Luke: The Author, His Writings, and His Times-Part II: A First Look at the Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke is one of the so-called “Synoptic Gospels”.  The word ‘synoptic’ means seeing together and is basically a comment that the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, and Luke are very much alike and at the same time these three Gospels are very different from the Gospel of John.  The three Gospels are similar in language, in material included, in their order of sayings of Jesus and in events depicted.   This analysis is bolstered by the fact that 91% of the Gospel of Mark is contained in the Gospel of Mathew and 53% is contained in the Gospel of Luke.

This agreement raises many questions and issues.  First, the repetition of much of the Gospel of Mark to such a high degree in the Gospels of Mathew and Luke raises the issue as to whether the writers all referred to a common written source or a common oral source.  As both Luke and Matthew repeat much of Mark, early on scholars thought that this alone sho9wed that mark must have been written first and was the source for Matthew and Luke.   Some scholars have also speculated that there was a lost Gospel to which all three of these writers referred.  Second, did the writers know of each other and the writings of each other?    On one hand, this seems unlikely in that why then would Matthew and Luke repeat so much of Mark?   But on the other hand, some have though that the Synoptic writers drew upon each other and that is why they are so similar. Third, the dating of the writing of these Gospels is very much in doubt.  The most accepted chronology is that Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke followed, but more on chronology a little later.  But other scholars have suggested that Matthew came first and that Mark and Luke used Matthew as their source.  Possibly the truth lies somewhere in the middle of all of these theories with the writers having used an oral source and written fragments, as well as eye witness testimony and each other’s Gospels to write their own Gospels.  Whatever is the truth; these three Gospels do speak with almost one voice.

Turning to chronology of writing, assuming that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source, then the usual view is that Mark was written first, with Matthew written next, and Luke possibly last.  Within that framework there are two competing dating sequences.  The first is that Mark was written in the 50s or the early 60s. Matthew was then written either in the late 50s or the late 60s.  Luke, for reasons which we will review next, was written in the time frame of 59 to 63 AD.  The second sequence is that Mark was written in 65-70 AD with both Matthew and Luke having been written in the 70s AD.

If, however, we do not assume that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source, then the dating becomes more wide-ranged in time span, with Mark may have been written anytime during the period 50to 70 AD.  In this context, some scholars see Matthew as having been written possibly first-based upon its Jewish characteristics.  The theory here being that Matthew’s Gospel would have been written early in church history, before Paul and Peter began converting Gentiles to Christianity, and, therefore, was aimed at the largely Jewish audience that comprised the very early church.  Support for this view comes from the book of Acts 11:19, where Luke writes that the message was preached “only to the Jews.”

Where the Gospel of Luke was written is also open to debate.  Because there are detailed designations of places in Palestine, it seems likely that the Gospel was written for people who were unfamiliar with the area.  This has led some scholars to speculate that the Gospel was written in Rome, although several places have been named as possibilities, such as Antioch and Ephesus.

 

 

 

 

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Luke: The Author, His Writings, and His Times-Part I Introduction

For the next many weeks, I will explore “Luke”.  The Books of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts comprise some 27.5% of the writings of the New Testament, more than any other single author.  Both books were written to tell a chronological story beginning with the birth of Jesus, through his life and his teachings, to his crucifixion and resurrection, and then through the Acts of those who followed Jesus, his Apostles, and the spread of early Christianity beyond the Jewish world into the Roman world.

During these weeks, I will try to answer many questions, including who was the author of these two books, when were they written, where were they written and why were they written.  Having said that, I must add immediately, these questions are not subject to answers which are definitive.  In most cases there are at least two school of thought: Luke was a companion of Paul, Luke was not a companion of Paul; they books were written in 59 to 63 AD, they were written in 80s to 90s or even later; the Gospel of Luke was written as a historical report, the Gospel of Luke was written as a Gospel. As we delve into the material, we will make sure to review the most important but contrary opinions that revolve around each issue.  This means, however, that not every theory will be explored for some theories are without much support or evidence and on that basis, until greater support or evidence will be found, such theories will be disregarded.  Nonetheless, if readers of this blog want certain theories investigated, then please feel free to contact this blog and they will be reviewed.

In the parts that follow we will examine other aspects, including the author’s style, characteristics of the manuscripts, the sources from which the books were written, the plan of each book, and the similarities of the books one to the other.  We will look at the role and importance of dreams and visions in the narrative.

This process will call first for exploring each book separately and then looking at both books together.  While we cannot explore every facet of these books, the inquiry will be exhaustive, rigorous, and complete, but still succinct and direct.

This blog hopes that this journey will be valuable to the reader and will hopefully bring greater clarity to the subject.

 

Who was Luke? What does an analysis of his literary works tell us? Do you want to know?

Casting Lots portrays a fictional story of the life of Luke, the author of the Gospel and the author of Acts of the Apostles.  Casting Lots is also the story of the Centurion at the Crucifixion who was described by both Mark and Luke.  My novel then is grounded in Luke’s writings.  Luke’s two works comprise almost 28% of the new Testament, more than any other writer, even Paul.  Without studying Luke, we can not know what one of the earliest writers thought and experienced; we can not know how Christianity spread in the earliest days. We know that Luke was a companion of both Peter and Paul.  How much did they influence him?  More tellingly, how much did Luke influence Paul or Peter?

So who was Luke?  What do his works tells us about him, as well as the spread of Christianity in the earliest days after the crucifixion of Jesus?  What can we learn from his works as to his purpose in writing them?

I recognize that this will be a multi-article blog.  It will take weeks of research to answer these questions, but I think these are of such central importance, I am willing to undertake the task.  Of course, I ask you, my readers, to let me know, if this endeavor is of interest to you.  Feel free to email me at wmceache@bellsouth.net and let me know.