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LUKE (Gr. Loukas). According to the oldest extant list of NT writings, known from the name of its discoverer as the Muratorian Fragment, and dating from the latter half of the second century a.d., Luke was the writer of the Third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. From the latter book his association with Paul is established. In four passages of varying length the author of Acts writes in the first person (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16). These so-called “we sections” constitute the major portion of the extant biographical material on Luke. Apart from this he is mentioned three times in the NT (Col.4.14; Phlm.1.24; 2Tim.4.11). From the first reference it is evident that Luke was a physician; from the last, that he was with Paul some time after he disappears from view at the end of the Acts of the Apostles. The context of the Colossians reference also suggests that Luke was a Gentile and a proselyte.

It appears from Luke’s own writings that he was a man of education and culture. He begins his Gospel with an elaborate paragraph, showing that he could write in the sophisticated tradition of the Hellenistic historians, and then lapses into a polished vernacular. He uses this speech with vigor and effectiveness. He is an accurate and able historian and has left some of the most powerful descriptive writing in the NT. His medical knowledge and his interest in seafaring are apparent from his writings. Whatever is said beyond this is tradition and conjecture. Luke was not “Lucius of Cyrene” (Acts.13.1), for Lucas is an abbreviation of Lucanus, as Silas for Silvanus, and Annas for Annanus. There is no solid support for the conjecture that Luke was one of “the Seventy” (Luke.10.1; niv “seventy-two”), one of the Greeks of John.12.20, or one of the two disciples of Emmaus (Luke.24.13). More certain evidence supports other conjectures and traditions. That he knew Mary is fairly clear from the earlier chapters of his Gospel, and the period of acquaintance may have been during Paul’s incarceration at Caesarea. Eusebius and Jerome say that Luke was a Syrian of Antioch, and he does seem to have a close knowledge of the church there. On the other hand, certain features of the account of Paul’s visit to Philippi suggest that Luke had an intimate knowledge of that city and no little loyalty toward it. Here, too, on two occasions, he appears to have joined Paul’s party. This has given grounds for the contention that Luke was a Macedonian. Tradition and conjecture could be reconciled if Luke was an Antiochene of Macedonian origin, who had studied at the medical school of Philippi and spent significant years in Macedonia. Luke must have been a person of singular sweetness of character to earn the apostle’s adjective “beloved” (Col.4.14 kjv; niv “dear”). He was obviously a man of outstanding loyalty, of unusual capacity for research, and with the scholar’s ability to strip away the irrelevant and dispensable detail. A bare tradition states that he suffered martyrdom in Greece.——EMB

LUKE, THE EVANGELIST (Λουκα̂ς, G3371, used in inscrs, as abbreviated pet name for Λούκιος, G3372, and the Lat. Lucius). Some 5th cent. MSS relate the name to Λουκανός, calling the third gospel Kata Lucanum.


Luke is mentioned by name only three times in the NT—all by Paul while in prison (Col 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11; Philem 24). He never mentions his own name in his writings unless it is in an Armenian reading of Acts 20:13, based on a “Western” text which says “I Luke” (F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 5). However, his identity was certainly known to Theophilus and, no doubt, to the reading public of that day. Luke does identify himself in a measure in the “we” sections of Acts. All the leading associates of Paul (mentioned in the epistles) are eliminated from possible authorship by data in Acts, except Titus and Luke. Since no case can be made for Titus, Luke implies his own authorship. This inference is supported by unanimous early tradition. There are, then, valid autobiographical references by Luke particularly in Acts. His personality shows through in the gospel also.

Luke was a Gentile, not “of the circumcision” (Col 4:10-14). His skill in the use of Gr., with his viewpoint and attitudes (e.g., “the barbarians,” Acts 28:2, 4 KJV) mark him as a Gr. He was a physician, a traveler, a missionary, and a writer.


Some have thought Luke may have been a freedman. Names with contractions ending in as were particularly common among slaves. Greek and Rom. masters often educated slaves as physicians and later freed them for their services (Hayes, p. 46). It is even conjectured that he may have been born in the household of Theophilus, a wealthy government official in Antioch (Luke 1:3).

Medical missionary.

If the reading of Codex D in Acts 11:27f. is correct, Paul may have known Luke in Antioch. At least by Troas on the second journey, Luke joined Paul and was with him at least intermittently until Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome. The beloved physician not only bolstered Paul’s frail health and perhaps added years to his life, but he also practiced medicine at least at times in their journeys. The word for “cured” (Acts 28:8-10) means “medically treated.” Luke shared the labor and the rewards. Luke also shared the call and labors of preaching (16:10-13). He was likely the first university-trained medical missionary.

The historian.

Luke was an able and deliberate historian, writing more than one-fourth of the volume of the NT—more than any other man. Modern research has vindicated the quality of his work. In legend, Luke was a painter. In fact, he was the recorder of truth that supplied the inspiration and subjects for religious art.


W. Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke (1882), xxix-xxxvi, 1-297; A. Plummer, The Gospel According to St. Luke (1898), xi-xxii; W. Ramsay, Luke the Physician (1908), 3-68; A. Harnack, Luke the Physician (1909), 1-198; D. Hayes, The Most Beautiful Book Ever Written (1913), 3-54; H. Cadbury, The Making of Luke-Acts (1927), 213-368; A. Robertson, Luke the Historian in the Light of Research (1930), 1-29; F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles (1951), 6-8; N. Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (1952), 15-22, 39, 40; J. Baker, “Luke, the Critical Evangelist,” Exp T, 68 (1956-1957), 123-125.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

look, luk.

1. Name:

The name Luke (Loukas) is apparently an abbreviation for Loukanos. Old Latin manuscripts frequently have the words CATA LUCANUM as the title of the Third Gospel. (But the form Loukios, is also found in inscriptions synonymous with Loukas; compare Ramsay, The Expositor, December, 1912.)

It was a common fashion in the koine to abbreviate proper names, as it is today, for that matter (compare Amphias from Amphiatos, Antipas from Antipatros, Apollos from Apollonias, Demas from Demetrios, Zenas from Zenodoros, etc.; and see Jannaris, Historical Greek Grammar, section 287).

2. Mentioned Three Times by Name:

Paul alone names Luke (Col 4:14; 2Ti 4:11; Phm 1:24). He does not mention his own name in the Gospel or in the Acts. Compare the silence of the Fourth Gospel concerning the name of the apostle John. There was no particular occasion to mention Luke’s name in the Gospel, except as the author, if he had so wished. The late legend that Luke was one of the Seventy sent out by Jesus (Epiphanius, Haer., ii.51, 11) is pure conjecture, as is the story that Luke was one of the Greeks who came to Philip for an introduction to Jesus (Joh 12:20 f), or the companion of Cleopas in the walk to Emmaus (Lu 24:13). The clear implication of Lu 1:2 is that Luke himself was not an eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus.

3. A Gentile:

In Col 4:14 Luke is distinguished by Paul from those "of the circumcision" (Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus Justus). Epaphras, Luke, Demas form the Gentilegroup. He was believed by the early Christian writers to have come directly from heathendom to Christianity. He may or may not have been a Jewish proselyte. His first appearance with Paul at Troas (compare the "we"-sections, Ac 16:10-12) is in harmony with this idea. The classic introduction to the Gospel (Lu 1:1-4) shows that he was a man of culture (compare Apollos and Paul). He was a man of the schools, and his Greek has a literary flavor only approached in the New Testament by Paul’s writings and by the Epistle to the Hebrews.

4. Home:

5. Physician:

Paul (Col 4:14) expressly calls him "the beloved physician." He was Paul’s medical adviser, and doubtless prolonged his life and rescued him from many a serious illness. He was a medical missionary, and probably kept up his general practice of medicine in connection with his work in Rome (compare Zahn, Intro, III, 1). He probably practiced medicine in Malta (Ac 28:9 f). He naturally shows his fondness for medical terms in his books (compare Hobart, The Medical Language of Luke; Harnack, New Testament Studies: Luke the Physician, 175-98). Harnack adds some examples to those given by Hobart, who has overdone the matter in reality.


6. Brother of Titus:

It is possible, even probable (see Souter’s article in DCG), that in 2Co 8:18 "the brother" is equivalent to "the brother" of Titus just mentioned, that is, "his brother." If so, we should know that Paul came into contact with Luke at Philippi on his way to Corinth during his 2nd tour (compare also 2Co 12:18). It would thus be explained why in Ac the name of Titus does not occur, since he is the brother of Luke the author of the book.

7. Connection with Paul:

If the reading of Codex Bezae (D) in Ac 11:27 f is correct, Luke met Paul at Antioch before the 1st missionary tour. Otherwise it may not have been till Troas on the 2nd tour. But he is the more or less constant companion of Paul from Philippi on the return to Jerusalem on the 3rd tour till the 2 years in Rome at the close of the Acts. He was apparently not with Paul when Php 2:20 was written, though, as we have seen, he was with Paul in Rome when he wrote Colossians and Philemon. He was Paul’s sole companion for a while during the 2nd Roman imprisonment (2Ti 4:11). His devotion to Paul in this time of peril is beautiful.

8. Author of Both Gospel and Acts:

For the proof of the Lukan authorship of the Ac see Acts of the Apostles. For the discussion of the Lukan authorship of the Gospel with his name, see LUKE, THE GOSPEL OF. Our interest in him is largely due to this fact and to his relations with Paul. The Christian world owes him a great debt for his literary productions in the interest of the gospel.

9. Legends:

One legend regarding Luke is that he was a painter. Plummer (Commentary on Luke, xxi f) thinks that the legend is older than is sometimes supposed and that it has a strong element of truth. It is true that he has drawn vivid scenes with his pen. The early artists were especially fond of painting scenes from the Gospel of Luke. The allegorical figure of the ox or calf in Eze 1 and Re 4 has been applied to Luke’s Gospel.


Bible dicts., comms., lives of Paul, instroductions. See also Harnack, "Lukas, der Arzt, der Verfasser" (1906); New Testament Studies: Luke the Physician (1907); Ramsay, Luke the Physician (1908); Selwyn, Luke the Prophet (1901); Hobart, The Medical Language of Luke (1882); Ramsay, Was Christ Born at Bethlehem? A Study in the Credibility of Luke (1898); Maclachlan, John, Evangelist and Historian (1912).

A. T. Robertson