Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 4 – The Witness of the Scriptures on Luke

THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES

What do the Scriptures tell us about the Author of Luke’s Gospel?

We will examine the Gospel attributed to Luke first because he provides us with the most information to begin our search.  The prologue offers our first hint:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4 NIV

Our next clue is found in the prologue of Acts, where we discover that the same person authored both books:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaved, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen.     Acts 1:1-2 NIV

Then, in Acts 16 we find the author of the book joining Paul in Troas and continuing with him on his journey to Macedonia. 

 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did . not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night.  A man from Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.       Acts 16:7-10 NIV

These “we” and “us” passages continue to be interwoven through Acts 16:11-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; and 27:1-28:16.  The author stayed in Philippi of Macedonia when Paul and Silas were expelled (Acts 16:38-40) and then re-joined Paul when his group returned through Macedonia on their way to Jerusalem: “These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas. But we sailed away from Philippi…” (Acts 20:5-6). 

As they travelled the Holy Spirit kept testifying that chains and tribulations lay ahead for Paul, the Jews in Jerusalem would bind him and deliver him over to the Romans.  On his third day back in Jerusalem Paul was seized, dragged out of the temple, beaten, rescued from the mob by a Roman commander and held in their barracks.   Soon Paul was sent to Caesarea, where he remained imprisoned for two years (Acts 21:26-25:12).

Map of Paul's journey from Jerusalem to Caesarea

It was likely during these two years that the author did his research and wrote his gospel account.  After Paul had appealed to Caesar the author travelled with him to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:16) and finished his account by writing that “Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”

This also provides us with a timeframe for the writing of Luke and Acts, as clearly the Gospel account was written first and Acts was written before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, before Nero’s persecutions in the mid-60s, before the martyrdoms of James, Paul and Peter and before the Jewish wars against the Romans which began in 66 AD. (19)  This would give us a likely time-frame for the writing of Luke as somewhere in the late 50s.  Paul’s 2 year Caesarean imprisonment has been placed somewhere between 56 and 60AD. (20) (21) (22) (23) That a third of the book of Acts is focused on Paul’s imprisonments in Caesarea and Rome is not surprising for a book written by someone who had travelled to Jerusalem with Paul and stayed with him throughout this ordeal.

For our next clue as to who may have written Luke and Acts we look to the letters that Paul wrote during his two year confinement in Rome: Philippians; Colossians; Philemon; and Ephesians.  Does Paul mention anyone in these letters who may have been this author who had travelled with him from Jerusalem to Rome and stayed with him during his Roman confinement?

PHILIPPIANS (Philipi is the city in Macedonia where the Acts narrative appears to suggest that its author spent several years between Paul’s visits to this area (Acts 16:40 – Acts 20:5) – this should be a top contender for naming the author).  Philippians begins with a greeting from Paul and Timothy (Phil. 1:1), states that the Philippians know Timothy’s proven character as someone who sincerely cares for their spiritual wellbeing and expresses Paul’s plan to send Timothy to them as soon as Paul knows the results of his trial (Phil. 2:19-24).  Paul also wrote about Epaphroditus, whom the Philippians had recently sent to minister to Paul’s needs in Rome and who Paul was sending back to them with this letter (Phil. 2:25-30 & 4:18).  The only others mentioned as being in Rome were “the brethren who are with me” which included “those who are of Caesar’s household.”  It would seem from Philippians that either the author of Acts was Timothy, or he was not with Paul when this letter was penned.

COLOSSIANS (Colossae was a city in Asia Minor, about 160km from Ephesus, that had been impacted by the gospel during Paul’s more than two year ministry in Ephesus through a convert named Epaphras).   Again this letter begins with a greeting from Paul and Timothy (Col. 1:1).  Tychicus and Onesimus were with Paul and going to take this epistle to the Colossians (Col. 4:7-9).  Aristarchus is described as being a fellow prisoner, he was one of the Jewish believers from Thessalonica in Mascedonia who had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4) and then on to Rome (Acts 27:2).  The two other Jewish believers with Paul are listed as Mark the cousin of Barnabas and Jesus who was called Justice.  The gentile believers whom Paul then mentions being with him are Epaphras (from Colossae), Luke the physician and Demas.

The epistle to PHILEMON also opens with a greeting from Paul and Timothy.  Paul writes concerning Onesimus, whom he had led to Christ while imprisoned and who was to be carrying his letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. Paul also sends greetings from Epaphras (who was to travel with Onesimus back to Colossi), Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke whom he describes as fellow labourers.  

It is suggested that EPHESIANS is the last letter that Paul sent during his first imprisonment in Rome, and it is the only one who’s initial greeting does not include Timothy with Paul.  Aristarchus is not mentioned either, even though he had been one of Paul’s travelling companions during his second visit to Ephesus which lasted for two years.  He may have been either released or executed before this time.  The author of Luke and Acts had remained in Philippi when Paul was in Ephesus and so may not have been known to the Ephesians and therefore not mentioned by Paul.  In fact the only person Paul mentions being with him in this letter is Tychicus who is to carry the epistle to them. 

So, from those listed as being with Paul in Rome are there any who could have been the author of Luke and Acts?  The first of those listed is Timothy, Paul’s closest companion, but he could not be the author because he is recorded as ministering with Paul and Silas in Berea, Athens and Corinth during the time that the author was staying in Philippi.  Timothy had also accompanied Paul to Jerusalem but had gone ahead of Paul and the author to Troas (Acts 20:4-6).  

The next person we read about having been in Rome with Paul is the trusted Tychicus, whom Paul would appoint to help guide different churches and who had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem but, like Timothy and others, had gone ahead of Paul and the author to Troas. 

Next is Onesimus, from Colossae, but he had only come to faith in Christ during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome so could not be the Acts author. 

Aristarchus is our next contender, a Jewish believer from Thessalonica who had also accompanied Paul to Jerusalem but gone ahead of Paul and the author to Troas and in Acts 27:2 the author writes: “Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica was with us”, so Artistarchus was someone separate to the author. 

Mark the cousin of Barnabas was next listed, he had started out with Barnabas and Saul on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25) but left them in Perga of Pamphylia to return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).  Mark was referred to by the author as part of “they” (Acts 13:6 & 13) and so was not the author of Acts and Luke.  

Jesus Justice was mentioned next, and all we know about him is that he was another Jewish believer who proved to be a comfort to Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome – so he is not ruled out.  

Epaphras, who took the gospel to Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis after having learned it from Paul in Ephesus and who contended powerfully for the believers in prayer, is listed next.   It appears that Epaphras travelled to Rome to support the imprisoned Paul but had not been part of the original party that took the gifts to Jerusalem and therefor was not the author. 

The last two are Demas and Luke. Both are mentioned by name in two of Paul’s letters penned during his first imprisonment in Rome: Colossians 4:14 “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings” and Philemon 1:24 …”Demas and Luke, my fellow labourers”; and in 2 Timothy 4:10-11, which scholars think Paul wrote towards the deadly end of a second imprisonment in Rome.   In 2 Timothy the two are contrasted – Demas having forsaken Paul and Luke being the only one with him.  

Was Luke likely to have written the Gospel according to Luke and Acts of the Apostles as church tradition has attested?  The earliest manuscript that has been found of the Gospel, dated 200 AD, ascribes the work to Luke; as did Irenaeus, writing in 180 AD, and the Muratorian fragment from 170 AD.  While it appears strange that Luke was not included in Paul’s greeting to the Philippians that is not sufficient reason to rule him out.  It would not contradict anything in the scriptures for Luke to be the author and his being a gentile born physician is also suggestive of one having an extensive classical education which would fit with the style of writing in these manuscripts which is that of the traditional Greek histography.  

The other support for this is the specific medical terminology the author uses in both books.   In Luke 13:11-13, Jesus heals a crippled woman and the Greek words Luke uses both to describe her condition (sugkuptousa) and the exact manner of Jesus’ healing (apolelusaianorthothe) are medical terms.  In Luke 14:1–4, Jesus heals a man with dropsy and uses a word to describe the man in this passage that’s found nowhere else in the Bible: hudropikos. While this passage is the only place this word appears in the Bible, it’s a precise medical term frequently used in other texts—namely, the works of the renowned Greek physician, Hippocrates.  The use of medically-accurate phrases and descriptions continues in Acts, such as Acts 28:8–9, where the writer uses puretois kai dusenterio sunechomenon to describe a man’s exact medical condition (“suffering from fever and dysentery”).

The Gospel according to Luke was likely written by an educated gentile who travelled with Paul to Jerusalem and “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” in seeking to “write an orderly account” of the life and teachings of Jesus.  Unlike Matthew, Luke makes few references to Old Testament quotes and explains Jewish traditions, in addition to being attentive to emphasizing that the Gospel message is addressed to all peoples, including gentiles.   While not conclusive, the evidence from within the scriptures is supportive of the church tradition that Dr Luke did write the Gospel attributed to him, along with the book of Acts.    Together they account for 27.5% of the New Testament, the largest contribution by a single author.

Luke is reported to be a native of Antioch in Syria.  Acts 11:19-26 tells us that some of those who fled Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen travelled as far as Antioch and preached the Lord Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles and a great number believed and turned to the Lord so the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to them who in turn sort out Saul to help with teaching these new believers.   It is possible that Luke was one of these early Gentile believers.   He was well educated and may have been drawn o God and started attending a synagogue, worshipping and learning about Judaism before he first heard the Gospel.  He writes as one who was painstakingly learning about all the different practices of the Jewish faith rather than one born into it and Paul refers to him as one of his fellow labourers who is not “of the circumcision” (Colossians 4:10-14).   After Peter miraculously escaped from Herod (Acts 12:1-17) and left Jerusalem he likely also spent some time teaching in Antioch, and throughout Asia Minor.  So Luke may have sat under Peter’s teaching in Antioch and heard his eye-witness accounts of what Jesus did.

We first read about Luke joining in one of Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts 16:8-10 after Paul, Silas and Timothy came to Troas in Cilicia.   The scriptures give no indication of when or why Luke travelled to Troas but indications are that there was a Christian community in this port city of more than 50,000 people long before Paul reached there, so it is possible that Luke had been part of a missionary team (maybe even with Peter) to this strategic city.  Luke was obviously known to Paul and accompanied them to Philippi where he stayed after Paul and Silas were expelled from the city and travelled on to Thessalonica.

Like us, Luke never had the opportunity to meet Jesus in the flesh, but understood what Paul was preaching sufficiently to know that he did not want to just be a disciple of Paul, he wanted to find out everything he could about Jesus whom Paul preached in order to truly be a disciple of Christ.   

Luke took every opportunity to learn from those who had been with Jesus and to read the accounts of Christ’s life that started circulating around the churches.   So, when Paul was leading a delegation back to Jerusalem with gifts for the Jewish believers, Luke leapt at the chance to meet and learn from the eyewitnesses among them, to walk the paths that Jesus had walked and see the places where he had been. 

Luke reports that when they arrived in Jerusalem “the brethren received us gladly”.  Now he could begin to seek out Jesus’ family members, and ask them all the questions burning within him.  The next day Paul took them to meet Jesus’ brother James – this was the introduction that Luke had been hoping and praying for, there was so much he wanted to learn from James and his mother about every aspect of Jesus’ life. 

Luke had read all the accounts that were circulating at that time, but he wanted to hear it for himself from those who were there, and there were questions he had which were not addressed in the accounts that he had read. 

Nine days after Paul had introduced the delegates to the church in Jerusalem he was attacked in the temple and imprisoned by the Romans for the ensuing riot.  Luke, being a gentile, was not in the temple with Paul and so is not caught up in the riot.   For the next two years of Paul’s imprisonment in the Judean town of Caesarea, Luke had opportunity to seek out and interview Jesus’ mother and brothers, researching every aspect of Jesus’ life to put together a detailed account from conception to ascension.  Because of the danger they were all in this would have been much more difficult without that introduction to the eldest brother James. 

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4 NIV

Reference List

19. Staudinger, Hugo. The Trustworthiness of the Gospels. Edinburgh : The Handsel Press, 1981.
20. Timeline of the Apostolic Era. The Hesitant Prize Fighter. [Online] 15th July 2014. [Cited: 14th Sept 2019.] https://tben.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/nt-timeline.gif.
21. Paul Imprisoned Two Years at Caesarea. Bible History . [Online] [Cited: 14th Sept 2019.] http://timeline.biblehistory.com/event/paul-imprisoned-two-years-at-caesarea.
22. Paul in Caesarea. The Bible Journey. [Online] [Cited: 14th Sept 2019.] https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney1/12-pauls-journey-to-rome82062/paul-in-caesarea/.
23. Blue Letter Bible. Timeline of the Apostle Paul. Blue Letter Bible. [Online] [Cited: 14th Sept 2019.] https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/paul/timeline.cfm.

Author: Anita

"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:26-30 ESV These verses are the story of my life. A shy, introverted woman who didn't know how to relate to others and had a fear of anyone in authority - foolish, weak, low and despised. The most unlikely candidate for any position of leadership. But God delights to choose such, to take those who are not and make them something in Christ, to do the impossible through the unlikely. In 2006 Jesus sent me to the nations with His glorious gospel to set the captives free and prepare His bride for the wedding of the Lamb.

5 thoughts on “Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 4 – The Witness of the Scriptures on Luke”

  1. Who Wrote Each of The Four Gospels-5 The Witness of the Scriptures on Mark.
    _____________________
    Of the author of this Gospel comparatively little is known.
    Nowhere does the book mention him by name;and relatively few passages give any hints concerning his interest and personality,to say nothing of his identity.
    Tradition identifies him as John Mark, who hails from a christian family in Jerusalem the assistant and understudy of paul, Barnabas and Peter. He was the son of Mary, a friend of the apostles, who is mentioned in ( Acts 12).
    The earliest witnesses to the Gosple of Mark generally connect it with the preaching of Peter in Rome.
    Mark is said to be Peter’s scribe and interpreter who wrote accurately all that he remembered from what Jesus did.He did not see Jesus personal but had the chance of recording his gospel from the dictates of Peter the apostle.
    Eusebius also quoted Clement of Alexandria (AD 180) to the effect that Peter’s hearers urged Mark to leave a record of doctrine which Peter had communicated orally,and that Peter authorized the Gosples to be read in churches. The scriptures confirm the Markan authorship for the Second Gospele and that they connect it with the preaching of Peter.

  2. Who Wrote Each of The Four Gospels 4-The Witness of the Scriptures on Luke
    _____________________
    The identity of the author depends on the relation of the third Gospel to the book of Acts.If Luke and Acts were written by the same person, then one can apply to Luke such evidence concerning the author as may be internal to Acts and vice versa. In Acts the author was undoubtedly a participant in many of the events that he described, for he frequently used the pronoun “we”.The “we” sections have become a useful guide for determining the interests, character, and possible identity of the writer.
    The first generally accepted reference begins with Acts 16:10, at Paul’s departure from Troas on his second missionary journey.
    The writer accompanied him from Troas to Philippi, where the references to the first plural cease with the discussion of Paul’s imprisonment (Acts 16:17,19-34).
    Probably the writer was present at Philippi but was not arrested with Paul.The “we”sections reappear at Paul’s return to Macedonia as recorded in( Acts 20:6 ff).
    From this point the”we”sections remain throughout the book,although the writer does not seem to be in evidence during the imprisonment of Paul at Caesarea.
    Nevertheless, he accompanied Paul on the voyage to Rome(Acts 27:1 ff) and stayed with him until the end of the story.
    The relation of Luke to Acts is very close.Both documents are addressed to the same person, Theophilus.
    The introduction to Acts is as the same with the content of Luke when it says that “the former treatise ” concerned “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach”(Acts 1:1 ).
    The stress on the resurrection and the teaching ministry of the forty days accords well with the content of ( Luke 24 )
    The argument is too long and complicated to be reproduced here, but the case for the unity of Luke- Acts seems to be fairly established.
    Such facts, then as are true of the writer of Acts will be equally true of the writer of Luke, and may legitimately be used to fix his identity.
    Accordingly,the author of Luke-Acts may have been an Antiochian Gentile, converted in Antioch.
    He became a friend and associate of Paul and travelled with him on the second missionary journey after meeting him at Troas(Acts 16: 10 ).

  3. The name of the author does not appear in the book, but particular evidence points to Luke. The book of Luke is a companion volume to the book of Acts, and the language and structure of these two books indicate that both were written by the same person. They are addressed to the same individual, Theophilus, and the second volume refers to the first in Acts 1:1.

    Luke was known to Paul and accompanied them to Philippi where he stayed after Paul and Silas were expelled from the city and traveled on to Thessalonica. It is strongly believed according to scripture that Paul’s “dear friend Luke, the doctor” (Colossians 4:14) and “fellow worker” (Philemon 1:24), is the most likely candidate. Luke was probably a Gentile by birth. He was well educated in Greek culture, and he was a physician by profession. He was a companion of Paul at various times from his second missionary journey to his final imprisonment in Rome. He was a loyal friend who remained with the apostle after others had deserted him according to 2 Timothy 4:11. Antioch (of Syria) and Philippi are among the places suggested as his hometown.

  4. The gospel according to Luke is a well searched gospel by a man who was a gentile at the same time a gentile
    His introduction remarks as he writes to his dear friend, Theophilus,whom also desires to know the truth about Jesus Christ indicating to him that what he is writing to him is well researched
    He had to write after fully being convinced that Jesus was fully man and fully God,from his investigative point of view
    He heard the teachings of Peter and others and also attended Paul’s travel itineraries
    In Jerusalem, he came across many disciples including perhaps Mary and her family
    His elaborate disease naming and cure executed by Christ ,merits him to be somebody with medical experience that Paul in one of his letters refers to him as a physician
    The church fathers like Ireneous contribute both ,the gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles,to Luke as the writer

  5. The Gospel of Luke was likely written around AD 60 in Rome. Luke also wrote the book Acts, often called the Acts of the Apostles which covers the time after Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the Establishment of the Christian Church.
    Luke wanted to provide Theophilus , possibly a wealthy man, with accurate information about the the life of Jesus Christ so that Theophilus can be certain of the truth of everything he had been taught (Luke1:4). Similarly, Luke wanted to inform all his readers both Jews and non Jews, about Jesus life on earth.
    Luke look at Jesus as the perfect man, God’s Saviour for the world and central person in the book. Luke tells the story of Jesus from before his birth (Luke 1:26-38) to his death, resurrection and ascension to the heaven. (Luke 23:26;24:49)
    Luke contains the most familiar of the stories of the birth of Jesus and four beautiful hymns: Mary’s song of praise ,(Luke 1:46-55), Zechariah’s prophecy (Luke 1:67-79), the song of the host of angels (Luke 2:14),and Simeon’s song (Luke 2:29-32).
    Luke ends with Jesus’ final ministry in Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-20:47)
    Luke emphasized that Jesus is fully God and fully human. He is a perfect and blameless man who never sinned. He included more details about Jesus than the other Gospel writers.
    He showed Jesus working with his hands, kneeling in prayer,and visiting homes. Possibly because Luke was a Gentile and not Jewish, he emphasized Jesus came to to save all kinds of people Jewish, Samaritan, Gentile. Poor, rich, respectable and outcast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.