Monday, December 28, 2009
Acts 20:8-9 (NRSV) reads: "[Paul] continued speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below..."
Why does Luke mention the lamps? Did they contribute to the accident in some way? Some have suggested that the lamps made the air 'heavy' and that this made Eutychus sleepy, but I am not aware of any scientific assessment. Larkin suggests that "the boy must have tried to catch the night air by sitting on a windowsill". Haenchen and F.F.Bruce assumed that the air would be freshest by the window. But if the air was freshest there, why did he fall asleep?
I will argue that the lamps would have made the room comfortably warm and may have caused a soporific concentration of carbon dioxide in the air. I will also argue that the air may well have been more sleep-inducing at the window than elsewhere in the room.
Lamps produced a lot of heat and relatively little light. In a scientific experiment an oil lamp produced 60W of heat and only 10 lumens of light. A modern incandescent 60W light bulb produces the same heat, but gives 870 lumens of light. Along with its 60W of heat, the oil lamp produces 0.0084 cubic meters of carbon dioxide per hour. This is the same amount of heat and carbon dioxide as a typical person (modern adults produce 75W of sensible heat).
From what I can gather, upper floor rooms in insulae (apartment blocks) were typically 4m by 5m. We can imagine there being 20 people in the room and 30 oil lamps (or equivalent). The lamps would give a third of the light of a modern 60W bulb, so the room would still be dimly lit by our standards. Now, the people would then emit 1.2kW of heat and the lamps would produce 1.8kW, making a total of 3kW. Now, the incident occurred at the end of April or the beginning of May. At this time of year in nearby Istanbul the average daytime maximum temperature is 18C, and the nighttime minimum is 10C. Now, we do not know whether the room in question was constructed of brick or wood, so let us consider each case in turn.
Brick has a high volumetric heat capacity so the building's temperature will have varied little between day and night. The room will therefore have been at about 14C before the arrival of the large number of people and lamps. I have performed a computer simulation to calculate how much the room would warm with 3kW of heat starting at dusk (8pm). The model predicts that by midnight the effective temperature in the room would be a cozy 23C. Therefore the people and lamps are sure to have made the room comfortably warm and this may have contributed to Eutychus's drowsiness.
It is reasonable to suppose that they would have kept the door(s) and window(s) closed (for privacy and to avoid disturbing the neighbors) until the room had warmed up. I do not have a good estimate of what the natural air infiltration rate would have been. Well sealed modern buildings can give as little as 0.4 air changes per hour. If the room in question had 2 air changes per hour, the 30 lamps would have created a carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration of 4800 parts per million (ppm). This much CO2 could well have contributed to Eutychus's sleep since complaints of drowsiness occur at concentrations as low as 1000-2500 ppm. Also, since warm air rises, we should expect the CO2 concentration to be higher for Eutychus at the window, than for the others, who would have been at a lower level. Thus, it seems plausible that CO2 was a factor in inducing Eutychus's sleep. CO2 buildup would be possible only if the window was closed, but Eutychus would still fall out if the shutters or window covering were not secured. The image above is of carbonized wooden shutters in Herculaneum.
If the room in question was made of wood it is likely to have started the evening at a temperature above 14C since it would have gained heat from the outside during the day. It would also have warmed up quickly after the people and lamps arrived. By midnight the occupants would have needed to open the window(s) and perhaps door(s) to induce a considerable amount of ventilation to prevent over-heating. This ventilation would prevent a CO2 problem, but the temperature distribution in the room would be an issue. The through-draught needed to prevent over-heating would make the room cool at the end of the room where the fresh air entered, and warm at the end where the air left. Someone sitting at the warm end of the room might well start to feel sleepy and move to the nearest open window in search of cool air. Unfortunately the air in that window would be warmer, not cooler. To find the cool, fresh air, Eutychus would have needed to cross to the other side of the room where the cool air entered. Now, by midnight the ambient temperature will have been lower than the temperature of the air in the building, so there would have been a tendency for air to enter the building on the ground floor and rise by buoyancy and exit through the window on the third floor where Eutychus sat. Therefore, Eutychus is unlikely to have found fresh air at the window.
If the room was crowded, the window may have been the only available spot for Eutychus to sit. Alternatively, when he started to feel sleepy he may well have moved to the window in search of fresh air. Like Haenchen and Bruce, he may not have thought through the physics of air movement in a three floor building, for the air was probably warmer and richer in carbon dioxide at the window than elsewhere in the room. The heat produced by the lamps, and perhaps the carbon dioxide, will have helped to induce Eutychus's sleep and this may be why Luke mentions them.
To do a more thorough study we really need someone with expertise in ancient building architecture to collaborate with someone who is expert in thermal modeling of buildings and computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Any volunteers?
Friday, December 18, 2009
Now, Paul also describes Epaenetus as the "firstfruit of Asia for Christ" (Rom 16:5). Now, the name "Epaenetus", means "praised/commended", and, like "Stephanas", also belongs to the semantic field of benefaction. There are numerous inscriptions in which beneficiaries agree to "praise" a benefactor, and Rom 13:3 also appears to use the term in connection with benefactions (so Winter).
The connection between the names "Stephanas" and "Epaenetus" and benefaction is illustrated by an inscription from c24 C.E., in which a synagogue community honors a benefactor:
τοῖς ἄρχουσι καὶ τῷ πολιτεύματι τῶν ἐν Βερενίκῃ Ἰουδαίων ἐπαινέσαι τε αὐτὸν καὶ στεφανοῦν ὀνομαστὶ καθ᾽ ἑκάστην σύνοδον καὶ νουμηνίαν στεφάνωι ἐλαίνωι καὶ λημνίσκωι
the leaders and the politeuma of Judeans in Berenike decided to praise him, to crown him by name at each gathering and new moon with a crown of olive branches and ribbon, ...
Reynolds, Excavations at Sidi Khrebish Benghaxi (Berenice), vol. 1, 1977 p244, no. 17. Translation by Phil Harland (Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations).
All this raises the possibility that Epaenetus was the founding benefactor of the church in Asia and that Paul alludes to his benefaction in Rom 16:5 by calling him the "firstfruits", and by referring to him as "Epaenetus", the name/title that he had received for his benefaction. Perhaps he was Tyrannus (Acts 19:9).
It is surely no coincidence that both of Paul's "firstfruits", Stephanas and Epaenetus, have names that are suggestive of honors commonly given to benefactors, and that their names appear only in connection with their benefactions. This illustrates the practice of giving new names to benefactors in the early church (compare e.g. Joseph-Barnabas and Crispus-Sosthenes).
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
In his 243 pages Phillips compares the Paul of the letters with the Paul of Acts. Instead of addressing Paul's theology, he focusses on Paul's "life", meaning his travels, chronology, and interactions with the Jerusalem church and others. These issues are central to any assessment of the historicity of Acts and for this reason Phillips' book deserves to be read.
Phillips starts by reviewing the Paul that Chilton reconstructs in Rabbi Paul, as well as the Paul of In Search of Paul, by Crossan and Reed. He then gives a useful summary of how the relationship between the Paul of the letters and the Paul of Acts has evolved, highlighting Baur and John Knox. However, I was disappointed that, having introduced the hypotheses of these authors, Phillips does not assess them.
Phillips rigorously follows a clear methodology for each topic. He first sets out the data found in the undisputed letters, then he does the same for Acts, and finally he compares the data sets. His approach is useful as it allows readers to make their own assessments. Scholars, who (rightly) focus on the apparent discrepancies between Acts and he letters, may be surprised at the degree of agreement between these texts. In chapter 3 Phillips applies his methodology to the chronological data. Chapter 4 concerns Paul's social status. Having equated Gal 2:1-10 with Acts 15, in chapter 5 he looks at Paul's relationship to the participants in this Jerusalem conference. In chapter 6 he assesses the data on the minor characters surrounding Paul.
In some ways Phillips gives a very balanced and cautious view. For example, he recognizes that there is considerable uncertainty in the social status of the Paul of the letters. However, on other occasions he is quite reckless. He attempts no careful exegesis of any passage, but simply assumes particular interpretations. This is unfortunate since his conclusion that there are discrepancies between the "two Pauls" relies almost entirely on ambiguous and much disputed passages in Galatians.
I noticed from the footnotes that he has clearly misunderstood modern writers on a number of occasions (e.g. p135 n25). There is a lot of repetition in the book, but it is readable, accessible, and worth the US $24.95.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
In Acts 16:6-11 we read that Paul and his companions were not permitted to preach in the province of Asia, which included Troas. They arrived in Troas but immediately are called to Macedonia. Evidently, they did not evangelize Troas or indeed its region, the Troad.
In 2 Cor 2:12-13 we learn that Paul's anxious desire to meet Titus drove him from the Troad to Macedonia. Paul had presumably communicated his Ephesus-Troad-Macedonia travel plan to Titus, who was to leave Corinth and travel to wherever Paul was scheduled to be at the time. Paul therefore knew that Titus would not arrive in Troas after the date that Paul had been due to leave. Paul, proceeded to Macedonia when this date passed because he was anxious to meet Titus as soon as possible. Paul had to stick to his original schedule to meet Titus the soonest. Now, Paul writes that he had gone to the Troad to evangelize and that a door was opened for him. The implication is that an unexpected opportunity for evangelism had arisen and that, had it not been for his anxiety, he would have extended his stay in the Troad beyond his scheduled departure date to exploit this opportunity. This makes it rather likely that Paul had not previously evangelized the Troad. If he had done so, he would have known what to expect and he would have been better able to judge how long he would wish to devote to that region. The opening of the door was unexpected because he had not tried that door before.
So, there is a minor point of agreement here between Acts and 2 Corinthians. Both imply that Paul did not preach in the Troad on his way to Macedonia.
How 2 Cor 2:12-13 explains Acts 20:6
When Paul went to Troas for the third time his desire to preach there was so strong that he spoke until midnight (Acts 20:7) and continued to converse until dawn (Acts 20:11), when he left for a full day's journey to Assos without having slept at all. He also devoted o fewer than 7 days to Troas (Acts 20:6), even though he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem (Acts 20:16)? Haenchen thought that Paul had difficulty finding a ship, and Pervo also suggests that the delay in Troas was involuntary, but this extended stay in Troas is simply explained by the priority that Paul placed on preaching in Troas.
All this agrees well with 2 Cor 2:12-13, which tell us that, a few months earlier, Paul had had to leave the Troad in a hurry, leaving preaching opportunities unexploited. It makes sense that Paul would want to spend a week in Troas to complete the work that he had cut short the previous year.
Acts and 2 Corinthians are in harmony here too.
The commentators seem to have missed these points.
Friday, December 11, 2009
"Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices" (NRSV)
Now, Downs (correctly) argues that the bringing of alms here sounds more like an act of private piety than the delivery of the collection that Paul had organized from the churches of Achaia and Macedonia ("Paul’s Collection and the Book of Acts Revisited" NTS 52 2006 p50-70). Luke's Paul is here presenting the collection as an act of private piety. Why did he do so? Well, I argued in my last blog post that the collection had been prohibited by the Jews of Achaia, who had jurisdiction in such matters, and that it was therefore illegal or at least controversial. It seems to me that this neatly explains why Paul presents the collection as an uncontroversial act of private piety. Paul, on trial for his life, choses his words carefully, preempting any accusation his accusers might bring about the collection.
Luke did not want to draw attention to the fact that the Christians had defied authority, so he did not reveal that Paul had collected funds from Galatia and later from Macedonia and Achaia. He was comfortable to mention only the uncontroversial famine relief by the church of Antioch (Acts 11:27-30) and Paul's carefully chosen words about bringing alms to Jerusalem. I suspect that Luke was cautious because adversaries of the church could get hold of a copy of Acts. Luke's intended audience, on the other hand, may have already known about the collection, in which case they would have understood the significance of Acts 24:17.
Apart from Acts 24:17, do we have other examples of cases where Luke's Paul carefully choses his words to save his skin? I would like to bring up one example. In Acts 22:1-3 Paul stresses his own strict Jewish credentials, and upbringing at the feet of Gamaliel. Luke here is not making the claim that Gamaliel was Paul's only teacher, or even his main teacher, as many suppose. Under the circumstances it would be legitimate for Paul to be selective with the facts. Remember that this is Luke's account of Paul's words, not Luke's account of events. Then, at Acts 22:12-15 Paul gives not hint that Ananias was a Christian, but says that he was devout according to the Law and respected by the Jews, and that he had endorsed Paul's future work. This information is completely absent from Luke's account of the same events in Acts 9:10-17. In Acts 22:12-15 Paul is seeking support from his audience by claiming that his work had the backing of a devout Jew. Luke's Paul, in great danger, understandably chooses his words carefully to try to win over his hearers.
We cannot, of course, prove that Acts 24:17 and Acts 22:1-3,12-15 are not Lucan invention, but it seems to me that these claims to Jewish piety are just the kinds of things that we would expect Paul to say, given the circumstances.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
1. Paul nowhere identifies anyone who helped with the collection. The two 'brothers' in 2 Cor 8:18-24 and the 'brother' of 2 Cor 12:18 are strangely anonymous, and Paul conspicuously uses Timothy's lesser-known name (Titus) when discussing him in connection to his missions to organize the collection. These silences are explicable if Paul was aware of opposition to the collection and was worried that it would be endangered if the identities of the helpers would leak out.
2. The plot was when Paul was about to sail. This is historically plausible since only at that time would it have been possible for the Jews to attempt to intercept the collection. Before that time the collection was dispersed in the homes of the individual donors (see 1 Cor 16:2).
3. If the plot was to attack Paul's person, it is surprising that he found out about it. If, on the other hand, Paul had been publicly forbidden from delivering the collection, he would have had reason to suspect that he would be under surveillance. Paul's knowledge of the "plot" is then explicable.
4. If the Jews (who had been given jurisdiction by Gallio) had declared the collection illegal, it would have been too dangerous for Paul to return to the Aegean after delivering the collection, and this would explain why Paul knew that he would not see the Ephesians again (Acts 20:25). The collection's illegality also explains why Acts does not mention it (for Luke is always careful to avoid giving any hint that the Christians do anything illegal).
5. We read that to avoid the plot Paul went north to Macedonia (Acts 20:3) and he sailed from Philippi and stayed in Troas (Acts 20:5). Why Philippi and Troas, rather than, for example, Beroea, Thesssalonica, or Ephesus? This was a long diversion, given his tight schedule (Acts 20:16). Well, it occurs to me that Philippi and Troas are the cities where he would have been safest from the plot of the Jews. We have no evidence of a synagogue in Philippi, and Acts records no Jewish opposition to Paul there. Also, there is no evidence that there were Jews in Troas in the first century.
6. Jewett argues that the boat that Paul took from Philippi to Patara was probably a coastal freighter that he had obtained for his exclusive use. This would have avoided the risk of being betrayed by fellow-passengers or port officials.
7. Paul's decision to split the party (Acts 20:5) will have served to protect the collection (so Gilchrist). The delegates (who were not under suspicion) would have been able to carry the collection with little risk of ambush, while Paul and Luke travelled separately with their empty pockets hanging out. Paul also travelled independently to Assos (Acts 20:13-14) and this also makes sense as a precaution against being arrested or ambushed while boarding a boat with the collection.
8. At first sight it seems that this "we" passage gives a surprisingly detailed and boring account of the journey. However, if the intended readers were expected to know that Paul was in danger of arrest or ambush, this passage is a gripping account of a daring escape and its inclusion is explicable.
It seems to me that the contents of this "We passage" comport well with the preceding mention of the plot (Acts 20:3). It is hard to imagine that Luke has inserted someone else's travel diary into his text at this point, as many suppose.
In summary: Paul, knowing that the collection would be opposed by synagogue Jews, chose to protect the identities of those who were to deliver it. The Jews in Achaia forbid Paul from delivering the collection, but he chose to do so anyway, even though he knew that he would be arrested if he ever returned to the Aegean. He was aware that he was under suspicion and that if he took a boat heading east he could be betrayed by crew or fellow passengers. He therefore headed north to Philippi, where there were few, if any, Jews who opposed him. Knowing that he was under more suspicion than the delegates, he sent them ahead to Troas with the money. Later, he walked from Troas to Assos, as a diversionary tactic, while the others took the money in the boat. To avoid being betrayed by fellow passengers they chartered a coastal freighter for their private use. Luke did not want to mention the collection in writing because of its illegality (Acts might fall into the hands of opponents), but his intended readers probably already knew about it. He wrote a dramatic account of how he and the others smuggled the collection out of the Aegean.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
It was rare in the ancient world for the author to include co-senders. Karen Fulton is doing a PhD on co-senders and finds only about 80 such cases. It is significant, therefore that Paul includes named co-senders: Timothy and Silvanus in 1 Thess; Timothy in 2 Cor, Phil, and Phlm; and Sosthenes in 1 Cor. What all these people have in common is that they all participated in the founding of the church in question (see 2 Cor 1:19 and Acts). Rom and Gal have no named co-senders and this is explicable because no-one who was with Paul at the time or writing had helped to found those churches. The role of Sosthenes in the establishment of church of Corinth is clear from Acts 18:8 and from the meaning of his name, if we accept that Sosthenes was Crispus renamed. So, Paul includes co-founders as co-senders. This suggests that the co-founders had authority in the churches that they helped to establish. Paul adds their authority to his own by including their names as co-senders.
This helps us to understand Paul's rhetoric in 1 Cor 16:15-16. Here Paul is urging the Corinthians to be submissive to the household of Stephanas. We also read that the household of Stephanas had been the "firstfruits (ἀπαρχὴ) of Achaia". It is widely agreed that the term "firstfruits" has the sense of "the first with the prospect of more to follow". Paul is not saying that Stephanas was merely the first convert of Achaia, because that would not have really helped him to convince the Corinthians to be submissive to this household, and because Athenians were actually the first converts (Acts 1:34). No, that Paul goes to the trouble of mentioning it at all suggests that the role of "firstfruits" was a more substantial role that commanded respect. It seems, then, that Stephanas had put his house and household at Paul's service and that this had allowed the formation of the church of Corinth.
Now, I have argued here and here that Stephanas was Gaius Titius Justus renamed. However, Doug Chaplain objects:
"Richard Fellows suggests with many that in the Corinthian Church Gaius and Titius Justus are to be identified as the same person. He goes a step further and suggests the man with this good proud Roman name is also to be known by a Greek nickname and identified with Stephanas. ....
I would say that 1 Corinthians 1:14-16 makes that inherently unlikely.
It seems to me that by far the most natural reading is to see Gaius and Stephanas as different people. It would be odd, I think, for Paul to use (what is a conjectural) praenomen for him as an individual and a nickname for him as the paterfamilias of a household."
I am grateful to Doug for the feedback and for getting me to think about this issue again. He is right that "Stephanas" cannot have been a "nickname" in the modern sense of the word, but that is not what is being proposed. Nicknames in modern times are usually informal names that are often humorous, but religious bi-names in the ancient world were very different. I am proposing that Paul gave Gaius Titius Justus the name/epithet "Stephanas" to honor him for making his house available for Paul to use for preaching.
Dale Allison believes that ancient authors could refer to someone by one name and then switch to another name for no apparent reason. However, I have not found this to be the case very often. I think it is valid to ask why the same person would be called "Gaius" in 1 Cor 1:14 and Rom 16:23, "Stephanas" in 1 Cor 1:16 and 1 Cor 16:15-18, and "Titius Justus" in Acts 18:7. In 1 Corinthians Paul is trying to unite the church under Stephanas's roof. To do this he bolsters the authority of Stephanas by reminding the Corinthians that Stephanas's household was the "firstfruits". It therefore makes perfect sense that Paul should call him "Stephanas" in 1 Corinthians, since this name/epithet honors him for his benefaction of providing a house. The Corinthians will have known the significance of the name and why it was given and Paul's use of it here is in keeping with his desire to remind the Corinthians that the household of Stephanas was the firstfruits and worthy of respect. It is true that in 1 Cor 1:14 Paul calls him "Gaius", but this refers to a time before he had earned the name "Stephanas". It is not surprising that Paul should call him "Gaius" in Rom 16:23. Someone's original name did not usually fall from use after they received a religious bi-name. Thus Peter continued to be known as "Simon/Simeon" (e.g. Acts 15:14). Similarly, Bar Kokhba continued to sign his letters "Bar Kosiba". Unlike the Corinthians, the church of Rome would probably not have known the significance of Gaius's bi-name, and Paul had no reason to use it. It is also not surprising that Acts should call him "Titius Justus" (Acts 18:7). By using his nomen and cognomen here Luke may be deliberately revealing that he was a Roman citizen. In any case, this verse refers to a time before Titius Justus would have received his bi-name.
So, there is nothing odd about the way that Paul sometimes calls him "Gaius" and sometimes "Stephanas". On the contrary, Paul's name selections seem to fit the contexts. I am therefore not convinced by Doug's objections to the hypothesis that Gaius was Stephanas. However, I find his comments on Stephanas here very insightful.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Stephanas particularly can be singled out for his social prominence, for he hosts Paul and the whole church, the members of which are expected, as good clients, to be submissive to him (1 Cor 16:15-16). ... At a later time, Gaius hosts the whole Corinthian church (Rm 16:23).
Osiek infers that Stephanas "hosts Paul and the whole church" and Rom 16:23 says exactly the same thing about Gaius. Acts 18:7, on the other hand, gives this role to Titius Justus. 1 Cor 16:15 describes Stephanas's household as the 'firstfruits of Achaia', meaning that Stephanas's conversion was Paul's first breakthrough in Corinth, and again Acts gives this honor to Titius Justus.
We seem to have three socially prominent people who fulfilled the same role in the Corinthian church, and this is all the more surprising when we remember that not many in the Corinthian church were socially prominent (1 Cor 1:26). What is going on? It is often pointed out the "Gaius" could have been the praenomen of Titius Justus, but what about "Stephanas"?
The name "Stephanas" means "crowned" or such like, and it was common for those who funded synagogue buildings to be crowned (metaphorically or physically). It is therefore very likely that "Stephanas" was a conversion name/agnomen that Paul gave to Gaius Titius Justus, who had made his house available for Paul to use as a (rival) synagogue.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
In the undisputed texts Paul sees an equality, or at least symmetry, between men and women (Gal 3:28; 1 Cor 7:3-5, 10-17; 32-34; Phil 4:3). In the disputed letters, in contrast, women are put down (Col 3:18-19; Eph 5:21-33; and 1 Tim 2:11-15, which is discussed by Emily Gathergood here). This raises the possibility that early interpreters of Paul were quite misogynist.
1 Cor 14:34-35 is found in different places in different texts and this is explicable if these verses were added to the margin of an early copy of the letter and were latter incorporated into the letter by later copyists. Philip Payne argues the case here, and Matthew Malcolm discusses it here.
Dominika Kurak-Chomycz argued here that some copyists may have amended their texts to put down Prisca.
It is now almost universally agreed that interpreters and translators changed Junia of Rom 16:7 to a man. This is discussed by Rena Pederson in her book "The Lost Apostle", and by Dianne McDonnell, Patrick McCullough, Bernadette Brooten, and Mark Goodacre.
Concerning alterations to Acts, Ben Witherington writes, "In view of the above evidence, it appears that there was a concerted effort by some part of the Church, perhaps as early as the late first century or beginning of the second, to tone down texts in Luke's second volume that indicated that women played an important and prominent part in the early days of the Christian community.' (The Anti-Feminist Tendencies of the 'Western' Text in Acts', JBL, March 1984).
I have not studied these issues in great detail, but, for now, I am convinced by the cumulative case, as is Bart Ehrman here.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Dr. Hoven, in a Corollary annexed to his dissertation, De Christianorum Saeculi primivitaet moribus, asserts that Sosthenes and Crispus were one and the same person. But, as St. Paul names Sosthenes, 1 Cor. i.1. and mentions Crispus, ver. 14 . of the same chapter, it is evidecet that they were different persons: for he would surely not have created an unnecessary confusion, in mentioning in so short a compass the very same person under two different names.