Lucan Theology: A Brief Sketch
Timothy J. Corrigan, Ph.D.


a. Christian Scholars have been in agreement the Gospel according to St. Luke is the most beautiful book ever written. Luke has been looked on as one of the greatest writers of early Christian literature. (Ref 1)

b. Luke is one of the three synoptic gospels, Matthew and Mark are the other two (so called because of the similarity of their materials allows one to lay them out in parallel columns and take all three at one glance). Matthew and mark look at the story of Jesus from a historical point of view; John looks at it from a theological perspective that is how God in His attributes relates to humans and the universe. (Ref 2)

c. Due to the many common elements in the synoptic gospels, these divinely inspired authors must have used a common source. This source, unknown to us, is referred to as "Q" (for Quelle: German for source). (Ref 3)

d. St. Luke was a gentile, a physician and a companion of St. Paul (Col 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11). He was a well-educated Greek, whose written word was elegant and literary.

e. His Gospel was written to wealthier gentile Christians, in an urban setting, who were becoming complacent. (Ref 4)

f. Date of the Gospel

This Gospel is dated 75-80 AD, due to Luke's description of destruction in Jerusalem as already haven taken place (70 AD); and, by 96 AD Luke's gospel was well known in early church circles, e.g. Clement of Rome mentions it in his own writings. (Ref 5)

2. Theological Themes of St. Luke in his Gospel

a. The Gospel for the Gentiles

Luke seldom quotes the Old Testament, gives Hebrew words as Greek equivalents, e.g. instead of rabbi he uses teacher, instead of scribe he uses lawyer.

b. The Gospel of Prayer

Luke often shows Jesus at prayer: at His baptism (Luke 3:21), before He chose the Twelve (6:12), at the Transfiguration (9:29), upon the Cross (23:46), and only Luke writes of Jesus praying for Peter in his hour of testing (22:32)

c. The Gospel of Praise

The most beautiful prayers are found only in this Gospel: the Magnificat (1:46-55), the Benedictus (1:68-79) and the Nunc Dimittis (2:29-32)

d. The Gospel of the Holy Spirit

Luke, as he also wrote in Acts, emphasized the importance of the Holy Spirit (1:15, 35, 41, 67 & 3:22 & 4:1, 18-21, 10-21 & 11:13). (Ref 6)

e. The Gospel of Women

Women are mentioned frequently in all four of the New Testament Gospels. However, they are especially prominent in St. Luke's Gospel. Jesus'birth is told from Mary's perspective. We are told about Martha and Mary. Luke writes about women who accompanied Jesus; Mary Magdalene, Joanna whose husband Chuza was an officer in Herod's court, Susanna and many other women who used their own resources to help Jesus and His disciples (8:1). (Ref 7)

f. The Gospel for All

Jesus is the Saviour of all men. He draws no lines of race or creed. Presenting a universal Christ and defending Christianity was against Roman law, Luke appeals to gentiles to believe in Christ and His teachings. The parables of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son and the Pharisee and Publican highlight the universality of the Good News of Jesus Christ. (Ref. 8)

3. Theological Themes of St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles

a. The Acts is the only real history we have of the beginnings of the Church. It covers the period of Pentecost to the imprisonment of St. Paul in Rome, about the first thirty years of the history of Christianity. When the four gospels were collected and circulated, the Book of Acts was separated for its companion book, Luke's Gospel. In our New Testament the Gospel of John stands between Luke and Acts. Scholars have long held that the author of Acts was St. Luke, due to each of the books are addressed to the same person, Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1); in chapter 1 of Acts reference is made to the first book addressed to Theophilus (Acts 1:1), and Greeks scholars note that the literary style of the two books is the same. (Ref. 9)

b. The main theme of Acts is describing how salvation promised to Israel in the Old Testament and accomplished by Jesus, has now under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, been extended to Gentiles.

c. Secondary themes are seen as St. Luke's theological interest in the history of the Church. In the development of the church from a Jewish Christian origin in Jerusalem, with its roots in Jewish religious tradition, to a series of Christian communities among the Gentiles of the Roman empire, St. Luke perceives the action of God in history laying open the heart of all humanity.

4. In conclusion, I believe that the crux of St. Luke's theology, a giant leap in his time, in contrast to the crisis in the early Church regarding the mandatory acceptance of Jewish traditions, is: that the Sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus is for the salvation of all humans throughout history.

Further, St Luke gives Jerusalem a pivotal theological role in both his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles: Jesus suffers and dies in Jerusalem (Luke 13:33) and the Holy Spirit appears to the disciples in Jerusalem during Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47)


1. Miller, Adam W., Brief Introduction to the New Testament, Pyramis Books,New York, 1972
2. Riley, Cathryn, The Gospel According to St. Luke, Clavis Regni, Nottingham, 1957
3. Ibid.
4. Just, Felix, The Four Gospels, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, 2001
5. Ibid.2
6. Riley, Cathryn, The Gospel According to St. Luke, Clavis Regni, Nottingham, 1957
7. Just, Felix, Women in Luke's Gospel, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, 2000
8. Miller, Adam W., Brief Introduction to the New Testament, Pyramis Books,New York, 1972
9. Ibid.

copyright 2002 Timothy J. Corrigan, Ph.D.
Used by permission.