Saint Luke was a first
generation Christian, a companion of Saint Paul, and the author of
two important sections of the New Testament: the Gospel According
to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
was a Gentile (not mentioned as a Jew by Saint Paul in Col. 4:10-11), a
Greek (according to
Saint Jerome), perhaps born in Antioch (per Eusebius), and a
medical man by profession--Saint Paul speaks of him as 'our beloved Luke,
the physician' (Col. 4:14).
The Gospel that bears Luke's name was obviously written by a Gentile Christian for Gentile Christians. Although
Jesus Himself lived and worked almost entirely among Jews, He frequently reached out to non-Jews. Whenever Jesus has dealings with, for example, Syrians, or whenever He praises
a Roman centurion, Luke tells us about it. He also shows Jesus' special
friendship with the outcasts of society and his love of the poor.
Luke stresses God's
mercy and love of all humankind. He alone records the parables of the lost
sheep, the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the Pharisee and the
publican, the barren fig tree, Dives and Lazarus. He is also the only one
to record Jesus' forgiveness of a certain notorious sinner (sometimes thought to be Mary Magdalene, see Luke 7:47), His promise
to the good thief (Luke 23:43), and His prayer for his executioners (Luke
23:34). And he is also the only evangelist to record the Ave Maria
the Magnificat, the Benedictus, and the Nunc Dimittis,
which are all used in the
Liturgy of the Hours (Night, Evening, Morning, and Night Prayer
respectively). Luke also emphasizes the call to poverty, prayer, and
purity of heart, which comprise much of his specific appeal to the
Luke also wrote the
Acts of the Apostles, which might more appropriately be known as the Acts of the Holy Spirit. This is a continuation of his Gospel
account, though the Acts may have been written first. According to
Eusebius and Jerome, Acts was written during Paul's imprisonment, though
Saint Ireneaus says it was written after Paul's death c. 66. Eusebius says that the Gospel was set down
before Paul's death, Jerome says after, and an early tradition records it
as being composed shortly before Luke's own death.
Legend has him as one of
the 72 disciples, and some scholars identify him with Lucius of Cyrene, a
teacher and prophet at Antioch (Acts 13:1) and with Lucius, Paul's
companion at Corinth (Rom. 16:21). We don't know exactly when he was
converted; perhaps in 42 when Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas came to preach
at Antioch, or possibly even earlier when the Christians fled from
Jerusalem to Antioch after the stoning of Saint Stephen.
Certain passages of
Acts, written in the first person plural, are usually held to show that
the writer was with Saint Paul on parts of his second and third missionary
journeys and on the voyage to Italy, when the ship was wrecked off the
coast of Malta (Acts 16:10ff; 20:5ff; 27-28). He was with Paul during both
his first and second imprisonments. In his letters, Paul thrice (AD 61-63)
refers to Luke's presence in Rome, writing to Timothy, 'Luke is my only
Between the two
missionary journeys (AD 51-57), he stayed at Philippi as a leader of the
Christian community. Then he rejoined Saint Paul on the third trip,
meeting him in Macedonia and accompanying him to Jerusalem. Thereafter, he
was Paul's constant companion. He was with Paul after his arrest in the
Temple and during the two years (57-59) of his imprisonment at Caesarea.
When Paul appealed to Caesar, Luke went with him and was shipwrecked with
Paul on the coast of Malta. Until St. Paul's martyrdom in 67, Luke never
left his side.
Nothing can be confirmed
about St. Luke's life after being with Paul in Rome. Some sources say
he died, unmarried, in Boeotia, Greece, at the age of 84, 'full of the
Holy Spirit.' Alternatively, he is said to have been martyred, but
the fact is we have no conclusive information.
Though Luke may never
have known Our Lord in the flesh, it is possible that he did know the
Mother of Jesus, and John, the apostle and author of the fourth Gospel. It
is reasonably certain he was in Rome at the same time as St. Peter and
St. Mark and, while in the company of Paul, must surely have met
many more of the first disciples.
Saint Luke is the patron
saint of physicians and surgeons (and also of guilds of artists, art
schools, and painters of pictures because later tradition in the Greek
Church claims that Luke was also an artist).