Luke's introduction is unique in the first three Gospels because it is the only place where the author steps out upon the stage and uses the pronoun "I". Luke's Greek is among the best in the New Testament. His introduction is done in the same literary style of his fellow historians Herodotus of Halicarnassus, "These are the researches of Herodotus of Halicarnassus" and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, "Before beginning to write I gathered information, partly from the lips of the most learned men with whom I came into contact, and partly from histories written by Romans of whom they spoke with praise". William Barclay said it this way, "So Luke, as he began his story in the most sonorous Greek, followed the highest models he could find." But Luke did not stop his account at the end of his Gospel with the Great Commission. He saw a continuation of Jesus’ work within the faith community and he wrote a second volume to record it; the Book of Acts which shows us how those first believers interacted with their world and how the Gospel spread.
The openings of Luke (1:1-4) and Acts (1:1-2) make clear that the two books are to be regarded as a single work in two volumes. Neither uses the specific name of its author, but the "we" sections of Acts (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16), in comparison with what can be known from Paul's letters about who was with him at various points in his ministry, point to Luke as the author of both. Several of the early church leaders (such as Justin Martyr) as well as ancient church writings (the Bodmer Papyrus XIV) attribute Luke/Acts to one of Paul’s most loyal companions (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. 1:24). It is uncertain how they met, but it appears that they met during Paul's second missionary trip where Luke includes himself in the word "we" for the first time (Acts 16:7-9). While we do not know all the details of Luke’s life, we do know that he was a doctor by trade (Col. 4:14) and this is shown in his writing as he pays much attention to those with medical issues (Lk. 4:38, 5:12, 8:43). Many times doctors and those who held similar professions, were slaves who had been educated to service wealthy families. After earning their freedom they continued to service the medical needs of these wealthy families. But we do not know if that was the case with Luke. However, it could indicate a tie-in with the person who was the recipient of these two wonderful books. Some have thought Theophilus commissioned their writing.
We know some things about Luke, but we know less about Theophilus whose name literally means “lover of God”. Luke’s Gospel begins with an address to him (1:3) and many have speculated that he was possibly a non-Christian or a newly Christian Roman official. The only thing that is clear in Luke’s greeting is that he is a person of high position and wealth (“most excellent”). Luke's Gospel is the most comprehensive of the Gospels and was written first to help Theophilus to know the "exact truth" (NAS) concerning what he had been taught and then to strengthen the faith of all believers. Luke’s careful research, orderly compilation and eye-witness accounts attest to the accuracy of his work. He was not only a believer and fellow evangelist with Paul, he was an historian par excellence. If Luke were to look at our world today, would he see history repeating itself? I think he would- which makes his account even more powerful today!
The relationship between Luke and Theophilus is fascinating. We could speculate all day as to how they met, how close they were, and whether or not they had a lasting friendship. But to get caught up in those reveries would be missing the greatest aspect of their relationship and that is, they had one! How is the Gospel spread? How is it heard? It is both spread and heard through the relationships you have and the contact you make with the people around you. Every day there are opportunities both spoken and unspoken to proclaim Jesus is the answer to the questions people are asking. Every time you interact with another person, whether it is your neighbor, a boss, a fellow employee, or someone in your family, keep in mind that like Luke, you are making an account of what Jesus has done in your life so that they might know the exact truth about Him (1 Pet. 3:15). Christians have just as much opportunity to impact culture today as they did when Luke penned his Gospel and the Book of Acts, so it stands to reason there is much we can learn from careful study of his “account”. Also: take note of how both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts end (Lk. 24:45-53; Acts 28:30-31) as they show the Gospel is a never-ending story and you are a part of that story!
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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