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Thursday, September 28th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

- Luke

by Albert Barnes

Preface to Luke

Little is “certainly” known concerning the time and place of writing this Gospel, or concerning the author. The first time we have any mention of the author is in his own history, Acts 16:10-11. He was then the companion of Paul in his travels, and it is evident that he often attended Paul in his journeys, compare Acts 16:11-17; Acts 21:1-6. In each of these places the author of “the Acts ” speaks of “his” being in company with Paul. That the same person was the writer of this Gospel is also clear from Acts 1:1.

From this circumstance the ancients regarded this Gospel as in fact the Gospel which Paul had preached. They affirm that Luke recorded what the apostle preached. Thus, Irenaeus says, “Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the gospel preached by him.” He also says, “Luke was not only a companion, but also a fellow-labourer of the apostles, especially of Paul.” Origen, speaking of the Gospels, says, “The third is that according to Luke, the gospel commended by Paul, published for the sake of the Gentile converts.” The testimony of the fathers is uniform that it was written by Luke, the companion of Paul, and was, therefore, regarded by them as really the gospel which Paul preached.

It is not known Where it was written. Jerome says it was composed in Achaia. There seems to be some probability that it was written to persons that were well acquainted with Jewish manners, as the author does not stop to explain the peculiar customs of the Jews, as some of the other evangelists have done. Respecting the time when it was written nothing very definite is known. All that can with certainty be ascertained is that it was written before the death of Paul (65 a.d.), for it was written before the Acts Acts 1:1, and that book only brings down the life of Paul to his imprisonment at Rome, and previous to his going into Spain.

It has been made a matter of inquiry whether Luke was a Gentile or a Jew. On this subject there is no positive testimony. Jerome and others of the fathers say that he was a Syrian, and born at Antioch. The most probable opinion seems to be that he was a proselyte to the Jewish religion, though descended from Gentile parents. For this opinion two reasons may be assigned of some weight. First, he was intimately acquainted, as appears by the Gospel and the Acts , with the Jewish rites, customs, opinions, and prejudices; and he wrote in their “dialect,” that is, with much of the Hebrew phraseology, in a style similar to the other evangelists, from which it appears that he was accustomed to the Jewish religion, and was, therefore, probably a proselyte. Yet the “preface” to his Gospel, as critics have remarked, is pure classic Greek, unlike the Greek that was used by native Jews; from which it seems not improbable that he was by birth and education a Gentile. second. In Acts 21:27, it is said that the Asiatic Jews excited the multitude against Paul because he had introduced “Gentiles” into the temple, thus defiling it. In Acts 21:28 it is said that the Gentile to whom they had reference was “Trophimus,” an Ephesian. Yet “Luke” was also at that time with Paul. If he had been regarded as “a Gentile” it is probable that they would have made complaint respecting “him” as well as “Trophimus;” from which it is supposed that he was a Jewish proselyte.

But again, in the Epistle to the Colossians, Colossians 4:9-11, we find Paul saying that Aristarchus, and Marcus, and Barnabas, and Justus saluted them, “who are,” he adds, “of the circumcision,” that is, Jews by birth. In Colossians 4:14 he says that “Luke,” the beloved physician, and Demas also saluted them; from which it is inferred that they were “not of the circumcision,” but were by birth Gentiles.

Most writers suppose that Luke, the writer of this Gospel, was intended in the above place in Colossians. If so, his profession was that of “a physician;” and it has been remarked that his descriptions of diseases are more accurate and circumstantial, and have more of “technical” correctness than those of the other evangelists.

Luke does not profess to have been an eye-witness of what he recorded. See Luke 1:2-3. It is clear, therefore, that he was not one of the seventy disciples, nor one of the two who went to Emmaus, as has been sometimes supposed. Nor was he an apostle. By the fathers he is uniformly called the “companion” of the apostles, and especially of Paul.

If he was not one of the apostles, and if he was not one of those expressly commissioned by our Lord to whom the promise of the infallible teaching of the Holy Ghost was given, the question arises by what authority his Gospel and the Acts have a place in the sacred canon, or what evidence is there that he was divinely inspired?

In regard to this question the following considerations may give satisfaction:

1. They were received by all the churches on the same footing as the first three Gospels. There is not a dissenting voice in regard to their authenticity and authority. The value of this argument is this - that if they had been spurious, or without authority, the fathers were the proper persons to know it.

2. They were published during the lives of the apostles Peter, Paul, and John, and were received during their lives as books of sacred authority. If the writings of Luke were not inspired, and had no authority, those apostles could easily have destroyed their credit, and we have reason to think it would have been done.

3. It is the united testimony of the fathers that this Gospel was submitted to Paul, and received his express approbation. It was regarded as the substance of his preaching, and if it received his approbation it comes to “us” on the authority of his name. Indeed, if this be the case, it rests on the same authority as the epistles of Paul himself.

4. It bears the same marks of inspiration as the other books. It is simple, pure, yet sublime; there is nothing unworthy of God; and it is elevated far above the writings of any uninspired man.

5. If he was not inspired - if, as we suppose, he was a Gentile by birth - and if, as is most clear, he was not an eyewitness of what he records, it is inconceivable that he did not contradict the other evangelists. That he did not “borrow” from them is clear. Nor is it possible to conceive that he could write a book varying in the order of its “arrangement” so much, and adding so many new facts, and repeating so many recorded also by the others, without often having contradicted what was written by them. Let any man compare this Gospel with the spurious gospels of the following centuries, and he will be struck with the force of this remark.

6. If it be objected that, not being an apostle, he did not come within the “promise” of inspiration John 14:26; John 16:13-14 made to the apostles, it may be replied that this was also the case with Paul; yet no small part of the New Testament is composed of his writings. The evidence of the inspiration of the writings of Luke and Paul is to be judged, not only by that “promise,” but by the early reception of the churches; by the testimony of the fathers as to the judgment of “inspired men” when living, and by the internal character of the works. Luke has all these equally with the other evangelists.

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