Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Luke the Physician in Recent Studies

In the age of biblical skepticism, scholars have challenged all the traditional assumptions, including the tradition that Luke was a physician. Albert Schweitzer had warned that the historical study of the Bible originally had nothing to do with a genuine interest in history but appeared “as an ally in the struggle against tyranny of dogma.”

Nearly 100 years ago Cadbury demolished the author and his book asserting that Luke's useage of medical words proved that he was a physician. I doubt if any one is brave enough to make the same assertion today. However, Cadbury only challenged one finding and left unchallenged all of the other findings made by Hobart and his predecessors. In fact all that Cadbury demonstrated was that other Greek writers contemporary to Luke, but not other NT writers, used medical words as frequently as Luke and were not physicians. Cadbury did not consider a wealth of other evidence. Recently Annette Weissenreider, Images of Illness in the Gospel of Luke, has surveyed all of the medical texts available to Luke and concluded that his usage of the medical words and medical concepts is consistent with Luke being a physician.

Annette Weisenreider cited Lars Rydbeck as did Robert Doran, Temple Propaganda: The Purpose and Charcter of 2nd Maccabees. Doran, in his study of literature contemporary to 2nd Maccabees, stated: "Where possible, I have also made use of the technical prose of this period, i.e., the prose written not by litterateurs but by medical men such as Dioscorides. Rydbeck has shown that their unadorned style and syntax have much in common with those of the NT." But Weissenreider said of Rydbeck: "In his outstanding study published in 1967, L. Rydbeck ascertained a connection between the language of Luke and scientific prose of his time." In 1993, Loveday Alexander extended this finding to Luke's preface. Luke did not copy his style and syntax from Mark.

Preliminary Bibliography

Alexander, L.C.A., The Preface to Luke's Gospel: literary convention and social context in Luke 1.1-4 & Acts 1.1, Cambridge (1993).

Cadbury, Henry J. - The Style and Literary Language of Luke, (1919).

Doran, Robert, Temple Propaganda: The Purpose and Character of 2 Maccabees, (1981).

Harnack, Adolph von, Luke the Physician, (English ed., 1907).

Hobart, William K. - The Medical Language of St. Luke. (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, & Co. 1882; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1954).

In Hobart's work, The Medical Language of St. Luke, he identified 400 terms that were either used exclusively by the author of Luke-Acts in the New Testament, or were used much more frequently by this author than any other. These particular terms, Hobart argued, were also found in the works of those who wrote Greek medical literature. All of this evidence was used to point to Luke the physician as the author of Luke-Acts.

Ramsay, William M. - Luke the Physician and Other Studies in the History of Religion, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979).

Weissenrieder, Annette, Images of illness in the Gospel of Luke: insights of ancient medical texts, (Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, c2003).

copyrighted 2005


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