This introductory session of our verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of Luke was given by pastor Barry Forder on 9th October 2022.
In this study we look at the rock-solid foundation of this Gospel. Historian Sir William Ramsey, who started out as a sceptic and critic of the Bible, eventually came to faith in Jesus Christ because of the overwhelming historical evidence he discovered to corroborate the details in the Biblical record and Luke’s gospel in particular. He went on to say:
- “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians”
- “Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness”
Josh McDowell, another sceptic who set out to disprove the Bible, also became a follower of Jesus Christ because of the evidence he found to demonstrate that Christians have not followed ‘cunningly devised fables’ but that the Christian faith is firmly rooted in historical events that we can accept “unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate”.
- “Luke’s reliability as an historian is unquestionable”
Almost all commentaries will tell us that Luke was a Gentile Doctor. He certainly was a physician, using more medical terms in his gospel than even Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC – considered the ‘father of medicine’), and whose name lends itself to the Hippocratic Oath that even today is taken by medical graduates about to enter medical practice. However, as to Luke being a Gentile, Dr Floyd Nolan Jones makes the following comment:
“Country to nearly all modern scholarship, Luke was not a Gentile. The Romans 3: 1-2 citation is in itself absolutely conclusive and serves to correct any and all who instruct otherwise. Luke penned more text than any other New Testament writer, more than either Paul or John. Were Luke indeed non-Jewish, the Lord not only failed to honour his testimony in Romans 3, he also entrusted more of the New Testament revelation into the hands of a Gentile than those of his “chosen people”.”
Luke begins his account by underscoring that the events he is to record had already been written down by many others and believed ‘most surely’. Those who had recorded them were eyewitnesses and students of Jesus. Furthermore, Luke states that he himself had ‘perfect understanding’ of all these things, right from the beginning! – this was no ‘word of mouth’ hearsay!
Luke’s Gospel is addressed to ‘most excedllent Theophilus‘ – someone we are led to believe has been forgotton in the sands of time and any hope of discovering his real identity have long since faded. This higlights the danger of simply following the sway of general opinion! Dr Bill Cooper sheds some much needed light on our ‘mystery man’ – and facinating it is!
- “As for the early writing of Luke’s gospel, there is a great deal of evidence which indicates that it belongs firmly to the Eyewitness Period. Better still, it could be narrowed down to having been written within a window of time that does not exceed four years in breath. The man to whom Luke addresses his gospel tells us as much, and is someone whom Luke calls ”… most excellent Theophilus” (1:3). Clearly this man was alive when Luke wrote his gospel, otherwise there’d be no point in addressing it to him. The questions we need to answer therefore are these: who was he? And when did he live? The man was Theophilus Ben Ananus, an erstwhile Sadducee and priest of the temple. He was the son of Annas and brother-in-law of the High Priest Caiaphas at whose instigation our Lord was tried and crucified. Theophilus was himself to serve as High Priest from the years 37-41 and it is during this time as High Priest that Luke wrote his gospel and addressed it to him. We know this by the honorific title by which he addresses Theophilus: Most Excellent (Gr kratistos). the Greek word means ‘noble’, and it is used on just one other occasion in the New Testament, namely in Acts 23: 26, when it is applied to the Governor Felix. Tellingly, Luke also addresses his Book of Acts to Theophilus, but when he does so it is simply ‘to Theophilus…’. The honorific title is no longer used, because when Luke wrote his Book of Acts in AD 64, Theophilus’ service as High Priest was long since passed”. – Dr Bill Cooper, Authenticity of the New Testament
So, Theophilus is none other than the Jewish High Priset that followed on from Caiaphas! He would have been around at the time of, and probably witnessed, the Crucifixion, and even been there when the Roman guards returned from the empty tomb that Resurrection morning. Theophilus would have known first hand that these guards had been bought-off to keep them quiet! Along with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, he was clearly one of the Jews that beleived (John 11:45 / John 12:11), and of whom Luke himself records: “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith“ (Acts 6:7).
May you be blessed and encouraged as we study verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Luke.
The audio teaching and PowerPoint slides used in this teaching are available for free download.