Before starting our Mary’s Christmas journey it will do us good to look at the first four verses of Luke 1. The story of Mary and the birth of Christ are loaded with the miraculous and prophetic references. Many people of our day have a hard time when they encounter supernatural events as those we will be looking at in the Bible.
The 21st century seeker is more apt to discount the occurrence of miracles citing that scientific processes have been identified that were initially thought to have had some supernatural or extraordinary origin. If pushed, the benefit of the doubt would definitely lean towards a natural explanation.
I believe the author of the gospel of Luke anticipates some push back even though in his time spiritual and even mystical explanations were not out of the question. Luke will start right in with some extraordinary happenings. Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary headline chapter 1’s phenomenal events. But first his four intro verses! How will Luke prepare the reader at the starts of his gospel, of his Good News?
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 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, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
“Certain of the Truth”
In verse 4 Luke states the intent of his compilation, that you may have certainty…” . Certainty in what? “concerning the things you have been taught? In the NASB translation the phrase is “so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught“.
The Living Translation says it this way… so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.”
It’s worth reading once more but this time in the “Amplified” version…
4 [My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been informed and in which you have been orally instructed.
In addition to certainty Luke says that he has set out to write an orderly account. Others have set out to compile the information but Luke wants to investigate all the reports in close detail (The Message). He’s determined to put all the facts together with clarity and conciseness.
The Testimony of Eyewitnesses
Not only that but the veracity of his compilation will be based on testimonies of eyewitnesses that have been in their midst and who will be significant source material. Luke will cite the testimony of people who saw and heard the events he shares, “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses”.
There is good reason to believe that Luke was a companion of Paul on his travels as evidenced by various passages in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles of which Luke is also the author. Paul mentions him several times. Luke would have had time and opportunity to discuss the historical accounts of the life of Jesus and his disciples.
Luke, The Physician
In the Epistle to the Colossians Paul calls Luke the good physician. He is also mentioned by Paul in II Timothy and in Philemon.
Written in Greek (as are all the gospels) Luke’s style is the most literary of all these books. Graham Stanton evaluates the opening of the Gospel of Luke as “the most finely composed sentence in the whole of post-Classical Greek literature.” That to say that Luke is not a country bumpkin!
You would think being listed as doctor would add credibility to a document. However being listed a 1st century physician is not exactly a vote of confidence for some. Many would have you believe that a first century doctor was akin to a voodoo shaman or a snake oil salesman or a downright fraud.
This distrust I believe is ill placed as the seeking of knowledge and truth is a life long pursuit for a true physician. To prescribe treatment based on whim and superstition is not the approach of such a doctor as Luke.
Does modern medicine discount a lot of past procedures as being based on ill-founded information? Surely… but I am reminded of a funny scene in one of the Star Trek movies where the crew of the Enterprise goes back in time to our century. Running through a modern-day hospital the doctor from the future, Bones as he is affectionately known, stares at a dialysis patient and exclaims, “Good God, Jim, do you see what they are doing?!? How barbaric!”
You get my point. Though there are still more arguments about authorship, dating and other minutia I am confident in the author’s intention and veracity with regard to the Gospel of Luke’s research. An credible truth-seeker, a learned man, an eyewitness, a doctor. I look forward to exploring the amazing events of Mary’s Christmas knowing that our good doctor, Luke has done his best investigative work for us!