Friday, 24 January 2014

Luke in the New Testament

There is little doubt in my mind that Luke wrote the gospel attributed to him and there is strong early church evidence for this. The Acts of the Apostles was the sequel, so to speak.
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-5)
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, (Acts 1:1-2)
We have little direct mention of Luke in the Bible. Paul mentions him in the salutations of 3 letters,
  • Luke the beloved physician greets you, (Colossians 4:14 )
  • Luke alone is with me. (2 Timothy 4:11)
  • Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. (Philemon 1:23-24)
We can be confident that Luke wrote Luke and Acts, that he was a physician, and that he was a companion of Paul. Information about Luke beyond that is more speculative, though still possibly true. Below are some further possible claims about Luke based on close reading of Scripture, style of writing and reasonable assumptions.

Authorship
Many have made the claim that (one of) the anonymous author(s) of Hebrews is Luke, notably Allen in recent years in Lukan authorship of Hebrews. Allen makes the case reasonably well and also argues that Luke was Jewish, and that he was the amanuensis for the letters to Timothy and Titus.

Personhood
Luke is frequently thought to be a Gentile for several reasons including his excellent Greek and the exclusion of him from the men of the circumcision listed in Colossians—Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus. This is possible and would make him the only non-Jewish author of the New Testament (and the Bible, save possibly the book of Job). Others have made a good case for him being a Jew.

Allusions in Scripture
Paul mentions the disciple who is well known for the gospel in his letter to the Corinthians.
And we have sent with him [Titus] the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; (2 Corinthians 8:18 KJV)
It is uncertain how "his praise is in the gospel" is to be understood so the NASB adds clarifying words and the ESV interprets this as preaching.
We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; (NASB)
With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. (ESV)
Many have noted that Mark calls his work the gospel (whether intentionally as a title or not) and this could easily apply to Luke which (probably) postdates Matthew and Mark. So the reference to the praise/ fame of the gospel could refer to Luke's gospel as opposed to, say, Apollos' preaching. This would have ramifications in the dating of Luke (and Matthew and Mark).

In Redating Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Wenham notes that Luke seems very familiar with much of the later detail of the Jesus' life and he follows Mark less in the latter aspect of the gospel. Further, Luke is the only writer to mention the sending out of the 70 and devotes more space to this than the sending out of the 12. From this Wenham speculates Luke may have been one of the 70 and much of the latter material of his gospel is first-hand knowledge.

This possibility that Luke may have met Jesus in person could be strengthened by a further interesting point. Luke only identifies Cleopas (Luke 24:18) of the 2 men on the road to Emmaus. This may be because Cleopas asked a question. Wenham speculates that the other man was in fact Luke.

It seems less likely that all these suggestions are simultaneously true. The author of Hebrews mentions that he was a second generation believer.
It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, (Hebrews 2:3)
Nevertheless, these possible identities are worth pondering.

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