The name of Luke occurs only thrice in the New Testament. Most probably in all three cases the third evangelist is the person spoken of. Combining the traditional element with the scriptural, we are able to trace the following dim outlines of the Evangelist’s life. He was born at Antioch, in Syria, in what condition of life is uncertain, but it has been thought, from the form of his name, that he was an emancipated slave. Luke is an abbreviated form of Lucanus. That he was taught the science of medicine does not prove that he was of higher birth than the rest of the disciples, as many great men had one of their slaves instructed in medicine, so as to serve as family physician. The well known tradition that he was a painter rests only on late testimony which is worthless. Caius the priest, a writer of the 2nd century, Saint Irenseus, Eusebius, and Saint Jerome confidently assert that he was a physician. Saint Paul speaks of “Luke, the beloved physician,” but some have supposed that the physician Luke and Luke the Evangelist were distinct persons. Saint Jerome says that he was more acquainted with Greek letters than with Hebrew. He was not born a Jew, for he is not reckoned among them “of the circumcision” by Saint Paul.
The date of his conversion is uncertain. The statement of Epiphanius and others, that he was one of the seventy disciples, has nothing very improbable in it. Theophylact, and the Greek Menology, assert that he was one of the two who journeyed to Emmaus with the risen Redeemer.
The first ray of historical light falls on the evangelist when he joins Saint Paul at Troas, and shares his journey into Macedonia. The sudden transition to the first person plural in Acts 16:9, is most naturally explained, after all the objections that have been urged, by supposing that Luke, the writer of the Acts, formed one of Saint Paul’s company from this point. As far as Philippi the evangelist journeyed with the apostle. The resumption of the third person on Saint Paul’s departure from that place (17:1) would show that Saint Luke was now left behind. During the rest of Saint Paul’s second missionary journey we hear no more of him; but on the third journey, the same indication reminds us that Luke is again in the company (20:5), having joined it, apparently, at Philippi, where he had been left. With the apostle he passed through Miletus, Tyre, and Caesarea, to Jerusalem. Between the two visits of Paul to Philippi, seven years had elapsed (A.D. 51-58), which the evangelist may have spent in Philippi and its neighbourhood, preaching the Gospel. There remains one passage, which, if it refers to Saint Luke, must belong to this period: “We have sent with him (i.e. Titus) the brother whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches.”
The subscription of the epistle sets forth that it was “written from Philippi, a city of Macedonia, by Titus and Lucas,” and it is probable that this Luke was the companion of Titus, and, therefore, the brother whose praise was in all the churches. If this be so, we are to suppose that during the three months’ sojourn of Paul at Philippi, Luke was sent from that place to Corinth on this errand.
He again appears in the company of Saint Paul in his journey to Rome. He remained at his side during his first imprisonment; and if it be supposed that the Second Epistle to Timothy was written during the second imprisonment, then the testimony of that epistle shows that he continued faithful to the apostle to the end of his afflictions.
After the death of Saint Paul, the acts of his faithful companion are hopelessly obscure to us.
The Greek Menaea says that he lived to the age of eighty; Saint Epiphanius that he preached in Dalmatia, Gaul, Italy, and Macedonia. Saint Gregory Nazianzen makes Achaia the theatre of his preaching. A passage in this orator seems to imply that Luke was a martyr, as he classes him with James, Stephen, and Andrew, as those who had exposed themselves to suffering for Christ; but he may only mean that he endured much, not that he shed his blood in martyrdom. And Elias of Crete in the 8th century, the scholiast on Saint Gregory, denies that Luke was a martyr. Gaudentius, Bishop of Brescia, in the 5th century, speaks of Luke as a martyr, and says that he suffered at Patras.
The body of Saint Luke was brought to Constantinople about A.D. 357. It was translated from Constantinople to the monastery of Saint Salvador de GuUeto in the diocese of Nursia. Another entire body of Saint Luke, also translated from Constantinople, in the monastery of Saint Job at Venice. A third entire body in the Benedictine church of Saint Justina at Padua. The Venetians bought this body from Athanasius, patriarch of Jerusalem, in 1245, for 700 bezants, a price which could not have been considered excessive had it been the only body available. Indulgences were granted by Pope Pius II in favour of this body. The body of Saint Luke at Padua was found by digging, after the city had been nearly consumed by fire in 1174. The Roman Martyrology authenticates this second body. In the great Laura on Mount Athos, part of the hand of Saint Luke; at Oviedo, in Asturia, some bones; an arm at Saint Espina; another arm at Barcelona in the royal chapel. At Valentia, two fingers of the left hand, exhibited to the devotion of the people on Easter Monday. A finger at Sens, in the cathedral, was lost at the Revolution. At Valence, part of the head; another portion at Liessy in Hainault. At Mechlin, a tooth; at Tournai three bones. A head at Saint Peter’s, Rome.
Of the numerous portraits of Christ and the Blessed Virgin, pretended to have been painted by Saint Luke, it is not necessary here to give a list.
Saint Luke is represented with the ox, or painting the portrait of the Blessed Virgin. The Greek painters represent him as a young man, with crisped hair and little beard.
- Sabine Baring-Gould. “Saint Luke, Evangelist”. , 1872. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 October 2013. Web. 26 November 2015. <http://catholicsaints.info/baring-goulds-lives-of-the-saints-/>