Friday, December 04, 2020

Was Luke a Gentile?

Was Luke a Gentile?

The idea that Luke was a Gentile is based on historical tradition and certain interpretations of Scripture. Eusebius of Caesarea wrote his Historia Ecclesiastica (or, Church History) circa AD 323. In it (III.4.7), he states that Luke “was of Antiochian parentage and a physician by profession” and in Quaestiones Evangelicae (or, Gospel Problems and Solutions) says he came from “a family from the renowned Antioch.”1 Jerome of Stridon agrees, writing in De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men) circa AD 392, “Luke a physician of Antioch, as his writings indicate, was not unskilled in the Greek language.”2 

Further, some point to Bible passages and biblically-related arguments, such as:

  • Luke is not mentioned prior to the Lord Jesus’s death and resurrection.
  • Luke refers a number of times to the city of Antioch, his hometown (Acts 11:19-27; 13:1-3; Acts 14:26; Acts 15:22-23; 15:35; 18:22).
  • Luke was the “beloved physician” mentioned by Paul in Colossians 4:14.
  • Colossians 4:10-11 fellow workers who are “of the circumcision” (i.e., Jewish).
  • Luke is mentioned later in Colossians 4:14, not in that “of the circumcision” group.
  • The name “Luke” is a Greek form of a Latin name.
  • Acts 1:19 mentions a field with a Semitic name and then speaks of “their” language.
  • Luke has great knowledge of the LXX or Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament.

On one hand, this question seems of little value. However, much ink has been spilled on the subject, with one interest to many being that if Luke was a Gentile, then the Lord entrusted more pages of New Testament to be written by a Gentile than to any other single person.

The above eight suggestions, as well as the historical tradition, may be explained in ways that do not require Luke being a Gentile.

  • Paul was born in a Gentile city and is not mentioned prior to Jesus’s death and resurrection, yet we know he was a Jew, not a Gentile.
  • Luke refers to many places. As an historical narrative, his writing refers to the places where the events occurred.
  • Jews have physicians or doctors; this is not specific to Gentiles.
  • Nor is Luke referred to as “one of you,” as Epaphras in Colossians 4:12
  • Other Jews in the church are referenced by Greek names in the New Testament, such as Peter (Simon) and Paul (Saul). Jesus is a Greek name rather than an Hebrew one.
  • Acts 1:19 is as easily explained as needed for Gentile readers as for a Gentile author.
  • Evidence suggests Paul had great knowledge of the LXX or Septuagint; he was a Jew.

Luke was with Paul when he came to Jerusalem (Acts 21:15-17). The Jews wrongly accused Paul of bringing a Gentile into the Temple. They did not chose Luke as the offending party, but rather Trophimus (Acts 21:27-29). Either Luke was not a Gentile, or not recognizable as one – suggesting he was a Jew or Jewish proselyte prior to his conversion.

1. Accessed 16 October 2020 12:25 pm. Accessed 16 October 2020 12:20 pm.
2. Accessed 16 October 2020 12:15 pm.

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