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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

- Luke

by Arthur Peake



Authorship and Date.—“ The third book of the Gospel, that according to Luke, was compiled in his own name, in order, by Luke the physician, when, after Christ’ s ascension, Paul had taken him to be with him a student of the law” (more probably “ as being devoted to travel” or “ as one skilled in disease” ). “ Luke, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the gospel preached by him.” These statements, found respectively in the Muratorian Fragment and in Irenaeus ( Haer., iii. 1) are the earliest direct mention ( c. A.D. 180) of Luke as the author of this book, though Justin Martyr ( Trypho, 103) thirty years earlier refers to a quotation found only in Lk. as being contained in the Memoirs composed by “ the Apostles and those that followed them” and probably even in Marcion’ s day (c. A.D. 140) the name stood in the MSS. of both Gospel and Acts. On the side of internai evidence we have to consider the book in relation to Acts, which by common consent is from the same hand, the note in Acts 1:1 being confirmed by the prevalence of certain stylistic features in both Lk. and Ac. The writer is (with the possible exception of the author of Heb.) the most literary of all the NT authors, and he has his favourite words and phrases. In both books there is evidence that he uses documenta or oral reports which he sometimes reproduces with slight change, while at other times he writes freely. It is of course possible that while the well-known “ we passages” in Ac. come originally from a travel companion of Paul (most likely Luke), they and other sources in Ac. and Lk. may have been edited by some writer a generation later whose name is no longer accessible. Yet careful scrutiny of the “ we passages” discloses therein to a striking extent words and expressions characteristic of the two books as a whole (Harnack, Date of Acts, pp. 1– 29; Hawkins, Horae Synopticae, p. 182ff.; Moffatt, INT, pp. 295– 300). And to the argument based on the discrepancy between Ac. and the letters of Paul it may be replied that an editor writing, say about A.D. 100, would have been more careful to bring his work into line with the epistles. The evidence which points to the author having been a physician, like Luke ( Colossians 4:14), may have been exaggerated by Hobart, but it is certainly, as Harnack has pointed out, not to be minimised. There are certain linguistic indications that the two books were by no means written at the same time, and if we assign Ac to the year 85 (ten years later if we admit its dependence on Josephus), we may put the gospel about 80, i.e. some ten or eleven years after Mk. The destruction of Jerusalem is already some distance behind ( Luke 21:20-24 *). [78]

[78] Archdeacon Allen (Allen and Grensted, Intro. to Books of NT, p. 62) holds that Mk. is much earlier than 70, the use of Josephus unlikely, and the allusions to the fall of Jerusalem “ probably illusory.” Lk. may therefore have been written about A.D. 60. This is also Harnack’ s view. In any case, Lk. may well have collected material at Caesarea, where he stayed during Paul’ s two years* imprisonment. See further note on p. 742.

Luke or Lucanus, the physician, may have been the son of a Greek freedman connected with Lucania in S. Italy. To identify him with Lucius of Cyrene ( Acts 13:1) is precarious, though there was a good medical school at Cyrene. Physicians were held in honour in the empire; Julius Caesar gave Roman citizenship to all doctors in Rome. Though perhaps not a native of Antioch he was perhaps practising in that city (or in Tarsus) when he first met Saul. Certain references in Ac. and the condition of Christianity at Antioch suggest his connexion with the Church there. That he was, before his adherence to the Christian faith, one of those devout worshippers (not full proselytes) who had become attached to the Synagogue, is evidenced by his familiarity with the Septuagint and by a certain “ sympathy with the Hellenistic type of piety as distinct from specific Paulinism.” He accompanied Paul on his second missionary tour, perhaps in some measure as his medical attendant ( cf. Galatians 4:13), and the two were thence closely associated until Paul’ s death. Origen says he was believed to be the “ brother” of 2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 12:18, and Prof. A. Souter has argued (ET, 18:285, 335) that the word should be taken literally, thus making Luke the brother of Titus. [79] He was the apostle’ s fellow-worker in Rome ( Philemon 1:24, cf. Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11). A tradition which there is no reason to doubt says that he died in Bithynia at the age of 74. Later traditions, e.g. that he was one of the Seventy, and that he painted a portrait of the mother of Jesus, are less trustworthy.

[79] J. V. Bartlet disputes this in Exp., May 1917, pp. 369f.

Contents and Sources.— The book falls into well-marked divisions—

( a) If.— The Birth and Infancy of John and of Jesus.

( b) Luke 3:1 to Luke 4:13.— The Mission of John. The Baptism and the Temptation.

( c) Luke 4:14 to Luke 9:50.— The Ministry in Galilee.

( d) Luke 9:51 to Luke 19:28.— The Journey to Jerusalem.

( e) Luke 19:29 to Luke 24:53.— Last Days in Jerusalem. Death and Resurrection.

( a) and most of ( d) are peculiar to Lk. Cf. pp. 680f.

In his preface Luke refers to the labours of previous workers in the field of gospel literature. His relation to some of these (Mk. and Q) is described in a previous article (pp. 673ff.), and is indicated in the commentary. There are signs that Lk.’ s Marcan document was briefer than our Mk, e.g. in Luke 8:4 to Luke 9:50 several sections in the corresponding part of Mk. have no parallel in Lk. In the story of the Supper, the Passion, and the Resurrection, Luke seems to have used not only Mk. but some other document, or, more likely, a number of distinct pieces of oral tradition.

Several scholars now hold that Luke used, instead of a separate special source, an expanded form of Q, in which Passion and Resurrection incidents were included. This was Hebraistic in tone, and the tone is also discernible in the Infancy section and in Luke 9:51 to Luke 18:14. Holdsworth ( Gospel Origins) , anticipated by Sanday (HDB, 2639), thinks that Luke 9:51 to Luke 18:14 depends upon an eye-witness. Its Samaritan element, its acquaintance with the court of Herod, and its sympathy with women, point to Joanna ( Luke 8:3; Luke 24:10). He traces the same influence in the Infancy and the Resurrection narratives, and thus postulates three main sources of Lk., viz. Mk., Q, and a narrative by Joanna.

Characteristics.— Renan described this gospel as “ the most beautiful book ever written.” The author reveals himself in the narratives he has selected, especially in Luke 1 f. and Luke 9:51 to Luke 18:14. He is not only the physician, but the “ beloved” physician. “ His was indeed,” says J. V. Bartlet, “ a religio medici in its pity for frail and suffering humanity, and in its sympathy with the triumph of the Divine healing art upon the bodies and souls of men. His was also a humane spirit, a spirit so tender that it saw further than almost any save the Master Himself into the soul of womanhood. In this, as in his joyousness, united with a feeling for the poor and suffering, he was an early Francis of Assisi.” It is he who emphasises Christ’ s freedom from Jewish exclusiveness as regards Samaritans ( Luke 9:52 ff., Luke 10:30 ff., Luke 17:15-19), Gentiles ( Luke 4:25-27, Luke 23:2; Luke 23:36), and outcast Jews, like Zacchæ us. He portrays our Lord’ s humanity with special clearness and gives us many glimpses of His inner life, e.g. His habit of prayer, His life of temptation ( Luke 4:13, Luke 22:28), and His sense of the painfulness of His mission ( Luke 12:49 ff.). Much stress is laid on the virtue of almsgiving, and wealth is depreciated. But to argue from this strain of asceticism that the author was an Ebionite is to overlook the equally prominent strain of joy and gladness. From a purely literary point of view the gospel has great merits; its simple and direct narrative, its fascinating character sketches, its skilful contrasts— e.g. Mary and Martha, Dives and Lazarus, the repentant and unrepentant thieves— bespeak the artist, as do the hymns in Luke 1 f. (even if we ascribe to him simply their Greek dress), and the ease with which he passes from one style to another according as his sources were oral or written, Aramaic or Greek. It only remains to repeat the intimation already given (p. 700), that the plan of this Commentary necessitates the student’ s study of what has been written on the parallel portions of Mk. (and of Mt.).

Literature. Commentaries: ( a) Adeney (Cent.B.) Garvie (WNT), Farrar (CB), Lindsay. ( b) Burnside, Carr, Farrar (CGT), Plummer (ICC), Wright, Bruce (EGT), Bond. ( c) *Godet, J. Weiss (Mey. 8 ), B. Weiss (Mey. 9 ), Knabenbauer, Wellhausen, Rose, Baljon, Holtzmann (HC). ( d) Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture; Burton (Ex.B). Other Literature: Articles in Dictionaries and Encyclopæ dias, Introductions to NT, the Gospels, and the Synoptic Problem; Works on the Life and Teaching of Jesus; Harnack, Luke the Physician; Bruce, With Open Face; Selwyn, St. Luke the Prophet; Ramsay, Luke the Physician; M’ Lachlan, St. Luke, Evangelist and Historian; Blass, Evang. secundum Lucam; Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke.

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