Question: "Who was Aeneas in the Bible?"
Answer: Aeneas was a man living in the town of Lydda, situated on the coastal plain about 22 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Aeneas had suffered from paralysis for eight years until Simon Peter came to town. Acts 9:32–35 gives the account: “As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. ‘Aeneas,’ Peter said to him, ‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.’ Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.”
The name Aeneas is Greek and may imply that the man was either a Gentile or a Hellenistic Jew, that is, one who spoke Greek and had adopted Greek customs. In all the accounts of healings done by Jesus and the apostles, only a few times is the name of the healed person mentioned. So it may be significant that Aeneas is mentioned by name even though his story comprises only four verses.
There are several possible reasons for the mention of Aeneas’s name. Some scholars speculate that Aeneas’s name was significant in that this event prepared Peter to accept what God was about to reveal to him in a vision. As a law-keeping Jew, Peter had difficulty accepting that God’s salvation was for everyone—Greeks and Hellenized Jews included—not just for Israel or those who kept the Mosaic Law. Aeneas was most likely a believer, since Acts 9:32 says that Peter had come to Lydda to visit those who followed Jesus. By recognizing that Jesus wanted to heal this non-traditional Jew or possibly a Gentile, Peter was better prepared for the vision Jesus would soon give him in nearby Joppa at the home of Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43; Acts 10).
Another reason for Aeneas to be mentioned by name could be that the results of his healing were quite impactful. Not only was a paralyzed man healed, but Acts 9:35 says that “all those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” That’s a spectacular outcome! The evangelism of two villages would have been a source of encouragement for the first-century church suffering persecution and rejection. It seems Aeneas was well-known both as the paralyzed believer and as the healed believer. Using his name may have simply been due to the fact that many of Luke’s original readers knew who Aeneas was.
Also consider that, since Aeneas’s name was given in the narrative, the story could be independently verified and proved reliable. The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are the two parts of Luke’s writing. In the prologue to his gospel, Luke explains that he had “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” and then “decided to write an orderly account” so that his readers “may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3–4). This account of Aeneas’s healing could be easily affirmed or denied by Aeneas and all the residents of Lydda and Sharon. Their testimony could serve as helpful evidence to shore up anyone’s faith.
God used Aeneas to demonstrate His power to people who did not know Him. The miraculous healing Aeneas experienced also validated for the townspeople Peter’s claim to be an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12). Aeneas’s story reminds us that no one is too insignificant to be used in a mighty way by God. Aeneas may have lain on his mat for eight years believing he could do nothing for the Lord. But God chose him to be the catalyst for bringing his whole region to faith in Christ. If God could use a paralyzed man like Aeneas to accomplish much, He can use each of us, too.