Where did Luke get his material?

Clarification. First, a bit of a clarification from last week’s post on John the Baptist and his attire. The Chief Editor failed to hit the delete button on one of the sentences about what John wore. One sentence said he had a hairy coat of camel’s hair and shorts. The other sentence omitted the shorts. One of our astute readers noticed the difference and asked if there was any significance in the difference (ya never know about all these nuances we keep finding in the Bible). Alas, it was merely an oversight by our Quality Assurance department in proofing the final version. We have spoken firmly to the department manager.

We appreciate these observations — it keeps us diligent.

Back to this week’s focus — Luke and Acts. Luke and Acts were written sometime between 80-100 CE, 30+ years after Paul’s letters and even 10+ years after the first Gospel Mark.  

If Luke was written so long after Paul’s letters and Mark’s Gospel, where did he get his material? There are three sources for Luke’s material.

  • First, both Matthew and Luke take a lot of material straight from Mark. But Mark’s account is pretty sparse — no birth story and his Easter story ends with the women finding an empty tomb. Editor’s note: The last several verses in Mark recording the appearances of Jesus to the disciples were written in much later by someone else who didn’t like the unexciting ending.
  • Second, both Matthew and Luke added a number of Jesus’ sayings from a theoretical document called Q. Why theoretical? Because Archaeologists have not actually found this document. Nevertheless, both Luke and Matthew contain almost verbatim many of the same sayings of Jesus. None of these sayings are in Mark or John. So Bible scholars have concluded that there must have been another document floating around in the first century that both Matthew and Luke utilized. (Q stands for a German word that means ‘source.’)
  • Third, and this is where we get even more gray, there is Luke’s subjectivity. Luke was written after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish people were under a lot of pressure from Rome — not a good time to be writing inflammatory literature. Consequently, we see in Luke a lot of backpedaling on how the Romans treated Jesus in comparison to Mark. Pontius Pilate wasn’t such a bad guy in Luke. There is no mocking or scourging by the Roman soldiers in Luke, compared to Mark.  Plus (and this will lead to next week), the author of Luke/Acts was a big proponent of Paul, who was a Roman citizen. 

Question of the week:  If Paul did not come along until 20+ years after the death of Jesus, who was in charge in the interim?

 Most of this week’s observations are from a book entitled Paul and Jesus by James Tabor. Tabor also has a blog, which we have featured here before too.

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