Authorship of the Gospel of Luke & Acts.


The Gospel of Luke is anonymous, especially since the gospel does not identify its author (1) (2). It’s also doubted that the author was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus as suggested in Luke 1:1-14 (3). Luke 1 tells us that the author has data on Jesus that has been handed down to him & others by eyewitnesses. The author also tells us that he has investigated this data to determine its trustworthiness & this all well suggests that the author was a non-eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry. What adds to this conclusion is that the author is sometimes inaccurate when it comes to details concerning Palestinian locations – this would suggest that the author was probably not Palestinian. However, on other details Luke appears accurate; these details include, for example, the titles & names of important people at that time (3). The gospel also lacks concern for the Law & this would suggest that the author was not a Jew. The stylized grammar as seen in the author’s usage of the Greek language in his opening (Luke 1) well suggests that the author, whoever he was, was well educated & likely a person of Greek descent. On the subject of Lukan authorship Professor Luke Timothy Johnson comments:

“According to the superscription of the Gospel and the consensus of tradition, the author is someone called Luke. Ancient authorities identified him with the physician Luke, Paul’s co-worker (see Phlm. 24; Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11). The Pauline connection seems strengthened by the fact that substantial portions of Acts dealing with Paul are written in the first-person plural, thus suggesting the presence of an eyewitness (see 77 Richard B Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (New York: HarperCollins, 1996): p. 112.  Acts 16:10–18; 20:5–21:18; 27:1–28:16).”

Johnson continues: “The traditional attribution is often challenged because of the perception that Luke-Acts is a second-generation writing (see esp. Luke 1:2; Acts 20:17–35). A designation such as “second-generation,” however, does not lead to precise dating, nor does it automatically preclude authorship by a Pauline companion. The traditional attribution may be correct. It is not significantly supported, however, by supposed textual evidence of a physician’s insight or vocabulary. The data adduced for such claims show only that Luke shared an educated vocabulary in no way unusual for his time, not that he used the technical language of a physicians’ guild. In any case, the question of authorship does not help us greatly in interpreting the work” (4).

We can be certain that the author was educated, that he probably lived in the city, was not a Jew or a Palestinian, and was a person who respected manual work. This author also composed the book of Acts.

Acts is widely seen by scholars as a follow on from Luke’s gospel. The book chronicles the movements of the early church and the spread of its message into the Roman Empire, and thus the author has been regarded as one of the earliest Christian historians. Professor Richard Hays comments:

“The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are two parts of a single grand literary work in which Luke tells the story of salvation history in a stately and gracious manner. God’s mighty act of deliverance through Jesus Christ is narrated as an epic, in such a way that the church might discover its location in human history, particularly within the history of God’s dealings with his people Israel” (5).

Evidence seems to affirm that the author of Luke was also the author of Acts. Firstly, there appears to be consistency in the linguistic and theological similarities between Luke and Acts. Professor Udo Schnelle writes that the “the extensive linguistic and theological agreements and cross-references between the Gospel of Luke and the Acts indicate that both works derive from the same author” (6).

What further solidifies this view is that within introduction of both books we find that they are addressed to Theophilus (Luke 1:3 & Acts 1:1). As a result of these lines of evidence scholars usually refer to these works as Luke-Acts.


1. New Testament Foundations. p. 51.
2. Burkett D. 2002. An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity. p. 196
3. Bruce, F. 2003. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
4. Johnson, L. 1999. The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. p. 213.
5. Hays, R. 1996. The Moral Vision of the New Testament. p. 112.
6. Schnelle, U. 1998. The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings. p. 259.

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