For an introduction to this series, click here.
Feb. 10, 2007
Luke is an interesting writer. He is by far the most detail-oriented of the Gospel writers. Unlike the other Gospel writers, Luke was not an eyewitness to the life of Christ, as least as far as we know. Luke is a Greek name. It is possible that he was a slave assigned by Paul's parents to watch over him while he was learning in the rabbinical shools; more likely he was a convert of Paul's who noted his physical infirmities and made himself Paul's servant-doctor.
Luke probably wrote this Gospel during the two years when Paul was in prison. There is a gap of nearly two years in the book of Acts (also written by Luke) after Paul appears before Felix and when he appears before Agrippa.
Apparently during this time, Luke spoke with many people who knew Jesus, including Mary. How else would he have been able to record the Magnificat, the psalm of praise spoken by Mary after she visited Elizatbeth, not to mention the details of Mary's visit? Luke also records at Jesus' birth that "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." (2:19, ESV) And who else would have known the story of Jesus going to the Temple at the age of 12 but Mary?
Luke also includes a genealogy of Jesus, which means he probably investigated the family records, either held by Mary or someone else in the family, perhaps James, Jesus' half-brother. A lot of writers note that Luke mentions women prominently in his Gospel. All this means is that he probably interviewed several women about their recollections of Jesus.
He probably also consulted the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, since most commentators agree that Luke was written after those two, and that there are many similarities. Luke is very descriptive, giving detailed accounts of the parables and other events in Jesus' life. There are several stories exclusive to Luke, including one of my favorite stories in the Bible, the disciples who talked to the resurrected Lord on the road to Emmaus. This means that Luke did more than copy Matthew and Mark, which is what many skeptics would like you to believe.
Of course none of this denies the power of the Holy Spirit in inspiration. A lot of people don't understand inspiration, and Luke's Gospel is a good example of what inspiration really means. There was not a mystical voice that told Luke everything he needed to write, nor did he go into some kind of a trance in which he magically wrote everything. Luke had to work hard to gather all of his information, and then he had to put it together into a cohesive whole. But when Luke sat down to write out the final copy, the Lord made sure that everything Luke wrote was exactly the truth and exactly what the world down through the centuries would need to know about Jesus.