Luke: The Most Beautiful Book Ever Written
Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
Proverbs 16:23 (Spoke 20, Cycle 1)
And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out
of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?
Luke 4:22 (Spoke 20, Cycle 2)
Honey is sweet and smooth on the tongue. God frequently uses it as a simile of His Word, as in
Psalm 119:103 "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
This quality of God's Word characterizes Luke's Gospel like no other.
Almost all commentators make note of it, as well as Renan's famous statement that Luke is
"the most beautiful books ever written." For example, here is
how Philip Schaff introduced Luke
in his History of the Christian Church :
[Luke] is the Gospel of poetry. We mean the poetry of religion, the poetry of worship,
the poetry of prayer and thanksgiving, a poetry resting not on fiction, but on facts and eternal truth.
In such poetry there is more truth than in every-day prose.
The whole book is full of dramatic vivacity and interest.
It begins and ends with thanksgiving and praise. Luke 1–2 are overflowing with festive joy and gladness;
they are a paradise of fragrant flowers, and the air is resonant with the
sweet melodies of Hebrew psalmody and Christian hymnody.
The Salute of Elizabeth "Ave Maria", the "Magnificat" of Mary, the
"Benedictus" of Zacharias, the "Gloria in Excelsis" of the Angels,
the "Nunc Dimittis" of Simeon, sound from generation to generation in every tongue,
and are a perpetual inspiration for new hymns of praise to the glory of Christ.
No wonder that the third Gospel has been pronounced, from a purely literary and humanitarian standpoint,
to be the most beautiful book ever written.
Schaff's Latin terms are the traditional names of the five songs derived from Luke (see [Inner Wheels] >
Sing unto the Lord a New Song). Another example is found in
the The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, pg. 36 by Norval Geldenhus:
Luke painting Mary and Child: Guercino 1652 AD
We have already referred to the well-known verdict of Renan in which he declares that the Gospel of
Luke is the most beautiful book ever written. He undoubtedly intended this to apply to the book as a whole - including
contents, language and style taken together. But apart from the contents of the Gospel, the work ranks as one of
very high standard merely regarded from a literary point of view in the original Greek. And indeed it is almost universally
admitted that Luke is the most literary author in the New Testament. The idyllic charm, homely earnestness, simplicity and purity, and the
deep, devotional spirit characterising the stories
concerning the birth of John and that of Jesus, are unsurpassed. These stories as well as others in the Gospel of Luke have
indeed done more than anything else in the world to inspire painters and other artists to create masterpieces of art. The statements
in the tradition of later centuries that Luke was a painter and that he pained Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is probably incorrect.
But none the less Luke may with justice and par excellence be styled the "painter in words."
His description of the various personalities in the Gospel is so simply realistic and at the same time so sublime that
throughout the centuries it has set to work tens of thousands of artists.
If any book of the Bible were to be described as filled with "pleasant words" it would be the Gospel of Luke. It should also be
noted that Luke's association with the visual arts integrates with the fundamental Resh Keyword ra'ah which also
distinguishes verses in his Gospel from the parallels in the others (see The Lord Looked).