On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist…

 Saint Luke, by El Greco (circa 1607)…

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Saturday, October 18, is the Feast Day for Saint Luke the Evangelist.  Isaac Asimov noted that Luke wrote the “third and last of the synoptic gospels,” which like the Gospel of Matthew was based on the first-written Gospel, Mark, with additional matter included.

Mark is said to have been written “as early as the mid 50s” – 50 A.D. – while Matthew seems to have been written somewhere between 61 and 70 A.D., and Luke seems to have been written in the following decade, some time between 71 and 80 A.D.   As to the “synoptics:”

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are considered synoptic gospels on the basis of many similarities between them that are not shared by the Gospel of John.  “Synoptic” means here that they can be “seen” or “read together…”  The synoptic gospels are the source of many popular stories, parables, and sermons, such as Jesus’ humble birth in Bethlehem, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the Last Supper, and the Great Commission…   The fourth gospel [John], presents a very different picture of Jesus and his ministry

See Gospel – Wikipedia.  Getting back to Asimov’s commentary, while Mark was written for “the ordinary Christian of Jewish background” – and Matthew was written to fit “the ears of those learned in Old Testament lore” – Luke wrote his Gospel “for the ears of Gentiles who are sympathetic to Christianity and are considering conversion.”  Then too Luke treated Roman authorities “more gently than in the first two gospels, and Jesus Himself is portrayed as far more sympathetic to Gentiles” than in Matthew or Mark.

See also Luke the Evangelist – Wikipedia, which said he “is believed by many scholars to be a Greek physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria.”  The article added that – according to the early church fathers – Luke wrote “both the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  (Originally a single work called Luke-Acts.”  Also:

Based on his accurate description of towns, cities and islands, as well as correctly naming various official titles, archaeologist Sir William Ramsay wrote that “Luke is a historian of the first rank [and] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”  Professor of Classics at Auckland UniversityE.M. Blaiklock, wrote: “For accuracy of detail, and for evocation of atmosphere, Luke stands, in fact, with Thucydides.  The Acts of the Apostles is not shoddy product of pious imagining, but a trustworthy record… it was the spadework of archaeology which first revealed the truth.”  New Testament scholar Colin Hemer [also attested to] the historical nature and accuracy of Luke’s writings.  (E.A.)

But Luke wasn’t just a writer and historian, he was also an artist: “Christian tradition states that he was the first icon painter [and] is said to have painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child.” Some 600 icons “claiming to have been painted by Luke” include the “Black Madonna of Częstochowa and Our Lady of Vladimir.  He was also said to have painted Saints Peter and Paul, and to have illustrated a gospel book with a full cycle of miniatures.

See also St. Luke – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online, which noted Luke is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons, that he has “been identified with St. Paul’s ‘Luke, the beloved physician'” in Colossians 4:14, and that he was a loyal comrade who stayed with Paul during his imprisonment in Rome.  Further, Luke added some distinctive accounts in his Gospel:

Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears.  Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy…   Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone.

And finally, see the Collect for St. Luke’s Feast Day, Saturday October 18:  “Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son:  Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal…

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File:Maarten van Heemskerck - St Luke Painting the Virgin and Child - WGA11299.jpg

Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child… 

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The upper image is courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: El_Greco_-_St_Luke_-_WGA10577.jpg, which included the note:   “El Greco portrayed the apostles with a powerfully expressive body language. This St Luke is from a cycle for the Toledo Cathedral…  El Greco included St Luke in several of his [paintings of the Apostles] although Luke was not actually one of the twelve apostles.  Here the artist provided the Western version of a subject he depicted in quite different terms during his period as an icon painter.”

The lower image is courtesy of File: Maarten van Heemskerck – St Luke Painting the Virgin, and/or “Wikimedia.”  See also Maarten van Heemskerck – Wikipedia, which noted that the artist (1498-1574) was a “Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem,” and did the painting above in or about 1532.

The Asimov quotes are from Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at pages 912-15.

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Note especially Luke 21:5-36, which talks of the “Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times,” what is known as the Little Apocalypse, in turn also known as the Olivet Discourse See  Wikipedia and The Son of Man and the Little Apocalypse|Catholic World:

[T]he Olivet Discourse, sometimes called a “little apocalypse” (see Mt 24-25 and Lk 21) because it contains difficult teachings by Jesus about the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70 and the final day of judgment.  Like The Apocalypse of John the Revelator, the little apocalypse is filled with strong imagery and a complex web of allusions drawn from the Old Testament, especially from the prophets.  

Mark’s version of the Little Apocalypse is in his Chapter 13, and especially at verse 14-37.  But unlike Mark-and-Matthew’s version, Luke had to assume his Gentile audience didn’t know of the “desolating sacrilege” that Jesus spoke of in those two Gospels, where He alluded to the Book of Daniel (9:27, 11:31, and 12:11).   So Luke changed Jesus’ reference to Daniel  and said instead, in Luke 24: “They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.  Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  

Jesus then warned the disciples about the Abomination of Desolation “standing where it does not belong.”    The Gospels of Matthew and Mark add “—let the reader understand—.”  This is generally considered to be a reference to two passages from the Book of Daniel.[Dan. 9:27] [11:31]

See also Luke 21:20, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.”   These other indicia date Luke’s Gospel as coming after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Diaspora.   See The Romans Destroy the Temple at Jerusalem, 70 ADDiaspora – Wikipedia – especially regarding  expulsion of Jews from Judea – and also The Diaspora | Jewish Virtual Library, which noted:  “After 73 AD, Hebrew history would only be the history of the Diaspora as the Jews and their world view spread over Africa, Asia, and Europe.”

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