Richard Fellows responds
We have been exchanging emails for several years. I suggested that his response to my comments on Protective Anonymity was probably too lengthy for comments so we agreed to post it on the blog.
In the NT we see Christians frequently taking measures to avoid persecution. See Mark 11:1-6; 14:12-16 14:51-52; 14:66-72; and parallels; Matt. 10:23; John 3:1-2; 7:1-13; 9:22-23; 11:54; 19:38; 20:19; Acts 9:26; 12:17b; 20:3. While they were indeed courageous, they nevertheless took sensible precautions. It is to be expected that they would be particularly cautious not to endanger each other. While it was no doubt acceptable for a Christian to give up his own body to be burned, it would not have been acceptable for someone to expose a brother to persecution through careless words. We should therefore fully expect believers to protect the identity of fellow Christians where appropriate. We see this in the case of Joseph of Arimathea
(John 19:38) and probably Nicodemus (John 3:1-2) who were secret followers of Jesus and this must mean that Jesus and his close companions honoured their secret.
Clearly Luke hoped that Theophilus would become a believer if he was not a believer already. It is inconceivable that Luke would write anything in Luke-Acts that would endanger Theophilus, unless he knew that Theophilus accepted the risk. If Luke had addressed his books to Theophilus's real name this would have put Theophilus at risk. Written evidence that connected Theophilus to the production of Luke-Acts could be used against him by persecutors. There is no way that Theophilus would be able to ensure that the texts would not become known to false brothers or enemies, unless he kept them under lock and key and reserved them for exclusively personal use. The latter seems unlikely since did, after all, come down to us.
So, if Theophilus was a non-Christian, or sympathiser of sorts, it is hard to imagine that Luke would have used his real name. Luke would use Theophilus real name only if Theophilus was openly and courageously Christian and had given his permission. But if that were the case, why do we
not hear of him in any other context? With many others, I suspect Theophilus was a Christian and the sponsor of the publication of Luke-Acts. If that is the case, it is rather likely that he had an alias because a high proportion of Christian benefactors received new names, as I have argued on my web pages.
We cannot know whether Theophilus held this alias before or whether it is an impromptu alias that Luke invents. The meaning of the name "Theophilus", lover of God, is highly suggestive that it is indeed an alias. There only two other names of first century Christians that are constructed from the word THEO. They are Theophorus, an alternate name used by Ignatius, and Timotheos, which I strongly argue was a new name given to Titus.
"It is hard to believe that a high ranking Roman official could become a Christians and the Romans not know the person and his new identity. Furthermore, the Christian missionaries would have been citing the conversion example of ‘Theophilus’ to all their potential converts."
But I do no require that Theophilus was a Christian. Even if he was a Christian, I do not require that he has able to hide the fact (though Joseph of Arimathea did). I argue rather that Luke would have given Theophilus the choice of whether he wanted his prominence in the Christian movement to be a matter of public record.
"Secondly, there is no evidence that Theophilus is a Christian apart from the translation of the Greek word, κατηχήθης‚ as instructed."
Again, I do not require that he was a Christian. A sympathiser or potential convert would be even less happy about having his name connected with the books.
"Thirdly, there are no examples prior to the third century of a Christian bearing an honorific title."
This is evidence that the Theophilus's title is not an honorific Christian title. It is not evidence that Theophilus was not a Christian.
"Fourthly, Christians sought to become martyrs so much so that steps had to be taken to discourage it."
See my comments above.
I don't see that Joanna has a position of particular prominence, since she appears second to Mary Madgalene in both places where she is mentioned. The name Joanna was held by 3.7% of all females in