Physician and evangelist

Daily Reading for October 18 • St. Luke the Evangelist

Luke, which is a familiar form of Lucius, was a Gentile, a physician, and a close friend of Paul (Col. 4:10ff.), a fellow worker with Paul (Phlm. 24), and a companion of Paul’s in prison, probably in Rome (2 Tim. 4:11). Greek was obviously his native tongue, as his language is flawless Koine, the common Greek of the time (which was much less sophisticated than the language of Homer and the great philosophers). He was a Gentile, and thus probably a Greek, although Lucius was a common Roman name and all upper-class Romans were fluent in Greek. It is most likely that he was Greek, however, and there is much circumstantial evidence that he was from Philippi.

No one knows how he came to be in Judea. . . .It is possible that as a physician Luke was attached to the Roman army. Most good physicians spent at least some time in their training as army doctors or as surgeons to the gladiators. This exposed them to a wide variety of critical wounds through which they could learn anatomy and surgery on a living patient. . . .

There is no evidence that Luke ever met Jesus, and he was thus never considered an apostle. He was highly regarded by Paul as an evangelist, however. Also, his knowledge of many details of Jesus’ birth and childhood support the ancient tradition that he was a close friend of Mary, who shared these stories with him. His account of the crucifixion also indicates that, while he probably did not witness it, he was particularly interested in the physiological aspects of it. One would expect this of a physician. If he were a Roman or associated with the Roman army, he would have seen many crucifixions. . . .

He apparently worked alongside Paul for years, remaining with him right to the end. He was obviously loved and admired by Paul. After Paul’s death in about 64 CE, Luke apparently continued to evangelize in his home region, and sometime in the early 80s CE he wrote his Gospel and the book of Acts, the first history of Christianity.

From “Luke” in All the People in the Bible: An A-Z Guide to the Saints, Scoundrels, and Other Characters in Scripture by Richard R. Losch (Eerdmans, 2008).

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