Literary Dependence And Luke’s Prologue -- By: Paul W. Felix, Sr.

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 08:1 (Spring 1997)
Article: Literary Dependence And Luke’s Prologue
Author: Paul W. Felix, Sr.

Literary Dependence And Luke’s Prologue

Paul W. Felix1

The first four verses of Luke’s gospel set that book apart from Matthew, Mark, and John in giving information about the writer’s research. Attempts of some to use the information to prove Luke’s literary dependence on Mark necessitate a closer look at this prologue. The carefully structured sentence tells the context of the author’s writing project (1:1–2) and gives a commentary on the writing project (1:3–4). Others had preceded Luke in attempting to put together accounts of Jesus’ life, but for some reason Luke found their efforts unsatisfactory. He decided to write an account himself, basing it ultimately on reports from “eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” His credentials for the task were impressive, including careful investigation of all events from the beginning of Jesus’ life and putting the results down in chronological order. His purpose in doing this was to furnish Theophilus with exact information. Implications of the prologue preclude Luke’s use of another canonical gospel as a source, but allow for his familiarity with other written sources. He depended on many sources, not two or three, but was most heavily dependent on oral reports from “eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” He followed chronological order, not an order supplied by Mark. So the prologue does not support any type of literary dependence among the canonical gospels, but points to their independence of each other.

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Each gospel writer begins his gospel differently from the others. Matthew commences his with “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ”

(Matt 1:1) and proceeds to trace the Lord’s genealogy from Abraham to Joseph. Mark abruptly begins with the words “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). The apostle John introduces his book with a prologue that unfolds some of the major themes developed through the rest of the book. John’s prologue begins with the declaration that Jesus is God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Luke introduces his gospel with a prologue too,2 but his introduction differs from John’s as it does from the other two gospels.3 Luke 1:1–4

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