When was the Gospel of Luke Written?
Evidence Supporting Authorship about 60 CE
A Three Part Discussion about an Early Date
This page gives a three-part discussion that shows the gospel of Luke was written between 59 to 62 CE. Physical evidence, secular writings, and logic are used. When you finish reading this page, you will begin to understand why Christians logically accept these dates.
External Evidence That Supports
an Early Date for the Gospel of Luke
External evidence means sources outside of the Bible. This section discusses ancient artifacts and the writings of Josephus that verify Luke to be a credible historian and author. If Luke wrote it, you can depend on it because Luke checked it out.
- Evidence No. 1: Archaeological evidence: Ancient burial box called the James ossuary was revealed in 2002. Although the artifact was challenged as a fraud, recent tests and analysis by Professor Krumbein, a world-renowned expert on geology, geochemistry and microbiology, supports the artifact is authentic. And probability calculations support that this is the ossuary of James at the 99.9997% confidence level. Although some may wish to dispute this view, the probability they are correct is only 3 chances in 1 million. It takes a lot more faith to believe that this is not James, the brother of Jesus as opposed to someone else.
Why is the James ossuary important? Luke writes of James as being the brother of Jesus as well as the leader of the early Christians in Acts 12:17, 15:13, and 21:18. The ossuary supports Luke's credibility since the artifact uses the same words as Luke to describe James.
In addition, Luke traveled with the Apostle Paul. Both men met and talked with James based on Acts 21:18. Luke writes that his sources were people who knew Jesus. "Just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word" (Luke 1:2). This challenges the Q-source theory of modern scholars, which claims that Luke learned about Jesus from reading what others wrote of him. Luke talked with people who knew Jesus face-to-face. It is credible to assume that Luke also read sources of people who knew Jesus face-to-face.
Finally, Josephus wrote that James was martyred due to political and religious issues (dated to 62 CE). This turns out to be an important "KEY" that isolates when Luke wrote the gospel of Luke & the book of Acts.
- Evidence No. 2: Josephus "Antiquities": Josephus wrote about James and called him "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ" [Antiquities book 20, chapter 9, paragraph 1: Search for "THE BROTHER OF JESUS" on the linked site"]. The use of the phrase "brother of Jesus" is common between Luke, Josephus, and the James ossuary.
Why is Josephus' writing of James important? Josephus is an independent source that used the same words as Luke to describe both James and Jesus. Since Josephus and Luke used the same descriptive words, credibility is given to Luke as an author.
- Evidence No. 3: In 1990, the Caiaphas ossuary was found in Jerusalem. Construction workers using a bull dozer found the ancient burial cave from the 1st century. Inside the cave were 12 ossuaries. Two of the ossuaries had the name "Caiaphas" which supports that the Caiaphas family buried family members at this site. The most ornate ossuary had the words, "Joseph son of Caiaphas" carved on it two times, implicating the importance of the person buried in the ossuary.
Perhaps the best explanation of the epitaph was done by Hershel Shanks. Mr. Shanks wrote "In the temple of Solomon and the Tomb of Caiaphas," on page 44, “Joseph of the family of Caiaphas” offers the best modern understanding of the inscription since there were no last names used at the time of Jesus. The inscription literally reads “Joseph son of Caiaphas,” but this does not mean “the son of biologically” since “son of...” is used in the sense of belonging to the same group or family1
A very important reference to Caiaphas is found in the writings of Josephus. Josephus reveals that Caiaphas used the name Joseph as found on the burial box. "Joseph, who was also called Caiaphas, of the high priesthood" [Antiquities book 18, chapter 4, paragraph 3: Search to find the words "WHO WAS ALSO CALLED" on the linked site]. Josephus' words and the ornate ossuary with the words "Joseph son of Caiaphas" support the biblical story of the crucifixion.
Why is the Caiaphas ossuary important? Luke cites Caiaphas in Luke 3:2 and in Acts 4:6, which supports Luke as a credible author. Caiaphas looked into Jesus' eyes on the day that Jesus died on the cross.
- Evidence No. 4: Pontius Pilate Dedication Plaque: In 1961, archaeologists found a dedication plaque at the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea, which uses the name of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, in honor of the emperor Tiberius Caesar. Up to 1961, no physical evidence supported the existence of Pontius Pilate, the New Testament character that gave orders for Jesus to be the crucified.
Why is the Pontius Pilate plaque important? Luke cites Pontius Pilate in Luke 3:1, 13:1, 23:1-52 and in Acts 3:13, 4:27, and 13:28, which support Luke as being credible. Pontius Pilate looked into Jesus' eyes on the day that Jesus died on the cross. Pontius Pilate gave the order for Jesus to be crucified.
- Evidence No. 5: Archaeological Evidence: An inscription was found at Delphi, Greece citing Gallio as the proconsul of Achaia under the reign of Claudius Caesar. The referenced Web site reads, "a letter from Claudius to the city of Delphi, naming Gallio as the friend of Claudius and proconsul of Achaia."
Why is the Gallio inscription important? There are two reasons. First, Luke cites Gallio as being the proconsul of Achaia, which matches the description found at Delphi.
Second, the time of Gallio's stay in Achaia was about one year. The Apostle Paul was in Achaia at the same time as Gallio about 51 CE. Luke writes, "When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat" (Acts 18:11-12).
The date of 51 CE due to the Gallio inscription shows when events occurred in the book of Acts. (The dating techniques used to determine when the Apostle Paul stayed in Achaia may be investigated by you). So this artifact has become a key to dating biblical events. This dating technique based on sound evidence supports that the book of Acts ends in Rome about 62 CE. As will be shown later, 62 CE is the only credible date for when the book of Acts was written.
- Evidence No. 6: Archaeological Evidence: In 1989, The classic scholar, Dr. Colin J. Hemer published The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Dr. Hemer's work compares the texts written into the book of Acts to archaeological discoveries of the past 200 years. A careful study taken from Dr. Hemer's work (pages 109 to 158: "Specific Local Knowledge") verifies the Apostle Paul's mission travels did occur (at the 99.9% confidence level). Since the unique events written in the book Acts are matched by archaeological records, Dr. Hemer concludes that Paul and Luke had to be there to record such unique events.
Since the archaeological evidence matches the book of Acts so well, Dr. Hemer's research led him to conclude that the book of Acts was written about 62 CE, which aligns with biblical conservatives. Consider a quote from Dr. Hemer. "Acts is more closely integrated with contemporary events than any other New Testament book." (Ibid, p 376). Those opposed to using data to draw conclusion about the book of Acts can only do so based on preconceived bias (such as the assumption that supernatural events are not possible).
Based on Dr. Hemer's research, archaeological evidence permits us to have confidence in the events described in the book of Acts.
If the book of Acts were a myth, then we would expect to find no correlation between the ancient artifacts and what Luke wrote. Since the parallel is so good, the probability of the book of Acts being a myth is less than 4 chances in 1037 (1 followed by 37 zeros).2 Saul’s testimony as skeptic/persecutor turned Christian appears to be true. Although it takes faith to accept the spiritual details (Paul's conversion story) written into the book of Acts, the amount of faith required is the proverbial biblical saying, the size of a mustard seed (Ref: Luke 17:6).
The high probability value (4 chances in 1037 of being a myth
) supports the book of Acts is very credible. If you want to know how this value was derived, please follow the next few links that discuss the method and analysis used. To do this study, two questions are posed in the links below and answered using statistical tools.
- How good is the correlation between the book of Acts and the archaeological records?
- What is the probability that the book of Acts is an absolute myth?
I have also included an analysis of the book of Mormon since no archaeological evidence has been uncovered to support its texts. The purpose of including this analysis is to compare the analysis for the book of Acts to a different source book. It is important to ask, "Is a given source book credible?" This approach enhances the credibility of using archaeology to analyze the book of Acts.
- How well do the archaeological records match the Book of Mormon?
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Internal Evidence That Supports
an Early Date for the Gospel of Luke
Internal evidence means what does the Bible say? Section I above has verified that Luke is a credible author. Luke wrote both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. But the internal evidence goes beyond the writings of Luke.
- Evidence No. 1: "Luke wrote both the gospel of Luke BEFORE he wrote the book of Acts." Luke reveals that he wrote his gospel before writing the book of Acts. The introduction to each book refers to a person named Theophilus. So the initial three verses in each book reveal the sequence for writing each book.
". . . it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:3-4).
Later, when Luke wrote the book of Acts, he again refers to Theophilus and reminds him of the previous book. The former account of Luke is the gospel of Luke.
"The first account [gospel of Luke, emphasis mine], I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach . . . " (Acts 1:1-3).
Based on the internal evidence in each book, all will conclude that the gospel of Luke was written before the book of Acts. In addition, it would be natural for someone who checked out the new faith to write about Jesus before writing about the followers of Jesus. So Luke first wrote the gospel. Then he wrote about Jesus' followers in the book of Acts. Because of the time sequence for the two books, we only need to find out when the book of Acts was written. Then we will know the latest date possible for the gospel of Luke.
- Evidence No. 2: "The Christian faith impacted Roman society" So great was the Christian influence that Josephus wrote a paragraph about Jesus in "Antiquities of the Jews." This work was published in 93 CE. In support of the rapid spread of Christian faith, Nero blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians in 64 CE. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul concluded his letter to the Philippians:
"All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household." (Phil. 4:22).
Paul's statement shows that even members of Nero's household had become Christians. Due to the rapid and extensive spread of the Christian faith [under heavy persecution], Josephus and other secular historians were forced to write about Jesus. [If the Christian faith had no influence, Josephus and other non-christians would not have written about Jesus].
- Evidence No. 3: "Josephus used the gospel of Luke to write about Jesus." Many have assumed that a Christian wrote Josephus’ words about Jesus into Antiquities. However, recent scholarly research has found a correlation between what Josephus wrote about Jesus and what Luke wrote about Jesus at the 99% confidence level. (There is only a 1% chance that this relationship is due to random error). It appears that Josephus read the gospel of Luke to write about Jesus. In support of this conclusion, the research by classic scholar Dr. Colin Hemer uses archaeological data to conclude that Acts was written about 62 CE. There is 99.9% correlation between the book of Acts and the archaeological records as researched by Dr. Colin Hemer. So it appears certain that Josephus did in fact read the gospel of Luke since that gospel was written more than 30 years before Josephus published. Why would Josephus use what Luke had written about Jesus?
As a professional historian, Josephus sought out credible sources to learn more about Jesus. Eyewitness accounts are preferred. Second best are credible sources that had interviewed people close to Jesus. Luke clearly states that he had interviewed people who knew Jesus.
". . . those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us [where "US" means Luke: emphasis mine]" (Luke 1:2).
Did Josephus somehow know Luke?
- Evidence No. 4: "Luke was much older than Josephus." Luke traveled with the Apostle Paul as early as 50 CE. In 50 CE, Josephus would have been 13 and Luke more than 40. It is unlikely they ever met. Why would Luke being much older than Josephus be important?
By the time Josephus published "Antiquities of the Jews" in 93 CE, Luke would have been 80 plus years old. The age difference supports that Luke finished writing long before Josephus began to write Antiquities. In addition, the last known location for Luke was at Rome about 64 - 66 CE when the Apostle Paul was martyred. Perhaps Luke did not escape martyrdom at that time. Heavy persecution made for dark days for the early Christians.
- Evidence No. 5: "The Gospel of Luke was available in Rome where Josephus lived." Luke had traveled with the Apostle Paul to Rome. He aided the Apostle Paul during the years 60 to 62 CE. During this time, the Apostle Paul wrote the prison letters and mentions Luke two times
"Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings (Colossians 4:14).
". . . and Luke, my fellow workers" (Philemon 24).
Due to Paul's letters [as well as what Luke writes in the book of Acts], we know that Luke was in Rome with Paul during this time. It was during this time that Luke appears to have written the gospel of Luke and concluded with the book of Acts. The story line in the last chapter of Acts ends with the Apostle Paul under house arrest about the year 62 CE.
"For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ " (Acts 28:30).
It was during this time ("62 CE) that James was martyred in Jerusalem.
Both internal and external evidence presented herein support that the gospel of Luke was written between 59 to 62 CE. Christian scribes would have made copies of Luke’s gospel over the years, beginning at Rome. About 30 years later, Josephus published his work. It is highly probable that the gospel of Luke was readily available in Rome long before 93 CE.
- Evidence No. 6: "Six biblical authors write about James, the brother of Jesus" These are people who would have talked face to face with James. Adding the secular author, Josephus, a total of seven authors wrote about James, the brother of Jesus.
1) The Apostle Paul writes extensively about personally knowing James, the brother of Jesus. [Gal. 1:18-19, Gal. 2:9-11, Acts 15:7 - 13].
2) Jude, writes about his relationship to James, the brother of Jesus [Based on how Jude addresses Jesus and James, he was probably a late member of the family. Jude 1:1].
3) Luke writes about James, the brother of Jesus. [Acts 15:7 - 13 and Acts 21:17-19] and that they knew each other in person.
4) Three gospel authors named Matthew, Mark and John write about Jesus family and specifically mention James, the brother of Jesus. [Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, John 7:3-5]
To deny that James, the brother of Jesus, did not exist would show stubborn bias. Seven ancient authors verify James was a real person. So the James ossuary is not needed to verify that James did exist. (The James ossuary is simply more evidence). Logic and available evidence show that James is the KEY to dating both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.
- Evidence No. 7: "Luke met and interviewed many people who knew Jesus". Who were the people that told Luke about Jesus?
In the book of Acts, Luke reveals that both he and the Apostle Paul met and conversed with James, the brother of Jesus. This occurred about 58 to 59 CE when both men were in Jerusalem.
"When we [Luke and the Apostle Paul: emphasis mine] arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us [Luke: emphasis mine] went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry" (Acts 21:17-19).
Not only did Luke meet and talk with James; Luke would have met other people who knew Jesus in person. all the elders were present. Just as important, Luke traveled with the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul was around people close to Jesus as follows:
"I [the Apostle Paul: emphasis mine] went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles--only James, the Lord's brother" (Galatians 1:18-19).
". . .James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me [the Apostle Paul: emphasis mine] and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship" (Galatians 2:9).
". . .When Peter came to Antioch, I [the Apostle Paul: emphasis mine] opposed him to his face" (Galatians 2:11).
". . .After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them . . .they listened to Barnabas and Paul [the Apostle Paul: emphasis mine] . . . When they finished, James spoke up" (Acts:15:7-13).
The verses above show the Apostle Paul knew Peter, James, and John. It is certain that Paul heard many first hand stories of Jesus. Since Luke was with Paul for several years, they had time to discuss Jesus as well as people who knew Jesus in person.
Evidence that Luke talked in depth with James or even Mary [Jesus' Mother: emphasis mine] comes from a unique story found only in the gospel of Luke. Luke is the only author who writes the story of Jesus in the temple as a 12-year old boy (Luke 2:41-52).
- Evidence No. 8: "Luke wrote about early Christian martyrs who were well known and respected". These include the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 6:8 - 7:60). Luke also wrote about the martyrdom of James, the brother of John the apostle and son of Zebedee (Acts 12:1-3 and (Matt. 4:21). Because these people knew Jesus and were willing to die for their faith, writing about these events made Jesus more credible. After all, who would willingly die for something they knew was false? This is another KEY to finding out when the book of Acts was actually written.
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Critique of Naturalism
Recent scholarly research has identified a correlation between what Josephus wrote about Jesus and what Luke wrote about Jesus at the 99% confidence level. (There is only a 1% chance that this relationship is due to random error). Scholars have determined that Josephus published his book "Antiquities of the Jews" about 93 CE. However, the gospel of Luke was written many years before Josephus. There are two possibilities for Josephus having the same sentence structure/word sequence as Luke:
Possibility No. 1: Josephus read the gospel of Luke and used it to write about Jesus. By the time Josephus published Antiquities in 93 CE, the Christian faith had spread across the Roman world. Since Jesus was Jewish, Josephus used the gospel of Luke to better understand Jesus' claim to being the Messiah.
Possibility No. 2: Josephus read the same source that Luke used to create his view of Jesus (most often called the Q-source by modern scholars).
We must ask, "Did Luke have a Q-source to write his views of Jesus?
In section one, ancient artifacts as well as research by Dr. Colin Hemer support that Luke is a credible historian at the 99.9% confidence level. Based on proven credibility, we can believe what Luke wrote. And Luke wrote about his sources for checking out Jesus. Luke clearly writes that he got his view of Jesus from people who knew Jesus in person. To review item 7, click here
It is apparent that Luke did not use a so-called Q-source. The evidence of history supports that the so-called "Q-source" appears to be the fantasy of modern scholars. The Q-source has never been found and it is certain that it will not be found.
However, the correlation of many texts between the gospel of Luke and the gospel of Mark supports that Luke did use the gospel of Mark (or maybe a hypothetical Q-source) as a guide. Regardless of correlation between some of Luke and the gospel of Mark, most of the gospel of Luke contains unique verses that are not found in the other gospel narratives.
In addition, Luke followed up his gospel with the book of Acts. And the historic events referred to in the book of Acts have supporting secular evidence. Luke's follow through writing of the book of Acts supports that Luke did a lot of investigative work. And that the gospel of Luke as well as the book of Acts were written from Luke's investigative work.
Objective Evidence for "When" Luke Wrote
James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred in 62 CE. This fact comes from Josephus, who wrote of James martyrdom in Antiquities published in 93 CE [Antiquities Book 20, Chapter 9, Paragraph 1]. Josephus wrote about who killed James because his death was tied to political and religious events in Israel. So Josephus was writing about events that occurred 30 years earlier (62 CE). Why is James' martyrdom important in finding out when Luke wrote the gospel of Luke?
Evidence # 8 shows that Luke is on record of writing about Christian martyrs. Luke writes as a logical person who truly wanted to know if Jesus was for real or not. If people close to Jesus were willing to die, then the idea of faith in Jesus becomes very credible. Why would anyone die for something that was known to be false? Those who knew Jesus in person were willing to be killed because Jesus had proven himself to be the Messiah.
It is certain that James was the brother of Jesus (based on the New Testament documents and the writings of Josephus). And James was a high visibility early Christian leader. Moreover, Luke knew James in person (Refer to evidence #6 and #7). It is certain that Luke would have placed high value on James. So why didn’t Luke write about James being martyred?
Evidence #5 shows that Luke was in Rome during the time that James was martyred. The story line at the end of the book of Acts supports that the book of Acts was written and completed in 62 CE. It is apparent that Luke did not write of James being martyred because he did NOT know it happened.
This evidence supports that Luke finished writing the book of Acts in Rome about 62 CE. At roughly the same time, James was martyred in Jerusalem. Evidence #1 shows that the gospel of Luke was written before the book of Acts. Since solid evidence supports that the book of Acts was written in 62 CE, the gospel of Luke would have been written about 60 CE.
The only issue for modern scholars is that they use naturalism as their guide (worldview) for critiquing the Bible. Placing the gospel of Luke at 60 CE does not align with the Naturalist worldview of reality. However, the Einstein Method confronts the Naturalist worldview (at the 99.91% confidence level using the most liberal view of the Bible). Furthermore, the research of Dr. Colin Hemer shows a correlation between archaeological evidence and the book of Acts (at the 99.9% confidence level). It is safe to conclude that Naturalism is a non-proven theory about reality.
This study shows that the so-called "Q-source" is based on the fantasies of modern scholars. The Q-source has never been found and it is certain that it will not be found based on manifold evidence and the logic cited above. Since the Q-source is not credible, we conclude at the 99% confidence level that Josephus actually read the gospel of Luke to write about Jesus. Just as important, logic and available evidence support that the gospel of Luke was written about 60 CE.
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References for Research:
1: Shanks, Hershel, In the temple of Solomon and the Tomb of Caiaphas, p#44, © 1993 Biblical Archaeological Society.
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2: Only 4 chances in 10 billion, billion, billion, billion based on Chi-square test of Independence. In addition, this calculation is based only on Dr. Hemer's scholarly research related to the book of Acts, chapters 13 to 28. This web page will be updated as time permits.
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