So far I have tried to explain why, in the proto-orthodox church of the second century, the Gospels of Matthew and John came to be attributed to two of the disciples of Jesus. My thesis is that an edition of the four Gospels appeared in Rome sometime in the second half of the century and that it differentiated the four Gospels by indicating which was “according to” whom. I now can address the question of how the other two Gospels were given their names, and why they were not assigned to disciples of Jesus but to companions of the apostles, Luke the companion of Paul and Mark the companion of Peter.
Luke is the easier of the two to explain, and in some ways is the easiest of all four Gospels. That’s because the author provides hints of who he is – or at least hints of whom he wants his readers to *think* he is.
The hints do not come in the Gospel of Luke itself. As I have already pointed out, the author of Luke does indeed speak in the first person in 1:1-4. But in that passage he does not indicate his name. Equally important, he intimates that he himself was not an eyewitness to the events that transpired in Jesus’ life or that he was one of the early proclaimers of Jesus. That’s because he states that there were “many” earlier accounts of Jesus’ life, written by others, based on traditions that had been handed down by “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” He does not include himself in either group, but clearly intimates that he was a later writer who, presumably, had heard stories of Jesus that ultimately went back to these groups of people.
But the author later does hint at who he is – not in the Gospel of Luke but in the second volume of his writing, the book of Acts.
There is really very little doubt that …
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