Daily Bible Study Tips –

Overview of Luke

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 35: Luke 15:11-32, The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre
Overview of Luke, Day 9, Ch. 1 – 4
Overview of Luke, Day 10, Ch. 5 – 9
Overview of Luke, Day 11, Ch. 10 – 13
Overview of Luke, Day 12, Ch. 14 – 19
Overview of Luke, Day 13, Ch. 20 – 24

Comments on Luke Chapters 1 - 12
Comments on Luke Chapters 13 - 24

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Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 35: Luke 15:11-32, The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre (7/17/15)

The Swiss artist Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre (1806 – 1874) has added an element to answer a question about the story of the prodigal son: Where’s Mom? In his painting, the prodigal is embarrassed, as well he should be. Dad is quietly but tremendously pleased, and he’s not willing to let the boy get away: look how he’s holding on to one of the kid’s arms, and he has his own arm around the kid’s shoulders. “I’m taking you to your mother right now,” he’s saying. “She’s waited long enough.”

Mom doesn’t appear in the scriptural account. In the painting, she’s saying, “My baby boy! Come and give your momma some sugar!” That’s probably another reason the kid is embarrassed.

This parable is found only in Luke, and it is characteristic of Luke that he was a careful researcher who sought out and included material about Jesus that otherwise would have been lost to us. Remember that parables are little stories with a single theological point. The point of this story is that God wants you back and is thrilled when you come home to him. However, so is your mom, so call today if you can.

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The Return of the Prodigal Son. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre,
from the Gamble family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter. Photography by Daryl Lee.

Day 9, Luke 1-4
The third gospel was probably written between 70 and 80 A.D. The only person ever taken seriously as the writer is Luke, a Gentile physician who traveled and studied with Paul. This attribution is based on the ancient tradition of the Church, which was never disputed until modern times, and on the “we passages” of Acts. The Gospel of Luke is the first volume in a single, two-volume work consisting of Luke and Acts. There is absolutely no question that the same person wrote Luke and Acts. Occasionally in Acts the text stops saying “they” did this or that and starts saying “we” did this or that. The only known candidate for the gospel writer among the “we’s” is Luke.

Luke dedicated both works to Theophilus, saying that Theophilus should know the full truth about everything he had been taught. We have no idea who Theophilus might have been, aside from the fact that he knew something about Christianity, Luke called him “Your Excellency,” and his name means “Lover of God.” Have you every read a book or newspaper column that spoke directly to you and called you “Dear Reader”? One idea about Theophilus, my favorite, is that he is you. The other idea, much more widely accepted, is that he was a well-born or high-ranking Gentile convert who asked Luke for a more formal statement of how Christianity came to be.

Day 10, Luke 5-9
Luke presents his gospel in a light more illuminating to Gentiles than Matthew and Mark do.

Day 11, Luke 10-13
In addressing his gospel to the Gentile community in the Roman Empire, Luke takes care to date events according to the standards of the Roman world. Matthew tells us who the various Jewish rulers of Judea were when Jesus lived, but he’s not particularly interested in exact dates. Mark really doesn’t date his gospel at all, except that Pilate was governor. John takes the approach of placing the action in the middle of Eternity. In contrast, Luke tells us that Jesus was born when “the Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire” while “Quirinius was the governor of Syria.” John the Baptist began to preach when “it was the fifteenth year of the rule of Emperor Tiberius; Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip was ruler of the territory of Iturea and Trachonitis; Lysanias was ruler of Abilene, and Annas and Caiaphas were High Priests.”

Day 12, Luke 14-19
Luke presents more information about Jesus’ dealings with Gentiles and women than the other gospel writers. Only Luke tells us that Jesus had compassion on the widow of Nain and raised her son from the dead (Luke 7). Only Luke mentions specific women who supported ministries of Jesus and Paul financially (Luke 8:3, Acts 16). Only Luke gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan. Acts, as we will see, devotes many chapters to the topic of ministry to the Gentiles.

Luke, as a physician, tends to give us more specific details of the various healings that Jesus performs. Peter’s mother-in-law “had a high fever” in Luke; in Mark and Matthew she had a “fever.” The woman in the crowd had “severe bleeding” in Luke 8, and “she had spent all she had on doctors, but no one had been able to cure her.” Mark (Ch. 5) actually said that the doctors had made her worse, but Dr. Luke omits that little detail. Only Luke tells us about the bent woman healed in the synagogue (Luke 13) or the man with swollen arms and legs (Luke 14). In Jesus’ saying about a camel and the eye of a needle, Luke uses a word that is apparently the technical term for a needle that is used by physicians.

Day 13, Luke 20-24
Luke talks more about Mary, the mother of Jesus, than the other gospel writers. Luke mentions Mary, either by name or as “the mother of Jesus,” in a total of 19 verses. Mark mentions her in three verses; Matthew 11 verses (almost all of these in the story about Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, in Matthew 1); and John, with whom Mary lived, six verses. We learned earlier that Matthew and Luke each had their own sources of material in addition to Mark. There is some thought that one of Luke’s sources was Mary herself.

Only Luke records Gabriel’s visit to Mary, Mary’s stay with Elizabeth, and the Song of Mary (Luke 1); the visit of the shepherds to the baby and his mother and father (Luke 2); what was said to Mary and Joseph about the child when he was dedicated in the Temple (Luke 2); or Mary and Joseph’s anxiety when the 12-year-old Jesus left the group traveling home and went back to the Temple. Luke was not present at any of these events. Luke also says that Mary and Jesus’ siblings were among the new Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 1); Luke probably was not there, either. John contributes two unique stories about Mary (John 2 and 19), but both times he was an eye-witness, and the emphasis is on Jesus, not Mary.

Copyright 2008, 2010, 2015, 2016 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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