Back to Home Page or Contents Page or Christianity or Index

Luke


Saint Luke was the beloved physician traveling companion of Paul and, according to tradition, the writer of the third book, or gospel, and the Book of Acts of the New Testament. Biographical facts found in scripture concerning his personal life are few. However it is believed he was of gentile origin, inferred by the fact that he was not reckoned among those "who are of the circumcision" (Colossians 4:11). The reason for his occupation of a physician is unknown. It is known that he was not an eyewitness to the work of Jesus (Luke 1:2). One supporting supposition that he is the author of the Book of Acts is from the passages where the pronoun we is used to denote first person tense: "And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis" (Acts 16:10-11). From this the reader senses that Luke traveled with Paul, accompanying him as far as Philippi (16:25-17:1), but neither shared in his persecution nor left the city because the third person they is used. The first person we does not reappear until Paul returns to Philippi after his third journey (Acts 20:6). It is further inferred from this that Luke spent the seven or eight years while Paul was away in the city or surrounding area, and then again accompanied Paul on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:6-21:18), and was the disciple's companion to Rome (Acts 27:1). Luke labored with Paul through his first imprisonment (Colossians 4:14), and was said to be faithful amid general defection (2 Timothy 4:11). Tradition since the time of Gregory of Nazianzus has held Luke to be a martyr; yet not unanimously, accounts of an unnatural death slip in. Where he died is unknown, certainly not in Rome for his writings are of a much later date.

The Book of Luke portrays Jesus as the Son of Man, the Human-Divine One. The phrase Son of Man is preeminent throughout the book, and verse 19:10, "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost," is generally held to be its key verse or theme. Luke's purpose was to narrate those events demonstrating the humanity of Jesus. To emphasize this, a genealogy is given which traces Jesus back to Adam. To enhance his purpose Luke shields, or downplays, Jesus' deity or kingship (1:32-35). The book contains the birth and infancy narratives of Jesus (chapters 1-2); Jesus' baptism, genealogy, and temptation (3:1-4:13); his ministry in Galilee (4:14-9:50) and Jerusalem (9:51-19:27); Jesus' final days in Jerusalem including his death and resurrection (19:28-24:53).

There is speculation that Luke wrote the book around 61 AD, before he authored the Book of Acts, in Caesarea while Paul was imprisoned there. A.G.H.


Sources:

Unger, Merrill F., Unger's Bible Dictionary, Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, pp. 670-671
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 588-589