Were the Gospel Writers Eyewitnesses? Luke

This post is part of an ongoing series examining whether or not the writers of the canonical gospels were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.

Gospel of LukeIt should be noted that Luke’s gospel immediately indicates that the author is likely NOT an eyewitness of the events that are recorded afterward. The introduction to the account reads, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 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, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”[1] Luke assures Theophilus that while he himself is not an eyewitness of the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, he has done his research as a historian to demonstrate the veracity of the story that he is telling.

It should further be noted that no such preface is included in Acts, where we eventually see Luke employ firsthand knowledge of some events and persons. Thus, claims  that Luke was not an eyewitness at face value are accurate—Luke himself testifies that he was not an eyewitness to the gospel events. However, as indicated earlier, the underlying purposes in making claims about “eyewitness accounts” ultimately points to deeper motivations to discredit the historical veracity of the gospel accounts. Unfortunately for such perspectives, the historical viability and reliability of the Lucan accounts remains one of the best attested records of the New Testament, as numerous archeological finds and other historical datum continue to demonstrate that the Lucan record of events corresponds to reconstructions of Ancient Mediterranean culture and known chronology.[2]


 

[1] Luke 1.1-4, English Standard Version

[2] For more specifics on this, see Ben Witherington III’s History, Literature, and Society in Acts (Cambridge: CUP, 2007).

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