to the end


QUESTION:

Since Luke was not a Jew, but a Gentile, what was his perspective while writing the genealogy in the Gospel he wrote?”

ANSWER:

I’ve often heard, and read, that Luke was not Jewish. Although there is no support for this, in my view, I know there are many fine scholars who have held this view.  I believe, personally, that Luke was most definitely Jewish. I hope this study of Luke will cause many to seek after the truth that is in Yeshua, the Son of the Living God. May the Knowledge of His Glory fill all the earth.

In the book of Acts, chapter 11, Luke records when Agabus, one of the prophets that came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, indicated by the Spirit there would be a great famine all over the world, which actually took place, according to Luke, during the reign of Claudius. He came requesting help for those living in Judea, and the disciples dwelling in Antioch gave of their means, sending it back with Barnabas and Paul. According to the Greek manuscript known as the Codex Bezae, there is an insertion that makes Luke also present and living at Antioch when Agabus came from Jerusalem. The Codex dates around the 4th century. So by at least the fourth century it was known Luke was at Antioch.  By the year 30 AD, he had become a follower of the Jewish Messiah.

Look at Acts chapter 6. Notice the detail involved in this narrative. Only one who had been present, and who had personal knowledge of those who were in Antioch could have given such detail. Especially notice verse 5, the list of men, and Nicolas, who Luke knows well enough to mention some personal facts about him, that he was a proselyte from Antioch, which is to say, he was formerly a convert to Judaism and he was from Antioch. So Nicolas once had been a pagan Greek who converted to Judaism, and now he follows the Jewish Messiah. This is very personal information being passed on. It is apparent Luke knew these brethren as a member of the Church in Antioch would.

Acts 6: “1Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 3“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 6And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.”

There are other sources besides the Codex Bezae that places Luke in Antioch. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue, dated between 160 AD and 180, says, “Luke was an Antiochian of Syria, a physician by profession.” And  in Eusebius’ Church History (about A.D. 323) and in Jerome’s De Viris Illustribus (A.D. 392). Also Origen is quoted by Eusebius’ Church History saying Luke was an Antiochian by descent and a physician by profession.

Luke not only lived in Antioch when the Apostle Paul was there, but Luke was also a physician according to Colossians 4:14, “Luke, the beloved physician” It made since for a physician of Luke’s caliber to live in Antioch. There was a famous ancient medical school located there where Luke would have studied medicine. This made Luke quite unique among writers.

Syrian Antioch and the city of Tarsus where Paul was a native, were only about 100 miles from each other if you traveled by foot around the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It would be half that distance by boat. These men were both highly educated for that period of time. Learning centers were not that common during this time, and so it is entirely possible these two men, being of approximately the same age, would have studied together, or at least have been acquainted before Sauls conversion on the road to Damascus. All of these events were not due to coincidence.

Luke lived in Antioch, and was a member of the Church of Antioch which was primarily a Jewish Christian Church up till the increased persecutions, when Gentiles Christians became more numerous. No doubt he and The Apostle renewed their friendship during this time, a friendship that would last the rest of Pauls life.

It is obvious from the Book of Acts that Luke considered himself a fellow worker with the Apostle Paul by how he often times used the word “we”. Travel reports found elsewhere in writings of the Greco-Roman period use the same “we” style as Luke.  They also place Luke as travel companion with Paul in his first mission into Greece, going as far as Philippi where they part for a season. It is there that Luke later rejoins Paul and accompanies him on his final journey to Jerusalem around 58 AD.

It is probable that Luke also spent considerable time with Paul while the latter was under arrest in Caesarea, helping the Apostle and working with him when possible. During this time Luke had opportunity to gather his material for his future writing of the of Acts, as well as the Gospel that bears his name. While in Israel he no doubt interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus, as well as James, who he probably knew very well, and Peter, of course. He knew them all. And as an historian, he gathered the facts from they eyewitnesses. Notice how Luke describes this time in Luke 1:1, 1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

Hours upon hours spent with the incarcerated Apostle. After two years we see Luke with his teacher, coworker, and friend attending him once again on the voyage from Caesarea to Rome, where the great Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul of Tarsus gave his life for the Gospel he so tireless preached. Through more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times he received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times he was shipwrecked, a night and a day he spent in the deep. On frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from his countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; He was in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there was the daily pressure of concern for all the churches. His faithful companion, Luke, stood by him. Luke, the physician, when the great Apostle was beat and torn, mended his broken body. Encouraged his heart. Prayed with him, wept with him. Rejoiced with him, co-labored with him. Paul wrote to Timothy, 4:11 “Only Luke is with me.” Faithful to the end.

According to the letter to the Colossians, chapter 4, verse 11, many scholars today have concluded that Luke was a Gentile.

Here ia the text, Colossians 4:11-14

Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him); 11and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me. 12Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. 13For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.

Some scholars see a distinction drawn between Luke and the others mentioned, who Paul referred to as “of the circumcision”, in other words, Jewish Christians.

Paul himself made a distinction from those “of the circumcision” and himself, in Galatians 5:2-3,  He writes, “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.”

It is most likely in this case that the phrase Paul uses in Colossians refers to those who yet strictly observed the rituals of Judaism. Sometimes these Jewish men were Judaizers. Galatians 2 and Philippians 3 for further reading on this type of Jewish Christian. Paul would not have included himself nor Luke in that company.

Luke was a Jewish physician, who was intimately knowledgable of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). His manner of writing, and his interests in his writings, shows he was a Jewish Christian.

Luke shows a cultivated and literary background. He was to be Christianity’s first historian, and also, a theologian of unusual perception. He is also recognized as a great Historian, with remarkable, excellent accounts of events during the most important time in world history. This special excellence in this man provided him the skill and knowledge to include in his Gospel, the genealogy of Yeshua from as far back as Adam. Luke, the Jewish scholar, historian, theologian, physician, companion to Paul, co-worker in the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah, devoted Christian, a man to be remembered, faithful to the end.

Luke was one of the very few who, from a Hebrew perspective, could have given us such an account, not only of the Acts of the Apostles, but also the Gospel according to Luke.

B’shem Yeshua

 

Categories: topical studies

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