(Who was Theophilus?) Bible Question
“Can you tell me who Theophilus was? Was he an important official? Was he a Christian?”
This man is mentioned twice. The first is at the beginning of Luke’s gospel.
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1 – 4; New International Version)
Luke did (what we would describe today) extensive investigative work to write this gospel. He apparently interviewed many people who had been around during the life and ministry of Jesus. As the Good News spread into gentile areas, many people who were converted had no first hand knowledge of the events of Jesus’ life. So, Luke wrote a biography of Jesus and a record of the early church (Luke-Acts).
He writes to a man named Theophilus. This is a Greek name which literally means “God lover” or “lover of God”. This man was probably Greek, from outside Palestine, and he may have been a Christian. It is likely he was a prominent individual (hence the use of “excellent“). Some theorize he helped Luke publish Luke-Acts. Although the work was written to (for) this individual, there is general consensus it was also meant for public use.
The second mention is in Acts.
“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” (Acts 1:1, 2)
In this second volume, Luke covers the founding of the church and its expansion throughout much of the Roman Empire. He ends his account as the apostle Paul awaits trial in Rome.
Some scholars have guessed that much of Luke’s writing was originally intended to help Paul in his legal defense, so Luke-Acts was written as a kind of legal brief, demonstrating the nature of the church in the Roman Empire. Much of this is speculation, but it makes sense.
Whoever Theophilus was (and whatever Luke did to record all of this), we know it is of God and both books are inspired. And both books are still a vital source of information and comfort to all people who love God.