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Gospel of Luke
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Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke is the third of the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament that tell the story of Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Although the text does not name its author, the traditional view is that it was written by Luke, a follower of Paul and also the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

Table of contents
1 Synopsis
2 Authorship
3 External links


Luke's Gospel has been called "the Gospel of the nations, full of mercy and hope, assured to the world by the love of a suffering Saviour;" "the Gospel of the saintly life;" "the Gospel for the Greeks; the Gospel of the future; the Gospel of progressive Christianity, of the universality and gratuitousness of the gospel; the historic Gospel; the Gospel of Jesus as the good Physician and the Saviour of mankind;" the "Gospel of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man;" "the Gospel of womanhood;" "the Gospel of the outcast, of the Samaritan, the publican, the harlot, and the prodigal;" "the Gospel of tolerance."

The main characteristic of this Gospel, as Farrar (Cambridge Bible, Luke, Introd.) remarks, is expressed in the motto, "Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38; compare with Luke 4:18). Luke wrote for the "Hellenic world." This Gospel is indeed "rich and precious."


The evangelist does not claim to have been an eyewitness of Jesus's life, but to have investigated everything carefully and to have written an orderly narrative of the facts (Luke 1:1-4). The authors of the other three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and John, probably used similar sources. According to the two-source hypothesis, the most commonly accepted solution to the synoptic problem, Luke's sources included the Gospel of Mark and another collection of lost sayings known by scholars as Q.

Date of composition

The date of this gospel's composition is uncertain. Traditionally, Christians believe that Luke wrote under the direction, if the dictation, of Paul. This would place it as having been written before the Acts, the date of the composition of which is generally fixed at about AD 63 or 64. Consequently the tradition is that this Gospel was written about 60 or 63, when Luke may have been at Caesarea in attendance on Paul, who was then a prisoner. If the alternate conjecture is correct, that it was written at Rome during Paul's imprisonment there, then it would date earlier, 4060. Evangelical Christians tend to favor this view, in keeping with the tradition to date the gospels very early. Luke addressed his gospel to "most excellent Theophilus." This person has recently been identified as Theophilus, the High Priest, who served from 3741. Theophilus, the High Priest, had a granddaughter named Johanna (see ossuary, IEJ, 1986). Coincidently, the Gospel of Luke, and only Luke, tells his readers that Johanna was one of the women who served Jesus.

Unfortunately, nowhere in Luke or Acts does it say that the author is Luke, the companion of Paul — this ascription is late second century. Furthermore, the text itself reveals hints it was not written as a dictation of a single author, but made use of multiple sources.

Since Mark was probably written after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, around 70, this gospel could not have been written before 70. Based on this datum, scholars have suggested dates for Luke from 80 to as late as 150, and Acts shortly thereafter, also between 80 and 150. The de-emphasis of the Parousia and the universalization of the message strongly indicates a much later date than 60–70 as believed by the traditional view. However, there is a further division between whether this gospel was written before or after the end of the first century: those who would date it later argue that it was written in response to hetrodoxical movements of the early century; those who would date it earlier point out both that Luke lacks knowledge of the episcopal system, which had been developed in the second century, and that an earlier date preserves the traditional connection of the gospel with the Luke who was a follower of Paul.

The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke are papyrus fragments from the third century, one containing portions of all four gospels (P45), and three others preserving only brief passages (P4, P69, P75). These early copies, as well as the earliest copies of Acts, date after the Gospel was separated from Acts.

The Codex Bezae, in the University Library, Cambridge, contains a 5th or 6th century manuscript that is the oldest complete manuscript of Luke, in Greek and Latin versions on facing pages. The Greek version appears to have descended from an offshoot of the main manuscript tradition and departs from familiar readings at many points. Though the text bears many intended corrections, often to bring it into line with the usual readings, the Codex Bezae demonstrates the latitude in manuscripts of scripture that still existed quite late in the tradition. Bibical scholars have minimized the Codex's importance, citing it generally only when it supports the common readings.

Relationship with other gospels

Most New Testament scholars believe the author of Luke relied on Mark and Q as his primary sources.

According to Farrar, "Out of a total of 1151 verses, Luke has 389 in common with Matthew and Mark, 176 in common with Matthew alone, 41 in common with Mark alone, leaving 544 peculiar to himself. In many instances all three use identical language."

There are seventeen parables peculiar to this Gospel. Luke also attributes to Jesus seven miracles which are not present in Matthew or Mark. The synoptic Gospels are related to each other after the following scheme. If the contents of each Gospel are numbered at 100, then when compared this result is obtained: Mark has 7 peculiarities, 93 coincidences. Matthew 42 peculiarities, 58 coincidences. Luke 59 peculiarities, 41 coincidences. That is, thirteen-fourteenths of Mark, four-sevenths of Matthew, and two-fifths of Luke describe the same events in similar language. Luke's style is more polished than that of Matthew and Mark with fewer Hebrew idioms. He uses a few Latin words (Luke 7:41, 8:30, 11:33, 12:6, and 19:20), but no Syriac or Hebrew words except sikera, an exciting drink of the nature of wine, but not made of grapes (from Heb. shakar, "he is intoxicated", Leviticus 10:9), probably palm wine. This Gospel contains twenty-eight distinct references to the Old Testament.

Many words and phrases are common to both the Gospel of Luke and the Letters of Paul; compare:

External links

This article was originally based on text from Easton Bible Dictionary of 1897 and from M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. The material concerning most excellent Theophilus and his granddaughter is based upon R.H. Anderson,"A la recherche de Theophile", Dossiers d'Archeolgie, Dec 02-Jan 03.