Where Did Luke Get His Understanding?

The first four verses of Luke’s gospel account provide a unique introduction that sets it apart from the other three gospel narratives. Luke’s introduction gives us a rare picture of the first century days when he wrote his account. He explains how the eyewitnesses of the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus have gone out into the world to deliver the news of the Savior (Luke 1:2). In verse two, we can see how Luke includes himself not with the eyewitnesses but with the “us” (the people of the world who were taught the word from eyewitnesses of Jesus). As I mentioned in last week’s article, Luke was a Greek (Colossians 4:10-14) and does not appear until many years down the line in Acts 16:10-12.

Luke explains the response that many believers had after they were taught the gospel by the eyewitnesses. In verse one, he states that many have undertaken the task to “set in order a narrative.” So then, Luke proves that there were many gospel narratives in the first century, some of them may have been uninspired, but it is likely that, with the miraculous gift of knowledge at that time (1 Corinthians 14:6), many of those narratives were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Luke’s statement by no means suggests that the many gospel accounts had fallacies in them, but quite the opposite. Notice how he speaks of these brethren making orderly accounts in verse one, and in verse two he confesses that these orderly accounts were “just as” the eyewitnesses “delivered them to us.” So Luke was not writing his narrative because there was much disorder in many of the gospel narratives, as if he felt compelled to correct the mistakes by his own account. Nor did he write because there was not enough information in circulation at the time. Luke admits that he wrote simply because “it seemed good to me also… to write to you an orderly account” (Luke 1:3).

Something that requires a closer examination within Luke’s introduction is found in verse 3. After Luke tells how “it seemed good” to him to also make an account of Jesus, he then proceeds to give his credentials for making an authoritative account. He states that he had “perfect understanding of all things from the very first.” That is an interesting statement, for we’ve already discussed that Luke was not around “from the very first,” so why would he say he had perfect understanding even of those times? To better understand Luke’s point, let’s define the key words of the statement.

“Perfect” (Greek – akribōs), means accuracy, circumspectly, strictly, precisely, distinctly. So, Luke’s understanding of “all things” concerning Jesus, was an understanding of precise accuracy.

“Understanding” (Greek – parakoloutheo), means “to follow one as to be always at his side; to accompany; to be always present” (Thayer’s Lexicon). What spectacular word usage! Luke’s point is that his narrative is so precise, so accurate, that it is as if he really was standing right next to the Lord through all the events of his life. Such precision could only come from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Even among the original eyewitnesses, such accuracy in their writings can only come with the help of the Spirit (John 14:26)

“From the very first” (Greek – anothen), these four English words are just one Greek word, and its definition will fascinate us. The word has two distinct definitions:

1). From above, from a higher place (of things which come from heaven or God).

2). From the first, from the beginning.

The word occurs 10 times in the Greek New Testament, the majority of which carries the first definition (such as in John 3:31; James 1:17; James 3:15, 17; Matthew 27:51).

If we take the first definition of this word, then Luke is saying that he has received this accurate understanding of all things “from above,” i.e. from God, the inspiration of the Spirit. Such interpretation would be very consistent with the book of Luke and the New Testament text. However, if we take the secondary definition of the word, then Luke is saying that he has precise understanding (the kind that comes only from actually accompanying Jesus) from the very beginning of the life of Jesus. This would also be a fitting interpretation of the word, and in harmony with the book of Luke. This secondary definition is also admitting to Luke inspiration “from above,” because he could only give such a perfect narrative if he had help, and not the human kind.

I hope that this information will give us a deeper understanding of the introductory material in the book of Luke, and a better understanding of the book as a whole.

Article by Tanner Campbell