The Gospel According to Luke and The Acts of the Apostles

Summary of the Tradition

    Papias: No comment from Papias has survived.

    Muratorian Fragment: Luke, a physician, whom Paul had taken as one zealous for the law, wrote the third Gospel and Acts of the Apostles.

    Irenaeus: Luke recorded the teachings of Paul after the deaths of Peter and Paul. He wrote after the Hebrew Matthew, at around the same time as Mark, and before John (Against Heresies 3.1.1). Irenaeus quotes Acts of the Apostles, with attribution to Luke as the traveling companion of Paul (Against Heresies 3.14.1).

    Clement: Luke was written before Mark and John and at the same time as Matthew. When taken with Clement's writing on Mark, this means that Peter and Paul were alive at the time (Eusebius's Church History 6.14.5-7).

    Tertullian: Luke, the disciple of Paul, wrote a Gospel (Against Marcion 4.5). Tertullian defends the authority of Acts of the Apostles, though without explicit attribution to Luke (Against Heresies 5.1).

    Origen: Luke wrote the third Gospel for the Gentiles and it was praised by Paul (Eusebius's Church History 6.25.6). Luke wrote Acts of the Apostles (Eusebius's Church History 6.25.14).

    Jerome: Luke was a physician from Antioch, and was highly literate in Greek. He traveled with Paul in all his journeys. Paul mentions Luke in 2 Cor 8:18; Col 4:14; and 2 Tm 4:11. He wrote a Gospel and Acts of the Apostles (Illustrious Men 7).

    Augustine: Luke edited Matthew and Mark, and wrote third (Consensus of the Gospels 1.2.4). Luke wrote Acts of the Apostles (Consensus of the Gospels 4.8.9).


    First, we should say that Luke and The Acts of the Apostles were written by the same person. This is indicted by the first several verses of each (Lk 1:1-4, Acts 1:1), as well as the uniform style throughout. From the introduction to Luke, we know that he was not an eyewitness of Jesus. Also, he never names himself. Greek scholars agree that the author of Luke was highly educated and wrote elegantly. This translates into the English version. Whether he was a historian, a physician, both, or something else continues to be debated and will probably never be resolved without ambiguity.

    We analyze the tradition for Luke much the same way that we analyzed the tradition for Mark. We know that the traditions are independent because they do not agree completely. They do all agree on the authorship, so many independent traditions point to the same answer. The traditions' source must have started before Irenaeus and Clement, so it is early. Because of this, we must accept that Luke is the author of the Gospel bearing his name, and that he was an associate of Paul. This association is given more depth by the "we passages" of Acts. Luke refers to Paul and himself as "we" four times (Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-18, 27:1-28:16). We also have the references in the letters of Paul (Col 4:14; Phlm 24; 2 Tm 4:11). These passages all indicate that Luke was a close friend and traveling companion of Paul, which hangs together with the ancient tradition. Therefore, we should agree that the Luke from the New Testament is the author of Luke.


    Unfortunately, like Mark, the tradition does not allow us to nail down the date of writing. Because of the four source hypothesis, we know that Luke was written after Mark (A.D. 55-70). Assuming that Mark and Luke were not in the same community, we should give Mark's Gospel some time to propagate to Luke and become a trusted document. Therefore, the earliest that Luke could reasonably have been written is about A.D. 60. For Acts, we also must take into account that Acts ends its description of events in A.D. 60. Therefore the earliest that Acts could have been written is about A.D. 65. Like Mark, the tradition disagrees about whether Luke wrote before or after the deaths of Peter and Paul. Again similar to Mark, this confusion should not have occurred if Luke wrote well after their deaths. This implies an upper limit on the date of composition to be A.D. 75 for the Gospel. Because the tradition seems to refer to the Gospel, and not to Acts, we should allow some extra time for Acts to be written and move the upper limit to A.D. 85.

This page was last changed on 2011/08/28