Luke, Gospel according to

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The third Gospel with the Acts of the Apostles forms a two-volume work about the origins of Christianity. Like the other Gospels that preceded Luke's work, this Gospel follows the outline of the proclamation of the good news (see gospel) of salvation that originated with the preaching of the Apostles in Jerusalem. This treatment will be a consideration of three aspects: contents and division; origin; and literary and theological characteristics.

Contents and Division

Luke has added an account of the birth and infancy of Jesus and resurrection appearances to his edition of Mark's Gospel. In addition to the prologue (1.1-4) the Third Gospel contains seven major sections: the Infancy Gospel, the preparation for the public ministry, the ministry in Galilee, the journey to Jerusalem, the ministry in Jerusalem, the Passion, the Resurrection.

The Infancy Gospel (1.52.52). The first two chapters recount in parallel order an angelic announcement of the birth of John the Baptist; an announcement by the same Archangel Gabriel of the conception and birth of Jesus; the birth of John and its circumstances; the birth of Jesus (see nativity of christ), the joyful prophecies and revelations surrounding it; and one incident of His hidden life. These two double panels are skillfully woven together by the account of the visit of Jesus' mother to John's mother (see visitation of mary).

In this well-ordered narrative the important places are named: the Temple in Jerusalem (Jerusalem and the Temple will remain central focuses of attention for Luke), Nazareth, the Judean hill-country, David's city of Bethlehem, and again Jerusalem and its Temple. Wellknown Jewish customs and rites play important roles in the story: a priest chosen by lot and according to his class to offer incense, the gathering of the people for prayer at the hour of the incense offering, the practice of circumcision on the 8th day, the purification of mothers (see purification of mary), the offering to God in order to redeem a first-born son, and the pilgrim feast of the Passover. Chronological references are given: "In the days of King Herod of Judea" (1.5); "Now in the sixth month" (1.26); Mary's three-month visit with Elizabeth (1.56); the birth of Jesus in the time of Caesar Augustus and during the census under the governor of Syria, Quirinius (2.12). [see census (in the bible).] The key figures appear in due order: Zachary; Elizabeth, too old to have children; Gabriel; Mary, a virgin engaged to Joseph, a descendant of David; the shepherds; Simeon and Anna; and the Jewish teachers in the Temple. Mary is described as one who "treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" (2.19, 51).

Preparation for Public Ministry (3.14.13). Luke begins the story of salvation against a background of profane history. Seven rulers who then held office, from the Emperor Tiberius to Caiaphas, are named (3.12). The preaching of John the Baptist sets the scene for the appearance of Jesus as God's beloved Son in whom He is well pleased (3.322). The genealogy of jesus follows. Jesus is the 77th descendant, i.e., the most perfect offspring, from God through the line of Adam (3.2338). In contrast to Matthew, who traces Jesus from Abraham through David's son, Solomon, and Joseph as Jacob's son, Luke begins his list with Jesus and ascends from Joseph as Heli's son, through David's son, Nathan, to God Himself, the Father of Adam.

Thus, Jesus is represented as the Son of God (see baptism of christ). Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who descended upon Him at His baptism, Jesus is tested in the desert and proves Himself, in this first passage at arms with the devil, to be the humble, obedient, and completely confident adorer of the Father (4.113; see temptations of jesus). With this victory won, Jesus "returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee" (4.14) to begin His work (3.23).

Ministry in Galilee (4.149.50). Luke's record of the Galilean ministry is marked by a topographical vagueness. The trend of events, however, is clearly indicated. Summarily telescoping what were different and later visits, Luke shows (4.1630) how the Savior's mission of grace met with rejection at Nazareth; Jesus' reception at Capernaum, where the crowds were enthralled at His teaching and miracles, was more encouraging (4.3144). With the call of the first disciples (5.111) and the cure of the leper (5.1216), however, Jesus aroused the attention of the Pharisees and Scribes (5.17) with whom he was soon involved in controversy because of his association with publicans and sinners (5.2732) and over fasting and the Sabbath (6.111). After a night of prayer, Jesus named 12 chosen disciples apostles (6.1216). Luke follows this with an inaugural sermon, the Sermon on the Plain (6.1749). It contains much of the same material as is found in Matthew's sermon on the mount (Mt 57).

At Capernaum a centurion shows a greater willingness than the Jews to believe in Jesus (7.110). Luke depicts Jesus as the Lord with power over death (7.1117). The doubts of the Baptist and his disciples are dispelled by an appeal to Jesus' miracles and His preaching of the good news to the poor. John is praised as the greatest prophet, but of less worth than the least in the kingdom of God (7.1830). In contrast to a wicked generation that closes its ears to His message (7.3135), Luke relates the touching incident of the penitent woman (7.3650) and mentions the generosity of other women (8.13).

Jesus begins to teach in parables (see parables of jesus). The reason for this new method is given; the parable

of the Sower is explained; and the parable of the Lamp is recounted. We have reached a crisis in faith (8.418). Jesus' true relatives are those who hear and keep His word (8.1921). After demonstrating His power over nature (8.2225), demons (8.2639), death and sickness (8.4056), Jesus sends the Twelve on their first mission (9.110). When they return, he feeds 5,000 men (9.1117). Then Peter, in answer to Jesus' question, proclaims Him to be "the Messiah of God" (9.1821). The first prediction of the Passion follows immediately, juxtaposed to the conditions for following Jesus and the coming glory of His kingdom (9.2227). The Transfiguration is recounted with details proper to Luke, a possessed boy is delivered from his affliction, and a second prediction of the Passion is given (9.2845). A dispute among the disciples about their relative greatness and about an exorcism performed by someone who had not been with them leads to Jesus teaching about humility and a rejoinder that puts them in their place (9.4650).

The Travel Account, Jesus' Journey to Jerusalem (9.5119.27). Luke's "great interpolation" or "travel document," as the section from 9.51 to 18.14 is called, fills out a vague reference in Mark 10.1 to a ministry outside of Galilee. In it Luke uses traditional materials not found in Mark but found in Matthew in a different version. The exact sequence of events and their location are

vague, but there are frequent reminders that Jerusalem is the destination of the journey (9.51, 53; 13.22, 33; 17.11;18.31). Luke is otherwise content to link things together by "after this," or "in a town," or "in another village," etc.

This section contains Luke's finest contributions: 18 parables of great beauty and six miracles found only in Luke. Whatever order is followed is logical rather than chronological or topographical: artificially grouped polemical discourses (11.1414.24); vocation sayings (9.5762); privileges granted disciples (10.1724); instructions on prayer (11.113);a trilogy of parables on divine mercy (15.132); good and bad use of wealth (16.115, 1631); social virtues (17.119); sayings about the Law taken out of their original context (16.1618); sayings about the end-time and the "Day" of the Son of Man (17.2018.8); sayings about humility and detachment, linked to a third prediction of the Passion (18.934). It is in this latter section at 18.15 that Luke rejoins Mark, following him until the Passion story, but with some notable additions, e.g., the Zacchaeus story and the parable of the pounds (19.128).

Ministry in Jerusalem (19.2821.38). On His arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus is accorded a triumphal reception (19.2840); He predicts the destruction of the Holy City (19.4144), cleanses the Temple, and continues to preach in the face of mounting opposition (19.4548). The questioning of his authority, the parable of the vineyard, the trap about tribute to Caesar, a controversy with the Sadducees on the Resurrection and another with the Scribes on the nature of the Messiah, and finally, Jesus' warning against the hypocrisy of the Scribes, lead artfully to the discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem (20.121.38).

The Passion Narrative (22.123.56). Throughout this section Luke manifests a much greater independence from Mark and manifests many similarities with the Fourth Gospel. Plotting precedes the betrayal of Christ (22.16). The Eucharist is instituted in the context of the Jewish Passover meal and the eating of the Passover lamb (22.720). Judas's betrayal and Peter's denials are announced (22.2138). The agony in the garden is narrated with an admirable terseness (22.3946). Peter's denials occur after the arrest (22.4762). Sparing in his treatment of violence, Luke gives the impression that Jesus was manhandled only once (22.6365); the Evangelist dislikes repetition of what has been said already. Christ appears before the Sanhedrin (22.6523.1) and then before Pilate (23.27). He has skillfully prepared for Jesus' appearance before Herod (Antipas) (23.812) long before (9.79); in similar fashion, the two thieves are introduced before they speak (23.32, 3942); one of them is promised Paradise (23.43). Jesus' death and burial are succinctly told (23.4456). [see passion of christ, i (in the bible); trial of jesus.]

The Resurrection Narrative. Luke recounts the empty tomb and the "two men in dazzling raiment" who proclaim the Resurrection to the women; the apostles remain unbelieving (24.112). Then, Jesus appears to two disciples going to Emmaus (24.335), and to the Eleven gathered in Jerusalem (24.3643). Next follow Jesus' last instructions to His Disciples (24.4449) and, very abruptly, the ascension into heaven (28.5052). see ascension of jesus christ. The Gospel that struck a note of joy in the first two chapters closes on the same note of great joy: the Disciples are continually in the Temple praising God (24.53). Luke has no mention of a Galilean appearance of Jesus in Galilee.


Luke and Acts are two parts of one work that treats of Christian origins. The close relationship of the two parts, so much alike in style, vocabulary, and grammar, points to a single author. Both works open with prologues addressed to Theophilus, the second referring to a "first book," which it proposes to continue. Luke concluded his Gospel with an account of the Resurrection and ascension; Acts opens with a brief account of the ascension and continues with a description of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the extension of the gospel to the end of the earth (Acts 1.8). The Gospel sequence from Galilee to Jerusalem is balanced by that of Acts, which describes the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. The two works may originally have been a single book separated at a very early date so that the faithful might have the four Gospels in a single convenient codex.

Early Tradition about Authorship. The early tradition that holds Luke to be the author of both the third Gospel and Acts is firm and unswerving. His name (see luke, evangelist, st.) appears in neither the two works attributed to him nor in the extant fragments of Papias (Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16). The works of Justin Martyr (100164) which speak (c. 155) of the "Gospels" read in the liturgical assemblies of the faithful (Apol. 1.66.3), works abound with details that presuppose a knowledge of the third Gospel. Marcion's bid (c. 145) to establish an authoritative collection of genuine Christian writings included one unnamed Gospel that is clearly Luke's. Irenaeus (135202) is the earliest Christian writer to mention Luke by name as author of the third Gospel. In his Adv. Haer. 3.1.1 (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.8.2), he writes: "Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the gospel preached by him." Irenaeus was obviously stressing the point that even the Gospels written by disciples of the Apostles had apostolic authority behind them. Tertullian (160250) insists on the apostolic authority of the third Gospel (Adv. Marc. 4.2.5). The Muratorian Canon attributes the third Gospel to Luke, the physician who accompanied Paul as a juris studiosus (legal consultor?). This fragmentary text states that Luke had never seen Christ in the flesh, nor had he been one of Jesus' disciples. It gives this as the reason why Luke began his Gospel with the announcement of the Baptist's birth. Clement of Alexandria (150218) frequently quotes the third Gospel and unhesitatingly names Luke as its author (Strom. 1.21.145). Later tradition adds nothing more to our knowledge beyond the doubtful detail that Luke was of Antiochean origin (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.4.7).

Place and Time of Composition. The oldest attestation pertinent to the geographical origin of the Third Gospel is an ancient Greek Prologue that states that "this Luke is an Antiochene, a Syrian." Eusebius knows the same tradition, affirming that "by descent Luke was of those from Antioch" (Ecclesiastical History 3.4, 6). Jerome affirms that Luke was an "Antiochene doctor" (De vir. ill. 7). This ancient tradition is consistent with what can be gleaned about the provenance of the Gospel from its contents, namely, that the Gospel shows evidence of a concern for Hellenistic Christians and that was directed to Gentiles (1.3) or to a community in which Gentiles were the majority. No convincing arguments have thus far been advanced as to identify the place of its composition. Sites as diverse as Achaia, Boetia, and Rome have been suggested at various times.

Ancient tradition says that Luke's Gospel was composed after the deaths of Peter and Paul (Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 3.1.1). Modern scholarship, which generally acknowledges the dependence of Luke on Mark, holds that the Gospel was written some time after 70 a.d. It was certainly written before Acts (Acts 1.1) but the exact date of composition cannot be determined with any degree of certainty. Most scholars opt for an approximate date in the eighties but some would place the time of its composition in the early nineties.

Sources. Since much of the material contained in the Fourth Gospel is the same as that found in Mark and since Matthew and Luke follow the same sequence of presentation of material only when they share that sequence with Mark, the consensus of contemporary scholarship is that Mark is one of the primary sources of the Third Gospel and furnishes Luke with a narrative framework. Markan material is especially found in five large segments of the Fourth Gospel, 3.14.15; 4.316.19; 8.49.50;18.1521.33; and 22.124.12. Much of Luke's non-Markan material is found in the Infancy Narratives, the Resurrection stories, and the two interpolations that interrupt Luke's following of the Markan narrative plot, the little interpolation of 6.208.3 and the great interpolation of 9.5118.14.

Scholars generally agree that Luke made use of another source, a Greek-language collection of Jesus' sayings (Q, from the German Quelle meaning "source"). This hypothetical sourcefor which there is no ancient textual witnesswas shared by Luke and Matthew, contributed about 230 verses of discourse material to each of these Gospels, the Sermon on the Plain (6.2049), among them. In many instances, but not in all, Luke's version of the Q material appears to be closer to the source than Matthew's version.

In addition Luke had his own sources. These special sources are collectively identified as "L" but "L" is not a single source. It may include some written material as well as oral traditions known to and used by Luke (1.14). The stories of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain (7.1217) and of the visit with Martha and Mary (10.3842) are examples of material that comes from Luke's special sources. "L" is, however, not a source of the Third Gospel in the way that Mark and Q are. Mark and Q are documentary sources; "L" is neither a single source nor is it entirely documentary.

In the history of the interpretation of the Gospel mention is frequently made of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the primary source for the Infancy Narratives (1.42.80). Modern scholarship has generally abandoned this suggestion. It attributes little of this material to any of Luke's special sources, preferring to see the Infancy Narratives as the product of Luke's own composition.

Literary and Theological Characteristics. Luke is a fine Hellenistic writer. His work is generally acknowledged to be the best Greek composition in the New Testament. He follows the style of the Hellenistic prologue in1.14, is familiar with the symposium genre (7.3650;11.3754; 14.124), and knows how to write a farewell discourse (22.1438). The Greek of his Infancy Narratives follows the style of the Septuagint, the common version of the Greek Bible. Luke is creative in his use of his sources, skillfully using material from different sources to weave an artful account of a single narrative. He uses parallelism to good advantage, particularly in the juxtaposition of stories about John the Baptist and Jesus (1.52.8) and his side-by-side stories about men and women (1.2538; 15.310). Luke provides unity for his narrative with the use of ring construction (literary inclusion), most notably beginning and closing his account with a Jerusalem narrative (1.823; 24.1353).

His narrative uses time and space effectively, as often as not with manifest theological intention. His time is historical time (3.12) to the degree that Conzelmann could sum up Luke's theology as "the center of time," biblical history its prelude, the time of the church its sequel. Luke's "today" is the today of salvation (19.9;23.43). His space draws attention to Jerusalem (9.51) and the temple (18.914) in a way that is found in neither Matthew nor Mark. For theological reasons Luke has creatively exploited Mark's geographic scheme, the ministry in Galilee, the Passion and Resurrection in Jerusalem. The story of Jesus ends in Jerusalem; it is retold to the nations (Acts 1.8).

The Infancy Narratives presents Jesus as a Jew who was properly reared in a pious family. Lk 4.16 provides a further indication of the success of his rearing as a devout Jew, but in the ministry itself Jesus appears as a "cultured Hellenistic gentleman" (J. O'Grady's phrase). Luke's christology highlights Jesus as son of God and filled with the Holy Spirit (1.2638; 3.214.13; see 4.14, 18, etc.). The Gospel shows an interest in prophecy (6.23, 26; 11.4751; etc.) and creatively portrays Jesus as prophet (4.2427; 7.1117). Jesus is also the one who explains the scriptures (4.1621; 24.27, 32).

Luke often portrays Jesus at prayer, particularly at the most significant moments in his ministry (3.21; 6.12;9.18; etc.) His prayer was so impressive that the disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. Jesus's response was to teach his disciples the Lord's prayer (11.15; see Mt 6.913). Luke's emphasis on prayer is without parallel in the other Synoptic Gospels (11.513; etc.), giving examples of prayer formularies that continue to be used in the church, the Magnificat (1.4655), the Benedictus (2.6879), the Nunc Dimittis (2.2932), and some words of the "Hail Mary" (1.28, 42).

Jesus' outreach to outcasts and the marginalized appears in the Third Gospel as it does in no other text. The beatitudes proclaim the blessedness of the poor and constitute a prophetic challenge to the rich (6.2025). Jesus' feeling for the poor and widows (2.37; 4.2526; 7.12) is expressed in the story of the poor widow with two small copper coins (21.14). The poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame are invited to the Messianic banquet; for Jesus' disciples, they are to be the focus of concern (14.1224). Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (10.2937); Luke draws attention to the grateful Samaritan (17.16). Jesus' sympathy for the marginalized is particularly evident in the many stories that Luke tells about women, beginning with the story of Elizabeth (1.2425) and ending with the women's discovery of the empty tomb (24.2224, see 24.11). Interspersed throughout the Gospel are narratives about Mary (1.2656), the widow of Nain (7.1117), Martha and Mary (10.3842), the woman in the crowd (11.2728), the women from Galilee who came to Jerusalem with Jesus (8.12; 23.55), and so forth.

These themes are skillfully woven together as the expression of God's eternal and mysterious plan of universal salvation through the Savior who was "taken up" from this world by His Passion and Resurrection in Jerusalem (9.51; 24.2526; 24.5053). This salvation, once for all times achieved, is proclaimed through the Holy Spirit, the power from heaven (Acts 1.78), the gift to His children from God the Father through the intercession of the only Son of God (Lk 11.13). It is this Spirit who guided Luke to the completion of his masterpiece.

Bibliography: r. laurentin, Structure et théologie de Luc III (Études bibliques ; Paris 1957). d. l. bock, Luke, 2 v. Baker's Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich. 1994, 1996). r. e. brown, The Birth of the Messiah (New York, N.Y. 1993). h. conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke (New York, N.Y. 1990). c. a. evans and j. a. sanders, Luke and Scripture: The Function of Sacred Scripture in Luke-Acts (Minneapolis, Minn. 1993). j. a. fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, Anchor Bible 28, 28A, 2 v. (Garden City, N.J. 1981, 1985). h. flender, St. Luke: Theologian of Redemptive History (Philadelphia, Penn. 1967). l. t. johnson, The Gospel of Luke (Sacra Pagina 3 Collegeville 1991). r. j. karris, Luke: Artist and Theologian (New York, N.Y. 1985). l. e. keck and j. l. martyn, Studies in Luke-Acts (Nashville, Tenn. 1966). j. d. kingsbury, Conflict in Luke: Jesus, Authorities, Disciples, (Minneapolis, Minn. 1991). m. a. powell, What Are They Saying about Luke? (New York, N.Y.1989).

[r. t. a. murphy/

r. f. collins]