Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Age of Theophilus and date of publication of Luke

Jens Bjernemose has left a new comment on your post "The Significance of Mocking": 

How early do you date Luke, if you think he can address the grandfather of someone healed in the 30'es? Even at the very best that would put Theophilus close to 100. 

Age of Theophilus and Date of Publication of the Gospel of Luke

There are several undisputed facts. With one exception, the high priests named in the New Testament are members of the Family of Annas. Bauckham said: “It is noteworthy that in every known case action against the Jerusalem church or its leaders was taken when the reigning high priest was one of those who belonged to the powerful Sadducean family of Annas (Ananus).”

Annas served as High Priest from 6 to 15 CE and five of his sons and one famous son-in-law, beginning with Eleazar served over the next fifty years: Eleazar, 16-17 CE; Caiaphas, 18-37 CE; Jonathan, 3 or 5 months in 37 CE; Theophilus, 37-41 CE; Matthias, Ant. 19:316, 342; and Ananus, short time in 62 CE, Ant. 20:223. A grandson of Annas served as the next to the last High Priest: Matthias, son of Theophilus, 65-67, Ant. 20:223. 

Josephus records the death of Jonathan by Sicarii (AJ 20:162–66)and notes just prior to the incident when James was killed during the time when Ananus, son of Ananus, was High Priest that Annas, the H.P. was a remarkable man having five sons who served as High Priest, AJ 20.197. Thus Annas the father of Theophilus was alive in 62 C.E. and Theophilus was still alive when his son served as High Priest in 65-67. Josephus provides the details of the family of Annas but did not normally report the death of a high priest unless he died in office. Josephus mentions the tomb of Annas (Bellum 5.506) suggesting Ananus died shortly before the beginning of the war with Rome.

Wealthy people lived longer in the first century than the average peasants as illustrated by the family of Annas. The marriages in the family of Herod were arranged for political convenience and this was also true for the high priestly families. Herod the Great, who is the daughter of a Nabatean princess, arranged the marriage of Herod Antipas to Phasaelis, a Nabathean princess, daughter of Aretas IV. [Herod arranged marriages, see AJ. 17.14-18] Annas or Caiaphas probably arranged the marriage of Joanna to Chuza, steward of Herod Antipas. This places a member of the most important high priestly family in the court of Herod Antipas. Since Chuza is a documented Nabatean name, Chuza was probably the person in the Nabatean court responsible for the personal safety and well being of the Nabatean princess and the princess, or more likely her father, arranged for Chuza to be the chief steward of her husband’s estate as part of the marriage arrangement. Chuza and the Princess returned home to Nabatea when the Princess discovered she was about to be divorced [26 C.E.). Herod Antipas divorced his wife and married one of his relatives. John the Baptist lost his head for criticizing the remarriage [AJ. 18.109-124; see also Lk. 3:19-20; 9:7] but the year of the death of John is unknown. Josephus reports that the King Aretas IV (reigned 9 BCE to 40 CE) of Nabatea successfully waged war (date not clear from Josephus) against Herod Antipas. AJ 18.116-119. Aretas probably waited for an opportune time to attack Antipas. The followers of John claimed the war was retribution against Herod Antipas for killing John the Baptist.

Against his complicated background, Joanna becomes a follower of Jesus. As part of the arranged marriage a ketubbah had been provided for double the normal value ensuring only a well to do person would marry the daughter of a high priestly family. The ketubbah was the personal property of Johanna and provided insurance in event of divorce or death.

The marriage of Joanna was probably arranged when she was 12 years old or even earlier. The marriages of the sons of the high priest were probably arranged before they were 14 years of age. By the time Theophilus is 28 years old, he is a grandfather. If Joanna is 18 when she becomes a follower of Jesus, Theophilus would be 46 and about 53 years old when he becomes High Priest. 

What we know today as the Gospel of Luke was addressed to most excellent Theophilus when he was High Priest; when Acts is published in the early sixties, Theophilus is addressed without the title, most excellent, indicating he is no longer high priest.

These estimates of age are based upon information about Jewish marriages practices contained in the writings of Tal Ilan. All ages of Johanna and Theophilus are estimates, in this proposal designed solely to demonstrate the plausibility of Johanna being the granddaughter of Theophilus

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Blogger Richard H. Anderson said...


sorry I deleted your comment;
What we know today as the Gospel of Luke was addressed to most excellent Theophilus when he was High Priest; when Acts is published in the early sixties, Theophilus is addressed without the title, most excellent, indicating he is no longer high priest.

9:15 AM

Blogger Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

I see I logged in under the wrong name. Ooops.

Anyway, I see where we don't agree. On what do you base the date of Acts in the 60'es? That's where we get our fifty year difference in the age of Theophilus.

That is not to say that Luke can't have addressed his work to a person in the past as a literary fiction. I don't recall seeing that as one of the solutions to the question of Theophilus' identity, but it would be interesting to consider, I suppose.

12:07 PM

Blogger Richard Anderson said...

I agree with the analysis of J.A.T Robinson, Redating the NT (1967)

6:04 PM

Blogger Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

I see.

I'm afraid that's one of the few fringe views, I don't subscribe to.

2:51 PM


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