Exegetical Study Notes on the Greek Text

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These exegetical notes are available for download in the form a 1099p A5 PDF eBook Commentary on the Greek text of the Gospel of Mark. Follow the link at the bottom of the page.


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] 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] The faith of a Gentile. 7:1-10

iv] The raising of a widow's son. 7:11-17

v] Jesus and John the Baptist. 7:18-35

vi] 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) Concern 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 the unfaithful. 12:41-48

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

iv] Read the signs - it's time to settle accounts. 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] The narrow door. 13:22-30

ii] Forsaken city. 13:31-35

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

    a) A lesson on humility. 14:1-11

    b) A lesson on hospitality. 14:12-24

iv] Salty discipleship. 14:25-35

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

    a) The parables of the lost sheep and coin. 15:1-10

    b) The parable of the lost brothers. 15:11-32

vi] A lesson on materialism. 16:1-13

5. The Great Reversal, 16:14-18:14

i] The rich man and Lazarus. 16:14-31

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

iii] The healing of the ten lepers. 17:11-19

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

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

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

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

i] Jesus and the little children. 18:15-17

ii] The rich ruler. 18:18-30

iii] The faith of a blind man. 18:31-43

iv] The faith of Zacchaeus. 19:1-10

v] The parable of the ruthless king. 19:11-27

vi] Jesus enters Jerusalem. 19:28-44


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

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

i] Jesus cleanses the temple. 19:45-20:18

ii] Render to Caesar. 20:19-26

iii] The dead are raised. 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. 21:5-28

    b) Your liberation is near. 21:29-38

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

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

ii] The upper room. 22:7-38

a) The Last Supper, 22:7-20

b) Final instructions, 22:21-38

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

iv] The arrest of Jesus. 22:47-53

v] Peter denies Jesus. 22:54-62

vi] The trial of 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. 24:1-12

v] The Emmaus appearance. 24:13-35

vi] Appearances in Jerusalem. 24:36-53


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.

The author

The Muratorian Canon, written around AD 200, identifies the author as Luke, a physician and colleague of Paul the apostle. The Latin prologue to the gospel of Luke, similarly ascribes the gospel and Acts to Luke, an Antiochene Syrian physician. Iranaeus, who died around AD 202, argued that Luke's gospel was the form preached by Paul, a line generally followed by the apostolic fathers. The only evidence from the text itself is found in Acts and the "we" passages where the author is actually present with the Apostle. It is certainly possible that Luke is the Lucius of Acts 13:1, and that he is a native of Antioch. Hort argued in The Medical Language of St.Luke, 1882, that the author was indeed a physician, but his argument is contested. None-the-less, given the external and internal evidence, it is likely that Luke of Antioch, physician and colleague of Paul, authored Luke Acts.


Like Mark, Luke retains the accepted format of gospel tradition to reveal the reign of Christ / coming of the kingdom of God, both its establishment and its maintenance, both now and not-yet. This is presented in as a series of events leading up to Christ's enthronement; a royal progress by which he claims his throne. The events engage humanity, prompting either faith or unbelief, and thus blessing (healing / forgiveness), or judgment.

When it comes to the record of these events, all three authors of the synoptic gospels demonstrate a religious respect for their received gospel tradition, with the differences more likely down to the version of the tradition available to them, than their own reworking of it. It is only in the arrangement of the tradition that the authors show their hand.

By the time the synoptists compose their gospels, the exegetical work of the apostle Paul is complete, with Paul already deceased after his incarceration in Rome. Yet even Luke, a colleague of Paul, respects his received tradition and does not impose Pauline theology on the text. None-the-less, Luke is fully aware of Paul's service to the early church as the exegete of Jesus' teachings. Over and above all of the apostles, it is Paul who is able to explain Jesus' gospel. Without his explanation, the message remains a mystery.

Interpreting the gospels by reading back Pauline theology is viewed with suspicion in academic circles - it is held that the gospels should be interpreted in their own right. Yet, the teachings of Jesus are not easily unlocked, and so it was for the purpose of unlocking Jesus' teachings that the apostle Paul was raised up to serve as his inspired exegete. Without a Pauline perspective we will misunderstand Jesus' gospel, particularly in the area of 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. It was down to Paul to explain this to us.

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 +). It is evident that Luke understands that Pauline theology explains the gospel. To this end, Luke arranges the tradition to illustrate 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. So, not only should we read Paul back into the synoptic gospels, it is necessary to read him back.

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, as 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 does indeed serve as a guide to the life of faith, but primarily it reinforces the human state of sin and thus the necessity of faith, a faith like Abraham's, a faith that realises 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 / gospel as devolved by his exegete, the apostle Paul. These notes proceed on the basis that Luke (so also Matthew and Mark) understands that the gospel tradition must be read through the eyes of the apostle Paul. Matthew and Mark, but particularly Luke, aid this task by the arrangement of their received tradition, eg., linking Jesus blesses little children with The rich young ruler. Mark and Luke add The third Passion prediction, and Luke, in particular, adds The Healing of the Blind Man at Jericho; a brilliant grace, law and faith (Jesus faith + our faith) package, cf., 18:15-43.

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 this 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, possibly even Matthew and other written accounts. Yet, given the existence of oral tradition and his access to some of the key players in Jesus' life, Luke probably relied on his own research of the extant tradition, rather than using Mark as his prime source, even though he may have known of it (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), the differences between Luke's record and that of Mark and Matthew, are quite understandable.

As for the assumed source document Q used by Luke and Matthew, it is likely that it is nothing more than 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. The texts of the synoptic gospels align when quoting core tradition, but when they come to tradition around the edges (sources Q, L, M) they become increasingly divergent. This indicates a prime oral source for the gospel tradition of all three synoptic gospels.

If Mark is not used as a prime source by Matthew and Luke, then it is not possible to argue that Matthew and Luke are flexible in their treatment of gospel tradition. So, an assumed change of the Markan text by Luke does not necessarily convey theological intent, or any intent. It is likely that the synoptists treat the received tradition as divine revelation and are loath to alter it to suit their own theological whims. It is by the arrangement of the material that the synoptists reveal their theological intent. Other than that, they use their understanding of Greek to best convey the intended meaning of the received tradition, condense it if necessary, add notes on the setting, along with an occasional editorial comment.

The occasion for writing

A widely held theory, first proposed in the 1940's by the German scholar Sahlin, was that Luke prepared Luke-Acts as a backgrounding document for the legal proceedings against Paul and the charge that he was a political offender. This would date Luke-Acts during the period of Paul's two years imprisonment in Rome while he awaited trial, Acts 24. Such a narrow intent is possible, but is contested. Luke 1:1-4 makes the point that the author is intent on making a case for Christianity, not just Paul. Such is necessary, given the spread of Christianity within the Empire and the increasing possibility of conflict. The case has to be made that Christianity is a legitimate religious movement in the tradition of Judaism and is without political intent.

Yet, although the circumstances facing the Christian church at this time prompted the need for an apologetic work to allay the fears of Roman society, the spread of Christianity, the diverse nature of its source tradition, and the increasing age of the founding apostles, also prompted the need for an accurate documenting of the faith to clarify the basis of belief. To make this case, Luke uses the eye of a historian, and the theological perspective of the apostle Paul.


The literary evidence strongly supports the argument that the gospel of Luke is authored before, or at least in association with, the book of Acts. The main argument against this is the author's knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem, an event which took place in AD 70, Lk.21:20. Of course, the argument assumes that Jesus is unable to predict the inevitable destruction of Jerusalem by an invading army, in like manner to its destruction by the Babylonians. Israel had rejected their messiah and as a consequence, its destruction was inevitable. Luke is simply recording a received prophetic tradition originating from Jesus.

As we well know, the book of acts abruptly concludes with Paul under house arrest in Rome around AD 60. Luke does not record the martyrdom of James the brother of Jesus in AD 62, nor Nero's persecution of Christians in AD 64. So, it seems likely that Luke, the "beloved physician" and friend of Paul the apostle, penned his gospel during Paul's imprisonment in Rome, and conjunction with his authoring of the book of Acts. This would date the gospel to the early 60's, and well before the destruction of Jerusalem in in AD 70.

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)

Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, Nisbet, 1935.

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

Grundmann, Das Evangelium nach Lukas, Berlin, 1959. Ref. only

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

Meyer, 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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