Before we jump into the text proper, a few introductory words might prove helpful. Let’s do this in a question/answer format.
Who wrote The Gospel According to Luke?
Seems easy enough, right? Church tradition has identified Luke as the author, so in my mind it would take some conclusive evidence to demonstrate otherwise. One argument for Luke’s authorship of the gospel goes something like this. It is pretty much universally accepted that whoever wrote Luke also wrote Acts. The “we/us” passage of Acts indicate that whoever wrote Luke/Acts was one of Paul’s partners in ministry who travelled with him. According to Colossians, 2 Timothy, and Philemon, Luke was someone who was known to Paul and co-labored with him on a regular basis. So while neither church tradition nor the textual evidence is strong enough on their own to establish Luke as the author, both pieces taken together make a fairly strong case.
When was The Gospel of Luke written?
If Luke is the author, then the latest the gospel could have been written is the early 80’s when it is believed that Luke died. A fairly even-handed guess would be sometime between the mid-60’s (after the final events recorded in Acts) and before the early-80’s. The question that drives some of the speculation is whether the destruction of Jerusalem is predicted by Jesus in Luke or is it a Lucan literary device to refer to something that has already happened. Confusing, I know. Don’t lose sleep over it.
Why was this gospel written?
This may be the most important thing to understand as we follow Jesus through the pages of Luke. If Luke did co-labor with Paul in his missionary endeavors, presumably that would have taken them well beyond the borders of the Jewish world and deep into Gentile territory. As they presented Jesus the Messiah as the rightful Lord and Savior of every tribe, tongue, and nation, questions along the following lines were sure to follow… “How has it come to pass that a failed Jewish revolutionary has come to be revered as the universal Lord over all the world?” It is a fair enough question, and one that Luke takes a stab at answering. As we go through the gospel, we’ll be sure to stop along the way and see how Luke seeks to answer this question.
I’m also going to throw in a map. I like maps. I think they are helpful. One of the things a map does is to serve as a reminder that the events that Luke records aren’t just stories that sort of float around out in space. No, the story Luke tells happened in a real time and a real place.