Who Is Theophilus In The Bible

Who is Theophilus in the Bible? Theophilus was a companion of Christ and a friend of Luke. In the New Testament, this influential person is referenced by Luke when he writes to him in his book of Acts. This article takes a look at who Theophilus was and why he was special.

Theophilus is a person mentioned in the Bible. The name literally means “lover of God” or “friend of God.” The only person described as this was a Roman centurion, a man named Cornelius.

Theophilus is a man mentioned in the New Testament who was chosen by the Apostles to hear and record their teachings. If you’re looking for something to do next year as we remember the birth of Christ, maybe it’s time you met Theophilus.

Theophilus was mentioned by Luke in the first line of his most famous book. Theophilus was not a believer when he received the gospel, but he became a believer as a result of what Luke told him. Theophilus’ status as a Gentile may have been why he was chosen to be the recipient of one of the four gospels. Who is this man and what did Luke write to him? Why does it matter to Christians today?

Who Is Theophilus In The Bible

For those of us who have read Luke or Acts for the first time, or perhaps the fifth time, we may have noticed a certain person, Theophilus, gets mentioned at the beginning, but never appears to show up in either book. In fact, he doesn’t seem to materialize in any book of the Bible.

So why does Luke mention the man Theophilus in Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1? Do we see similar books being addressed to people who never show up in the narrative, or does Theophilus remain the one exception? And why don’t we know more about him? Surely he had at least a minor importance in Luke’s life if Luke decided to include him in two books of the Bible.

In this article, we’ll dive into the personhood of Theophilus, whether he makes an appearance in the Bible, why Luke addresses him, and more. 

Who Was Theophilus?

It’s difficult to glean a lot about a man from two verses alone, neither of which show much biographical information. As mentioned in this article, scholars have proposed several theories as to the personhood of Theophilus. 

We do know, from the title given to Theophilus, that he had a certain amount of power, such as those held by magistrates or governors. If this is the case, then we can assume the Gospel reached those in high positions during the persecution of the Early Church, although as pointed out in the commentary linked, not many higher-ups believed in the Gospel. 

Don’t let the flattering language fool you, Theophilus isn’t a patron of Luke, but rather a friend, or as Matthew Henry suggests, a pupil. 

Theophilus’ name means “friend of God” or “loved by God.” Overall, we cannot definitely declare the identity of Theophilus. We only explicitly see him in two verses, and those passages do not give many details about him, other than the fact he had a high rank or some sort of lofty position. 

We can assume, from Luke addressing the Gospel and Book of Acts to him, that he believed the Gospel in some part, and that he and Luke were close in some way. They may have been friends or had a teacher-pupil relationship. 

Who Is Theophilus In The Bible

The answer to this question depends entirely to which theory you ascribe to. But if we’re talking explicitly, Theophilus does not appear personally in the Bible. 

Does this mean that he didn’t play a vital role in the early church? Does this mean he didn’t believe in the Gospel? Not necessarily. Paul mentions plenty of people at the end of his Epistles who don’t make a physical appearance in narratives such as Acts. In fact, the entire book of Philemon is addressed to a man who does not show up in person in any narrative in the Bible. 

The fact he shows up in the Bible, by his actual name, conveys a great meaning. After all, the rich man who walked away sad from Jesus’ teachings never got named (Matthew 19). 

Any time someone in the New Testament provided names, they meant for the reader to go to that person for proof, because they were eyewitnesses to something. Luke, as a historian, did so with meticulous detail, especially in the Book of Acts. We have to assume he didn’t throw in Theophilus’ name precariously. 

Why Are Luke and Acts Addressed to Theophilus?

We can ask this question about many books of the New Testament that seem to be dedicated or addressed to one person or another. After all, if the Bible is God’s word, why do certain writers address certain books to particular people?

To answer this question, let’s look at some examples from Paul, and who he addresses at the end of the books he writes.

In Romans 16, he greets Phoebe, Priscilla, Aquila, Andronicus, Junia, and various others. The verses make it clear that Paul worked firsthand with many, if not all, of these people during his ministry. He mentions how some of them endured prison with him; others risked their lives for Paul. 

If we analyze the other books of Paul, we notice how he issues similar greetings to those who played a role in his ministry. Some of these are pupils to whom he passed the mantle. Others worked side by side with him.

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