Letters to Luke: From His Fellow Physician, Joseph of Capernaum

Posted March 19, 2008

Joe Holoubek, M.D., a retired Louisiana physician who died in May, 2007, at the age of 91, wrote the most compelling passage of this novel-told-in-letters on Good Friday after leaving church services.

It recounts the last hours of Jesus, his sufferings and death, in exquisite, agonizing detail. And because Holoubek writes in the first person, the reader feels he too is on Calvary Hill seeing the battered body of Jesus rise and fall on the cross, pushing up on his nailed feet to catch his breath, than slumping down in torment.

It’s a scene Holoubek visited many times in his imagination. He and his beloved wife, the late Dr. Alice Baker Holoubek, gave hundreds of presentations on the physical sufferings of Christ throughout the nation. One could say this is the book Holoubek was born to write.

A consulting cardiologist and internist, Dr. Joe Holoubek was a member of the Catholic Academy of Sciences USA. He played a lead role in the founding of LSU Medical School in Shreveport, Louisiana. Honored by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, Holoubek was Knight Commander with Star of the Order of St. Gregory the Great and Knight Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
Letters to Luke: From His Fellow Physician Joseph of Capernaum won the Writer’s Digest Award for inspirational literature and the Independent Publisher Award for religious fiction. Holoubek writes with authority, as if he were a first century physician encountering Jesus for the first time. Richly layered with medical context and Jewish cultural history, Letters to Luke emphasizes the sacredness of life and respects women’s spirituality.

Don’t be daunted by the bulk of the book. It’s 500 pages plus. But the author’s writing style is personal and conversational, as direct and engaging as anyone writing to a friend. And maps of Jerusalem and the Holy Land help orient readers unfamiliar with New Testament geography.

The narrative unfolds in the letters of Joseph of Capernaum to Luke of Antioch, a physician he trained with in Athens. This is a clever literary device suggesting the fictional Joseph was a major source for the gospel Luke himself would write decades later.

Both Joseph and his wife Elisa are trained in the healing arts. They meet a mysterious healer, a Galilean. He has no medical training but cures with words and the touch of a hand. Joseph shares his bewilderment with Luke. “I cannot explain it. Elisa says it is by the power of the Lord.”

Elisa becomes a follower of Jesus even as Joseph struggles with doubts. Could this man be the long-awaited Messiah? Could God be the source of his healing power? But Jesus is truly human. He eats and laughs with them—and nearly dies in a pneumonia epidemic.

Months after Jesus recovers, Joseph and Elisa join his company of men and women on a Passover journey to Jerusalem. Joseph shares his growing sense of unease with Luke: “I have come to believe that Jesus is a prophet for our times, but I know his teachings represent a threat to Herod. I feel a need to protect him, but the dangers are not yet clear.”

In Jerusalem, Joseph—by now a believer that this man is the Son of God—has his chance to defend Jesus before his crucifixion, but does nothing out of fear for his own life. When Jesus dies, Joseph and Elisa are at the foot of the cross, expert witnesses to his physical sufferings. Joseph falls into a guilt-racked depression. “I could give (Jesus) no comfort, nothing to drink while his blood dropped upon me under the cross,” he writes to Luke in his despair. “Where was God his Father? Or was he the Son of God? Or is there a God?”

Elisa’s faith, however, is strong enough to sustain them both until, three days later, they see the risen Jesus for themselves. Joseph and Elisa return to Capernaum to carry on His work. There, as members of an early Christian house-church, they become targets for persecution by Saul of Tarsus.
Letter to Luke recasts the gospel of Luke into a dramatic and uplifting novel that readers will cherish for decades to come. It’s available now in paperback ($19.95) and a special edition with a linen cover ($24.95). The original 2004 keepsake edition ($39.95 with gold-foil stamping and ribbon marker) makes a handsome gift for a special occasion.

Letters to Luke is distributed through Baker & Taylor and CCC of America. Copies may be ordered online at www.letterstoluke.com or through your local bookstore: ISBN 0975376624 (paperback); ISBN 0975376616 (linen cover); ISBN 0975376608 (hardcover).

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