Here’s a brief post that draws on my article for the monthly Chatter (church newsletter) for Felton Bible Church. It pertains to our study through the Gospel of Luke:
As we’ve worked through the first two chapters of Luke, I’m struck by the multiplicity of persons and stories with whom Luke engages. So far, we’ve seen this gospel writer in conversation with Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, unnamed shepherds, Simeon, and Anna. In actuality, we can’t know just how many witnesses Luke personally interviewed, or whose testimony he heard told, in order to compile his “orderly account.” Undoubtedly, Luke was a skilled investigator and reporter. This observation suggests to my mind a few things worth mentioning:
1) Notice how no one person had the full picture of Jesus’ arrival, including as it pertained to the birth of his forerunner, John the Baptist. Knowing the whole story of God’s work and ways required his people to be together, to talk, to interact, to share, and to story-tell. No wonder the author of Hebrews exhorts us to not neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25)!
2) The reality of many witnesses ought to encourage us as to the veracity of what we read in Luke’s Gospel. If Luke was fabricating his account, there were, even in his day, plenty of others to cry “foul!” What we read in this gospel is one truth told through the perspective of many witnesses.
3) The pattern of many witnesses ought to make us cautious, if not downright skeptical, of single-source eyewitness accounts, especially when those accounts do not otherwise comport with God’s revealed truth. For instance, why should we strongly reject the claims made by Joseph Smith about his experience of visions with the Father, the Son, and an angel named Moroni? Well, we reject them in part because the only witness to these events was Smith himself, and what he experienced and taught contradicts Scripture. The same can be said about the experience of Muhammed regarding his alleged reception of the Quran through various revelations from God. This does not mean that every single-source account is suspect, but it certainly means that God’s Word forms the first standard against which we judge any claim of a vision or word from the Lord.
4) The pattern we see in Luke of multiple witnesses – i.e. no one person had the full story – suggests to us that God continues to work in the same manner today. Do you want to know what God is up to in this world? Then talk with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Read their stories, especially the stories of those from a different culture or geographic location. Consider how the experience of the church around you reflects the truth of Scripture. It is absolutely essential that the body of Christ be in conversation with one another. May our conversations range far and wide as God gives us opportunity to know Jesus’ church in many locales.