Luke 1:3, Most Excellent Theophilus

Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.

//With this introduction, the author of Luke’s Gospel begins his work. Many people have wondered: who is this Theophilus dude?

Well, it’s hard to know. We don’t even know who wrote Luke’s Gospel, or any of the other three for that matter. In that era of copyists and manual document propagation, an author and his manuscript very quickly became disconnected. All four of the Gospels were written anonymously, with their authorship deduced and attached in the second century.

We think Luke was written around 80-85 CE, and apparently by this time, a number of other Gospels had already been penned (the author alludes to this in verse 1:1, and purports to have researched them carefully to determine the true events of Jesus’ life). One of these others was Mark’s Gospel, since Luke shows every evidence of having read and copied large portions of Mark into his own rendition, but we don’t know what other sources Luke was drawing from. But none of this helps much in figuring out who Luke was writing to.

Luke was written in Greek, and Theophilus is a Greek name. But this also means little, not even proving that his audience was Gentile. Many Jewish people in the Greco-Roman world had Greek names, and many Jews preferred Greek. In fact, a Jew named Theophilus served as high priest in the Jerusalem Temple for four years, beginning in 37 CE.

The best we have is a stab in the dark: “Theophilus” is a Greek compound of two words: “theos,” meaning God, and “philos,” meaning love. The author of Luke may have meant to address his Gospel simply to any “lover of God.”

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