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9. Next in succession, therefore, let us now go over the Gospel of Luke in regular order. We shall omit, however, those passages which he has in common with Matthew and Mark. For all these have been already handled. Luke, then, begins his narrative in the following fashion:
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of these things which have been fulfilled among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto you in order, most excellent Theophilus, that you might know the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed. This beginning does not pertain immediately to the narrative presented in the Gospel. But it suggests to us to be cognizant of the fact, that this same Luke is also the writer of the other book which bears the name of the Acts of the Apostles. Our ground for holding this opinion is not merely the circumstance that the name of Theophilus occurs there as well as here. For it might quite well happen that there was a second person with the name of Theophilus; and even if it was one and the same person that was referred to in both cases, still another composition might have been addressed to him by a different individual, just as the Gospel was written in his benefit by Luke. We base our view of the identity of authorship, however, on the fact that this second book commences in the following strain:
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He, through the Holy Ghost, gave commandment unto the apostles whom He chose to preach the gospel. This statement gives us to understand that, previous to this, he had written one of those four books of the gospel which are held in the loftiest authority in the Church. At the same time, when he tells us that he had composed a treatise of all that Jesus began both to do and teach until the day in which He gave commandment to the apostles, we are not to take this to mean that he actually has given us a full account in his Gospel of all that Jesus did and said when He lived with His apostles on earth. For that would be contrary to what John affirms when he says that there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, the world itself could not contain the books. And besides, it is the admitted fact that not a few things have been narrated by the other evangelists, which Luke himself has not touched upon in his history. The sense therefore is, that he wrote a treatise of all these things, in so far as he made a selection out of the whole mass of materials for his narrative, and introduced those facts which he judged fit and suitable for the satisfactory discharge of the responsible duty laid upon him. Again, when he speaks of many who had
taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which have been fulfilled among us, he seems to refer to certain parties who had not been able to complete the task which they had assumed. Hence he also says that it seemed good to him also to
write carefully in order, forasmuch as many have taken in hand, etc. The allusion here, however, we ought to take to be to those writers who have attained to no authority in the Church, just because they were utterly incompetent rightly to carry out what they took in hand. Moreover, the author at present before us has not confined himself to the task of bringing down his narrative to the events of the Lord's resurrection and assumption; neither has it been his aim simply to have a place commensurate in honour with his labours in the company of the four writers of the Gospel Scriptures. But he has also undertaken a record of what was done subsequently by the hands of the apostles; and relating as many of those events as he believed to be needful and helpful to the edification of the faith of readers or hearers, he has given us a narrative so faithful, that his is the only book that has been reckoned worthy of acceptance in the Church as a history of the Acts of the Apostles; while all these other writers who attempted, although deficient in the trustworthiness which was the first requisite, to compose an account of the doings and sayings of the apostles, have met with rejection. And, further, Mark and Luke certainly wrote at a time when it was quite possible to put them to the test not only by the Church of Christ, but also by the apostles themselves who were still alive in the flesh.
Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602408.htm>.
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