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Saint Luke the Evangelist

Updated: Nov 1, 2023


 

DW | Holy Saints


Saint Luke 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 of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

 
 

1.1 – Early Years

 

St. Luke stands as the most prolific contributor to the New Testament, surpassing all other individual writers, even chronicling the early history of the Church. Ancient accounts also honor Luke as the pioneer of Christian iconography, thus elevating him to the status of a patron not just for artists, but also for physicians and medical caregivers.


Hailing from the bustling metropolis of Antioch, a region within modern-day Turkey, Luke's life coincided with the rise of his hometown as a significant hub of early Christianity. Educated as a physician in the Greek-speaking city, Luke was among the most cultured and cosmopolitan members of the early Church. Scholars of archaeology and ancient literature have ranked him among the top historians of his time, besides noting the outstanding Greek prose style and technical accuracy of his accounts of Christ's life and the apostles' missionary journeys.


During his formative years, Antioch's harbor had already evolved into a cultural nucleus renowned for its intellectual and artistic pursuits. It remains uncertain whether Luke's spiritual journey led him from Judaism or paganism to Christianity, though compelling indications suggest he was a gentile convert.

 
 

1.2 – Luke - The Evangelist

 

Further scholars of biblical history discover from Luke's writings that he was the only evangelist to incorporate the personal testimony of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose role in Christ's life emerged most clearly in his gospel. Tradition credits him with painting several icons of Christ's mother, and one of the sacred portraits ascribed to him – known by the title “Salvation of the Roman People”-- survives to this day in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.


Conflicting traditions speculate whether Luke became a direct disciple of Jesus prior to His ascension or embraced Christianity after this event. Following the conversion of St. Paul, Luke became not only his personal physician but also a quasi-biographer, as the Acts of the Apostles heavily feature the journeys undertaken by Paul, accompanied by Luke. It is likely that Luke penned this narrative, the concluding segment of the New Testament, in the city of Rome where the story culminates.


Moreover, during St. Paul's final imprisonment and subsequent demise in Rome, Luke remained steadfast as one of the few companions who did not abandon him. After St. Paul's martyrdom in 67 AD, tradition suggests that St. Luke extended his preaching across various parts of the Mediterranean and may have met a martyr's fate himself. However, historical records remain unclear on this matter. Poetically, the evangelist, whose extensive travels and vast scholarship could have filled volumes, composed just enough to proclaim the gospel and apostolic teachings to the global audience.

 
 

Luke is the only Gentile to have written books in the Bible. He is the writer of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles and his writings have been proven to be historically accurate.


In the third Gospel, Luke emphasizes Christ's compassion for sinners and for those who suffer. The gospel of Luke focuses on the poor and oppressed, encouraging tenderness and compassion for the less fortunate.

The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him is told in Luke's gospel, as is the parable of the Good Samaritan.


The Gospel of Luke stresses the importance of evangelizing to the Gentiles. In the Gospel of Luke we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (Lk.4:25-27), and we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan (Lk.17:11-19).


Unlike the Jewish writings, women have an important place in Luke's gospel. Luke writes about the women who accompanied Jesus, such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and Martha and Mary and "many other women who used their own resources to help Jesus and his disciples" (8:1).


Luke also writes about the birth of Christ from Mary's point of view and she is especially important in Luke's gospel.


It is only in the gospel of Luke that the story of Mary's Annunciation, her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat, the Presentation and Jesus' remaining in Jerusalem are told. In Luke's gospel, we learn the words spoken by the angel to Mary at the Annunciation, "Hail Mary, full of grace" and Elizabeth's words to Mary, "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus."


Luke's Christian ministry can be followed in the book of Acts. Up until the sixteenth chapter the story of Acts is written in the third person, much like an historian recording facts. The voice of the narrator then changes to first person and scholars believe this is done at the time Luke first joined Paul at Troas in the year 51. The book of Acts switches back to third person and scholars believe that this reflects a period in time when Luke was not present during the events that are recorded.


Based on his accurate description of towns, cities and islands, as well as correctly naming various official titles, archaeologist William Mitchell 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."


Adding to this sentiment, Edward Musgrave Blaiklock, a Professor of Classics at Auckland University, remarked, "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."


Tradition says Luke lived a long life without marrying and that he died at age eighty-four.


Saint Luke was the first Christian physician and was venerated by the Catholic Church as the patron saint of physicians and surgeons. He is also the patron of artists, bachelors, bookbinders, brewers, butchers, doctors, glassmakers, glassworkers, goldsmiths, goldworkers, lacemakers, laceworkers, notaries, painters, sculptors, and stained glass workers.

 

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