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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, July 15 2021

Luke, Paul's friend and companion

Luke is the only gentile writer of the New Testament and his Gospel contains information not found in the other three accounts of Christ’s life. In the book of Acts, which he also authored, Luke confirmed what Jesus taught was being faithfully passed on by the apostles and the early Church.

by Jerold Aust

The Apostle Paul lived a hard and sometimes dangerous life and it wasn’t easy being his friend and travelling companion. After Paul was thrown into prison few dared to visit him, but Luke stayed by his side. He also travelled with Paul on his second and third missionary journeys and, beginning in Acts 16:10, Luke uses the pronouns ‘we’ or ‘us’, indicating when he became one of Paul's regular traveling companions.

Luke appears to have been an early gentile convert to Christianity. Colossians 4:10-14 indicates he was very likely a gentile, as Paul names three of his companions and coworkers who were "my only fellow workers ... who are of the circumcision" (that is, Jewish) and then lists three other companions, including Luke. The obvious implication is that the latter three were gentiles.

Luke was a learned man, who spoke and wrote classical Greek, and could also converse and write in Hebrew, Aramaic and Hellenistic Greek. His mastery of Greek indicates he probably was a Greek, whom God called to write one of the four Gospels, as well as the book of Acts, outlining the definitive history of the early decades of the Church.

Luke addressed both books to the same person, Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1), who is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture, and whose name means "friend of God." Some scholars have concluded Theophilus was a wealthy patron who helped support Luke while he wrote his Gospel and the book of Acts. Luke refers to him not just as Theophilus, but "the most excellent Theophilus" (Luke 1:3). This title is typical of those used for officials high in the Roman government (compare Acts 23:26), so perhaps Theophilus held such a position.

Luke appears to have written mainly, though not entirely, for gentiles, when compared with the other three Gospels. For example, Luke used Roman dates when he identified the Roman emperor and governor and often used Greek equivalents of Hebrew words, making his writings more easily understood by Greeks. Instead of using the Jewish term 'rabbi’ he used a Greek word meaning "master," and he traces Jesus' descents back to Adam, rather than just going back only as far as Abraham as Matthew did. These small differences hint that Luke probably wrote his Gospel account so gentiles could more easily identify with Jesus and His teachings.

Most biblical scholars agree Acts was written around A.D. 63 and reflects events in the Church up until that time. Luke would have written his gospel a few years earlier around A.D. 60-61, some 30 years after Jesus' death. Apparently Luke was not an eyewitness of Jesus' mighty works and teachings, but relied on other eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:1-2).

Luke’s writings in his gospel and the book of Acts are thorough and comprehensive. He was unwavering in his commitment to the truth, faithful to the words of Jesus Christ and the apostles and, as the Apostle Paul’s trusted and loyal friend, supported and encouraged him.