Review of Chapter 9 of Redating Matthew, Mark and Luke

Chapter 9 concerns ancient testimony about Luke. Wenham focuses on the identity of the author and when it was written in the sequence of gospels.

The early Christian writers are unanimous in attributing the gospel to Luke and usually make clear he was a companion of Paul:

  • Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.1.1: “Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him.”
  • Muratorian fragment: “The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke. Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own name, according to [the general] belief. Yet he himself had not seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John.”
  • Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 5.12: “It remains that we understand, then, the Unknown, by divine grace, and by the word alone that proceeds from Him; as Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates that Paul said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For in walking about, and beholding the objects of your worship, I found an altar on which was inscribed, To the Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.'”
  • Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 4.2.4-5: “Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instil faith into us; whilst of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards. . . . Now, of the authors whom we possess, Marcion seems to have singled out Luke for his mutilating process. Luke, however, was not an apostle, but only an apostolic man; not a master, but a disciple, and so inferior to a master—at least as far subsequent to him as the apostle whom he followed (and that, no doubt, was Paul) was subsequent to the others. . . . Inasmuch, therefore, as the enlightener of St. Luke himself desired the authority of his predecessors for both his own faith and preaching, how much more may not I require for Luke’s Gospel that which was necessary for the Gospel of his master.”
  • Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke: “Indeed Luke was an Antiochene Syrian, a doctor by profession, a disciple of the apostles: later however he followed Paul until his martyrdom, serving the Lord blamelessly. He never had a wife, he never fathered children, and died at the age of eighty-four, full of the Holy Spirit, in Boetia. Therefore — although gospels had already been written — indeed by Matthew in Judaea but by Mark in Italy — moved by the Holy Spirit he wrote down this gospel in the parts of Achaia, signifying in the preface that the others were written before his, but also that it was of the greatest importance for him to expound with the greatest diligence the whole series of events in his narration for the Greek believers, so that they would not be led astray by the lure of Jewish fables, or, seduced by the fables of the heretics and stupid solicitations, fall away from the truth. And so at once at the start he took up the extremely necessary [story] from the birth of John, who is the beginning of the gospel, the forerunner of our Lord Jesus Christ, and was a companion in the perfecting of the people, likewise in the introducing of baptism and a companion in martyrdom. Of this disposition the prophet Malachi, one of the twelve, certainly makes mention. And indeed afterwards the same Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles.”

The Pauline Letters make mention of Luke (Col. 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Tim. 4:11). It is unlikely that this undistinguished figure’s name would have been attached to the gospel if he had not written it. When Theophilus (Luke 1:3) received the gospel he must have known who wrote it. Since Greco-Roman libraries were indexed by name he had to place a name on the gospel to find it among the other writings in his library.

There is more disagreement about whether Luke wrote before or after Mark. Clement of Alexandria claims that Matthew and Luke were the first gospels written (Eusebius, HE 6.14.5). The Monarchian Prologue to Mark implies Mark wrote after Matthew and Luke, but in the prologue to Luke it states Mark was written before Luke. Origen, a student of Clement, claims that the order was Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Eusebius, HE 6.25.3-6). Scholars do not agree on whether Irenaeus thinks Luke is the third gospel in a chronological sense (Adv. Haer. 3.1.1; Eusebius, HE 5.8.2f). But, if he does, his tradition may go back through Papias to the apostle John. The Muratorian fragment also implies Luke was the third gospel written. Eusebius agrees with Origen (HE 3.24.6-7) and so do all the fourth-century fathers after him.

Since Eusebius quotes from both Clement and Origen without trying to resolve the apparent contradiction it is possible he did not think there was a contradiction. Other scholars will try to explain how Clement got the facts wrong or how Origen got the facts wrong. The different possibilities do not rise above the level of speculation. Origen’s view seems to have had more weight in the ancient church. If Wenham’s arguments about the internal evidence is convincing then we have reason to believe Luke wrote after Mark.


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