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Theophilus - Info (B)

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1.                 It is my theory that everything written in Luke/Acts was relevant in some way to Theophilus.  It is also my theory that he was Roman official, trained as a jurist, charged by the emperor, perhaps Vespasian, with the task of investigating the Christian movement to determine if it was a threat to the empire as there were such charges being made.  The story is being told from the viewpoint of a Roman of rank investigating the Jesus movement.  Theophilus will have to be supplied with a vita of his early life, Roman name, family background, place of origin and his task for the empire.

2.                 The results of his investigation on Jesus of Nazareth is the report of the Roman Centurion, “Certainly, this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47).  Caesar’s representative had spoken.

3.                 The results of his investigation of Paul is noted in Acts 28:17 and 21.  Paul was the chief suspect to be investigated because he traversed a major part of the empire and was himself a Roman citizen.  Peter and the other leaders could be dismissed more easily since they did not encounter the notoriety of Paul.  The investigation of Paul would determine if the Jesus movement was a threat to the empire.

The “local leaders of the Jews” in Rome told Paul, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken anything evil against you.”

4.                 Events in Jerusalem prevented the charges being sent.  The high priest Annanus ordered the execution of James by stoning in the year 62.  This stirred up a strong protest for James was regarded for his holiness towards the law.  The Jews in Jerusalem petitioned the Roman governor in Judea to depose Annanus from his office.  Rome had no interest in prosecuting the case of a discredited high priest against a citizen of Rome.  Paul was now no longer under the task of raising money for the poor of Jerusalem as the Jesus Movement had its connections broken with the temple authorities.  Roman law was severe on unsuccessful prosecutors.

5.                 Paul was in a house prison for two years “at his own expense.”  At the end of which he was released, as Roman law required that a discharged prisoner after two years (v. 30) was to go free, when no charges were brought against him.  During that time, “Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier who was guarding him.”

6.                 During these two years he “welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

7.                 During this time he expounded further on his epistle to the church in Rome and the people listed in Romans 16 supplied his needs and become his special congregation.  The congregation (s) was probably organized by Jewish “visitors from Rome” on Pentecost (Acts 2:10).

8.                 After his release Paul, ministered for a time to the congregations in Rome.  After six months, went to Spain to encourage the church there.

9.                 He was arrested upon his return to Rome after Nero torched the city, blaming the Christians.  Paul returned there to support the Christians when he himself, along with Peter.  They were arrested and executed.  During this time, Peter and Paul were reconciled from their earlier differences.  The record of their execution would be of special interest to Theophilus.

10.            Theophilus was satisfied that there was no threat from the Christians to the empire, but the results of his investigation were disregarded by the ruling powers.  He was expelled from Rome and retired to Thracia.  He continued to examine some of Paul’s writings in exile and became associated with the group called “God-Fearers.”  We never learn whether or not he became a believer and was baptized.  There is no evidence that he became a Christian or would have been interested in doing so.  His was an investigative task.


11.            Theophilus employed “Luke” to gather information for him on Jesus and his movement.  He wanted information on the leaders, both in Jerusalem and in the empire.  He found Luke through contacts with Christian leaders in the church at Rome.  He wanted “an orderly account” “to know the truth about” which he had been “instructed,” i. e. informed.  He had to infiltrate the group to get his information.  He wanted a thorough report going back to the beginnings of the Jesus movement.  Luke first provided him the gospel account.  Then he wanted “Acts” to complete the investigation.  He was especially interested in Paul since he was a native of Tarsus and a Roman citizen.

12.            Theophilus examined the previous trials of Paul before Roman magistrates and discovered that in each instance he was found not to be guilty.

13.            Theophilus acted as a patron to have Luke’s report copied (published)for congregations.

14.            Seneca, the Younger: (4 B. C – A. D. 65).  Older brother Gallio, met St. Paul in Achaea in A. D.  52.  Seneca was the son of Lucius Annaeus Seneca (55- B. C. – A. D.  39, who admired Cicero’s writing style.  Born in Cordoba, Spain.  First of the Spanish thinkers, had powerful influence there.  Understood the problems of the Roman world.  Became powerful in Roman government in 54 B. C.   Influenced by Stoicism and the asceticism of Neo-Pythagoreanism.  Ordered to commit suicide by Nero, having been party to the conspiracy of Piso.  Also condoned the murder of Agrippino, Nero’s mother.  Tutor to Nero (reigned A. D.  54-68).

15.            Junius Gallio (5 B. C. – A. D.  65), older brother of Seneca the Younger, born in Cordoba, Spain.  Roman official who dismissed the charges by the Jews against the Apostle Paul (Acts 18:12-17).  Became Counsel in A. D.  55.  Assumed the name Gallio after his adoption by the senator Junius Gallio.

16.            Cordoba, Spain, historical provincial capitol.  Flourished in the Roman period, declined under the Visigoths (6th –early 8th centuries).

17.            A reason why only Peter and Paul are hi-lited in Acts is that is what would concern Theophilus.  They were the two apostles executed in Rome in 65.  Were they a threat to the empire?  To him, the other apostles were incidental and of no special interest.


1.                 ICC (Plummer):

The epithet kratistos, often give to persons of rank is strongly in favour of that view that Theophilus was a real person.  The name Theophilus was common both among Jews (=Jedidiah) and among Gentiles … to represent any pious reader.

2.                 “I – Josephus, son of Matthias, a Hebrew by race, a native of Jerusalem and a priest …propose to provide the subjects of the Roman Empire with a narrative of the facts.”  (Hellenistic Commentary on the New Testament, p. 182).

3.                 The Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 8

“His designation ‘most excellent,’ may mark him as a member of the equestrian order (the second-highest order in Roman society), or it may be a courtesy title.”  So also FF Bruce.

“One could regard him as a representative of the intelligent middle-class public of Rome.”

“Rome is the most likely place for the first publication of the work.”

4.       Eerdman’s Commentary on the Bible, p.1104)

“The author does not categorize this book as a ‘Gospel’ but as a ‘narrative’ (diegesis), which others have already attempted.

“Luke claims to write more ‘fully’ (akribos) than his predecessors.”

“Tradition identified the writer as Luke, Paul’s companion (Philemon 24).”  This means that Luke’s account was meant to be in story form and not a proclamation or originally written for congregations.

5.          Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, p. 1298.

“… Theophilus is highly respected in society, possibly a man of considerable financial means who helped fund the publication of Luke’s writings.  It is also possible that ‘most excellent’ alludes to a official position he holds within the Roman government.”

“The author of Luke-Acts wants to make sure that Theophilus has an accurate and orderly historical account of the events surrounding the ministry of Jesus and the emerging Church.”

6.          The Equestrian Order

From, “eques” (Latin: “horseman”), plural “equites,” in ancient Rome, a knight, originally a member of the cavalry and later a political and administrative class.

By the 1st century BC, the foreign cavalry tended to replace them restricting them to posts as officers or members of the general’s staff.  Distinct from senators … legally free to enter the field of commerce and finance … contracts to supply army … collect taxes … exploiting public lands, mines and quarries.  Became a third political group together with the optimates and populares.  Formed companies.  Qualifications were free birth, good health and character and sufficient wealth.  Became imperial agents in the financial administration of the provinces.  (Britannica, IV, 533).

6.       Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 B. C)

Rome’s greatest statesman was a member of the Equestrian Order.

7.     “kratos” – bodily strength, power, might.  “krateo” -  to be strong, to rule, prevail.  “Kratistos” – strongest, mightiest, noblest, most excellent (a title of honor and respect).



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