The Gospel of Luke (literally, according to Luke; Greek, Κατά Λουκαν, Kata Loukan) is a synoptic Gospel, and the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament. The text narrates the life of Jesus, with particular interest concerning his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection; and it ends with an account of the ascension.
The author is characteristically concerned with social ethics, the poor, women, and other oppressed groups. Certain well-loved stories on these themes, such as the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Parable of the Good Samaritan, are found only in this gospel. The Gospel also has a special emphasis on prayer, the activity of the Holy Spirit, and joyfulness. D. Guthrie stated, “it is full of superb stories and leaves the reader with a deep impression of the personality and teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps for this reason that for many it is their favorite gospel.
Scholarship today is in wide agreement that both the Gospel and Acts have the same author. Likewise, the traditional view of Lukan authorship is “widely held as the view which most satisfactorily explains all the data.” However, there is scholarly division concerning the traditional attribution that the text was written by Luke the companion of Paul (named in Colossians ), division which R. E. Brown characterized as "evenly divided". Most scholars accept the Two-Source Hypothesis which would place the composition of Luke between 80 and 100 C.E., although a few scholars postulate a much earlier date of authorship.
The Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus' miraculous birth, ministry of healing and parables, passion, and resurrection.
The introductory dedication to Theophilus,  Luke intended to write a historical account, bringing out the theological significance of the history. The author's purpose was to portray Christianity as divine, respectable, law-abiding, and international.states that "many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word," and that the author, "after investigating everything carefully from the very first" has decided likewise to compose an orderly account for Theophilus.
Luke is the only gospel with a formal introduction.
Like Matthew, but unlike Mark, Luke recounts a royal genealogy and a virgin birth for Jesus. However, the genealogy and the birth narrative differs drastically from the Matthean version. Unique to Luke is John the Baptist's birth story, the census and travel to Bethlehem, the birth in a manger, and angelic annunciation to shepherds and a story from Jesus' boyhood. While Matthew, written for a Jewish audience, emphasizes the Davidic line and places Jesus in the context of kings (Herod and the three kings from the Orient), Luke uses another Old Testament theme, that of the "enemy brother," as Jesus and John are introduced as cousins. Luke also sets the story in the larger Roman context (the census) and introduces shepherds, which would have been unthinkable in Matthew's account. The shepherds emphasize Jesus' humble origins and connection to the common man.
Luke emphasizes Jesus miracles, recounting 20, four of which are unique. Like Matthew, it includes a collection of Jesus' sayings in the form of a sermon, but unlike the Matthean Sermon on the Mount, Luke refers to it as the Sermon on the Plain, suggesting not Moses giving the Law but Jesus' accessibility. More than a dozen of Jesus' most memorable parables are unique to Luke. The parables in Luke emphasize ethical and moral concerns, such as the Parable of the Good Samaritan in which the despised Samaritan was the righteous person, not the Levite. Again, this would have been unthinkable in Matthew.
More than the other gospels, Luke mentions women as important among Jesus' followers, such as Mary Magdalene.
Luke stresses the importance of Jesus' innocence, emphasizing that he had committed no crime against Rome, as confirmed by Herod, Pilate, and the thief crucified with Jesus. In Luke's Passion narrative Jesus prays that God forgive those who crucify him and his assurance to a crucified thief that they will be together in Paradise.
Luke's accounts differ from those in Mark and Matthew. Luke tells the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and (as in John) Jesus appears to the Eleven and demonstrates that he is flesh and blood, not a spirit. Jesus' commission that the Eleven carry his message to all the nations affirms Christianity as a universal religion. The account of Jesus' ascent at the end of Luke is apparently an addition subsequent to the original redaction.
Contemporary scholars generally conclude that the author, possibly a Gentile Christian, wrote the gospel about 85-90 C.E. Most scholars hold the two-source hypothesis as most probable, which argues that the author used the Gospel of Mark and the hypothetical Q document in addition to unique material, as sources for the gospel. The author of Luke is usually agreed to be more faithful to the wording and order of the Q material than was the author of Matthew. As an alternative to the two-source hypothesis, a few scholars hold to the traditional view that Luke is based on Matthew. The two major hypothesis that hold this position are the Griesbach hypothesis and the Augustinian hypothesis. The problem with this hypothesis is that it is difficult to explain why Luke's accounts of the genealogy and birth narratives are so radically different from that of Matthew while the material that Luke uses from Mark is used virtually verbatim.
Like the rest of the New Testament, the gospel was written in Greek. Like Mark (but unlike Matthew), the intended audience is generally considered to be gentile, and it assures readers that Christianity is an international religion, not a Jewish sect. Traditionally, the authorship is ascribed to Paul's physician companion, Luke. Several cities have been proposed as its place of origin with no consensus. 
Early tradition, witnessed by the Muratorian Canon, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian, held that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were both written by Luke, a companion of Paul. The oldest manuscript with the start of the gospel (ca. 200 C.E.) carries the title “the Gospel according to Luke”. Donald Guthrie describes the early Christian testimony concerning the gospel's authorship as in full agreement, although "some scholars attach little importance to it". The claim that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were written by the same author is considered by contemporary scholarship to be “almost certain”. The most direct evidence comes from the prefaces of each book. Both prefaces are addressed to Theophilus, the author's patron, and the preface of Acts explicitly references "my former book" about the life of Jesus. Furthermore, there are linguistic and theological similarities between the two works, suggesting that they have a common author. Both books also contain common interests. With the agreement of nearly all scholars, Udo Schnelle writes, "The extensive linguistic and theological agreements and cross-references between the Gospel of Luke and the Acts indicate that both works derive from the same author". Those biblical scholars who consider the two books a single, two-volume work often refer to both together as Luke-Acts.
Given this, the internal evidence of the Acts of the Apostles concerning its author pertains to the authorship of the Gospel. This evidence, especially passages in the narrative where the first person plural is used, points to the author being a companion of Paul. As D. Guthrie put it, of the known companions of Paul, Luke is “as good as any… [and] since this is the traditional ascription there seems no reason to conjecture any other.” There is further evidence from the Pauline Epistles. Paul described Luke as “the beloved physican,” and scholars have long found evidence of technical medical terminology used in both the Gospel and Acts, though this argument has been challenged and it without universal acceptance.
The traditional view of Lukan authorship is “widely held as the view which most satisfactorily explains all the data.” The list of scholars maintaining authorship by Luke the physician is lengthy, and represents scholars from a wide range of theological opinion. But there is no consensus, and the current opinion concerning Lukan authorship has been described as ‘about evenly divided’. on who the author was.
The terminus ad quem or latest possible date for Luke is bound by the earliest papyri manuscripts that contains portions of Luke (third century) and the mid to late second century writings that quote or reference Luke. The work is reflected in the Didache, the Gnostic writings of Basilides and Valentinus, the apologetics of the Church Father Justin Martyr, and was used by Marcion. Donald Guthrie states that the Gospel was likely widely known before the end of the first century, and was fully recognized by the early part of the second, while Helmut Koester states that aside from Marcion, "there is no certain evidence for its usage," prior to ca. 150. While some scholars argue for a pre-70 date for when the gospel was written, most scholars place the date ca. 80-90.
Arguments for a pre-70 date are largely bound up with the complicated arguments concerning the date of the book of Acts, with most proponents arguing for a date around 60-61 for the Gospel. This incorporates the conjecture that Luke collected much of his unique material during the imprisonment of Paul in Caesarea, when Luke attended to him. Acts does not mention Paul’s martyrdom, which occurred some time in the 60s, nor the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecies concerning the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred in 70. A few scholars who also argue for an early date of First Epistle to Timothy believe 1 Timothy 5:18 is referencing Luke 10:7, and thus argue Luke pre-dates Paul's death.
In contrast to the traditional view, many contemporary scholars regard Mark as a source text used by the author of Luke, following from the theory of Markan Priority. Since Mark may have been written around the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, around 70, Luke would not have been written before 70. These scholars have suggested dates for Luke from 75 to 100. Support for a later date comes from a number of reasons. One argument is that the references to the Jerusalem temple's destruction are seen as evidence of a post-70 date. The universalization of the message of Luke is believed to reflect a theology that took time to develop. Differences of chronology, "style," and theology suggest that the author of Luke-Acts was not familiar with Paul's distinctive theology but instead was writing a decade or more after his death, by which point significant harmonization between different traditions within Early Christianity had occurred. Furthermore, Luke-Acts has views on christology, eschatology, and soteriology that are similar to the those found in Pastoral epistles, which are often seen as pseudonymous and of a later date than the undisputed Pauline Epistles.
Debate continues among non-traditionalists about whether Luke was written before or after the end of the first century. Those who would date it later argue that it was written in response to heterodoxical movements of the early second century, for example see Gospel of Marcion. Those who would date it earlier point out both that Luke lacks knowledge of the episcopal system, which had been developed in the second century, and that an earlier date preserves the traditional connection of the gospel with the Luke who was a follower of Paul.
The consensus is that Luke was written by a Greek or Syrian for gentile/ non-Jewish Christians. The Gospel is addressed to the author's patron, Theophilus, which in Greek simply means Friend of God, and may not be a name but a generic term for a Christian. The Gospel is clearly directed at Christians, or at those who already knew about Christianity, rather than a general audience, since the ascription goes on to state that the Gospel was written "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:3–4).
The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke are five papyrus fragments dating from the late second century or early third century, one containing portions of all four gospels (P45) and three others preserving only brief passages (P4, P69, P75, P111). These early copies, as well as the earliest copies of Acts, date after the Gospel was separated from Acts.
Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus are fourth-century codices of the Greek bible that are the oldest manuscripts that contain Luke. Codex Bezae is a fifth- or sixth-century Western text-type manuscript that contains Luke in Greek and Latin versions on facing pages. This text-type appears to have descended from an offshoot of the main manuscript tradition, departing from more familiar readings at many points. Verses are omitted only in Codex Bezae and a handful of Old Latin manuscripts. Nearly all other manuscripts including Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus and Church Fathers contain the "longer" reading of Luke 22:19 and 20. Verse 22:20, which is very similar to 1 Cor 11:25, provides the only gospel support for the doctrine of the New Covenant. Verses are found in Western text-type. But they are omitted by a diverse number of ancient witnesses and are generally marked as such in modern translations. See Bruce M. Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament for details.
According to Farrar, "Out of a total of 1,151 verses, Luke has 389 in common with Matthew and Mark, 176 in common with Matthew alone, 41 in common with Mark alone, leaving 544 peculiar to himself. In many instances all three use identical language." Mark is widely considered a principal direct source, and Martin Hengel has made the more controversial argument that Luke also made use of Matthew.
There are 17 parables peculiar to this Gospel. Luke also attributes to Jesus seven miracles which are not present in Matthew or Mark. The synoptic Gospels are related to each other after the following scheme. If the contents of each Gospel are numbered at 100, then when compared this result is obtained: Mark has 7 peculiarities, 93 coincidences. Matthew 42 peculiarities, 58 coincidences. Luke 59 peculiarities, 41 coincidences. That is, thirteen-fourteenths of Mark, four-sevenths of Matthew, and two-fifths of Luke describe the same events in similar language. Luke's style is more polished than that of Matthew and Mark with fewer Hebrew idioms. He uses a few Latin words (Luke ; ; ; ; and ), but no Syriac or Hebrew words except sikera, an exciting drink of the nature of wine but not made of grapes (from Heb. shakar, "he is intoxicated"; Lev ), perhaps palm wine. According to Walter Bauer's Greek English Lexicon of the NT, in Aramaic (שכרא) it means barley beer, from the Akkadian shikaru. This Gospel contains 28 distinct references to the Old Testament.
Many words and phrases are common to the Gospel of Luke and the Letters of Paul; compare:
The main characteristic of this Gospel, as Farrar (Cambridge Bible, Luke, Introd.) remarks, is expressed in the motto, "Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil" (Acts; cf. with Luke ). Luke wrote for the "Hellenistic world."
Most scholars believe that the Gospel of Luke was written originally in Greek. The first four verses of Luke are in more formal and refined Greek, which would be meant to be familiar to the elite citizens of the Greco-Roman era. Then the language changes into a style of Greek which is very similar to the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible). Then the language makes its final change toward the end into a more secular form of first-century Greek (called "koine").
Compared to the other canonical gospels, Luke devotes significantly more attention to women. The Gospel of Luke features more female characters, features a female prophet (), and details the experience of pregnancy ( ).
Textual critics have found variations among early manuscripts and have used principles of textual criticism to tentatively identify which versions are original. Bart D. Ehrman cites two cases where proto-orthodox Christians most likely altered the text in order to prevent its being used to support heretical beliefs.
When Jesus is baptized, many early witnesses attest that Luke's gospel had the Father say to Jesus, "This day I have begotten you." In orthodox texts (and thus in most modern Bibles), this text is replaced by the text from Mark. Ehrman concludes that the original text was changed because it had adoptionist overtones.
When Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane, the text refers to him being comforted by an angel and sweating drops like blood (verses 43-44 in Luke 22:40-46). These two verses disrupt the literary structure of the scene (the chiasmus), they are not found in all the early manuscripts, and they are the only place in Luke where Jesus is seen to be in agony. Ehrman concludes that they were inserted in order to counter doceticism, the belief that Jesus, as divine, only seemed to suffer.
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This article was originally based on text from Easton Bible Dictionary of 1897 and from M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897.
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