Paul and co-workers

This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology. You can visit my web pages here, but note that they are not kept up-to-date.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reconciling 1 Thess 3:1-2 with Acts 17:14-15

Here I will argue that 1 Thess 3:1-2 has been misinterpreted and that Acts is right that Paul and Timothy were never together in Athens. Here are the texts:

1 Thess
3:1 Διὸ μηκέτι στέγοντες εὐδοκήσαμεν καταλειφθῆναι ἐν Ἀθήναις μόνοι,
Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens;

3:2 καὶ ἐπέμψαμεν Τιμόθεον, τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳτοῦ Χριστοῦ, εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλέσαι ὑπὲρ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν
and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker of God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith,

3:3 so that  no one would be shaken by these persecutions.  ...

3:5 διὰ τοῦτο κἀγὼ μηκέτι στέγων ἔπεμψα εἰς τὸ γνῶναι τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν,
For this reason, when I could bear it no longer I sent to find out about your faith;

Acts
17:14 Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind.

17:15 οἱ δὲ καθιστάνοντες τὸν Παῦλον ἤγαγον ἕως Ἀθηνῶν, καὶ λαβόντες ἐντολὴν πρὸςτὸν Σιλᾶν καὶ τὸν Τιμόθεον ἵνα ὡς τάχιστα ἔλθωσιν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐξῄεσαν. 
Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him.

17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, ...

18:5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, ...


It is almost invariably assumed that 1 Thess 3:1-2 implies that Paul and Timothy had been in Athens at the same time. This would indeed be in tension with Acts, which says that Timothy stayed behind in Beroea. I propose the following explanation:

Paul and some believers from Beroea travelled to Athens while Timothy and Silas stayed in Beroea. In Athens Paul sent the Beroean believers back to Berea. He was anxious to hear news of the Thessalonian believers so he asked these Beroeans to tell Timothy "come to me soon and visit Thessalonica on the way". Thus, it was these Beroeans who carried the message that sent Timothy to Thessalonica. Their early departure from Athens meant that Paul would be alone there, but it also meant that Paul would soon hear news about the fate of the Thessalonian church. It is this dilemma that Paul describes in 1 Thess 3:3-5. The timing of the return of Paul's Beroean companions to Beroea was determined by Paul's anxiety about Thessalonica.

This explanation creates no conflict between 1 Thess and Acts and has the advantage of parsimony. It adds no events that are in neither text and it adds little to either. Indeed, the only detail missing from Acts is Paul's request to Timothy to make a detour via Thessalonica.

The usual understanding of 1 Thess has Timothy travel to Athens and then make an additional round trip between Athens and Thessalonica. According to ORBIS this round trip by sea was 1080 km, and cost 195 denarii. This is about 6 months wages for a labourer. Paul had to work to earn his keep and this was time that he would surely have rather spent preaching. The missionaries did not have money to spare. It seems unlikely that the team would have chosen to pay for Timothy to make an unnecessary journey back to Thessalonica from Athens. It was more rational for Timothy to stay behind in Macedonia and plan to join Paul latter. The usual interpretation of 1 Thess 3:1-2 has difficulty explaining why Timothy did not visit Thessalonica before leaving Macedonia instead of returning to Thessalonica from Athens.

I anticipate three possible objections:

1. There is nothing in 1 Thess 3:1-2 to suggest that Timothy was not with Paul when Paul sent him to Thessalonica so we can assume that he was. However, this line of reasoning assumes that Paul wrote to record the movements of Timothy. When reading Paul's letters it is easy to forget that they were written for people who knew much more of the background than we do. The audience of 1 Thessalonians already knew the movements of Paul and Timothy. Paul's purpose in writing 1 Thess 3:1-5 was not to record Timothy's journeys but to stress that he (Paul) had been worried about the Thessalonian believers.

2. Acts 17:5 says that Timothy's instructions were to come to Paul ταχέως (as soon as possible). Is this consistent with a detour via Thessalonica? Yes it is. Beroea was only 73 km from Thessalonica, which was the largest city in Macedonia and would be a suitable port from which to find a boat to Athens. Also, the Greek word ταχέως simply means "soon" or "quickly" and does not mean "immediately" in a modern north European sense. In 1 Cor 4:19 Paul says "I will come to you soon (ταχέως)" even though he was going to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost and then make a long detour to Macedonia before travelling to Corinth (1 Cor 16:5-8).

3. Some commentators take the plural verbs in 1 Thess 3:1-2 to refer to Paul and Silas. However, Paul uses the first person singular in 1 Thess 3:5 so, unless he is being inconsistent, he must be using a rhetorical plural in 1 Thess 3:1-2.

I am not the first to suggest that Timothy was never with Paul in Athens. Karl Donfried (Paul, Thessalonica and Early Christianity, 2002, p214) cites Dobschütz [1909] and Rigaux [1956] and writes,
In other words: Paul may have sent Timothy back to Thessalonica either while they were still together in Berea or after Paul arrived in Athens. With regard to the latter, it is possible that those who accompanied Paul from Beroea to Athens (Acts 17.15) presented to Timothy, upon their return, Paul's request. Of these two options, we prefer the former since the latter suggests, dubiously, that Paul had received some new information in Athens.
I don't understand why Donfried thinks that Paul would have had to have received new information in Athens. Paul's anxiety about persecutions in Thessalonica would have been heightened by the arrival of Thessalonian opponents in Beroea (Acts 17:13-14). Persecution from these opponents was enough to force Paul's departure to Athens, so Paul would certainly have worried that these same opponents were persecuting the Thessalonian believers. This worry would have continued to trouble Paul in Athens in the absence of new information. 1 Thess 3:1"when we could bear it no longer" implies such a sustained period of anxiety.

Donfried's preference that Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica from Beroea is unlikely. Paul says that the sending of Timothy resulted in him (Paul) being left alone in Athens. However, the sending of Timothy from Beroea to Thessalonica need not have resulted in Paul being alone in Athens: Paul's Beroean companions or Silas could have stayed with Paul in Athens until Timothy arrived. Furthermore, Paul writes "when I could bear it no longer I sent to find out about your faith" (3:5), but on Donfried's reconstruction he had to bear it for a lot longer anyway. Paul's words make little sense if the interval between the sending of Timothy and Timothy's return to Paul in Corinth with news of Thessalonica (Acts 18:5) was longer than the period of Paul's anxiety about the Thessalonians prior to the sending of Timothy. This makes it unlikely that the sending of Timothy was as early in the sequence as Donfried's preferred option requires.

Others, on the assumption that Timothy was in Athens when Paul sent him, suggest that Acts got it wrong. However, this is special pleading in light of all the details that Acts gets right in this time period (and at other times). Both Acts and 1 Thess have Paul visit Athens after Thessalonica. In both texts Paul has reason to be concerned about persecution in Thessalonica at that time. Both have Paul spending time alone in Athens. Both have Paul eagerly wanting to meet with Timothy. Both have Paul, Silas/Silvanus and Timothy back together later (1 Thess 1:1; Acts 18:5).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Craig Keener on Crispus-Sosthenes

Craig Keener, in his Acts commentary, mentions the theory that Sosthenes was Crispus (p2683, 2749, 2776) and he cites my own work. He writes,
Since Crispus was an early convert (1 Cor 1:14), Sosthenes also seems a believer (1:1), and both are described by Luke as "synagogue rulers" (Acts 18:8, 17), it is possible that these are two names for the same person (allowing frustrated members of the synagogue community to beat their former leader Crispus in 18:17). This proposal is ultimately unlikely, however; why would Luke change names without an explanation connecting them? (That Paul likewise uses both names reinforces the objection.)
Keener here considers the Crispus-Sosthenes hypothesis but raises the superficial objection that Luke does not explicitly identify them. In this post I will answer Keener's objection using his own observations.

If Luke expected his readers to already know that Sosthenes was Crispus then he would have no reason to state the fact. Keener argues that the audience of Acts already knew James (2241), Jason (2533, 2549), probably Alexander (2869) and possibly Tyrannus (2829). Indeed, he believes that Sosthenes was known to Luke (2779). It is therefore odd that Keener does not explore the possibility that the audience of Acts knew Crispus-Sosthenes. The little that we know about him suggests that he may well have become well known throughout the Aegean churches. He was the synagogue ruler and therefore high status. Many in Corinth had come to the faith under his influence (Acts 18:8), and his name, "Sosthenes" (saving strength), reminded everyone that Paul had honoured him for the part that he had played in the formation of the church. He was so well respected in Corinth that Paul cited his endorsement of the contents of 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 1:1). He had been with Paul in Corinth for 18 months and in Ephesus for perhaps 2 years. We know of no other person in the Aegean region who had spend more time with Paul. He had the wealth to travel among the Aegean churches and his fame would have been spread by 1 Corinthians itself when the letter was copied. It is not at all surprising that Luke's audience, which was likely the Aegean churches (see here and here), knew Crispus-Sosthenes.

There is also a good reason why Luke would have wanted to avoid explicitly identifying Sosthenes as Crispus. Throughout his commentary Keener is acutely aware of the fact that Luke presented the faith as unthreatening to Rome. Indeed, on Acts 18:12-17 he writes,
Although Gallio as an actor within the narrative was not trying to provide an apologetic for Paul or his movement, this is de facto how his response functions in the larger context of Acts' apologetic. As soon as a governor's verdict was read out, it was recorded in the province's official proceedings. Because he was a governor and not a local judge (like Thessalonica's politarchs, Acts 17:6-8), Gallio's decision could have far-reaching implications. It would establish a favorable precedent for the Christians ....  Luke's marshaling of such precedents would provide Christians with a sense of security and perhaps evidence they could use to respond against slanders in the public arena. (2773-4)
If Luke had explicitly equated Sosthenes with Crispus the text would not have provided the Christians with such a positive precedent that they could bring before Roman officials. Gallio had allowed the Jews to beat a Christian benefactor and this is hardly the kind of precedent that Luke wanted to publicize. Luke's purposes were served by his silence about the identity of Sosthenes.

Keener also objects that 1 Cor 1:1 calls him "Sosthenes", whereas Cor 1:14 calls him "Crispus". However, in 1 Cor 1:1 Paul is appealing to the authority of Sosthenes so it unsurprising that he should use the name that honoured him. In 1 Cor 1:14 Paul is wanting to avoid any hint that being baptized by him is a point of honour, and perhaps for that reason he uses his ordinary name, "Crispus". In any case, 1 Cor 1:14 refers to a time before Crispus was given the name "Sosthenes".

Finally, Keener makes a point that supports the Crispus-Sosthenes hypothesis:
We know of food shortages close to 51C.E., and these often contributed to instability ... The schism in the Jewish community had, among other things, caused rancour and divided the community's patrons and resources at a time when it could ill afford the division (after Claudius's expulsion in 18:2). (2765)
This economic hardship explains why the Jews beat their benefactor, who had defected to the Christians.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Craig Keener on the identity of Titus and Timothy

On page 2320 of his Acts commentary, Craig Keener discusses the hypothesis that Titus was Timothy, and expresses some hesitations in his characteristically cautious style. He refers to my 2001 paper, but he is presumably unaware of the ways that I have developed the hypothesis since then. His comments are the fullest defence of the two-person hypothesis printed in English and they give me useful feedback concerning how the Titus-Timothy hypothesis is being viewed. In this blog post I duplicate Keener's words (indented) and try to respond to his concerns.
How could Paul battle circumcisionists in Acts 15:1-2 (on the Lukan literary level) and struggle with Barnabas and contend for Titus's freedom (Gal 2:3-5, 13, on the historical level), then circumcise Timothy afterward? This would become a genuine contradiction only if we argue that Timothy is Titus, 233 and given the sequence, not necessarily even then.
Yes, the non-circumcision of Titus in Gal 2:3 was before the circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3.
233 Fellows, "Titus," skillfully defends the identification of Timothy and Titus (developing a suggestion by Borse, "Timotheus und Titus," 34). Some evidence supports this position's plausibility: Apart from 2 Tim 4:10, which Fellows can discount as later misinformation ("Titus," 35-36), Timothy and Titus do not appear together. Certainly, this argument would also resolve why "Titus" does not appear in Acts.
Yes, the Titus-Timothy hypothesis explains why "Titus" does not appear in Acts. Keener ponders this problem also on pages 242, 2862, 2947, 2954, 2958. The strongest arguments for the Titus-Timothy hypothesis, however, are found in the Corinthian correspondence, where it allows us to greatly simplify the sequence of events without duplications or multiple changes of travel plans. Keener does not discuss this.
Also, "Titos" would make a good nickname, a useful shortened form for "Timotheos."
Against Borse, I do not see Titus as a nickname or a shortened form for "Timothy". I think Titus was his praenomen from birth. "Timothy" could have been his cognomen from birth, but I now think it more likely that it was a new name that was given to him to reflect his role in the church (like Simon-Peter or Crispus-Sosthenes). New names often did have a phonetic similarity to the original name, and "Timothy" has an appropriate meaning (honouring God). No NT name is more appropriate for Titus than "Timothy".
Against it would be the oddity of changing names for a person without explanation, even in same letter (2 Cor 1:1, 19 for "Timothy", and thereafter "Titus," e.g., 2:13), though this sometimes occurred (even in Gal 1:18; 2:7-11, 14; Fellows, "Titus," 34-35). Moreover, "Titus" was not a particularly rare name (e.g., 2 Macc 11:34; it appears 201 times in Josephus, but this is because of Vespasian's son); "Titius" in Acts 18:7 is closer to "Titus" than "Timothy" is, yet most do not link them.
Every time that Paul uses the name "Timothy" he is appealing to Timothy's authority, and this raises the possibility that Paul calls him something else in other contexts. Co-senders are included to endorse the contents of the letters (see Fulton's PhD thesis), so Paul is appealing to Timothy's authority at 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; Phlm 1:1. Similarly in 1 Cor 4:17 and Phil 2:19-22 Paul is setting up Timothy as an example for his readers to follow. At 1 Cor 16:10 and arguably 1 Thess 2:2-6 Paul is bolstering Timothy's authority, and he is appealing to his authority also in 2 Cor 1:19. In Rom 16:21-23 he must use the names by which the greeters were best known.

 "Titus", on the other hand, was a praenomen, and praenomina were used among intimate friends and family. In 2 Corinthians, in the context of Titus's recent and forthcoming visits to Corinth, Paul is wanting to emphasize that Titus and the Corinthians had a close and affectionate relationship (2 Cor 7:13, 15; 8:16-17). Presumably Paul is trying to secure that close relationship, perhaps because the success of the collection depended on it. In this context the praenomen is appropriate. By using the praenomen, "Titus", Paul implies that Titus-Timothy considered himself to have a warm relationship with the Corinthians, and that is exactly what Paul wanted to emphasize. Paul's switch between "Timothy" and "Titus" would not have created ambiguity for the original audience, of course, since they would have known him by both names and they would have known his movements and they would have known that there was no other envoy that Paul could be referring to.

Timothy had been circumcised in Galatia and Paul did not want the Galatians to follow Timothy's example. When discussing Timothy in his letter to the Galatians, Paul therefore avoids honouring Titus-Timothy with the name "Timothy". He therefore calls him "Titus" instead, which is appropriate since they knew him well.

So, the name selections are consistent: When Paul wants his audience to follow Titus-Timothy's example, he calls him "Timothy". When he wants to emphasize the warm relationship between Titus-Timothy and his audience, he calls him "Titus".
The thesis is certainly plausible, but given the uncertainty of the positive evidence, whether it is the likeliest solution depends partly on how much one thinks that the author of the Pastorals knew. I favour accurate information in the Pastorals about distinct persons more than Fellows does, believing that the concrete tradition in 2 Tim 4:10 may reflect traditional assumptions about  their distinct identities within living memory of Timothy;
When reading 2 Corinthians, it is natural for readers (other than the original audience) to assume that Titus was a different person from Timothy (see Keener's earlier comment). 2 Corinthians could therefore have led the pastor to assume that there was a Titus who was not Timothy (even if he knew that Timothy's praenomen was Titus). It is possible that there were two Titus's but, for me, it is more likely that the pastor made an understandable mistake. Now, 2 Tim 4:10 reads, "for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia; Titus to Dalmatia." Commentators are too kind to "Titus" here, perhaps because of a pro-Gentile bias. The text is ambiguous about whether Titus had deserted Paul, and such ambiguity would not be fair on Titus if in fact he had gone to Dalmatia on Paul's instructions. My suggestion is that Titus never existed (as a person separate from Timothy) and that therefore no-one in the pastor's community had heard anything about him (other than what they read in 2 Cor and Gal). The pastor than wrote 2 Tim 4:10 to explain why no-one knew anything further about him: he had deserted to Dalmatia where no churches were established. 2 Tim 4:10 has verisimilitude if "Titus" was remembered only as a name in 2 Cor and Gal.
the evidence of Acts 16:3 is also against this speculation, since the author belongs to the Pauline circle and, on my view of authorship (see Keener, Acts, 1:402-16, and comment on Acts 16:10), would have known Timothy and presumably whether or not Paul had him circumcised.
I fully agree that the author of Acts was a companion of Paul and had good information. Indeed, the Titus-Timothy hypothesis supports the historical accuracy of Acts. I admit that the uninformed reader would not necessarily infer from Gal 2:3-5 that Titus was circumcised, but the original audience was not uninformed. Paul did not need to tell them that he circumcised Timothy because they already knew. The issue at the time of writing was not whether Timothy had been circumcised, but how his circumcision should be interpreted.

Acts 16:1-3 suggests that Paul would have let Timothy pass himself off as a circumcised Jew if people did not already know that he was uncircumcised (see my last post), and Gal 5:11-12 hints that the Galatians had misunderstood the circumcision of Timothy and concluded that Paul had come over to the agitators' position. Gal 2:4-5 works well as Paul's correction of the Galatians' interpretation of the circumcision of Timothy. Here Paul implies that the circumcision of Timothy occurred only because the false brothers found out that Timothy was uncircumcised. He then emphasizes that his circumcision of Timothy did not indicate that he had yielded to the agitators. In short, Gal 2:3-5 is just the sort of thing that we would expect Paul to write about Timothy to the region where he was circumcised.

Keener (p2954-5) makes the suggestion that Titus may have been Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4). This is highly unlikely since both "Titus" and "Gaius" were common Latin praenomina. It was very rare for someone to have two such names.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Acts 16:3 confirms that Luke was a Jew

Here I argue that Acts 16:3 makes best sense if the author took it for granted that his audience knew that Christian missionaries had to be circumcised to be effective. This is one of a series of posts arguing that all Christian missionaries were Jews in Paul's day.

Acts 16:1-3 reads:
1 Paul went on also to Derby and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
τοῦτον ἠθέλησεν  Παῦλος σὺν αὐτῷ ἐξελθεῖν, καὶ λαβὼν περιέτεμεν αὐτὸν διὰ τοὺςἸουδαίους τοὺς ὄντας ἐν τοῖς τόποις ἐκείνοις, ᾔδεισαν γὰρ ἅπαντες ὅτι Ελλην ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ὑπῆρχεν.
 After deciding to recruit Timothy to his mission team, Paul had three options
1. Leave Timothy uncircumcised and present him as uncircumcised in the mission field.
2. Leave Timothy uncircumcised and let others assume that he was circumcised. This was a real option (see b. Yev 45a-b and see here).
3. Circumcised Timothy.

At first sight it seems odd (to us) that Paul should circumcise Timothy soon after winning an agreement that circumcision is not necessary (Acts 15). We can assume that Acts 16:3 explains this apparent contradiction, at least to the satisfaction of the intended audience.

In Acts 16:3 Luke gives two reasons why Paul chose option 3.
(i) He wanted Timothy to accompany him.
(ii) The Jews in those places all knew that Timothy's father was a Greek.

Luke accompanied Paul and Timothy on the second missionary journey. Most commentators assume  that Luke was a Gentile (and that Titus remained uncircumcised). If this were the case, then being a circumcised Jew was not a necessary qualification for being an effective missionary partner on the second missionary journey. So, if Luke was a Gentile (and was presented as such), then reason (i) was insufficient to rule out option 1. On the assumption that Luke was a Gentile, most commentators then conclude that Acts must be saying that option 1 is ruled out by a combination of reasons (i) and (ii), and that option 2 is not considered. They suppose that the Jews tolerated Luke, an uncircumcised Gentile, but would not have tolerated an uncircumcised son of a Jewish woman. This is problematic, not least because the text does not say "they all knew that his mother was a Jew". It says that they all knew that his father was a Greek. Furthermore it is not clear that an uncircumcised son of a Jewish women would have been any more objectionable to anyone than an uncircumcised son of two Gentile parents, since matrilineal descent did not pertain in the first century.

If, on the other hand, Luke was a Jew (see my recent posts), then all of Paul's missionary partners were circumcised (Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Timothy, and Luke). This then raises the possibility that Luke expected his audience to know that Paul's missionary partners had to be circumcised (to be able to have effective ministries in synagogues). We can assume that the audience of Acts knew much more than we do about the required qualification of Christian missionaries in their day. This allows a very different understanding of how Acts 16:3 explains why Paul circumcised Timothy: Luke wrote reason a) to explain why Paul did not choose option 1, and he wrote b) to explain why Paul did not choose option 2. That is to say, Luke wrote "Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him" and the readers knew at that point that it would be necessary for Timothy to at least pass as a Jew. He then wrote "for they all knew that his father was a Greek", which implies that they all knew that Timothy was uncircumcised. Luke wrote this to show that Paul would have let uncircumcised Timothy pass as circumcised (option 2) if people had not already known that he was uncircumcised. Thus Luke communicates that the circumcision of Timothy was not ideological but was merely expedient.

To sum up, in Paul's lifetime his missionary partners would not have been effective in their work if others knew that they were uncircumcised (whatever their parentage). Timothy could not pass himself off as a circumcised Jew because the Jews already knew that his father was a Greek and that therefore  he was uncircumcised.

For me, this understanding of Acts 16:3 is confirmed by Gal 2:3-5
But not even Titus, who with me was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us - we did not submit to them even for a moment so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.
I infer from this that the circumcision of Titus (who was also called Timothy) had been misunderstood. The Galatians thought it indicated that Paul had yielded to the position of the agitators, but Paul points out that it was only because the agitators had, by spying, found out that Titus-Timothy's father was a Greek. For more on Titus-Timothy, see here.



Sunday, December 28, 2014

Craig Keener on whether Luke was Lucius (Rom 16:23)

In Keener's judgment the Lucius of Rom 16:21 is probably different from the Luke of Phlm 24; Col 4:14. See, for example, p412 n66. His reasons are as follows:

1. Whereas Lucius was a Jew, Keener (p404) thinks that Col 4:11,14 favours Luke being a Gentile. However, in my last post I argued that Col 4:11, 14 confirms that Luke was a Jew.

2. Following Fitzmyer, Keener points out that the name is spelled differently in Rom 16:23 than in Phlm 24; Col 4:14 (p404 n17). However, this is not surprising. "Luke" is a hypocoristic form of the name "Lucius" and hypocoristic name-forms abound in Philemon and Colossians (Epaphras, Demas), perhaps because the greeters had visited Colossae and had a close relationship with the believers there. Romans, on the other hand, was not written to a city that the greeters had visited, so familiar, abbreviated name-forms would not be appropriate. The greeters had, on their travels, met some believers who subsequently moved to Rome, but they had not met the majority of the audience. Thus Sosipater has his full name-form in Rom 16:21, and the shortened form, Sopater, in Acts 20:4.

3. Keener (p1987n52) notes the view of e.g. Dunn that someone as important as the Lucius of Acts 13:1 would be given a fuller description than that given to the Lucius of Rom 16:21. However, Dunn overlooks the importance of name order. In the list of Greeters, Lucius is named second only to Timothy. This suggests that he had travelled extensively among the churches for many years and had thereby met many who had moved to Rome. It seems that he knew more members of the church of Rome than any of the greeters except Timothy. His position in the list shows that he was prominent and his absence from Acts would be surprising (unless he is the author).

4. Keener correctly argued that Luke may have been present for events where he does not use "we" (as well as events where he does use "we") (p2363-74). However, he back-slides from this conclusion on pages 1987, 2531, 2957, and 2954 where he writes,
Paul there[in Rom 16:21] lists greetings from his coworkers, mentioning Timothy, Lucius (possibly but not necessarily our Luke; the "we" resumes only in Acts 20:5)
But the original plan was for Paul and his companions to sail to Syria directly from Achaia, so it is highly likely that the author of acts assembled, with the others, in Achaia. We should therefore expect to find his name in Rom 16:21-23 since he would know many of the members of the church of Rome. Keener avoids the problem by suggesting, without evidence, that Luke changed his mind about whether to accompany the collection. Keener (p2958) writes,
This may have been a late decision based on Paul's change of course; Macedonia's contribution was complete (cf. 20:3), and Luke could have planned to stay on in Philippi until he learned that Paul was passing through Macedonia en route to Jerusalem. 
This is a desperate move by Keener. Luke had long known about the collection, for Paul had passed through Macedonia on his way to Achaia. Why would Luke decide not to participate in the journey, and then change his mind later?

In conclusion, Keener's tentative decision to distinguish between Lucius and Luke is not well founded.

My own earlier post arguing that Lucius was Luke and also the author of Acts is here.

Col 4:11 and Luke's Jewishness

In the next posts I will argue that all Christian missionaries in Paul's day were Jews. In this post we look at Col 4:10-11, 14, which is often cited to indicate that Luke, at least, was probably a Gentile.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions - if he comes to you, welcome him. 
11 And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. καὶ Ἰησοῦς  λεγόμενος Ἰοῦστος, οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτομῆς οὗτοι μόνοι συνεργοὶ εἰς τὴνβασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, οἵτινες ἐγενήθησάν μοι παρηγορία. 
14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you.
In verse 11 the phrase "ones of the circumcision" is often taken to mean simply "Jews", and it is then inferred that Luke was not a Jew. But it is not the case that Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus Justus were Paul's only Jewish co-workers. What about Prisca, Aquila, Apollos, Mary (Rom 16:6), Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7), Crispus-Sosthenes, Silas, as well as Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen (Acts 13:1), and also Lucius, Jason and Sosipater (Rom 16:23)? A further problem is that if Paul really did have so few Jewish co-workers, it would be a remarkable coincidence that they were all in the same city as him at this time.

Clearly the scope of Paul's statement here must be limited in some way. Many take it to refer to only those who were with Paul at the time of writing, but this too is problematic. Firstly, there is nothing in the text to suggest this to the audience. Secondly, Timothy was with Paul at the time of writing (Col 1:1), and he was, by then, a Jew (Acts 16:3). If Rome is the provenance, then Prisca, Aquila, Mary, Andronicus, and Junia were probably also close at hand.

Furthermore there is a good reason to suppose that Epaphras and Luke, who were with Paul, were Jews. Here's why. Paul had to defend himself against the charge of bringing a Gentile into the temple. To do so, he stressed his own Jewish credentials and the piety of his friend, Ananias (see here). Given the nature of the charge against him, it was in Paul's interest to be seen to be surrounded by Jews, not Gentiles. Gentile friends could help Paul most by keeping a low profile. Indeed, the tasks of openly supporting Paul and of testifying in his defence would fall particularly to those co-workers who were particularly strict in their observance of the Law, for their testimony would carry weight. It was expedient that those who spent the most time with Paul should be Jews, and preferably strict ones, because of the optics. This suggests that Luke, who accompanied Paul to Rome, was a Jew. Also Epaphras was particularly close to Paul at the time, because Phlm 23 describes him (metaphorically?) as Paul's fellow prisoner, so he too was probably a Jew. Furthermore there are strong arguments that Luke was Lucius (Rom 16:23), who was a Jew (see my next post and here).

How, then, are we to understand Col 4:11? The problems are solved if, with E. E. Ellis and others, we take the "ones of the circumcision" to refer not to Jews in general, but only to those who observed the law rigorously. This seems to be consistent with usage elsewhere (Acts 10:45; 11:2; Rom 4:12; Gal 2:12; Tit 1:10). If we combine this idea with the insights above, we find that Epaphras, Luke, and Demas were Jews, but not of the strict variety. Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus Justus may then be the only co-workers of Paul anywhere in the world who were of the strict class. They may have been with Paul in Rome specifically because their presence would help his case against the charge of taking Trophimus into the temple. That is to say, Aristarchus may have travelled to Rome with Paul precisely because he was more strict in his observance of the Law than others such as Secundus, Sopater, or Gaius. Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus-Justus, being the strict, will have spent much time openly with Paul and this explains why Paul sends their greetings before those of Epaphras, Luke and Demas, and it also explains why Paul says that they have been a comfort to him. Paul could not put in writing that the strict Jews were with him to help his legal case, but that could be one of the details that Paul has asked Tychicus and Onesimus to pass on in the immediately preceding lines (Col 4:7-9).

In conclusion, Col 4:11 does not argue that Luke was a Gentile, but actually supports the view that he was a Jew.

While the analysis above is consistent with the Pauline authorship of Colossians, it does not require it. I argued before that Jesus Justus was fictional.

Friday, December 26, 2014

New evidence that Theophilus was from Philippi

Acts 16:11-12 reads
11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is
a leading city of the district of Macedonia (πρώτη τῆς μερίδος Μακεδονίας πόλις)and a Roman colony.
I suggest that 16:12 is explicable if Theophilus was from Philippi and Luke wrote this verse to honour him.



πρώτη means "first", but in what sense? Luke is not saying that Philippi was the first city that Paul came to, because Neapolis was the first. Luke must mean "first" in the sense of "most prominent/leading". This presents a problem. Why would Luke honour Philippi in this way, but not other cities? Only Tarsus is similarly honoured (in Acts 21:39, where Paul says "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city"). The problem is particularly acute because 16:12 seems to exaggerate the importance of Philippi. Thessalonica, not Philippi, was the capital of Macedonia, which was divided into four districts. Amphipolis was the largest city in Philippi's district, and Philippi had only 5,000 to 15,000 residents (Keener p 2380). Why would Luke proclaim the importance of Philippi, a relatively minor city, but not do the same for major cities, such as Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Corinth? Some have tried to solve the problem by suggesting a reading that is unattested in any Greek manuscript, but Witherington rightly dismisses this as a "step of desperation". Ramsay, however, attempted to answer the question by suggesting that Luke here is boasting of his own hometown (St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen p206-7):
The description of the dignity and rank of Philippi is unique in Acts; nor can it be explained as strictly requisite for the historian’s proper purpose. Here again the explanation lies in the character of the author, who was specially interested in Philippi, and had the true Greek pride in his own city. Perhaps he even exaggerates a little the dignity of Philippi, which was still only in process of growth, to become at a later date the great city of its division. Of old Amphipolis had been the chief city of the division, to which both belonged. Afterwards Philippi quite outstripped its rival; but it was at that time in such a position, that Amphipolis was ranked first by general consent, Philippi first by its own consent. These cases of rivalry between two or even three cities for the dignity and title of “First” are familiar to every student of the history of the Greek cities; and though no other evidence is known to show that Philippi had as yet began to claim the title, yet this single passage is conclusive. The descriptive phrase is like a lightning flash amid the darkness of local history, revealing in startling clearness the whole situation to those whose eyes are trained to catch the character of Greek city-history and city-jealousies.
It is an interesting fact that Luke, who hides himself so completely in his history, cannot hide his local feeling;
This idea was taken up (in slightly different ways) by Witherington (1998 p489),  Keener (2014 p2383), and Ascough ("Civic Pride at Philippi: the Text-Critical Problem of Acts 16.12" NTS 44 1998). There are three problems with the idea:
1. Philippi was not the author's hometown, for "we" occurs in 16:10, well before the group arrived in Philippi. Keener avoids this problem by suggesting that Luke is boasting of the town where he settled, not of the town of his birth. However, I doubt that people would boast of an adopted town, and Ascough's paper gives no examples of of such.
2. Luke was not interested in honouring himself. His work is anonymous and he refers to himself sparingly. On the occasions when he does use the first person, he generally uses the plural. Keener (p2373) writes that the use of the plural "allows Luke to avoid entirely the risk of self-commendation". Luke was keen to avoid drawing attention to himself. See my last post, here. Furthermore, the name "Luke" was a hypocoristic form of "Lucius", which was a Latin praenomen. It is testement to Luke's humility that he did not insist that others use his nomen or cognomen. See here.
3. Acts was not written exclusively for the church of Philippi, for other Aegean cities receive just as much attention in the narrative. Acts was probably written for churches in multiple cities, as Keener shows (p431-2). It would be undiplomatic for Luke to express civic pride in Philippi, for the purposes of honouring either himself or ordinary members of the Philippian church, if (as is likely) his audience also included believers from other cities, such as Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus. It seems unlikely that Luke would take sides in inter-city rivalries in this way.

It therefore seems to me that it is Theophilus whom Luke is honouring in 16:12. We know that Luke wanted to honour Theophilus, for he calls him "most excellent" (Luke 1:3). Luke's use of a dedicatee (Theophilus) works only if the intended audience knew Theophilus, so it is likely that most of them knew which town he came from. Theophilus was of high status and had probably performed benefactions for the churches, for example by paying for the production of copies of Luke-Acts. Luke's hearers would expect Luke to honour Theophilus, in accordance with ancient conventions concerning the honouring of benefactors. The audience of Luke-Acts were beneficiaries of Theophilus, assuming that he had indeed payed for the publication of the work, so they would not have resented Luke's rather exaggerated emphasis on the status of Philippi. Even today it is common to use hyperbole when thanking sponsors and other contributors to events, books, and films. It is not surprising that Luke describes Theophilus as "most excellent", and his city, Philippi, as first in rank. When a text is inexplicable to us, it is usually because the original audience knew something that we do not. I suggest that they knew that the sponsor of the text was from Philippi.

It seems, then, that Theophilus was from Philippi, and that he may have payed for the distribution of Luke-Acts among the churches of the Aegean, where he was known. This, of course, fits nicely with my view that Acts was written for the Aegean churches, where people such as Jason, Crispus-Sosthenes, Alexander, Tyrannus, and perhaps Pyrrhus, were already known (see here). It also fits with  the data that connect Luke with Macedonia and with Philippi in particular. The author of Acts travelled to Macedonia with Paul, Silas and Timothy, but he did not proceed to Corinth, for his name is absent from 2 Cor 1:19 and 1 Thess 1:1. He may have stayed in Macedonia. He probably next appears in 2 Cor 8:18-19 (see here), where he is probably the collection representative of the church of Philippi, for there is no named Philippian in Acts 20:4, and there is every chance that 2 Corinthians was written from Philippi as subscriptions indicate. Finally, he travels through Philippi in Acts 20:6.
Luke spent time in Philippi and the church there came to trust him with their money, and one of them, Theophilus, trusted him to write a history of the church.