The book of Luke, the third of the gospels in our Bibles, is often listed as the third of the “synoptic gospels.” It contains many similarities with Matthew and Mark. Modern scholarship insists that this book, along with Matthew, were probably based on the gospel of Mark, which likewise was based on a lost “sayings” gospel that scholars call the “Q manuscript.” This “Q manuscript” is something that has never been seen, and not a shred of historical evidence has ever been unearthed for it. It exists only in the minds of the higher critics who invented it. However, they will speak of it with great confidence, as if they were certain it existed. This is what passes for modern “scholarship” among the higher critics.

The truth of Luke is that it was written to present Christ as the perfect Man, just as Matthew presented Him as the Israel’s perfect King and Mark as God’s perfect Servant. Luke corresponds with Matthew in that both view Christ from a human perspective…Matthew as the human King and Luke as the human Man. Mark and John, by way of contrast, present Him from God’s perspective, Mark as God’s Servant, and John as God’s Logos or His Own Representative, that is, God Himself. Bullinger in the Companion Bible suggests that this gospel is written in light of Zechariah 6:12, which reads,

12. Then speak to him, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying:
’Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!
From His place He shall branch out,
And He shall build the temple of the LORD;
13. Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD.
He shall bear the glory,
And shall sit and rule on His throne;
So He shall be a priest on His throne,
And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.’”

This Man Who is called the BRANCH is the Lord Jesus Christ, the very One Who shall rule someday upon the throne as a King and Priest, and Who shall build the temple of the LORD in God’s coming Kingdom.

The similarities between Luke and the gospels of Matthew and Mark are not based upon some common source document, but upon the common source of the Holy Spirit, Who was the ultimate Author behind this book. He chose similar stories to illustrate similar points between this gospel and the others. The differences between this and the other gospels reflects the difference in perspective, and the difference in purpose between this gospel and that of the others. When presenting Christ as the perfect Man, the Lord is presented particularly as the friend of publicans and sinners. His relationship to women is emphasized, and there is more about the women who followed and served Him in this gospel than in any other. His dependence on the Father is reflected by the many references to Christ in prayer in this book, and He also praises the Father many times.

Luke starts out with the conception and birth of Jesus Christ. We might expect this, for these things are very important for a man. Pedigree is important for a King, so Matthew gave His birth from the male (Joseph’s) perspective. Yet birth is unimportant for a servant, so Mark does not mention it, and God has no birth, so there is no mention of this in John.

As we pass through the book of Luke, we will notice other things that are unique to this book. There are unique miracles here, unique parables, and unique events, and all of these lend themselves to the perspective and the purpose of Luke.

Since Luke was written as a companion book with the book of Acts, we can assume that both were probably written at close to the same time, and both within the two year period mentioned in Acts 28:30-31.

30. Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31. preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

This would mean that this book was written after the great dispensational change in Acts 28:28, when Paul proclaimed that the gospel was sent (apostled) to the nations, and they would hear it.

28. “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”

This was a great change from the way things were before that time, according to Romans 10:15.

14. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15. And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

This verse proclaims that in the Acts period, men had to be individually sent (apostled) to preach the Word. Therefore, during this time it would have made little sense for this book to be written, for it would have done little good for the gospel to be written down when the gospel could only be legitimately presented by someone who had been commissioned by God to do so. It makes far more sense for the gospel to be written once the salvation-bringing message itself was apostled, and anyone who hears it can believe.

Some might be disturbed by the thought that a gospel, one which presents a very different dispensation of God from the one in which we live today, could have been written during our time period. Those who are troubled by this don’t seem to consider the fact that the book of Acts, which clearly presents a vastly different situation than the one in which we live, was also written after Acts 28:28! If a book could not be written after the administration of which it records the history had ended, then Acts never could have been written after Acts 28:28 either.

The fact is that a history book of the Bible records the history of a time period, and the way God was dealing with men then. Thus, history books reflect the character of the time period they are written about, and not so much of the time period in which they were written. Thus, we will expect to find many things in Luke that God did then, but which He is no longer doing. This does not disturb us, for we know what time period it was written to record. These are not things that are happening today. As long as we rightly divide the book of Luke, these things should not trouble us.

The book of Luke was written and dedicated to a Gentile man named Theophilus. Since in Philippians, a book written during the same two year period as Luke, Paul mentions in 4:22, “All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household,” we might not be far off if we assumed that this “most excellent Theophilus” was one of those.  It would be only natural, since we know Luke was with Paul at this time as his servant, and must certainly have met these members of Caesar’s household who had come to faith in Christ.  That one of them would have had a special interest in learning about the life of Christ, and that Luke would have obliged his curiosity by writing this book, are both possibilities that very well might be truths.

However, since the name Theophilus means “God-lover,” it may be that this was what Luke meant by dedicating this book to Theophilus, and that no man by this name actually existed. I believe that there probably was an actual man by this name. However, considering what this names means, I don’t think it is a mistake to say that anyone who loves God and wishes to know the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ can read this book and receive great truth from it.

Therefore, assuming this Theophilus was a man and a member of Caesar’s household, it could well be that he was a Gentile. If so, the book of Luke stands with the book of Mark as having both been specifically written to Gentiles. As we mentioned in the introduction to Mark, that book was most likely written to Gentile converts to the Jewish religion, the so-called proselytes, who had come to Christ. Now this book is written to a Gentile believer during our current dispensation of grace who has come to Christ apart from Israel altogether.

The book of Luke stands with the book of Mark as being books written by members of Paul’s company rather than by disciples of our Lord. Matthew and John, of course, were written by disciples.

Luke was a doctor, and his book is filled with the technical terms of a physician, a definite clue that leads us to believe that the common belief that Luke was indeed the writer of this gospel is probably correct. It is a book written for the more intellectual, scientific mind. If this was written to a Gentile, this makes sense, since we read in I Corinthians 1:22,

22. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;

The Greek culture was the predominant culture of the day in which Luke was writing, and it could be called a very intellectual culture. Those who followed the Greek way of life did indeed seek after wisdom. Luke, therefore, presents much that might be called wisdom and intellectual knowledge in his book.

Many claim that Luke was the only Gentile to write a book of the Bible, but this may not be the case. Luke is probably a Latin name, the Greek name “Loukas” being a version of the Latin name “Lucius.” Yet just because this is a Latin name does not mean that Luke was not of Israelite origin.

Luke is listed as not being “of the circumcision” in Colossians 4. Paul lists some of his fellow-workers, and then declares, “These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.” (Colossians 4:11b) Then, he goes on to list Luke the “beloved physician” as one of his fellow-workers in verse 14, which would seem to indicate that Luke was not one of the circumcision. Many think this settles the matter, and this means that he was not a Jew, but a Gentile. In fact, some versions translate it this way, like the NIV. However, many Jews outside the land had turned from their religion enough to not practice circumcision. These had adopted the Greek culture, and would certainly have taken Gentile names, and so it seems likely that Luke could have been one of these. Moreover, Paul would not have asked Luke, once he had believed in Jesus Christ, to become circumcised, as is clear from I Corinthians 7:18-20.

18 Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. 20 Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.

This makes it clear that Paul’s policy was to urge men who were uncircumcised to stay that way, so it is entirely possible that Luke may have been an uncircumcised Jew. If he had taken up the Greek culture before believing, Paul upon meeting him would have urged him to believe in Christ, but would not have urged him to try to become a law-keeping Jew, for that would have added keeping the law to faith in Christ.

Luke proclaims his purpose for writing his gospel in verses 1-4.

1. Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us,
2. Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us,
3. It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,
4. That you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

It may well be that John, Matthew, and Mark had already been written when Luke began to write his gospel. Thus, he references the “many” who had already taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things “which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us.” Then, he proclaims his decision to add this, his own gospel, to these, saying, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus.” Luke could not have had a perfect understanding unless God had given it to him. This is nothing short of a declaration of inspiration. Moreover, this means that his desire to write was provoked by God as well.

Finally, Luke proclaims his purpose in writing. “That you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” Luke was writing so that this knowledgeable man, and ultimately all “God-lovers,” could know the certainty of the things they had already been instructed in by other gospels, like that of John. This gospel gives important facts, like the virgin birth, that help our technical, Gentile minds to realize that these things really make sense, and thus increase our faith, helping us to know the certainty of all that we believe. Thank God that this book was written! I pray that our studies in it will accomplish the purpose for which the Holy Spirit gave it.

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