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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Luke

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This name is a contraction of Lucanus, and indicates that Luke was descended from heathen ancestors, and that he was either a slave or a freedman. According to ecclesiastical tradition, the author of the Gospel is the same Luke who is mentioned in Paul's Epistles (; ; ), and who is called, in the last-mentioned passage, 'the physician.' This tradition is confirmed by the Acts of the Apostles, according to which the author of that work accompanied the Apostle Paul in his journeys (, sq.; ). Luke accompanied Paul also in his last journeys to Jerusalem and Rome (; Acts 27; Acts 28). The profession of a physician harmonizes also with the condition of a freedman, indicated by the form of the name. The higher ranks of the Romans were disinclined to practice medicine, which they left rather to their freed-men. It harmonizes with this that Paul () distinguishes Luke from the Christians of Jewish descent, whom, in , he styles, 'being of the Circumcision.' Eusebius states that Antioch in Syria was the native city of Luke. In this city there was at an early period a congregation of Christians converted from heathenism. Since Luke was a physician, we must suppose that he was a man of education. To those skeptics who excuse their disbelief of the miracles recorded in the Gospels, by the assertion that their authors were ill-informed Jews, greedy of the marvelous, it must appear of some importance to meet in Luke a well-informed Greek, skilled even in the medical sciences. The higher degree of his education is further proved by the classical style in which the introduction to his Gospel, and the latter portion of the Acts, are written; and also by the explicit and learned details which he gives in the Acts on various antiquarian, historical, and geographical subjects.

It is important to notice what he himself says, in his introduction, of the relation borne by his writings to those of others. It is evident that even then 'many' had attempted to compose a history of our Lord from the statements of eyewitnesses and of the first ministers of the word of God. As these 'many' are distinguished from eye-witnesses, we must suppose that many Christians wrote brief accounts of the life of Jesus, although they had not been eye-witnesses. It is possible that Luke made use of such writings. He states that he had accurately investigated the truth of the accounts communicated, and that, following the example of the 'many,' he had made use of the statements of eye-witnesses, whom he must have had frequent opportunities of meeting with when he traveled with Paul.

The Gospel of St. Luke contains exceedingly valuable accounts, not extant in the books of the other evangelists; for instance, those concerning the childhood of Jesus, the admirable parables in Luke 15-16, the narration respecting the disciples at Emmaus, the section from to , which contains particulars mostly wanting in the other evangelists. It has been usual, since the days of Schleiermacher, to consider this portion as the report of a single journey to the feast at Jerusalem; but it is evident that it contains accounts belonging to several journeys, undertaken at different periods.

As to the statements of the ancients concerning the date or time when the Gospel of St. Luke was written, we find in Irenaeus, that Mark and Luke wrote after Matthew. According to Eusebius, Origen stated that Luke wrote after Matthew and Mark; but Clemens Alexandrinus, according to the same writer, asserted, on the authority of the 'tradition of the earlier elders,' that the Gospels containing the genealogies were written before the others. According to this view, Mark was written after Luke. It is however likely that this statement arose from a desire to explain why the genealogies were omitted by Mark and John.

From the circumstance that the book of Acts leaves St. Paul a captive, without relating the result of his captivity, most critics have, with considerable probability, inferred that Luke accompanied St. Paul to Rome, that he employed his leisure while there in composing the Acts, and that he left off writing before the fate of Paul was decided. Now, since the Gospel of St. Luke was written before the Acts, it seems to follow that it was written a considerable time before the destruction of Jerusalem.

It is likely that Luke, during Paul's captivity at Cesarea, employed his leisure in collecting the accounts contained in his Gospel in the localities where the events to which they relate happened. The most ancient testimonies in behalf of Luke's Gospel are those of Marcion, at the beginning of the second century, and of Irenaeus, in the latter half of that century.

Besides the Gospel which bears his name, Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles. This work contains the history of the foundation of the Christian church in two great sections: the first embracing the spread of Christianity among the Jews, chiefly by the instrumentality of Peter (Acts 1-12); and the second, its spread among the heathen, chiefly by the instrumentality of Paul (Acts 13-28).

That the accounts of Luke are authentic may be perceived more especially from a close examination of the inserted discourses and letters. The characteristic marks of authenticity in the oration of the Roman lawyer Tertullus, in Acts 24, and in the official letters in , sq.; 15:23, sq.; can scarcely be overlooked. The address of Paul to the elders of the Ephesian church is characteristically Pauline, and even so full of definite allusions and of similarity to the Epistle to the Ephesians, that it furnishes a confirmation of the authenticity of that letter.

As for the testimonies in behalf of the authenticity of the Acts, they are the same as for Luke's Gospel. Clemens Alexandrinus, Irenaeus, and Tertullian, expressly mention the Acts, and Eusebius reckons them among the Homologoumena. However, the book of Acts was not read and quoted so often in the early church as other parts of Scripture.

 

 

 

 


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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Luke'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/l/luke.html.

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