Introduction to Luke-Acts Primacy
Luke-Acts is a two-volume work written by the same author in the first century after both Mark and Matthew and in view of both. It comprises 27% of the New Testament and is the best foundation for understanding first-century Christianity since it provides the most reliable witness of Christ and his Apostles. It is the only New Testament reference that stands alone as providing continuity between the ministry of Christ and the ministry of his Apostles for gaining a sufficiently broad appreciation of the fundamentals of the Gospel message and Christian doctrine. Accordingly, Luke-Acts is the best reference for understanding the belief and practice of the early Church.
The author of Luke-Acts is the first Christian historian and critical scholar who exhibited a high level of integrity and competency in his two-volume work. The author, having followed everything for some time past, endeavored to set the record straight so that believers would have and orderly chronological account for the purpose of having certainty concerning the things taught by Jesus’ disciples and his apostles. Luke-Acts can be demonstrated to have the highest level of historical reliability and accuracy as compared to the other Gospels (See Reliability of Luke-Acts). Based on this and other considerations, Luke-Acts should be our primary reference with respect to the core essentials of the Gospel message (See Considerations for Luke-Acts Primacy).
Luke acknowledges that many had previously attempted to compile a narrative and he felt it necessary to do so in order that believers may know the exact truth about the things they have been taught (Luke 1:4) Bible Scholarship has demonstrated that Luke was written last and had access to Mark and Matthew when composing his narration (see Order of the Gospels).
The author is the only New Testament writer that also wrote the book of the Acts of the Apostles: the historical account of the spread of the early church and what the Apostles preached. The author claims to have traveled with the apostles (Acts 16:11-15). A difficult claim to make if and would be likely be disproved at the time it were not true. The use of language in Luke is more advanced indicating that the author had a technical/medical background. Luke claims to have investigated everything closely from the beginning. And the level of detail he provides substantiates having more specific historical information than Mathew and Mark. Luke is the only Synoptic gospel that is structured like a historical narrative in which everything is in chronological order. Luke-Acts is also the most detailed of the three with respect to historical references and it’s reliability can be strongly defended (See Answering Luke-Acts Objections).
The Prologues of Luke and Acts
Although the Gospel of Luke actually begins in verse five, it is the first four verses that provide us with evidence of its authenticity. While most of the New Testament was written in the common Koine Greek, Luke 1:1-4 was written in the most beautiful, classical Greek found anywhere in the ancient world. The literary style is indicative of only the most sophisticated Greek writers. A philosopher, educator or historian in the ancient world would compose such a prologue when he wanted the work to be given the greatest respect. Prominent Greek and Roman historians did this. In the first four verses of his Gospel, Luke is laying down the express motivation of maintaining the highest level of accuracy. He is warranting that the Gospel is a serious literary and historical volume. He is suggesting that his Gospel should provides a higher level accuracy and reliability above the rest. The motive is to engage the reader not with fable, mythology or fiction. Rater it is to give a orderly account of real people, real events and real places. He wants the reader to know he compiled his Gospel with the highest standard of integrity by providing a facts based historical narrative evidenced by many points of reference that can withstand the scrutiny that others can’t.
Luke’s gospel is addressed to “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3). The name Theophilus can be translated “lover of God.” Many theories have been proposed as to who is being addressed. Many scholars have the view that the Gospel is being addressed to a specific person of high esteem but no one knows for sure. Honorary title (academia) tradition maintains that Theophilus was not a person. The word in Greek means “Friend of God” and thus both Luke and Acts were addressed to anyone who fits that description. In this tradition the author’s targeted audience, as with all other canonical Gospels, were the learned but unnamed believers of the era. In a general sense it would pertain to one of high integrity having affinity toward God. It has been suggested that Theophilus is merely a generic term for all Christians as an endearing name for the author to address the reader. This is the kind of reader who would be principally concerned with an accurate account of the truth, as to have certainty (the highest level of confidence) in the things taught.
Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Acts 1:1-2 (ESV)
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
Basis for Luke-Acts Primacy
The subsequent pages provide the basis for Luke Acts primacy. The first covers the order the gospels were written establishing that Luke was written after both Mark and Matthew and the author wrote with Matthew as a reference and made corrections over Matthew and Mark in many respects. Corrections By Luke over Matthew and Mark are documented in detail in later sections. The reliability of Luke-Acts page provides additional rationale with articles, videos and Scholarly book references in support of the reliability of Luke-Acts. The page Answering Luke-Acts Objections addresses critical scholarship aimed at Luke and Acts and provides responses to specific objections to particular verses. Additionally. an article is provided covering additional considerations for Luke-Acts.
Issues with John
John, as well as the Johannine epistles, belong to the post-apostolic period (90-150 AD) and are likely a product of the early 2nd century. John cannot be regarded as historically accurate as it exhibits clear inconsistencies with the Synoptic gospels, it’s contested authorship and devised structure. It is not until sometime after 140-170 AD that text from the forth gospel starts to be referenced in the writings of early Christian apologists. The issues of the Fourth Gospel in contrast to the Synoptic gospels are documented. Critical Scholarship with quotes, references, and excerpts are also provided regarding criticism of John.
Issues with Matthew
Issues with Mark
Luke incorporated most of Mark and made corrections and clarifications where necessary. Mark doesn’t exhibit nearly as many issues as John and Matthew. Mark is not a chronological historical account that is intended to be a historiography the way Luke is. During copying and transmission many variants were added to Mark harmonize it with Matthew. Mark was copied less frequently than Matthew and Luke in the first two centuries and there are few Greek manuscripts that attest to the original text. Versions of Mark also have different endings. Scholars use early Latin texts of Mark to get a better indication as to the original reading of Mark. Corrections by Luke over Mark documents instances where Luke made numerous corrects and clarifications with respect to Mark. Critical Scholarship with quotes, references, and excerpts are also provided regarding criticism of Mark