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1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. (Luke 1) [NASB]

The term κράτιστε is "used in addressing men of prominent rank or office." In his book, Paul on Trial, John H Mauck states:

"Most excellent," as a form of address, was used primarily as a title for rulers or governmental officials...1

This becomes a key point for his thesis Luke wrote what should be examined as a legal brief to a Roman official (a cognitionibus or possibly a rhetor) assigned to Paul's case. 2 Mauck's assumption is someone who is called "most excellent" must also be Roman.

The use in Acts supports understanding κράτιστε as a way Roman officials were addressed:

“Claudius Lysias, to the most excellent governor Felix, greetings. (23:26)
we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. (24:3)
But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. (26:25)

Both Felix and Festus are addressed as κράτιστε. Claudius Lysias, Tertullus, and Paul all use the same term when addressing the governor (although Tertullus and Paul omit the position).

While the office of the High Priest was prescribed by Scripture, during the period covered by Luke-Acts, this office was filled/approved by Roman authority. In this sense the legal standing of the High Priest could be considered the same as the governor: they were appointed to the position.

Can Luke's use of κράτιστε be taken as his way of acknowledging someone who held the office of High Priest?


1. John W. Mauck, Paul on Trial, Thomas Nelson, 2001, p. vii
2. Ibid., p. 27

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The question makes several statements that require further comment on the word "krastistos".

  1. That "krastistos" was used as a form of address to Roman officials of high rank is undisputed. The word occurs only 4 times in the NT - Luke 1:3 (Theophilus), Acts 23:26, 24:3 (Felix) and Acts 26:25 (Festus).
  2. However, we do NOT know if Theophilus was Theophilus ben Annas. Therefore, this is NOT "Historical fact" as the last paragraph suggests.
  3. The title "krastistos" is used for Theophilus in Luke alone and NOT in Acts. If Acts was written to defend Paul, then this lack of a title undermines the assertion.
  4. As explicitly in Acts 1:1, The Gospel of Luke is about Jesus and so cannot be a defence for Paul. If anything, the Gospel of Luke might be a legal brief to defend Jesus but this is not necessary as the condemnation was issued by Pilate. Further, Paul was tried by Nero not the high priest.
  5. There is a lot of material in Acts that is not relevant to Paul's legal defence such as the detailed description of the sea voyage (acts 27) and much of first half or two thirds of the book of Acts.

I would agree that it is possible that Luke may have helped to prepare some of the legal defence and that such material might have been included in the book of Acts, but this is unknown. Therefore, the question turns on matters about which we have no information and so is speculation.

Footnote: A casual glance at the Book of Acts suggests that its primary function was a report of the progress of the Gospel. The Book falls into six sections with each section concluding with a miniature report.

  1. Section 1: Acts 1:1 - 6:7; Church in Jerusalem. Conclusion, "The word of God increased and the disciples multiplied..."
  2. Section 2: Acts 6:8 - 9:31; Spread of Christianity in Palestine
  3. Section 3: Acts 9:32 - 12:24; Extension of Church to Antioch
  4. Section 4: Acts 12:25 - 16:5; Extension of Church into Asia Minor
  5. Section 5: Acts 16:6 - 19:20; Church spreads to Europe
  6. Section 6: Acts 19:21 - 28:31; Paul arrives in Rome and thus has spread the Word to the "world"
  • I have edited the question. To clarify, I simply used Mauck's idea to illustrate how the term assumes a Roman official vs a position filled by appointment from/by Rome. I think there is some merit to seeing a legal aspect of Luke-Acts, but not to the extent or direction Mauck goes. For example, he never considers the possibility Luke's form of address could be referring to a High Priest: this is the genesis of my question. I think Luke's failure to use the term in Acts is relevant and do not think Mauck's explanation (familiarity with Luke) is convincing. – Revelation Lad Oct 6 '18 at 2:07
  • @Revelation Lad - I agree with these comments. – user25930 Oct 6 '18 at 23:20
  • I note that the venerable BDAG makes the remark in its entry on "krastistos", that, "the social status of Luke's addressee remains undetermined." – user25930 Oct 9 '18 at 21:32

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