Meet Doctor Luke and Mr. Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4)

I really like this guy named Luke. He’s my kind of guy! Being a self-styled historian of sorts with my interest in the Civil War and my work at the Antietam National Battlefield, I’ve also previously done the bulk of research and writing on a biography of a Civil War general (Abner Doubleday). I say that I’m going to complete my manuscript and publish it before I’m completed, but we’ll see how that goes!

Writing a biography is great fun! I can’t think of a much happier day in life than digging through old manuscripts in the bowels of a library, searching for gems of information that will make the character of interest come alive! It is a little bit like being a detective. It would be better yet if, in my case, I had the ability to interview people who knew and served with Abner Doubleday. But they are all long gone, of course.

Whereas there is no certain evidence that Luke knew Christ Jesus (though some have conjectured that he may have been one of the 72 sent out), he was certainly intimately acquainted with a great number of people who had walked with the Savior. And Luke begins in this opening paragraph of the first four verses to speak of his method as a researcher/writer …

Luke 1:1 – 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 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided 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.

Luke was a humble guy. He does not use his own name in his writing. As the author also of the book of Acts, he puts himself into the narrative of traveling with Paul for a time by talking about the places “we” went in “our” group. From other New Testament writings we are able to know who was with Paul at that time, and the list includes Luke. All the others are mentioned by name at some point in Acts, and so the process of elimination makes it pretty clear that Luke is the writer of these two works that actually comprise 28% of the New Testament. We know too from Colossians 4:14 that Luke was a physician, as well as being a gentile believer in Christ.

Both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are addressed to a fellow named Theophilus, a person who is a bit obscure. With a name that translates to “lover of God,” many believe he was some sort of gentile Roman official who was interested in a detailed account about this unique character named Jesus Christ, along with curiosity about what was this message of the Gospel. If so, that would make him likely a seeker of truth, perhaps someone very unique among his circle of acquaintances – which were more likely to ridicule this faith with its Eastern origins.

Indeed, this gospel of Luke is going to be “an orderly account.”  And it is a more lengthy and detailed accounting than the other gospels. We will be able to groove with his writing in a personal way, as Luke writes about the expansive and universal nature of the message of Christ. He brings across his pages a host of stories about outcasts, sinners, Samaritans, women and children, etc. … people like us … people who began to walk in Christ’s footsteps. And we shall be encouraged all the more to do the same.

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