The consensus opinion of historians of the New Testament is that Luke was probably written around 80-85 AD. Like Matthew, Luke in chapters 1 and 2 of his gospel adds a birth narrative to Mark’s gospel. But as Professor James Dunn notes,
‘Here too it is sufficiently clear that it is a begetting, a becoming which is in view, the coming into existence of one who will be called, and will in fact be the Son of God, not the transition of a pre-existent being to become the soul of a human baby or the metamorphosis of a divine being into a human foetus.’
In plain English then, Jesus, the son of God, was created by God. Dunn, like many other scholars I have surveyed, seems shy of speaking plainly about the implications of his research, particularly when it leads him away from orthodox positions on Christology. New Testament scholarship is dominated by Christian believers who inevitably bring a certain bias to their work. Bart D. Ehrman – a non believer – is a notorious exception to this.
In Luke 1:35 we read, ‘The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.’ Dunn also notes that in the Acts of the Apostles there is no sign of any christology of pre-existence.
Luke is famous for presenting a picture of the ‘human’ Jesus, one who has compassion for the poor and sinners. Jesus‘ concern for sinners is found in the famous parable of the Prodigal Son found only in this gospel at Luke 15. The overwhelming impression is of a man who is a friend and advocate of the socially marginalized (see also the parable of the Good Samaritan, again exclusive to Luke in 10:25-37).
But what about Luke’s christology? Luke suggests that Jesus was regarded as and believed himself to be a Prophet. Jesus compares his mission with that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha (Luke 4:25-27).
When Jesus brings the widow of Nain’s son to back to life the people exclaim ‘a great prophet has risen amongst us’ (7:16).
Consistent with Jesus’ self-designation as ‘son of man’ in Matthew and Mark, the Jesus of Luke calls himself the ‘son of man’. This mysterious title is found only on Jesus‘ lips. The controversy surrounding this title (if it is a title) will be discussed later. It is noteworthy that though ‘son of man’ is ubiquitous in Jesus’ preaching before his ascension it is virtually absent from Luke’s story of the early church in Acts (with the sole exception of Stephen’s vision in Acts 7:56). Acts is the second volume of Luke’s two volume work, the first volume was his Gospel. ‘Acts’ (short for Acts of the Apostles) seems to provide a historical sketch of the spread of the Christian gospel by Jesus’ apostles, especially the apostle Paul. Scholars, however, have long known that ancient historians typically made up the speeches of their characters, so the speeches in Acts tell us more about Luke’s views than the views of the people they purport to characterise (see A Brief Introduction to the New Testament chapter 11, by Bart D. Ehrman, Oxford University Press, second edition 2009).
Jesus own use of the term ‘son of man’ is entirely missing from Paul’s writings about Jesus.
Extract from my book Jesus as Western Scholars See Him, pp 25-27. Also, see Part 2 of this article here.