Christian missionaries claim that the four gospels are four separate eyewitness accounts of what took place during Jesus’ lifetime, written by those who witnessed what happened, and afterwards decided to write and record the events of Jesus’ life.
When we read the opening of the Gospel of Luke however we stumble across a problem to this thesis put forth by missionaries, the opening of Luke reads:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilledamong us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With 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, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)
There are several points here that are very problematic to the Christian missionary claim, and to the general point of the gospels being actual eyewitness accounts.
The first thing that is clearly established by the opening of Luke is that it was certainly not written by an eyewitness, the author is openly writing that he is writing an account based on what was handed down to him by eyewitnesses, so he himself isn’t an eyewitness.
Secondly, the author says that he has gathered all the accounts he has within his possession, and to his own personal discretion has decided to make his own personal account, and this clearly establishes that the Gospel of Luke is certainly not the word of God, but the word of the author simply going through several different accounts of Jesus’ life and putting his own piece together.
Thirdly, as the author mentions many other persons did exactly what he is doing, writing an account of Jesus’ life, so what this means is there were other ‘gospels’ floating around, as the author says ‘many’ such accounts were written by others and now the author of Luke has decided to write his own account that is based on the other accounts.
Fourthly, and this is connected to the second point, the very human nature of the Gospel of Luke is exemplified by it’s differences-contradictions to other gospels, which is something we would expect from a very human endeavor. Let’s mention some of these contradictions, the first has to do with the other men beside Jesus on the cross:
And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS. And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors. And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, 30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.
So according to Mark’s version, the other men beside Jesus reviled him alongside the people who were mocking him and telling him to save himself.
Let’s read Luke’s account of the same incident:
And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord,remember me when thou comestinto thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shaltthou be with me in paradise.
So according to Luke’s account, one of the men on the crosses actually began to defend Jesus, and started calling Jesus lord and telling Jesus to remember him when Jesus enters his kingdom, and Jesus tells the man that he will be alongside Jesus in paradise today. Compare that with the earlier account of Mark where Jesus is being mocked and reviled and being challenged to save himself.
Another contradiction comes concerning where the disciples are to meet the resurrected Jesus, in Jerusalem or Galilee?
According to both Mark and Matthew, the man (in Mark) and the angel (in Matthew) told the women that Jesus has risen and will meet them in Galilee:
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mark 16:6-7)
Now in Luke’s account, the 2 persons at the tomb site tell the women that Jesus has arisen, but says nothing about them having to go to Galilee to see him:
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” (Luke 24:4-7)
The immediate context of these passages makes it further clear that the women were never told that they and the disciples would see the risen Jesus in Galilee, because if you go on to read the rest of the chapter, the disciples remain in and around Jerusalem when they finally see the risen Jesus:
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven milesfrom Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16)
So two disciples come into contact with Jesus while going to the village of Emmaus, located near Jerusalem. Jesus finally reveals his true identity to them, and then they go tell the rest of the disciples in Jerusalem, where Jesus appears to all of them in Jerusalem:
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” (Luke 24:33-39)
So Jesus reveals himself to all of them at Jerusalem according to Luke.
So which one is it? Was Jesus to meet the disciples in Galilee as Mark and Matthew allege? Or were they to meet Jesus in Jerusalem as Luke says?
As we said, such contradictions are not a surprise and are to be expected from this very human endeavor of Luke, who in his own words says he was writing up his own personal account of what took place during Jesus’ lifetime based on other accounts he heard, thus it makes sense to find discrepancies and contradictions with other accounts and gospels, revealing that this gospel is certainly not the supposed pure and protected word of God.
A fifth problem with this is why would Luke decide to make his own account if other gospels were already in existence, gospels such as Mark and Matthew which are accepted as legitimate gospels in comparison to the many others? It means that Luke (or the author of the Gospel of Luke) was not satisfied with the other accounts so he decided to make his own one, and this on it’s own is quite problematic. If Mark and Matthew are the words of God then why does Luke feel it’s his place to make his account and version, aren’t those Gospels enough? Obviously not according to Luke who says he has decided to write his own account based on all the other accounts and what he has heard. We’re talking about the supposed words of God here, the words of God, shouldn’t Mark and Matthew have sufficed? Obviously not in the mind of Luke.