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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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The New Testament informs us of very few particulars concerning St. Luke. He is not named in any of the Gospels. In the Acts of the Apostles, which were, as will hereafter be shown, written by him, he uses the first person plural, when he is relating some of the travels of St. Paul; and thence it is inferred, that at those times he was himself with that Apostle. The first instance of this kind is in the eleventh verse of the sixteenth chapter; he there says, "Loosing from Troas, we came up with a straight course to Samothracia." Thus, we learn that St. Luke accompanied St. Paul in this his first voyage to Macedonia. From Samothracia they went to Neapolis, and thence to Philippi. At this last place we conclude that St. Paul and St. Luke separated, because in continuing the history of St. Paul, after he left Philippi, St. Luke uses the third person, saying, "Now when they had passed through Amphipolis," &c, Acts 17:1; and he does not resume the first person till St. Paul was in Greece the second time. We have no account of St. Luke during this interval; it only appears that he was not with St. Paul. When St. Paul was about to go to Jerusalem from Greece, after his second visit into that country, St. Luke, mentioning certain persons, says, "These going before tarried for us at Troas; and we sailed away from Philippi," Acts 20:5-6 . Thus again we learn that St. Luke accompanied St. Paul out of Greece, through Macedonia to Troas; and the sequel of St. Paul's history in the Acts, and some passages in his epistles, 2 Timothy 4:11; Colossians 4:14; Philippians 1:24 , written while he was a prisoner at Rome, informs us that St. Luke continued from that time with Paul, till he was released from his confinement at Rome; which was a space of about five years, and included a very interesting part of St. Paul's life, Acts 20-28.

Here ends the certain account of St. Luke. It seems probable, however, that he went from Rome into Achaia; and some authors have asserted that he afterward preached the Gospel in Africa. None of the most ancient fathers having mentioned that St. Luke suffered martyrdom, we may suppose that he died a natural death; but at what time, or in what place, is not known. We are told by some that St. Luke was a painter, and Grotius and Wetstein thought that he was in the earlier part of his life a slave; but I find, says Bishop Tomline, no foundation for either opinion in any ancient writer. It is probable that he was by birth a Jew, and a native of Antioch in Syria; and I see no reason to doubt that "Luke, the beloved physician," mentioned in the Epistle to the Colossians, Colossians 4:14 , was Luke the evangelist.

Lardner thinks that there are a few allusions to this Gospel in some of the apostolical fathers, especially in Hermes and Polycarp; and in Justin Martyr there are passages evidently taken from it; but the earliest author, who actually mentions St. Luke's Gospel, is Irenaeus; and he cites so many peculiarities in it, all agreeing with the Gospel which we now have, that he alone is sufficient to prove its genuineness. We may however observe, that his testimony is supported by Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, Jerom, Chrysostom, and many others. Dr. Owen and Dr. Townson have compared many parallel passages of St. Mark's and St.

Luke's Gospels; and Dr. Townson has concluded that St. Luke had seen St. Mark's Gospel, and Dr. Owen, that St. Mark had seen St. Luke's; but there does not appear to be a sufficient similarity of expression to justify either of these conclusions. There was among the ancients a difference of opinion concerning the priority of these two Gospels; and it must be acknowledged to be a very doubtful point.

There is also great doubt about the place where this Gospel was published. It seems most probable that it was published in Greece, and for the use of Gentile converts. Dr. Townson observes, that the evangelist has inserted many explanations, particularly concerning the scribes and Pharisees, which he would have omitted if he had been writing for those who were acquainted with the customs and sects of the Jews. We must conclude that the histories of our Saviour, referred to in the preface of this Gospel, were inaccurate and defective, or St. Luke would not have undertaken this work. It does not, however, appear that they were written with any bad design; but being merely human compositions, and perhaps put together in great haste, they were full of errors. They are now entirely lost, and the names of their authors are not known. When the four authentic Gospels were published, and came into general use, all others were quickly disregarded and forgotten.

St. Luke's Gospel is addressed to Theophilus; but there was a doubt, even in the time of Epiphanius, whether a particular person, or any good Christian in general, be intended by that name. Theophilus was probably a real person, that opinion being more agreeable to the simplicity of the sacred writings. We have seen that St. Luke was for several years the companion of St. Paul; and many ancient writers consider this Gospel as having the sanction of St. Paul, in the same manner as St. Mark's had that of St. Peter. Whoever will examine the evangelist's and the Apostle's account of the eucharist in their respective original works, will observe a great coincidence of expression, Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11, St. Luke seems to have had more learning than any other of the evangelists, and his language is more varied, copious, and pure. This superiority in style may perhaps be owing to his longer residence in Greece, and greater acquaintance with Gentiles of good education, than fell to the lot of the writers of the other three Gospels. This Gospel contains many things which are not found in the other Gospels; among which are the following: the birth of John the Baptist; the Roman census in Judea; the circumstances attending Christ's birth at Bethlehem; the vision granted to the shepherds; the early testimony of Simeon and Anna; Christ's conversation with the doctors in the temple when he was twelve years old; the parables of the good Samaritan, of the prodigal son, of Dives and Lazarus, of the wicked judge, and of the publican and Pharisee; the miraculous cure of the woman who had been bowed down by illness eighteen years; the cleansing of the ten lepers; and the restoring to life the son of a widow at Nain; the account of Zaccheus, and of the penitent thief; and the particulars of the journey to Emmaus. It is very satisfactory that so early a writer as Irenaeus has noticed most of these peculiarities; which proves not only that St. Luke's Gospel, but that the other Gospels also, are the same now that they were in the second century.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Luke'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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