This morning my roommate was reading Acts and came across Acts one which
reads: 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.

My roommate asked, where is the book Theophilus, or why isn’t it in the
Bible? I said it might be referring to a person…I looked the name up
and found out that he was the archbishop of Antioch and wrote around
180-185CE (so I read). I’m wondering: How do I find out more about who
this man was? What was the significance of his writings? and Why did Paul
refer to him in Acts? If you can help me I would be super grateful.

The other book you refer to is not a mystery! Virtually all
scholars would agree that the former book referred to in Acts is Luke. In
other words, Luke wrote both Luke and Acts.

Most scholars would say that Theophilus was an actual person to
whom Luke wrote–probably an educated and influential Greek public servant
who was interested in Christianity. Some say that Theophilus was a sort
of fictitious virtual person to whom Luke wrote to represent his audience
in general. The name Theophilus means lover of God, making this
explanation plausible. I am not sure it makes much difference whether
Luke was writing to a single actual specific person, or whether he was
writing to a general audience, as, either way, he clearly intended the
book to have a wider audience. By the way, I am not making this up. Luke
1:4 references Theophilus, as does Acts 1:1, so there is virtually no
doubt that Luke wrote both books.

Either way, the Theophilus who was a bishop in Antiocharound
180 AD is definitely not the same person as the one referred to in Acts
and Luke, as Luke was probably dead for about one hundred years before the
career of this archdeacon of Antioch. Nice research, though. I did not
know about that guy.

About Luke himself, there are a number of books written
specifically about him. A lot of the material in such a book will be
purely speculative because we really only have a fairly small amount of
hard information on Luke. I went to and typed in Luke
Acts. There are many books on the topic of Luke and his life if you want
to go deeply into the question. I would pick one which appears to
emphasize the historical background rather than some sort of doctrinal
aspects of his writing. In (extremely) brief, Luke was a Greek (not
Jewish) doctor who was apparently classically trained. His writings are
by far the most carefully researched of the gospels, going to great pains
to produce accurate history which is in a style recognizable to a Greek
audience. Luke was a close traveling companion to Paul who was even with
him during his travels to Rome, his shipwreck on Maltaand his imprisonment
in Rome. Luke represents for us the conversion of very influential and
highly educated Greek men, which explains why he wrote a letter to
Theophilus, who was, presumably another well-educated and influential
Greek figure.

John Oakes

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