The Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke was written anonymously in about 80-90 A.D. The name “The Gospel According to Luke” is not found in the earliest manuscripts. Most biblical scholars believe that Luke the assistant of Paul did not write this gospel. Luke’s name was not added to the manuscripts until the second century A.D., decades after the gospel was written. Although most biblical scholars do not believe that Luke wrote the gospel, they refer to the writer of this gospel as Luke for convenience.

Luke, like all the other New Testament writers, wrote in Koine (i.e. common) Greek, which was the main written language of the eastern Roman Empire. Since the literacy rate was so low, almost all Christians heard texts read aloud.

The Gospel of Luke was written based on several sources, which he edited in order to communicate his and/or his communities’ theological understanding of Jesus. Luke reproduced most of the Gospel of Mark, sometimes word for word. Luke also used a reconstructed collection of Jesus’ teaching that scholars call Q. (The issue of the relationships between the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is called the Synoptic Problem.) Finally, Luke used oral traditions about Jesus in his gospel. Luke, like all the other gospel writers, interpreted those stories about Jesus from his sources according to his own theology.

Luke was probably a Gentile Christian. His knowledge of Judaism seems to come from study rather than practice. He knows a lot about Palestinian geography and culture, but presents his story of Jesus with a more of an urban focus, rather than the rural setting Jesus and his travels.

The Gospel of Luke portrays Jesus as a prophet of social justice, like the prophets in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. In his first speech, which scholars call his inaugural address Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 as describing his ministry:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me: he has sent me to announce good news to the poor, to proclaim release for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind; to let the broken victims go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (New Revised Standard Version)

Jesus also talks about two prophets from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible that were sent to Gentiles: Elijah to a widow at Zarepath in Sidon and Elisha to a Syrian leper named Naaman.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is portrayed like the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Luke focuses on Jesus reaching out to the marginalized people of his society: women, tax collectors, less-observant Jews (i.e. sinners), the poor, the sick and the oppressed.

The Gospel of Luke is the first part of a two part story, the second part being the Acts of the Apostles, which gives an account of the beginning of the Church. The Holy Spirit is almost the main character of this story, beginning with Jesus being filled with the Spirit at his baptism, and continuing with the Spirit filling the Church as it spreads throughout the Mediterranean world in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke presents Jesus and the early Church as carrying on the fulfillment of the history of Israel.

The Gospel of Luke has a story of the birth of Jesus (Matthew has a birth story as well, but Mark and John do not). Then comes the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Jesus teaches, heals, performs exorcisms, and does other miracles in Galilee.

Jesus then goes to Jerusalem where he teaches and predicts his death. Next comes the story of Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion (this story is often called the Passion Narrative). Luke ends with the resurrection of Jesus.

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