The Orthodox Faith – The Bible – The New Testament (3d)

St. Luke was the only non-Jew among the Gospel writers. He was an educated man, a doctor, who wrote very good Greek. Because St. Luke was a doctor, some scholars think that his vocabulary appeared to use several medical terms, although many disagree. He was also a companion of St. Paul on some of his preaching tours. St. Luke was also the author of the Book of Acts, which describes the history of the early church from Christ’s Ascension to St. Paul’s journey to Rome.

At the opening of his Gospel, St. Luke writes that he collected information from nay people who had known Jesus. His Gospel is dedicated to “Theophilus”. No one knows who Theophilus was. It was a Greek name and so some say St. Luke wrote his Gospel and Book of Acts for a non-Jewish Christian. However, in Greek ‘Theophilus’ means ‘lover of God’ so St. Luke may have used this name to indicate that his Gospel was written for all Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike.

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, most excellent Theoph’ilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. (Lk 1:1-4)

So he really makes the effort to learn as much about Jesus as he could. His Gospel provides a lot of information about the birth of St. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.  Because St. Luke gives so much information about the births of St. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, St. Luke probably knew the Mother of God who gave him the details. In addition, the long genealogical list of ancestors by St. Matthew and St. Luke differs in several details so St. Matthew’s genealogy is from St. Joseph and St. Luke’s from the Theotokos. In any case, both genealogies show Jesus descent from King David. This is important because the Old Testament tells us that the Messiah was to be a descendant of King David. The fact that St. Luke’s genealogy is from Mary’s point of view shows that St. Luke was acquainted with the Mother of God. 

St. Luke is reputed to have painted the first icon of the Mother of God. It would be difficult to prove this from history; it is said the “Vladimir” icon of the Theotokos was painted by St. Luke. 

Also, at the end of his Gospel St. Luke related the following story:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma’us, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cle’opas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Lk 13-18)

People believe this because although the name Cleopas is mentioned, the name of the other is not mentioned so this may be St. Luke referring to himself. As mentioned above, St. Luke was a companion of St. Paul. In fact, several sections of the Book of Acts are simply taken from his travel diary. Several parts of the Book of Acts give the details of their sailing to Rome. For example:

“… embarking in a ship of Adramyt’tium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristar’chus, a Macedo’nian from Thessaloni’ca. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the sea which is off Cili’cia and Pamphyl’ia, we came to Myra in Ly’cia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days, and arrived with difficulty off Cni’dus, and as the wind did not allow us to go on, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmo’ne. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lase’a.” (Acts 27:2-8)

Early in the 20th century an English sailor followed St. Luke’s directions and decided that the details are quite accurate and a modern sailor could follow them.

Generally, we can say that St. Matthew’s Gospel was directed towards Jews. St. Luke’s Gospel was directed towards non-Jews. This Gospel has a universalistic quality.

Fr. John