Luke 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,
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(3) Having had perfect understanding of all things.—Better, having traced (or investigated) all things from their source. The verb used is one which implies following the course of events step by step. The adverb which follows exactly answers to what we call the origines of any great movement. It goes further back than the actual beginning of the movement itself.

In order.—The word implies a distinct aim at chronological arrangement, but it does not necessarily follow, where the order in St. Luke varies from that of the other Gospels, that it is therefore the true order. In such matters the writer, who was avowedly a compiler, might well be at some disadvantage as compared with others.

Most excellent Theophilus.—The adjective is the same as that used of Felix by Tertullus (Acts 24:3), and implies at least high social position, if not official rank. The name, which means “Friend of God,” might well be taken by a Christian convert at his baptism. Nothing more can be known of the person so addressed beyond the fact that he was probably a Gentile convert who had already been partially instructed in the facts of the Gospel history.

Luke 1:3-4. It seemed good to me also — That is, I have judged it to be my duty; Luke, doubtless, was moved by the Holy Ghost to write his history, as he was also to write in the manner he has done; but in both he was moved as a reasonable creature, and not as a machine: having had perfect understanding of all things — Greek, παρηκολουθηκοτι ανωθεν πασιν ακριβως, having accurately traced all things from their first rise: “Luke might have this thorough knowledge by intimate conversation with the apostles, and particularly with Paul, whose companion he was for a long time; or perhaps he was present himself at a number of transactions which he has recorded. The assurance with which he speaks of his own knowledge of these things, leads us to think that he was an eye-witness of some of them. On this supposition, his reasoning in this preface will be more conclusive than on any other, and will stand thus: Seeing many have written from the information of the eye-witnesses and ministers, I, who from the very first have had perfect knowledge of all things, both by conversing with the eye-witnesses, and by being present myself at many of the transactions of Jesus, have thought it incumbent on me to write his history, for the more certain information of mankind.” To write unto thee in order — Greek, καθεξης σοι γραψαι, to write an orderly account to thee. So Dr. Doddridge; who observes, “It is chiefly on the authority of this clause that Le Clerc, and many other modern harmonizers (of the gospels) have thought, as Beza also did, that all the other gospels are to be reduced to the order of Luke wherever they differ from it: a conclusion which I apprehend to be an occasion of many errors, and particularly injurious to the character of Matthew. The foundation of it is very precarious; since it is evident this evangelist might, with great propriety, be said to have given an orderly account of the history of Christ, as the leading facts [such as his conception, birth, childhood, baptism, preaching, miracles, passion, resurrection, ascension] are placed in their due series, though some particulars are transposed.” Most excellent Theophilus — As the word Theophilus signifies lover of God, some have thought it is not a proper name here, but a general title, applicable to every true Christian. But, as Dr. Campbell justly observes, if the evangelist meant to address his discourse to all pious Christians, and had no one individually in view, he would certainly have put his intention beyond all doubt, by using the plural number, and saying, κρατιστοι θεοφιλοι, most excellent lovers of God. Besides, to have addressed all true Christians under the appearance of bespeaking the attention of an individual, does not seem agreeable to the simplicity of style used in the gospel; and must have appeared to the writer himself as what could not fail to be misunderstood by most readers, proper names of such a form as Theophilus, and even this very name, being common in Greek and Latin authors. The word is, therefore, undoubtedly the proper name of a person: and the title, κρατιστε, most excellent, is given him, not to describe his character, although doubtless he was a truly pious and excellent Christian, but on account of his office or rank in civil society, the same title being commonly given to persons in high stations of life; and particularly to the Roman governors. Accordingly Paul uses it in addressing Felix and Festus. This Theophilus, as the ancients inform us, was a person of eminent quality at Alexandria. In Acts 1:1, Luke does not give him this title. He was then probably a private man. The evangelist, by inscribing his two books to him, bestowed on him a fame which will last while Christianity subsists. That thou mightest know — More fully and circumstantially; the certainty — The exact and certain truth; of those things in which thou hast been instructed — Namely, formerly, by those who had been made the instruments of initiating him into the Christian faith. The word κατηχηθης, here used, doth with great accuracy express the instructions given to those who were training up for admission to the Christian Church, whose name of catechumens was, as it is well known, derived from hence, and applied without any particular regard to the age of the persons concerned. Compare Acts 18:25. We are not to suppose that Luke had the edification of Theophilus merely in view, in writing his history; he also doubtless meant it for the instruction of persons of all nations and ages into whose hands it should fall.

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.It seemed good - I thought it best; or, I have also determined. It seemed "to be called for" that there should be a full, authentic, and accurate account of these matters.

Having had perfect understanding ... - The literal translation of the original here would be, "having exactly traced everything from the first;" or, "having, by diligent and careful investigation, "followed up" everything to the "source," to obtain an accurate account of the matter." This much better expresses the idea. Luke did not profess to have seen these things, and this expression is designed to show how he acquired his information. It was by "tracing up" every account until he became satisfied of its truth. Here observe,

1. That in religion God does not set aside our natural faculties. He calls us to look at evidence; to examine accounts; to make up our own minds. Nor will any man be convinced of the truth of religion who does "not" make investigation and set himself seriously to the task.

2. We see the nature of Luke's inspiration. It was consistent with his using his natural faculties or his own powers of mind in investigating the truth. God, by His Holy Spirit, presided over his faculties, directed them, and kept him from error.

In order - This word does not indicate that the exact order of time would be observed, for that is not the way in which he writes; but it means distinctly, particularly, in opposition to the confused and broken accounts to which he had referred before.

Most excellent Theophilus - The word Theophilus means "a friend of God," or a pious man; and it has been supposed by some that Luke did not refer to any particular "individual," but to any man that loved God; but there is no reason for this opinion. Significant names were very common, and there is no good reason to doubt that this was some individual known to Luke. The application of the title "most excellent "proves it further. It would not be given to an unknown man. The title "most excellent" has by some been supposed to be given to express his "character," but it is rather to be considered as denoting rank or office. It occurs only in three other places in the New Testament, and is there given to men "in office" - to Felix and Festus, Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25. These titles express no quality of the "men," but belong to the "office;" and we may hence learn that it is not improper for Christians, in giving honor to whom honor is due, to address men in office by their customary titles, even if their moral character be altogether unworthy of it. Who "Theophilus" was is unknown. It is probable that he was some distinguished Roman or Greek who had been converted, who was a friend of Luke, and who had requested an account of these things. It is possible that this preface might have been sent to him as a private letter with the gospel, and Theophilus chose to have them published together.

3. from the very first—that is, from the very earliest events; referring to those precious details of the birth and early life, not only of our Lord, but of His forerunner, which we owe to Luke alone.

in order—or "consecutively"—in contrast, probably, with the disjointed productions to which he had referred. But this must not be pressed too far; for, on comparing it with the other Gospels, we see that in some particulars the strict chronological order is not observed in this Gospel.

most excellent—or "most noble"—a title of rank applied by this same writer twice to Felix and once to Festus (Ac 22:26; 24:3; 26:25). It is likely, therefore, that "Theophilus" was chief magistrate of some city in Greece or Asia Minor [Webster and Wilkinson].

See Poole on "Luke 1:1"

It seemed good to me also,.... Being moved to it by the Holy Ghost; for he did not undertake this work of himself, merely by the motion of his own will, but was influenced, and directed to it by the Spirit of God, as well as by him assisted in it:

having had perfect understanding of all things; relating to the subject of this Gospel, concerning the conception, birth, ministry, baptism, and death of John the Baptist; concerning the conception, birth, private and public life of Christ, together with his sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension. The Syriac and Persic versions refer the word "all" to persons, to the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word; rendering the clause thus, "who have been studiously near to them all": and both senses may be taken in, and the meaning be, that Luke had diligently sought after, and had attained unto a perfect knowledge of all the affairs of Christ; having studiously got into the company of, and intimately conversed with all, or as many as he could, who had seen Christ in the flesh; and were, from the very first of his ministry, attendants on him, that he might have the most certain and exquisite account of things, that could be come at:

from the very first; and to the last; from the conception of John, the forerunner of the Messiah, which is higher than any other evangelist goes, to the ascension of Christ; though some choose to render the word here used, "from above", as it may be, and sometimes is; and may signify, that the evangelist had his perfect knowledge of things by a revelation from above, by divine inspiration; and this moved him to write, and which he mentions, that Theophilus, to whom he writes, and every other reader, may depend, with certainty, on what is said in it. This clause is omitted in the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, but is in all copies, and by all means to be retained: this being the case, these reasons prevailed upon him, as he says,

to write unto thee, in order, most excellent Theophilus; which regards not so much the order of time, which he does not always strictly observe, as the particulars of things, related in order, and with great exactness: who this Theophilus was, to whom he writes his Gospel, cannot be said; by his title, which is such as was given to governors of provinces, as to Felix and Festus, Acts 23:26, he seems to be, or to have been, a civil magistrate in some high office; for though not many rich, and mighty, yet some have been, and are, called by grace. Theophylact (k) says, he was of the order of the senators, and perhaps a nobleman, or prince: however, this name was not a general name, for every "lover of God", as the word signifies, as Salvian (l) thought; but the name of a particular man, who believed in Christ, and was an acquaintance of Luke's; though Epiphanius (m) makes a doubt of it which it should be,

(k) Ut supra. (Epiphan. contra Haeres. l. 2. Haeres. 51. Theophylact. in Argument in Luc.) (l) Salonio Epiat. p. 237. (m) Ut supra. ((m))

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things {c} from the very first, to write unto thee in order, {d} most excellent Theophilus,

(c) Luke began his gospel a great deal further in the past than the others did.

(d) It is most mighty, and therefore Theophilus was a very honourable man, and in a place of great dignity.

Luke 1:3. Apodosis, which did not begin already in Luke 1:2.

ἔδοξε κἀμοί] in itself neither excludes nor includes inspiration. Vss. add to it: et Spiritui sancto. By the use of κἀμοί Luke places himself in the same category with the πολλοί, in so far as he, too, had not been an eye-witness; “sic tamen ut etiamnum aliquid ad ἀσφάλειαν ac firmitudinem Theophilo conferat,” Bengel.—.παρηκολουθ.] after having from the outset followed everything with accuracy. Παρακολ., of the mental tracing, investigating, whereby one arrives at a knowledge of the matter. See the examples in Valckenaer, Schol. p. 12; Dissen, ad Dem. de Cor. p. 344 f. Comp., moreover, Thucyd. i. 22. 2 : ὅσον δυνατὸν ἀκριβείᾳ περὶ ἑκάστου ἐπεξελθών.

πᾶσιν] namely, those πράγμασι, not masculine (Syr.).

ἄνωθεν] not: radicitus, fundamentally (Grotius), which is comprised in ἀκριβ., but: from the first, see on John 3:3. From the beginning of the history it is seen that in his investigation he started from the birth of the Baptist, in doing which, doubtless, he could not but still lack the authentic tradition of Luke 1:2. Nevertheless the consciousness of an advantage over those πολλοί expresses itself in παρηκ. ἄνωθεν.

καθεξῆς] in orderly sequence, not out of the order of time, in which they occurred one after the other.[17] Only Luke has the word in the N. T. (Luke 8:1; Acts 3:24; Acts 11:4; Acts 18:23); it occurs also in Aelian, Plutarch, et al., but the older classical writers have ἐφεξῆς.

κράτιστε Θεόφιλε] See Introd. § 3. That in Acts 1:1 he is addressed merely Ὦ ΘΕΌΦΙΛΕ, proves nothing against the titular use of ΚΡΆΤΙΣΤΕ. See on the latter, Grotius.

[17] In the case of this καθεξῆς the Harmonists of course make the reservation, that it will be “conditioned at one time more by a chronological interest, at another time more by that of the subject-matter,” Lichtenstein, p. 73. Thus they keep their hand free to lay hold now of the one, now of the other, just as it is held to suit. The assertion, often repeated, in favour of the violences of harmonizers, that in Luke the arrangement by subject-matter even predominates (Ebrard, Lichtenstein), is absolutely incompatible with that καθεξῆς.

Luke 1:3. ἔδοξε κἀμοὶ: modestly introducing the writer’s purpose. He puts himself on a level with the πολλοὶ, and makes no pretensions to superiority, except in so far as coming after them, and more comprehensive inquiries give him naturally an advantage which makes his work not superfluous.—παρηκολουθηκότι ἄν. π.: having followed (in my inquiries) all things from the beginning, i.e., not of the public life of Jesus (ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, Luke 1:2), but of His life in this world. The sequel shows that the starting point was the birth of John. This process of research was probably gone into antecedent to the formation of his plan, and one of the reasons for its adoption (Meyer, also Grimm, Das Proömium des Lukasevangelium in Jahrbücher f. deutsche Theologie, 1871, p. 48. Likewise Calvin: omnibus exacte pervestigatis), not merely undertaken after the plan had been formed (Hahn).—ἀκριβῶς, καθεξῆς σ. γρ. explain how he desired to carry out his plan: he wishes to be exact, and to write in an orderly manner (καθεξῆς here only in N. T., ἐφεξῆς in earlier Greek). Chronological order aimed at (whether successfully or not) according to many (Meyer, Godet, Weiss, Hahn). Schanz maintains that the chronological aim applies only to the great turning points of the history, and not to all details; a very reasonable view. These two adverbs, ἀκρ., καθ., may imply a gentle criticism of the work of predecessors. Observe the historical spirit implied in all Lk. tells about his literary plan and methods: inquiry, accuracy, order, aimed at at least; vouchers desired for all statements. Lk. is no religious romancer, who will invent at will, and say anything that suits his purpose. It is quite compatible with this historic spirit that Lk. should be influenced in his narrations by religious feelings of decorum and reverence, and by regard to the edification of his first readers. That his treatment of materials bearing on the characters of Jesus and the Apostles reveals many traces of such influence will become apparent in the course of the exposition.—κράτιστε Θεόφιλε. The work is to be written for an individual who may perhaps have played the part of patronus libri, and paid the expenses of its production. The epithet κράτιστε may imply high official position (Acts 23:26; Acts 26:25). On this see Grotius. Grimm thinks it expresses only love and friendship.

3. having had perfect understanding] Rather, having accurately traced out or followed up. See the same word in 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 3:10. St Luke modestly puts himself exactly on the same footing as these narrators in not having the primary apostolic qualification, but claims continuous and complete knowledge and careful research.

from the very first] St Luke’s Gospel differed from these narratives in beginning from the birth of John the Baptist, and the Annunciation, whereas they began at the manhood and Public Ministry of Christ, as do St Mark and St John. See Acts 1:22; Luke 16:16, “the Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached.”

in order] A favourite word of St Luke only, Luke 8:1; Acts 11:4; Acts 3:24; Acts 18:23. St Luke’s order is mainly objective, i. e. chronological; St Matthew’s, on the other hand, is much guided by subjective considerations, i. e. by moral sequence and unity of topics.

most excellent] This is the title of official personages of high position, e. g. Felix, Acts 23:26, and Festus, Acts 26:25. Whether it is here used in this technical, or in a more general sense, like the Latin ‘optime,’ it is impossible to say.

Theophilus] A very common name. It means ‘Dear to God,’ but it is unlikely that it is here an ideal name. Absolutely nothing is known of him. Some from the title “most excellent” have conjectured that Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7-12) is meant, to whom they think that the Acts might have naturally been dedicated. But the name seems to shew that a Greek is intended, and St Luke is writing mainly for Greeks (see Introduction, p. 16). A Theophilus, who held some high distinction at Antioch, is mentioned in the Clementine Recognitions; and as St Luke was, not improbably, a proselyte of Antioch, this may be the person for whom he wrote. Others make him a Bishop of Caesarea Philippi.

Luke 1:3. Ἔδοξε κἀμοὶ, it seemed good to me also) A holy inclination, worthy of an evangelical man.—παρηκολουθηκότι, having traced up [followed up: Engl. Vers. having had perfect understanding]) A choice and happy word: it is said of him who has been all but present himself at all the events, and who has learned them from those who were actually present; for instance, Paul uses it of Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:10 [παρηκολούθηκάς μου διδασκαλίᾳ, thou hast fully known my doctrine], as being one whom Paul brought about with him presently after the persecutions, which he endured at Antioch, etc. The antithetic term is ἀπολέλειμμαι, the thing has escaped me, I do not comprehend it. Thus the cause is implied, why Luke regarded it as a fixed thing that he both could and ought to write. He is the person who in Acts 13:1, or at least in Acts 16:10, was already discharging an evangelical function.—ἄνωθεν, from above [tracing upwards]) i.e. “from the beginning,” Luke 1:2; Luke 1:5. [He intimates by this term, that he meant to supply those particulars which Mark has omitted.—Harm., p. 37.] Scripture hands down to us the first commencements [origines] of things, even those of the Gospel and of the Church.—πᾶσιν) τοῖς πράγμασιν. All these matters had been followed up by Luke accurately [ἀκριβῶς].—καθεξῆς, deinceps, successively, subsequently; [in order]) ἐξῆς, afterwards; καθεξῆς, successively (‘deinceps’), subsequently. As Luke had followed up [ascertained] all things, it was the next thing [καθεξῆς] to follow, that he should describe them. And indeed this Preface savours of fresh [recent] joy, such as would be felt at the coming to the knowledge of [joyful] facts. Moreover he describes in order (for καθεξῆς has this force also), first, the Acts of Christ, His Conception, Nativity, boyhood, Baptism, gracious deeds done by Him, preaching, Passion, Resurrection, Ascension: then next the Acts of the apostles. Yet this very fact [viz. his narrating these events in order] does not prevent his at times joining together some events which were separated from one another in point of their respective times: ch. Luke 1:80, Luke 3:20, etc.—κράτιστε Θεόφιλε, most excellent Theophilus) This Theophilus belonged to Alexandria, as the ancients testify (see Ord. Temp., p. 225), Ed. ii., p. 196, and Harm. Ev. Ed. ii., p. 80; and that was a city in which especially flourished κατήχησις, Luke 1:4. He was a most noble man, as the title given him by Luke shows: comp. Acts 28:26; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25. The same title is not given to the same Theophilus in Acts 1:1, either because he was then in private life, or because his excellence and Luke’s intimacy with him had increased. Moreover this title of respect serves as an argument, that the Gospel history is a true one, and allowed itself from the very beginning to be offered for acceptance to the most distinguished personages. The holy examples of illustrious men, described in these books, were calculated to stimulate Theophilus to imitate them.

Verse 3. - Having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first; more accurately rendered, having followed up (or, investigated) step by step all things from their source. St. Luke, without depreciating the accounts of the life and work of Jesus then current in the Church, here sets out his reasons for undertaking a fresh compilation. His Gospel would differ from the early Gospels:

(1) By going back much further than they did. It is doubtful if these primitive Gospels began earlier than with the ministry of John and the baptism of Jesus. St. Mark's Gospel - which, perhaps, represents one of the earliest forms of the apostles' preaching and teaching, - does not go further back than those events. St. Luke gave Theophilus, among other early details, a history of the incarnation and the infancy of the Blessed One.

(2) By presenting the whole story in a consecutive form. Hitherto, apparently, "apostolic tradition probably had a more or less fragmentary character; the apostles not relating every time the whole of the facts, but only those which best answered to the circumstances in which they were preaching. This is expressly said of St. Peter, on the testimony of Papias, or of the old presbyter on whom he relied: Πρὸς τὰς χρείας ἐποιε1FC0;ιτο τὰς διδασκαλίας ('He chose each time the facts appropriate to the needs of his hearers'). Important omissions would easily result from this mode of telling the great story" (Godet). Most excellent Theophilus. The term rendered "most excellent" (κράτιστε) denotes that the friend of Luke for whom nominally his Gospel was written was a man of high rank in the Roman world of that day. Nothing is known of his history. He was most likely, from Luke's connection with Antioch, a noble of that great and wealthy city, and may fairly be taken as a representative of that cultured thoughtful class for whom in a measure St. Luke especially wrote. The title κράτιστε, by which the Theophilus is here addressed, we find several times applied to high Roman officials, such as Felix and Festus (Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25). Luke 1:3Having had perfect understanding (παρηκολουθηκότι)

Incorrect. The verb means to follow closely, and hence to trace accurately. See 2 Timothy 3:10, where Rev. reads thou didst follow for thou hast fully known. Rev. renders here having traced the course. The word occurs frequently in medical writings, and sometimes, as here, with ἀκριβῶς, accurately. Tynd., having searched out diligently.

From the very first (ἄνωθεν)

Lit., from above; the events being conceived in a descending series.

Accurately (ἀκριβῶς)

From ἄκρον, the highest or farthest point. Hence to trace down to the last and minutest detail.

In order (καθεξῆς)

Used by Luke only.

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