What about Luke? He was not an apostle. Can his book about Jesus be considered a part of the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42) for us? Why do Christians accept his book about Jesus and reject other books such as the Shepherd of Hermas?

We know that Jesus prayed that God would make His apostles holy and dedicated by God's Word, His divine teaching (John 17:17ff). Jesus not only prayed for the apostles but for those of us that would believe on Jesus through the “Word” of the apostles. Without the writings of the apostles' doctrine people would not even be able to know Jesus. This writer has emphasized the importance of hearing and following the instructions of the apostles' doctrine just as the initial church in Jerusalem was faithful in doing (Acts 2:42).

One might concede that the apostles did speak for Jesus since He authorized them to do so (Matthew 28:18-20) and He sent the Holy Spirit from the Father to keep them inerrant (John 16:13; 20:21-23; Acts 1:4). This brings us to our subject. You may then ask, “What about the book of Luke since Luke was not an apostle?”

This question requires us to understand the role that the students of the apostles had. Jesus calls these students “disciples.” He commands the apostles to go, teach, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Then, Jesus tells the apostles to teach them “all”: Teaching them to give heed to all as much as I gave charge to you” (Matthew 28:20a, Apostolic Bible Polygot).

The apostles baptized thousands of visitors in Jerusalem. These baptized believers stayed in Jerusalem to be further taught by the apostles (Acts 2-6). After selecting seven of the “taught” men, the apostles lay their hands on them. This resulted in these selected men being led by the Holy Spirit to preach the apostles' doctrine (Acts 6:5-8). For example, we have the first martyr, the Holy Spirit inspired Stephen (Acts 6:5-7; 7) doing signs and preaching the apostles' doctrine. Then in Acts 8, his fellow worker Philip, also inspired by the Spirit, is teaching the doctrine to the Samaritans (vv.4-8) and later teaching the Ethiopian eunuch (vv 26-39).

Paul was Jesus' special apostle “born out of due season” and was the last person to see the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8). He was not taught by any apostle but was taught directly by the Lord (Galatians 1:11,12). God confirmed Paul's apostleship with the signs of apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12).

So, where does this physician Luke come in. He is not one of the twelve; but he was a regular companion of the apostle Paul during the evangelistic tours around the Mediterranean Sea. We know that Luke recorded the book of Acts by his personal references in the book. The same one that wrote the book of Acts also wrote the life of Jesus (Gospel According to Luke; see and compare the first verses of each). Just as Stephen and Philip were trained by the apostles to teach the apostles' doctrine so was Luke obviously trained on the job by an apostle (Paul). Hence, just as Paul taught the apostles' doctrine, so it is that Luke learned and taught it as well.

And [Christians] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets [inspired men, such as Stephen and Philip], Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).

Luke says that he was taught by the eye witnesses (G845 αὐτόπτης, autoptes; Luke 1:2). He claimed in verse 3 that His writing was from above. That is, Luke claims divine inspiration also.

The Greek word “from above” is G509 ἄνωθεν, anothen. Its extension is from a source which is above-- “from above, from the top of.” He who comes from above [anothen] is far above all” (John 3:31). “In this verse the reference is obviously heaven, and in many languages it is essential to translate it 'He who comes from heaven is far above all'” (Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). Other passages where this Greek word is translated “from above”: “was given to you from above” (John 19:11). The curtain of the Temple “was torn in two from the top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). Jesus' garment was “woven from the top in one piece” (John 19:23).

From Vine's Dictionary, G 509: anothen - again – (e.g, “born from above” John 3:3)
“- (from 507) from above; (by analogy) from the first; (by implication) anew; (of time) from the beginning (very first);
(of place) from above, from a higher place; hence, whatever is heavenly or from heaven
(N.T. usage: Matt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38; Lk. 1:3; John 3:3, 7, 31; 19:11, 23; Acts 26:5; Gal. 4:9; James 1:17; 3:15, 17)”

As the Bible student can readily see, the word basically means “from above.” The question a translator must determine is whether the context is referring to time, order or place.

The King James translators must have thought Luke was talking about time in this passage in Luke 1:3 “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first.” In a context of time, this would be an acceptable translation. However, Luke would not be referring to time with Jesus “from the first” like the apostles were (Acts 1:21). Luke had already used the familiar Greek expression for time, “from the beginning,” in the previous verse (2). It is not sensible that he would be repeating himself. To interpret the passage as time would make Luke be saying that he had done human research. Robertson refers kindly to Cadbury'si argument, to which Milliganii agrees, that the passage is not talking about personal research. We then must agree that Luke is talking about the source of his book being the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

Surely, one of the following three versions of this passage serve a better translation:

It seemed good to me also, most excellent Theophilus, having taken careful note of everything from Above, to write to you with precision and in sequence” (WPNT).

It seemed good to me also, having followed up accurately all things from above, to write to you in orderly fashion, most distinguished Theophilus” (EMTV).

It seemed fitting to me also, having comprehended all things thoroughly from above, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus (SLT).iii

If Luke is truthful that his source is from above then Luke follows the pattern of Stephen and Philip. Luke is a prophet of God. His message is inspired and part of God's Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16,17) and is for our profit.

by Gaylon West
"Throw Out the Lifeline"

i (Appendix C to Beginnings of Christianity, Vol. II, pp. 489ff.)

ii Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament