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Luke Bible Study Notes

The Gospel of Luke was written by Luke, a companion of Paul, to convert the Greeks.  Luke portrays Jesus as the universal man and the savior of all mankind.  Hence Luke includes information about Jesus’ birth, his genealogy, etc. that is not contained in the other Gospels.


Overview of Luke

Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke shortly before writing The Acts of the Apostles. Both were written, probably about A.D. 62, when Paul was a prisoner in Rome following his shipwreck on Malta while being taken for trial before Caesar.

Both the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles were addressed by Luke to “most excellent Theophilus.” The phrase “most excellent” was commonly used when addressing a Roman official, in much the same way that judges in 20th Centaury America were addressed as “your honor.” Theophilus in Greek means “lover of God.” This has lead to much debate about identity of Theophilus, with some believing he was a Roman official while others feel Luke was addressing Christians in general. (As explained in my notes entitled Dating the Gospels, one theory is that Theophilus was a Roman official–either a Christian of a person sympathetic to Christians–who was assisting Paul in is upcoming trial. In short, Theophilus may have been Paul’s attorney.)

Luke was a physician in an era when almost all physicians were Greeks. According to Eusebius and Jerome, Luke was born in Antioch, Syria. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to the Gospel of Luke (p. 335), written somewhere between the Second and Fourth Century, states:

Luke is a Syrian of Antioch, a Syrian by race, a physician by profession. He had become a disciple of the apostles and later followed Paul until his [Paul’s] martyrdom. Having served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit he died at the age of 84 years.

Some manuscripts add that Luke died “in Thebes, the capital of Boeotia”. (Thebes, of course, in located in modern Greece.) Some believe that Luke resided in Troas, the province (located in modern Turkey) which included the ruins of ancient Troy,. Supporters of the theory point to the fact that most of Acts is written in the third person, but the author switches to “we” the three times Troas is mentioned.

In any event, all the evidence indicates that Luke was a gentile, not a Jew, and the only gentile to write part of the New Testament. In fact, Luke wrote more of what is now the New Testament than any other author. All this gives rise to the question: When did Luke become a Christian? One possiblity is that he became a Christian, like many other gentiles, after Christ’s death. Another possibility is that he had converted to Judaism prior to the commencement of the Lord’s mortal ministry and was one of Christ’s early disciples.

Part of the confusion involves how this passage that Luke wrote should be interpreted.

1 FORASMUCH as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
3 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,
Luke 1:1Luke 1:1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

The Gospel According to St. Luke 1 1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,  

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Did Luke’s “perfect understanding” come from being an eyewitness or from hearing the accounts of others? The answer is unclear.

What is clear is that Luke was a missionary companion of Paul, and that the work of the Seventy in the time of Christ was to preach the gospel. Many believe Luke was a Seventy. He could have been one of the original Seventy or have been ordained a Seventy after Christ’s death to fill a vacancy in the Quorum of Seventy much as Matthias was ordained an apostle to fill a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Luke is the only gospel writer to record the calling of the Seventy (Luke 10:1-2Luke 10:1-2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. 2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.  

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). Both Mark and Luke (Mark 16:12-13Mark 16:12-13
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.  

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and Luke 24:13-35Luke 24:13-35
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? 18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 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: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. 25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. vanished...: or, ceased to be seen of them 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, 34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.  

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) record the account two disciples—Cleopas and one who is not named—who while traveling to the village of Emmaus were accompanied by the resurrected Jesus who for a time concealed his identity form them. Luke provides the greater detail and generally writes in the third person. This has caused considerable speculation that (1) the Luke is unnamed disciple who saw the resurrected Lord on the road to Emmaus (2) Luke was one of the Seventy.

This author finds this speculation credible. Especially because Epiphanius (ca 310– 403), bishop of Salamis in Cyprus and author of Panarion, records that Luke was one of the Seventy and also because he was one of Paul’s missionary companions; the Seventy, of course, had been charged with preaching the Gospel.

Luke was Paul’s “beloved physician” and missionary companion during Paul’s second mission when Paul traveled from Troas to Philippi (Acts 16:10:17Acts 16:10:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV


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). Luke probably remained behind in Troas, but Luke apparently later rejoined Paul and he was with him until the end of the events recorded in Acts. In Second Timothy (4:11) Paul states that Luke is with him; this was written during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome shortly before his death. Luke apparently survived Paul, by nothing is known of his later life.

Origen (185-254), probably the greatest ante-Nicene writers of the Eastern Church, states that Luke wrote his Gospel for the benefit of the Greeks. If the Gospel of Luke was not written for the Greeks it certainly was written from a Greek perspective.

The Jews were waiting for the Messiah and would be converted by the fulfillment of prophecy. The Romans were impressed by power; they would accept a divine one with power over nature. Both were exclusive peoples. The Greeks in contrast were an inclusive people and sought the universal man. They valued intellect and were impressed with beauty, reason, and “humanity.” Luke presented Jesus to the Greeks as being the ideal, perfect man.

Luke traces Christ’s linage back to Adam in presenting him as the prefect man and savior of all mankind. Based on Luke’s account of Christ’s birth it is probable he spoke with Mary before writing his Gospel. How else would he know what she pondered in her heart or even the clothing in which he was wrapped as he lay in the manger?

Luke does not write using a strict chronological order; rather his Gospel is written through the development of themes. An example is the temptations Christ faced in the wilderness. Matthew gives the order in which they occurred. Luke in contrast gives the order starting with what he perceived as being the easiest and ending with what he considered the most difficult.

As stated above, the Gospel of Luke was probably written shortly before The Acts of the Apostles, which was written around A.D. 62, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. It is traditionally thought the Gospel of Matthew was written first, perhaps as early as A.D. 37. The Gospel of Mark and Gospel of Luke were written at approximately the same time. It is usually thought the Gospel of Mark was written before the Gospel of Luke, but as discussed in my notes entitled Dating the Gospels, it is very possible the Gospel of Luke was actually written shortly before the Gospel of Mark.


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