LUKE: GENTILE OR JEW?
Thomas S. McCall states in the March 1996 issue of 'Levitt Letter', Vol. 18, Number 3:
"IMPORTANCE OF THE QUESTION
If Luke was a Gentile, then the Lord entrusted more pages of New Testament revelation to a Gentile than to any other writer. This would be remarkable, to say the least...
ARGUMENTS FOR LUKE BEING A GENTILE
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, 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...
Proponents have also argued that the name Luke (Lucas) is, in itself, evidence that he was A Gentile. However, the very names mentioned in Col. 4 as being in 'the circumcision' are Gentile names: Aristarchus, Marcus and Justus. Paul's name itself is a Roman name, which he used throughout his ministry among the Gentiles, instead of his Hebrew name, Saul. In the same way Peter's Hebrew name was Simon...
Others have actually claimed that... there were no Jewish doctors in the Roman world... There is as much reason to believe that Jews were in the medical profession in ancient times as they are today...
ARGUMENTS FOR LUKE BEING A JEW
THE RULE: ORACLES GIVEN TO JEWS
Paul asks the question, 'What advantage has the Jew?' His answer was 'Much [in] every way, chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God' (Rom. 3:1-2). The main advantage that Paul recognizes in the Jewish people was that when God gave revelation to the human race, he gave it to and through the Jews. He did not utilize the Gentile people for this purpose. This was the rule: that Jews were the vehicle for revelation. If Luke was an exception, the burden of proof is on those who would claim, that he is an exception...
TROPHIMUS, NOT LUKE, THE CAUSE OF PAUL'S ARREST
Dr. Luke was a constant companion of the Apostle Paul from the time that he joined the missionary apostle when he sailed from Troas to Europe. Luke accompanied Paul on his fateful last return trip to Jerusalem, and was an eyewitness to the arrest of Paul in the Temple in Acts 21. The crowd was greatly agitated by the presence of Paul in the Temple, and charged him with bringing Gentiles into the Temple precincts. This was a crime punishable by death. Luke explains that Paul never did bring any Gentiles into the Temple, but he was seen on the streets of Jerusalem with 'Trophimus an Ephesian.' Apparently, Paul brought Trophimus with him to Jerusalem so that the apostles and the mother church there could see first-hand the fruits of his labor among the Gentiles. Even though the charge was false, they were able to spread the rumor among the people, and cause a near riot against Paul on the Temple Mount, and for this reason he was arrested.
The point is that, when the Jewish people wanted to accuse Paul of bringing a Gentile into the Temple, they chose Trophimus. Why didn't they choose Luke, who was also with Paul, and was an eyewitness to these events?
If Luke were a Gentile, it would have been far easier, and far more believable, to accuse Paul of bringing Luke withhim into the Temple, rather than Trophimus. The fact that Luke was not mentioned in the accusation is a strong indication that he was not a Gentile. Luke was with Paul on several occasions when they made the various trips to Jerusalem in order to report on their missionary efforts to the apostolic church. The issue was never raised about Luke being a Gentile, although he was there in Jerusalem with Paul.
LUKE'S INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TEMPLE
Another argument for the idea that Luke was a Jew is that he showed such an intimate knowledge of the Temple, more than any other of the Gospel writers. When he described the announcement to Zacharias concerning the birth of John the Baptist, Luke went into considerable detail to describe the rotating selection of the Levitical priests for service according to their families. He further described the position of the priest before the altar of incense, where the angel appeared to Zacharias (Luke 1:8-20).
The fact that Luke alone of the four Gospel writers gives this account, and he does so with such vivid detail, argues for his being a Jew, familiar with the Temple procedures. One could even speculate that Luke might have been a Levite as well, as he knew so much about how the Temple operated. Is it logical to assume, without question, that Luke was a Gentile, when he had such a clear understanding of the most intimate workings of the Temple, where no Gentile was allowed to go?
LUKE'S INTIMATE ACQUAINTANCE WITH MARY
Yet another argument is the striking intimacy that Luke had with the mother of Jesus, Mary. He relates the story of the birth of Jesus primarily from Mary's point of view, and then said that she hid these things 'in her heart' (Luke 2:19,51). How did Luke, of all the Gospel writers, get so close to Mary that he was able to find out what she had hidden in her heart? As close-knit as the Jerusalem church was, and as difficult as it must have been for Gentiles to have gotten to the 'inner circle' of the apostolic leadership, it seems highly unlikely that Luke could have gotten that close to Mary if he were a Gentile.
Actually, it appears that Luke might have served Mary for a time as her personal physician. This is speculation, but how else could he have had such a close relationship with her, so that he could draw from her the details she had hidden in her heart, and had discussed with few others? Luke would have had the opportunity to consult with Mary on the occasions when Paul made his reporting trips to Jerusalem, and especially while Paul was in prison in Caesarea for two years. Such access would have been quite understandable if Luke were a Jew, but would have been most unlikely if he were a Gentile."