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LUKE, GOSPEL OF ST

been “as being devoted to travel” (ut juris = itineris) or “as skilled in disease” (νόσου passing into νόμου in the Greek original), it is probably a mere inference from biblical data. Beyond references in Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria (cf. Hebrews) and Tertullian, which add nothing to our knowledge, we have the belief to which Origen (Hom. i. in Lucam) witnesses as existing in his day, that Luke was the “brother” of 2 Cor. viii. 18, “whose praise in the Gospel” (as preached) was “throughout all the churches.” Though the basis of the identification be a mistake, yet that this “brother,” “who was also appointed by the churches (note the generality of this) to travel with us in the matter of the charity,” was none other than Paul’s constant companion Luke is quite likely; e.g. he seems to have been almost the only non-Macedonian (as demanded by 2 Cor. ix. 2-4) of Paul’s circle available[1] at the time (see Acts xx. 4). Our next witness, a prologue to the Lucan writings (originally in Greek, now known only in Latin, see Nov. Test. Latine (Oxford), I. iii., II. i.), perhaps preserves a genuine tradition in stating that Luke died in Bithynia at the age of seventy-four. It is hard to see why this should be fiction, which usually took the form of martyrdom, as in a later tradition touching his end. The same prologue, and indeed all early tradition, connects him originally with Antioch (see Euseb. Hist. Eccl. iii. 4, 6, possibly after Julius Africanus in the first half of the 3rd century).

That he was actually a native of Antioch is as doubtful as the statement that he was a Syrian by race (Prologue). But internal evidence bears out the view that he practised his profession in Antioch, where (or in Tarsus) he probably first met Paul. Whether any of his information in Acts as to the Gospel in Antioch (xi. 19 ff., xiii. 1 ff., xiv. 26-xv. 35) was due to an Antiochene document used by him (cf. A. Harnack, The Acts of the Apostles, 245 ff.) or not, this knowledge in any case suggests Luke’s connexion with that church. He shows, too, local knowledge on points unlikely to have stood in any such source (e.g. it was in Antioch that the name “Christians” was first coined, xi. 26), which points to his share in early Church life there. The Bezan reading in Acts xi. 27, “when we were assembled,” may imply memory of this.

But while Luke probably met Paul in Antioch, and thence started with him on his second great missionary enterprise (xv. 36 ff.), partly at least as his medical attendant (cf. Gal. iv. 13), it is possible that he had also some special connexion with the north-eastern part of the Aegean. Sir W. M. Ramsay and others fancy that Luke’s original home was Philippi, and that in fact he may have been the “certain Macedonian” seen in vision by Paul at Troas, inviting help for his countrymen (xvi. 9 f.). But this is as precarious as the view that, because “we” ceases at Philippi in xvi. 17, and then reemerges in xx. 6, Luke must have resided there during all the interval. The use and disuse of the first person plural, identifying Paul and his party, has probably a more subtle and psychological[2] meaning (see Acts). The local connexion in question may have been subsequent to that with Antioch, dating from his work with Paul in the province of Asia, and being resumed after Paul’s martyrdom. This accords at once with Harnack’s argument that Luke wrote Acts in Asia[3] (Luke the Physician, p. 149 ff.), and with the early tradition, above cited, that he died in Bithynia at the age of seventy-four, without ever having married (this touch may be due to an ascetic feeling current already in the 2nd century).

The later traditions about Luke’s life are based on fanciful inference or misunderstanding, e.g. that he was one of the Seventy (Adamantius Dial. de recta fide, 4th century), or the story (in Theodorus Lector, 6th century) that he painted a portrait of the Virgin Mother. But a good deal can still be gathered by sympathetic study of his writings as to the manner of man he was. It was a beautiful soul from which came “the most beautiful book” ever written, as Renan styled his Gospel. The selection of stories which he gives us—especially in the section mainly peculiar to himself (ix. 51-xviii. 14)—reflects his own character as well as that of the source he mainly follows. His was indeed a religio medici in its pity for frail and suffering humanity, and in its sympathy with the triumph of the Divine “healing art” upon the bodies and souls of men (cf. Harnack, The Acts, Excursus, iii.). His was also a humane[4] spirit, a spirit so tender that it saw further than almost any save the Master himself into the soul of womanhood. In this, as in his joyousness, united with a feeling for the poor and suffering, he was an early Francis of Assisi. Luke, “the physician, the beloved physician,” that was Paul’s characterization of him; and it is the impression which his writings have left on humanity. How great his contribution to Christianity has been, in virtue of what he alone preserved of the historical Jesus and of the embodiment of his Gospel in his earliest followers, who can measure? Harnack even maintains (The Acts, p. 301) that his story of the Apostolic age was the indispensable condition for the incorporation of the Pauline epistles in the Church’s canon of New Testament scriptures. Certainly his conception of the Gospel, viz. a Christian Hellenistic universalism (with some slight infusion of Pauline thought) passed through a Graeco-Roman mind, proved more easy of assimilation, and so more directly influential for the ancient Church, than Paul’s own distinctive teaching (ib. 281 ff.; cf. Luke the Physician, pp. 139–145).

Literature.—Introductions to commentaries like A. Plummer’s on Luke’s Gospel in the “Intern. Crit.” series, R. B. Rackham’s Acts of the Apostles (“Oxford Comm.”); the article “Luke” in Hastings’s Dict. of the Bible and Dict. of Christ and the Gospels, the Encycl. Biblica and Hauck’s Realencyklopädie, vol. xi.; Sir W. M. Ramsay’s Paul the Traveller and Pauline and other Studies, and A. Harnack’s Lukas der Arzt (1906, Eng. trans. 1907) and Die Apostelgeschichte (1908, Eng. trans. 1909). For the Luke of legend, see authorities quoted under Mark.  (J. V. B.) 


LUKE, GOSPEL OF ST, the third of the four canonical Gospels of the Christian Church.

1. Authorship and Date.—The earliest indication which we possess of the belief that the author was Luke, the companion of the Apostle Paul (Col. iv. 14; Philem. 24; 2 Tim. iv. 11), is found in Justin Martyr, who, in his Dialogue with Trypho (c. 103), when making a statement found only in our Luke, instead of referring for it simply to the “Apostolic Memoirs,” his usual formula, says that it is contained in the memoirs composed by “the Apostles and those that followed them.” But the first distinct mention of Luke as the author of the Gospel is that by Irenaeus in his famous passage about the Four Gospels (Adv. Haer. III. i. 2, c. A.D. 180).

This tradition is important in spite of the fact that it first comes clearly before us in a writer belonging to the latter part of the 2nd century, because the prominence and fame of Luke were not such as would of themselves have led to his being singled out to have a Gospel attributed to him. The question of the authorship cannot, however, be decided without considering the internal evidence, the interpretation of which in the case of the Third Gospel and the Acts (the other writing attributed to Luke) is a matter of peculiar interest. It is generally admitted that the same person is the author of both works in their present form. This is intimated at the beginning of the second of them (Acts i. 1); and both are marked, broadly speaking throughout, though in some parts much more strongly than in others, by stylistic characteristics which we may conveniently call “Lucan” without making a premature assumption as to the authorship. The writer is more versed than any other New Testament writer except the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and very much more than most of them, in the literary Greek of the period of the rise of Christianity; and he has, also, like other writers, his favourite words, turns of expression and thoughts. The variations in the degree to which these appear in different passages are in the main to be accounted for by his having before him in many cases documents or oral reports, which he reproduces with only slight alterations in the language, while at other times he is writing freely.

We have next to observe that there are four sections in Acts (xvi. 9-17, xx. 4-16, xxi. 1-17, xxvii. 1-xxviii. 16) in which the first person plural is used. Now it is again generally admitted that in these sections we have the genuine account of one who was a member of Paul’s company, who may well have been Luke. But it has been and is still held by many critics that the author of Acts is a different person, and that as in the Third Gospel he has used documents for the Life of Christ, and perhaps also in the earlier half of the Acts for the history of the beginnings of the Christian Church, so in the “we” sections, and possibly in some other portions of this narrative of Paul’s missionary life, he has used a kind of travel-diary by one who accompanied the Apostle

  1. Tychicus may be the other “brother,” in viii. 22.
  2. So also A. Hilgenfeld, Zeit. f. theol. Wissenschaft (1907), p. 214, argues that “we” marks the author’s wish to give his narrative more vividness at great turning-points of the story—the passage from Asia to Europe, and again the real beginning of the solemn progress of Paul towards the crisis in Jerusalem, as yet later towards Rome, xxvii. 1 ff.
  3. Note that Luke is at pains to explain why Paul passed by Asia and Bithynia in the first instance (xvi. 6 f.).
  4. Compare what A. W. Verrall has said of the poet Statius and “the gentle doctrine of humanity” on Hellenic soil, as embodied in his description of The Altar of Mercy at Athens (Oxford and Cambridge Review, i. 101 ff.).