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Lucius of Cyrene

22 Mar

AntiochI mentioned in my previous posting, “Who is the Author of the Gospel of Luke,” that Luke is Lucius of Cyrene, who was one of the leaders of the church at Antioch. Nevertheless, Scripture makes no such statement, so how would we connect Lucius of Cyrene with Luke, whom second century AD church fathers say was the writer of the third Gospel narrative? To be honest, the idea that Lucius and Luke are the same person is drawn from circumstantial evidence. While no single reference in Scripture can show Lucius is the Gospel writer, the multiple implications added together make an argument that it is possible, perhaps even probable and difficult to deny.[1]

First, we must ask: could the Greek name Loukas (Luke; Colossians 4:14; 2Timothy 4:11) be used as a more familiar form of the more formal Latin name Lucius (Greek = Loukios; see Acts 13:1 and Romans 16:21)? The conclusion is affirmative, because it has been found that inscriptions to the temple of the god, Men Askaenos, in Pisidian Antioch that dedications were made to the god in the name of the same person, Loukios in one place and Loukas in another.[2] Therefore, the name Luke in Colossians 4:14 and 2Timothy 4:11 is essentially the same name as Lucius in Acts 13:1 and Romans 16:21. We still must prove, however, they are the same person, but without a doubt the names are interchangeable, and it is, therefore, possible that the four Scripture citations point to the same man.

Secondly, Luke (as the author of Acts) knows a lot about what is going on in Antioch. For example, he knows one of the Seven of Acts 6:5 was from Antioch in Syria. He is also familiar with how Antioch was first evangelized (Acts 11:19-20), and that believers were first called Christians there in Antioch (Acts 11:26). He also knows about the coming of Agabus, the prophet from Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-28), who warned about the coming famine. Finally, he knows who the church leaders are of the Antioch church and the circumstance of calling Barnabas and Paul to missionary work elsewhere (Acts 13:1-4). No other church is described with this much detail except for Jerusalem. The implication is that the Gospel writer and author of Acts was a resident of Antioch. Since Lucius of Cyrene is mentioned in Acts 13:1 as a prophet and leader of the Antiochian church, he must be Luke, the Gospel writer, or we must show how there are two church leaders of the same name, but Luke fails to mention himself as one of them.[3] It is easier to believe Luke is Lucius of Cyrene, than it is to make up an additional person that is not found in the text.

Thirdly, who is Lucius of Romans 16:21? It is important to understand that Luke, the author of Acts (and the Gospel of Luke), was traveling with Paul to Jerusalem, and Lucius, mentioned in Romans 16:21 is at Corinth with Paul, who is about to leave for Jerusalem, but another Luke isn’t mentioned in Paul’s list of important believers sending greetings to the Roman church. This would be a major blunder on Paul’s part unless Luke is Lucius. We are able to understand from Acts 16:12 that Luke was with Paul when they came to Philippi, cir. 51 AD. We also know that Luke was with Paul when he left Corinth for Macedonia (Acts 20:3-6). Moreover, Origen identifies Lucius in Romans 16:21 with Luke, who wrote the third Gospel narrative [see HERE]. Origen’s commentary on Romans comes down to us only in Latin. He says:

“Some say Lucius is Lucas the evangelist, as indeed it is not uncommon to write names sometimes according to the original form, sometimes according to the Greek or Roman termination” [cited from The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, Volume 3, page 189].

In Summary, Luke and Lucius are the same names, and Lucius of Romans 16:21 must be the same person as Luke, the Gospel writer, because Lucius is the only Luke Paul mentions in his list of important believers with him who, together, greet the Roman church. And, by logical argument from there, Lucius of Romans 16:21 is also Lucius of Cyrene of Acts 13:1. Therefore, whether the New Testament speaks of Luke or Lucius, it refers to the same individual, namely the man who wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts.

________________________________

[1] This study is largely based upon my reading of John Wenham’s Identification of Luke, Evangelical Quarterly 63:1 (1991), 3 – 44

[2] A.T. Robertson: Luke the Historian in the Light of Research; p. 17; Edinburg; T & T Clark; 1920. See also The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, vol. 3; page 189.

[3] It seems fitting that Luke refers to himself in Acts discreetly in the “we passages,” but it would be out of character for him to refer to himself in Acts 13:1 as “I”. Instead, he refers to himself in the third person by using his name.

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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in Gospel of Luke

 

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