Exegetical Study Notes on the Greek Text



The gospel of Luke is the first part of a two-part theological work that traces the movement of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. The unity of Luke/Acts and the common authorship of both books is beyond question. The books are dedicated to Theophilus who may have financed the project. They are certainly written for the Christian community, but also the book market, according to Dibelius.

The structure of Luke

Prologue, 1:1-4

The Preface, 1:1-4


The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

1. Prophecies about the coming messiah, 1:5-2:40

i] Vision in the temple. 1:5-25

ii] Vision of Mary. 1:26-38

iii] Prophecy of Mary. 1:39-56

iv] Prophecy of Zechariah. 1:57-80

v] Vision glorious

    a) The birth of Jesus, 2:1-7

    b) The vision of the shepherds. 2:8-21

vi] Prophecy in the temple. 2:22-40

2. Testimonies to the Messiah, 2:41-4:30

i] Witness in the temple. 2:41-52

ii] Witness of John the Baptist. 3:1-20

iii] Witness of Jesus' baptism. 3:21-22

iv] Witness of Jesus' genealogy. 3:23-38

v] Witness of the temptation. 4:1-13

vi] Witness of Jesus' inaugural ministry. 4:14-30

    a) Good news for the poor. 4:14-21

    b) God's love is universal. 4:22-30

3. The signs of the Messiah, 4:31-6:11

i] Sign at Capernaum - Lord over darkness. 4:31-44

ii] Sign of the fish - Lord of mankind. 5:1-11

iii] Sign of the leper - Lord over sickness. 5:12-16

iv] Sign of the paralytic - Lord of the sinner. 5:17-26

v] Sign of the outcast - Lord of the lost. 5:27-39

vi] Sign of the Sabbath - Lord of the Sabbath. 6:1-11

4. The kingdom dawns in the acts of Messiah, 6:12-7:50

i] The new Israel - Choosing the twelve. 6:12-16

ii] Promises and principles in the kingdom, 6:17-49.

  The Great Sermon.

    a) The happiness of Christ's disciples. 6:17-26

    b) Love for enemies. 6:27-38

    c) A tree and it's fruit. 6:39-49

iii] Entering the kingdom by faith alone - a Gentile's faith. 7:1-10

iv] An escape from death - the kingdom's promise. 7:11-17

v] Christ's kingdom surpasses the old - Jesus and the Baptist. 7:18-35

vi] Kingdom entered by faith - a churchman and a prostitute. 7:36-50

5. The kingdom dawns in the words of Messiah, 8:1-56

i] Sowing the seed. 8:1-18

ii] Jesus' true family. 8:19-21

iii] Nature stilled. 8:22-25

iv] Dark powers stilled - a demoniac healed. 8:26-39

v] A woman's haemorrhage healed. 8:43-48

vi] Raising an elder's daughter. 8:40-42, 49-56

6. The kingdom dawns in the children of Messiah, 9:1-50

i] Mission of the twelve. 9:1-10

ii] Feeding the 5000. 9:11-17

iii] Meaning of Peter's confession. 9:18-27

iv] The transfiguration. 9:28-36

v] Healing an epileptic boy. 9:37-45

vi] Meaning of greatness in the kingdom of God. 9:46-50


The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44

1. The kingdom and its message, 9:51-10:42

i] Rejection in Samaria. 9:51-56

ii] Demands of discipleship. 9:57-62

iii] Mission of the seventy. 10:1-20

iv] Who receives the kingdom? 10:21-24

v] Who inherits eternal life? 10:25-37

vi] Hearing the word of God. 10:38-42

2. The kingdom and power, 11:1-12:34

i] The meaning of prayer. 11:1-13

ii] The sign of the new age. 11:14-26

iii] The sign of Jonah. 11:27-36

iv] Bad news for churchmen. 11:37-54

v] Information for evangelists. 12:1-12

vi] Goals in life - to have or to live. 12:13-34

    a) The parable of the rich fool. 12:13-21

    b) Care about earthly things. 12:22-34

3. The kingdom and judgment, 12:35-13:21

i] A word to servants about the absent Lord. 12:35-40

ii] A warning to unfaithful churchmen. 12:41-48

iii] Signs of the age - division. 12:49-53

iv] Signs of the age - coming judgment. 12:54-59

v] Demands of the kingdom - repent or perish. 13:1-9

vi] Inevitable victory of the kingdom. 13:10-21

4. Who enters the kingdom? 13:22-16:13

i] Rejected seekers - the narrow door. 13:22-30

ii] Forsaken city. 13:31-35

iii] A churchman's dinner party. 14:1-24

    a) Lessons on compassion, humility and generosity. 14:1-14

    b) The parable of the excluded guests. 14:15-24

iv] Salty discipleship. 14:25-35

v] Repentant sinners - the source of God's joy. 15:1-32

    a) The lost sheep. 15:1-10

    b) From death comes life - the parable of the lost son. 15:11-32

vi] Faithfulness - parable of the shrewd manager. 16:1-13

5. The coming kingdom, 16:14-18:14

i] All things are reversed - the rich man and Lazarus. 16:14-31

ii] A word to disciples. 17:1-10

iii] Ten lepers healed, only one understands grace. 17:11-19

iv] A caution to those who wait. 17:20-37

v] Justice - the judge and the widow. 18:1-8

vi] Righteousness given - the pharisee and the tax collector. 18:9-14

6. Discipleship and the rejected king, 18:15-19:44

i] Such is the kingdom - little children. 18:15-17

ii] Leaving all - the rich ruler. 18:18-34

iii] Faith of a blind man. 18:35-43

iv] A rich man converted - the faith of Zacchaeus. 19:1-10

v] The story of a rejected king - the ten minas. 19:11-27

vi] The king rejected - Jesus enters Jerusalem. 19:28-44


The culmination of Messiah's mission, 19:45-24:53

1. The Messiah and the Temple, 19:45-21:38

i] Cleansing the temple - a story about its meaning. 19:45-20:18

ii] Render to Caesar. 20:19-26

iii] The dead are raised - Sadducees on resurrection. 20:27-40

iv] David's greater son. 20:41-44

v] The churchmen and the widow. 20:45-21:4

vi] Signs of the new age and the end times. 21:5-38

    a) Troubles and persecution. 21:5-24

    b) Your liberation is near. 21:25-38

2. The meaning of Messiah's death, 22:1-23:25

i] The plot to kill Jesus. 22:1-6

ii] The Last Supper - consecration to death. 22:7-38

iii] Prayer on the Mount of Olives. 22:39-46

iv] Jesus arrested - betrayal. 22:47-53

v] Peter denies Jesus. 22:54-62

vi] The plot to kill Jesus. 22:63-23:25

3. The Glorification of the Messiah, 23:26-24:53

i] The way of the cross. 23:26-31

ii] The crucifixion. 23:32-49

iii] The burial. 23:50-56

iv] The empty tomb - Angels message. 24:1-12

v] The Emmaus appearance - a message. 24:13-35

vi] Appearances in Jerusalem - the commission. 24:36-53


Awaiting completion.


It is possible to divide the gospel up chronologically, eg., Infancy narratives, chapters 1-2; Galilean mission, chapters 3:1-9:50; the journey to Jerusalem, chapters 9.51-19:44; the Jerusalem ministry, chapters 19:45-24:53. Some commentators still follow Lightfoot who divided the gospel up geographically, eg. Galilee, the journey, Jerusalem).

Probably the most beneficial ways to approach this gospel is to treat it thematically. Many of the episodes in the gospel (miracle stories, conflict stories, sayings, etc.) have thematic links with each other; they are not just unrelated pieces of tradition. Along with the natural thematic links in the received tradition, Conzelmann has shown that Luke's theological interests have influenced the selection and arrangement of his material. By studying each episode within its context, we are better able to understand its theology, ie., the truth the gospel writer wishes to communicate to us. In the end, the writer's truth is God's truth for us. We must unlock the one to discover the other.

Earle Ellis, in his commentary on Luke, published in 1966, thematically divides up the gospel. Although his structure is somewhat stylised, it does highlight the thematic links between individual episodes. Earle Ellis is the only commentator who thinks that Luke had a six-pack sandwich arrangement in mind when he authored the gospel, none-the-less, it is a structure that does aid a contextual understanding of the gospel.

For a more modern narrative-discourse approach to Luke-Acts see Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts - A Literary Interpretation, Fortress Press.


Luke's prime directive is to reveal, in the presence of the coming kingdom, the condemnation of / curse upon the "righteous" (self-righteous) under the law, in contrast to the blessing of the humble (repentant / believing) under grace. Luke's arrangement of the synoptic tradition serves to draw out this thesis, a thesis evident in the teachings of Jesus and exegeted by Paul, particularly in Romans and Galatians. As a member of Paul's missionary team, Luke understands the Pauline thesis that a person is justified (set in the right with God - it's just-if-I'd never sinned) on the basis of / out of faith (Christ's faithfulness appropriated by our faith response), and this apart from works of the law (divine law - the Torah +). Luke's gospel radically illustrates the two ways, the way of grace and the way of law, usually in separate literary units, but sometimes together, eg., Luke 18:9-14.

Interpreting the gospels by reading back Pauline theology is viewed with some suspicion in academic circles - it is generally held that the gospels should be interpreted in their own right. Yet, the teachings of Jesus are not easily unlocked, and to this end, Paul the apostle serves as the inspired exegete of Jesus. Without a Pauline perspective we can easily misunderstand Jesus, particularly when it comes to his ethical teachings. Jesus uses the Law to expose sin, and thus the need for repentance and faith, yet it is very easy to think he is providing the ethics of perfection, a load impossible to bear, when in fact, Jesus' load is light indeed.

The Pauline interpretation of the gospel is established in his general letter to the Romans, and his letter to the Galatians. We may summarise his thesis as follows:

"The righteous out of faith will live", Habakkuk 2:4.


The grace of God

realised in his righteous reign

(his setting all things right)

in justification

(in judging right / setting right a people before him),

out of FAITH

(based on Christ's faithfulness + our faith response),

establishes the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God's children

(covenant compliance),

facilitating God's promised covenant BLESSINGS

(the full appropriation of his promised new life through the Spirit),

and its fruit, the WORKS of the law

(the application of brotherly love).

cf. Rom.1:16-17

Jesus' teaching on salvation and exegeted by Paul may be represented as follows:


Paul explains Jesus' teaching on salvation as follows: faith (Christ's faithfulness + our faith response) brings with it a state of holiness before God (righteousness, right-standing, covenant compliance ....) and thus the full appropriation of the promised blessings of the covenant evidenced in the fruit of good living (works of the law).

Jesus' teachings, particularly as they relate to ethics, reflect the context of Second Temple Judaism and its pietism. Although it was generally accepted that Israel stood under the grace of God, it was held that the full appropriation of the blessings of the covenant necessitated a faithful attention to the works of the law. Religious Judaism, particularly evident in the Pharisees, was infected with this heresy, the heresy of nomism (as opposed to legalism, ie., salvation by works of the law). The Law of Moses serves to guide the life of faith, but primarily it reinforces the human state of sin and thus the necessity of faith, a faith like Abraham's, to realise God's gracious promises.

Many of the early Jewish Christians were infected with this heresy, seeing themselves as saved by grace, but bound by law for the full appropriation of new life in Christ. The heresy of nomism can be represented as follows:


This heresy is different to the one Luther faced. He confronted the heresy of legalism, a heresy about getting saved, rather than staying saved:


As the exegete of Jesus, Paul makes it clear that salvation is by grace through faith apart from works of the law. The law but serves two ends:

ito make sin more sinful, so leading to repentance, and;

ito guide the Christian life.

Jesus' constant use of the law to expose sin, usually in the context of a discussion with self-righteous Pharisees, and sometimes disciples, can lead to a downplaying of the Law, a heresy confronted head-on by James (hedonism, libertinism):


James serves as the exegete of Jesus at this point by reinforcing the fact that the fruit of faith is good works, such that where there is no good works there is likely to be no faith - whoever has been forgiven much loves much, Lk.7:47.


For Jesus, and his exegete Paul, the issue is how a person (a descendant of Abraham and the Gentiles within his gate!) may appropriate in full the promised blessings of the covenant. It is not by law suppressing sin to promote holiness (nomism / sanctification by obedience / pietism), but by faith in the faithfulness of Christ. It is all of grace.

This then is the substance of Jesus' teaching and the substance of Luke's shaping of the gospel tradition through the eyes of the apostle Paul.

Language and style

Luke uses classical Greek expression, constantly altering the Hebraisms of Mark and his other sources, working to improve the style of his gospel. In general terms his "literary abilities were of a superior order" (Metzger).

Luke as a historian

Luke certainly comes at his subject in a scientific way. He roots the key events of his story in history, evidencing the events as history. Clearly he has researched his work, but it is difficult to see it as "an orderly account" (Lk.1:1-4), in the sense of a chronological listing of facts. The gospel writers don't just list the facts of Jesus life, they are into recording the keryguma, the proclaimed message of the early church, ie., the gospel. The gospel writers are into theology. None-the-less, Luke comes at his subject as researched history with the knowledge that his material is rooted in fact.

i] The gospel of salvation. Luke considers his Gentile readers when he exegetes the gospel in terms of salvation as an experience for the present age. A coming kingdom is not easily understood by Gentiles. For Luke, Jesus is in the business of proclaiming an important message from God ("preach the gospel"), it is a message of "salvation". "The Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost", 19:10. It is not just a salvation from the "wrath to come", but a life-giving salvation in the present, a coming close to the life-giver himself.

ii] Salvation for all. Luke makes a point of defining "the lost", not as "righteous" Israel, but outcast Israel, the brokenhearted, the sinner...., and not just broken Israel, but also outcast Gentiles.

iii] Justification. Given that Luke partnered Paul in his Gentile missionary work, it is understandable that Luke would focus on Paul's "my gospel", ie., a gospel that focuses on a justification that rests on the atoning work of Christ and consequently produces in the justified believer the fullness of new life in Christ. Paul serves as the exegete of Jesus' gospel, and therefore Paul's gospel perspective influences Luke's selection and arrangement of the kereguma. Unlike the other gospel writers, Luke does not focus on the cross of Jesus, but rather on the resurrection life of Christ. He lives, therefore we may live also, and this as a gift of grace appropriated by faith. As already noted, Luke is also careful in exposing the central function of Law. Luke makes sure that no believer could ever think that their Christian life is progressed on the basis of faithful obedience. Luke stresses the cross-bearing discipleship of Jesus, not to push us into self-sacrifice, but rather to show us that only Christ's self-sacrifice can obtain God's favour.

iv] Church. Luke shows a keen eye for his missionary church in that he emphasises the task of gospel proclamation in the power of the Spirit of God, and this supported by prayer.


It is generally accepted that Mark was first to compose his gospel and that Luke and Matthew independently used it to compose their own gospels, along with another source document known as "Q" (now lost). Added to these two sources there is their own source material. Certainly, it seems that large slabs of Mark are quoted in Luke's gospel, yet Luke does not quote Mark word for word and this seems to fly in the face of his claim to record the Jesus story accurately. He seems to happily alter Mark's record when it suits his purpose.

It is very likely that an Aramaic oral record of the gospel took shape during the first few decades of the Christian church in Jerusalem. The telling and retelling of the stories by the apostles not only set a common story line, but as time went by, bundles of stories and sayings most likely became part of that oral tradition. Mark, or a proto-Mark, was likely the first attempt to document the oral tradition in a Greek text, although there are still some scholars who suggest that Matthew was first. As Luke set about researching available sources for his account of the development of the Christian faith from Jerusalem to Rome, he may well have had access to a copy of Mark's gospel. Yet, given the existence of extant oral tradition and his access to some of the key players in Jesus' life, he may well have composed his gospel without any reference to Mark, even though he may have known it well, as well as Q, and even possibly Matthew (Luke does indicate that he is aware of others who have written accounts "of the events that have been fulfilled among us", 1:1). Given the flexibility of oral tradition (localised variations, its "life situation", ie., preaching), Luke's many charges to Mark's record are quite understandable.

Similarly, with the assumed source document Q used by Luke and Matthew. Again, this may be nothing more that extant oral tradition not used by Mark, but used in varying degrees by Luke and Matthew. This again explains the differences evident in Q passages found in both Luke and Matthew.


It is beyond doubt that the gospel was written by Luke the "beloved physician" and friend of Paul the apostle, yet the date of writing is open to much dispute. It was most likely written in Rome during Paul's imprisonment in conjunction with the writing of Acts. This would date it in the early 60's and certainly before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.

A Selection of English Bible Commentaries on Luke

Level of complexity:

1, non-technical, to 5, requiring a workable knowledge of Greek.

Deceased: D. For publications no longer in print

Other identifiers: Recommended R; Greek Technical G; Theology / Themes / Background / Interpretation T


Arndt, Concordia 1956. 3D

Black, College Press NIV Commentary, 1996. 2

Bock, BECNT, 1994. 4R

(Note referenced NIVABC, 2; IVP, 3)

Bovon, ch. 1-9, Hermeneia, 2002. 5

Browning, Torch, revised ed. 1965. 1D

Burnside, CGTSC, 1913. GD

Caird, Pelican 1963. 1D

Carroll, NTL, 2012. 4

Chen, NCC, 2017. 3

Creed, Macmillan; 1930. 5D

Culy + Parsons, Stigall, HGT, 2010. G

Danker, Jesus and the New Age, Clayton, rev. ed 1988. 3

(Not referenced, Proclamation commentaries, 1976. 2TD)

Drury, Phillips, 1973. 1D

Easton, T&T Clark, Source critical, 1926. TD

Edwards, Pillar, 2015. 4

Ellis, NCB, revised ed. 1974. 3DR

Evans C.F., TPI, 1990. 3

Fitzmyer, Anchor, 1981. 4R

Garland, ZECNT, 2011. 3

Gelenhuys, NICNT, 1979. 3D

Gooding, A New Exposition, IVP, 1987. 2

Green, NICNT, 1997. 4R

Hendriksen, Banner of Truth, 1978. 4

Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, rev. ed. SCM, 1963. T

Johnson, Sacra Pagina, 1991. 3

Leaney, Blacks / Harpers, 1958. 2

Liefeld, Luke, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Zondervan, 1984.

Luce, CGTSC, 1933. GD

Manson W, MNTC, 1930. 2D

Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, SCM, 1949. T

Marshall, NIGTC, 1978. 5R

Melinsky, Libra, 1966. 1D

Meyers, T&T Clark, 1877. 4GD

Miller, Layman's, 1959. 1D

Morris, Tyndale, rev. ed. 1988. 2R

Nolland, Word, 1989. 5R

Pallis, Oxford, Greek notes, 1928. GD

Pao. Expositors, Luke-Acts rev. ed. 2005. 3

Plummer, ICC, 1922. 5D

Ryken, REC, 2009. 3

Schweizer, John Knox, 1984. 3D

Stein, NAC, 1992. 3

Talbert, Readings, Crossroad, 1982. T

Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts, Fortress Press, 1983. TR

Thompson G, Clarendon, 1972. 2D.

Thompson, EGGNT, 2017. G

Tinsley, CBC, 1965. 1D

Wetherington, NCBC, 2018. 3

Wright, Macmillan, 1900, GD.


Of special note for translators, The Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Luke by Reiling and Swellengrebel, UBS, 1971, is particularly useful, although somewhat superseded by the Baylor Handbook on the Greek Text of Luke, 2010.


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