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Theophilus (Biblical): Wikis

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Theophilus is the name of a person or an honorary title to whom the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are addressed (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1). Most scholars agree that both Luke and Acts were originally written in Koine Greek, and that "θεόφιλος" ("Theophilos"), as it appears therein, means friend of God[1] or (be)loved by God or loving God[2] in the Greek language. No one knows the true identity of Theophilos and there are several conjectures and traditions around an identity. In English Theophilos is also written "Theophilus", both a common name and an honorary title among the learned (academic) Romans and Jews of the era. Their life would coincide with the writing of Luke and the author of Acts, sometime between 60-110, depending on which tradition one subscribes to.

Contents

Theories about who Theophilus was

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Coptic view

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.He was likely a Roman official of some sort, because Luke referred to him as "most excellent" which was a Roman title.

Honorary title

Honorary title (academia) tradition maintains that Theophilus was not a person. The word in Greek means "Friend of God" and thus both Luke and Acts were addressed to anyone who fits that description. In this tradition the author's targeted audience, as with all other canonical Gospels, were the learned (academic) but unnamed males and females of the era. Likewise the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, and Gospel of James are not addressed to any particular gender, or any specific person.

Jewish priest

A growing belief points to Theophilus ben Ananus, High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem from 37-41 In this tradition Theophilus would have been both a kohen and a Sadducee. That would make him the son of Annas and brother-in-law of Caiaphas, raised in the Jewish Temple. Adherents claim that Luke's Gospel was targeted at Sadducee readers. This might explain a few features of Luke. He begins the story with an account of Zacharias the righteous priest who had a Temple vision of an angel (1:5-25). Luke quickly moves to account Mary's purification (niddah), Jesus' Temple redemption (pidyon ha-ben) rituals (2:21-39), and then to Jesus' pilgrimage to the Temple when he was twelve (2:46), possibly implying his bar mitzvah. He makes no mention of Caiaphas' role in Jesus' crucifixion and emphasizes Jesus' literal resurrection (24:39), including an ascension into heaven as a realm of spiritual existence (24:52; Acts 1:1). Luke also seems to stress Jesus' arguments with the Sadducees on points like legal grounds for divorce, the existence of angels, spirits, and an afterlife (Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead). If this was the case then Luke is trying to use Jesus' rebuttals and teachings to break down Theophilus' Sadducean philosophy, maybe with the hope that Theophilus would use his influence to get the Sadducees to cease their persecution of the Christians. One could also look at Luke's Gospel as an allegorical (רֶמֶז remez) reference to Jesus as "the man called the Branch" prophesied in Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13, who is the ultimate high priest foreshadowed by the Levitical priesthood.

A minority view identifies Theophilus as a later high priest: Mattathias ben Theophilus who served from 65-66. Note that Luke refers to high priest Joseph ben Caiaphas simply as "Caiaphas".[3] Thus, the reasoning goes, Luke used this pattern when addressing Theophilus.

Titus Flavius Sabinus

Another tradition claims the person was a converted Roman official, possibly Titus Flavius Sabinus II, a former Prefect of Rome and older brother of future Roman Emperor Vespasian, owing to the honorific, "most excellent" (Luke 1:3). As Titus Flavius Sabinus, Theophilus is given a crucial role in the historical novel The Flames of Rome by Paul Maier, where he is given the dedication of the "Gospel of Luke" and "Acts of the Apostles" by Luke the Evangelist. Maier's extensive research into Biblical and archaeological intertextuality lend credence to this theory, as evidenced in the footnotes of the book. He also ties Titus Flavius Sabinus to Aulus Plautius and his wife Pomponia Graecina by marriage, the latter of whom is by scholars presumed to have converted to Christianity, and who possibly used her son-in-law's status as Lord Mayor of Rome to try to protect Paul while he was under house arrest during his first stay in Rome. As the Apostle Luke was believed to be with Paul at this time, it is indeed plausible that in gratitude to Sabinus for the kindnesses shown to Paul during his imprisonment, Luke considered Sabinus to be a friend of God, based on Christ's words that "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40) To honour Sabinus while protecting him from the persecution of Christians and those who sympathized with them under the tyrannical rule of the Emperor Nero, it is postulated that Luke encoded the dedication of Acts.

A lawyer

Some believe that Theophilus could have been Paul's lawyer during his trial period in Rome.

References

  1. ^ Strong's G2321
  2. ^ Bauer lexicon, 2nd edition, 1958, page 358
  3. ^ Luke 3:2.
  • Maier, Paul L. The Flames of Rome. (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1981).

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