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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24

Book Overview - Luke

by Heinrich Meyer























E XCEPTING what the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Epistles contain as to the circumstances of Luke’s life,—and to this Irenaeus also, with whom begins the testimony of the church concerning Luke as the author of the Gospel, still confines himself, Haer. iii. 14. 1,—nothing is historically certain concerning him. According to Eusebius, H. E. iii. 4, Jerome, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, and others, he was a native of Antioch,—a statement, which has not failed down to the most recent times to find acceptance (Hug, Guericke, Thiersch), but is destitute of all proof, and probably originated from a confusion of the name with Lucius, Acts 13:1. Luke is not to be identified either with this latter or with the Lucius that occurs in Romans 16:21 (in opposition to Origen, Tiele, and others); for the name Lukas may be abbreviated from Lucanus (some codd. of the Itala have “secundum Lucanum” in the superscription and in subscriptions), or from Lucilius (see Grotius, and Sturz, Dial. Mac. p. 135), but not from Lucius.(1) Comp. Lekebusch, Composit. d. Apostelgesch. p. 390. Moreover, in the Constitt. ap. vi. 18. 5, Luke is expressly distinguished from Lucius. Whether he was a Jew by birth or a Gentile, is decided by Colossians 4:11; Colossians 4:14, where Luke is distinguished from those whom Paul calls οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτομῆς.(2) But it must be left an open question whether he was before his conversion a Jewish proselyte (Isidorus Hispalensis); the probability of which it is at least very unsafe to deduce from his accurate acquaintance with Jewish relations (in opposition to Kuinoel, Riehm, de fontibus Act. Ap. p. 17 f., Guericke, Bleek). As to his civil calling he was a physician (Colossians 4:14); and the very late account (Nicephorus, H. E. ii. 43) that he had been at the same time a painter, is an unhistorical legend. When and how he became a Christian is unknown. Tradition, although only from the time of Epiphanius (Haer. li. 12; also the pseudo-Origenes, de recta in Deum fide, in Orig. Opp., ed. de la Rue, I. p. 806; Hippolytus, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Nicephorus Callistus, and others), places him among the Seventy disciples,(3) whereas Luke 1:1 f. furnishes his own testimony that he was not an eye-witness. Comp. Estius, Annot. p. 902 f. The origin of this legend is explained from the fact that only Luke has the account about the Seventy (in opposition to Hug, who finds in this circumstance a confirmation of that statement). He was a highly esteemed assistant of Paul and companion to him, from the time when he joined the apostle on his second missionary journey at Troas, where he, perhaps, had dwelt till then (Acts 16:10). We find him thereafter with the apostle in Macedonia (Acts 16:11 ff.), as well as on the third missionary journey at Troas, Miletus, etc. (Acts 20:5 to Acts 21:18). In the imprisonment at Caesarea he was also with him (Acts 24:23; Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24), and then accompanied him to Rome, Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:16 (comp. also 2 Timothy 4:11). At this point the historical information concerning him ceases; beyond, there is only uncertain and diversified tradition (see Credner, I. p. 126 f.), which, since the time of Gregory of Nazianzus, makes him even a martyr (Martyrol. ver 18 Oct.), yet not unanimously, since accounts of a natural death also slip in. Where he died, remains a question; certainly not in Rome with Paul, as Holtzmann conjectures, for his writings are far later. His bones are said by Jerome to have been brought from Achaia to Constantinople in the reign of Constantius.


On the origin of his Gospel—which falls to be divided into three principal portions, of which the middle one begins with the departure for Jerusalem, Luke 9:51, and extends to Luke 18:30

Luke himself, Luke 1:1-4, gives authentic information. According to his own statement, he composed his historical work (the continuation of which is the Acts of the Apostles) on the basis of the tradition of eye-witnesses, and having regard to the written evangelic compositions which already existed in great numbers, with critical investigation on his own part, aiming at completeness and correct arrangement. Those earlier compositions, too, had been drawn from apostolic tradition, but did not suffice for his special object; for which reason, however, to think merely of Jewish-Christian writings and their relation to Paulinism is unwarranted. One of his principal documentary sources was—although this has been called in question for very insufficient reasons (Weizsäcker, p. 17; see on Luke 6:14 f.)—the Gospel of Mark. Assuming this, as in view of the priority of Mark among the three Synoptics it must of necessity be assumed, it may be matter of doubt whether Matthew also in his present form was made use of by him (according to Baur and others, even as principal source) or not (Ewald, Reuss, Weiss, Holtzmann, Plitt, Schenkel, Weizsäcker, and others). At any rate he has worked up the apostle’s collection of Logia in part, not seldom, in fact, more completely and with more critical sifting withal than our Matthew in his treatise. As, however, this collection of Logia was already worked up into the Gospel of Matthew; and as the Gospel invested with this authority, it is a priori to be presumed, could hardly remain unknown and unheeded by Luke in his researches, but, on the contrary, his having regard to it in those passages, where Luke agrees with Matthew in opposition to Mark, presents itself without arbitrariness as the simplest hypothesis;(4) our first Gospel also is doubtless to be reckoned among the sources of Luke, but yet with the limitation, that for him Mark, who represented more the primitive Gospel and was less Judaizing, was of far greater importance, and that generally in his relation to Matthew he went to work with a critical independence,(5) which presupposes that he did not measure the share of the apostle in the first Gospel according to the later view (comp. Kahnis, Dogm. I. p. 411), but on the contrary had no hesitation(6) in preferring other sources (as in the preliminary history). And other sources were available for him, partly oral in the apostolic tradition which he sought completely to investigate, partly written in the Gospel literature which had already become copious. Such written sources may in general be sufficiently recognised; they are most readily discernible in the preliminary history and in the account of the journeying (see on Luke 9:51), but not always certainly definable as respects their compass and in their original form, least of all in so far as to assume them to be only Jewish-Christian, especially from the south of Palestine (Köstlin, comp. Holtzmann, p. 166). The arrangement which places Mark only after Luke involves us, when we inquire after the sources of the latter, in the greatest difficulty and arbitrariness, since Luke cannot possibly be merely a free elaboration of Matthew (Baur), and even the taking in of tradition and of written sources without Mark (de Wette, Kahnis, Bleek, and others) is in no wise sufficient. The placing of Mark as intermediate between Matthew and Luke, stedfastly contended for by Hilgenfeld in particular, would, if it were in other respects allowable, not raise up such invincible difficulties for our question, and at least would not require the hypothesis of Hilgenfeld, that our Matthew is a freer revision of the strictly Jewish-Christian writing which formed its basis, or even (see the Zeitschr. f. wiss. Theol. 1864, p. 333) a tertiary formation, any more than it would need the insertion of a Petrine gospel between Matthew and Mark (Hilgenfeld, Köstlin).

To carry back our Gospel in respect of its origin to apostolic authority was a matter of importance to the ancient church in the interest of the canon; and the connection of Luke with Paul very naturally offered itself. Hence even Irenaeus, Haer. iii. 1, quoted by Eusebius, v. 8, states: λουκᾶς δὲ ἀκόλουθος παύλου τὸ ὑπʼ ἐκείνου κηρυσσόμενον εὐαγγέλιον ἐν βιβλίῳ κατέθετο (comp. 3:14. 1 f.); and already Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome find our Gospel of Luke designated in the expression of Paul τὸ εὐαγγέλιόν μου. See the further testimonies in Credner, I. p. 146 ff. As regards this ecclesiastical tradition, there is to be conceded a general and indirect influence of the apostle, not merely in reference to doctrine, inasmuch as in Luke the stamp of Pauline Christianity is unmistakeably apparent, but also in part as respects the historical matter,(7) since certainly Paul must, in accordance with his interest, his calling, and his associations, be supposed to have had, at least in the leading points, a more precise knowledge of the circumstances of the life of Jesus, His doctrine, and deeds. Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:23 ff; 1 Corinthians 15:1 ff. But the generality and indirectness of such an influence explain the fact, that in his preface Luke himself does not include any appeal to this relation; the proper sources from which he drew (and he wrote, in fact, long after the apostle’s death) were different. As a Pauline Gospel, ours was the one of which Marcion laid hold. How he mutilated and altered it, is evident from the numerous fragments in Tertullian, Epiphanius, Jerome, the pseudo-Origen, and others.


The view, acutely elaborated by Schleiermacher, that the whole Gospel is a stringing together of written documents (krit. Versuch über d. Schriften d. Luk. I. Berl. 1837), is refuted at once by Luke 1:3, and by the peculiar literary character of Luke, which is observable throughout. See H. Planck, Obss. de Lucae evang. analysi critica a Schleierm. propos., Gött. 1819; Roediger, Symbolae ad N. T. evangelia potiss. pertin., Hal. 1827. And this literary peculiarity is the same which is also prominent throughout the Acts of the Apostles. See, besides the proofs advanced by Credner and others, especially Lekebusch, Composit. d. Apostelgesch. p. 37 ff.; Zeller, Apostelgesch. p. 414 ff.


The investigation recently pursued, after the earlier precedents of Semler, Löffler, and others, especially by Ritschl (formerly), Baur, and Schwegler,(8) in opposition to Hahn (d. Evang. Marcions in s. urspr. Gestalt., Königsb. 1823), to prove that the Gospel of Marcion was the primitive-Luke, has reverted—and that indeed partially by means of these critics themselves, following the example of Hilgenfeld, krit. Unters. 1850, p. 389 ff.—more and more to the view that has commonly prevailed since Tertullian’s time, that Marcion abbreviated and altered Luke. Most thoroughly has this been the case with Volkmar (theol. Jahrb. 1850, p. 110 ff., and in his treatise, das Evangel. Marcions, u. Revis. d. neueren Unters., Leip. 1852), with whom Köstlin, Urspr. u. Composit. d. synopt. Ev. 1853, p. 302 ff., essentially agrees. Comp. Hilgenfeld in the theol. Jahrb. 1853, p. 192 ff.; Zeller, Apostelgesch. p. 11 ff. The opinion that the Gospel of Marcion was the pre-canonical form of the present Luke, may be looked upon as set aside; and the attacks and wheelings about of the Tübingen criticism have rendered in that respect an essential service. See Franck in the Stud. u. Krit. 1855, p. 296 ff.; and on the history of the whole discussion, Bleek, Einl. p. 126 ff. For the Gospel of Marcion itself,—which has been ex auctoritate veter. monum. descr. by Hahn,—see Thilo, Cod. Apocr. I. p. 401 ff.


The historical work consisting of two divisions (Gospel and Acts of the Apostles), which Luke himself characterizes as a critico-systematic (Luke 1:3) presentation of the facts of Christianity (Luke 1:1), was occasioned by the relation, not more precisely known to us, in which the author stood to a certain Theophilus, for whom he made it his aim to bring about by this presentation of the history a knowledge of the trustworthiness of the Christian instruction that he had received. See Luke 1:1-4. Unhappily, as to this Theophilus, who, however, assuredly is no merely fictitious personage (Epiphanius, Heumann, and the Saxon Anonymus), nothing is known to us with certainty; for all the various statements as to his rank, native country, etc. (see Credner, Einl. I. p. 144 f.), are destitute of proof, not excepting even the supposition which is found as early as Eutychius (Annal. Alex., ed. Selden et Pocock, I. p. 334), that he was an Italian, or, more precisely, a Roman(9) (Hug, Eichhorn, and many others, including Ewald and Holtzmann). It is, although likewise not certain, according to Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25, probable, that the address κράτιστε points to a man of rank (comp. Otto in Ep. ad Diogn., ed. 2, p. 53 f.); and from the Pauline doctrinal character of the historical work, considering that it was to serve as a confirmation of the instruction enjoyed by Theophilus, it is to be concluded that he was a follower of Paul; in saying which, however, the very point whether he was a Jewish or a Gentile Christian cannot be determined, although, looking to the Pauline author and character of the book, the latter is probable. The Clementine Recognitiones, x. 71, make him to be a man of high rank in Antioch; and against this very ancient testimony(10) there is nothing substantial to object, if it be conceded that, even without being an Italian, be might be acquainted with the localities named in Acts 28:12-13; Acts 28:15, without more precise specification. The idea that Luke, in composing the work, has had in view other readers also besides Theophilus, not merely Gentile Christians (Tiele), is not excluded by Luke 1:3 f., although the treatise was primarily destined for Theophilus and only by his means reached a wider circle of readers, and then gradually, after the analogy of the N. T. Epistles, became the common property of Christendom. The Pauline standpoint of the author generally, and especially his universalistic standpoint, have been of essential influence on the selection and presentation of the matter in his Gospel, yet by no means to such an extent that we should have to substitute for the objectively historical character of the work,—according to which it had to pay due respect to the Judaistic elements actually given in the history itself,—a character of subjective set purpose shaping the book, as if its aim were to accommodate the Judaizing picture of the Messiah to the views of Paulinism and to convert the Judaistic conceptions into the Pauline form (Zeller, Apostelgesch. p. 439), or to exalt Paulinism at the expense of Jewish Christianity and to place the twelve apostles in a position of inferiority to Paul (Baur, Hilgenfeld). See especially, Weiss in the Stud. u. Krit. 1861, p. 708 ff.; Holtzmann, p. 389 ff. If the author had such a set purpose, even if taken only in Zeller’s sense, he would have gone to work with an inconsistency that is incomprehensible (not in keeping with that purpose, as Zeller thinks); and we should, in fact, be compelled to support the hypothesis by the further assumption that the original work had contained neither the preliminary history nor a number of other portions (according to Baur, Luke 4:16-30, Luke 5:39, Luke 10:22, Luke 12:6 f., Luke 13:1-5, Luke 16:17, Luke 19:18-46, Luke 21:18, also probably Luke 11:30-32; Luke 11:49-51, Luke 13:28-35, and perhaps Luke 22:30), and had only been brought into its present form by the agency of a later rédacteur taking a middle course (Baur, Markusevang. p. 223 ff.). Baur regards this latter as the author of the Acts of the Apostles. See, on the other hand, Zeller, Apostelgesch. p. 446 ff.

The composition of the Gospel, placed by the Fathers as early as fifteen years after the ascension, by Thiersch, K. im apost. Zeitalt. p. 158, and by various others as early as the time of Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea, is usually (and still by Ebrard and Guericke) referred to the time soon after the apostle’s two years’ sojourn in Rome, which is narrated at the conclusion of the Acts of the Apostles. But as this conclusion is not available for any such definition of time (see Introd. to the Acts of the Apostles, § 3), and as, in fact, Luke 21:24 f. (compared with Matthew 24:29) already presupposes the destruction of Jerusalem, and places between this catastrophe and the Parousia a period of indefinite duration ( ἄχρις πληρωθῶσι καιροὶ ἐθνῶν), Luke must have written within these καιροὶ ἐθνῶν, and so not till after the destruction of Jerusalem, as is rightly assumed by Credner, de Wette, Bleek, Zeller, Reuss, Lekebusch (Composit. d. Apostelgesch. p. 413 ff.); Köstlin, p. 286 ff.; Güder in Herzog’s Encykl.; Tobler, Evangelienfr., Zürich 1858, p. 29. See especially, Ewald, Jahrb. III. p. 142 f.; Holtzmann, p. 404 ff. With this also agrees the reflection, which so often presents itself in the Gospel, of the oppressed and sorrowful condition of the Christians, as it must have been at the time of the composition. Comp. on Luke 6:20 ff. Still Luke 21:32 forbids us to assign too late a date,—as Baur, Zeller (110–130 after Christ), Hilgenfeld (100–110) do, extending the duration of the γενεά to a Roman seculum (in spite of Luke 9:27),—even although no criterion is to be derived from Acts 8:26 for a more precise definition of the date of the Book of Acts, and so far also of the Gospel (Hug: during the Jewish war; Lekebusch: soon after it). John wrote still later than Luke, and thus there remains for the latter as the time of composition the decade 70–80, beyond which there is no going either forward or backward. The testimony of Irenaeus, iii. 1, that Luke wrote after the death of Peter and Paul, may be reconciled approximately with this, but resists every later date,—and the more, the later it is. The Protevangelium Jacobi, which contains historical references to Matthew and Luke (Tischendorf: “Wann wurden unsere Evangelien verfassi?” 1865, p. 30 ff.), fails to give any more exact limitation of time, as the date of its own composition cannot be fixed with certainty. Whether in its present form it was used by Justin in particular, is very questionable. Still more doubtful is the position of the Acta Pilati. In the Epistle of Barnabas 19, the parallel with Luke 6:30 is not genuine (according to the Sinaitic).

Where the Gospel was written is utterly unknown; the statements of tradition vary (Jerome, praef. in Matth.: “in Achaiae Boeotiaeque partibus;” the Syriac: in Alexandria magna, comp. Grabe, Spicileg. patr. I. p. 32 f.); and conjectures pointing to Caesarea (Michaelis, Kuinoel, Schott, Thiersch, and others), Rome (Hug, Ewald, Zeller, Lekebusch, Holtzmann, and others), Achaia and Macedonia (Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschr. 1858, p. 594; 1851, p. 179), and Asia Minor (Köstlin), are not capable of proof.


The author does not name himself; but the unanimous tradition of the ancient church, which in this express statement reaches as far back as Irenaeus (Haer. iii. 1, i. 27. 2, iii. 14. 3 f., iii. 10. 1), designates Luke as the author (see also the Syriac and the Canon of Muratori); in opposition to which there does not arise from the book itself any difficulty making it necessary to abide merely by the general view of a Pauline Gentile-Christian (but not Luke) as the author, as Hilgenfeld does on account of its alleged late composition. Papias, in Eusebius, iii. 39, does not mention Luke, which, however, cannot matter much, since it is after all only a fragment which has been preserved to us from the book of Papias, Moreover, the circumstance that Marcion appropriated to himself this very Gospel, presupposes that he regarded it as the work of a disciple of the Apostle Paul; indeed, the disciples of Marcion, according to Tertullian, c. Marc. iv. 5, attributed it directly to Paul himself, as also the Saxon Anonymus preposterously enough has again done. The unanimous tradition of the church is treated with contempt by the precarious assertion, that the authorship of Luke was only inferred from the narrative of travel in the Book of Acts at a time when there was a desire to possess among the Gospels of the church also a Pauline one (Köstlin, p. 291). That our Gospel—which, we may add, was made use of by Justin (see Semisch, Denkw. Justins, p. 142 ff.; Zeller, Apostelgesch. p. 26 ff.(11)), and in the Clementine Homilies (see Uhlhorn, Homil. u. Recognit. des Clemens, p. 120 ff.; Zeller, p. 53 ff.)—is not as yet quoted in the Apostolic Fathers (not even in the Epistle of Barnabas), is sufficiently to be explained on the general ground of their preference for oral tradition,(12) and by the further circumstance, that this Gospel in the first instance was only a private document.


That the person who, in the narrative of travel in the Book of Acts, speaks in the first person (we) is neither Timothy nor Silas, see Introd. to Acts, § 1.

The integrity of the work has, no doubt, been impugned, as far as the genuineness of Luke 1:5 ff. and ch. 2 has been called in question; but see the critical remarks on ch. 2.

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