Summary: The first of four reasons Luke suggests to study the ministry of Jesus Christ - to establish an accurate account of His life, death, and resurrection.
I. TO ESTABLISH AN ACCURATE ACCOUNT OF HIS LIFE, HIS DEATH, AND HIS RESURRECTION.
1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us,
8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
A. Many “Gospels” Have Been Written.
1. Have taken in hand – NT:2021 – epecheireesan – A literal translation. The word carries the sense of a difficult undertaking (see Acts 19:13), and implies that previous attempts have not been successful. (From Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
2. Calvin, therefore, suggests that Luke wrote his gospel because he did not agree with the other writings that men had offered, stating, “…though he deals gently with those who had written before him, he does not altogether approve of their labors.” (From Calvin’s Commentaries, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2005-2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
3. British theologian and biblical scholar Adam Clarke agrees, noting that “…as most of these accounts were inaccurate, recording as facts things which had not happened; and through ignorance or design mistaking others, especially in the place where Luke wrote; it seemed good to the Holy Spirit to inspire this holy man with the most correct knowledge of the whole history of our Lord’s birth, preaching, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension, that the sincere, upright followers of God might have a sure foundation, on which they might safely build their faith.” (From Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
4. We know historically that other gospels were written that were not accepted into the canon.
5. Generally these were not accepted due to:
a. doubt about authorship,
b. the time frame between the original writing and the events described, or
c. content that was at odds with accepted orthodoxy.
B. Examples Of “Other Gospels.”
1. The Gospel of Peter, for example, was rejected because it contained writings that could be used to support Docetism (a Gnostic belief that Jesus’ physical body and crucifixion was an illusion).
a. Docetism was rejected by the ecumenical councils and mainstream Christianity, all but died out during the first millennium A.D., and was ultimately declared heretical after the time of Eusebius (c. 275 – 339).
i. Modern Islam asserts that Jesus’ crucifixion was an illusion.
ii. The Qur’an states, “They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, but it was made to seem so to them…”
iii. Islam’s view is that the four canonical gospels have been corrupted over time.
b. The Gospel of Peter was also rejected because it claims the Apostle Peter as its author, yet the manuscript is widely believed to date after his death, and therefore is pseudepigraphal (bearing the name of an author who did not actually write the text).
c. The Gospel of Peter was also rejected because it contains accounts that are inconsistent with the descriptions given in the canonical gospels.
i. Jesus’ cry from the cross as given in Matthew (“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”) is recorded as “My power, my power, thou hast forsaken me.”
ii. The Resurrection and the Ascension occur on the same day.
iii. The cross is described as speaking and moving around, revealing its obvious Gnostic sympathies.
2. The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings of Jesus as recorded by Didymos Judas Thomas (believed to be the apostle Judas – as opposed to Judas Iscariot).
a. The work contains 114 sayings, many of which are at odds with sayings in the four canonical gospels.
b. In this account, Jesus is pictured as a spiritual role model who offers everyone the opportunity to become the anointed one as He is.
c. Its mystical overtones emphasize a direct experience of the Divine through becoming a Christ.
d. Salvation is personal and found through psychological contemplation of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
e. In contrast to the Gospel of John where Jesus is portrayed as the Son of God, the Gospel of Thomas presents Him as the omnipresent vehicle of mystical inspiration and enlightenment.
f. Verse 77 records: “I am the light that shines over all things. I am everywhere. From me all came forth, and to me all return. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there…”