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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Luke, Gospel According to

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LUKE, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO

i. The Synoptic Problem.

1. Solutions offered in the past.

2. Priority of St. Mark.

3. The doctrine of a proto-Mark, of a deutero-Mark, and of a trito-Mark.

ii. Analysis of St. Luke’s Gospel according to the sources used.

1. First Source—St. Mark.

2. Second Source—St. Matthew’s Logia.

3. Third Source—a Pauline Collection.

4. Fourth Source—Anonymous Fragments.

5. Fifth Source—a Private Collection (from the Holy Family?).

6. Editorial Notes.

iii. Points of contact with St. John.

iv. St. Luke’s characteristics.

v. Date of writing.

Literature.

i. The Synoptic Problem.—To a student of the Synoptic Problem St. Luke’s Gospel is the most interesting of the three. Indeed, we may confidently affirm that, but for St. Luke, the Synoptic Problem would never have existed. For the connexions between St. Matthew and St. Mark are comparatively simple and are easily explained. It is only when we read St. Luke that the perplexing questions which constitute the Problem arise. We have first to explain the fact of his omissions (a) of Markan matter, (b) of Matthaean; next, his additions (a) of narrative, (b) of discourse; thirdly, his variations from the other Gospels in arrangement (a) of Markan matter, (b) of Matthaean; then we must examine his editorial work, which consists (a) of prefaces to introduce a section, (b) of conclusions to wind it up, (c) of explanatory notes, (d) of corrections, alike in fact, in style, and in grammar; lastly, we must consider cases where he agrees with St. Matthew against St. Mark, and cases where he alone of the Synoptists has some contact with St. John. Anyone who attempts to solve the Problem by neglecting one or more of these factors, may fascinate the reader by the simplicity of his proposals, but he does so at the expense of success. He has not really grappled with the Problem, and therefore has not solved it. If, on the other hand, the reader thinks the proposals which are here offered too intricate; if he accuses the writer of vacillation, because two or more solutions are frequently offered of the same difficulty, let him rellect that in mathematics—the most exact of sciences—a similar fact may be observed. For every quadratic equation has two solutions, and when the Radeliffe Observer published his calculation of the distance of the sun from the earth, the answer came out as a double quadratic with four variations. Similar complications should be expected in an intricate literary problem like this. Let the beginner cultivate patience and suspense of judgment. He will have made good progress, if he learns to suspect the man who is too simple or too confident.

1. Solutions offered in the past.—Augustine, bishop of Hippo, at the close of the 4th cent., was the first writer who made a serious attempt to solve the Synoptic Problem. He was guided partly by tradition, but chiefly by a careful examination of the internal evidence which the Gospels offer. In that age it was perhaps inevitable that he should assume, what modern critics are almost united in denying, that the Apostle Matthew was the author of the First Gospel in its present form. From this fundamental error it inevitably followed that he assumed the priority of St. Matthew, and spoke of St. Mark as the ‘abbreviator and humble follower of St. Matthew.’ St. Luke he held to have copied from the other two. Augustine’s influence in the Western Church was so transcendent, that his opinion on these intricate questions was accepted without examination until quite modern times. Strange to say, the founders of the famous Tübingen school in theology, though they reversed most of the traditional beliefs, adhered to this. They upheld the priority of St. Matthew, not for any literary reason, but for a dogmatic one. The miraeulous element is somewhat less prominent in St. Matthew than it is in St. Mark; therefore, they argued, he must be the earlier writer.

2. Priority of St. Mark.—The notion of the priority of St. Matthew has, however, been so completely beaten off the field, that we need not spend time in refuting it. Suffice it to say that even so conservative a writer as Dr. Salmon, the late Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, admitted that St. Mark’s is the arehaic Gospel. And no wonder, for it is simple where the others are complex; it is meagre where they are rich; it is a chronicle while they are histories; it contains Latin and Aramaic words which they have translated or removed. For example, in Mark 15:39 we find the Latin word κεντυρίων, but in the parallel passages St. Matthew writes ἑκατόνταρχος and St. Luke ἑκατοντάρχης. Both Evangelists felt that they must not disfigure their pages with St. Mark’s ‘barbarism,’ and the different forms which they used indicate independent action. Who, on the other hand, could suppose that St. Mark found ἑκατόνταρχος in St. Matthew, and deliberately altered it into κεντυρίων, or that St. Luke found ἑκατόνταρχος, and deliberately altered it into ἑκατοντάρχης? For these and other reasons it is maintained in all orthodox schools of criticism that St. Matthew and St. Luke made use of St. Mark. Indeed, St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the historical framework for the others. Equally certain is it that St. Matthew and St. Luke were unacquainted with each other’s writings. Whatever agreement exists between them in non-Markan sections comes from their use of a common source. Augustine therefore is wrong in every particular.

3. The doctrine of a proto-Mark, of a deutero-Mark, and of a trito-Mark.—It has, however, long been debated whether St. Mark’s Gospel in its complete form lay before St. Matthew and St. Luke. Many critics have held that St. Luke, at any rate, had only an Urmarkus—a term which has been used in Germany to signify a document shorter than our St. Mark, earlier in date, and free from those ‘picturesque’ additions which strike the reader of St. Mark’s Gospel. Of late years there has been a growing tendency, both in Germany and in England, to repudiate the doctrine of an Urmarkus. Dr. Swete, without arguing the question at length, expresses the opinion that we can dispense with it. The Dean of Westminster is more positive in setting it aside. Nor is this surprising. Those who reject the oral hypothesis are beginning to feel that they cannot multiply documents at pleasure. Litera scripta manet. If St. Mark’s Gospel circulated in the Apostolic age in three widely different editions, it is impossible to believe that the first and second editions perished without being noticed by such scholars as Origen and Jerome. Nor is it conceivable, as some maintain, that St. Mark entrusted his first edition to St. Luke, who incorporated it into his Gospel, but allowed no one else to make use of it. No wonder that with men who have an historical sense such hypotheses are unpalatable. But the oral hypothesis readily admits of, nay requires, these gradual growths in St. Mark. Under it there is no difficulty whatever in believing that St. Luke’s (oral) St. Mark was much shorter than St. Matthew’s, and that St. Matthew’s had not received the final touches. In fact, the oral hypothesis solves the Synoptic Problem. The documentary hypothesis fails to do so. Both are equally hypothetical. And those who declare the oral hypothesis to be incredible have never, as yet, fairly tackled the arguments on which it rests, or sufficiently taken into account the habits of the East and of that age. This, however, is not the place to plead for the oral hypothesis, nor has the present writer any wish to do more than demand for it a dispassionate consideration. In the examination which follows he will not assume its truth.

ii. Analysis of St. Luke’s Gospel according to the sources used

1. First Source—St. Mark.—St. Mark’s Gospel (oral or written) was not merely used by St. Luke, it forms the backbone of his Gospel. It is hardly too much to say that without St. Mark there would have been neither a St. Luke nor a St. Matthew. But, as we have already intimated, there is strong reason for concluding that St. Luke used a much shorter work, not merely than our St. Mark, but than the St. Mark which lay before the redactor of St. Matthew. In short, he used an Urmarkus or an (oral) proto-Mark. By adopting this view we account at once (a) for his omissions, (b) for his variations from St. Mark’s order. He omitted nothing which his St. Mark contained: he adhered to St. Mark’s order in every section which he took directly from St. Mark. The marvellous simplification of the Synoptic Problem which this view offers can be appreciated only by those who have seriously endeavoured to explain to themselves and justify to others St. Luke’s omissions and his order.

But St. Luke’s omissions are so important that we must consider them at some length. In the Synopsis St. Mark’s Gospel is divided into 223 sections, of which St. Luke omits 54. A group of sections is omitted between Mark 3:22; Mark 4:1. A much larger group—amounting to more than two out of St. Mark’s 16 chapters—is omitted between Mark 6:17; Mark 8:26. The remaining omissions consist of single sections scattered over the rest of St. Mark’s Gospel. Only from Mark 2, 5 are no sections omitted. It is manifestly the duty of the critic to account for these omissions, and attempts have been made by harmonists to do so. Thus they have suggested (1) that St. Luke omitted what his readers would not value: being a Gentile himself, and writing for Gentiles, he naturally omitted sections which dealt with questions of Jewish interest; (2) that he objected to repetition, and left out what he regarded as dittographies; e.g. having given the feeding of 5000, he thought it unnecessary to narrate the feeding of 4000; having described the anointing of our Lord’s feet, he deemed it superfluous to record the anointing of His head. These reasons, however, are quite inadequate. St. Luke is particularly fond of alluding to Jewish customs, and Gentile Christians have always taken a deep interest in them. Furthermore, the great majority of his omissions cannot be accounted for under either of the above heads. Thus he omits 25 out of St. Mark’s 86 proper names. He does so in defiance of his instincts as an historian (Wright, NT Problems, 56–90). Again, he omits the healing of the Syrophœnician’s daughter (Mark 7:24-30)—the only case in which our Lord is recorded to have healed a Gentile. He omits the only journey which our Lord is said to have taken through Gentile lands (Mark 7:31 to Mark 8:10). He omits our Lord’s teaching about the inferiority of the moral precepts of the Old Testament to those of the New (Matthew 5:27; Matthew 5:31; Matthew 5:33; Matthew 5:38; Matthew 5:43). All these topics were of overwhelming interest to Gentile readers, and we find it impossible to believe that St. Luke deliberately rejected them. The only satisfactory hypothesis is that he was not acquainted with them, as be would not he if he used a shorter recension of St. Mark and of the Login.

(a) Now, if St. Luke used an earlier recension of St. Mark, whether oral or written, it is reasonable to suspect that in several places he has preserved for us the primitive Petrine wording. He will occasionally be nearer to St. Peter’s teaching than is either St. Matthew or St. Mark. For, if the trito-Mark has made many additions to the primitive records, so also has he sometimes altered the tradition. In the index to the Synopsis nine passages are pointed out in which St. Luke’s account is held to be the oldest, but there are probably many more. At any rate it is of the greatest advantage to the critic to feel that he is not always bound to vindicate the priority of St. Mark in details, however highly he may value it on the whole. And although subjective reasoning must always be received with caution, it ought not to be altogether discarded.

(b) Although St. Luke omits, as we have seen, 54 out of St. Mark’s 223 sections, he does not always omit them entirely, but has preserved short fragments or ‘scraps’ of 24 out of the 54. These ‘scraps’ are always misplaced in his Gospel. In fact, the departure from St. Mark’s order is our chief means of detecting them. (They may be seen in the Synopsis, Table I. a). No one is likely now to maintain that these ‘scraps’ were copied directly from a written St. Mark. It is surely incredible that they should have been torn from their context and misplaced. But if these ‘scraps’ came to St. Luke orally, is it conceivable that he was so careless as never to have discovered that he had a full account of them in writing before him? To the present writer’s mind the very existence in St. Luke’s Gospel of these ‘scraps’ is conclusive proof that he used an abbreviated St. Mark. When, therefore, these ‘scraps’ reached him, he was not aware that they were Markan. For, if we mistake not, there were in the Apostolic age two kinds of oral tradition, both of which contributed much to the composition of St. Luke’s Gospel. First there was a vast body of uncodified fact, rudis indigestaque moles. Striking sayings were remembered apart from their surroundings, striking deeds were recorded without mention of place or person. These passed from mouth to mouth informally. Secondly, there was the regular course of catechetical teaching preserved by those catechists to whose ill-requited toil St. Paul bears testimony in Galatians 6:6. From these men St. Luke derived the sections of the proto-Mark in their invariable order: from the former source he derived the ‘scraps’ of the deutero-Mark together with much other matter.

(c) St. Matthew’s redactor frequently introduces non-Markan material into a Markan section, mixing the two together to the reader’s confusion. St. Luke avoids doing this, as a rule, rightly feeling that his sources ought to be treated with respect. But, of course, all the ‘scraps’ are amalgamated with and lost in other matter.

(d) There are cases in which St. Luke corrects the proto-Mark or forsakes it in favour of other sources. Not only does he polish St. Mark’s style in a multitude of instances, but in his third chapter he gives (with some additions) the account of the Baptist which he found in the second Source, preferring it to the much shorter account which is found in St. Mark. The same thing is done in Mark 3:22-26. He differs from the proto-Mark in holding that only one of the malefactors who were hanged reviled our Lord, the other turned to Him for help (Luke 23:39). In the account of the Eucharist (according to the true text) he puts the administration of the Cup before that of the Bread (Luke 22:17-19), following in all probability a local liturgical usage of which several traces remain. These changes must have been made deliberately. And in all cases in which St. Luke or St. John corrects St. Mark, it is reasonable to believe that they had good warrant for doing so.

(e) It used to be argued that the testimony of four men is true, and those passages which are found in more than one Gospel were held to be doubly or trebly attested. Criticism has considerably altered our view of this matter. No doubt the ‘Triple tradition’ deserves special respect. When three Gospels agree verbatim (as they seldom do for more than a few words at a time), they are reproducing a source which must be as old as, and may be considerably older than, any of them. Tradition assigns St. Mark’s Gospel to St. Peter’s teaching, and we are entitled to claim that at least the proto-Mark may in large measure be regarded as his work. In this there is scope for apologetics. But it is evident that, if three Evangelists are reproducing the same Source, they may be reproducing its defects as well as its excellences. Their agreement proves the antiquity, but not the infallibility, of the original. Now Papias expressly asserts that St. Mark’s Gospel is defective in order. And when we examine it critically we find that it is arranged topographically. It takes us first to the Jordan valley for our Lord’s Baptism, then to Galilee for His ministry; after that comes a journey to Jerusalem, followed by the Passion. Finally, the lost verses must have contained a journey into Galilee, for such a journey is expressly enjoined on the disciples. All three Synopties adopt this arrangement, except that the final journey into Galilee is omitted by St. Luke, belonging, as it does, to the deutero-Mark. Can we accept St. Mark’s arrangement, supported, as it is, by St. Matthew and St. Luke? Is the testimony of three men true? No one until quite modern times has ever thought so. The traditional account is that it is partly true. The Galilaean ministry was broken by visits to Jerusalem, which St. John alone records. In ignoring them the Synoptists were wrong. But the ministry in Jerusalem which the Synoptists give is assumed to have been unbroken by visits to Galilee, and must therefore merely be adjusted with John 12-20. This is improbable. St. Mark assigns 360 verses to the ministry in Galilee, which is commonly supposed to have lasted three years, 251 to the ministry in Jerusalem, which lasted about a week. Events in real history seldom move so rapidly. Our contention is that St. Mark is, as Papias says, and as his contemporaries probably well knew, defective in arrangement. Not only ought the ministry in the North to be broken by several visits to Jerusalem, but St. Mark’s account of the ministry in Jerusalem ought to be broken by several visits to Galilee. Both ministries must be split up and dovetailed together, if we would attain to the true sequence of events. St. John corrects St. Mark by putting the Cleansing of the Temple into the first year’s ministry (John 2:13-22) instead of the last. The traditional view that there were two cleansings is discredited in every other case, and is particularly incredible here. But if St. Mark has misplaced it, he has misplaced also some other sections which adhere to it. And although we cannot with any confidence decide at which particular visit to Jerusalem each of the recorded events happened, it is an enormous gain to the historian to be at liberty to distribute them.

2. Second Source—St. Matthew’s Logia.—When Papias wrote that ‘St. Matthew compiled the Logia (or Utterances of our Lord) in the Hebrew dialect, and each man interpreted them as he was able,’ he cannot, as the traditionalists suppose, be alluding to our First Gospel, which was written (at Alexandria?) in Greek. Critical opinion is fast coming round to the view that St. Matthew compiled, not a formal Gospel, but a collection of our Lord’s Utterances, which was incorporated into our First Gospel, and formed so distinctive a feature of it, that the whole book was with some justice called ‘the Gospel according to St. Matthew.’ And if this collection was originally oral, as many who deny an oral Mark are ready to admit, there is nothing strange in our contention that St. Luke used it, when it was much shorter: in fact, he used a proto-Matthew. In that way we explain his omissions, which are more glaring even than his omissions from St. Mark.

The question of order, which was complex in the case of the first Source, is simple here. For St. Luke’s order is entirely different from St. Matthew’s. Except on the rare occasions when St. Mark furnishes a clue, as he does in the account of the Baptist and of the Temptation, St. Luke arranges the Logia in one way, St. Matthew in another. Which, then, of these arrangements is to be preferred? Which Evangelist reproduced St. Matthew’s order? Not the redactor of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, for he has massed most of the Logia into five huge Discourses, which are impressive for Church reading, but can hardly correspond to any actual Sermons. Many critics, however, incline to believe that St. Luke has preserved the original order, because he has so scrupulously followed the order of the proto-Mark. Even if he has done so, we must not assume that he is any nearer the truth, for we have no right to suppose that St. Matthew, any more than St. Mark, had regard to anything else in arrangement than convenience in Church teaching. It seems to us, however, that there is considerable evidence to show that originally the Logia were piled one upon another in confused disorder, as they are in the Oxyrhynchus fragment, with no other prefaces than ‘Jesus said’ or ‘John said.’ Their arrangement into speeches was the work of later hands (Synopsis, xxv). If so, this was done by the art of conflation, which consists in picking out all the Utterances which dealt with one subject and arranging them into an artificial speech on that subject. Such speeches, of which the Sermon on the Mount is a typical example, do not correspond to any Sermon that was ever preached, but are compiled for the simplification of teaching, and for the preservation of important Utterances which were in danger of being lost. St. Matthew prefers long conflations. One of these covers three chapters (Matthew 5-7), another two (24, 25), and three more one each (10, 13, 23). St. Luke’s conflations are shorter, never filling one chapter. They are therefore more numerous (we reckon nineteen of them) and more compact; for, whereas it is difficult to say what is the subject of the Sermon on the Mount or of the Charge to the Twelve, there is no such difficulty with St. Luke. In St. Matthew’s Eschatological Discourses (24, 25) the prophecies respecting the destruction of Jerusalem and those respecting the Second Coming of the Son of Man are inextricably blended together, as though the redactor regarded the two events as synchronous, whereas St. Luke separates them (Luke 17:20-37; Luke 21:5-38), and it may well be that our Lord habitually did so.

The hypothesis of conflations may come as a shock to those who have been brought up in the belief that the Sermon on the Mount is a single discourse. We credit the Evangelists with some audacity. Their literary morality must not be judged by the standard of this century. They were composing Gospels and not formal histories. They were providing for the need of an age which lived in daily expectation of the return of their Lord. The work was done wisely and well, for it has stood the test of time; but we must understand its limitations if we really care to attain to the truth.

That the art of conflation was a real thing, actually practised by the Evangelists, can be fully proved only by a detailed examination into all the conflations; and for that we have no space now; but it may help to remove prejudice if we compare St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) with St. Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-49). Both begin with Beatitudes, and both end with the same Warning. We conclude, therefore, that the source contained the nucleus of a sermon. But the proto-Matthaeus had only three short and one long Beatitude, for St. Luke gives no more. In St. Matthew five others have been added by the deutero-Matthaeus. St. Luke’s Beatitudes, short and long, are all expressed in the second person, owing to an editorial change made by him for the purpose of securing literary uniformity. In St. Luke, Woes follow the Blessings. St. Matthew contains Woes, but not here. Either, therefore, St. Luke borrowed these Woes from another source unknown to us, or they are mere editorial work to enhance the Blessings. Their close uniformity to the Blessings favours the latter view. The wording of the Warning, with which the Sermons end, has been slightly altered in St. Luke to suit the comprehension of readers who did not live in Palestine, and would not know the action of winter torrents on a wady. Between the Beatitudes and the Warning the Source must have contained some Utterances setting forth the Law of Love. Besides these, St. Matthew has collected much material, St. Luke comparatively little; for St. Matthew’s Sermon contains 107 verses, St. Luke’s only 30. Yet we cannot regard St. Luke’s Sermon as an abbreviation of St. Matthew’s. True, he reproduces 26 out of St. Matthew’s 107 verses; but he reproduces 32 more of them in other parts of his Gospel, spreading them over no fewer than seven chapters. Again, he gives in his Sermon four passages (Luke 6:24-27; Luke 6:34-35; Luke 6:37-38) which are not found in St. Matthew at all, and therefore do not come from the Logia. He adds two (Luke 6:39-40) which are given by St. Matthew in a different context. We are justified, therefore, in regarding the Sermons as in large part independent conflations. St. Luke’s subject, as usual, is precise, being simply the statement of the Law of Love; but the most that we can say for St. Matthew is that he seems here to be setting forth the duty of Christian laymen, while in the charge to the Twelve he gives our Lord’s teaching about the duty of the clergy.

It is a further proof of the fact of conflation that in some cases, where the subject-matter is so clearly marked that two Evangelists have collected the utterances respecting it, which may have been widely separated in the Source, into one conflation, they have nevertheless arranged the sections in different order. Thus in the Temptation, St. Matthew gives the second and third Temptations in one order, St. Luke in another. In the passage about the Ninevites, and Solomon and the Queen of the South (Matthew 12:38-45, Luke 11:24-32), two such differences of arrangement occur. In the Woes on the Pharisees, St. Luke’s order (Luke 11:37-54) differs repeatedly from St. Matthew’s (Matthew 23:13 ff.), and the deutero-Matthaeus supplies fresh Woes. It is, of course, possible that St. Luke was dissatisfied with St. Matthew’s order, and thought to improve upon it; it is more probable that he was not acquainted with it.

In cases where the subject is less clearly marked, the Evangelists collect the utterances into independent conflations. But there is one very instructive example. Both Evangelists have gathered together our Lord’s teaching on the subject of prayer. St. Matthew has put it into the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5-13), St. Luke into an independent conflation (Luke 11:1-13). St. Luke, however, has very properly included in his conflation the utterance, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you,’ etc. St. Matthew has put this also into the Sermon on the Mount, but in a different department (Matthew 7:7-11). Why is this? The words ‘pray’ or ‘prayer’ do not occur in it, and the redactor of St. Matthew, acting, as we are all liable to do, mechanically, did not perceive that this Logion dealt with prayer. St. Luke was more observant.

That the original Logia had no prefaces beyond ‘Jesus said,’ etc., is shown by four remarkable cases in which St. Matthew (Matthew 3:7; Matthew 12:24; Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1) applies to the scribes and Pharisees, i.e. to the ruling class, denunciations which in St. Luke (Luke 3:7; Luke 11:15-29; Luke 11:16) are addressed to the lower orders. Plainly the Evangelists were left to gather from the contents of the Logion the persons to whom it was addressed. St. Luke’s pronounced dislike of the rabble made him incline to them, while St. Matthew’s indictment of the upper class led him into the opposite direction. It may well be that both Evangelists were mistaken. At any rate the limitations under which they worked must be acknowledged by all seekers after truth.

The contents of the second Source may be seen in the Synopsis, 187–239. St. Luke’s parable of the Pounds is identified with St. Matthew’s parable of the Talents, and St. Luke’s parable of the Great Dinner with St. Matthew’s of the Marriage Feast.

3. Third Source—a Pauline Collection.—If the first Source contained a good deal of triple tradition, and the second Source a good deal of double tradition, the remaining sources consist almost entirely of single tradition. Again, St. Mark contains a small quantity of single tradition, added (we believe) by the trito-Mark. St. Matthew gives a considerable amount; but St. Luke surpasses them both in respect of quantity and interest. And first we must recognize in his Gospel a collection of nineteen discourses, parables, and stories which stand by themselves, and may be called Pauline from their character (Synopsis, 241–250). We do not mean that St. Paul had much, if anything, to do with their wording; but some one in sympathy with Pauline teaching must have edited them. Our Lord spoke the words, but credit must be given to the collector who preserved them from oblivion. And if in St. John’s Gospel it is more and more recognized that the mind of the Evangelist east the utterances of our Lord into the peculiar form which they there hold, the same process of redaction may be observed in St. Luke, who comes nearest of the Synoptists to the methods of St. John. The story of the Prodigal Son is the crown of this division, but the stories of the Good Samaritan, of the Pharisee and the Publican, of the woman who washed our Lord’s feet with her tears, are scarcely of inferior interest, while the parable of the Unjust Steward, when properly interpreted, is full of interest, and that of the Rich Man and Lazarus of difficulty. The more we consider this collection, the more entranced we are with it. It is the very cream of the Gospel, and yet (strange to say) it is peculiar to St. Luke.

In all cases, but especially in those of the single tradition, the question arises, How near do our records come to the actual words of Christ? The traditionalists, although they are forced to admit that in the triple and the double tradition some doubt may exist through the divergences in three, or two, Gospels, quietly assume that in the single tradition we have a verbatim report. To this assumption the critic is unable to assent. If the triple tradition was first taught by St. Peter, and confirmed by the general consent of the Churches; if the double tradition was taught by St. Matthew and diffused extensively, the single tradition was later in formation, lays no claim to Apostolic origination, and must have been known to few, or else by its intrinsic interest it would often have found its way into more Gospels than one. It is possible that St. Philip the Evangelist was the worker to whom we are indebted for the third Source; but it is mere guesswork to say so; there are no solid grounds for argument. We do not therefore claim for the single tradition the same authority that we claim for the others. The work of an editor is often conspicuous in it, and always to be suspected. And yet it would be mere scepticism to throw much doubt on these utterances, many of which vindicate their claim to have been given by Him who spake as never man spake. When a witness recollected only one or two sayings of our Lord, his memory would be specially trustworthy. The apologist has no cause to fear, but he must recognize the human element which plays its part in all Scripture. In this division the human element, if we are not mistaken, may be most clearly seen in the narrative of the washing of our Lord’s feet by the woman who had been a sinner (Luke 7:36-50). Our view of this most perplexing section is that its groundwork belongs to the deutero-Mark, being identical with the Markan account of the anointing of our Lord’s head. It has been misplaced by St. Luke, but he misplaces all the deutero-Markan sections which he gives. St. Luke agrees with St. John in saying that the feet, not the head, were anointed. In this, according to our contention, St. Luke and St. John are simply following St. Mark’s original narrative. In the Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Mark the feet have been changed into the head, because the Psalmist wrote, ‘Thou anointest my head with oil’ (Psalms 23:5). The early Christians were always searching for fulfilments of Scripture, and in some eases the primitive records have been changed to secure a more complete fulfilment. Such changes appeared legitimate to the literary morality of that age, and we have no right to object (Synopsis, 269).

4. Fourth Source—Anonymous Fragments.—To this Source we assign 80 fragments of St. Luke, of which nine are found also in St. Matthew, but, of course, in a different context. If the sections in the third Division lack Apostolic authority, still more probable is it that these do so. Nay, to some of us it may appear their chief glory, as it is of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that their authors are unknown. Hundreds of Christians in Palestine had seen our Lord in the days of His flesh, and every one of them would treasure up some personal reminiscence. The great majority of these have inevitably been lost, but a few were so widely known and so much valued that they forced their way into local Church tradition and so passed into one—seldom into two—Gospels. All this is quite certain to the historian. But, of course, difficulties about chronology arise. Probably most of these fragments are widely misplaced. Thus St. Luke (Luke 5:1-11) by a conflation blends the Draught of fishes with the deutero-Markan account of St. Peter’s Call. St. John places it (in what we believe to be its true position) after the Resurrection (John 21:1-14). Now, as St. Luke leaves no room either in his Gospel or in the Acts for a visit to Galilee after the Resurrection, it is at last being confessed that he was not aware of such a visit, and therefore it was quite natural for him to infer that the Draught of fishes belonged to St. Peter’s Call, and indeed explains his readiness to rise and follow Christ without question. But, if this had been the true connexion of events, it is incredible that St. Mark, if he gives St. Peter’s account of the call, did not mention it (Synopsis, 13).

If in the deutero-Mark and in the Logia St. Luke was content to find a literary connexion for many of our Lord’s Utterances, it is no wonder if he did so in the fourth Source. He certainly endeavoured to write, as he says, ‘in (chronological) order,’ but in many cases he had not the detailed information which was necessary for doing so. St. Luke’s Gospel is probably the least chronological of the three (as we shall show hereafter more fully), but in all the Gospels criticism teaches us to value the picture more than the frame; to treasure the Utterance, but esteem at a much lower value the setting which the Evangelist has given it.

5. Fifth Source—a Private Collection (from the Holy Family?).—St. Luke’s first two chapters, together with the Genealogy, the Sermon at Nazareth, and the Raising of the widow’s son at Nain, form our fifth and last Division. Marcion rejected the first two chapters and many other sections from his canon. Wellhausen omits them from his edition of St. Luke. The Bishop of Ely infers from Acts 1:1; Acts 1:22 that they were no part of the first edition of the Gospel. The present writer has long taught that they are among the latest additions to the Gospel, and that they never were part of the oral teaching: beyond that we can hardly go. The idea that St. Luke issued two editions of his Gospel has gained few converts, and Dr. Blass, its chief advocate, assigns these chapters to both supposed editions. That they proceed from St. Luke is shown by the literary connexions which Sir John Hawkins has traced.

This Division bears testimony to the fact, which Irenaeus records, that there was difference of opinion in the early Church on the question of the Virgin Birth. St. Paul is silent on that subject, showing, perhaps, that it had not been raised in his day. St. John alludes to it in his own peculiar way (John 1:45). Both Genealogies seem to have issued from Ebionite circles, in which our Lord’s descent from Joseph was affirmed. They have been altered with some rather clumsy editorial changes, to make them square with orthodox belief. But the trito-Mark has altered the wording of a passage (John 6:3) with a view to support the Virgin Birth (Synopsis, xli), while St. Matthew’s first chapter and St. Luke’s second strenuously assert it. There can be no doubt that, when once the question was raised, it was answered in widely different Churches in no hesitating way. East and West, at Rome and in the provinces, belief in the Virgin Birth became a test of orthodoxy.

In St. Matthew, Joseph is the hero, and all action is taken by him. Mary is kept in the background, in accordance with Eastern feeling. But in St. Luke, Elisabeth and Mary are brought forward. Honour is claimed for women, as it is throughout the Third Gospel.

It is obvious that the story told in these chapters, unless it be regarded as a free invention, must have been derived, directly or indirectly, from the Virgin Mary herself. The style is strangely Semitic, in striking contrast to the four verses of preface. Not only was the original narrative told in Aramaic, but the translator has closely imitated the language and manner of the LXX Septuagint , feeling that he could thus best convey the meaning. Few parts of the Gospel have been more popular than this. The Sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-29) is conflate, much of a (misplaced) deutero-Markan section having been worked into it. But it shows additional information; and long ago the observation was made, that St. Luke’s knowledge of events at Nazareth is unique. If he had intercourse with some member of the Holy Family, the mystery is explained.

6. Editorial Notes.—The editorial element in all the Gospels is very great, for ancient authors took immense pains to reduce the crude chronicles which they used into literary form. In Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy, and Tacitus the charm of style is all their own, and it must have been gained by unsparing labour. Nor did inspired authors deem it unnecessary to take pains. Nay, the Divine treasure which they held in earthen vessels demanded and received all the skill which they possessed. Both St. Luke and the redactor of St. Matthew are artists of a high order.

Editorial changes, however, though they often improve upon the original, do so at some sacrifice. The substitution of a more elegant word alters the precise meaning of the original. The critic’s endeavour must always be to recover the primitive wording. And in the triple tradition he can generally feel sure of his ground; in the double tradition there is more room for subjective preferences; while in the single tradition he has little else to guide him. Just where the records are most likely to be obscured, the means of verifying them disappear. We cannot attain to greater certainty than God has given.

St. Luke’s editorial contributions are manifold and important. He had sources of information which are closed to us. Even his own opinion is of high value. But, nevertheless, he worked under limitations, and an exact scrutiny throws some doubt upon many of his assertions.

Let us first consider the general arrangement of his Gospel, which, as we have said, depends almost entirely on St. Mark. The first thing which strikes us is the extraordinary fact, that whereas St. Mark describes our Lord’s last journey to Jerusalem in 52 verses, which St. Matthew expands to 64, St. Luke devotes to it no fewer than 408: more than one-third part of his whole Gospel. How are we to understand this amazing disproportion? First, let us look at the ‘Travel Narrative’ in itself. It contains a very few and slight Markan ‘scraps’: so few, that we are entitled to call the whole of it non-Markan. There is a good deal of matter which has been taken from the second Source; this, of course, is arranged by St. Matthew in an entirely different way. But much of the material is peculiar to St. Luke. For example, sixteen out of the nineteen sections of the third Source are embedded here.

Harmonists say that St. Luke is giving us a Peraean ministry, in which our Lord repeated much of what He had taught in Galilee. But who were these Peraeans, that the wealth of the third Source should have been reserved for them? St. Luke gives us no help in answering that necessary question. Not a single town or village is named until we reach the Markan Jericho. If there was a door open to our Lord at all in Peraea, it would seem to have been among those Galilaean pilgrims who passed through Peraea on their way to keep the Feast. But there are other difficulties. We are distinctly taught that our Lord gradually withdrew from public teaching, first speaking only in parables, and finally confining Himself to the training of the Twelve. But here within a fort-night of His death (though harmonists try to lengthen the journey, and, indeed, change it into several journeys, with visits to Jerusalem and retirements into Galilee of which St. Luke says nothing) some of the simplest and plainest of His teaching is set forth. Again, why does St. Matthew put so many of these sayings into the Sermon on the Mount or the Charge to the Twelve? The theory of repetition is entirely unsatisfactory (NT Problems, 30–39).

We have little doubt that a different explanation must be found. If St. Luke’s sole guide to chronology was St. Mark, what was he to do with non-Markan matter? The difficulty confronted him continually. New materials reached him, while he taught at Philippi, by every ship which arrived. Seldom did the new fragments contain any clue to their date or occasion. If they were not worked into his oral teaching they would soon be forgotten. Some niche must be found for them. And he began, it would seem, by placing them into this last journey. Slowly they accumulated until they reached their present proportions. The famous ‘Travel Narrative’ is therefore really a collection of undated material. The extraordinary vagueness which characterizes this Division favours that view. It is discourse matter, but quite indeterminate. Some of the most striking parables have no further preface than ‘He said,’ and there are no indications of locality except that He was still on the journey. St. Luke’s idea was that our Lord brought forth the best of His treasures as the time of His departure drew nigh: it is a noble conception, but not in agreement with what we learn from the other Gospels. The matter (we believe) is scarcely arranged at all, and always wrongly.

If this be so, it is no wonder that we attach low historical value to those editorial prefaces with which St. Luke introduces so many sections in this ‘Travel Narrative,’ and, indeed, outside it also. Such prefaces appear usually to be inferences from the contents of the passage or transferences from other occasions. Thus the parable of the Marriage Feast according to St. Matthew (Matthew 22:1-14) was spoken in the courts of the Temple. But the parable of the Great Dinner, which we identify with it, was, according to St. Luke (Luke 14:15-24), part of a long discourse at a Pharisee’s dinner table: the machinery of the dinner table is made much of by St. Luke in binding the conflation together. St. Luke stands alone in telling us that our Lord on three occasions (Luke 7:36; Luke 11:37; Luke 14:1) accepted hospitality from Pharisees. There is reason to think that the last two of these occasions are due to transference or assimilation.

St. Luke, like the other Synoptists, seems to have thought that our Lord’s ministry lasted one year only—‘the acceptable year of the Lord’ (NT Problems, 182–194). He appears to have placed our Lord’s Birth after Herod’s death, though St. Matthew distinetly places it before that event. For a discussion of this difficult question the present writer may be allowed to refer the reader to his edition of St. Luke’s Gospel. Suffice it here to record the conviction that, though St. Luke has done much for us in connecting our Lord’s life upon earth with secular history, his Gospel is very far from being arranged with the chronological accuracy at which he aimed. He was working in a place and amid surroundings which precluded historical research, and, when he visited Palestine, it was too late to recast the whole work of his life.

Philosophy was sedulously cultivated among the Gentiles for whom St. Luke wrote. All the more earnest thinkers, who were attracted by Christianity, had been brought up as neo-Platonists or Stoics. They would, of course, bring their philosophy with them into their new religion. Christianity became to a considerable extent leavened by Hellenistic thought. This is what our Lord foretold in the parable of the Leaven, rightly interpreted. Now Plato taught the indestructibility of the soul. But in Matthew 10:28 God is declared to be ‘able to destroy both soul and body in hell,’ which is the usual Biblical doctrine. St. Luke (Luke 12:5) has altered this into ‘him who has power to cast into hell.’ It would seem that he, or his informant, did this to avoid giving offence to the Platonists. In the Markan account of the Agony in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42) there is much to perplex a Stoic, who believed that a good man is never perturbed. All trace of agony is absent from St. Luke’s account (cf. (Revised Version margin) at Luke 22:43 f.); perhaps because the proto-Mark did not contain it; more probably because St. Luke has deliberately struck it out.

St. Luke has long been accused of Ebionism, because the rich are severely handled in his pages, and because he expressly commands us to part with all our property (Luke 12:32-34); whereas St. Matthew (according to the Greek) bids us only think more highly of the heavenly than of the earthly treasure (Luke 6:19-21). St. Luke was certainly not an Ebionite, or he would not have defended the Virgin Birth or praised Joseph of Arimathaea. In speaking words of severity against the rich he is probably faithfully reproducing our Lord’s words, which were wont to be incisive. The strongest of all these sayings against the wealthy is preserved in the proto-Mark (Mark 10:25), and it is followed by a declaration in which our Lord Himself cautions us against interpreting His utterances with prosaic literality. Nor have Christians generally supposed that He intended us to pluck out our right eye or cut off our right hand and foot.

The most striking example of editorial addition in St. Luke is that in which he attributes the three hours’ darkness to a solar eclipse (Luke 23:45). In saying so he cannot be right for many reasons (Comp. of the Gospels, 119).

iii. Points of contact with St. John.—If St. John’s teaching was esoteric, intended for advanced disciples only, we shall better understand the rarity of the occasions on which allusions to it are found in the sub-Apostolic age. But that it existed orally for many years before it was committed to writing, is indicated not only by its own characteristics, but by several cases in which it is simpler to assume that one of the Synoptists learned a fact from St. John than that St. John learned it from him. Many passages are pointed out in the index to the Synopsis in which the trito-Mark is held to have drawn from St. John’s oral teaching. There is one case where St. Matthew does so. And we have now to consider cases where St. Luke appears to have followed their example. We have already seen that St. Luke agrees with St. John that our Lord’s feet were anointed and not His head. But in that matter we held that St. Luke is reproducing the original deutero-Markan statement which has been corrupted in St. Matthew and in the trito-Mark. The trito-Mark tells us that the day of the Crucifixion was Friday (Mark 15:42). This statement St. Luke repeats (Luke 23:54), but in a different context and in different language. The simplest explanation of these peculiarities and of the absence of the words from St. Matthew is that both Evangelists, directly or indirectly, derived their information from St. John. Finally, St. Luke and St. John tell us that the sepulchre in which our Lord’s body lay was a new one, ‘where no one had yet lain’ (Luke 23:53).

iv. St. Luke’s characteristics.—St. Luke the Gentile was cosmopolitan in his sentiments. St. Luke the beloved physician had sympathy for the sorrows of mankind. The words of pity which he records were drawn from the all-compassionate heart of the Saviour, but to St. Luke is due the credit of preserving them from oblivion. To his literary skill we are probably right in attributing some of the beauty of their form. St. Luke the disciple of St. Paul tells of the publican, who durst not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept smiting his breast and saying, ‘God be merciful to me the sinner’ (Luke 18:13). He tells of the traveller by the wayside, stripped, wounded, and half-dead, and how the good Samaritan had pity upon him (Luke 10:30-37). He tells of the Prodigal, wandering in thoughtless levity from home, spending his substance in riot and revelry, and then eating the husks which were thrown to the swine; and how the father had compassion upon him and welcomed him home (Luke 15:11-32). He tells of the poor woman who had been a sinner in the city, coming behind and washing the Saviour’s feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50); of the robber’s appeal on the cross, ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom’ (Luke 23:39-43). These and other passages which set forth the freeness and fulness of pardoning love have been preserved to us only in the writings of St. Luke, who had more pity for the weak and for the suffering, for widows and for the poor, than any other NT writer.

St. Luke was no idealist. He had a literal, matter-of-fact mind, which blurted out facts without glossing them. We have seen how he records without reservation the command to part with our possessions, as St. Barnabas and others in their first love did (Acts 4:36-37). Being a physician, he nevertheless had the strongest belief in the truth of demoniacal possession, understanding literally what was originally given as a burst of insanity (Mark 5:9 with parallels). He stands alone in affirming that our Lord, after His resurrection, ate a piece of broiled fish before His disciples (Luke 24:41-43). To this he refers, probably in Acts 1:4, certainly in Acts 10:41. Many persons in modern times have felt some difficulty in reconciling this with the general Scripture account of the nature of our Lord’s resurrection body. It may be one side of the truth which is apt in these days to be ignored; in a coarser age it was the only side that was accepted. Ignatius supports it in the saying which he preserves: ‘I am not an incorporeal demon’ (Smyr. iii. 1).

v. Date of Writing.—St. Luke’s Gospel is not, like St. Mark’s, a bare record of our Lord’s deeds and words, but, to a considerable extent, a theological exposition of their meaning. St. Luke, like his master St. Paul, has reflected on them, and is anxious to impress on the reader his own ideas about them. Such action demands time. In spite of 1 Timothy 5:18, we cannot admit that St. Luke wrote before St. Paul’s death.

Again, if we observe the treatment in his pages of the destruction of Jerusalem, contrasting his precise language (Luke 21:20) with the vague predictions in St. Mark (Mark 13:14), we can hardly doubt that he wrote after the event, and edited the wording accordingly. The end of the world was not with him, as it was with the redactor of St. Matthew, synchronous with the burning of the Temple. He carefully puts our Lord’s teaching about the last days into a separate conflation, which he prefaces with a remarkable saying which warns us against a literal interpretation: ‘The kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17:21).

But there are no 2nd cent. ideas in the Gospel, nor anything to throw doubt upon the unanimous and early tradition of St. Luke’s authorship. Nor would so obscure a member of the Church have been selected as author if there had not been good ground for the belief. Probably his name stood on the original title-page.

We are, therefore, probably right in assigning the date to about 80 a.d.

Literature.—Plummer’s Commentary (T. & T. Clark) is good on the linguistic side. The Commentaries of Meyer (German) and of Godet (French) have been published in English by T. & T. Clark, but the later German editions of Meyer, edited by B. and J. Weiss, are preferable. In the Expositor’s Greek Testament the Synoptic Gospels are treated from the side of the higher criticism by A. B. Bruce, but unfortunately the Textus Receptus is used. Wellhausen has translated the Gospel into German with a few critical notes. For comparative study Wright’s St. Luke and his Synopsis may be used. In Horœ Synopticœ Sir J. C. Hawkins has collected statistics of great value. Hobart’s Medical Language of St. Luke needs some weeding out, but has never been refuted. A. Resch, in Das Kindheits-Evangelium, as in his other writings, collects an immense quantity of illustrative matter, but the critical standpoint which he adopts is not generally acceptable. Ramsay (Was Christ born at Bethlehem?) successfully defends St. Luke as an historian of high rank, but insists too much on his accuracy in editorial details. Blass, in his edition of St. Luke’s Gospel and of the Acts, follows Lightfoot in suggesting that St. Luke published two editions of his works—one for Theophilus and another for use by the Church. In this way he accounts for the Western readings, which, however, are found in other books of the NT.

A. Wright.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Luke, Gospel According to'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/l/luke-gospel-according-to.html. 1906-1918.

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Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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