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New Testament Survey



The Gospel of Luke

Key Verse(s):

Key Chapter(s):

Key Word(s) or Concept(s)


            Who is the author?

How do you know this?

            Who is the audience?

How do you know this?

            Is there a particular problem?

            Is there a key theme to the book?

            How is Jesus presented?

            Do you notice the humanity of Christ in this account?

Suggested Reading beyond the Key Chapter(s):


To the great surprise of many, if one accepts that Luke and Acts are written by the same person, this author has written about 28% of the New Testament, more than any single author. The Gospel is the longest book in the New Testament.


The first book, this Gospel, is written to a Gentile audience and demonstrates the humanity of Christ. The tone of both the Gospel and the Book of Acts is one with a worldwide outlook. They both demonstrate a lively interest in Gentiles and woman and are shaped with an apologetic tendency. Luke is written to show a universal Savior who will save not just the Jews but all of mankind. This theme carries over into Acts where the missionary journeys are shown so the audience may see the Gentiles joining the Jews in forming the Church.

Theme and Purpose

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
Luke 1:1-4

As the prologue clearly states, the purpose of Luke is to write an orderly account about the life of Jesus Christ. Many take the term “orderly” to mean chronological, but the Greek could just as easily mean lucid and logical. The apologetic arguments of the work are shaped toward displaying the salvation-history. God is at work implementing a carefully thought out plan to save the world. Since the emphasis is on salvation, the chronology may have been modified to fit the theological argument.

As is also stated in the prologue, the purpose of the work is to set forth the exact truth about the things Theophilus has been taught. Luke wants his audience to understand the reliability of the information. This may suggest that Luke is written to combat false teachers. This purpose is clearer if one views Luke-Acts as a single unit.


Theophilus means “lover of God,” or “loved by God.” Since nothing is known about the man, it is possible this is a symbolic name used by Luke, either to a more general audience or to hide the identity of a high Roman official.

The implied question being answered in Luke might be something like:

“Since Christianity seems to be primarily Gentile in nature, why did it come from the Jews?”

This reason is, of course, the rejection of Christ by the Jewish Nation. The unit of Luke-Acts shows this progressive movement away from the Jews and the subsequent development of the Church as the result of salvation history.

Authorship and Date – As well as, who is Luke?

Early church testimony is that Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col 4:14), is the author of the Luke-Acts unit. Both are addressed to Theophilus, probably the same person in both each account. Evidence that supports the author as having written both parts of the unit include not only the fact both are written to the same person, but also the following:

All of the above being so, the conclusion must be reached that both are written by the same person. So, who is this person?


The author was a traveling companion of Paul (2 Tim 4:11; Philemon 24). Further, there are movements from the 3rd person to the 1st person plural in the Acts suggesting and supporting this companionship (“we” in Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). The movement of Luke can be traced based upon the history of the Acts. Further, this first hand knowledge is mentioned in Luke 1:3.

The author is most likely a Gentile, writing to a Gentile audience, probably in Rome. Paul separates Luke as a Gentile in Col 4:10-14 by excluding him from the circumcised. Little else is known about Luke the man. He never refers to himself by name in either of the books. The Gospel’s prologue make it clear that Luke undertook an investigation of the outstanding information on the life of Christ. He may or may not have known about Mark and/or Matthew’s Gospels, but he certainly had Paul’s experiences to use as his base for writing.


For those who like to speculate, we know Luke was a doctor. This requires the equivalent of university training. There is some historical tradition that Luke was from Antioch of Syria. If this is so, the closet university was in Tarsus. While there, Luke could have met a native son of Tarsus – Saul! Saul/Paul could have led the doctor to Christ. This would help explain the close relationship between Luke and Paul.

As to the date of the Gospel, this is dependent upon one’s views of the relationship of Luke to the other two synoptic Gospels and one’s belief in prophecy. Acts ends with Paul’s first imprisonment of two years in Rome (Acts 28:30-31). This would have been about A.D. 60-61. There is no evidence in either book of oppression of Christians by the Romans, so it is probably written before Nero came into power (64/65). This also fits with the fall of Jerusalem still being future. Many of the points covered in Acts must take place before the fall of Jerusalem – the Gentile admission to the church, the fellowship of Jews and Gentiles in the church, food requirements of the apostolic decrees (Acts 15), and the early issues of the place of the law and Jewish ritual in the church (Acts 15).

All of this does not require that Luke relied upon Mark as is suggested by most solutions to the so-called synoptic problem. Luke 1:1-4 makes it clear Luke used a variety of sources. One of these sources could have been Mark (or Matthew if that Gospel were written early), but there could have been other, non-inspired sources as well. If Luke was in Rome with Paul, he probably had access to Peter’s recollections as well.


It should be noted that if Luke has used Mark, he has remained faith to Mark’s chronological order. Further, the Gospel contains eleven doublets—sayings which occur twice in different contexts. In ten out of eleven cases, it may be that Luke has included Mark’s version in one place and then included a second version based upon his other sources. This, at least, creates arguable material that Luke knew of Mark. If so, this helps to date Mark early.

Acts must be written before the second imprisonment and death of Paul. As detailed as Acts is about Paul’s evangelism, it is almost unthinkable that Luke would not have included these events in his work if it were still in the process of being written. Therefore, a date of 64/65 is required for Acts. Luke’s Gospel would then be dated a year or two earlier, or around 61-63.

Special Considerations

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Luke 19:10

Luke’s Gospel is aimed at salvation history. The key verse is Luke 19:10, which states Christ’s purpose in coming to earth. This purpose does not refer to the Jews, but includes all of mankind. This helps to explain the added emphasis on the place of women in Luke’s work. In a world where women were still viewed as property and objects of pleasure, Luke portrays Jesus as liberating them to participate in the work of the Kingdom. The prominence of women is a frequent event in the ministry of Christ (1:5; 2:36-38; 7:37-50; 10:41; 13:10-17; 15:8; 23:28)


The Gospel has a worldwide view. There is a universal emphasis not just on women, but on Samaritans, Gentiles, sinners, the poor, outcasts, and children. The narratives cover the lives of individuals, as do many of the parables, placing the story in line with Luke 19:10. God is not interested in saving a national group. God came to earth to deal with people on an individual basis. This worldwide viewpoint is further evident from other factors. Dating is based upon Roman emperors, not the Jewish calendar. Jewish localities are explained to an audience unfamiliar with them. Luke’s genealogy goes back not to Abraham, but to Adam, to the father of all mankind, not just to the father of the Jewish nation.

Luke’s genealogy comes after the baptism to establish Christ’s perfect humanity. A careful comparison of Luke’s genealogy with Matthew’s will show differences. Matthew is concerned with Christ’s lineage as King. The throne passes through male heirship, so Matthew traces the genealogy of Christ from Abraham through David to Joseph, the husband of Mary, the legal father of Jesus and the heir to the Davidic throne. Luke, on the other hand, gives the genealogy of Mary, the mother Jesus to show his humanity.


It is to be noted that there is a special consideration in both the genealogies of Luke and Matthew. It is important that they trace not only to David, but to Abraham through Judah, the fourth son of Jacob. Remember that God renamed Jacob to Israel (Gen 32:28; 35:10). The twelve tribes of Israel are the descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons. It is from the tribe of Judah that the Messiah will arise (Gen 49:10).

There are no Hebrew or Aramaic terms used in the Gospel, as used in the other three Gospels. Luke is concerned with the concept of fulfillment, but when he quotes the Old Testament he quotes from the Septuagint, not from the Hebrew.


Prayer is of vital importance to Luke. This is especially true around times of new revelation. The Gospel records 19 instances of or about prayer, while Acts records 16.

The universal position of Luke’s view of Christ is also found in the use of “the Lord” as a title for Jesus. Matthew and Mark never refer to Jesus as ‘the Lord’ in narrative. Luke does so fourteen times.

Luke also dwells on the birth and childhood of Jesus. While Matthew does parallel the account of the birth, only Luke discusses the early childhood of Jesus. This is another part of the road map of the beloved physician designed to prove the perfect humanity of Jesus.


The hypostatic union, or perfect combination of God and man, is not a doctrine which is easily understood. What is clear is that Scripture teaches Jesus was both perfect man and perfect God, all at the same time (Phil 2:6-11; John 1:1-14; Rom 1:2-5; 9:5; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 2:14; 1 John 1:1-3).


Lastly, note the progression of endings brings Luke to the Holy Spirit. This is not a new theme for his Gospel. Luke’s Gospel is full of references to the power and presence of the Spirit (1:35; 4:1; 14, 18; 11:13; 24:29).

Luke records three of the last sayings of Christ from the Cross.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Luke 23:34

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Luke 23:43

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
Luke 23:46


I          Prologue 1:1-4

II         The Identification of the Son of Man

III        The Ministry of the Son of Man

IV       The Rejection of the Son of Man

V         The Suffering and Sacrifice of the Son of Man

VI       Authentication of the Son of Man



Is Luke’s Gospel suitable for use with any modern groups of people?

                    If so, which ones?

                    If not, why?


Based solely on Luke’s Gospel, who is Jesus?

And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
Luke 24:49

Who/what is the power from on high?

Is it important to you?




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