I must confess that I have always believed that the canon of scripture was given to and penned by Jewish writers... that is, except for the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Both were written by Luke, a man that most biblical commentators assert was a Gentile. However, after “doing the math” this morning, I discovered that Luke actually wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else...more than Paul or John. Considering the extent of his work, I began to question whether I was wrong in automatically assuming that Luke was a Gentile. If Luke was a Jew then every book of the entire Bible would be Jewish. That would be a nice neat package... but... not germane to my faith. Granted, the name Luke is supposedly from Lucas, which is a Gentile name. However, so is the name Paul. In fact, quite often when Jews lived outside of the land of Israel they would use a Gentile name in the ”world” and then use their given Jewish name at worship and home. Perhaps his name doesn’t truly define him. It seems that the historic belief that Luke was a Gentile is based upon Colossians 4:10-14 where Paul writes:” Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you”. Paul refers to Aristarchus, Mark and Jesus called Justus as being his “fellow workers for the kingdom who are of the circumcision”... Jews. Is Paul is speaking of them as his” laborers” in preaching? In that case, Luke is referred to as “the beloved physician”. Perhaps Paul regarded him as a physician and not a preacher. Luke is only mentioned by name in Scripture in Colossians 4:14 as “the beloved physician”; in Philemon 24 as “a fellow laborer” and in 2 Timothy. 4:1 where Paul tells Timothy:” Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry”. In Philemon Luke is a co- laborer, but in 2 Timothy, though Luke is with Paul, he asks for Mark to come to minister. Is Luke more than a doctor-historian? Each reference gives me pause. We do not know how or when the Apostle Paul met Luke, but as a physician, Luke traveled with Paul throughout his ministry. Some have argued that Luke had to be a Gentile because only non-Jews were physicians. Of that there is no proof. In fact, Jeremiah 8:22 asks: " Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?” and Mark 2:17 says : "When Jesus heard it, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." I believe there were Jewish doctors among the Hebrew people. Reading Luke’s own writings also" muddy the waters" a bit. As a physician, undoubtedly he was analytical in nature. Upon examining the first chapters of his Gospel it seems that Dr. Luke knew many details about the Temple in Jerusalem even the divisions and rotations of priestly service. Whether or not he knew because he was a Jew or because he learned from others, as well as the Holy Spirit, is unclear. It appears that he also knew quite a lot about the inner thoughts and prayers of Jesus’ mother. The manner in which he obtained that knowledge is worth questioning. Candidly, I am not sure as a Gentile, our beloved physician would have been able to interview Mary "up close and personally" in those earliest of the early days of “the church”.In the Book of Acts, Luke uses the word "we" often, including himself in the "mix" with Paul. In chapter 21, Luke writes about Paul being accused of bringing Gentiles unlawfully into the Temple in Jerusalem. Though Luke was traveling with Paul... the angry mob is focused upon Trophimus of Ephesus who was seen in the city with Paul. The suspected trespassing Gentile was not Luke. Where was Luke? He was in Jerusalem, that is clear. Was he at the Temple? Was he ever at the Temple? We don’t know. Above all, my main reason for considering the possibility of Luke being Jewish is found in Romans chapter 3:1-2 where Paul writes: “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.” In other words, Paul tells the church at Rome that the Jews have been given the privilege of penning the very words of God... to declare "Him" to the rest of the world. Is Luke an anomaly... an exception to that rule? At the close of the New Testament canon, are all of the authors Jewish except Luke? If so, he stands alone within an otherwise totally Jewish written Bible, from cover-to-cover. One way or another, it’s a non- essential, but I admit, it is an intriguing thought. However, unless there is some new archaeological discovery in the days ahead we probably will never know one way or another. Perhaps it will just have to remain unanswered until that day... when I finally get into Glory... look up into the Master's face... and ask Him with a smile...that "burning" question... “Who really is that doctor in the House? ” Baruch Ha Shem!"
LAURIE BARNETT is the founder of Shadows of the Messiah, a Bible teaching ministry that shares the richness of the Hebraic foundations of Scripture with women in the Body of Christ. Laurie began examining the Jewish background of the teachings of Jesus and of the New Testament more than 25 years ago.