The Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles were written by the same person and both addressed to the same high ranking Roman called Theophilus (lover of God). The authorship was assigned to Luke before the end of the second century. On his second missionary journey, Paul may have gone to Troas (where Luke lived, or at least where he joined Paul, because he knew a relative he could stay with. (Acts 16:8, 11). Saint Luke was an educated Gentile Christian and some think it possible that he could have been a manumitted (freed) slave. It was common at that time to give a slave a shortened form of his master’s name which could have been Saint Paul’s “relative” Lucius. As a physician (Colossians 4.14) Luke would have been given to Paul to care for his ailment, (he calls it ‘the thorn in my flesh’). That would explain why Luke travelled so extensively with Paul who twice mentions, “only Luke is with me”. Furthermore part of the narrative in Acts has “we” (first person plural) indicating that the author was present.
The date of composition of Saint Luke’s Gospel can be fixed within a period of thirty years by considering its relation to the other Gospels. It is obviously later than Mark which is generally dated between 65-70AD, for Luke used about 65% of it as one of his sources. It also seems likely that the author of the fourth Gospel 95-100AD knew of it. Saint Luke makes no claim to be an eye-witness but he says that he received material from various sources. The presentation of the life of Jesus is designed to appeal to Gentile readers. Jesus is more than the Messiah of the Jews: he is the Saviour of the World. Saint Luke traces the genealogy back to Adam, the parent of the whole human race and calls attention to Gentiles e.g. The Good Samaritan, The Ten Lepers, the Sermon at Nazareth etc. In the parables of the Pharisee and the Publican, the Lost Sheep and the encounter with the sinful woman he emphasises God’s concern for the poor and the lost. Women, many of whom were possibly Luke’s sources of information, are prominent e.g. the widow of Nain, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and the women on the way to Calvary. Only Luke records the prayer of the penitent thief, “Lord remember me when thou comest into Thy Kingdom.” We also have Saint Luke to thank for both accounts of the Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Best known and loved is Saint Luke’s account of the Nativity, the stable, the manger, the swaddling clothes, the angels, the shepherds and the beautiful canticles (Ave Maria, Magnificat, Benedictus, Nunc Dimittis). As the light fades on Christmas Eve, the Director of Music of King’s College Cambridge reads the King James Bible translation of Saint Luke’s account of the Birth of Christ in the candle-lit chapel. Broadcast live, this for millions the world over is the moment Christmas begins.
The debt we owe to St Luke is incalculable and for good reason he has been given the title The Beloved Physician. The few days of fine weather that usually occurs around the time of his feast day are known as Saint Luke’s Little Summer.
Blessed Saint Luke, we thank you.
Feature Image: Saint Luke depicted in the chancel window, Welshampton Church.