Luke the Evangelist
|Luke the Evangelist|
detail of the St. Luke altarpiece by Andrea Mantegna
|Apostle, Evangelist, Historian|
|Born||Antioch, Syria, Roman Empire|
|Died||c. 84 AD
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|
|Patronage||artists, physicians, surgeons, and others|
Luke the Evangelist (Ancient Greek: Λουκᾶς, Loukás) is one of the Four Evangelists or 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. Such authorship was later reaffirmed by prominent figures in early Christianity such as Jerome and Eusebius, although within scholarly circles, both secular and religious, discussions have been held due to the lack of evidence as to the real identity of the author of the works.
In the New Testament, Luke is mentioned briefly a few times, and referred to as a doctor in the Pauline epistle to the Colossians; thus he is thought to have been both a physician and a disciple of Paul. Considered by early Christians as a saint, he is believed to have died a martyr, although accounts of the events do vary.
He is venerated as Saint Luke the Evangelist within the Roman Catholic Church, and major denominations, as patron saint of artists, physicians, surgeons, students and butchers; his feast day is 18 October.
His earliest notice is in Paul's Epistle to Philemon, verse 24. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14 and 2 Timothy 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, a native of Antioch, by profession, was a physician. 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)
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.
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. The quote in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians differentiating between Luke and other colleagues "of the circumcision" has caused many to speculate that this indicates 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. 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.
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". 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), from whence his relics were transferred to Constantinople in the year 357.
Luke as a historian
Most scholars understand Luke's works (Luke-Acts) in the tradition of Greek historiography. The preface of The Gospel of Luke drawing on historical investigation identified the work to the readers as belonging to the genre of history. 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." 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." New Testament scholar Colin Hemer has made a number of advancements in understanding the historical nature and accuracy of Luke's writings.
On the purpose of Acts, New Testament Scholar Luke Timothy Johnson has noted that "Luke's account is selected and shaped to suit his apologetic interests, not in defiance of but in conformity to ancient standards of historiography." Such a position is shared by most commentators such as Richard Heard who sees historical deficiencies as arising from "special objects in writing and to the limitations of his sources of information." However, during modern times, Luke's competence as a historian is questioned, although that depends on one's a priori view of the supernatural. A materialist would see a narrative that relates supernatural, fantastic things like angels, demons etc., as problematic as a historical source. And it is understood that Luke did not intend to record history. His intention was to proclaim and to persuade. Many see this understanding as the final nail in Luke the historian's coffin. Robert M. Grant has noted that although Luke saw himself within the historical tradition, his work contains a number of statistical improbabilities such as the sizable crowd addressed by Peter in Acts 4:4. He has also noted chronological difficulties whereby Luke "has Gamaliel refer to Theudas and Judas in the wrong order, and Theudas actually rebelled about a decade after Gamaliel spoke (5:36-7)"
Luke as an artist
Christian tradition states that he was the first icon painter, although in the Early Middle Ages he was thought to have been only one of several New Testament figures who practiced as an artist. He is said to have painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child, in particular the Hodegetria image in Constantinople (now lost). The total number of icons claiming to have been painted by Luke is said to have reached 600 during the Middle Ages, 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.
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.
New Testament books
Most scholars attribute to Luke the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, which is clearly meant to be read as a sequel to the Gospel account. Other scholars question Luke's authorship of these books. Many secular scholars give credit to Luke's abilities as a historian. Both books are dedicated to one Theophilus and no scholar seriously doubts that the same person wrote both works, though neither work contains the name of its author.
Many argue that the author of the book must have been a companion of the Apostle Paul, because of several passages in Acts written in the first person plural (known as the We Sections). These verses seem to indicate the author was traveling with Paul during parts of his journeys. Some scholars report that, of the colleagues that Paul mentions in his epistles, the process of elimination leaves Luke as the only person who fits everything known about the author of Luke/Acts.
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. Scholars defending Luke's authorship say there is no reason for early Christians to attribute these works to such a minor figure if he did not in fact write them, nor is there any tradition attributing this work to any other author.
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.
The relics of St. Luke the Evangelist
Despot George of Serbia bought the relics from the Ottoman sultan Murad II for 30,000 gold coins.[not in citation given] After the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia, the kingdom's last queen, George's granddaughter Mary, who had brought the relics with her from Serbia as her dowry, sold them to the Venetian Republic.
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.
Thus, nowadays, the relics of St. Luke are so divided:
- the body, in the Abbey of Santa Giustina in Padua;
- the head, in the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague;
- a rib, at his tomb in Thebes.
References and sources
- "Saint Luke the Evangelist". Star Quest Production Network. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
- The New Testament Documents: Their Origin and Early History, George Milligan, 1913, Macmillan and Co., p. 149
- Saints: A Visual Guide, Edward Mornin, Lorna Mornin, 2006, Eerdmans Books, p. 74
- "Gospel of Saint Luke", Aherne, Cornelius, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 24 Feb. 2013
- New Outlook, Alfred Emanuel Smith, 1935, Outlook Pub. Co., p. 792
- 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
- A Commentary on the Original Text of the Acts of the Apostles, Horatio Balch Hackett, 1858, Gould and Lincoln; Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., p. 12
- Encyclopædia Britannica, Micropædia vol. 7, p. 554–555. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc, 1998. ISBN 0-85229-633-9.
- Colossians 4:10 and 11, compared with 14
- Michael Walsh, ed. "Butler's Lives of the Saints." (HarperCollins Publishers: New York, 1991), pp. 342.
- Grant, Robert M., "A Historical Introduction to the New Testament" (Harper and Row, 1963)
- "Luke 1:1-4".
- Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. 117.
- Ramsay, The Bearing Of Recent Discovery On The Trustworthiness Of The New Testament, 222, 1915
- Blaiklock, The Archaeology of the New Testament, page 96, Zondervan Publishing Houst, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1970.
- Hemer, "The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History", 104–107, as summarized by MacDowell.
- Johnson, Luke Timothy "The Acts of the Apostles" (The Liturgical Press, 1992), pp. 474-476, cited at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/luke.html
- Heard, Richard: An Introduction to the New Testament Chapter 13: The Acts of the Apostles, Harper & Brothers, 1950 http://www.religion-online.org/showbook.asp?title=531
- Powell, Mark (1989). What are they saying about Luke?. Paulist Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-8091-3111-0.
- 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
- 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."
- Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament, p. 267. Anchor Bible; 1st edition (October 13, 1997). ISBN 978-0-385-24767-2.
- Stefano Zuffi (2003). "The Evangelists and their symbols". Gospel Figures in Art. Getty Publications. ISBN 0-89236-727-X.
- 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.
- The Beloved Physician St. Luke, Padua.
- Wade, Nicholas. "Body of St. Luke Gains Credibility." New York Times, October 16, 2001.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Luke the Evangelist.|
|Wikisource has the text of an 1879 American Cyclopædia article about Luke the Evangelist.|
- Biblical Interpretation of Texts of Saint Luke
- Early Christian Writings: Gospel of Luke e-texts, introductions
- 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