Posted by: chuckbumgardner | February 3, 2008

Resources on Luke the Physician

Interested in background to Luke the Physician (Col 4:14)?
You’ll find references to early Christian traditions about Luke here and here.
As a Greco-Roman physician, Luke would have been familiar with the Hippocratic Oath.
You’ll find information on Greco-Roman medicine here, and information on the doctor in Greco-Roman society here with some great quotes from ancient sources.
William Ramsay has an essay on Luke in this volume.
And a brief essay on the physicians of the day:
“For a long period the treatment of the sick, apart from religious rites to gods of health or disease, must have been limited to household remedies and charms such as Cato describes in his work on farming.  Surgery seems to have developed in early times in connection with the treatment of soldiers’ wounds.
“Physicians and surgeons were sometimes slaves; more often, freedmen or foreigners, especially Greeks.  The first foreign surgeon in Rome was a Greek (219 B.C.).  Eventually Caesar gave citizenship to Greek physicians who settled in Rome, while Augustus granted them certain privileges.  Numerous medical terms in use today bear witness to the Greek influence in the history of medicine.
“In knowledge and skill, both in medicine in surgery, practitioners at Rome were not far behind those of only two centuries ago.  We can judge their medical and surgical methods from such books as those of Celsus, a Roman who wrote in the first century of our era, and Galen, the great Greek physician, who came to Rome about A.D. 164.  Surgical instruments found at Pompeii are easily identified.
“Galen wrote that by his time surgery and medicine had been carefully distinguished from each other.  There were also oculists, dentists, and other specialists, and occasionally women physicians.  In the second century A.D., many cities had salaried medical officers for the treatment of the poor and provided rooms for their offices.  By the time of Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117), doctors were regularly attached to the legions.
“There were no medical schools, but physicians took pupils, who accompanied them on their rounds.  The poet Martial complains of the many cold hands that felt his pulse when a doctor called with his train of pupils.
“During the imperial period, physicians in attendance at great houses seem to have been well paid, judging by the estates of those attached to the court.  Two doctors left a joint estate of a million dollars, while another received from Emperor Claudius a yearly salary of $25,000.”
Mary Johnston, Roman Life (Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1957)


  1. Thanks Chuck,

    Good stuff! When I was at Craig Hospital (for 9 weeks!) my Physician was Dr Roger Lueck (pronounced “Luke”). So I have a special affection for physicians pronouced Luke.

    God bless,


  2. […] February 13, 2008 Chuck Bumgardner: On Luke the Physician […]

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