Fruitful Research (Luke 1.1-4)
It seemed good to me also … to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught (3-4)
One of the greatest ironies of theology is the certainty which so often accompanies scepticism. For example, I have an introduction to Christian faith (written by an Anglican bishop) which says of the creedal statements about Jesus’ resurrection and ascension: The language belongs to epic fantasy of the Lord of the Rings kind, of the mythic fairy tale variety we used to be entertained by but not to take seriously.
Not only does this statement contradict all we know about the intent of the Councils of the Church at which the Creeds were threshed out, but it flies in the face of the biblical narratives from which the Creeds were derived.
Make no mistake, Luke the physician knew what he was about. In the opening four verses of his Gospel he makes his intentions absolutely clear: to write an orderly account of the life and ministry of Jesus, drawing on the best oral and written eyewitness accounts available. His gospel-writing is not an impromptu, off-the-cuff exercise, but the fruit of careful research.
Luke’s reliance on reliable eyewitness accounts is echoed elsewhere in the New Testament, e.g. John 21.24-25; 1 Cor 15.3-4; Gal 1.18; 2 Peter 1.16-18; 1 John 1.1-4; Jude 3. The best New Testament scholarship affirms the credibility of such claims, notably Richard Bauckham’s book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Contradictory claims are based on mere speculation - and should be dismissed as such.
Luke writes as a historian; he expects to be read as a historian. His purpose is not to entertain but to inform, that Theophilus may “have certainty” about Jesus’ person, life and work – “the things that have been accomplished among us”. He would want no less for us as we embark on this Lenten journey through his Gospel (cf. John 20.30-31). Trust him!
To what degree is your faith drawn from the Bible, and to what degree from human wisdom or experience?
Heavenly Father, I thank you for what you have already done in my life. As I read through Luke’s account of the good news of your dear Son Jesus Christ this Lent, open my eyes anew to its life-giving power, and my ears afresh to your speaking life-giving words to me. This I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Michael Hewat is currently serving as the Senior Minister at West Hamilton Community Church, New Zealand
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash