DATE AND AUTHORSHIP
The Gospel of Luke has been called "the most beautiful book in the world." This statement doubtless is accurate. It sparkles and radiates with divine glory from beginning to end, like a large gem in the bright sunlight.
The author of this record of the gospel wrote its supplement in the form of Acts of the Apostles. According to tradition Luke is the author of these two books. He sent them to his friend Theophilus--a lover of God. It is usually accepted as true among conservative scholars that this account of the gospel was written by Luke the physician--the companion of Paul on two of his missionary tours--for the benefit of the Greeks, who were great lovers of the beautiful.
According to the chronological data found in Acts which tie up with profane history, the account of Acts records church history to the end of Paul's two years of imprisonment in Rome, which date was probably 63 A.D. Since Acts is a supplement to the Gospel of Luke, the latter, of course, preceded it. Conservative scholars are of the opinion that Luke's gospel was written about 60 or 61 A.D. This date seems to fit in with all the known facts.
Luke's style is indeed literary. His prologue is equal to that of Thucydides, the father of Greek history. So far as style is concerned, there is nothing superior anywhere to Luke's introduction.
LUKE A SCIENTIFIC HISTORIAN
The evangelist tells us that others had undertaken to write narratives concerning the things that had been fulfilled among them. To whom does he refer? This question opens a broad field of investigation; but, after all the evidence is sifted, it seems that in all probability Luke had in mind some early accounts of our Lord's life written by uninspired men. There developed a demand, as the second generation of Christians arose, for a more permanent record of the gospel than that given forth by what is known in church history as "the living voice." This term was applied to the evangelists who had been with Jesus during His ministry, and who went everywhere preaching the Word. The further the life of our Lord receded into the historic background, the greater the discrepancies appeared in the preaching of even eyewitnesses. There were lapses of memory on the part of some, whereas others with vivid imaginations would paint various pictures of the Lord and present them in a distorted manner. There was a need consequently for a permanent record of His life and deeds.
Luke tells us that he did some scientific research before he attempted to write his record. Hear him: "It seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus; that thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed." Unmistakably Luke means that he made a diligent search for the material which he incorporated in his book and that he wrote the account accurately and in order.
Did Luke do his research work and then write the results of his discoveries? If so, how does that position harmonize with the idea of inspiration? We must accept the fact that Luke did the research work, because he tells us in so many words that he did it. At the same time, we know that he was guided by the Holy Spirit in the things which he recorded, for Christ promised to His disciples and followers that the Holy Spirit would come upon them to guide them into all truth--to bring to their remembrance the things that He had taught them, and to teach them things to come. Since God permitted Luke to be the human author of this third record of the gospel, we may be assured that he enjoyed the full and complete inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he wrote.
He, as an ardent follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, sought out in a scientific manner all his data. Then the Holy Spirit, guiding, enabled him to select, from the things which he had discovered as an eyewitness and as an investigator, the material to be incorporated in a permanent and complete record. God used Luke's vocabulary and style but gave him the thought and the exact words by which to express each idea. Thus the record in Luke, as well as that in all portions of the Word, is verbally inspired. One can depend upon everything that is found therein.
CONNECTIONS WITH PROFANE HISTORY
Luke connected his account with historical facts of profane history. For instance, he synchronized the events connected with the birth of our Lord in Bethlehem with the governorship of Quirinius, the Roman official in Syria, and the issuing of the decree by Caesar Augustus to enroll the people of the Empire. Again, he synchronized the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist with the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. He likewise connected his account with profane history when certain other officials were exercising governmental functions in Palestine and adjacent territories.
Skeptics and opponents of Christianity have sought at various times to discredit Luke as a reputable historian by endeavoring to show discrepancies between the biblical account and that of profane history. Conservative scholarship and consecrated research, however, have come forward and brought to the fore archaeological facts which prove the accuracy of Luke's record. Sir William Ramsey did an immortal piece of work in his untiring research in this field. All his volumes are worth while. One, however, should read without fail his books, Was Christ Born in Bethlehem? The Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Luke the Physician, The Church of the Roman Empire Before A.D. 170, and Pauline and Other Studies. In this connection one should also study carefully Luke the Historian in the Light of Research, by the late Dr. A. T. Robertson. These and other volumes will show that Luke was an accurate historian whose statements, judged simply from the human standpoint, are unimpeachable and are absolutely accurate.
JESUS THE PERFECT MAN
Luke presents Jesus as "the man whose name is the Branch" (Zech. 6:12). He recognized that Jesus was God in human form. This is seen very clearly by the birth narrative which he records and which shows, beyond a peradventure, the miraculous conception and virgin birth of our Lord. While he recognizes His pre-existence and divine nature, he lays the major emphasis upon the fact that He was a man--a man in every sense of the term. In presenting Jesus in this manner, Luke is led by the Holy Spirit naturally to give a full account of His birth and to trace His genealogy back to Adam, whom God created. He likewise presents Jesus in many positions and circumstances which called forth His human emotions, sympathies, and feelings. It was Luke who laid the greatest emphasis upon the prayer life of our Lord.
As stated before, he tells us that he traced out most accurately all the information which he incorporated in his book and that he wrote it down in order; that is, he gave the chronological order of events. By comparing the gospel according to Mark with Luke, one sees that they maintain the same order. Matthew, as has already been suggested, is topical. He had a thesis to prove, and he did it most marvelously. John, on the other hand, preserved those sermons and discussions which present Jesus as the Son of God.
GENERAL SURVEY OF LUKE
Luke gives the fullest account of our Lord's life and activities. It is he who recounts in a lucid manner the birth of John the Baptist and the relation of his parents to Mary, the mother of Jesus. One, who wishes to obtain a good picture of John the Baptist, must study carefully Luke 1 and 3. In his second chapter, Luke gives the record of our Lord's birth and connected events, together with an account of an incident which occurred when Jesus, at the age of twelve, visited Jerusalem during the passover. His record of the ministry of John the Baptist is a little fuller than that of the other accounts. The narrative regarding the temptations is most enlightening.
Luke devotes the section, 4:14-9:9, to the great Galilean ministry of our Lord. It seems quite clear that this campaign, lasting about eighteen months, began in the middle of the first full year of His ministry and extended to the passover, one year before His crucifixion.
The Lord seems to have made three distinct tours of Galilee. Though we cannot prove that they divided equally into six months, for the sake of convenience I have indicated such a scheme on the foregoing chart. Jesus went on the first tour with the five or six disciples whom He called immediately after His temptations. Of course, others accompanied Him from place to place and from time to time. On the second tour He had the Twelve whom He appointed near the beginning of this journey. Finally, on the third tour He sent the Twelve out, two by two before Him into the cities of Galilee.
The first six months of the last year of our Lord's ministry was taken up with what is known as the periods of retirement. Jesus left the Holy Land four times for Gentile territory. Mark and Luke give the fullest account of this period. Luke, however, abbreviates it very much. His record is found in 9:10-50. A glance at the chart and also at the ones on the pages where Matthew and Mark are discussed likewise show the passages where the fuller accounts are to be found.
As stated under the discussion of John, a great section consisting of 9:51--18:14 of Luke's record is what is known as a great interpolation. In other words, the material appearing in this section is not given in any other of the four records. Some have thought that Luke gathered together much material which he could not place in chronological order and threw it into a heap after the great Galilean ministry. There is no reason for such a supposition, because Luke tells us that he gathered his material and that he accurately wrote it down in order. But, as we shall see in studying the Gospel of John, there is perfect harmony between this new material in Luke and that which is found in John's record. When they are studied sympathetically, it is clearly seen that one account supplements the other.
LUKE is very full and explicit in his discussion of the events during the last week of our Lord's ministry. As the party accompanying Jesus was drawing near to Jerusalem, He spoke a parable; because many of those accompanying Him thought that He intended to establish a political government in Jerusalem. This was the popular view. In order to correct their error, Jesus spoke the parable of the nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom. To his servants he delivered his goods with a charge that they should trade therewith until he should return. Having received his kingdom, he returned and reckoned with them, rewarding each according to his works and permitting each to reign over the proper number of cities in his kingdom. This parable was intended to show that Jesus would not establish the millennial kingdom at that time, but that He would have to go to heaven--the far country--and, after having received the kingdom, He would return and establish His reign upon the earth.
The events of the last week are most colorfully given by Luke. The Olivet Discourse stands out with great clarity. This is found in chapter 21. The account of the last supper, the agonies in the Garden, the arrest, the trial, and, finally, the crucifixion are given with great vividness. The account of the resurrection, likewise, tingles with life and beauty.
LUKE, of the four evangelists, is the only one who speaks of the ascension of Jesus. This record is found in the last four verses of chapter 24. In beginning the Acts of the Apostles, Luke enlarged upon this account, recounting the ascension, and the promise of His return which will be at the conclusion of the Tribulation. Thus the Book of Luke gives the fullest account of our Lord's life and ministry.