The Gospel according to Luke

κατὰ Λουκᾶν εὐαγγέλιον

What is a gospel?  Who is Luke?  The musical play “Godspell” that opened on Broadway in 1971, was based on the Old English ‘godspel.’  Like the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, this Germanic based word gospel means good news or good tidings.  This term originally meant the Christian message itself.  However, in the second century, it came to be used for the books where this message was set out.  Thus, the gospels became known as the written accounts of the life, actions, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  This title, the Gospel of Luke (κατὰ Λουκᾶν εὐαγγέλιον), was added some time in the second century, perhaps by Papias of Hierapolis (60–130 CE), an early bishop and apostolic father.  Traditionally, this work has been ascribed to Luke, a companion of the apostle Paul.  He was a gentile and not a Jew, so that his Greek style of writing was more refined.  Perhaps Greek may have been his first language.  Paul described him in the Letter to the Colossians, chapter 4:14, as his physician.  Thus, Luke was a well-educated non-Israelite who tried to situate the presence of Jesus and his followers within a historic setting, to be precise a salvation history outlook.  He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles, since the Greek style and the same dedication is at the beginning of each work.  Both were addressed to Theophilus, and both assume an educated Greek speaking audience.  This gospel is a movement towards Jerusalem, while the second work of the Acts is away from Jerusalem.  The dating for this work usually extends from about the late 60s CE to as late as 110 CE.  This gospel is the longest book in the New Testament and thus the longest of the 4 gospels.  In fact, more than 25% of the whole New Testament was written by Luke if you include the ActsLuke probably used Mark with a second document called the Q source, as well as some material that is unique to him, about 35%.  41% of Luke can be found in both Mark and Matthew.  The Q source is a hypothetical written or oral collection of Jesus’ sayings that was common to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but not in the Gospel of Mark, that makes up about 23% of his work.  This Q source, from the German word Quelle, included many parables and the beatitudes.  Did Q even predate the Gospel of Mark?  Another question is whether Luke used Matthew instead of having a common source.

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