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October 18, 2020

Did the Apostle Luke, Like the Apostle John, Refer to Jesus as the Word of God?

Did the Apostle Luke in his Gospel, like the Apostle John in his Gospel (Jn. 1:1), refer to Jesus as the Word (Logos) of God? The patristic testimony unanimously affirms that he did, specifically in Luke 1:2 where it says: "...just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word." In most translations of "Word" it is not capitalized, so the idea is conveyed that it is actually speaking of words, such as the way Protestants refer to Scripture, but the context is clear that this Word had eyewitnesses and servants, therefore referring to a person, specifically Jesus Christ. Below are four early patristic interpretations of Luke 1:2 to make this clearer:

Irenaeus of Lyons:

Thus did the apostles simply, and without respect of persons, deliver to all what they had themselves learned from the Lord. Thus also does Luke, without respect of persons, deliver to us what he had learned from them, as he has himself testified, saying, "Even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and servants of the Word."

Ambrose of Milan:

The ministry of the word is greater than the hearing of it. Not the spoken word but the essential Word is meant — that which was made flesh and dwelt among us — so do not understand it as the common word but as that celestial Word to whom the apostles ministered. For one reads in Exodus that the people saw the voice of the Lord, yet truly a voice is not seen but heard. For what is a voice but a sound, which is not discerned with the eyes but perceived with the ear? Truly, with the highest genius, Moses wished to proclaim that the voice of God is seen, for it is seen with the sight of the inner mind. In the Gospel, not a voice but the Word, which is more excellent than a voice, is seen. You see, therefore, that the Word of God was seen and heard by the apostles. They saw the Lord, not only according to the body but also according to the Word. For they with Moses and Elijah saw the glory of the Word. They who saw him in his glory saw Jesus. Others who could see only the body did not see him. Jesus is seen not with the eyes of the body but with the eyes of the spirit.

Athanasius the Great:

What the apostles received, they passed on without change, so that the doctrine of the mysteries and Christ would remain correct. The divine Word — the Son of God — wants us to be their disciples. It is appropriate for them to be our teachers, and it is necessary for us to submit to their teaching alone. Only from them and from those who have faithfully taught their doctrine do we get, as Paul writes, “faithful words, worthy of complete acceptance.” With them we are back to ground level, because they did not become disciples as a result of what they heard from others. Rather, they were eyewitnesses and servants of God the Word, and they handed down what they heard directly from him.

Cyril of Alexandria:

In saying that the Apostles were eyewitnesses of the substantial and living Word, the Evangelist agrees with John, who says, that "the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled in us, and His glory was seen, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father." For the Word became capable of being seen by reason of the flesh, which is visible and tangible and solid: whereas in Himself He is invisible. And John again in his Epistle says, "That which was from the beginning, That which we have heard, That which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled around the Word of Life, and the Life became manifest." Hearest thou not that he speaks of the Life as capable of being handled? This he does that thou mayest understand that the Son became man, and was visible in respect of the flesh, but invisible as regards His divinity.

Cyril of Alexandria again:

They “who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word” did not hand on to us that he was one Son and another, as I said, but one and the same, God and man at the same time, the onlybegotten and the firstborn. This came about in order that he might have the first title as God and the second as man, when he “was born among many brothers,” having assumed our likeness. He had not joined another man to himself — as it seemed good to some persons to think — but he really and truly became man and did not relinquish being what he was, being God by nature and impassible. For this reason he voluntarily suffered in his own flesh. He has not given the body of someone else for us. Rather, the onlybegotten Word of God himself offered himself, after he became man, as an immaculate victim to God the Father.