Who is Theophilus?

Book of Luke

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

—Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)

The Gospel of Luke begins with a dedication to an individual named Theophilus. The fact that Acts is also dedicated to him is often cited as evidence that Acts was written by the some person that wrote Luke.

But who exactly was Theophilus? Daniel B. Wallace points out some indications from the text about him. For example, consider the fact that he is called “most excellent.” This could indicate that he is some sort of government official. At the same time, the very name “Theophilus” might be symbolic, seeing how the name can mean “lover of God” or “loved by God.” Wallace’s take on who Theophilus is, like others who make claims about him, is tied up with his overall interpretation of the Luke-Acts narrative.

What’s more, the phrase “concerning the things you have been taught” may or may not indicate that Theophilus was a believer. It all depends on how the underlying Greek is best understood.

I have chosen to appropriate the name “Theophilus” as my pseudonym for a number of reasons.

First, Oneness Pentecostals place a lot of weight on the Luke-Acts narrative. Like them, I want to take on the role of Luke’s Theophilus so that I can discover who God (and by extension, Jesus) is in his nature and to learn how the rest of Scripture ought to be understood.

Second, I want to be able to stick to the arguments. This is really a mantra for this website. Most arguments are true or false regardless of who is giving them. A true statement is true even if a complete scoundrel says it. In that sense, it doesn’t really matter who I am.

Third, I actually have practical reasons for writing under an alias. There are laws in America that prohibit education and occupation being denied to a person on the basis of their religion. But unfortunately bias still exists in the academy and in the workplace. To put it simply, my academic and occupational pursuits depend on my identity remaining unknown.

Am I some sort of official? Is my name purely symbolic? If you think I’m a “believer” (however you understand that term), that will depend on your overall understanding of the Luke-Acts narrative and of the rest of Scripture.