“It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”
Luke made it clear that he intended for us to regard his work as an accurate and reliable historical account. It is not allegory, myth or fable, but solid, verifiable history. Typically, our non-believing interlocutors will, as a knee-jerk reaction, simply deny the historical reliability of Gospels. Mere denials, however, are not arguments. When the claim is made that there is no historical evidence for the New Testament, we can point to the mountains of ancient copies of the inspired text. The New Testament just is by far the best-attested literary work in history. Surely this is the fulfillment of God’s promise to preserve His word (Isaiah 40:8; Luke 21:33; 1 Peter 1:24-25). Internally, the Gospels display all sorts of signs of authenticity and eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-3; John 1:14; 19:33-35; 21:24). The external witness to Jesus and the New Testament is equally impressive. The writings of Luke in particular contain numerous historical details that have been corroborated by sources outside the Bible. We are not surprised of course; God’s words of truth are certain (Proverbs 22:19-21). Often our opponents will react to this by retreating further into their skepticism. Often they will deny that any historical claim is actually knowable. Their reasons for this are of course self-serving and easily refuted. For instance, if they claim that they can’t know history because they didn’t personally witness the events recorded, we can point out that they claim to know many things they haven’t personally witnessed (eg. The “Big Bang” and evolution). If they claim they can’t know history because the written accounts are fragmentary, we can point out that their own claimed knowledge in any area is also fragmentary and incomplete (no one has complete knowledge of anything!). Sometimes skeptics claim that complete objectivity on the part of the historian is required for his account to be reliable. Since this is impossible, his record is suspect. Here we can point out that the skeptic himself is giving us an historical account of what historians in the past were and weren’t able to do. Is he being objective? If so then his argument fails. If not then we don’t have to listen to him! It’s true that among humans, complete objectivity is impossible. We are all motivated to some extent by feelings and desires. This does not mean, however, that our record of the past will be unreliable. In fact, those closest to their object of study may desire more than anyone to know and share the truth. The apostles loved their Lord Who loved them first (John 13:1; 1 John 4:19) and they wanted others to know and love Jesus also (1 John 1:1-4). Believing their testimony not only makes good historical sense, it leads to the fullness of life everlasting (John 20:31).