An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher


Chapter 1 - Section 27


§ 27. The Gospel according to Luke

[Cf. works mentioned at §$ 24. Also H. A. W. Meyer, i. 2, by B. and J. Weiss (ed. 8, 1892), and the ʽInternat. Crit. Commentary,ʼ by A. Plummer (ed. 3, 1900). For special commentaries see P. Schanz, 1883 (see § 25), and F. Godet, published in French in 1888 and translated into German by Wunderlich in 1892—full of ingenuity, but one-sided and without any historical sense. Cf. also T. Vogelʼs ʽZur Characteristik des Lucasevangelium nach Sprache und Stilʼ (1899), an amateur philological essay deserving of consideration in many respects, but not for critical questions; A. Harnackʼs ʽChronologie der altchristlichen Literatur,ʼ vol. i. pp. 246-50 (ʽDie Zeit der Apostelgeschichte und der drei Evangelienʼ), and his article entitled ʽDas Magnificat der Elisabeth, nebst einigen Bemerkungen zu Le. i. u.ii.ʼ in the ʽSitzungsberichte der königlichen preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaftʼ for 1900, pp. 538-556.]

1. There is no tradition worthy of the name concerning Luke, whom Papias did not know, or at any rate did not mention. The ancients were universally agreed that the writer was that Luke, disciple of Paul, who is mentioned in Philem 24, 2. Tim. iv. 11, and called ʽthe physicianʼ in Col. iv. 14: presumably a native of Antioch. Eusebius naturally lays stress on the fact that he was on intimate terms with the other Apostles; Irenaeus was of opinion that the Gospel had only been written after the death of Paul, but later writers take care to fasten the responsibility, as in the case of Mark, on the Apostle himself. Happily for us, the author has supplied a prologue to his Gospel in which, it is true, he says nothing of himself, but explains his motives for writing. From this we learn (1) that he is not attempting anything unheard of, for many—of whom, according to the natural interpretation of the words, none were eye-witnesses—had attempted to compile an account of what was Christian history κατ̓ ἐξοχήν; (2) that he does not belong to the original eye-witnesses, does not even claim to have had close relations with them or with any one of them, for he only wishes to write ʽeven as they delivered them unto usʼ (that is, to us Christians of a later day: of himself he writes directly afterwards in the singular, ἔδοξε κἀμοί); (8) that the older Gospels do not satisfy him, because they have not traced ʽthe course of all things accurately from the first,ʼ and because their ʽorder,ʼ i.e. the chronological arrangement of the individual parts, is faulty; (4) that he bases his confidence of being able to produce something better than his predecessors, not on any gift of inspiration that had been imparted to him, but on his own exhaustive and methodical labours. The prologue might indeed have been prefixed to any work of profane history just as aptly as to this, and it is not religious hesitation at the boldness of venturing to write down the sacred story that underlies verse 8, but a feeling of the difficulty for him, who was no eyewitness, of carrying out the task he had undertaken.

The question as to whether the celebrated companion of Paul was the author of this Gospel cannot be decided without reference to the Acts. We shall therefore leave it to be discussed in § 32, pars. 8 and 5, and shall here content ourselves with obtaining some idea of the peculiarities of the Gospel.

9. According to verses 8 and 4 of the prologue, the author wrote his Gospel for a person who was either a Christian catechumen or who at any rate displayed an interest in Christianity: ʽthat thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed.ʼ This man, Theophilus, evidently a person of some distinction (here he is greeted as κράτιστε Θεόφιλε,, in the Acts merely as ὦ Θεόφιλε, a fact from which the omniscient critics have concluded that in the interval between the writing of the Gospel and the Acts Theophilus became more intimate with Luke and was probably baptised by him), is certainly not the only reader whom Luke expected to have, still less a fictitious personage in whom every ʽfriend of Godʼ was to recognise himself, but it was to him that the writer, according to the custom of those days, dedicated his book when he committed it to the public. The purpose which it was intended to serve, however, may nevertheless be gathered from verse 4: Lukeʼs object is to increase the convincing power of the Gospel through the improvements which he could offer in the presentation of the Gospel-stories. But there is nothing to indicate that he claimed to write the Gospel in a new spirit and according to a better interpretation; his predecessors themselves, according to verse 1, had not written of anything but ʽthose things which are most surely believed among us,ʼ and this alone inclines us to look askance on the theory that he had a special purpose in writing, whether of an ultra-Pauline or a conciliatory character. In fact, the indications of purpose (tendenz) discovered by the critics mutually destroy one another. It is true that the paragraph in Matthew so strangely favourable to the Law1 does not appear here, but in reality Luke says the same thing in xvi. 17—if anything, in still more emphatic language; it is true, too, that besides the sending out of the Twelve to preach the Gospel2 he relates an exactly similar proceeding in the case of seventy others, who are sent forth two by two3; but how can there be any question here of an attempt to thrust the Twelve out of their position of authority, or of a slight cast upon the original Apostles, when a little further on4 we find the precedence of the Twelve in the Kingdom of Heaven recognised exactly as in Matthew 5?

Pauline ideas and expressions, on the other hand, are scattered but scantily through Luke; the ʽjustifiedʼ of xviii. 14, or the words ʽthat they may not believe and be saved,ʼ in the parable of the sower,6 have a Pauline ring, and the φορτία δυσβάστακτα of xi. 46 might also be compared with Galatians vi. 5, φορτίον βαστάσει; the ʽgraceʼ (χάρις) which was so all-important to Paul is, while wholly absent in Mark and Matthew, to be found here eight times, and still more frequently in the Acts, but not in the specifically Pauline sense7; the reverence with which Luke reserves the death on the Cross to Jesus alone, while he uses the expressions ʽput to death,ʼ ʽhanged,ʼ for the two malefactors, in contradistinction to Mark and Matthew8 (though in verse 33 he is obliged by his construction to admit the σαυροῦν in their case also) — reminds us of the sacredness of the ʽword of the Crossʼ in Paulʼs mind; finally, x. 8, ʽeat such things as are set before you,ʼ agrees word for word with 1. Corinthians x. 27; but the remarkable resemblance between the accounts of the Last Supper in Luke and 1. Corinthians9 rests textually upon an uncertain foundation. The beautiful parable of the unprofitable servants10 certainly destroys the delusion of manʼs claims upon God for reward with true Pauline energy, but the idea implied therein of the necessity of ʽdoing all the things that are commandedʼ would, on the other hand, not have been admitted by Paul, and moreover a genuine saying of Jesus cannot be invoked to attest the theological tendencies of Luke. We do not wish to deny the writer a knowledge of Paulʼs ʽgospelʼ and of some of his Epistles, but he certainly made no attempt to propagate the fundamental ideas of Paulinism by means of the sacred story. Broadly speaking, he owes neither more nor less to Paul than did the whole Church: i.e. the ideas of the universality of salvation11 (on account of which he gives so much prominence to the Samaritans12) and of the boundlessness of Godʼs mercy, as set forth in the parable of the prodigal son13 and the incident of the malefactor;14 but it is precisely in these two points that Paul was no more than a faithful and consistent interpreter of Jesus. Where we should undoubtedly have been obliged to recognise the disciple of Paul—i.e. in doctrines of a preexisting Christ or of the atoning value of his death—Luke fails us altogether; the special features of his picture of Jesus: his boundless love towards sinners, showing itself even in his prayer from the Cross for his enemies15; his kindly compassion towards the ʽdespised of menʼ and his whole-hearted sympathy with all misfortune—these are but the accentuation of what we learn from Mark and Matthew, certainly not undertaken with the intention of furthering Pauline theology, and in fact solely due to the writerʼs longing to win for his Saviour the sympathy and trust of Hellenic readers. We are therefore justified in saying that Luke relates the Gospel story from the point of view of the later Gentile Church, without any infusion of theology.

The author must certainly be regarded as a Gentile Christian, and a born Greek—as was the case with Luke, according to Colossians16—not only because of his fluency in the use of Greek, but because he avoids every Hebrew word, betrays not the smallest knowledge in his Old Testament quotations of the original text, and is unacquainted with the scene in which the events of his Gospel are enacted, so that ʽJudeaʼ can mean the whole of Palestine to him.17 Almost more significant is the indifference he displays towards the declarations of Jesus on the subject of Jewish customs and Jewish parties; he passes over in silence the dispute about uncleanness, for instance, which is reported by both the other Synoptists.18 These questions had as little actual interest for him as for his readers, for whose benefit he explains the word ʽscribesʼ (γραμματεῖς) six times by the addition of νομικοί, turning it into ʽlawyers,ʼ19 and once20 translates it into νομαδιδάσκαλοι, ʽdoctors of the law.ʼ If Luke carries the genealogy of Jesus21 back to Adam instead of only as far as Abraham,22 he intended thereby neither to protest against the sonship of the Lord to Abraham or David (which he seems rather to acknowledge in verses 31 and 34) nor to excite any profound meditations concerning Jesus as the second Adam, the new creation; he merely shows by so doing—assuming, indeed, that we owe the list to him at all— his love of scholarly completeness, coupled indeed with the secondary desire to emphasise the man in Jesus more clearly than the Jew. His determination to relate ʽall things from the firstʼ is responsible for his birthand childhood-stories, which go back as far as the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist, describe in great detail the miraculous surroundings in which the birth of the Saviour was accomplished, and do not even lose sight of Jesus when he had grown to boyhood; to this also we owe his conclusion, which gives a remarkably full account of the intercourse of the risen Christ with his faithful followers, and ends with a brief report of his Ascension. The other promise made by Luke in the prologue, that he would give the chronological data more accurately and state the relationship between individual scenes with greater clearness, is also fulfilled by the dates he furnishes in the opening chapters,23 especially, however, by iii. 1 and 2, where the year of the beginning of the Baptistʼs activity is established by a sixfold synchronism. Later on, too, he often makes the most loyal efforts to fix in some degree the time at which a particular event takes place, as at ix. 37, ʽon the next day, when they were come down from the mountain,ʼ or at xiii. 1. The ʽGreat Interpolationʼ24 is also made with a view to a better chronology of the life of Jesus, and the remarks, characteristic of Luke, concerning the occasion (or the tendency) of any saying of Jesus25 are likewise prompted by his efforts after the greatest possible precision.

All this, however, has nothing to do with the writerʼs religious attitude. Only in one point is this perceptibly different from that of the other Evangelists; even without any comparison, we are struck by the unworldliness of his tone, by his aversion to property and enjoyment, by his glorification of poverty, his accentuation of the duty of self-sacrifice and especially of almsgiving. One need merely read Luke xiv. 26 and 33 beside Matt. x. 87 in order to feel the sternness of Lukeʼs demands; one almost has the impression that the boundless charity towards sinners shown by this Gospel was to be compensated for by the equally exalted character of the demands made on the disciples. Other world ethics finds its place by the side of other-world religion, and is fully conscious of its own rights; to be blessed, loving and loved in the next world meant that in this the Christian must be wretched, hating and hated. ʽBlessed are the poor,ʼ ʽWoe unto you that are rich, for you have received your consolationʼ26—this is Lukeʼs version, and the commandments of xiv. 12 and xviii. 22 (ʽsell all that thou hastʼ) and the incidents of xiv. 21 and xix. 8 are all in the same tone. The most striking instance, however, is the parable of Dives and Lazarus,27 according to which poverty and need per se will open the way to Heaven, while riches and prosperity appear certain to be rewarded by eternal torment. Mammon, or the possession of great wealth, is simply unrighteousness,28 but the possessor still has the power of winning eternal life by distributing his goods—ʽMake to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when it shall fail [or, when your end approaches], they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles.ʼ This is a metaphorical expression and cannot be pressed, but Luke certainly takes the idea very seriously, that the future glory was to act as compensation to those who had suffered and gone hungry while on earth.

Thus it has been suggested that this Gospel bears an Ebionite stamp, and traces of Jewish influences and authorities have been sought within it. This, however, isa great mistake; the attitude maintained by Luke, of mistrust towards the world and hostility towards all present enjoyment, an attitude which can be traced back to the Cynical philosophy or to the dualistic ideas existing at the bottom of all forms of religion about the beginning of our era, with just as much probability as to certain special phenomena of later Judaism—such an attitude was characteristic of the whole of the post-Apostolic Church, and was only suppressed by a sort of compromise at a later time. The Third Gospel reminds us of the Epistle of James and the Christianity reflected therein; it has a strong tinge of primitive Catholicism, though without the ecclesiastical feeling of Matthew; but yet in the moulding of his materials the writer gives expression to that other state of mind also, and more naively than Matthew—that is to say, encouraged by his delight in hyperbolical language and striking antitheses, he accentuates the traces of asceticism which he found already consciously existing in the tradition. But there can be no question of any deliberate colouration of the Gospel story in the interests of Ebionitism. Y —

3. That Luke was written some time after the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 is proved beyond question by xxi. ~91-94, in which the terrible events of the Jewish War are looked upon as things of the past. The accuracy of these descriptions has even been explained by some as the result of the dependence of Luke on the writings of the eye-witness Josephus. His prologue alone, however, which shows the evangelistic literature already in full flower, compels us to adopt the last years of the first century as the earliest possible date. The external evidence would moreover admit of its composition about the beginning of the second century, and the silence of Papias concerning Luke remains important. Its conception of Christ and Christianity, of Law and Revelation, has also many more analogies among the documents of the second century than among those of unquestionably earlier origin. The emphasis with which even the risen Jesus here appeals to the authority of Prophets and Scripture29 is noteworthy, and the colours in which the author paints the miraculous incidents, especially those at the beginning and end, remind us, though as yet distantly, of the taste of an age which gave the rein to its imagination in the creation of the Apocryphal Gospels. A more definite date might be fixed on comparing this Gospel with Matthew and John (or possibly by the help of the Acts), but for the present we must be content to leave the whole period between 80 and 120 A.D. open.

4. From the very beginning the structure of the sentences in the Prologue is sufficient to show that the writer was a man of considerable rhetorical culture. He is completely master of the language, for though the Greek he writes is by no means classical, it is perfectly fluent and in a sense refined. He alone among the New Testament writers uses words like τυγχάνειν τινός and φορτίζειν with a double accusative; he knows the rules of Greek grammar and syntax, and generally observes them. Then, on the other hand, we may frequently light upon a strong Hebraism, especially in the birth and childhood-stories, which read like a piece of the Old Testament even in a good translation. But in many passages throughout the Gospel30 a clear glimpse of their Aramaic foundation may be caught, and even in the resurrection narrative (the appearance of Jesus to the disciples going to Emmaus), for which the writer is generally considered to be solely responsible, the influence of Semitic modes of speech is remarkable. We have, for instance, in xxiv. 38, διαλογισμοὶ ἀναβαίνουσιν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν; in xxiv. 32, ʽour heart was burning within us,ʼ and, more than this, the variant βεβαρημένη for καιομένη is only to be explained by the help of Syriac, in which יקיד might have been mistaken for יקיר. Harnack declares that the Hebraisms in the Psalms which Luke puts into the mouths of Mary and Zacharias31 are conscious on his part, that their whole style is artificial and intended to produce an impression of antiquity. There is certainly much in these canticles that seems to suggest the authorship of the Third Evangelist, but if Harnack is right, Luke must not only have been a past master in the art of imitating styles, but must also have made a deliberate use of his art in the Gospel. In most instances, however, the Semitic dress is due to the presence of Aramaic authorities which Luke reproduces with tolerable accuracy, and in reality we miss a conscious and measured art more in Lukeʼs Gospel than in the others—wherever, at least, it is possible to trace his method of procedure at all; so that in certain portions it bears the appearance of a compilation more markedly than either Mark or Matthew. Thus, since none have ever regarded Luke as a mere translation from the Aramaic, the most probable assumption seems to be that the plentiful traces of Aramaic idiom to be found in it are due either to the documents employed by the writer, or to the unconscious influence exerted upon his own style (even in places where he was writing independently) by the authorities he was accustomed to consult. His great reputation as a writer rests upon higher merits than this; he has a wonderful power of maintaining a full harmony of tone throughout the whole length of his narratives, as of his discourses; he knows how to attain the desired effect, and the stories of Mary Magdalene32 and of Martha and Mary,33 the parables of the Good Samaritan34 and of the Prodigal Son35—all of them peculiar to Luke—will always hold their place among the noblest gems of the narrative art.



1) v. 17 fol.

2) ix, 1-6.

3) x, 1-16.

4) xxii, 30.

5) xix. 28,

6) viii.12

7) See especially vi. 32-34 and xvii. 9.

8) Mark xv. 27 and 32; Matt. xxvii. 38 and 44, οἱ συνεσταυρωμένοι σὺν αὐτῷ.

9) Luke xxii. 19 fol.; 1 Cor. xi. 24 fol.

10) xvii. 7-10.

11) xxiv. 47.

12) x, 33 and xvii. 16; cf. ix. 52-56.

13) xv. 11 etc.

14) xxiii. 39 fol.

15) xxiii, 34,

16) iv. 10-14.

17) i. 5, vi.. 17, vii. 17, xxiii. 5.

18) Mark vii. Matt. xv.

19) This only occurs once in Matthew, xxii. 35.

20) v.17; also Acts v. 34.

21) iii. 23-38.

22) Matt. i. 1-17.

23) i. 5. ii. 1 fol., ii. 42, iii, 23.

24) ix. 51 fol.

25) E.g., xviii. 1 and 9, xix. 11. ʽBecause he was nigh to Jerusalem, and they supposed that the Kingdom of God was immediately to appear.ʼ

26) vi. 20 and 24.

27) xvi. 19-31.

28) xvi. 9 and 11.

29) xxiv. 25-27 and 44-46.

30) E.g., xiii. 9, xx. 10.

31) i. 46-55 and 68-79.

32) vii. 36-50.

33) x. 38-42.

34) x. 30-37.

35) xv. 11-32.