Luke/Acts (General)

There is general agreement that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were written by the same person which is why they are referred to as Luke/Acts. Separated in the canon by the Gospel of John, and comprising quarter of the NT, there is no manuscript in which they appear joined. Their introductions (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2) are both addressed to a Theophilus; whether this is a real person or a pun (God-over) is in dispute.

Ancient authorities identify Luke with the Physician (Colossians 4:14) and Paul's fellow worker (Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:11). Substantial portions of Acts from 16.10 onwards are written in the first person but this may be a literary device. The language is educated, even elegant, Greek but betrays no specific surgical argot.

Luke writing after Mark, addresses a predominantly Christian audience presumed to appreciate his subtle and sometimes humorous style (Rhoda in Acts 12:12-17). He is the greatest teller of short stories in the Bible, e.g. The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35) and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24). There is also polished philosophical writing, e.g. Paul's speech in Athens (Acts 17:16-34).

Overall, what is most remarkable in Luke's contribution is his orderly account (Luke 1:3) of "the things that have been fulfilled" (Luke 1:1). Unlike Matthew's genealogy of Jesus which begins with Abraham and shows a highly stylised schema (Matthew 1:1-17), Luke begins with Adam (Luke 3:23-38), emphasising the scope of his ambition. He sees the whole of the OT - and particularly the story of Moses - as foundational for the mission of Jesus, which, in turn, leads to the establishment of a universal Church. The narrative covers some 60 years from before the birth of Jesus to Paul's arrival in Rome.

Luke considers himself to be an historian, writing an orderly account from written and oral sources and relating these to external events (Luke 1:5; 2:1-2; ; Acts 18:12), but that is a claim which we must accept with caution. Like all the other writers of the NT he was primarily a theologian. Nonetheless, where we can check Luke, for example against Paul's accounts of his journeys, he is accurate. He might better be considered a biographer as many Greek works of this kind (cf Diogenes Laertius) were divided between a man's life and work.

One of the distinguishing features of Luke, as opposed to Matthew, is his emphasis on Gentiles and his lack of Jewish xenophobia. His concerns are with a wider world so that what begins in the Jerusalem temple ends in the Imperial City of Rome. Unlike Matthew, too, Luke does not align his events with the OT mechanically (cf Matthew's genealogy) and he uses prophecy within his own text such as Simeon on Mary's sorrow (Luke 2:34-35). this device, to aid plot development also takes place in individual sections, e.g. Jesus says he is unacceptable in his own place and is then rejected (Luke 4:16-30), Stephen accuses religious authorities of rejecting prophets and they reject him (Acts 7:51-60).

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