SOME FURTHER DETAILS CONCERNING LUKE
THE FOUR CHARACTERISTICS WHICH LUKE CLAIMS FOR HIS BOOK:
He has, he says, from the beginning investigated everything accurately and written an orderly account.
(a) ἀνωθεν, "from the beginning", indicates that in his investigation he has traced back to the earliest happenings connected with the coming of Jesus. Thus we see that in his Gospel he commences prior to the birth of John. What Luke says here connects up with his earlier comment and suggests that "investigating everything accurately from the beginning" involved him in first-hand discussions with those who were "eyewitnesses from the beginning”, both apostles and others.
(b) πασιν, "everything”, shows the scope of his investigation. He wanted to find out all that could be known about Christ's life and teaching Thus we see that Luke's Gospel commences at an earlier point in time than any of the others, and carries through to a later point in time, and includes a great deal of Jesus's teaching (especially in parables) and a number of His miracles and other happenings which we do not find elsewhere. Luke's interest in tracing the course of everything from the beginning raises a question about the Markan Priority theory: Why would Luke have omitted so much of the detailed information of Mark's Gospel if he used it as his source? And in particular, why would he have left out completely a number of Mark's pericopae, including the entire section Mark 6:45 to 8:26 ("the Great Omission")? Advocates of Markan Priority have suggested a number of possible explanations, in particular that Luke was not interested in points of detail, that he already had stories rather similar to some that he omitted, that he cut his Gospel to a length that would fit into a single roll, that he considered some of Mark's material irrelevant or theologically objectionable, and that the edition of Mark from which he was working lacked the Great Omission. But the question is raised in an even more acute form if one is forced to conclude (as many scholars do) that the most valid explanation of much of the material which Luke shares with Matthew but not with Mark is that Luke had access to Matthew's Gospel. If one seeks to avoid this problem by saying that Luke had access only to some portions of Matthew this is in fact to adopt a view similar in its essentials to the Progressive Publication hypothesis. But the various other explanations virtually amount to a denial of Luke's expressed interest in tracing every aspect of Christ's Life.
(c) ἀκριβως, "accurately”, draws attention to the third of Luke's concerns - he is no mere uncritical collector of traditions of untested veracity. He brought to bear upon his work a critical judgement, assessing and weighing the traditions he was able to collect, checking out his information and authenticating his facts before including material in his Gospel. The other compilers of narratives were, as we have seen earlier, engaged in assembling isolated (and frequently quite short) traditions into a connected sequence. Now, it is unreasonable to hold that Luke knew of the collections of material which others had made, and refers to this other material, and yet did not look at these narratives he mentions, and would then claim to have checked out “everything”. But in the nature of the case his statement that he investigated everything would of necessity mean that he became involved in an evaluation of the order into which these others cast their pericopae. That is to say, "an accurate investigation of everything" inevitably involves the question of the order in which he is going to assemble his material, from all his sources, and thus of the order in which events took place. Which in fact is the next aspect that Luke mentions.
(d) καθεξης, "in order", underlines Luke's concern with this question of sequence of events. The commentators are divided as to whether καθεξης indicates chronological order or means some other kind of order. To a significant extent their opinion on this point correlates with their overall conclusion as to whether Luke's Gospel does or does not set out everything in chronological order (or whether, for instance, Mark is to be regarded as more chronologically accurate where it diverges from Luke). I think it is reasonable to say that καθεξης may mean “chronological order” but does not necessarily do so: the kind of order that is meant is best ascertained by looking at the actual contents of Luke.
It is to be noted how, throughout his Gospel, Luke shows a constant concern with questions of the time, place, and sequence of the events he records. This is shown in the dating of the commencement of his account (1:5; 3:1-2), his giving of the best estimate of Jesus's age which he had been able to find (1:23), and the way in which virtually every separate incident he records is linked with the previous one by some note of time and place transition. And where he cannot ascertain this information, he says so: for example, 5:12, "While he was in one of the cities'; 5:17, "On one of those days"; 13:10, “Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath”. All in all, it seems to me that the evidence in Luke's Gospel itself indicates that he intended to write in chronological order to the extent to which, in his investigations, he was able to discover what that order was. He may or may not have succeeded in his intention at all points and this is a matter open for further investigation and discussion (there are for instance a few places where I think Matthew's order is clearly to be preferred), but there is good reason for taking καθεξης in 1:3 to be a statement of Luke's plan to give a chronological account.
The significance of Luke's fourfold claim - that he investigated and traced the course of everything accurately from the beginning, and wrote his account of everything in order - is reinforced by his final comment. He is writing so that Theophilus may be enabled to know for certain (ἐπιγινωσκω) the truth, the reliability, and the certainty (all conveyed by the word ἀσφαλεια) of the λογοι of which he had been informed. Luke is giving an assurance to Theophilus (and of course other readers) that the account which he has produced can be depended upon completely to convey the message of which they had heard. This indicates the measure of Luke's confidence that in what he had written he had carried through the standards and the program which he set out in the previous verse.
So we may conclude, I suggest, that while Luke was in Palestine he collected the material for his Gospel, and took it with him to Rome.
THE MATERIAL WHICH LUKE USED IN HIS GOSPEL COMPRISED:
(a) Numerous pericopae of varying lengths which had originally been written by Matthew: some of which Matthew wrote in Greek, and some of which he originally wrote in Aramaic (i.e., the λογια to which Papias referred). Of those in Aramaic, numbers were translated into Greek by Luke himself for inclusion in his Gospel; while other accounts that Matthew originally wrote in Aramaic had already been translated by others into Greek, for the use of Greek-speaking Christians, before Luke came across them;
(c) Copies of written (but unpublished) notes made of various teachings and incidents by some who were present at the time. The existence of such eyewitness notes, privately preserved, is conjectural, I acknowledge, but I consider that when Gerhardsson suggests (pp.201f.) the existence of "notebooks in codex form which contained notes of gospel material at an early stage in the history of the Church”, he has probability on his side. Many who were deeply impressed by what they heard and saw during the ministry of Jesus would have been motivated to preserve a record of it - I think the argument has been overstated that in the first century people all had such excellent memories that even those who could write would not trouble to write down those things that they wanted to remember accurately and permanently. During his research for his Gospel, Luke would have had ample opportunity to learn about the existence of such private records, and to track them down in order to copy them.
(d) Oral tradition not committed to writing prior to the time Luke himself recorded it.
(e) Information which Luke was himself able to obtain in Palestine through his own investigation and interviews (including details of time, place, circumstances, response, and so on).