Luke was St Paul’s beloved companion on many journeys, physician and evangelist, to whom we owe some of our most beautiful memories of Jesus and his mother.
He was born in Antioch – today’s Antakya, in Turkey – which was then the capital of the Roman province of Syria and the second city of the empire. He was a doctor by profession, and accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey into Greece. Being highly educated, Luke wrote polished, elegant Greek, and related the events he wrote about to contemporary history.
His Gospel was probably written in Caesarea while Paul was imprisoned there. Matthew’s Gospel in Aramaic was already in circulation, and so was Mark’s. Luke wrote with these texts before him, as well as dipping into other oral traditions. The poet Dante called Luke “the scribe of the compassionate Christ”, and indeed the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel is one who shows mercy and forgiveness, in his parables as well as in his healings. Luke pays special attention to the poor, the stranger and the outcast. And most of what we know of the women in the Gospels comes from Luke.
During Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, Luke was again by his side and he faithfully records the history of the young Church in his ‘Acts of the Apostles’. It shows the little community gathered around the Temple in Jerusalem, slowly going forth to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world, ending in Rome. Luke has a universality about his writings which make them specially appealing today.
We know little of Luke’s personal life. Tradition says he died in Greece in the first century, probably a martyr, a ‘witness’ to the good news of which he had written so well.