1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.  Version: New International Version

COMMENTS

General:

  • Luke, a physician and companion of the apostle Paul (Colossians 4:14), is the only Gentile writer of the New Testament. Luke-Acts, as it is called, is a two-volume work, comprising 25% of the N.T.
  • As Luke tells Theophilus (v.3), he has composed his gospel using the sources available to him (1-4).
    • He relied on the testimony of the apostles (v.2). Remember that Luke was not one of the Twelve.
    • His purpose was to compose an accurate account of Jesus' life.
  • Luke's gospel has several unique emphases:
    • Medicine. Luke notes several medical details not related by other N.T. writers, for example, 22:44,51; etc.
    • The plight of women. Luke takes pains to show Jesus' (and Paul's) concern for women, and how the gospel elevates them in dignity. See, for example, Luke 4:26; 8:1-3; 10:38-42; 18:1-7; 21:1-4; 23:27-31; 24:1,10; Acts 16.
    • Children (e.g. chapters 7, 8, 9, 18; Acts 9, etc).
    • Wealth, possessions and the poor -- a major theme of Luke-Acts. In fact, there are more verses in the Bible on this topic than there are on faith, repentance, and baptism combined!
    • The Spirit, who is ever behind the scenes -- over 50x in Luke-Acts
    • Repentance -- its vital role in conversion (some two dozen times in Luke-Acts). This is the message of John the Baptist (3:8), Jesus (13:3), and the apostles and the early church (Acts 2:38; 3:19; etc).
    • The Resurrection of Christ (esp. in Acts).
    • Prayer (over 50x in Luke-Acts).
  • The main characters of chapter 1 are Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. In verse 5 we are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth.
    • Elizabeth also is from the tribe of Levi, descended from Aaron. Jews were required to marry within the tribal clan of their father.
    • This couple were conscientious observers of the law (v.6).
    • As with so many biblical couples, from Abram and Sarai onward, they were advanced in age and childless.
    • Their special child is John the Baptist:
      • He will be a herald of the coming Messiah.
      • John is a bridging character between the O.T. and the N.T.

Advanced:

  • As Luke makes clear, he is hardly the first to compose an account of Jesus' life (v.1).
  • Mark was almost certainly written before Luke, and is one of Luke's sources. It is also possible that John was written earlier, though this is not certain. Matthew seems to be written about the same time as Luke.
  • These other accounts are not to be confused with the apocryphal - and much later -- gospels, such as the various Infancy Gospels, the Gospel of the Hebrews, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Nicodemus, Gospel of Bartholomew, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, and many more.
  • Whatever his earlier sources were, they do not seem to have survived.
  • I would date Luke's gospel to the period 62-79 AD.
  • The "order" of verse 3 may be taken two ways:
    • Luke was arranging the material chronologically.
    • Luke was not necessarily arranging it in chronological order, but he was "ordering" it all the same.
    • Given that he was a meticulous historian in his own right, either interpretation works. Yet I believe the translation "orderly" (from kathexes) is best. That is, it was ordered in relation to the message as a whole, not ordered chronologically.
  • Who is Theophilus (v.3)?
    • He may be the patron of Luke-Acts, the person who financed / published this work.
    • He may be a non-Christian whom Luke is trying to win to Christ. This seems likely. Perhaps Theophilus is a godfearer.
    • He may be the general reader, since his name means "friend/lover of God," or "loved by God." Theophilus was a common name among both Jews and Greeks from the 3rd century BC.
    • He might be Theophilus ben Ananus, high priest 37-41 AD.
    • He could be a Roman official, in which case Luke-Acts is either a legal brief prepared for Paul's trial in Rome or a work dedicated in gratitude to a man who treated Paul kindly during his Roman imprisonment.
    • In the end, we do not have enough information to decide the case.
  • Luke 1 is the longest chapter of the N.T. (rivaling Psalm 119 in the O.T.).
  • Given the dominance of the Passion in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the canonical gospels are really "Passion narratives with extended introductions," as one theologian put it.
  • The prologue of Luke's gospel is written in fine literary Greek, and then quickly it changes to a more or less LXX (Septuagintal) Greek. He's creating a special effect -- as though the movie started out in black and white and then changed to color as the film flashes forward to the modern day.
  • The name Zechariah is used for a priest or Levite 7 times in 1-2 Chronicles. The name Elizabeth is the same as Aaron's wife Elisheba (Exodus 6:23). Both names are therefore highly appropriate for this priestly couple.
  • Though this may be coincidence, it is interesting to note that the levitical division of Abijah (1 Chronicles 24:10), the tenth division, is immediately followed by the division of Yeshua (Jesus)!
  • John the Baptist was, like Samson and Samuel, a Nazirite. See Numbers 6:1ff. For more, please see chapter 7 of Principle-Centered Parenting.

Thought questions:

  • Given that Luke composed his gospel carefully, do I read the books of the Bible carefully? Do I weigh every word, look for the point, extract the principle, and apply the passage (without going beyond what is written)?
  • Do I know any older couples, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, who have never had children? How might I feel if I were in their situation?