How Did Luke’s Gospel Get Written?

Most Christians I know seem to have one of two ideas in their minds of how the biblical Gospels were composed.

One idea is that the Holy Spirit gave them the words or inspiration and they wrote it down. This view gives us sort of a picture of someone sitting alone in a quiet space and God mystically telling them what to write down.

The second idea is that the gospels are the varied recollections of different disciples who walked with Jesus. They each recall things just a bit differently, as any of us would in remembering the same events from some years ago.

The interesting thing with Luke’s Gospel is that he actually tells us how he wrote it!

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you.”

Luke 1:1-3

Luke is not recalling his experience witnessing Jesus’ ministry. He was not one of the disciples. He isn’t on any of the lists. He was not there (although interestingly, he likely was around for some of Paul’s journeys).

What Luke does is investigate. He’s not an eyewitness, but he’s able to research eyewitness material and likely interview eyewitnesses himself.

Luke wanted to be thorough and faithful. So he does careful investigation of everything from the beginning (probably with Mary) and put it together into a cohesive picture of the life and teaching of Jesus, “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:4

Luke’s description of his work also means that the idea of him sitting in a room hearing the words from the Holy Spirit isn’t an accurate picture.

He did the work.

This doesn’t mean that the Spirit wasn’t involved in Luke’s work! I think God had a very significant investment in what Luke was up to in preserving a reliable ongoing written witness of Jesus.

Things that Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit seem relevant here:

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” John 16:13

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

There is a lot of be said about the reliability of the biblical Gospel accounts, but we we need to move beyond simple answers if we are going to be diligent students of the Scriptures and represent our faith well.

What about you? Did you tend to hold to one of the two views I mentioned at the beginning?

What questions do you have about the writing of Luke’s Gospel in particular?


Author: Dan Masshardt

Husband, Father, Pastor...

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