The Gentile Audience of the Book of Luke

Are there features of the Gospel of Luke that suggest that it was written to mostly a Greco-Roman audience?? Does the structure help determine that Luke was written mainly for Gentiles??

Many points of evidence indicate that the Gospel of Luke was written to a Greco-Roman audience. An overview of the style of writing in Luke gives the first indication of such a statement. Moreover, the structure, phraseology, and universality give way to the idea that such a statement is most likely true.

The style of Luke appears to be among the most refined in the New Testament, alongside the Epistle to the Hebrews. This book, written by Dr. Luke, as well as his other book – Acts, begins with a dedication to an unknown person named Theophilus. This was a common in Luke’s time. Greco-Roman writers often began with a dedication to someone of affluence.

Luke’s account of the gospel appears to be geared towards Gentiles. This can be seen in the manner in which the book makes attempts to appeal to proselytes, full converts to the Jewish faith, and to God-fearers who converted to Judaism, but would not observe the ritual of circumcision or other religious practices that they thought were too extreme. One such point of evidence lays in the repeated accounts of the Roman governor’s announcement that Jesus was guilty of no crime.

“So Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You have said it.” Pilate then told the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no grounds for charging this man.” (Luke 23:3-4 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

As Matthew’s account shows enormous emphasis on the fulfillment of Old Testament scriptures, Luke does not do this. He shows a broader interest in God’s historical plan of mankind, as revealed in the Old Testament. Luke also modifies expressions that would have had a Jewish connotation to them, and transfers them into words that have a broader, universal appeal to all people. One example of such a phrase transformation occurs in Luke 21:20 where Luke phrases the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ (see Mark 13:14) as an encircling of Jerusalem with armies.

More specific indications of a Greco-Roman audience can be seen, as well. For instance, Luke makes a special emphasis on secular dating to set the timeline for the events of Christ’s life (see Luke 1:5, 2:1, and 3:1-1). Moreover, Luke specifically calls Jesus ‘a light to the Gentiles’ in Luke 2. In chapter 3 Luke quotes Isaiah 40 by stating that ‘all flesh will see God’s salvation’.’ Luke, unlike other genealogical accounts of Jesus, traces Jesus to Adam, the father of the entire human race, as opposed to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.

Many signs and evidences tend to lean toward a Greco-Roman audience for the book of Luke. Referred to as Hellenistic universality in the text, the Gospel of Luke has wide spread appeal to the entire world, and does not give the ambiance of an account of Jesus written for Jews or by a Jew. Furthermore, upon comparison of the Gospel according to Luke with the other Gospels, it becomes evident that Luke was indeed written to a Greco-Roman/Gentile audience.

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