|« Prev||Chapter XI. Athens and Corinth.||Next »|
ATHENS AND CORINTH
(XVII 16) NOW WHILE PAUL WAS WAITING FOR THEM IN ATHENS, HIS SOUL WAS PROVOKED WITHIN HIM AS HE BEHELD THE CITY FULL OF IDOLS. (17) SO HE REASONED IN THE SYNAGOGUE WITH THE JEWS AND THE PROSELYTES, AND IN THE MARKETPLACE EVERY DAY WITH CHANCE COMERS. . . . (23) “AS I WENT THROUGH THE CITY SURVEYING THE MONUMENTS OF YOUR RELIGION, I FOUND ALSO AN ALTAR WITH THIS INSCRIPTION ‘TO UNKNOWN GOD’.”
The picture of Paul in Athens, which is given in the ensuing scene, is very characteristic of Athenian life. Luke places before us the man who became “all things to all men,” and who therefore in Athens made himself like an Athenian and adopted the regular Socratic style of general free discussion in the agora; and he shows him to us in an atmosphere and a light which are thoroughly Attic in their clearness, delicacy, and charm.
It is evident from v. 23, and our conception of Paul’s character forces the same view on us, that he was not indifferent even to the “sights” of the great university city of the world, which united in itself so many memorials of history and of education. The feelings which would rise in the mind of an American scholar from Harvard, seeing Oxford for the first time, were not alien to Paul’s spirit The mere Jew could never have assumed the Attic tone as Paul did. He was in Athens the student of a great university, visiting an older but yet a kindred university, surveying it with appreciative admiration, and mixing in its society as an equal conversing with men of like education.
This extraordinary versatility in Paul’s character, the unequaled freedom and ease with which he moved in every society, and addressed so many races within the Roman world, were evidently appreciated by the man who wrote this narrative, for the rest of Chapter XVII is as different in tone from XIII as Athens is different from Phrygia. Only a writer who was in perfect sympathy with his subject could adapt his tone to it so perfectly as Luke does. In Ephesus Paul taught “in the school of Tyrannus”; in the city of Socrates he discussed moral questions in the market-place. How incongruous it would seem if the methods were transposed! But the narrative never makes a false step amid all the many details, as the scene changes from city to city; and that is the conclusive proof that it is a picture of real life.
Athens in Paul’s time was no longer the Athens of Socrates; but the Socratic method had its roots in the soil of Attica and the nature of the Athenian people. In Athens Socrates can never quite die, and his spirit was in Paul’s time still among the people, though the learned lecturers of the university felt already the coming spirit of Herodes Atticus more congenial to them. Among the people in the agora, then, Paul reasoned in the Socratic fashion; but when the Professors came upon the scene, they soon demanded of him a display in the style of the rhetorician.
As Paul wandered through Athens, the interest in its monuments and its university was soon overpowered by the indignation roused by the idols with which it was crowded. In this centre of the world’s education, amid the lecture-rooms where philosophers had taught for centuries that it was mere superstition to confuse the idol with the divine nature which it represented, the idols were probably in greater numbers than anywhere else in Paul’s experience. Though he was only waiting for the message to go back to Thessalonica, and resume the work in Macedonia to which he had been called, yet indignation would not let him keep silence during the short stay which he anticipated in Athens. He began to discourse in the synagogue, and to hold Socratic dialogue in the agora with any one whom he met.
Here we observe the same double mission as in Berea, Thessalonica, and elsewhere; and, as in other cases, the Jewish mission is mentioned first. There is one marked difference between this passage and the corresponding descriptions at Berea and Thessalonica. In those cases great results were attained; but in Athens no converts are mentioned at this stage, either in the synagogue or in the agora. The lack of results at this stage is, however, fully explained by the shortness of the time. Paul’s stay in Athens can hardly have been longer than six weeks, and was probably less than four; and the process described in v. 17 was brought to a premature close by the great event of his visit, which the historian describes very fully.
The time spent in Athens may be deduced approximately from the following considerations. Probably less than a fortnight elapsed before Silas and Timothy joined him there, according to his urgent directions. They brought with them no favourable news: it was still impossible for him to return to Thessalonica, and he “thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy to comfort the Thessalonians concerning their faith” (I Thess. III 1, 2).
Since Paul remained alone, Silas also must have been sent away from Athens; and as, some two months later, Silas with Timothy rejoined Paul from Macedonia, he was probably sent to Philippi, for frequent communication was maintained at this time between Paul and his first European Church (Phil. IV 15 f.).
Paul was still looking forward to a return to his proper work in Macedonia; and it is clear that he intended to remain in Athens until Silas and Timothy came back from their mission, which makes it probable that their absence was not intended to be a long one. Doubtless they travelled to Thessalonica together, and Timothy waited there while Silas went to Philippi, discharged his mission, and returned; and then they came to Athens together. They found Paul no longer there, for he had in the meantime gone to Corinth. Circumstances that happened in Athens had forced him to abandon the city and go to Corinth: “after this he departed from Athens and came to Corinth” (XVIII 1). In this sentence it might seem that the words “departed from Athens” are wasted; and that it would have been sufficient to say after this he came to Corinth”; but our principle is that every minute fact stated in Acts has its own significance, and the departure from Athens (χωρισθεὶς ἐκ τῶν Ἀθηνῶν is emphasised, because it was a violation of the intended plan under the compulsion of events.
The same word is used in XVIII 1 to describe Paul’s departure from Athens, and in 2 to describe Aquila’s enforced departure from Rome. On our view (p. 252) the idea of sudden, premature departure is contained in each. Further, it is clear that Paul had been in Corinth for some time and attained a certain measure of success, before Silas and Timothy arrived; and, if we allow seven weeks for their mission, which seems ample, he must have spent altogether about three or four weeks in Athens and five or six in Corinth.
2. IN THE UNIVERSITY AT ATHENS.
(XVII 18 AND CERTAIN ALSO OF THE STOIC AND EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHERS ENGAGED IN DISCUSSIONS WITH HIM; AND SOME SAID, “WHAT WOULD THIS SPERMOLOGOS [ignorant plagarist] SAY?” AND OTHERS, “HE IS APPARENTLY AN EXPONENT OF FOREIGN DIVINITIES” [BECAUSE HE WAS GIVING THE GOOD NEWS OF “JESUS” AND “RESURRECTION “]. (19) AND THEY TOOK HOLD OF HIM AND BROUGHT HIM BEFORE THE Council of AREOPAGUS, SAYING, “MAY WE LEARN WHAT IS THIS NEW TEACHING WHICH IS SPOKEN BY THEE? (20) FOR THOU BRINGEST SOME THINGS OF FOREIGN FASHION TO OUR EARS; WE WISH THEREFORE TO LEARN WHAT IS THEIR NATURE.” (21) BUT THE WHOLE crowd of ATHENIANS AND RESIDENT STRANGERS who formed the audience WERE INTERESTED ONLY IN SAYING OR HEARING SOMETHING NEW and smart. (22) AND PAUL STOOD IN THE MIDST OF THE Council of AREOPAGUS AND SAID . . . (33) THUS PAUL WENT FORTH FROM THE MIDST OF THEM.
The explanatory clause in v. 18 is wanting in the Bezan Text and an old Latin Version, and is foreign to Luke’s fashion of leaving the reader to form his own ideas with regard to the scene. It is apparently a gloss, suggested by v. 32, which found its way into the text of almost all MSS.
The different opinions of the philosophers in v. 18 are purposely placed side by side with a touch of gentle sarcasm on their inability, with all their acuteness, to agree in any opinion even about Paul’s meaning. The first opinion is the most interesting. It contains a word of characteristically Athenian slang, Spermológos, and is clearly caught from the very lips of the Athenians (as Dr. Blass happily puts it). This term was used in two senses—(1) a small bird that picks up seeds for its food, and (2) a worthless fellow of low class and vulgar habits, with the insinuation that he lives at the expense of others, like those disreputable persons who hang round the markets and the quays in order to pick up anything that falls from the loads that are carried about. Hence, as a term in social slang, it connotes absolute vulgarity and inability to rise above the most contemptible standard of life and conduct; it is often connected with slave life, for the Spermológos was near the type of the slave and below the level of the free man; and there clings to it the suggestion of picking up refuse and scraps, and in literature of plagiarism without the capacity to use correctly. In ancient literature plagiarism was not disapproved when it was done with skill, and when the idea or words taken from another were used with success: the literary offence lay in the ignorance and incapacity displayed when stolen knowledge was improperly applied.
To appreciate fully a term of social slang requires the greatest effort to sympathise with and recreate the actual life of the people who used the term. Probably the nearest and most instructive parallel in modern English life to Spermológos is “Bounder,” allowing for the difference between England and Athens. In both there lies the idea of one who is “out of the swim,” out of the inner circle, one who lacks that thorough knowledge and practice in the rules of the game that mould the whole character and make it one’s nature to act in the proper way and play the game fair. The English term might be applied to a candidate for a professorship, whose life and circumstances had lain in a different line and who wanted knowledge and familiarity with the subject; and that is the way in which St. Paul is here called a Spermológos, as one who aped the ways and words of philosophers. Dean Farrar’s rendering, “picker-up of learning’s crumbs,” is happy, but loses the touch of slang.
The general tendency of recent opinion is that Paul was taken to the Hill of Ares, in order to give an address in quiet surroundings to a crowd of Athenians on the spot where the Council that derived its name from the hill sat to hold solemn trials for murder; and the view taken in the Authorised Version and the ancient authorities, such as Chrysostom and Theophylact, that Paul was subjected to a trial before the Council, is rejected on the ground that in the proceedings there is nothing of a judicial type, no accuser, no accusation, and no defensive character in Paul’s speech, which is addressed not to a court but to a general Athenian audience. These reasons quite disprove the view that the scene described in vv. 19-34 was a trial. But the idea that the assembly of Athenians went up to the hill-top as a suitable place for listening to an address is even more unsatisfactory. The top of the little hill is a most unsuitable place from its small size and its exposed position; and it is quite out of keeping with the habits of the people to go to such a place for such a purpose. Curtius has led the way to a proper view of the whole incident, which lies wholly in the agora.
Further, it is inconsistent with the patriotism and pride of the Athenians that they should conduct a foreigner for whom they expressed such contempt to the most impressive seat of Athenian religious and national history, in order that he might there talk to them. The Athenians were, in many respects, flippant; but their flippancy was combined with an intense pride in the national dignity and the historic glory of the city, which would have revolted at such an insult as that this stranger should harangue them about his foreign deities on the spot where the Athenian elders had judged the god Ares and the hero Orestes, where the goddess Athena had presided in the highest court of her chosen people, and where still judgment on the most grave cases of homicide was solemnly pronounced.
Nor would it be a permissible interpretation that a small number of philosophic inquirers retired to this quiet spot for unimpeded discussion. The scene and the speech breathe the spirit of the agora, and the open, free, crowded life of Athens, not the quiet atmosphere of the philosophic study or class-room; while the tone of the opinions expressed in v. 18 is not one of philosophic interest and careful discussion, but of contempt, dislike, and jealousy. Moreover, it would be an insult to address philosophic inquirers in the language of vv. 22-3. The philosophers did not dedicate altars to an Unknown God, but regarded all such proceedings as the mere superstition of the vulgar. Paul’s speech is an exceedingly skillful one, if addressed to a popular audience; but to philosophers it would be unskillful and unsuitable.
But the language shows clearly that Paul was brought before the Council and not simply conducted to the Hill. He stood “in the midst of the Areopagus,” v. 22, and “he went forth from the midst of them”: he that went forth from the midst of them must have been standing in the midst of them. In this scene, full of the Attic spirit and containing typical words of Athenian slang like Spermológos, we require some distinctly Greek sense for each detail; and “Paul stood in the middle of the Hill” is in Greek an absurdity. He stood in the middle of the Council, a great and noble, but not a friendly assembly, as in IV 7 Peter stood “in the midst” of the Sanhedrim; and in Acts and the Gospels many similar expressions occur.3939ὁ Ἄρειος Πάγος was often used, in a conversational way, in place of the cumbrous technical form, ἡ ἐξ Ἀρείου Πάγου βουλή. The decisive passages are pointed out to me by two friends and old pupils, Mr. A. Souter and Rev. A.F. Findlay. Cicero says to Atticus, I 14, 5, Senatus [Ἄρειος Πάγος. “our Senate is a veritable Areopagus”. Cicero picked up the conversational usage during his six months residence in Athens; and hence he uses Areopagus to denote the Court, Nat. D. II 29, 74, Rep. I 27, 43. Again in an inscription of A.D. 50–100 (Cavvadias, Fouilles d’Epidaure I p. 68, No. 206) we find Ἄρειος Πάγος ἐν Ἐλευσῖνι λόγους ἐποιήσατο. (Pape quotes other cases, which are not so clear, and are denied by some authorities.) Here, as everywhere, we find Luke using the language of educated conversation.
The philosophers took hold of Paul. When a man, especially an educated man, goes so far as to lay his hands on another, it is obvious that his feelings must be moved; and the word must have some marked sense in a writer whose expression is so carefully studied as Luke’s. It occurs as a sign of friendly encouragement to a person in a solitary and difficult position, IX 27, XXIII 19; but more frequently it denotes hostile action, as XXI 30, XVIII 17, XVI 19. There must have been some stronger feeling among the philosophers than mere contempt mingled with some slight curiosity, before they actually placed their hands on Paul. Now they certainly did not act as his friends and sponsors in taking him before the Council, therefore we must understand that they took him there from dislike and with malice.
What then was their object? Every attempt to explain the scene as a trial has failed, and must fail (p. 243). Even the idea of a preliminary inquiry is unsuitable; for, if it were so, none of the marked features of the scene are preserved in the narrative, which would be contrary to our experience in Luke’s descriptions. In estimating the situation, we must remember that in vv. 18, 19, Paul is among the lecturers and professors of the university. Therein lies the chief interest of the scene, which is unique in Acts. We have seen Paul in various situations, and mixing in many phases of contemporary life. Here alone he stands amid the surroundings of a great university, disputing with its brilliant and learned teachers; and here, as in every other situation, he adapts himself with his usual versatility to the surroundings, and moves in them as to the manner born.
Two questions have to be answered in regard to the scene that follows: why was Paul taken before the Council? and what were the intentions of the philosophers in taking him there? It is clear that Paul appeared to the philosophers as one of the many ambitious teachers who came to Athens hoping to find fame and fortune at the great centre of education. Now, certain powers were vested in the Council of Areopagus to appoint or invite lecturers at Athens, and to exercise some general control over the lecturers in the interests of public order and morality. There is an almost complete lack of evidence what were the advantages and the legal rights of a lecturer thus appointed, and to what extent or in what way a strange teacher could find freedom to lecture in Athens. There existed something in the way of privileges vested in the recognised lecturers; for the fact that Cicero induced the Areopagus to pass a decree inviting Cratippus, the Peripatetic philosopher, to become a lecturer in Athens, implies that some advantage was thereby lectured to him. There certainly also existed much freedom for foreigners to become lecturers in Athens, for the great majority of the Athenian professors and lecturers were foreign. The scene described in vv. 18-34 seems to prove that the recognised lecturers could take a strange lecturer before the Areopagus, and require him to give an account of his teaching and pass a test as to its character.
When they took him to the court to satisfy the supreme university tribunal of his qualifications, they probably entertained some hope that he would be overawed before that august body, or that his teaching might not pass muster, as being of unsettling tendency (for no body is so conservative as a University Court).
The government in Greek cities exercised a good deal of control over the entire system of education, both for boys and for young men, who were trained in graduated classes and passed on from one to another in regular course. There is good reason for thinking that in Athens this control was exercised by the Council of Areopagus, in the case both of boys and of young men: it rises naturally out of their ancient charge of the manners and morals of the citizens, of the public hygiene and the state physicians, and of offences against religious ritual (though serious charges of impiety and of introducing foreign religion were not tried before the Areopagus but before the popular courts); and it is, in ancient view, related to the control of peace and order which they exercised in the Roman period. Moreover, Quintilian mentions that the Areopagus punished a boy who used to pluck out the eyes of quails, which implies their jurisdiction over the young.
In the rhetorical displays of that period, the general audience (corona) was an important feature. The influence of the audience is familiar to every reader of the literature of that time; and the younger Pliny says that even the lawyers of his time spoke more to gain the approval and applause of the audience than to influence the opinion and judgment of the court. Owing to the difficulty in multiplying copies of literary productions, public opinion could not be so well appealed to or expressed in any other way; and the applause or disapproval of the circle of hearers came to represent to a great extent the public verdict on all intellectual achievements. Luke, therefore, could not well omit the audience, even in this brief account; and he touches it off in v. 21, where the force of the imperfect tense is important: Luke is not describing the general character of the Athenian people (which would require a present tense): he places another element in the scene alongside of those already described. While the philosophers insisted with some malevolent intention on having a test applied, the general crowd of Athenians and resident strangers were merely moved by curiosity.
The unmistakable tone of contempt in the description suits a Macedonian describing an Athenian crowd (for the two peoples always disliked and despised each other); and it is not undeserved. As Mr. Capes says in his University Life in Ancient Athens: “the people commonly was nothing loath to hear: they streamed as to a popular preacher in our own day, or to an actor starring in provincial towns: the epicures accepted the invitation to the feast of words, and hurried to the theatre to judge as critics the choice of images, and refinement of the style, and all the harmony of balanced periods “. As Luke says, they were as eager to make smart criticisms as to listen.
3. THE SPEECH BEFORE THE COUNCIL OF AREOPAGUS.
(XVII 22) AND PAUL STOOD IN THE MIDST OF THE COUNCIL AND SAID, “YE MEN OF ATHENS, IN ALL RESPECTS I OBSERVE THAT YOU ARE MORE than others RESPECTFUL OF WHAT IS DIVINE. (23) FOR AS I WAS GOING THROUGH your city AND SURVEYING THE MONUMENTS OF YOUR WORSHIP, I FOUND ALSO AN ALTAR WITH THE INSCRIPTION TO UNKNOWN GOD. THAT divine nature, THEN, WHICH YOU WORSHIP, NOT KNOWING what it is, I AM SETTING FORTH TO YOU. (24) THE GOD THAT MADE THE WORLD AND ALL THINGS THEREIN, HE, LORD AS HE IS OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, DWELLETH NOT IN SHRINES MADE WITH HANDS, (25) AND IS NOT SERVED BY HUMAN HANDS AS THOUGH HE NEEDED ANYTHING, SINCE HE HIMSELF GIVETH TO ALL LIFE AND BREATH AND ALL THINGS. (26) AND HE MADE OF ONE nature EVERY RACE OF MEN TO DWELL ON ALL THE FACE OF THE EARTH; AND FIXED DEFINED TIMES AND BOUNDS OF THEIR HABITATION, (27) THAT THEY SHOULD SEEK THE GOD, IF HAPLY THEY MIGHT FEEL AFTER HIM AND FIND HIM, BEING AS INDEED HE IS NOT FAR FROM EACH ONE OF US. (28) FOR IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND ARE, AS CERTAIN ALSO OF YOUR POETS HAVE SAID, FOR WE ARE ALSO HIS OFFSPRING. (29) BEING THEN THE OFFSPRING OF GOD, WE OUGHT NOT TO THINK THAT THE DIVINE NATURE IS LIKE UNTO GOLD OR SILVER OR STONE, GRAVEN BY ART AND DEVICE OF MAN. (30) NOW THE TIMES OF IGNORANCE GOD OVERLOOKED, BUT AT PRESENT HE CHARGETH ALL MEN EVERYWHERE TO REPENT, (31) INASMUCH AS HE HATH SET A DAY ON WHICH, IN the person of THE MAN WHOM HE HATH ORDAINED, HE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS; AND HE HATH GIVEN ALL A GUARANTEE BY RAISING HIM FROM THE DEATH.” (32) AND WHEN THEY HEARD OF “RAISING FROM THE DEAD,” SOME MOCKED, AND OTHERS SAID, “WE WILL HEAR THEE CONCERNING THIS YET AGAIN”. (33) THUS PAUL WENT OUT FROM THE MIDST OF THEM. (34) BUT CERTAIN MEN CLAVE UNTO HIM AND BELIEVED; AMONG WHOM ALSO WAS DIONYSIUS, A MEMBER OF THE COUNCIL, AND A WOMAN NAMED DAMARIS, AND OTHERS WITH THEM. (XVIII 1) AND THEREAFTER HE LEFT ATHENS, AND WENT TO CORINTH.
The influence of Paul’s Athenian surroundings may be traced in the “philosophy of history” which he sketches briefly in his address. In the Socratic position the virtue of” knowing” was too exclusively dwelt on, and in some of the earlier Platonic dialogues the view is maintained that virtue is knowledge and vice ignorance; and Greek philosophy was never clear about the relation of will and permanent character to “knowing”. The Greek philosophers could hardly admit, and could never properly understand, that a man may know without carrying his knowledge into action, that he may refuse to know when knowledge is within his grasp, and that the refusal exercises a permanent deteriorating influence on his character. Now Paul, in his estimate of the relation of the pre-Christian world to God, adopts a different position in the Athenian speech from that on which he afterwards took his stand in his letter to the Romans, I 19-32. In the latter place he recognises (to quote Lightfoot’s brief analysis) that the pagan world “might have seen God through His works. They refused to see Him. They disputed, and they blinded their hearts. Therefore they were delivered over to impurity. They not only did those things; but they took delight in those who did them.” Here we have a full recognition of that fundamental fact in human nature and life, which Æschylus expressed in his greatest drama4040Agamemnon 730 f., a passage where the text is very uncertain and is terribly maltreated by many editors. Paley turns it into an elaborate genealogical tree, while Wecklein conjectures away the depravation of the will, which is the key to the philosophic position of Æschylus. a conception of his own differing from the common Greek view:” the impious act breeds more, like to its own kind: it is the nature of crime to beget new crime, and along with it the depraved audacious will that settles, like an irresistible spirit of ill, on the house”. But to the Athenians Paul says, “the times of ignorance, therefore, God overlooked”; and those times are alluded to as a period, when men were doing their best to find and to worship “God Unknown”. We must not, of course, demand that the entire theology of Paul should be compressed into this single address; but yet there is a notable omission of an element that was unfamiliar and probably repugnant to his audience, and an equally notable insistence on an element that was familiar to them. The Stoic ring in 23 f. is marked (pp. 147, 150).
One woman was converted at Athens; and it is not said that she was of good birth, as Was stated at Berea and Thessalonica and Pisidian Antioch. The difference is true to life. It was impossible in Athenian society for a woman of respectable position and family to have any opportunity of hearing Paul; and the name Damaris (probably a vulgarism for damalis, heifer) suggests a foreign woman, perhaps one of the class of educated Hetairai, who might very well be in his audience.
It would appear that Paul was disappointed and perhaps disillusioned by his experience in Athens. He felt that he had gone at least as far as was right in the way of presenting his doctrine in a form suited to the current philosophy; and the result had been little more than naught. When he went on from Athens to Corinth, he no longer spoke in the philosophic style. In replying afterwards to the unfavourable comparison between his preaching and the more philosophical style of Apollos, he told the Corinthians that, when he came among them, he “determined not to know anything save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Cor. I 12); and nowhere throughout his writings is he so hard on the wise, the philosophers, and the dialecticians, as when he defends the way in which he had presented Christianity at Corinth. Apparently the greater concentration of purpose and simplicity of method in his preaching at Corinth is referred to by Luke, when he says, XVIII 5, that when Silas and Timothy rejoined him there, they found him wholly possessed by and engrossed in the word. This strong expression, so unlike anything else in Acts, must, on our hypothesis, be taken to indicate some specially marked character in the Corinthian preaching.
(XVIII 1) AFTER THESE EVENTS HE LEFT ATHENS AND WENT TO CORINTH. (2) AND, FINDING A CERTAIN JEW NAMED AQUILA, A MAN OF PONTUS BY BIRTH, WHO HAD LATELY COME FROM ITALY, AND PRISCILLA HIS WIFE, BECAUSE CLAUDIUS HAD COMMANDED ALL THE JEWS TO LEAVE ROME, HE ACCOSTED THEM. (3) AND BECAUSE HE WAS OF THE SAME CRAFT, HE ABODE WITH THEM, AND WROUGHT AT HIS TRADE [FOR THEY WERE TENTMAKERS BY THEIR CRAFT]. (4) AND HE USED TO DISCOURSE IN THE SYNAGOGUE EVERY SABBATH, AND TRIED TO PERSUADE JEWS AND GREEKS. (5) AND WHEN SILAS AND TIMOTHY ARRIVED FROM MACEDONIA, HE WAS WHOLLY ABSORBED IN PREACHING, ATTESTING TO THE JEWS THAT THE ANOINTED ONE IS JESUS.
Almost all MSS. add to v. 3 the explanation which we have given in parentheses; but it comes in very awkwardly, for Luke, who said at the beginning of the verse, “because he was of the same craft,” did not intend to say at the end, “for they were tentmakers by craft”. The Bezan Text and an old Latin Version (Gig.) omit this detail; and they must here represent the original state of the text. In order to make the explanation a little less awkward, the two great MSS. read, “he abode with them and they wrought”. The explanation is a gloss, which crept from the margin into the text. It is doubtless very early, and perfectly trustworthy: its vitality lies in its truth, for that was not the kind of detail that was invented in the growth of the Pauline legend.
Aquila, a man of Pontus, settled in Rome bears a Latin name; and must therefore have belonged to the province and not to non-Roman Pontus. This is a good example of Luke’s principle to use the Roman provincial divisions for purposes of classification (pp. 91, 196).
There is here a reference to Imperial history. Aquila and Priscilla had come recently from Rome, on account of an edict of Claudius expelling the Jews from Rome. Suetonius says that the expulsion was caused by a series of disturbances “due to the action of Chrestus”; and in all probability this Chrestus must be interpreted as “the leader of the Chrestians” (p. 47 f.), taken by a popular error as actually living. In the earliest stages of Christian history in Rome, such a mistake was quite natural; and Suetonius reproduces the words which he found in a document of the period. As Dion Cassius mentions, it was found so difficult to keep the Jews out of Rome on account of their numbers, that the Emperor did not actually expel them, but made stricter regulations about their conduct. It would therefore appear that the edict was found unworkable in practice; but Suetonius is a perfect authority that it was tried, and it is quite probable that some Jews obeyed it, and among them Aquila. Neither Suetonius nor Dion gives any clue to the date; but Orosius says that it occurred in Claudius’s ninth year, 49. I believe that this date is a year wrong, like that of the famine (p. 68), and for the same reason: the edict must be placed in the end of 50, and thus Aquila arrived in Corinth six or seven months before Paul came in Sept. 51.
The careful record of Aquila’s antecedents must, on our hypothesis, be taken as not a mere picturesque detail; Luke mentioned his Roman residence, because it had some bearing on his subject. After some time (during most of which Paul had been in Aquila’s company at Corinth and at Ephesus), a journey to Rome is announced as Paul’s next intention, XIX 21. Aquila was able to tell him of the events that had occurred in Rome “at the action of Chrestus”; and his experience showed him how important it was to go direct to the great centres of Roman life. The connection of Luke with the Macedonian journey (p. 203) is an interesting parallel.
Paul mentions in writing to the Romans, XV 24, that he intended to go on from Rome to Spain. Such an intention implies in the plainest way an idea already existent in Paul’s mind of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. Spain was by far the most thoroughly romanised district of the Empire, as was marked soon after by the act of Vespasian in 75, when he made the Latin status universal in Spain. From the centre of the Roman world Paul would go on to the chief seat of Roman civilisation in the West, and would thus complete a first survey, the intervals of which should be filled up by assistants, such as Timothy, Titus, etc.
5. THE SYNAGOGUE AND THE GENTILES IN CORINTH.
(XVIII 6) AND WHEN THEY BEGAN TO FORM A FACTION AGAINST HIM AND BLASPHEME, HE SHOOK OUT HIS GARMENTS AND SAID UNTO THEM, “YOUR BLOOD ON YOUR OWN HEAD! I ON MY SIDE AM CLEAN! FROM HENCEFORTH I WILL GO UNTO THE GENTILES,” i.e., in this city. (7) AND HE CHANGED HIS PLACE from the synagogue, AND WENT INTO THE HOUSE OF A CERTAIN MAN NAMED TITIUS JUSTUS, A GOD-FEARING proselyte, WHOSE HOUSE JOINED HARD TO THE SYNAGOGUE. (8) BUT CRISPUS, THE ARCHISYNAGOGOS, BELIEVED IN THE LORD WITH ALL HIS HOUSE; AND MANY OF THE PEOPLE OF CORINTH USED TO HEAR AND BELIEVE AND RECEIVE BAPTISM. (9) AND THE LORD SAID IN THE NIGHT BY A VISION UNTO PAUL, “BE NOT AFRAID, BUT SPEAK ON, AND HOLD NOT THY PEACE; (10) BECAUSE I AM WITH THEE, AND NO MAN SHALL SET ON THEE TO HARM THEE; BECAUSE I HAVE MUCH PEOPLE IN THIS CITY”. (11) AND HE SETTLED A YEAR AND SIX MONTHS, TEACHING AMONG THEM THE WORD OF GOD.
The distinction between the period of work in the synagogue, and that of direct preaching to the populace, is expressed with marked emphasis at Corinth. Corinth stood on the highroad between Rome and the East; and was therefore one of the greatest centres of influence in the Roman world. Macedonia was in this respect quite secondary, though one of the routes to the East passed across it; and hence Paul was ordered to sit down for a prolonged stay when he reached Corinth. It is characteristic of Luke to define the entire stay before relating some incidents that occurred in it (pp. 153, 289).
It must be acknowledged that Paul had not a very conciliatory way with the Jews when he became angry. The shaking out of his garments was undoubtedly a very exasperating gesture; and the occupying of a meetinghouse next door to the synagogue, with the former archisynagogos as a prominent officer, was more than human nature could stand. Probably he found unusual opposition here, pp. 143, 287; but it is not strange that the next stage of proceedings was in a law-court.
Titius Justus was evidently a Roman or a Latin, one of the coloni of the colony Corinth. Like the centurion Cornelius, he had been attracted to the synagogue. His citizenship would afford Paul an opening to the more educated class of the Corinthian population.
It seems to be implied by vv. 8, 17, that there was only one archisynagogos in the Corinthian synagogue; and, when Crispus became a Christian, a successor was appointed. At Pisidian Antioch there were several archisynagogoi. M.S. Reinach has shown from a Smyrnæ an inscription that the title in Asia Minor did not indicate an office, but was a mere expression of dignity, “a leading person in the synagogue”; and the Bezan Text of XIV 2 distinguishes clearly between the archons of the synagogue (officials, probably two in number), and the archisynagogoi.
6. THE IMPERIAL POLICY IN ITS RELATION TO PAUL AND TO CHRISTIAN PREACHING.
(XVIII 12) BUT WHILE GALLIO WAS PROCONSUL OF ACHAIA, THE JEWS WITH ONE ACCORD ROSE UP AGAINST PAUL, AND BROUGHT HIM BEFORE THE TRIBUNAL, SAYING, (13) “THIS MAN PERSUADETH PEOPLE TO WORSHIP GOD CONTRARY TO THE LAW” (14) BUT WHEN PAUL WAS ABOUT. TO OPEN HIS MOUTH, GALLIO SAID UNTO THE JEWS, “IF A MISDEMEANOUR OR A CRIME WERE IN QUESTION, YE JEWS, REASON WOULD THAT I SHOULD BEAR WITH YOU; (15) BUT IF THEY ARE QUESTIONS OF WORD, not deed, AND OF NAMES, not things, AND OF YOUR LAW, not Roman law, YE YOURSELVES WILL LOOK TO IT: TO BE A JUDGE OF THESE MATTERS for my part HAVE NO MIND”. (16) AND HE DROVE THEM FROM THE TRIBUNAL. (17) AND ALL THE GREEKS SEIZED SOSTHENES, THE ARCHISYNAGOGOS, AND PROCEEDED TO BEAT HIM BEFORE THE TRIBUNAL; AND GALLIO TOOK NO NOTICE OF THIS CONDUCT.
Achaia was governed by a proconsul from B.C. 27 to A.D. 15, and from A.D. 44 onwards. It was a province of the second rank, and was administered by Roman officials, after holding the prætorship, and generally before the consulship. Corinth had now become the chief city of Achaia, and the residence of its governors (as Marquardt infers from this passage).
Here we have another point of contact with Roman history. Gallio was a brother of the famous Seneca, and shared his fortunes.4141Gallio. One of the many difficulties in which Dr. Clemen’s theory involves him is that he has to deny the identity of Luke’s Gallio with Seneca’s brother. Gallio’s voyage from Achaia, undertaken on account of a local fever (Seneca, Ep. Mor. 104, 1), was not the same as his voyage from Rome to Egypt after his consulship on account of phthisis (Pliny, XXXI 33), though probably the first also was to Egypt. Seneca was in disgrace from 41 to 49; but in 49 he was recalled from banishment and appointed prætor for A.D. 50. Pliny mentions that Gallio attained the consulship, which was probably after his proconsulship in Achaia. In his career of office Gallio must have been prætor not less than five years before he went to Achaia; but no evidence survives to show in what year he held the prætorship (except that it cannot have been between 41 and 49):as the elder brother, he probably held it before Seneca. There is no other evidence that Gallio governed Achaia; but the statement of Luke is corroborated by the fact, which Seneca mentions, that Gallio caught fever in Achaia, and took a voyage for change of air.
Either the Jews at Corinth did not manage their accusation so well as those of Thessalonica, or Gallio elicited the true character of their complaints against Paul as being really matters of mere Jewish concern. It is clear that Gallio’s short speech represents the conclusion of a series of inquiries, for the accusation, as it is quoted, does not refer to words or names, but only to the Law. But it is reasonable to suppose that the Jews put their accusation at first in a serious light, with a view to some serious penalty being inflicted; and Gallio, on probing their allegations, reduced the matter to its true dimensions as a question that concerned only the self-administering community of “the Nation of the Jews in Corinth”. It would have been interesting to know more about this case, for it seems to show that Gallio shared the broad and generous views of his brother about the policy of Rome in regard to the various religions of the provinces. The Greeks, who always hated the Jews, took advantage of the marked snub which the governor had inflicted on them, to seize and beat Sosthenes, who had been appointed to replace Crispus as Archisynagogos, and who doubtless was taking a prominent part in the proceedings. Gallio took no notice of this piece of “Lynch law,” which probably seemed to him to be a rough sort of justice.
The fact that Sosthenes (whether the same or another) joined with Paul in writing to the Corinthians, I 1, caused an early misapprehension of the scene. It was understood that Gallio, after deciding against the Jews, allowed them to console themselves by beating a Christian; and the word “Greeks” is omitted in the great MSS. under the influence of this mistake. But such action is inconceivable in the Roman governor; and the text of the inferior MSS. which substitutes a lifelike and characteristic scene for one that is utterly foolish, must undoubtedly be preferred. Probably two persons at Corinth named Sosthenes were brought into relations with Paul, one a Jew, the other a prominent Christian; or perhaps the Jew was converted at a later date.
This action of the Imperial government in protecting him from the Jews, and (if we are right) declaring freedom in religious matters, seems to have been the crowning fact in determining Paul’s line of conduct. According to our view, the residence at Corinth was an epoch in Paul’s life. As regards his doctrine he became more clearly conscious of its character, as well as more precise and definite in his presentation of it; and as regards practical work he became more clear as to his aim and the means of attaining the aim, namely, that Christianity should be spread through the civilised, i.e., the Roman, world (not as excluding, but as preparatory to, the entire world, Col. III 11), using the freedom of speech which the Imperial policy as declared by Gallio seemed inclined to permit. The action of Gallio, as we understand it, seems to pave the way for Paul’s appeal a few years later from the petty outlying court of the procurator of Judea, who was always much under the influence of the ruling party in Jerusalem, to the supreme tribunal of the Empire (p. 306 f.).
The letters to the Thessalonians belong to the earlier part of his stay in Corinth, before he had definitely reached the new stage of thought and aim. To the new stage, when he had attained full consciousness and full dominion over his own plans, belong the four great letters, Gal. I and II Cor., Rom.
|« Prev||Chapter XI. Athens and Corinth.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version