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THE CHURCHES OF MACEDONIA
(XVI 13) ON THE SABBATH DAY WE WENT FORTH WITHOUT THE GATE BY THE RIVER SIDE, WHERE THERE WAS WONT TO BE HELD A MEETING FOR PRAYER; AND WE SAT DOWN, AND SPARE UNTO THE WOMEN THAT CAME TOGETHER. (14) AND A CERTAIN WOMAN NAMED LYDIA, A SELLER OF PURPLE, OF THE CITY OF THYATIRA, A GOD-FEARING proselyte WAS A HEARER; AND THE LORD OPENED HER HEART TO GIVE HEED UNTO THE THINGS THAT WERE SPOKEN BY PAUL. (15) AND WHEN SHE WAS BAPTISED AND HER HOUSEHOLD, SHE BESOUGHT US, SAYING, “IF YE HAVE JUDGED ME TO BE. FAITHFUL TO THE LORD, COME INTO MY HOUSE AND ABIDE THERE”; AND SHE CONSTRAINED US.
The omission of the article before the word “river” (ποταμόν) is one of the touches of familiarity which show the hand of one who knew Philippi well. As we say “I’m going to town,” the Greeks omitted the article with familiar and frequently mentioned places or things. In this phrase the commentators in general seem to understand that the Greek words mean “along a river,” which is the form of expression that a complete stranger might use about a city and a river that he had only heard of.
The text of the next clause is uncertain; but we hold that the Authorised Version is right, following the inferior MSS.3434The Place of Prayer at Philippi. We take our stand upon the fact that the Bezan Text, “where there seemed to be a prayer-place” (ἐδόκει προσευχὴ εἰναι , appears to be an explanation of our text (ἐομίζετο προσευχὴ εἰναι): it is therefore clear that in the middle of the second century our text was read, and was found difficult, and was misunderstood to mean “there was thought to be a prayer-place “. This misunderstanding led to other attempts at correction, one of which appears in the great MSS. (ἐνομίζομεν προσευχη εἰναι). On the first Sabbath they went along the river-bank to the regular place where the Jews in Philippi, and those non-Jews who had been attracted to Jewish customs, were wont to meet in prayer. There seems to have been no proper synagogue, which shows that the Jewish community was very small; and in the rest of the narrative no Jew is mentioned.
Lydia, the Thyatiran woman, settled at Philippi, is an interesting person in many respects. Thyatira, like the Lydian land in general, was famous for its dyeing; and its guild of dyers is known from the inscriptions. Lydia sold the purple dyed garments from Thyatira in Philippi; and she had, no doubt, a regular connection with a firm in her native city, whose agent she was. In ancient time many kinds of garments were woven in their perfect shape; and there was much less cutting and sewing of cloth than at the present day. Lydia, of course, sold also the less expensive kinds of garments; but she takes her trade-name from the finest class of her wares, indicating that she was a first-class dealer. She must have possessed a considerable amount of capital to trade in such articles. As her husband is not mentioned, and she was a householder, she was probably a widow; and she may be taken as an ordinary example of the freedom with which women lived and worked both in Asia Minor and in Macedonia.
Lydia had probably become addicted to Jewish religious practices in her native city. There had been a Jewish colony planted in Thyatira, which had exercised considerable influence on the city; and a hybrid sort of worship had been developed, half Jewish, half pagan, which is called in Revelation II 20, “the woman Jezebel”.3535See Schürer in Abhandlungen Weizsäcker gewidmet, p. 39.
It is not to be inferred that Lydia and her household were baptised on the first Sabbath. A certain interval must be admitted in v. 14, which shows Luke’s looseness about time. Lydia was present on the first Sabbath, and became a regular hearer; and finally her entire household came over with her.
2. THE VENTRILOQUIST.
(XVI 16) AND IT CAME TO PASS, AS WE WERE GOING TO THE PLACE OF PRAYER, THAT A CERTAIN SLAVE-GIRL, POSSESSED OF A SPIRIT PYTHON, i.e., a ventriloquist, MET US, WHICH BROUGHT HER MASTERS MUCH GAIN BY SOOTHSAYING. (17) THE SAME, FOLLOWING AFTER PAUL AND US, KEPT CRYING OUT SAYING, “THESE MEN ARE THE SLAVES OF THE GOD THE HIGHEST, WHICH ANNOUNCE TO YOU THE WAY OF SAFETY “. (18) AND THIS SHE DID FOR MANY DAYS. BUT PAUL, BEING SORE TROUBLED, TURNED AND SAID TO THE SPIRIT, “I CHARGE THEE IN THE NAME OF JESUS THE ANOINTED TO GO OUT FROM HER”; AND IT WENT OUT THAT VERY MOMENT.
The idea was universally entertained that ventriloquism was due to superhuman influence, and implied the power of foretelling the future. The girl herself believed this; and in her belief lay her power. Her words need not be taken as a witness to Christianity. “God the Highest” was a wide-spread pagan expression, and “salvation” was the object of many vows and prayers to that and other gods. We need not ask too curiously what was her motive in thus calling out at Paul’s company. In such a case there is no distinct motive; for it is a poor and false view, and one that shows utter incapacity to gauge human nature, that the girl was a mere impostor. That her mind became distorted and diseased by her belief in her supernatural possession, is certain; but it became thereby all the more acute in certain perceptions and intuitions. With her sensitive nature, she became at once alive to the moral influence, which the intense faith by which the strangers were possessed gave them, and she must say what she felt without any definite idea of result therefrom; for the immediate utterance of her intuitions was the secret of her power. She saw in Paul what the populace at Pisidian Antioch saw in Thekla, “a devotee, bound by some unusual conditions, an inspired servant of ‘the God,’ who differed from the usual type” of “God-driven” devotees.
When Paul turned on her, and ordered the spirit to come forth from her in the name of his Master, the girl, who had been assiduously declaring that Paul and his companions were God-possessed, and fully believed it, was utterly disconcerted, and lost her faith in herself and with it her power. When next she tried to speak as she had formerly done, she was unable to do so; and in a few days it became apparent that she had lost her power. Along with her power, her hold on the superstitions of the populace disappeared; and people ceased to come to her to have their fortunes read, to get help in finding things they had lost, and so on. Thus the comfortable income that she had earned for her owners was lost; and these, knowing who had done the mischief, sought revenge. This was by no means a rare motive for the outbreak of persecution against the Church in later time; and at this stage, when Christianity was an unknown religion, it was only through its interference with the profits of any individual or any class (p. 277) that it was likely to arouse opposition among the pagans.
3. ACCUSATION AND CONDEMNATION IN PHILIPPI.
(XVI 19) BUT, WHEN HER MASTERS SAW THAT THEIR HOPE OF GAIN HAD DEPARTED, THEY SEIZED PAUL AND SILAS [AND DRAGGED THEM INTO THE AGORA BEFORE THE MAGISTRATES], (20) [AND BRINGING THEM TO THE PRESENCE OF THE PRÆTORS], THEY SAID, “THESE MEN DO EXCEEDINGLY DISTURB OUR CITY, JEWS AS THEY ARE, (21) AND RECOMMEND CUSTOMS, WHICH IT IS ILLEGAL FOR US TO RECEIVE OR TO OBSERVE, AS WE ARE ROMANS”. (22) AND THE POPULACE ROSE IN A BODY AGAINST THEM; AND THE PRÆTORS, RENDING THEIR GARMENTS in horror, BADE the lictors BEAT THEM, (23) AND WHEN THEY HAD LAID MANY STRIPES ON THEM, THEY CAST THEM INTO PRISON, CHARGING THE JAILOR TO KEEP THEM SAFELY: (24) AND HE HAVING RECEIVED SUCH A CHARGE, CAST THEM INTO THE INNER PRISON, AND MADE THEIR FEET FAST IN THE STOCKS.
It is hardly possible that vv. 19, 20 have the final form that the writer would have given them. The expression halts between the Greek form and the Latin, between the ordinary Greek term for the supreme board of magistrates in any city (ἄρχοντες), and the popular Latin designation (στρατηγοί, prætores), as if the author had not quite made up his mind which he should employ. Either of the clauses bracketed is sufficient in itself; and it is hardly possible that a writer, whose expression is so concise, should have intended to leave in his text two clauses which say exactly the same thing.
The title Prætors was not technically accurate, but was frequently employed as a courtesy title for the supreme magistrates of a Roman colony; and, as usual, Luke moves on the plane of educated conversation in such matters, and not on the plane of rigid technical accuracy. He writes as the scene was enacted.
It is impossible and unnecessary to determine whether the slave-girl’s owners were actually Roman citizens. They speak here as representatives of the general population. The actual coloni planted here by Augustus when he rounded the colony, were probably far outnumbered by the Greek population (incolæ); and it is clear that in the colonies of the Eastern provinces, any Italian coloni soon melted into the mass of the population, and lost most of their distinctive character, and probably forgot even their language. The exact legal relation of the native Greek population to the Roman coloni is uncertain; but it is certain that the former occupied some kind of intermediate position between ordinary provincials and Romans or Latins (when the colony was a Latin colony like Antioch). These colonies were one of the means whereby Rome sought to introduce the Roman spirit and feeling into the provinces, to romanise them; and the accusation lodged against Paul, with the whole scene that followed, are a proof, in this vivid photographic picture, that the population prided themselves on their Roman character and actually called themselves Romans, as they called their magistrates Prætors.
Paul on other occasions claimed his right of citizen ship; why not here? It is evident that the Prætors made a great to-do over this case: they regarded it as a case of treason, or, as it was termed in Greek, “impiety” (ἀσέβεια), rent their clothes in loyal horror, with the fussy, consequential airs that Horace satirises in the would-be Prætor of a country town (Sat. I 5, 34): the fabric of the Empire was shaken to its foundations by this disgraceful conduct of the accused persons; but the Prætors of Philippi stood firm, and the populace rose as one man, like true Romans, to defend their country against her insidious enemies. In such a scene what chance was there that Paul’s protest should be listened to? Perhaps it was made and not listened to, since the whole proceedings were so disorderly and irregular.
The first person ceases at this point; the author was not arrested, and therefore could not speak in the first person of what happened in the prison. He did not accompany Paul further; but remained at Philippi as his headquarters, till Paul returned there, XX 6, when the first person is resumed. It is only natural to understand that he was left in Philippi, because of his obvious suitability for the work of evangelising that city; and his success was so striking that his “praise in the preaching of the good news was through all the Churches,” II Cor. VIII 18 (a passage which is understood by early tradition as referring to Luke). At the same time it is clear that he had not been a householder in Philippi previously, for he went with Paul to enjoy Lydia’s hospitality.
4. THE PRISON AND THE EARTHQUAKE.
(XVI 25) BUT ABOUT MIDNIGHT PAUL AND SILAS WERE PRAYING AND SINGING HYMNS UNTO GOD, AND THE PRISONERS WERE LISTENING TO THEM; (26) AND SUDDENLY THERE WAS A GREAT EARTHQUAKE, SO THAT THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE PRISON-HOUSE WERE SHAKEN; AND IMMEDIATELY ALL THE DOORS WERE OPENED; AND EVERY ONE’S FETTERS WERE SHAKEN OUT. (27) AND THE JAILOR, BEING ROUSED FROM SLEEP, AND SEEING THE PRISON-DOORS OPEN, DREW HIS SWORD, AND WAS ABOUT TO KILL HIMSELF, CONSIDERING THAT THE PRISONERS HAD ESCAPED. (28) BUT PAUL CRIED OUT WITH A LOUD VOICE, “DO THYSELF NO HARM, FOR WE ARE ALL HERE ”. (29) AND CALLING FOR LIGHTS, HE RAN HASTILY IN, AND TREMBLING FOR FEAR THREW HIMSELF BEFORE PAUL AND SILAS, (30) AND BROUGHT THEM OUT [WHEN HE HAD MADE THE REST FAST], AND SAID, “SIRS! WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?” (31) AND THEY SAID, “BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS, AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED, THOU AND THY HOUSE”. (32) AND THEY SPAKE THE WORD OF THE LORD TO HIM, WITH ALL THAT WERE IN HIS HOUSE. (33) AND HE TOOK THEM AT THAT HOUR OF THE NIGHT AND WASHED THEM OF THEIR STRIPES; AND WAS BAPTISED, HE AND ALL HIS IMMEDIATELY. (34) AND HE BROUGHT THEM UP INTO HIS HOUSE, AND SET MEAT BEFORE THEM, AND REJOICED GREATLY, WITH ALL HIS HOUSE, HAVING CONCEIVED FAITH IN GOD.
There are several difficulties which occur to every one on first reading this passage. (1) The opening of the doors and the undoing of the bonds by the earthquake seem incredible to one who thinks of doors like those in our prisons and of handcuffed prisoners. But any one that has seen a Turkish prison will not wonder that the doors were thrown open: each door was merely closed by a bar, and the earthquake, as it passed along the ground, forced the door posts apart from each other, so that the bar slipped from its hold, and the door swung open. The prisoners were fastened to the wall or in wooden stocks, v. 24; and the chains and stocks were detached from the wall, which was shaken so that spaces gaped between the stones. In the great earthquakes of 1880 at Smyrna, and 1881 at Scio, I had the opportunity of seeing and hearing of the strangely capricious action of an earthquake, which behaves sometimes like a playful, good-natured sprite, when it spares its full terrors.
(2) Why did not the prisoners run away when their fetters were loosed? The question is natural to those who are familiar with the northern races, and their self-centred tenacity of purpose and presence of mind. An earthquake strikes panic into the semi-oriental mob in the Ægean lands; and it seems to me quite natural that the prisoners made no dash for safety when the opportunity was afforded them. Moreover, they were still only partially free; and they had only a moment for action. The jailor was also roused by the earthquake, and came to the outer door; he was perhaps a soldier, or at least had something of Roman discipline, giving him presence of mind; his call for lights brought the body of diogmitai or other class of police who helped to guard the prisoners; and the opportunity was lost.
(3) It was midnight, and the jailor had to call for lights: how could Paul from the inner prison see that the jailor was going to kill himself? We must understand that the inner prison was a small cell, which had no window and no opening, except into the outer and larger prison, and that the outer prison, also, had one larger door in the opposite wall; then, if there were any faint starlight in the sky, still more if the moon were up, a person in the outer doorway would be distinguishable to one whose eyes were accustomed to the darkness, but the jailor would see only black darkness in the prison.
The jailor was responsible with his life for the safety of his prisoners; and, concluding from the sight of the open door that they had managed to set themselves free, and open the door, and escape, he preferred death by his own hand, to exposure, disgrace, and a dishonourable death.
The Bezan Text preserves in v. 30 a little detail, which is so suggestive of the orderly well-disciplined character of the jailor, that we are prompted to accept it as genuine. The jailor first attended to his proper work, and secured all his prisoners; and thereafter he attended to Paul and Silas, and brought them forth. It seems highly improbable that a Christian in later time would insert the gloss that the jailor looked after his prisoners before he cared for his salvation; it is more in the spirit of a later age to be offended with the statement that the jailor did so, and to cut it out. In his subsequent action to Paul and Silas, the jailor was not acting illegally. He was responsible for producing his prisoners when called for; but it was left to himself to keep them as he thought best.
5. RELEASE AND DEPARTURE FROM PHILIPPI.
(XVI 35) AND WHEN DAY WAS COME THE PRÆTORS SENT THE LICTORS, WITH THE MESSAGE to the jailor: “LET THOSE MEN GO”. (36) AND THE JAILOR REPORTED THE MESSAGE TO PAUL THAT “THE PRÆTORS HAVE SENT orders THAT YOU BE SET FREE. NOW, THEREFORE, GO FORTH AND TAKE YOUR WAY IN PEACE]” (37) BUT PAUL SAID UNTO THEM: “THEY FLOGGED US IN PUBLIC without investigation, ROMAN CITIZENS AS WE ARE, AND CAST US INTO PRISON; AND NOW DO THEY TURN US OUT SECRETLY? NOT SO; BUT LET THEM COME IN PERSON AND BRING US OUT.” (38) AND THE LICTORS REPORTED TO THE PRÆTORS THESE WORDS; AND THEY WERE TERRIFIED ON HEARING THAT “THEY ARE ROMAN CITIZENS”; (39) AND THEY WENT AND BESOUGHT THEM, AND BROUGHT THEM OUT, AND ASKED THEM TO GO AWAY FROM THE CITY. (40) AND THEY WENT OUT FROM THE PRISON AND ENTERED INTO LYDIA’S HOUSE; AND THEY SAW AND EXHORTED THE BRETHREN, AND WENT AWAY.
The sudden change of attitude on the part of the Prætors is remarkable. One day they sent the prisoners for careful custody: the next morning they send to release them. The Bezan Reviser felt the inconsequence, and inserts an explanation: “And when day was come the Prætors [assembled together in the agora, and remembering the earthquake that had taken place, they were afraid, and] sent the lictors”. But, though this is modelled on Luke’s language (cp. I 15, etc.), it is hardly in his style of narrative. It is more characteristic of him to give no explanation, but simply to tell the facts. Perhaps the earthquake had roused their superstitious fears on account of the irregular and arbitrary proceedings of yesterday. Perhaps they felt some misgivings about their action. if we are right in thinking that Paul and Silas had appealed vainly to their rights as Romans.
Whatever be the reason, there can be no mistake as to Luke’s intention to bring out the contrast (1) between the orders sent to the jailor in the morning, and the charge given to him at night; (2) between the humble apology of the Prætors in the morning, and their haughty action on the previous day; (3) between the real fact, that the Prætors had trampled on Roman order and right, and their fussy pretense of vindicating the majesty of Rome. And so the same Prætors who had ordered them to be beaten and imprisoned now begged them to go away from the city. In the Bezan Text the request of the Prætors is put at greater length, and with obvious truth: “the magistrates, being afraid lest there should be another conspiracy against Paul, and distrusting their own ability to keep order, said, ‘Go forth from this city, lest they, again make a riot and inveigh loudly against you to us’ ”. The weakness of municipal government in the cities of the Ægean lands was always a danger to order; and the Bezan Text hits off admirably the situation, and brings out with much skill the naive desire of the magistrates to avoid an unpleasant ease by inducing the innocent and weaker parties to submit to injustice and withdraw from the city. One would gladly think this Lukan.
In v. 37 the rendering (A.V. and R.V.) “uncondemned” does not fairly represent Paul’s meaning, for it suggests that it would have been allowable for the Prætors to condemn Paul after fair trial to be flogged. But the Prætors could not in any circumstances order him to be flogged; in fact, formal trial would only aggravate their crime, as making it more deliberate. The crime might be palliated by pleading that it was done in ignorance: and Paul would naturally cut away the plea by saying that they had made no attempt to investigate the facts. Yet the Greek is clear, and can only be translated “uncondemned”. A parallel case occurs XXII 25, where Paul asks the centurion: “is it lawful for you to flog a man that is a Roman citizen, and him uncondemned?” Here there is the same false implication that the act would be aggravated by being done without the proper formal condemnation.
Yet Paul, as a Roman citizen, must have known his rights; and it seems clear that he could not have used the exact words which Luke reports. Now, when we consider the facts, we see that it must be so. No civis Romanus would claim his rights in Greek; the very idea is ludicrous. Paul claimed them in the Roman tongue; and we may fairly understand that the officials of a Roman colony were expected to understand Latin; for the official language even of far less important colonies in Asia Minor was Latin. The phrase which Paul used was most probably re incognita, “without investigating our case”. Luke, however, had the true Greek inability to sympathise with the delicacies of Roman usage, and. translates the Latin by a term, which would in some circumstances be a fair representative, but not here, nor in XXII 25.
The whole residence of Paul at Philippi seems to have been short: it is defined by Luke as being “for certain days,” and apparently not much seems to have been accomplished before the incident of the ventriloquist and the resulting imprisonment. If the party was at Troas in October A.D. 50, they probably left Philippi before the end of the year. It seems probable from v. 40 that there were some other Christians besides those in Lydia’s house. It is, however, remarkable that Luke makes no explicit reference to any other converts.
Doubtless, before Paul left, the question was discussed what should be his next centre; and Thessalonica was suggested, probably on account of its Jewish settlers, whose synagogue offered a good opening for work. The directions which were given the travellers at starting were to make their way along the Roman road through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica (XVII 1, where διοδεύσαντες is the verb, ὁδός denoting the Roman road).
(XVII 1) AND THEY WENT ALONG THE Roman ROAD THROUGH AMPHIPOLIS AND APOLLONIA, AND CAME TO THESSALONICA, WHERE WAS A SYNAGOGUE OF THE JEWS. (2) AND, AS WAS CUSTOMARY WITH PAUL, HE WENT IN TO ADDRESS THEM, AND FOR THREE SABBATHS HE REASONED WITH THEM FROM THE SCRIPTURES, (3) OPENING THEIR MEANING, AND QUOTING TO PROVE THAT IT WAS PROPER THAT THE ANOINTED ONE SHOULD SUFFER AND RISE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD, AND THAT “THE ANOINTED ONE IS THIS man, THE very JESUS WHOM I AM PROCLAIMING TO YOU”. (4) AND SOME OF THEM WERE PERSUADED; AND THERE WERE IN ADDITION GATHERED TO PAUL AND SILAS MANY OF THE GOD-FEARING proselytes, AND A GREAT MULTITUDE OF THE GREEKS, AND OF THE LEADING WOMEN NOT A FEW.3636In v. 4 καὶ τινες ἐξ αὐτῶν ἐπείσθησαν. καὶ προσεκληρώθησαν τῷ Παύλῳ καὶ Σιλᾳ πολλοὶ τῶν σεβομένων. καὶ ελλήνων πλῆθος πολύ. γυναικῶν τε τῶν πρώτων οὐκ ὀλίγαι, approximating to the Bezan Text, and to that of the inferior MSS. followed in the Authorized Version.
This passage is full of difficulty both in text and in interpretation. Our text, agreeing with many MSS. and Versions, recognises three classes of hearers besides the Jews; whereas the Approved Text, resting on the great MSS., unites the “God-fearing” and “the Greeks” into the single class “God-fearing Greeks”. In this case many reasons combine to show the error of the latter reading, and the falseness of the principle that has led Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and others to set almost boundless confidence in those MSS.3737The true reading of XVII 4 results from a comparison of A with D. The reading of the great MSS. is impossible for these reasons: (1) It restricts Paul’s converts to Jews. proselyte Greeks, and a few ladies, taking no notice of any work outside the circle of the synagogue. I Thess. gives the impression that converts direct from heathenism were the mass of the Church. (2) It restricts Paul’s work to three Sabbaths, which is opposed to all rational probability, to Thess. and to Phil.; whereas our text restricts the work within the circle of the synagogue to three Sabbaths, but adds a second stage much more important, when a great multitude of the general population of the city was affected. (3) The contrast drawn between the Jews of Berea and of Thessalonica, v. 11, is very unfair to the latter, if, as the great MSS. put it, three Sabbaths produced such vast effect within the circle of the synagogue. (4) That reading speaks of “a great multitude of God-fearing Greeks,” implying that the synagogue had exercised an astonishing influence on the population. Lightfoot quotes the fact that Salonica is still mainly a Jewish city, as a proof that Judaism gained and kept a strong hold on the city throughout Christian history; but a visit to Salonica would have saved him from this error. The Jews of Salonica speak Spanish as their language, and are descended from Spanish Jews, expelled by Ferdinand and Isabella, who found in Turkey a refuge denied or grudged them in most European countries. There is no reason known to me for thinking that Judaism was strong in the city under the Byzantine Empire; and the strong antipathy of the Greeks to the Jews makes it improbable. The Thessalonian Jews were protected by the Roman government; but one may doubt if they maintained their ground under the Christian Empire.
In v. 4 Paul goes on to a wider sphere of influence than the circle of the synagogue; and a lapse of time is implied in the extension of his work over the general population of the city (called here by the strictly correct term, Hellenes). Between the two opposite groups, the Jews and the Hellenes, there is interposed the intermediate class of God-fearing proselytes; and there is added as a climax a group of noble ladies of the city. In Macedonia, as in Asia Minor, women occupied a much freer and more influential position than in Athens; and it is in conformity with the known facts that such prominence is assigned to them in the three Macedonian cities.
In this journey a more pointed distinction than before between the short period of synagogue work, and the longer period of general work, may be noticed. The three Sabbaths of v. 2 must be taken as the entire period of work within the circle of the synagogue; and the precise statement of time may also be taken as an indication that the usual quarrel with the Jews took place earlier at Thessalonica than in former cases.
That a considerable time was spent in the wider work is proved both by its success, and by the language of I Thess. I, II, which cannot reasonably refer only to work in the synagogue or to a short missionary work among the general population. Paul clearly refers to a long and very successful work in Thessalonica. His eagerness to return, and his chafing at the ingenious obstacle preventing him, are explained by his success: he was always eager to take advantage of a good opening. Further Paul mentions that the Philippians, IV 16, “sent once and again unto my need in Thessalonica”. It is reasonable to think that some interval elapsed between the gifts (especially as Paul had to work to maintain himself, I Thess. II 9). Dec. 50–May 51 seems a probable estimate of the residence in Thessalonica.
7. THE RIOT AT THESSALONICA.
(XVII 5) AND THE JEWS BECAME JEALOUS; AND WITH SOME WORTHLESS ASSOCIATES OF THE LOWER ORDERS THEY GATHERED A MOB AND MADE A RIOT; AND, ASSAULTING THE HOUSE OF JASON, THEY SOUGHT TO BRING Paul and Silas BEFORE A PUBLIC MEETING. (6) AND WHEN THEY FOUND THEM NOT, THEY BEGAN TO DRAG JASON AND CERTAIN BRETHREN BEFORE THE POLITARCHS, SHOUTING, “THESE THAT HAVE TURNED THE CIVILISED WORLD UPSIDE DOWN HAVE COME HITHER ALSO, (7) AND JASON HATH RECEIVED THEM; AND THE WHOLE OF THEM ARE VIOLATING THE IMPERIAL LAWS, ASSERTING THAT THERE IS ANOTHER EMPEROR, JESUS”. (8) AND THEY TROUBLED THE PEOPLE AND THE POLITARCHS, WHO HEARD THIS. (9) AND THE POLITARCHS TOOK SECURITIES FOR GOOD BEHAVIOUR FROM JASON AND THE OTHERS, AND LET THEM GO.
The curious and rare title “politarchs” was given to the supreme board of magistrates at Thessalonica, as is proved by inscriptions.
The description of this riot is more detailed than any of the preceding. The lower classes, the least educated, and the most enslaved to paganism on its vulgarest and most superstitious side, were the most fanatical opponents of the new teaching; while the politarchs were by no means inclined to take active measures against it, and the better educated people seem to have supplied most of the converts. Men of all classes were impressed by the preaching of Paul, but only women of the leading families; and the difference is obviously due to the fact that the poorer women were most likely to be under the sway of superstition. A similar distinction is mentioned at Berea (XVII 12), where not a few of the high-born Greek ladies and of the male population in general were attracted by the new teaching.
It would appear that this riot was more serious than the words of Luke would at first sight suggest. The language of Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians, II 14-16, shows that a powerful, dangerous, and lasting sentiment was roused among the classes which made the riot.
The charge brought against Paul was subtly conceived and most dangerous. The very suggestion of treason against the Emperors often proved fatal to the accused; and it compelled the politarchs to take steps, for, if they failed to do so, they became exposed to a charge of treason, as having taken too little care for the honour of the Emperor. Many a man was ruined by such a charge under the earlier Emperors.
The step taken by the politarchs was the mildest that was prudent in the circumstances: they bound the accused over in security that peace should be kept. This was a penalty familiar in Roman law, from which it must have been adopted in the ordinary practice of provincial towns like Thessalonica.
Paul evidently felt very deeply his sudden and premature separation from the Church of Thessalonica: it was at once so promising and so inexperienced, that he was unusually eager to return to it; and as he says, “we endeavoured the more exceedingly to see your face with great desire; because we would fain have come to you, I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us”. What is the meaning of the strange expression, “Satan hindered us”? How did Paul, who was so eager to go back to Thessalonica, find an insurmountable obstacle in his way? Was it mere personal danger that prevented him, or was it some more subtle device of Satanic craft that kept him out of Thessalonica?
It is not in keeping with Paul’s language to interpret “Satan” in this case as the mob, which had brought him into danger and was still enraged against him. He alludes by a very different metaphor to the opposition which he often. experienced from the vulgar, uneducated, and grossly superstitious city populace. In I Cor. XV 32 he describes his relations with the Ephesian mob as “fighting with beasts”. This term is an interesting mixture of Greek and Roman ideas, and corresponds well to Paul’s mixed education, as a Roman citizen in a Greek philosopher’s lecture-room. In the lecture room he became familiar with the Platonic comparison of the mob to a dangerous beast; and amid the surroundings of the Roman Empire he became familiar with the death-struggle of criminals against the wild beasts of the circus. But a person who designates the mob in this contemptuous way, uses the term “Satan” only of some more subtle and dangerous enemy, far harder to overcome.
Now, security against any disturbance of the peace had been exacted from Jason and his associates, the leading Christians of Thessalonica; and clearly this implied that they were bound over to prevent the cause of disturbance, Paul, from coming to Thessalonica. This ingenious device put an impassable chasm between Paul and the Thessalonians (ἐνέκοψεν is the strong term used). So long as the magistrates maintained this attitude, he could not return: he was helpless, and Satan had power. His only hope lay in an alteration of the magistrates’ policy. They would not be long in power; and perhaps their successors might act differently. But the politarchs doubtless thought that they treated the case mildly and yet effectually; they got rid of the cause, without inflicting any punishment on any person. This interpretation of the term “Satan,” as denoting action taken by the governing power against the message from God, is in keeping with the figurative use of the word throughout the New Testament.
(XVII 10) AND THE BRETHREN IMMEDIATELY SENT AWAY PAUL AND SILAS BY NIGHT UNTO BEREA; AND WHEN THEY WERE COME HITHER THEY WENT INTO THE SYNAGOGUE OF THE JEWS. (11) NOW THESE WERE MORE NOBLE THAN THOSE IN THESSALONICA, IN THAT THEY RECEIVED THE WORD WITH ALL READINESS OF MIND, EXAMINING THE SCRIPTURES DAILY WHETHER THESE THINGS WERE SO. (12) MANY OF THEM THEREFORE BELIEVED; AS DID ALSO NOT A FEW OF THE HIGH-BORN GREEK LADIES AND OF THE MALE POPULATION. (13) BUT WHEN THE JEWS OF THESSALONICA LEARNED THAT IN BEREA ALSO THE WORD OF GOD WAS PREACHED BY PAUL, THEY CAME THERE ALSO EXCITING AND DISTURBING THE MULTITUDES. (14) THEN FORTHWITH PAUL WAS SENT FORTH BY THE BRETHREN TO GO TOWARDS THE SEA; BUT SILAS AND TIMOTHY REMAINED THERE. (15) AND THEY THAT CONDUCTED PAUL BROUGHT HIM AS FAR AS ATHENS; AND RECEIVING DIRECTIONS FOR SILAS AND TIMOTHY THAT THEY SHOULD COME TO HIM WITH ALL SPEED, THEY DEPARTED.
Here, just as at Thessalonica, a wider influence than the circle of the synagogue is distinctly implied, so that we must understand that Paul preached also to the Greek population. The nobler conduct of the Berean Jews consisted in their freedom from that jealousy, which made the Jews in Thessalonica and many other places enraged when the offer of salvation was made as freely to others as to themselves.
The process that compelled Paul’s departure from Berea was evidently quite similar to that at Thessalonica; and probably that is the reason why the riot and the accusation of treason against the Emperor are not mentioned more particularly (p. 72). As usual, we notice how lightly Luke passes over the difficulties and dangers which drove Paul from place to place.
In v. 15 we must understand that Silas and Timothy obeyed the directions, and came on to rejoin Paul. There is no point in mentioning such an order, unless it were obeyed. It is in the style of Luke to mention an intention and leave the reader to gather that it was carried into effect (p. 181). Moreover, we learn from I Thess. III 1 that Timothy was sent by Paul away from Athens to Thessalonica, which implies that he rejoined him. It is undeniable that the statement in XVIII 5, “when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia,” seems at first sight to imply that they arrived from Berea only after Paul had left Athens, and followed him on to Corinth, and met him there for the first time since his departure from Berea. But the calculation of time shows that that could hardly be the case: it would not take nearly so long to perform the journey, and we shall see that Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul in Corinth after a mission from Athens to Thessalonica and Philippi (p. 241). In that case the narrative is very awkward and badly constructed; and we can hardly suppose that it has received the final touches from the author’s hand. It is not unnatural that the Philippian author, writing about facts with which he and his nearest audience were specially familiar, and making his narrative as brief as possible, should have omitted to mention the mission from Athens to Macedonia. But it is probable that, if he had lived to put the finishing touch to his work, he would not have left this awkwardness. Another possible indication of incompleteness is the emission of the harbour of Berea, a unique omission in this history (p. 70).
The question naturally occurs, why did Paul go on from Berea alone, leaving Silas and Timothy behind, and yet send orders immediately on reaching Athens that they were to join him with all speed? There seems at first sight some inconsistency here. But again comparison between Acts and Thess. solves the difficulty. Paul was eager “once and again” to return to Thessalonica; and was waiting for news that the impediment placed in his way was removed. Silas and Timothy remained to receive the news (perhaps about the attitude of new magistrates); and to bring it on to Paul. But they could not bring it on to him until they received his message from Athens; Paul left Berea with no fixed plan, “sent forth by the brethren to go to the coast,” and the further journey to Athens was resolved on at the harbour.
We must allow several months for the residence at Berea, with the preaching in the synagogue and the city, and the riot. Paul must have reached Athens some time in August 51, as is shown by the dates of his residence in Corinth (p. 264).
There is an interesting addition made to the Bezan Text of v. 15: “and they which conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; [and he neglected Thessalia, for he was prevented from preaching the word unto them]”. Here we meet a difficult question in provincial bounds. Where should Paul go from Beroea? The one thing clear to him was that he was called to Macedonia. If Thessaly was part of that province,3838Ptolemy gives Thessaly to Macedonia, Strabo to Achaia (for we cannot accept Mommsen’s interpretation of Strab. p. 276): at some unknown time Thessaly was separated from Achaia (Brandis thinks by Pius, Marquardt by Vespasian, but perhaps 44 may have been the time). Larissa was the natural completion of his Macedonian work; and we could readily believe that he thought of it and was prevented by a revelation. But, in that case, why is “the revelation” left out? Such an omission is unique in Acts. On the other hand, if Thessaly was part of Achaia, Paul could not think at that time of beginning work in a new province. In Athens he was merely waiting for the chance of returning to Thessalonica (p. 240). But, in that case, we might understand, “he was prevented (by the call restricting him to Macedonia)”. Perhaps the Reviser, having eliminated παρῆλθεν from XVI 8, thought that XVII 15 was a suitable place for the idea, which he wished to preserve.
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