John T. Willis

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Introduction of Luke--Part I

Now that we have completed our study of Jeremiah, I hope to spend quite a bit of time working through the New Testament books of Luke and Acts. Before we begin a chapter by chapter study, there are some introductory matters that might be helpful. This will take a few blogs for the introduction. Again--Be patient with me.

I. The Author of Luke-Acts. One cannot prove conclusively WHO the author of Luke-Acts was. There are "good" theories about this, but one cannot prove this conclusively. Here are a few thoughts.
a. Luke 1:2 makes it clear that the author of Luke-Acts was not an eyewitness of the events and sayings of Jesus Christ, but was a second or third generation Christian. Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1 dedicate these books to a person named Theophilus, but we do not know who Theophilus was. An ancient tradition asserted that the author was Luke, a fellow worker of Paul in Philemon 24, the beloved physician in Colossians 4:14, and Paul's only companion in 2 Timothy 4:11. Luke and Paul traveled together, and the "we-sections" in the book of Acts [Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15;
21:1-18; 27:1-28:16 suggest that the author of Luke-Acts was Luke. But it is just as possible that Luke kept a diary when traveling with Paul, and this was included in Luke-Acts by an author different from Luke.
b. On the basis of the internal evidence of Luke-Acts, one can argue that the author was a Gentile Christian: the superior quality of the Greek language, the avoidance of Semitic words, the omission of gospel traditions about Jesus' controversies with the Pharisees, and changing Palestinian local color and details into Hellenistic counterparts.
c. Other scholars argue that the author of Luke-Acts was a Jewish Christian, a Jew converted to Christianity. Lucius as among Paul's kinsmen (Romans 16:21), Luke-Acts often quote and refer to the Old Testament, the author uses Palestinian language, and the Epiphanian tradition says Luke was one ofthe 72 disciples of Jesus.
d. Other scholars argue that Luke was a Syrian living in Antioch, a non-Jew from Semitic background. The oldest reference is in the Ancient Greek Prologue.

II. It is very difficult to DATE the composition of Luke-Acts exactly. A few scholars place Luke-Acts before 70 A. D. But it seems very clear that Luke-Acts was composed after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. So the best probable date is between 80 and 85 A. D. Here are a couple of reasons:
a. Luke obviously used earlier oral and written sources--Luke 1:1-2. A comparison of Luke and Mark indicates that Luke must have used Mark.
b. Luke 13:35; 19:43-44; 21:20; 23:28-31 refer to the fall of Jerusalem in 70
A. D.

III. Scholars debate over WHERE Luke-Acts was originally composed. Different scholars have argued for Achaia, Boeotia, Rome, Caesarea, Decapolis, and Asia Minor. There is just not enough information to reach a solid conclusion about this.

For detailed discussions of all these issues, see Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX. The Anchor Bible 28; Garden City, New York, 1981, pages 35-59with extensive bibliography; Luke Timothy Johnson, "Luke-Acts, Book of," The Anchor Bible Dictionary 4 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), pages 404-405.

[More to come. Be Patient].

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John Willis