Introduction to Luke

Luke is called “the beloved physician” by Paul (Colossians 4:14) and is mentioned by Paul two other times by name. He is identified as one of Paul’s fellow laborers in Philemon 24 and was the only one remaining with Paul just before his martyrdom (II Timothy 4:11). Although Luke never mentions himself by name, either in his gospel or in the book of Acts, it was universally recognized by the early church that he was the human author of both of these books.

He is believed to have been the only Gentile writer of a book of the Bible, since he was not included among those “who are of the circumcision” in Paul’s greetings to the Gentile Christians at Colosse (Colossians 4:9-11,14). Others, however, think he may have been a Jew of the dispersion.

Luke was with Paul on some of his missionary journeys, as indicated by the various “we” passages in the book of Acts (Acts 16:10; 20:5,6; etc.). He seems to have been with Paul continually on his third missionary journey, except for the two years of his imprisonment at Caesarea. It may have been during those two years, while Luke was in Palestine and separated from Paul, that he was able to do the research and writing for his gospel. It must have been completed at least some time before Paul’s execution, for he terminated Acts while Paul was still being treated well under Roman house arrest (Acts 28:30-31). Acts, of course, was written after Luke’s gospel. Consequently, Luke, as well as Matthew and Mark, was written sometime around A.D. 60 (Paul’s martyrdom is believed to have taken place around A.D. 68).

Luke addressed both his gospel and Acts to a Greek man named Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1), evidently a man of some culture and influence, but otherwise unknown. This fact lends weight to the traditional belief that Luke was written mainly with his Greek brethren in mind, emphasizing the perfect humanity of the Lord Jesus. His analysis seems somewhat more topical than Matthew’s more sequentially ordered narrative.

Luke writes in a very articulate literary style, and archaeological research has confirmed that he was a careful historian. His medical background frequently comes through also. He includes many events and teachings not found in the other synoptics, and these seem to reflect his social consciousness as well as concern for individuals. Most of all, however, he focuses on the Son of man and His great mission “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

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