In his prologue, Luke articulates his desire to give his readers a clear and coherent presentation of the words and deeds of Christ (1:1-4). By A. D. 62 there were undoubtedly many oral and some written accounts of Jesus' miracles and teachings. Luke uses several words and phrases in his opening verses which show us he approached this task with the highest of integrity. Luke's investigation included reading "accounts about the events" (1:1) and analyzing "reports...from the early disciples and other eyewitnesses" (1:2). Luke did not criticize the other works; instead, he appealed to their importance as precedents for his own work. He wanted to put these facts in an order that would make sense to the reader in order to help that person to understand Jesus' story.
There are several things to note in Luke 1:1-4. First, Luke has a reason for writing by using the word "since". Secondly, Luke recognized the contribution of others who had also recorded the things Jesus did and taught (...many have undertaken). Thirdly, Luke's Greek is among the best in the New Testament. His introduction is done in the literary style of historians such as Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who also spoke of collecting information by interviewing witnesses and compiling the writings of learned men. Luke contacted eyewitnesses such as the Apostles themselves. He listened and learned from "servants of the Word"; the most notable of course was his traveling companion Paul. These teachings and accounts were "handed down to us" from the first generation of believers which included the disciples and others who had been taught by them. Luke testifies that he has compiled "an orderly account". This means he has arranged the material (through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) in a way in which we can understand the narrative and what it teaches about Jesus. This does not mean that Luke manipulated facts in order to promote his own opinion or agenda. Rather Luke has organized the facts to present Jesus in such a way that we will know the truth about Him.
Lastly, the events that Luke has compiled are "pragmata", that is they are historical facts that any historian would be interested in, but in Luke's Gospel they become more than mere facts, they are for Luke, events of salvation-history and their significance depends on the way one interprets what they have fulfilled. These events refer not only to the deeds of the ministry of Jesus, His passion, death, burial and resurrection, but also to the sequel to all this, the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the end of the known world. Luke is pleased and excited to be sharing his findings for he believes that they "have come to fulfillment" and were "accomplished among us". These events took place in Luke's recent past and have continued their effect into the present.
More importantly, Luke's precision and purpose in writing this book, demonstrates to us, that our Scriptures are to be trusted as an accurate and truthful account of Christ's life, and God's redemptive work among men. Although Luke is not one of the original disciples, he employed a thorough and trustworthy method of fact-finding in order to compile this Gospel. Perhaps William Barclay said it best, "There is no passage of the Bible which sheds such a floodlight on the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. No one would deny that the Gospel of Luke is an inspired document; and yet Luke begins by affirming that it is the product of the most careful historical research. God's inspiration does not come to those who sit with folded hands and lazy minds and only wait, but to those who think and seek and search. True inspiration comes when the searching mind joins with the revealing Spirit of God. The word of God is given, but it is given to those who search for it. "Seek and you will find," (Matthew 7:7)."
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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