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GOSPEL OF LUKE.
From the earliest Christian antiquity, Luke has been acknowledged as the author of this Gospel. It would seem, from the verses with which he introduces his history (1:1-4), that there were in existence many accounts respecting the life and death of Jesus Christ, which accounts were probably not of so authentic a character as to deserve entire confidence. Allusion could not here have been made by Luke to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, since Matthew was an eyewitness of the events which he relates, and Mark: was so connected with the first Christians and with the Apostles, particularly with Peter, as to secure for his narrative a universal reception. It was natural, however, that there should be an eager curiosity to read any book professing to relate events of so uncommon a character, and of so deep an interest, as the events pertaining to the new religion. Hence many would undertake to write without possessing sufficient knowledge or discrimination: they might publish accounts which would be materially defective, and contain statements either untrue or improperly represented. This might have been done, however, without any ill design on the part of the writers.
Still the multiplication of such accounts would have an unhappy effect on many minds; and we can easily conceive that a Christian, who had an ability for writing, who could have access to the proper PREFACE TO THE GOSPEL OF LUKE.
sources of information, and who had a spirit of investigation and discrimination, should wish to counteract such an effect; particularly if any very estimable friend, whose spiritual interests lay near his heart, would be specially benefited by his preparing an account, and if the whole Christian community besides would receive advantage. For, granting that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark were both in existence, there was still room for another authentic Gospel, as the followers of Christ, and those who would be glad to possess such a document, were spread over extensive regions, and the slow process of hand-writing could not multiply copies so fast as they might be needed. It was then desirable that an account should be prepared that might belp to supersede those defective ones, and be relied on as entirely authentic.
Theophilus was a person who had been instructed in the Christian religion, and a particular friend of Luke's. For his special benefit Luke wrote, in order that he might possess a narrative drawn from the proper sources, and conveying information which could be relied on. He was in all probability a Gentile, living at a distance from Palestine. Hence Luke is careful to give such information respecting places as would not be needed by one who was intimately acquainted with the country. For instance, he gives the information that Nazareth and Capernaum were cities in Galilee (1 : 26. 4:31), and that Arimathea was a city of the Jews (23: 51).
The information respecting Luke himself is brief. The apostle Paul speaks of him in very affectionate and honorable terms, as a fellowlaborer (Philemon, v. 24 ; see also 2 Tim. 4: 11), and as “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14). It appears, too, from the Acts of the Apostles (of which book Luke was also the author, see 1:1), that Luke was for a considerable time a companion of Paul. See Acts 16:10-13. 20: 6, 13-15. 21:1—18. 27:1, &c. 28: 2. In all these passages, the language is such as shows that the writer was one of the company. This intimate connection of Luke with Paul, as well as his having
PREFACE TO THE GOSPEL OF LUKE.
traced the accounts back to apostolical and other indubitable testimony, secures for his Gospel the credit of apostolical authority.
Whether Luke was a Jew or a Gentile, is a question that has been variously answered. The preface to his Gospel, contained in the first four verses, exhibits a style and manner of Greek writing, different from that of the other evangelists, and has been regarded as evidence that he was a Gentile of considerable education. Again, in the Epistle to the Colossians (4:7, &c.), Paul makes mention of several persons, naming them particularly as being “ of the circumcision,” that is, as being Jews. Immediately after, he mentions others, and among them Luke. It has hence been argued, that Luke did not belong to “the circumcision.” On the other hand, it has been said that there was no need of mentioning Luke as a Jew, because he was probably well known to the Colossian church. And as to his manner of writing, it is manifest that his Gospel throughout exhibits the same qualities of style which characterize the other Gospels. He also shows a most intimate knowledge of Jewish customs, such even as a native Jew of intelligence might be supposed to possess. Hence it has been concluded that he was by birth a Jew. On account of these various circumstances, some have believed that he was by birth a Gentile, that in early life he became a proselyte to Judaism, and afterwards became a Christian. It has also been suggested that, like the case of Timothy (Acts 16: 1, 3), perhaps his father was a Greek, and bis mother a Jewess.
As to the place where this Gospel was written, nothing satisfactory can be said. The time when it was written was probably about the year 60.