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Analysis

What’s Up With the Title?

You thought you were going to get off easy here, but no such luck. There's more to "Luke" than you might think.

The Greek manuscripts that we have today record two options for the title of Luke: a longer title, "The Gospel [or Good News] According to Luke;" and a shorter one, "According to Luke." How about some fun facts to help you think about these titles?

  • The longer title appears in the earliest manuscript we have of Luke's gospel (P75), which means that the long form is a very old way of titling this text.
  • In the early 100s, Christian writers started to use the words "Good News" to refer to written texts, in addition to its long-time usage for the content of the Christian message.
  • It's reasonable to assume that the earliest copies of Luke (which have not survived to our own day and age) very likely had some sort of title or label communicating at the very least who wrote the book. Luke, perhaps?

What do these facts add up to? Well, there's a great deal of debate about the whole thing. One compelling option is that the longer title is more ancient than the shorter one. But it is possible that the longer title originated in the early 100s after Luke began to circulate along with at least one of the other gospels—that would have helped distinguish the two, since each of the other three New Testament gospels are likewise titled, "The Gospel According to X" or "According to X". What do you think, Shmoopers?

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