Luke 1:1–4 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions

Questions / Introduction / Verses 1–4


Before delving into the text of this gospel, let's answer a few preliminary questions to help familiarize yourself with the author and what Luke wrote.

Who was Luke?  Although Paul is often referred to as Apostle Paul, how do many call Luke? (a) Apostle Luke? (b) Doctor Luke? (c) Saint Luke? (d) Luke the Evangelist? (e) Teacher Luke? (f) Pastor Luke? (g) Theologian Luke? (h) Other?

Was Luke one of the twelve disciples who Jesus called to follow him?

How much was written by him?  Paul wrote thirteen books of the Bible; John wrote four. Luke, it's believed, wrote two books: the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Counting the pages of the New Testament, which of the three authors wrote the most Scripture?

What did he write?  Do you recall key verses from previous readings and studies of Luke's gospel? Here are a few: Luke 2:4–7;  3:16;  4:18–19, 21;  9:23;  12:34;  18:31–33;  23:33–34;  24:1–3. How about his Book of Acts? 4:12, 16:31.


Glad you've joined us to study the account of a man who apparently never laid eyes upon the Lord Jesus personally, but who performed a skillful job of researching the accounts of Christ Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection, then communicating them in a most orderly way. Luke the author was a doctor and a traveling companion of Paul; his second inspired account (the Book of Acts) is the only recorded history of the birth of the church. Luke was a Gentile; the only Gentile to have written a biblical work. As such, his references to the Old Testament are relatively few compared to those in Matthew's gospel; most of Luke's OT references are in the words spoken by Jesus, rather than in Luke's own narrative.

The church would be greatly deprived if it didn't have access to this gospel: The word "gospel" means good news. Luke's gospel provides us with many of the details concerning the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. His genealogy of our Lord is distinctly different from the only other genealogy, found in Matthew's gospel. Luke gives us an account of the divine visitations to Zechariah and Mary, of the circumstances surrounding the birth of our Lord in Bethlehem, and of the announcement of Christ's birth to the shepherds. Only Luke testifies to Simeon and Anna's recognition of Jesus as the promised Messiah, and of the visit of our Lord to Jerusalem at the age of 12. The parables of The Prodigal Son and of The Rich Man and Lazarus are found only in Luke. His account, alone, includes the story of the appearance of our Lord to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Never once referring to himself, humble Luke lets the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ — the theme of his writing — to dominate. He begins his gospel (and the Book of Acts) with a prologue addressed to "Theophilus," which means "Lover of God." The name could be of an individual or simply refer to any Christian. Here Luke informs Theophilus of his intention, which is to lead his readers to certainty through an orderly account of "the events that have been fulfilled among us" (1:1 NLT). He didn't, however, intend to provide Theophilus with a historical justification of the Christian faith, i.e., "did it happen?" but to encourage and build faith by explaining "what actually happened, and what it all means."

Brief Summary:  Called the most beautiful biblical book ever written, Luke begins his gospel by telling us: about Jesus' parents; the birth of his cousin, John the Baptist; Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born in a manger; and the genealogy of Christ through Mary. Jesus' public ministry reveals his perfect compassion and forgiveness through the stories of The Prodigal Son, The Rich Man and Lazarus, and The Good Samaritan. While many believed in Jesus' unprejudiced love that surpasses all human limits, many others — especially the religious leaders — challenged and opposed Jesus' claims. We'll learn that Christ's followers were encouraged to consider the cost of their discipleship, at the same time that Jesus' enemies demanded his death on the cross. Finally, Luke highlights Jesus' betrayal, trial, sentence, and crucifixion while documenting that the grave couldn't contain him. Luke concludes by reminding readers that Jesus' resurrection assures the continuance of his powerful, merciful ministry: seeking and saving the lost.

Practical Application:  Luke gives us a beautiful portrait of our compassionate Savior. We'll see that Jesus wasn't "turned off" by the poor and the needy; in fact, they were a primary focus of his ministry. Israel, in Jesus' day, was a class-conscious society. Because the weak and downtrodden were literally powerless to improve their lot in life, they were especially open to the message that "the kingdom of God is near you." We Christians are told to carry that message, personally sharing it with those around us who desperately need to hear it. Even in comparatively wealthy countries, perhaps especially so, the spiritual need is dire. Christians must follow the example of Jesus, bringing his good news of salvation to the spiritually poor and needy. Luke will remind us that God's kingdom is near.

Luke's gospel is a literary masterpiece, a beautiful story masterfully told. Luke has given us an extensive account of our Lord's final journey to Jerusalem, where Jesus is rejected and crucified, and where he's raised from the dead. And the greatest source of beauty and wonder isn't the skill of the human writer, but the glory and majesty of the divine subject of the gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ. You will meet Jesus in our weekly studies; and you will find him more lovely, in the light of Luke's description of him.

Come along with us as we begin our study of the gospel of Luke. As you read, study, and discuss it, may you never be the same. Today, we'll cover vv. 1–4.

Verses 1–4

These four verses, in the Greek, are one long, unbroken sentence, written in the polished style known as literary classical Greek; the rest of the gospel of Luke is written in the common Greek. His high-quality-Greek prologue established the lofty literary character of this work, making it obvious that Luke was highly educated.

You can see that Luke wasn't one of the twelve apostles, because he refers in v. 2 (shown below) to those others "Who from the beginning were eyewitnesses." One accepted requisite characteristic of a true apostle of Jesus was that he had to have been an eyewitness of his resurrection. So Luke doesn't write as an apostle. The apostles and other eyewitnesses were his sources; so he says, I'm beholding to the accounts that have already been put together.

Mentioned by name only three times in the New Testament, Luke was a Gentile physician. He avoids common Semitic or Hebraic expressions in his gospel, substituting for them expressions from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of it. While Matthew, Mark, and John would use Hebraic expressions, Luke would use the Greek version of them.

Interestingly, if Luke left his medical practice to become a missionary, and traveled for years with Apostle Paul, we can assume that he continued to be Paul's personal private physician; given the frequency of Paul's injuries, what a luxury that must have been. In this gospel, Luke gives high profile to Jesus' healing ministry and how he viewed that.

Quite a remarkable man was Luke. We didn't know much about him before this study, but all of a sudden he'll make his presence for many weeks and months to come. That's Luke the historian. But you've got to come back next week when we'll also see Theologian Luke; finally, we'll meet Pastor Luke.

This Week's Passage
Luke 1:1–4

New International Version (NIV)
[View it in a different version by clicking here; also listen to this chapter.]

 Watch this passage-specific video clip from the Jesus Film Project titled "The Beginning."


1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.