Gospel of Saint Luke
The subject will be treated under the following heads:I. Biography of Saint Luke ;
II.Authenticity of the Gospel ;
III. Integrity of the Gospel ;
IV. Purpose and Contents ;
V. Sources of the Gospel: Synoptic Problem ;
VI. Saint Luke's Accuracy ;
VII. Lysanias, Tetrarch of Abilene ;
VIII. Who Spoke the Magnificat?
IX. The Census of Quirinius ;
X. Saint Luke and Josephus.
I. BIOGRAPHY OF SAINT LUKE
The name Lucas (Luke) is probably an abbreviation from Lucanus, like Annas from Ananus, Apollos from Apollonius, Artemas from Artemidorus, Demas from Demetrius, etc. (Schanz, "Evang. des heiligen Lucas", 1, 2; Lightfoot on "Col.", iv, 14; Plummer, "St. Luke", introd.)
The word Lucas seems to have been unknown before the Christian Era ; but Lucanus is common in inscriptions, and is found at the beginning and end of the Gospel in some Old Latin manuscripts (ibid.). It is generally held that St. Luke was a native of Antioch. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. III, iv, 6) has: Loukas de to men genos on ton ap Antiocheias, ten episteuen iatros, ta pleista suggegonos to Paulo, kai rots laipois de ou parergos ton apostolon homilnkos --"Lucas vero domo Antiochenus, arte medicus, qui et cum Paulo diu conjunctissime vixit, et cum reliquis Apostolis studiose versatus est." Eusebius has a clearer statement in his "Quæstiones Evangelicæ", IV, i, 270: ho de Loukas to men genos apo tes Boomenes Antiocheias en --"Luke was by birth a native of the renowned Antioch" (Schmiedel, "Encyc. Bib."). Spitta, Schmiedel, and Harnack think this is a quotation from Julius Africanus (first half of the third century). In Codex Bezæ (D) Luke is introduced by a "we" as early as Acts 11:28 ; and, though this is not a correct reading, it represents a very ancient tradition. The writer of Acts took a special interest in Antioch and was well acquainted with it ( Acts 11:19-27 ; 13:1 ; 14:18-21 , 14:25 , 15:22, 23, 30, 35 ; 18:22 ). We are told the locality of only one deacon, "Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch", 6:5 ; and it has been pointed out by Plummer that, out of eight writers who describe the Russian campaign of 1812, only two, who were Scottish, mention that the Russian general, Barclay de Tolly, was of Scottish extraction. These considerations seem to exclude the conjecture of Renan and Ramsay that St. Luke was a native of Philippi.
St. Luke was not a Jew. He is separated by St. Paul from those of the circumcision ( Colossians 4:14 ), and his style proves that he was a Greek. Hence he cannot be identified with Lucius the prophet of Acts 13:1 , nor with Lucius of Romans 16:21 , who was cognatus of St. Paul. From this and the prologue of the Gospel it follows that Epiphanius errs when he calls him one of the Seventy Disciples; nor was he the companion of Cleophas in the journey to Emmaus after the Resurrection (as stated by Theophylact and the Greek Menol.). St. Luke had a great knowledge of the Septuagint and of things Jewish, which he acquired either as a Jewish proselyte (St. Jerome) or after he became a Christian, through his close intercourse with the Apostles and disciples. Besides Greek, he had many opportunities of acquiring Aramaic in his native Antioch, the capital of Syria. He was a physician by profession, and St. Paul calls him "the most dear physician" ( Colossians 4:14 ). This avocation implied a liberal education, and his medical training is evidenced by his choice of medical language. Plummer suggests that he may have studied medicine at the famous school of Tarsus, the rival of Alexandria and Athens, and possibly met St. Paul there. From his intimate knowledge of the eastern Mediterranean, it has been conjectured that he had lengthened experience as a doctor on board ship. He travailed a good deal, and sends greetings to the Colossians, which seems to indicate that he had visited them.
St. Luke first appears in the Acts at Troas ( 16:8 sqq. ), where he meets St. Paul, and, after the vision, crossed over with him to Europe as an Evangelist, landing at Neapolis and going on to Philippi, "being assured that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them" (note especially the transition into first person plural at verse 10 ). He was, therefore, already an Evangelist. He was present at the conversion of Lydia and her companions, and lodged in her house. He, together with St. Paul and his companions, was recognized by the pythonical spirit: "This same following Paul and us, cried out, saying: These men are the servants of the most high God, who preach unto you the way of salvation " ( verse 17 ). He beheld Paul and Silas arrested, dragged before the Roman magistrates, charged with disturbing the city, "being Jews ", beaten with rods and thrown into prison. Luke and Timothy escaped, probably because they did not look like Jews (Timothy's father was a gentile ). When Paul departed from Philippi, Luke was left behind, in all probability to carry on the work of Evangelist. At Thessalonica the Apostle received highly appreciated pecuniary aid from Philippi (Phil., iv, 15, 16), doubtless through the good offices of St. Luke. It is not unlikely that the latter remained at Philippi all the time that St. Paul was preaching at Athens and Corinth, and while he was travelling to Jerusalem and back to Ephesus, and during the three years that the Apostle was engaged at Ephesus. When St. Paul revisited Macedonia, he again met St. Luke at Philippi, and there wrote his Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
St. Jerome thinks it is most likely that St. Luke is "the brother, whose praise is in the gospel through all the churches" ( 2 Corinthians 8:18 ), and that he was one of the bearers of the letter to Corinth. Shortly afterwards, when St. Paul returned from Greece, St. Luke accompanied him from Philippi to Troas, and with him made the long coasting voyage described in Acts, xx. He went up to Jerusalem, was present at the uproar, saw the attack on the Apostle, and heard him speaking "in the Hebrew tongue" from the steps outside the fortress Antonia to the silenced crowd. Then he witnessed the infuriated Jews, in their impotent rage, rending their garments, yelling, and flinging dust into the air. We may be sure that he was a constant visitor to St. Paul during the two years of the latter's imprisonment at Cæarea. In that period he might well become acquainted with the circumstances of the death of Herod Agrippa I, who had died there eaten up by worms" ( skolekobrotos ), and he was likely to be better informed on the subject than Josephus. Ample opportunities were given him, "having diligently attained to all things from the beginning", concerning the Gospel and early Acts, to write in order what had been delivered by those "who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" ( Luke 1:2, 3 ). It is held by many writers that the Gospel was written during this time, Ramsay is of opinion that the Epistle to the Hebrews was then composed, and that St. Luke had a considerable share in it. When Paul appealed to Cæsar, Luke and Aristarchus accompanied him from Cæsarea, and were with him during the stormy voyage from Crete to Malta. Thence they went on to Rome, where, during the two years that St. Paul was kept in prison, St. Luke was frequently at his side, though not continuously, as he is not mentioned in the greetings of the Epistle to the Philippians (Lightfoot, "Phil.", 35). He was present when the Epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon were written, and is mentioned in the salutations given in two of them: "Luke the most dear physician, saluteth you" ( Colossians 4:14 ); "There salute thee . . . Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke my fellow labourers" (Philem., 24). St. Jerome holds that it was during these two years Acts was written.
We have no information about St. Luke during the interval between St. Paul's two Roman imprisonments, but he must have met several of the Apostles and disciples during his various journeys. He stood beside St. Paul in his last imprisonment ; for the Apostle, writing for the last time to Timothy, says: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course. . . . Make haste to come to me quickly. For Demas hath left me, loving this world. . . . Only Luke is with me" ( 2 Timothy 4:7-11 ). It is worthy of note that, in the three places where he is mentioned in the Epistles ( Colossians 4:14 ; Philemon 24 ; 2 Timothy 4:11 ) he is named with St. Mark (cf. Colossians 4:10 ), the other Evangelist who was not an Apostle (Plummer), and it is clear from his Gospel that he was well acquainted with the Gospel according to St. Mark ; and in the Acts he knows all the details of St. Peter's delivery--what happened at the house of St. Mark's mother, and the name of the girl who ran to the outer door when St. Peter knocked. He must have frequently met St. Peter, and may have assisted him to draw up his First Epistle in Greek, which affords many reminiscences of Luke's style. After St. Paul's martyrdom practically all that is known about him is contained in the ancient "Prefatio vel Argumentum Lucæ", dating back to Julius Africanus , who was born about A.D. 165. This states that he was unmarried, that he wrote the Gospel, in Achaia, and that he died at the age of seventy-four in Bithynia (probably a copyist's error for Bœotia), filled with the Holy Ghost. Epiphanius has it that he preached in Dalmatia (where there is a tradition to that effect), Gallia (Galatia?), Italy, and Macedonia. As an Evangelist, he must have suffered much for the Faith, but it is controverted whether he actually died a martyr's death. St. Jerome writes of him (De Vir. III., vii). "Sepultus est Constantinopoli, ad quam urbem vigesimo Constantii anno, ossa ejus cum reliquiis Andreæ Apostoli translata sunt [de Achaia ?]."
St. Luke its always represented by the calf or ox, the sacrificial animal, because his Gospel begins with the account of Zachary, the priest, the father of John the Baptist. He is called a painter by Nicephorus Callistus (fourteenth century), and by the Menology of Basil II, A.D. 980. A picture of the Virgin in S. Maria Maggiore, Rome, is ascribed to him, and can be traced to A.D. 847 It is probably a copy of that mentioned by Theodore Lector, in the sixth century. This writer states that the Empress Eudoxia found a picture of the Mother of God at Jerusalem, which she sent to Constantinople (see "Acta SS.", 18 Oct.). As Plummer observes. it is certain that St. Luke was an artist, at least to the extent that his graphic descriptions of the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Shepherds. Presentation, the Shepherd and lost sheep, etc., have become the inspiring and favourite themes of Christian painters.
St. Luke is one of the most extensive writers of the New Testament. His Gospel is considerably longer than St. Matthew's , his two books are about as long as St. Paul's fourteen Epistles: and Acts exceeds in length the Seven Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse. The style of the Gospel is superior to any N.T. writing except Hebrews. Renan says (Les Evangiles, xiii) that it is the most literary of the Gospels. St. Luke is a painter in words. "The author of the Third Gospel and of the Acts is the most versatile of all New Testament writers. He can be as Hebraistic as the Septuagint, and as free from Hebraisms as Plutarch. . . He is Hebraistic in describing Hebrew society and Greek when describing Greek society " (Plummer, introd.). His great command of Greek is shown by the richness of his vocabulary and the freedom of his constructions.
II. AUTHENTICITY OF THE GOSPEL A. Internal Evidence
The internal evidence may be briefly summarized as follows:
- The author of Acts was a companion of Saint Paul, namely, Saint Luke; and
- the author of Acts was the author of the Gospel.
There is nothing more certain in Biblical criticism than this proposition. The writer of the "we" sections claims to be a companion of St. Paul. The "we" begins at Acts, xvi, 10, and continues to xvi, 17 (the action is at Philippi ). It reappears at xx, 5 (Philippi), and continues to xxi, 18 (Jerusalem). It reappears again at the departure for Rome, xxvii, 1 (Gr. text), and continues to the end of the book.
Plummer argues that these sections are by the same author as the rest of the Acts:
- from the natural way in which they fit in;
- from references to them in other parts; and
- from the identity of style.
That the companion of St. Paul who wrote the Acts was St. Luke is the unanimous voice of antiquity. His choice of medical language proves that the author was a physician. Westein, in his preface to the Gospel ("Novum Test. Græcum", Amsterdam, 1741, 643), states that there are clear indications of his medical profession throughout St. Luke's writings; and in the course of his commentary he points out several technical expressions common to the Evangelist and the medical writings of Galen. These were brought together by the Bollandists ("Acta SS.", 18 Oct.). In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for June, 1841, a paper appeared on the medical language of St. Luke. To the instances given in that article, Plummer and Harnack add several others; but the great book on the subject is Hobart "The Medical Language of St. Luke" (Dublin, 1882). Hobart works right through the Gospel and Acts and points out numerous words and phrases identical with those employed by such medical writers as Hippocrates, Arctæus, Galen, and Dioscorides. A few are found in Aristotle, but he was a doctor's son. The words and phrases cited are either peculiar to the Third Gospel and Acts, or are more frequent than in other New Testament writings. The argument is cumulative, and does not give way with its weakest strands. When doubtful cases and expressions common to the Septuagint, are set aside, a large number remain that seem quite unassailable. Harnack (Luke the Physician! 13) says: "It is as good as certain from the subject-matter, and more especially from the style, of this great work that the author was a physician by profession. Of course, in making such a statement one still exposes oneself to the scorn of the critics, and yet the arguments which are alleged in its support are simply convincing. . . . Those, however, who have studied it [ Hobart's book] carefully, will, I think, find it impossible to escape the conclusion that the question here is not one of merely accidental linguistic coloring, but that this great historical work was composed by a writer who was either a physician or was quite intimately acquainted with medical language and science. And, indeed, this conclusion holds good not only for the 'we' sections, but for the whole book." Harnack gives the subject special treatment in an appendix of twenty-two pages. Hawkins and Zahn come to the same conclusion. The latter observes (Einl., II, 427): "Hobart has proved for everyone who can appreciate proof that the author of the Lucan work was a man practised in the scientific language of Greek medicine --in short, a Greek physician" (quoted by Harnack, op. cit.).
In this connection, Plummer, though he speaks more cautiously of Hobart's argument, is practically in agreement with these writers. He says that when Hobart's list has been well sifted a considerable number of words remains. "The argument", he goes on to say "is cumulative. Any two or three instances of coincidence with medical writers may be explained as mere coincidences; but the large number of coincidences renders their explanation unsatisfactory for all of them, especially where the word is either rare in the LXX, or not found there at all" (64). In "The Expositor" (Nov. 1909, 385 sqq.), Mayor says of Harnack's two above-cited works: "He has in opposition to the Tübingen school of critics, successfully vindicated for St. Luke the authorship of the two canonical books ascribed to him, and has further proved that, with some few omissions, they may be accepted as trustworthy documents. . . . I am glad to see that the English translator . . . has now been converted by Harnack's argument, founded in part, as he himself confesses, on the researches of English scholars, especially Dr. Hobart, Sir W. M. Ramsay, and Sir John Hawkins." There is a striking resemblance between the prologue of the Gospel and a preface written by Dioscorides, a medical writer who studied at Tarsus in the first century (see Blass, "Philology of the Gospels "). The words with which Hippocrates begins his treatise "On Ancient Medicine " should be noted in this connection: 'Okosoi epecheiresan peri iatrikes legein he graphein, K. T. L. (Plummer, 4). When all these considerations are fully taken into account, they prove that the companion of St. Paul who wrote the Acts (and the Gospel) was a physician. Now, we learn from St. Paul that he had such a companion. Writing to the Colossians (iv, 11), he says: "Luke, the most dear physician, saluteth you." He was, therefore, with St. Paul when he wrote to the Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians; and also when he wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy. From the manner in which he is spoken of, a long period of intercourse is implied.
(2) The Author of Acts was the Author of the Gospel
"This position", says Plummer, "is so generally admitted by critics of all schools that not much time need be spent in discussing it." Harnack may be said to be the latest prominent convert to this view, to which he gives elaborate support in the two books above mentioned. He claims to have shown that the earlier critics went hopelessly astray, and that the traditional view is the right one. This opinion is fast gaining ground even amongst ultra critics, and Harnack declares that the others hold out because there exists a disposition amongst them to ignore the facts that tell against them, and he speaks of "the truly pitiful history of the criticism of the Acts". Only the briefest summary of the arguments can be given here. The Gospel and Acts are both dedicated to Theophilus and the author of the latter work claims to be the author of the former ( Acts 1:1 ). The style and arrangement of both are so much alike that the supposition that one was written by a forger in imitation of the other is absolutely excluded. The required power of literary analysis was then unknown, and, if it were possible, we know of no writer of that age who had the wonderful skill necessary to produce such an imitation. It is to postulate a literary miracle, says Plummer, to suppose that one of the books was a forgery written in Imitation of the other. Such an idea would not have occurred to anyone; and, if it had, he could not have carried it out with such marvellous success. If we take a few chapters of the Gospel and note down the special, peculiar, and characteristic words, phrases and constructions, and then open the Acts at random, we shall find the same literary peculiarities constantly recurring. Or, if we begin with the Acts, and proceed conversely, the same results will follow. In addition to similarity, there are parallels of description, arrangement, and points of view, and the recurrence of medical language, in both books, has been mentioned under the previous heading.
We should naturally expect that the long intercourse between St. Paul and St. Luke would mutually influence their vocabulary, and their writings show that this was really the case. Hawkins (Horæ Synopticæ) and Bebb (Hast., "Dict. of the Bible ", s. v. "Luke, Gospel of") state that there are 32 words found only in St. Matt. and St. Paul ; 22 in St. Mark and St. Paul ; 21 in St. John and St. Paul ; while there are 101 found only in St. Luke and St. Paul. Of the characteristic words and phrases which mark the three Synoptic Gospels a little more than half are common to St. Matt. and St. Paul, less than half to St. Mark and St. Paul and two-thirds to St. Luke and St. Paul. Several writers have given examples of parallelism between the Gospel and the Pauline Epistles. Among the most striking are those given by Plummer (44). The same author gives long lists of words and expressions found in the Gospel and Acts and in St. Paul, and nowhere else in the New Testament. But more than this, Eager in "The Expositor" (July and August, 1894), in his attempt to prove that St. Luke was the author of Hebrews, has drawn attention to the remarkable fact that the Lucan influence on the language of St. Paul is much more marked in those Epistles where we know that St. Luke was his constant companion. Summing up, he observes: "There is in fact sufficient ground for believing that these books. Colossians, II Corinthians, the Pastoral Epistles, First (and to a lesser extent Second) Peter, possess a Lucan character." When all these points are taken into consideration, they afford convincing proof that the author of the Gospel and Acts was St. Luke, the beloved physician, the companion of St. Paul, and this is fully borne out by the external evidence.B. External Evidence
The proof in favour of the unity of authorship, derived from the internal character of the two books, is strengthened when taken in connection with the external evidence. Every ancient testimony for the authenticity of Acts tells equally in favour of the Gospel; and every passage for the Lucan authorship of the Gospel gives a like support to the authenticity of Acts. Besides, in many places of the early Fathers both books are ascribed to St. Luke. The external evidence can be touched upon here only in the briefest manner. For external evidence in favour of Acts, see ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
The many passages in St. Jerome, Eusebius, and Origen, ascribing the books to St. Luke, are important not only as testifying to the belief of their own, but also of earlier times. St. Jerome and Origen were great travellers, and all three were omniverous readers. They had access to practically the whole Christian literature of preceding centuries; but they nowhere hint that the authorship of the Gospel (and Acts) was ever called in question. This, taken by itself, would be a stronger argument than can be adduced for the majority of classical works. But we have much earlier testimony. Clement of Alexandria was probably born at Athens about A.D. 150. He travelled much and had for instructors in the Faith an Ionian, an Italian, a Syrian, an Egyptian, an Assyrian, and a Hebrew in Palestine. "And these men, preserving the true tradition of the blessed teaching directly from Peter and James, John and Paul, the holy Apostles, son receiving it from father, came by God's providence even unto us, to deposit among us those seeds [of truth ] which were derived from their ancestors and the Apostles ". (Strom., I, i, 11: cf. Euseb., "Hist. Eccl.", V, xi). He holds that St. Luke's Gospel was written before that of St. Mark, and he uses the four Gospels just as any modern Catholic writer. Tertullian was born at Carthage, lived some time in Rome, and then returned to Carthage. His quotations from the Gospels, when brought together by Rönsch, cover two hundred pages. He attacks Marcion for mutilating St. Luke's Gospel. and writes: "I say then that among them, and not only among the Apostolic Churches, but among all the Churches which are united with them in Christian fellowship, the Gospel of Luke, which we earnestly defend, has been maintained from its first publication" (Adv. Marc., IV, v).
The testimony of St. Irenæus is of special importance. He was born in Asia Minor, where he heard St. Polycarp give his reminiscences of St. John the Apostle, and in his numerous writings he frequently mentions other disciples of the Apostles. He was priest in Lyons during the persecution in 177, and was the bearer of the letter of the confessors to Rome. His bishop, Pothinus, whom be succeeded, was ninety years of age when he gained the crown of martyrdom in 177, and must have been born while some of the Apostles and very many of their hearers were still living. St. Irenæus , who was born about A.D. 130 (some say much earlier), is, therefore, a witness for the early tradition of Asia Minor, Rome, and Gaul. He quotes the Gospels just as any modern bishop would do, he calls them Scripture, believes even in their verbal inspiration; shows how congruous it is that there are four and only four Gospels ; and says that Luke, who begins with the priesthood and sacrifice of Zachary, is the calf. When we compare his quotations with those of Clement of Alexandria, variant readings of text present themselves. There was already established an Alexandrian type of text different from that used in the West. The Gospels had been copied and recopied so often, that, through errors of copying, etc., distinct families of text had time to establish themselves. The Gospels were so widespread that they became known to pagans. Celsus in his attack on the Christian religion was acquainted with the genealogy in St. Luke's Gospel, and his quotations show the same phenomena of variant readings.
The next witness, St. Justin Martyr, shows the position of honour the Gospels held in the Church, in the early portion of the century. Justin was born in Palestine about A.D. 105, and converted in 132-135. In his "Apology" he speaks of the memoirs of the Lord which are called Gospels, and which were written by Apostles (Matthew, John) and disciples of the Apostles (Mark, Luke). In connection with the disciples of the Apostles he cites the verses of St. Luke on the Sweat of Blood, and he has numerous quotations from all four. Westcott shows that there is no trace in Justin of the use of any written document on the life of Christ except our Gospels. "He [ Justin ] tells us that Christ was descended from Abraham through Jacob, Judah, Phares, Jesse, David --that the Angel Gabriel was sent to announce His birth to the Virgin Mary--that it was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah . . . that His parents went thither [to Bethlehem] in consequence of an enrolment under Cyrinius--that as they could not find a lodging in the village they lodged in a cave close by it, where Christ was born, and laid by Mary in a manger", etc. (Westcott, "Canon", 104). There is a constant intermixture in Justin's quotations of the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Luke. As usual in apologetical works, such as the apologies of Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, and Eusebius, he does not name his sources because he was addressing outsiders. He states, however, that the memoirs which were called Gospels were read in the churches on Sunday along with the writings of the Prophets, in other words, they were placed on an equal rank with the Old Testament . In the "Dialogue", cv, we have a passage peculiar to St. Luke. " Jesus as He gave up His Spirit upon the Cross said, Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit' [Luke, xxiii. 46], even as I learned from the Memoirs of this fact also." These Gospels which were read every Sunday must be the same as our four, which soon after, in the time of Irenæus, were in such long established honour, and regarded by him as inspired by the Holy Ghost. We never hear, says Salmon, of any revolution dethroning one set of Gospels and replacing them by another; so we may be sure that the Gospels honoured by the Church in Justin's day were the same as those to which the same respect was paid in the days of Irenæus, not many years after. This conclusion is strengthened not only by the nature of Justin's quotations, but by the evidence afforded by his pupil Tatian, the Assyrian, who lived a long time with him in Rome, and afterwards compiled his harmony of the Gospels, his famous "Diatessaron", in Syriac, from our four Gospels. He had travelled a great deal, and the fact that he uses only those shows that they alone were recognized by St. Justin and the Catholic Church between 130-150. This takes us back to the time when many of the hearers of the Apostles and Evangelists were still alive; for it is held by many scholars that St. Luke lived till towards the end of the first century.
Irenæus, Clement, Tatian, Justin, etc., were in as good a position for forming a judgment on the authenticity of the Gospels as we are of knowing who were the authors of Scott's novels, Macaulay's essays, Dickens's early novels, Longfellow's poems, no. xc of "Tracts for the Times" etc. But the argument does not end here. Many of the heretics who flourished from the beginning of the second century till A.D. 150 admitted St. Luke's Gospel as authoritative. This proves that it had acquired an unassailable position long before these heretics broke away from the Church. The Apocryphal Gospel of Peter, about A.D. 150, makes use of our Gospels. About the same time the Gospels, together with their titles, were translated into Latin; and here, again, we meet the phenomena of variant readings, to be found in Clement, Irenæus, Old Syriac, Justin, and Celsus, pointing to a long period of previous copying. Finally, we may ask, if the author of the two books were not St. Luke, who was he?
Harnack (Luke the Physician, 2) holds that as the Gospel begins with a prologue addressed to an individual (Theophilus) it must, of necessity, have contained in its title the name of its author. How can we explain, if St. Luke were not the author, that the name of the real, and truly great, writer came to be completely buried in oblivion, to make room for the name of such a comparatively obscure disciple as St. Luke? Apart from his connection, as supposed author, with the Third Gospel and Acts, was no more prominent than Aristarchus and Epaphras; and he is mentioned only in three places in the whole of the New Testament. If a false name were substituted for the true author, some more prominent individual would have been selected.
III. INTEGRITY OF THE GOSPEL
Marcion rejected the first two chapters and some shorter passages of the gospel, and it was at one time maintained by rationalistic writers that his was the original Gospel of which ours is a later expansion. This is now universally rejected by scholars. St. Irenæus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius charged him with mutilating the Gospel; and it is known that the reasons for his rejection of those portions were doctrinal. He cut out the account of the infancy and the genealogy, because he denied the human birth of Christ. As he rejected the Old Testament all reference to it had to be excluded. That the parts rejected by Marcion belong to the Gospel is clear from their unity of style with the remainder of the book. The characteristics of St. Luke's style run through the whole work, but are more frequent in the first two chapters than anywhere else; and they are present in the other portions omitted by Marcion. No writer in those days was capable of successfully forging such additions. The first two chapters, etc., are contained in all the manuscripts and versions, and were known to Justin Martyr and other competent witnesses. On the authenticity of the verses on the Bloody Sweat, see AGONY OF CHRIST .
IV. PURPOSE AND CONTENTS
The Gospel was written, as is gathered from the prologue (i, 1-4), for the purpose of giving Theophilus (and others like him) increased confidence in the unshakable firmness of the Christian truths in which he had been instructed, or "catechized"--the latter word being used, according to Harnack, in its technical sense. The Gospel naturally falls into four divisions:
- Gospel of the infancy, roughly covered by the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary (ch. i, ii);
- ministry in Galilee, from the preaching of John the Baptist (iii, 1, to ix, 50);
- journeyings towards Jerusalem (ix, 51-xix, 27);
- Holy Week : preaching in and near Jerusalem, Passion, and Resurrection (xix, 28, to end of xxiv).
V. SOURCES OF THE GOSPEL; SYNOPTIC PROBLEM
The best information as to his sources is given by St. Luke, in the beginning of his Gospel. As many had written accounts as they heard them from "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word", it seemed good to him also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write an ordered narrative. He had two sources of information, then, eyewitnesses (including Apostles ) and written documents taken down from the words of eyewitnesses. The accuracy of these documents he was in a position to test by his knowledge of the character of the writers, and by comparing them with the actual words of the Apostles and other eyewitnesses.
That he used written documents seems evident on comparing his Gospel with the other two Synoptic Gospels, Matthew and Mark. All three frequently agree even in minute details, but in other respects there is often a remarkable divergence, and to explain these phenomena is the Synoptic Problem. St. Matthew and St. Luke alone give an account of the infancy of Christ, both accounts are independent. But when they begin the public preaching they describe it in the same way, here agreeing with St. Mark. When St. Mark ends, the two others again diverge. They agree in the main both in matter and arrangement within the limits covered by St. Mark, whose order they generally follow. Frequently all agree in the order of the narrative, but, where two agree, Mark and Luke agree against the order of Matthew, or Mark and Matthew agree against the order of Luke; Mark is always in the majority, and it is not proved that the other two ever agree against the order followed by him. Within the limits of the ground covered by St. Mark, the two other Gospels have several sections in common not found in St. Mark, consisting for the most part of discourses, and there is a closer resemblance between them than between any two Gospels where the three go over the same ground. The whole of St. Mark is practically contained in the other two. St. Matthew and St. Luke have large sections peculiar to themselves, such as the different accounts of the infancy, and the journeys towards Jerusalem in St. Luke. The parallel records have remarkable verbal coincidences. Sometimes the Greek phrases are identical, sometimes but slightly different, and again more divergent. There are various theories to explain the fact of the matter and language common to the Evangelists. Some hold that it is due to the oral teaching of the Apostles, which soon became stereotyped from constant repetition. Others hold that it is due to written sources, taken down from such teaching. Others, again, strongly maintain that Matthew and Luke used Mark or a written source extremely like it. In that case, we have evidence how very closely they kept to the original. The agreement between the discourses given by St. Luke and St. Matthew is accounted for, by some authors, by saying that both embodied the discourses of Christ that had been collected and originally written in Aramaic by St. Matthew. The long narratives of St. Luke not found in these two documents are, it is said, accounted for by his employment of what he knew to be other reliable sources, either oral or written. (The question is concisely but clearly stated by Peake "A Critical Introduction to the New Testament ", London, 1909, 101. Several other works on the subject are given in the literature at the end of this article.)
VI. SAINT LUKE'S ACCURACY
Very few writers have ever had their accuracy put to such a severe test as St. Luke, on account of the wide field covered by his writings, and the consequent liability (humanly speaking) of making mistakes; and on account of the fierce attacks to which he has been subjected.
It was the fashion, during the nineteenth century, with German rationalists and their imitators, to ridicule the "blunders" of Luke, but that is all being rapidly changed by the recent progress of archæological research. Harnack does not hesitate to say that these attacks were shameful, and calculated to bring discredit, not on the Evangelist, but upon his critics, and Ramsay is but voicing the opinion of the best modern scholars when he calls St. Luke a great and accurate historian. Very few have done so much as this latter writer, in his numerous works and in his articles in "The Expositor", to vindicate the extreme accuracy of St. Luke. Wherever archæology has afforded the means of testing St. Luke's statements, they have been found to be correct; and this gives confidence that he is equally reliable where no such corroboration is as yet available. For some of the details see ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, where a very full bibliography is given.
For the sake of illustration, one or two examples may here be given:
(1) Sergius Paulus, Proconsul in Cyprus
St. Luke says ( Acts 13 ) that when St. Paul visited Cyprus (in the reign of Claudius) Sergius Paulus was proconsul ( anthupatos ) there. Grotius asserted that this was an abuse of language, on the part of the natives, who wished to flatter the governor by calling him proconsul, instead of proprætor ( antistrategos ), which he really was; and that St. Luke used the popular appellation. Even Baronius (Annales, ad Ann. 46) supposed that, though Cyprus was only a prætorian province, it was honoured by being ruled by the proconsul of Cilicia, who must have been Sergius Paulus. But this is all a mistake. Cato captured Cyprus, Cicero was proconsul of Cilicia and Cyprus in 52 B.C.; Mark Antony gave the island to Cleopatra; Augustus made it a prætorian province in 27 B.C., but in 22 B.C. he transferred it to the senate, and it became again a proconsular province. This latter fact is not stated by Strabo, but it is mentioned by Dion Cassius (LIII). In Hadrian's time it was once more under a proprætor, while under Severus it was again administered by a proconsul. There can be no doubt that in the reign of Claudius, when St. Paul visited it, Cyprus was under a proconsul ( anthupatos ), as stated by St. Luke. Numerous coins have been discovered in Cyprus, bearing the head and name of Claudius on one side, and the names of the proconsuls of Cyprus on the other. A woodcut engraving of one is given in Conybeare and Howson's "St. Paul", at the end of chapter v. On the reverse it has: EPI KOMINOU PROKAU ANTHUPATOU: KUPRION --"Money of the Cyprians under Cominius Proclus, Proconsul." The head of Claudius (with his name) is figured on the other side. General Cesnola discovered a long inscription on a pedestal of white marble, at Solvi, in the north of the island, having the words: EPI PAULOU ANTHUPATOU --"Under Paulus Proconsul." Lightfoot, Zochler, Ramsay, Knabenbauer, Zahn, and Vigouroux hold that this was the actual (Sergius) Paulus of Acts, xiii, 7.
(2) The Politarchs in Thessalonica
An excellent example of St. Luke's accuracy is afforded by his statement that rulers of Thessalonica were called "politarchs" ( politarchai -- Acts 17:6, 8 ). The word is not found in the Greek classics; but there is a large stone in the British Museum, which was found in an arch in Thessalonica, containing an inscription which is supposed to date from the time of Vespasian. Here we find the word used by St. Luke together with the names of several such politarchs, among them being names identical with some of St. Paul's converts : Sopater, Gaius, Secundus. Burton in "American Journal of Theology" (July, 1898) has drawn attention to seventeen inscriptions proving the existence of politarchs in ancient times. Thirteen were found in Macedonia, and five were discovered in Thessalonica, dating from the middle of the first to the end of the second century.
The geographical, municipal, and political know
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