LUKE - ACTS
INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL OF LUKE
The Third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles are two important Lucan
works that represent a history of Christian origins. It is
important to introduce their background before considering their
contents. We introduce the two works separately.
1. THE AUTHORSHIP OF LUKE
The author of the Gospel does not name himself, which means
that Lk.1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-2 become important to any discussion on the
authorship and purpose of Luke-Acts. There is almost universal
agreement that they are the work of one author. Both works are
addressed to Theophilus, and the style, subject-matter, theological
outlook and vocabulary confirm the unity of authorship.
Traditionally authorship is ascribed to Luke, the physician and
companion of the apostle Paul. Some of the oldest manuscripts
give the Gospel the simple title "According to Luke". External
support for Lucan authorship includes that of Marcion, the Muratorian
fragment, the anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke, Irenaeus, Tertullian,
and Clement of Alexandria.  The oldest Gospel manuscript, the Bodmer
Papyrus XIV (see the next page), dated A.D. 175-225, attributes the
Gospel to Luke. 
Luke the physician
The anti-Marcionite Prologue says that Luke was a native of Syrian
Antioch.  He appears to have been a Gentile (he is named together
with Epaphras and Demas in Col.4:12-14). Sir William Ramsay suggests
that he was a brother to Titus, who was a Greek from Antioch
(Gal.2:1-3; 2 Cor.8:18; 12:18). He was educated and a
doctor. Consider Col.4:14; 2 Tim.4:11, Phlm 24 and the "we"
passages in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18;
2. LUCAN SOURCES
Lk.1:1-4 indicates that Luke, as a second generation
Christian, was dependent on different sources for his data. Luke
was not a personal companion of Jesus, therefore his information is
from "those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the
word" (Lk.1:2). Logically, this would include the apostles.
Mary could have shared details which we find in the infancy
narratives. Luke's dependency may involve the Gospel of Mark and
other early Christian traditions (e.g., the so-called Q
document). Note Luke's "Big Interpolation" (Lk.9:51-18:14).
The dating of the Third Gospel relates to that of the other
Synoptic Gospels and the Acts. If Luke used Mark, then the Gospel may
be dated c.A.D. 68. It must be dated earlier than the Acts.
L.Morris indicates: "Three dates for this Gospel have been suggested
with some seriousness, namely about A.D. 63, about A.D. 75-85 and early
in the second century. The date is bound up with that of Acts, for Luke
must be earlier than its sequel". Morris mentions the fact that
C.S.C.Williams supports the view that a Proto-Luke came before
Acts. (B.H.Streeter and V.Taylor also suggest that Luke penned an
early draft of his Gospel). 
4. PURPOSE OF THE GOSPEL
1. Luke states the reason for his work at the beginning of the
Gospel (Lk.1:1-4). According to I.H.Marshall, "He is concerned to
write a Gospel, i.e., a presentation of the ministry of Jesus in its
saving significance".  As a Gospel its aims are represented by
Jn.20:30-31. It is not written as a life of Christ.
Further, Luke is seeking to provide Theophilus (and others who are
removed from the ministry of Jesus by geography and time) with a
reliable basis for their faith, and then, through Acts, to give a
trustworthy account of the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman
Empire (Lk.1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2).
2. In Luke-Acts, Luke demonstrates that God is working out his
purpose. L.Morris states:
This purpose is seen clearly in
the life and work of Jesus, but it did not finish with the earthly
ministry and work of Jesus. It carried on into the life and
witness of the church The church does not represent a new, completely
unrelated act of God. Luke seems to be saying that the work of
Jesus led, and in the plan of God was meant to lead, to the life of the
3. Luke is obviously concerned, in both parts of his work, to
demonstrate that Christianity is not a menace to imperial law and order
(F.F.Bruce).  This makes the work a political apologetic.
Other secondary purposes include: to show that the gospel is for
Gentiles as well as Jews, to refute certain heresies, and to show
Christianity's continuity with Judaism.
5. HISTORICITY OF THE LUCAN WRITINGS
Are the Lucan works historical? I.H.Marshall maintains that of
all the evangelists Luke is the most conscious of writing as a
historian, yet, he says, throughout his work the history is a vehicle
of theological interpretation in which the significance of Jesus is
expressed. To Marshall Luke is both a historian and theologian.
 Luke's details, especially in the Acts, have been attacked, but the
research of Sir W.M.Ramsay has vindicated him as "a historian of the
first rank". 
Miracles in Luke-Acts
The inclusion of miracles in his writings is sometimes held against
Luke being a historian. But it needs to be noted that, as with
the other Gospel writers, miracles are seen as forming an integral part
of the ministry of Jesus - and of the continuing ministry of Jesus
through his church. Miracles are messianic signs - signs of the
inauguration of the New Age. They are theologically important for
the New Testament (NT) writers. Today modern theological
approaches to miracles are more open than they used to be.
What kind of historian is Luke?
Luke-Acts does not read like a modern history book - so how can we
distinguish Luke as a historian? C.K.Barrett sees Luke as a historian
of the Hellenistic age, which L.Morris takes to mean that Luke is more
interested in things other than facts.  Luke certainly has an aim
in writing - as far as the Gospel is concerned it is to present Jesus
Christ. Luke's writing style, or genre, has its parallels in
contemporary literature. 
6. LUKE THE THEOLOGIAN
Modern scholarship recognises Luke as a theologian.
Redaction criticism (or editorial criticism) maintains that the Gospel
evangelists are more than collectors and collators of material - they
are real authors, who arranged their material and chose the way they
word incidents and reports.  We note here a number of Lucan
theological perspectives or interests:
Jesus Christ is the central message of the preached gospel, and he is
the main feature of all the written Gospels. In the Third Gospel
Jesus is true man (Lk.3:23ff.). He is a prophet anointed by the Spirit,
and greater than Moses (9:28-36); he is the anointed King or Messiah,
who will reign (23:42); he is the "Lord", as confirmed by his
resurrection (24:34); he is the Son of Man (Lk.19:10) and the Son of
God (1:32). But, as I.H.Marshall says, above all, Jesus is the
Saviour of men (19:10). 
H.Conzelmann argues in his book Die
Mitte der Zeit (The Middle of Time)
that Luke is concerned with the theme of redemption or salvation
history. The evangelist sets the story of salvation in three
stages, those of Israel (Lk.16:16), Jesus' ministry (4:16ff.; Acts
10:38), and the church. Christ came in the middle period of
time. Conzelmann's thesis is concerned with the delay of the
Universality of salvation
The keynote of the ministry of Jesus is the gospel of salvation.
The Son of Man comes to seek and save the lost. Lk.19:10 is the
Gospel's central or key verse. Jesus is introduced as the Saviour
of the world. The word "save" (Gk. sōzō) is used more in Luke
than in any other Gospel. The gospel is to be preached to the
nations - the Great Commission is found in Lk.24:46-49.
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit features in Luke and Acts. The Spirit, who
empowered Jesus (Lk.3:21-22; Acts 10:38), and was promised by him at
his ascension (Lk.24:49; Acts 1:8), is outpoured on Jew and Gentile
(Acts 2 and 10). The Spirit provides the dynamic for the life and
witness of the Christian community and its mission.
The interest in people
Luke provides unique examples of God's interest in individuals.
He gives a significant place to women (e.g., Mary and Martha:
Lk.10:38-42). He is concerned about children (18:15-17). He
sees the gospel reaching the poor (7:22). Jesus is portrayed as
the friend of tax collectors and "sinners" (15:1). In this area
Luke displays a doctor's interest,  and yet more than this - he
reveals God's love and care. As A.H.McNeile puts it, whereas in
Matthew the keynote may be that of royalty, and in Mark power, in Luke
it is love. 
The plan of God
The sense of divine necessity is seen in Jesus' ministry (note the use
of the Greek word dei in Lk.2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 13:16,33; 17:25; 19:5;
22:37; 24:7,26,44). The use of the word "purpose" (Gk. boulē, e.g.,
Lk.7:30; 10:22), especially in "the purpose of God" is also
significant. The phrase is used seven times in Acts (e.g., Acts
The fulfilment of prophecy
Luke is also concerned with the fulfilment of OT prophecy (Lk.4:18-21;
10:23-24; 24:5-8, 44-47). God fulfils his OT promises through
Other Lucan interests
Luke is interested in a dynamic faith, represented by Jesus, and then
his church. Other leading subjects include: prayer, praise and
thanksgiving, peace and joy, angels and their ministry, and miracles.
7. STYLE AND LANGUAGE OF THE GOSPEL
D.Guthrie is right when he says there is something attractive
about Luke's Gospel. He probably answers the question Why? by
stating: "It is full of superb stories and leaves the reader with a
deep impression of the personality and teaching of Jesus". 
The style of the Gospel
Luke refers to his work an "account" or "narrative" (Gk, diēgēsis,
Lk.1:1), and not as a "gospel" (cf. Mk.1:1). According to
A.Plummer, Luke's style brings his work nearest to a biography.
He says, "[Luke's] object seems to have been to give his readers as
full a picture as he could of the life of Jesus Christ, in all the
portions of it - infancy, boyhood, manhood". 
The language of the Gospel
All the Gospels are written in koinē
Greek, but Luke's language is the
most literary. The preface to the Gospel (Lk.1:1-4) is written in
good classical style, which he replaces with a Greek that reflects a
strong Hebraic flavour in chapters one and two. From chapter
three the Gospel reflects the language of the Septuagint (LXX), that
is, a translation Greek. Luke's OT quotations are taken from the
LXX. His use of the OT compares with that of Matthew's.
Further to this, the Gospel contains a number of Hebraisms, Aramaisms
and Semitisms (e.g., "setting one's face", Lk.9:51, RSV). 
8. OUTLINE OF THE GOSPEL
Students can find a detailed analysis of the Gospel in any
good commentary on the Gospel.  Here is a simple outline.
- The prologue (1:1-4)
- The infancy narratives (1:5-2:52)
- The ministry of John the Baptist (3:1-20)
- The commencement of Jesus' ministry (3:21-4:13)
- The Galilean ministry (4:14-9:50)
- The journey to Jerusalem (9:51-19:27)
- In Jerusalem (19:28-21:38)
- The passion, crucifixion and burial of Jesus (22:1-23:56)
- The resurrection and ascension (24:1-53).
9. SUGGESTED READING
The following textbooks are recommended for further study:
Conzelmann, H., The Theology of Luke, ET by G.Buswell, London, SCM,
Dunn, J.D.G., Jesus and the Spirit, London, SCM, 1975.
Evans,C.A., Luke, NIBC, vol.3, Peabody, Hendrickson/ Carlisle,
Marshall, I.H., Luke - Historian and Theologian, Exeter,
Marshall. I.H., The Gospel of Luke, NIGC, Exeter, Paternoster,
Morris, L. Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, TNTC, revised
edition, Leicester, Inter-Varsity, 1988.
Stronstad, R., The Charismatic Theology of St Luke,
Massachusetts, Hendrikson, 1984.
Talbert, C.H., Perspectives on Luke-Acts, Edinburgh, T.&
Be aware that significant contributions are made to Lucan studies in
more generalised textbooks, such as general biblical commentaries and
dictionaries. For example:
Blair,E.P., "Luke (Evangelist)" in Buttrick, G.A. (ed.),
The Interpreters' Dictionary of the Bible, vol.1, New York,
Gilmour, S.M., "The Gospel According to St.Luke", in
Buttrick,G.A. (ed.), The Interpreters' Bible, Vol.8, Nashville,
Inch, M.A., "Luke (Person)" in Elwell, W.A. (ed.),
Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol.2, London, Marshall-Pickering, 1988.
Johnson,L.T., "Book of Luke-Acts", in Freedman, D.N. (ed.),
The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol.4, New York, Doubleday, 1992.
Marshall, I.H., "Luke", Guthrie, D. & Motyer, J.A. (eds.),
The New Bible Commentary - Revised, Leicester, Inter-Varsity, 1970,
Marshall, I.H., "Luke as Theologian", in Freedman, D.N. (ed.),
The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol.4, New York, Doubleday, 1992.
Plümacher, E., "Luke (Person)", ET by D.Martin in Freedman,
D.N. (ed.), The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol.4, New York, Doubleday,
Michaels, J.R., "Luke-Acts", Burgess, S.M. & McGee, G.B.
(eds.), Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Grand
Rapids, Zondervan, 1988, pp.544-561.
Taylor, V., "Gospel of Luke", in Buttrick, G.A. (ed.), The
Interpreters' Dictionary of the Bible, New York, Abingdon, 1962.
10. TWO QUESTIONS
1. What significance do you place on Luke 1:1-4?
2. What special interests can you find in Luke's Gospel?
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