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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE - Chapter 1 - Verse 1
TO THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE.
Little is certainly known concerning the time and place of writing this Gospel, or concerning the author. The first time we have any mention of the author is in his own history, Ac 16:10,11. He was then the companion of Paul in his travel, and it is evident that he often attended Paul in his journeys, comp. Ac 16:11-17; Ac 21:1-6.
In each of these places the author of "the Acts" speaks of his being in company with Paul. That the same person was the writer of this Gospel is also clear from Ac 1:1.
From this circumstance the ancients regarded this Gospel as in fact the Gospel which Paul had preached. They affirm that Luke recorded what the apostle preached. Thus Irenaeus says,
"Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the gospel
preached by him."
He also says,
"Luke was not only a companion, but also a fellow-labourer
of the apostles, especially of Paul."
Origen, speaking of the Gospels, says,
"The third is that according to Luke, the gospel commended
by Paul, published for the sake of the Gentile converts."
The testimony of the fathers is uniform that it was written by Luke, the companion of Paul, and was therefore regarded by them as really the gospel which Paul preached.
It is not known where it was written. Jerome says it was composed in Achaia. There seems to be some probability that it was written to persons that were well acquainted with Jewish manners, as the author does not stop to explain the peculiar customs of the Jews, as some of the other evangelists have done. Respecting the time when it was written nothing very definite is known. All that can with certainty be ascertained is that it was written before the death of Paul (A.D. 65), for it was written before the Acts (Ac 1:1), and that book only brings down the life of Paul to his imprisonment at Rome, and previous to his going into Spain.
It has been made a matter of inquiry whether Luke was a Gentile or a Jew. On this subject there is no positive testimony. Jerome and others of the fathers say that he was a Syrian, and born at Antioch. The most probable opinion seems to be that he was a proselyte to the Jewish religion, though descended from Gentile parents. For this opinion two reasons may be assigned of some weight. 1st. He was intimately acquainted, as appears by the Gospel and the Acts, with the Jewish rites, customs, opinions, and prejudices; and he wrote in their dialect, that is, with much of the Hebrew phraseology, in a style similar to the other evangelists, from which it appears that he was accustomed to the Jewish religion, and was, therefore, probably a proselyte. Yet the preface to his Gospel, as critics have remarked, is pure classic Greek, unlike the Greek that was used by native Jews; from which it seems not improbable that he was by birth and education a Gentile.
2nd. In Ac 21:27, it is said that the Asiatic Jews excited the multitude against Paul because he had introduced Gentiles into the temple, thus defiling it. In Ac 21:28 it is said that the Gentile to whom they had reference was Trophimus, an Ephesian. Yet Luke was also at that time with Paul. If he had been regarded as a Gentile it is probable that they would have made complaint respecting him as well as Trophimus; from which it is supposed that he was a Jewish proselyte.
But again, in the Epistle to the Colossians, Co 4:9-11, we find Paul saying that Aristarchus, and Marcus, and Barnabas, and Justus saluted them, "who are," he adds, "of the circumcision," that is, Jews by birth. In Co 4:14 he says that Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas also saluted them; from which it is inferred that they were not of the circumcision, but were by birth Gentiles.
Most writers suppose that Luke, the writer of this Gospel, was intended in the above place in Colossians. If so, his profession was that of a physician; and it has been remarked that his descriptions of diseases are more accurate and circumstantial, and have more of technical correctness than those of the other evangelists.
Luke does not profess to have been an eye-witness of what he recorded. See Lu 1:2,3. It is clear, therefore, that he was not one of the seventy disciples, nor one of the two who went to Emmaus, as has been sometimes supposed. Nor was he an apostle. By the fathers he is uniformly called the companion of the apostles, and especially of Paul.
If he was not one of the apostles, and if he was not one of those expressly commissioned by our Lord to whom the promise of the infallible teaching of the Holy Ghost was given, the question arises by what authority his Gospel and the Acts have a place in the sacred canon, or what evidence is there that he was divinely inspired?
In regard to this question the following considerations may give satisfaction:
1st. They were received by all the churches on the same footing as the first three Gospels. There is not a dissenting voice in regard to their authenticity and authority. The value of this argument is this—that if they had been spurious, or without authority, the fathers were the proper persons to know it.
2nd. They were published during the lives of the apostles Peter, Paul, and John, and were received during their lives as books of sacred authority. If the writings of Luke were not inspired, and had no authority, those apostles could easily have destroyed their credit, and we have reason to think it would have been done.
3rd. It is the united testimony of the fathers that this Gospel was submitted to Paul, and received his express approbation. It was regarded as the substance of his preaching, and if it received his approbation it comes to us on the authority of his name. Indeed, if this be the case, it rests on the same authority as the epistles of Paul himself.
4th. It bears the same marks of inspiration as the other books. It is simple, pure, yet sublime; there is nothing unworthy of God; and it is elevated far above the writings of any uninspired man.
5th. If he was not inspired—if, as we suppose, he was a Gentile by birth—and if, as is most clear, he was not an eyewitness witness of what he records, it is inconceivable that he did not contradict the other evangelists. That he did not borrow from them is clear. Nor is it possible to conceive that he could write a book varying in the order of its arrangement so much, and adding so many new facts, and repeating so many recorded also by the others, without often having contradicted what was written by them. Let any man compare this Gospel with the spurious gospels of the following centuries, and he will be struck with the force of this remark.
6th. If it be objected that, not being an apostle, he did not come within the promise of inspiration (Joh 14:26; 16:13,14) made to the apostles, it may be replied that this was also the case with Paul; yet no small part of the New Testament is composed of his writings. The evidence of the inspiration of the writings of Luke and Paul is to be judged, not only by that promise, but by the early reception of the churches; by the testimony of the fathers as to the judgment of inspired men when living, and by the internal character of the works. Luke has all these equally with the other evangelists.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE
Verse 1. Forasmuch as many. It has been doubted who are referred to here by the word many. It seems clear that it could not be the other evangelists, for the gospel by John was not yet written, and the word many denotes clearly more than two. Besides, it is said that they undertook to record what the eye-witnesses had delivered to them, so that the writers did not pretend to be eye-witnesses themselves. It is clear, therefore, that other writings are meant than the gospels which we now have, but what they were is a matter of conjecture. What are now known as spurious gospels were written long after Luke wrote his. It is probable that Luke refers to fragments of history, or to narratives of detached sayings, acts, or parables of our Lord, which had been made and circulated among the disciples and others. His doctrines were original, bold, pure, and authoritative. His miracles had been extraordinary, clear, and awful. His life and death had been peculiar; and it is not improbable—indeed it is highly probable—that such broken accounts and narratives of detached facts would be preserved. That this is what Luke means appears farther from Lu 1:3 where he professes to give a regular, full, and systematic account from the very beginning—
"having had perfect understanding of all things from the
The records of the others —the "many"—were broken and incomplete. His were to be regular and full.
Taken in hand. Undertaken, attempted.
To set forth in order. To compose a narrative. It does not refer to the order or arrangement, but means simply to give a narrative. The word rendered here in order is different from that in the third verse, which has reference to order, or to a full and fair arrangement of the principal facts, &c., in the history of our Lord.
A declaration. A narrative — an account of.
Which are most surely believed among us. Among Christians — among all the Christians then living. Here we may remark — 1st. That Christians of that day had the best of all opportunities for knowing whether those things were true. Many had seen them, and all others had had the account from those who had witnessed them.
2nd. That infidels now cannot possibly be as good judges in the matter as those who lived at the time, and who were thus competent to determine whether these things were true or false.
3rd. That all Christians do most surely believe the truth of the gospel. It is their life, their hope, their all. Nor can they doubt that their Saviour lived, bled, died, rose, and still lives; that he was their atoning sacrifice, and that he is God over all, blessed for ever.
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