If we are to accept the traditional identification of the author of this gospel as the Luke who was a companion to Paul, the strongest evidence in favor may be found in the Acts of the Apostles. There, in recounting Paul's missionary journeys, the narrative switches in a number of places from the third person typical of narrating past events to the more unusual first person plural - what scholars call the "we-passages." The text implies here that the author accompanied Paul on these journeys.
On the other hand, the author also indicates at the outset of the Gospel that he is not an eyewitness to the events of Jesus' life and ministry - he relies instead on "eyewitnesses from the beginning." This admission that the author has consulted and incorporated the witness of others may account for the we-passages in Acts. By this argument, the passages indicate the use by the author of a travel diary of some sort - his own or that of someone else.
Modern scholarship raises questions about the traditional identification of the author with the companion to Paul. The two main lines of argument concern themselves with the strong stylistic consistency in Luke Acts and the instances where the text appears to be in tension with the Pauline Corpus. In the first instance, scholars note that even.
If we cannot confirm (or completely deny) the traditional identification of the author, then what may be said?
If we start with the text - specifically the prologue - we hear the voice of the author tell us about his identity and his method. He is not an eyewitness, but he depends upon reliable witnesses to offer his account. He tells his purported reader. Theophilus, that his narrative with be "orderly," "accurate," and a basis for affirming the certainty of the teaching that Theophilus has already received.
Less directly, we can deduce from the excellent style of the two volumes that the author is an educated man, capable of good writing and allusion to literature and scripture. While the previous suggests that the author is ethnically gentile, his strong interest in Jewish faith, scripture and tradition suggest an education in the same. Consider, for example, the deeply Jewish and Old Testament cast of the infancy narrative in Luke. Father Joseph Fitzmyer has speculated that the author of Luke Acts may have been a proselyte - a gentile convert to Judaism who laster converted to Christianity. While this theory cannot be proven, it does neatly explain the combination in these texts of deep knowledge of the Old Testament and sophisticated Koine Greek style.
We may also observe from the text that the author reveres the legacy of Peter and Paul, but that he gives special emphasis to the evangelizing career of Paul. As he does not use typical Pauline vocabulary, we may have to admit that he does not possess any of Paul's letters, but we can imagine nonetheless that Paul's perspectives - especially with regard to the gentile mission - form part of the witness that has shaped this narrative.
No gospel may be dated with certainty. We must rely on clues within the text and correlate them to what we know of the later decades of the first century in order to guess at a date for Luke Acts.
We do possess citations of Lukan texts by the 150's AD. And most studies identify the Gospel of Mark as one of the sources for Luke - this places Lukan composition somewhere later than 70 AD. The spread is narrowed further by evidence that Paul's letters were in wide circulation among Christians by the 90's AD and we have already seen that the strong interest of Acts in Paul's career would mean that the author would have been affected by such documents if he knew them.
There is broad consensus that Luke Acts was composed somewhere in the 80's AD.
As part of the wider Two Source Hypothesis, the author had access to a version of the Gospel of Mark, materials in common with the author of Matthew (commonly grouped under the title "Q"), and unique Lukan sources designed as "L" material.
We lack definitive evidence for the exact setting of Luke Acts. Proposals vary from as far East as Antioch in Syria to as far West as Greece. Even if we cannot pinpoint a locations, we can speak with greater certainty about the likely characteristics of the community to which the Gospel is addressed. Here we rely mostly on indications in the text itself, as well as knowledge of the historical and cultural setting of the First Century Greco-Roman world.
- The Gospel and Acts are addressed to "Theophilus." This may be an individual - after all, he is addressed with an honorific "excellency." Although the name Theophilus, which means "lover of God" may be intended as a category of persons rather than an individual. In either case, the name is Greek, not Jewish, and forms part of the evidence for a primarily gentile audience. In broad strokes, the evidence for a primarily gentile audience is found in Luke and Acts. In the gospel, Jesus engages a number of gentiles - some of whom provide positive models of faith. The emphasis increases in Acts where the book itself relates the spread of the faith to the nations. At the same time, Luke has a clear interest in the Old Testament and provides a positive view of the Jewish faith - consider figures like Simeon and Anna. So even if the community is primarily gentile, it remains mixed and has a strong interest in Jesus' Jewish roots.
- The text also gives evidence that the audience includes persons of means. This gospel relates more of Jesus' teachings on material goods than any of the others. Its frequent warnings about the dangers of material wealth and exhortations to care for the poor indicate that some members of the community must possess sufficient wealth to merit the waring s and exhortations.
- The address of the gospel to Theophilus so that he may "realize the certainty of the teachings" that he has received tell us that this gospel is intended for an already evangelized audience rather than as a tool of the first announcement of the Good News.
- The community may have called itself "the way," using a metaphor borrowed from the Jewish tradition. Jewish moral teaching is called Halakah, evoking the image of walking to describe the moral life - the believer "walks" in the way of the Lord. A good portion of Luke's Gospel (9:51 and following) relates the journey that Jesus makes up to Jerusalem. Along that "way" Jesus instructs and forms His disciples. Likewise, the story of the encounter on the "way" to Emmaus offers the same road setting for encounter with the Lord after the resurrection. It should be no surprise then that we learn in Acts that the community is described by the title "the way" (Acts 9:2).