The first response to the title of this article is likely one of incredulousness. Why even ask, might be your thought, as everyone believes Luke was Gentile. It is true that the vast

majority of Christians believe that Luke was the lone Gentile writer of some of the books of the New Testament. But it is not true that everyone believes Luke was a Gentile.

The second response to this article, by some, might be, what does it matter. The writings of Luke are part of the inspired Word of God. Does it really matter if Luke is Jewish or Gentile? I believe it does matter.

Reasons why Luke is a Gentile

One of the first reasons given for Luke being a Gentile is church tradition. Expositor’s Bible Commentary makes the following claim: “That he was a Gentile is evident…Tradition, with unanimous voice, represents him as a native of Antioch, in Syria.”1 Tradition, no matter how overwhelming, should carry little weight if there are biblical reasons to accept or reject Luke being Gentile.

Other reasons are that Luke is a Gentile name and that Luke was a physician. The argument is offered that most physicians came from conquered people in Roman time and thus Luke, this being a gentile name, being a physician, Colossians 4:14, was Gentile.

Most importantly, there is a biblical reason given for the belief that Luke was a Gentile. It is based on Colossians 4:10-11 where Aristarchus, Marcus and Justus are referred to as “the circumcision” and Colossians 4:14 where Luke is mentioned but not with “the circumcision” group mentioned in verse 11.

And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me,” Colossians 4:11.

Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you,” Colossians 4:14.

Thus, because Luke is not grouped with “the circumcision” it must be because he is not Jewish, but Gentile.

Reasons why Luke is Jewish

There are biblical reasons that carry greater weight than church tradition or Roman culture, for Luke being Jewish. In the first chapter of Luke, he identifies with Jewish believers.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, “Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word,” Luke 1:1-2.

Luke says he was part of the “us” who were eyewitnesses of things concerning Jesus. The “us” would certainly be Jewish followers of Jesus.

Luke had detailed knowledge of the Temple and priesthood, Luke 1:8-20 and 2:21-24. Would a Gentile have this knowledge? It seems unlikely. And Luke had intimate knowledge of Mary’s life, Luke 2:19,51 where we are told “But  Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” How would Luke have this knowledge of Mary if he was a Gentile? Mary, as an observant Jewess, would have kept company with fellow Jews, and a Jewish physician.

In Acts 21:28-29, “Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)” If Luke was a Gentile why did the Jewish people accuse Paul of bringing Trophimus into the Temple and not Luke?

As for the argument from Colossians 4, Thomas McCall writes:

“Later in this same chapter, in verse 14, Paul refers to Luke, the beloved physician. The argument is made that, as Luke is not mentioned in the list of those of “the circumcision”, he therefore must not be a Jew. However, this is very slim evidence, indeed. In the above reference, Paul is speaking of his fellow workers in the preaching ministry. However, Luke was not ever described as being actively involved in the work of preaching, but was rather Paul’s personal physician and historian. It would not be appropriate to put Luke in the list with those who were active in the preaching ministry, regardless of background.

Thus, there are reasons other than background why Luke would not be included in the list of “the circumcision.” It is risky to build a concept on evidence which is so weak, and this is the strongest evidence in the Bible that those who believe Luke was a Gentile use to prove their point.”2

R. Wayne Stacy believes that the differentiation is because of the aforementioned three “of the circumcision” were Judaizers where Luke was not. Thus,

“Paul was likely not saying that Luke was a Gentile at all; rather, he was describing him as a Jew who, like himself, never believed that circumcision and becoming a proselyte were requirements for becoming a Christian.”3

Colossians 4:11,14 is at best an inference that Luke is Jewish. McCall and Stacy suggest there are other ways to understand these verses. These verses are not solid ground to establish Luke as a Gentile.

Perhaps the most pointed argument for Luke being Jewish is Romans 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.

God committed the writing of the Scriptures to the Jewish people. If this is a correct statement, and it certainly is, Luke has to be Jewish and not Gentile.

End Notes