How would Luke know about Jesus reading the Isaiah scrolls and confirming “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”?

Why does Matthew 13 or Mark 16 not mention this when talking about the same event?

Luke 4: 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Matt 13: 53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?

Mark 6:1 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.

  • 2
    Every gospel has unique facts not recorded by the other three.
    – Dottard
    Jan 31 at 20:23
  • @another theory: books to consider on this topic: “Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography“ by Michael R. Licona — and: “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels” by Craig L. Blomberg — and: “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony” by Richard Bauckham //. These may be helpful to see why there are differences in the gospels and how eyewitness accounts can be accurate yet different.
    – Cork88
    Feb 2 at 17:58
  • @Cork88 - contradictory yet accurate! justifications which in truth don’t stand up to scrutiny IMO - maybe I have a higher burden of proof. Feb 6 at 9:52
  • @anothertheory an author can choose to omit certain details of an event while the same event recorded by a different author will include the omitted results of said event, and the two may appear contradictory while they are instead complementary.
    – Cork88
    Feb 6 at 22:47
  • @Cork88 - I was talking about contradiction in many passages, not this particular Q. Yes, omit can be an argument albeit weak when such important accounts not mentioned by other possible witnesses, when Luke never met Jesus Feb 7 at 9:32

6 Answers 6


Luke 1:1-4 NKJV

1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Luke obviously believed that he had reliable sources for his information, otherwise, he would not have called his account "perfect understanding."

Luke's Gospel contains many accounts not found in the other Gospels. The Nativity of Christ is a prime example.

  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your excellent answer. +1. Please remember to take the tour (link bottom left) to better understand how this site works.
    – Dottard
    Jan 31 at 21:06
  • 1
    I have a minor objection: There are various translations regarding "perfect understanding" -- is it something Luke has known from the start, or has he attempted diligently to get the story perfectly straight from its beginning? I lean toward the latter. Feb 1 at 5:10

This goes to the question of sources. Neither Luke nor Mark could be an eyewitness, and even if Matthew was written by the apostle of that name, he joined later on. So none of the synoptic writers could have been there.

A widely accepted hypothesis regarding the source of these gospels is the idea of "Markan priority." This holds that Mark was written first and then Matthew and Luke expanded on Mark's narrative. Each of them also used a hypothetical source called Q, mostly sayings of Jesus that they share, but which they have put in different contexts.

enter image description here

The quote discussed in the OP is not part of Q. It constitutes Luke's unique material. Scholars refer to this as "L." Matthew has his own special sources called "M." Exactly where Luke obtained his "L" material is not known. Luke may have known some of Jesus' direct apostles, who were witnesses to the event. Moreover, Luke is also the author of Acts. If he was Paul's traveling companion, as is the traditional belief, he probably visited the Jerusalem at the time related in Acts 21. So it is likely that he personally spoke people who were members of the Jerusalem church.

Speculating on specific candidates: Mark and Matthew both mention James as one of Jesus' brothers living in Nazareth at the time of the events in the OP (Mk. 6:3, Mt. 13:55). James was the leader of the Jerusalem church. So James is candidate as Luke's source, as would be Mary if she lived long enough to share information with Luke. Peter is another possibility.

Conclusion: probably Luke heard this story from eyewitnesses or from second-hand sources who heard it from people who were there.


Question: Why does Matthew 13 or Mark 16 not mention this when talking about the same event?

This question makes an assumption which underlies many of the synoptic "problems." The assumption is events which appear to be the same are the same. The solution is simple: they are not the same event. They may be described similarly, or even have identical actions, but they occurred on different days or at different times.

Luke 4:16 (ESV)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.

There are 52 Sabbaths in a year. Since Jesus was without sin, we know He attended a κλητὴ ἁγία, holy convocation every Sabbath (cf. Leviticus 23:3). He met with others who likewise observed the Sabbath in the synagogue, or the Temple, or at a home. Failure to do so would have been a sin. Jesus was without sin. Therefore He observed every Sabbath. If there is a conflict between the details, or lack thereof, in the description of events taking place on a Sabbath, the resolution lies in recognizing they are describing events on two different Sabbaths.

If Matthew, Mark, and Luke organized the details in chronological order, it is clear they are not the same event. Luke's comes immediately after the 40-days in the wilderness; Matthew (13:53) and Mark (6:1) describe something which occurred well after the 40-days.

Furthermore, Luke identifies what takes place by using the plural, Sabbaths:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, σαββάτων day, and he stood up to read.

The event in Matthew makes no mention of Sabbath; the one in Mark uses σαββάτου, which is singular. Luke's plural emphasizes it was His custom to read on the Sabbath(s).

Another possibility is Luke's plural is meant to identify a weekly Sabbath which coincided with an annual feast day of no work, such as Feast of Trumpets of the Day of Atonement. Both of these required a holy convocation and neither required attendance in Jerusalem. They could be observed in the synagogue.

Luke does not add further identification of the time of year, but suppose it was the Day of Atonement, which is identified exactly the same as a weekly Sabbath. In this case the reading of Isaiah may have been part of the normal Day of Atonement readings, or Jesus chose to read a particularly poignant passage:

Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

There is no need to force Luke's event into the events either Matthew or Mark describe. If one wants to speculate, a much better interpretation would be to place Luke's on the Sabbaths, a weekly Sabbath which was also the Day of Atonement.


"Many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eywitnesses and ministers of the word" Luke ch1 vv1-2

We have no way to pin it down closer than that.


Luke 4:17 Na28

καὶ ἐπεδόθη αὐτῷ βιβλίον τοῦ προφήτου Ἠσαΐου καὶ ἀναπτύξας τὸ βιβλίον εὗρεν τὸν τόπον οὗ ἦν γεγραμμένον·

The Greek verb "εὑρίσκω" (heurisko) and its aorist form "εὗρεν" (heuren) convey the idea of finding, discovering, or coming across something. What makes this word distinctive is its potential for discovery to occur unintentionally, in other words, by chance.

When associated with the famous "Εὕρηκα" (Eureka), attributed to Archimedes, it illustrates the sensation of making an unexpected discovery, often by happenstance. The concept revolves around finding something valuable without a deliberate search or conscious effort.

In the context of Luke 4:17, where Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah and uses the verb "εὗρεν," it suggests that he found the specific passage not because he was actively seeking it but more spontaneously, as if the revelation came to him.

Therefore, the word "εὑρίσκω" not only emphasizes the action of finding but also underscores the potential for surprising discoveries, without prior intention or deliberate search, reflecting the notion of "Eureka" and discoveries by chance.This indicates that Jesus read the manuscripts of the time fluently.

Certainly, this understanding aligns with other passages in the New Testament.

Luke 24:27 Na28

καὶ ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ Μωϋσέως καὶ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν προφητῶν διερμήνευσεν αὐτοῖς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς γραφαῖς τὰ περὶ ἑαυτοῦ.

For instance, in Luke 24:27, it is narrated that Jesus translated the Scriptures, involving at least two of the three prevalent languages of that period, namely Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. This implies that Jesus had a comprehensive understanding of the Scriptures, transcending the linguistic barriers of the time.

It is important to note that Marcion, a second-century Christian leader, although acknowledging some portions of the Gospel of Luke, made a specific selection of texts that aligned with his own theological beliefs, forming the Marcionite canon. Despite this selective acceptance, the fact that Marcion included any portion of the Gospel of Luke can be interpreted as a recognition of the source as legitimate, even though he modified the text to fit his theology.

Simultaneously, other Apostolic Fathers, such as Irenaeus, played a significant role in defending the Gospel of Luke. Irenaeus not only recognized the authenticity of the Gospel of Luke but also quoted and defended it in his works, contributing to the growing consensus among early Christian leaders. While Marcion presented a selective acceptance of the Gospel of Luke, Irenaeus reinforced the position of the gospel as a fundamental part of the Christian canon, emphasizing its validity and importance in the early Christian tradition.


While he is the one mentioned in Isaiah, he never read out that passage.

The Gospel of Luke itself is a forgery (the synagogue where they chucked him out before casting him off the cliff was in Beit Tzaida).

  • @ Jake Wilson - Simply giving controversial statements without references or scholarly research is not profitable. Answers must be more informative to be of use on Biblical Hermeneutics SE. Do more thorough research and then attempt answering.
    – ray grant
    Feb 3 at 22:45
  • Ray: Had I not done research, I wouldn't have answered the way I did. Once someone has provided more evidence than "scholarly consensus" that the gospels of Luke and Mark were extant in the first century, we might enter the region of profitableness; I hope Papias' quotes won't be among that "evidence."
    – user49371
    Feb 4 at 8:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.