St. Luke, also called Saint Luke the Evangelist (flourished 1st century CE; feast day October 18), in the Christian tradition, the author of the Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, a companion of St. Paul the Apostle, and the most literary of the New Testament writers. Information about his life is scanty.
A tradition based on references in the Pauline Letters has regarded him as a physician and a Gentile. He probably accompanied Paul on several missionary journeys. He is a patron saint of physicians and artists.
Here are five interesting facts about the Gospel of Luke:
1. It’s the longest Gospel (and New Testament book)
If you were to judge book-length based on the number of chapters, you’d walk away thinking that Matthew and Acts are longer than Luke. After all, they both have 28 chapters, and Luke’s Gospel only contains 24.
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But with a word count of 19,482, Luke’s is actually the longest. Acts has 18,450 Greek words, while Matthew contains 18,346.
In fact, even though Paul wrote the most books in the New Testament (13), followed by John (5), Luke is actually the New Testament’s most prolific author by sheer volume.
2. The symbol of Luke’s Gospel is an ox.
Christian tradition has long associated each of the Gospels with one of the four faces encountered by Ezekiel (1:1-14). The “human” is associated with Matthew, the “lion” with Mark, the “eagle” with John, and the “ox” has become the symbol of Luke’s Gospel.
The early church made the connection between Luke and the ox because of the book’s sacrificial connotations. Oxen were used in temple sacrifices. The Book of Luke opens with Zechariah offering a sacrifice in the temple. It also includes the parable of the prodigal son, in which a fattened calf is offered.
To the early church, the ox represented the priestly character of our Lord and His sacrifice on our behalf.
3. Luke is the only Gospel written by a Gentile.
While debate still abounds, it’s traditionally accepted that Luke was a Greek and the only Gentile author of a Gospel. Not only is Luke considered the only Gentile writer, but both Luke and Acts (traditionally considered one work) were written to share the story of Christ and the rise of the church with “Theophilus.”
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There are a number of theories about this person’s identity, most of them assuming Theophilus to be a high-ranking or prominent Gentile himself-making Luke the only Gospel written by a Gentile for a Gentile audience.
4. Luke was a physician
In the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he calls Luke a doctor (4:14). You can also see evidence of Luke’s profession in his medical language. In Acts 28:8, Luke says:
“His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him” (New International Version).
The Greek Luke uses for “suffering from fever and dysentery” (puretois kai dysentery sunechomenon) is the actual correct medical terminology that one might find in the works of Hippocrates. In Luke 14, we encounter a man with dropsy. Luke uses the word hudropikos, which occurs nowhere else in the Bible but can also be found in Hippocratic writings.
It’s interesting to note that in Mark’s account of the bleeding woman, he makes the following statement:
“She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better, she grew worse” (Mark 5:26, NIV).
Luke’s version seems to leave a better impression of the medical community:
“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her” (Luke 8:43, NIV).
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5. It features unique and well-known parables.
Each of the Gospels features some unique stories, elements and teachings, but Luke is particularly packed with interesting and distinct parables. These include the parable of the prodigal son (15:11-32) and the good Samaritan (10:29-37).