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, March 15, 2014

1 Cor 16:15-18, the cost of sea voyages, and the identity of Stephanas

Stanford University has produced "ORBIS", a valuable site for calculating the cost of travel in the Roman empire. Thanks to Charles Savelle for bringing this to our attention.


Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus travelled from Corinth to Ephesus and back (1 Cor 16:15-18). According to ORBIS the land journey was 1473 km and would have taken 50 days each way. So if they took the land route they would have been on the road for 100 days each (300 days combined), with a commensurate loss of income. Even a labourer earned one denarius per day (Matt 20:2). The opportunity cost of sending three men by land to Ephesus and back was therefore large.

The sea route is only 453 km and took only about a week, but it cost about 65 denarii each way per person in the first century. It therefore cost about 390 denarii to send the three men to Ephesus.

Now, what does all this tell us about the purpose of the journey of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus to Ephesus? It is normally assumed that they visited Ephesus to deliver the Corinthians' letter, at the request of the church. But if this were the case it is surprising that three people were sent. Why would the Corinthians not have sent just one letter carrier by sea, costing just 130 denarii for the round trip? Why expose three people to the dangers of shipwreck when only one was needed? People did not make unnecessary journeys and the group of three men demands an explanation. No explanation has been given before, as far as I know.

All is clear when we accept that Paul had honoured Gaius, by giving him the name "Stephanas", as I argued here. The church meetings were held in the house of Gaius-Stephanas (Rom 16:23). It was therefore the role of Stephanas and his household to control the proceedings, but the meetings had become disorderly (1 Cor 11-14) because the church members did not show enough respect for their hosts. Stephanas and two members of his household (Fortunatus and Achaicus) therefore travelled to Ephesus to report the problems to Paul and solicit his support, which he gave in 1 Cor 16:15-18. Fortunatus and Achaicus accompanied Stephanas because they shared with him the responsibility of hosting the church and they too needed Paul's endorsement if they were to be able to control the unruly congregation.

The church as a whole did not initiate the visit of the three men to Ephesus. They went on their own initiative and the church merely took the opportunity to send a letter with them.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Continuity of leadership in Paul's churches

In this post I argue that local church leaders tended to remain in their leadership positions and were not eclipsed by later converts. This helps us to discern the identities of several of Paul's co-workers.

Probably towards the end of the first century the church of Corinth deposed its leaders. Clement of Rome then wrote to them to urge them to re-instate their elders. The shock that Clement expresses in his letter suggests that it was rare for churches to turn against their leaders. Indeed, Clement's words imply that it was expected (and perhaps the norm) for church leaders to remain in office until death.
And as they [the apostles] went through the territories and townships preaching, they appointed their first converts (ἀπαρχή) - after testing them by the Spirit - to be bishops and deacons for the believers of the future. (42:4)
Similarly, our Apostles knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be dissensions over the title of bishop. In their full foreknowledge of this, therefore, they proceeded to appoint the ministers I spoke of, and they went on to add an instruction that if these should fall asleep, other accredited persons should succeed them in their office. (44:1-2)
How happy those presbyters must be who have already passed away, with a lifetime of fruitfulness behind them; ...  (44:5).
Continuity of leadership is not surprising. In the early days of the movement, those who took prominent positions within the churches risked persecution, so it is reasonable to suppose that they were dedicated to the cause. It therefore seems unlikely that the apostles, who appointed the leaders, would later replace them with other leaders.

Also, the numbers of Christians grew dramatically in the early years, and we know from the writings of Ignatius and Polycarp that Paul's churches continued to flourish. This suggests two things. Firstly, apostasy cannot have been common. Secondly, while divisions within churches were inevitable, they cannot have been so serious as to have jeopardized the viability of the churches. Continuity of leadership is therefore to be expected.

The first leaders of the early church were Peter, James, and John. It is no coincidence, I think, that these were the first, or among the first, disciples of Jesus (Mark 1:16-20; John 1:40-42). These were the "firstfruits" of the Jesus movement and they retained their leadership roles until they died, as far as we can tell. It may also be significant that when Peter becomes the first to declare that Jesus was the Christ, he is immediately appointed to a permanent position of leadership (Matthew 16:16-19).

The disciples decided to appoint someone to replace Judas (Acts 1:21-22). Their criterion is interesting. The candidate had to have accompanied Jesus since the time of the baptism of John. Only an early convert was suitable for the role. Now, it is true that James the brother of Jesus became the leader of the Jerusalem church even though he was not a follower of Jesus before the resurrection. However, he seems to have been given the leadership at the time when Peter had to go into hiding in ~44A.D. (Acts 12:17), after he had been within the fold for more than 10 years (Acts 1:14).

Acts 13:1 gives the names of 5 "prophets and teachers" in Antioch in about 46 A.D.: Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul. Barnabas was a believer already in the earliest days of the movement (Acts 4:36-37). Lucius was from Cyrene and was therefore probably among those from Cyrene who came to Antioch from Judea following the death of Stephen (Acts 11:20-21). He therefore probably came to the faith before Paul (Saul). Manean and Simeon had Hebrew/Aramaic names and Manean had been  σύντροφος of Herod. They were therefore probably not natives of Antioch. They may well have escaped to Antioch during the time of the persecution, along with Lucius. Saul's conversion had been in 35A.D.. Perhaps he is mentioned last because he was the most recent convert of the five. While we cannot be sure of all the biographical details, we can be assured that the group as a whole had many years of experience in the faith. They had probably all been believers for longer than the native Antiochenes whom they taught.

During the "first missionary journey" Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church (Acts 14:23). I doubt that Luke would have gone to the trouble of mentioning this if elders such as these were appointed for only a short time and were soon replaced by others.

Paul's letters also show that it was considered an honour to be an early convert. In 1 Cor 16:15 Paul commends the household of Stephanas for being the "firstfruits (ἀπαρχή) of Achaia". Similarly Rom 16:5 celebrates Epaenetus for being the "firstfruits (ἀπαρχήof Asia", and in Rom 16:7 Paul recognizes Andronicus and Junia for being in the faith before he was. Also, in 1 Cor 15:8-9 Paul shows that he was "the least of the apostles" by pointing out that Christ appeared to him "last of all". Furthermore, Luke honours his host, Mnason, by writing that the was a disciple of long standing (Acts 21:16).

It is generally acknowledged that Euodia and Syntyche were leaders of the church of Philippi (Phil 4:2-3). They were probably also among the earliest converts there because Paul writes that they had "struggled beside me in the work of the gospel". This probably refers to Paul's first visit to Philippi because:
a) the struggle referred to here may allude to the persecution that Paul suffered in Philippi at that time (1 Thess 2:1; Acts 16:22-23),
b) on the assumption of an Ephesian provenance Paul had visited Philippi only once,
c) the "work of the gospel" may refer to the evangelization of Philippi.
Therefore Euodia and Syntyche were probably early Philippian converts who had leadership roles there after several years.

In summary, all the data suggests that Clement was right. Those who were first to believe commanded the respect of later converts and retained their leadership roles. We should not suppose that new converts could attain positions of leadership in the church (except of course in new churches when all the local believers were new converts). Experience mattered. Being filled with the Spirit was not enough.

Implications for the identities of Crispus, Sosthenes, Gaius, Titius Justus, Stephanas, Jason, Aristarchus, Timothy, and Luke

We have seen above that prominent early converts were appointed to permanent leadership positions so it would be natural for them to be given new names to reflect their new identities and roles. Thus Jesus gave new names to his "firstfruits", Simon (Peter), and James and John (Boanerges) (Mark 3:16-17), in accordance with the OT practice of renaming those who were given a new calling.  Did Paul, likewise, give new names to his "firstfruits"? I have made the case in detail on this blog and I will not repeat the arguments here. I will merely show that the observations about church leadership above lend a little support to the renaming hypotheses.

Crispus-Sosthenes
I argued in Tyn Bul 2005 p111ff that Sosthenes (Acts 18:17; 1 Cor 1:1) was Crispus (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor 1:14) renamed. He was an early convert in Corinth and therefore had the respect of the Corinthian believers. This, and his role in the conversion of many Corinthians, explains why Paul includes him as his co-sender of 1 Corinthians. His name added authority to Paul's letter.

Gaius-Titius-Justus-Stephanas
Gaius was the host of Paul and the whole church of Corinth (Rom 16:23), yet in Acts Paul preaches from the house of Titius Justus (Acts 18:7). It is often supposed that Paul used Titus Justus's house during his first visit to Corinth, but switched to Gaius's house later. However, our findings on the continuity of church leadership makes this less likely. This supports the view that "Gaius" was the praenomen of Titius Justus.

In 1 Cor 16:15-16 Paul urges the Corinthians to be submissive to the household of Stephanas, the "firstfruits of Achaia". Is he promoting the leadership of Stephanas at the expense of Gaius and Crispus? Again, this would conflict with the evidence that changes of leadership were rare. The problem is resolved by the realization that Stephanas was Gaius Titius Justus renamed (see here for the evidence), and that Crispus was Sosthenes, who was no longer in Corinth (1 Cor 1:1).

Jason-Aristarchus
Jason (Acts 17:5-9; Rom 16:21) was the earliest known convert in Thessalonica and host of Paul. He was Paul's firstfruits in the city and therefore, in light of our findings above, he probably became a leader of the church there. Indeed, Luke mentions him as if he is already known to the audience of Acts. This supports my view that he was probably renamed "Aristarchus", which means "best leader". See here.

Titus-Timothy
Acts 16:1-2 tells us that in Lystra Paul found Timothy, who "was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium". Paul then appointed Timothy to be his fellow-missionary (Acts 16:3; 1 Thess 3:2; 2 Cor 1:19 etc.). Now, if Timothy was a resident of Lystra he could have been converted no earlier than Paul's first missionary journey. He would then have been a relatively new convert at the time that he joined Paul's traveling team. This is unlikely, given the importance placed on being a Christian of long standing. Why would Paul appoint a novice from Lystra rather than an experienced believer from Antioch? It is more likely that Timothy was an earlier convert and that Paul had sent him as his emissary to the churches of south Galatia, including Lystra. This explains why the believers in Lystra and Iconium commended Timothy: he had fulfilled his duties as Paul's envoy well.  So, while Luke does not say so explicitly, the implication is that Timothy was in Paul's orbit in Antioch prior to the "second missionary journey". This supports my contention that he was Titus renamed.

So, it seems to me that the observations about continuity of leadership in the first century church strengthen the cumulative case that Paul gave new names to his prominent early converts.

Lucius-Luke
It is often suggested that Luke was from Troas, simply because the first "we passage" in Acts starts there (Acts 16:8-10). It is, however, unlikely that Paul would recruit someone who would have been so new to the faith. This supports my view, which I have argued on other grounds, that Luke had joined Paul's team in Syrian Antioch and had avoided first person narrative for the land journey for stylistic reasons. See here. He may have been Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1).

Let me know if I have missed any arguments, for or against.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Von Lips revises his view on Titus-Timothy

The only publication to argue that Titus and Timothy were different people  is Hermann von Lips' 2008 book. At the time von Lips understandably knew only my 2001 paper and the earlier work of Borse. I then addressed his points on my blog here.

However, in a 2012 book von Lips gives a very different assessment of the Titus-Timothy hypothesis ("Ohne den 2. Korintherbrief kein Titusbrief!" in Der zweite Korintherbrief. p160-174)". Most of this article is available at google books here. He gives an overview of biographical details about "Titus" and  "Timothy" and presents many of the reasons for seeing him as one person, and cites a post from this blog. He concludes:
Wir können nicht definitiv klären, wie die Relation zwischen Titus und Timotheus ist, ob mit diesen Namen ein oder zwei Personen angesprochen werden.

(We can not definitely clarify the relationship between Titus and Timothy - whether one or two people are addressed with these names)
He gives two reasons for his indecision on Titus-Timothy (p167):
1. He finds tension between the circumcision of Timothy and the non-circumcision of Titus in Gal 2:3. He mentions that I offer a solution, but unfortunately he does not discuss it.
2. He is unconvinced by Borse's explanation for why Paul calls Timothy "Titus" when he does. However, Borse's explanation is not mine.
Even though von Lips does not properly explain his reservations about Titus-Timothy, this recent article is much better than his 2008. It is encouraging to see some engagement with my blog, and I think that this discussion of Titus-Timothy does indeed belong in a book on 2 Corinthians.

So we have now had four authors who have supported Titus-Timothy in print, and one who is undecided. No-one now argues against Titus-Timothy in print. So come one, you two-person theorists (you know who you are), you must either argue your case or abandon your position.
Also, Titus-Timothy has made his first appearance in a historical novel. You can download this well researched Spanish novel for free, here. Thanks to Xabier Aletheia for bringing this novel and von Lip's new article to my attention.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Hegesippus on the unity between Paul and James

Here I argue that Hegesippus was a supporter both of Paul's legacy, and of James. This bolsters my view that there was no doctrinal division between Paul and James.

Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History 4.22.7-8 tells us that Hegesippus was a Hebrew, and from 4.22 we learn that he travelled to Rome via Corinth:
Hegesippus in the five books of Memoirs which have come down to us has left a most complete record of his own views. In them he states that on a journey to Rome he met a great many bishops, and that he received the same doctrine from all. It is fitting to hear what he says after making some remarks about the epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. His words are as follows: “And the church of Corinth continued in the true faith until Primus was bishop in Corinth. I conversed with them on my way to Rome, and abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were mutually refreshed in the true doctrine.

This journey was in about A.D. 160 because Eusebius says that it was at the time of Anicetus. Hegesippus passed through Aegean churches such as Corinth. Presumably these churches had preserved Paul's letters and his legacy. Since Hegesippus was in agreement with the doctrine held by all  the bishops that he met, we can assume that he was no opponent of Paul's influence. Indeed, his statement that Corinth "continued in the true faith" suggests that he believed that Corinth was already in the true faith, at least after Clement's correcting letter (and Clement was also a fan of Paul). So Hegesippus endorsed Paul's legacy.

But Hegesippus was also a huge admirer of James:
The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows: “James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people. Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, ‘Bulwark of the people’ and ‘Justice,’ in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him. (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2.23.3-7)
So, Hegesippus endorsed James too. It is therefore hard to believe that there was a lasting doctrinal schism between Paul and James, yet this seems to be the view of many. Neither Hegesippus, nor Luke saw any rift between the two men. The rift is created only by those who misread Galatians. See here.



Incidentally, Peter Kirby has an interesting post on Hegesippus. He suggests that some words of Hegesippus have been misattributed to Josephus by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen. I think this kind of confused attribution is very possible, especially if Hegesippus's Hebrew name was Joseph.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Antipas" (Rev 2:13) as a symbolic name

David Lincicum has tentatively suggested that "Antipas" in Rev 2:13 could be a symbolic name. See here.
Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. (Rev 2:13)
Lincicum provides three new arguments, which I now summarize:

1. The nominative case ending of Ἀντιπᾶς is odd, but is explicable if the seer wanted to draw attention to the meaning of the name.
2. The symbolism of names is very important in the book of Revelation. Consider, for example, the name Jezebel (2:20), which was surely not her birth name.
3. The name could be interpreted as Ἀντι + πᾶς, that is, ‘on behalf of or in place of all’. Thus the name could signify that Antipas had died as a martyr on behalf of all the believers in Pergamum. This idea of vicarious suffering by Christians is well attested.

It should also be noted that the earliest Christians thought that those who showed exceptional commitment to the faith should have names with appropriate meanings (Phil 2:8-9; Matt 16:16-18, Acts 4:36-37, and Rev 2:17).

Now, if the name "Antipas" in Rev 2:14 is symbolic, it may still have been his birth name: it may be that the new meaning was attributed to his name following his demonstration of commitment.

We actually have 3 variants of the symbolic name theory:
1. He received the name (or its new interpretation) while he was still alive, perhaps awaiting martyrdom. Compare Peregrinus Proteus taking the name "Phoenix" in anticipation of his death.
2. The name (or just its new interpretation) was given to him after his death, but before the writing of Revelation.
3. The name was ascribed to him for the first time by John's revelation.
I don't know how to decide between these possibilities.

The Christian martyrs in New Testament times are Jesus-Christ, Stephen (which means "crown"), James and John Boanerges, Simon-Peter, Saul-Paul, James the Just-Oblias, Antipas, and Ignatius-Theodorus. They all received a new name, except perhaps for those (Stephen?) who happened to have been born with a name that already had an appropriate meaning. While we cannot be sure that "Antipas" was not his birth name, it seems likely that the church attributed meaning to the name. Lincicum is onto something.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

When did Paul first preach a gospel of Gentile liberty?

According to Paul (and others), Gentile men who accepted Christ were part of the people of Israel without having to be circumcised. Now, I used to assume, with the majority, that Paul preached this message from the start of his ministry, soon after his conversion. However, a recent lecture by Gerry Schoberg has caused me to dismiss this assumption. His conclusions are a little different from mine but can be found in his new book, Perspectives of Jesus in the Writings of Paul PTMS190.

Thesis
The first preaching by Paul to Gentiles that we know about is during the "first missionary journey" in about 46AD, yet Paul's conversion was in 35AD. Here I argue that Paul did not preach a circumcision-free gospel during the intervening 11 years.

Evidence
1. If Paul had established Gentile churches in this time period Acts would have said so, since Luke is very interested in the spread of the gospel to Gentiles (see Schoberg p119).

2. We have no surviving letters of Paul to any churches that he established in this time period (see Schoberg p119).

3. The church of Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch after hearing the news of the conversion of many Gentiles there (Acts 20-22). If Paul had already established Gentile churches, why did Barnabas not visit them instead?

4. Barnabas found Paul in his home town of Tarsus (Acts 11:25), which is where Paul had gone years earlier (Acts 9:30). This gives the impression that Paul had remained there, perhaps because he had family and friends there.

5. The controversy in the church about circumcision arose only in ~48AD when men came to Antioch from Judea. If Paul had been establishing churches of uncircumcised Gentiles  ever since his conversion in 35AD, why did the controversy not arise earlier?

6. Paul went up to Jerusalem (in ~48AD) 14 years after his conversion and presented his gospel of Gentile liberty to the church leaders there (Gal 2:1-3). He did so privately because he was worried that he had been running in vain. Why did he take 14 years to check that he had not been "running in vain"? Why did he not make an earlier visit to Jerusalem to discuss the issue? Why did he not present his gospel to them during the famine visit (Acts 11:29-30; 12:25)? John Chrysostom notes, but does not solve, this puzzle:
What is this, Paul? You would not consult the apostles at the beginning or after three years, but you now consult them after fourteen years are past, to make sure you are not running in vain? Would it not have been better to have done so at first, rather than after so many years? And why did you run at all, if you thought you might be running in vain?
 It makes little sense if he had been preaching that same gospel for all those years, but it is perfectly consistent with the account of Acts. According to Acts Paul had been on only one missionary tour before he laid his gospel before the Jerusalem church leaders. The Holy Spirit had commissioned Paul and Barnabas for that tour, so he had no opportunity to check that Jerusalem endorsed his message. His uncertainty about what Jerusalem believed would have been heightened when the men who came from Judea claimed that Jerusalem supported their view that Law-observance was necessary (Acts 15:1,24).

7. Gal 1:23 reads 'they only heard it said, "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy."' Now, the faith that Paul had tried to destroy did not include a circumcision-free message (Peter's Cornelius episode came later). Paul makes no distinction here between the faith that he proclaimed early in his ministry and the pro-circumcision faith of the church of the time.

8. Gal 5:11 reads "why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision". This may refer back to a time earlier in Paul's ministry when he had preached circumcision to Gentiles.

9. Paul wrote Galatians to counter the view that he believed in circumcision (for Gentiles). The Galatians were thinking that Paul preached Gentile liberty only to please the Jerusalem church leaders. See here. We can imagine how this misunderstanding could have arisen if Paul had not started preaching Gentile liberty until after the Jerusalem church leaders had come to support it. If, on the other hand, Paul had preached a circumcision-free gospel before anyone else did, then it would be surprising that he does not say so explicitly in his letter.

Conclusion
For the reasons given above, we can be confident that Paul did not preach a Law-free gospel until several years after this conversion. His missionary tour of Cyprus and south Galatia with Barnabas was probably the first time that he did so. It is likely that Paul did evangelize Gentiles in the early years, but he did not preach against circumcision at that time.

When did Paul first receive his circumcision-free gospel?
What, then, are we to make of Gal 1:10-12?
Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not according to man; for I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul is challenging the rumour that he opposed circumcision in Galatia only to please men (i.e. the Jerusalem apostles). Paul therefore points out that he had received his gospel of Gentile liberty by revelation at his conversion. At least, that is how he interpreted the revelation in retrospect, it seems. Why, then, did he not preach that gospel from the start? Well, we know from Gal 2:2 that it would have been futile for Paul to preach Gentile liberty when the rest of the church did not yet support such a view. Paul could preach against circumcision only after the Jerusalem church became supportive of that view, following Peter's vision. The church of Antioch was the first to include Gentiles in large numbers (Acts 11:19-22), and it is interesting that at that time Barnabas recruited Paul to come to Antioch to teach (Acts 11:25-26). Presumably Barnabas knew that Paul would support the steps that Antioch had taken to include Gentiles.

I propose, therefore, that Paul received his gospel of non-circumcision (at least in some respects) at his conversion, but did not preach it until much later. Many will object to this. They will use passages such as Gal 2:11-14, 5:2-12 to argue that Paul was uncompromising in his opposition to circumcision and would have preached against circumcision from the start. However, they fail to understand that Paul wrote Galatians to correct the view that Paul actually believed in the need for circumcision. Paul takes an extreme position in these passages only to correct the Galatians' view that a) he believes in circumcision and b) he is writing only to please Jerusalem. Interpreters have become victims of Paul's rhetoric and have cast him as a heroic, principled, individual, rather than as a first century team player who belonged to a collectivist culture.

Imagine a parallel universe in which the rumour in Galatia had been different. Imagine that the Galatians had accused Paul of being a maverick who was stubbornly uncompromising and unwilling to collaborate with other church leaders. Paul would then have written to the Galatians to counter that misinformation. He would have given evidence of his close co-operation with the Jerusalem church, and subsequent generations of commentators would have come away with the view that Paul was a sycophant of Jerusalem. We cannot understand Galatians without first discerning the misinformation that Paul writes to correct.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

New arguments against Knox's chronology of Paul's career

In his "Chapters in a Life of Paul" John Knox used Paul's letters to reconstruct a sequence of Paul's travels, placing Paul's evangelization of Europe before his visit to Jerusalem of Gal 2:1-10. While Knox's chronology may have fewer followers than it once had, it is still popular in some circles, and Robert Orlando appealed to it in a comment on my last blog post. In this blog post I discuss each of the three pieces of evidence that Knox calls upon, as well as the counter arguments.

Evidence that the council was after Paul's first trip to Macedonia

Knox's first argument: Paul's eagerness to "remember the poor"
Gal 2:10 reads "They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do." This request to "remember the poor" is dated to 48 or 49 AD and Paul's collection of money for Judea was delivered in 56 or 57 AD. This interval of 8 years seems too long, especially given Paul's eagerness. Why would Paul wait such a long time to respond to the request. If the conventional sequence of events were correct then Paul's Galatian readers would surely have retorted, "Well if you were eager, why did you wait so long instead of collecting money from us immediately after the request was made?". Knox's solution to this problem is, of course, to place Paul's Jerusalem visit of Gal 2:1-10 after his stay in Corinth, and this means that the delivery of the collection would be 3 or 4 years after the request was made.

However, Knox is too quick to assume that the collection from the churches of Achaia and Macedonia was Paul's first such collection after the request to "remember the poor". He defends this assumption by stating that there is no evidence of any other collection in the intervening years (1987 p38-39). But there are 3 independent pieces of evidence that suggest that Paul collected funds from Galatia soon after the request was made.

1) 1 Cor 16:1-3 mentions a collection from Galatia. It is unlikely that this was to be delivered at the same time as the collection from Corinth, since Galatia is conspicuously absent from the donor provinces that Paul mentions in Rom 15:26.
2) Larry Hurtado has shown that Gal 2:10 itself suggests that Paul had asked the Galatians to give money to the poor in Judea (and that the agitators had taken this to mean that Paul was obedient to the Jerusalem apostles, which is a charge that Paul denies by saying that he had been eager even before he was asked). See my earlier blog post, here. Now, Paul does not encourage the Galatians to collect money in his letter and there is no indication that the collection is still on-going. It is therefore likely that the collection, to which Gal 2:10 refers, had been completed before the letter was written.
3) Titus was in Jerusalem with Paul (Gal 2:1-2) so he knew the needs of the poor in the church there. Titus was therefore Paul's obvious choice to go to (south) Galatia to organize a collection. The collection from Galatia therefore explains why Timothy (who's first name was Titus) was already in Galatia when Paul arrived (Acts 16:1-3) a few months after the conference. Paul had sent him there to arrange a collection.

It seems to me that these three arguments, in combination, show that Knox was wrong to assume that Paul made only one collection after being asked to "remember the poor". While Knox reduces the time interval from 8 years to "3 or 4 years", he is not able to reduce it any further. If 3 or 4 years is better than 8 years, then the interval of a few months, determined by my proposal, is even better.

Knox's second argument: The brevity of Acts 18:22
Knox (p49) drew our attention to Acts 18:22 where we are told simply that Paul landed at Caesarea and then "went up", presumably to Jerusalem. Luke's account of this visit is strangely brief, which supports Knox's view that Luke has taken the events of this visit and brought them forward to Acts 15. However, Luke is equally brief about Paul's visits to Antioch, Galatia and Phrygia in these same verses (Acts 18:22-23). What advantage is an explanation for Luke's brevity concerning Jerusalem if it does not also explain his brevity concerning these other places? And is the brevity really so strange? I have argued before that Acts was written for the Aegean churches. Luke focusses on a) the history of how the faith found its way to the Aegean churches, and b) events where he was personally present (which included not only the "we passages"). Paul's tour in Acts 18:22-23 belongs to neither category so we should not be surprised that Luke gives few details.

The Knoxians' third argument: "The beginning of the gospel"
Phil 4:15-16 reads
You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel (ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου), when I left Macedonia no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once.
The Acts chronology places Paul's evangelization of Macedonia some 15 years after his conversion, which can hardly be described as the beginning of the gospel for him. Knox places Paul in Macedonia only 6 years after his conversion, and feels that this explains how Paul can write that he left Macedonia "in the beginning of the gospel". I, along with most commentators, think Knox misunderstood Paul's time reference here. The time interval between Paul's conversion and the Philippians' acts of benefaction is not relevant to the context.  Paul is here praising the Philippians for being so generous even in the early days of their faith. It was the beginning of the gospel for them. It is interesting to note that Paul never asked any province to contribute funds for Jerusalem until a few years after their evangelization. For the Philippians to give to Paul so soon after their conversion went beyond the call of duty and Paul praises them for that. This understanding of Phil 4:15 is confirmed by verse 16, where he accentuates the same point about the Philippians displaying generosity so soon after their conversion: "For even when I was in Thessalonica....".

Arguments for placing the council before Paul's first trip to Macedonia
The Acts narrative is demonstrably correct about the sequence of Paul's journeys, especially in the relevant time period. Luke was a participant in many of the events, as were many in the Aegean churches, to which he wrote. They would not have been ignorant of the correct sequence of events.

It is impossible to cut Acts 15 from its context and paste it into Acts 18:22 without doing violence to one or both passages. Knoxians seem quite evasive on the question of exactly which events of Acts 15:1-16:5 they wish to move to after the evangelization of Macedonia. In Acts 15 Paul travels to Jerusalem from Antioch and is accompanied by Barnabas. In Acts 18:22, however, he travels from Corinth via Ephesus and Caesarea, and Barnabas is nowhere in sight. Indeed, Paul had already split from Barnabas over John-Mark, and Paul's split from Barnabas is the occasion for Paul's selection of Silas-Silvanus (Acts 15:39-40), who was definitely with Paul during the evangelization of Macedonia and Corinth. Furthermore the conference of Acts 15 is a past event by the time of Acts 16:4. The circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3 must belong before the second missionary journey: why would Timothy need to be circumcised in time for the 3rd missionary journey but not for the second? Paul's Jerusalem visit of Acts 15 is simply too intertwined with its context to be a duplicate of a visit glossed over at 18:22.

Gal 2:2 reads "Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain." It seems that Paul needed the endorsement of the Jerusalem church leaders. Now, he would have needed this endorsement before his "second missionary journey", which was a mission the he led. Knox must explain why Paul would manage without any endorsement during his "second missionary journey, but then require that endorsement before his "third".


For me, a strong argument against the Knox chronology is that it places the events of Gal 2:1-10 after the text was written! I see Paul's letter to the Galatians as Paul's response to the confusion that resulted from his circumcision of Timothy (see Gal 5:11 for example). Paul would surely have cleared up that confusion when he passed through Galatia (Acts 18:23), so the letter belongs to the second missionary journey, not the third.

The Acts chronology is confirmed by the Gallio inscription, which places Paul's first visit to Corinth in ~51AD. Knox and, especially, Lüdemann hypothesize that Luke may be correct that Paul was brought before Gallio, but that it may have happened during a later visit by Paul to Corinth. This is a desperate move. Acts 18 is a unity rather than a conflation of events from two different visits. Sosthenes (Acts 18:17) was Crispus (Acts 18:8) renamed, and he had left Corinth by the time that 1 Cor 1:1 was written.



In conclusion, the Knox chronology has nothing to recommend it. Luke, even though he probably did not read Paul's letters, has written a better "Letters-based" chronology than Knox was able to do.