Investigate: A five-part interactive study.
Jesus: A comprehensive look at His origin and purpose.
In this study we will see:
- How Luke's Gospel fits into history.
- That Jesus is "the Son of God."
- What Jesus said he came to do.
The New Testament is made up of several short books and letters. Our English Bibles are translations of what the early Christians actually wrote. The experts tell us that we can be sure that the text on which these translations are based is exceptionally accurate and that seeming contradictions are readily explained.
A. How can we be sure about the Bible accounts?
In the days of the first Christians, there were many writings about the life of Jesus. But some had special quality--they had been written by Jesus' followers or their close friends. These gospels and letters were carefully copied by hand. Over the years, archaeologists have found thousands of manuscripts of bits of the New Testament and even some complete copies. By comparing these, we can get very close to what the New Testament writers originally wrote. Some of these copies are dated less than 100 years after the original gospel or letter was written.
For an idea of how good this evidence is, compare the New Testament with other writings that are about as old as the New Testament. For example, Julius Caesar wrote a book called The Gallic War about 50 years before Christ was born. We obviously do not have the original copy. Yet, we do have nine or ten copies, and the earliest of these was made about 900 years after the original. This is a typical gap for ancient writings.
When, however, we examine the historical evidence relating to the Bible, one learns that there are thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament books. Therefore, we have good reason to believe that we know almost exactly what Luke, Paul and the others wrote.
B. Who wrote the gospel of Luke?
The author of this gospel, Luke, also wrote another book in the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles. He was the only New Testament writer who was not Jewish, and he was a doctor. Independent evidence confirms that he was a very careful and accurate historian.
C. Luke's Gospel: fact or fiction?
Read Luke 1:1-4
- Where did Luke get his information? (1:2)
- How did he write it? (1:3)
- Why do you think Luke wrote this introduction?
D. Where did Jesus come from?
Luke gives details of the unique origin of Jesus, and the following passage explains how Jesus' birth was foretold.Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.""How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.""I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Scripture taken from the New International Version.
Read Luke 1:26-38
- What would the future hold for Mary's child? (1:32,33)
- How would Jesus be conceived? (1:35-37)
- Jesus is said to be the Son of God. What do these verses say about Jesus' "double" origin?
E. Jesus explains his purpose
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the south of Palestine. He grew up in a very ordinary town, named Nazareth, located in Galilee which was in the north of Palestine. Jesus was a carpenter, but at the age of 30, he became a religious teacher, moving from town to town.
In Luke 4:14-22, we read what happened when Jesus began teaching. He went to the synagogue, which was the local place of worship. Although he probably had no more religious education than the average Jewish man, people wanted to hear him. He was asked to speak at the synagogue in Nazareth.
Read Luke 4:14-22
- What kinds of people had Jesus come to help? (4:18)
- What do you think this means?
- What was he going to announce? (4:19)
- What does this mean?
- What do you think the people in the synagogue understood when he said the words in verse 21?
TO THINK ABOUT
Jesus came to help the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. What are ways in which people today are poor, captive, blind or oppressed?