INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL OF
A Chosen Personality
Writings are the task of man to record the activities and thoughts of the history of his time. Each writer has his own peculiarities and background which are important for the reader to know in order for him to evaluate the content of his particular work. In the ancient world, it was not unethical for a writer to use the name of a famous writer on his own work in order to honor the famous one, or to hide himself behind another name. There were also some ancient writers who usually were not eager to place their names on their writings. When they wrote letters, however, they stated their name first, then the name of the recipient with their greetings. This is why the Gospels of the New Testament were without the names of their authors at the very beginning of the Christian era. But recipients — the Church — knew well the writer in whose name the Gospel was read to them aloud. The third Gospel of the New Testament is attributed to the physician, Luke. Apostle Paul clearly refers to him in his epistles: "Luke the beloved physician and Demos greet you", Colossians 4:14; "Mark, Aristarchus, Demos and Luke, my fellow workers", Philemon 24; "Luke alone is with me", 2 Timothy 4:11. From these verses we have the undisputable fact that Luke was with Paul in Rome during the first imprisonment, during which letters were written to the Colossians and Philemon; also that Luke was with him during his second imprisonment, which led to Paul's ultimate martyrdom. It is obvious that Luke was known to the church of the Colossians, to whom Paul sent greetings on behalf of Luke.
From these quotations it is clear that Luke was the beloved medical doctor of Paul and that Luke was one of Paul's companions and co-workers in the field of missionary work. It seems that Luke was not imprisoned with Paul, unlike Aristarchus and Epafras "my fellow prisoners", Col. 4:1 (cf. Phil. 23). Luke accompanied Paul on his journeys, including Rome, and offered him his medical service and cooperation in spreading the Gospel of Christ. In Paul's epistle to the Colossians he refers to Aristarchus, Mark and Justus, saying "these are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God", 4:10-11. From this verse it is obvious that Luke was not a converted Jew, but a Gentile, being directly converted to Christianity. Luke was probably converted by Paul to Christianity in Tarsus, which was a famous center of learning on a level with Alexandria and Athens. It seems that Doctor Luke is the only one among the New Testament writers, with the exception of Paul, who was well-educated and knowledgeable in the sciences. It was the rule of the state that every doctor should be well-schooled and thoroughly-examined professionally and be under lengthy supervision of the experienced doctors of the city. Therefore, Luke was a learned professional man.
The writer of the third Gospel also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both were written in Greek. The writer of Acts identifies himself as such, as in the passage in chapter 16:10-17, where he uses the first person in the plural, "we". It is presumed that Luke accompanied Paul during the second Apostolic journey about the year 51, from Troas to Philippi. Acts chapter 20:5-21:18, concludes that six years later, in 57, during Paul's third journey, Luke met Paul again in Philippi and accompanied him to Jerusalem. There is no evidence that Luke was with Cleopas going to Emmaus when the Resurrected Christ met them. This is supported by the fact that Luke said at the beginning of his Gospel: "just as they were delivered to us by those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word", 1:2. This is also affirmed by the author of the Canon of Muratori, which was compiled at the beginning of the second century, where it is said that the third evangelist "has not seen the Lord bodily".
The historian Eusebious (fourth century) said that Luke was of Antiochian descent. A manuscript of the second century says "that St. Luke was a Syrian from Antioch, a medical doctor, a disciple of the Apostles, a follower of Paul up to his martyrdom, working in the Lord undistractedly, without children, and died 84 years old in Thevis 'full of the Holy Spirit'. He was directed by the Holy Spirit in Achaia, where he wrote his Gospel" (Codex Cavensis). The likelihood of his being of Antiochian descent is reinforced by the fact that Luke himself refers in some detail to the city of Antioch in his "Acts". However, there is also some evidence that he was himself the "man of Macedonia", Acts 16:10, and that he joined Paul at Troas for the journey to evangelize his native land, with data in Acts pointing toward Philippi as his native country. Another fact which reinforces this is that Greek was Luke's mother language. Luke seems to have remained in Philippi while Paul and his followers journeyed to Achaia, joining them again on their trip some years later, when missionaries passed through Philippi (Acts 20:5-6). Luke's obvious pride in the importance of Philippi is cited in support of this belief (Acts 16:12).
Tradition holds that in addition to being a medical doctor and writer, Luke was a painter. An Icon of the Virgin Mary (Theotokos) is attributed to his hand. Theodore the Reader, 530, refers to the Empress "Eudoxia, who sent from Jerusalem the icon of Theotokos, which Apostle Luke painted, to Poulcheria, her daughter, and her husband, Theodosius II" (Migne PG 86,165). This icon was taken to Venice in 1204. However, St. Augustine, fourth century, wrote that "we do not know the appearance of the Virgin Mary", not knowing of an icon painted earlier. Bishop Jerome did not know of any icon of the Theotokos anywhere, including Jerusalem. Luke was an excellent writer, who wrote with picturesque beauty and left remarkable descriptions in his Gospel which became the descriptive source of many artists of the future. The most beautiful icons and pictures that come from the Bible, especially of the nativity are based on the Gospel of Luke. Luke may not have been a painter, but he had an artistic spirit, presenting his ideas in vivid form with picturesque appeal. His pen provided details which were translated by many artists with their brushes.
Luke was keenly interested in social reform and showed compassion toward the poor and hungry and the outcasts of society, and probably would have been inclined to think that our contemporary social structure is fundamentally poor. His Gospel reveals him to have been a genuinely pious and devout man who diminished himself — radiantly joyful, with a charming personality, and very loyal. He remained with Apostle Paul to the very end, serving him in many ways. Tradition is abundant and varied concerning his works and activities after Paul's martyrdom.
THE PURPOSE OF LUKE'S GOSPEL
Luke's purpose was to write an orderly account, probably for a friend, Theophilus, holding a high Roman position: "that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed", 1:4. It seems that Luke, in writing to this Roman official, is attempting to show that the Empire had nothing to fear from the Church. This account was also intended to be circulated within the Gentile community at large. From the first four verses, it is evident that Luke was capable of writing excellent Greek. It is clear that he intended the Gospel to be the first part of a larger volume. The book of the Acts certainly seems to be a sequel to the Gospel. This is shown when Luke writes: "In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that the Jews began to do and teach until the day he was taken up (His Ascension)", Acts 1:1-2. His purpose in writing his Gospel is "that you have known the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed", 1:4, indicating earlier instruction. Luke writes to confirm the truth which his readers had already been taught. There were many writings on the life of Christ prior to Luke's Gospel, together with oral Tradition; he tried to blend them into a unified form. He had intended to write a real biography of Christ's life, works, death and Resurrection. His interests are especially historical, though related to world history. Luke writes his Gospel during a period when Christianity was about to become a world-wide movement.
It was a religion of Jewish origin, but independent enough to deal with both Jews and Gentiles. This is why the genealogy of Jesus is traced back to Adam. Luke tries to establish the divine origins of Christ's life, because Christianity was under suspicion by many as a radical movement against the state. The first century historian, Tacitus, wrote in reference to this movement: "This name was given to it from one Christus, who in the region of Tiberius, was condemned to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate, so that the pestilent superstition was for the moment suppressed". Luke's intent was to encounter and overcome these suspicions which the persecutors used against Christianity, Roman officials as well as Jews. He presents Christ as a teacher of purely moral and religious standards. He attributes jealously and bigotry to the opposing Jewish leaders. He wanted to make known the Gospel to the people outside the Church. Luke strove to present a literary work well-arranged in . good Greek. He succeeded in making his Gospel one of the most charming books in all literature. He uses moving and interesting subjects to make his Gospel readable enough to keep the reader to the very end. This is probably why Luke does not discuss theological controversies.
The Gospel according to Luke is believed by some to have been written between 56 and 60 A.D. Some contend that it was probably written in 130. Those who put it at 130 believe that the Gospel had as its source a work of Markion, a religious leader in Asia Minor. But it has since been proven that Markion used Luke's Gospel as a source, so that the later date has no validity. Still others contend that among the .sources used by Luke was the Jewish archeology by Gesipus, written in 94. This is an hypothesis without merit based on some similar phrases found in both. On the contrary, the third Gospel is an independent work in which Luke mentions historical facts related to Roman officials of a certain period of time. Some others believe that the Gospel was written between 70-80, after the fall of Jerusalem. Many dates have been suggested but none is certain. There is some certainty that it, as well as Acts, was written after the death of Paul, c.65 A.D., and before the fall of Jerusalem in 70. Where the Gospel was written also is not certain as well. Achaia in Greece is mentioned by Gregory of Nazianzos in a poem. Others say that he wrote it in Rome or in Caesarea, or Ephesus. There is no conclusive evidence where it was written.
THE QUALITIES OF LUKE'S GOSPEL
Here are some of the qualities that make this Gospel beautiful. The first is that it is a work of a literary artist. Luke brings together all the diversified sources and arranges the variety of detail in harmonious fashion. The beauty and picturesqueness of Luke's style enables him to record history in its splendor. His book is a picture book full of scenes, persons and other details which make Luke's Gospel unforgettable. It is superior, vivid, thoughtful presentations of the parables of Christ. Luke's tender, sympathetic approach is seen throughout his presentation of Christ's parables. He, more than any other evangelist, describes the compassion of Jesus, His kindness to those who were weak physically and spiritually. Luke also gives full recognition to the prominent role of women in the Christian religion. Another characteristic is that Luke presents Christ as a friend of the poor, while also showing sympathy and appreciation for the faith and goodness of rich people. He refers to the loyal women ministering to Jesus and His disciples, providing for their needs from their riches (8:2-3). Christ also helped the centurion who was rich (7:1-10), and Secchaeus, the rich tax collector. "For the son of man come to seek and to save the lost", 19:10, regardless if they are rich or poor. Luke's Gospel is full of sympathies for the poor and afflicted persons; it does not discriminate. It is obvious that Jesus Christ helped the needy and poor, and asked that his followers do the same.
Being a Gentile converted to Christianity, Luke approaches other converted Christians with a more sympathetic attitude than other evangelists. Matthew, for instance, says: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles", 10:5; "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel", 15:24. Luke, by contrast, makes no such statements. Matthew says: "Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" 5:47; but Luke replaces the word "Gentiles" with "sinners", 6:34. Matthew says: "and you will be hated by all nations", 24:9; Luke says merely: "you will be hated by all", 21:17. He stresses those parables which encourage the Gentile Christians and he presents Jesus Christ as the Savior of all mankind. Luke, in writing his Gospel mainly to Christian Gentiles, reassures them with an accurate expression of the doctrines and tradition on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, The facts which he presents show that Christ is the Son of God, born" of the Virgin to save all mankind. He is the Son of man and the Son of God, the God-Man Who came to save mankind, granting redemption and spiritual healing of sinners. The Gospel of Luke is called the Gospel of compassion and mercy, because it is full of expressions of love and goodness of the Savior toward sinners. This does not mean, however, that the writer of the third Gospel excludes the Jewish people from his sympathy and from Christ's salvation. Luke quotes Christ saying to His disciples "that repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem".
There are no certain theological trends which underline the historical events in the Gospel of Luke. Those theological aspects which are attributed to Luke (conception of the Spirit) are rather sporadic findings from the sources he uses. It is apparent that Luke tries to present the Christian message without doctrinal construction. The main themes of Luke's Gospel are that the message is from God (works of powers, visions, marvelous changes in man's life) and that it is intended for all men alike. It is obvious that Luke derives from Paul, his teacher, a spirit of universalism and ecumenicity; also the idea that Christ is the Savior of the whole world and that the expansion of Christianity was to be without boundaries, a belief that Luke himself later expresses in his Acts of the Apostles. This influence of Paul is understandable, since Luke was his doctor and close companion.
The following outline will enable the reader to become more familiar with the Gospel according to Luke.
The Outline of lake's 6ospel
The Gospel of Luke can be divided into the following outline:
I. Preface, 1:1-4
II. Birth and Infancy Narratives, 1:5-2:52
III. Galilean Ministry, 3:1-9:50
IV. Journey to Jerusalem through Samaria, 9:51-19:48
V. Jerusalem Ministry, chs. 20-21
VI. Passion and Resurrection Narrative, chs. 22-24
The key passage of Luke's Gospel is 4:18-27, where he quotes Isaiah's prophecy being read by Christ in the Synagogue: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of the sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord", vv. 18-19 (cf. Isaiah 61:1-2.)
Luke's goal was "to write an orderly account . . . that you may know the Truth", 1:3,4.
BIRTH AND INFANCY NARRATIVES
annunciation concerning john the baptist — "And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth . . . And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God", 1:14, 16.
annunciation of mary — "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. . . . And of his kingdom there will be no end", 1:32, 33.
the magnificat (1:46-55) — "My soul magnifies the Lord. . . . Henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name", 1:46, 48, 49.
birth of jesus (2:1-7) — "and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn", 2:7. "Glory to God in the highest", 2:14.
simeon (2:21-39) — "He took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 'Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation", 2:28-30.
visit to the temple (2:41-52) — "His parents . . . found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed", 2:43, 46, 47. "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
baptism, genealogy, temptation, ministry of jesus (3:21-ch.4) —"When Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, Thou art my beloved Son: with thee I am well pleased' ", 3:21-22. "Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age . . . being the son of God", 3:23, 38. "And Jesus answered him (devil), 'It is said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God'", 4:12. "And he went down to Capernaum . . . And he was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority", 4:31-32.
call of peter and the twelve (5:1-11; 6:12-16) — "And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men'", 5:10. "He called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named Apostles", 6:13f.
the sermon (6:17-29) — "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God", 6:20. "You that hunger . . . you that weep now . . . when men hate you… behold, your reward is great in heaven," vv. 21-23. "Judge not and you will not be judged", 6:37.
message of john the baptist (7:18-35) — "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" 7:19. "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard", 7:22ff, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee", 2:27.
parables and healings (ch. 8) — "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God", 8:11. "For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man", 8:29. "But taking her by the hand he called, saying, 'Child, arise", 8:54.
mission of the twelve (9:1-6) — "And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal", 9:1-2.
transfiguration (9:28-36) — "And a voice came out of the cloud, saying: 'This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!' " 9:35.
JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM THROUGH SAMARIA
mission and results of the seventy (10:1-28) — "The Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two", 10:1. "The seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!' " 10:17.
good samaritan (10:29-37) — "But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he (beaten man) was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds", 10:33-34. "Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise' ", 10:37.
How to pray (10:1-13) — "Lord, teach us to pray . . . 'When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be thy name' ", 11: 1, 2, 3.
warnings (12-1:12) — "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed", 11:1, 2. "He who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God", 12:9. "He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven", 12:10.
wealth and self (12:13-34) — "For I have nowhere to store my crops ... I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones . . . But God said to him 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you' ", 12:17, 18, 20. "Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing", 12:22-23.
christ's coming (12:35-48) — "You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect", 12:40. "Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much, they will demand the more", 12:28.
call to repentance (13:1-9) — "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish", 13:5. "And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down", 13:9.
true disciple (14:25-35) — "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple", 14:27. "Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple", 14:33. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear", 14:35.
prodigal son (15:11-32) — "Give me the share of property that falls to me", 15:12. "When he had spent everything ... he began to be in want", 15:14. "But when he came to himself, he said . . . I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you' ", 15:18. "For this, my son, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found", 15:24.
dishonest steward (16:1-18) — "The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence", 16:8. "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon", 16:13.
coming of kingdom (ch. 17) — "If he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ''I repent, you must forgive him' ", 17:4. "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed ... for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you", 17:20, 21.
Two parables of prayer (18:1-14) — "They ought always to pray and not lose heart", 18:1. "When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" 18:8. "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself . . . but the tax collector . . . saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'" 18:11, 13, 14. "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted, 18:14.
triumphant entry (19:28-48) — "As he was now drawing near ... the whole multitudes . . . began to rejoice . . . saying, 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest' ", 19:37, 38. "And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, 'It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers'", 19:45-46.
parable of vineyard (20:9-17) — "What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will respect him", 20:13. "But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours'", 20:14. "He will come and destroy those tenants", 20:16.
tribute to caesar (20:19-33) — "Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" 20:22. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's", 20:25.
prophecies (21:1-38) — "Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' Do not go after them", 21:8. "But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man", 21:36.
PASSION AND RESURRECTION NARRATIVE
the mystical supper (22:1-38) — "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me'. And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood' ", 22:19, 20. "As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom", 22:29, 30.
betrayal and trial (22:39-70) — "Pray that you may not enter into temptation", 22:40. "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" 22:48. "When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me", 22:53.
denial of peter (22:54-62) — "Peter followed at a distance . . . But he denied it, saying, 'Woman, I do not know him' . . . 'Man, I am not' . . . the cock crowed . . . And he went out and wept bitterly", 22:54, 57, 58, 60, 62.
jesus before pilate (23:1-25) — "'Are you the King of the Jews?' . . . 'You have said so' ", 23:3. "I find no crime in this man", 23:4. "Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, 'Crucify, crucify him!' 23:20-21. "So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted", 23:24.
crucifixion (23:32-49) — "There they crucified him, and the criminals", 23:33. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do", 23:34. "This is the king of the Jews, in letters of Greek, Latin and Hebrew", 23:38. "Then Jesus . . . said, 'Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this, he breathed his last", 23:46.
the tomb (23:50-55) — "Joseph of Arimathea . . . asked for the body of Jesus . . . wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb", 23:50, 53.
resurrection morning (24:1-12) — "And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body", 24:2-3. "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" 24:26.
appearance of christ (24:28-51) — "This Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon", 24:34. "As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them 'Peace to you!'" 24:36. "Then he said to them, 'These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me . . . must be fulfilled'", 24:44. "While he blessed them, he parted from them. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God", 24:51-53.
ACCORDING TO LUKE
The Gospel according to Luke is not only the largest of the Gospels, but its story of the life of the Church is continued in the Acts of the Apostles. Both writings, the Gospel and the Acts, are by the same hand. They have many similarities: their clarity of style, the person to whom they are addressed, the historical form. The Gospel of Luke is third in sequence among the four Gospels, not because of the date it was written, but because of the order given it by the early centers of the Church. Luke is one of the four evangelists, and proclaims Jesus Christ as Savior and Archpriest. Luke is portrayed with the image of a calf, testifying to Christ as Archpriest, since he dwells on the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ. The feast of St. Luke is October 16.
Luke's relationship with Apostle Paul gives him a certain authority, not only in this historical context, but also in similarity of philosophy with Paul, although it is not dominant in his Gospel. As a physician and learned man, Luke had the ability to examine well and record from a historical approach the events of the life of Christ. Luke is the only writer of the New Testament who was not a Jew. The Greek language was his mother tongue. His Gospel illustrates Christ's sympathetic attitude toward the poor, the lowly and the outcast. His Gospel also stresses devotional attitudes and prayer, as Christ did. Many of the great and inspiring hymns of the Orthodox Church are based on Luke's Gospel. Other great Christian hymns are also taken from his Gospel, including the "The Magnificat" and "Gloria in Excelsis". This Gospel greatly honors womanhood, and women are prominent in his narratives. Luke's Gospel presents the message from God and is addressed to all men, without discrimination between Jew and Gentile. Luke's Gospel is the Gospel of the "Son of Man": "For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost", 19:10.
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