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Bible Dictionaries
Luke, Gospel of

Holman Bible Dictionary

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The third and longest book in the New Testament. Luke is the first of a two-part work dedicated to the “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1 ). The Book of Acts forms the sequel to Luke, with the author explaining in Acts that Luke dealt with “all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up” (Acts 1:1-2; See Acts ).

Authorship Though the author of Luke-Acts never mentioned himself by name, he was obviously a close friend and traveling companion of Paul. In the “we-sections” of Acts (Acts 16:10-17; Acts 20:5-15; Acts 21:1-18; Acts 27:1-28:16 ) the author of the narrative apparently joined Paul on his journeys. Through a process of elimination, the most likely choice for this person is “Luke, the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14 ).

Tradition for Lukan authorship is very strong, dating back to the early church. Early lists and descriptions of New Testament books dating from between A.D. 160-190 agree that Luke, the physician and companion of Paul, wrote the Gospel of Luke. Many of the early Church Fathers from as early as A.D. 185 readily accepted Luke as the author of the Third Gospel.

With the early church tradition unanimously ascribing the Third Gospel to Luke, the burden of proof is on those who argue against Lukan authorship. See Luke .

Date and Place of Writing The Book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul in his second year of house imprisonment in Rome. Scholars generally agree that Paul reached Rome around A.D. 60. This makes the Book of Acts written at the earliest around A.D. 61 or 62, with the Gospel written shortly before. Luke 19:41-44 and Luke 21:20-24 records Jesus' prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. This cataclysmic event in ancient Judaism occurred in A.D. 70 at the hands of the Romans. It hardly seems likely that Luke would have failed to record this significant event. Assigning a date to the Gospel later than A.D. 70 would ignore this consideration. Many scholars, however, continue to favor a date about A.D. 80.

A second historical consideration pushes the dating even earlier. Many scholars feel Paul was released from the Roman imprisonment he was experiencing as Acts concludes. The apostle was later reimprisoned and martyred under the Neronian persecution which broke out in A. D. 64. Paul was enjoying considerable personal liberty and opportunities to preach the gospel (Acts 28:30-31 ) even though a prisoner. The optimism of the end of the Book of Acts suggests the Neronian persecution is a future event. One can hardly imagine that Paul's release would find no mention in the Acts narrative had it already occurred.

It seems best, then, to date the writing of Luke somewhere between A.D. 61,63. Those who argue that this does not allow Luke time to review Mark's Gospel (assuming it was written first) fail to take into account the tight web of association between those involved in Paul's ministry. See Mark.

As to where the Gospel was written, the most probable place is Rome. Luke reached Rome in Paul's company and was in Rome when Paul wrote Colossians (Colossians 4:14 ) and Philemon (24) during this first Roman imprisonment. The circumstance would have allowed time for the composition of Luke-Acts. One ancient source suggested Achaia, a Greek province, as the place of writing. It seems reasonable to conclude that the Gospel, written in Rome, perhaps made its first appearance in Achaia or was finished there.

Purpose and Readership Luke himself identified the purpose of his writing the Gospel (Luke 1:1-4 ). He wanted to confirm for Theophilus the certainty of the things Theophilus had been taught. Luke also wanted this information available for a wider readership. Most scholars conclude that Luke's target audience were Gentile inquirers and Christians who needed strengthening in the faith.

Luke's purpose was to present a historical work “in order” (Luke 1:3 ). Most of his stories fall in chronological sequence. He often gave time indications (Luke 1:5 ,Luke 1:5,1:26 ,Luke 1:26,1:36 ,Luke 1:36,1:56 ,Luke 1:56,1:59; Luke 2:42; Luke 3:23; Luke 9:28; Luke 12:1 ,Luke 12:1,12:7 ). More than any other Gospel writer, Luke connected his story with the larger Jewish and Roman world (see Luke 2:1; Luke 3:1-2 ).

A strong argument can be presented for a second, though clearly subordinate, purpose. Some see Luke-Acts as an apology for the Christian faith, a defense of it designed to show Roman authorities that Christianity posed no political threat. Pilate declared Jesus innocent three times (Luke 23:4 ,Luke 23:4,23:14 ,Luke 23:14,23:22 ). Acts does not present Roman officials as unfriendly (Acts 13:4-12; Acts 16:35-40; Acts 18:12-17; Acts 19:31 ). Agrippa remarked to Festus that Paul could have been freed if he had not appealed to Caesar (Acts 26:32 ). Paul is pictured as being proud of his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28 ). The apostle is seen preaching and teaching in Rome openly without hindrance as Acts draws to a close. It is possible to see in all this an attempt by Luke to calm Roman authorities' fears about any supposed subversive character of Christianity.

Beyond the immediate purposes of the author, the Holy Spirit has chosen Luke's Gospel to reach all nations with the beautiful story of God's love in Christ. Many claim the Lukan birth narrative (Luke 2:1-20 ) as their favorite. The canticles or songs in Luke (Luke 1:46-55; Luke 1:67-79; Luke 2:13-14; Luke 2:29-32 ) have inspired countless melodies. Luke's Gospel has been a source for many artists, including Van Eyck, Van der Weyden, Rossetti, Plockhorst, Rubens, and Rembrandt.

Luke's sources Though Luke was not an eye-witness to the earthly life and ministry of Christ, he was in intimate contact with many who were. Luke was with Paul in Palestine in the late 50s, especially in Caesarea and Jerusalem (Acts 21:1-27:2 ). Members of the Jerusalem church (including James, the brother of Jesus) would have provided much oral testimony to the physician intent on writing an account of Jesus' life. Luke's association with Paul brought him into contact with leading apostolic witnesses, including James and Peter.

Most scholars believe Luke (as well as Matthew) relied on Mark's written Gospel. Mark probably was an eyewitness to some events in Jesus' life. His Gospel is generally recognized to reflect Peter's preaching about Christ. Mark was in Rome with Luke and Paul during Paul's captivity (Colossians 4:10 ,Colossians 4:10,4:14; Philippians 1:24 ). It would be natural to assume Luke had access to Mark's writings. Scholars have identified a source “Q” (an abbreviation for the German word Quelle , meaning “source”), referring to passages and sections of written material apparently available to Matthew and Luke either unavailable or unused by Mark (for example, Matthew 3:7-10 /Luke 3:7-10/3:7-9; Matthew 24:45-51 /Luke 24:45-51/12:42-46 ). This source may have been a collection of Jesus' sayings written down by His followers. See Logia .

John's Gospel certainly was not available for Luke (most scholars date John late in the first century). Any similarities between Luke's Gospel and John's can probably be accounted for by recognizing that a rich tradition, especially oral, provided a common source for all the Gospel writers.

Some scholars have posited an “L” source (an abbreviation for Luke) identifying some 500 verses exclusive to Luke, including the 132 verses of Luke 1:1 and Luke 2:1 . The argument that a separate document existed that only Luke had access to is not convincing. The new material introduced by Luke should be seen as the result of his own research and literary genius. One obvious example is the birth narratives of John the Baptist and Christ. The material that Luke uniquely presents give the Third Gospel much of its character.

Special emphases and characteristics As already noted, Luke took great pains to relate his narrative to contemporaneous historical events . Beginning with the birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus, he wrote with the eye for detail of a historian (see Luke 1:5 ,Luke 1:5,1:36 ,Luke 1:36,1:56 ,Luke 1:56,1:59; Luke 2:1-2 ,Luke 2:1-2,2:7 ,Luke 2:7,2:42; Luke 3:23; Luke 9:20 ,Luke 9:20,9:37 ,Luke 9:37,9:57; Luke 22:1 ,Luke 22:1,22:7 ,Luke 22:7,22:66; Luke 23:44 ,Luke 23:44,23:54; Luke 24:1 ,Luke 24:1,24:13 ,Luke 24:13,24:29 ,Luke 24:29,24:33 ).

Luke stressed the universal redemption available to all through Christ. Samaritans enter the kingdom ( Luke 9:51-6; Luke 10:30-37; Luke 17:11-19 ) as well as pagan Gentiles (Luke 2:32; Luke 3:6 ,Luke 3:6,3:38; Luke 4:25-27; Luke 7:9; Luke 10:1 ,Luke 10:1,10:47 ). Publicans, sinners, and outcasts (Luke 3:12; Luke 5:27-32; Luke 7:37-50; Luke 19:2-10; Luke 23:43 ) are welcome along with Jews (Luke 1:33 ,Luke 1:33,2:10 ) and respectable people (Luke 7:36; Luke 11:37; Luke 14:1 ). Both the poor (Luke 1:53; Luke 2:7; Luke 6:20; Luke 7:22 ) and rich (Luke 19:2; Luke 23:50 ) can have redemption.

Luke especially notes Christ's high regard for women . Mary and Elizabeth are central figures in Luke 1:1 and Luke 2:1 . Anna the prophetess and Joanna the disciple are mentioned only in Luke (Luke 2:36-38; Luke 8:3; Luke 24:10 ). Luke included the story of Christ's kind dealings with the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-18 ) and the sinful woman who anointed Him (Luke 7:36-50 ). He also related Jesus' parable of the widow who persevered (Luke 18:1-8 ).


I. Luke's Purpose: Certainty in Christian Teaching (Luke 1:1-4 ).

II. Jesus Fulfilled Judaism's Expectations (Luke 1:5-2:52 ).

A. John the Baptist will point Israelites to God (Luke 1:5-25 ).

B. Jesus fulfilled promises to David (Luke 1:26-38 ).

C. Jesus' birth fulfilled promises to patriarchs (Luke 1:39-56 ).

D. John's birth a sign of God's faithfulness (Luke 1:57-80 ).

E. Jesus' birth fulfilled messianic expectations (Luke 2:1-7 ).

F. God verified Jesus' birth as messianic fulfillment (Luke 2:8-20 ).

G. Jesus fulfilled Jewish law (Luke 2:21-24 ).

H. Jesus' coming fulfilled God's promises to Israel and provided salvation for all (Luke 2:25-40 ).

I. Jesus revealed divine wisdom (Luke 2:41-52 ).

III. Jesus Accepted Messianic Mission and Faced Rejection (Luke 3:1-4:44 ).

A. John called for repentance and watchfulness (Luke 3:1-20 ).

B. Jesus was baptized and acknowledged as God's Son (Luke 3:21-22 ).

C. Jesus' lineage linked Him to the Davidic promise and the human race (Luke 3:23-38 ).

D. Satan tempted Jesus (Luke 4:1-13 ).

E. His own people rejected Jesus (Luke 4:14-30 ).

F. Jesus revealed messianic power in teaching and healing (Luke 4:31-37 ).

G. Jesus followed God's agenda to establish God's kingdom (Luke 4:38-44 ).

IV. Jesus Fulfilled His Mission in God's Way of Faith, Love, and Forgiveness (Luke 5:1-7:50 ).

A. Jesus shared His mission with those of faith (Luke 5:1-16 ).

B. Jesus proved power to forgive (Luke 5:17-26 ).

C. Jesus called sinners into the joy of the messianic age (Luke 5:27-39 ).

D. Jesus' mission emphasized meeting human need (Luke 6:1-11 ).

E. Jesus called disciples to a life of loving action (Luke 6:12-49 ).

F. Jesus' mission was to all people (Luke 7:1-10 ).

G. Jesus' message was accepted by needy multitudes (Luke 7:11-17 ).

H. Jesus fulfilled His Spirit-given mission (Luke 7:18-23 ).

I. Jesus' mission inaugurated God's kingdom (Luke 7:24-30 ).

J. Jesus' mission emphasized forgiveness (Luke 7:31-50 ).

V. God's Kingdom Involves Power but Demands Faithfulness to the Point of Death (Luke 8:1-9:50 ).

A. Socially deprived accepted God's kingdom (Luke 8:1-3 ).

B. Disciples are those who learn and follow Jesus' teachings (Luke 8:4-21 ).

C. Jesus is Lord over threatening forces (Luke 8:22-25 ).

D. Jesus is Lord over demonic forces (Luke 8:26-39 ).

E. Jesus is Lord over incurable diseases and death (Luke 8:40-56 ).

F. Jesus' disciples are empowered to carry out His mission (Luke 9:1-6 ).

G. Jesus' power was obvious to Herod (Luke 9:7-9 ).

H. Jesus' power satisfies human need (Luke 9:10-17 ).

I. God's kingdom is revealed in self-sacrificing suffering (Luke 9:18-27 ).

J. God, Moses, and Elijah affirmed Jesus' sonship (Luke 9:28-36 ).

K. Sacrificial commitment to the kingdom's mission is the source of kingdom power (Luke 9:37-45 ).

L. Faith and commitment are the source of true greatness (Luke 9:46-50 ).

VI. The Kingdom Is Characterized by Faithful Ministry and Witness (Luke 9:51-13:21 ).

A. Unavoidable climax to Jesus' ministry awaited Him in Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-56 ).

B. Kingdom service takes top priority (Luke 9:57-62 ).

C. Nearing judgment calls for courageous witness (Luke 10:1-16 ).

D. The kingdom's mission requires joyful participation (Luke 10:17-20 ).

E. Prophets looked for Jesus' revelation of God (Luke 10:21-24 ).

F. Kingdom leaders provide loving ministry to others (Luke 10:25-37 ).

G. A disciple's top priority is learning the Master's teaching (Luke 10:38-42 ).

H. The Model Prayer characterizes kingdom members (Luke 11:1-13 ).

I. The kingdom's nearness is demonstrated in Jesus' power over demons (Luke 11:14-28 ).

J. The Son of Man is the only sign of the kingdom (Luke 11:29-32 ).

K. The kingdom brings true light (Luke 11:33-36 ).

L. Kingdom members help the needy (Luke 11:37-54 ).

M. Kingdom members boldly witness to the Son of Man (Luke 12:1-12 ).

N. Kingdom members seek the kingdom of God first (Luke 12:13-34 ).

O. Kingdom members are ready for the Master's return (Luke 12:35-48 ).

P. Disciples cannot avoid opposition and division (Luke 12:49-53 ).

Q. Now is the time for repentence (Luke 12:54-13:19 ).

R. The kingdom frees from human regulations and satanic domination (Luke 13:10-17 ).

S. The kingdom grows in a steady, surprising way (Luke 13:18-21 ).

VII. Entrance requirements for the kingdom (Luke 13:22-19:27 )

A. Entrance not governed by human standards (Luke 13:22-30 ).

B. Jesus' destiny not governed by humans (Luke 13:31-35 ).

C. Kingdom conduct is governed by concern for people (Luke 14:1-14 ).

D. Kingdom membership requires only acceptance of Jesus' invitation (Luke 14:15-24 ).

E. Kingdom membership requires total allegiance (Luke 14:25-35 ).

F. Sinners are joyfully accepted into kingdom (Luke 15:1-32 ).

G. Earthly treasure should serve kingdom purposes and should never be one's master (Luke 16:1-13 ).

H. The kingdom fulfills the Old Testament (Luke 16:14-31 ).

I. Kingdom membership requires forgiveness and service (Luke 17:1-10 ).

J. Faith is the only entrance requirement for the kingdom (Luke 17:11-19 ).

K. Kingdom members prepare for the sudden return of Jesus (Luke 17:20-37 ).

L. Kingdom members are persistent in prayer (Luke 18:1-8 ).

M. Kingdom membership requires trusting humility (Luke 18:9-17 ).

N. Obedient faith qualifies one for the kingdom (Luke 18:18-30 ).

O. Discipleship requires allegiance to the Suffering Servant (Luke 18:31-43 ).

P. Recognition of lostness is necessary for kingdom membership (Luke 19:1-10 ).

Q. Kingdom membership requires loyal service and patient waiting (Luke 19:11-27 ).

VIII. Jesus' Kingdom Power Aroused Opposition (Luke 19:28-22:6 ).

A. Israel rejected its promised King (Luke 19:28-44 ).

B. Jesus exercised authority in the Temple (Luke 19:45-20:19 ).

C. Jesus exercised God's authority (Luke 20:20-26 ).

D. Jesus' understanding was greater than that of Sadducees (Luke 20:27-40 ).

E. Messiah's role was greater than the political role of David (Luke 20:41-44 ).

F. False religious leaders face judgment (Luke 20:45-47 ).

G. Value of kingdom stewardship is determined by generosity (Luke 21:1-4 ).

H. The Son of man controls the future (Luke 21:5-36 ).

I. Human betrayal, not popular demand or legal justice, led to Jesus' arrest (Luke 21:37-22:6 ).

IX. Jesus Died as the True Passover Lamb (Luke 22:7-23:56 ).

A. Jesus' Passover sacrifice opens the door for kingdom service and rule (Luke 22:7-30 ).

B. Participation in Jesus' Passover brings satanic and human opposition (Luke 22:31-38 ).

C. Participation in Jesus' Passover demands prayer (Luke 22:39-46 ).

D. Spiritual darkness is responsible for Jesus' death (Luke 22:47-53 ).

E. Refusal to participate in Jesus' Passover brings sorrow (Luke 22:54-62 ).

F. Jesus was crucified because of religious blindness and pride (Luke 22:63-71 ).

G. Crowd approval, not guilt, led to Jesus' crucifixion (Luke 23:1-25 ).

H. Corrupt religious systems are judged by Jesus' crucifixion (Luke 23:26-31 ).

I. Jesus responded to opponents with forgiveness (Luke 23:32-34 ).

J. Jesus died to bring sinners into the kingdom (Luke 23:35-43 ).

K. Jesus showed faith and control in death (Luke 23:44-36 ).

L. Jesus died unjustly as a righteous Man (Luke 23:47-49 ).

M. Jesus' burial proves His death (Luke 23:50-56 ).

X. Jesus' Resurrection Is the Doorway to Faith and Mission (Luke 24:1-53 ).

A. Jesus' resurrection fulfilled prophecy, confirmed Jesus' teaching, and awakened faith (Luke 24:1-45 ).

B. Jesus' resurrection prepared for the church's gospel of forgiveness (Luke 24:46-48 ).

C. Church needed Spirit before undertaking mission (Luke 24:49 ).

D. Jesus' ascension leads church to worship (Luke 24:50-53 ).

T. R. McNeal

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Luke, Gospel of'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​l/luke-gospel-of.html. 1991.
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