Thursday, December 16, 2010

Luke, The Careful Historian

Luke was probably a Gentile by birth, since he was uncircumcised, with a Greco-Syrian heritage, well educated in the Greek culture and a physician by profession. Luke’s home was in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria, but he was living in Troas, which included the ancient ruins of Troy, when the apostle Paul came through during his first missionary journey.

Judging from Luke’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry, he was probably one of the seventy disciples Jesus sent out on an evangelism tour, and he was likely one of the two disciples who met with Jesus on their way home to Emmaus, after Jesus’ resurrection (since Luke is the only gospel writer to tell that story). Most of Jesus' ministry happened in the Galilee area where there was a real mix of Jews and Gentiles.

Luke joined with Paul in Troas and continued on with him as his companion and chronicler for most of the rest of his missionary journeys. However, when they first came to Philippi, Luke stayed behind for a while, and then rejoined with Paul when Paul visited Philippi on his second, followup trip. Luke remained Paul’s close associate and fellow missionary for many years, starting the first medical mission on the island of Malta.

The most ancient record of Luke’s life, written not long after he died, says that he “Served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit; he died at the age of 84 years.”

When Luke wrote his gospel, around thirty years after Jesus had risen up into heaven, his intention was to write a historical account, while bringing out the theological significance of the history

So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story's beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.

Remember that Luke was a university man, well educated, a doctor, well-grounded in science and logic. For him truth was concrete; he was not a person to be bamboozled by magic tricks or a persuasive speech. So when he wrote his gospel, and his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, he was intent on providing factual, reliable evidence to other educated, scientific, sophisticated, logical thinkers, such as his friend Theophilus.

We can thank Luke for being such careful historian, because he named names and dates all throughout this document, which continue to be verified as new archeological evidence is unearthed. Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is the longest of the four gospels, and many of the details surrounding Jesus’ birth are found only in Luke.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is the longest of the four gospels, and many of the details surrounding Jesus’ birth are found only in Luke. Only in his gospel will you find John the Baptist's birth story, the census and travel to Bethlehem, the birth in a manger, and a story from Jesus' boyhood.

[Tomorrow: Luke's geneology of Jesus]

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