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Who is Theophilus?

In the first four verses of his gospel, Luke writes this:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Luke dedicates his gospel to a mystery man named Theophilus. Ultimately we have no idea who this man is. He is only mentioned twice in the Bible, here in Luke 1:4 and at the start of Luke’s second book, The Acts of the Apostles.

Despite only being mentioned twice in the Bible, it hasn’t stopped people speculating on his identity!

The name Theophilus is a Greek name. The precise translation is uncertain, but the name means something like “lover of God” or “beloved of God.” Either way, the meaning of the name has led many to assume it is a general title, in other words, Luke is writing his gospel to anyone who loves God and is therefore beloved of God.

I disagree! I think Luke wrote his book for a real person. In the ancient world it was very expensive to write books and people often had patrons. A Patron would pay for the book and would own a copy of the book. In return the book was dedicated to the patron.

I want to make a bold claim. I think that Theophilus was a man who was interested in the teaching of Jesus and commissioned the book to be written. I believe that Theophilus read Luke’s book and his life was changed. I think no one can read the gospel that Luke writes and have any other experience than a changed life.

How do I know his life was changed? Well the evidence comes from the pen of Luke. In his gospel Luke calls Theophilus “the most excellent” that is how a patron would be referred to in a 1st century book. But look at Acts 1:1, Luke says “In my former book Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach.”

Something has changed, he has moved from most excellent Theophilus to just plain Theophilus! A distance has been removed between Theophilus and Luke. They are now equals. Theophilus has moved from being a patron to being a friend of Luke. Theophilus has changed. But how? Luke tells us! When you encounter what Jesus does and what He teaches your life will never be the same.

That is what this blog hopes to do, help you understand what Jesus does and teaches through the writing of Luke!

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