Theoph'ilus (θεόφιλος, friend of God), the name of two men associated with sacred history, one of them being mentioned in the New Test. and the other by Josephus..
1. The person to whom Luke inscribes his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles (Lu 1:3; Ac 1:1). A.D. cir; 56. The important part played by Theophilus as having immediately occasioned the composition of these two books, together with the silence of Scripture concerning him, has at once stimulated conjecture, and left the field clear for it. Accordingly we meet with a considerable number and variety of theories concerning him.
r. Several commentators, especially among the fathers have been disposed to doubt the personality of Theophilus, regarding the name either as that of a fictitious person or as applicable to every Christian reader. Thus Origen (Hom. 1 in Luc.) raises the question, but does not discuss it, his object being merely practical. He says that all who are beloved of God are Theophili, and may therefore appropriate to themselves the gospel which was addressed to Theophilus. Epiphanius (Haeres. 2, 429) speaks doubtfully: εἴτ᾿ ουν τινὶ θεοφίλῳ τότε γράφων ἔλεγεν, ἣ παντὶ ἀνθρώπῳ θεὸν αγαπῶντι. Salvianus (Epist. 9 ad Salonium) apparently assumes that Theophilus had no historical existence. He justifies the composition of a work addressed Ad Ecclesiam Catholicam, under the name of Timotheus, by the example of the evangelist Luke, who addressed his gospel nominally to a particular man, but really to "the love of God" "Nam. sicut Theophili. vocabulo amor, sic Timothei honor divinitatis exprimitur." Even Theophylact, who believes in the existence of Theophilus, takes the opportunity of moralizing upon his name: καὶ πᾶς δὲ ἄνθρωπος θεοφιλής, καὶ κράτος κατὰ τῶν παθῶν ἀναδειξάμενος θεόφιλός ἐστι κράτιστος, ὃς καὶ ἄξιος τῷ ὄντι ἐστὶν ἀκούειν τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου (Argum. in Luc.). Among modern commentators, Hammond and Leclerc accept the allegorical view; Erasmlus is doubtful, but, on the whole, believes Theophilus to have had a real existence.
2. From the honorable epithet κράτιστε applied to Theophilus in Lu 1:3, compared with the use of the same epithet as applied by Claudius Lysias and Tertullus severally to Felix, and by Paul to Festus (Ac 23:26; Ac 24:3; Ac 26:25), it has been argued with much probability, but not quite conclusively, that he was a person in high official; position. Thus Theophylact (Argum. in Luc.) conjectures that he was a Roman governor, or a person of senatorial rank, grounding his conjecture expressly on the use of κράτιστε. (Ecumenius (Ad Act. Apost. 1, 1) tells us that he was a governor, but gives no authority for the assertion. The traditional connection of Luke with Antioch has disposed some to look upon Antioch as the abode of Theophilus, and possibly as the seat of his government. Bengel believes him to have been an inhabitant of Antioch, "ut veteres testantur." The belief may partly have grown out of a story in the so-called Recognitions of St. Clement (lib. 10), which represents a certain nobleman of Antioch of that name to have been converted by the preaching of Peter, and to have dedicated his own house as a church, in which, as we are told, the apostle fixed his episcopal seat. Bengel thinks that the omission of κράτιστε in Ac 1; Ac 1 proves that Luke was on more familiar terms with Theophilus than when he composed his gospel.
3. In the Syriac lexicon, extracted from the Lexicons Heptaglot of Castell, and edited by Michaelis (p. 948), the following description of Theophilus is quoted from Bar-Bahlul, a Syrian lexicographer of the 10th century: "Theophilus, primus credentium et celeberrimus apud Alexandrienses, qui cum alis AEgyptis Lucam rogabat, ut eis evangelium scriberet." In the inscription of the Gospel according to Luke in the Syriac version, we are told that it was published at Alexandria. Hence it is inferred by Hase (Bibl. Bremensis Class. ch. 4 fasc. 3, diss. 4, quoted by Michaelis, Introd. to the New Test. [ed. Marsh], vol. 3, ch. 6:§ 4) and by Bengel (Ordo Temporum [2nd ed.], p. 196) that Theophilus was, as asserted by Bar-Bahlul, a convert of Alexandria. This writer ventures to advance the startling opinion that Theophilus, if an Alexandrian, was no other than the celebrated Philo, who is said to have borne the Hebrew name of Jedidiah (ידַידיָה, i.e. θεόφιλος). It hardly seems necessary to refute this theory, as Michaelis has refuted it, by chronological arguments.
4. Alexander Morus (Ad Quaedam Loca Nov. Fced. Notae: ad Luc. i, 1) makes the rather hazardous conjecture that the Theophilus of Luke is identical With the person who is recorded by Tacitus (Annals. 2, 55) to have been condemned for fraud at Athens by the court of the Areopagus. Grotius also conjectures that he was a magistrate of Achaia baptized by Luke. The conjecture of Grotius must rest upon the assertion of Jerome (an assertion which, if it is received, renders that of Morrs possible, though certainly most improbable), namely, that Luke published his gospel in the parts of Achaia and Boeotia (Jerome, Comm. in Matthew Procem.).
5. It is obvious to suppose that Theophilus was a Christian; but a different view has been entertained. In a series of dissertations in the Bibl. Bremensis, of which Michaelis gives a resume in the section already referred to, the notion that he was not a Christian is maintained by different writers and on different grounds. Heumann, one of the contributors, assuming that he was a Roman governor, argues that he could not be a Christian, because no Christian would be likely to have such a charge entrusted to him. Another writer (Theodore Hase) believes that the Theophilus of Luke was no other than the deposed high-priest Theophilus the son of Ananus (see below). Michaelis himself is inclined to adopt this theory. He thinks that the use of the word κατηχή θης in Lu 1; Lu 4 proves that Theophilus had an imperfect acquaintance with the facts of the gospel (an argument of which bishop Marsh very properly disposes in his note upon the passage of Michaelis), and further contends, from the ἐν ἡμῖν of Lu 1:1, that he was not a member of the Christian community. He thinks it probable that the evangelist wrote his gospel during the imprisonment of Paul at Caesarea, and addressed it to Theophilus as one of the heads of the Jewish nation. According to this view, it would be regarded as a sort of historical apology for the Christian faith.
In surveying this series of conjectures, and of traditions which are nothing more than conjectures, we find it easier to determine what is to be rejected than what we are to accept. In the first place, we may safely-reject the patristic notion that Theophilus was either a fictitious person or a mere personification of Christian love. Such a personification is alien from the spirit of the New-Test. writers, and the epithet κράτιστε is a sufficient evidence of the historical existence of Theophilus. It does not, indeed, prove that he was a governor, but it makes it most probable that he was a person of high rank. His supposed connection with Antioch, Alexandria, or Achaia rests on too slender evidence either to claim acceptance or to need refutation; and the view of Hase, although endorsed by Michaelis, appears to be incontestably negatived by the Gentile complexion of the third gospel. The grounds alleged by Heumann for his hypothesis that Theophilus was not a Christian are not at all trustworthy, as consisting of two very disputable premises; for, in the first place, it is not at all evident that Theophilus was a Roman governor, and, in the second place, even if we assume that at that time no Christian would be appointed to such an office (an assumption which we can scarcely venture to make), it does not at all follow that no person in that position would become a Christian. In fact, we have an example of such a conversion in the case of Sergius Paulus (Ac 13:12). In the art. SEE LUKE, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO, reasons are given for believing that Theophilus was not a native of Palestine… not a Macedonian, nor an Athenian, nor a Cretan. But that he was a native of Italy, and perhaps an inhabitant of Rome, is probable from similar data." All that can be conjectured with any degree of safety concerning him comes to this, that he was a Gentile of rank and consideration, who came under the influence of Luke, or (not improbably) under that of Paul, at Rome, and was converted to the Christian faith. It has been observed that the Greek of Luke, which elsewhere approaches more nearly to the classical type than that of the other evangelists, is purer and more elegant in the dedication to Theophiilus than in any other part of his gospel. From all these circumstances, and especially from the fact that both the gospel and the Acts were dedicated to Theophilus-both, therefore, being written, in all probability, about the same time, and that time being Paul's imprisonment at Rome, where the latter ends-we may reasonably infer that Theophilus was one of the apostle's converts in the imperial city during the two years sojourn of Paul there, for a part, if not the most, of which Luke was his companion, and hence likely to be acquainted with, and interested in, the noble convert. SEE LUKE; SEE PAUL. Monographs in Latin have been written on Theophilus by Heumann (in the Bibl. Bremensis, 4:483). Osiander (Tüb. 1659), Stoltze (Viteb. 1693), and Schelvig (Ged. 1711).
2. A Jewish high-priest, the son of Annas or Ananus, brother-in-law to Caiaphas, SEE ANNAS; SEE CAIAPHAS, and brother and immediate successor of Jonathan. The Roman prefect Vitellius came to Jerusalem at the Passover (A.D. 37), and deposed Caiaphas, appointing Jonathan in his place. In the same year, at the feast of Pentecost, he came to Jerusalem, and deprived Jonathan of the high-priesthood, which he gave to Theophilus (Josephus, Ant. 18:4, 3; 5, 3). Theophilus was removed; from his post by Herod Agrippa I after the accession of that prince to the government of Judaea in A.D. 41, so that he must have continued in office about five years (ibid. 19:6, 2). Theophilus is not mentioned in the New Test., as no events occurred during his pontificate in which the apostles were specially involved. SEE HIGH-PRIEST.