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Luke the Evangelist

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Luke the Evangelist

Luke the Evangelist
detail of the St. Luke altarpiece by Andrea Mantegna
Apostle, Evangelist
Born Antioch, Syria, Roman Empire
Died c. 84
near Boeotia, Greece
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, Anglican Church, Lutheran Church, some other Protestant Churches
Major shrine Padua, Italy
Feast 18 October
Patronage artists, physicians, surgeons, and others[1]

Luke the Evangelist (Ancient Greek: Λουκᾶς, Loukás) is one of the Four Evangelists - the four authors of canonical Gospels of Jesus Christ. Luke was a native of the Hellenistic city of Antioch in Syria. The early church fathers ascribed to him authorship of both the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts of the Apostles, which originally formed a single literary work, referred to as Luke-Acts. Prominent figures in early Christianity such as Jerome and Eusebius later reaffirmed his authorship, although within scholarly circles, both secular and religious, discussions have taken place due to the lack of evidence as to the identity of the author of the works.

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 died a martyr, although accounts of the events do vary.

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.


Base of a pillar at Sacred Heart Church, Puducherry, India

Luke is believed by many scholars to be 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.[2][3] This Luke is mentioned in Paul's Epistle to Philemon (v.24), and in two other epistles which are traditionally ascribed to Paul (Colossians 4:14 and 2 Timothy 4:11)..[4][5][6][7][8]

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. 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.[9] 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. (p. 335)
James Tissot - Saint Luke (Saint Luc) - Brooklyn Museum

Epiphanius states that Luke was one of the Seventy (Panarion 51.11), and John Chrysostom indicates at one point that the "brother" Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 4:11 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.[10]

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.

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.[11][12][13] 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.[10]

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 authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

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

Luke as a historian

A medieval Armenian illumination, by Toros Roslin.

Most scholars understand Luke's works (Luke-Acts) in the tradition of [15] The preface of The Gospel of Luke[16] drawing on historical investigation identified the work to the readers as belonging to the genre of history.[17] There is some disagreement about how best to treat Luke's writings, with some historians regarding Luke as highly accurate, and others taking a more critical approach.

Based on his accurate description of towns, cities and islands, as well as correctly naming various official titles, archaeologist Sir William Ramsay wrote that "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy... [he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."[18] Professor of Classics at Auckland University, E.M. Blaiklock, wrote: "For accuracy of detail, and for evocation of atmosphere, Luke stands, in fact, with Thucydides. The Acts of the Apostles is not shoddy product of pious imagining, but a trustworthy record... it was the spadework of archaeology which first revealed the truth."[19] New Testament scholar Colin Hemer has made a number of advancements in understanding the historical nature and accuracy of Luke's writings.[20]

On the purpose of Acts, New Testament Scholar [15]

Luke the Evangelist painting the first icon of the Virgin Mary.

Luke as an artist

Christian tradition, starting from the 8th century, states that he was the first icon painter. He is said to have painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child, in particular the Hodegetria image in Constantinople (now lost). Starting from the 11th century a number of painted images were worshipped as his autograph works, including for example, the Black Madonna of Częstochowa and Our Lady of Vladimir. He was also said to have painted Saints Peter and Paul, and to have illustrated a gospel book with a full cycle of miniatures.[24] [25]

Late medieval Guilds of St Luke in the cities of Late Medieval Europe, especially Flanders, or the "Accademia di San Luca" (Academy of St. Luke) in Rome—imitated in many other European cities during the 16th century—gathered together and protected painters. The tradition that Luke painted icons of Mary and Jesus has been common, particularly in Eastern Orthodoxy. The tradition also has support from the Saint Thomas Christians of India who claim to still have one of the Theotokos icons that St. Luke painted and which St. Thomas brought to India.[26]

New Testament books

See also Gospel of Luke: Author and Acts of the Apostles: Authorship

The Gospel of Luke was written by an anonymous author.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35] The Gospel wasn't written and does not claim to be written by direct witnesses to the reported events.[29][36][37]

Additionally, the earliest manuscript of the Gospel, dated circa AD 200, ascribes the work to Luke; as did Irenaeus, writing circa AD 180, and the Muratorian fragment from AD 170.[38]

Luke and the Madonna, Altar of the Guild of St. Luke, Hermen Rode, Lübeck 1484.
Luke paints the Madonna and the Baby Jesus, by Maarten van Heemskerck

The ox as symbol of St. Luke

In traditional depictions, such as paintings, evangelist portraits and church mosaics, St. Luke is often accompanied by an ox or bull, usually having wings. Sometimes only the symbol is shown, especially when in a combination of those of all Four Evangelists.[39][40] A circular pillar discovered in Thebes in 1866 by British archaeologist John T. Wood is engraved with a cross and a bull. They are believed to be symbols of St. Luke, and therefore the place was described as Luke's tomb.[41]


There are different accounts of St. Luke's exact death. It is said that at the age of 84, St. Luke was martyred by idolaters who tortured and hanged him on an olive tree in the town of Thebes.[42]

The relics of St. Luke the Evangelist

Despot Mary, who had brought the relics with her from Serbia as her dowry, sold them to the Venetian Republic.[45]

In 1992, the then Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Ieronymos of Thebes and Levathia (the current Archbishop of Athens and All Greece) requested from Bishop Antonio Mattiazzo of Padua the return of "a significant fragment of the relics of St. Luke to be placed on the site where the holy tomb of the Evangelist is located and venerated today". This prompted a scientific investigation of the relics in Padua, and by numerous lines of empirical evidence (archeological analyses of the Tomb in Thebes and the Reliquary of Padua, anatomical analyses of the remains, Carbon-14 dating, comparison with the purported skull of the Evangelist located in Prague) confirmed that these were the remains of an individual of Syrian descent who died between 72 and 416 A.D. The Bishop of Padua then delivered to Metropolitan Ieronymos the rib of St. Luke that was closest to his heart to be kept at his tomb in Thebes, Greece.[43][44]

Thus, nowadays, the relics of St. Luke are so divided:

See also

References and sources

  1. ^ "Saint Luke the Evangelist". Star Quest Production Network. Retrieved 2008-12-27. 
  2. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "The Gospels" pp. 266–268
  3. ^ Strelan, Rick - Luke the Priest - the Authority of the Author of the Third Gospel - Was Luke a Jew or Gentile? Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., May 1, 2013, pages 102-110.
  4. ^ The New Testament Documents: Their Origin and Early History, George Milligan, 1913, Macmillan and Co., p. 149
  5. ^ Saints: A Visual Guide, Edward Mornin, Lorna Mornin, 2006, Eerdmans Books, p. 74
  6. ^ "Gospel of Saint Luke", Aherne, Cornelius, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 24 Feb. 2013
  7. ^ New Outlook, Alfred Emanuel Smith, 1935, Outlook Pub. Co., p. 792
  8. ^ New Testament Studies. I. Luke the Physician: The Author of the Third Gospel, Adolf von Harnack, 1907, Williams & Norgate; G.P. Putnam's Sons, p. 5
  9. ^ A Commentary on the Original Text of the Acts of the Apostles, Horatio Balch Hackett, 1858, Gould and Lincoln; Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., p. 12
  10. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica, Micropædia vol. 7, p. 554–555. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc, 1998. ISBN 0-85229-633-9.
  11. ^ Thomas S. McCall, Th.D. - Was Luke a Gentile?
  12. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "The Gospels" pp. 266–268
  13. ^ Strelan, Rick - Luke the Priest - the Authority of the Author of the Third Gospel - Was Luke a Jew or Gentile? Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., May 1, 2013, pages 102-110.
  14. ^ Michael Walsh, ed. "Butler's Lives of the Saints." (HarperCollins Publishers: New York, 1991), pp. 342.
  15. ^ a b Grant, Robert M., "A Historical Introduction to the New Testament" (Harper and Row, 1963)
  16. ^ "Luke 1:1-4". 
  17. ^ Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. 117.
  18. ^ Ramsay, The Bearing Of Recent Discovery On The Trustworthiness Of The New Testament, 222, 1915
  19. ^ Blaiklock, The Archaeology of the New Testament, page 96, Zondervan Publishing Houst, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1970.
  20. ^ Hemer, "The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History", 104–107, as summarized by MacDowell.
  21. ^ Johnson, Luke Timothy "The Acts of the Apostles" (The Liturgical Press, 1992), pp. 474-476, cited at
  22. ^ Heard, Richard: An Introduction to the New Testament Chapter 13: The Acts of the Apostles, Harper & Brothers, 1950
  23. ^ Powell, Mark (1989). What are they saying about Luke?. Paulist Press. p. 6.  
  24. ^ Grigg, Robert, "Byzantine Credulity as an Impediment to Antiquarianism", Gesta, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1987), pp. 5-6, The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the International Center of Medieval Art, JSTOR
  25. ^ The basic study on the legends concerning Saint Luke as a painter is Michele Bacci, Il pennello dell'Evangelista. Storia delle immagini sacre attribuite a san Luca (Pisa: Gisem, 1998).
  26. ^ Father H. Hosten in his book Antiquities notes the following "The picture at the mount is one of the oldest, and, therefore, one of the most venerable Christian paintings to be had in India. Other traditions hold that St. Luke painted two icons which currently are in Greece: the "Theotokos Mega Spileotissa" (Our Lady of the Great Cave, where supposedly St. Luke lived for a period of time in asceticism) and the "Panagia Soumela", and "Panagia Kykkou" which are in Cyprus."
  27. ^ E P Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, (Penguin, 1995) page 63 - 64.
  28. ^ Bart D. Ehrman (2000:43) The New Testament: a historical introduction to early Christian writings. Oxford University Press.
  29. ^ a b Bart D. Ehrman (2005:235) Lost Christianities: the battles for scripture and the faiths we never knew Oxford University Press, New York.
  30. ^ Geoffrey W. Bromiley (1995:287) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: K-P MATTHEW, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. Quote: „Matthew, like the other three Gospels is an anonymous document.”
  31. ^ Donald Senior, Paul J. Achtemeier, Robert J. Karris (2002:328) Invitation to the Gospels Paulist Press.
  32. ^ Keith Fullerton Nickle (2001:43) The Synoptic Gospels: an introduction Westminster John Knox Press.
  33. ^ Ben Witherington (2004:44) The Gospel code: novel claims about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Da Vinci InterVarsity Press.
  34. ^ F.F. Bruce (1994:1) The Gospel of John Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
  35. ^ Patrick J. Flannagan (1997:16) The Gospel of Mark Made Easy Paulist Press
  36. ^ Bart D. Ehrman (2004:110) Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine. Oxford University Press.
  37. ^ Bart D. Ehrman (2006:143) The lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: a new look at betrayer and betrayed. Oxford University Press.
  38. ^ Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament, p. 267. Anchor Bible; 1st edition (October 13, 1997). ISBN 978-0-385-24767-2.
  39. ^ Stefano Zuffi (2003). "The Evangelists and their symbols". Gospel Figures in Art. Getty Publications.  
  40. ^ George Ashdown Audsley and William Audsley (1865). "Chapter VI. Symbols and emblems of the Evangelists and the Apostles". Handbook of Christian Symbolism.  Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, 2003, ISBN 978-0-7661-5437-7.
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ a b The Beloved Physician St. Luke, Padua.
  44. ^ a b Wade, Nicholas. "Body of St. Luke Gains Credibility." New York Times, October 16, 2001.
  45. ^ Van Antwerp Fine, John, The Bosnian Church: a new interpretation: a study of the Bosnian Church and its place in state and society from the 13th to the 15th centuries, page 331, East European quarterly, 1975.
  • Michele Bacci, Il pennello dell'Evangelista. Storia delle immagini sacre attribuite a san Luca, Pisa: Gisem-Ets, 1998.
  • I. Howard Marshall. Luke: Historian and Theologian. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.
  • F.F. Bruce, The Speeches in the Acts of the Apostles. London: The Tyndale Press, 1942.[1]
  • Helmut Koester. Ancient Christian Gospels. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1999.
  • Burton L. Mack. Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth. San Francisco, California: HarperCollins, 1996.
  • J. Wenham, "The Identification of Luke", Evangelical Quarterly 63 (1991), 3–44

External links

  • Biblical Interpretation of Texts of Saint Luke
  • e-texts, introductionsGospel of LukeEarly Christian Writings:
  • National Academy of Sciences on Luke the Evangelist
  • Patron Saint Luke
  • Photo of the grave of Luke in Padua (in German)
  • DNA testing of the Saint Luke corpse
  • Santiebeati
  • Catholic Online
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