Luke 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,
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(1) Forasmuch as many have taken in hand.—On the general bearing of this passage on the questions connected with the authorship and plan of the Gospel, see the Introduction. Here we note (1), what is visible in the English, but is yet more conspicuous in the Greek, the finished structure of the sentences as compared with the simpler openings of the other Gospels; (2) the evidence which the verse supplies of the existence of many written documents professing to give an account of the Gospel history at the time when St. Luke wrote—i.e., probably before St. Paul’s death in A.D. 65. The “many” may have included St. Matthew and St. Mark, but we cannot say. There is no tone of disparagement in the way in which the writer speaks of his predecessors. He simply feels that they have not exhausted the subject, and that his inquiries have enabled him to add something.

Of those things which are most surely believed among us.—Better, of the things that have been accomplished among us.

Luke 1:1-2. Forasmuch as many have taken in hand — Who they were to whom the apostle here alludes, who had, from vague reports, (for so his words seem to imply,) rashly published narratives not entirely to be depended on, it is impossible for us now to discover. It is true, the word επεχειρησαν, have undertaken, used here by Luke, does not necessarily imply any censure on the writers of such accounts, but the scope of the place seems to imply it, if not on all, at least on some of them: for if all, or even most of them, had furnished true narratives, the number was an argument rather against a new attempt than for it. Grotius justly observes, that the spurious gospels, mentioned by ancient writers, are forgeries manifestly of a later date than the time of Luke. That there were, however, some such performances at the time when Luke began to write, the words of this evangelist are a sufficient evidence: for, to consider this book merely on the footing of a human composition, what writer of common sense would introduce himself to the public by observing the numerous attempts that had been made by former writers, some of whom at least had not been at due pains to be properly informed, if he himself were actually the first, or even the second, or the third, who had written on the subject; and if one of the two who preceded him had better opportunities of knowing than he, and the other fully as good? But the total disappearance of those spurious writings, probably no better than hasty collections of flying rumours, containing a mixture of truth and falsehood, may, after the genuine gospels were generally known and read, be easily accounted for. At midnight, the glimmering of the taper is not without its use, but it can make no conceivable addition to the light of the meridian sun. It deserves, however, to be remarked by the way, that whatever may be thought to be insinuated here by the evangelist, concerning the imperfect information of former historians, there is no hint given of their bad designs. It is justly observed here by Dr. Campbell, that the very circumstance of the number of such narratives, at so early a period, is itself an evidence that there was something in the first publication of the Christian doctrine, which, notwithstanding the many unfavourable circumstances wherewith it was attended, excited the curiosity and awakened the attention of persons of all ranks and denominations; insomuch that every narrative, which pretended to furnish men with any additional information concerning so extraordinary a personage as Jesus, seems to have been read with avidity. To set forth in order a declaration — Greek, αναταξασθαι διηγησιν, to compose a narrative; of those things which are most surely believed among us — As the great foundation of our common faith. The expression, πραγματων, refers not only to the things believed, but also to the things performed by Christ and his apostles; this first history of Luke being designed to record what Jesus himself said or did, Acts 1:1; and his second, to relate the acts of the apostles: and the participle, πεπληροφορημενων, translated, most surely believed, is rather to be understood as referring to the fulness of that evidence with which the things were attended, than to the confidence with which they were credited. It not only signifies that the doctrines were taught and the things done, but that they were taught and done with such circumstances, as laid a foundation for πληροφορια της πιστεως, a full assurance of faith, as to the truth of the doctrines, and the reality of the facts. Even as they delivered them, which from the beginning — Of Christ’s ministry; were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word — Because the persons, according to whose information the writers referred to by Luke composed their histories, are said to have been eye-witnesses as well as ministers of the word, (του λογου,) several writers have supposed that, by the word, Luke meant Christ himself, one of whose titles is, the Word, John 1:1, and, the Word of God, Revelation 19:13. Others, however, by the word, understand the transactions of our Lord’s public life; his sermons, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension, because these things were the great subjects of the preaching of the apostles, who were eye and ear witnesses of them. And to Christians these were matters of such moment, that the knowledge, consideration, and remembrance of them, were the great business and comfort of their lives. It is no wonder, therefore, that those who were able should set down in writing such particulars of them as they had learned, whether from the conversations or sermons of the apostles and eye-witnesses. But histories thus drawn up, though they might contain many things highly worthy of the notice of Christians, must needs have been defective both in their matter and manner. Wherefore, Luke, having attained a thorough knowledge of our Lord’s history from the very beginning, thought fit to give a more full, regular, and connected account of it than had hitherto appeared, as he signifies in the next verse.

1:1-4. Luke will not write of things about which Christians may safely differ from one another, and hesitate within themselves; but the things which are, and ought to be surely believed. The doctrine of Christ is what the wisest and best of men have ventured their souls upon with confidence and satisfaction. And the great events whereon our hopes depend, have been recorded by those who were from the beginning eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, and who were perfected in their understanding of them through Divine inspiration.Forasmuch as many - It has been doubted who are referred to here by the word "many." It seems clear that it could not be the other evangelists, for the gospel by "John" was not yet written, and the word "many" denotes clearly more than "two." Besides, it is said that they undertook to record what the "eye-witnesses" had delivered to them, so that the writers did not pretend to be eye-witnesses themselves. It is clear, therefore, that other writings are meant than the gospels which we now have, but what they were is a matter of conjecture. What are now known as spurious gospels were written long after Luke wrote his. It is probable that Luke refers to "fragments" of history, or to narratives of "detached" sayings, acts, or parables of our Lord, which had been made and circulated among the disciples and others. His doctrines were original, bold, pure, and authoritative. His miracles had been extraordinary, clear, and awful. His life and death had been peculiar; and it is not improbable - indeed it is highly probable that such broken accounts and narratives of detached facts would be preserved. That this is what Luke means appears farther from Luke 1:3, where "he" professes to give a regular, full, and systematic account from the very beginning - "having had perfect understanding of "all things from the very first." The records of the others - the "many" - were broken and incomplete. His were to be regular and full.

Taken in hand - Undertaken, attempted.

To set forth in order - To compose a narrative. It does not refer to the "order" or "arrangement," but means simply to give a narrative. The word rendered here "in order" is different from that in the third verse, which "has" reference "to order," or to a full and fair "arrangement" of the principal facts, etc., in the history of our Lord.

A declaration - A narrative - an account of.

Which are most surely believed among us - Among Christians - among all the Christians then living. Here we may remark:

1. That Christians of that day had the best of all opportunities for knowing whether those things were true. Many had seen them, and all others had had the account from those who had witnessed them.

2. That infidels now cannot "possibly" be as good judges in the matter as those who lived at the time, and who were thus competent to determine whether these things were true or false.

3. That all Christians do "most surely believe" the truth of the gospel. It is their life, their hope, their all. Nor can they doubt that their Saviour lived, bled, died, rose, and still lives; that he was their atoning sacrifice, and that he is God over all, blessed forever.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE Commentary by David Brown


The writer of this Gospel is universally allowed to have been Lucas (an abbreviated form of Lucanus, as Silas of Silvanus), though he is not expressly named either in the Gospel or in the Acts. From Col 4:14 we learn that he was a "physician"; and by comparing that verse with Col 4:10, 11—in which the apostle enumerates all those of the circumcision who were then with him, but does not mention Luke, though he immediately afterwards sends a salutation from him—we gather that Luke was not a born Jew. Some have thought he was a freed-man (libertinus), as the Romans devolved the healing art on persons of this class and on their slaves, as an occupation beneath themselves. His intimate acquaintance with Jewish customs, and his facility in Hebraic Greek, seem to show that he was an early convert to the Jewish faith; and this is curiously confirmed by Ac 21:27-29, where we find the Jews enraged at Paul's supposed introduction of Greeks into the temple, because they had seen "Trophimus the Ephesian" with him; and as we know that Luke was with Paul on that occasion, it would seem that they had taken him for a Jew, as they made no mention of him. On the other hand, his fluency in classical Greek confirms his Gentile origin. The time when he joined Paul's company is clearly indicated in the Acts by his changing (at Ac 16:10) from the third person singular ("he") to the first person plural ("we"). From that time he hardly ever left the apostle till near the period of his martyrdom (2Ti 4:11). Eusebius makes him a native of Antioch. If so, he would have every advantage for cultivating the literature of Greece and such medical knowledge as was then possessed. That he died a natural death is generally agreed among the ancients; Gregory Nazianzen alone affirming that he died a martyr.

The time and place of the publication of his Gospel are alike uncertain. But we can approximate to it. It must at any rate have been issued before the Acts, for there the 'Gospel' is expressly referred to as the same author's "former treatise" (Ac 1:1). Now the Book of the Acts was not published for two whole years after Paul's arrival as a prisoner at Rome, for it concludes with a reference to this period; but probably it was published soon after that, which would appear to have been early in the year 63. Before that time, then, we have reason to believe that the Gospel of Luke was in circulation, though the majority of critics make it later. If we date it somewhere between A.D. 50 and 60, we shall probably be near the truth; but nearer it we cannot with any certainty come. Conjectures as to the place of publication are too uncertain to be mentioned here.

That it was addressed, in the first instance, to Gentile readers, is beyond doubt. This is no more, as Davidson remarks [Introduction to the New Testament, p. 186], than was to have been expected from the companion of an "apostle of the Gentiles," who had witnessed marvellous changes in the condition of many heathens by the reception of the Gospel. But the explanations in his Gospel of things known to every Jew, and which could only be intended for Gentile readers, make this quite plain—see Lu 1:26; 4:31; 8:26; 21:37; 22:1; 24:13. A number of other minute particulars, both of things inserted and of things omitted, confirm the conclusion that it was Gentiles whom this Evangelist had in the first instance in view.

We have already adverted to the classical style of Greek which this Evangelist writes—just what might have been expected from an educated Greek and travelled physician. But we have also observed that along with this he shows a wonderful flexibility of style, so much so, that when he comes to relate transactions wholly Jewish, where the speakers and actors and incidents are all Jewish, he writes in such Jewish Greek as one would do who had never been out of Palestine or mixed with any but Jews. In Da Costa's'S Four Witnesses will be found some traces of "the beloved physician" in this Gospel. But far more striking and important are the traces in it of his intimate connection with the apostle of the Gentiles. That one who was so long and so constantly in the society of that master mind has in such a work as this shown no traces of that connection, no stamp of that mind, is hardly to be believed. Writers of Introductions seem not to see it, and take no notice of it. But those who look into the interior of it will soon discover evidences enough in it of a Pauline cast of mind. Referring for a number of details to Da Costa, we notice here only two examples: In 1Co 11:23, Paul ascribes to an express revelation from Christ Himself the account of the Institution of the Lord's Supper which he there gives. Now, if we find this account differing in small yet striking particulars from the accounts given by Matthew and Mark, but agreeing to the letter with Luke's account, it can hardly admit of a doubt that the one had it from the other; and in that case, of course, it was Luke that had it from Paul. Now Matthew and Mark both say of the Cup, "This is my blood of the New Testament"; while Paul and Luke say, in identical terms, "This cup is the New Testament in My blood" (1Co 11:25; Lu 22:20). Further, Luke says, "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying," &c.; while Paul says, "After the same manner He took the cup when He had supped, saying," &c.; whereas neither Matthew nor Mark mention that this was after supper. But still more striking is another point of coincidence in this case. Matthew and Mark both say of the Bread merely this: "Take, eat; this is My body" (Mt 26:26; Mr 14:22); whereas Paul says, "Take, eat, this is My body, which is broken for you" (1Co 11:24), and Luke, "This is My body, which is given for you" (Lu 22:19). And while Paul adds the precious clause, "This do in remembrance of Me," Luke does the same, in identical terms. How can one who reflects on this resist the conviction of a Pauline stamp in this Gospel? The other proof of this to which we ask the reader's attention is in the fact that Paul, in enumerating the parties by whom Christ was seen after His resurrection, begins, singularly enough, with Peter—"And that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the Twelve" (1Co 15:4, 5)—coupled with the remarkable fact, that Luke is the only one of the Evangelists who mentions that Christ appeared to Peter at all. When the disciples had returned from Emmaus to tell their brethren how the Lord had appeared to them in the way, and how He had made Himself known to them in the breaking of bread, they were met, as Luke relates, ere they had time to utter a word, with this wonderful piece of news, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon" (Lu 24:34).

Other points connected with this Gospel will be adverted to in the Commentary.


Lu 1:1-4.

It appears from the Acts of the Apostles, and the Apostolic Epistles, that the earliest preaching of the Gospel consisted of a brief summary of the facts of our Lord's earthly history, with a few words of pointed application to the parties addressed. Of these astonishing facts, notes would naturally be taken and digests put into circulation. It is to such that Luke here refers; and in terms of studied respect, as narratives of what was "believed surely," or "on sure grounds" among Christians, and drawn up from the testimony of "eye-witnesses and ministering servants of the word." But when he adds that "it seemed good to him also to write in order, having traced down all things with exactness from their first rise," it is a virtual claim for his own Gospel to supersede these "many" narratives. Accordingly, while not one of them has survived the wreck of time, this and the other canonical Gospels live, and shall live, the only fitting vehicles of those life-bringing facts which have made all things new. Apocryphal or spurious gospels, upheld by parties unfriendly to the truths exhibited in the canonical Gospels, have not perished; but those well-meant and substantially correct narratives here referred to, used only while better were not to be had, were by tacit consent allowed to merge in the four peerless documents which from age to age, and with astonishing unanimity, have been accepted as the written charter of all Christianity.

1. set forth in order—more simply, to draw up a narrative.Luk 1:1-4 Luke's preface.

Luk 1:5-17 An angel appeareth to Zacharias, and promises him a

son in his old age.

Luk 1:18-23 Zacharias doubting is struck dumb for a sign.

Luk 1:24-25 His wife Elisabeth conceives.

Luk 1:26-38 The angel's visit to Mary.

Luk 1:39-45 Elisabeth, saluted by Mary, prophesieth.

Luk 1:46-56 Mary's song of thanksgiving.

Luk 1:57-63 The birth and circumcision of John the Baptist.

Luk 1:64-66 Zacharias's mouth is opened.

Luk 1:67-80 His prophecy.

Ver. 1-4. Luke's evangelical history hath this peculiar to itself, that whereas the histories of the other evangelists are written to the whole world, having no particular inscription, or dedication, Luke dedicates his to a particular person, named Theophilus; for though that name signifieth one that loveth God, yet I cannot think it is to be taken here appellatively, it being commonly used as a proper name; parents in former ages giving children names generally either expressive of their children's duty to God, (that by their names they might be put in mind of it), or expressive of God's mercy to themselves in giving them such children. The evangelist here suggests, that many had taken in hand orderly to write an account of the things which were certainly believed amongst the Jews. Some think that Luke here reflects upon some that, even so early, had given false accounts of our Saviour's history; for there were several pretended Gospels wrote, called, The Gospel of the Nazarenes, of Thomas, Matthias, Nicodemus, and many others, which the church soon saw cause to reject. But others think that Luke doth not at all reflect, and possibly those figments were not so early; but Luke, observing that many did write this famous history, and some, possibly, for want of due information, not so exactly as they might, yet as they were delivered to them from such as from the beginning were eye witnesses, and ministers of the word, but possibly might not be able so exactly to inform them, or the writers not so able duly to digest them (for most think Matthew, Mark, and John wrote after); or possibly because, there being then no printing, but all in manuscripts, because he thought his friend Theophilus (to whom he knew such a history would be grateful) might not have come to the sight of those manuscripts, he undertakes (not without the direction of the Holy Spirit, as appeared afterward) to compile a history of these things, to which he was either encouraged by the example of others, or incited by the mistakes of those who had done it ill, having the advantage perfectly to understand all things from the first. Most think that this advantage arose not from his personal knowledge, but his converse with the apostles and other ministers of Christ; for he saith no more, Luk 1:2, than,

even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye witnesses, and ministers of the word; by which it seemeth to be hinted to us, that he was no eyewitness, nor minister of the word. To understand by the word in that verse Christ (whom John indeed so calleth, Joh 1:1) seemeth to me too hard, considering the word, in the evangelists, doth ordinarily signify the gospel, and no where Christ but in Joh 1:1,2, &c.

That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed; hat is, by the relation of others. Before I pass this preface, I shall make some observations upon it.

1. That even from the beginning there were some cheats, in reporting matters of fact concerning the church. Whether Luke intended to reflect on them, or not, if we may believe any thing of ecclesiastical history, there were some false Gospels; and before the time of the Gospel there were apocryphal writings relating to the history of the Old Testament. No writings but the Scriptures deserve our faith (otherwise than they agree with them) in things of which they give us an account.

2. In Luke's time the history of the Gospel was most surely believed, as being delivered from eyewitnesses.

3. Men ought to have perfect understanding of matters of fact before they write them. Whoso writes a history upon uncertainty, imposes upon all future ages.

4. A knowledge of certainties is what all good men ought to aim at in writing and reading. It is a mean soul that can feed upon an uncertainty, and they are as mean that spend their time in catering such food for reasonable souls. Men's understandings are given them for nobler uses than to gain the notion of a falsehood, and they are low born souls that can spend their precious hours in such cookery let the sauce with which they serve it up be never so artificial.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand,.... From hence, to the end of Luke 1:4 is a preface of the evangelist to his Gospel, setting forth the reasons of his writing it; and which he wrote and sent to the excellent Theophilus, for the further confirmation of him in the faith of Christ. It seems that many had took in hand, or attempteo set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us; that is, they undertook to write and publish a very particular and exact narrative of the birth, life, actions, doctrines, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ; things which Luke, and other Christians, had the fullest and strongest evidence, and were confidently assured of, and most firmly believed, even with a full assurance of faith. By these many, he cannot mean the authentic historians of evangelical facts, as Matthew and Mark; for they two cannot, with any propriety, be called many; and besides, it is not so very clear and certain a point, that they had, as yet, wrote their Gospels; nor would this evangelist suggest any deficiency, weakness, and inaccuracy in them, as he seems to do: nor does he intend such spurious writers as the authors of the Gospels according to the Nazarenes, Hebrews, and Egyptians; of Nicodemus, Thomas, Matthias, and of the twelve apostles; and still less, the Gospels of Cerinthus, Basilides, and other heretics; since these would not have passed without a censure from him, for the falsehood, fabulous, and trifling stuff in them, as well as for the wicked and heretical opinions propagated by them; and besides, these pieces were not extant when this Gospel was written: but he seems to design some honest and well meaning Christians, who undertook to write, and did write an account of the above things, which were firmly believed by all; and which they took from the apostles, and first ministers of the Gospel, from their sermons and discourses, and from conversation with them; and which they committed to writing, partly to help their own memories, and partly for the benefit of others; in which, no doubt, they acted an upright part, though attended with weakness: wherefore, the evangelist does not censure them as false, wicked, and heretical, nor approve of them as divine and perfect for though they honestly meant, and designed well, yet there might be many things collected by them, which were impertinent, and not proper to be transmitted to posterity; and what might be wrote with great inaccuracy and deficiency, and in a style the Holy Ghost thought improper things of this kind should be delivered in: and therefore the evangelist, moved and inspired by the Spirit of God, set about the following work, and under the same influence completed it. The phrase, , "to set forth in order a declaration", is as Dr. Lightfoot observes, out of the Talmud (h), agreeably to the Jewish way of speaking,

"R. Chasdai said to one of the Rabbins, who was , "setting in order a declaration" before him. &c. or relating in order a story before him.

(h) T. Bab. Succa, fol. 53. 1.

Forasmuch as {1} many have {a} taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

(1) Luke commends the witnesses that saw this present account.

(a) Many took it in hand, but did not perform: Luke wrote his gospel before Matthew and Mark.

Luke 1:1.[13] Ἐπειδήπερ] Quoniam quidem, since indeed, not found elsewhere in the N. T., nor in the LXX., or the Apocrypha; frequent in classical writers, see Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 342 f. Observe that ἐπειδή denotes the fact, assumed as known, in such a way “ut quae inde evenerint et secuta sint, nunc adhuc durent,” Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 640.

πολλοί] Christian writers, whose works for the most part are not preserved.[14] The apocryphal Gospels still extant are of a later date; Mark, however, is in any case meant to be included. The Gospel of Matthew too, in its present form which was then already in existence, cannot have remained unknown to Luke; and in using the word πολλοί he must have thought of it with others (see Introd. § 2), although not as an apostolic writing, because the πολλοί are distinct from the eye-witnesses, Luke 1:2. The apostolic collection of Logia was no διήγησις περὶ τῶν κ.τ.λ., and its author, as an apostle, belonged not to the πολλοί, but to the ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς αὐτόπται. But the Gospel to the Hebrews, if and so far as it had then already assumed shape, belonged to the attempts of the πολλοί.

ἐπεχείρησαν] have undertaken, said under a sense of the loftiness and difficulty of the task, Acts 19:13. In the N. T. only used in Luke; frequently in the classical writers. Comp. also Ulpian, p. 159 (in Valckenaer): ἐπειδήπερ περὶ τούτου πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν ἀπολογήσασθαι. Neither in the word in itself, nor by comparing it with what Luke, Luke 1:3, says of his own work, is there to be found, with Köstlin, Ebrard, Lekebusch, and older writers, any indication of insufficiency in those endeavours in general, which Origen,[15] Ambrosius, Theophylact, Calovius, and various others even referred to their contrast with the inspired Gospels. But for his special purpose he judged none of those preliminary works as sufficient.

διήγησιν] a narrative; see especially, Plato, Rep. iii. p. 392 D; Arist. Rhet. iii. 16; 2Ma 2:32. Observe the singular. Of the πολλοί each one attempted a narrative περὶ τῶν κ.τ.λ., thus comprising the evangelic whole. Loose leaves or detached essays (Ebrard) Luke does not mention.

ἀνατάξασθαι] to set up according to order, Plut. Moral. p. 968 C, εὐτρεπίσασθαι, Hesychius. Neither διήγησ. nor ἀνατάσσ. occurs elsewhere in the N. T.

περὶ τῶν πεπληροφορ. ἐν ἡμῖν πραγμ.] of the facts that have attained to full conviction among us (Christians). πληροφορεῖν, to bring to full conviction, may be associated also with an accusative of the thing, which is brought to full acknowledgment (2 Timothy 4:5); hence in a passive sense: πληροφορεῖταί τι, something attains to full belief (2 Timothy 4:17), it is brought to full conviction (πληροφορία πίστεως, Hebrews 10:22) among others. So here (it is otherwise where πληροφορεῖσθαι is said of a person, as Romans 4:21; Romans 14:5; Colossians 4:12; Ignat. ad Magnes. viii. 10; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Phot. Bibl. p. 41, 29). Rightly so taken by the Fathers (Theophylact: οὐ γὰρ ἁπλῶς κατὰ ψιλὴν παράδοσιν εἰσὶ τὰ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἀλλʼ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ πίστει βεβαίᾳ καὶ μετὰ πάσης πληροφορίας), Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Grotius, Valckenaer, and many others, including Olshausen and Ewald. The explanation: “quae in nobis completae sunt” (Vulgate), which have fully happened, run their course among us (Luther, Hammond, Paulus, de Wette, Ebrard, Köstlin, Bleek, and others), is opposed to usage, as πληροφορεῖν is never, even in 2 Timothy 4:5, equivalent to πληροῦν, and therefore it cannot be conceived as applying, either, with Schneckenburger (comp. Lekebusch, p. 30), to the fulfilment of God’s counsel and promise through the life of the Messiah, which besides would be entirely imported; or, with Baur, to the idea of Christianity realized as regards its full contents, under which the Pauline Christianity was essentially included.

[13] According to Baur and others, this preface, vv. 1–4, was only added by the last hand that manipulated our Gospel, after the middle of the second century. Thus, the Gospel would bear on the face of it untruth in concreto. Ewald aptly observes, Jahrb. II. p. 182 f., of this preamble, that in its homely simplicity, modesty, and brevity, it may be called the model of a preface to an historical work. See on the prologue, Holtzmann, p. 243 ff. Aberle in the Tüb. Quartalschr. 1863, 1, p. 84 ff., in a peculiar but untenable way makes use of this prologue as proof for the allegation that our Gospel was occasioned by the accusation of Paul (and of the whole Christian body) in Rome; holding that the prologue must therefore have been composed with the intention of its being interpreted in more senses than one. See, on the other hand, Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschr. 1864, p. 443 ff. The whole hypothesis falls to the ground at once before the fact that Luke did not write till after the destruction of Jerusalem.

[14] There is not the remotest ground for thinking of non-Christian books written in hostility to Christianity (Aberle in the theol. Quart. 1855, p. 173 ff.).

[15] In Jerome: “Matthaeus quippe et Marcus et Johannes et Lucas non sunt conati scribere, sed scripserunt.” Comp. Euthymius Zigabenus.

Luke 1:1-4. The preface.

1. many] Whether the Gospels of St Matthew and St Mark had been written when St Luke’s appeared is a question which cannot be answered with certainty; but it is certain that he does not here allude to those Gospels, and that he did not make any use of them (see Introd. p. 9).

These many attempts to narrate the earthly life of the Saviour were probably those collections of traditional memorials, parables and miracles (logia, diegçseis), of which all that was most valuable was incorporated in our four Gospels. Setting aside the Apocryphal Gospels, which are for the most part worthless and even pernicious forgeries, Christian tradition has not preserved for us one trustworthy event of the Life of Christ, and barely a dozen sayings (agrapha dogmata like that preserved by St Paul in Acts 20:35) which are not found in the Gospels.

have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration] Literally, attempted to draw up a narrative. A remarkable parallel to this passage is found in Josephus (Contra Ap. i. 10); but no censure is here expressed. The word ‘attempted’ shews indeed that these endeavours were not wholly successful, and the use of the aorist implies that they had already failed. (Acts 19:13.) “Conati sunt qui implere nequiverunt,” Aug. The works to which St Luke alludes were fragmentary and ill-arranged but not necessarily misleading. Origen (Hom. in Luc.) is hardly justified in supposing that the authors are rebuked for temerity, and Dr McClellan goes much too far in calling them “false Evangelists.”

of those things which are most surely believed among us] Others render it ‘which have been fulfilled,’ ‘have found their accomplishment;’ but the analogous uses of the same Greek verb in Romans 4:21; Romans 14:5, and 2 Timothy 4:17, and especially of the substantive plerophoria in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, Hebrews 6:11, support the English version. The expression is most important as shewing that whatever might be the defects of the narratives there was no hesitation about the facts. (Bp Marsh, p. 364.) “The work of these unknown first Evangelists was new only in form and not in substance.” Westcott, Introd. p. 174.

Ch. Luke 1:1-4. Introduction

Forasmuch as] This brief preface is in several respects most interesting and important.

i. It is the only personal introduction to any historic book in the Bible except the Acts. It is specially valuable here as authenticating the first two chapters and shewing that Marcion’s excision of them was only due to his desire to suppress the true humanity of Christ, as his other mutilations of the Gospel—(which made it “like a garment eaten by moths,” Epiphan.)—were due to hostility to the Old Testament. See Mill’s Mythical Interpretation, p. 103.

ii. The style in which it is written is purer and more polished than that of the rest of the Gospel, though it is “the most literary of the Gospels.” It was the custom of antiquity to give special elaboration to the opening clauses of a great work, as we see in the Histories of Thucydides, Livy, &c. In the rest of the Gospel the style of the Evangelist is often largely modified by the documents of which he made such diligent use.

iii. It shews us in the simplest and most striking manner that the Divine Inspiration was in no way intended to supersede the exercise of human diligence and judgment.

iv. It proves how “many” early attempts to narrate the Life of Christ have perished. We may well suppose that they have only perished because the Four Evangelists were guided by “a grace of superintendency” to select and to record all that was most needful for us to know, and to preserve everything which was accurate and essential in the narratives (διηγήσεις) which had previously been published.

v. It furnishes us on the very threshold with a key to the aims of the Evangelist in the more systematic and comprehensive history which he is now led to write. With a modesty, which is also evinced by his self-suppression in the Acts of the Apostles, he here lays claim to nothing beyond methodical order and diligent research.

vi. We see at once from this preface the association of thought and expression between St Luke and his great Teacher. Several of the most marked words, ‘attempted,’ ‘most surely believed,’ ‘orally instructed,’ ‘certainty,’ are only found elsewhere in the letters and speeches of St Paul.

Luke 1:1. Ἐπειδήπερ, Forasmuch as) A brief dedication applying to both the works of Luke:[1] it may be also termed the Preface or Introduction, and from it there shine forth pre-eminently gravity, simplicity, and candour.—πολλοὶ ἐπεχείρησαν many have taken in hand) Luke does not hereby denote Matthew and John, who had been among the very eye-witnesses of the facts and ministers of the word; not to say that Luke both wrote before John, and does not seem to have seen the Gospel of Matthew. There remains the one evangelist Mark alone; but Luke speaks of many, and employs the word ἐπεχείρησαν, have taken in hand, in a middle sense [i.e. neither expressing disparagement nor praise]; and consonant with this is the particle καθὼς, even as, which implies a consonance with the relation [report] of the eye-witnesses and ministers either sought after or attained by the writers alluded to: also the expression κἀμοὶ, to me also, agrees with the same view; for by it Luke does not so much oppose himself to those many writers, but rather adds himself to their number, as one of the same class, in such a manner, however, as that he may contribute somewhat even still to the ἀσφάλεια and firm assurance of Theophilus. He therefore intimates, if only he has had reference [not merely to others, but] also to Mark [which indeed, if you compare together the forms of expression and the order of narratives in each, is not very unlikely.—Harm., p. 36], that several particulars, not mentioned in Mark, are read to his hand for recording; but that the other writers, as, for instance, he who wrote the Gospel according to the Egyptians, are less calculated to serve towards producing ἀσφάλεια and firm assurance.—ἀνατάξασθαι, to set forth in order) in writing or instructive [catechetico, referring to κατηχήθης, Luke 1:4] words. Hesychius says, ἀνατάξασθαι, εὐτρεπίσασθαι.—τῶν πεπληροφορημένων) πληροφορία, when it is attributed to a man, denotes the fulness of knowledge in the understanding, or of eager desire in the will: 2 Timothy 4:17; Hebrews 6:11, note. Such vigour characterized τὰ πράγματα, the Christian facts, which Luke describes in both his works, whilst they were occurring [were being accomplished]: and these alone had this characteristic; for which reason this periphrasis whereby he designates the same facts is quite sufficient. It was in the sight of the world that the Gospel facts occurred: Acts 26:26.—ἐν ἡμῖν, among us) in the Church, but especially among the teachers, and these veterans.

[1] The names Lucius and Lucas are the same; except that the former, being a diminutive of the latter, has somewhat of a more familiar sound. Mention is made as early as in Acts 13:1 of a Lucius of Cyrene among the prophets and teachers of the Church, which at that time flourished at Antioch; and therefore it must have been but a short time after the death which befel Herod (ch. Luke 12:23), A. Dion. Era, 44. It is owing to this, I am inclined to think, that Eusebius and others have considered Antioch as the native place of Luke. Furthermore, Paul makes mention of a certain Lucius among his ‘kinsmen,’ Romans 16:21, and calls Luke [Lucas] his fellow-workman and the beloved Physician, Philemon 1:24; Colossians 4:14. Now, whether he be only Luke [Lucas], or also Lucius, he is the very person who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, having accompanied Paul himself from the Troad, first to Philippi (Acts 16:10), next from Philippi to Troas, nay, even as far as to Rome (ch Acts 20:6, Acts 28:16; 2 Timothy 4:11): and it is owing to this that he most frequently uses the first person plural in his narrative. Moreover the lively [vigorous] style of Luke, which is particularly appropriate to the very joyful subject of the Acts, comprising, as they do, in their history the completion [carrying into effect] of the New Testament, seems to have derived some of its characteristics from the association of many years, which Luke maintained [enjoyed] with Paul.—Harm., pp. 35, 36. Lucas seems to me to be the contraction of Lucanus, as Silas from Silvanus, and to be altogether a distinct name from Lucius.—ED. and TRANSL.

Verse 1. - Forasmuch as many have taken in hand. The Greek in which St. Luke's Gospel is written is generally pure and classical, but the language of the little introduction (verse 1-4) is especially studied and polished, and contrasts singularly with the Hebrew character of the story of the nativity, which immediately follows. St, Luke here, in this studied introduction, follows the example of many of the great classical writers, Latin as well as Greek. Thucydides, Herodotus, Livy, for instance, paid special attention to the opening sentences of their histories. The many early efforts to produce a connected history of the life and work of the great Master Christ are not, as some have supposed, alluded to here with anything like censure, but are simply referred to as being incomplete, as written without order or arrangement. They most probably formed the basis of much of St. Luke's own Gospel. These primitive Gospels quickly disappeared from sight, as they evidently contained nothing more than what was embodied in the fuller and more systematic narratives of the "four." Of those things which are most surely believed among us. There was evidently no questioning in the Church of the first days about the truth of the story of the teaching and the mighty works of Jesus of Nazareth. It was the incompleteness of these first evangelists, rather than their inaccuracy, which induced St. Luke to take in hand a new Gospel. Luke 1:1Forasmuch as (ἐπειδὴπερ)

Only here in New Testament. A compound conjunction: ἐπεί, since, δή, as is well known, and περ, giving the sense of certainty.

Have taken in hand (ἐπεχείρησαν)

Used by Luke only. A literal translation. The word carries the sense of a difficult undertaking (see Acts 19:13), and implies that previous attempts have not been successful. It occurs frequently in medical language. Hippocrates begins one of his medical treatises very much as Luke begins his gospel. "As many as have taken in hand (ἐπεχείρησαν) to speak or to write concerning the healing art."

To set forth in order (ἀνατάξασθαι)

Only here in New Testament. The A. V. is true to the core of the word, which is τάσσω, to put in order, or arrange. Rev. happily gives the force of the preposition ἀνὰ, up, by the rendering draw up.

A declaration (διήγησιν)

Only here in New Testament. From διά, through, and ἡγέομαι, to lead the way. Hence something which leads the reader through the mass of facts: a narrative, as A. V., with the accompanying idea of thoroughness. Note the singular number. Many took in hand to draw up, not narratives, but a narrative, embracing the whole of the evangelic matter. The word was particularly applied to a medical treatise. Galen applies it at least seventy-three times to the writings of Hippocrates.

Which are most surely believed (τῶν πεπληροφορημένων)

From πλήρης, full, and φορέω, the frequentative form of φέρω, to bring, meaning to bring frequently or habitually. Hence, to bring full measure; to fulfil. Compare 2 Timothy 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:17. Also of full assurance. Applied to persons. Romans 4:21; Hebrews 10:22. As applied to things, therefore, the sense of the A. V. is inadmissible. Render as Rev., have been fulfilled. The word is chosen to indicate that these events happened in accordance with a preconceived design. Wyc., been filled in us.

Among us

Explained by the words in the next sentence, who were eye-witnesses and ministers.

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