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Saint Luke the Evangelist

Mar 13, 2017

Apostle and Evangelist icon Luke.jpg

Luke the Evangelist (Ancient Greek: Λουκᾶς, Loukãs) is one of the Four Evangelists—the four traditionally ascribed authors of the canonical Gospels. The early church fathers ascribed to him authorship of both the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts of the Apostles,  which would mean Luke contributed over a quarter of the text of the New  Testament, more than any other author. Prominent figures in early  Christianity such as Jerome and Eusebius later reaffirmed his authorship, although the fragile evidence of the identity of the author of the works has led to discussion in scholarly circles, both secular and religious.

The New Testament mentions Luke briefly a few times, and the Pauline epistle to the Colossians refers to him as a doctor; thus he is thought to have been both a physician and a disciple of Paul. Christians since the faith's early years have regarded him as a saint. He is believed to have been a martyr, reportedly as having been hanged in an olive tree, though some believe otherwise.

The Roman Catholic Church and other major denominations venerate him as Saint Luke the Evangelist and as a patron saint of artists, physicians, surgeons, students and butchers; his feast day takes place on 18 October.

Many scholars believe that Luke was a Greek physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria, though some other scholars and theologians think Luke was a Hellenic Jew.Bart Koet for instance considered it as widely accepted that the theology of Luke–Acts points to a gentile Christian writing for a gentile audience. Gregory Sterling though, claims that he was either a Hellenistic Jew or a god-fearer.

His earliest notice is in Paul's Epistle to Philemon—Philemon 1:24. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14 and 2Timothy 4:11, two works commonly ascribed to Paul.The next earliest account of Luke is in the Anti-Marcionite Prologue to the Gospel of Luke, a document once thought to date to the 2nd century, but which has more recently been dated to the later 4th century.[citation needed] Helmut Koester, however, claims that the following part, the only part preserved in the original Greek, may have been composed in the late 2nd century:

Luke, was born in Antioch, by profession, was a physician.He had become a disciple of the apostle Paul and later followed Paul until his [Paul's] martyrdom. Having served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit he died at the age of 84 years. 

James Tissot, Saint Luke (Saint Luc), Brooklyn Museum

Epiphanius states that Luke was one of the Seventy Apostles (Panarion 51.11), and John Chrysostom indicates at one point that the "brother" Paul mentions in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians 8:18 is either Luke or Barnabas.

If one accepts that Luke was in fact the author of the Gospel bearing his name and also the Acts of the Apostles, certain details of his personal life can be reasonably assumed. While he does exclude himself from those who were eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry, he repeatedly uses the word "we" in describing the Pauline missions in Acts of the Apostles, indicating that he was personally there at those times.

There is similar evidence that Luke resided in Troas, the province which included the ruins of ancient Troy, in that he writes in Acts in the third person about Paul and his travels until they get to Troas, where he switches to the first person plural. The "we" section of Acts continues until the group leaves Philippi, when his writing goes back to the third person. This change happens again when the group returns to Philippi. There are three "we sections" in Acts, all following this rule. Luke never stated, however, that he lived in Troas, and this is the only evidence that he did.

Luke as depicted in the head-piece of an Armenian Gospel manuscript from 1609 held at the Bodleian Library

The composition of the writings, as well as the range of vocabulary used, indicate that the author was an educated man. A quote in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians differentiates between Luke and other colleagues "of the circumcision."

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. ... 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Colossians 4:10–11,14.

This comment has traditionally caused commentators to conclude that Luke was a Gentile. If this were true, it would make Luke the only writer of the New Testament who can clearly be identified as not being Jewish. However, that is not the only possibility. Although Luke is considered likely to be a Gentile Christian, some scholars believe him to be a Hellenized Jew. The phrase could just as easily be used to differentiate between those Christians who strictly observed the rituals of Judaism and those who did not.

Luke's presence in Rome with the Apostle Paul near the end of Paul's life was attested by 2 Timothy 4:11: "Only Luke is with me". In the last chapter of the Book of Acts, widely attributed to Luke, we find several accounts in the first person also affirming Luke's presence in Rome including Acts 28:16: "And when we came to Rome..." According to some accounts, Luke also contributed to the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Luke died at age 84 in Boeotia, according to a "fairly early and widespread tradition".According to Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos (Ecclesiastical History 14th century AD., Migne P.G. 145, 876) and others, Luke's tomb was located in Thebes, whence his relics were transferred to Constantinople in the year 357.