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Introduction to the Book of Luke



I. Writer


The names of the authors of the Gospels are hidden, however, all the early historical materials show that the author of this Book is Luke the physician. The contents and features of this book also prove that it is written by Luke the physician and the reasons are as follows:

1) We could know that this Book and Acts are written by the same author according to the beginnings of these two books (See 1:1, Acts. 1:1).

2) And the author of Acts should be the fellow-worker and assistant to Paul who came newly to him when Paul the Apostle was on his second journey of preaching. Because in the narratives of the sixteenth chapter of Acts, the third person “they” was suddenly replaced by the first person “we” (See Acts. 16:6-10) and then “we” is used to replace “they” in most occasions (See Acts. 16:12-13, 15-16; 20:5, 13-14; 21:1, 7 and etc.).

3) Medical expressions are commonly seen in this book and Acts, for example: “But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a ‘high’ fever” (4:38, cf. Matt. 8:14; Mark. 1:30); “a man who ‘was full of’ leprosy” (5:12; cf. Matt. 8:1; Mark. 1:40); “a certain man before Him who had dropsy” (14:2); “His sweat became like ‘great drops of blood’” (22:44); “immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength” (Acts. 3:17); “the father of Publius lay sick of ‘a fever and dysentery’” (Acts. 28:8) and etc. These show that the author of this book must be fully aware of common sense of medicine.

4) The last chapter of Acts shows that the author himself had accompanied Paul the Apostle on the way to Roman (See Acts. 28:14); when Paul was in prison, he may still accompany Paul. Among the fellow workers and assistants of Paul the Apostle, the one who was fully aware of medical knowledge and accompanied him when he was in prison must be “Luke, the physician” (See Col. 4:10, 14; Philem. 23-24).


II. It is also called “the Gospel of Paul”


         Since Luke was not a witness of the deeds of the Lord Jesus all His life, how could he fully and comprehensively narrate His words and deeds? First of all, it should ascribe to what Luke had written in the foreword in the book, “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first”------it means that he had used all kinds of opportunities to investigate, inquire and collect all materials concerning the life of Jesus. Undoubtedly, “the Gospel of Mark” must be the firsthand material to Luke and therefore the general outlines of these two books are similar and the general structures of them are exactly like. The difference is that the content of this book is more luxuriant and the circumstance of this book had been retouched more than that of the Gospel of Mark.

     In addition to this, if we compare this book with the epistles of Paul the Apostle, we could find that the train of thinking and tone of them are similar. This again shows that when Luke wrote this book, he may get help from Paul with his instruction and teaching. Therefore this book is also called “the Gospel of Paul” as many Biblical exegetes call “the Gospel of Mark” “the Gospel of Peter”. Here there are some examples to prove their similarities:

       1) “Men always ought to pray” (18:1); cf. “pray without ceasing” (1Thess. 5:17).

       2) “Watch therefore, and pray always…” (21:36); cf. “Let us watch and be sober” (1Thess. 5:6). 

       3) “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (24:34); cf. “He rose again the third day and He was seen of Cephas” (1Cor. 15:4-5). Please note that other Gospels had not mentioned that the Lord appeared to Peter on the day He rose from the dead and only the Gospel of Luke and Paul’s epistles had specially recorded this.  

       4) “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:10); cf. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1Tim. 1:15).

       5) Matthew and Mark recorded the Lord’s words towards the disciples when He broke the bread as “this is My body” (Matt. 26:26; Mark. 14:22) and they did not record His following words. However, Luke and Paul wrote the Lord’s following words, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (22:19; 1Cor. 11:24).

       6) “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (23:43); cf. “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation....whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom. 10:10, 13).


III. Luke


         We know very little about the life of Luke. “Luke” was a Gentile name and therefore he was obviously a Gentile. Paul the Apostle also separated him from “the circumcision” (See Col. 4:10-14), showing that he was not Jewish. It is said that he was of Antioch in Syria.

Luke was in close contact with Paul the Apostle. Paul called him as “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) and also admitted him as a fellow-laborer (Philem. 24).

There seem to be traces in Acts and Paul’s epistles for us to surmise the whole story that how he met and accompanied Paul the Apostle: before Paul went to Troas, he preached in the region of Galatia (Acts. 16:6, 8). At that time, he was very weak and in infirmity (Gal. 4:13). Then he went to Troas and encountered Luke the physician. Maybe he asked Luke to take care of his disease. From then on, he ran about everywhere, accompanying “the Apostle of the Gentiles”. Paul went to Roman for appeal and Luke also went to Roman (Acts. 28:14); Luke accompanied Paul when he was in prison (See Col. 4:10, 14; Philem. 23-24). Finally, before Paul, the faithful servant of God, was martyred for faith, all had departed from him and only Luke was with him (2Tim. 4:11).


IV. The Time and Location the Book was Written


         General Bible scholars held that in the synoptic gospels (i.e. the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke), the Gospel of Mark was written the earliest and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were rewritten according to the Gospel of Mark, with others materials added to the two Gospels. Therefore the time that the Gospel of Luke was written should be later than that of the Gospel of Mark (about between A.D. 50-60).

     According to the forewords of these two books, we could make sure that the Gospel of Luke was finished before Acts (See 1:1-4; Acts. 1:1). Moreover, in Acts, Paul’s deeds were recorded until he went to Roman for appeal and therefore this book should be finished before Paul was martyred (about between A.D. 67-68). Therefore, we could surmise reliably that this book was written between A.D. 60 and A.D. 65.

     Concerning the location where the book was written, though there are several kinds of surmises, there are not reliable; the only surmise that the general Biblical exegetes all accept is that the book should be written in the Gentile land instead of the land of Judaea.


V. The Recipient


         In the foreword of this book, Luke clearly showed that this book was written to “most excellent Theophilus” (See 1:1-4). “Theophilus” means “friend of God”, “the one who loves God” and “the one who is loved by God”; concerning “most excellent”, it is an honorable title, indicating that the recipient must have high social position. Therefore someone said that Luke may be a bondman of Theophilus, however, it is a guess. Anyhow, the recipient must be a real person and he must be interested in the faith of Christianity and be willing to learn and know the origin, process and present condition of the faith.


VI. Features of Literature Style


         The author of this book is a physician and he must be well educated and therefore he was a man of great attainments in Greek. Those who appreciate the literature of the Bible all greatly praise the wording and types of literature of this book. They hold that it is written by the most standard, the purest, the most fluent and the most beautiful Greek in the scriptures of the New Testament.

     It is noteworthy that there are many elegant psalms added to this book, for example: the song of Mary (1:46-55), the song of Zacharias (1:68-79), the song of praise of the angel (2:14), the song of praise of Simeon (2:29-32) and etc. The words of the psalms are all very beautiful and elegant.

     Luke was good at depicting things. He could depict both actual things and stories and metaphors vividly and lively, as if pieces of vivid pictures are shown to readers. Therefore there are many classic and famous paints are painted by drawing materials from this book, for example: the Good Samaritan (10:30-36), the return of the Lost Son (15:12-32), the prayer of the publican (18:13) and etc.

     In addition, Luke was good at using metaphors. He listed many converse persons and things, for example: the woman who loved much and Simon who loved little (7:36-50); the Good Samaritan and the certain priest and the Levite (10:23-37); Mary and Martha (10:38-42); the younger son and the elder son (15:11-32); the certain rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31); among the ten lepers who all had been healed by the Lord, the one who gave the Lord thanks and the other nine who forgot the grace of the Lord (17:11-19); prayer of the Pharisee and the publican (18:9-14) and etc.


VII. Special Points


 There are many special points in this book and stated below are the major ones:

1) It is “a Gospel of the Gentiles”: the author of this book was a Gentile and “most excellent Theophilus”, the recipient of this book, was also a Gentile. Therefore all parts of this book are able to be understood and comprehended by the Gentiles. a) Luke used Gentile words to replace the Jewish common phrases, for example: “Rabbi” was replaced by “Master” (9:33; See Mark. 9:5); “Hosanna” was replaced by “praise God with a loud voice” (19:37; See Matt. 21:9). b) The time that men in the Roman Empire were able to comprehend is used to explain the background of events (1:5; 2:1-2; 3:1-2). c) The scriptures of the Old Testament and the prophecies of the Jewish prophets were seldom quoted.

2) It is “a Gospel to all the world”: this book stresses on that Jesus Christ is the savior of all the people (2:10, 31-32; 3:6). Therefore: a) the genealogy of Jesus that is recorded in this book traces back to Adam the first ancestor of mankind instead of Abraham the Jewish ancestor (3:23-38; See Matt. 1:2-16). b) This book specially shows the acceptance and praise to the Gentiles (4:25-27; 7:9; 10:30-37; 17:16-19). c) The Lord commanded the disciples to preach the glad tidings to all nations (24:47).

3) It is “a Gospel of the poor”: this book records that the Lord was born in a poor family and was laid in a manger when He was born (2:7); when eight days were accomplished fore the circumcising of the child, His parents in the flesh were so poor that they offered a sacrifice with a pair of turtledoves (or two young pigeons) (2:21-24; See Lev. 12:8). It is also recorded in this book that the mission of the Lord is to preach glad tidings to the poor (4:18-20). Therefore He declared that blessed are the poor, that are hunger and that weep (6:20-23); He also taught men to be concerned about the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind (14:13). In the parable of the certain rich man and Lazarus, it seemingly shows that the Lord has favorable impression towards the poor (16:19-31).

4) It is “a Gospel of women and children”: though the social status of women was very low at that time, women were outstanding in this book and many space of this book was used to record the things of women, for example: Elizabeth and Mary (1:24-56); Anna the prophetess (2:36-38); the widow in the city of Nain (7:11-16); a woman who was a sinner (7:37-50); women who were healed by the Lord and ministered unto Him of their substance (8:2-3); a woman who had an issue of blood twelve years (8:43-48); Mary and Martha (10:38-42); a woman who was bound together (13:11-16); a widow who asked the unrighteous judge to avenge her of her adversary (18:1-5); a certain poor widow who cast in unto the offerings of God in the Holy Temple (21:1-4); women who lamented the Lord (23:27-31) and etc. This book also shows the Lord’s concern towards children (7:12; 8:42; 9:38; 18:15-17).

5) It is “a Gospel of those who are abandoned”: those who had been abandoned by the society are frequently mentioned in this book and it specially depicts that how Jesus cares about the need of their bodies, hearts and spirits. For example: the Lord sat down with sinners and publicans and ate and drank with them (5:29-32; 7:34); the one who owed the lord much (7:36-50); a certain Samaritan (10:25-37); the Lost Son (15:11-32); the publican who was condemned by the Pharisees (18:11-14); Zacchaeus the publican (19:1-9); the thief who repented on the cross (23:39-43) and etc.

6) It is “a Gospel that is interested in ‘men’”: the targets of the descriptions and metaphors of this book are totally different from that of the Gospel of Matthew------the latter stresses on “the kingdom of heaven” and this book stresses on “individual”. This book also pays attention to individual announcement of faith, for example: Elizabeth (1:41-45); Mary (1:46-55); Zecharias (1:68-79); Simeon (2:28-32); Simon Peter (5:8); the centurion (7:6-8); Zacchaeus the publican (19:8); the thief who repented (23:42) and etc.

7) It is “a Gospel of prayers”: except that the Lord Jesus taught the disciples how to pray is recorded in this book many times (11:2-3; 18:1-8, 9-14), the times of Lord’s praying in this book are recorded more than that in the Gospels of Matthew and in the Gospel of Mark, for example: the time He was baptized (3:21); the time when many people came to seek Him (5:16); the time before He set twelve apostles (6:12); the time when He was transfigured on the mount (11:1); the time before He taught the disciples to pray (22:32); He had prayed for Peter (22:41-44); He prayed earnestly in the garden of Gethsemane (22:41-44); two prayers on the cross (23:34, 46). In addition, others’ prayers are recorded in this book many times (1:10, 13; 2:37; 5:33) and etc. Therefore someone said that the Gospel of Luke is a Gospel of prayers. 

8) It is “a Gospel of walking by the Holy Spirit”: this book specially stresses on the work of the Holy Spirit, showing that only by the Holy Spirit can men have power from on high. For example: John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore he was in the spirit and power of Elijah (1:15, 17); the angel told Mary that, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (1:35); “Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit” (4:14; See 5:17; 6:19; 8:46); after the Lord rose from the dead, He told the disciples that, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (24:49). This book mentioned the Holy Spirit many times, including 1:41, 47, 67; 2:25, 26, 27; 3:16, 22; 4:18; 10:21; 11:13; 12:10, 12 and etc. 

9) It is “a Gospel of joy”: this book depicts the joy of the Holy Trinity, including the joy of the Father because the Lost Son was found (15:23); the joy of Christ because He found the Lost sheep (15:5-7) and the joy that the Lord rejoiced in the Holy Spirit (10:21); the joy of the Holy Spirit because He has found the piece which He had lost (15:9-10). This book also depicts the joy of us that are of God (1:14, 44, 47; 6:21, 23; 10:21; 19:6; 24:52-53).

10) It is “a Gospel to teach men the correct attitude of money”: many metaphors in this book are related to money and wealth. There are both many negative warnings (8:14; 12:16-21; 16:19-31; 18:18-23; 22:5) and positive teachings (8:3; 16:1-13; 19:1-10, 11-27; 21:1-4).

Besides the ten special points that are listed above, the other point that is worthy to be mentioned is that Luke, with strict attitude of historians, recorded all materials. Therefore he not only clearly explained the dates of the recorded events that took place (3:1-2) but also wrote the narratives with an orderly account (1:3).


VIII. General Points


      Though Jesus Christ is “the Son of God”, He is also “the Son of Man”. He is a perfect man, His deeds that are recorded in this book all reveal His feature of humanity: He hungered, tired, was in agony……, He indeed has tasted all as a man and therefore He is able to be touched with feeling of our infirmities (See Heb. 2:18; 4:15). The difference between Him and the world is that He has the perfect humanity. He, as a man on earth, is full of mercy, kindness, holiness and righteousness and He performed with the highest moral standard. This good, perfect and glorious “Son of Man” completely satisfies God’s all requests to men and reaches God’s intention towards men. He, with the identity of “the savior the Son of Man”, came to the world with the aim of finding those who fall in God’s will towards men and are lost and save them until they satisfy God’s will.


IX. Its Relation with Other Books in the Bible


   The Gospel of Luke, like other three gospels, depicts Jesus Christ. But the four books depict Him from different aspects: the Lord in the Book of Matthew is presented as the king, in Mark as the bondman, in Luke as the son of man and in John as the Son of God. The four living creatures in chapter four of the Revelation resemble the four aspects of the Lord in the four gospels. In Matthew the Lord is like a lion, in Mark a calf----firstly sowing and then being sacrificed as an offering on the alter, in Luke a man, and in John an eagle (See Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:11).

       The Book of Matthew regards Jesus as the “Branch of righteousness to grow up to David” (Jer. 33:15), coming to be king on earth, so he was called the son of Abraham (the Father of nations) and the Son of David (the first king of Israel) (Matt. 1:1). A king must have his genealogy on account of his royal pedigree (Matt.1:1-17). The Book of Mark presents Jesus as “my servant the BRANCH” (Zech. 3:8), Jehovah’s “righteous servant” (Is. 53:11), “but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8); A bondman’s birth is too insignificant to be recorded, so the genealogy of Jesus has not been mentioned. The Book of Luke shows us that Jesus is the son of man (a perfect man), so it traces back to Adam (Luke. 3:23-38), the patriarch of mankind. The Book of John refers to Jesus as the Son of God (the perfect God), who has neither beginning of days nor end of life. Therefore, the Book of John dates back to the beginning (John. 1:1)----the eternity without beginning.

       Note that the Gospel of Matthew ends in the Lord’s resurrection, Mark in His ascension, Luke in the promise of the descent of the Holy Spirit and John in His second coming.


X. Key Verses 


         For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke. 19:10).

     “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” (Luke. 23:47).


XI. Key Words


         “the Son of Man” (Luke. 5:24; 6:5, 22; 7:34; 9:22, 26, 44, 56, 58; 11:30; 12:8, 10, 40; 17:22, 24, 26, 30; 18:31; 19:10; 21:27, 36; 22:22, 48, 69; 24:7).

     “bring…glad tidings ” (1:19); “bring…good tidings” (2:10); “preach” (3:18; 4:18, 43; 8:1; 9:6; 16:16; 20:1); “have the gospel preached” (7:22). Note that in the original it is the same word.

     “Savior” (1:47; 2:11); “be saved” (1:69, 71); “salvation” (1:77; 2:30; 3:6; 19:9). Note that in the original it is the same gulp and it has not been recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

     “save” (6:9; 7:50; 8:48; 9:24, 24, 56; 17:19, 33; 18:42; 23:35, 35, 37, 39); “be saved” (8:12, 36, 50; 13:23; 18:26); “save” (19:10). Note that in the original it is the same word and it is frequently recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.


XII. Outlines of the Book


I. The birth of the Son of Man and His forerunner:

  A. The foreword (1:1-4).

  B. The gestation of the forerunner (1:5-25).

  C. The gestation of the Son of Man (1:26-56).

  D. The birth of the forerunner (1:57-80).

  E. The birth and growing of the Son of Man (2:1-52).

II. The preparation of the work of the Son of Man:

  A. The proclamation of the forerunner (3:1-20).

  B. The Son of Man was baptized (3:21-22).

  C. The genealogy of the Son of Man (3:23-38).

  D. The Son of Man was tempted (4:1-13).

III. The expansion of the work of the Son of Man:

  A. The Son of Man’s work in Galilee (4:14-9:50).

  B. The Son of Man’s work on the way to Jerusalem (9:51-19:27).

  C. The Son of Man’s work in Jerusalem (19:28-21:38).

IV. The peak of the work of the Son of Man:

  A. The Son of Man was crucified (22:1-23:56).

  B. The Son of Man rose from the dead (24:1-49).

  C. The Son of Man was carried up into heaven (24:50-53).


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Sharon Ren