October 18th is the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist.
Who was he and what do we know about him?
Here are 10 things to know and share . . .
1) Who was St. Luke?
St. Luke is mentioned by name in three passages of Scripture:
In Colossians 4:14, St. Paul writes: “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.”
In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul writes: “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me.”
And in Philemon 23-24, Paul writes: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.”
Since Luke is mentioned in three letters, we can infer that he was a frequent companion of St. Paul.
He also shared in Paul’s labors, since he is referred to as one of Paul’s “fellow workers.”
The fact that Paul says, in his final letter, that “Luke alone is with me” suggests that he was a particularly intimate and faithful companion.
Finally, the reference to Luke as “the beloved physician” indicates that his “day job” (as opposed to his apostolic efforts) was as a medical practitioner.
2) What books of Scripture did St. Luke write?
St. Luke is identified by early (2nd century) tradition as the author of the third Gospel and as the author of the book of Acts.
He also may have had a role in composing some of the letters attributed to St. Paul (see below).
Even if he only wrote Luke and Acts, though, he still wrote more of the New Testament than any other author! Luke and Acts together total almost 38,000 words, or 24% of the whole New Testament.
3) What debt do we owe to St. Luke for his Gospel?
St. Luke’s Gospel is one of the three “Synoptic Gospels,” which means that it covers much of the same territory as those of St. Matthew and St. Mark.
As a result, if Luke’s Gospel had not been written, there would still be a great deal of the Jesus story that would have been preserved (not only by Matthew and Mark but also by John). However, there are certain things that only Luke records.
Among them are these passages (plus a number of others):
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold (1:5-25)
The Birth of Jesus Foretold (1:26-38)
The Visitation (1:39-56)
The Birth of John the Baptist (1:57-80)
The Circumcision and Presentation of Jesus (2:21-40)
The Finding in the Temple (2:41-52)
The Widow of Nain’s Son (7:11-17)
The Mission of the Seventy (10:01-20)
The Good Samaritan (10:29-37)
“Mary has chosen the good portion” (10:38-42)
The Friend at Midnight (11:5-8)
The Parable of the Rich Fool (12:13-21)
The Parable of the Lost Coin (15:8-10)
The Parable of the Lost Son (15:11-32)
The Parable of the Shrewd Steward (16:1-8)
Lazarus and the Rich Man (16:19-31)
Ten Lepers Cleansed (17:11-19)
The Parable of the Persistent Widow (18:1-8)
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14)
Dinner with Zacchaeus (19:1-10)
Who Is the Greatest? (22:24-32)
Jesus Before Herod Antipas (23:6-12)
If these weren’t recorded in Luke’s Gospel, we wouldn’t know about them, because they aren’t recorded elsewhere in the New Testament.
4) Where did Luke get the information for his Gospel?
At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke writes:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you [Luke 1:1-3].
Luke’s reference to narratives of the events in the Gospel that preceded his and his reference to having followed “all things,” with those forming of his own account seem to indicate that he used written sources for some of his information.
Given the similarities that Luke has to Matthew and Mark (the other two Synoptic Gospels), it is likely that he used one or both of these.
He also says that he drew information from “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.”
One of the eyewitnesses he likely interviewed was the Virgin Mary herself. Luke records the material in the infancy narrative in a way that implies Mary was the source of much or all of it (Luke 2:19, 51; more here).
One of the ministers of the word he likely used as a source was St. Paul. One way of showing this is that the words of institution for the Eucharist in Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 22:19-20) is very similar to the formula used by St. Paul (see 1 Cor. 11:24-25). It is less similar to the formula used in Matthew and Mark (see Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24). It is likely he used the formula used by St. Paul because he frequently heard Paul saying Mass and this was the most familiar version to him.
An individual who was both an eyewitness and a minister of the word that Luke likely interviewed is St. Peter. We have good reason to think that St. Peter was one of the sources of Acts (see below), and if Luke interviewed him for that, he likely interviewed him for his Gospel as well.
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