St. Luke’s name – of Latin origin – indicates that he apparently was not of Jewish derivation. The earliest surviving testimony describes him as a Syrian from Antioch. His abundant acquaintance with the Antiochean Church, as well as his knowledge of literary Greek, both illustrated in his writings, supports this testimony. Tradition and one text of St. Paul’s (Colossians 4:14) say that St. Luke was a trained physician. His Gospel exhibits a Greek literary style absent from the other Gospels and documents of the New Testament. Luke, apparently, was a well-educated man. His Greek was as polished as that of such classical writers as Xenophon.
Luke’s association with the disciples of Jesus probably began after Christ’s death, in the early 30s of the 1st century. His Gospel reveals a special acquaintance with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and tradition describes him as a friend and companion of St. Paul and of St. Mark. When St. Paul began his second missionary journey, about 49 A.D., St. Luke became a member of the party, joining St. Paul at the town of Troas and traveling to Macedonia with him (Acts 16: 11-12). Luke then probably remained at Philippi, rejoining St. Paul when he had finished his third missionary journey and was returning to Jerusalem (Acts 20:5, 26:18).
The Acts further say that St. Luke accompanied St. Paul when St. Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome to be judged by Caesar (Acts 27:1, 28:26). The contents of St. Paul’s letters to Philemon (24) and Timothy (II, 4:11) reveal that St. Luke probably stayed with St. Paul until St.Paul’s death. A document called the Anti-Marcionite Prologue, which dates from the end of the 2nd century, says that St. Luke died unmarried in Boeotia or Bithynia at the age of 84 toward the end of the 1st century.
St. Luke’s authorship of the Third Gospel has not been seriously disputed. Nor has the attribution of the Acts of the Apostles to him been questioned. Luke’s Gospel is clearly related to the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Matthew both in content and in structure; all three drew on a common source. St. Luke, however, used a second source unknown to either St. Matthew or St. Mark. Scholars have surmised that this source may have been Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her closest friends, all of whom knew Jesus intimately.
The story of Jesus is presented by St. Luke within a tripartite view of human history. According to his view, the lifetime of Jesus occupied the central position, being preceded by the time of the Law and the Prophets and being followed by the time of the Christian Church. Scholars have assigned the composition of St. Luke’s Gospel to between 70 and 80. Both internal and external evidence indicates that it was composed outside Palestine and intended for use by non-Jews.