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NT Survey 111 Seminar 4 Gospel of Luke

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Andrew Hodge                                                                                                     2nd March 2007

NTES 111 New Testament Survey

Seminar 4

The Gospel of Luke

Jensen, Irving L. Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago pp 155-173; Guthrie, Donald  New Testament Introduction  Apollos, Leicester, England 4th Ed  1990 Ch 4; Libronix DLS; Gospel of Luke



Examine the theme of Luke with the other two Synoptic Gospels:

            Luke states something that the other two Synoptics do not. His Gospel was to be consecutive, chronological, full and exact (Jensen p 159) which Jensen derives from 1:1-4: "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed."[1] This passage also implies that others had attempted to do this beforehand but Luke found them unsatisfactory.

            A comparison of Jensen’s Charts 17, 21, 35 and 44 shows that Luke did not achieve this even though half of Luke’s material is not found in the other Gospels (Jensen p 161 footnote 10); for example he includes a reference to the Ascension (24:50-51). It is in fact the longest book in the New Testament.[2]

However it must be born in mind that "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." (John 21:25).[3]

            Jensen states (p 159) that the theme of Luke concerns “Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people” (Lk 24:19). Jesus is presented as the Son of Man among men (19:10), the perfect God-man (eg 1:35), who alone offers to all nations (24:47) the salvation of God (3:6).

None of the Gospels offers a complete picture of our Saviour, and all four must be taken as complementary. In any case, knowledge of all the details of all the Scripture is not a substitute for a personal relationship with Him.

            The two previous Seminars have explored Christ as the prophesied King of Israel (Matthew) and as the Suffering Servant (Mark). John portrays Him as the Son of God. The readerships are for Jews, Romans, Greeks and the World respectively and the prominent ideas are Law, Power, Grace and Glory (Jensen p 159). Additional details re prominent words, writer outlook and style, and outstanding sections can be had from Jensen’s Chart 18 p 108.

All of these descriptions are complementary but even when taken as a whole in synthesis they offer only a small part of what might have been written. We can trust God that we have all the writing we need to be able to appreciate enough of Who Christ was in order to point the whole of humanity toward salvation, and to appreciate the complete trustworthiness of Him Who saves.



Compare the genealogy of Luke with that of Matthew’s Gospel:

            A brief summary of this is given in Jensen Chart 15 p 100. Luke describes Jesus’ physical descent through Nathan and Mary; Matthew Jesus’ legal descent through Solomon and Joseph. Both Nathan and Solomon are ‘legal’ sons of David and Bathsheba hence Jesus is a ‘son of David’ in terms of both His “parents”. He therefore inherits the promises made to David, especially with regard to his throne and kingship. He was commonly known as the ‘son of David’ in His earthly ministry eg Mark 10:47; and Romans 1:3; Hebrews 7:14. The genealogies bind Jesus firmly into both Testaments.

            This simple construct has problems.

Jesus is the Son of the Father, not the son of Joseph. This is explained by the interruption of the legal Solomonic line at the individual called variously Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah/Jechoniah/Jeconias. This son of Jehoiakim acceded to the Davidic throne in Jerusalem in 598 BC at the age of 23, reigned for three months, then ‘voluntarily’ surrendered himself, his family and court to the besieging Babylonians. They were taken into captivity, ultimately being restored to ‘grace’ in Babylon by the new king, Evil-Merodach in 562 BC. This indicates that both the Babylonians and the exiled Jews regarded Jehoiachin as the legitimate claimant to the throne in Judah, a view which must have persisted to NT times even though the ruling Jews had the Book of Jeremiah to read and understand.

            God had a different idea, and although Jehoiachin had sons, God regarded him as being childless, and in particular that no descendant of his would sit on the Davidic throne (Jeremiah 22:24-30). Therefore the legal line of Jesus’ Solomonic descent does not confer on Jesus any right to fulfil God’s promise that He would sit on the throne of David. This is important to the readers of Matthew’s genealogy if they kid themselves that Jesus had this right because he was a fully fledged Royal Jew. [In fact He does have this right because He is their Messiah, not because of His ‘legal’ descent].

Nevertheless, Matthew still pointed traditional Jews toward Jesus’ putative heritage, clearly establishing that He was Jewish and that his descent legally began with Abraham.

The issue of Mary not being Jesus’ genetic mother has previously been covered (Dogmatology Seminar 16 “The Incarnation of the Son of God” 13th January 2006).

Searching the genealogies of the descendants of Nathan and Solomon demonstrates another problem. Both lines of descent have two common named individuals - Shealtiel/Salathiel and Zerubbabel. On the side of Nathan Shealtiel’s father is listed as Neri (Luke 3:27) and on Solomon’s side Jeconias (Matthew 1:12). Both genealogies then show Zerubbabel as Shealtiel’s son, from whom descend two sons Rhesa (for Nathan’s line) and Abiud (for the Solomonic line). The order of these names may be confused by skipping generations in the inaccurate Hebrew tradition,

but it seems clear that the two lines of Jesus’ descent merge and then separate again 3a, unless there are two different Shealtiels and two different Zerubbabels from different families who happened to live in the same places at the same times and did the same things. There is no place in scripture which resolves this problem as the descendants of various individuals are almost always listed as single sons, in the line the writer happens to be interested in, according to God’s purpose for that particular list.

In the Solomonic descent there are 24 named individuals between Solomon and Joseph inclusive. In the line of Nathan, there are 39 between Nathan and Joseph (Mary).

In Matthew’s genealogy there are 13 individuals between Abraham and Jesse, 14 between David and Josias, and 13 between Jechonias and Joseph, all inclusive, a total of 40 between Abraham and Joseph. Matthew 1:17 calls these 14 generations in each of the three groups (which would make a total of 42 names. There are only 40).

Luke’s genealogy counts 54 names between Abraham and Joseph, inclusive.

Matthew is said to have used the Septuagint as the source for his list (Youngblood)[4]. Luke is also said to have used this source, as it is in his native language and in v. 36 he inserts Cainan between Arphaxad and Shelah[5]. Both lists contain names not found elsewhere in Scripture; both lists contain identical names from Abraham to David.

The difference in the number of names in the lists cannot be easily resolved. It is not reasonable to assume that for some reason they were made up. It is also unclear why the genealogical lists are so different if similar sources were used to compile them. It is also unacceptable to avoid the question by saying “different writer”, “different readership”, “different dates and circumstances”, or “God knew what He was doing” -which of course He did but to my mind His reasons for such big differences remain obscure.

Matthew’s genealogy mentions four women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba) and includes Mary as the wife of Joseph. Luke’s genealogy mentions none - interesting in view of the popular opinion that Luke describes Mary’s - a woman’s - heritage. The omission may be merely cultural or philosophic, reflecting the position of women in society at the time, but in my view still not consistent with Luke’s likely Christ-like ethos. If Matthew could mention women, so could he if the reason were merely cultural. In addition, Luke’s Gospel includes 13 women that are not mentioned in the other Gospels, [6] further confusing the issue.

If Luke intended to show that Mary’s line was Davidic, he could easily have been much more explicit. The ‘disclaimer’ in Luke 3:23 only goes part way to indicating his intention, and in addition gives the impression that the truth is actually only hearsay.

In a sense, the Lukan list is apt in demonstrating the origin of Jesus as far back as God and therefore that He has a mission to all people rather than just Jews - illustrating again the complementary nature of the Synoptics and their different readership.



Explain the characteristics of Luke the writer:

            Only the bare bones of Matthew’s character can be discerned from scripture (Jensen p 112). Jensen has already claimed to describe the character of Mark on the basis of internal scriptural evidence (p 137) given the assumption that Mark is the John Mark of Acts and other places. The scriptural evidences of the character of Luke are larger in volume and more specific than those for Mark and a reasonably accurate characterisation can be made.

            Luke was born about the same time as Jesus and Paul of Greek parents, which makes him the only Gentile writer of the NT. Birthplace was possibly Antioch of Syria or Philippi of Macedonia (Jensen p 156). His ‘Christian’ name was Lucas, a shortened form of the Roman ‘Lucanus’. His medical training might have been received at Athens, or Tarsus (‘a citizen of no mean city’ as Paul describes himself to the Roman Chief Captain of the Guard in Acts 21:39).

            From the content and style of Luke and Acts, it is speculated that history and literature were two of Luke’s favourite subjects.

            Luke was not a disciple of Christ during His earthly ministry and therefore does not write a personal eyewitness account. He may have been converted under Paul’s ministry, possibly at Antioch (eg Acts 11:26).

Jensen lists four important talents/callings (p 157):

  • Physician: “the beloved physician” Colossians 4:14. Jensen claims Luke’s Gospel employs ‘medical terms’ eg “fever” (4:38),  “issue of blood” (8:43), ”infirmity”, “bowed together” (13:11) and “sores” (16:20-21). Although these terms are more ‘medical’ than plain ‘ill’ or ’sick’, in my view they are not more than an intelligent layman might use, even in Luke’s time, as these words in the koine Greek were available for use by anyone. Those who do have medical training might infer from Luke’s description what the disease process might have been, but there is far too little specific information to diagnose the exact problem.

In any case, Luke is reporting what Jesus did or said as part of His supernatural ministry. Luke contains six unique miracles, five of which are of healings.

The issue of what exactly was cured is not relevant, particularly as God has allowed substantial advances in medical knowledge and technology since Luke’s era which has permitted some of these putative medical conditions to be ‘cured’ by men and therefore no longer belong to the realm of the miraculous.

Jensen notes that Luke and Paul may have met at the same University in Tarsus (p 157 - but it is also possible that at the age when Paul would have entered tertiary studies, he was sent to Jerusalem to Gamaliel Acts 22:3).

  • Historian: multiple historical times/dates/events/rulers throughout eg 1:5 (Herod), 1:26 (the sixth month), 1:56 (three months); see also 2:1-2, 21-22, 36-37, 42, and especially 3:1-2 ("Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness").[7] It’s difficult to be more specific than this! Especially as Luke was writing to one individual who was living at the same time and who was presumably aware of regional politics. In God’s providence it certainly helps us today to be accurate about times back then.
  • Writer: Jensen notes: “Luke’s gospel is considered by many to be a literary masterpiece” (p 157). That this is so in the original koine Greek is testament to the quality of the KJV translators in being able to reproduce this in a different language. Jensen states “It reveals a highly trained composer, who had a very large vocabulary, vivid style, historical outlook, and gift of communication” (ibid). There is more content concerning Jesus’ ministry in Luke and Acts than from any other NT writer.
  • Evangelist and Pastor: Paul’s co-labourer on the missionary journeys, staying with him until his death (eg 2 Timothy 4:11 et al). Jensen assumes that Luke shared the ministries of preaching and pastoring with Paul.

Jensen (p 157) describes Luke as “kind, humble, joyful, bright, pious and gentle” based on internal evidence from the Gospel and Acts. Jensen may be going overboard a little in his inferences from what Luke reported as distinct from what Luke was. Nevertheless, Luke appears to deeply appreciate the insights given him by God and we can reasonably assume that his character was in accord with how God wanted him to record the Word.

            For example, Luke’s Gospel refers to the prayers of Jesus more than the other Synoptics and it contains three unique parables on prayer (see below). Because of the inclusion of these, Jensen permits himself to attribute piety to Luke (p 157).



Discuss the date, readers and authorship of Luke:

            The Gospel was written before Acts ( Acts 1:1) but probably in close succession, and according to Jensen around 60 AD ie about the same time as the Gospel of Matthew, after James (45) and the first six books of Paul (48-56), but before Mark (68) and John’s (85) Gospels, and the remaining outputs of Paul (61-67), Peter (68) and John (85-96 AD). The two remaining books - Hebrews and Jude - were possibly written ~67 AD (Chart 1 p 20).

            Luke had access to written and eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:1-2) which in theory may have included Matthew’s Gospel. During Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea (two years) Luke had ample time and opportunity to gather his information.

            The Gospel does not mention the writer’s name, in common with the other Gospels. Although tradition with regard to Luke being the writer is very strong, the internal evidence that Luke wrote Acts is good, and comparing Luke 1:1-4 with Acts 1:1 indicates that the same writer was involved with both books.

            Luke wrote for one person, his friend Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1) who he may have led to the Lord (Luke 1:4). Theophilus (“lover - or loved - of God”) was clearly interested and worthy of receiving Luke’s accounts. He was Greek, as was Luke - the culture that “glorified wisdom, beauty, and the ideal man” (Jensen p 159). The literature style is excellent and the Gospel traces Jesus’ lineage back to Adam, not just to Abraham, titling the Christ as “The Son of Man”, all of which appealed to the Greek mind, and the work enjoyed wide Greek exposure, Theophilus presumably being unable to keep it to himself.

            It has been suggested that Luke composed his work to prove that Christians and Christianity were not a political threat to the Roman Government. It is not known where Theophilus lived, but he is assumed to be a Roman official. Depending on one’s translation of Acts 1:4 he may or may not have been saved.7a


7a The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  G.W.Bromiley General Editor, Fully Revised 1988, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company  Grand Rapids, Michigan IV, 831-832



Evaluate the prayers of Christ:

            Luke records 9 occasions on which Jesus prayed, 7 of which are unique to this Gospel. They are associated either with important events or times of physical or spiritual stress.

            Jesus uses prayer to recharge His batteries - physically and spiritually, and to prepare Himself to face trials, if necessary by praying all night. Two parables - the friend at midnight and the importunate widow - demonstrate the necessity of persistence.

            He shows the importance of drawing apart into a quiet place for specific prayer to be effective, but in the sense that He also requires us to pray, He did so “without ceasing”.

            He prays specifically for both friend and enemy, and for Himself.

            There is much teaching in this, beyond what is contained in the ‘model’ prayer for the disciples (11:2-4).



Discuss the work of the Holy Spirit in Luke compared with the other Synoptics:

            Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ relationship with the Holy Spirit is one of joy and closeness in the Trinitarian sense of being One. The relationship is powerful in works and in testimony and Jesus publicly rejoices in it (4:1,14, 10:21-22).

            Time and space prevent further treatment of this.



Examine the miracles of Christ in Luke:

            Generally, the Lukan miracle accounts occur earlier in the book, the parables later. This reflects the way Jesus wished to reveal Himself and His doctrines eg "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:" (1 Corinthians 1:22)[8] and Luke 24:19 "And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:"[9] in the context of the two Jews walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Also Acts 1:1: "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,"[10]

            The miracles established in the Jewish mind the power and authority of the Son of God, and formed the basis for explaining to the Greek mind the philosophy of God.

            Of the 35 recorded miracles of Jesus, 20 are recorded in Luke and six are unique to this Gospel. (Miracles are also an important part of John where only 8 are recorded but 6 are unique.) As mentioned above, 5 of the 6 unique miracles are of healings which the beloved Physician would not have bothered to mention if he was not convinced of their truth.

            The ultimate miracles - as in all the Gospels - are the sacrifice of Christ and His Resurrection and Ascension.





Interpret the kingdom teaching 17:11-19:27:

            Jesus knew that in the Millennium He would rightfully sit on the Davidic throne. This is, as it were, the ‘ultimate Kingdom’. But He also needed to get across that the Kingdom of God was “at hand” (Matthew 4:17) and “within you” (Luke 17:21), now.

            This passage in Luke gives specifics to the disciples concerning  what they were about to experience on account of having the Kingdom within them (17:22-18:8, 28-34) and to everyone who would listen what their fate would be if they did not amend their ways eg the self-righteous (18:9-14), the rich young ruler (18:18-27), those who thought that the arrival of the kingdom was imminent (17:20-21, 19:11-28).

This passage also teaches about the importance of faith for the realisation of the kingdom in an individual’s life eg the lepers healed (17:11-19), the infants brought to Him (18:15-17), the blind man at the entrance to Jericho (18:35-43), Zacchaeus (19:1-10).

Faithfulness in prayer as a means of obtaining the benefits of the kingdom are shown in the importunate widow (18:1-8) and the sacrifice of service (18:28-30).



Compare Luke’s Passion Week with Matthew’s:

            The relevant passages in Jensen are Charts 27, 28 and 39 and the associated text on pp 128-130, 169.



[1]The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[2]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 102 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[3]The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

3a Himmelman, C. A Family Tree: from Adam to Jesus  Published in Jerusalem  Printed by Rose Publishing, Torrance, California

[4]Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Rev. ed. of: Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995). Genealogies of Jesus

[5]D. R. W. Wood, New Bible Dictionary, 402 (InterVarsity Press, 1996, c1982, c1962).

[6]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 103 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[7]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[8]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[9] ibid

[10] ibid

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