Vol.1, Chapter XII (Cont’d) – Luke


Lucas, Evangelii el medicinae munera pandens;

Artibus hinc, illinc religione, valet:

Utilis ille labor, per quem vixere tot aegri;

Utilior, per quem tot didicere mori!”


Critical and Biographical

Schleiermacher: Ueber die Schriften des Lukas. Berlin, 1817. Reprinted in the second vol. of his Sämmtliche Werke, Berlin, 1836 (pp. 1-220). Translated by Bishop Thirlwall, London, 1825.

James Smith (of Jordanhill, d. 1867): Dissertation on the Life and Writings of St. Luke, prefixed to his Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul (1848), 4th ed., revised by Walter E. Smith, London, 1880 (pp. 293). A most important monograph, especially for the historical accuracy and credibility of the Acts, by an expert in navigation and an able scholar.

E. Renan: Les Évangiles. Paris, 1877. Ch. XIX, pp. 435-448.

Th. Keim: Aus dem Urchristenthum. Zürich, 1878, Josephus im N. T., pp. 1-27. An unsuccessful attempt to prove that Luke used Josephus in his chronological statement, Luk_3:1, Luk_3:2. Keim assumes that the third Gospel was written after the “Jewish war” of Josephus (about 75-78), and possibly after his “Antiquities” (a.d. 94), though in his Geschichte Jesu (I. 71) he assigns the composition of Luke to a.d. 90.

Scholten: Das Paulinische Evangelium, transl. from the Dutch by Redepenning. Elberf., 1881.

The Ancient Testimonies on the Genuineness of Luke, see in Charteris (Kirchhofer): Canonicity, Edinb., 1880, pp. l54-166.

On the relation of Luke to Marcion, see especially Volkmar: Das Evangelium Marcions, Leipz., 1852, and Sanday: The Gospels in the Second Century, London, 1876 (and his article in the “Fortnightly Review” for June, 1875).



Commentaries by Origen (in Jerome’s Latin translation, with a few Greek fragments), Eusebius (fragments), Cyril of Alexandria (Syriac Version with translation, ed. by Dean Smith, Oxf., 1858 and 1859), Euthymius Zigabenus, Theophylact. — Modern Com.: Bornemann (Scholia in Luc. Ev., 1830), De Wette (Mark and Luke, 3d ed., 1846), Meyer (Mark and Luke, 6th ed., revised by B. Weiss, 1878), James Thomson (Edinb., 1851, 3 vols.), J. J. Van Oosterzee (in Lange, 3d ed., 1867, Engl. ed. by Schaff and Starbuck, N. Y., 1866), Fr. Godet (one of the very best, 2d French ed., 1870, Engl. transl. by Shalders and Cusin, Edinb., 1875, 2 vols., reprinted in N. Y., 1881), Bishop W. B. Jones (in Speaker’s Com., Lond. and N. Y., 1878), E. H. Plumptre (in Bp. Ellicott’s Com. for English Readers, Lond., 1879), Frederich W. Farrar (Cambridge, 1880), Matthew B. Riddle (1882).


Life of Luke

As Mark is inseparably associated with Peter, so is Luke with Paul. There was, in both cases, a foreordained correspondence and congeniality between the apostle and the historian or co-laborer. We find such holy and useful friendships in the great formative epochs of the church, notably so in the time of the Reformation, between Luther and Melanchthon, Zwingli and Oecolampadius, Calvin and Beza, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley; and at a later period between the two Wesleys and Whitefield. Mark, the Hebrew Roman “interpreter” of the Galilaean fisherman, gave us the shortest, freshest, but least elegant and literary of the Gospels; Luke, the educated Greek, “the beloved physician,” and faithful companion of Saul of Tarsus, composed the longest and most literary Gospel, and connected it with the great events in secular history under the reigns of Augustus and his successors. If the former was called the Gospel of Peter by the ancients, the latter, in a less direct sense, may be called the Gospel of Paul, for its agreement in spirit with the teaching of the Apostle of the Gentiles. In their accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper there is even a verbal agreement which points to the same source of information. No doubt there was frequent conference between the two, but no allusion is made to each other’s writings, which tends to prove that they were composed independently during the same period, or not far apart.

Luke nowhere mentions his name in the two books which are by the unanimous consent of antiquity ascribed to him, and bear all the marks of the same authorship; but he is modestly concealed under the “we” of a great portion of the Acts, which is but a continuation of the third Gospel. He is honorably and affectionately mentioned three times by Paul during his imprisonment, as “the beloved physician” (Col_4:14), as one of his “fellow-laborers” (Phm_1:24), and as the most faithful friend who remained with him when friend after friend had deserted him (2Ti_4:11). His medical profession, although carried on frequently by superior slaves, implies some degree of education and accounts for the accuracy of his medical terms and description of diseases. It gave him access to many families of social position, especially in the East, where physicians are rare. It made him all the more useful to Paul in the infirmities of his flesh and his exhausting labors. (Comp. Gal_4:13; 2Co_1:9; 2Co_4:10, 2Co_4:12, 2Co_4:16; 2Co_12:7)

He was a Gentile by birth, though he may have become a proselyte of the gate. His nationality and antecedents are unknown. He was probably a Syrian of Antioch, and one of the earliest converts in that mother church of Gentile Christianity. This conjecture is confirmed by the fact that he gives us much information about the church in Antioch (Act_11:19-30; Act_13:1-3; Act_15:1-3, Act_15:22-35), that he traces the origin of the name “Christians” to that city (Act_11:19), and that in enumerating the seven deacons of Jerusalem he informs us of the Antiochian origin of Nicolas (Act_6:5), without mentioning the nationality of any of the others.

We meet Luke first as a companion of Paul at Troas, when, after the Macedonian call, “Come over and help us,” he was about to carry the gospel to Greece on his second great missionary tour. For from that important epoch Luke uses the first personal pronoun in the plural: “When he [Paul] had seen the vision, straightway we sought to go forth into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel unto them” (Act_16:10). He accompanied him to Philippi and seems to have remained there after the departure of Paul and Silas for Corinth (a.d. 51), in charge of the infant church; for the “we” is suddenly replaced by “they” (Act_17:1). Seven years later (a.d. 58) he joined the apostle again, when he passed through Philippi on his last journey to Jerusalem, stopping a week at Troas (Act_20:5, Act_20:6); for from that moment Luke resumes the “we” of the narrative. He was with Paul or near him at Jerusalem and two years at Caesarea, accompanied him on his perilous voyage to Rome, of which he gives a most accurate account, and remained with him to the end of his first Roman captivity, with which he closes his record (a.d. 63). He may however, have been temporarily absent on mission work during the four years of Paul’s imprisonment. Whether he accompanied him on his intended visit to Spain and to the East, after the year 63, we do not know. The last allusion to him is the word of Paul when on the point of martyrdom: “Only Luke is with me” (2Ti_4:11).

The Bible leaves Luke at the height of his usefulness in the best company, with Paul preaching the gospel in the metropolis of the world.

Post-apostolic tradition, always far below the healthy and certain tone of the New Testament, mostly vague and often contradictory, never reliable, adds that he lived to the age of eighty-four, labored in several countries, was a painter of portraits of Jesus, of the Virgin, and the apostles, and that he was crucified on an olive-tree at Elaea in Greece. His real or supposed remains, together with those of Andrew the apostle, were transferred from Patrae in Achaia to the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople.

The symbolic poetry of the Church assigns to him the sacrificial ox; but the symbol of man is more appropriate; for his Gospel is par excellence the Gospel of the Son of Man.


Sources of Information

According to his own confession in the preface, Luke was no eye-witness of the gospel history, but derived his information from oral reports of primitive disciples, and from numerous fragmentary documents then already in circulation. He wrote the Gospel from what he had heard and read, the Acts from, what he had seen and heard. He traced the origin of Christianity “accurately from the beginning.”

His opportunities were the very best. He visited the principal apostolic churches between Jerusalem and Rome, and came in personal contact with the founders and leaders. He met Peter, Mark, and Barnabas at Antioch, James and his elders at Jerusalem (on Paul’s last visit) Philip and his daughters at Caesarea, the early converts in Greece and Rome; and he enjoyed, besides, the benefit of all the information which Paul himself had received by revelation or collected from personal intercourse with his fellow-apostles and other primitive disciples. The sources for the history of the infancy were Jewish-Christian and Aramaean (hence the strongly Hebraizing coloring of Luke 1-2); his information of the activity of Christ in Samaria was probably derived from Philip, who labored there as an evangelist and afterwards in Caesarea. But a man of Luke’s historic instinct and conscientiousness would be led to visit also in person the localities in Galilee which are immortalized by the ministry of Christ. From Jerusalem or Caesarea he could reach them all in three or four days.

The question whether Luke also used one or both of the other Synoptic Gospels has already been discussed in a previous section. It is improbable that he included them among his evidently fragmentary sources alluded to in the preface. It is certain that he had no knowledge of our Greek Matthew; on the use of a lost Hebrew Matthew and of Mark the opinion of good scholars is divided, but the resemblance with Mark, though very striking in some sections, is not of such a character that it cannot as well, and even better, be explained from prior oral tradition or autoptical memoirs, especially if we consider that the resemblances are neutralized by unaccountable differences and omissions. The matter is not helped by a reference to a proto-Mark, either Hebrew or Greek, of which we know nothing.

Luke has a great deal of original and most valuable matter, which proves his independence and the variety of his sources. He adds much to our knowledge of the Saviour, and surpasses Matthew and Mark in fulness, accuracy, and chronological order — three points which, with all modesty, he claims to have aimed at in his preface. Sometimes he gives special fitness and beauty to a word of Christ by inserting it in its proper place in the narrative, and connecting it with a particular occasion. But there are some exceptions, where Matthew is fuller, and where Mark is more chronological. Considering the fact that about thirty years had elapsed since the occurrence of the events, we need not wonder that some facts and words were dislocated, and that Luke, with all his honest zeal, did not always succeed in giving the original order.

The peculiar sections of Luke are in keeping with the rest. They have not the most remote affinity with apocryphal marvels and fables, nor even with the orthodox traditions and legends of the post-apostolic age, but are in full harmony with the picture of Christ as it shines from the other Gospels and from the Epistles. His accuracy has been put to the severest test, especially in the Acts, where he frequently alludes to secular rulers and events; but while a few chronological difficulties, as that of the census of Quirinius, are not yet satisfactorily removed, he has upon the whole, even in minute particulars, been proven to be a faithful, reliable, and well informed historian.

He is the proper father of Christian church history, and a model well worthy of imitation for his study of the sources, his conscientious accuracy, his modesty and his lofty aim to instruct and confirm in the truth.


Dedication and Object

The third Gospel, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, is dedicated to a certain Theophilus (i.e., Friend of God), a man of social distinction, perhaps in the service of the government, as appears from his title “honorable” or “most noble.” He was either a convert or at least a catechumen in preparation for church membership, and willing to become sponsor and patron of these books. The custom of dedicating books to princes and rich friends of literature was formerly very frequent, and has not died out yet. As to his race and residence we can only conjecture that Theophilus was a Greek of Antioch, where Luke, himself probably an Antiochean, may have previously known him either as his freedman or physician. The pseudo-Clementine Recognitions mention a certain nobleman of that name at Antioch who was converted by Peter and changed his palace into a church and residence of the apostle.

The object of Luke was to confirm Theophilus and through him all his readers in the faith in which he had already been orally instructed, and to lead him to the conviction of the irrefragable certainty of the facts on which Christianity rests.

Luke wrote for Gentile Christians, especially Greeks, as Matthew wrote for Jews, Mark for Romans, John for advanced believers without distinction of nationality. He briefly explains for Gentile readers the position of Palestinian towns, as Nazareth, Capernaum, Arimathaea, and the distance of Mount Olivet and Emmaus from Jerusalem. (Luk_1:26; Luk_4:31; Luk_23:51; Luk_24:13 (Act_1:12)) He does not, like Matthew, look back to the past and point out the fulfilment of ancient prophecy with a view to prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah, but takes a universal view of Christ as the Saviour of all men and fulfiller of the aspirations of every human heart. He brings him in contact with the events of secular history in the vast empire of Augustus, and with the whole human race by tracing his ancestry back to Adam.

These features would suit Gentile readers generally, Romans as well as Greeks. But the long residence of Luke in Greece, and the ancient tradition that he labored and died there, give strength to the view that he had before his mind chiefly readers of that country. According to Jerome the Gospel was written (completed) in Achaia and Boeotia. The whole book is undoubtedly admirably suited to Greek taste. It at once captivates the refined Hellenic ear by a historic prologue of classic construction, resembling the prologues of Herodotus and Thucydides. It is not without interest to compare them.

Luke begins: “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word: it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write unto thee in order, most noble Theophilus; that thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed.”

Herodotus: “These are the researches of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, which he publishes, in order to preserve from oblivion the remembrance of former deeds of men, and to secure a just tribute of glory to the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the barbarians; and withal to put on record what were their grounds of feud.”

Thucydides: “Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the history of the war in which the Peloponnesians and the Athenians fought against one another. He began to write when they first took up arms, believing that it would be great and memorable above any previous war. For he argued that both States were then at the full height of their military power, and he saw the rest of the Hellenes either siding or intending to side with one or other of them. No movement ever stirred Hellas more deeply than this; it was shared by many of the barbarians, and might be said even to affect the world at large.” (Jowett’s translation.)

These prefaces excel alike in brevity, taste, and tact, but with this characteristic difference: the Evangelist modestly withholds his name and writes in the pure interest of truth a record of the gospel of peace for the spiritual welfare of all men; while the great pagan historians are inspired by love of glory, and aim to immortalize the destructive wars and feuds of Greeks and barbarians.


Contents of the Gospel of Luke

After a historiographic preface, Luke gives us: first a history of the birth and infancy of John the Baptist and Jesus, from Hebrew sources, with an incident from the boyhood of the Saviour (Luk_1:1-80 and Luk_2:1-52). Then he unfolds the history of the public ministry in chronological order from the baptism in the Jordan to the resurrection and ascension. We need only point out those facts and discourses which are not found in the other Gospels and which complete the Synoptic history at the beginning, middle, and end of the life of our Lord.

Luke supplies the following sections:

I. In the history of the Infancy of John and Christ:

The appearance of the angel of the Lord to Zacharias in the temple announcing the birth of John, Luk_1:5-25.

The annunciation of the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary, Luk_1:26-38.

The visit of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth; the salutation of Elizabeth, Luk_1:39-45.

The Magnificat of the Virgin Mary, Luk_1:46-56.

The birth of John the Baptist, Luk_1:57-66.

The Benedictus of Zacharias, Luk_1:67-80.

The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Luk_2:1-7.

The appearance of the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem, and the “Gloria in excelsis,” Luk_2:8-20.

The circumcision of Jesus, and his presentation in the Temple, Luk_2:21-38.

The visit of Jesus in his twelfth year to the passover in Jerusalem, and his conversation with the Jewish doctors in the Temple, Luk_2:41-52.

To this must be added the genealogy of Christ from Abraham up to Adam; while Matthew begins, in the inverse order, with Abraham, and presents in the parallel section several differences which show their mutual independence, Luk_3:23-38; comp. Mat_1:1-17.

II. In the Public Life of our Lord a whole group of important events, discourses, and incidents which occurred at different periods, but mostly on a circuitous journey from Capernaum to Jerusalem through Samaria and Peraea (9:51-18:14). This section includes — 

1. The following miracles and incidents:

The miraculous draught of fishes, Luk_5:4-11.

The raising of the widow’s son at Nain, Luk_7:11-18.

The pardoning of the sinful woman who wept at the feet of Jesus, Luk_7:36-50.

The support of Christ by devout women who are named, Luk_8:2, Luk_8:3.

The rebuke of the Sons of Thunder in a Samaritan village, Luk_9:51-56.

The Mission and Instruction of the Seventy, Luk_10:1-6.

Entertainment at the house of Martha and Mary; the one thing needful, Luk_10:38-42.

The woman who exclaimed: “Blessed is the womb that bare thee,” Luk_11:27.

The man with the dropsy, Luk_14:1-6.

The ten lepers, Luk_17:11-19.

The visit to Zacchaeus, Luk_19:1-10.

The tears of Jesus over Jerusalem, Luk_19:41-44.

The sifting of Peter, Luk_22:31, Luk_22:32.

The healing of Malchus, Luk_22:50, Luk_22:51.

2. Original Parables:

The two Debtors, Luk_7:41-43.

The good Samaritan, Luk_10:25-37.

The importunate Friend, Luk_11:5-8.

The rich Fool, Luk_12:16-21.

The barren Fig-tree, Luk_13:6-9.

The lost Drachma, Luk_15:8-10.

The prodigal Son, Luk_15:11-32.

The unjust Steward, Luk_16:1-13.

Dives and Lazarus, Luk_16:19-31.

The importunate Widow, and the unjust Judge, Luk_18:1-8.

The Pharisee and the Publican Luk_18:10-14.

The ten Pounds, Luk_19:11-28 (not to be identified with the Parable of the Talents in Mat_25:14-30).

III. In the history of the Crucifixion and Resurrection

The lament of the women on the way to the cross, Luk_23:27-30.

The prayer of Christ for his murderers, Luk_23:3

His conversation with the penitent malefactor and promise of a place in paradise, Luk_23:39-43.

The appearance of the risen Lord to the two Disciples on the way to Emmaus, Luk_24:13-25; briefly mentioned also in the disputed conclusion of Mk, Mar_16:12, Mar_16:13.

The account of the ascension, Luk_24:50-53; comp. Mar_16:19, Mar_16:20; and Act_1:3-12.


Characteristic Features of Luke

The third Gospel is the Gospel of free salvation to all men. This corresponds to the two cardinal points in the doctrinal system of Paul: gratuitousness and universalness of salvation.

1. It is eminently the Gospel of free salvation by grace through faith. Its motto is: Christ came to save sinners. “Saviour” and “salvation” are the most prominent ideas Mary, anticipating the birth of her Son, rejoices in God her “Saviour” (Luk_1:47); and an angel announces to the shepherds of Bethlehem “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people” (Luk_2:10), namely, the birth of Jesus as the “Saviour” of men (not only as the Christ of the Jews). He is throughout represented as the merciful friend of sinners, as the healer of the sick, as the comforter of the broken-hearted, as the shepherd of the lost sheep. The parables peculiar to Luke — of the prodigal son, of the lost piece of money, of the publican in the temple, of the good Samaritan — exhibit this great truth which Paul so fully sets forth in his Epistles. The parable of the Pharisee and the publican plucks up self-righteousness by the root, and is the foundation of the doctrine of justification by faith. The paralytic and the woman that was a sinner received pardon by faith alone. Luke alone relates the prayer of Christ on the cross for his murderers, and the promise of paradise to the penitent robber, and he ends with a picture of the ascending Saviour lifting up his hands and blessing his disciples.

The other Evangelists do not neglect this aspect of Christ; nothing can be more sweet and comforting than his invitation to sinners in Mat_11:1-30, or his farewell to the disciples in John; but Luke dwells on it with peculiar delight. He is the painter of Christus Salvator and Christus Consolator.

It is the Gospel of universal salvation. It is emphatically the Gospel for the Gentiles. Hence the genealogy of Christ is traced back not only to Abraham (as in Matthew), but to Adam, the son of God and the father of all men (Luk_3:38). Christ is the second Adam from heaven, the representative Head of redeemed humanity — an idea further developed by Paul. The infant Saviour is greeted by Simeon as a “Light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel” (Luk_2:32). The Baptist, in applying the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the voice in the wilderness (Isa_40:1-31), adds the words (from Isa_52:10): “All flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luk_3:6). Luke alone records the mission of the Seventy Disciples who represent the Gentile nations, as the Twelve represent the twelve tribes of Israel. He alone mentions the mission of Elijah to the heathen widow in Sarepta, and the cleansing of Naaman the Syrian by Elisha (Luk_4:26, Luk_4:27). He contrasts the gratitude of the leprous Samaritan with the ingratitude of the nine Jewish lepers (Luk_17:12-18). He selects discourses and parables, which exhibit God’s mercy to Samaritans and Gentiles (Luk_4:25-27; Luk_9:52-56; Luk_10:33; Luk_15:11 sqq.; Luk_17:19; Luk_18:10; Luk_19:5) Yet there is no contradiction, for some of the strongest passages which exhibit Christ’s mercy to the Gentiles and humble the Jewish pride are found in Matthew, the Jewish Evangelist. The assertion that the third Gospel is a glorification of the Gentile (Pauline) apostolate, and a covert attack on the Twelve, especially Peter, is a pure fiction of modern hypercriticism.

3. It is the Gospel of the genuine and full humanity of Christ. It gives us the key-note for the construction of a real history of Jesus from infancy to boyhood and manhood. Luke represents him as the purest and fairest among the children of men, who became like unto us in all things except sin and error. He follows him through the stages of his growth. He alone tells us that the child Jesus “grew and waxed strong,” not only physically, but also in “wisdom” (Luk_2:40); he alone reports the remarkable scene in the temple, informing us that Jesus, when twelve years old, sat as a learner “in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking questions;” and that, even after that time, He “advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luk_2:46, Luk_2:52). All the Synoptists narrate the temptation in the wilderness, and Mark adds horror to the scene by the remark that Christ was “with the wild beasts” (Mar_1:12, μετὰ τῶν θηρίων); but Luke has the peculiar notice that the devil departed from Jesus only “for a season.” He alone mentions the tears of Jesus over Jerusalem, and “the bloody sweat” and the strengthening angel in the agony of Gethsemane. As he brings out the gradual growth of Jesus, and the progress of the gospel from Nazareth to Capernaum, from Capernaum to Jerusalem, so afterwards, in the Acts, he traces the growth of the church from Jerusalem to Antioch, from Antioch to Ephesus and Corinth, from Greece to Rome. His is the Gospel of historical development. To him we are indebted for nearly all the hints that link the gospel facts with the contemporary history of the world.

4. It is the Gospel of universal humanity. It breathes the genuine spirit of charity, liberty, equality, which emanate from the Saviour of mankind, but are so often counterfeited by his great antagonist, the devil. It touches the tenderest chords of human sympathy. It delights in recording Christ’s love and compassion for the sick, the lowly, the despised, even the harlot and the prodigal. It mentions the beatitudes pronounced on the poor and the hungry, his invitation to the maimed, the halt, and the blind, his prayer on the cross for pardon of the wicked murderers, his promise to the dying robber. It rebukes the spirit of bigotry and intolerance of the Jews against Samaritans, in the parable of the good Samaritan. It reminds the Sons of Thunder when they were about to call fire from heaven upon a Samaritan village that He came not to destroy but to save. It tells us that “he who is not against Christ is for Christ,” no matter what sectarian or unsectarian name he may bear.

5. It is the Gospel for woman. It weaves the purest types of womanhood into the gospel story: Elizabeth, who saluted the Saviour before his birth; the Virgin, whom all generations call blessed; the aged prophetess Anna, who departed not from the temple; Martha, the busy, hospitable housekeeper, with her quiet, contemplative sister Mary of Bethany; and that noble band of female disciples who ministered of their substance to the temporal wants of the Son of God and his apostles.

It reveals the tender compassion of Christ for all the suffering daughters of Eve: the widow at Nain mourning at the bier of her only son; for the fallen sinner who bathed his feet with her tears; for the poor sick woman, who had wasted all her living upon physicians, and whom he addressed as “Daughter;” and for the “daughters of Jerusalem” who followed him weeping to Calvary. If anywhere we may behold the divine humanity of Christ and the perfect union of purity and love, dignity and tender compassion, it is in the conduct of Jesus towards women and children. “The scribes and Pharisees gathered up their robes in the streets and synagogues lest they should touch a woman, and held it a crime to look on an unveiled woman in public; our Lord suffered a woman to minister to him out of whom he had cast seven devils.”

6. It is the Gospel for children, and all who are of a childlike spirit. It sheds a sacred halo and celestial charm over infancy, as perpetuating the paradise of innocence in a sinful world. It alone relates the birth and growth of John, the particulars of the birth of Christ, his circumcision and presentation in the temple, his obedience to parents, his growth from infancy to boyhood, from boyhood to manhood. Luke 1-2 will always be the favorite chapters for children and all who delight to gather around the manger of Bethlehem and to rejoice with shepherds on the field and angels in heaven.

7. It is the Gospel of poetry. We mean the poetry of religion, the poetry of worship, the poetry of prayer and thanksgiving, a poetry resting not on fiction, but on facts and eternal truth. In such poetry there is more truth than in every-day prose. The whole book is full of dramatic vivacity and interest. It begins and ends with thanksgiving and praise. Luke 1-2 are overflowing with festive joy and gladness; they are a paradise of fragrant flowers, and the air is resonant with the sweet melodies of Hebrew psalmody and Christian hymnody. The Salute of Elizabeth (“Ave Maria”), the “Magnificat” of Mary, the “Benedictus” of Zacharias, the “Gloria in Excelsis” of the Angels, the “Nunc Dimittis” of Simeon, sound from generation to generation in every tongue, and are a perpetual inspiration for new hymns of praise to the glory of Christ.

No wonder that the third Gospel has been pronounced, from a purely literary and humanitarian standpoint, to be the most beautiful book ever written.


The Style

Luke is the best Greek writer among the Evangelists. His style shows his general culture. It is free from solecisms, rich in vocabulary, rhythmical in construction. But as a careful and conscientious historian he varies considerably with the subject and according to the nature of his documents.

Matthew begins characteristically with “Book of generation” or “Genealogy” (βίβλος γενέσεως), which looks back to the Hebrew Sepher toledoth (comp. Gen_5:1; Gen_2:4); Mark with “Beginning of the gospel” (ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου), which introduces the reader at once to the scene of present action; Luke with a historiographic prologue of classical ring, and unsurpassed for brevity, modesty, and dignity. But when he enters upon the history of the infancy, which he derived no doubt from Aramaic traditions or documents, his language has a stronger Hebrew coloring than any other portion of the New Testament. The songs of Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, and Simeon, and the anthem of the angelic host, are the last of Hebrew psalms as well as the first of Christian hymns. They can be literally translated back into the Hebrew, without losing their beauty. The same variation in style characterizes the Acts; the first part is Hebrew Greek, the second genuine Greek.

His vocabulary considerably exceeds that of the other Evangelists: he has about 180 terms which occur in his Gospel alone and nowhere else in the New Testament; while Matthew has only about 70, Mark 44, and John 50 peculiar words. Luke’s Gospel has 55, the Acts 135 ἅπαξ λεγόμενα, and among them many verbal compounds and rare technical terms.

The medical training and practice of Luke, “the beloved physician,” familiarized him with medical terms, which appear quite naturally, without any ostentation of professional knowledge, in his descriptions of diseases and miracles of healing, and they agree with the vocabulary of ancient medical writers. Thus he speaks of the “great fever” of Peter’s mother-in-law, with reference to the distinction made between great and small fevers (according to Galen); and of “fevers and dysentery,” of which the father of Publius at Melita was healed (as Hippocrates uses fever in the plural).

He was equally familiar with navigation, not indeed as a professional seaman, but as an experienced traveller and accurate observer. He uses no less than seventeen nautical terms with perfect accuracy. His description of the Voyage and Shipwreck of Paul in Acts 27-28, as explained and confirmed by a scholarly seaman, furnishes an irrefragable argument for the ability and credibility of the author of that book. Luke is fond of words of joy and gladness. He often mentions the Holy Spirit, and he is the only writer who gives us an account of the pentecostal miracle. Minor peculiarities are the use of the more correct λίμνη of the lake of Galilee for θάλασσα, νομικός and νομοδιδάσκαλος for γραμματεύς, τὸ εἰρημένον in quotations for ῤηθέν, νῦν for ἄρτι, ἑσπέρα for ὀψία, the frequency of attraction of the relative pronoun and participial construction.

There is a striking resemblance between the style of Luke and Paul, which corresponds to their spiritual sympathy and long intimacy. They agree in the report of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, which is the oldest we have (from a.d. 57); both substitute: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood,” for “This is My blood of the (new) covenant,” and add: “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luk_22:19, Luk_22:20; 1Co_11:24, 1Co_11:25). They are equally fond of words which characterize the freedom and universal destination of the gospel salvation. They have many terms in common which occur nowhere else in the New Testament. And they often meet in thought and expression in a way that shows both the close intimacy and the mutual independence of the two writers.



The genuineness of Luke is above reasonable doubt. The character of the Gospel agrees perfectly with what we might expect from the author as far as we know him from the Acts and the Epistles. No other writer answers the description.

The external evidence is not so old and clear as that in favor of Matthew and Mark. Papias makes no mention of Luke. Perhaps he thought it unnecessary, because Luke himself in the preface gives an account of the origin and aim of his book. The allusions in Barnabas, Clement of Rome, and Hermas are vague and uncertain. But other testimonies are sufficient for the purpose. Irenaeus in Gaul says: “Luke, the companion of Paul, committed to writing the gospel preached by the latter.” The Muratori fragment which contains the Italian traditions of the canon, mentions the Gospel of “Luke, the physician, whom Paul had associated with himself as one zealous for righteousness, to be his companion, who had not seen the Lord in the flesh, but having carried his inquiries as far back as possible, began his history with the birth of John.” Justin Martyr makes several quotations from Luke, though he does not name him. This brings us up to the year 140 or 130. The Gospel is found in all ancient manuscripts and translations.

The heretical testimony of Marcion from the year 140 is likewise conclusive. It was always supposed that his Gospel, the only one he recognized, was a mutilation of Luke, and this view is now confirmed and finally established by the investigations and concessions of the very school which for a short time had endeavored to reverse the order by making Marcion’s caricature the original of Luke. The pseudo- Clementine Homilies and Recognitions quote from Luke. Basilides and Valentinus and their followers used all the four Gospels, and are reported to have quoted Luk_1:35 for their purpose.

Celsus must have had Luke in view when he referred to the genealogy of Christ as being traced to Adam.



The credibility of Luke has been assailed on the ground that he shaped the history by his motive and aim to harmonize the Petrine and Pauline, or the Jewish-Christian and the Gentile-Christian parties of the church. But the same critics contradict themselves by discovering, on the other hand, strongly Judaizing and even Ebionitic elements in Luke, and thus make it an incoherent mosaic or clumsy patchwork of moderate Paulinism and Ebionism, or they arbitrarily assume different revisions through which it passed without being unified in plan.

Against this misrepresentation we have to say: (1) An irenic spirit, such as we may freely admit in the writings of Luke, does not imply an alteration or invention of facts. On the contrary, it is simply an unsectarian, catholic spirit which aims at the truth and nothing but the truth, and which is the first duty and virtue of an historian. (2) Luke certainly did not invent those marvellous parables and discourses which have been twisted into subserviency to the tendency hypothesis; else Luke would have had a creative genius of the highest order, equal to that of Jesus himself, while he modestly professes to be simply a faithful collector of actual facts. (3) Paul himself did not invent his type of doctrine, but received it, according to his own solemn asseveration, by revelation from Jesus Christ, who called him to the apostleship of the Gentiles. (4) It is now generally admitted that the Tübingen hypothesis of the difference between the two types and parties in the apostolic church is greatly overstrained and set aside by Paul’s own testimony in the Galatians, which is as irenic and conciliatory to the pillar-apostles as it is uncompromisingly polemic against the “false” brethren or the heretical Judaizers. (5) Some of the strongest anti-Jewish and pro-Gentile testimonies of Christ are found in Matthew and omitted by Luke.

The accuracy of Luke has already been spoken of, and has been well vindicated by Godet against Renan in several minor details. “While remaining quite independent of the other three, the Gospel of Luke is confirmed and supported by them all.”


Time of Composition

There are strong indications that the third Gospel was composed (not published) between 58 and 63, before the close of Paul’s Roman captivity. No doubt it took several years to collect and digest the material; and the book was probably not published, i.e., copied and distributed, till after the death of Paul, at the same time with the Acts, which forms the second part and is dedicated to the same patron. In this way the conflicting accounts of Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus may be harmonized.

1. Luke had the best leisure for literary composition during the four years of Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea and Rome. In Caesarea he was within easy reach of the surviving eyewitnesses and classical spots of the gospel history, and we cannot suppose that he neglected the opportunity.

2. The Gospel was written before the book of Acts, which expressly refers to it as the first treatise inscribed to the same Theophilus (Act_1:1). As the Acts come down to the second year of Paul’s captivity in Rome, they cannot have been finished before a.d. 63; but as they abruptly break off without any mention of Paul’s release or martyrdom, it seems quite probable that they were concluded before the fate of the apostle was decided one way or the other, unless the writer was, like Mark, prevented by some event, perhaps the Neronian persecution, from giving his book the natural conclusion. In its present shape it excites in the reader the greatest curiosity which could have been gratified with a few words, either that the apostle sealed his testimony with his blood, or that he entered upon new missionary tours East and West until at last he finished his course after a second captivity in Rome. I may add that the entire absence of any allusion in the Acts to any of Paul’s Epistles can be easily explained by the assumption of a nearly contemporaneous composition, while it seems almost unaccountable if we assume an interval of ten or twenty years.

3. Luke’s ignorance of Matthew and probably also of Mark points likewise to an early date of composition. A careful investigator, like Luke, writing after the year 70, could hardly have overlooked, among his many written sources, such an important document as Matthew which the best critics put before a.d. 70.

4. Clement of Alexandria has preserved a tradition that the Gospels containing the genealogies, i.e., Matthew and Luke, were written first. Irenaeus, it is true, puts the third Gospel after. Matthew and Mark and after the death of Peter and Paul, that is, after 64 (though certainly not after 70). If the Synoptic Gospels were written nearly simultaneously, we can easily account for these differences in the tradition. Irenaeus was no better informed on dates than Clement, and was evidently mistaken about the age of Christ and the date of the Apocalypse. But he may have had in view the time of publication, which must not be confounded with the date of composition. Many books nowadays are withheld from the market for some reason months or years after they have passed through the hands of the printer.

The objections raised against such an early date are not well founded.

The prior existence of a number of fragmentary Gospels implied in Luk_1:1 need not surprise us; for such a story as that of Jesus of Nazareth must have set many pens in motion at a very early time. “Though the art of writing had not existed,” says Lange, “it would have been invented for such a theme.”

Of more weight is the objection that Luke seems to have shaped the eschatological prophecies of Christ so as to suit the fulfilment by bringing in the besieging (Roman) army, and by interposing “the times of the Gentiles” between the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world (Luk_19:43, Luk_19:44; Luk_21:20-24). This would put the composition after the destruction of Jerusalem, say between 70 and 80, if not later. But such an intentional change of the words of our Lord is inconsistent with the unquestionable honesty of the historian and his reverence for the words of the Divine teacher. Moreover, it is not borne out by the facts. For the other Synoptists likewise speak of wars and the abomination of desolation in the holy place, which refers to the Jewish wars and the Roman eagles (Mat_24:15; Mar_13:14). Luke makes the Lord say:, Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luk_21:24). But Matthew does the same when he reports that Christ predicted and commanded the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in all parts of the world before the end can come (Mat_24:14; Mat_28:19; comp. Mar_16:15). And even Paul said, almost in the same words as Luke, twelve years before the destruction of Jerusalem: “Blindness is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom_11:25). Must we therefore put the composition of Romans after a.d. 70? On the other hand, Luke reports as clearly as Matthew and Mark the words of Christ, that “this generation shall not pass away till all things” (the preceding prophecies) “shall be fulfilled” (Luk_21:32). Why did he not omit this passage if he intended to interpose a larger space of time between the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world?

The eschatological discourses of our Lord, then, are essentially the same in all the Synoptists, and present the same difficulties, which can only be removed by assuming: (1) that they refer both to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, two analogous events, the former being typical of the latter; (2) that the two events, widely distant in time, are represented in close proximity of space after the manner of prophetic vision in a panoramic picture. We must also remember that the precise date of the end of the world was expressly disclaimed even by the Son of God in the days of his humiliation (Mat_24:36; Mar_13:32), and is consequently beyond the reach of human knowledge and calculation. The only difference is that Luke more clearly distinguishes the two events by dividing the prophetical discourses and assigning them to different occasions (Luk_17:20-37 and Luk_21:5-33); and here, as in other cases, he is probably more exact and in harmony with several hints of our Lord that a considerable interval must elapse between the catastrophe of Jerusalem and the final catastrophe of the world.

Place of Composition

The third Gospel gives no hint as to the place of composition. Ancient tradition is uncertain, and modern critics are divided between Greece, Alexandria, Ephesus, Caesarea,  Rome. It was probably written in sections during the longer residence of the author at Philippi, Caesarea, and Rome, but we cannot tell where it was completed and published.