Who is Theophilus?

01 Feb

Recently, I became acquainted with the blogs of Lee T. Dahn (found HERE) and Richard Anderson (found HERE). Although they do address other subjects, their blogs seem to be dedicated to the works of Luke with the identification of Theophilus, Luke’s addressee, as a key concern.

What if I were to write: “Mr. President, pertaining to the affairs of which you have been informed, I have decided that it would be in your interest to know how these things developed from the beginning…” Wouldn’t the contents of my narrative be weighted by the identity of the person to whom I am writing? Wouldn’t analogies therein also take on a meaning according to the identity of my addressee? For example, what if I was a college student writing to the president of my class or the president of a speakers club? What if I was an executive of a large commercial industry writing to the president of another large industry, wouldn’t otherwise indistinct analogies that I might place within my narrative take on a meaning different from what one would ordinarily read into my words, if I were simply writing to another college student who happens to be the president of my class or college group? What if I were writing to the President of the United States about a particular group of which I was a member? Wouldn’t’ my narrative take on even a different meaning than these others, especially when I might be speaking of analogies or indistinct parallels? So, the identity of Luke’s addressee, considering these circumstances, could be very important, and the meaning of Jesus’ different parables would take on new meaning, if Theophilus could be shown to be the High Priest who governed Judea from 37-41 CE—and the son of Annas who was so influential in the crucifixion of Jesus! Wouldn’t this be so?

I have decided to take a closer look at Theophilus’ identity and consider more closely some of those things Mr. Dahn and Mr. Anderson have discovered and written about already. I may not be able to add anything to their work, but perhaps the Lord will enable me to do so. Time will tell. I am honestly intrigued by this whole idea of Luke’s Theophilus being the High Priest and son of Annas, and I simply cannot make myself lay this idea aside for another time. All that is within me wants to know more and the proof, if it can be shown, that all this is true.

Many scholars reject the idea that Luke could be writing to Theophilus during his tenure as governor of Judea, because his second work, Acts, could not have been written before 62-63 CE. It has the internal early date limit of Paul waiting to be heard by Nero. A two decade time span between both works seems out of the question for some scholarship, but is it? Notice that Luke addresses his Gospel to “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3), but he addresses Acts to “O Theophilus” (Acts 1:1). Why is the greater respect expressed in his former work? Could it be that the Gospel narrative was addressed to Theophilus while he held the high office of his people, but Acts was addressed to him long afterwards, showing the results of his failure to heed the call of the Gospel to repent and lead his people away from the course they were on?

It seems to me, seen in this light, Luke begins with an authentic account of the life and ministry of Jesus, which generally calls for repentance and submission to the Messiah in order to save the Jewish nation from the Gospel’s internal warning that, if unheeded, the Romans would make war upon their nation and the outcome was bleak. Finally, Luke offers the book of Acts, which narrates what had occurred due to Luke’s unheeded offering to the Theophilus priesthood years earlier. By the very nature of Luke’s purpose, a considerable passage of time is demanded between both his works, sufficient enough to show how Theophilus’ family had responded, and to allow certain implied prophecies within some of Jesus’ parables to take place.

I don’t know how many posts I’ll end up offering to this subject, but I am looking forward to studying this idea and its possibilities. I hope it will also be interesting and rewarding to those who happen to run across this blog, but this I have left in the hands of Jesus, whom I seek to serve. Praise his name.


Posted by on February 1, 2010 in Religion, Textual Criticism


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6 responses to “Who is Theophilus?

  1. Eddie

    December 3, 2018 at 09:21

    Greetings Patricia, and thank you for your thoughts on the Apocalypse and for the link to the “Grace Centered Forum”. Concerning the author of Hebrews, I believe it is Paul. If we consider only the current New Covenant authors as candidates for the writer of this epistle, then, he is the only possible candidate for consideration. I read that some believe Apollos is its author, but that is a purely subjective thought. Since we have nothing of his to compare with in order to make a proper judgment, such a thing would be just a guess without foundation. The author uses the third person in Hebrews 2:3 while commenting on Jesus’ ministry and those who preached what he said and did. In other words the author didn’t know Jesus during his three and a half year ministry. Although he may have met Jesus or heard about him before his crucifixion, he was not one who followed him, as did the rest of the New Covenant authors. Paul is the only New Covenant author who fits this description. So, unless one wishes to make a pure **guess** similar to Apollos, Paul is the only author possible, unless, of course, my understanding of Hebrews 2:3 is wrong.

    Concerning Satan’s seat, I read that when I was studying the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3, but I don’t think such a record should be taken too seriously. The word **satan** simply means enemy. Is there really a spirit being called Satan? If there is, the Bible is silent about his beginning. Certainly God didn’t create such a being, so he would have had to have fallen from grace at some point in time, but the Bible is silent about such a thing ever occurring. Pagan literature, on the other hand, has many such figures, but I don’t believe such sources are worthy of consideration. Therefore, unless the Grace Forum has greater evidence of there being three different entities called ‘beasts’ in the Apocalypse, I will continue to believe there are only two.

    Lord bless you Patricia and thank you again for reading my studies.

  2. Patricia Watkins

    December 2, 2018 at 22:01

    Hi again Eddie,

    Certainly, Hebrews is a tough one to cover exhaustively. Even if you took a couple months to wrap up your classes, that still barely skims the surface of what Hebrews has to offer, doesn’t it? Have you any settled opinions on Hebrews’ authorship, by any chance? As yet I’m still in the undecided category on that point.

    I appreciate the link to your posts covering your Revelation material to date. Always a good thing to know where people’s thoughts are leading them, and I will review each of those blog posts in turn, even if you may have altered a point or two in the meantime (as we all have had to do on occasion to keep growing).

    Up to a couple years ago, it was also my understanding that there were only two Beasts in Revelation, with the Sea Beast in Rev. 13 being the same as the Rev. 17 Scarlet Beast. One critical point changed my mind though, and showed me that the Sea Beast is unquestionably NOT related to anything Judaic in origin. It is the statement found in Rev. 13:2. There it says that the Dragon (the Devil, or Satan, or the Old Serpent of Rev. 12:9) gave to the Sea Beast his own SEAT, or throne, along with great power and authority. That SEAT, or throne of the Dragon is specifically identified earlier in Rev. 2:13 as being located in the city of PERGAMOS, where Satan dwelled.

    We are never told anywhere that Satan’s throne in Pergamos was ever given to anyone from Judea or Israel. Certainly Satan’s throne in Pergamos was never given to the high priesthood (which is a main feature of the Scarlet Beast of Rev. 17). But Pergamos and the Pergamum kingdom in Asia (including the Great Alter of Zeus’ temple where Antipas was later martyred) definitely WAS given to the Roman Republic by a dying King Attalus as a bequest.

    As the last monarch of the Pergamum kingdom, King Attalus had no heir, and wished to pass his kingdom to a strong ally who would protect his kingdom from being ravaged by warring claimants for the throne’s power. This transfer over to Roman control of Satan’s SEAT or throne in Pergamos – a center for idolatry which became heavily invested in emperor worship – took place in 133 BC. This tells me that without a doubt, the Sea Beast of Rev. 13 was definitely Roman in character.

    The Sea Beast could not have been identified in any way as the Scarlet Beast of Rev. 17 since that Beast originated from the wilderness, not the “Sea” of the Gentile world’s kingdoms. Up until Rev. 21:1, (when John said there was to be “no more sea”), John continued to make a distinction between the “inhabiters of the SEA” (those living in the pagan Gentile world) and the “inhabiters of the EARTH” as in Rev. 12:12 – the “earth” being the LAND of Israel.

    Since John made a point of distinguishing between Jewish and Gentile realities in Revelation, he also repeated this difference between them in the various Beasts as well. So, if we have PLURAL “Beasts of the EARTH” mentioned in Rev. 6:8 that would participate in killing a fourth part of those in Israel, that means there has to be at least TWO Beasts connected in some way with the land of Israel that are in addition to the SEA Beast of Rev. 13 (which was connected with the Gentile world).

    That necessarily yields 3 Beasts total. Different origins = different beasts. Those lion, leopard and bear features of the Rev. 13 Sea Beast are historical reflections of the Chaldean, Medo-Persian, and Greek empire powers, subsumed into the final Roman-led Sea Beast by the time John was writing Revelation. If you are at all interested, you might eventually want to review some thoughts at this comment I made elsewhere regarding Revelation’s division into 3 Beast entities:

    Though we may continue to differ on this point, I do enjoy reading your posts for the fresh perspective you bring to the table. Lots of details that many don’t take the time to think carefully about makes for some enlightening material.

    And I will continue to check into the Theophilus as high priest angle as well. Am I correct that some of your interest in this subject is related to the connection it may have with Daniel’s 70-week prophecy chronology? More particularly the time of “rest” that all the churches had in Acts 9:31, perhaps, and how Theophilus’ AD 37-41 term in office aligned with this?

  3. Eddie

    December 2, 2018 at 06:51

    Greetings Patricia, and thank you for reading and for your interesting commentary on the beast of Revelation 17. We agree that the Annas family figures prominently in the Apocalypse, but we don’t agree in the details. Nothing is set in stone at this time as far as my understanding of these things in the Apocalypse is concerned. I have stopped my study in Revelation 16, because I had been asked to offer a Sunday school class in the study of the Epistle to the Hebrews. This requires my full attention at the present, but I hope to be back in the Apocalypse by January or February. Currently, I have studies from my class up to, but not including, Hebrews 11. I anticipate I will be finished in a month or two with this study. Currently, my class is in Hebrews 1, and we are going very slowly—lots of new material for consideration.

    At least up to the present, I have no real reason to change much of what I’ve already studied in the Apocalypse. I do, as you mentioned above, believe the book was written very early, sometime between 41 and 44 AD. I have determined this timeframe from the internal evidence of the book, as interpreted by the identities of the **two** beasts. I do believe the beast of Revelation 13 and 17 are one entity, albeit the beast of Revelation 17 has a first century emphasis, while that of chapter 13 incorporates cir. 9 centuries. Where the Annas family fits into this context has to do with the Image to the Beast in Revelation 13. If you care to read what I believe about these things, you may click on the page The Book of Revelation and read the studies listed in numbers 6 through 19.

    Lord bless you Patricia, and thank you again for stopping by to leave your comment. It is always my pleasure to ‘speak’ with you once more. Please remember, that these, my studies, are subject to change, since I am in the process of studying the Apocalypse verse by verse and chapter by chapter. Also, if your interest in Theophilus of Luke and Acts being Theophilus the high priest and son of Annas in the first century AD is peaked, you may like to read three more studies on the subject. Simply click on the page: Introduction to the Birth Narratives and click on studies numbered 9 through 11.

  4. Patricia Watkins

    December 1, 2018 at 18:19

    Hi Eddie,

    I, too, have become intrigued by this post and the subsequent studies of yours identifying Theophilus from Luke’s gospel and Acts as being the high priest Theophilus who served from AD 37-41. As you have mentioned lately, if you are planning to devote more study to the Apocalypse sometime this winter, then you should know that the list of high priests of the house of Annas figures very large in Revelation’s prophecies. If you have spent some time analyzing the history of the house of Annas and its high priests, this should be a great advantage to you.

    This identification of Luke’s Theophilus as high priest fits precisely within the description of the Revelation 17 Scarlet Beast. Thank you for contributing the Theophilus information, which adds another building block to this part of my Revelation studies. This is helpful.

    That Scarlet Beast of Rev. 17, you remember, had 7 “heads” that were angelically interpreted as being 7 geographical mountains, but they were ALSO identified as being 7 “kings”. The title of “KINGS OF THE EARTH” (on the Scarlet Beast of Rev. 17:18) is the same title Christ used to refer to the high priests of Israel in Matthew 17:25, whose agents collected the half-shekel Temple Tax, but who were “free” from paying the Temple Tax themselves – both the high priests and their sons. (These “kings of the earth” as high priests are not to be confused with the “kings of the whole world”, as both of these are mentioned separately in Rev. 16:14.)

    The 7 heads as “kings” on this Rev. 17 Scarlet Beast were the 7 high priest members of the house of Annas, with that 8th “king” / high priest being Mattathias, son of Theophilus. Remember, Rev. 17 says that FIVE of these 7 “kings” / high priests “have fallen” (in death) BEFORE John was writing Revelation. Those 5 “kings” who had died would have to be Annas, his son-in-law Caiaphas, his son Eleazar, his son Jonathan (who we know was murdered around AD 55-56), and his son Matthias.

    We are told in Rev. 17:10 that one of the 7 kings “IS” (still living – which would have to be Theophilus – NOT Nero, as is often proposed. As you have brought out, Eddie, Theophilus who is addressed in Acts 1:1 had to have lived at least until the end of Paul’s 2-year imprisonment in Acts 28:30. By the way, did that end in AD 62 or AD 64?)

    The 7th “king” / high priest had “not yet come” into power as of the time John wrote Revelation in late AD 59. (Eddie, I think I have read that you believe Revelation was written sometime in the AD 40’s, but bear with me for a bit.) This 7th “king” would be the high priest Ananus son of Annas, and when he did come into office in AD 62, he would only continue a “short space” (Rev. 17:10). This “short space” was the 3 MONTHS Ananas son of Annas held office before he was deposed for overstepping the bounds of his authority in having James the Just martyred.

    The 8th “king” / high priest, who was “OF THE SEVEN” (meaning he was in the genealogical line of Annas and his sons) was Mattathias son of Theophilus (serving from AD 65-66). He was the chosen high priest leader of the Scarlet Beast that “WAS” in power once, then “IS NOT” in power as John was writing in AD 59, but was “ABOUT TO ARISE out of the bottomless pit” and also about to go into destruction shortly thereafter (in AD 70).

    That Scarlet Beast is a picture of the re-emerging independent kingdom of Israel, once it rebelled against Rome and asserted itself as a nation that shook off its Roman governance in AD 66. That same Scarlet Beast of an independent kingdom of Israel “WAS” in power back in Maccabean times, but lost that independent power (it “IS NOT”) after Pompey made the Jews tributary to Rome in 63 BC. Israel as a sovereign nation, minting its own coinage again in AD 66 (as the Scarlet Beast), according to John’s writing in late AD 59 was “ABOUT TO ARISE” again to an existing power. That happened when the Zealots overthrew the Roman’s control by their AD 66 rebellion (the apostasia). This proves an early date for Revelation, since John undoubtedly was writing Revelation BEFORE Mattathias son of Theophilus was installed in AD 65 as high priest leader of that Scarlet Beast kingdom of Israel that appeared in the wilderness (a typical Judean landscape feature).

    And those 7 heads as “mountains” on the Scarlet Beast are simply the 7 hills around Jerusalem that the harlot Jerusalem sat upon. Not to be confused with the 7 heads on the Sea Beast, which are the 7 hills that the city of Rome was founded upon.

    Just don’t forget this one important point – there are THREE BEASTS in Revelation – not just two.

    #1) The 666-year-old Sea Beast of Rev. 13 (This beast was led by Rome at the time, but it also had lion, leopard, and bear features, which tells us that it had a conglomerate history extending all the way backward in time to Nebuchadnezzar’s empire – the lion empire of Daniel 7:4. Dates for the Sea Beast’s existence span the years between 607 BC with Daniel’s deportation to Babylon until AD 59 when John was writing Revelation. A total of 666 years, which John’s readers who were familiar with Israel’s ancient history could “calculate” with a little wisdom.)

    And next, the two “Beasts of the earth” (ge – the land of Israel), as first mentioned in Rev. 6:8.

    #2) The Judean Land Beast / false prophet of Rev. 13:11, with its deceptive-speaking, two-horned power of Sadducees and Pharisees that enforced homage to the Roman-led Sea Beast, just to insure their own continued personal prosperity.

    #3) The Scarlet Beast pictured in the Judean wilderness in Rev. 17:3, with its fluctuating state of existence for this independent kingdom nation of Israel, ever since Maccabean times.

    If one misses that scripture describes 3 separate Beasts, each with different features and activities, then the Revelation prophecies turn into a confused tangle.

  5. Smoodock

    February 1, 2010 at 20:39

    Thanks Lee, I have a few ideas, but most of it is based upon what I have already read in your blog and / or Richard’s. If it suits the Lord, perhaps I’ll run across something upon which others could build, but that’s all up to him. At least I can make the subject a little more familiar to others. With more interest, perhaps more ideas and insights would develop. In any case, I am glad to be involved in this subject, and we’ll see what develops.

    God bless,


  6. Lee

    February 1, 2010 at 18:50

    There is a great deal of research to be done on the matter, a mass of unexplored terrain. I suspect anyone highly interested in and open to the Theophilus Proposal, as it has come to be called (coined by Richard Anderson), will contribute to it. All the best to you in your efforts.


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