YOUR EXCELLENCY THEOPHILUS (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

The name Theophilus means lover of God or friend of God in Greek. We have his name in the two books of the New Testament written by evangelist Luke : the Gospel according to Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. Theophilus is also addressed as Your Excellency by Luke in his Gospel.

The name of Theophilus is mentioned right at the beginning of both in Lukes Gospel and in the Acts. Dear Theophilus: Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us (Lk 1, 1). Dear Theophilus: In my first book I wrote about all the things that Jesus did and taught from the time he began his work (Acts 1, 1).

We have no other information about Theophilus in the New Testament. But Luke addresses Theophilus as Your Excellency. And so, your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning (Lk 1, 3). From this address of Luke and from the purpose of Lukes writing, the biblical scholars express different views about Theophilus. Some say that he is a Gentile, a Roman Official of some rank. Others say that he is a converted Christian of some reputation and stature, and he is also keenly interested to know the life and message of Jesus as well as the life of the first followers of Jesus.

Theophilus must have asked Luke for information about Jesus knowing him as one closely associated with the first disciples of Jesus and well informed about the life and message of Jesus. Luke assures Theophilus that he is well qualified and competent on his subject. And so, your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all there matters (that is, whatever materials were written about Jesus life and teaching) from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you (Lk 1, 3).

The following sentence of Luke is very significant in understanding Theophilus. Luke writes, I do this so that you will know the full truth about everything which you have been taught (Lk 1, 4).

So Luke is writing for Theophilus about things which has been taught to him earlier. This indicates that Theophilus must have been a converted Christian, probably a high ranking Roman official. Luke uses the words Your Excellency only to refer to two Roman governors: Felix and Festus (Acts 24, 2 & Acts 26, 20).

The whole content of Lukes Gospel would also support this view. Luke does not put the primary responsibility for the execution of Jesus on the Romans but on the Jews. Then, according to Luke, Jesus is not portrayed as a criminal against the Roman State. As Ronald Brownrigg says, Luke presents Jesus as a Jew with a message of world-wide interest and significance, yet misunderstood and convicted by his own people, despite the efforts of the Roman authorities in power to free Jesus (Whos Who the New Testament, p. 269).

Perhaps, after reading Lukes Gospel, Theophilus must have asked further information about the developments after Jesus death and resurrection and Luke must have been encourage to write the Acts and present it to Theophilus. Anyway, both Lukes Gospel and the Acts are written in such a way that they would appeal to Romans irrespective that they are Gentiles or converted Christians. (contact the author: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

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ફાધર વર્ગીસ પોલ, એસ.જે.
(ડિરેક્ટર, સી.આઈ.એસ.એસ.)


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