Theophilus (biblical) - WikipediaHowever, there are many questions regarding the identity of this individual. Was he a real person or the name was just a title or an epithet? Was he a Christian in the first place? We will briefly review the answers to some of these questions. These verses are Luke and Acts It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, Lk.
Most Excellent Theophilus
T he identity of Theophilus is a mystery to Bible students. The name appears only two times in Scripture and both times in the writings of Luke Luke , Acts It is uncertain what role in the early church he played but he is noteworthy in the thinking of Luke for he directs both the Gospel account and the Acts account to Theophilus. It is suggested that he is an actual person, perhaps a patron, of Luke and his work. Cadbury notes that Theophilus was a common name for Jews and dates to at least the third century BC.
This honorific adjective, which in antiquity a person might use when approaching someone of a higher social class than himself, was deemed especially appropriate for addressing government officials. Indeed, Luke himself provides three examples of this usage: the letter of Lysias to the governor Felix Acts , an address to the same man by Tertullus , and St. It is not surprising, then, that many interpreters of Holy Scripture think Theophilus was a Roman political figure. This is an attractive and likely suggestion. Many of these same biblical interpreters go on to contend that Theophilus was perhaps a sympathetic Roman ruler, but still a pagan, whom Luke was endeavoring to persuade of the truth of the gospel. These exegetes believe that Luke was thus recommending the merits of the Christian faith to the official Roman world as represented in Theophilus.
The Biblical accounts of Theophilus
When Dr. Luke wrote his 'Gospel' he began by preparing his reader to understand that the information he is sharing is from original sources; people whose stories have been verified. Luke next says the purpose of this treatise is to help Theophilus understand that the things he already knew about Jesus, were now being written to amplify the knowledge he already possessed. The name Theophilus means a 'friend of God' and is a distinctively Hebraic name. In calling him 'Most Excellent' Luke is addressing a man of prominence.
It is thought that both the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles were written by the same author, and often argued that the two books were originally a single unified work. No one knows the true identity of Theophilus and there are several conjectures and traditions around an identity. In English Theophilus is also written "Theophilos", both a common name and an honorary title among the learned academic Romans and Jews of the era. The life of Theophilus would coincide with the writing of Luke and the author of the Acts. Coptic tradition asserts that Theophilus was a person and not an honorary title. The Coptic Church claims that the person was a Jew of Alexandria.