BRIEF CHURCH HISTORY #25
From "History of the Christian Church " by Philip Schaff
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 colaborer.
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" (Philem.24), and as the most faithful
friend who remained with him when friend after friend had
deserted him (2 Tim.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.
He was a Gentile by birth, though he may have become a proselyte
of the gate. His nationality and antecedents are un known. 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 (Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3; 15:1-3,22-35), that he
traces the origin of the name "Christians" to that city (11:19),
and that in enumerating the seven deacons of Jerusalem he informs
us of the Antiochian origin of Nicolas (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" (Acts 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" (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 (Acts 20:5,6); 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" (2 Tim.4:
The Bible leaves Luke at the height of his usefulness in the
best company, with Paul preaching the gospel in the metropolis of
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
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-Chris-
tian and Aramaean (hence the strongly Hebraizing coloring of the
first two chapters); 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 davs.
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
(Probably was NOT inspired to do so - Keith Hunt)
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. 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 vast 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
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 (chs. 1
and 2). 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, 1:5-25.
The annunciation of the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary,
The visit of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth; the salutation of
The Magnificat of the Virgin Mary, 1:46-56.
The birth of John the Baptist, 1:57-66.
The Benedictus of Zacharias, 1:67-8O.
The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, 2:1-7.
The appearance of the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem, and
the "Gloria in EXcelsis," 2:8-20.
The circumcision of Jesus, and his presentation in the Temple,
The visit of Jesus in his twelfth year to the passover in
Jerusalem, and his conversation with the Jewish doctors in the
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, Luke 3:23-38; comp. Matt.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
1. The following miracles and incidents:
The miraculous draught of fishes, 5:4-11.
The raising of the widow's son at Nain, 7:11-18.
The pardoning of the sinful woman who wept at the feet of Jesus,
The support of Christ by devout women who are named, 8:2,3.
The rebuke of the Sons of Thunder in a Samaritan village, 9:
The Mission and Instruction of the Seventy, 10:1-6.
Entertainment at the house of Martha and Mary; the one thing
The woman who exclaimed: "Blessed is the womb that bare thee,"
The man with the dropsy, 14:1-6.
The ten lepers, 17:11-19.
The visit to Zacchaeus, 19:1-10.
The tears of Jesus over Jerusalem, 19:41-44.
The sifting of Peter, 22:31,32.
The healing of Malchus, 22:50,51.
2. Original Parables:
The two Debtors, 7:41-43.
The good Samaritan, 10:25-37.
The importunate Friend, 11:5-8.
The rich Fool, 12:16-21.
The barren Fig-tree, 13:6-9.
The lost Drachma, 15:8-10.
The prodigal Son, 15:11-32.
The unjust Steward, 16:1-13.
Dives and Lazarus, 16:19-31.
The importunate Widow, and the unjust Judge, 18:1-8.
The Pharisee and the Publican, 18:10-14.
The ten Pounds, 19:11-28 (not to be identified with the Parable
of the Talents in Matt.25:14-30).
III. In the history of the Crucifixion and Resurrection:
The lament of the women on the way to the cross, 23:27-30.
The prayer of Christ for his murderers, 23:34.
His conversation with the penitent malefactor and promise of a
place in paradise, 23:39-43.
The appearance of the risen Lord to the two Disciples on the way
to Emmaus, 24:13-25; briefly mentioned also in the disputed
conclusion of Mark,16:12,13.
The account of the ascension, 24:50-53; comp. Mark 16:19,20; and
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" (1:47); and an
angel announces to the shepherds of Bethlehem "good tidings of
great joy which shall be to all the people" (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 the eleventh chapter of Matthew, 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
2. 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 (3:38). Christ is the second
Adam from heaven, the representative Ilead 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" (2:32). The Baptist, in applying the
prophecy of Isaiah concerning the voice in the wilderness (ch.
40), adds the words (from Isa 52:10): "All flesh shall see the
salvation of God" (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 (4:26,27). He contrasts
the gratitude of the leprous Samaritan with the ingratitude of
the nine Jewish lepers (17:12-18). He selects discourses and
parables, which exhibit God's mercy to Samaritans and Gentiles.
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" (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" (2:46,52).
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" (1:12, Greek ); 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
(No, Jesus' words have a context. Many today and yesterday who in
their mind [as they are athiests or evolutionists or just
nothing] are not per se against Christ [just do not think of Him
at all] are still most assuredly not on Jesus' side. By living
and thinking contrary to Christ, not thinking of Christ in any
way, cannot mean you are for Christ - Keith Hunt)
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
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." (as one man has written).
6. It is the Gospel for children, and all who are of a childlike
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. The first two chapters 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. The first two chapters 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
No wonder that the third Gospel has been pronounced, from a
purely literary and humanitarian standpoint, to be the most
beautiful book ever written.
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" (Greek ), which looks back to the Hebrew Sepher
toledoth (comp. Gen. 5:1; 2:4); Mark with "Beginning of the
gospel " (Greek), 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 Greek 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 the last two chapters of Acts, 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 Greek of the lake of Galilee for (Greek), and
(Greek) for (Greek) n quotations for Greek for Greek for Greek -
the frequency of attraction of the relative pronoun and
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" (Luke 22:19,20; 1 Cor.11:24,25).
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
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 Luke 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 Tubingen hypothesis of the difference between the two
types and parties in the apostolic church is greatly over-
strained and set aside by Paul's own testimony in the Galatians,
which is as irenie 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.
Thb 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 COMP0SITION.
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 (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
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
The prior existence of a number of fragmentary Gospels implied in
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 (19:43,44; 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 (Matt.24:15; Mark 13:14). Luke makes the
Lord say: "Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles till
the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (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 (Matt.24:14; 28:19; comp. Mark
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" (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
(Matt.24:36; Mark 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
(17:20-37 and 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.
(The writer does not understand that Matthew 24; Mark 13; and
Luke 21; are all about the end time, just before Jesus returns to
earth to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, and have no
direct bearing on the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. See my
expounding of prophetic passages and books on this website -
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.
To be continued