St. Luke, The Physician

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“Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Went to bed with their britches on,”

epitomizes in a jingle from childhood all that most of us know of the lives and habits of the four Evangelists. Indeed, one measure of their greatness is that they did not intrude themselves into their books. Still, writers who are so widely read and whose influence is so momentous should not remain to us more as names than as men. Unfortunately, time and the greater significance of their messages obscure the record. Across the 2000 years we have to inform us only “faint clues and vague indirections.”

The life of St. Luke, author of the Third Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles, is of particular interest to physicians, because he was one of us. His feast day is October 18; he is appropriately remembered at this later date because most that we associate with the Christmas season is of his telling; he describes the Annunciation by the Angel, Mary's hymn of praise, the Magnificat, her visit to Elizabeth, the scene at Bethlehem and the story of the shepherds watching their flocks by night. Perhaps because he could paint so well in words, tradition has it that he used colors too; at least, his graphic descriptions have inspired many centuries of Christian art.

Any approach to telling the story of his life requires some guessing and a measure of presumption. First, to place him in his setting: the Roman Empire had spread over all the . . .



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