Biography of Theophilus

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Luke addressed both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts to Theophilus.

Luke [Luke 1:3] and Acts [Acts 1:1] were both written to a man named Theophilus. It was a common name among both Romans and Jews at that time, so there’s little we can know about him for certain. He would have lived at the time Luke wrote, which was somewhere between AD 40 and AD 64. Here are some possible identities:

If Luke wrote to Theophilus ben Ananus, it would explain parts of the Gospel of Luke. The evidence seems to fit. Luke begins with Zacharias, the righteous priest (a kohen), who had a vision at the Temple. He tells of Mary’s purification and Jesus’ redemption rituals at the Temple. He tells of Jesus teaching at the Temple at the age of twelve. Theophilus may have known this story, as Annas (his father) was likely high priest at that time. Note how prominently the Temple figures in Luke’s gospel. While Matthew and John both mention Caiaphas’ role in Jesus trial, Luke makes no mention at all, which might suggest that he was looking to avoid conflict. He also emphasizes Jesus’ physical resurrection, which may have been written to specifically counter the Sadducees’ teaching that there is no resurrection of the dead.

In the end, we really don’t know who Luke’s Theophilus was.

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