27:1-44); then the shipwreck at Melita, and the arrival in Italy, and the two years (broken, perhaps, if we assume Luke, as seems probable, to be the “true yoke-fellow” of Philippians 4:3, by a short visit to Philippi) of the first imprisonment at Rome (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24). Then came the last unrecorded missionary journey of St. Paul in Spain, Asia, Macedonia, Achaia,[15] during which St. Luke probably continued with him; and then we find him, the last clear glimpse we get, still at the side of his friend and master, when all others were proving time-serving and faithless (2 Timothy 4:10). Beyond this we have nothing definite. Tradition, not earlier than the fourth century (Epiphanius, Hœr, 51), says that he preached in Italy, Gaul, Dalmatia, and Macedonia; that he was a painter as well as physician, and was specially famous for seven portraits of the Virgin; that he lived to the age of eighty-four; that he was crucified at Elæa on an olive tree, in the Peloponnesus; or, according to another story, died a natural death in Bithynia. His bones are related to have been brought to Constantinople from Patras in Achaia by order of the Emperor Constantine, and to have been deposited in the Church of the Apostles.

[14] There are, it is believed, no sufficient reasons for rejecting the reference of this passage to St. Luke. It is not meant that St. Paul speaks of his gospel as a book, but the physician was an Evangelist in the primitive as well as the later sense of the word, and no one was so likely to have been chosen by St. Paul to be one of the representatives of the Macedonian churches.

[15] The route of the Apostle may be inferred partly from his plans (Philippians 2:24; Philemon 1:22), partly from the reference to Asia in 2 Timothy 1:15, Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3), Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20). I have ventured to suggest Spain as also probable. It is hardly likely that St. Paul would have abandoned the strong desire which he expresses in Romans 15:24. And if there was, as has been shown to be probable, a personal connection between Luke and the family of Cordova, there would be fresh motives for his going there. Clement of Rome, it may be mentioned, speaks of him as having travelled to the furthest boundary of the West (Epist. ad Cor. C. 5), a phrase which would hardly have been used by a Roman writer of Rome itself. The tradition as to an evangelising journey into Spain became, as the years passed on, more and more definite, and was accepted by Epiphanius, Chrysostom. Jerome, and Theodoret.

II. The Authorship of the Gospel.—The two earliest witnesses to the existence of a Gospel recognised as written by St. Luke, are (1) Irenæus, and (2) the Muratorian Fragment. (See General Introduction on the Canon of the New Testament.) The former, dwelling on the necessity of there being neither more nor less than four Gospels, as there are four elements, four cardinal points, and the like, acknowledges St. Luke’s as one of the four. Pressing the analogy of the four symbolic figures of the Cherubim, he compares the Gospel which he names as Luke’s to the calf, as representing the priestly, sacrificial side of our Lord’s work. “As such,” he says, “it began with Zacharias burning incense in the Temple” (Adv. Hœr. ii.). In another passage he speaks of “Luke, the companion of Paul,” as having “written in a book the gospel which the latter preached” (Adv. Hœr. iii. 1). The Muratorian Fragment, which has suffered the loss of its first sentences, and so fails to give direct evidence as to St. Matthew and St. Mark, begins accordingly with St. Luke, mentioning, however, his Gospel as the third. What follows is interesting, though being, like the whole fragment, in the language of an obviously illiterate scribe, and presumably a translation from a Greek original, it is at once corrupt and obscure. The nearest approach to an intelligible rendering would be as follows:—“Luke the physician, after the ascension of Christ, when St. Paul had chosen him, as being zealous of what was just and right (juris studiosus), wrote in his own name, and as it seemed good to him (ex opinione, apparently with an implied reference to Luke 1:2). Yet he himself did not see the Lord in the flesh, and did what he did as he could best attain to it, and so he began his narrative from the birth of John.” The passage is every way important, as showing (1) the early identification of the writer of the third Gospel with Luke the physician; (2) the absence of any early tradition that he was one of the Seventy; (3) the fact that the first two chapters were part of the Gospel as known to the writer of the Fragment, or of the still older document which he translated. Papias, as far as the fragments of his writings that remain show, who names St. Matthew and St. Mark, is silent as to St. Luke. Justin, who does not name the writer of any Gospel, speaks of the “records of the Apostles, which are called Gospels,” as having been written either by Apostles themselves, or by those who followed them closely (using the same Greek word here as St. Luke uses in Luke 1:2), and cites in immediate connection with this the fact of the sweat that was as great drops of blood (Dial. 100 Tryph. c. 22). It seems all but certain from this that he had read the narrative of Luke 22:44 as we have it, and that he ascribed the authorship of it to a companion of the Apostles. So Tertullian, who recognises four Gospels, and four only, speaks of “John and Matthew as Apostles, of Luke and Mark as helpers of the Apostles (Cont. Marc. iv. 2); and Origen (in Euseb. Hist. Eccles. vi. 25) speaks of the Gospel according to St. Luke as being “cited and approved by Paul,” referring apparently to the expression “according to my Gospel” (Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25; 2 Timothy 1:8), and to “the brother whose praise is in the Gospel,” in 2 Corinthians 8:18-19.

III. The sources of the Gospel.—The question, Where did the writer of this Gospel collect his information, is obviously one of special interest. In St. Matthew we have, accepting the traditional authorship, personal recollection as a groundwork, helped by the oral or written teaching previously current in the Church. In St. Mark (see Introduction to that Gospel), We have substantially the same oral or written teaching, modified by the personal recollections of St. Peter. St. Luke, on the other hand, disclaims the character of an eye-witness (Luke 1:2), and confesses that he is only a compiler, claiming simply the credit of having done his best to verify the facts which he narrates. St. Paul, to whom he specially devoted himself, was, as far as personal knowledge went, in the same position as himself. Where, then, taking the facts of St. Luke’s life, as given above, was it probable that he found his materials?

(1) At Antioch, if not before, the Evangelist would be likely to come in contact with not a few who had been “eye-witnesses and ministers of the word.” Those who were scattered after the persecution that began with the death of Stephen (Acts 11:19), and the prophets who came from Jerusalem with Agabus (Acts 11:28), the latter probably forming part of the company of the Seventy (see Note on Luke 10:1), must have included some, at least, of persons so qualified. There, too, he must have met with Manaen, the foster-brother of the Tetrarch, and may have derived from him much that he narrates as to the ministry of the Baptist (Luke 3:1-20), our Lord’s testimony to him (Luke 7:18-34), the relation between Herod and Pilate, and the part which the former took in the history of the Crucifixion (Luke 23:5-12), the estimate which our Lord had passed upon his character (Luke 13:32). That acquaintance served probably, in the nature of things, to introduce him to a knowledge of the other members of the Herodian family, of whom we learn so much from him, and, of the Evangelists, from him only (Luke 3:1; Acts 12:1-25; Acts 25:13; Acts 26:32).

(2) During the years of St. Luke’s work at Troas and Philippi, there were, we may presume, but few such opportunities; but when he accompanied St. Paul on his last journey to Jerusalem, they must have been multiplied indefinitely. Mnason of Cyprus, the old disciple (a disciple from the beginning, as the word signifies, Acts 21:16), must have had much to tell him. During St. Paul’s stay at Cæsarea there was ample time for him to become acquainted with the current oral, or, as his own words imply, written teaching of the churches of Palestine, which formed the groundwork of what is common to him and the first two Gospels, as well as with the many facts that connect themselves with that city in the narrative of the Acts. We cannot, however, think of a man of St. Luke’s culture bent upon writing a history, because he was not satisfied with the “many” fragmentary records that he found already in circulation, resting at Cæsarea during the two years of St. Paul’s imprisonment without pushing his inquiries further. We may think of him accordingly as journeying in regions where he knew our Lord had worked, most of which lay within two or three days’ easy journey, while yet there was little record of His ministry there, and so collecting such facts as the raising of the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), the appearance of the risen Lord to the disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), the full record, peculiar to this Gospel, of His ministry and teaching in Peræa.

(3) The profession of St. Luke as a physician, probably also the character that he had acquired as the guide and adviser of the sisterhood at Philippi (see Notes on that Epistle), would naturally give him access to a whole circle of eye-witnesses who were not so likely to come within the range of St. Matthew and St. Mark. He alone mentions the company of devout women who followed Jesus during part, at least, of His ministry (Luke 8:2-3), and as he gives the names of the chief members of the company, it is natural to infer that he was personally acquainted with them. So far as they were sharers in the feelings of other women, we may believe, with hardly the shadow of a doubt, that they would dwell especially on all that connected itself with the childhood and youth of the Lord whom they had loved with such devout tenderness, that the bereaved mother whom St. John had taken to his own home (John 19:27)—sometimes, perhaps, in Galilee, sometimes in Jerusalem—would be the centre of their reverential love. From them, therefore, as those who would be sure to treasure up such a record, St. Luke may well have derived the narrative—obviously a translation from the Hebrew or Aramaic of Palestine—which forms the introduction to his Gospel (Luke 1:2), and which is distinct in character and style from the rest of his Gospel. But informants such as these would be sure to treasure up also the special instances of our Lord’s tenderness and sympathy for women like themselves, and it is accordingly not more than a legitimate inference from the facts of human nature to trace to them such narratives as that of the woman that was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50), of the contrasted characters of the two sisters at Bethany (Luke 10:38-42), of the woman who cried out, “Blessed is the womb that bare thee . . .” (Luke 11:27),[16] of the daughters of Jerusalem who met their Lord on His way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-29), of those, again, who had come up from Galilee and who stood afar off beholding His death upon the cross (Luke 23:49), and of their buying spices and ointment for His entombment (Luke 23:56).

[16] It will be noted that our Lord’s words (Luke 23:29), “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps that never gave suck,” seem intended to remind those who heard them of the far-different benediction which one of them had once uttered.

On the whole, then, everything tends to the belief that St. Luke’s statement that he had carefully traced to their sources, as far as he could, the facts which he narrates, was no idle boast; that he had many and ample opportunities for doing so; and that he did this, as we have seen above, with the culture and discernment which his previous training was likely to have imparted. It is obvious, however, that coming, as he did, into the field of inquiry some thirty, or at least twenty, years or so after the events, many of the facts and sayings would reach him in a comparatively isolated form; and though there is an obvious and earnest endeavour to relate them, as he says, “in order,” it might not always be easy to ascertain what that order had actually been. And this is, in part at least, the probable explanation of the seeming dislocation of facts which we find on comparing his Gospel with those of St. Matthew and St. Mark. (See Notes on Matthew 8:1; Matthew 9:1.)

IV. The first readers of the Gospel.—St. Luke’s record differs in a very marked way from the other three in being addressed, or, as we should say, dedicated, to an individual. Who and what Theophilus was, we have but few data for conjecturing. The epithet “most excellent”—the same word as that used by Tertullus in addressing Felix (Acts 24:3)—implies social or official position of some dignity. The absence of that epithet in the dedication of the Acts indicates, perhaps, that the Evangelist had then come to be on terms of greater familiarity with him. The reference to Italian localities of minor importance, as places familiar to the reader as well as writer, in Acts 28:12-14, suggests the conclusion that he was of Latin, probably of Roman, origin; the fact that the Gospel was written for him in Greek, that he shared the culture which was then common to well nigh all educated Romans. He was a convert, accordingly, from the religion of Rome to that of Christ, though he may, of course, have passed through Judaism, as a schoolmaster leading him to Christ. The teaching which he had already received as a catechumen had embraced an outline of the facts recorded in the Gospel (Luke 1:3), and St. Luke wrote to raise the knowledge so gained to a standard of greater completeness. The name, it may be noted, was, like Timotheus, not an uncommon one. Among St. Luke’s contemporaries, it was borne by one of the Jewish high priests, the brother-in-law of Caiaphas (Jos. Ant. xviii. 4, § 3), who probably was responsible for St. Paul’s mission of persecution to Damascus, and by some official at Athens who was condemned for perjury by the Areopagus (Tacit. Ann. ii. 55). Beyond this all is conjecture, or tradition which dissolves into conjecture. He is said to have been, by this or that ecclesiastical writer, an Achæan, or an Alexandrian, or an Antiochian; he has been wildly identified by some modern critics, with one or other of the two persons thus named; it has been held by others that the name (= “one who loves God”) simply designated the ideal Christian reader whom St. Luke had in view.

It is, however, reasonable to infer that the Gospel, though dedicated to him, was meant for the wider circle of the class of which he was the representative, i.e., in other words, that it was meant to be especially a Gospel for the educated heathen. It will be seen in what follows, that this view is confirmed by its more prominent characteristics.

V. The characteristics of the Gospel.—(1) It has been said, not without some measure of truth, that one main purpose of the Acts of the Apostles was to reconcile the two parties in the Apostolic Church which tended to arrange themselves, with more or less of open antagonism, under the names of St. Peter and St. Paul, by showing that the two Apostles were substantially of one mind; that the former had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles (Acts 10:48), and had consented to the great charter of their freedom (Acts 15:7); that the latter had shown his reverence for the ceremonial law by twice taking on himself, wholly or in part, the vow of a Nazarite (Acts 18:18; Acts 21:26). Something of the same catholicity of purpose is to be found in the Gospel which bears St. Luke’s name. It was obviously natural that it should be so in the work of the friend of one who became as a Jew to Jews, and as a Greek to Greeks (1 Corinthians 9:20). Thus we have the whole history of the first two chapters, and the genealogy in Luke 3:0, obviously meeting the tastes, in the first instance, of Jewish readers on the one side, and on the other the choice of narratives or teachings that specially bring out the width and universality of the love of God, the breaking down of the barriers of Jewish exclusiveness, the reference to the widow of Sarepta and Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:26-27), the mission of the Seventy as indicating the universality of the kingdom (Luke 10:1), the pardon of the penitent robber (Luke 23:43), the parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Piece of Money, and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:0); midway between the two, the story of Zacchæus, the publican, treated as a heathen, and yet recognised as a son of Abraham (Luke 19:9).

(2) In the Acts, again, especially in the earlier chapters, we note a manifest tendency in the writer to dwell on all acts of self-denial, and on the lavish generosity which made the life of the Apostolic Church the realisation, in part at least, of an ideal communism (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32; Acts 4:37; Acts 6:1; Acts 9:36). So in the Gospel we recognise, over and above what he has in common with others, a principle of selection, leading him to dwell on all parts of our Lord’s teaching that pointed in the same direction. The parables of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21), of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), of the Unjust Steward, with its direct and immediate application (Luke 16:1-14); the counsel to the Pharisees to “give alms,” and so to find a more than ceremonial purity (Luke 11:41); to His disciples to sell what they have and to seek for treasures in heaven (Luke 12:33); the beatitudes that fall on the poor and the hungry (Luke 6:20-21), are all instances of his desire to impress this ideal of an unselfish life upon the minds of his readers. Even in his account of the Baptist’s teaching, we find him supplying what neither St. Matthew nor St. Mark had given—the counsel which John gave to the people—“He that hath two coats let him impart to him that hath none” (Luke 3:11). In this also we may recognise the work of one who was like-minded with St. Paul. He, too, laboured with his own hands that he might minister to the necessities of others (Acts 20:34), and loved to dwell on the pattern which Christ had set when, “being rich, He for our sakes became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9), and praised those whose deep poverty had abounded to the riches of their liberality (2 Corinthians 8:2). He, too, had learnt the lesson that a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth (Luke 12:15), and had been initiated into the mystery of knowing how, with an equal mind, to be full and to be hungry, to abound and to suffer need. (See Note on Philippians 4:12.) He, too, warns men against the deceitfulness of riches, and the hurtful lusts springing from them that plunge men in the abyss of destruction (1 Timothy 6:9; 1 Timothy 6:17).

Lastly, we cannot fail to note, as we read his Gospel, the special stress which he, far more than St. Matthew or St. Mark, lays upon the prayers of the Christ. It is from him we learn that it was as Jesus was “praying” at His baptism that the heavens were opened (Luke 3:21); that it was while He was praying that the fashion of His countenance was altered, and there came on Him the glory of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:29); that He was “raying” when the disciples came and asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1); that He had prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail (Luke 22:32). In the life of prayer, no less than in that of a self-chosen poverty, His was the pattern-life which His disciples were—each in his measure and according to his power—to endeavour to reproduce.

VI. Relations to St. Matthew and St. Mark.—It would be a fair summary of the account of the Gospel of St. Luke thus given, to say that it is in its universality, its tenderness, its spirit of self-sacrifice, pre-eminently the GOSPEL OF THE SAINTLY LIFE, presenting to us that aspect of our Lord’s ministry in which He appears as the great Example, no less than the great Teacher. In other words, since He is represented as at once holy, undefiled, and separate from sinners (Hebrews 7:26), and as able to have compassion on their infirmities (Hebrews 4:15), it is the Gospel of the Son of Man as the great High Priest of humanity in the human phase of that priesthood. It follows with a marvellous fitness upon the Gospel of St. Matthew, that had brought before us the portraiture of the true King and the true Scribe—upon that of St. Mark, in which we have seen the lineaments of the true Servant of the Lord. It prepares the way for that of St. John, which presents the Incarnate Word as manifesting His Eternal Priesthood in its sacrificial and mediatorial aspects. In its pervading tone and spirit, it is, as we have seen, essentially Pauline. In its language and style, however, it presents not a few affinities with an Epistle, the Pauline authorship of which is at least questionable, and which not a few have seen reason to look upon as the work of Apollos—the Epistle to the Hebrews. On this ground chiefly many critics, beginning with Clement of Alexandria (about A.D. 200), a man of wide and varied culture, have held that Epistle to have been the work of St. Luke, elaborating and polishing the thoughts of St. Paul (Euseb. Hist. vi. 14). It has, he says, speaking as a critic of style, “the same complexion “as the Acts. Other considerations, it is believed, outweigh the arguments based on that fact; but the resemblance is sufficient to indicate that there were some affinities connecting the two writers, and the most natural is that which supposes them both to have had an Alexandrian training, and to have formed their style upon the more rhetorical books of the later Hellenistic additions to the canon of the Old Testament, such as the Books of Maccabees as the model of history, and the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus for that of the more systematic treatment of doctrine. The points of resemblance between the Book of Wisdom and the Epistle to the Hebrews are indeed so numerous as to have suggested to the present writer the thought of identity of authorship.[17]

[17] The facts that bear upon St. Luke’s work, as the writer of the Acts of the Apostles, are naturally reserved for the Introduction to that Book.

It is, of course, obvious to remark that many of the facts referred to are found also in the other Gospels, and formed part of the current oral teaching out of which the first three Gospels grew. Admitting this, however, it is clear that the history of Apollos brought him specially within the range of those who were likely to be conversant with St. Luke’s teaching; and if we suppose him to have any written record before him, it is far more likely to have been the third Gospel than either the first or second. The two men, who were friends and companions of the same Apostle, were, at any rate, likely to have met and known each other, and if so it would not be strange that, with like character and like culture, there should be a reciprocal influence between them. Traces of that influence are to be found, it is believed, in the references in the Epistle to some of the passages which, though common to the other Gospels, are yet specially characteristic of this Gospel; to the temptations of the Son of Man as giving Him power to sympathise with sinners, though Himself without sin (Hebrews 4:15); to His prayers and supplications and strong crying (Hebrews 5:7-8); to His endurance of the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2); His endurance also of the contradiction of sinners (Hebrews 12:3); to His being the Mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 12:24), the great Shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20).