Luke: Gospel or Gossip?

I know a lot of people are not going to like me asking the above question, but Luke - the writer of the Gospel of Luke - tells us himself, that a lot of what he recorded was information passed on by word of mouth.

The word "gossip" is a bit too casual in this situation, but I use it to highlight the point. I have no doubt that people "tried" to pass on only truth about Jesus and his disciples, but in the end, some of it was truth, and some of it was error - all mixed up.

As best as I can find out, Luke wrote at least 30 years after Christ ascended to heaven.

What was circulating in the community 30 years after Christ had ascended, had become a little bit distorted, and vital "bits" of information had been dropped along the way. It is very hard for people to accurately pass on facts by speech and memory alone.

Luke is quite upfront and tells us what he is recording at the very beginning of his book.

Luk 1:2 NET.  like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning.

Luk 1:2 NIrV  Reports of these things were handed down to us. There were people who saw these things for themselves from the beginning and then passed the word on.

Luk 1:2 NLT  They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples.

Most people want to ignore what Luke is saying, and hold fast to the lie that every word written by Luke is some how "God inspired" and therefore absolutely true.

Then, in an attempt to reconcile Luke's version of accounts with the other eyewitnesses accounts, they have to resort to convoluted "stories" to try and sort out the differences.

It is much easier, and much more accurate, to accept the fact that the "hearsay/reports" (gossip if you like) were a mixture of truth and error from the day Luke penned the words.

Upholding Luke.

In no way do I want this to come across as a "put down" of Luke.

He did an excellent job of giving us a "snapshot" of what was being spoken about Christ and His ministry, some 30 years after the events took place. Some of the information he collected is not referred to by the other Gospel writers, so it is all we have on some subjects.

Without Luke's Gospel, we would be in the dark on many matters. For example, what John the Baptist told those coming to be baptised, and the fact that the bread and wine (Last Supper ceremony), came after the meal, not during (confirmed by Paul - 1 Cor 11:25)

Aims of the article.


To show a number of places where the facts or the sequence of events are different in Luke, from the other eyewitness accounts. Remember, Luke was not an eyewitness, he just recorded what he was told. There are over 60 places where Luke is different to the other eyewitness accounts, but I won't go into them all.


To draw the conclusion, that if the Book of Luke is a mixture of truth and error, then it could not all have been  "God inspired". This in turn, leads to the question, if parts of Luke are not "God inspired", how many other books or parts of books included in our English Bibles are also not "God inspired"?

For example, there are verses in the Book of Proverbs, that directly contradict the spoken instructions of God. These have to be the words of men - not the words of God (Prov 25:3 & Prov 17:10 - if God restricts stripes to 40, then He would not talk about 100).

The start of the problem.

I have no doubt that there would be no need for this article if the translators had done a better job of  translating 2 Tim 3:16.

2Ti 3:16 KJV  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Both the words "is" have been inserted by the translators. The first "is" drastically changes the meaning of the verse. If we leave it out, then only the verses inspired by God are "profitable .. for instruction in righteousness".

The Scripture quoted above, was first written in Aramaic, the language that was spoken by Christ and the Apostles. An English translation from the Aramaic, goes like this:-

2 Tim 3:16 AENT "All Scripture that was written by the Spirit is profitable for instruction and decisive refutation, and for correction, and for deep extensive learning in righteousness;

We are then left with the job of working out which verses are "inspired by the Spirit" and which are not. A much safer position to be in than just blindly taking "every verse" as "inspired".  With this knowledge in mind, people would have no problem in picking out the "errors" in Luke.

The Bible can not be accurate.

People have the thought that somehow the Bible is a magical document, that no matter how many copy errors have been made over the centuries, and no matter how many translation errors have been made, the end result still comes out as "absolute truth".  And that is ridiculous.

The Hebrew OT - while for the most part seems to be copied with great care, has come through thousands of years. Then it had to be translated to English.

All of the New Testament started out as Aramaic [* see below], which was then translated to Greek, which then was translated to English. In going from Greek to English, there are over 3,000 complete Greek manuscripts [** see below] of the NT to chose from - and they are all different. The men who were making the decisions of what to draw out of the Greek, were not - as I understand it - "filled with the Holy Spirit" (they did not keep the Sabbath for starters), nor did they fully understand the plan of God because they were not keeping the Holy Days of Lev 23.
So - how can imperfect men come up with a perfect result?

The answer is - they couldn't - and didn't.

Honest translators will tell you - there is no such thing as an honest translation. They just do the best they can. That is why the NET Bible First Edition is so important - in the comments they admit when they had problems coming up with an English equivalent translation.

Please - do not ever treat the Bible as a "magical" document.

Admit it has problems, and then roll up your sleeves, and apply the two rules needed to "extract" the knowledge of God's plan for mankind from its pages.

Differences in the Book of Luke.

Remember, Matthew, Mark/Peter and John were eyewitnesses, and had a much better chance of getting the story straight.

Luke 3:1

Luk 3:1-2 NET  In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,  (2)  during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

While all the above things did happen, as best as I can find out, they did not all happen at the same time.

Luke 3:1 gives a general time frame - but not an accurate one. People obviously remembered events, but not the year in which they happened.

Luke 3:20

Luk 3:20 NET.  Herod added this to them all: He locked up John in prison.

Here the sequence is wrong. Luke has John being locked up in prison BEFORE John baptizes Jesus (Luke 3:21).

Luke 6:17 vs Mat 5:1

Luk 6:17 NET  Then he came down with them and stood on a level place. And a large number of his disciples had gathered along with a vast multitude from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. They came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases,

Mat 5:1 NET  When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him.

Luke has the "Sermon on the Mount" delivered on level ground - Matthew has it up on a mountain.

On a mountain - if the speaker is higher - it is easier to speak to many people. On level ground a speaker's voice will not carry far through a crowd.

Luke 4:4,8,12 vs Mat 4:4,7,10

Luk 4:4 NET.  Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man does not live by bread alone.' "
Luk 4:8 NET.  Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.' "
Luk 4:12 NET.  Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.' "

Mat 4:4 NET.  But he answered, "It is written, 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
Mat 4:7 NET.  Jesus said to him, "Once again it is written: 'You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.' "
Mat 4:10 NET.  Then Jesus said to him, "Go away, Satan! For it is written: 'You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.' "

Here the sequence of events are different to Matthew, and Luke 4:4 leaves out what we are to live by.

Luke 6:20

The next two verses are - I believe - a classic case of where some words are remembered correctly, but important words have been forgotten, and have changed the meaning of Christ's original words.

Luk 6:20 NET.  Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
    "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God belongs to you.

Mat 5:3 NET.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

"in spirit" had been dropped.

Luke 6:21

Luk 6:21 NET.  "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
    "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Mat 5:6 NET.  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

The extra and qualifying phase "and thirst for righteousness" has been dropped (forgotten?).  Being "hungry" for righteousness is different to being "hungry" for food.

Luke 8:8

Luk 8:8 NET.  But other seed fell on good soil and grew, and it produced a hundred times as much grain." As he said this, he called out, "The one who has ears to hear had better listen!"

Mat 13:8 NET.  But other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty.

By the time people got around to telling Luke, they had forgotten about the "sixty" and the "thirty".

Luke  12:1

Luk 12:1 NET.  Meanwhile, when many thousands of the crowd had gathered so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Mat 16:6 NET.  "Watch out," Jesus said to them, "beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

In Mathew's account, Jesus was talking to the disciples in a boat, and records that Christ mentioned "Sadducees" as well.

Luke 19:20

Luk 19:20 NET.  Then another slave came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina that I put away for safekeeping in a piece of cloth.

Mat 25:25 NET.  so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.'

Luke was told that it was kept in a piece of cloth, Matthew records that he hid it in the ground. Obviously, both may be correct, if it was placed in cloth before being placed in the ground.
A clear case of where the truth is arrived at by looking for themes, rather than just looking at one verse.

Luke 22:34

Luk 22:34 NET.  Jesus replied, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me."

Mat 26:34 NET.  Jesus said to him, "I tell you the truth, on this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."

Mar 14:30 NET.  Jesus said to him, "I tell you the truth, today — this very night — before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."

Mar 14:68-72 NET.  But he denied it: "I don't even understand what you're talking about!" Then he went out to the gateway, and a rooster crowed.  (69)  When the slave girl saw him, she began again to say to the bystanders, "This man is one of them."  (70)  But he denied it again. A short time later the bystanders again said to Peter, "You must be one of them, because you are also a Galilean."  (71)  Then he began to curse, and he swore with an oath, "I do not know this man you are talking about!"  (72)  Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him: "Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." And he broke down and wept.

Both Luke and Matthew give the shorter version of the story.

Of itself, not a problem, but it does highlight why we need to look for themes (to get the whole story) rather than take just one verse as "absolute truth", when it obviously is not.

Luke 24:1-3

Luk 24:1-3 NET.  Now on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women went to the tomb, taking the aromatic spices they had prepared.  (2)  They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb,  (3)  but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Mat 28:1-5 NET.  Now after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  (2)  Suddenly there was a severe earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven came and rolled away the stone and sat on it.  (3)  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  (4)  The guards were shaken and became like dead men because they were so afraid of him.  (5)  But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.

A big difference between the two reports.


Luke's sequence of events jumps around all over the place.

I suspect that, either the people had become mixed up about the correct time-line of events, or that Luke was told "bits" of the story, and he just fitted them in where they best fitted - or so he thought.

I won't take my time to do the whole gospel - and your time to read it - but it is interesting to see the differences in sequence at the start of Luke's gospel, and the other gospels.

Using 'A Harmony of the Gospels" by Fred R. Coulter, let's notice how the gospel of Luke jumps around. Of course, this assumes that the Harmony is correct with it's time-line, but even if it is not 100% accurate, the comparison still makes a point.


Luke 1:1-80                            
Luke 2:1-35                           
Luke 3:23-38                          
Luke 2:36-38                          
Luke 2:39-52                                
Luke 3:1-18
Luke 3:21-22
Luke 4:1-13
Luke 3:19-20
Luke 4:14-32
Luke 5:1-11
Luke 4:33-44
Luke 6:20-26   
Luke 6:29-31
Luke 6:27-28
Luke 6:32-36
Luke 6:37-49
Luke 7:1
Luke 5:12-39
Luke 6:1-11
Luke 6:17-19
Luke 7:2-10
Luke 8:19-21
Luke 7:11-50
Luke 8:1-18
Luke 8:22-56

And so on .... .

Obviously God did not "inspire" Luke's version of the sequence of events in the life and times of Christ's ministry - just as God did not "inspire" many other verses in our English Bibles.

Credit is due.

While doing the research for this article, I was impressed with just how much the disciples/followers of Jesus DID remember.

No doubt, in the telling, and retelling, the stories about Jesus, their memories were reinforced.

However, an even bigger factor, may have been the Holy Spirit.

Joh 14:26 NET.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.

So - instead of falsely giving God credit for every forgotten word and incorrect sequence of events in the Book of Luke, let us rightly give Him credit for the vast amount of information we do have.

And let us use a bit of common sense and pull out the truth - while rejecting the errors.

Apply the first and second rule for a new understanding of the Bible.

    [The first rule is to put the words spoken by God before the words spoken by men.

    The second rules is to look at ALL the Bible has to say on a topic, and THEN make a decision.]

*  Ruach Qadim  Aramaic Origins of the New Testament, by Andrew Gabriel Roth.

** The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism, by Robert B. Waltz.

Bob Orchard Sep 2014

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