Several years ago while going through an especially difficult time in my life, I (in God’s providence) got down on my knees in my seminary dorm room and read through the Gospel of Luke. It was a transforming experience and I went from great despair to having a wonderful joy and peace as I was revived in reading the amazing story of Jesus and what He accomplished for me. Since then I have had a special place in my heart for Luke’s Gospel.
Reading Luke’s account of the life and ministry of Jesus brought me out of a deep pit of discouragement and renewed me immediately as I was confronted graciously with the truth of our wonderful Lord and Savior. Thus, I want to begin a series on the Gospel of Luke and I hope it will be a means of greater knowledge, worship, encouragement, obedience, and honor to our Messiah, Jesus. For several centuries now the Gospels have been attacked by critical scholars who reject the traditional authorship, and dating of the writings. They have also declared the Gospel accounts as being unhistorical and full of errors. These are curious and spurious charges and I believe they are based on worldview bias instead of the available and credible evidence that exists in abundance.
Authorship of Luke
In this first part I want to provide evidence that the author of the third Gospel is indeed Luke. None of the Gospels including Luke have in the text itself a designated verse stating the authorship. However, both internal and external evidence combined support Lukan authorship conclusively. Luke is also the author of Acts and both the Gospel and Acts are addressed to the same person. Luke’s two-volume work makes up the majority of the New Testament writings. Combined they cover a period of around 60 years from the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus to Paul’s first Roman imprisonment in Rome. Luke’s Gospel is one of the synoptic Gospels which include Matthew and Mark. The genre of the Gospel is that of ancient biography and history.
Luke, the Author
Luke was a gentile (Col. 4:11, 14) and this makes him the only non-Jewish writer of the New Testament. We know he was a doctor and that he was a traveling companion of Paul (2 Tim. 4:11). He is mentioned a third time in Paul’s letter to Philemon (24). Luke was an eyewitness to many of the events that he records in Acts indicated by the “we” passages (cf. 16, 20, 21, 27, and 28). The testimony of the early church and oldest New Testament manuscripts are unanimous in confirming the third Gospel’s author as being Luke. The Muratorian Canon (late second-century), Irenaeus (late second-century), Tertullian (early third century), Origen (mid-third century), and Athanasius (4th century) all confirm Luke’s authorship of the Gospel. Both Jerome and the early church historian Eusebius also affirm Luke’s authorship of the Gospel.
Luke, the Manuscript
The earliest manuscript of the Gospel with Luke’s name attached as the author is dated to about 200 AD (P 75). There is no reason to reject the early and credible testimony of Luke’s authorship of the Gospel. Luke’s authorship of the Gospel is important because it confirms both an early date for the writing as well as a credible writer of the events recorded in the Gospel. In the next devotional blog we will continue with some other relevant introductory information so that we can better understand the wonderful “good news” of Jesus as presented by Luke.