Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

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.

You wrote:

"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.

You wrote:

"Secondly, there is no evidence that Theophilus is a Christian apart from the translation of the Greek word, κατηχθης‚ 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.

You wrote:

"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.

You wrote:

"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 Palestine so it is not significant that the name appears on the same ossuary as a Theophilus.

Richard Fellows

Copyrighted 2007


Blogger LTD said...

Richard Fellows makes some interesting points regarding name changes. Might I add a slight modification to the placement of Johanna in Luke's Gospel? I have argued in the past that Johanna does not merely sit 'second' to Mary Magdalene in Luke's Gospel; on the contrary, Luke has given her a unique place of prominence: the crux of a chiastic structure in the most important pericope in his Gospel, the resurrection account of Luke 24:

A They remembered his words (rhematon).

B Having returned from the tomb, they reported all these things (tauta panta)

C to the Eleven

D and to all the rest/others (loipois).

E Now there were Mary Magdalene

F and Johanna

E' and Mary the mother of James

D' and the others (loipai) with them.

C' They were telling the Apostles

B' these things (tauta).

A' But these words (rhemata tauta) seeemed nonsense to them, and they did not believe them.

I believe RHA has addressed the issue on this blog. Might this construction suggest that Johanna has a more prominent place in Luke's story to Theophilus than merely 'second' chair to Mary Magdalene?

Lee Dahn

6:55 PM

Blogger Richard Fellows said...

I can't write with much authority on these matters as it has been a while since I read Richard Anderson's thoughts on Johanna. However, at first glance I don't see much weight to the argument that Johanna was prominent. Chiastic structures are very hard to identify. Even if Luke 24:10 is the centre of such a structure I see no reason to divide it into E,F,E' as Lee has done. Why not just asign the whole verse to E? Furthermore, it is surely the role of these three, including Johanna, as witnesses that Luke highlights. There is no reason to suppose that their importance is related to another function, such as a family relationship with Theophilus. If Joanna was important it was because she was an eyewitness (see Bauckham's book), not because she was related to Theophilus. Lastly, names were nearly always listed in the order of prominence and I very much doubt that this norm would be over-ruled by a chiasm. It is no coincidence that in every list of more than two names of Christians in the NT, the first person in the list seems to have received a new name. (The only exception is John 19:25 where the women are listed in the order of the prominence of their male relatives). New names were given to the most prominent believers to honour them and/or to give them the protection that the alias afforded.
Luke 8:3 also places Joanna second in the list and I see no evidence of a chiastic structure here. Furthermore, she is identified be her relationship to Herod's steward, and this would be a strange way of introducing the grand-daughter of the addressee of the book!

Richard F.

11:05 PM

Blogger LTD said...

Richard Fellows,

I appreciate the interaction. Excellent observations. However, statements such as, "If Joanna was important it was because she was an eyewitness (see Bauckham's book), not because she was related to Theophilus" seem projected from a bias against my suggested reading. You suppose that if there were a relationship between Johanna and Theophilus, that element would take a backseat to her being an eyewitness. What if BOTH of these elements were true? Would it not be in Luke's best interest to make mention of her for both reasons: she is an eyewitness AND (or BECAUSE she's) a close relative of his reader?

I separate verse 10 into EFE' because everything else around that verse creates a kind of chiasm, which you yourself accept in your willingness to see the whole of verse 10 as the crux. Well, if the whole of verse 10 works as the crux, why not break it down further to Mary, Johanna, Mary (EFE')? I can see no reason why a further breakdown would be illegitimate - save a bias against it from the outset. In other words, if the whole of verse 10 works as the crux, I see no good justification for refusing a further breakdown.

As for Johanna's presence in 8.3: 1) If Johanna is as prominent a name as you suggest (I read Richard A's folowing posts), then Luke's mention of Chuza is simply a confirmation of which Johanna he means. 2) Mary has always been considered a prominent figure inthe Jesus story. Given your suggestion that Luke lists individuals in order of prominence, it still makes good sense that Johanna falls second in 8.3, especially since Mary's identity was obviously more easily accepted in large (a 'given', according to the other stories consulted by Luke [as in Mt and Mk]) and Johanna's identification, which apparently was not so well-known (considering her omition in the other version of the Jesus story). It would hardly be expected, that if Luke were to identify a relative of Theophilus,he would say "your granddaughter Johanna". Thus, Luke's identification marker of Chuza makes good sense.

I am obviously an amateur student of the text of Luke-Acts. Nonetheless, I cannot see why the data precludes my suggested reading.

Lee Dahn

3:23 PM


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