The Basis for Luke Primacy
Luke-Acts Primacy
Luke-Acts Primacy

Luke-Acts Primacy

Introduction to Luke Primacy

Other gospels are revisions, expansions, and embellishments of the more primitive tradition exhibited in Luke. Accordingly, Luke is the most trustworthy Gospel and foundational authority for bearing witness to the life and ministry of the historical Jesus. 

Progressive Embellishment, Luke→Mark→Matthew

The article Progressive Embellishment, Luke→Mark→Matthew examines 36 cases of two-stage embellishment from Luke→Mark→Matthew. These are all cases where Mark is more embellished than Luke, and Matthew exhibits significant improvement or embellishment over Mark. These examples indicate a progression of increased embellishment as the Gospel story was rewritten by Mark and then rewritten by the author of Matthew. The cases examined in this study account for 30% of the entire Gospel of Mark and 25% of the entire Gospel of Matthew. The data and analysis is clear evidence for Lukan priority (Luke was written first) and Matthean Posteriority (Matthew was the last of the Synoptics written). The findings are contrary to popular views of Markan priority, the Two-Source Hypothesis, and the Farrier Hypothesis.


The Spurious Emergence of Markan Priority

The article The Spurious Emergence of Markan Priority provides an overview of the modern era of textual criticism from the early stages toward the later work of B.H. Streeter of creating a dogmatic consensus regarding the Synoptic problem. Various factors exercised a deep influence in the development of a fundamentally misleading and false consensus of Markan Priority. The article examines and refutes the primary arguments classically used for Markan Priority.

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Proto-Luke and Lukan Priority

In the article, Proto-Luke and Lukan Priority, B.H. Streeter’s pioneering scholarship is discussed, giving credence to the view of Lukan priority. Proto-Luke is the concept that the Luke we have today was heavily based on an earlier source more similar to Luke than the other Gospels, and that Luke largely has more primitive material than Mark does.

Lukan Priority and the Jerusalem School

Scholars of the Jerusalem School attest that Luke is most faithful to the Hebraic source material grounding all the Synoptic Gospels. The indication is Lukan priority. The Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research is a group of “Jewish and Christian scholars collaborating in the land and language of Jesus; bringing historical, linguistic and critical expertise to bear on the synoptic gospels,” that holds to the Jerusalem school hypothesis, which is a theory against Markan priority. They provide many evidences to suggest that Luke’s version is the most accurate and that Matthew has been too often unduly influenced by Mark, even when he is correcting Mark with his parallel texts. The surprising result of this research “that of all the Synoptists Luke should prove to be the best in the preservation of earlier texts… the fact that Luke preserves a Greek text which normally retranslates easily to Hebrew and almost always fails to give even a hint of an expression which could be interpreted as the remnant of a Markan non-Hebraism should have led me to suspect that Luke is uninfluenced by Mark and derives his usually excellent translation-text directly from a proto-source.”

Statistical Validation of Lukan Priority

The order of the Synoptic Gospels is Luke->Mark->Matthew as indicated by a detailed statistical analysis documented in a four-article series by Halvor Ronning of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. The detailed analysis that includes a review of Triple Tradition, Double Tradition, Single Tradition, Semitic Influence Analysis, and a review of the Non-Linear Hypothesis is summarized in Statistical Validation of Lukan Priority. The extensive analysis indicates Lukan Priority as the best possible of all possible scenarios. Findings that are indications of the Luke→Mark→Matthew model are as follows:

  1. The elegance with which Lukan Priority explains the verbal identity relationships between the Synoptic Gospels, including its promotion of the minor agreements from a problem to a key part of the solution because of seeing Mark in the middle position (Part 1)
  2. The ability of Lukan Priority to give a consistent picture of each writer’s relationship to his parallel texts (Part 2)
  3. The ability of Lukan Priority to account for the level of Semitic influence in the various parts of each Gospel (Part 3)
  4. Neither Markan Priority nor Matthean Priority can explain the publicly observable facts and verifiable statistics, as well as Lindsey’s hypothesis of Lukan Priority (Part 4)

Validation of Special Luke: Semitisms

A primitive Semitic source functioned as a primary source for Luke, into which other sources were integrated or to which they were supplemented according to Luke’s overall purpose. Luke did not try to expunge and blend his sources, and particularly, his Semitic source. This is indicated by stylistic differences in Luke and the distinctly Semitic Greek of Special Luke. Luke endeavored to produce a full and final narrative while leaving vestiges of the sources that comprise it. See Validation of Special Luke: Semitisms.

The Hebrew Gospel and Luke

The Hebrew Gospel, cited by church fathers, is the fountainhead of the Gospel tradition. Luke, not Matthew, embodies this primitive Gospel tradition. See The Hebrew Gospel and Luke.

Paul Attests to Luke-Acts Primacy

Luke is the only Gospel that Paul referred to as Scripture. There are a number of places in which Paul makes reference to the material that is exclusively in Gospel of Luke. He actually references material in Luke which is not found in other Gospels and refers to Luke as “Scripture”. Moreover, Paul relies on the testimony of Luke-Acts for reiterating what are the essentials of the faith – in the same context, twice referring to it as “Scripture.” Paul gives the account of the Lord’s Supper in a way that is consistent with Luke, but not with Mark/Matthew. In other places, Paul draws parallels with content that Luke contains not exhibited in the other Gospels.  None of the Gospels match Paul’s teaching on the Law as similar to Luke. Moreover, are numerous undesigned coincidences with Paul’s remarks in his epistles that attest to the validity of Acts. Accordingly, Paul is the first and chief witness attesting to the primacy of Luke-Acts. Of all the Gospels, he has the most affinity with Luke.

The Prologues of Luke and Acts

In the first four verses of his Gospel, Luke 1:1-4 is laying down the express motivation of maintaining the highest level of accuracy. He is warranting that the Gospel is a serious literary and historical volume. He is suggesting that his Gospel should provide a higher level of accuracy and reliability than the rest. The motive is to engage the reader, not with fable, mythology, or fiction. Rather is to give an orderly account of real people, real events, and real places. He wants the reader to know he compiled his Gospel with the highest standard of integrity by providing a facts-based historical narrative evidenced by many points of reference that can withstand the scrutiny that others can’t.


Historical Reliability of Luke-Acts

The author of Luke-Acts is the first Christian historian and critical scholar who exhibited a high level of integrity and competency in his two-volume work. The author, having followed everything for some time past, endeavored to set the record straight so that believers would have an orderly account and have certainty concerning the things taught by Jesus and his apostles. Luke-Acts can be demonstrated to have the highest level of historical reliability and accuracy as compared to the other Gospels. Based on this and other considerations, Luke-Acts should be our primary reference with respect to the core essentials of the Gospel message.

The author is the only New Testament writer that also wrote the book of the Acts of the Apostles: the historical account of the spread of the early church and what the Apostles preached. The author claims to have traveled with the apostles (Acts 16:11-15). This is a difficult claim to make if it could be disproved at the time. The use of language in Luke is more advanced, indicating that the author had a technical/medical background. Luke claims to have investigated everything closely from the beginning. And the level of detail he provides substantiates having more specific historical information than Mathew and Mark. Luke is the only Synoptic gospel that is structured like a historical narrative, in which everything is in chronological order. Luke-Acts is also the most detailed of the three with respect to historical references. Its reliability can be strongly defended against criticism.

The Historical Reliability of Luke-Acts page provides articles, videos, and Scholarly book references in support of the reliability of Luke-Acts.  

Answering Luke-Acts Objections

The page Answering Luke-Acts Objections addresses critical scholarship aimed at Luke and Acts and provides responses to specific objections raised by critical scholars. 

Refutation of The Farrer Hypothesis

According to this theory, Luke was written after both Mark and Matthew and the author wrote with Matthew as a reference. The implication is that Luke made corrections over Matthew and Mark in many respects. Mark Goodacres’ paper on editorial fatigue in support of the Farrer Hypothesis is refuted in the article Refutation of the Farrer Hypothesis

Other Considerations for Luke-Acts Primacy

Luke-Acts Primacy is consistent with focusing on the core gospel message (the fundamentals) and establishing what should be emphasized as essential doctrine. Luke-Acts and Paul’s early writings are not as susceptible to critical scholarship in casting doubts about historical accuracy and authorship, but also are sufficient for conveying the essentials for one becoming a believer. We believe this methodology is the most viable approach for defending the Christian faith, defining what is essential doctrine, and for evangelism to atheists and other non-believers in this information age. 

Luke-Acts-Paul primacy represents a balance between traditional and non-traditional forms of Christianity. This core foundation of the apostolic tradition is clearly exhibited within the traditional canon, while also being minimally speculative. Luke-Acts stands on its own as being sufficient to convey the core fundamentals of the Christian faith, providing a reliable account that gives continuity between the ministry and preaching of Christ and the ministry and preaching of the Apostles. It is the only part of the New Testament that can be taken apart from everything else as providing such a holistic overview of the essential testimony of Christ and his Apostles. For more indications, see Other Considerations for Luke-Acts Primacy.