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The Gospel According to St. Luke

Now we come to Luke’s account of the Gospel. This account is unique in that it is paired with another book in the New Testament. (Did that catch your interest? It was supposed to. Now you have to read the post to find out what I’m talking about.) Let’s get started.

General Information

Date: circa 85 AD (same as the Gospel of St. Matthew)

Author: unknown, but Tradition gives him the name “Luke” and identifies him as one of Paul’s companions (see, for example, 2 Timothy 4:11)

Intended Audience: Gentile Christians

Themes: almost everything…we’ll get to that

The Gospel of Everything

We’ve discussed how Matthew’s Gospel is called the Gospel of the Church and how Mark’s Gospel could be called the Gospel of Mystery because Christ continuously conceals His identity, but Luke can’t be pegged under one category. So, what all is Luke’s Gospel known as?

  • The Gospel of the Holy Spirit (because the workings of the Spirit are found throughout the Gospel as a constant theme)
  • The Gospel of Prayer (because of Luke’s emphasis on prayer and the fact that the evangelist shows Christ as praying constantly)
  • The Gospel of Joy (because in Luke’s account the disciples understand who Christ is, which is a contrast to Mark’s Gospel where the disciples are utterly clueless; joy is also a sign of God’s presence)
  • The Gospel of Compassion/Mercy (because of Luke’s emphasis on the endless compassion of Jesus)
  • The Gospel of Women (because of the Annunciation to Mary and the presence of women at the Crucifixion and at Pentecost)

And those aren’t all of Luke’s ”nicknames” (for lack of a better word). His is also called the Gospel of healing, reconciliation, social justice, and salvation. Luke’s Gospel account, then, contains many different themes that appeal to many different people.

Two For the Price of One: Luke’s Gospel and the Book of Acts

Luke did not only write the Gospel that bears his name. He is also responsible for another book in the New Testament: the Book of Acts. Because of this, it is possible to see events mirrored in the two books and parallels that can easily be drawn: what Christ experiences in the Gospel happens to the Apostles in Acts. Let’s take a couple of examples to illustrate what I’m talking about.

From the Gospel according to Saint Luke, chapter 23 verses 33-34:

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left.[Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”]They divided his garments by casting lots.

And from the Book of Acts, chapter 7 verses 55-60:

But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.

So, the words of Christ at His Crucifixion are mirrored in Stephen’s words at his martyrdom.

From the Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 23 verses 13-16:

Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him,nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

And from the Book of Acts, chapter 5 verse 34-42:

But a Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up, ordered the men to be put outside for a short time,and said to them, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men. Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered. So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him. After recalling the apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus.

Christ was flogged for the Truth He spoke, and the Apostles are similarly beaten for proclaiming the Gospel.

And, just as an aside…

Since we’re already on the topic of parallels, I would care to draw your attention to one other interesting circumstance. In his writings, St. Luke only uses the word “purple” twice: once in his Gospel account and once in the Book of Acts. Luke 16 gives us the parable of the rich man clothed in purple, an expensive color, who used his wealth only for his own selfish gain. Acts 16 mentions Lydia, a woman who dealt in purple goods and gave her wealth to help the early Church. Lydia, then, is the rich man’s opposite and is also an example of the elevated status of women in Luke’s writings.

Which Passages are Unique to St. Luke’s Gospel?

This could be a fairly long list…

  • the Annunciation to Mary; illustrates the Gospel of Women (1:26)
  • the account of the census (Chapter 2)
  • singing angels (2:14)
  • Jesus as a little boy (2:31)
  • genealogy of Jesus traced back to Adam to symbolize the fact that Christ is the New Adam (3:23)
  • Mission of the 72 (Chapter 10)
  • Parable of the Good Samaritan; illustrates the Gospel of Compassion (10:25)
  • Mary and Martha inviting Jesus into their home; illustrates the Gospel of Women (10:38)
  • Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, which differs from Matthew’s (11:1)
  • Parables of lost coin and lost son (Chapter 15)
  • Parable of the rich man and Lazarus (16:19)
  • Parable of judge and widow (18:1-8)
  • Christ says He has prayed for Peter; illustrates the Gospel of Compassion (22:32)
  • Jesus kneels in prayer during the Agony in the Garden, which shows Him to be more in control of His destiny; the angel in this scene is most likely a later addition but is also unique to Luke (22:39)
  • Jesus heals the man whose ear is cut off; illustrates the Gospel of Compassion (22:51)
  • Jesus tried by Herod (Chapter 23)
  • “Father forgive them” (23:34)
  • the penitent thief (23:40-43)
  • Road to Emmaus (Chapter 24)

The account of the Road to Emmaus story is particularly interesting. In this story, Luke tells us that the eyes of the disciples “were opened” (24:31). This is the same language used in the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. So, Luke is telling us that Christ was undoing what was done in the Garden of Eden.

Did Luke Also Use Mark as a Source?

Yes. Luke used Mark’s Gospel as well as the “Q” source that I mentioned in the discussion on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. In addition to this, scholars believe that Luke also drew upon another source of tradition, which is only used in his Gospel account. Any material unique to Luke’s Gospel is called “L” material.

And that’s Luke’s Gospel. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Let me hear from you guys on this!


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