St. Luke

St. Luke (active 50 A.D.) was one of the four Evangelists. Since the 2nd century he has been regarded as the author of the Third Gospel and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles.

Luke's name—of Latin origin—indicates that he apparently was not of Jewish derivation. The earliest surviving testimony describes him as a Syrian from Antioch. His abundant acquaintance with the Antiochean Church, as well as his knowledge of literary Greek, both illustrated in his writings, supports this testimony. Tradition and one text of St. Paul's (Colossians 4:14) say that Luke was a trained physician. His Gospel exhibits a Greek literary style absent from the other Gospels and documents of the New Testament. Luke, apparently, was a well-educated man. His Greek was as polished as that of such classical writers as Xenophon.

Luke's association with the disciples of Jesus probably began after Christ's death, in the early 30s of the 1st century. His Gospel reveals a special acquaintance with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and tradition describes him as a friend and companion of Paul and of Mark. When Paul began his second missionary journey, about 49 A.D., Luke became a member of the party, joining Paul at the town of Troas and traveling to Macedonia with him (Acts 16: 11-12). Luke then probably remained at Philippi, rejoining Paul when he had finished his third missionary journey and was returning to Jerusalem (Acts 20:5, 26:18). The Acts further say that Luke accompanied Paul when Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome to be judged by Caesar (Acts 27:1, 28:26). The contents of Paul's letters to Philemon (24) and Timothy (II, 4:11) reveal that Luke probably stayed with Paul until Paul's death. A document called the Anti-Marcionite Prologue, which dates from the end of the 2nd century, says that Luke died unmarried in Boeotia or Bithynia at the age of 84 toward the end of the 1st century.

Luke's authorship of the Third Gospel has not been seriously disputed. Nor has the attribution of the Acts of the Apostles to him been questioned. Luke's Gospel is clearly related to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew both in content and in structure; all three drew on a common source. Luke, however, used a second source unknown to either Matthew or Mark. Scholars have surmised that this source may have been Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her closest friends, all of whom knew Jesus intimately.

The story of Jesus is presented by Luke within a tripartite view of human history. According to his view, the lifetime of Jesus occupied the central position, being preceded by the time of the Law and the Prophets and being followed by the time of the Christian Church. Scholars have assigned the composition of Luke's Gospel to between 70 and 80. Both internal and external evidence indicates that it was composed outside Palestine and intended for use by non-Jews.

Further Reading on St. Luke

Works dealing with Luke include Henry Joel Cadbury, The Style and Literary Method of Luke (1919-1920); Vincent Taylor, Behind the Third Gospel (1926); Alfred R. C. Leaney, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke (1958); and Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke (1960).

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