Dedication to Theophilus
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-2 ESV)
Do Luke’s eye witnesses include Mary?
As Luke himself claims only to have interviewed eye-witnesses for his account, that is tantamount to a claim to have met and interviewed Jesus’ own mother Mary whom Jesus entrusted to the care of John at the crucifixion. So the question immediately relates to another question – where was John?
According to one late (6th Century) tradition John lived in Ephesus, but if there is any truth in this (and there is no reason there should be) that could only be long after Luke’s and Paul’s stay in Ephesus about 2.5 years between 53-56AD, and before John was on the island of Patmos.
So assuming that John was still in Judea or Galilee it makes more sense that Luke could have met Mary during his presumed travels in Judea and Galilee during the two years (57-59 AD) while Paul was kept under guard in Herod’s palace in Caesarea (Acts 23:34-35). It would be normal that Mary was quite young in 4BC when betrothed to Joseph, so she would be in her late 70s or early 80s when Luke was based in Caesarea.
There seems no reason to doubt Luke’s claim to have interviewed eye witnesses, as this, not a claim of apostleship or association with Paul, is Luke’s claim of reliability to his dedicatee Theophilus. And if he was not able to interview Mary, he missed the most important eyewitness of all. She of course could also relate the story of her relatives of her own mothers side – Elisabeth, Zechariah and the birth of John the Baptist. As well as fill in many of the stories of the women in the Gospel of Luke that Matthew and Mark generally omit.
And Matthew and the angel’s appearance to Joseph?
As a final note – there is no need to similarly assess the account of Matthew concerning the visit of the unnamed angel to Joseph in Matthew 1:20-25, since Matthew makes no claim to be reporting eyewitness accounts, other than the implication (though the Gospel is technically unnamed) of his own involvement. In any case the narrative shows that Mary was already a widow before Jesus started his ministry and Jesus first met Matthew. The burden of proof in Matthew and Mark’s accounts is that of the two Jewish witnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection not of the interviewers of eyewitnesses as Luke. As can be seen from the very different approach of Matthew, his Jewish readers would have very different expectations for evidence than Luke’s Gentile readers.