Acts 1:1

"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach"

Who was he?

Is it also possible that, since Theophilus means, "friend of God", as Richard states, that Acts is written to all believers?

  • in this case it was better to either edit this into your question or ask an entirely new question. I have edited it in for now.
    – wax eagle
    Oct 4, 2011 at 19:57
  • @waxeagle, I added it as a separate answer to get community feedback. Did you base your decision on a policy e.g. on meta? Oct 4, 2011 at 20:01
  • no, I based it on a "not an answer" flag I got.
    – wax eagle
    Oct 4, 2011 at 20:01
  • Oh, thanks. But I think it was an answer. I'm not going to make a big issue of this, but I don't think it was the right decision. Oct 4, 2011 at 20:06
  • If you want that to be an answer, you should write it up as an answer and both word and defend it as such. As you wrote it, it appears as an extension of the question.
    – Caleb
    Oct 4, 2011 at 20:48

3 Answers 3


Theophilus was the person addressed in both the Gospel of Luke and in the Acts of the Apostles (ie "Luke" and "Acts"). The identity of Theophilus is unknown. Per Wikipedia there are multiple possible options:

  1. He was a specific individual

    Theories say that it could have possibly referred to a Jewish priest, a Roman official, or a lawyer friend of Luke's.

  2. They were a group of people

    In this case, it would be addressed to a generic group of academics (since it was an honorary title, it would apply to anyone reading it--academics of the day).

  3. It was a generic person

    This idea is that Luke was writing to someone unknown to him, or just writing to a generic person so that the letter could be used for anyone and everyone.

Unfortunately, we don't really know.

What we do know, however, is that Theophilus, in the original Greek, means "friend of God", "loved by God", or "loving God". This was a common name back then, but it was also an honorary title used among the academics of the day.

Wikipedia has much more info on the subject.

  • 1
    Uh.. the sentence "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach", it implies that Theophilius is actually a book. Or am I wrong? Oct 5, 2011 at 0:33
  • 1
    @SonicTheHedgehog No, it is common in English to address someone by name in the middle of a sentence. Such as, "Now let me tell you, Bill, about the cats I saw last night."
    – a_hardin
    Oct 5, 2011 at 2:44
  • Specifically, the Greek words are theos and phileo. Theos means "God". Phileo means "love", albeit not quite as strong as Agape. (Philadelphia is from phileo (love) and adelphos (brother), so it's the city of brother love because of its name--not because the people there are extraordinarily loving to each other.
    – Narnian
    Dec 6, 2012 at 14:42

Although I am not convinced of it, I think the possibility that Theophilus was a specific Jewish high priest is worth looking at more closely. There actually was such a person listed by Josephus as a son of the former high priest Annas. This addition to having been a high priest himself, this Theophilus was the father of the high priest Mattathias, who held office just prior to the destruction of the Temple. Like the Christians, Mattathias opposed the Jewish Revolt of 66, which led to his deposition.

Assuming Theophilus was still alive at the time, he could still have been very influential, just as Annas (the father-in-law of Caiaphas) was in the time of Jesus. It would be only natural for Sadducees to look for allies in Jerusalem this time, and for Christians to take advantage of an opportunity to reduce tension with the priesthood. Thus, Luke's purpose may have been to set forth a version of the Gospel that would clarify matters for Theophilus and the Sadducean dynasty he represented. An objection to this scenario is that most scholars date Luke's writing to after the Revolt had finished; but even if so this to not mean that Theophilus could not be Luke's addressee.


It is unlikely that Theophilus is a Jew considering the fact that Luke has written both the books. Luke was a physician from Macedonian region, a gentile who learned about Christ from Paul and embraced Christianity. Jews generally despised the gentiles and it is very unlikely that a Jew would have accepted the writings of a gentile without prejudice.

If we look at the books of Luke and Acts, the logistics are heavily emphasized. Where and how people travelled. What time/season did certain events happen and so on. Fisher considering the book of acts, we can conclude that Theophilus was very interested in the life of Paul - as the majority of Acts details the line of Paul. Based on these things, it is unlikely that Theophilus is a Jew residing at Jerusalem for the following reasons:

  1. The life of Jesus was well known in Jerusalem, especially after the resurrection of Jesus. The Pentecost and the writings of Mathew made sure of it. The high priest in particular should have known the entire life of Jesus, as Jesus caused an unprecedented public reform.
  2. The life of Paul was closely followed by the rulers at Jerusalem, as they were very intent on killing Paul.

On the other hand, the gentiles would not have known the whole story of Jesus in the chronological order - considering that missionaries stayed only for a short period in each place. And they preached mainly about the death and resurrection of Christ upon which Christianity was founded. Even if much of the life and teachings of Christ has been taught, it would not have been in chronological order - hence the emphasis on chronology. Plus Theophilus seems very interested in the life of Paul along with logistics of where they traveled and when. Theophilus could have been a academician, historian and a well travelled person.

This conclusion is purely based on the intent of the books of Luke and Acts and the contents.

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