I completely and emphatically disagree with your exegesis, your handling and interpretation of the Biblical text here is just wrong
Your opinion is duly noted... of course, I've so far affirmed only two things about Luke's preface: (1) Luke does not claim to be an eyewitness and (2) he views the 'eyewitnesses and servants of the word' as apostles. You also seem to affirm both these points. As for everything else I've said, it's been hypothetical in highlighting problems that I see with your own exegeses. In any case, I'm more than happy to roll up my sleeves, so to speak, and get deep down into the preface with you...
Luke 1:1-4 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,
(1) The 'Many' are probably gathering together what has been written, and if Matthew and Mark exist at the time Luke writes this, then Jame's
letter is in existence, as well as Paul's letters of Galatians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Romans, and possibly the prison Epistles.
The clause I've bold and underlined above is a misinterpretation of the text. The "many" (πολλοι
) are here said to have "undertaken to compile an account" (επεχειρησαν αναταξασθαι διηγησιν
) --- the first word επιχειρεω
, when followed by an infinitive (as it is here), means to "endeavor" or "try" to do something (BDAG 386); used in reference to a third party (as it is here), there is a subtle implied criticism (Alexander 110). The second word ανατασσομαι
, means "to organize in a series ... with emphasis on orderly sequence" (BDAG 73). The third and most important word is διηγησις
, which refers to "an orderly description of facts, events, actions, or words"; in other words a "narrative" (BDAG 245) --- it occurs here in the singular, referring to the individualized attempt of each among the "many". Whoever these "many" are, they have each attempted to organize a narrative, specifically of "the things accomplished among us" --- this section of the preface corresponds to the criticism against predecessors that is found in other historical prefaces of antiquity (Yamada 162-63). The idea you've expressed that this group is simply gathering together a number of gospel narratives and epistles is not supported by a sound exegesis of the passage... the "many" are, rather, the authors of narratives similar to that which Luke here purposes to write.
just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,
(2) The 'Many' are gathering together the written accounts by the Apostles, which was handed down to them by the Apostles
I have already shown how the first clause of your interpretation above is incorrect... as for the second part that I have bold and underlined, this is also incorrect. Whatever is handed down (more on that in a moment), it is entrusted not to the "many" as you here claim, but explicitly to "us" (ημιν
), the implied readers of Luke's composition. The verb translated "handed down" above is παραδιδωμι
, here as an aorist active
) matching its third person plural subject that follows, namely "the eyewitnesses and servants of the word" --- since it lacks a direct object, the translation you are relying on infers it to be the collective "accounts" from the previous verse and thereby renders the verb as a passive
to maintain a smooth flow from one verse to the other. The problem is that this may not be what Luke intends --- here is Yamada's translation:
Inasmuch as many people took in hand to draw up a narrative concerning the things that have been confirmed among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word from the beginning transmitted to us...
What the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word transmit (hand down) is their testimony and they do so orally
, therefore Luke has received both written and oral accounts (Yamada 163)... concerning the latter there is no implied criticism as there is with respect to the written accounts.
it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
(3) Luke is under conviction to document the events surrounding Jesus, in order to provide another witness for Theophilus in understanding
the truth about Jesus Christ
Luke does not simply wish to provide Theophilus and the wider community of believers with another witness (the portion I have bold and underlined in your comments above that I challenge), but a more reliable one. Luke describes his own qualifications -- another element of contemporaneous historical prefaces (Yamada 162) -- as παρηκολουθηκοτι
, translated above as "having investigated", but BDAG defines literally as "follow a thing, follow a course of events, take note of" and reports that "Luke does not specify the means whereby he was able to assert his thorough familiarity [a rendering such as 'research' or 'investigate' depends on interpretation of the context and not on the semantic context of παρακολουθεω
]" (767). The word following is ακριβως
, which "pertains to strict conformity to a standard or norm, with focus on careful attention" (BDAG 39). Finally, Luke describes his own contribution as a καθεξης
, which "pertains to being in sequence in time, space, or logic" (BDAG 491). Taken together with the opening clause, Luke intends to write a sequentially ordered narrative (unlike his predecessors whose differing orders are implicitly critiqued)... this because of his stated credentials (Moessner 84-123).
The reason liberal scholarship wants to push the origin of the Biblical Gospels to a later date is humanize the person of Jesus Christ
I would advise you to spend less time trying to divine the intentions of so-called 'liberal scholarship' and more time trying to come to a proper understanding of its arguments and rebut them if you are not convinced. The 'late' dating of the gospels has nothing to do with what you claim and everything to do with the internal and external evidence
that they date later than you or your traditions suggest...
Alexander, Loveday. The Preface to Luke's Gospel: Literary Convention and Social Context in Luke 1.1-4 and Acts 1.1
(Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 78; Cambridge University Press, 1993)
Danker, Frederick William (ed.). A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature
(Third Edition [BDAG]; University of Chicago Press, 2000)
Moessner, David P. "The Appeal and Power of Poetics (Luke 1:1-4): Luke's Superior Credentials (παρακολουθηκότι
), Narrative Sequence (καθεξῆς
), and Firmness of Understanding (ἡ ἀσφάλεια
) for the Reader" in Jesus and the Heritage of Israel: Luke's Narrative Claim upon Israel's Legacy
, ed. Moessner (Luke the Interpreter of Israel 1; Trinity Press International, 1999)
Yamada, Kota. "The Preface to the Lukan Writings and Rhetorical Historiography" in The Rhetorical Interpretation of Scripture: Essays from the 1996 Malibu Conference
, ed. Stanley E. Porter and Dennis L. Stamps (Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 180; Sheffield Academic Press, 1999)