From: Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Gospel of Luke Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2015
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Over 50 Interpreters
Explain the Gospel of Luke
A COMPENDIUM OF THE MOST INSIGHTFUL MATERIAL FROM COMMENTARIES
AND OTHER WORKS
NOW IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
Compiled and Edited
Roland H. Worth, Jr.
Copyright © 2015 by author
Reproduction of this book for non-profit circulation
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at no cost—provided the text is not altered in any manner
and compiler credit is given.
If accompanied by additional, supplemental material
--in agreement or disagreement—
it must be clearly and visibly distinguishable
from the original text.
The primary text of this work is the traditional King James Version. More modern renditions are included from the New King James Version of selected words and phrases and occasionally others.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.
While finishing the two volume set Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Gospel of Mark, I discovered—to my surprise—that somewhere along the line I had compiled notes from some 48 books on Luke, but had never completed the compilation by pushing it over the “magic” number of 50.
The compilation had several problems. I was horrified to discover that for the 24 chapters of Luke I had less total wordage than for the 16 chapters of Mark—before any revisions were made! Although at least three chapters got mutilated (by computer malfunction, I expect--to under 400 words in each!), a number of other chapters also had far too many verses with no material or minimal coverage at best. Hence there was no doubt that significant additional research would be required to bring this in line with what a user could reasonably anticipate.
In addition, I discovered that three books I had listed as utilized had no notes at all and I was able to resurvey those volumes as well. (Presumably they were in the material my “starving” computer ate for lunch.)
My best guess is that I compiled this material originally in the mid-1980s and set it aside and simply never came back to it. The bulk of these volumes came from old fashioned hard cover print editions though in some cases this was supplemented, in the expansion, with a quick scan of an electronic edition for possible additions.
Toward the end of the list of utilized works you will see a number of books labeled “Computerized” indicating that this public domain material was gained from books now available on-line or from other electronic sources (such as DVD Biblical software or collections of books on DVDs). I am utterly fascinated by the expansion of public domain materials that are now becoming available in a convenient and accessible form to millions where heretofore they were simply unavailable to the vast bulk of readers.
The negative side to the increased accessibility of public domain
sources is the arrogant greediness found among some publishers to find ways to
lengthen copyright duration beyond anything fair and reasonable. I remain horrified, however, at the books
that by traditional standards of copyright length should already be
available for such posting but which greedy and self-centered publishers
effectively prohibit by their successful lobbying of Congress to extend such
periods beyond reason. If you think they
are doing it for “the author’s benefit,” I understand there’s an often sold
As in the Mark commentary, I have felt free to add my own comments in order to help provide more complete coverage. Some entries have one “longish” comment; others have several short ones, each on a separate line or two, with accompanying identification number. It all depends on what I was able to come across in my research.
Yes, this is probably not the “ideal” way to prepare such a commentary. But if usefulness is the primary goal, so long as that purpose is accomplished, everything else is a mere theoretical construct that can safely be passed by as not relevant in the current case.
A number of the entries could have been edited shorter. But given the extra space available through a computer usable text, it seemed far better to include various entries when they overlapped because they each provided a significantly different “angle” into the meaning of the text. One person might grasp the point easiest with one entry, and others with an approach worded significantly differently but with an overlapping or supplemental insight provided.
We have also freely included alternative approaches to the interpretation of various texts. This way the reader will encounter possibilities they might well not be acquainted with and will have something to intellectually “mull over” as they consider the original intent of the passage.
A few stylistic remarks: I have generally capitalized “he” and “him” when they refer to either the Father or Jesus—but there were simply too many to attempt to convert all of them over. So remember context when you are reading so you can be sure just who is in mind.
I have converted many of the Roman style numbers into our more common Arabic style form, but have made no effort to do all such. Indeed, even within some entries I will have a mixture of both. I have abridged into shorter format what the various authors have said without any ellipses; I have taken care not to alter the content or thrust of the arguments however. Occasionally I have added in brackets a word or comment to bridge missing text or to substitute language the contemporary reader is more likely to understand than that found in the original.
To repeat myself from what I said in the Mark commentary compilation:
In addition I added four comparative translations on each verse. To provide a representative sampling of translation styles we have presented the commentary itself in the King James Version with significant differences (mainly due to language changes) in its contemporary successor, the quite worthy New King James Version.
To provide representative alternate
translation styles that are in the public domain we have included the
Then there is the WEB (World English Bible) which is a conscious updating of the respected American Standard Version.
For those seeking an extremely literal version, we could hardly do better than the classic Young’s Literal Version. Personally I have never found much of appeal in this because in places it seems to verge on incomprehensibility. Literal is praiseworthy, of course, but unless the reader can also use it without scratching his or her head in confusion, perhaps it is too literal? Be that as it may, there are those who consider it something bordering on “the gold standard” and deserves inclusion on grounds of both literalness and continuing reader interest.
Finally there is Ronald L. Conte Jr.’s 2009 Catholic Public Domain Version. It is a contemporary translation of the Latin text recognized as authoritative in the Roman Catholic Church and may have special value to those of that religious background. It should be noted that he is—rightly—quite angry at contemporary Catholic translators’ willingness to yield to Modernism and extreme feminism and their biased slanting of the text. For that reason as well, his version may well provide non-Catholic readers with a useful Catholic version.
Finally, will there be more such volumes after Luke?
Deep into this revision I discovered I had far more limited materials on James and even less on 1 Peter and 2 Peter-Jude. Having begun them—and convinced that the underlying concept for these volumes is a sound one—I have already carried out major work on these though more is still needed.
When they will appear, I have no idea. At 71, I am beginning to “feel the age”—a quadruple bypass, a double bypass, at least one “silent” heart attack, and not us not forget a pacemaker. In addition there are other significant studies I wish to revise or complete—or initiate! So we will leave the future to take care of itself and discover it as we live it. As the song so well puts it, “One day at a time sweet Jesus; one day at a time!”
Roland H. Worth, Jr.
(with number code)
(these are repeated at the end of each chapter)
1 = Adam Clarke. The New Testament . . . with a Commentary and
Volume I: Matthew to the Acts. Reprint,
2 = Marvin R. Vincent. Word Studies in the New Testament. Volume I:
The Synoptic Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Epistles of Peter, James,
and Jude. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1887; 1911 printing.
3 = J. S. Lamar. Luke. [Eugene S. Smith, Publisher; reprint, 1977 (?)]
4 = Charles H. Hall. Notes, Practical and Expository on the Gospels;
volume two: Luke-John.
5 = John Kitto. Daily Bible Illustrations. Volume II: Evening Series:
The Life and Death of Our Lord.
6 = Thomas M. Lindsay. The Gospel According to St. Luke. Two
7 = W. H. van Doren. A Suggestive Commentary on the New Testament:
Saint Luke. Two volumes.
8 = Melancthon W. Jacobus. Notes on the Gospels, Critical and
Explanatory: Luke and John.
Brothers, 1856; 1872 reprint.
9 = Alfred Nevin. Popular Expositor of the Gospels and Acts: Luke.
10 = Alfred Nevin.
The Parables of Jesus.
Board of Publication, 1881.
11 = Albert Barnes. "Luke." In Barnes' Notes on the New Testament.
Reprint, Kregel Publications, 1980.
12 = Alexander B. Bruce. The Synoptic Gospels. In The Expositor's
Greek Testament, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll. Reprint, Grand
13 = F. Godet. A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke. Translated
from the Second French Edition by E. W. Shalders and M. D. Cusin.
14 = D.D. Whedon. Commentary on the Gospels: Luke-John. New
15 = Henry Alford. The Greek Testament. Volume I: The Four Gospels.
16 = David Brown. "Luke" in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and
David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the
Old and New Testaments.
Volume II: New Testament.
S. S. Scranton Company, no date.
17 = Dr. [no first name provided] MacEvilly. An Exposition of the Gospel
of St. Luke.
18 = H. D. M. Spence. “Luke.” In the Pulpit Commentary, edited by H. D.
M. Spence. Reprinted by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
19 = John Calvin. Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists,
Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Translated by William Pringle. Reprint,
20 = Thomas Scott. The Holy Bible ...with Explanatory Notes (and)
21 = Henry T. Sell. Bible Studies in the Life of Christ: Historical and
22 = Philip Vollmer. The Modern Student's Life of Christ.
Fleming H. Revell Company, 1912.
23 = Heinrich A. W. Meyer. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the
Gospels of Mark and Luke. Translated from the Fifth German
Edition by Robert Ernest Wallis. N. Y.: Funk and Wagnalls,
1884; 1893 printing.
24 = John Albert Bengel. Gnomon of the New Testament. A New
Translation by Charlton T. Lewis and Marvin R. Vincent.
25 = John Cummings. Sabbath Evening Readers on the New Testa-
26 = Walter F. Adeney, editor. The Century Bible: A Modern
missing from copy.
27 = Pasquier Quesnel. The Gospels with Reflections on Each Verse.
Volumes I and II.
(Luke is in part of both).
D. F. Randolph, 1855; 1867 reprint.
28 = Charles R. Erdman. The Gospel of Luke: An Exposition.
29 = Elvira J. Slack. Jesus: The Man of
Board of the Young Womens Christian Associations, 1911.
30 = Arthur Ritchie. Spiritual Studies in St. Luke's Gospel.
The Young Churchman Company, 1906.
31 = Bernhard Weiss. A Commentary on the New Testament. Volume
Two: Luke-The Acts.
32 = Matthew Henry. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Volume V:
Matthew to John. 17--. Reprint,
Company, no date.
33 = C. G. Barth. The Bible Manual: An Expository and Practical
Commentary on the Books of Scripture. Second Edition.
34 = Nathaniel S. Folsom. The Four Gospels: Translated . . . and with
Critical and Expository Notes. Third Edition.
Upham, and Company, 1871; 1885 reprint.
35 = Henry Burton. The Gospel according to Luke. In the Expositor's
36 = [Anonymous]. Choice Notes on the Gospel of S. Luke, Drawn from
Old and New Sources.
37 = Marcus Dods.
The Parables of Our Lord.
Revell Company, 18--.
38 = Alfred Edersheim. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.
39 = A. T. Robertson. Luke the Historian in the Light of Research.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920; 1930 reprint.
40 = James R. Gray. Christian Workers' Commentary on the Old and
ion/Fleming H. Revell Company, 1915.
41 = W.
Sanday. Outlines of the Life of Christ.
Scribner's Sons, 1905.
42 = Halford E. Luccock. Studies in the Parables
Methodist Book Concern, 1917.
43 = George H. Hubbard. The Teaching of Jesus in Parables. New
44 = Charles S. Robinson. Studies in Luke's Gospel. Second Series.
45 = John
Laidlaw. The Miracles of Our Lord.
Wagnalls Company, 1892.
46 = William M. Taylor. The Miracles of Our Saviour. Fifth Edition.
New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1890; 1903 reprint.
47 = Alexander Maclaren. Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Luke.
New York: George H. Doran Company, [no date].
48 = George
Miracles of Our Lord.
George Routledge & Sons, 1878.
49 = Joseph Parker. The People's Bibles: Discourses upon Holy Scrip-
50 = Daniel Whitby and Moses Lowman. A Critical Commentary and
Paraphrase on the New Testament: The Four Gospels and the Acts
of the Apostles.
51 = Matthew Poole. Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1600s.
52 = George R. Bliss. Luke. In An American Commentary on the New
53 = J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. The Fourfold Gospel.
54 = John Trapp. Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1654.
55 = Ernest D. Burton and Shailer Matthews. The Life of Christ.
Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1900; 5th reprint,
56 = Frederic W. Farrar. The Gospel According to St. Luke. In “The
the University Press, 1882.
Discussions Organized under These Headings:
First Century Origin of the Gospel
Evidence arguing for the origin of the gospel in the first century and acceptance as authoritatively reliable from then on.
When written in the first century.
The author and his relationship to the apostle Paul.
The mythical interpretation of the gospel accounts is itself unreliable.
Characteristics of the Gospel of Luke
Distinctive characteristics of Luke's gospel.
Luke’s contribution to our knowledge of the parables of Jesus.
The Miraculous in Luke
Miracles in the Gospel of Luke.
Luke’s credibility and reliability as a recorder of miracles and the modern human inclination to arbitrarily dismiss it.
The Census in Luke
The historical basis for Luke's reference to an empire-wide Roman census.
The historicity of the census by Quirinius that took Joseph and Mary
The evidence for a periodic Roman census and reconciling its date with the probable timing of Jesus’ birth.
Reconciling the two ancestry lists of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.
* * * *
First Century Origin of the Gospel
Evidence arguing for the origin of the gospel in the first century and acceptance as authoritatively reliable from then on .
In the last quarter of the second century — that is to say, in less than a hundred years after the death of St. John — the canon of the New Testament, as we have it now, was generally accepted in all the Churches of the East and West.
How widespread was the religion of Jesus Christ before the close of the second century we have abundant testimony. Justin Martyr, for instance, before the middle of the century, wrote how "there existed not a people, whether Greek or barbarian, whether they dwelt in tents or wandered about in covered wagons, among whom prayers were not offered up in the name of a crucified Jesus, to the Father and Creator of all things." Tertullian, a few years later, living in quite another part of the Roman world, told the heathens that his brethren were to be found filling the camp, the assemblies, the palace, the senate."
Before the year 200 the well-known and voluminous writings of Irenaeus in Gaul, Clement in Alexandria, and Tertullian in Carthage, the capital of wealthy Proconsular Africa, testify to the wide and general acceptance of the books composing the New Testament canon. These writings clearly tell us what was the judgment of the Catholic Church at that early period in the matter of the sacred Christian books. They were the holy treasure house whither men resorted for authoritative statement on doctrine and on practice. Here men sought for and found their Master's words, and the teaching of his chosen followers. In the weekly services of the Church, as early as the middle of the century, we learn from Justin Martyr, the memoirs of the apostles (by which term he designated the Gospels) were read on the same footing as the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament.
Among these books, which in the last years of the second century were among Christians so universally received as authoritative and honored as Holy Scripture, was the Gospel according to St. Luke. Was it referred to as a sacred writing before this date?
From A.D. 120 to 175
The Canon of Muratori was discovered in the Ambrosian
Justin Martyr, of whose writings we possess several important pieces, was born at the close of the first century, and died about A.D. 165. His works that are preserved may be dated roughly A.D. 130 to 150-160. They contain a mass of references to the Gospel narratives, embracing the chief facts of our Lord's life, and many details of his teaching — never, save in one or two very unimportant details, traveling out of the track of the story of the four evangelists, his many references being free from legendary admixture.
These circumstances connected with our Lord's life were derived for the most part, he tells us, from certain written records which, he said, rested on apostolic authority, and were used and read in the public assemblies of Christians. He never quotes these records by name, but refers to them simply as "memoirs of the apostles"; two of these, he says, were written by apostles, two by their followers.
His references are for the most part connected with the teaching rather than with the works of Jesus. He weaves into the tapestry of his story the narratives especially of Matthew and Luke, quoting often the very words of the evangelists. In his 'Apology' Westcott reckons nearly fifty allusions to the gospel history. In the 'Dialogue' about seventy facts peculiar to St. Luke's narrative are introduced by Justin; for instance, the account of the sweat which dropped as blood from the Redeemer in Gethsemane, and the Master's prayer for the passing of "this cup."
These "memoirs" which Justin uses so freely, and which he is careful to state were read in the weekly services of the Christians, were, in the estimation of the Church of his time (which was roughly the middle years of the second century), evidently ranked with the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament; and these memoirs of the apostles, it is perfectly certain, were the Gospels we know severally as the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and Mark.
As Justin wrote before and after the year of our Lord 150, we have traced St. Luke's Gospel as an authoritative sacred document a considerable way upwards towards the source.
The testimony of the
early heretical schools is very useful to us here, and puts us a further step
backwards. About A.D. 140 Marcion, the son of a
Bishop of Sinope, claimed to reproduce in its
original simplicity the Gospel of
the author of the famous heresy which bears his name, came to
the familiar friend of the heresiarch just alluded to, himself the great Valentinian commentator, has left commentaries on St. Luke
and St. John, and fragments of these are still in existence. Clement of
Cerdo, an heretical teacher who lived still nearer the beginning of the second century, according to Theodoret, used the Gospels, especially that of St. Luke, in his system of theology.
was one of the earliest Gnostics, who taught at
Tatian, a pupil of Justin Martyr, according to the testimony of Epiphanius, Theodoret, and Eusebius, shortly after the middle of the century, composed what may be called the first harmony of the four Gospels — the 'Diatessaron.' Although Tatian appears to have on some subjects adopted strange and heretical opinions, in general form his harmony or 'Diatessaron' was so orthodox and helpful that it enjoyed a wide ecclesiastical popularity.
Two versions belong to
this first period of the Church's history — the Peschito-Syriac
and the Old Latin (used in North or Proconsular
The first, the Peschito-Syriac, represents the vernacular dialect of
The second version, the
Old Latin, was made in the great and wealthy
We now come to the early
years of the second century and the closing years of the first century —
roughly speaking, the twenty or twenty-five years which followed the death of
St. John. Here, as might be expected from
the comparatively few remains of Christian writings of this very early period
which we possess, the evidences of the existence and recognition of St. Luke
and the other books of the New Testament are more rare. Yet even in the scanty fragments still
remaining to us of this very early period, we find traces of the inspired
writings of the followers of Jesus of
In that curious religious romance entitled the 'Testaments of Twelve Patriarchs,' a writing which Bishop Lightfoot speaks of as "coming near the apostolic age," and which the best modern scholars generally conceive to have been put out some time between A.D. 100 and A.D. 120, it is evident that much of the New Testament canon was known to the writer, who weaves into the tapestry of his work many of the New Testament thoughts and expressions, and occasionally quotes whole passages more or less accurately. Especially the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke are made use of.
From St. Luke's Gospel
twenty-two rare [Greek] words are used by the writer of the 'Testaments of the
Twelve Patriarchs,' of which rare words nineteen are found in no contemporary
writer. From the Acts, which may be
looked upon as a second part of St. Luke's Gospel, twenty-four rare words are
taken, of which twenty are alone found in this book of the New Testament. The anonymous author of the 'Testaments'
borrowed from the vocabulary of most of the New Testament books, though from
none so largely as from those written by or under the influence of
Very lately the scholarly
Archbishop Bryennios, Metropolitan of
We have now traced the Third Gospel back to days when probably John was still living, certainly to a time when men who had listened to John and Peter, to Paul and Luke, were still living and teaching. The testimony of one of the most famous of these pupils or disciples of the apostles will close our long chain of evidence.
Clement of Rome
was the disciple of
Various ancient writings have been preserved bearing his honored name. Of these only the first Greek epistle can be confidently pronounced authentic; it has been variously dated, A.D. 68, 70, 95. Whichever of these dates be accepted, its testimony will be the witness of the belief in the years immediately succeeding the martyrdom of Paul, when certainly many of the pupils and disciples of the twelve still lived and worked among men. We will confine ourselves to this first Greek epistle of unquestioned authenticity.
Clement was evidently a diligent
student of the writings of Paul, Peter, and John. He occasionally uses words found only in
Then follows a passage in which the writer seems to unite St. Matthew's and St. Luke's accounts of the sermon on the mount; but where, in the opinion of Volkmar, the text of St. Luke predominates (see Luke 6:31, 36-38). The second is in the forty-sixth chapter, and contains the spirit and indeed the very words of the Lord as reported in Matthew 26:24; 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2.
When written in the first century .
Gospel according to Luke," was written before the Book of Acts
(see Acts 1:1), and as this latter closed when Paul had been two full years a
The author and his relationship to the apostle Paul .
The earliest traditions of the Church, and the writings which we possess of her teachers — of men who lived in the century following the death of St. John — the "remains," too, of the great heretical teachers who taught for the most part in the first half of the second century, all bear witness that the author of the Third Gospel was identical with the writer of the Acts, and that this person was the Luke well known in the days of the beginnings of Christianity as the companion and friend of Paul. Most of these early references in some form or other connect Luke's work with Paul.
Among the more interesting and important of these, Irenaeus, writing in Southern Gaul circa A.D. 180, says, "Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the gospel preached by him (Paul)" ('Adv. Haeres.,' 3. 1); and again, "That Luke was inseparable from Paul, his fellow-worker in the gospel, is shown by himself. . . . Thus the apostles, simply and without envying any one, handed down to all these things which they themselves had learned from the Lord; thus, therefore, Luke also . . . has handed down to us the things which he had learned from them, as he witnesses when he says, 'Even as they delivered them to us which from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word'" ('Adv. Haeres.,' 3. 14).
Tertullian, who lived and wrote in Proconsular Africa in the last years of the second century, tells us how "Luke's digest was usually ascribed to Paul".
Eusebius, the Church historian, writing a little more than a century later, and who spent much of his life in collecting and editing the records of the first beginnings of Christianity, relates that "Luke, who was a native of Antioch, and by profession a physician, for the most part a companion of Paul, and who was not slightly acquainted with the rest of the apostles, has left us two books divinely inspired. . . . One of these is the Gospel. . . . And it is said that Paul was accustomed to mention the Gospel according to him, whenever in his Epistles speaking, as it were, of some Gospel of his own, he says according to my gospel" ('Hist. Eccl.,' 6:25; see also St. Jerome, 'De Vir. Illustr.,' c. 7).
apparently generally received tradition, which at all events very closely
connects the Third Gospel with
Then in the teaching. It is universally agreed that there is a general affinity between Paul and Luke. It is in the Third Gospel that especially those doctrines which are commonly termed Pauline are pressed with peculiar force. Both Paul and Luke, in their teaching, bring into special prominence the promise of redemption made to the whole human race, without distinction of nation or family, ignoring in the gracious offer all privilege whatsoever: "All flesh shall see the salvation of God."
Many of the
parables told only by St. Luke, notably that of the good Samaritan; in the
parable-stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son, illustrating
the love of Jesus shown in seeking the lost — read as examples of the teaching
pressed home in the Pauline Epistles, homely, vivid illustrations taken from
the everyday life of Syria and Palestine.
The appearances of the risen Jesus after the Resurrection almost exactly
correspond with those related by
That a close connection existed between Paul and Luke we know from several allusions to Luke in the Epistles of Paul: "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you" (Colossians ); "There salute thee, Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus. . . . Lucas, my fellow-laborer" (Philemon 24); "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy ).
Some expositors have thought that this friendship of Paul and Luke only began at Rome, a city in which Luke was residing as a physician, and that he met the great apostle during his first imprisonment there, and was converted to Christianity during Paul's captivity, in which we know that many persons had access to him. This supposition would not be contradicted by the three special notices of Luke in the Pauline Epistles, two of them — that to the Colossians and the letter to Philemon — having been written from Rome during that imprisonment, and the third notice, in the Second Epistle to Timothy, occurring in a letter written some years later, when the apostle was confined a second time in Rome.
But the intimacy between Paul and Luke, we confidently believe, began much earlier. A very general and absolutely uncontradicted tradition, which dates from the early days of Christianity, ascribes the authorship of the Acts to St. Luke. Now, in this very writing, in three passages, two of considerable length, the author of the Acts passes abruptly from the third person to the first person plural.
Thus the narrative changes from "and as they went through the cities," etc. (Acts 16:4), to "loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia," etc. (Acts 16:11), as though the writer — universally, as we have seen, acknowledged to be St. Luke — had joined the little band of missionaries who accompanied St. Paul at Troas (Acts 16:10). If this be, as is most probable, the case, then he must — having at some previous (unknown) date become acquainted with St. Paul — as early certainly as A.D. 53, have joined himself to St. Paul's company when the apostle was at Troas.
still following the Acts narrative, St. Luke journeyed as far as
During the two years or more of Paul's imprisonment at Casesarea (whither he was sent from Jerusalem after his arrival at that city with Luke), St. Luke was probably with or near him, for when the apostle was sent under guard as a prisoner of state from Caesarea to Rome, Luke again evidently was with him; for throughout the voyage which ended in the memorable shipwreck and the subsequent stay at Melita, and on the voyage from Melita in the ship of Alexandria, we find the forms "we" and "us" used: "Then when we came to Rome;" "when the brethren heard of us."
During that long period of imprisonment at Caesarea, it is highly probable that St. Luke, acting under the immediate direction of his master Paul, made that personal investigation, searched out eye-witnesses of the events of the life of love, conversed with survivors — less than thirty years had elapsed from the Resurrection morning, it must be remembered, when Paul lay in his Caesarean prison — procured memoranda in the possession of the holy women and others, and with the help and guidance of his great master, aided by the Holy Spirit (A.D. 60-62), we even think compiled much of what is known now as "the Gospel according to St. Luke." During the Roman imprisonment, which immediately followed A.D. 63-64, the work, and not improbably its sequel the Acts, was finally revised and put out.
We thus possess traces of an intimate friendship between the older and the younger man for a period of some twelve years — A.D. 53 to 64; for how long previous to A.D. 53 and the meeting at Troas (Acts 16:10) the friendship had existed we have no data even for conjecture.
Infidels have regarded the Gospel of Luke as having even less claim than the others to be considered an inspired production. It was not written by an Apostle; the promise of miraculous spiritual endowments was not made to its author; he, himself, does not claim to be inspired, but speaks of care and diligence in seeking out information as any ordinary man might do. All this has been urged, and all this is true.
Still, it does not affect the question of Luke's inspiration; because, although he was not one of the Apostles to whom the promise of inspiration was given, we know as matter of fact that spiritual gifts were not limited to the Apostles. The book of Acts abounds in instances in which they were bestowed upon others, while the Epistles speak often and distinctly of the presence of the inspiring Spirit in the churches. Moreover, the very office which Luke filled, and the labors in which he was engaged, show that he must have had those supernatural gifts which the Apostle would recognize as fitting and qualifying him for his work.
That he does not lay express claim to these in the Gospel can make no more against him than against Matthew and John, each of whom is equally silent upon the same point. And, finally, that he speaks of the care and diligence with which he sought to reach the certainty of the facts believed, can be pleaded in opposition by those only whose theory of inspiration is grossly mechanical.
In truth, the supernatural was always grafted upon the natural. The Apostles themselves were first of all taught in the ordinary way of oral instruction. They were called to go about from place to place with their Master, to hear His wonderful discourses, and to witness His wonderful works, before they were inspired, and this, notwithstanding the principal effect of their inspiration was to be connected with the very things which they had heard and see, viz.: to bring all things to their remembrance. Doubtless, too, the Holy Spirit guided and directed them both in speaking and in writing--in the selection and expression of the facts thus bought to their minds.
The only difference in the case of Luke and Mark is, that they were inspired before the facts of the Gospel history were made matters of special investigation by them; so that it was under the guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit that they traced out and determined the truth of the statements that had been made to them. The same Spirit directed in the selection and expression of the events and discourses which they have put upon record. Thus each Evangelist was miraculously influenced to present a different portrait of the same Divine Person; to exhibit him, so to speak, as viewed from a different angle, and as presenting to each all His features, but in different degrees of distinctness and prominence.
The inspiration of Luke's Gospel, therefore, rests upon the same sure testimony as that of the others, namely, its own inherent superiority to all merely human compositions, its numerous signs and signals of a guiding, illuminating and pervading Spirit, and the fact that it was received and accredited as an inspired and authoritative document by the early church during the age of gifts. Indeed, it will hardly be doubted by those who believe in its authenticity, that it was perused by the great Apostle himself, and received the approval of his illuminated and sanctified mind and heart, before it was published. It has indeed been thought, and not without reason, to bear marks of Paul's influence, or at least to exhibit the gospel as taught by him. We may therefore safely accept the testimony of the early church, and regard it as a part of the canonical and inspired Scriptures.
The Mythical Interpretation of the Gospel Accounts Is Itself Unreliable .
In common with other historic portions of the New Testament, Luke's Gospel has been characterized by one school of modern infidelity as an aggregation of myths and legends collected long after the date which Christians assign to these works. Upon this hypothesis the four Gospels have no historic value whatever. Strauss, for example, finds either in the Old Testament, or elsewhere, something similar to the various works attributed to Jesus, or something which he holds to have been at least suggestive of them, and he affects to discover here the germ out of which later enthusiasts developed the so-called Gospel Histories.
He argues that Jesus was an actual person, who strongly impressed himself upon his followers, but that, historically speaking, he fell far below the absolute idea, and that his adherents endeavored to elevate him to that idea by mythical additions to his life. With great learning and ingenuity--and often, too, it must be added, with great absurdity—he seeks to trace out, one by one, the mythical origin of the various wonderful events in the recorded history of our Lord.
Apart from other considerations, it should suffice to say that the existence of the church before the assumed date of these myths is fatal to the theory. Given a large, flourishing, wide-spread and enthusiastic communion, anxious to add honors to its hero, and restrained by no controlling principles or scruples--and the generation and publication of legendary glories is conceivable; but the existence of such a community remains still unexplained and inexplicable. The hypothesis represents these people as being fired by this absorbing enthusiasm, without any adequate cause to produce it.
How was the church originally formed? Upon what ground was it collected? What were the facts proclaimed, and the evidences furnished, that led to this phenomenon? In a word, how were men in the first instance, brought into that condition of self-denial and self-sacrifice--that feeling of deathless devotion to one who was not till long afterwards believed in as worthy of such services and honors?
At the period when these myths are said to have been fabricated, Christianity had spread over a large part of the earth. Myriads of men had renounced the world, had conquered their prejudices, had faced the terrible ordeal of shame, had voluntarily and knowingly subjected themselves to the imminent danger of death, and had literally counted all things but loss for the sake of one whom as yet they knew only as a good man, who lived for a short while in the presence of his fellow-men, then died in ignominy and shame, and remained in the decay and corruption of the tomb!
For we are gravely told that the idea of the resurrection was an after-thought; that the stories of preceding miracles, proving the divinity of Christ, were a late-born fancy; that none of those wonderful events which so naturally and rationally account for the birth and growth of the infant church, really occurred, or were at first proclaimed or even thought of. All these were legendary, fanciful, mythical, but the outgrowth of a pre-existing enthusiasm. What, then, produced this enthusiasm?
Upon the supposition that what Luke records, the Apostles and eye-witnesses actually delivered by word of mouth, and that their word was confirmed by such testimonies as compelled belief, the existence of the church is easily and satisfactorily accounted for. But if the original preachers of the Gospel did not proclaim a Divine Savior, and did not bear testimony to works which were in harmony with such a character; if they did not explicitly bear witness not only to these works, but also to his resurrection; and if God Himself did not confirm and establish their testimony by many infallible proofs; then the very existence of the church wrought up to such a state of enthusiasm and devotion as would cause it to devise the so-called mythical stories, is itself a miracle as wonderful as any that the Evangelists narrate.
Characteristics of the Gospel of Luke
Distinctive Characteristics of Luke's Gospel .
Thus Satan is constantly emphasized over against Jesus, as binding a daughter of Abraham; as cast down from heaven in Jesus' vision; as entering into Judas; as sifting Peter. The evangelist portrays the doubting Zacharias and the trusting Mary; the churlish Simon and the loving sinner; the bustling Martha and the quiet, adoring Mary; the thankful and the thankless lepers; the woes added to the blessings in the Sermon on the Mount; the rich man and Lazarus; the Pharisee and the Publican; the good Samaritan and the priest and Levite; the prodigal and his elder brother; the penitent and impenitent thieves.
is the universal gospel.
His frequent use of words expressing the freedom and universality of the
Gospel has already been noted. His
Gospel is for the Gentiles. The
genealogy of Christ is traced back to the common father of the race, Adam,
instead of to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, as by Matthew. He records the enrolment of Christ as a
citizen of the
him as a light for revelation to the Gentiles.
The Baptist cites concerning him Isaiah's prophecy that "all
flesh" shall see the salvation of God.
Luke alone records the mission of the seventy, who
represent the seventy Gentile nations, as the twelve represent the twelve
He contrasts the gratitude of the one Samaritan leper with the thanklessness of the nine Jewish lepers. He alone records the refusal to call down fire on the inhospitable Samaritans, and the parable of the Good Samaritan is peculiar to him. He notes the commendation of the humble Publican in contrast with the self-righteous Pharisee, and relates how Jesus abode with Zacchaeus. He omits all reference to the law in the Sermon on the Mount.
is the gospel of the poor and outcast.
As a phase of its universality, the humblest and most sinful are shown
as not excluded from Jesus. The highest heavenly
honor is conferred on the humble Mary of
"The pastoral spirits first
Approach thee, Babe divine,
For they in lowly thoughts are nurs'd,
Meet for thy lowly shrine:
Sooner than they should miss where thou dost dwell,
Angels from heaven will stoop to guide them to thy cell."
He pictures poor Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, and the calling of the poor and maimed and halt and blind to the great supper. It is the gospel of the publican, the harlot, the prodigal, the penitent thief.
Luke's is the gospel of womanhood. Women come prominently into view as
discerning God's promises. The songs of
The word [Greek,]
woman, occurs in Matthew and Mark together forty-nine times, and in Luke
alone forty-three. "He alone,"
says Canon Farrar,
"preserves the narratives, treasured with delicate reserve
and holy reticence in the hearts of the blessed Virgin and of the saintly
Luke's is the prayer-gospel. To him we are indebted for the record of our Lord's prayers at his baptism; after the cleansing of the leper; before the call of the twelve; at his transfiguration; and on the cross for his enemies. To him alone belong the prayer-parables of the Friend at , and the Unjust Judge.
Luke's is the gospel of song. He has been justly styled "the first Christian hymnologist." To him we owe the Benedictus, the song of Zacharias; the Magnificat, the song of Mary; the Nunc Dimittis, the song of Simeon; The Ave Maria, or the angel's salutation; and the Gloria in Excelsis, the song of the angels.
And, finally, Luke's is the gospel of infancy. He alone tells the story of the birth of John the Baptist; he gives the minuter details of the birth of Christ, and the accounts of his circumcision and presentation in the temple, his subjection to his parents and the questioning with the doctors.
Luke’s Contribution to Our Knowledge of the Parables of Jesus .
Scholars differ greatly in counting Christ’s parables. Bruce gives thirty-three and eight "parable-germs." Koetsweld counts seventy-nine. I have listed some fifty of them in Broadus’s Harmony of the Gospels (pp. 270 f.). The speech of Christ was full of metaphor and similitude like the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. Of the thirty-five of some length that are usually discussed in the books on the parables of Jesus, Luke has twenty-three and eighteen occur in his Gospel alone. Three are also in Matthew and Mark (the sower, the mustard-seed, the wicked husbandman) and two are in Matthew (the leaven, the lost sheep).
The eighteen that occur in Luke alone are: the
two debtors (Luke -43),
the good Samaritan (-37),
the friend at (11:5-8),
the rich fool (-21),
the waiting servants (-48),
the barren fig-tree (13:6-9),
the chief seats at feasts (14:7-11),
the great supper (-24),
the rash builder (-30),
the rash king (-33),
the lost coin (15:8-10),
the lost son (-32),
the unrighteous steward (16:1-12),
the rich man and Lazarus (-31),
the unprofitable servants (17:7-10),
the unrighteous judge (18:1-8),
the Pharisee and the publican (18:9-14),
the pounds (-27).
Luke, like Matthew (13, 21, 24 and 25), is fond of bunching the parables, as in -39; -21; -32; chapters 15, 16, 18. It looks as if Jesus at times piled parable upon parable in his teaching, to drive the point home, as in Luke 15 (three) and in Matt. 21 and 22 (three). Sometimes there are pairs of parables in Luke, as in Matthew.
Plummer notes how the effect of Christ s parables is intensified by contrasts, as in the heartless clergy and the charitable Samaritan (Luke ), the rich man and Lazarus (), the Pharisee and the publican (18:9).
There is a trace of Luke s own style in some of the parables which he may have translated from the Aramaic into the Greek, but in the main we may feel sure that Luke has preserved the story with the flavor that Jesus gave it. Stanton thinks that the good Samaritan, in particular, has Lukan characteristics.
As a rule parables are drawn from a different realm to illustrate one’s point. But Luke gives some that come from the same sphere by way of example, as the good Samaritan, the foolish rich man, the rich man and Lazarus, the Pharisee and the publican, the friend at , the unjust judge.
These are parables of the personal touch. The parallel consists in the application of the story to the life of the hearer.
Luke is fond of the personal touch in Christ s stories. "The Lukan parables are not formal expositions of the nature of the kingdom, they are appeals ad hominem. And they are drawn, for the most part, not from the processes of nature, but from the facts of human life and character."
Glover thinks that Jesus was fond of telling parables of his home life in
. He watched his own home life. "It was Mary, we may believe, who put the leaven in the three measures of meal . . . and Jesus sat by and watched it. In after years the sight came back to Him. He remembered the big basin, the heaving, panting mass in it, the bubbles struggling out, swelling and breaking, and the level rising and falling. It came to Him as a picture of the Nazareth at work in the individual man and in the community." Kingdomof Heaven
It matters little how we classify the parables of Jesus. That is all subjective and more or less artificial. We shall get better results by studying the parables as they come in their own context than by tearing them out by the roots and making them live in our theological pots and pans. They are alive and will bleed if mistreated. They throb with life as Luke has preserved them in his Gospel.
It is doubtless true that Luke s interest in the parables of Jesus was largely that of a literary man who was charmed by these matchless stories of the new life in the
. But he had also the interest of a sober theologian to combat the wild eschatological views of the time. kingdomof God
Jesus at times used the apocalyptic method and the eschatological motive, but it was always with restraint and reserve. The teaching of Jesus concerning the kingdom of God in Luke’s report of the parables discountenances all millennial programmes and set times for the second coming of Christ. The keynote of the parables of Jesus in Luke s Gospel is personal salvation and growth of Christian character. The larger aspect of the kingdom in its social and world relations is present, but it is grounded in the new life of the individual in Christ.
The social redemption of the race is the goal and Luke makes that clear. He has a world outlook and a world sympathy, and Jesus stands forth as the teacher for all the world and for all time with a programme for world reconstruction.
The Miraculous in Luke
Miracles in the Gospel of Luke .
Mark gives a detailed report of eighteen miracles of Jesus. Of these Luke also reports thirteen. Luke modifies the language in certain instances, but he does not weaken the argument for the real interposition of divine power by Christ. Two of them are nature miracles (the stilling of the storm and the feeding of the five thousand). The rest (counting the drowning of the swine with the cure of the demoniac) are cases of healing.
Few to-day will take the position of Hume that miracles cannot be proven, or even that of Huxley that we can know nothing about the matter at all. Fewer still assert that miracles cannot happen.
Goethe said that a voice from heaven would not convince him that water burned or that one rose from the dead. But water can be made to burn by certain chemicals. The more we know about nature and God the more modest we become in our dogmatic statements about God’s limitations.
We must remember that nothing is miraculous to God or Christ. With God and Christ nothing is miraculous because all the forces of knowledge and of power are at their command. If we had all knowledge and all power, nothing would be miraculous to us.
Christ was not limited to the powers and laws known to us. If God made the universe, all the laws of nature come from him. He still exercises sway over them. Paul says that all things have been created through Christ and unto Christ and all things hold together in Christ (Col. 1:16-17). It is a Christocentric universe. Christ is Lord of
If modern science could learn all the secrets of nature, and by the use of the laws of God do the things that Jesus did, surely this would not disprove the cures wrought by Jesus or his claim to divine energy in doing them. "My Father worketh even until now, and I work" (John ).
With amazement and with difficulty we unlock a few of the mysteries of nature and pride ourselves on our own attainments. Jesus played with the forces of nature as a master musician.
Five Cases of Healing in Luke Alone. Of the thirty-five miracles described in detail in the Gospels Luke gives twenty. Of the twenty-six miracles of healing, Luke gives sixteen and five are peculiar to him. These five excited the special interest of Luke.
They were all chronic or incurable cases like the old woman with curvature of the spine (Luke -17), the man with the dropsy (14:1-6), the ten lepers (-19), the case of surgery (), and the restoration to life of the son of the widow of Nain (-17).
They were all cured instantaneously by Jesus and were genuine miracles. Not one of these was a case of nervous disorder. These can not be explained by any theory of modern psychology. Luke was a psychologist, like all true physicians, but he has no hesitation in recording these cases that go beyond all human power now as then.
Luke alone reports the remarkable case of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain. The funeral procession was stopped and the boy given back to his mother. It manifestly touched the heart of Luke.
"There is no need to prove that the representation of our Lord given in the Third Gospel is dominated by the conception of Him as the wondrous Healer and Saviour of the sick, as, indeed, the Healer above all healers." But we are not at liberty to distort this fact into meaning that Luke attributed supernatural powers to Christ in order to create that impression.
Gilbert endeavors to explain away Luke s belief in the miraculous: "We cannot doubt that Luke, who was little interested in the miraculous element . . . was profoundly moved by what he learned of the depth and the universality of the Master s sympathy." But how does Gilbert know that Luke took little interest "in the miraculous element"?
Percy Gardner says that Luke loved a good miracle so much that he would lug it in to brighten his narrative. It is hard to satisfy critics of Luke. Luke gives no evidence of being an excitable physician or a poor diagnostician. He writes calm and serious history after prolonged and thorough research. We are bound to give due weight to what he records as true, whether we accept it or not.
Miracles of Christ Over Nature. Luke did not hesitate to record evidences of the power of Christ over animate and inanimate nature outside of man. It is here that some modern scientists take a more positive stand against miracles. Possible explanations have been offered for some of the miracles of healing, so that men of science are less skeptical about the rest.
But it must never be overlooked that the fact of the miracles of Jesus by no means depends upon our being able to offer intelligible theories about them. They may thus be rendered easier for some men to believe, but the miracles of Jesus are grounded on the central fact of God s mastery over nature. Jesus presents God as personal, and not as an abstract philosophical conception or as misty pantheism. God is like Jesus as Jesus is like God. Personal will rules the universe, the Will of God expressed in his laws, but superior to his laws, the Source of all Energy and Life.
This is the view of Jesus and he acts upon it. Luke accepts it and records proofs of Christ s power and claims. It is not unscientific that a real God should be at the heart of the universe. We must either be materialists or spiritualists (in the proper use of this word). Either matter is eternal and self-sufficient and the source of life and energy, or God is eternal and before matter and the creator of matter and the guide of the universe.
He works by his laws, by the laws of his own nature, some of which we have discovered. But he works on, whether we are ignorant or whether we know. Nothing is miraculous to God. His Will is the supreme law of the universe. It is thus an ordered world of law. God does not act by whims and caprice, but he is our Father.
So Jesus lets the demons rush into the swine to save the man (Luke 8:33f.). "He gave them leave," Luke says, following Mark’s record (). Whatever our explanation of the reason that prompted Jesus, Luke puts down what Mark has. The result proves that the people cared more for the hogs than they did for the poor demoniac, for they begged Jesus to leave their shores (Luke 8:37). It mattered little that the man was now clothed and in his right mind ().
Luke alone gives the draft of fishes (5:1-11). Some critics find here another version of the draft of fishes in John 21:1-14, but without adequate justification. Peter plays a leading part both times, it is true, but that is not strange.
One of the strangest of all theories is that of Schmiedel, who thinks that Luke is giving an allegory of Paul s conflict with the Judaizers about the Gentiles. And that is termed scientific and historical exegesis! The allegorizing is that of Schmiedel, not of Luke.
Luke (-25) reports the stilling of the storm, following Mark’s Gospel (-41 = Matt. -27). The mastery of Christ over wind and wave is clearly shown to the marvel of the disciples, who gain a fresh revelation of the person and power of Jesus.
The feeding of the five thousand is given in all the four Gospels, the only one of the miracles wrought by Jesus that is thus attested. [This] is on a par with the Resurrection of Christ in its full testimony. And yet Luke records this amazing incident with much detail (-17). Mark s Gospel here preserves the vivid details of Peter s description, the garden-beds and the green grass (Mark f.), but Luke follows Mark with the orderly arrangement of the crowd and the manifest miraculous multiplication of the loaves and the fishes in the presence of all the multitude. Jesus stood on the hillside and blessed and broke the loaves as the disciples rapidly bore and distributed the baskets.
This miracle is a stumbling-block to all who believe in an absentee God or in no God. But we see here Jesus as Lord of nature and of man, with infinite pity and boundless power.
The picture of Jesus on the eastern slope of the
Sea of Galileechallenged the interest of Luke as it compels men to-day to pause. The crowd wanted to take him by force to and crown him political king, as the panacea for earthly ills. If we crown him king of our lives we shall find Jesus to be what Luke took him to be, the Great Physician for soul and body, the Lord of all nature, the Lord of life and of death. Jerusalem
Luke’s credibility and reliability as a recorder of miracles and the modern human inclination to arbitrarily dismiss it .
There is no doubt that the miracles of Jesus greatly attracted Luke. Was he credulous in his report of the wonders wrought by Jesus?
They puzzle us and they probably puzzled him. We do not have to think of miracle as a violation of the laws of nature. God is the source of all power and of all the laws of nature. They are all expressions of his will. If a personal God controls the universe, there is no real objection to believing that he can do what he wills to do at any time.
It is not necessary for us to be able to explain the miracle in order for it to be true. We must remember that God is greater than the laws of nature and that our knowledge of nature and of God is still very limited. It is doubtless true that some miracles then would not be called miracles by us to-day. The heart of the question is whether God ever interposes at all with his personal will. I believe that he does and that is miracle.
Luke [Was] a Man of Science. This point has been made before, but it is well to stress it again just here, for the fact has been often overlooked. Luke’s witness to the miracles of Jesus has been brushed aside as the credulous ignorance of a non-scientific age. Each age plumes itself upon the scientific progress over the rest. Progress in knowledge has not been steady and uninterrupted and uniform. Reactions and lapses come. The Renaissance followed the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages belong to the Christian era and succeeded a period of pagan enlightenment.
Not simply was Luke a man of general culture, a university man familiar with current literature and literary methods, but he was a man of technical training. Since
’s researches concerning the medical language of Luke, it is no longer possible to treat Luke as a "quack," a charlatan, or an ignorant practitioner; he was a trained physician like Galen and Hippocrates, and is one of the best products of Greek culture. Hobart
So far as we know, he was the first man of science to grapple with the facts and forces of faith and science. He was superbly equipped for his task. He had a passion for the truth, for the facts of nature and of grace. "No other man of his time was so well fitted to judge rightly in questions involving both science and faith; and this ability sprang from the nature of his vivid and varied Greek mentality." So then we approach Luke s report of the miracles of Jesus with sincere interest. "His testimony to the miracles is, therefore, the nearest thing possible to the evidence which has often been desired in that of a man of science."
And yet Luke is discounted by some [as] no higher than a peddler of tales or a writer of mediaeval miracle-plays, or a dispenser of marvelous cures by a group of "Christian Science" dupes. When Luke has been vindicated by modern research against the whole array of historians and critics who attacked Luke 2:1-7, he is entitled to be heard on his own account before it is assumed that he is incompetent and insincere and even hypocritical.
Luke, to be sure, did not know the evolutionary hypothesis or the germ theory of disease, but he did have the Greek physician s love of the study of actual cases and of drawing his theories from the facts. This is the heart of scientific progress and Luke is in the line of succession.
Gardner even says, "He loves a good miracle," as if to discredit Luke s testimony on the subject. Carpenter accepts this view of Luke: "Physician though he was, he was uncritical about miracles." Again: "He was undoubtedly what we should call a truthful person, but it cannot be pretended that he had the scientific zeal of the best modern historians. He took pains to ascertain facts, but he was not alive to some of the perils that surround historical inquiry." But I submit that the new discoveries [concerning the census] justify precisely this claim concerning Luke.
It is not "pretended" that he had modern views of science and medicine, nor will a true scientist to-day pretend that present-day theories are finalities. The twentieth century has brought a more reverent temper on the part of scientists concerning both God and man. No one claims that he has discovered the ultimate facts concerning nature.
The very "atom," once thought to be absolute and indivisible, is now divided into electrons. Modern chemists, like the alchemists of Luke s day, claim to be able to transmute metals by the aid of radium, and to make diamonds to order out of charcoal. He is a bold man to-day who will dare to say what man can or cannot do.
Atlantic Oceanhas been spanned by the aeroplane in a single flight. One disease after another is conquered by science. Shall we limit the power of God while we enlarge the powers of man? It is easier to believe in mighty works by God because man himself has achieved so much. If there is a God at all, He is greater than any man or than all men. He is greater than the universe about us.
We see the influence of spirit upon matter in our own bodies. It is easier to understand how God who is Spirit rules over matter and makes all things subject to His will. There has never been a day when it was easier to believe in miracles than now and harder to tell what is a miracle. We can well believe that some of the miracles wrought by Jesus would not be called miracles by all men to-day. The use of language varies with the growth of ideas.
At bottom we face the same problem that Luke faced. In reality we know not one whit more concerning the ultimate reality than Luke did. The new knowledge of our day has filled us with awe in the presence of God. It is no disgrace for us to-day to bow before the fact of God in Christ as Luke did. We must open our minds to learn all we can, but the pride of intellectual arrogance must not blind us to the glory of God in Christ.
Luke saw God at work in Christ the Great Physician. No physician to-day can tell precisely how medicine cures disease or what part the mind plays in the cure, or how far the will of God operates in the whole, both in the fight that nature makes and in the special exercise of His will in the individual case. The physician himself often rouses the will of the patient to victory over disease. Can God not do the same?
The Census in Luke
The historical basis for Luke's reference to an empire-wide Roman census .
Criticism raises several objections against the truth of the fact related in verse 1:
1. No historian of the time mentions such a decree of Augustus.
2. On the supposition that Augustus had issued such an edict, it would not have been applicable to the states of Herod in general, nor to Judea in particular, since this country was not reduced to a Roman province until ten or eleven years later--the year 6 of our era.
3. A Roman edict, executed within the states of Herod, must have been executed according to Roman forms; and according to these, it would have been in no way necessary for Joseph to put in an appearance at Bethlehem; for, according to Roman law, registration was made at the place of birth or residence, and not at the place where the family originated.
4. Even admitting the necessity of removal in the case of Joseph, this obligation did not extend to Mary, who as a woman, was not liable to registration.
In order to meet some of
these difficulties, Hug has limited the meaning of the words "all the
From the commencement of his reign, Augustus always aimed at a stronger centralization of the empire. Already, under Julius Caesar, there had been undertaken, with a view to a more exact assessment of taxation, a great statistical work, a complete survey of the empire, descriptio orbis. This work, which occupied thirty-two years, was only finished under Augustus. This prince never ceased to labor in the same direction.
After his death, Tiberius caused to be read in the Senate, in accordance with instructions contained in the will of Augustus, a statistical document which applied not only to the empire properly so called, but also to the allied kingdoms--a category to which the states of Herod belonged. This document, called "Breviarium totius imperii," was written by Augustus' own hand. (Tacitus Ann. i. 11; Suetonius, Octav. c. 27, 28, 101). It gave "the number of the cities and allies under arms, of the fleets, of the kingdoms, of the provinces, of the tributes or taxes."
The compilation of such a document as this necessarily supposes a previous statistical labor, comprehending [involving] not only the empire proper, but also the allied states. And if Augustus had ordered this work, Herod, whose kingdom belonged to the number of regna reddita, could not have refused to take part in it.
The silence of historians in regard to this fact proves simply nothing against its reality. Wieseler gives a host of examples of similar omissions. The great statistical work previously accomplished by Julius Caesar, and about which no one can entertain a doubt, is not noticed by any historian of the time. Then it must not be forgotten that one of our principal sources for the life of Augustus, Dion Cassius, presents a blank for just the years 748-750 U.C.
Besides, this silence is
amply compensated for by the positive information we find in later
writers. Thus, Tertullian
mentions, as a well-known fact, "the census taken in
Surprise is expressed at
an edict of Augustus having reference to the states of Herod. But Herod's independence was only
relative. There is no money known to
have been coined in his name; the silver coin circulating in his dominions was Roman. From the time of the taking of
Only it is evident that the emperor, in the execution of the decree, would take care to respect in form the sovereignty of the king, and to execute it altogether by his instrumentality. Besides, it was the custom of the Romans, especially in their fiscal measures, always to act by means of the local authorities, and to conform as far as possible to national usages. Augustus would not depart from this method in regard to Herod, who was generally an object of favor.
And this observation overthrows another objection, namely, that according to Roman custom Joseph would not have to present himself in the place where his family originated, since the census was taken at the place of residence. But Roman usage did not prevail here.
with the remnant of independence which
That which distinguished the census of Quirinius, ten years later, from all similar undertakings that had preceded it, was just this, that on this occasion the Roman authority as such executed it, without the intervention of the national power and Jewish customs. Then, accordingly, the people keenly felt the reality of their subjection, and broke into revolt. And history has preserved scarcely any record of similar measures which precede this eventful census.
As to Mary, we may explain without any difficulty the reasons which induced her to accompany Joseph. If, at verse 5, we make the words “with Mary” depend specifically on the verb “in order to be enrolled,” the fact may be explained by the circumstance that, according to Roman law, women among conquered nations were subject to the capitation tax.
Ulpian expressly says
this (De censibus): “that in
The motives which would induce Mary to accompany Joseph in this journey are obvious. If, in the whole course of the Gospel history, we never see the least reflection cast on the reputation of Mary, although only six months had elapsed between her marriage and the birth of Jesus, is not this circumstance explained by the very fact of this journey, which providentially removed Joseph and Mary from Nazareth for a sufficient length of time, just when the birth took place? Mary must have recognized the finger of God in the event which compelled Joseph to leave home, and have been anxious to accompany him.
historicity of the census by Quirinius that took
Joseph and Mary to
If verse 
is translated as it usually is, "this census, which was the first, took
place when Quirinius governed
An attempt has been made to solve this difficulty by correcting the text: Theodore de Beza by making verse 2 an interpolation; Michaelis by adding [two Greek] words [which results in the translation]: "This enumeration took place before that which Quirnius executed." These are conjectures without foundation.
Again, it has been
proposed to give the word "first" a meaning more or less
unusual. And accordingly, some translate
the word as primus is sometimes to be taken in Latin and as erst regularly in German: "This census was executed only
when." Such a Latinism is hardly
admissible. And besides, if the
execution had not followed the decree immediately (as the translation
supposes), how could the decree have led to the removal of Joseph and the birth
of Jesus at
An interpretation of the [Greek] word ["first"] which is scarcely less forced, has been adopted by Tholuck, Ewald, [and] Wieseler. Relying on [the usage in] John [they provide] the following translation: "This enumeration took place before Quirinius." Another attempt at interpretation, proposed by Ebrard, [results in the translation:] "As to the taxation itself (which followed the registration), it took place only when Quirinus was [governor]." The difficulty is to see how this decree, if it was not immediately enforced, could induce the removal of Joseph and Mary. Kohler replies that the measure decreed began to be carried into execution; but on account of the disturbances which it excited it was then suspended, and that it was only resumed and completely carried out under Quirinius.
There remain a number of attempted solutions which rely on history rather than philology. Several of the older expositors, as Casaubon, Sanclemente, and more recently Hug and Neander, starting with the fact that before Quirinius was governor of Syria he took a considerable part in the affairs of the East (Tacitus Annals iii. 48), supposed that he presided over the census, of which Luke here speaks, in the character of an imperial commissioner. Luke, they think, applied to this temporary jurisdiction the term which ordinarily denotes the function of a governor in the proper sense of the term.
Zumpt even believed he could prove that Quirinius had been twice governor of Syria, in the proper sense of the word, and that it was during the former of these two administrations that he presided over the census mentioned by Luke. Supposing even that this double administration of Quirinius could be proved, the former, which is the one with which we are concerned here, could not have been until from the end of 750 to 753 U.C. Now it is indisputable that at this time Herod had been dead some months (the spring of 750), and consequently, according to the text of Luke, Jesus was already born.
One thing, however, is
certain--that Quirinius, a person honored with the emperor's
entire confidence, took a considerable part, throughout this entire period, in
the affairs of the East, and of
The evidence for a periodic Roman census and reconciling its date with the probable timing of Jesus’ birth .
In particular it has been objected that Augustus never ordered a general census of the empire. [Sir William] Ramsay is careful to note precisely what Luke does say. He does not represent Augustus as ordering "that a single census should be held of the whole Roman world," but "there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled."
Ramsay properly insists on the present tense of "should be enrolled." Malalas wrongly uses the aorist tense in referring to what Luke says. "It is not stated or implied by Luke that the system was actually put into force universally. The principle of universal enrolments for the empire was laid down by Augustus; but universal application of the principle is not mentioned. That point was a matter of indifference to Luke."
But, while this is true, the natural inference from Luke s words is that the principle was applied and that there was a regular system of periodic censuses not only or Syria and Palestine, but for the whole of the empire. Besides, we now know, what Ramsay did not in 1898, that Augustus’s bold governmental plan for a census was successful. We have evidence for its operation in both West and East, though most for the East.
But twenty years ago we had no knowledge of such a periodical census system in the
Roman Empire. "The idea that such a system could have existed in the East, without leaving any perceptible signs of its existence in recorded history, would have been treated with ridicule, as the dream of a fanatical devotee, who could believe anything and invent anything in the support of the testimony of Luke." But epigraphic and archaeological research has proven this very thing, and Luke stands vindicated before all the world against a generation of infallible critics who applied the argument from silence against him with deadly effect.
Was there such a periodical enrolment in the Syrian province? Was Christ born at
at the time of the first of the series? Ramsay frankly admits that Luke s "credit as a historian is staked on this issue." Luke not only speaks of "the first enrolment" 4 in Luke 2:2 but in Acts he speaks of "the days of the enrolment." In Acts 5:37 Luke means by "the census" the great census, "the epoch-making census taken about A.D. 7, when Judea had just been incorporated in the Roman Empire as part of the province of Syria." Luke is clearly committed to the idea of a distinction between the first census in Luke 2:2 and the great census in Acts 5:37. Is he correct? Bethlehem
The proof is at hand. Ramsay shows that already Clement of
"knew of some system of enrolment, either in the empire as a whole, or at least in the Alexandria . His use of the plural and the word first force this inference upon us." Clement of provinceof Syria lived, of course, in Alexandria and knew conditions there. Did he have any other information than that which Luke gives us? He makes the definite statement that the system of enrolments in Egypt began with the one at which the birth of Jesus took place. Syria
It had been suggested that the "Indictional Periods" of fifteen years, known in the fourth century (see Rainer Papyri), began with the first census of Quirinius. If so, the first census would come B. C. 3. But three scholars, one after the other, made the discovery that fourteen years was the cycle for the enrolments in
in the early Egypt Roman empire.
The same Greek word occurs in the papyri that Luke employs for "enrolment." The actual census papers have been found for these enrolments in
. " It is proved that enrolments were made for the years ending in the summer of A.D. 90, 104, 118, 132 and so on till 230." No papyrus as yet shows a census for A. D. 76 under Vespasian, but it is obvious that one was held. Egypt
"Actual census papers have been found of the periodic year 62 (and also 34) after Christ. Indirect references occur to the census of A. D. 20 and 48. Grenfell and Hunt rightly argue that Augustus must have originated this cycle. Beyond this there is no certainty, and we must await the discovery of fresh material."
The next census would be A.D. 6, the one that Luke mentions in Acts 5:37. The first census (Luke 2:2) would then come B.C. 8. An enrolment paper has been found in
with the same officials that belong to the sixth year of Tiberius. "Hence the paper belongs to the census of A.D. 20 and proves conclusively my theory as to the origin of the Periodic Enrolments from Augustus." Egypt
Surely, after the overwhelming evidence of the papyri on the periodical enrolments in
, one hardly has the hardihood to accuse Luke of error in mentioning the first two, for which as yet we have no papyri data. The inference is now wholly on Luke’s side and in his favor. The Augustan census system has been established by irrefragable evidence. Egypt
It is true that B. C. 8 comes too soon for the other evidence for the birth of Jesus, which points to B.C. 6-5 as the probable time. But it has to be remembered that in
and Egypt Asia Minorthe year began, not January 1, as in , "but on some day in the late summer and autumn." Rome
We have seen that Herod sat uneasily on his throne in
Judea. He had to please both Augustus and the Jews. The Jews hated the Roman yoke and Roman customs and held tenaciously to their own traditions. The second census after the deposition of Archelaus in A.D. 6 caused incipient insurrection against , as Josephus tells us ( Rome Ant.XVIII, 1:1). Hence it is more than probable that the census was slow in moving off in Palestine. Herod would postpone it as long as he could and until brought to time by Augustus. The first census, besides, would be harder to execute on time.
Ramsay tells us that "the first enrolment in
was made in the year 8-7 B. C., but a consideration of the situation in Syria and Syria about that time will show that the enrolment in Herod’s Kingdom was probably delayed for some time later." Besides, Herod was probably a year or more in putting it through after it was started in Palestine . There is, therefore, no real difficulty as to the date. Palestine
The new discoveries concerning the cycle of the Augustan census will allow a date around 6-5 B.C., and that is in accord with what we know otherwise concerning the date of Christ s birth. Turner in his article on "Chronology of the New Testament" (
s Dictionary of the Bible) concludes by five converging lines of evidence that 7-6 B. C. is the probable date of the birth of Jesus. Luke has met a triumphant vindication in the fact of the census cycle under Augustus and Christ’s birth at the time of the first. Hastings
Reconciling the two ancestry lists of Jesus in Matthew and Luke .
The general facts are these:
(i) The genealogy of our Lord in Matthew descends from Abraham to Jesus, in accordance with his object in writing mainly for the Jews.
The genealogy in Luke ascends from Jesus to Adam, and to God, in accordance with his object in writing for the world in general. He spans the generations of mankind from the first Adam to the Second Adam, who was the Lord from heaven (1 Corinthians , 45, 47).
(ii) The generations are introduced in Matthew by the word “begat;” in Luke by the genitive the genitive with the ellipse of “son.” Thus in Matthew we have “Abraham begat Isaac, / And Isaac began Jacob, etc.;” but in Luke “Being the son (as was reputed) of Joseph, (the son) of Eli, of Matthat, etc.”
Thus Luke gives 21 names between David and Zerubbabel where Matthew only gives 15, and all the names except that of Shealtiel (Salathiel) are different.
Thus it will be seen that Luke gives 17 generations between Zerubbabel and Joseph, where Matthew only gives 9, and all the names are different.
The two main difficulties then which we have to meet are:
(a) The difference in the number of the generations;
(b) The difficulties in the dissimilarity of the names.
(a) The difficulty as to the number of the generations is not serious because (1) it is a matter of daily experience that the number of generations in one line often increases far more rapidly than that in another; but also because (2) Matthew has arranged his genealogies in an arbitrary numerical division of tesseradecads (for the manner in which these tesseradecads are arranged the student must refer to commentaries on Matthew), and because nothing was more common among the Jews than the adoption of this symmetrical method, at which they arrived by the free omission of generations provided that the fact of the succession remained undoubted. Thus in 2 Chronicles 22:9 “son” stands for “grandson,” and Ezra (in Ezra 7:1-5) omits no less than seven steps in his own pedigree and among them his own father,--which steps are preserved in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15.
(b) The difficulty as to the dissimilarity of names will of course only affect the two steps of the genealogies at which they begin to diverge, before they again coalesce in the names of Shealtiel and of Joseph.
One of the commonest ways of meeting the difficulty has been to suppose that Luke is giving the genealogy not of Joseph but of Mary—the genealogy of Christ by actual birth, not by legal claim.
This solution (first suggested by Annius of Viterbo at the close of the 15th century), though still adopted by some learned men, must be rejected, (1) because there is no trace that the Jews recognized the genealogies of women as constituting a legal right for their sons; and (2) because it would do the strongest violence to the language of Luke to make it mean “Being, as was reputed, the son of Joseph [but really the son of Mary, who was the daughter] of Eli, etc.
We must therefore regard it as certain that both genealogies are genealogies of Joseph adduced to prove that in the eye of the Jewish law Jesus was of the House of David. The question is not what we should have expected about the matter, but what is actually the case.
A. First then, how can Joseph be called in Matthew the son of Jacob, in Luke the son of Eli?
(a) An ancient explanation was that Matthan, a descendant of David in the line of Solomon (as given by Matthew) was the husband of a woman named Esthas, and became the father of Jacob; on his death his widow Estha married Melechi, a descendant of David in the line of Nathan (as given by Luke, and had a son named Eli. Eli, it is said, died childless, and Jacob, his half-brother in accordance with the law of levirate marriages (Deuteronomy 25:5, 6; Matthew -27), took his widow to wife, and became the father of Joseph. Thus [Joseph becomes Jacob’s genealogical ancestor due to “levirate marriage with the widow of Eli” and Eli’s descendant “by legal succession”].
Luke might naturally give the latter genealogy because it would be the one recognized by Romans, with whom the notion of legal as distinguished from natural sonship was peculiarly strong. This solution derives very great authority from the fact that it is preserved for us by Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History i. 7) from a letter of Julius Africanus, a Christian writer who lived in Palestine in the third century, and who professed to drive it from private memoranda preserved by “the Desposyni” or kindred of the Lord.
(b) But the difficulty about this view—not to mention the strange omission of Levi and Matthat, which may be possibly due to some transposition—is that Matthew’s genealogy will then be partly legal (as in calling Shealtiel the son of Jeconiah) and partly natural (in calling Joseph the son of Jacob). But perhaps (since Jul. Africanus does not vouch for the exact details) there was so far a confusion that it was Jacob who was childless, and Eli who became by a levirate marriage the father of Joseph.
If this be so, then Matthew’s is throughout the legal, and Luke’s through the natural genealogy. Even without the supposition of a levirate marriage, if Jacob were childless then Joseph, the son of his younger brother Eli, would become heir to his claims. The tradition mentioned may point in the direction of the true solution even if the details are inexact.
We may here add that though the Virgin’s genealogy is not given, yet her
Davidic descent is assumed by the sacred writers (Luke 1:32; Acts 2:30, 13:23;
Romans 1:3, etc.), and was in all probability involved in that of her
husband. How this was we cannot
say with certainty, but if we accept the tradition which has just been
mentioned it is not impossible that Mary may have been a daughter of Eli
(as is stated in an obscure Jewish legend) or of Jacob, and may have married
her cousin Joseph jure agnationis. At any rate we have decisive and independent
proof that the Davidic descent of our Lord was recognized by the Jews. They never attempted to avert the jealously
of the Romans about the royal descent of the Desposyni
(Eusebius, Church History, i. 7), and Rabbi Ulla (c. 210) says that “Jesus was exceptionally treated
because of royal descent” (T. B. Sanhedr. 43a,
B. We have now to explain why Matthew says that Shealtiel (Salathiel) was the son of Jeconiah, while Luke says that he was the son of Neriah.
old suggestion that the Zerubbabel and Shealtiel of Luke are different persons from those
of Matthew may be set aside at once. But
the true answer seems to be that Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) was either actually childless, as was so
emphatically prophesied by Jeremiah -30,
or that, at any rate, his children (if he ever had any, as seems possible from
verse 28; 1 Chronicles -19;
and Josephus Antiquities x. 11, 22) died childless in
It is true that the word rendered “childless” may mean “forlorn” or “naked;” but the other is the more natural meaning of the word, and so it was understood by the Jews who however supposed that, after a long captivity, he repented and the curse was removed. Setting aside this mere conjecture, it seems probable that Jeconiah was, or became, absolutely childless, and that therefore in the 37th year of his captivity he adopted a son to preserve his face from extinction.
His choice however was limited. Daniel and others of the seed royal were
eunuchs in the palace of the King of
We seem to have an actual intimation of this in Zechariah , where “the family of Nathan apart” is commemorated as well as “the family of David apart” because of the splendid Messianic prerogative which they thus obtained. And this is remarkably confirmed by Rabbi Shimeon Ben Jochai in the Zohar, where he speaks of Nathan, the son of David, as the father of Messiah the Comforter (because Menachem, “comforter,” stands numerically for 138, which is the numerical value of the latters of Tsemach, “the Branch”). Hence too Hephzibah, the wife of Nathan, is called the wife of Nathan, is called the mother of the Messiah.
The failure of the Messianic promise in the direct natural line of Solomon is no difficulty in the way of this hypothesis, since while the promise to David was absolute (2 Samuel ) that to Solomon was conditional (1 Kings 9:4, 5).
If these very simple and probable hypotheses be accepted no difficulty remains; and this at least is certain—that no error can be demonstrated. A single adoption, and a single levirate marriage, account for the apparent discrepancies. Matthew gives the legal descent through a line of Kings descended from Solomon—the jus successionis; Luke the natural descent—the jus sanguinis. Matthew’s is a royal, Luke’s a natural pedigree.
It is a confirmation of this view that in Joseph’s private and real genealogy we find the names of Joseph and Nathan recurring (with slight modifications like Matthat, etc.) no less than seven times. That there must be some solution of this kind is indeed self-evident, for if the desire had been to invent a genealogy no one would have neglected a genealogy deduced through a line of Kings.
C. i. We need only further notice that in verse 27 the true translation probably is “the son of the Rhesa Zerubbabel.” Rhesa is not a proper name, but a Chaldee title meaning “Prince.” Thus the head of the Captivity is known by Jewish writers as the Resh Galootha.
ii. In verse 32 we have only three generations—Boaz, Obed, Jessee—between Salmon and David; a decisive proof that the common chronology is wrong in supposing that more than four hundred years elapsed between the conquest of Canaan and David.
iii. In verse 24 the Matthat is perhaps identical with the Matthan of Matthew 1:15; if so the line recorded by Matthew may have failed at Eliezer, and Matthan, the lineal descendant of a younger branch, would then be his heir.
iv. In verse 36 the Cainan (who must be distinguished from the Cainan of verse 37) is possibly introduced by mistake. The name, though found in this place of the genealogy in the LXX, is not found in any Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament, nor in the Samaritan, Chaldee, and Syriac versions (Genesis 11:12; 1 Chronicles 1:24). It is omitted in the Codex Bezae (D), and there is some evidence that it was unknown to Irenaeus.
v. The difference between the two genealogies thus given without a word of explanation constitutes a strong probability that neither Evangelist had seen the work of the other.
For a concise over-view of the issue also see chapter 3 of the commentary, where options are laid out rather than a specific conclusion embraced.