What is the Book of Luke About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspire you to read Luke!


Historical Context

Luke was a physician (Colossians 4:14) and a travel companion of the apostle Paul. He wrote this Gospel and its sequel, the book of Acts.

—ESV Global Study Bible  

Interestingly, no one knows anything of Luke’s origin. He was definitely nonapostolic, and he was a Gentile (cf. Colossians 4:11, 14). By his own admission he was not an eyewitness to the story he records in his brilliant account (Luke 1:2). But Luke was well educated and cultured, and a physician to boot. Though we don’t know the details of his conversion, he apparently reached Christian maturity before coming under Paul’s influence. He became an intimate acquaintance of Paul, as the so-called “we sections” in Acts attest (16:10-17; 20:5; 21:18; 27:1-28:16). Very possibly he is the anonymous brother “who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel” in 2 Corinthians 8:18. This certainly accords with his humble, self-effacing manner in keeping himself in the background of both Luke and Acts. 

Kent Hughes

Content taken from Luke: That You May Know the Truth by R. Kent Hughes, ©2012. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.   

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Luke for your good and to lead you into joy.

The earliest possible date of Luke–Acts is immediately after the events that Luke recorded in Acts 28, which would have been c. AD 62. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus” (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1), about whom nothing more is known. Luke’s broader audience consisted primarily of Gentile Christians like Theophilus who had already “been taught” (Luke 1:4) about Jesus.

The Setting of Luke  

The events in the book of Luke take place almost entirely within the vicinity of Palestine, an area extending roughly from Caesarea Philippi in the north of Beersheba in the south. During this time it was ruled by the Roman Empire. The opening chapters describe events surrounding Jesus’ birth in Judea, where Herod had been appointed king by the Romans. The closing chapters end with Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension during the rule of Pontius Pilate and the tetrarchs Antipas and Philip. 

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

The Gospel of Luke by Beau Hughes

Check out this series by Pastor Beau Hughes and several others, who helped him preach through the long Gospel of Luke. Pastor Hughes has deep convictions and a gentle spirit, and delights in helping others know and love Jesus more. As you listen, you will be edified and challenged by God’s Word in Luke, which is written to make you more sure of your relationship with Jesus.  

Luke Dictionary

As you read through Luke, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know!

Heavenly beings created by God before he created Adam and Eve. Angels act as God’s messengers to men and women. They also worship God.

In the Old Testament, wash with water. But in the New Testament, when John the Baptist called the people to be baptized, he was using water to show that people were truly sorry for the wrong things they had done and that they were asking God to forgive their sins. Today, a person is baptized to show that he or she is a member of God’s family.

The family name of Julius Caesar, a famous Roman leader. Later the name Caesar was added to the name of each Roman ruler, so it became a title that meant the same as “emperor” or “king.”

Counting the number of people living in an area or country.

An officer in the Roman army who was the leader of 100 men.

An evil spirit working for Satan (the devil). People can be tempted, harassed or possessed (controlled) by demons. Jesus has authority over all demons and in his earthly ministry ordered evil spirits to come out of many people.

A decision of the will to stop feeling angry and to stop blaming a person for something wrong he or she has done; to be friends again. God forgives everyone who repents of his or her sins and believes that Jesus died to take the punishment for his or her sins. When God forgives a person, God forgets the person’s sins forever. God instructs Christians to forgive each other in the same way He has forgiven them.

The northern part of the land of Israel in Jesus’ day. Jesus grew up, preached and did most of His miracles in Galilee. Galilee is also the name of a large lake in this area.

The family name of five kings appointed by the Roman emperor to rule Judea in New Testament times. Jesus was born during the rule of Herod the Great. The names of the other four kings are Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I and Herod Agrippa II.

The most important priest of all the priests, who served God in the tabernacle and later in the temple. In the Old Testament, the high priest offered the most important sacrifices to God for the people. In New Testament times, he was also a powerful political leader. He was the head of the Sanhedrin—the group of men who governed the Jewish people. He even had a small army. The high priest wore special clothing described in Exodus 28:1-39. Aaron was the first high priest. All other high priests were his descendants. The New Testament says that Jesus Christ is now our high priest, the one who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins (see Hebrews 8–9).

The most important city of Bible times. Jerusalem was the capital of the united kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. The temple was built in Jerusalem, so many people traveled to the city to worship God. In 587 BC, Jerusalem was captured and mostly destroyed by Babylonian armies. The city was rebuilt when the Jews returned after 70 years of exile in Babylon. Jesus taught in the city of Jerusalem, was crucified outside the city wall, was buried near the city, and then rose again. The first Christian church began in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit came to the believers there.

God’s rule in the lives of His Chosen People and His creation. In the Old Testament, the people in the kingdom of God were the Israelites. In the New Testament and today, the people in God’s kingdom are those who believe in and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes again, then God’s kingdom will become visible to all people.

(1) All the rules God gave to help people to know and love Him and to live happily with each other. The Ten Commandments are part of God’s law. (2) The first five books of the Bible. These five books are often called the Law. (3) The entire Old Testament. Sometimes the Old Testament is referred to as the Law. (4) Any rule that must be obeyed, whether it was decided by God or by people. (5) God’s rules in the Old Testament plus other rules added by Jewish religious leaders. (6) The conscience of an unbeliever who knows he or she has not followed his or her own moral code (see Romans 2:14-16).

Serious skin diseases. People with leprosy were called lepers. The Jewish law said that lepers had to stay away from people who did not have the disease. Lepers lived outside their cities and towns, either by themselves or with other lepers, until the disease showed signs of healing.

A story that teaches a special lesson or truth. Jesus often told parables to teach important lessons.

In the time of Jesus, a Jew who tried very hard to obey every part of the Jewish law. Many Pharisees sincerely tried to please God and to be holy, but some of them worried more about keeping every little rule than about caring for people. Jesus commended the Pharisees for what they taught but often scolded them because of what they did. Speaking of those Pharisees and scribes who opposed Him, Jesus said on the outside they seemed very holy, but on the inside they were full of lies and hate (see Matthew 23). Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) was a Pharisee. Many other Pharisees also ended up following Jesus.

Among the Jews, a man who offered prayers and sacrifices to God for the people. Priests led the public worship services at the tabernacle and later at the temple. Often the priests also taught the Law of God to the people. The priests of Israel were all descendants of Aaron’s family. All Christians are also priests (see 1 Peter 2:9). We are to help others learn about and worship God.

Men and women in the Old and New Testaments chosen by God to tell His messages to people. Also refers to the 17 Old Testament books written by prophets.

To correct someone sternly; to scold someone.