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I’ve read a book on these verses (Luke 1:1-4 that suggested the Greek wording in Luke 1:1-4 shows that “speedy writers” followed Jesus as “ministers of the spoken word” also being eyewitnesses of Christ Himself. My question is, does the Greek make it possible for such an interpretation? This goes along the bounds of the arguments for the “gospel of Q”. Especially knowing that the gospel of Luke was about Jesus:

“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:1-4‬

Book: Jesus Stenographers by Ben Van Noort

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    Do questions like these prove that religious sites act like a magnet for bizarre ideas ?
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 15:11
  • It’s not bizarre since it’s based on Scripture. Many people allude to Jesus’ words being mere oral tradition. I think people don’t realize that “ many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us”. It’s simple.
    – Cork88
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 15:18
  • Yes, but it is bizarrely (as opposed to logically) based on scripture.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 15:36
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    You could also ask whether David time travelled, and changed his name to Joseph, so that Jesus could be called son of David. The mere fact that you genuinely don't seem to grasp how bizarre the question even is, is in and of itself extremely odd.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 16:01
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    I'm ultra conservative. When I see theories like that proposed by Van Noort, my take is it is a attempt to explain in human terms what God has done, without actually acknowledging it was God. IOW, since "remembering" the Sermon on the Mount (for example) would be impossible, there must have been someone present who wrote it down. But John 14:26 is the answer and if God can create the world from nothing, I believe He is able to preserve His Word without the need of stenographers. Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 3:06

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+100

The short answer to, Were there "speedy writers" that followed Jesus as implied in Luke 1:1-4? (see appendix below) No. We deduce thus from several considerations:

  1. Luke records what people saw according to the "eyewitnesses" and thus was as much about what happened as what was said.
  2. Luke's account is from the initial witnesses, not stenographers
  3. "servants of the word" means those obedient to the word and faith of the Apostles, James 1:22, Rom 15:18, Num 3:51, 1 Chron 21:19, Ps 103:20, etc, see also Acts 6:7.
  4. Luke records that he "carefully investigated", presumably by examining any written records and interviewing many people who had witnessed these things
  5. We must also allow for the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit in the Luke's contribution to the Canon of the NT, 2 Tim 3:16, 17, 2 Peter 1:19-21. See also 2 Sam 23:2, Neh 9:30, Eze 2:2, 11:5, 24, Micah 3:8, Zech 7:12, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Rom 1:2, 3:2, Heb 3:7, 5:12, 9:8, Mark 12:36, Acts 28:25, 1 Tim 4:1. Just how this might have worked, we are not specifically told, but may have included things like (a) prompting the memories of the eyewitnesses, (b) prompting Luke in what he recorded and wrote, (c) making some data available to Luke's research, (d) ensuring some things got recorded at all for Luke to later use, etc, etc.

Thus, there is no evidence of "speedy writers".

APPENDIX Luke 1:1-4

1 Many have undertaken to compose an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by the initial eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

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  • you sure about that? Even the commentator notes on a particular translation will say that “undertaken” or “taken in hand” to set in order a narrative, which implies a written record or account. What do you think about that?
    – Cork88
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 1:00
  • @Cork88 - That is correct - Luke produced the written record that we now read. He examine whatever records were available at the time (Perhaps Mark and Matthew's among other?) plus interviewed people and got information from the oral tradition such at was at the time.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 2:04
  • How are “many” the actual “few” of Matthew & Mark? That’s not “many” people. I’m not sure servants of the word means the same as “obedient to the word” it might, in fact I checked a few references you quoted (Rom 15:18, Acts 6:7) I’m a little more persuaded that it means something else; albeit I can be wrong in this matter.
    – Cork88
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 2:49
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    @Cork88 - as already explained, he may have use Matt & Mark and many more - his sources are un-named.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 4:21
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A very interesting question. A search of the Greek text in those passages failed to give any insight into (or support for) this, but that may be my limited understanding.

One thought does come to my mind: Matthew may well fit this description, as a tax-collector, may well be one who made a thorough written record of the work of Jesus. But again, I would think that the eye-witness testimony (following the "two or three witnesses" pattern of the Mosaic law) is the emphasis of Luke

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  • None of what Luke said, even in your Greek search makes any sense for stenography? “many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us”(Luke 1:4). Do you think that the “many” is merely Matthew, Mark, John? How else were Jesus’ words written down? Hearsay? Telephone game? That’s what critics would imply. I think the case with Luke 1:1-4 is now at least obvious to me. ;)
    – Cork88
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 15:26
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    Thanks for the reply - I have a better sense of your point. First, I would suggest that "many" could easily refer to the other accounts; in ancient times accounts of events usually numbered one or two; three would be in contrast "many". Again, the Mosaic need for witnesses is the basis of this idea; two is sufficient, three is many. But I would suggest that the issue of writing down Jesus word's being the only way they were accurately passed on misses the point of John 14:26. Does that make sense?
    – Brainardo
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 16:06
  • Can you elaborate or put into other words what you meant by: “But I would suggest that the issue of writing down Jesus word's being the only way they were accurately passed on misses the point of John 14:26.“
    – Cork88
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 17:05
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    Thank you for asking for clarification. In John 14:26 Jesus states that the Holy Spirit would come to the Apostles and provide to them a recollection of the things that Jesus said to them. This would seem to be the most likely answer to the question "How else were Jesus’ words written down"? These Apostles themselves declared that it was the Holy Spirit who provided them the things to write (2 Peter 1:18-19). If there is a supernatural recollection of words available, there is no need for sternography to explain how the words of Jesus were recorded.
    – Brainardo
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 20:43
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    @ Brainardo I’ll reflect on what you said. I’ve heard of the 2-3 witness mosaic thing before, just not sure if it was used in relation to O.P. I can leave it at that, I can study more. If you have any book recommendations on the Gospels, I’m down to look at them! ;)
    – Cork88
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 23:43
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Does Luke 1:1-4 prove that stenographers followed Jesus to record His words?

No, at least not 100% proof because there are explanations other than stenographers.

Does the Greek make it possible for such an interpretation?

This is a better question. Still, I think the possibility/probability is low.

If there were stenographers around, I'd expect the details of recordings would be more uniform. E.g., what day of the week did the last supper take place? This was an important event; yet, we do not know exactly what the answer is. There are plenty of these kinds of non-uniform recordings found in the gospels.

On the other hand, the emphasis was on everyday eyewitnesses who could not write, Luk 23:

48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.

OP: Luke 23:48 as you quoted, they did indeed “saw”, but who recorded that? It’s likely Luke took from the many narratives of what had been accomplished already, from the other eyewitnesses.

True, Luke could have access to early drafts of Mark and Matthew.

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  • That’s a reasonable reply, but Luke 23:48 as you quoted, they did indeed “saw”, but who recorded that? It’s likely Luke took from the many narratives of what had been accomplished already, from the other eyewitnesses. Unless we assume John 14:26 is the only means of how Jesus’ words were recorded, which I doubt is the main method. In John 7:53-8:11, when Jesus draws in the sand; it’s likely that - that is an eyewitness account. Hence why Luke drew upon those who wrote before him. (Could I be wrong? Certainly)
    – Cork88
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 15:22
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    Good questions. I added :)
    – user35953
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 15:49
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The absurd idea of stenographers following Jesus is clearly bizarre, and not worthy of any thought. Though we can easily debunk such wild speculations by reading the basics of stenography. Shorthand was in practice only in the Greco-Roman formal and judicial formal settings, like writing down the minutes of a meeting; transcribing details of formal debates, court hearings in trials etc. The life of Jesus, a common man, enemy of the religious authorities in Judea doesn't fit the criteria where a steno would need to transcribe his words; the practice didn't exist in Israel. Such a wild thought can only come from someone desperately looking to defend his dogmatic notion of revelation and inspiration which is dictated by Jesus, or magically dropped from heaven. The dictation theory of revelation that the Muslims, KJV-onlyists or Baptists like Bart Ehrman (despite being an atheist) presuppose who want to remove all human aspect from the narratives of the authors, to idolize & fetishize their holy books.

Shorthand or Stenography (wikipedia):

Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed and brevity of writing as compared to longhand, a more common method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos (narrow) and graphein (to write). It has also been called brachygraphy, from Greek brachys (short), and tachygraphy, from Greek tachys (swift, speedy), depending on whether compression or speed of writing is the goal.

Classical antiquity

The earliest known indication of shorthand systems is from the Parthenon in Ancient Greece, where a mid-4th century BC inscribed marble slab was found. This shows a writing system primarily based on vowels, using certain modifications to indicate consonants. Hellenistic tachygraphy is reported from the 2nd century BC onwards, though there are indications that it might be older. The oldest datable reference is a contract from Middle Egypt, stating that Oxyrhynchos gives the "semeiographer" Apollonios for two years to be taught shorthand writing.2 Hellenistic tachygraphy consisted of word stem signs and word ending signs. Over time, many syllabic signs were developed.

In Ancient Rome, Marcus Tullius Tiro (103–4 BC), a slave and later a freedman of Cicero, developed the Tironian notes so that he could write down Cicero's speeches. Plutarch (c. 46 – c. 120 AD) in his "Life of Cato the Younger" (95–46 BC) records that Cicero, during a trial of some insurrectionists in the senate, employed several expert rapid writers, whom he had taught to make figures comprising numerous words in a few short strokes, to preserve Cato's speech on this occasion. The Tironian notes consisted of Latin word stem abbreviations (notae) and of word ending abbreviations (titulae). The original Tironian notes consisted of about 4,000 signs, but new signs were introduced, so that their number might increase to as many as 13,000. In order to have a less complex writing system, a syllabic shorthand script was sometimes used. After the decline of the Roman Empire, the Tironian notes were no longer used to transcribe speeches, though they were still known and taught, particularly during the Carolingian Renaissance. After the 11th century, however, they were mostly forgotten.

When many monastery libraries were secularized in the course of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, long-forgotten manuscripts of Tironian notes were rediscovered.

More about Shorthand history:

We do not know whether the art of writing fast was first used by the Greeks. A somehow shorthand system to take notes is attributed to Xenophon which was used by him later in his Memorabilia, Memories of Socrates (Απομνημονεύματα, in Latin, Memorabilia) to write the biography of the Greek philosopher. This would give a great value to those notes, as Socrates did not write any text.

In any case, the Romans used it in forensic life, in judgments and speeches, and in the administration, since the year 63 BC, information according to Plutarch himself.

Luke talks about writing a narrative of orderly account like that which he had received from many eyewitness and ministers of the word have done. He received the narratives orally or in written, but none of the details indicate of any need of the shorthand transcribers for Jesus. I don't even think the Sanhedrin council took formal records of their corrupt court rulings. Shorthand notes would not have been their requirement anyway.

Michael Licona writes in Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography, chapter Who Was Plutarch?:

Like most other historians of his day, Plutarch takes liberties with his sources that would make us uncomfortable in modern biography, adding details or scenes in order to reconstruct what must have happened, or to emphasize a quality that may not have been as matured in the main character as he portrays, or to improve the story for the delight of his readers. This mixture of history and conjecture presents a challenge for historians who desire to get behind such “improvements” to the real person or event.

In an age when shorthand was in the infant stages of its development (and the invention of recording devices would not occur until a half century prior to the advent of flight), transcriptions of speeches were not possible except on rare occasions when the notes of the speaker were extant.(*) Accordingly, there were literary conventions in place for the reporting of speeches that were almost universally adopted by those writing history and biography. For the most part, the author did not provide a transcript of a speech but rather the gist of what was spoken on that occasion. If the content was unknown, the historian was given the license to creatively reconstruct what must have been said given the occasion and the person. Historians were expected to depict the spirit of the actual message or, at the very minimum, narrate a speech that was likely to have occurred on such an occasion with historical verisimilitude.
footnote(*) Plutarch (Cat. Min. 23.3) reports what must have been a rare exception when Cicero arranged for several scribes known for their speed in using a very primitive version of shorthand symbols to be placed around the senate house in order to record what was said at the Catilinarian debate over the punishment of the conspirators on 5 December 63 BCE. See Pelling’s comments in Scott-Kilvert and Pelling, Rome in Crisis, 563n103.

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  • I’m not in agreeable terms with it being absurd, as you say, in fact the author I quoted actually used the example of Cicero to show that since Stenography existed in the Roman Empire, it’s therefore likely Jesus had stenographers, albeit it doesn’t by necessity prove it.
    – Cork88
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 15:20
  • The author is confusing Greek and Israel, the profession and requirements of Cicero and Jesus.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 15:41
  • Maybe you should pick up the book yourself. I’m about halfway through it. I’m not entirely sure what you said is what he was saying. Either way, your choice.
    – Cork88
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 18:56
  • Absolutely not. I only read the best scholarly books.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 3:12
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    I mentioned one in the answer, Michael Licona book on Gospel differences . Highly recommended.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 4:34
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The logical deduction to the answer is "YES". How many stenographer, should be more than one, but one contributed the most, another were supplementary.

The earliest evidence of written materials existed amongst the Israelite was seen in Deu 31:9-11 (NIV)

9 So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the Levitical priests, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing.

The purpose of it was "so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law." Deu 31:12(NIV)

With the same principle, the gospel will be preaching with expectation for the next thousands of year, it must be in written. But God did this differently. We may notice that God intervention was getting more subtle when human is getting more civilized. It should be well understood as we believe God by faith, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see"(Hebrew 11:1 NIV). Jesus chose His disciples on purpose that His disciples didn't even know their specific function in His plan.

Who was the main stenographer? I believe that he was Matthew. As many scholars pointed out, Matthew was a tax collector that had a practice of recording, and he wrote the first Gospel. I notice also, in all four gospel, his name was rarely seen except when the names of the 12 disciples were mentioned. He looked like a bystander. The gospel of Matthew is well conceived as the best gospel for disciple training. The Five Discourses of Matthew; the Sermon on the Mount, the Mission Discourse, the Parabolic Discourse, the Discourse on the Church, and the Discourse on End Times. These comprehensive discourses were not possibly pieced together if not well digested by first hand person.

The Gospel of Matthew has the most record of Jesus teachings, parables and miracles. The Gospel of Luke has the second most but Luke was not a disciple of Jesus, he participated in Paul missionary around 16 years after Jesus had crucified on the cross, however, the Gospel of Luke discloses some new materials that are not in Matthew. From his introduction (Luke 1:1-4, the title question), he clearly mentioned, he was not an eyewitness but he had been carefully investigated the eyewitnesses and servants of the word. What being said was Luke required multiple persons to confirm the same thing, before he trusted on the account.

Matthew might have based on his own resources. But Luke sources should be a lot more extensive. Amongst the most new sources in Luke that were not in Matthew, most were the parables, such as the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the shrewd manager, the rich man and Lazarus. Some might seem to be a variation, such as the great banquet.

I believe the writers of the Gospel and the Epistles that eventually formed the New Testament had never been conceived their influence to their future world. But it is a very logical deduction that early written materials are essential, for it provided the first person narrative of Jesus, similar to the Pentateuch that God proclaimed His commandments.

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  • So are you asserting that the stenographers were Matthew and the other gospel writers alone? Or Matthew & un-named sources?
    – Cork88
    Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 22:25
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    Truly in the name of Jesus, I cannot say I can assert anything that is not explicit saying in Bible. With my limited knowledge of God, I believe there is a consistency from alpha to omega owing to His righteousness. As God made Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Jesus made His apostles wrote the sources, which later became the 4 Gospels. (Because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19). Matthew should be the main source. The other source? Possibly Nathanael, whom Jesus called him an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. He was well educated, and looked like a bystander in the Gospels. Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 3:38

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