Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.Luke 1:1-4
Faced with a plethora of books, articles, and websites in our modern age, how do we identify reliable sources? Luke’s contemporaries also floundered amid competing narratives of the life of Christ. Aside from the authoritative Gospels of Matthew and Mark which were in circulation, many others had “rashly taken upon themselves to give accounts,” writes Eusebius.1
Luke, Paul’s physician and a close friend of Mary and the disciples, assures Theophilus (“friend of God”) that his account is accurate, orderly, and above all, certain. Indeed, the single complex Greek sentence that is the Prologue ends with the word asphaleia (certainty, security, reliability, firmness, assurance).2
Luke was not an eyewitness, but he enjoyed the intimate friendship of Christ’s apostles and wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Council Fathers of the Church affirmed the authenticity of Luke’s Gospel by including it in the final canon of the New Testament.
Theophilus was probably “a man of some distinction,” writes Theophylact, “for the form, Most excellent, was not used except to rulers and governors. As for example, Paul says to Festus, Most excellent Festus.” (Acts 26:25)3
All who are “friends of God” like Theophilus may receive this Gospel as a “gift” and “pledge” to God’s beloved, St. Bede reflects.4
1 Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas, Luke 1:1-4.
2 This insight was found in the New American Bible (Revised Edition) Reading Guide to Luke (423): “The Prologue consists of a single complex Greek sentence that ends with the word asphaleia, ‘assurance.’ Luke intends the orderly account of the events that constitute the Christian story of salvation to demonstrate the integrity of the Christian message that the church in his day proclaims.”
3 Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas, Luke 1:1-4.