Friend of God

Luke 1:3-4

With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

In the years following Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, there was no shortage of written accounts of His time on earth. But, it appears there was a lack of order to them…at least to the organized mind of Dr. Luke. He is acknowledged as the most likely writer of this book, as well as the book of Acts. (Philemon 24; Colossians 4:14 and 2 Timothy 4:11)

Luke had two reasons for writing down his investigation of the events surrounding Jesus. He saw confusion in the circulating accounts, and he hoped to clarify what happened from the start to the end. In doing this, he wanted to convince Theophilus it was all true.

Theophilus

Our children’s pastor, Jim Cumbie, told a joke about this fellow at PNWC a few weeks ago. It went like this.

This poor fellow… the hour after he was born, his father walked in to see him for the first time. He held him, pulled the cloth back from his face, and in a gasping voice declared: “This is the awfulest baby I’ve ever seen!” Hence, he was called by his nick name to this day. “Theawfullest”

Har har. Its as good a guess as any historian has given us, because we do not know who this guy is! Here are the best theories.

  • Theo-philus is literally translated friend of God in Greek. For this reason, some believe it is a generic description for any Christian. Note: Abraham was called “theophilus” in James 2:23 because his faith was credited as righteousness.
  • Theophilus is titled with the words “most excellent;” which would be written as a title, like this: Most Excellent Theophilus…similar to Your Royal Highness King Henry. Hence, some believe Theophilus was a titled Roman Official.
  • My favorite theory is that Theophilus was a Jewish Sadducee and High Priest. Perhaps he was even the Theophilus ben Ananus mentioned as the High Priest from 37-41 by Josephus. This would make him the  brother-in-law of Ciaphus, the High Priest who sentenced Jesus. The reason I like this theory is it fits with the choice of detail Luke writes. Luke relates the stories concerning the temple, priestly activities and Sadducean beliefs, perhaps in his attempt to convince Theophilus of the truth of Jesus’ arguments to cease Sadducean persecution of Christians?

 Know for Certain

I’ve been reading Luke on repeat for a year. Partly, because I enjoy his “egalitarian” choice of stories. He rotates tales between men with Jesus and women with Jesus. And partly because of his stated reason for writing: so that I may know the certainty of the things I’ve been taught.

There comes a point in every Christian’s life, especially those raised in a Christian family, when you wonder if it’s all true? Of course, I’ve had those doubts. For me, the answer to doubting is to immerse myself in the historicity of Jesus. I thank Luke for giving that to us all.

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