Albie's note: My favorite book of the Bible is Luke's Gospel, and I have read several different commentaries on it over the years. Now i am going to tackle Peter Ruckman's 762 page opus dealing with the "Gospel of the underdog" (to borrow William Barclay's memorable label. I have a love/hate thing with Ruckman's books; I hate all the vindictive slams against other commentators (for one thing they take up too much space!); but I love it when Dr. Ruckman simply teaches the Bible. At his best, he has a down-to-earth style that is absolutely unique... as demonstrated here in (most of) his intro to the LUKE commentary.
To The Gospel Of LUKE
PETER S. RUCKMAN
The third biographical account of Jesus Christ in the New Testament was written by Paul's missionary companion Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14). From the time he joined the apostle in Acts 16:10–17, Luke accompanied Paul (2 Tim. 4:11) all the way to the time of his execution. For further discussion on the authorship of the book, we refer you to our comments under Acts 1:1 in that Commentary.
Luke’s writing is that of a highly educated, very intelligent man. While we won’t go into the fineries of Greek here, suffice it to say that the language of Luke is a very precise, correct, classical style not found in the writings of a commercial fisherman like John or a publican like Matthew.
Now you don’t need to know Greek or Hebrew to see that the writers of Scripture have different styles and personalities. The truth of the matter is that although “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16), the Holy Spirit didn’t override the “holy men of God” He “moved” to speak the words of the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:21).
Like the living Word, the written word of God has two natures: a human one and a divine one. The divine nature was, of course, the Holy Ghost, and the human nature was the men who wrote it. The men who wrote down what the Holy Spirit gave them had individual personalities, and God spoke through those personalities without changing them.
Because of Luke’s command of the Greek language, the teaching of modern apostate Fundamentalists and Conservatives is that Luke himself was a Gentile Greek. Of course, that proves nothing, for Paul could speak and write Greek quite well when he wanted (see Acts 21:37 and our remarks on the authorship of Hebrews in the introduction to that Commentary). Romans 3:4 says “the oracles of God” were given to the Jews, and the singular exception of Job (written 300 years before Moses penned the Pentateuch) does nothing to overthrow that divine rule. Scofield correctly points out that Luke was “of Jewish ancestry...a Jew of the Dispersion,” probably from Antioch (!).
The Gospel of Luke contains 24 chapters, 1,151 verses, and 25,939 words. The exact time and place of its authorship isn’t fixed. It was obviously written before the book of Acts (see Acts 1:1), which wasn’t finished until after the events of Acts 28 (probably around A.D. 65). Because Luke wrote his Gospel from the eyewitness accounts of Christ’s life (Luke 1:2), the most logical time for him to have interviewed the various disciples and folks who saw and heard Jesus would have been when Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea (Acts 24:27). The most probable time for the writing, then, would be between A.D. 58 and 60.
Luke is what is known as a “synoptic Gospel”; that is, it, along with Matthew and Mark, gives a synopsis of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now there is nothing wrong with that label per se, but the Liberals use that to isolate and get rid of John’s Gospel as a genuine historical account of the life of Jesus Christ.
You see, it is obvious to anyone that John had a purpose in writing his Gospel.
“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).
John wrote his Gospel to show you Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and to get you saved. Such things are “verboten” to unsaved and apostate scholarship. Historians aren’t supposed to write anything to prove any Biblical, theological truth. After all, “all religions are the same,” and “we are all working to get to the same place.” Yeah, and you’re gonna make it if you don’t watch out.
The reason for the so-called “synoptic problem” is the amount of New Testament revelation each author had. Matthew and Mark were the earliest two Gospels, and neither one had anything the Apostle Paul wrote. Luke would have had 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans, and 1 & 2 Corinthians. John, though, would have had the entire body of Pauline revelation available to him. When Luke wrote, the destruction of Jerusalem had not yet taken place, but John wrote twenty years after the Jews had ceased to be a nation. That explains the alleged “disparities” between the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and John’s Gospel.
Each one of the Gospels has a special theme and these are given in the Old Testament prophecies on “the Branch” (see our comments on Zech. 3:8 in the Bible Believer’s Commentary on the Minor Prophets, Vol. II). As we pointed out above, John wrote about Jesus as the Son of God; it has a universal appeal not found in the other three Gospels (e.g., John 1:10–12, 3:16, 4:42, 12:32, 21:25). John has Christ’s genealogy going back all the way before Genesis 1:1 (see John 1:1–3). So John emphasizes Christ’s Deity, and he writes to the world at large.
Matthew presents Jesus as the King of the Jews. He traces Christ’s genealogy back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish race (Matt. 1:1). Matthew is a Jew writing to Jews, so his emphasis is on Christ as the “King of the Jews” because those Jews were looking for their Messiah to show up as a conquering King.
The Gospel of Mark is fast-paced with a lot of action. There are not a lot of doctrinal discourses in Mark like you find in the other Gospels. For that reason, the scholars say Mark writes to the Romans. Be that as it may, the emphasis in Mark is on Christ as the Servant of God. Because of that, you won’t find any genealogy given by Mark. Nobody cares from where a servant comes.
The Gospel of Luke, though, traces Christ back to the very first man, Adam (Luke 3:38), so the theme of Luke is Jesus Christ as the Son of man. Luke writes to the Greeks as a group, so he presents Jesus Christ as the perfect man. Luke puts the emphasis on Christ’s human nature, which is why the Liberals prefer it over John’s Gospel, because John emphasizes Christ’s divine nature.
Because of his audience, you will notice a peculiar Gentile slant to Luke’s Gospel. It’s all through the book. In the famous Christmas passage in Luke 2, the angel told the shepherds, “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL PEOPLE” (Luke 2:10). At Christ’s circumcision, Simeon said He would be “A light to lighten THE GENTILES” (Luke 2:32). Luke changes the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14–30), which was a Jewish weight, to the Parable of the Pounds, a Gentile weight.
While Luke is a “synoptic Gospel,” still there are things peculiar to the book, which are found in no other Gospel account. Luke is the only Gospel to give you the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and the story of the rich man and Lazarus. You won’t find the annunciations of John the Baptist or Jesus Christ in Matthew, Mark, or John. Although Matthew will tell you what happens after the birth of Christ with the wise men, only in Luke will you read about the actual birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. And only Luke gives you the conversion of the dying thief on the cross. So without the Gospel of Luke, you would have an incomplete picture of the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. The idea that you can use the “synoptic problem” to get rid of one or more of the Gospel accounts is straight out of Hell. You can take the “Q document theory” and the “Jesus Seminar” and deposit them in “File 13” where they belong.
As in every book in the Bible Believer’s Commentary Series, we will take a believing approach to the work of Dr. Luke. We will accept it as an absolutely, 100% correct, historically accurate account of the events as they are recorded. We won’t give a “Continental dollar” (I forbear to give the “original”) for the opinions of apostate scholarship in the matter. Why would we take the conjectures and guesswork of a bunch of educated jackrabbits over the witness of people who lived, worked, and talked with Jesus Christ face to face? Our approach to what the Holy Spirit recorded in the Book He authored is that of the Thessalonian Christians.
“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).
If that’s not the approach of the other bunch, that’s their problem; it’s a free country. They can believe anything they want about the Book; just don’t ask us who believe it to give them any more respect for their position or education than we would give to a two-year-old Ubangi baby. They will answer to their Creator just like I will answer to mine (Rom. 14:12). All my chips are on the Book.