The prologue of the gospel of Luke reveals that writers followed Jesus just as stenographers did at that time. Since old one has supposed that the ‘eyewitnesses and servants of the word’ refer to the apostles after Jesus departure. However this is a misconception, the term refers to Jesus’ writers among his followers …

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,
2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,

3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;
4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

NASB Luke 1:1-4

Luke-Acts, one historical work?

Generally, the explanation of the prologue of the Gospel of Luke is dominated by the term ‘eyewitnesses and servants of the word’. Since old times one has supposed that this referred to the apostles. Before Jesus’ departure they were the eyewitnesses as his disciples and after Jesus’ departure, as his apostles, they became the servants of the word, preachers of the gospel. And so it is generally assumed that the prologue is in fact an introduction to two books: the history Luke–Acts. Happily enough, this is a misconception as we will see.

Classical book writing

A classical author writing a history in two books, would normally have used one title for the entire work, calling the two parts: Book 1 and Book 2. Moreover the books were always brought out together: Book 2 immediately followed Book 1.
Comparing this with the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, we immediately see the differences. It is clear that the Gospel and Acts have two different titles, ‘According to Luke’ and, ‘The Acts of the Apostles’ respectively. There is no indication in the well-documented history of the New Testament books, that they ever had different names. In addition, these books were never delivered together as one historical work. We have to do here with two different works.

It is true that Acts was written as a sequel to the Gospel; Luke refers to it in the introduction of Acts (1:1-2), but in writing the Gospel Luke did not intend from the outset to bring out two books. Consequently the prologue of Luke is to be taken as referring to the Gospel and NOT additionally to Acts.

Jesus’ writers

The previous insight determines the meaning of the prologue definitely. ‘The things accomplished among us’ are the great deeds of Jesus as described in Luke’s gospel, as he also decided (3) to write these occurrences.
The meaning of the small word ‘us’ in this phrase is striking. They were the bystanders of the great deeds of Jesus he accomplished among us, they were the spectators, the first generation until Jesus’ Ascension.
To these spectators of Jesus the eyewitnesses delivered special information, and the content of it was: what they had seen as eyewitnesses and what they had heard as servants of the spoken word. That is the spoken word of Jesus and his interlocutors.
Yes, already in Jesus’ ministry accurate information was handed down to the people who wanted to make trustworthy narratives. The eyewitnesses delivered written reports after the occurrences, as it can be excluded that they started to preach after Jesus’ preaching to tell what exactly had happened.
The first generation only needed to copy short reports of the eyewitnesses and Luke made use of these reports later on. Writing his gospel he worked in the same way as the many did during Jesus’ ministry. The concept of an oral tradition preceding the gospels is one of the biggest theological blunders ever. For some this will be hard to hear, but for others it will be a joy to hear that the gospels are well documented books. This insight will also be indispensable for the Christian testimony in a modern and globalising world. Christianity doesn’t depend on hearsay stories, but on truth. This is part of the staggering power of the gospels.

Jesus’ stenographers

The art of stenography  was invented and developed in the Roman Empire by slaves. It was introduced in the Roman senate on december 5, 63 BC and the art became the new fashion of speedy writing in the Greco-Roman world. This important art of writing was able to spread over the entire Roman Empire from the west to the east. When Jesus – about 90 years later – taught the multitudes, everything was ready to preserve his words. Stenographers were in Luke’s culture the professionals who acted precisely according to Luke’s description of ‘the eyewitnesses and servants of the spoken word’. Jesus’ writers employed their ability under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they experienced in Jesus’ presence.

See also: Christ, Uninterrupted

See also: Jesus’s Stenographers, The Story of the Red Letters