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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Luke, Gospel According to

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LUKE, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO

1. The Third Gospel in the Early Church Of 2nd cent. writers the following can without doubt be said to have known the Gospel or to imply its previous composition: Justin Martyr ( c [Note: circa, about.] . 150 a.d.), who gives particulars found in Lk. only; Tatian, his pupil, who included it in his Harmony ( the Diatessaron ); Celsus ( c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 160 or c [Note: circa, about.] . 177), who refers to the genealogy of Jesus from Adam; the Clementine Homities (2nd cent.); the Gospel of pseudo-Peter , a Docetic work ( c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 165? Swete); the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs , a Jewish-Christian work (before a.d. 135, Sinker in Smith’s Dict. of Christ. Biog .); the Epistle of the Church of Lyons and Vienne (a.d. 177); Marcion, who based his Gospel upon Lk. and abbreviated it [this is certain as against the hypothesis that Lk. is later than, and an expansion of, Marcion, as the Tübingen school maintained from the evidence of Irenæus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius; from the exact similarity of style between the portions which are not in Marcion and those which are; and for other reasons]; the Valentinians; and Heracleon, who wrote a commentary upon it. The first writers who name Luke in connexion with it are Irenæus and the author of the Muratorian Fragment (perhaps Hippolytus), Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria all at the end of the 2nd century. If we go back earlier than any of the writers named above, we note that Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, and the Didache writer perhaps knew Lk.; but we cannot be certain if their quotations are from Mt. or from Lk. or from some third document now lost, or even from oral tradition. Yet Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp probably quote Acts, and the title of the Didache seems to come from Acts 2:42 , and this presupposes the circulation of Luke. It will be observed that the ecclesiastical testimony shows the existence of Lk. before the second quarter of the 2nd cent., but we have not, as in the case of Mt. and Mk., any guidance from that early period as to the method of its composition or as to its author.

2. Contents of the Gospel . The preface ( Luke 1:1-4 ) and the Birth and Childhood narratives ( Luke 1:5 to Luke 2:52 ) are peculiar to Luke. The Evangelist then follows Mk. (up to Luke 6:19 ) as to the Baptist’s teaching and the early ministry, inserting, however, sections common to him and Mt. on the Baptist and on the Temptation, and also the genealogy, the miraculous draught of fishes, the anointing by the sinful woman, and some sayings (especially those at Nazareth) peculiar to himself. From Luke 6:29 to Luke 8:3 Lk. entirely deserts Mk. The intervening portion contains part of the Sermon on the Mount (not in the order of Mt.), the message of the Baptist, and the healing of the centurion’s servant (so Mt.) and some fragments peculiar to himself, especially the raising of the widow’s son at Nain (Lk. practically omits the section Mark 6:45 to Mark 8:26 = Matthew 14:22 to Matthew 16:12 ). The Markan narrative, containing the rest of the Galilæan ministry, the charge to the Twelve, the Transfiguration, etc., is then resumed, nearly in the same order as Mk., but with some omissions, to Luke 9:50 (= Mark 9:40 ), where a long insertion occurs ( Luke 9:51 to Luke 18:14 ). After this Luke takes up Mk. almost where he left it ( Luke 18:15 = Mark 10:13 ). The insertion deals largely with the Peræan ministry and the journeys towards Jerusalem, and contains many parables peculiar to Lk (the Good Samaritan, the Importunate Friend, the Rich Fool, the Barren Fig-tree, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Piece of Money, the Prodigal Son, the Unjust Steward, the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Ten Lepers, the Unjust Judge, the Pharisee and the Publican), and also several incidents and sayings peculiar to Lk., e.g . the Mission of the Seventy; this section also has portions of the Sermon on the Mount and some parables and sayings common to Mt. and Lk., a few also which are found in other parts of Mk. From Luke 18:15 to the end the Markan narrative is followed (from Luke 19:45 to Luke 22:14 very closely) with few omissions, but with some insertions, e.g . the parable of the Pounds, the narrative of Zacchæus, of the Penitent Robber, of the two disciples on the Emmaus road, and other incidents peculiar to Lk. In the Passion and Resurrection narrative Luke has treated Mk. very freely, adding to it largely, and in several cases following other sources in preference.

Viewing the Third Gospel as a whole, we may with Dr. Plummer divide it thus: Preface, Luke 1:1-4 ; Gospel of the Infancy, Luke 1:5 to Luke 2:52 ; Ministry, mainly in Galilee, Luke 3:1 to Luke 9:60 ; Jourueyings towards Jerusalem, and the Ministry outside Galilee, Luke 9:51 to Luke 19:28 ; the Ministry in Jerusalem in the last days, Luke 19:29 to Luke 21:28 ; the Passion and Resurrection, 22 24.

3. The Sources . The preface ( Luke 1:1-4 ), the only contemporary evidence of the manner in which Gospels were written, tells us that the Evangelist knew of written Evangelic narratives, and had access to eye-witnesses, though he himself had not seen the events which he chronicles. Of the former sources (documents), the preceding section will lead us to name two (see also art. Gospels), namely the ‘Petrine tradition’ (see art. Mark [Gospel acc. to]), which is our Mk. or else something very like it, and which the First Evangelist also used; and another, which is often called the ‘Logia,’ but which it is safer to call the ‘non-Markan document,’ which is a common source of Mt. and Lk., but which is now lost (see art. Matthew [Gospel acc. to]). In the use of the latter the order of Lk. differs greatly from that of Mt., and the question arises which of the two Evangelists has followed this source the more closely. Now we have seen (§ 2 ) that Luke has followed the order of his Markan source very closely; it is therefore probable that he did the same with the ‘non-Markan document.’ We may then presume that the order of the latter is more faithfully reproduced in Lk. than in Mt. With regard to the sections peculiar to Lk. we must probably separate Luke 1:5 to Luke 2:52 from the rest. This section has a strong Aramaic tinge; it is an ‘episode of family history of the most private character’ (Ramsay); it is told from the point of view of a woman, and is full of womanly touches; it represents the Mary side of the story, while the narrative in Mt. represents the Joseph side. It is therefore highly probable that the ultimate, if not the immediate, source was the Virgin Mother, and that the story had not passed through many hands. Some postulate an Aramaic written source for this section (Plummer). But it is by no means certain that Luke the Gentile understood Aramaic; and the character of the narrative rather points to an oral source (Ramsay). The introduction of the Aramaic style (which begins abruptly at Luke 1:5 after the very Greek preface) may probably be an intentional change on the author’s part, and be due to a diligent study of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] . For the rest of the matter peculiar to Lk., it is usual, perhaps rightly, to assume a special source, oral or written; but it must be observed that the silence of Mt. does not negative the supposition that much or most of this matter was contained in the ‘non-Markan document.’ Silence does not necessarily mean ignorance.

Assuming now (see § 5 ) that the author was Luke, Paul’s companion, we can see at once that he was in a position to gather together not only written materials, but also first-hand oral reports. The two years at Cæsarea ( Acts 24:27 ) would give him good opportunities for collecting materials both for the Gospel and for Acts. Mary may well have been alive at the time ( c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 57), or at least Luke may have met several of the women best known to her. And both in Palestine at this time and later at Rome, he would have direct access to Apostolic information: in the former case, of several of the Twelve; in the latter, of St. Peter. At Rome he would probably read the written ‘Petrine tradition,’ his Markan source.

We must notice that Lk. is not the Pauline Gospel in the same sense that Mk. is the Petrine. St. Paul could not be a ‘source’ as St. Peter was; and indeed the preface to Lk. contradicts such an idea. Yet the Pauline influence on Luke is very great, not only in his ideas but in his language. Many words and phrases are peculiar in NT to Luke and Paul. Among other topics insisted on by both may be mentioned the universality of the Gospel (Luke 3:5 f., Luke 4:24 ff., Luke 10:29 ff., Luke 13:29 etc.).

As a detail in the consideration of the treatment of his sources by Luke, we may notice the Lord’s Prayer, which is much shorter in Lk. than in Mt. (see RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). Does this mean that the Prayer was delivered twice, in two different forms, or that Luke abbreviated the original, or that Matthew enlarged it? The first hypothesis is a priori quite probable; but if we have to choose between the two others, the presence of the Lukan phrase ‘day by day’ ( Luke 11:3 , so Luke 19:47 , Acts 17:11 , not elsewhere in NT), and of others which seem to be simplifications (as ‘we forgive’ for ‘we have forgiven’ of Mt. RV [Note: Revised Version.] , or ‘sins’ for ‘debts’ of Mt.), points to the Matthæan prayer being the original. But it is difficult to believe that either Evangelist would deliberately alter the Lord’s Prayer as found in his sources; the case is not parallel with other alterations. If we hold the Prayer to have been given only once, the most probable explanation of the differences would seem to be that, our Lord not haying laid down fixed rules for worship, but only general principles, the first Christians did not feel bound to use, or did not know, His ipsissima verba ; hence the liturgical usage with regard to the Prayer would vary. The First and Third Evangelists might well incorporate in their Gospels that form to which they were accustomed in worship. We must not forget also that as originally delivered the Prayer was, doubtless, in Aramaic, and so in any case we have not Jesus’ exact words.

4. The writer’s style and interests The Third Evangelist is at once the most literary and the most versatile of the four. The sudden change from a classical to an Aramaic style at Luke 1:5 has been noticed in § 3 ; when the writer is working on the ‘Petrine tradition,’ and the ‘non-Markan document,’ the Aramaic tinge is much less marked. The same thing is seen in Acts, where the early chapters have a strong Aramaic tinge which is absent from the rest. Yet the special characteristics of language run through both the books, and their integrity and common authorship, is becoming more and more certain. The writer has a keen sense of effective composition, as we see by the way in which he narrates his incidents ( e.g . that of the sinful woman, Luke 7:36 ff.). Yet his descriptions are not those of an eyewitness; the autoptic touches which we find in the Second Gospel (see Mark [Gospel acc. to]) are absent here. The author’s interests are many his sympathy with women, his ‘domestic tone’ shown by the social scenes which he describes, his medical language and descriptions of cures (a large number of technical phrases used by Greek medical writers and by Luke have been collected), and his frequent references to angels, are clearly marked in both books. It has been said that in his Gospel he avoids duplicates ; but this statement can hardly stand examination (cf. the two songs ( Luke 1:45 ; Luke 1:68 ), the two feasts ( Luke 5:29 , Luke 19:5 ), the mission of the Twelve and of the Seventy ( Luke 9:1 , Luke 10:1 ), the two disputes as to who is the greatest ( Luke 9:45 , Luke 22:24 ), etc.).

The Evangelic symbol usually ascribed by the Fathers to Luke is the calf, though pseudo-Athanasius gives him the lion; and it is said that the Gospel has a sacrificial aspect, the calf being the animal most commonly used for sacrifice. But this appears to be very fanciful, and it is not easy to see why Lk. is more sacrificial than the other Gospels.

5. Authorship and date . ( a ) The Third Gospel and Acts have the same author. Both books are addressed to the same person, Theophilus; the style of both is identical, not only in broad features, but in detail (see § 4 ), and Acts 1:1 refers to a ‘former’ (or ‘first’) treatise. Thus, if the author is not the same in both cases, the later writer has deliberately interwoven into his book the whole style of his predecessor, in a manner that absolutely defies detection. That this should have happened is a gross Improbability. ( b ) We have no external evidence of authorship before Irenæus, who names Luke (§ 1 ). But the internal evidence of Acts is very strong that the writer was Luke, the companion of St. Paul (see art. Acts of the Apostles). We must therefore conclude either that the author was Luke, or that he wished to pass for him. The latter hypothesis is maintained by some on the ground that the writer is indebted to Josephus, who wrote his Antiquities c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 94. It may be remarked that this fact, if proved, would not preclude the Lukan authorship, for if Luke was a young man when travelling with St. Paul, he might well have been alive and active in a literary sense c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 100 (so Burkitt). But it is extremely improbable that he had ever read Josephus. The crucial cases are those of the taxing in Luke 2:2 and of Theudas in Acts 5:36 , discussed in § 7 below, and in art. Theudas, where dependence is shown to be most unlikely (see also art. Egyptian [the]). Other things point to an absence of literary connexion; e.g . Acts describes Agrippa’s death quite independently of Josephus. The argument from language, on the other side, scarcely deserves serious refutation; the common use of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] accounts for most of the resemblances (see, further, Plummer, St. Luke , p. xxx; the connexion between Lk. and Josephus is denied by Schürer, Harnack, Zabn, and by most English writers). For the reasons, then, which are stated in art. Acts of the Apostles, we conclude that Luke was the author. It may be added that it is difficult to conceive any reason which the author, if not Luke, could have had for the pretence. Luke was not sufficiently well known for a forger to use his name.

( b ) Date . For the reasons just stated we must probably choose a date immediately after Acts 28:30 (Blass, Headlam, Salmon, etc.), or else between a.d. 70 and 80 (Sanday, Plummer, Ramsay, etc.). To the present writer the earlier date for Acts, and therefore for Lk., seems on the whole more likely (see art. Acts of the Apostles), and this probability is not diminished by Luke 1:1 ; Luke 21:20 , the chief passages adduced for the later date. Sanday and Plummer think that the earlier date does not allow enough time for drawing up the narratives spoken of in Luke 1:1 ; but it is not obvious why written Gospels should not have been attempted at an early stage. The passage Luke 21:20 , where ‘Jerusalem compassed with armies’ replaces ‘the abomination of desolation’ of Mark 13:14 , is said to betoken a date later than the destruction of Jerusalem, and to describe what had actually happened. But if the change be due to Luke, it is just what we should expect a Hebraism interpreted for Gentile readers (see § 6 ); in any case it scarcely goes further than Daniel 9:26 . Sir J. Hawkins ( Horœ Synopticœ ) thinks that there must have been a considerable interval between Lk. and Acts. The whole question of date is far from certain.

6. Purpose of the Gospel. St. Luke clearly writes for the Gentiles, being a Gentile himself (see art. Acts of the Apostles, § 2), and undertakes his task because the works of his predecessors were incomplete, probably as not beginning with our Lord’s birth, and because he was in possession of good information. He writes to Theophilus, thought by Origen and Ambrose to be an imaginary Christian, but more probably a real person, perhaps, as Ramsay deduces from the epithet ‘most excellent’ ( Luke 1:3 ), a Roman citizen of rank [this is denied by Blass and Plummer]. He has also in view, however, other Gentile converts. He explains Jewish customs ( Luke 22:1 ), substitutes Greek names for Hebrew (‘Zelotes’ for ‘Cananæan’ Luke 6:15 , Acts 1:13 , ‘the Skull’ for Golgotha’ Luke 23:33 , ‘Master’ for ‘Rabbi’ often), is sparing of OT quotations and of references to prophecy, uses ‘Judæa’ for the whole of Palestine ( Luke 1:5 , Luke 7:17 , Luke 23:5 , Acts 2:9 ; Acts 10:37 ; Acts 11:29 ; but in Luke 4:44 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] and Acts 11:1 the more restricted sense is probable), and insists on the universality of the Gospel (see § 3 ). An Interesting detail which shows the readers to whom the book is addressed is pointed out by Sir Wm. Ramsay ( Was Christ born at Bethlehem p. 63). In Luke 5:19 Luke alters the description of the breaking up of the mud roof through which the paralytic was let down ( Mark 2:4 ) a description which would be unintelligible to a Western and speaks of the man being let down through the ‘tiles.’

7. Accuracy of Luke Very different estimates have been made as to the trustworthiness of Luke as a historian. He is the only Evangelist who connects his narrative with contemporary events in the world at large ( Luke 2:1 f., Luke 3:1 , Acts 11:28 ; Acts 18:2 ; Acts 24:27 , etc.), and who thus gives us some opportunities of testing his accuracy. His accuracy has been assailed by a large number of scholars, and as strongly defended by others. The former fix especially on two points: ( a ) Gamaliel’s speech about Theudas ( Acts 5:36 f.) is said to be absolutely unhistorical, and to be an invention of the writer, who had read and misread Josephus (see § 5 and art. Theudas). ( b ) The reference to the enrolment (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] taxing ) in Luke 2:1 ff. is said to be also unhistorical. It is objected that Augustus did not order a general enrolment, that if he did, the order did not apply to Herod’s kingdom, and that, even if it did so apply, there was no reason why Joseph and Mary should go to Bethlehem; that no census had been made in Judæa till a.d. 6 7, when Quirinius was governor of Syria (‘ the census’ Acts 5:37 , Josephus); and that Quirinius was never governor of Syria in Herod’s lifetime (he died b.c. 4). As against these objections it used to be urged that Luke was accurate in most particulars, but that he made a mistake about Quirinius only. Now Luke does not say that a Roman census was being made in Palestine when Jesus was born; the enrolment is said by him to have been tribal and according to lineage, not according to the place where persons happened to be at the time, as was the Roman custom. He says that this was the first of a series of enrolments, and that Augustus instituted the rule of enrolments for the [Roman] world this is the force of the Greek phrase used. A remarkable confirmation of Lk. has recently come to light, by the discovery in Egypt of some papyri which show that periodic enrolments by households in a cycle of 14 years did as a matter of fact take place in that country. Many actual census papers, beginning a.d. 20, have been found. This fact is confirmed by Clement of Alexandria. Sir Wm. Ramsay, in his fascinating work ( Was Christ born at Bethlehem? 1st ed. 1898), argues with much probability that the first enrolment in Syria was in b.c. 8, and that the 14 years’ cycle was used. The second enrolment would be that of Acts 5:37 , which led to great riots in Palestine, because the Roman system, so offensive to Jewish patriotism, was then first introduced. No such riots are said by Luke to have occurred at the census when Jesus was born. Ramsay gives reasons for thinking that this was because Herod, ruling a semi-independent kingdom, though he could not from fear of losing Augustus’ favour forego the census (this agrees with Josephus’ account of his relations with Rome), yet conducted it in Jewish fashion, and postponed it for a year or two. This would give b.c. 6 (summer) for our Lord’s birth. All this fits in well with Luke. The difficulty of Quirinius alone remains. An inscription found near Tibur makes it probable that he was for the second time governor of Syria a.d. 6 9. He was consul b.c. 12; and his former governorship must therefore have fallen between these dates. In a technical argument Ramsay urges that Quirinius, during a time of war, held in b.c. 6 a special office in Syria as the Emperor’s deputy, with command of the forces, while another was civil governor; and that Luke’s phrase (lit. ‘while Quirinius was ruling Syria’) suits this state of affairs. This would completely vindicate Luke’s accuracy. Cf. Quirinius.

The accuracy of the Gospel is really vouched for by the remarkable accuracy of Acts, which gives so many opportunities of testing it (see art. Acts of the Apostles, § 12, and also art. Lysanias). But it may be asked whether Luke was a good chronologer. Did he really write ‘in order’ (Luke 1:3 )? This phrase does not necessarily imply chronological order; it may merely imply method. Yet the chronological note in Luke 3:1 leads us to think that Luke meant the former, though he certainly is less definite as to dates than Josephus or Tacitus, who were able to consult public records. Sir Wm. Ramsay decides that he had ‘little of the sense for chronology.’ It may be said, however, that he had more of this characteristic than his predecessors. The sources used by him had probably few, if any, marks of time. The earliest generation of disciples did not write histories for posterity, but religious narratives to teach their contemporaries faith. Luke, however, does insert some definite chronological landmarks; we may be certain that they come from him and not from his sources. He shows his trustworthiness in giving dates when he can do so; and when he has no information he does not pretend to guide us.

A. J. Maclean.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Luke, Gospel According to'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/l/luke-gospel-according-to.html. 1909.

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