Acts 18:1-28

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Paul departed from Athens and traveled to Corinth either by sea or overland. Corinth is located about 50 miles (c. 80 kilometers) southwest of Athens. (18:1; see http://bibleplaces.com/corinth.htm for pictures of and comments about Corinth.)

The apostle customarily went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, and it may have been there that he met Aquila, a fellow Jew, and his wife Priscilla. This married couple had recently arrived in Corinth from Italy because Emperor Claudius had expelled Jews from Rome, the capital of the empire. Regarding Claudius, Suetonius, in The Lives of the Caesars (Life of Claudius, XXV, 4), wrote, “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.” Based on this comment, some have concluded that the disturbances involved conflicts Jews had with fellow Jews who believed that Jesus was the Christ (“Chrestus” or “Christus”). (18:2)

Paul went to their home and, since they shared the same trade, stayed and worked with them. The Greek designation for the occupation is skenopoiós, which is a compound word meaning “tentmaker.” Some have questioned whether this could have been the actual trade, as nomadic tent dwellers would not have relied on professionals in cities to make tents for them. One of the major users of tents, however, was the Roman military. Therefore, some have concluded that Paul’s family in Tarsus had a profitable tentmaking business, supplying tents for the Roman legions stationed in Syria. Tents for the Roman military were commonly made from goat skins, but calf skins were also used. Although there is no extant evidence to indicate that the Roman legions used tents consisting of cloth made from goat’s hair, this cloth known as “cilicium” (which is named after “Cilicia,” where Tarsus was located) would most likely have been the material Paul’s father used. Whereas Paul received rabbinical training at Jerusalem, he, as was customary among the Jews, doubtless learned the trade from his father. Besides tents, there would have been a market for booths, awnings, and canopies, as these would be used by vendors in the marketplace. In the absence of details in the account, one cannot determine the exact nature of the work Paul, Aquila and Priscilla did and who their customers would have been. (18:2, 3)

Every Sabbath, Paul went to the synagogue, where he endeavored to convince “Jews and Greeks” that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah or Christ. The Greeks apparently were God-fearers, not Jewish proselytes. (18:4)

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul continued his activity among the Jews. With reference to his ministry in connection with the “word,” a form of the Greek word synécho appears in the text. Based on the context, synécho may here be understood to mean “devoted to,” “be occupied with,” or “be absorbed in,” suggesting that Paul was able to intensify his efforts to make known the “word” or to present testimony to the Jews that identified Jesus to be the Christ. Subsequent to the arrival of Silas and Timothy, Paul may have been able to reduce the time devoted to his trade and to increase his efforts to declare the message about Jesus Christ. Besides the refreshing encouragement they would have been able to provide, Silas and Timothy may have brought with them contributed funds from fellow believers in Macedonia specifically for the purpose of helping Paul. (2 Corinthians 11:8, 9; Philippians 4:15) Possibly with all three men working at a trade, they would have been able to pool their resources, freeing Paul to share more extensively in spreading the good news about Jesus Christ. (18:5)

The Jews who refused to believe began to oppose Paul and to “blaspheme,” probably meaning that they began to speak abusively of him. As a gesture of his not sharing any responsibility for the serious consequences of their unbelief and opposition, he shook out his garments and said, “Your blood [be] upon your head. I [am] clean. From now on I will go to the [non-Jewish] nations.” Paul had done everything possible to present the trustworthy testimony concerning Jesus Christ and was not guilty of withholding the truth from the Jews living in Corinth. Therefore, they personally were to blame for the consequences of their defiant unbelief. Because they had rejected the message and had taken a hostile stand, Paul rightly turned his full attention to the non-Jews. (18:6)

“And from there he left” and went into the house of Titius Justus. This has commonly been understood to mean that he transferred his teaching activity from the Jewish synagogue to the home of Titius Justus, a non-Jewish God-fearer (a man who revered the true God). A number of translations make this significance explicit in their renderings. “He left the synagogue and, from now on, spoke in the house of Titius Justus.” (Er verließ die Synagoge und sprach von nun an im Haus von Titius Justus. [German, Gute Nachricht Bibel]) “Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.” (NRSV) This man’s home was adjacent to the synagogue. (18:7; see the Notes section.)

Among the Jews who became believers in the Lord was Crispus, the synagogue official (archisynágogos), and his entire household. In his position as archisynágogos, Crispus would have been primarily responsible for the maintenance and the physical arrangements associated with the meeting place for worship. Additionally, many Corinthians who heard the message Paul proclaimed became believers and were baptized. With the exception of Crispus and a few others, Paul did not personally baptize the new believers. (18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:14-17)

Based on his former experiences when Jewish opposition forced him to leave new believers behind, Paul may have feared that this would also occur in Corinth. In a vision during one night, the Lord Jesus Christ assured him that this would not happen, telling him to have no fear but to continue to speak and not to be silent. This was “because,” as the Lord added, “I am with you, and no one will beset you nor harm you, for many people in this city are mine.” With the backing of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul could be confident that he would not be harmed, and many more would become disciples of the Lord through his ministry. (18:9, 10) The apostle remained in Corinth for a “year and six months,” devoting himself to teaching “the word of God,” the message that focused on Jesus Christ and what the surrender of his life made possible. (18:11; 1 Corinthians 2:1, 2)

Apparently toward the end of Paul’s time in Corinth, the unbelieving Jews tried to put a stop to his activity. Gallio was then proconsul of Achaia, and the hostile Jews rose up as a body against Paul and took him before Gallio for judgment at the béma (the raised platform that served as the place for rendering judgments or for speaking publicly to an assembly). In conjunction with other historical evidence, a fragmentary inscription discovered at Delphi indicates that Gallio served as proconsul of Achaia (where Corinth was located) at the time Claudius Caesar had received his 26th imperial proclamation. This would place Gallio’s one-year proconsulship either in 51-52 CE or 52-53 CE. (18:12)

The Jewish opposers accused Paul of trying to persuade “men” (people generally, both Jews and non-Jews) to revere God in a way that violated the law. Their intent appears to have been to represent him as introducing a novel form of worship that was disruptive to the existing social order and so needed to be officially stopped. (18:13)

When Paul was about to defend himself (literally, “open his mouth”), Gallio refused to consider the matter. If the Jews had presented evidence that a serious wrong or crime had been committed, he would have “put up” with or been tolerant of them respecting their accusation. But with reference to disputes about words (literally, “word”) and “names and the law according to you,” that is, their own Jewish law, he did not want to render a judgment. This was something he wanted the Jews to handle themselves, telling them, “You must see to it.” (18:14, 15)

When accusing Paul, the Jews likely said more than what is preserved in the Acts account. It is likely that they mentioned that Paul was proclaiming Jesus as being the Messiah or Christ. The controversy over words could pertain to a different way of revering God, and the dispute involving names could relate to what Paul said about the identity of Jesus as the Christ. Gallio drove the Jewish accusers from his presence, which he may have done by commanding the constables to have them removed from before the béma. (18:15, 16)

The oldest extant Greek manuscripts do not specify who turned against Sosthenes, the synagogue official (archisynágogos). Either because of the way things had turned out, his fellow Jews began to beat him for having influenced them to bring an accusation against Paul before Gallio or non-Jewish bystanders seized the opportunity to vent their strong prejudicial feelings against them. Gallio, however, did not concern himself with this development. Sosthenes appears to have been a replacement for Crispus who had become a baptized believer. The name “Sosthenes” is not very common and so may be the same person that is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1. If this is the case, the incident before Gallio may have brought an end to his blind opposition and caused him to think seriously about what Paul had proclaimed, resulting in his becoming a believer. (18:17; see the Notes section.)

The time designated by the expression heméras hikanás (“enough days” or considerable time) in relation to Paul’s remaining in Corinth cannot be determined from the account. After saying his farewell to the “brothers” (fellow believers), he departed. His destination was the Roman province of Syria, with Syrian Antioch being the location to which he would eventually return and where he would stay until undertaking another major evangelizing journey. Priscilla and Aquila accompanied Paul at the time he set sail from Cenchreae, the nearby harbor of Corinth from which ships sailed to eastern ports. Before boarding the ship at Cenchreae, Paul had his hair cut. This was because he “had a vow.” Cutting the hair is associated with the conclusion of a Nazarite vow, but this (according to Numbers 6:18) was to be done at the sanctuary. In the absence of specifics, there is no way to establish the nature of Paul’s vow or when and why he may have made it. (18:18; see the Notes section.)

From Cenchreae, Paul first sailed to Ephesus, where he left Priscilla and Aquila. During the short time he was in Ephesus, Paul went to the synagogue and spoke about Jesus Christ to those assembled. (18:19) Although he declined their request for him to stay longer, he assured them that, God willing, he would return. According to numerous manuscripts, Paul was in a hurry to leave Ephesus because he wanted to be in Jerusalem for the festival, presumably Passover. A number of translations include the expanded text in their renderings or in footnotes. “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” (18:20, 21 [NKJV; NRSV, footnote]; see http://bibleplaces.com/ephesus.htm for comments about and pictures of Ephesus.)

From Ephesus, he set sail for Caesarea, from where “he went up” and thereafter “greeted the congregation.” The going up appears to indicate that he left the lower elevation of the coastal city of Caesarea and headed to Jerusalem, situated at a much higher elevation. To the congregation or community of believers there he extended his greetings, after which he “went down to [Syrian] Antioch,” where he had earlier departed with Silas on his second evangelizing journey. (15:40; 18:21, 22)

After having been in Antioch for a while, Paul appears to have started a northerly overland route that took him through Galatia and Phrygia (a region that was part of of the Roman province of Galatia) in central Asia Minor and, finally, to Ephesus. Along the way, he visited fellow disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthened them in the faith with his words of encouragement. (18:23)

An unspecified time before Paul returned to Ephesus, a Jew named Apollos and a native of Alexandria (the main seaport of Egypt) arrived. Apollos is described as lógios, indicating that he was “cultured,” “learned,” or “eloquent.” He was thoroughly grounded in the holy writings, being “powerful” or “well versed” in them. His being “boiling in spirit” may be descriptive of his intense zeal or enthusiasm. While in Ephesus, he went to the synagogue where he spoke about Jesus. Apollos had been taught “the way of the Lord” (the way distinguished by being at one with Jesus Christ through faithful imitation of his example and adherence to his teaching). According to Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis), he was taught “in his own country.” Jews and proselytes from Egypt did attend the festivals in Jerusalem and heard Peter’s explanation about the outpouring of the holy spirit. In view of the sizable Jewish population in Alexandria, it reasonably follows that some of the Jews from there may have been among those who had responded to the preaching of John the Baptist and could have taught Apollos. Being only acquainted with the baptism of John, however, he lacked in knowledge but correctly presented the things he had learned. (18:24, 25; see http://bibleplaces.com/alexandria.htm for comments about and pictures of Alexandria.)

In the synagogue, Apollos spoke boldly about Jesus. Among those who heard him were Priscilla and Aquila. They apparently invited him to their home and explained to him “the way of God more accurately.” The genitive form of the Greek word for “God” is missing in Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis), and a number of manuscripts read “way of the Lord.” What Priscilla and Aquila did was to impart to Apollos a fuller understanding about “the way,” which would have included aspects in which he was lacking regarding the beliefs and the way of life associated with being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. (18:26; see the Notes section.)

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia (specifically to Corinth in Achaia [19:1]), the “brothers” (believers) in Ephesus wrote a letter of introduction to the disciples there, encouraging them to welcome him. In Achaia, Apollos provided much help to those who had become believers “through favor,” that is, through God’s favor that finds its full expression in his matchless love. The result from divine “favor” could either refer to the aid Apollos was able to give or to the way in which those in Achaia had become believers. Divine favor enhanced the gifts of Apollos, equipping him to be a source of encouragement to believers and making it possible for him to contribute to their spiritual growth. God’s favor, especially as it related to his Son and having him lay down his life for sinful humans, is what enabled individuals to become believers. (18:27) Publicly, Apollos strongly refuted the Jews, using their holy writings when proving Jesus to be the Messiah or Christ. (18:28)

Notes:

According to very limited manuscript evidence, Paul transferred his residence from the home of Aquila to that of Titius Justus. A number of translations interpretively render verse 7 to indicate that Paul changed his place of residence. “So he left them and went to live in the house of a Gentile named Titius Justus.” (GNT) “After that he stayed with Titius Justus, a Gentile who worshiped God.” (NLT) It seems unusual, however, that Paul would depart from the home of fellow Jewish believers to take up residence in the home of a non-Jewish believer on account of opposition from unbelieving Jews. If this is the correct significance, one possible reason could have been that the home of Titius Justus proved to be a better location for Paul to concentrate on proclaiming the message to non-Jews.

In verse 17, certain manuscripts identify the ones who beat Sosthenes as “Greeks,” whereas other manuscripts say that it was the “Jews.”

In verses 18 and 26 (according to the superior manuscript evidence), Priscilla is mentioned first. Some have thought that this is because her social standing was higher than that of her husband. It seems more likely, however, that she is mentioned first because of excelling her husband in being able to convey the message about Christ to others and in taking the initiative to aid fellow believers. Her role in assisting Apollos to gain a better understanding of “the way” would appear to confirm this.