I’m Theophilus

That great unexplained issue in Luke’s writing. Who was Theophilus?

Was he a real person?  If so, why don’t we hear about him elsewhere? No Theophilus in the lists of Paul’s posse in any of the Epistles. No mention at all.  I don’t know of any Theophili in the martyrologies, although I’m sure Archimandrite Simon will, if I’m wrong, put me right. He normally does.

So, Theophilus is a real guy, he’s well-connected enough to have had two books addressed to him – and he’s the only person in history to have received a Gospel, personally-addressed, in the post.

Or, alternatively, he’s a literary conceit. He’s the Biblical equivalent of Burton Dasset’s “Dear Readers” – which is a real conceit, Burton having anyone dear or any readers.

But if that’s right, then Luke means someone quite surprising, and oddly challenging. Because if ‘Theophilus” is, literally, the “God-lover” who reads his books – well, that’s me, isn’t it? Rather cheekily,  he co-opts us all. If you read Luke or Acts, you’re a God-lover whether you mean to be or not – he’s given you a new name, and expects you to live up to it.

I hope, thinking about it, that Theophilus was a real bloke. I’m not sure I could cope with the responsibility.


One thought on “I’m Theophilus

  1. The trouble with Martyrologies is that they are local; unless you know where to look as well as when it is difficult to pin anyone down. While there are plenty of ss Theophili none fit the bill; if I had to choose a real person as the addressee I’d probably go foe the Jewish High Priest of that name mentioned in Josephus.
    I am inclined toward the ‘conceit’. Luke is fond of identifying a target for a narrative in order to subtly put across his message – cf the Gospel for this past Sunday in the Extraordinary Form (Luke 18:9-14 ‘ I thank God that I am not like that Pharisee over there..)


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