Luke the Evangelist

Saint Luke the Evangelist also known as Luke the Physician and Luke the First Iconographer

Luke the Evangelist, pictured writting his gospel, being overseen by Luke the Bull. This illustration is from The St. Riquier Gospels published during the Carolingian Renaissance of Charlemagne around A.D. 800

Saint Luke the Evangelist is one of the four evangelists (one of the authors of the four Gospels of Jesus Christ). He was not one of the twelve apostles chosen by Christ. He was one of the seventy disciples of Christ. Luke was a highly educated physician, and was the founder of Christian iconography. His early studies included Greek philosophy, medicine, and art. His profession in Antioch was that of a Hellenistic physician. As highly educated men Luke and Paul were unique among the early disciples of Christ

As author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, Luke was the author of more than 1/4th of the New Testament.

He was the author of both the Gospel of Luke (written between A.D. 60 to A.D. 63) and the sequel to that gospel, the Acts of the Apostles (written between A.D. 62 to A.D. 64), which originally formed a single literary work, referred to as Luke-Acts. Luke’s authorship of these two works means that Luke contributed over a quarter of the text of the New Testament; more than any other author.

Luke was a Jewish native of the bustling and wealthy Hellenistic city of Antioch (located on the Orontes River, about 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean coast of modern-day Syria). Syria was one of the long established terminal sea port destinations on the Mediterranean which the the Silk Route traders traveled to. The Silk Route was the trade route from China through Transoxinia and Persia to the Greco-Roman cities around the Mediterranean Sea.

Upon hearing about the arrival of the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ, Luke traveled to Palestine and became a disciple of Jesus and fervently accepted the preaching of salvation from the Lord Himself. As one of the Seventy Disciples, St Luke was sent by the Lord with the others to preach the Kingdom of Heaven during the Savior’s earthly life (Luke 10:1-3). After the Resurrection of Christ it was Luke and Cleopas who were walking on the road to Emmaus when they were joined by, the living, breathing Lord Jesus the Christ (Luke 24:13-35).

Luke was a physician, “enlightened” in the Greek medical arts. The Apostle Paul writes “Luke, the beloved physician, … greets you,” in his Letter to the Colossians (Colossians 4:14). Luke was a companion of Paul (Phil. 1:24, and 2 Tim. 4:10-11) and he accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey, which Luke documented, and from that time on, they were inseparable. When Paul’s coworkers had forsaken him, only Luke remained to assist him in his ministry “only Luke is with me” (2 Tim. 4:10-11). Note that 2 Timothy was written in Rome near the time of Paul’s arrest and martyrdom (around A.D. 66 or 67).

The generally accepted Christian oral tradition states that after the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul finished their earthly lives with their martyrdom in Rome, Saint Luke left Rome to preach around Italy, Dalmatia, Macedonia, in Achaia (on the Peloponnesian Peninsula of Greece), Libya (north central Africa), Egypt and the Thebaid (south of Egypt, the “Upper Nile” region around modern-day Khartoum in the Sudan).

Icon of Saint Luke the evangelist, physician and the first “writer of icons”

Christian oral tradition also states that Luke was the first icon writer (i.e., icon painter; the first written record of this is from the 8th century). He is said to have “written icons” (painted pictures) of the most Holy Theotokos (the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child), not just one, but three, including the Hodegetria image (Hodegetria is Greek for she who shows the way) in Constantinople and Icons of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

Saint Luke’s earthly life ended at the age of 84 when he suffered martyrdom. He was martyred by idolaters who tortured him and hanged him on an olive tree in the town of Thebes (in Beothia in Greece).

Luke’s miracle-working relics, among others, were translated to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople during the 4th-century, under the reign of Emperor Constantius (A.D. 357), the son of Constantine the Great. In A.D. 1204, the Crusadors of the Forth Crusade stole the relics from Constantinople and transported them to Padova in Italy and they are (mostly) still located there in the Catholic church of Santa Justina at the center of the city.

Saint Luke the Winged Bull

Early Christian illustrations of the four evangelists depict them as “the four living creatures” which are around the throne of God in Heaven (see Ezekiel 1:2-10 and Revelations 4:7-9). Saint Luke is symbolized as a winged ox or bull, (with Matthew who is shown as a winged man or angel, Mark, who is shown as a winged lion, and John who is shown as an eagle).