Introduction

L. Summary Of Contents.1

The third Gospel is distinguished by its display of God’s grace in man, which could be only and perfectly in the “Holy Thing” to be born and called the Son of God.1 Here, therefore, as the moral ways of God shine, so is manifested man’s heart in saint and sinner. Hence the preface and dedication to Theophilus, and the Evangelist’s motives for writing; hence also the beautiful picture of Jewish piety in presence of Divine intervention for both forerunner and Son of the Highest to accomplish promise and prophecy, as announced by angels (Luke 1.). The last of the Gentile empires was in power when the Saviour was born in David’s city, and Jehovah’s glory shone around shepherds at their lowly watch that night when His angel proclaimed the joyful event and its significant token, with the heavenly host praising as they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, in men complacency” (or good pleasure). God’s Son, born of woman, was also born under law, the seal of which He duly received; and the godly remnant seen in Simeon and Anna, that looked for Jerusalem’s redemption, testified to Him in the spirit of prophecy; while He walked in the holy subjection of grace, with wisdom beyond all teachers, yet bearing witness to His consciousness of Divine Sonship even from His youth (Luke 2.).

In due time, marked still more explicitly by the dates of Gentile dominion and of Jewish disorder, both civil and religious, John comes preaching, not here the kingdom of the heavens, nor yet the kingdom of God, but a baptism of repentance for remission of sins. He alone and most appropriately is quoted from Isaiah’s oracle, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God”; here only have we John’s answers to the inquiring people, tax-gatherers and soldiers; and here too is stated anticipatively his imprisonment, but also the baptism of our Lord; and here only is given His praying, when the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the Father’s voice was heard, “Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee am I well pleased.” And the genealogy is through Mary (as she throughout is prominent, not Joseph as in Matthew) up to Adam, as becomes the Second Man and Last Adam (Luke 3.). It may help if it be seen that “being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph” is parenthetical, and that “of Heli, of Matthat,” etc., is the genealogical line from Mary’s father upward.

Then follows His temptation, viewed morally, not dispensationally as in the first Gospel; the natural, the worldly, and the spiritual. This order necessarily involved the omission in Luke 4:8, which ignorant copyists assimilated to the text of Matthew. The critics have rightly followed the best witnesses, though none of them appears to notice the evidence it renders to plenary inspiration. Divine purpose is clearly in it. Thereon He returns to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and at Nazareth in the synagogue He reads Isaiah 61:1, 2 (omitting the last clause strikingly), and declares this scripture fulfilled “today” in their ears. In that interval, or within the acceptable year, Israel as it were goes out, and the Church comes in where is neither Jew nor Gentile, but Christ is all and they one new man in Him. Then when His gracious words were met by unbelieving words on their part, He points out the grace of old that passed by Israel and blessed Gentiles. This kindled His hearers to murderous wrath even then, whilst He, passing through the midst of them, went His way. At Capernaum He astonished them publicly with His teaching, and cast out an unclean spirit in the synagogue, as He brought Peter’s mother-in-law immediately to strength from “a great fever,” and subsequently healed the varied sick and demoniacs that were brought, while He refused their testimony to Him. And when men would detain Him, He said, “I must announce the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for therefore was I sent” (Luke 4.). It is a question of the soul yet more than of the body.

In connection accordingly with preaching the Word of God, we have (Luke 5) the Lord, by a miracle that revealed Him, calling Simon Peter (who judged himself as never before) with his partners, to forsake all and follow Him: an incident of earlier date, but reserved for this point in Luke. The cleansing of a man full of leprosy follows, and after the healing of multitudes He retires and prays; but as He afterwards is teaching in presence of Pharisees and law-doctors, He declares to a paralytic the forgiveness of his sins, and, to prove it, bids him arise, take up his couch, and go to his house, as the man did forthwith. Then we have the call of Levi, the tax-gatherer, and a great feast with many such in his house; but Jesus answers all murmurs with the open assertion of His coming to call sinners to repentance, as He defends the actual eating and drinking of His disciples by their joy in His presence with them: when taken away, they should fast. In parable He intimates that the old was doomed, and that the new character and power demand a new way; though naturally no one relishes the new, but likes the old.

Luke 6 shows first, the Son of Man Lord also of the Sabbath, and secondly the title to do good on that day, which filled them with madness against Him. Next, going to the mountain to pray all night to God, He chose twelve and named them apostles, with whom He came down to a plateau, healing all that came under diseases and demons. Then He addresses them in that form of His discourse which falls in perfectly with our Gospel. The great moral principles are there, not in contrast with law as in Matthew, but the personal blessedness of His own, and the woes of such as are not His but enjoy the world. Another peculiarity is that Luke was led to give our Lord’s teaching in detached parts connected with facts of kindred character; whereas Matthew was no less Divinely given to present it as a whole, omitting the facts or questions which drew out those particulars.

Then in Luke 7 He enters Capernaum, and the healing of the centurion’s slave follows. Luke distinguishes the embassy of Jewish elders, then of friends when He was near the house; but the dispensational issue was left to Matthew. The raising of the widow’s only son at Nain yet more deeply proves the Divine power He wields with a perfect human heart. It was high time for John’s disciples to find all doubts solved by Jesus, Who testifies to the Baptist’s place instead of being witnessed to by him. Yet was wisdom justified of all her children, as the penitent woman finds from the Lord’s lips in the Pharisee’s house. Everywhere it was Divine grace in man; and she tasted it in the faith that saved, and in the grace that bade her go in peace.

In Luke 8 we see Him on His errand of mercy, followed not by the twelve only but by certain women healed of wicked spirits and infirmities, who ministered to Him of their substance. And the Lord addresses the crowd in parables, but not of the Kingdom, as in Matthew; after that He designates His true relations to be those that hear and do the Word of God. The storm on the lake follows, and the healing of Legion in the details of grace, as well as of the woman who had a flux of blood, while He was on the way to raise the daughter of Jairus.

Luke 9 gives the mission of the twelve empowered by and like Himself, and sent to proclaim the Kingdom of God, with its effect on Herod’s bad conscience. The apostles on their return He leads apart, but, being followed by a hungry crowd, He feeds about 5,000 men with five loaves and two fishes multiplied under His hand, while the fragments left fill twelve hand-baskets. After praying alone, He elicits from His disciples men’s varying thoughts of Him, and Peter’s confession of His Messiahship (Matthew recording much more). For this He substitutes His suffering and His glory as Son of Man: they were no more to speak of Him as Messiah. Deeper need had to be met in the face of Jewish unbelief. The transfiguration follows with moral traits usual in Luke, and the Centre of that glory is owned Son of God. When the Lord and His chosen witnesses come down, the power of Satan that baffled the disciples yields to the majesty of God’s power in Jesus, Who thereon announces to them His delivery into men’s hands, and lays bare to the end of the chapter the various forms that self may assume in His people or in pretenders to that place.

Then we have in Luke 10 the seventy sent out two and two before His face, a larger and more urgent mission peculiar to Luke. On their return, exultant that even the demons were subject to them in His name, the Lord looks on to Satan’s overthrow, but calls them to rejoice that their names are written in the heavens. To this our Gospel leads more and more henceforth. His own joy follows, not as in Matthew dispensationally connected, but bound up with the blessedness of the disciples. Then the tempting lawyer is taught that, while those who trust themselves are as blind as they are powerless, grace sees one’s neighbour in every one who needs love. The parable of the Samaritan is in Luke only. The close of the chapter teaches that the one thing needful, the good part, is to hear the Word of Jesus. It is not only by the Word that we are begotten; by it we are refreshed, nourished, and kept.

But prayer hereon follows (“as He was praying”) (Luke 11), not only because of our need, but to enjoy the God of grace Whose children we become through faith; and in His illustration He urges importunity. Here again we have an instructive example of the Divine design by Luke as compared with that in Matthew 6. His casting out a dumb demon to some gave occasion to blaspheme, whereon He declares that he who is not with Him is against Him, and he who gathers not with Him scatters: a solemn word for every soul. Nature has nothing to do with it, but the grace that hears and keeps the Word of God. So did the Ninevites repent, and the Queen of Sheba come to hear; and a greater than Solomon and Jonah was there. But if light is not seen, it is the fault of the eye; if it is wicked, the body also is dark. Then to the end the dead externalism of man’s religion is exposed, and the woe of such as have taken away the key of knowledge, and their malice when exposed.

Luke 12 warns the disciples against hypocrisy, and urges the sure revelation of all things in the light, with the call to fear God and to confess the Son of Man, trusting not in themselves but in the Holy Spirit. It is no question now of Jewish blessing; and He would be no judge of earthly inheritances. They should beware of being like the rich fool whose soul is required when busy with gain. The ravens and the lilies teach a better lesson. The little flock need not fear, but rid themselves rather of what men covet, and seek a treasure unfailing: if it is in the heavens, there will the heart be. And thence is the Lord coming, Whom they were habitually and diligently to wait for. Blessed they whom the Lord finds marching! Blessed he whom the Lord finds working! To put off His coming in heart is evil, and will be so judged. But the judgment will be righteous, and worst of all that of corrupt and faithless and apostate Christendom. Whatever His love, the opposition of man brings hate, and fire, and division, not peace meanwhile. His grace aroused enmity. Judgment came and will; as, on the other hand, He was baptized in death that the pent-up floods of grace might flow as they do in the Gospel.

With the Jews on the way to the judge, and about to suffer from God’s just government (at the end of the chapter before), the Holy Spirit connects in Luke 13 the question of what had befallen the Galileans. Here the Lord pronounces the exposure of all to perdition, except they repented. The parable of the fig-tree tells the same tale; respite hung on Himself. In vain was the ruler of the synagogue indignant for the Sabbath against Jehovah present to heal; it was but hypocrisy and preference of Satan. The Kingdom about to follow His rejection was not to come in by manifested power and glory, but, as under man’s responsibility, from a little seed to wax a great tree, and to leaven the assigned measure, wholly in contrast with Daniel 2, 7. Instead of gratifying curiosity as to “those to be saved” (the remnant), the Lord urges the necessity of entering by the strait gate (conversion to God); seeking their own way they would utterly fail. So He would tell them He knew them not whence they were, in the day when they should see the Jews even thrust out, and Gentiles sitting with the fathers, last first and first last, in the Kingdom of God. Crafty as Herod was, it was Jerusalem He lamented, the guiltiest rejecter alike of God’s government and of His grace, yet not beyond His grace at the end.

Hence Luke 14 points out unanswerably the title of grace in the face of form, and its way of self-renunciation, which will be owned in the resurrection of the just, not by the religious world which is deaf to God’s call to the great supper. But if the bidden remain without, grace fills it not only with the poor of the city, but with the despised Gentiles. Only those who believe God’s grace are called to break with the world. Coming to Christ costs all else: if one lose the salt of truth, none more useless and offensive.

In Luke 15 the Lord asserts the sovereign power of grace in His own seeking of the lost one, in the painstaking of the Spirit by the Word, and in the Father’s reception and joy when he is found; as self-righteousness betrays its alienation from the Father and contempt for the reconciled soul.

Then Luke 16 describes parabolically the Jew losing his place; so that the only wisdom was, not in hoarding for self but in giving up his master’s goods, to make friends with an everlasting and heavenly habitation. Practical Christianity is the sacrifice of the present (which is God’s) to secure the future (which will be our own, the true riches). Pharisees, being covetous, derided this; but death lifts the veil that then hid the true issue in the selfish rich tormented, and the once suffering beggar in Abraham’s bosom. If God’s Word fail, not even resurrection would assure. Unbelief is invincible, save by His grace.

As grace thus delivers from the world, so it is to govern the believer’s walk, who must take heed to himself, rebuke a sinning brother, and if he repent, forgive him even seven times in the day (Luke 17.). Faith is followed by answering power. But the yoke of Judaism, though still existing, is gone for faith, as the Lord shows in the Samaritan leper, who broke through the letter of the law, rightly confessed the power of God in Christ, and went his way in liberty. The Kingdom in His person was in the midst of men for faith. By-and-by it will be displayed visibly and judicially; for such will be the Son of Man (now about to suffer and be rejected) in His day, as in those of Noah and Lot, far different from the indiscriminate sack of Jerusalem by Titus.

Luke 18 shows prayer to be the great resource, as always, so especially when oppression prevails in the latter day, and God is about to avenge His elect, and the question is raised if the coming Son of Man shall find faith on the earth. After this the Lord lets us see the spirit and ways suited to the Kingdom in the penitent tax-gatherers contrasted with the Pharisee, and in the babes He received, not in the ruler who, not following Jesus, because he clave to his riches, lost treasure in heaven. Yet he that leaves all for His sake receives manifold more now, and in the coming age life everlasting. Lastly, the Lord again announces His ignominious death, but His resurrection.

Then (verse 35) begins His last progress to Jerusalem and presentation as David’s Son; and the blind beggar, invoking Him so, receives his sight, and follows Him, glorifying God.

Zacchaeus in Luke 19, chief tax-gatherer and rich, is the witness of yet more — the saving grace of God. But the Lord is not going to restore the Kingdom immediately, as they thought; He is going to a far country to receive it and to return; and when He does, He will examine the ways of His servants meanwhile entrusted with His goods, and He will execute judgment on His guilty citizens who would not that He should reign over them. Next He rides to the city from the Mount of Olivet on a colt, given up at once by the owners; and the whole multitude of the disciples praise God aloud for all the powers they have seen, saying, “Blessed be the coming King in Jehovah’s name: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” It is strikingly different from the angels’ praise at His birth; but both in season. Pharisees in vain object, and hear that the stones would cry out if the disciples did not. Yet did He weep over the city that know not even then the things that made for its peace, doomed to destruction because it knew not the time of its visitation. The purging of the temple follows, and there He was teaching daily; yet could not the chief priests and the chiefs of the people destroy Him, though seeking it earnestly.

Then in Luke 20 come the various parties to judge Him, really to be judged themselves. The chief priests and the scribes with the elders demand His authority; which He meets with the question, “Was John’s baptism of Heaven or of men?” Their dishonest plea of ignorance drew out His refusal to tell such people the source of His authority. But He utters the parable of the vineyard let to husbandmen, who not only grow worse and worse to their lord’s servants but killed it last his son and heir, to their own ruin according to Psalm 118:22, 23, adding His own solemn and twofold sentence. Next, we have His reply to the spies who would have entangled Him with the civil power; but as He asks for a denarius, and they own Caesar’s image on it, He bids them render to Caesar Caesar’s things, and to God the things that are God’s; and they were put to silence. The heterodox Sadducees followed with their difficulty as to the resurrection; whereon He shows that there was nothing in it but their ignorance of its glorious nature, of which present experience gives no hint. Resurrection belongs to the new age, to which marriage does not apply. Even now all live to God, if men cannot see. The Lord closes with His question on Psalm ex., how He Whom David calls his Lord is also his Son. It is just Israel’s stumbling-stone, ere long to be Israel’s sure foundation. Then the chapter concludes with His warning to beware of those who affect worldly show in religion, and prey on the weak and bereaved, about to receive, spite of long prayers, judgment all the more severe.

Luke 21 begins with the poor widow and her two mites of more account than the richest in the offertory. Then, in correction of those who thought much of the temple adorned with goodly stones and offerings, the Lord predicts its approaching demolition, though the end was not to be immediately. But He cheers and counsels His own meanwhile. From verses 20 to 24 is the siege under Titus, and its consequences to this day. Verse 25 and the following look on to the future. The Gentiles are prominent; whence we have, “Behold the fig-tree and all the trees” in verse 29. Observe also “this generation,” etc., in verse 32, is in the future part, not in what is fulfilled. Lastly, verses 34-36 give a moral appeal. Here again we find Him teaching in the temple by day, and every night lodging at Olivet.

The last Passover approached (Luke 22) and found the chief priests and the scribes plotting, when Judas Iscariot2 gave them the desired means. On the day of sacrifice He sent Peter and John to prepare, and the Lord instructed them divinely when and how: for as He said, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer,” and its cup He bade them take and divide it among themselves. Then He institutes His supper. As yet He had given no sign to mark the traitor, though He had long alluded to the fact. But alas! they were even then contending which of them would be accounted greatest; whilst He explains that such is the way of the Gentiles and their kings, whilst they were to follow His example — “I am in the midst of you as he that serveth.” Yet He owns their continuance with Him in His temptations, and appoints to them a kingdom. He tells Simon of Satan’s sifting, but of His supplication that his faith should not fail, and bids him, when turned again, or restored, to stablish his brethren. After further warning Peter, He clears up the change from a Messianic mission to the ordinary ways of Providence in verses 35-38, and then goes out to the mount and passes through His agony with His Father (39-46) while the disciples sleep. Then a crowd comes, and Judas draws near to kiss, and the Lord lays all open. He heals the high priest’s bondman, whose right ear was cut off; but remonstrates, yet allows Himself to be taken Who could have overwhelmed them with a word. Peter denies Him thrice. The men revile the Lord with mockery and blows; and as soon as it is day, He is led to the Sanhedrin, and when asked if He is the Christ, He tells them of the place the Son of Man will take, and owns Himself Son of God.

Before Pilate in Luke 23 the effort was to prove Him a rival of Caesar; but though confessing Himself the King of the Jews, Pilate found no fault in Him. The connection with Galilee gave the opportunity for a compliment to Herod, who got not a word from the Lord; but after, with his soldiers, insulting Him, he sent Him back, when Pilate again sought to release Him, as neither he nor yet Herod found evidence against Him. But the Jews only the more fiercely demanded a seditious murderer to be released, and Jesus to be crucified. Still Pilate made a last effort. But their voices prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that what they asked for should be done. Such is man; and such is religious man, even more wicked: “Jesus he delivered up to their will.” Simon of Cyrene had to prove the violence of that hour; and Jerusalem’s daughters lamented with wailing. But the Lord bade them weep for themselves and for their children, and proceeded to Calvary where He was crucified, and the two robbers on either side. There He prayed His’ ‘ Father to forgive them, as rulers scoffed and soldiers mocked. Even one of those crucified kept railing on Him; but the other became a monument of grace, confessing the Saviour and King, when others forsook and fled. The centurion too bore testimony to Him; and if they made His grave with the wicked, the rich was there in His death, and with Pilate’s leave His body was laid in a tomb hewn in stone where never man had yet lain. It was Friday, growing dark, and Sabbath twilight was coming on. And the Galilean women who saw Him laid there returned and prepared spices and unguents. Little did they know what God was about to do; yet they loved Him in Whom they believed.

On the first day of the week at early dawn the women came (Luke 24), but found the stone rolled away from the tomb and the body gone; and two in dazzling raiment stood by them to their alarm, who asked, “Why seek ye the Living One among the dead? He is not here, but is risen”; and they recalled to their minds His words in Galilee, now fulfilled in His death and resurrection. Even the apostles disbelieved. And Peter went, and saw evidences and wondered. Then we have the walk to Emmaus with all its grace and deep instruction from the Scriptures, not for those disheartened men only, but for all time and all believers. Next the Lord makes Himself known in the breaking of bread (the sign of death), and at once vanishes. For we walk by faith, not by sight. On returning to Jerusalem they hear how He had appeared to Simon; and as they spoke, the Lord stood in their midst, bade them handle Him and see (for they were troubled), and even ate to reassure them of His resurrection. He speaks further and opens their minds to understand the Scriptures; a distinct thing from the power of the Spirit they were to receive in due time. No going to Galilee is introduced here; it is exactly suited to Matthew’s design. Here Jerusalem is prominent, which was avowedly most guilty. So repentance and remission of sins “were to be preached in His name, unto all the nations, beginning with Jerusalem.” There too they were to tarry till clothed with power from on high. But thence, when the day arrived, He led them out over against Bethany, and blessed them with uplifted hands; and, while blessing them, He parted from them and was borne up into heaven.

2. The Prologue (1:1-4).3

There is no Gospel which more shows the mind and love of God than this of Luke.2 None is more truly and evidently inspired. Nevertheless there is none so deeply marked by traces of the human hand and heart.4 This is its characteristic object in presenting Christ to us. Luke had, as the work assigned to him of the Holy Ghost, to. delineate our Lord as a man, both in body and soul. This he does, not only as to facts which are related about Him, but in all His course and teaching in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It is emphatically a man we see and hear, a Divine Person, no doubt, but at the same time a real, proper man Who walks in perfect dependence and absolute obedience, honouring God and honoured of Him in all things.

For this reason I believe it is that Luke alone opens his Gospel with an address to a particular man. You could not have Matthew, consistently with the purpose and character of his Gospel, addressing it to a man; nor is it conceivable of Mark or of John. Luke so writes with the most admirable propriety. “Whereas many have undertaken to arrange a declaration concerning the matters fully believed in among us, even as they, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having thorough acquaintance from the outset with all things accurately, to write to thee in regular order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest truly know the certainty of accounts [or things] in which thou hast been instructed.” Thus Luke was led of God as one who had a thirst and loving desire for the good of Theophilus, and fitly addresses this Gospel to him: and this we shall find in harmony with its character throughout. It was not for him only, of course, but for the permanent instruction of the Church; yet none the less was it written to him. Theophilus was laid on the heart of that godly man to be instructed in the things of God, and this draws out the workings of the Spirit of God in him to expound the way of God as shown in Christ more perfectly.

Theophilus appears to have been a man of rank, probably a Roman governor. This seems the reason why he is called here “Most Excellent,” or, as we might say, His Excellency.5 It relates to official position, and not to his character morally as a man.3 It is evident he was a believer, but only partially instructed. The object of the Evangelist here was to give him a fuller understanding of “the way.”4

At this time there were many accounts of Christ in vogue among Christians. The “many” spoken of here who had undertaken to draw up these accounts of our Lord, were not inspired.4a Luke does not charge them with evil intent in what they wrote, still less with falsehood, but it was clearly inadequate, as being no more than the fruit of a human effort5 to relate the matters5a fully believed5b among the Christians. They did not accomplish the work so as to set aside the need of a fresh and above all a Divinely given narrative of the Lord Jesus. Only we must carefully remember that the difference between an inspired writing and any other is not that the other is necessarily false, and that the inspired one is simply true. There is much more than this. It is the truth as God sees it, and with that special object that God always has in view when He furnishes an account of anything. A gospel is not a mere biography: it is God’s account of Christ, governed by the special moral object He was pleased to impress on it. This is characteristic of all inspired writings, whatever their form or aim. Inspiration excludes mistake, no doubt; but it does much more than that. It includes a Divine object for the instruction of the faithful in the display of God’s glory in Christ. These “many” biographers4a spoken of by Luke were not authorized by the Spirit of God. They may have entered on their self-imposed task with the best motives, and some or all may have been persons in whom the Spirit of God was (i.e., Christians), but they were not inspired any more than one who preaches the Gospel or seeks to edify believers. There is a weighty difference between the leading of the Spirit in a general way, where flesh may more or less impair the truth enforced, and the inspiration of the Spirit, which not only excludes all error but gives what was never given before. Luke was inspired; yet he does not put forward his inspiration. And what then? Who does? Matthew, Mark, John, Paul, or any other? When people write an imposture they naturally pretend to this or that, and are apt most to claim what they have least or not at all. They may talk much about inspiration; the inspired writers, as a rule, take it for granted. It is self-proved, not posted up. The special character that distinguishes these writings from all others to the heart or conscience gives the believer the certainty of inspiration. For, I repeat, the Holy Ghost not only excludes error, but writes with a Divine object, and communicates the truth as none but God can. And these proofs are such as to leave the unbeliever without excuse. Light wants nothing else to show itself.6

Observe one marked difference here claimed between these many uninspired writers and Luke’s Gospel. They had taken up the tradition6a of such as had been from the beginning6b of the Lord’s public life eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word.6c It was founded on oral testimony.4b But Luke takes particular pains to let us know that this is not said of his own Gospel.6d He does not attribute it to the same sources as theirs,7 but claims an accurate and thorough acquaintance6 of all things8 from the very first ( ἄνωθεν). He does not explain his sources4 any more than other inspired men, but he does contrast the character of what he knew and had to say with those who merely drew up9 a report from the earliest and best tradition. This is of high importance and has been often overlooked. Like Matthew, he goes back to the very first10 and even before Matthew’s relations; for he gives us, not only the circumstances that preceded the birth of Christ, but the account of all that pertained to His forerunner’s birth. Thus, though Luke does so far say that “it seemed good to me also” as well as to them,11 nevertheless he otherwise distinguishes his own task entirely from theirs. He does not tell us how he had his perfect understanding of all things from the very first; he simply lays down the fact.6d Again, it seems to me that the reason why he alone gives us his motive for writing, without putting forward his inspired character, is of all interest. Not only is it unusual in the sacred writers, but also Luke has the human element so predominant that it would be somewhat inconsistent with it to dwell strongly on the fact that it was God’s Word he was writing. He, above all, therefore, would rather avoid bringing it out prominently or formally, though he proves practically that every line was truly inspired. The regular ( καθεξῆς) order was not that in which the events occurred. Such a mere sequence is by no means either the only order or the best for all purposes. To Luke it would have been an arrangement infinitely inferior to the one he has adopted. All it means is that he has written his account from the very first in a methodical manner. What that method is can only be learnt from studying the Gospel itself. It will be proved, as we proceed, that Luke’s is essentially a moral order, and that he classifies the facts, conversations, questions, replies, and discourses of our Lord according to their inward connection, and not the mere outward succession of events, which is in truth the rudest and most infantile form of record. But to group events together with their causes and consequences, in their moral order, is a far more difficult task for the historian, as distinguished from the mere chronicler. God can cause Luke to do it perfectly.12

Again, Luke writes as a man to a man, unfolding the goodness of God in man — the Man Christ Jesus. Hence all that would exemplify humanity, as in Christ and also in us before God, is brought out in the most instructive manner. He writes for the help of his Excellency, Theophilus, that he might truly know ( ἐπιγνῳς)13 the certainty14 of those things15 wherein he had been instructed.16 God thus takes care of those who know Him, though it may be imperfectly, and He would lead them more deeply into the understanding and enjoyment of what He is now communicating to man by His grace. “To him that hath shall be given.” It is the way of God. Theophilus had been enabled to receive Christ and to confess Him. Hence, though Luke sets forth with particular care how truly the Gospel was preached to the poor (see chapters 4, 6, 7.), yet his Gospel as a whole is addressed to this man of rank, now a disciple. Circumstantially, there is no man so much to be pitied as to the truth of God, or who so needs the grace of God, as one who is great in this world, because he is peculiarly open to snares, temptations, and cares of the world, which war against the soul and threaten to choke up the seed of the Word. Therefore we have the gracious care of Him Who knows so well what the heart of man needs, and Who, despising not any, deigns to provide for the great man now made low, and assuredly feeling his poverty, in spite of rank or riches.

3. Textual Criticism.7

Although able critics have for a century sought to edit the Greek Testament on documentary evidence of Greek manuscripts, ancient versions, and early citations, none as yet have succeeded in commanding more than partial confidence. Hence it has been a necessity for any careful and conscientious scholar who would really know the sources to compare several of these editions, and search into the grounds on which their differences depend, so as to have anything like a correct and enlarged view of the text, and to judge fairly of the claims of conflicting readings. . . . Mature spiritual judgment, with continual dependence on the Lord, is just as essential as a sound and thorough familiarity with the ancient witnesses of all kinds.8

Lachmann published a manual edition of the New Testament professedly based on Bentley’s idea of exhibiting the text as read in the fourth century . . . at one fell swoop sentenced the mass of the surviving witnesses to an ignominious death, and presented us with a text formed on absolute principles of singular narrowness. . . . The neglect of internal evidence is a fatal objection. But the grand fallacy involved is that a manuscript of the fourth or fifth century. must give better readings than one of the seventh or eighth. Now this is in no way certain. There is a presumption in favour of the more ancient manuscript, because each successive transcription tends to introduce new errors in addition to those it repeats. On the other hand, a copy of the ninth century may have been made from one older than any now extant, and certainly some old documents are more corrupt than many of the more recent witnesses. Every ingenuous scholar must own, to say the least, that the oldest manuscripts have some bad readings, and that the modern manuscripts have some that are good. Hence the distinction is not between the united evidence of the most ancient documents (Manuscripts, Versions, Fathers) and the common herd of those more recent; for rarely, or never, is there such unanimous ancient testimony without considerable support from witnesses of a later day. The truth is that almost always, where the old documents really agree, there is large confirmation elsewhere, and where the ancients differ, so do the moderns. It is quite unfounded, therefore, to treat it as a question pure and simple between old and new. Nor is it the important point of research what particular readings existed in the days of Jerome. For notoriously errors of various kinds had then crept into both Greek and Latin copies, and no antiquity can sanctify an error. The true question is: What, using every available means to form a judgment, was the primitive text? It is often forgotten that our oldest documents are but copies, Several centuries elapsed between the original issue of the New Testament Scriptures and any manuscripts now existing. All, therefore, are on the ground of copyists differing only in degree. It is not, then, a comparison between a single eye-witness and many hearsay reporters, unless we had the original autographs. And, in fact, we know that an historian’s account, three centuries after alleged facts, may be, and often is, corrected, five hundred or a thousand years after, by recurrence to sources more trustworthy, or by a more patient, comprehensive, and skilful sifting of neglected evidence.

My own conviction is that in certain cases, especially in single words, the most ancient copy that exists may be corrected by another generally inferior, not only in age, but in almost every respect besides, and that internal evidence ought to be used, in dependence upon the Spirit of God, where the external authorities are conflicting.9 17

1 From Bible Treasury, Sept., 1900 (pp. 139-144), reproduced in God’s Inspiration of the Scriptures.”

2 It is quite general here in verse 3: “And [not Then] Satan entered into Judas.” The precise time is shown in John 13:27, where then is expressed; here the statement is general, as often in the third Evangelist. So in 24:12, it should be And or But, not Then. (B.T.)

3 Cf. “Lectures Introductory to the Study of the Gospels,” pp. 241-245, and “God’s Inspiration of the Scriptures,” pp. 66-71.

4 As to coalescence of Divine and human in Luke’s preface, Cf. “God’s Inspiration,” etc., chapter iv., “The Human Element.”

5 Cf. Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3, Acts 26:25.

6 Cf. “Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles,” ii., p. 48: “The Spirit of God alone secures absolute truth, which no seeing, hearing, or research Could effect.”

7 This section is identical with 3 of Introduction to “Exposition of the Gospel of Mark.” — See also notes 14-16 there, and Cf. note 17 in Appendix below.

8 From a review of the Revised Version of the New Testament, in — Bible Treasury, Vol. XIII., p. 287 (June, 1881).

9 From Preface to “The Revelation of John, edited in Greek, with a new English Version and a Statement of the Chief Authorities and Various Readings.” (London: Williams and Norgate, 1860.)