Theophilus ben Ananus

Theophilus (Hebrew: תפלוס בר חנן)[1] was the High Priest in the Second Temple in Jerusalem from 37 to 41 CE according to Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews.[2] He was a member of one of the wealthiest and most influential Jewish families in Iudaea Province during the 1st century. A growing but still uncommon belief[3] points to this person as the person to whom the Gospel of Luke is addressed, but Theophilus is a common enough name that there are many other possibilities for the addressee of Luke's Gospel and Acts.[4]

Theophilus was the son of Ananus (Hebrew: חנן) and the brother of Eleazar, Jonathan, Matthias and Ananus, all of whom served as High Priests. He was also the brother-in-law of Joseph Caiaphas, the High Priest before whom Jesus of Nazareth appeared. In addition, his son Matthias served as the next to the last High Priest before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans.

Archeological evidence confirming the existence of Theophilus, as an ossuary has been discovered bearing the inscription, "Johanna granddaughter of Theophilus, the High Priest".[5] The details of this ossuary have been published in the Israel Exploration Journal. Therefore, Theophilus had at least one other son named Jonathan, father to Johanna. The name Johanna appears twice in the New Testament in the Gospel of Luke. First as one of women healed by Jesus who travels with Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem. Her second appearance also in the Gospel of Luke is on Easter Sunday when she and other women visits the empty tomb. It is uncertain, however, whether the Johanna in the Gospel of Luke is the same Johanna as the one mentioned on the ossuary. According to Richard Bauckham, Johanna was "the fifth most popular woman's name in Jewish Palestine,"[6] and the Johanna of the Gospel of Luke was likely from Galilee, not from Jerusalem.[7]

See also


  1. Spelling based on an ossuary inscription discovered in Israel in 1984. See: Flusser, David (1986). "The Ossuary of Yehoḥanah Granddaughter of the High Priest Theophilus". Israel Exploration Journal. 36 (1/2): 39–44. JSTOR 27926007. (registration required (help)).
  2. Josephus, Antiquities§ 2
  3. The earliest known person to suggest that most excellent Theophilus was none other than the High Priest was probably Theodore Hase who contributed a short article to Bibliotheca Bremensissome time prior to 1802 when this contribution is mentioned in the Introduction to the New Testament, tr. and augmented with notes by Johann David Michaelis and Herbert Marsh. David L. Allen, Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (2010); Richard H. Anderson, Who are Theophilus and Johanna? The Irony of the Intended Audience (2010); "Theophilus: A Proposal," Evangelical Quarterly 69:3 (1997) 195-215; "The Cross and Atonement from Luke to Hebrews," Evangelical Quarterly 71:2 (1999), 127-149; "Luke and the Parable of the Wicked Tenants," The Journal of Biblical Studies, January–March 2001, Vol. 1, No. 1; "A la recherche de Theophile," Dossiers d'Archeolgie, December 2 – January 3; Josep Rius-Camps, Jenny Read-Heimerdinger, The message of Acts in Codex Bezae: a comparison with the Alexandrian tradition, Volume 4, (2009) 3-4 and prior volumes
  4. Robert F. O'Toole, "Theophilus," Anchor Bible Dictionary 6:511-512
  5. D. Barag and D. Flusser, "The Ossuary of Yehohanah Granddaughter of the High Priest Theophilus", Israel Exploration Journal, 36 (1986), 39-44.
  6. Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 143
  7. Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 144.
Jewish titles
Preceded by
Jonathan ben Ananus
High Priest of Israel
Succeeded by
Simon Cantatheras ben Boethus
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