Unger's Bible Dictionary: Luke



LUKE, GOSPEL OF. The third synoptic gospel, a work of high literary quality ascribed by almost universal Christian tradition to Luke, the beloved physician and traveling companion of Paul.


Characteristics. Renan viewed Luke's gospel as "the most beautiful book that has ever been written." The subject matter as well as the author's literary talent combine to give the book an interesting appeal and polish conspicuous in the NT. The elevated subject matter was a challenge to the author's literary endeavor. Whereas Matthew presents Christ as King, Mark presents Him as Servant, John presents Him as the Son of God, and Luke presents Him as the Son of man, the human-divine One in contrast to John's divine-human One. The term "Son of Man" acts as a key phrase, and Luke 19:10 is commonly taken as the key verse: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." In agreement with his purpose, Luke narrates those events that demonstrate the humanity of Christ. The divine genealogy is traced to Adam. A detailed account of Christ's mother and of His infancy and childhood is presented. The parables included by Luke have a human touch. Although Luke beautifully sets forth the humanity of the divine One he carefully shields His deity and kingship (1:32-35). It has truly been said that Luke is the gospel of "a man whose name is Branch" (Zech 6:12). Luke is distinctive in that it catalogs much material that is not included in the other evangels. This new material amounts to more than 50 percent of its content. For example, Luke has a joyous note and records five great outbursts of song-Elizabeth's Beatitude, Mary's Magnificat, Zachariah's Benedictus, the angels' Gloria in Excelsis, and Simeon's Nunc Dimittis. His gospel is emphatically "good news of a great joy."


Purpose. The evangelist proposes to write in order that Theophilus might know the "exact truth" of the things wherein he had been instructed (Luke 1:4). Theophilus seems to have been a Gentile, and the epithet kratistos, often given to persons of rank (Acts 23:26; 24:3; 26:5), suggests that he was an individual of eminence, most likely a recent convert. Some believe that he was a patronos libri and acted as a patron for the production of the book. Everyone is of the opinion that the gospel was intended for people at large, especially the Greek-speaking world.


Date. Since the book was written before the Acts, which is to be dated c. A.D. 61, it was likely written while Paul was at Caesarea. Since internal evidence that Luke wrote both the gospel and the book of Acts (and he divulges the fact that the gospel was written first, Acts 1:1), it must be concluded that the gospel was penned prior to A.D. 61 AD. Luke was in Caesarea where Paul was in prison (Acts 27:1). This circumstance would furnish him opportunity for the research he mentions with such fine literary style and classical flourish in Luke 1:1-4.


Attestation. External evidence is strong concerning the early existence and use of Luke. Justin Martyr quotes Luke 22:44; 23:46. The Muratorian Fragment calls the third gospel "Luke." Heggesippus, Tatian, the unbeliever Celsus, Marcion, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian all refer to "Luke." Robertson's statement in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on Luke sums up the evidence: "Surely the general use and acceptance of the third gospel in the early second century is beyond reasonable doubt. It is not easy to decide when the actual use began, because we have so little data from the first century."



BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke, International Critical Commentary (1896); J. M. Creed, The Gospel According to St. Luke (1930); P. Parker, The Gospel Before Mark (1931); F. L. Godet, A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke (1957); I. H. Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian (1970); L. L. Morris, The Gospel According to St. Luke, Tyndale New Testament Commentary (1974); I. H. Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, New International Greek New Testament (1978); J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, Anchor Bible (1981-).

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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