Luke 1: Told by Eyewitnesses
We have come to the third gospel, and I think it is appropriate to show the way that Luke begins his account.
Luk 1:1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
Luk 1:2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
Luk 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
Luk 1:4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
What do we learn from this introduction from Luke to Theophilus? We first of all learn that other people had a tradition. This was not something that Luke all of a sudden made up to explain who Jesus Christ was. Rather, many people had established a tradition that began with the eyewitnesses. The people who had seen Jesus passed along what they knew about Him, and our author here was writing within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. As a result, Luke apparently thought it was a good idea because he had studied these things and had an understanding of what had taken place to write down the tradition for his friend Theophilus.
Why is this significant? It is a very popular tactic to that to write off the Jesus of miracles as a late embellishment. Sure, most people will agree that Jesus was a real person, and they will affirm that He did teach many wise sayings, but kind of like Thomas Jefferson, they decide that those miracles have to go. Luke challenges that right up front. As we will read through his gospel, there are miracles. The eyewitnesses that Luke was able to interview as he explained in verse two gave him his material, and that material included miracles and of course the great miracle of the resurrection.
The generally accepted dating of Luke is somewhere around 80 A.D. (although I would say it is earlier based on the fact that it is clearly a prelude to Acts which does not mention the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and probably would have merited inclusion in the Acts narrative as a confirmation of Jesus’ prophecy about the temple being destroyed). For the sake of argument though, in 80 A.D., there would have been people that could have either affirmed or denied his claims. Luke said that these traditions have been in circulation from the beginning, and these eyewitnesses could have easily shot down his conclusions or said that he had misunderstood what had been passed so to him.
These types of checks and balances are very important.