5 Things to Know about Luke from the Bible
- Liz Kanoy Editor, Crosswalk.com
- 2015 10 Dec
Who is Luke?
Luke is only mentioned by name three times in Scripture, and all three references are in Paul’s letters: Colossians 4, 2 Timothy 4, and Philemon 1. Most biblical scholars support Luke as the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. We can come to this conclusion because of the similarity of writing styles and vocabulary in both books; another reason is that Luke used the term “we” several times to refer to his missionary travels in the book of Acts. Though Luke was not present with Jesus during His ministry, and likely was not a believer until after Jesus’ resurrection, Luke’s attention to detail and abundant eyewitness accounts serve him as a credible historian for the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Luke’s gospel contains several parables and eyewitness accounts that are only in his gospel, such as a pre-birth account for John the Baptist, the story of the two men who met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, as well as stories of miraculous healing. His gospel is the longest of the 4 gospels and includes the most healing stories, showing his interest in and compassion for the sick. His gospel also has the most detailed birth account and a more descriptive death and resurrection account for Jesus. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts total 52 chapters, making Luke the author of 1/3 of the New Testament, just like Paul.
It is most likely that Luke wrote his gospel in 63AD before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, since he does not mention it. As a detailed and observant writer, it would be odd for him to leave out such a historic event, but there are still some scholars who argue for a later date.
Why did he write a gospel account?
In Luke 1, he writes:
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
Here are 5 things to know about Luke:
1. Luke was a Gentile
Lucas (or Loukas) is a Greek name; the author of Luke writes with a Greek style, and is highly educated with his chosen vocabulary, similar to other Greek writers in his day. He used Greek expressions rather than Hebrew versions, showing that he was more comfortable with the Greek language. We also know that Luke was a Gentile because of the way Paul addresses him in Colossians 4; Paul named his Jewish co-workers first and says, “These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God…” Then 2 verses later Paul addresses Luke by saying, “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” Col. 4:11 & 14
Luke was the only Gentile to write a book of the Bible, and he clearly wrote his gospel with a Gentile audience in mind. He is sure to point out references to creation and Jesus’ circumcision that a Gentile audience would not have known. A Jewish audience would have assumed Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day, even if it wasn’t written, since he came from a Jewish family. Luke made sure to give a detailed account of everything he wrote, so that those who were not as familiar with Jewish traditions, customs, places, and Old Testament references would be able to understand the history of Jesus and plan of salvation.
2. Luke was a Physician
Though, we can’t be certain about every aspect of Luke’s background, we know he was referred to by Paul as “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14. He likely had a comfortable life in Antioch practicing medicine, but he chose to sacrifice that life of comfort to follow the Lord. Henry Morris, of the Institute for Creation Research, shares this of Luke’s physician background,
“Some commentators have noted the ironical relation between Mark 5:26 and Luke 8:43. Mark had said that a certain woman needing healing ‘had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse." Luke, perhaps trying to defend his professional colleagues, merely said that this same woman "had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any.’ That is, they had done their best, but it was an incurable disease.”
3. Luke was Humble
Luke never addresses himself as the author of either of his books, he never addresses himself by name as one of Paul’s travel companions though he does use the term “we,” he never mentions his profession as a doctor (only Paul does), and he never mentions his brother Titus (2 Cor. 8 & 12). He does not mention the sacrifice he made in giving up his medical practice to travel with Paul and care for Paul. Instead, he gives much focus to Jesus’ healing miracles and Jesus as the great Healer. The most important thing he wants his readers to understand is salvation in Christ.
Gordon Franz, of the Associates for Biblical Research, states,
SEE ALSO: Luke 2: What Child is This?
“When he wrote his gospel and the book of Acts, he did not mention his name at all (Acts 1:1), nor did he mention his brother Titus. Dr. Luke was a humble person and he did not want to call attention to himself or his family, but rather, he wanted to point people to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in His Church.”
4. Luke Met Some of the Apostles
By the time Luke was writing his gospel, the Holy Spirit had already inspired two others: Matthew and Mark. It is reasonable to think that Luke would have interviewed them and investigated their writings. Luke would have likely traveled with Mark, since Mark also traveled with Paul. And it is logical to think that since Mark and Luke knew each other, and Mark and Matthew knew each other that Matthew and Luke would have also met. Luke would have been exposed to many sources, and, therefore, would have based his writings on existing narratives with eyewitness accounts added in that he gathered with the help of the Holy Spirit. Luke was not trying to write a new gospel, he wanted to record the life of Jesus as accurately as possible for a wider Gentile audience, including a high Roman official named Theophilus.
5. Only Luke Remained with Paul to His Death
In 2 Timothy 4, Paul tells us that Luke alone remains with him. Why would the majority of Paul’s companions desert him? John MacArthur explains,
“Nero had cranked up the persecution to a high level and Christians were paying with their lives. And frankly, many believers had fled from Rome. And, you know, they might have had a reasonable motive to do that, to carry on the preaching of the gospel. It's not that they were all just cowards. But Luke didn't go. Everybody left. And there was a lot of desertion. Demas left him because he loved the present world, verse 10 says. And you do get the idea that some of the rest left in desertion from verse 16, but he says, "May it not be counted against them." But not Luke, loyal, faithful, brave, long-term friend, fellow worker, companion to Paul, been with Paul over years and years and years, been with Paul over hundreds and probably thousands of miles of walking. “
John MacArthur also writes,
“So I say, next to Paul, Luke is the most powerful writing force in the New Testament, and yet he is basically unknown. I don't think in my life I've ever heard a sermon about Luke. His historical narrative spans over sixty years. It starts with the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus, and it ends at the end of the book of Acts, which is volume two of his writings, it ends with the gospel being preached at Rome, which means the gospel has extended to the world. No other writer wrote so comprehensive a history of Jesus and His impact. No other writer goes all the way from the John the Baptist to the gospel having reached the capital of the Roman Empire. He is the most complete story teller of the saga of salvation in the New Testament, and he is mostly unknown to us.”
Luke knew he wasn’t the first to write about Jesus nor did he claim to be; he wanted to write a gospel that shared the truth that had already been written but for a wider audience. He investigated every written and oral source that he could, with the help and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Luke was an evangelist, a historian, a physician, a pastor, a missionary, a companion, a brother, and a theologian. His goal and purpose in writing a gospel was to write exact truth concerning Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation, an infallible history and theology inspired by the Spirit. And with God’s guidance that’s exactly what he did.
No, we don’t know everything there is to know about Luke, but I think that’s the way he would want it. He didn’t write a gospel for fame or recognition, which is why he does not mention his own name in either of the books he wrote. Luke wanted to teach people about the Savior and the glorious salvation Jesus offers to all mankind.
Luke’s life was changed and transformed by God the same way that every sinner becomes new, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb!
BibleStudyTools.com: 3 Words in, and This Version of Luke 12 Brought Me Peace! from biblestudytools on GodTube.
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: December 10, 2015