Most excellent Theophilus, lover of God,
It seemed it was time to write you. Having investigated everything clearly myself, and for a long time, I have written an accurate account in sequence. I have devoted my work and words here with a particular goal in mind: that you might know the certainty about the matters reported to you by word of mouth. And I have compiled this account because many have put their hands to the task to write down a story about the matters that were fulfilled among us. Their accounts were recorded just as the eyewitnesses told it to us. They became servants of the Word.
:: Notes ::
“You should know that, not only four Gospels, but very many, were composed. The Gospels we have were chosen from among these gospels and passed on to the churches. We can know this from Luke’s own prologue, which begins this way: ‘Because many have tried to compose an account.’ The words, ‘have tried’ imply an accusation against those who rushed into writing gospels without the grace of the Holy Spirit. Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke did not ‘try’ to write; they wrote their Gospels when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Hence, ‘Many have tried to compose an account of the events that are clearly known among us.’
“The Church has four Gospels. Heretics have very many. One of them is entitled ‘According to the Egyptians’, another ‘According to the Twelve Apostles.’ Basilides, too, dared to write a gospel and give it his own name. ‘Many have tried’ to write, but only four Gospels have been approved…
“The Apostle, too, says of those who were steadfast and strong, ‘That you may be rooted and grounded in faith.’ If anyone is rooted and grounded in faith, he will not be torn up or fall down, even if a storm should arise and winds blow and rain pour down, for his house has been built upon rock and with a firm foundation. We should not think that steadfastness in faith comes to us through our earthly eyes; mind and reason have imparted it. Let unbelievers trust the signs and portents that human sight beholds. The faithful, prudent, and strong man should follow reason and the Word, and so distinguish truth from error…”
Origen, Homilies on Luke: Homily 1.
“But Luke, who was of Antiochian parentage and a physician by profession, and who was especially intimate with Paul and well acquainted with the rest of the apostles, has left us in two inspired books, proofs of that spiritual healing art which he learned from them. One of these books is the Gospel, which he testifies that he wrote as those who were from the beginning eye-witnesses and ministers of the world delivered unto him, all of whom, as he says, he followed accurately from the first.”
Eusebius, Church History: Book 3 Chapter 4.
“But as for Luke, in the beginning of his Gospel, he states himself the reasons which led him to write it. He states that since many others had more rashly undertaken to compose a narrative of the events of which he had acquired perfect knowledge, he himself, feeling the necessity of freeing us from their uncertain opinions, delivered in his own Gospel an accurate account of those events in regard to which he had learned the full truth, being aided by his intimacy with his stay with Paul and by his acquaintance with the rest of the apostles.”
Eusebius, Church History: Book 3 Chapter 24.
“The Gospel was written for ‘Theophilus’, which simply means ‘for God’s beloved one.’ My friend, if you love God, this Gospel is written for you. If, then, it is written for you, accept this gift from the Evangelist. Preserve with care, in the very depths of your heart, this sacred pledge given to you by a friend. ‘Keep the good thing committed to your trust by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ (2 Tim 1.14). Look at it frequently, examine it often. Fidelity is the first duty of one who has received something in trust. The next duty is to treat it with diligent care so that the precious deposit may not be consumed by moth or rust. Because what was confided to you so trustingly could be destroyed or damaged. The Gospel is a precious pledge, and you must see to it that it is not devoured in you heart by moth or rust. It is eaten by the moth if, having read it well you believe it badly.
Ambrose, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Book 1.