Luke’s First Prologue to Theophilus

Gospel Book, Title page to the Gospel of Luke,...

Gospel Book, Title page to the Gospel of Luke, Walters Manuscript W.528, fol. 116r (Photo credit: Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts)

The Gospel According to Luke is one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), so named because they all include similar material concerning the Lord Jesus – whereas John is much different. The fact that Luke was the author is well-supported by early church tradition, and we find arguments to the contrary without merit. It is generally accepted to have been written in the early to mid-60’s. The book is addressed to “Theophilus,” who we can assume to be a Gentile (Greek, the name suggests, as it is assumed that Luke is as well). Considering the way that Luke addresses him in verse 3, it is supposed that he might be some sort of government official – likely a man of some means as well. The first four verses of chapter one tell us a great deal about what we can expect from the Book of Luke:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

The first part tells us that even before Luke had started writing this book, a great deal had already been written by others of the events he was writing about. Many hold that the Gospel of Mark was one of those accounts. Possibly. Best estimates by many scholars suggest a time in the mid-50’s for the writing of Mark. As for Matthew, scholars and early church figures (such as Irenaeus of Lyons) indicate that it was written when both Peter and Paul were alive. So it could possibly have been one of those writings as well. But since Luke refers to “many” narratives, it would seem that there were several written by non-inspired sources as well.

English: The evangelist portrait from the Gosp...

English: The evangelist portrait from the Gospel of Luke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next, Luke indicates that people who were either eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, or who had been brought into teaching the gospel, had related many of the events to him – and to others – already. But note also that his reference to eyewitnesses in verse 2 is in the context of those who were “from the beginning.” Luke had been thorough in his research, as well as in his writing, but he had the advantage of living in precisely the right time, when he could benefit from the accounts and information from so many who were there through it all.

Finally, Luke tells Theophilus that he wanted to write an “orderly” account of these things for him so that he might “have certainty” about the things he had been taught. That tells us that Theophilus, if not already a Christian, had received some instruction concerning Jesus Christ. And that brings us back around to several things we can put into the context of the statement Luke made in verse one, referring to “a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us.” As Luke began writing this, the Lord had long ago risen and ascended into heaven. The day of Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2, had come and gone, and the church had been established. And, as one Gentile is writing to another quite literally about the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can deduce that Cornelius and his family had already been converted (Acts 10). It is also quite likely then, that the Jerusalem Conference (or Jerusalem Council) of Acts 15 had also taken place.

In our next look at Luke chapter one, we will take a closer look at the parents of John the Baptist.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at  

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