The Gospel begins: Luke 1:1-4
The author to Theophilus: Many writers have undertaken to draw up an account of the events that have happened among us, following the traditions handed down to us by the original eyewitnesses and servants of the Gospel. And so I in my turn, your Excellency, as one who has gone over the whole course of these events in detail, have decided to write a connected narrative for you, so as to give you authentic knowledge about the matters of which you have been informed.
Translation from the New English Bible (1961)
Theophilus: Who was he? *
Thoughts: on reading Luke’s Gospel
Since the late first century, when this Gospel was written, Christians have believed that Luke was a physician and Paul’s companion on his missionary journeys around the Mediterranean (see Acts 16:11f and Colossians 4:14). And, from the first century to our present day, many have believed that this Gospel is the best “life of Christ” ever written.
Luke wrote this Gospel and the Book of Acts as a single work. In terms of the sheer number of words written, Luke’s work dominates the New Testament. In terms of literary beauty and the power of story, this Gospel is first in our hearts.
Luke wrote his gospel in Greek, addressing it to a man named Θεοφιλος (Theophilus). The Greek name Θεοφιλος meant “friend of god”, derived from θεος (theos, god) and φιλος (philos, friend). Theophilus was both a common name and an honorary title among learned Romans and Jews in the first century CE. Over the centuries there have been many conjectures about who Luke’s Theophilus was, but no one knows his true identity.