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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Question of Sources.

1.

The gospel's preface speaks of its author's search for traditions and of his knowledge of other narratives with which he could compare his own. All these contributed in some way to the work, though commentators are by no means agreed upon either their number or the extent of their influence upon the gospel's final form. Conclusions reached are to a considerable extent determined by their advocate's study of the gospels as a whole and what this suggests about the freedom with which their authors handled the material at their disposal.

2.

The majority view is that Mark is the primary source of Luke's work. The actual manner of its use, however, remains something of an open question. Many of Luke's episodes differ in varying degrees from their parallels in Mark. At what point the differences are such as to make the move from Mark to another source a distinct probability is a matter of fine judgement. Some commentators are so impressed by the unity of the final work that they will maximize Luke's creativity. Others, impressed by what they regard as foreign elements in the gospel (e.g. LK 1:67; 4:23; 11:49 ), see these as strong evidence for sources. If the latter look to Luke's preface for support, the former regard Luke's creativity as largely determined by his concern to write up his narrative in a biblical mould.

3.

The position espoused by this commentary is that Luke most probably used Mark as his primary source and that, where they have parallel episodes, his are the result of a relatively free handling of what is found there. The use of supplementary sources to influence the final shape of Luke's episodes cannot be ruled out. So his reporting of Jesus' rejection at Nazareth is seen as determined by the basic pattern of Mark's episode. Its ending is written up as a commentary on Mark's scene which enables it to further the thrust of Luke's gospel. The speech expresses an understanding of Jesus which makes him the fulfilment of OT expectations and justifies his career on the basis of earlier OT prophetic activity. That Luke is here using a source to supplement Mark must be acknowledged as a possibility, but its function as the expression of ideas which are fundamental to Luke's narrative as a whole makes it more likely to have been the evangelist's own composition. The whole episode, shaped and in part created by him, is put at the beginning of the ministry to serve as its statement and the justification of its course as Luke describes it.

4.

Apart from this material parallel to Mark, Luke has some 200 verses, mainly of Jesus' sayings, that, in varying degrees of closeness, are found also in Matthew. The majority of commentators assign this to a source, usually designated Q, which was used independently by the two evangelists (see FGS). Those who take this view tend to believe that Luke has introduced it into his gospel in a relatively unrevised form. That he handled what is accepted as a secondary source with such restraint, however, is unlikely if he used Mark, his primary source, freely. Some, impressed by this argument, therefore accept some form of the Proto-Luke hypothesis which, less favoured than it was, holds that the basis of Luke's work is not Mark but a blend of Q and some other sources into which he fitted a number of episodes which he took from Mark (Caird 1963 ). This, however, would seem to do less than justice to the unity of the final work. A minority of commentators, impressed by this unity, would actually doubt the existence of Q and would account for the material common to Luke and Matthew by suggesting that Luke knew that gospel and actually made use of it in the composition of his work (Goulder 1989 ). This suggestion would make Luke an extremely free handler of his sources and would emphasize his creativity to an extent that most interpreters of his gospel would be unwilling to allow.

5.

Questions about Luke's sources must remain unresolved. Any serious student of his gospel will regard a synopsis as an indispensable tool, for comparison of his episodes with their parallel forms in Matthew and Mark allows the contours of Luke's stories to be clearly seen; understanding of his stance is helped. Firm conclusions based upon any particular theory of how the gospels are related must, however, be avoided. Though these may make for a sharpened approach, their hypothetical nature must be recognized. To build too much upon them is to construct an edifice upon shifting sand.

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