Saint Paul Cites the Gospel of Luke as Scripture

Modern scholars will laugh at this post because they (wrongly) believe that Paul did not write 1 Timothy and that Luke did not write the Gospel according to Saint Luke [I refute this revisionist claim here].

Yet for the Catholic, the biblical demonstration below strongly defends the traditional authors (Paul and Luke) and traditional dates – especially an early date for the Gospel of Luke. If we Catholics are going to defend the historicity of Christ, His teachings, and His actions, we need to be able to substantiate how the four Catholic Gospels depict Him without error. Part of our work depends on us demonstrating that the four Catholic Gospels are early and written by the historical Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

luke writing luke

Saint Luke writing Luke (with a nice looking tonsure)

Saint Paul cites the Gospel of Luke as Sacred Scripture

So let’s get started.

Saint Paul cites “Scripture” twice in 1 Timothy 5:17-18:

Let the presbyters who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching; for the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17–18):

Paul’s quote “You shall not muzzle an ox” (the motto of the New Saint Thomas Institute) comes from Deuteronomy 25:4.

But what about his second citation of “Scripture” that he quotes as: “The laborer deserves his wages” (Ἄξιος ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ)?

Does this phrase (Ἄξιος ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ) appear in the Old Testament or in any variant in the Septuagint? It does not appear in the Old Testament Scriptures, but it does appear in the New Testament Scriptures.

In Luke 10:7 we find the exact phrase with the Greek word order preserved just as Saint Paul cites it:

And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house (Luke 10:7).

ἐν αὐτῇ δὲ τῇ οἰκίᾳ μένετε, ἐσθίοντες καὶ πίνοντες τὰ παρ’ αὐτῶν, ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ. μὴ μεταβαίνετε ἐξ οἰκίας εἰς οἰκίαν (Luke 10:7 in Greek).

In 1 Timothy 5:17–18 we observe Saint Paul quoting the Gospel of Luke as Scripture on equal level with Deuteronomy!

I take 1 Timothy as authentically Pauline (I’m Catholic). This demonstrates that:

  1. The Gospel of Luke was written and published before the death of Paul (AD 66/67)
  2. Paul had read the Gospel of Luke
  3. Paul regarded the Gospel of Luke as Scripture
  4. Paul considered Luke to be inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16)
  5. Paul assumed that Timothy also regarded the Gospel of Luke as Scripture

Since Paul knew the Gospel of Luke and cited it as Scripture, there is no problem in identifying Paul’s “famous brother in the Gospel” (2 Cor 8:18) as Saint Luke made famous for publishing the Gospel of Saint Luke.

Suddenly there is an internal strength to the canonical New Testament. The NT wasn’t spliced together one hundred years after Christ. The Gospel of Luke comes less than thirty years after the resurrection…and it’s being cited by the Apsotles as “Scripture” on par with the Torah!

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  • Wesley

    Luke would have used much of Pauline language in his gospel since he would have been very familiar with Paul’s teaching, or oral tradition, since he followed him to several places along Paul’s missionary journeys. we lean on the written word, but the ancient world leaned on the spoken word since books were rare for they had to be hand-written and scribes were few for just because a person could read did not mean he could write. that does not mean that portions could have been already written before Paul wrote his letters nor does it assume that entire composition was not finalized until afterwards as well. we do know that before Charlemagne there was no real formalized copying techniques when it came to the New Testament by how many variances are found among the earlier manuscripts.

    • In CPP, I argue that Luke’s Gospel is “The Gospel according to Saint Paul.” All 4 Gospels have a Apostolic witness and Luke’s is Paul (and Mary).

    • Kepha Hor

      I am not so sure that there was no real formalized copying technique prior to Charlemagne. The Rylands papyri of sections of Paul and a snippet of John (both fragments of what were probably complete books at one point) indicate that the form of the Johaninne and Pauline text was pretty much set by early 100’s–and the best way to account for this is that they were in circulation even down in Egypt (some distance from their probably point of composition and ostensible points of reception further north) from a far earlier time.

      Further, prior to my exposure to questions of biblical scholarship, I was exposed to questions about the transmission of the Confucian and Daoist writings. My guess is that while orality was important, the important oral traditions got preserved in writing very early–and that a lot of Western “critical scholarship” of the Bible is really a way to avoid taking it seriously.

      BTW, I am not a Roman Catholic. I just came here to find wider perspectives on NT composition.

  • Paul

    Greetings Dr. Marshall and thank you for the post. Excellent! From my understanding though I thought Luke used the Gospel of Mark and a separate “Lukan sayings source” to compose his Gospel. Could Paul not have had access to the saying source and not the “complete” Gospel? I thought Luke wasn’t written until the 70’s?

  • Vincent Herzog

    I just wanted to observe the providential timing. Today’s gospel reading is from Matthew 13, where Jesus says, “every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Sure sounds like Jesus intended them to be writing down the new law, and for them to bring it out with the old.

    • Kepha Hor

      Maybe “Q” (admittedly an hypothesis rather than a fact) was the lecture notes of Matthew and John?

  • Loy de Mello

    I fully endorse the view that academic scholars have an agenda on the topsy-turvy dating the Gospels after PAULINE Epistles. The argument takes us back to a
    couple of centuries of vested interest in basing the “universally” accepted basis of positing late dates for the Gospels. Sceptism of the historical data and Catholic tradition.

    • Kepha Hor

      Or, in the case of the NT, Ferdinand Christian Baur trying to make sure that everything fit into the patterns which Hegel said they “had to” fit?

  • John Ferdinand

    I think there’s a slight dichotomy between the blog title and the subject matter. The title says St. Paul cites “Luke” as Scripture, then the body text opens with the idea that modern scholars believe it’s not written by Luke (or Paul).

    Is the insinuation here that modern scholars believe that the Gospel of Luke is not Holy Scripture? I thought for the most part modern scholars did believe it’s part of Scripture, just not necessarily written by its supposed authors.

  • Charles Gill Sfo

    First, any attempt to date with finality any of the Gospels is subject to conjuncture. Second, I also prefer early dates, in particular for the Gospel of St. Mark. Third, what you have here and assume is cause and effect. One of the quotes, Luke, St. Paul, being so close, presumably caused the other. The problem is that cause and effect do not exist in science. The possibilities here are, (1) as you say, Luke wrote first, and St. Paul copied. (2) St. Paul wrote first and Luke copied. I think most scientists would agree with this. Many of St. Paul’s letters end with references to followers, some including Luke and John Mark. John Mark, strongly influenced by St. Peter then wrote first, and Matthew, also following the Petrine tradition, then followed John Mark. In reaction, Luke, following Pauline tradition, then wrote Luke. John, following Samaritan tradition, then later wrote his Gospel.

    Where to the Pauline letters fit into all of this? That is subject to conjecture. What is the timeline for all this writing? The Gospels all mention John the Baptist and how he had his head removed for confronting Herod for marrying his wife. Josephus says not true. He says this was second marriages for both he and his wife. Herod had engaged in a political marriage with his first marriage and when he fell in love with his second, had an affair, he shamed his first wife to marry his second. 4,000 Jews died as a result. This is why John the Baptist confronted Herod. This presupposes the Gospel writers did not know this. This presupposes some time, and distance, between these events, and the writing of the Gospels. How much time? You say more with your conjecture on this point, about yourself, than about the accurate dating of the Gospels.

    As to the main dating given by scholars, the burning of Jerusalem and Jesus’ prediction of the same, Mark 7 mentions how the rabbis pushed temple liturgy on the common people. On September 10,2000 predicting planes flying into the twin towers gets you locked up as a nut case. On September 12, a prediction of planes flying into the White House gets you locked up for treason. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before Jerusalem fell, and Josephus gives detail of the Roman Modus Operendi from previous assaults. Anyone could have given Jesus’ prediction, and the trial details show how this knowledge may have been the real fire behind the rabbinic desire to kill Jesus. “It is better for one man to perish, than for the whole nation to perish.” Either we kill this would be prophet, or he will bring the Romans and…prophecy fulfilled. The scholarly dating for the Gospels is wrong too. Their dating is also only conjecture, saying more about themselves than about the Gospel

    • Kepha Hor

      I, for one, accept that Jesus’ prediction of Jerusalem’s fall occurred before the event, (I can’t get around the fact that Acts ends on a pretty upbeat note–impossible if Paul was martyred 66/67 AD–and therefore throws Matthew and Mark, at least, further back into the first century). But while I accept Jesus’ Olivet Discourse as real prophecy, I will concede to the skeptic the possibility that Jesus, steeped as he was in Biblical prophecy, grew up on predictions of gloom and doom for the city and people, and that his movement may have “lucked out” when his attempt to imitate Isaiah and Jeremiah came to pass. But I concede only the possibility, and cannot rule out the other possibility that it’s real prophecy.

      I’ve always felt that Caiphas’ prophecy of “it is better that one man perish….” (Jn. 11:5) had the ring of truth, and suspect that John learned of this saying from either Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea, or that it was told the apostles by one of the priests who believed post-resurrection (Acts 6:7).

      Yes, the “Scholarly” dating of the Gospels is conjecture. J.A.T. Robinson’s _Re-dating the New Testament_ caught that back in the 1970’s.