Here is the Link to today’s reading: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=322156661
This is referred to as the Formal introduction of the Gospel according to Luke. Take a moment, and look at the beginnings of the other gospels, each starts in its own unique way. Matthew with a genealogy, Mark by declaring the beginning of the Good News, and John with some rather mystical poetry, stretching back to the absolute beginning.
The first question that comes up is who is the Theophilus character, we hear about him at the beginning of Acts as well, almost certainly written by the same person who wrote Luke, think of it as volume one and volume two.
Scholars are unsure of who Theophilus is, but there are three primary theories. First is that it is a friend of Luke’s. Second is that Theophilus is a wealthy benefactor, who paid Luke to write this gospel account. This would not have been that uncommon of an occurrence and writers and artists more often than not had patrons, and were not selling enough works on their own to make money. The Third possibility is that Theophilus is not a person at all. The name in Greek means Lover of God, which might be a pet name for his intended audience instead of a single person, since those who would seek out this work (remember most people were illiterate at this time in history, and books were incredibly expensive to produce), that those reading this work would have been highly motivated to track it down and actually read it, certainly a lover of God.
We will never know for sure, but what do you think, who else could this Theophilus be?
Also very important to note here is the reasoning for writing this gospel, indicating that there were clearly already other accounts that existed. Luke states he is concerned with accuracy and the truth. But does that mean that Luke is a more truthful account, or more accurate? Luke must think it is, but how accurate can eye witness accounts be, since scholars regularly agree Luke had not actually met Jesus, and that he was almost certainly not one of the disciples. Luke, when combined with the other gospels, offers us a fuller truth, but not necessarily a more accurate one. Certainly something to think about, what do you think?
Right away Luke attends to attempting to be more accurate, setting us up with a specific time frame (the time of Herod) and the specifics of the first character of the Gospel, Zechariah, telling us exactly what presitly clan he came from, and then introducing us to his wife.
These 20 verses set the groundwork for the birth of John the Baptist (which we will hear more about in the coming days) It is really important to note that in 1st century Palestine, John the Baptist was a far more well known figure that Jesus of Nazareth. This may be why so much of Luke’s gospel is committed to John the Baptist, his nativity story is pretty much just as detailed as Jesus’. Again, we can’t be sure of Luke’s intention, but it seems like he is really trying to pull in fans of John the Baptist, expanding their universe, giving Jesus some legitimacy by introducing John as a main character. This is common to all the gospels, so clearly John and Jesus were linked, but Luke gives John the Baptist pretty much more time than anyone else.
Theologically a theme is being introduced immediately, the ability of God to do unbelievable things, and that those who were caught up in the gospel narrative, that they were amazed by what was being done, even a priest is in awe of God at work.
- What theological implications do you see in started the Gospel with John the Baptist’s parents.
- How would you start your own gospel account?
- What does the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth tell you about the way God moves in the world?