I have been trying to search this on the web and it seems I keep getting conflicting information. Apparently, modern scholars believe the Gospel of Luke was written in the second century AD. If this is true then why do we include it in our Bibles? Why do people read it if it was written much later? And then, I read some info about it being written in the 60s AD. I tried to search this on StackExchange but no luck. Could you help me out?
If you accept its own testimony then Luke was written:-
Before the Acts of the Apostles and by the same author as the writer of Acts (compare Acts 1:1 with Luke 1:1-4);
The author of Acts was, at times, a companion of Paul on his missionary journeys: about 49 AD, Acts 16:10-18; about 54-57 AD, Acts 20:4-21:19; and about 59-62 AD, Acts 27:1-28:30.
All these passages are the "we" passages.
There is so much detail in Acts which has been confirmed by archaeology that it has been said that it would need a bigger miracle for it to have been made up than for the author to have genuinely accompanied Paul on his journeys.
- Seeing as Paul died about 65 AD it is obviously not possible that Acts was written mid 2nd century. It seems a compelling argument to me and many others that Acts was written before certain events which would have been included in it if it had been written later. These events include possibly: The death of Paul, the death of Peter, the death of James the first Pastor of the church at Jerusalem 62 AD; the first Jewish Roman War 66-70 AD; the change in attitude of the Roman authorities towards Christianity with the beginning of the Roman persecutions under Nero; the Great Fire at Rome.
The most natural explanation why these events are not included in Acts is that Acts was written before these events.
What Acts presents is the prevailing situation before Nero. The persecutors of the church were the Jewish authorities who struggled to get the Roman authorities to be interested in trying to suppress the new "sect".
The author of Luke claims to have "had a perfect understanding of all things from the very first" Luke 1:3. In other words he is claiming that he is in a perfect position, he is ideally qualified to tell Theophilus the history of the events from his perspective, making use of eyewitness accounts.
The author is at pains to warn his readers of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, that when they see certain things happening then they should flee from Jerusalem. (Jerusalem was destroyed at the end of the Jewish-Roman War, 66-70 AD.) Obviously such warnings are superfluous and disingenuous if Jerusalem has already been destroyed. On this understanding Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written before 66 AD and John's Gospel was written after 70 AD.
Supporting such a view, in 1972, a Spanish-Catalan Jesuit scholar, Father Jose O'Callaghan of Barcelona claimed that the Dead Sea Scroll papyrus 7Q5 was a fragment of Mark's Gospel, it was from Mark 6:53. Seeing as the community at Qumran was destroyed by the Romans about 66 AD this means that Mark's Gospel must have been written before 66 AD. In other words 7Q5 is evidence of the early authorship of at least Mark's Gospel. And if Mark could predict the coming destruction of Jerusalem then why not Luke and Matthew?
The dismissal of scholars of the possibility of Matthew, Mark, and Luke being written before the destruction of Jerusalem betrays a fundamental failure on their part to appreciate that this prediction of our Lord could have easily been a product of his understanding of the Old Testament. The prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem is not merely in these three gospel accounts: it is also found in the book of Daniel:
and after three score and two weeks shall the Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince shall come and destroy the city and the sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be with a flood (i.e. "an overwhelming")... Daniel 9:26.
Though conservative evangelicals would say it was written about 535 BC, even the generally accepted date for the writing of Daniel amongst "the scholars" is about 165 BC. There were many portions of the book of Daniel found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls dateable to the first century BC.
There is no compelling reason to suppose the three Synoptic Gospels were written after the destruction of Jerusalem. Our Lord could have been merely quoting the book of Daniel.
For more on 7Q5 see "The Jesus Papyrus" by Carsten P. Thiede and Matthew D'Ancona or "The First New Testament" by David Estrada and William White.
Finally, a related question and answer is found here: Who assigned the gospel authors originally?
Why the Gospel of Luke belongs in the Bible
Regardless of the dating, the Gospel of Luke belongs to the Bible because it contains authoritative teaching of Jesus to guide Christians as well as authoritative reports of who Jesus is (how he was incarnated into a baby, how his divinity was affirmed from heaven in baptism and transfiguration) and what he did (the 3 year public ministry of healing, death, resurrection, and ascension).
Why should we believe the story as true? It's because the author claimed to write it as history (history in the ancient 1st century sense, not too rigid as the modern historical method) shown by how the author wrote explicitly in his statement of purpose and his statement of method of inquiry (Lk 1:1-4, NLT):
Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
Why should we trust the author? One explanation is because the early church network had deliberated over 100-200 years over the provenance of the writing (i.e. tracing it to Luke the physician) and because the early church believed the apostles to provide trustworthy witness of Jesus, the revelation from God.
Traditional dating (early 60s) vs. liberal dating (80 to 2nd century)
The key reason for liberal dating is their presumption that it has to be written after some prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) came true. They also doubted that Luke, the physician accompanying St. Paul in his missionary journeys, was the author.
Below is a typical reasoning to date Luke to early 60s, proposed by respected evangelical scholars, from the highly acclaimed ESV Study Bible:
The earliest possible date of Luke-Acts is immediately after the events that Luke recorded in Acts 28, c. A.D. 62. In fact, Luke could have been written slightly earlier, and Acts could have been completed at that time. The specific date centers on two questions: would Luke have added to his Gospel later, and did he make use of the Gospel of Mark in writing his own Gospel? If Luke wrote Luke-Acts after the martyrdom of Paul (c. A.D. 64–67), some have suggested that the omission of the details of Paul’s trial and death seems strange (see Introduction to Acts: Date). In addition, Luke makes no mention of the terrible persecution under Nero in A.D. 65 but gives a very positive picture of Paul preaching the gospel in Rome for two years “with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31), so he must have written sometime before 65. (Those who hold to a later date for Luke reply that ending with Paul preaching in Rome is natural, because it shows that the preaching “to the end of the earth” in Acts 1:8 has been fulfilled. Since a primary purpose of Luke-Acts is to tell the story of how the gospel spread to the Gentile capital of Rome, when that purpose is accomplished the story could come to a natural end, regardless of what happens to Paul.)
Concerning the relationship of Luke to Mark, the great majority of scholars believe that Luke made use of Mark in writing his Gospel. There is no real difficulty in dating Mark in the mid- to late-50s A.D. (see Introduction to Mark: Date and Location), which would allow for a date of Luke in the early 60s. Other scholars dispute this and claim that the predictions of the fall of Jerusalem in Luke 21:20–24 are so vivid that they could have been written only after the fact, which means that Luke and Acts were written after A.D. 70. These scholars would then date Mark somewhat before Luke, in the late 60s (after Peter’s death). However, many evangelical scholars, who consider Luke 21:20–24 a predictive prophecy by Jesus, would hold to a date for Luke in the early 60s.
It appears that Paul quoted from the book of Luke which would date Luke prior to Paul's death. 64-67 Ad
1 Tim. 5:18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.
Luke 10:5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages.
What changes whether it was written 50,60, 80 or 120 ad?