(1)To his Excellency, Theophilus.
Many attempts have been already made to draw up an account of those events which have reached their conclusion among us, (2) just as they were reported to us by those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and afterward became bearers of the message. (3) And, therefore, I also, since I have investigated all these events with great care from their very beginning, have resolved to write a connected history of them for you, (4) in order that you may be able to satisfy yourself of the accuracy of the story which you have heard from the lips of others.
The veracity of the gospel is at the very heart of the Christian faith. This introduction, explaining the author's methodology, is completely unique among all the other Gospels and Books of the New Testament. While the text does not claim Luke as the author, it is the universal testimony of traditions and there is no clear reason to question this assertion. The style of the writing in Luke's Gospel indicates the author was extremely educated and the structure of the introduction indicates the intended audience is also sophisticated.
Luke is writing an account because he either finds that there is something deficient in the previous tellings of the story of Jesus or, likely, he desires a more historic comprehensive telling of the story of Christ and founding of the Church. As a historian, he carefully investigated the events of Christ and the early church from their very beginning at the birth of Christ through Paul's ministry in Rome, found in Acts. His investigation included previously written accounts, eye-witness accounts, and his own witness (particularly in Acts). About sixty percent of the Gospel of Mark appears within the text of Luke. As such, Mark was likely one of the written sources which Luke consulted. Luke's account in his Gospel and Acts is the most complete and chronological account of the foundations of Christianity and makes up a greater portion of the New Testament than any other author's writings. Luke is the most comprehensive Gospel and the longest book in the New Testament. Together with Acts, Luke's writings comprise more than a quarter of the New Testament.
It is unclear whether his Excellency Theophilus is a literal person, possibly a Roman official who Luke is trying to convert or more likely a patron for the project, or an avatar for all believers since the name Theophilus means "Friend (or Lover) of God." Either way, it does not significantly affect the meaning or context of the Gospel since the text is clearly meant for a broad audience. Luke's goal, as stated in verse four is to demonstrate the accuracy and certainty of the story which others have told via word of mouth.
In verse three Luke uses the word anóthen which is typically translated "from the beginning" but which can also mean "from above." Often in the New Testament, this word is translated as "from heaven," "from above," or some other similar language. So, it can be argued that this is a claim of heavenly inspiration from Luke. However, Luke's only other use of this word is in Acts 26:5 where he is clearly using it to reference an earlier time rather than a source from above. As a result, the tradition of translating this worse as "from the beginning" is correct.
The Faith on View Biblical Commentary project is meant to be collaborative. It begins with the researched ideas of Rondall Reynoso but we all have a great deal to learn. Therefore, we encourage thoughtful responses, questions, and challenges. If convinced the above commentary will be updated. We do require, however, that this dialogue be carried out in love. Comments that are vulgar, insulting, or inappropriately aggressive will be removed.