Third Edition




HE Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, according to S. Luke, that is, the Holy Evangelical History of the words and acts of Jesus, as described by S. Luke. The Arabic says, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God, the Gospel of the Excellent Father, Luke the Evangelist, the laying open of the glorious Gospel.” The Syraic, “In the name of the Lord and our God, we Jeschua Mescicho, sign the Gospel, the holy message of Luke the Evangelist, which he spoke and proclaimed in Greek, in Alexandria.” From this diversity, it is clear that the above title or inscription was prefixed to the Gospel, not by S. Luke himself, but by the Church which, in like manner, inscribed one Gospel “According to S. Matthew,” one “According to S. John,” and another “According to S. Mark.” Nay, as regards the faith of the future, this title would have been added to no purpose by S. Luke himself, unless the Church had declared his Gospel to be genuine and not supposititious, and had handed it down as such. This speaks for Tradition against the heretics, for why is the Gospel, bearing the name of S. Luke, to be received as truly his, whilst that with the title of “Matthew and Thomas” is not to be considered theirs? Or again, why is the Gospel of S. Luke more canonical than that of Apelles or Basilides? No other reason can be given but the proof, declaration, and tradition of the Church. For we accept it, not because it is written in the sacred books, but because it has been so handed down by the Church. For instance, we believe this to be the Gospel of S. Luke and canonical, not because he wrote it, but because the Church so delivers and teaches. For although its own authority pertains to this Gospel, as to the others, yet this authority would not be plain to us, but for the declaration of the Church. The same is, a pari, to be said of the sense of Scripture. For the true sense of Scripture is not what appears to you or me, for this would be uncertain and doubtful, for Calvin affirms one sense to be the true one, Luther another, and others another, but that which is taught and received by the Church, whose office it is to deliver as well what is the true Scripture as what is its true meaning. For Holy Scripture consists not in the bark (cortice) of letters or words, but in their genuine meaning. So the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent, and the Fathers everywhere, especially Tertullian (B. iv. cap. 5 against Marcion). See what I have said on S. Matthew i. 1.

Observe: I. S. Matthew was the first in order of the Evangelists. He wrote in Hebrew to the Jews in Judæa. S. Mark was the second. He wrote in Greek and Latin to the Romans in Italy; then S. Luke wrote to the Greeks in Greek; and S. John last of all, also in Greek; but S. Luke wrote the more elegantly, because he was the more perfect master of Greek. Hear S. Jerome (Ep. 84 to Paulinus): “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the quadriga of the Lord, and true Cherubim (which is interpreted, the ‘multitude of knowledge’), through their whole body they are ‘full of eyes,’ sparks shine from them, lightnings flash forth, their feet are ‘straight,’ and point upwards, their backs are winged, and they fly hither and thither. They hold themselves mutually one with another, and are ‘enfolded’ with one another, and are rolled together, like a wheel, and they go wherever the influence of the Holy Spirit directs them.” See Ezekiel i. 9, x. 12; Revelation iv. 6-8.

Moreover, among the faces or forms of the four Cherubim, the third, that of the ox, is ascribed to S. Luke, as well because he begins from the priesthood of Zachariah, whose chief sacrifice was an ox, as because he underwent the labours of an ox in the Gospel, and bore about continually in his own body the mortification of the Cross for the honour of the name of Christ, as the Church sings of him. See what has been said on Revelation iv. 7, and Ezekiel i. 10.

II. S. Luke wrote his Gospel against certain gaping, ignorant, perhaps even false Evangelists, who had written, in Syria or Greece, an imperfect, it may be a lying Gospel, as S. Luke himself signifies in the beginning of his work. So say Origen, S. Ambrose, Theophylact, and S. Epiphanius (Her. l. i), who, however, when he adds that S. Luke wrote against Cerinthus and Meritus, does not seem to speak correctly. For these two, and especially Basilides, were later than S. Luke, as is clear from Eusebius (Hist. B. iii. ch. 32). Theophylact and Bede think, with more truth, that S. Luke wrote against the Apocryphal Gospels of others, such as pass under the names of “Thomas, Matthew, and the Twelve Apostles.”

III. S. Luke was not one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, as Euthymius and S. Gregory in his preface on Job, chap. i. think, on the authority of Origen; for S. Luke never saw Christ in the flesh, but he wrote what he had heard of Him from the Apostles, as he says himself, i. 2. Hence the Fathers call S. Luke “the disciple of the Apostles,” and S. Paul mentions him by name, as his “fellow-labourer.” So S. Jerome, on the 65th chapter of Isaiah, and preface to S. Matthew; where he says, “The third” (evangelist) is Luke the physician, by nation a Syrian, of Antioch, whose praise is in the Gospel (2 Cor. viii. 18 and 22), who himself was a disciple of S. Paul. He wrote his Gospel in the neighbourhood of Achaia and Bœotia, relating some things from the beginning, as he says himself, and describing rather what he heard than what he saw. St. Irenæus says the same, i. 20; Theodoret, on the Lives of the holy Fathers; Baronius, and others. Tertullian, also (Book iv. against Marcion, chap. 5), thinks this Gospel not so much S. Luke’s as S. Paul’s, because S. Luke wrote from the dictation of S. Paul, as S. Mark from that of S. Peter. For he says, “what S. Mark wrote may be ascribed to S. Peter, whose interpreter S. Mark was. And so the Gospel of S. Luke is generally given to S. Paul, for the productions of the disciples began to be ascribed to the masters.”

S. Jerome also states that “S. Luke, in the Gospel and Acts, performed the duties of a physician of souls, as he had before done of bodies” (Ep. 103 to Paulinus); and again (in that to Philom). “Luke the physician left in his Gospel, and the book of the Acts of the Apostles to the Churches, how the Apostles from fishers of fish became fishers of men, and from the bodies of men became concerned with their souls, whose Gospel, as often as it is read in the churches, fails not of its medicine.”

IV. Baronius thinks that S. Luke wrote in the companionship of S. Paul, anno 58, because S. Jerome says that he wrote his Gospel that year in Achaia and Bœotia, where S. Paul was. Others, however, are of opinion that S. Luke wrote earlier, as we must certainly admit, if we agree with S. Jerome (Lib. de Scrip. Eccl. in Luc.), Tertullian (Book iv. against Marcion, c. 5), Primasius, Anselm, and others, on 2 Cor. viii 18, that by, “the brother whose praise is in the Gospel” S. Paul meant S. Luke—as S. Ignatius, his fellow-citizen and contemporary, plainly asserts in his letter to the Ephesians: “As Luke bears witness, whose praise is in the Gospel.” For the Second Epistle of S. Paul to the Corinthians was written in the year 58, so that if the praise of S. Luke was in the Gospel at that time, we must necessarily say that it (the Gospel) had been published previously. Hence Euthymius, and Theophylact in his Preface to S. Luke, say that he wrote fifteen years after the ascension of Christ, that is, about the year 49. But S. Luke had not then joined S. Paul, for he came to him in the Troad in the year 51, as Baronius rightly concludes from Acts xvi. 10. It appears, therefore, that S. Luke wrote subsequently to the year 51, but some years before 58, for, as S. Paul says, in that year he was well known and celebrated.

V.  S. Luke, after he had joined S. Paul, passed some time away from him, having been sent by him to other places (as I have shown on Acts xvi. 10), until S. Paul, when he had passed through other countries, came to Greece, thence to Syria, and so to Rome. Acts xx. 3, 4. For S. Paul, with other companions of his voyage, who are named in that verse, took S. Luke also, as S Luke himself states, verses 5, 15. From that time S. Luke became the “diligent” companion of S. Paul, even up to the time of S. Paul’s first imprisonment, which was in the second year of Nero, when S. Luke finished the Acts of the Apostles, and, especially, those of S. Paul. Then, as S. Epiphanius says, S. Luke left S. Paul in prison, and went into Dalmatia, Gaul, Italy, and Macedonia, and preached the gospel everywhere till he came to Patara, a city of Achaia, where, in his eighty-fourth year, he was crowned with a glorious martyrdom in the year of Christ 61, the fifth of Nero, and the seventeenth of the session of S. Peter at Rome. So Baronius says, from S. Gregory Nazianzen, Paulinus, Gaudentius, Glyca, Nicephorus and others.

Lastly, who S. Luke was—of what rank and ability, I have described at length in the Book of Acts, where I have said that he appears to be the same as Lucius, whom S. Paul calls his kinsman, Rom xvi. 21. But he seems different to Lucius of Cyrene, mentioned in Acts xiii. 3. For S. Luke was of Antioch, not Cyrene. Again, the Roman Martyrology, on April 22, says that Lucius was among the first disciples of Christ, which cannot be said of S. Luke.

VI. The reason of S. Luke’s having written a Gospel after SS. Matthew and Mark, was twofold. 1. To confute the false gospels that were then being published in Syria and Greece, as I have said before. 2. To write at length those words and acts of Christ which had been passed over by the other Evangelists, and especially His Infancy and Childhood, the Annunciation of His forerunner John the Baptist, His Conception, Nativity, Presentation in the Temple, Presence among the Doctors, the Conversion of St. Mary Magdalene, Zacchæus, the thief on the cross, the appearance to the two Disciples at Emmaus, the Parables of the Pharisee and Publican, the Good Samaritan, the Strayed Sheep, the Lost Piece of Money, the Prodigal Son, Lazarus and the Rich Glutton, and others; which show the mercy and pity of Christ to sinners and the miserable. See S. Irenæus, iii. 4, who recounts each. S. Luke also relates, more fully than the others, the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension.

Lastly, S. Peter Damianus, in his Sermon on S. Matthew, says, “S. Luke observes the proper method and order when he describes the priestly stock of the Lord and His Person, and, with this object and intent, proceeds to describe at length every part of the Temple and the priests, to the end of the history. For, as the Mediator between God and man in His human nature, He pleased to be King and Priest in one, that through His kingly power He might rule, and, by His office of Priest, atone for us. These two “Personæ” of Christ are especially praised by the Fathers, for to Him principally and by singular prerogative God gave the seat of His Father David, that there might be no end of His Kingdom, and that He might be a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek.”

S. Anselm again, on Colos. iv., gives two reasons why S. Luke, more than the others, should speak of the mercy of Christ. 1. S. Luke was a physician of bodies; then, when he turned to Christ, he was made a physician of souls. Hence he speaks, more than the other Evangelists, of the mercies of the Redeemer, by which the weaknesses of sins are driven away. 2. In Christ, he describes the person of a Priest, making intercession for the sins of the whole world

Lastly, our own John de la Haye, in his Oparat. Evangel. chap. 68, recounts the twenty-five privileges granted to S. Luke, where, among other things, from S. Jerome, Bede, and Ado, he says that S. Luke never committed mortal sin, but passed a strict life of continual mortification; that he also preserved his virginity to the end, and was therefore beloved by the Blessed Virgin especially and before all others.

S. Ambrose and Titus of Bostra have commented especially on S. Luke. And Tertullian, in his whole work against Marcion (who had declared the Gospel of S. Luke, though adulterated, to be his own), treats of and explains many passages of this Gospel. Cardinal Toletus, also, wrote at length, and with exactness, on the first twelve chapters.