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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Luke (2)

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LUKE.—The only reliable sources for the life of Luke are his Acts of the Apostles, and, in a very slight degree, his Gospel, and the Epistles of St. Paul. The biography found in many Manuscripts of the Gospel in Latin, and printed, for example, in Wordsworth and White’s Novum Testamentum Domini Nostri Iesu Christi Latine, Pars i. (Oxonii, 1889–1898), pp. 269–272, can hardly be considered reliable, by whomsoever composed. Some of its statements will be quoted below.

1. Name.—The name Λουκᾶς appears to be unexampled elsewhere. The modern accentuation is no doubt correct, and this at once proclaims it as a contraction or shorter form of some other name. It belongs in fact to the class of pet names (Lallnamen, Kosenamen in German), as a glance at the long list of such in Jannaris’ Historical Gr. Gram. (London, 1897), § 287, will show. The NT itself is not without examples of such names; Σίλας (Σιλέας) for Σιλουανός, Ἀμπλιᾶς (Romans 16:8) for Ἀμπλίατος, Ὀυμπᾶς (Romans 16:15) for Ὀλυμπιόδωρος, Δημᾶς (Colossians 4:14) for Δημήτριος, Ἐπαφρᾶς (Colossians 4:12) for Ἐπαφρόδιτος, Ἀπολλώς for Ἀπολλώνιος, Ζηνᾶς (Titus 3:13) for Ζηνόδωρος, Ἀντιπᾶς (Revelation 2:13) for Ἀντίπατρος, Στεφανᾶς (1 Corinthians 16:15) for Στεφανηφόρος. The shorter names are less technical and more friendly than the others. There can be little doubt that Λουκᾶς is short for Λουκανός, and indeed this latter form is very frequent in the oldest forms of the Latin Bible, in the title of the Gospel. There appears to be no example of the nominative in Manuscripts , but the accusative cata lucanum is regular (see C. H. Turner in JThSt [Note: ThSt Journal of Theological Studies.] , vi. (1904–1905), pp. 256–258). Monsignor Mercati, of the Vatican Library, has found an instance even of the nominative, on the sarcophagus of Concordius at Arles, matteus marcus lucanvs ioannes (ib. p. 435).* [Note: The present writer has recently seen it on the mould of this sarcophagus at the Museum of St. Germain near Paris.] The name Lucanus suggests ‘Lucanian,’ a native of the district of Southern Italy; it also suggests the Latin poet, a member of the gens Annaea, nephew of Seneca the philosopher. But neither of these suggestions seems to lead us further in the attempt to trace the ancestry or family of the Third Evangelist.

2. Origin.—The Latin biography above referred to calls Luke a Syrian of Antioch. This is almost certainly due to a mistaken interpretation of Acts 13:1, where a different person, with a different name, Lucius, is mentioned. If that be not the explanation, the selection of Antioch may be due to a guess, which sought to connect him with an important city. Some have thought that ‘Antiochensis’ is right, but that ‘Syrus’ is wrong, and would claim him for Pisidian Antioch, a place of much less importance. In the absence of other evidence, this second theory would be possible, as Pisidian Antioch is much nearer the historical scene on which he first appears and figures prominently in the missionary journeys of St. Paul. The Book of Acts itself, however, seems to yield up the secret. If we concentrate our attention on that part of the narrative which tells of St. Paul’s visit to Philippi, we observe certain peculiarities about it which distinguish it from the other parts. In the first place, we observe that in Acts 16:9 ‘a certain man of Macedonia’ (τις implies that the author could name him if he chose) is mentioned as appearing to St. Paul in a dream at Troas, and inviting him to cross over into Macedonia. In the following verse, the first ‘We’ passage begins:—‘we sought immediately.’ The Macedonians did not differ from other Greeks in their appearance or dress, and why should the author conceal the name of the Macedonian, if not from modesty? The present writer can feel no doubt that Luke and Paul met in Troas, and conversed together, expectant of a sign of the Spirit’s will; that, as the result of their impressive talk, St. Paul saw a vision of his companion of the previous day, who appeared to be addressing him in the words of Acts 16:9; and, in accordance with the belief of the time, considered—who shall say wrongly?—that the Spirit had spoken through this dream. Acts 16:12 of ch. 16 is even more important in this connexion for the information it supplies:—‘Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia, the first of its district, a Roman colony.’ The characterization of Philippi might almost be styled gratuitous. Since the battle of b.c. 42 this place was well known to all persons of any education. Further, one might judge from this passage that it was the only Roman colony mentioned in Acts. This is far from being the case. Corinth, Lystra, Ptolemais, and Pisidian Antioch, to mention no others, were also Roman colonies; yet the author affixes the title to Philippi only. Again, we know that Philippi was not regarded by all as the chief town of its district. The author is clearly taking a side as against those who regarded Thessalonica or Amphipolis as the chief town of that district. The rivalry between cities was a characteristically Greek quality, which finds a parallel in the more modern rivalry between Dôle and Besançon. An instance in Asia Minor was that between Smyrna, Ephesus, and Pergamum. We shall not be wrong in regarding the author as a native of Philippi. His fondness for the sea and all matters nautical, as well as his choice of a profession almost entirely confined to Greeks, already proclaim him a Greek. There are other indications that point to Philippi as his native place. Acts 16:13 of ch. 16, ‘where we thought there was a place of prayer,’ is quite natural, if the author, being a Gentile, had only a rough idea where the Jewish place of prayer in his native town was. Again, when Paul and Silas go to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1), Luke is left behind in Philippi, and reappears in that neighbourhood afterwards (Acts 20:4-5).

3. Notes on his Life.—Of Luke’s early life little can be said, and that little is inference derived from his two books. If he were the son of a Greek freedman of a Roman master, this would account both for his name and his history. From the character of the language of his writings it is evident that he had a good education, both rhetorical and medical. It is impossible to say where he was educated, as higher education was widespread in the Greek world. About his disposition something can be said. From the frequent references to the poor in his Gospel and his loving attachment to Paul, as well as his self-effacement, it seems not too fanciful to picture him as a man of modest, tender, sympathetic, and constant nature. His circumstances appear to have been good; otherwise he could hardly have followed Paul as he did, ministering to his ailing body. The present writer has little doubt that the reason why Titus, though a valued coadjutor of St. Paul, is not mentioned in Acts, is that he was Luke’s brother, especially as the only natural way to take the words τὸν ἀδελφόν in 2 Corinthians 12:18 is as ‘his brother,’ i.e. the brother of the man previously mentioned, that is, of Titus. Luke as a teacher was not so prominent as Titus, and hence is not named there. The true meaning of the passage would have been understood long ago, had it not been for the obscuration produced by the ecclesiastical sense of the term ‘brother.’

The only part of Luke’s life of which we know much is the part he spent travelling in St. Paul’s company. They met first at Troas, and journeyed together from there by Samothrace and Neapolis to Philippi (Acts 16:10-12). In Philippi Luke remained after Paul had gone, and they appear to have been separated for a little over five years (according to Ramsay’s chronology). After meeting again, almost certainly at Philippi (Acts 20:3-5), they appear to have remained together till the death of St. Paul. Certainly they were together on St. Paul’s last journey along the coast of Asia Minor and Syria, up to Jerusalem (Acts 21:15), and on the eventful voyage to Puteoli and Rome (ch. 27). In Rome he appears with St. Paul (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24). It is probable that he devoted himself mainly to medical and literary work, and not so much to evangelization. The Latin biography states that he never married, and that he died at the age of 74 in Bœotia (some Manuscripts , Bithynia). Another tradition has it that he died at Constantinople, and his sarcophagus, said to have been brought from there, is now pointed out in the Church of Santa Giustina, at Padua.

Literature.—The above art. is largely indebted to Sir W. M. Ramsay’s St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen8 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , the most sympathetic study of Luke in existence. See also his Was Christ Born at Bethlehem? A Study in the Credibility of St. Luke 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ; cf. R. J. Knowling’s Introduction to the Acts of the Apostles in The Expositor’s Gr. Test., vol. ii. (Lond. 1900); Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke (Lond. 1882); Harnack, Lukas der Arzt (Leipzig, 1906).

A. Souter.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Luke (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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