Tuesday, January 16, 2007

St. Luke Revisited

Most intelligent people, believers and skeptics alike agree on this one point concerning Luke's gospel, and the book of Acts. As one of those intelligent skeptics said, “I think it's quite plausible that they were written by the same author judging by textual analysis (both form and content), and by something akin to 'cross-referencing'. Also, in some ancient manuscripts they are contiguous."

OK, so much for the headway here.

A point we disagree on is the time of the writing of Luke’s gospel.
Some place the time of the writing much later than AD 60.
I base the writing of Luke simply on a study of the text - what it says - and a knowledge of the history of that day. Luke had to have been written before Acts and Acts had to have been written before Paul’s [journey to Spain and his re-arrest and] execution under Nero (around AD 66). Nero himself died in AD 67. Also there is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in AD 70 under Titus. Further, I maintain that the pronouns (we, us) are a clear indication of Luke referring to his personal involvement in the account. To view it any other way would be to ignore the obvious context of the scripture or the writing style of its author or in general the common use of the language today.

Who was Theophilus?

I don’t know, nobody knows but he was not a ‘group of people,’ he was an individual.
First of all, both Luke and Acts begin by addressing him directly "Theophilus" meaning, "lover of God." Perhaps he was Jewish and Greek like Paul.
Though nobody knows for sure who he was, there are some clues. Consider that Theophilus was a man’s name, ergo he’s male. Then consider how he is addressed by the writer:
"...most excellent Theophilus"
This is an indication he (Theophilus) was a man of position, importance, and respected by his peers. He was interested in knowing if what he’d been taught about Christ was accurate, obviously interested specifically in the facts surrounding Christ and the Christian sect. Therefore I suspect he was a believer or contemplating conversion into the Christian faith.
Hence the statement by the writer (Luke) "Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." The writer puts his personal guarantee that he carefully investigated everything from the beginning so that Theophilus could rest assured the following documentation concerning Jesus Christ was certain. To say anything different flies in the face of logic and the likelihood that the writer would fabricate lies to such an honored person as Theophilus is virtually null. Now compare another translation of that statement:
Amplified Bible - SINCE [as is well known] many have undertaken to put in order and draw up a [thorough] narrative of the surely established deeds which have been accomplished and fulfilled in and among us,
2Exactly as they were handed down to us by those who from the [official] beginning [of Jesus' ministry] were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word [that is, of the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God],
3It seemed good and desirable to me, [and so I have determined] also after having searched out diligently and followed all things closely and traced accurately the course from the highest to the minutest detail from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4[My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been informed and in which you have been orally instructed."
And in fact, Luke’s gospel is an orderly account of the life of Christ.
Did Luke ‘copy and paste’ from Mark, as some say?
Most scholars believe that Mark was a resource used by both Matthew and Luke. So do I. But remember Mark is a very short gospel that begins with the ministry of Jesus unlike the other gospels. Matthew is much longer and goes back to the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, (that would be the way that a tax collector would view any genealogy and views Christ as the Jewish Messiah from a strictly Jewish perspective as evidenced by his statements, "this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet…"
Mark, on the other hand was a youth and his Gospel reflects that as his perspective centers on the miracle power of Christ.
Luke's gospel is much longer than Marks by comparison and concentrates more on the teachings of Christ and accounts for this by the many parables he records. Luke's viewpoint and genealogy of Christ is through Mary's lineage. (That's a summary of the synoptic gospels in a nut shell).

If Paul was a contemporary of the disciples, (and he was), then Luke was a contemporary of the disciples. Not at all a fabrication! He was a full grown man, educated in the healing arts (called a physician) and on occasion he traveled with Paul. Note also that Paul traveled with Mark in whose home the last supper was eaten and the same upper room that the outpouring of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2) occurred; but Paul had issues with Mark because of his immaturity.

Why do I say the writer was Luke? Admittedly it’s an assumption on my part and most scholar’s agree. That’s the prevailing theory based largely on tradition, and a process of elimination. Let me illustrate what I mean by that. We can see in some of Paul’s letters references to Luke in various locations with him at certain times in his ministry. They correspond to the statements that the writer of Acts (Luke) makes when he uses the “we "– "us" nouns. Though there were at times others present, the others don’t fit; i.e. one time it was Paul, Luke and Demas who were traveling together. (Col. 4:14). Demas was not considered as the writer because later on down the road Paul writes "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” I therefore maintain that it was Luke who was present with Paul as he wrote this epistle from house arrest in Rome and the specifics are mentioned by the writer of Acts (notice the “we” references in Act’s 28) at the close of the book. Is the evidence conclusive? Not entirely. Is it the best we have to go on? I firmly believe its far superior to any other theory regarding the authorship of the book. Until someone comes up with something more conclusive I’ll stick to the 'theory'…Because I truly believe it’s the truth based on the best evidence available. In every Bible, without exception, the book bears Luke's name. In the detective business that's called a c-l-u-e.
photo by R. Hoeppner

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