Luke’s Good News

The book of Luke, like the three other gospel narratives, should be read with the understanding that the writer had an intention in mind, which was to share the good news of salvation through Christ. Each of the four gospels are vastly distinct from each other as they were written to a unique original reader. This makes perfect sense, as we never communicate the same facts the same way to everybody we share the same information with. In a closer parallel, I can say that I’ve shared the good news of salvation with many people, but never have I communicated the same facts in the same way.

According to Luke 1:3, he wrote his narrative to the “most excellent Theophilus.” Some believe the use of “most excellent” before his name is indicative of Theophilus holding a high office, which is very possible, but not necessarily probable. Others view the name “Theophilus” as a figurative name, for the word literally means “one who loves God,” and so the book was written to those who love the Lord. However, there is nothing in the text to suggest that Luke is trying to be symbolic. I believe Luke wrote this information down to be given originally to a man named “Theophilus.” Who this man was is not nearly as important as what this man was. He was a Greek (as his name suggests), and it is evident that this Greek had no knowledge nor understanding of the Jews, their culture, and the Law of Moses, but he was acquainted already with the gospel of Christ. This makes Luke’s gospel narrative all the more interesting once we understand that he wrote to a true outsider of the world of the Jews and their Messiah. These are the kinds of things that I believe are essential to know every time we turn to the book of Luke, for they are the foundational facts toward a proper understanding of the book.

Let’s consider the scriptural evidence for the alleged statements that I have made so far in this article.

Luke’s original recipient had no understanding of the culture or region of the Jews, nor was he acquainted with the Law of Moses; had he been, then Luke wouldn’t have explained to him which feast was called the Passover (22:1), or specified that Arimathea was a city of the Jews (23:51), or that the village of Emmaus was seven miles from Jerusalem (24:13). A Jew of that day would have been so familiar with these things that he would need no explanation of them.

Further, Luke speaks of common Jewish things and regions but with a Greek label. He speaks of “Calvary” instead of the Jewish “Golgotha,” and the “Lake of Gennesaret” instead of the Jewish term “Sea of Galilee.” He also uses terms like “teacher” instead of “Rabbi,” and “Lawyer” instead of “Scribe.” Putting everything together, it points to one unmistakable conclusion, that Luke wrote to a Greek named “Theophilus” who was an outsider away from the happenings of the Jewish world and the promised coming of a Savior. Prior to Luke’s narration of the gospel of Christ, Theophilus had already been “instructed” in the gospel (1:4), but we will examine what that means in another article.

It is also interesting to look at the other side of this book, considering not the recipient but the writer. Luke is well known as a fellow laborer of Paul (Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:11), which suggests that he had a miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit in either prophecy, knowledge, or understanding. He appears for the first time in the biblical record at Troas where he begins to travel with Paul (Acts 16:10-12). The suggestion from Luke 1:1-4 is that Luke was not around early on, nor was he an eyewitness of Jesus, making him an “outsider” too, just like his recipient. Also, in resemblance to the one he wrote to, Luke was a Greek, we know this assuredly by Paul including Luke in a list of non-Jewish men who labored with him (Colossians 4:10-14).

Altogether, what we have before us in the book of Luke is a writer outside of the Jewish world and culture, writing to another outsider who is unacquainted with the Jewish ways. But the message is salvation through the Messiah. Knowing these points ahead of reading the book of Luke aids in a richer understanding of the distinct message being communicated.

Article by Tanner Campbell