We know Luke was a doctor, because Paul says so in the greetings ending his letter to Colossae. This is the only direct mention of it, but evidence of Luke’s medical knowledge and interest is sprinkled throughout his writing. Our study passages contain only some of numerous examples. I have used the KJV here where particular words used are helpful in making this clear.
In the story of the woman who was bent double, the Greek word rendered
here as “infirmity” is astheneias, meaning “weakness” or “frailty”. Luke goes on to a more specific description, using the word sugkuptousa, a medical term, meaning curvature of the spine. When Jesus heals her, saying, “Thou art loosed,” this word “loosed” translates apolelusai, the ancient Greek medical term referring to relaxing tendons or tight skin, or removing bandages.
In the story about Peter’s mother-in-law, Luke’s account includes two medical terms we don’t see in Mark or Matthew. He describes her as “taken with a great fever” (sunechomene pureto megalo), a phrase we find in the works of Hippocrates and Galen and in other contemporary medical books, but only in Luke in the New Testament. From Galen we know that Greek physicians differentiated fevers as “high” (megas) or “slight” (mikros). Where Mark and Matthew use the generalized term, Luke is medically specific.
In the story of the woman with an issue of blood, we note a difference in
attitude to doctors between Mark and Luke! Mark notes that the woman had spent everything she had on medical care and instead of getting better had only got worse. Luke (characteristically kind and discreet – another doctor’s habit) describes the situation more gently, saying she had spent her living on doctors’ fees, but none of them had been able to heal her. He uses a precise medical term for the cessation of her bleeding, este, rightly given in the KJV as “stanched”.
Luke probably never met Jesus personally, but relied on information from
Mark’s Gospel and his own sources (it is thought that Mary the mother of Jesus was one source) to write his Gospel. The medical detail in his accounts reveals his physician’s discipline of careful questioning in taking a history.
O God our healer and our strength, you see us and know us. You understand our weakness and frailty; our vulnerability is never hidden from the kindness of your love. Where we are lost, please find us; where we are infirm or diseased, please heal us. Thank you for the compassion of your gaze, and for the touch of your love, which makes us whole. In Jesus’ holy name; Amen.