Introduction to Luke
Author, Date, and Recipients
Luke was a physician (Col. 4:14) and a travel companion of the apostle Paul. He wrote this Gospel and its sequel, the book of Acts. The earliest possible date of Luke–Acts is immediately after the events that Luke recorded in Acts 28, which would have been c. a.d. 62. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus” (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1), about whom nothing more is known. Luke’s broader audience consisted primarily of Gentile Christians like Theophilus who had already “been taught” (Luke 1:4) about Jesus.
The gospel is for all, Jews and Gentiles alike, since Jesus is the promised one of God as prophesied in the OT and as seen in God’s saving activity in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The Christian traditions Luke’s readers have received are true; by believing in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, they will receive the promised Holy Spirit whom he gives to all who follow him.
Luke probably had several goals in writing: (1) to assure his readers of the truth of what they had been taught; (2) to help them understand how Israel’s rejection of Jesus and the Gentiles’ entrance into the kingdom of God are part of God’s plan; (3) to clarify that Jesus did not teach that his bodily return would come immediately but that there would be a period between his resurrection and his return; and (4) to emphasize that they need not fear any mere earthly power such as Rome.
- God’s sovereign rule over history (13:33; 22:22, 42).
- The arrival and actual presence (though not yet the completion) of the kingdom of God (11:2; 17:20–21; 21:34–36).
- The coming and presence of the Holy Spirit for Jesus and his followers (1:15–17, 35; 2:25–27; 3:16, 22; 4:1, 18; 24:49).
- The great reversal taking place in the world, in which the first are becoming last and the last are becoming first, the proud are being brought low and the humble are being exalted (1:48; 6:20–26; 13:30; 14:11).
- Believers are to live a life of prayer and practice good stewardship with their possessions (6:12; 9:28–29; 11:1–4; 12:33–34; 18:1; 22:40).
- The danger of riches (6:20–26; 8:14; 12:13–21; 16:10–13, 19–31).
- The Prologue (1:1–4)
- The Infancy Narrative (1:5–2:52)
- Preparation for the Ministry of Jesus (3:1–4:15)
- The Ministry of Jesus in Galilee (4:16–9:50)
- The Journey to Jerusalem (9:51–19:27)
- The Ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem (19:28–21:38)
- The Suffering and Death of Jesus (22:1–23:56)
- The Resurrection of Jesus (24:1–53)
The Setting of Luke
The events in the book of Luke take place almost entirely within the vicinity of Palestine, an area extending roughly from Caesarea Philippi in the north to Beersheba in the south. During this time it was ruled by the Roman Empire. The opening chapters describe events surrounding Jesus’ birth in Judea, where Herod had been appointed king by the Romans. The closing chapters end with Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension during the rule of Pontius Pilate and the tetrarchs Antipas and Philip.