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Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke is the third of the four Gospels of the New Testament which tells the story of Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Although the text does not name its author, the traditional view is that it was written by Luke, a follower of Paul and also the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

The evangelist does not claim to have been an eyewitness of Jesus's life, but to have investigated everything carefully and to have written an orderly narrative of the facts (Luke 1:1-4). The authors of the other three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and John, probably used similar sources. According to the most commonly accepted solution to the synoptic problem, Luke's sources included the Mark and another collection of lost sayings known by scholars as Q.

Luke's Gospel has been called "the Gospel of the nations, full of mercy and hope, assured to the world by the love of a suffering Saviour;" "the Gospel of the saintly life;" "the Gospel for the Greeks; the Gospel of the future; the Gospel of progressive Christianity, of the universality and gratuitousness of the gospel; the historic Gospel; the Gospel of Jesus as the good Physician and the Saviour of mankind;" the "Gospel of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man;" "the Gospel of womanhood;" "the Gospel of the outcast, of the Samaritan, the publican, the harlot, and the prodigal;" "the Gospel of tolerance."

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 10:38; compare with Luke 4:18). Luke wrote for the "Hellenic world." This Gospel is indeed "rich and precious." "Out of a total of 1151 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."

There are seventeen 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 7:41, 8:30, 11:33, 12:6, and 19:20), 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", Leviticus 10:9), probably palm wine. This Gospel contains twenty-eight distinct references to the Old Testament.

The date of its composition is uncertain.

Historically, Christians believe that Luke wrote under the direction, if not at the dictation of Paul. As a result, they believe it must have been written before the Acts, the date of the composition of which is generally fixed at about 63 or 64 A.D. This Gospel was written, therefore, probably about 60 or 63, when Luke may have been at Caesarea in attendance on Paul, who was then a prisoner. Others have conjectured that it was written at Rome during Paul's imprisonment there. This is why Christian evangelicals like to date the gospels very early, 40-60CE.

Unfortunately, no where in Luke or Acts does it say that the author is Luke, the companion of Paul, this ascription is late second century. Furthermore, the text itself reveals hints it was not written as a dictation of a single author, but rather, made use of multiple sources.

Most scholars believe Luke relied on Mark and Q as his primary sources. Markan priority is the hypothesis that the Gospel of Mark was the first written of the three Synoptic Gospels, and that the two other synoptic evangelists, Matthew and Luke, used Mark's Gospel as one of their sources. Almost all of Mark's content is found in Matthew, and about two-thirds of Mark is found in Luke. This material constitutes the Triple Tradition. The Triple Tradition is largely narrative but contains some sayings material. Since so much of Mark is Triple Tradition; some scholars combine it with the rest of Mark and talk about a Markan Tradition instead. In addition to the Triple Tradition, Matthew and Luke share content not found in Mark, called the Double Tradition. This content is mainly saying material (mostly of Jesus, but some by John the Baptist) but includes at least one miracle story (the Centurion's Servant) as well. 

The theory is today accepted by the majority of New Testament scholars, who also hold that Matthew and Luke used a lost source of Jesus's sayings called Q.

The Q document (also called the Q Gospel, the Sayings Gospel Q, the Synoptic Sayings Source, and in the 19th century the Logia) comprises a hypothetical collection of Jesus's sayings, hypothesized in accordance with the two-source hypothesis to be a source of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The symbol Q comes the first letter of the German word for source, Quelle.

The two-source hypothesis forms the most widely accepted solution to the synoptic problem, which posits that Matthew and Luke drew on two written sources, as shown by textual correspondences between their works. The Gospel of Mark forms one source, and Q the other.

Since Mark was probably written after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, around 70CE, Luke could not have been written before 70 CE. They date Luke around 80-130 CE, and Acts thereafter, 80-130 CE. The de-emphasis of the Parousia and the universalization of the message strongly indicates a much later date than 60-70CE as believed by the traditional view.

Many words and phrases are common to both the Gospel of Luke and the Letters of Paul; for example, compare:

This article uses text from Easton Bible Dicionary of 1897 and from M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897.