by Al Maxey

Issue #431 ------- February 13, 2010
Medicine is not merely a science but an art. The
character of the physician may act more powerfully
upon the patient than the drugs employed.

Paracelsus {1493-1541}

The Beloved Physician Luke
Was This Disciple a Jew or a Gentile?

His name is mentioned only three times within the New Covenant documents [Col. 4:14; Philem. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11], and yet he is personally responsible for producing a significant portion (28%) of its content. Known as "the first Christian historian," this well-educated and devoted disciple of the Lord and companion of the apostle Paul "wrote more than one-fourth of the total volume of the New Testament -- far more than any other man" [The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 3, p. 999]. Yet, we know almost nothing about him! His life is largely shrouded in mystery. Where was he born? Was he married? Did he have children? Where, when and how did he die? We simply don't know. We are speaking, of course, of LUKE, the disciple considered by almost all biblical scholars and early church historians to have been the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts (though both writings are anonymous).

Assuming his authorship of the above two New Covenant documents (which is virtually certain), and given the few references made about him, which come to us from the pen of the apostle Paul, a rather brief sketch of his life can be discerned, though it still leaves many questions unanswered. Tradition is divided as to his place of birth: Tarsus, Philippi and Antioch in Syria have all been suggested, with various scholars seeking to make a case for each. Was he married? There is no biblical evidence that he ever was, and the weight of tradition suggests he was not. Given the fact of his extensive travels with Paul throughout the empire over an extended period of time, this tradition that he remained celibate is likely true.

It appears rather certain that he was not one of the disciples of Jesus during our Lord's earthly ministry, although a few have suggested that he may have been one of the seventy appointed by Jesus and sent out two by two [Luke 10:1]. Luke is the only gospel writer to make mention of this group, which has led some to speculate he was among their number. This is nothing more than speculation, however. If Luke composed the gospel account that bears his name (and I believe he did), then he declares himself an outsider to the actual events. He writes that he is "investigating" these happenings, and that the information at his disposal was "handed down" to him by "those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses" [Luke 1:1-3]. This would strongly suggest Luke was converted to Christ much later (the assumption of most being that he was converted by Paul, although the precise time and place is unknown).

We know from Col. 4:14 that Luke was a physician by profession. Paul calls him "the beloved physician," which indicates he was quite dear to Paul, and perhaps to others as well. Some manuscripts even have the text reading "my beloved physician," which has led a great many scholars to suggest that Luke traveled with Paul not only as a fellow missionary, but also as his personal doctor (and there is indeed ample evidence within the inspired writings that Paul did suffer from various non-specified physical ailments). A few biblical scholars have even noted that it appears the times when Luke and Paul are together (such as those times indicated by the "we" passages in the Book of Acts) seem to come on the heels of a physically demanding time in Paul's ministry, thus suggesting his need for a physician close by. "It is noticeable in tracing the connection of St. Paul and St. Luke, that on each occasion when the one joins the other for a time, it is after the Apostle had suffered in a more than common degree from the bodily infirmities that oppressed him" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, p. 238]. Being a physician, it is possible Luke received his training in Tarsus, for "of all the medical schools of the time, there were none that stood higher in reputation than that of Tarsus" [ibid]. It is suggested that since both Luke and Paul were highly educated, and both perhaps from Tarsus, that the two may have known one another from their youth, perhaps even receiving their early education together. Again, although interesting, this is merely scholarly speculation.

Irenaeus (b. 115 A.D.), the second century bishop of Lyons, best known for his monumental work "Against Heresies," declared in that work that Luke was Paul's "inseparable" companion, which is most certainly validated by the noted "we" passages of Acts, where the narrative is presented in the first person plural [16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1 - 28:16]. Here we find that Luke was with Paul during many of Paul's journeys and experiences, including his shipwreck and imprisonments. Indeed, Paul's first two mentions of Luke come in his Prison Epistles, and his third mention is again while imprisoned, and shortly before his execution in the city of Rome. When others were apparently too fearful to remain by the side of this faithful servant of the Lord, Luke dared to stay on!! When Paul appealed to Timothy, "Make every effort to come to me soon" [2 Tim. 4:9], Paul pointed out, "Only Luke is with me" [vs. 11]. It is little wonder, then, that Paul characterized this "fellow worker" [Philem. 24] in the cause of Christ as "beloved" [Col. 4:14] -- you never forsake those you love! Luke understood loving loyalty. David Lipscomb wrote, "Luke was the tried and constant friend of Paul, who shared his labors, and who was not driven from his side by danger" [A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, vol. 4, p. 317].

There are a good number of biblical scholars who are thoroughly convinced that Paul had Luke in mind when he wrote 2 Cor. 8:18, in which he spoke of "sending along with him (Titus) the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches." By a bit of textual detective work -- i.e., by examining who was with Paul at the time, and who could logically be eliminated for various reasons -- many feel the only person left who fits is Luke. This also goes along well with the tradition among several early church writers that Luke and Titus were actually brothers. If, in fact, Luke was the unnamed brother in the above passage, it reveals even more about this amazing disciple of Christ, who was clearly highly respected within the Christian community for his faithfulness to the cause of the Lord and the proclamation of His message. It is additionally believed by a number of scholars that Luke might have been the second disciple (also unnamed) in the post-resurrection encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-35]. Once again, there is no way to determine this with any certainty.

Some linguistic scholars feel Luke, being a physician, as well as a close companion of Paul, had a tremendous influence on the language employed by the latter in his epistles. Luke is known for his medical terminology in his Gospel account, as well as in the Book of Acts, and there seems, at least in the minds of some, to be some possible imitation of this in Paul's writings. By way of example, in Col. 4:11, when the apostle Paul speaks of those "who have been a comfort unto me," he uses the Greek word paregoria, from which we get our word "paregoric." Dr. Kenneth Wuest, in his Word Studies from the Greek NT, says that Paul was indicating that these companions "were a medicine" for him [vol. 1, p. 237]. Paul speaks of "sound" (or "healthy") doctrine, and of error spreading like gangrene. He describes the conscience being "seared" over (cauterized). He urges Timothy to take some wine for his stomach problems. And on we could go. "The constant companionship of one with St. Luke's knowledge and special culture was sure, sooner or later, to affect St. Paul's thoughts and language, and traces of this influence are to be found in many of the Epistles. Most of these are naturally more manifest in the Greek than in the English words" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, vol. 6, p. 239].

Following the execution of the apostle Paul in the city of Rome early in 67 A.D., with the beloved physician Luke there to comfort and minister to him in the weeks preceding his death, history (both biblical and secular) grows silent with regard to Luke. He is never mentioned again, although a number of traditions developed to fill in these gaps. Some say he went to Bithynia to live. Other traditions claim he resided in Alexandria and Achaia. He was said to be a fabulous painter, and that he was especially known for his seven portraits of the Virgin Mary. Some say he died a natural death in Bithynia at the age of 84. Others declare he was crucified on an olive tree by the Emperor Domitian. His bones are said to have been brought by Emperor Constantine to Constantinople, where they were placed in the Church of the Apostles. Epiphanius (310-403 A.D.), bishop of Salamis and metropolitan of Cyprus, wrote that Luke traveled widely prior to his death; that he preached the good news in places such as Italy, Gaul, Dalmatia and Macedonia. Luke is referred to by some as "the first university-trained medical missionary" [Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 3, p. 999].

One of the questions that comes up time and again when doing any study of the life of Dr. Luke is: was this disciple a Jew or a Gentile? A reader wrote to me last month, "Brother Maxey, I was recently discussing the Book of Acts with a friend. The subject of whether Luke was a Jew or a Gentile came up. He claims that there is not conclusive evidence either way. I was just wondering what your opinion is on this subject." The answer, of course, is: we simply do not know for sure. However, there's some strong evidence to suggest that Luke was very likely a Gentile. That evidence comes from an assumption that may be drawn from a comment by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Colossians. In 4:10-11a Paul sends greetings to the brethren from Aristarchus, Mark (the cousin of Barnabas) and Jesus (who is also called Justus). He then states that these are the only ones from among "the circumcision" [vs. 11b]. Almost all biblical scholars understand this to mean that these were Paul's only companions at the time who were Jews. Paul then immediately goes on to mention three more men who send greetings: Epaphras, Demas and Luke. If the previous men were the only Jews, then these other three men were not.

Albert Barnes, in his Notes on the Bible, wrote, "From Col. 4:11 it is evident that Luke was not by birth a Jew, but was probably a proselyte" [e-Sword]. "Paul's comment in Colossians 4 leads us to assume Luke was a Gentile. This, however, falls short of a direct statement that Luke was a Gentile" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 799]. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible believes it is apparent that "Luke is a Gentile, or, at least, a non-Jewish Semite" [p. 828], while the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia suggests "Luke may have been a Gentile (cf. Col. 4:11), though some scholars have challenged this view" [vol. 3, p. 179]. "The chief argument for the view that Luke was a Jewish Christian rather than a Gentile Christian is Luke's intimate knowledge of the OT" [ibid]. This is rather flimsy reasoning, however, for it assumes only Jews had any intimate or extensive knowledge of the OT writings, which can easily be shown to be untrue. In the final analysis, we have strong evidence to suggest Luke was a Gentile (and this is my personal view), but, as with a great many other things, we can never be completely sure our assumptions are correct. Thus, we must exercise caution when promoting our convictions, especially when they are based only on assumptions, inferences and deductions.

Let me conclude with the following observation from the late Greek professor and theologian John A. Scott, which is the final statement in his book "Luke: Greek Physician and Historian" -- "Without Luke's help as a physician, as a companion and friend, Paul could never have carried his heavy load in the Christian ministry, and without Luke's pen, the same grave that covered Paul's body would also have covered his name. In my mind, the most important event in all the history of time took place on that day when a poor, sick, discouraged Jew went into the office of Luke, the Greek physician --- with the single exception of that Friday afternoon when Jesus hung from the cross on Calvary."

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

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Readers' Reflections

From a Physician/Elder in Oregon:

Brother Al, Thanks for your peachy parable. Very nicely done! It caused me to remember a Jack Exum story about church goers who couldn't refrain from eating cornbread (smoking) at the church building. Crumbs everywhere, smell of cornbread in the air, a big rush outside between class and the service to get another piece eaten, etc. That was the way it was when I was a child; things have improved, as regards "cornbread eating." I hope for similar improvement in the "peach pie/vanilla ice cream" arena, as well.

From a Missionary in Belgium:

Dear Brother Al, Greetings from Antwerp, Belgium. I have seen some of your written material in the past, and others have sent me things you've written on a regular basis, but now I would like to make it "official" and subscribe to your Reflections, rather than depending on others for my "fix." I was most recently reminded of you by a note in one of Edward Fudge's emails to me. By the way, congratulations on your book and his both making the "Black List" at the "Contending for the Faith" Lectures. Thanks for your efforts to spread what really is "good news."

From a Reader in Tanzania, Africa:

Brother Al, Thanks for letting us know about the Schedule for the "Contending for the Faith" Lectures the end of this month and first part of March. I truly wish that I could attend this event, as I find that about a third of the books they have listed are in my own personal library!! I wonder if they are requiring attendees to fill out a questionnaire ahead of time in order to obtain their permission to attend?! I really don't want to show up if I would be disqualified at the door! Now wouldn't that be embarrassing?! Blessings to you, brother!

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, Since I live in Spring, Texas (where the "Contending for the Faith" Lectures are being held), I will have to go over there and hear what they have to say about these books. Oooops!! Since I have been labeled just as you have, they would probably just throw me out. Seriously, I do NOT plan to attend, but it would be interesting to hear just how much they misrepresent the teaching of these various authors -- or present the truths these authors teach, and then mock it, refusing to accept it. I guess Max Lucado has been gone so long that they no longer bother with him. A number of years ago they had the following on their sign out by the main road: "Max Lucado is a False Teacher!" Ahhh, how to win friends and influence people for Jesus. Oh well. Keep up the good work, brother.

From a Minister in Andhra Pradesh, India:

Dear Brother Maxey in Christ, Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Brother, I am always reading your web site. It is amazing!! What you are thinking, here in India we are doing. Please remember us in your prayers.

From a Reader in Australia:

Brother Al, I was just reading your last Reflections when it occurred to me that I haven't told you about our actual plans while in Tulsa at the Workshop. We'd love to catch up with you and Shelly for at least a cuppa, for breakfast, lunch, or whatever might suit you. We will be there from the 19th to the 28th. We've arranged to attend Memorial Drive on the 21st and Garnett Road on the 28th prior to our flight home. We currently have no other commitments, other than the Workshop, so depending on your speaking schedule and movements we should be able to find a common time in which to meet. Would you also bring with you, if it is convenient, your CD sets and your book. I'll fix you up for them when we meet.

From a Reader in Ohio:

Brother Al, I'm writing to let you know that my wife and I have just booked our rooms in Tulsa for the Workshop. I saw the Schedule and list of Speakers for the Tulsa Workshop, and we cannot wait to hear you, and the cast of others as well. I know that we are not the only ones who would like to say "hello" while we are there, but I surely would like for my wife to meet you. God bless you, Al. Can't wait to hear you speak in Tulsa!

From a Minister in Michigan:

Bro. Al, May I please be added to your weekly distribution of Reflections?! A friend of mine recently forwarded me one of your articles, and I have since enjoyed reading several of your past issues. Your most recent issue was especially timely, as we just held our first instrumental service this past Sunday -- nothing fancy, just a beautiful blend of acoustic instrumentation and heartfelt voices praising our God (a little peach pie and vanilla ice cream). I thank God daily for a church where the spirit of legalism on many topics no longer exists!! May you be blessed, brother.

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Bro. Al, Please add me to your list of interested readers. I am an old former Church of Christ preacher, having left that fellowship some 35 years ago. I'm so heartened to see the renewal and reform that is now taking place within this denomination. Many blessings to you for helping lead this reform!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Brother Maxey, My wife and I, and our whole family, are enjoying your web site more than you can possibly ever know!! I cannot express in words the happiness you have brought not only to me, but also to my bride of 48 years and to our three sons and their families. You are saying what we have always believed to be true, but were never hearing in the ultra-conservative congregations of this part of Alabama. We were about to leave the Churches of Christ (after a lifetime of service within them) until we found you!! You've now given us hope that perhaps this group can actually be saved from itself. Oh, how we long for a congregation near us with thinking and leadership like yours!! Brother, if you know of anyone in the Birmingham area that thinks like you do, please put us in contact with them. After 60 years of legalism, we just can't go back to that!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, My journey out of legalism has taken place just during the recent past. I have been preaching for the same congregation for about 20 years. I was hired by this congregation because one legalistic brother here (who was an elder) wanted to get rid of the former preacher (who was not a legalist). So I was hired. Initially, I was a strong legalist; presenting the legalistic "gospel" and employing a legalistic approach to "explaining" the Scriptures. During those years I was held in high esteem by my legalist elder. As you can imagine, when I finally had the veil of legalism removed from my eyes and saw the Truth, I was both grateful and joyful. I started preaching Truth. As a result, I was branded a "heretic." My legalist elder denounced me before the whole congregation last Easter Sunday!! Fortunately, many of the brethren where I preach had come out of legalism along with me, so they rejected the denunciation of my Pharisaical brother, and I was asked to stay. The elder left the congregation because the brethren refused to take his advice to have me "put out of the synagogue." Notwithstanding, he has put together a rather large loose-leaf notebook of information denouncing me (turning to some of the leaders with Contending for the Faith for help --- some of the same men who have been attacking you), and he has distributed these notebooks to a number of area congregations. Brother Al, your articles have been a much needed source of encouragement to me through all this! May our Lord continue to use you to help others open their eyes! God bless you!

From a Minister in New Jersey:

Brother Al, When I read your "Peachy Parable for Patternists" tears came to my eyes! I personally know this story! Al, I love this one!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, Great writing on the peach pie with ice cream parable. I'll have it the very same way! You are an awesome warrior for our Lord. Keep pushing the limits established by legalism!!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, Congratulations on having your Reflections ranked the #1 Church of Christ site on the Internet, and also on making the list for book vilification in the upcoming "Contending for the Faith" Lectures! Really, they should change their name, you know, because they are doing anything BUT contending for the "Faith." More like "pretending to have faith." God help them!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Al, I thought I would share with you an email I received -- "I am pretty sure you subscribe to Al Maxey's Reflections, and I suspect that you read his article that was distributed yesterday in which he stated that, even though he is not a speaker, he will be prominent on the program of the 2010 Contending for the Faith Lectures. Having reviewed the Program Schedule, it seems that Al Maxey shares some excellent company -- a veritable 'Faith's Hall of Fame' (modern day class). Frankly, I find preferable to the program presenters those men they have called 'apostates.' I pray that God may hasten the day when those who wear His name will reinstate the practice of preaching the gospel, over against the aggressive promotion of divisive exclusivity."

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, It is surprising how the Lord works! I first discovered your Reflections because of an ad someone had placed in the Christian Chronicle in which they accused you of "heresy." Now, the Contending for the Faith bunch has listed some 24 books that I simply must go buy and read!!

From a Minister in New Jersey:

Brother Al, Congratulations on having the #1 web site in the Churches of Christ. I'm sure you realize that you owe this honor to the Old Paths Advocate leaders and the Contending for the Faith disciples. If it were not for them keeping such a close eye on every word you write, as well as making your writings "forbidden fruit" (and we all know that no one can resist forbidden fruit), you would not have edged out Edward Fudge! That's why I personally keep a list, counting each time I visit one of your web sites -- that way I can make certain I visit the other web site just as many times! By "keeping a list" I know that I am "doing it right." Okay, I have to go now and send Edward Fudge a note also! Be blessed, brother!

From an Author in Texas:

Bro. Al, I see that we are fellow-winners in the CFTF Book List -- proud to be in such company, to tell the truth!! I thought about going to hear my book "cussed and discussed" (it's probably about 90 minutes from where I live to their church building), but I don't think I would enjoy having to bear it in silence. The sad thing is: many of these fellows do not even understand what they are reading! I'm glad to see that you are teaching at the Tulsa Workshop next month; I hope to hear you. I spoke the last two years, but am just attending this year. Further, I really enjoyed your "Peachy Parable," which is clever, cute and should be convicting to anyone caught up in the kind of thinking that it parodies. You must have had a lot of time on your hands to write that: it is intricate, yet not contrived. Congratulations!! Very good work!

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Brother Al, Your "Peachy Parable for Patternists" is the perfect bedtime story for every child born into the Stone-Campbell faith-heritage. If every Christian could just learn this basic principle from birth, what a bright future it would bring to Christendom! Thank You.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, I read about 15 lines into your latest Reflections and, being the weak-kneed soul that I am, got up from my computer and raced to the kitchen to get my vanilla ice cream! Having no peaches in sight, I spotted a bag of fresh frozen pecans right next to the ice cream, and so I sprinkled them into my bowl of ice cream. I then returned to my computer and consumed the ice cream and pecans while reading the rest of your article. I've told you all of this to get to my personal dilemma -- do you think I should "go forward" this Sunday and confess that I devoured pecans instead of peaches with my vanilla ice cream? Can I possibly ever be forgiven?! Please take your time answering, for there is still a lot of vanilla ice cream and pecans in my freezer, so I can wait a few Sundays!! Your overweight, 80-year-old brother-in-Christ.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I am calling on you to repent as a result of your latest Reflections article!! How dare you have the unmitigated gall to tempt all of us in such a way with the picture of scrumptious peach pie and ice cream when you know it is impossible to get a decent peach at this time of year! REPENT. My mouth will be watering until summer. Seriously, that was a great parable!! I am forwarding this to my elders, as well as many others in our congregation. It should be required reading by all. Keep up your great work.

From a New Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Maxey, Please subscribe us to your mailing list for Reflections. Although I have read only a few of your articles thus far, let me say that you are "spot on" with respect to the issues you've tackled. I thank God for you and your willingness to examine what God's Word actually says, as opposed to what you might want it to say. As members of the Church of Christ here in North Carolina, my wife and I are struggling as we worship in a rather conservative church environment. We've prayerfully pondered and discussed leaving the Churches of Christ due to the unwillingness of too many here to try and see viewpoints other than the traditional views of the Church of Christ. May I say what a blessing you have been to us. It is wonderful to see that there are actually leaders within the Churches of Christ who are willing to seek God's true will, as opposed to getting hung up on which day of the week God approves of for partaking the Lord's Supper, whether or not a congregation may use instrumental music in worship, etc. By the way, I truly appreciate your many writings on the instrumental music issue. You make many great points. Again, thank you, brother! You have been a wonderful encouragement to my family and me. Keep on keeping on!!

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