Acts 1:1; Luke, the Cultural Gospel

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach

//Bible scholars agree that a single author—we know him as Luke—wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Nowhere is this made more clear than in the opening verse of both books. Both are addressed to Theophilus, and Acts specifically refers to a “former” treatise, which could only be the Gospel of Luke.

We don’t know who Theophilus was, or even whether it was a person’s name, rather than an honorary title. Some argue that he was a Roman official. Dedications such as the opening of Luke’s Gospel were a Hellenistic literary convention, meant to elevate the writing to the cultural level of its patron. Indeed, Luke presents himself as a well-informed, cultured person. He makes reference to Queen Candace of Ethiopia and the philosophical curiosity of the Athenians.

We don’t know who wrote this Gospel, yet even critical scholars admit the possibility that it’s the “Luke” mentioned occasionally in the New Testament. Paul refers to a Luke in Colossians, describing him as a physician. It’s not a stretch that this is the man, given his cultural awareness and Hellenistic conventions.

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