We see the introductory paragraph of the Gospel according to Luke, as follows:

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us,

Luke 1 - NRSV

Given that the Catholic Church recognizes , as Canonical, only three Gospels other than the one according to Luke, the phrase "many have undertaken" as used by Luke sounds to be out of place, in that he could have used "a few". I wish to know what the exact word corresponding to the English "many" as used by Luke in the original text was, and what the interpretations of that word are.

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    The Greek word is πολλοὶ (polloi) - an indefinite number. There were and still are many gospel accounts as Luke correctly notes. Only Four have been recognised as canonical. Is it possible to refine this question a little?
    – user25930
    Jun 3 '19 at 22:40
  • I have modified the question. Thanks.
    – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan
    Jun 4 '19 at 3:28
  • I cannot see much difference. Are you thinking about Luke sources and that some were not canonical? All readily admit that he (and many other Bible writers) used non-canonical sources.
    – user25930
    Jun 4 '19 at 6:32
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    Writings a Gospel account, and writing an inspired one, are not the same thing. Not all accounts of Jesus' life will be God-breathed. Jun 4 '19 at 12:41
  • This is only a guess, but I think "many" is intended to emphasize that Luke gathered a lot of material from a lot of sources. Additionally, it could possibly be an acknowledgement that some of what we now classify as non-canonical gospels were already starting to appear. Jun 5 '19 at 17:37
  1. Ἐπειδήπερ (Partπειδήπερ) denotes the fact, assumed as known, common in literary Attic.


  1. The Greek verb ἐπεχείρησαν (ἐπιχειρέω), means to undertake something, with a good or bad ending, completing or not, to fulfill the purpose that each one proposes. It is most often used with the ideia of Annihilation, to destroy something completely so that nothing is left. 2 Chr. 20:11; 1 Es. 1:26; Ezr. 7:23; Est. 8:12; 9:25; 2 Ma. 2:29; 7:19; 9:2; 10:15; 3 Ma. 6:24; 7:5; 4 Ma. 1:5; Lk. 1:1; Acts 9:29; 19:13.


  1. Αναταξασθαι, the word is composed of τασσω, a common verb for arranging things in proper order and ανα, again. “The expression points to a connected series of narratives in some order [τᾰ́ξῐς], topical or chronological rather than to isolated narratives” (Bruce)


  1. διήγησιν (διήγησις), a narration—history. The word is clearly explained in Plato, Rep. iii. p. 392: ἆρʼ οὐ πάντα ὅσα ὑπὸ μυθολόγων ἢ ποιητῶν λέγεται, διήγησις οὖσα τυγχάνει ἢ γεγονότων ἢ ὄντων ἢ μελλόντων; τί γάρ, ἔφη, ἄλλο; ἆρα οὖν οὐχὶ ἤτοι ἁπλῇ διηγήσει ἢ διὰ μιμήσεως γιγνομένῃ ἢ διʼ ἀμφοτέρων περαίνουσιν: THE GREEK TESTAMENTAN EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL COMMENTARY Volume II: Luke–John HENRY ALFORD, Jda. 7:15; Jdg. 5:14; 2 Ma. 2:32; 6:17; Sir. 6:35; 9:15; 22:6; 27:11, 13; 38:25; 39:2; Hab. 2:6; Lk. 1:1 see “Let these words suffice for recalling this truth. Without further ado we must go on with our story”. 2 Maccabees 6:17 NABRE


  1. This word "many" must have the value of "some" Martin Franz Dibelius . Lk. 1:1, 14, 16; 2:34-36; 3:13, 18; 4:25, 27, 41; 5:6, 15, 29; 6:17, 23, 35; 7:11, 21, 42-43, 47; 8:3-4, 29-30; 9:13, 22, 37; 10:2, 24, 40-41; 11:31-32, 53; 12:7, 19, 23, 47-48; 13:24; 14:16, 25; 15:13; 16:10; 17:25; 18:39; 21:3, 8, 27; 22:65; 23:27; Jn. 2:12, 23; 3:23; 4:1, 39, 41; 5:6; 6:2, 5, 10, 60, 66; 7:12, 31; 8:26, 30; 10:20, 32, 41-42; 11:19, 45, 47, 55; 12:9, 11-12, 24, 42; 14:2, 30; 15:2, 5, 8; 16:12; 19:20; 20:30; 21:15, 25; In special Lk 4:41; 5:29; 8:30 (many = legion = 500); 9:13.


  1. Περι, around, an investigative historian about those events as well as an eye-witness to what immediately followed.

. . ** "Many" preceded Luke in writing gospels, and these were discrepant; Lucas did historical work to destroy them.**


The following is the definition of the word translated as many according to Strong’s dictionary. I have taken the liberty of including Luke chapter 1 verse 1 from many copies of different Bible translations that I have on my computer.

It should be noted that Luke a Gentile; was a constant companion to Paul, and as such he had the opportunity to interview many of the Apostles and possibly Mary (mother of Jesus ) as well as several other eye witnesses of Jesus life. G4183 πολύς, πολλός polus polos pol-oos' Including the forms from the alternate “pollos”; (singular) much (in any respect) or (plural) many; neuter (singular) as adverb largely; neuter (plural) as adverb or noun often, mostly, largely: - abundant, + altogether, common, + far (passed, spent), (+ be of a) great (age, deal, -ly, while), long, many, much, oft (-en [-times]), plenteous, sore, straitly. Compare G4118, G4119. Total KJV occurrences: 365

(Bishops) Forasmuche as manye haue taken in hande, to set foorth in order, ye declaration of those thynges whiche are moste surelye to be beleued among vs, (Geneva) Forasmuch as many haue taken in hand to set foorth the storie of those things, whereof we are fully persuaded, (Hebrew NT DD) אחרי אשר רבים הואילו לחבר ספור המעשים אשר נאמנו בשלמות בתוכנו׃ (Hebrew NT SG) הֵן יְדֵי רַבִּים כָּתְבוּ עַל־סֵפֶר אֶת־מַעַרְכֵי הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר כּוֹנְנוּ בְתוֹכֵנוּ אֶל־נָכוֹן׃ (ISV) Since many people have attempted to write an orderly account of the events that have transpired among us, (KJV) Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, (KJV+) ForasmuchG1895 as manyG4183 have taken in handG2021 to set forth in orderG392 a declarationG1335 ofG4012 those thingsG4229 which are most surely believedG4135 amongG1722 us,G2254 (KJV-1611) Forasmuch as many haue taken in hande to set foorth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely beleeued among vs, (KJVA) Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, (KJV-BRG) Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, (MKJV) Since many took in hand to draw up an account concerning the matters which have been borne out among us, (WEB) Since many have undertaken to set in order a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, (WEBA) Since many have undertaken to set in order a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, (YLT) Seeing that many did take in hand to set in order a narration of the matters that have been fully assured among us,

If you find this insufficient please let me know and I will expound further.

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    I don't see how this answers the question. What does Luke mean by "many," and how does that work with there only being 3 other Gospel accounts that we are aware of in the 1st century? Jun 11 '19 at 13:30

Luke is probably referring here to numerous false gospels that seemed to have been circulating. We might note that he writes many have undertaken to set down rather than simply many have set down.

This was explained in the Byzantine commentary on Luke by Theophlyact:

Who were these many who attempted to set forth in order an account? The false apostles. For there were many who wrote so-called "gospels," for example, "The gospel according to the Egyptians," and "The gospel of the twelve." But these false apostles only attempted to set forth; they did not finish and perfect their narratives because they began without divine grac. Luke therefore says well that many have attempted. Only a few, such as Matthew and Mark, not only attempted to set forth, but finished and perfected their narrative. For they had the Holy Spirit, Which perfects.

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