In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gospel of Luke

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Surveys of Research
  • Text of Luke
  • Annotated Study Bibles
  • Reference Works
  • Exegetical Method
  • Essay Collections
  • Gospel Genre
  • Synoptic Problem
  • Infancy Narrative
  • Genealogy
  • Sermon on the Plain
  • Transfiguration
  • Travel Narrative
  • Parables
  • Emmaus Story
  • Ascension
  • Reception
  • Women

Biblical Studies Gospel of Luke
Christopher R. Matthews
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0040


The Gospel of Luke provides a narrative account of the birth of Jesus, his public activities in Galilee and Judea, his travel to Jerusalem and teaching there, and his arrest, trial, execution, and resurrection. The same author, who nowhere identifies himself, continued the story in a second book, the Acts of the Apostles, which tells the story of the first decades of what will become the Christian church. Late 2nd-century tradition began to identify the author as Luke, an occasional collaborator with the apostle Paul (see Philem. 24; Col. 4.14; 2 Tim. 4.11), though this connection seems to owe more to apologetic needs (i.e., to establish some connection to an apostolic authority) than to any reliable information about the author’s identity. Modern scholars continue to refer to the author as “Luke,” even though this often is not meant as a claim that the person referred to in Paul’s letters was the actual author. Scholars tend to date the composition of Luke between 85–95 CE, though firm indications are not available (e.g., some would push the date into the 2nd century). The discussion about where Luke wrote is also inconclusive, though the portrayal of Paul in the second book, Acts, might suggest Luke was at home in the general area of the Pauline mission somewhere around the Aegean. In any case, Luke’s actual location in time and space undoubtedly had an important effect on how his Gospel was arranged and why some of its most important themes were treated in the manner in which they are. Accordingly modern readers must be cautious about taking everything they read in the Gospel as an indication of what was going on during the time of Jesus, since in various cases the actual focus of the author’s concern may well be on his own time. The bibliography that follows offers some indications of where to begin research on a variety of important topics that are of central importance to the Lukan Gospel or more generally Luke-Acts as a whole.

Introductory Works

Introductory surveys of the content of the Gospel of Luke and the principal issues surrounding its study (author, date, place of origin, purpose, etc.) may found in any of the numerous introductions to the New Testament as a whole, which will include a chapter either on the Gospel of Luke alone, or a chapter treating Luke-Acts as a consciously produced two-volume work (see the Oxford Bibliographies article Acts of the Apostles). Ehrman 2008 is widely used as a standard text for courses introducing the New Testament and is perhaps an accessible volume for a university setting, while Koester 2000 and Brown 1997 are better choices for graduate students undertaking theological studies; Holladay 2005 and especially Johnson 2010 represent more approachable choices for the same audience. Puskas and Crump 2008 offers a more focused introductory volume on the Gospels and Acts, while Shillington 2007 is entirely focused on Luke-Acts and incorporates and very helpful introduction to different interpretative methodologies into its presentation. Harrington 2009 is an excellent choice for beginning theological students to cover all the basic information about Luke’s Gospel.

  • Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York and London: Doubleday, 1997.

    NNNIncludes an extended summary of the content of Luke (pp. 227–262), addresses several important introductory issues (pp. 262–275), and provides a three-page bibliography (pp. 276–278).

  • Ehrman, Bart D. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. 4th ed. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    NNNCompares and contrasts Luke’s Gospel with those of Matthew and Mark (pp. 121–140) with attention to the preface to Luke’s Gospel (1:1–4), Luke’s birth narrative (and Luke’s ideas about the salvation of Jews and Gentiles), and distinctive emphases throughout the Gospel: Jesus as a prophet, the divine plan, the delay of the end of time, and the social implications of the Gospel.

  • Harrington, Daniel J. Meeting St. Luke Today: Understanding the Man, His Mission, and His Message. Chicago: Loyola, 2009.

    NNNA concise and very approachable narrative analysis of the content of Luke’s Gospel.

  • Holladay, Carl R. A Critical Introduction to the New Testament: Interpreting the Message and Meaning of Jesus Christ. Nashville: Abingdon, 2005.

    NNNCoverage of Luke (pp. 158–189) includes treatment of Luke’s purpose in writing, how Luke incorporated earlier traditions into his story about Jesus, his use of the Jewish Scriptures, the theological questions driving Luke’s investigation (e.g., Why must God’s Messiah suffer? and Who are God’s people?), and key aspects of Luke’s theology (e.g., Christology, the kingdom of God, discipleship, proper use of wealth). A companion CD-ROM includes additional study resources.

  • Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. 3d ed. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010.

    NNNLuke and Acts are treated on pp. 187–225 as two volumes of a single literary project. Johnson includes discussion of the genre, purposes, and structure of these works, with particular attention to the importance of interpreting the Gospel through the perspective of Acts. A three-page bibliography is included on pp. 223–225.

  • Koester, Helmut. Introduction to the New Testament. Vol. 2, History and Literature of Early Christianity. 2d ed. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2000.

    NNNThis introduction is better suited for advanced students able to enter into a more advanced scholarly dialogue. Luke is treated on pp. 310–320, and Acts on pp. 321–327.

  • Puskas, Charles B., and David Crump. An Introduction to the Gospels and Acts. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

    NNNIn addition to introductory chapters on the Gospels and Acts and on historical-critical methodology, the book treats literary features of Luke-Acts as well as key themes in Luke-Acts.

  • Shillington, V. George. An Introduction to the Study of Luke-Acts. T&T Clark Approaches to Biblical Studies. London and New York: T&T Clark, 2007.

    NNNA very serviceable guide for students that displays an exemplary mix of standard introductory information in tandem with innovative approaches to the interpretation of the Lukan works.

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