Did Luke Write in Greek?
James Scott Trimm
There is a common argument that Luke was a Greek who wrote in Greek to a man with a Greek name, Theophilus.
The fact is that Luke was from Syria. He was probably either a Jew born in Syria or a Syrian convert to Judaism.
The “Church Father” Eusebius writes:
Luke, who was born at Antioch, and by profession a physician, being for the most part connected with Paul, and familiarly acquainted with the rest of the apostles, has left us in two inspired books, the institutes of that spiritual healing art which he obtained from them.
(Eusebius; Eccl. History 3:4)
Antioch was the capitol of Syria. While there was a Greek speaking population in Antioch, the native language of Syria was Aramaic, and this is why the Romans even called Aramaic “Syriacos”.
Luke addresses his two books (Luke and Acts) to “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). But who was this “Theophilus” who was addressed with the title “most excellent”? We know from Josephus that Theophilus was the High Priest:
So Vitellius prepared to make war with Aretas, having with him two legions of armed men; he also took with him all those of light armature, and of the horsemen which belonged to them, and were drawn out of those kingdoms which were under the Romans, and made haste for Petra, and came to Ptolemais. But as he was marching very busily, and leading his army through Judea, the principal men met him, and desired that he would not thus march through their land; for that the laws of their country would not permit them to overlook those images which were brought into it, of which there were a great many in their ensigns; so he was persuaded by what they said, and changed that resolution of his which he had before taken in this matter. Whereupon he ordered the army to march along the great plain, while he himself, with Herod the tetrarch and his friends, went up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, an ancient festival of the Jews being then just approaching; and when he had been there, and been honorably entertained by the multitude of the Jews, he made a stay there for three days, within which time he deprived Jonathan of the high priesthood, and gave it to his brother Theophilus.
(Josephus; Antiquities 18:5:3)
So in the books of Luke and Acts, Luke, who was raised in Syria, where the common language was “Syriacos” or Aramaic, writes to the Jewish High Priest. He certainly would have been writing in Hebrew or Aramaic, not Greek. And this is apparent in the internal evidence of our Greek text of Luke, as Charles Cutler Torrey states:
In regard to [Greek] Luke, it remains to be said, that of all the Four Gospels, it is the one which gives by far the plainest, and most constant evidence, of being a translation [from Aramaic].
– C.C. Torrey; Our Translated Gospels p. lix
For some time now my book The Hebrew and Aramaic Origin of the New Testament has needed an update. It is my intention t post the new revised book online for free here. It will take some time to type the material in. It cannot just be cut and pasted from the book because the original Word file has been lost and even the PDF is of limited value, because it was originally written and produced at a time when Hebrew fonts were used, with a different keyboard map, than modern ASCII Hebrew letters. However, it is important to get this material out on the internet for free, so that it can be disseminated as widely as possible.
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