Today the universal Church celebrates the feast of St. Luke, author of the third Gospel and companion of St. Paul.
I don’t know about our readers, but I grow weary of study Bibles and Bible studies that go to great lengths to explain to us that so and so didn’t actually write the book of the Bible that bears his name, and that the events described in the book didn’t really happen. I want biblical materials that trust God’s inspired Word and our rich Catholic Tradition, not agnostic pseudo-scholarship.
That’s why I find the opening paragraphs of the introduction to the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible on The Gospel of Luke such a breath of fresh air:
“Early manuscripts of the third Gospel are titled “According to Luke” (Gk. Kata Loukan). This heading is not part of the original work but was added later as a signpost of apostolic tradition. Indeed, the earliest Christians unanimously ascribed the work to Luke, a Gentile physician and companion of the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24). Several Church Fathers, such as Irenaeus (A.D. 180), Tertullian (A.D. 200), and Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 200), assert Luke’s authorship of the third Gospel, and an anonymous list of NT books, called the Muratorian Fragment (c. A.D. 170), also attaches his name to it. There is thus no reason to doubt Luke’s authorship of this Gospel, since the tradition is virtually uncontested in early Christianity.
“Luke himself is unique among the writers of the NT. First, he is the only Gentile author to compose a NT book–all others were of Israelite descent. Paul hints at his Gentile identity when he numbers “Luke the beloved physician” among his uncircumcised companions (Col. 4:14). Secondly, Luke is the only evangelist to write a sequel. In addition to his Gospel, he wrote the Acts of the Apostles as the second part of a two-volume work. The Book of Acts picks up where Luke’s Gospel narrative ends, showing how the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of Jesus now operates in the living community of Christ’s mystical body, the Church.
“Scholars are divided over when the Gospel of Luke was written. Some advocate an early date in the 60s, while others prefer a later date in the 80s. Assuming Lucan authorship [discussed above], the weight of the evidence tilts in favor of the earlier date. This is due, in part, to the close connection between Luke’s Gospel and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:1). (1) The Book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul under house arrest in Rome around A.D. 62, without any hint as to the outcome of his trial or his subsequent activities. (2) Although Luke often draws our attention in Acts to Christianity’s relationship with imperial Rome, he says nothing about the Roman persecution of Christians in the mid-60s, nor does he mention that Peter and Paul–the leading characters in Acts–were both martyred at this time. (3) Neither the Gospel nor the Book of Acts informs us of the complete destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in A.D. 70. Taken together, Luke’s silence on these important matters is a strong indication that both his Gospel and the Book of Acts were written in the early 60s, before any of these events had taken place.”
Incidentally, the introduction to the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible on The Gospel of Luke bears an imprimatur from Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the position also formerly held for many years by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before his becoming Pope Benedict XVI.
For more internal and external evidence regarding Luke’s authorship of the third Gospel, click here. Several years ago I helped to publish Dr. Tim Gray’s popular study of the Gospel of Luke entitled Mission of the Messiah, which I highly recommend for those looking for top-notch Bible study resources.