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Synopsis 001 The Dedication of Luke’s Gospel            Luke 1:1-4

[Luke 1:1-4]

These verses comprise an introduction and preface to the gospel according to Luke and set forth his reasons for writing it.  Little is known for certain about the time or place of the writing of this gospel and little is known about the author.  We do know that Luke was the writer of both the gospel bearing his name and the book of Acts.  He accompanied Paul on many of his journeys.  (Acts 16:11-17; 21:1-6)  No one knows when or where he was converted.  We can infer that this gospel was written after the death of Mary, because it is obviously written from other documents.  If Mary had still been alive, surely Luke would have talked to her.

Many speculate that Luke was a Gentile.  Church fathers say he was a Syrian born at Antioch.  Some think he was a Jewish proselyte, or convert, born to Gentile parents, but Romans 3:2 tells us that the Scriptures were given only to Jews.  Judging by the gospel and the book of Acts, he was intimately acquainted with Jewish customs, rights, and opinions including their dialect and phraseology; yet his preface is pure classic Greek, unlike the Greek spoken by the native Jews.  Luke was a doctor; he was very well educated and he was very well-spoken.

[Acts 21:28, 29]  In Acts 21:28 we find that the Asiatic Jews are upset at Paul (they “laid hands on him”) for introducing a Gentile into their temple, thus defiling it, but in verse 29  we find that the Gentile referred to is Trophimus.  Yet, Luke was with Paul at that time, and if they had regarded him as a Gentile they would have voiced their displeasure about him as well.

In Colossians 4:9, we see Paul saying that Aristarchus, Marcus, Barnabas, and Justus “who are of the circumcision” saluted them.  These are Jews by birth.  In verse 14, he adds that Luke, the beloved physician and Demas also saluted them, from which some infer they are not of the circumcision and they are Gentiles by birth.  Most consider this Luke mentioned here is the same as the writer of the Gospel.

As a physician, his description of diseases is more accurate and circumstantial and much of his writing is more technically accurate than the writers of the other Gospels.  While Matthew’s work is intended more for the Jew, Mark’s for the common man and John’s for the spiritual man, Luke’s is intended for the world.

Luke did not accompany Paul to Prison, nor did he accompany him on his missionary journey afterward.  He did join back up with him on his third Journey to Philippi as we read in [Acts 20:5,6].  This is written from Luke’s perspective, and if you notice, they were waiting for “us”; Paul and Luke.  He probably spent the intervening seven or eight years there in Troas.  He accompanies Paul to Jerusalem, but disappears again during Paul’s imprisonment.  Luke then reappears when Paul sets out for Rome, where Luke accompanies him and remains until the end of his first imprisonment in Rome.

Paul’s writings attest to Luke’s medical knowledge and accuracy.  The last record we have of the beloved physician is in 2 Timothy 4:11.  He was not with Paul when Philippians 2:20 was written.

It is interesting to note that Luke never names himself.  Neither does John name himself in the gospel he wrote.  Titus was probably Luke’s brother.  (2 Corinthians 8:18; 12:18)

Let us look back at Luke 1:1:  Foreasmuch”.  This word is found no place else in the NT.  It is a triple compound conjunction:  επε/epe = since, δη/dE = admittedly true, περ/per = intensive particle to emphasize importance.  It is common elsewhere, in extra-biblical writings but is unique in the NT.

Many”.  Plural.  No one knows for certain how many, but definitely more than two.  The Greek has singular, dual and plural; plural is three or more.  The “many” could not have included John, as his gospel had not yet been written.  The word denotes more than two, so it could not simply refer to the other two gospel writers.  Besides, verse 2 says they undertook to record that which was delivered to them by the eyewitnesses; Matthew and Mark were eyewitnesses.

We don’t know exactly who the many that Luke refers to are, but they are probably some of the seventy that were sent out two by two in Luke 10:1,2.  What are known as spurious gospels were written long after Luke’s gospel was written.  “Spurious” is defined as, “Not proceeding from the true source, or from the source pretended; not genuine; false; adulterate.”  A spurious gospel is one that is not from the true source, which is God; it’s one that is false or adulterated.  It is probable that Luke refers to bits of history and fragments of writings or narratives of certain sayings, acts or parables of our Lord, but nothing complete.  Because of Jesus’ importance, power, and authority, it is probable that fragments would be written and passed among the disciples.   What Luke intends is spelled out in verse three:  To write out the account in order and give a full, systematic account from the beginning.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand”.  Επεχειρησαν (epicheirsan).  Both Hippocrates and Galen use this word in the introduction to their medical works.  Once again, a common literary word but used no place else in the NT.  It’s common for an undertaking with no idea of failure or blame.  The tense of this verb means that it is simply a statement that others have undertaken this endeavor.  Luke is not intending to cast reflection on others, either positively or negatively, but perhaps implying theirs was incomplete or imperfect.  Luke had secured more complete knowledge and intended a book on a large scale.  The fact that his book survived and the others perished is a testament to his success and God-given inspiration.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order”, or to draw up a narrative.  This verb (αναταξασθα; anatassomai) has been found only in Plutarch’s writings about an elephant rehearsing, by moonlight, certain tricks it had been taught.  It means taking something from memory and going through it again.  The verb is composed of τασσω (tasso), a common verb for arranging things in order and ανα (ana), meaning again.  Luke means to say that those before him had taken in hand the task of drawing up an orderly narrative of Christ’s life.  The expression points to a connected series of narratives in some order rather than mere anecdotes.    Declaration is from the Greek word Διηγησιν (diegesin) and it means carrying a thing through and not a mere incident.  Galen applies this word some 75 times to the writings of Hippocrates.  Luke intends to relate this story completely, from beginning to end, and not just parts of it

Which are most surely believed among us.”  “Among us”:  among all the Christians then living.  The believers of that day had the best of all opportunities for knowing if these things were true.  They had witnessed them.  People today cannot possibly be better judges of the veracity of the events of that day as actual eyewitnesses were.  The eyewitnesses confirmed events for us, yet people today doubt them.

It’s interesting to see how science today “knows” so much more.  There was a time, not too long ago, in which many scientific discoveries were made because of a basic belief in God; “since God exists, everything will make sense, so what we’re looking for should be…  there.  Today, however, scientists look at things, and say, “It makes sense, so God can’t exist.”

The phrase that is translated as “most surely believed” is των πεπληρωφορημενων (ton peplerophoremon).  It’s a compound word from πληροφορεω (plerophoreo), which is from πληρης (pleres: full) and φερω (phero:  to bring).  So, it literally means, “bring or make full”.  Literally, “Those things which have been fulfilled”.  It is common in non-Biblical writings and is used to mean finishing of a legal or financial matter in full; completing a task or being satisfied in mind.

Some examples of this word being applied to people (implying convinced or fully persuaded) in the NT can be found in several places.  (Romans 4:21; 14:5; Hebrews 6:11; 10:22)  When applied to things, instead of people, it implies completing.  (2 Timothy 4:5,17)  Luke may be referring to matters connected with Christ which have been completed or possibly the completeness of knowledge or everything put together.  In modern Greek, the verb means to inform.  Luke is very careful not to malign anyone preceding him that had written these things down; he does not put them down.  In fact, he pays tribute to them.  [Luke 1:1]

Verse 2:  Even as”; a conjunction that occurs from Aristotle on.  It simply asserts that what was said before is true.  In other words, the previous narratives were valid, but…

 Even as they delivered them unto us”.  Luke received this tradition along with the “many” mentioned above.  He was not one of the eyewitnesses.  Traditions of men had come to have a meaning of unreliability that Luke had to straighten out.  Luke is saying that they were dependable and those handing them down had reliable, first-hand sources of knowledge.  The narratives were written and oral; both were reliable.  Luke’s intention was simply to write it all out completely and thoroughly.

Who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers…” The “who” refers back to “they” in the previous phrase, or the ones that did the delivering.  “Eyewitnesses” is from the word “αυτοπτα” (autoptes).  It is a medical term meaning “to see with one’s own eyes”; we get our English word “autopsy” from it.  It is a different word than εποπτα (epoptai), which is found in [2 Peter 1:16].  The word in 2 Peter 1:16 is more of a reference to a spectator; not someone who is up close and personal.

“Ministers” is the word “υπηρετα” (huperetai) which means subservient, or literally, “under-rower”.  With several ranks of rowers, this was the lower one and meant specifically “galley slave”.  It later came to mean any servant (also the attendant in the synagogue).  [Matthew 26]  Matthew 5:25 says, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison”.  (Officer = servant or deputy not as superior in military.)  [Acts 26:16; it can mean the preacher.]

[Luke 1]  What were they ministers of?  They were ministers of “the Word”.  The term Λογος is applied to Christ only in John 1:1,14; Revelation 19:13; 1 John 1:1.  λογου (logou) is from λεγω (lego), which is an old word meaning to lay by, to collect, to put words side by side, to speak, to express an opinion. Λογος is common for reason as well as speech. The Stoics employed it for the soul of the world and Marcus Aurelius used σπερματικος λογος/spermatikos logos for the generative principle in nature.  Heraclitus used it for the principle that controls the universe.  Ministers of the Word.

From the beginning” here in verse 2 apparently refers to the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus, as it does in Acts.  (Acts 1:22; 10:37-43)  Luke is not referring to himself here, nor is he referring to the life of Jesus as a child.  How many eyewitnesses were there for that?  [Luke 1:2]

Verse 3:  It seemed good to me also”.  Naturally, if these other writers had good reason to deliver their narratives, Luke had good reason also.  Actually, he had a better justification:  With his more complete knowledge he could write a more complete narrative.  He had spent much time with Paul and had had the opportunity to hear and read the other narratives, including the gospels of Matthew and Mark, since they had already been written.  As a doctor, he could assimilate all the information and compile it all into a book for the world.

Having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first”, or “having followed from the first all things exactly”.  This is from a participle that means to follow along a thing in mind; having followed.  It does not imply research, as what I am teaching to you does.  Notice that he had come to a perfect understanding; a fullness of knowledge.  He already had all the information:  The written narratives, the oral traditions and the teachings of Paul.  He had mentally followed along with these events.  This verb is commonly used in medicine meaning the mental investigation of symptoms.  Luke was prepared to write before he started writing; he did not study as he went along.  Ακριβως (akribos) means going into minute details and presenting them exactly.  His intention was to tell the complete story from the beginning – the birth of Jesus on, to the end - and he did.

To write to thee in order…”.  Chronological order, not “by means of”.  (Luke 8:1; Acts 3:24; 11:4; 18:23)

Most excellent Theophilus”.  “Theophilus” means “God-lover” or “God-beloved”.  Theophilus was obviously a Christian and probably a Roman.  It has been concluded from the title “most excellent” that he was a person of some rank.  Some think the name is a generic term for “the Christian reader” or perhaps a code name to conceal a well-known figure, possibly Titus Flavius Clemens, the emperor Vespasian’s nephew, but there is no hard evidence for either of these.

The title, “most excellent” does indicate that he was a person of some rank.  Acts 23:26 says, “Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting”, and Acts 26:25 says, “But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness”.  It’s interesting to note the title does not occur in the dedication to the book of Acts.  Theophilus is someone.  [Luke 1:3]

Verse 4:  That thou mightest know”.  This verb, epignOskO is subjunctive.  The subjunctive implies the possibility of failure.  Gnosis is knowledge and the prefix “επι” is an intensifier; it intensifies a word.  The prefix “επι” added onto knowledge, means a deeper knowledge or knowledge upon knowledge.  The meat of the word is what he’s talking about, not the milk of the word.  Luke is writing this in order that Theophilus may (or he may not) obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding.

Know what?  The certainty”.  No doubt.  From the root σφαλλω/sphallO (totter) with the prefix α which is privative or it makes the positive into a negative; asphallO; make no slip; no doubt.  Luke will write a narrative that gives an impregnable historical foundation that will justify the faith of Theophilus and other believers.  But, they have to apply themselves; it’s not automatic.

That you might know “those things”.  Literally, that you might know completely “the words”.  Everything you have been told.

That you might know those things “wherein thou hast been instructed”.  This is from the Greek word Κατηχηθης (Katecheo).  The Greek word ηχεω is our word “echo”. [1 Thessalonians 1:8; sounded out the word]  Κατηχεω (chatecheo) means to sound down, to din, to give oral instruction.  [Acts 21:21 they were informed or instructed; the same word.]  Galatians 6:6 says, “Let him that is taught (instructed) in the word communicate unto him that teacheth (instructing) in all good things”.  Those doing the teaching were called catechists and those receiving it were called catechumens.

This preface that Luke has written is splendid literary Greek and is not surpassed by any other writer.  Luke was obviously familiar with this habit of Greek historians and proves that he was a man of culture.

There are several reasons that we know that Luke’s gospel is legitimate:

First of all, it was received by all the churches on the same footing as the other three gospels.  There is not a dissenting voice in regard to its authenticity and authority (well, I’m sure there are some…).  The value of this argument is this:  If it had been spurious or without authority, the fathers were the proper people to know it.

Second, we know Luke’s gospel is legitimate because it was published during the lives of the apostles Peter, Paul and John.  It was received during their lives as a book of sacred authority.  If the writings of Luke were not inspired, and had no authority, those apostles could easily have destroyed the credibility of these writings.  If God did not inspire Luke’s writings, those apostles would have protested.  Not only would they have protested, I think they would have protested quite loudly.

Third, we know Luke’s gospel is legitimate because it is the united testimony of the fathers that this gospel was submitted to Paul and received his express approval.  It was regarded as the substance of Paul’s preaching.  If it received his approval, it comes to us on the authority of his name.  Indeed, if this is the case, it rests on the same authority as the epistles of Paul himself.

Fourth, we know Luke’s gospel is legitimate because it bears the same marks of inspiration as the other books.  It is simple and pure, yet sublime; there is nothing unworthy of God and it is elevated far above the writings of any uninspired man.

Fifth, we know Luke’s gospel is legitimate because if he was not inspired (if, as some suppose he was a Gentile by birth) and if, as is most clear he was not an eyewitness of what he records, it is inconceivable that he did not contradict the other evangelists.  It is clear that he did not borrow from them.  Nor, is it possible to conceive that he could write a book varying in the order of its arrangement, adding so many new facts and repeating so many recorded by the others, without having contradicted what was written by them.  Compare this gospel with the spurious gospels of the following centuries and you will see these facts.

Sixth, we know Luke’s gospel is legitimate because if it is objected that Luke, not being an apostle, did not come within the promise of inspiration made to the apostles (John 14:26; 16:13,14), it should be pointed out that this was also the case with Paul; yet, how many doubt the authenticity of Paul’s writings? 

The evidence of the inspiration of the writings of Luke can be judged not only by the early reception of the churches, but also by the testimony of the fathers and by the internal character of the works.  Luke has all these equally with the other evangelists.

From the evidence that we are given, it is clear:  Luke’s Gospel is legitimate!