Luke - The Doctor is In!

LukeThere exists in the mind of many the idea that Doctors in the days of Jesus were untutored and lacked skill.

The truth is that many were learned men, who were even in those days learning to carry out delicate operations, and instruments have been found that were used for operating on the human skull, to lift a broken piece of bone and relieve pressure to the brain from an injury. While much has been discovered today about hygiene and pain control, we need only to look at what has been found from archeology and the study of ancient writings, to understand that a respected doctor in the first century AD was usually a highly literate and qualified person.

Jerome refers to Doctor Lucas Medicus Antiochensis, that is Dr. Luke of Antioch. Certainly Luke, who traveled widely, writes in much detail of Antioch and seems to have spent some time there.

Paul the Apostle mentions him in his letter to the Colossians 4:14 as Luke the Beloved Physician.

In Luke's writings (Luke and Acts), he makes use of specific medical terms for illnesses. His general writings speak much of his learning. Theologians who have studied Luke's writings comment on his scientific and historic accuracy, in his references to places and people. Disputed points that have been used against Luke have in recent years been found to have been verified. Souter suggests from the references in 2 Corinthians 8:18 and 12:18 that Luke may well have been the brother of Titus. However Titus Justus, was a Greek, owning property in Corinth, where the Church began to meet.

There are stronger arguments for the Jewish origens of Luke, than the tradition of him being a gentile. Paul writing to the Romans, says in Rom 3:1-2 "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God."  When Paul was accused of bringing gentiles into the sacred temple in Jerusalem, Luke was with him, but the riot was based on an accusation that Paul brought a gentile into the temple, but the Jews never mentioned Luke!

Luke himself writes an aside in Acts 21:29  (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple). Coupled with evidence of Luke's knowledge of the temple intricacies, and his beginning and ending the gospel in the Temple, the evidence favours Luke being a Jew, and probably a Levite, from Antioch, Syria. In the days before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Antioch was considered part of Israel by the Jews.

There is an Eastern Orthodox Church in Antioch, Syria, that met in a Cave, on land owned by Luke.

Antioch Christian Church 400pxThe local tradition attributes this to Luke, a wealthy Jewish Levite, who was involved in the beginnings of the Christian congregation there c, AD 40. Barnabas brought Saul, now called Paul of Tarsus, to help plant the congregation, and Paul preached from that cave meeting place, as did Peter, on his visit to Antioch.

This explains the rendevous in Troy, when Paul and Luke join forces, to preach to the Macedonions, in Europe (Acts 16:9-10).

Certainly we know that Luke became Paul's personal physician and close friend. A careful reading of Luke's account of their shipwreck on the island of Malta would indicate that Luke practiced medicine during their 3 month stay on the island.

In Acts 28:8 we read of the Governor of the Island, Publius, whose father was dying of an advanced case of 'fever and dysentery' as the Revised version accurately translates Luke's Greek text. This disease is still a problem in Malta and has many times been fatal there. Paul and Luke go to see him, and Luke who diagnoses the disease, steps aside as Paul lays hands on the old man and prays for instant healing. The people recognized this instantaneous miracle, and Luke uses the Greek word 'iaomai' that portrays the immediacy of the healing. Luke became Paul's personal physician

In the next verse, Luke speaks of many Islanders then approaching them, and of their being treated, and healed. Here the word Luke uses is 'therapeuo' which speaks of therapy, or treatment of diseases. He goes on to relate that the people 'tim-e' (tee-may) that is paid them for this medical treatment. So here we have a missionary doctor practicing medicine while Paul was actively praying and ministering the Word to the people. So successful was  this partnership that when the winter was over, they were supplied with all their needs as they journeyed on to Rome.

Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:11, recounts the devotion and continued care of Luke for himself as he approached his execution. It is probable the Luke practiced medicine in Rome to support their needs, during the long time of Paul's imprisonment.

Sometimes we get to take care of, and support a ministry leader; and thereby fill a much needed ministry opportunity for the Kingdom of God. What is the Lord asking you to begin?

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 © 2015 Revised - Jim Cole-Rous