Luke was a Gentile, a physician, and one of Paul’s fellow missionaries in the early spread of Christianity through the Roman world. He has been identified as the writer of both the Gospel which bears his name, and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. He had apparently not known Jesus, but was clearly much inspired by hearing about him from those who had known him.
Luke wrote in Greek, so that Gentiles might learn about the Lord, whose life and deeds so impressed him. In the first chapter of his Gospel, he makes clear that he is offering authentic knowledge about Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. The Gospel is not a full biography—none of the Gospels are—but a history of salvation.
Only Luke provides the very familiar stories of the annunciation to Mary, of her visit to Elizabeth, of the child in the manger, the angelic host appearing to shepherds, and the meeting with the aged Simeon. Luke includes in his work six miracles and eighteen parables not recorded in the other Gospels. In Acts he tells about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the struggles of the apostles and their triumphs over persecution, of their preaching of the Good News, and the conversion and baptism of other disciples, who would extend the Church in future years.
Luke was with Paul apparently until the latter’s martyrdom in Rome. What happened to Luke after Paul’s death is unknown. Early tradition has it that he wrote his Gospel in Greece, and that he died at the age of eighty-four in Boeotia. Gregory of Nazianzus says that Luke was martyred, but this testimony is doubted by most scholars. In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantius ordered the supposed relics of Luke to be removed from Boeotia to Constantinople, where they could be venerated by pilgrims.