STUDY 7 - THE GOSPEL OF LUKE
For this study see: M.C.Tenney, pp.173-187; R.H.Gundry,
pp.205-251. Further reading: D.A.Carson, et al., An Introduction to the
New Testament, pp.111-134.
1. AUTHORSHIP, PLACE AND DATE OF THE GOSPEL
Note that Luke 1:1-4 provides a key to Luke and Acts (see Acts
The inferences of Luke 1:1-4
M.C.Tenney's comments on the opening verses of Luke deserve study here:
In the time of the writer a number of works were extant
only a partial, or possibly a garbled account of Jesus' life and work.
These accounts had attempted some systematic arrangement
of available facts ("to draw up a narrative " - 1:1).
These facts were well known to the Christian world and
independently of the narratives. Luke says that they "have been
fulfilled among us" (1:1). He is conscious that Jesus fulfilled the
Luke felt himself at least as well informed as the others
capable of writing an account on his own responsibility ("it seemed
good to me also").
His information came from competent official sources ("who
beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the words (1:2).
He was conversant with the facts, either by observation or
and he was certainly a contemporary of the main course of action in the
sense that he lived in the generation of those who had witnessed it.
Luke's knowledge covered all the major facts. His
Gospel contains many
particulars that do not appear in the others and is the most generally
representative life of Christ.
He professed to write accurately and in logical
order. 'In order'
does not necessarily presuppose chronological order, but it does mean
that he had a definite plan of procedure which he intended to adhere
Luke's addressee was probably a man of the upper class who
called here by his baptismal name, Theophilus. Compare Acts 24:3;
This addressee had already been informed orally concerning
perhaps through the preaching that he had heard, but he needed further
Luke's purpose was to give his friend complete knowledge
of the truth. 
Further purposes of Luke-Acts
Luke seeks to provide Theophilus, and those associated with him, with a
trustworthy account of the origin of the gospel and its spread
throughout the Roman world. He does not seek to write a life of
Christ. Then, "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).  Many see the joint work as a political
apologetic. Other suggested purposes include: to show the universal
nature of the gospel; to refute certain heresies; to defend Paul's
ministry; to show Christianity's continuity with Judaism; to explain
the delay of the Parousia.
But who was the author of the third Gospel? There is almost universal
agreement that Luke and Acts are the work of one author. Both
works are addressed to Theophilus, and the style, subject matter,
outlook and vocabulary confirm the unity of authorship.
Traditionally authorship is ascribed to Luke the physician and
companion of Paul. Some of the oldest manuscripts give the book a
simple title - 'According to Luke'.
Tradition 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
brother to Titus, who was a Greek from Antioch (Gal.2:1-3). Luke
was educated and a doctor. He was not a personal companion of
Jesus and had to rely on 'witnesses' for his Gospel data. From
the 'we' passages in the Acts one can argue that he was a companion of
the apostle Paul (see: Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16).
Date and place of writing
Two simple observations here. First, the dating of the Gospel
relates to the dating of the Acts. Second, the fact that the
destruction of the temple is not mentioned in Acts suggests a date
before A.D.70. A round date would be A.D.60. Early
tradition suggests Achaia as the place of writing. The
relationship with Mark's Gospel may suggest Rome. B.H.Streeter
argues for Corinth being the place of writing.
2. THE CONTENTS OF THE GOSPEL
The basic outline of the Gospel suggested by M.C.Tenney is:
Luke: The Gospel of the Saviour of Men
The preface (1:1-4)
The preparation of the Saviour (1:5-2:52)
The introduction of the Saviour (3:1-4:15)
The ministry of the Saviour (4:16-9:50)
The mission of the Saviour (9:51-18:30)
The passion of the Saviour (18:31-23:56)
The resurrection of the Saviour (24:1-53)
Note: The large section, 9:51-19:28 ('the travel narrative')
is unique to Luke.
3. THE EMPHASIS OF THE GOSPEL
"Tradition says that Luke was an artist." He is the most
literary of the Gospels. Notice the four prophetical songs and their
form (1:46-55; 1:67-79; 2:14; 2:28-32).
The historicity of Luke
I.H.Marshall maintains that of all the evangelists Luke is the most
conscious of writing as a historian.  F.F.Bruce supports this view
in saying, "Luke narrates the story of Jesus as a piece of history".
 Further, the work and research of Sir William Ramsay has vindicated
Luke as "a historian of the first rank".  A.N.Sherwin-White's book Roman Society and Roman Law in
the New Testament supports Luke's
knowledge of Roman law. 
But some of the details in Luke's works are still questioned
by scholars, for example, his miracle stories and stories about
angels. Against this we would argue that miracles are an integral
part of the Gospel tradition, where they are portrayed as messianic
signs - signs of the inauguration of a new age. Luke's stories of
angels, it must be pointed out, are common to both his works (and
reflect an OT awareness).
The theology of Luke
I.H.Marshall recognises Luke as a theologian.  Tenney agrees and
"The Third Gospel emphasises doctrine... Although he does not discuss
theology topically, his vocabulary reveals his knowledge of it and his
interest in it. Christ, the Son of God, who was acknowledged by
the angels (1:35), by demons (4:41), and by the Father (9:35), is
presented both as God and man. Salvation is a prominent teaching
in Luke: 'The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost!'
(19:10) is a key sentence in the book" 
Notice the use of two salvation terms: 'redeemed' in 1:68 and
'justify' in 18:14.
Theological themes in the
Study the following themes:
The doctrine of the Holy Spirit has a special prominence
in Luke, and
is one of a number of themes developed in the Acts (Luke contains more
references to the Holy Spirit than in Matthew and Mark combined).
Notice how all the chief characters in Luke are empowered by the Holy
Spirit for service, including Jesus himself (1:35; 3:22; 4:1,14,18;
Universalism is a characteristic of the Gospel (consider
The Gospel contains a straight challenge to discipleship
Other interests include angels, prayer, joy, women,
miracles. Luke is interested in people (e.g., compare the parables in
Mt.13 and Lk.15).
H.Conzelmann has argued for the evangelist's special
concern for the concept of time. Christ, he says, came into the
world in the 'middle of time' 
4. THE CHARACTERS OF THE GOSPEL
M.C.Tenney notes: "Several new characters appear in this
Gospel. Zacharias and Elizabeth his wife, Simeon, Anna,
Zacchaeus, and Cleopas are not mentioned elsewhere, and each is a
distinct type. Luke's literary characters are as interesting as
his historical characters"  How true to life are the father and his
two sons (15:11-32), the Samaritan (10:30-37), the idle rich man
(12:13-21), the shrewd steward (16:1-13), and the ostentatious Pharisee
(18:9-14)! The theme of 'salvation' and the human interest makes
Lk.19:10 the key verse of the book: "For the Son of Man came to seek
and to save what was lost".
1. M.C.Tenney, pp.173-176. Question the view that Theophilus
was a baptismal name.
2. F.F.Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, 2nd edition, London,
Tyndale, 1952, p.30f.
3. I.H.Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, NIGTC, Exeter,
Paternoster, 1978, p.35.
4. From my notebook.
5. See W.M.Ramsay, St.Paul the Traveller and the Roman
Citizen, 17th edition, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1930.
6. See: A.M.Hunter, Introducing the New Testament, revised,
London, SCM, 1972, pp.75-76.
7. See: I.H.Marshall, Luke - Historian and Theologian, Exeter,
8. M.C.Tenney, p.134.
9. See: H.Conzelmann, The Theology of St.Luke, ET, London,
10. M.C.Tenney, p.185f.