St Luke the Evangelist


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St Luke the Evangelist

Public Domain

Luke is one of the four Gospel writers and actually contributed over 1/4 of the New Testament. But who was he? Luke never claims to have been an eyewitness to Jesus ministry and the events surrounding Jesus life, but he is believed to have been one of the Seventy Apostles sent out by Jesus. This is stated by Epiphanius one of the early Christian Church Fathers.

What is further believed is that he was either a Hellenistic Jew or a Gentile Christian, born in Antioch, by profession a physician. He become a disciple of the apostle Paul and later followed Paul until his [Paul's] martyrdom. Indeed according to information given us by Paul in his New Testament letters, Luke was a Gentile, a physician, a dear friend of Paul (Colossians 4:14), and at one point apparently Paul’s only companion in prison (2 Timothy 4:10,11). The New Testament tells us no more about Luke directly, but since the time of the Muratorian Canon (c.180) tradition has recognised Luke as the author of the Gospel that bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles. Since parts of (Acts 16:10-18); (Acts 20:5-15); Acts 27:27-28:16) purport to be narrated by an unidentified travelling companion of Paul, this tradition may come from an intelligent deduction from the references to Luke in his letters, combined with the account in Acts.

The 2 books ‘The Gospel of Luke’ and ‘Acts’ take as a major emphasis the story of the transition of the gospel from the home of the Jewish religion, Jerusalem, to Rome, the heart of the imperial world. It is a gospel for all: for the poor, for foreigners, for women, for all who might have thought themselves denied salvation. Jesus is the first Christian, his example followed by the heroes of the early church. His example and theirs are recorded for us to follow.

Christian tradition, starting from the 8th century, states that Luke was the first icon painter. He is said to have painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child, in particular the Hodegetria image in Constantinople (now lost). Starting from the 11th century, a number of painted images were venerated as his autograph works, including the Black Madonna of Częstochowa and Our Lady of Vladimir. He was also said to have painted Saints Peter and Paul, and to have illustrated a gospel book with a full cycle of miniatures.

What happened to Luke after the death of Paul in Rome is not known, according to one tradition he wrote his Gospel and Acts in Greece and died at the age of 84 in Boeotia in Greece. But ancient sources state that, Luke was martyred at age 84 in the Greek city of Thebes. His remains were taken to Constantinople about 338 CE and later moved to Padua, Italy, where they are kept in the Basilica of Santa Giustina. A rib is interred at his original burial place in Thebes. These relics have undergone scientific testing, the results of which state he is of Syrian descent and died between AD 72 and AD 416.