Is your guide rope taught? Flashlight shining brightly enough? I hope so, because in our study today we’re entering the first of a few vast caverns as we creep along beneath the surface of Luke’s prologue. In fact, now that we’re here let me ask: Who wrote the Gospel of Luke? On the surface of it this question would certainly appear to be an absurd one. However, the author of the Gospel of Luke famously does not give his name in his Gospel or in the book of Acts.
“Acts?!” Some of you might say.
Indeed, if you turn to Acts 1:1 you will quickly notice something very interesting. The author of Acts begins by saying “The first account I composed, Theophilus…” Which tells us a couple of things. First it tells us that the book of Acts is a sequel to this “first account.” Now what other account, and you can examine the entire New Testament or even writings of antiquity outside of Scripture, is addressed to a person named Theophilus? I’ll save you some time (although by all means verify!) and tell you now that the Gospel of Luke stands alone in this respect. Both works are addressed to Theophilus, and Acts 1:1 demonstrates that these two books are to be read as a unity, Book 1 and then Book 2.
Since this is the case, how then do we know these books were written by Luke? Does it matter?
In asking this it would appear as though our underground excursion has become more than a mere tour. We have a full blown investigation on our hands. An authorial who-done-it as it were. Thus we must play the part of detectives for the rest of our time here today. And like any good detective this will require us to
The set of evidence we have to look at is what theologians would call “internal evidence.” This is evidence from the Bible itself that leads us to conclude that Luke is the author of Luke-Acts. For example, the book of Acts has a number of passages where the author recounts events using the phrase “we.” “We did this” and “We went here” which gives us our first big clue. The person who wrote these books was present and accompanied Paul in these portions of his journeys. To add to this, wouldn’t you agree that we could also deduce from this evidence that our author would not refer to himself in the third person? In other words, if John Mark wrote these books he would not refer to himself as John Mark in Acts 12 and 15 for example. This really helps narrow down our list of inspired suspects. At this point our time together is running short and we are not able to investigate every detail here, and so I must make some bold claims. Once again, I commend to you a personal, in-depth study to verify what I’m saying, but if you will grant me to say this now, when this analysis of those who were close companions of Paul is completed, we are left with four: Luke, Epaphras, Titus, and Demas. And if we take into account the testimony of Paul in his second letter to Timothy we can once again narrow the list down, for, tragically, Demas abandoned Paul and the gospel, disqualifying him from being the inspired author of the Gospel of Luke.
At last we are down to just three candidates: Luke, Epaphras, and Titus. With no translucent answer to this, perhaps at this point it would be wise to create a behavioral profile of our author for the writer of Luke-Acts has some very unique traits. He displays an intelligent and intimate familiarity with Greco-Roman culture and thought (see Acts 17 and Luke 1 for example). Also, far beyond any other Gospel writer, when healings occur there is a distinct interest in not only the miracle taking place but also of the manner in which those who had been healed were medically affected (see Acts 3:7, Luke 13:11-13 for example). What this means then is that the author of these books would have been highly educated and, most likely, that education would have involved some kind of medical training. For our investigation, this description matches only one of our three candidates, and that is Luke (Colossians 4:14). Couple this internal evidence with the external evidence of the testimony of the early church and we will find that the beloved physician, Luke, is our author. And with that the case is closed.
Our underground investigation is solved, but we ought to reflect on something before we leave this fascinating cavern behind: Think about what we have done today. We have conducted a full scale investigation through the text of the New Testament. Think about what a marvelous Book our God has blessed us with. From the most casual reading to the most scrupulous study there are exciting wonders to behold. God’s Word is so satisfyingly consistent, so abundantly good, so exactingly edifying. I pray you will join me today in thanking Him for giving us such a nourishing Testimony as this.