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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Around the blogs in January

This is a mini carnival for January, focussing on what's new on the blogs in scholarship of Acts and Paul's life (rather than theology).

Lee Dahn finds links between the Lazarus of the parable and the Lazarus of John's gospel. I recommend this article, as his observations open up all sorts of historical and interpretive possibilities.

Mark Goodacre contrasts the later gospels with the anonymity of the 4 canonical gospels.

Loren Rosson nuances the debate on whether Paul was called or converted.

Charles Savelle quotes Schnabel on why the apostolic decree of Acts 15 was acceptable to Paul.

Michael Bird discusses James Dunn's unsupported speculations on the reasons for Romans

Peter Head, unlike Douglas Campbell, questions whether Phoebe read the letter to the Romans.

Stephen Carlson also discusses discussions of whether Paul calls Andronicus and apostle in Rom 16:7.

Matthew Malcolm presents a proposal on exactly how Paul was a "Jew to the Jews".

Stephen Carlson wonders here whether the unnamed "brother" of 2 Cor 8:18 was Epaenetus of Rom 16:5. Josh Mann picks up the issue here.

Mark Goodacre points out a fascinating article on ancient synagogues by Stephen Catto.

Phil Harland continues to provide interesting background material, here providing another example of an association honoring a benefactor.

Keep up the good work, bloggers.
Feel free to use the comments to let me know what else I should have included.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Luke=Lucius=author of Acts

Here I make the case that Luke (Philemon 24), Lucius (Rom 16:21) and the author of Acts were one and the same person. The argument has a triangular structure, with each element strengthening the other two. A three-fold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Luke was Lucius
I have shown in recent posts (here, here, here, and here) that Paul uses informal name forms for those from whom he sends greetings in Philemon 23-24, so it is probable that "Luke" (Λουκᾶς) was not his full name, but was an abbreviation. This is confirmed by the rarity of the name "Luke". The 6 volumes of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names (LGPN) has just 11 Lukes. The name "Luke" (Λουκᾶς) was a short form of the name "Lucius" (Λούκιος) (see A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East), so it is almost certain that the Luke of Philemon 24 was known formally as "Lucius".

Was he the Lucius of Rom 16:21? The LGPN lists 286 Lucii out of 300,584 people, which is just 0.1%. Admittedly, Latin names of this kind are rather over-represented among Paul's companions, for whatever reasons. We have a Mark (Acts 12:25), two Gaii (Acts 19:29; 20:4), and a Titus (Gal 2:3), though all but one of these were from the east. However, those who sent greetings in Paul's letters were part of a rather small group of close companions of Paul, since their names frequently recur elsewhere (consider Timothy, Jason, Sopater/Sosipater, Gaius, Erastus, Epaphras/Epaphroditus, Aristarchus, Prisca and Aquila). It therefore seems likely that the Luke of Philemon 24 was the Lucius of Rom 16:21.

A counter-argument is often put forward. It is said that the Lucius of Rom 16:21 was a Jew and that Luke was a Gentile. This argument rests on the assumption that συγγενεῖς in Rom 16:21 means "relative", and that it applies to Lucius as well as to Jason and Sosipater. It also rests on the assumption that we can infer from Col 4:11,14 that Luke was a Gentile. However, I have argued that the author of Colossians did not have accurate information on Paul's companions. He merely copied the names of the greeters in Philemon and naively left them in their hypocoristic forms. He probably misread "Jesus" in Philemon 23, and misidentified Mark. He was not a careful historian with good information, so we cannot assume that Luke was a Gentile.

Luke was the author of Acts
Luke's authorship of Acts is very well attested (see The Anti-Marcionite Prologue, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, The Muratorian Fragment, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome). This unanimity is impressive. However, there is an apparent difficulty with the identifications. The author of Acts was an important member of Paul's team, who accompanied him on the second missionary journey and travelled with him to Jerusalem and to Rome. "Luke", on the other hand appears to be unimportant since he is the last named of the greeters in Philemon 23-24, and is penultimate in Colossians. John Chrysostom on Philemon 24 rightly asks:
Why then does he put Luke last?
The problem, however, is only apparent. Chrysostom, himself, correctly explains why Paul includes greeters in Philemon:
And from these [the greeters] indeed he [Paul] salutes him [Philemon], urging him [Philemon] the more to obedience, and calls them [the greeters] his fellow-laborers, and in this way shames him [Philemon] into granting the request.
The greeters, therefore, are probably listed in descending order of their importance as examples for Philemon to follow. Epaphras is named first, because he was at that time sharing Paul's captivity and therefore provided an example of self-sacrifice. I have argued that Aristarchus, and perhaps Mark were benefactors of the church and this may explain why they were mentioned next, since Paul was encouraging Philemon to be a benefactor. Now, if Luke was a fellow-evangelist of Paul rather than a benefactor, it would be no surprise that he would be mentioned last. The fact that Luke is mentioned last does not preclude him being the author of Acts or Lucius. The author of Colossians, however, seems to have misunderstood Philemon 23-24, and promotes Luke by only one place.

Now, the church fathers unanimously ascribe the authorship of Luke-Acts to Luke in spite of the difficulty of his apparently lowly position in the list of greeters in both Philemon and Colossians. They must have had good reason to do so. The witness of the fathers therefore carries weight: it is not a mere inference from the texts, but actually goes against a (surface) reading of the texts (especially with the assumption that Paul wrote Colossians).

Incidentally, there are other cases in the NT where the context is one of benefaction, and in each case the name order is chosen according to importance in benefaction. Aquila is mentioned before Prisca/Priscilla in Acts 18:2-3 where we are told that Paul stayed in their house, and in 1 Cor 16:19 where the use of their house for the church is also in view. Elsewhere Prisca/Priscilla is mentioned first. In Acts 20:4 Luke lists the three Macedonians before the other 4 men, which even included Timothy. They may be mentioned first because they (or at least their region) contributed to the collection (see Rom 15:26). It seems that people were always listed in descending order of importance, but the criteria for importance depend on the context.

The author of Acts was Lucius
Paul left Philippi after the days of Unleavened bread (Acts 20:6). From this we can date his departure from Philippi to probably 15th April 57 or 26th April 56. He therefore did not depart from Corinth before early April. It is unlikely that Phoebe (Rom 16:1) departed for Rome before Paul left Corinth, because sea travel, while possible from March 10, was considered dangerous until May 27th, and she had to travel west against the prevailing winds. In all probability Phoebe left Achaia after Paul, who will have handed the letter to her just before his departure. Those named in Acts 20:4 had clearly assembled in Greece with the aim to traveling with Paul to Jerusalem via Syria. The author of Acts must surely have been among them, for otherwise he would have risked missing the boat (the change of plan occurred as Paul was about to set sail). It is therefore probable that the author of Acts was with Paul when he handed Romans to Phoebe just before leaving Greece.

In Rom 16:21-3 Paul sends greetings from Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus. Luke belongs to a distinct group of four, with Timothy, Jason-Aristarchus, and Sosipater/Sopater, all of whom accompanied Paul with the collection (Acts 20:4). It is therefore highly likely that Lucius too was one of those who were assembled in Corinth, from which the group was scheduled to depart for Syria (Acts 20:2-4). Lucius is mentioned second, indicating his prominence. He proceeds even Jason-Aristarchus and Sosipater/Sopater, who were very prominent in the collection project, for they are mentioned first and second in the list of 7 names in Acts 20:4. Lucius was therefore a very prominent believer. Now, Acts mentions all of Paul's prominent associates (Titus-Timothy is no exception), so Lucius almost certainly has a role in Acts. He should be identified as the author of Acts, for there are no other good candidates.

In Rom 16:21-23 Paul sends greetings from all of his prominent companions who were with him at the time, so it would be surprising if he did not include the author of Acts, who had been his fellow-evangelist on the second "missionary journey" and would travel with him to Jerusalem and later to Rome. Sopater and Jason-Aristarchus are mentioned because they were men of highest repute who were entrusted by the Macedonians to deliver the collection. Gaius of Derbe, Tychicus and Trophimus were likely with Paul in Corinth at the time, but they were relatively minor characters and were not delegates of donor churches. It is true that Secundus was from Thessalonica, but he is mentioned after Aristarchus in Acts 20:4 and appears no-where else. Crispus is no exception, for he was Sosthenes, who had moved to Ephesus (1 Cor 1:1). Stephanas and Titius Justus were no exceptions because Gaius-Titius-Justus-Stephanas was one man and is mentioned.

In short, if Lucius was not the author of Acts, then Lucius is strangely absent from Acts, and the author of Acts is strangely absent from Romans.

Origen (translated by Rufinus and Scheck) wrote on Rom 16:21,
Moreover, some maintain that this very Lucius is Luke, who wrote the Gospel
It seems that Origen accepted this identification for he later says that Rom 16:21 describes the
"relationship that is held in common between himself [Paul], Timothy, and Luke and with a few others like them"
Origen was surely right. The Lucius of Rom 16:21 can be none other than the author of Luke/Acts, who was Luke, as the church fathers strongly attest. It is only the (unhistorical) information in Colossians that has prevented most ancient and modern commentators from making this three-way identification. When Philemon is read on its own terms, without regard to the pseudonymous Colossians, Luke/Lucius comes into sharper focus as the author of Acts.


I hope to discuss Lucius of Cyrene in a later post.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Aristarchus was Jason

In Philemon 23-24 Paul sends greetings from Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. In the last 4 posts I have argued in detail that Paul chooses to use abbreviated or diminutive forms of the names of these men. However, "Aristarchus" is the exception. Why does Paul not use his praenomen (if he had one), or abbreviate his name (Aristas?)?

Well, it all makes sense when we realize that "Aristarchus" had received this name, which means "best ruler" (best Archon?) in recognition of his benefactions towards the church. By using the name "Aristarchus" (unabbreviated) in this letter, Paul reminds Philemon of Aristarchus's benefactions. Paul wants Philemon to be a benefactor (by releasing Onesimus), so the mention of Aristarchus provides Philemon with an example to follow (see my post on the purpose of the greetings here). It was Paul's style to use someone's new name to draw attention to the role for which the person was named. Thus Paul calls Cephas "Rock" in Gal 2:7-8 when discussing Cephas's role in the church. Similarly, Paul calls Gaius-Titius-Justus "Stephanas" in 1 Cor 1:16 and (more clearly) in 1 Cor 16:15-17 when his benefaction of his house and household are in view (see the discussion with Doug here). It is also possible that Paul calls Crispus "Sosthenes" at 1 Cor 1:1 for the same reason.

Benefactors in the church often received new names. The strongest evidence is for the case of Crispus-Sosthenes, but I have also argued for Stephanas. Other examples include Joseph-Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37) and probably Mary Magdalene.

Aristarchus was one of those who was chosen to accompany the collection to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). Philo, referring to the temple tax, wrote,
At stated times there are appointed to carry the sacred tribute envoys selected on their merits, from every city those of the highest repute, under whose conduct the hopes of each and all will travel safely. (De spec. leg. I, xiv, 78)
It is therefore likely that Aristarchus was of high repute and trusted with money. The names in Acts 20:4 are ordered geographically, but Aristarchus is named before the other Thessalonian (Secundus). All this fits nicely with the proposal that he was a respected benefactor who was worthy of the name "Aristarchus".

All this is supported by the fact that Aristarchus has a doppelganger in the person of Jason. Let us explore whether Jason was given the name "Aristarchus". Jason is the only other benefactor of the Thessalonian church that we know about (Acts 17:5-9). He appears again in Rom 16:21. From this verse, his name, and his early conversion, we deduce that he was probably a Jew. Colossians 4:10-11 suggests that Aristarchus was also a Jew. This is supported by (Acts 27:2) which shows that Aristarchus had been in Caesarea. Also, the charge against Paul was that he had been too supportive of the rights of Gentiles, so it would not have done Paul's case any good if his helpers (Aristarchus and the author of Acts) were Gentiles. In Acts 21:40-22:3, for example, he defends himself by appealing to his won Jewishness, and in Acts 22:12-14 he emphasizes the Jewishness of his supporter, Ananias (see my discussion here). He would therefore have wanted Jewish helpers. That both Jason and Aristarchus were probably Jews is significant since the church of Thessalonica was mainly Gentile (see 1 Thess).

We learn, more importantly, from Rom 16:21, that Jason was in Corinth just before Paul left their with the collection delegates, including Aristarchus. Jason is mentioned third out of 8 greeters, and is in a group with Timothy, Lucius and Sosipater. Timothy was one of those who accompanied the collection, and so was Sosipater/Sopater, and in my next post I will start to build the case that Lucius was too. It is therefore likely, as some commentators point out, that Jason also accompanied the collection. This supports the Jason=Aristarchus equation, for Acts 20:4 lists Paul's travel companions and mentions "Aristarchus" where we would expect Jason to be mentioned.

We must still explain the name selections. I have suggested why Paul calls him "Aristarchus" in Philemon 24, and it makes sense that he calls him "Jason" at Rom 16:21, since the Christians in Rome would not have understood the significance of the name "Aristarchus" (compare "Gaius" in Rom 16:23). But why would Acts call him "Jason" at Acts 17:5-9, but "Aristarchus" at Acts 19:29 and Acts 27:2? Why doesn't Acts explicitly equate them? Doesn't this argument from silence suggest that we are looking at two people after all? I suggest that this is a protective silence. Roman informers and other opponents of the church might get access to a copy of Acts, so Luke was careful not to give away sensitive information. He therefore avoided any hint that the Christians defied civil authorities. So he makes no further mention of "Jason", lest anyone think that Jason broke the terms of his bail (which may have been the case), and he does not reveal that Jason took an alias (which may have been viewed with suspicion). Luke's informed readers would have understood the references to Jason and Aristarchus, but opponents would have been kept in the dark. Luke's silence about the identity of Sosthenes, and his silence about the collection can be similarly explained (see here and here). Arguments from silence do not work with Acts when the civil authorities are close at hand.

In summary, I propose that Jason, a Jew, and the founding benefactor of the church of Thessalonica, was given the name/title "Aristarchus" (best ruler). His new name was appropriately used unabbreviated in Paul's letter to Philemon. He arrived in Corinth (Rom 16:21), having been selected, as we might expect, to traveled with Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4) with the collection.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mark and Demas (Philemon 24)


The second of the 5 greeters in Philemon is here called simply "Mark", which was a very common Roman praenomen. About 16% of Roman citizens held the praenomen "Mark" (Marcus). The praenomen was reserved for use among relatives and close friends. A Roman would be referred to by his praenomen in the same context where a Greek's name would be abbreviated to a hypocoristic form. I showed here that Paul uses short name forms of those who send greetings in Philemon 23-24, and does so with good reason. So it comes as no surprise that we have a Latin praenomen in the list of greeters. It is therefore likely that this Mark was a Roman citizen, and that this was his praenomen. It is true that the name "Mark" could be used other than as a praenomen, but such cases account for only 0.14% of people recorded in the 6 volumes of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. While there are a disproportionate number of Paul's associates who seem to bare a Latin praenomen as their only name, it is unlikely that "Mark" was such a case.

In 2 Corinthians 8-9 Paul cites the example of the generosity of the Macedonians and makes it clear that they would learn whether the Corinthians lived up to their example. Paul uses similar tactics to encourage Philemon to send Onesimus back to him. He cites his own sacrifice (Philemon 9) and makes it clear that he expected to visit him (Philemon 22). Similarly he gives no fewer than 5 greeters, to show Philemon that all eyes are on him to see if he provides the requested benefaction. Epaphras is named first, presumably because his imprisonment provides the most powerful example of commitment for Philemon to emulate. Since Mark is included as a greeter, and is mentioned second, we should assume that he too exemplifies the type of behavior that Paul hopes Philemon will live up to. There is therefore every chance that this Mark was a benefactor of the church. Perhaps he was Aquila, who had given his house for the use of Paul and the church (Acts 18:2; 1 Cor 16:19; Rom 16:3-5). Notice that Aquila's name is mentioned before that of Prisca/Priscilla in the passages where his house is the focus (Acts 18:2 and 1 Cor 16:19), showing that he was the benefactor. It would be slightly surprising if Aquila were not mentioned in Philemon 23-24, since he was in the same city as Paul when Philemon was written (whether in Ephesus or Rome) and he and Prisca are mentioned first of those greeted in Rom 16.

So, "Mark" in Philemon 24 was almost certainly his praenomen. He is likely to have been a benefactor such as Aquila.

The author of Colossians, though, seems to equate this Mark with John-Mark (Col 4:10). This is historically unlikely since Paul and Mark had split up before Colossians could have been written (Acts 15:37-39). Also, John Mark did not exemplify the commitment that Paul wanted to provide as an example for Philemon. Quite the reverse (Acts 13:13). The author of Colossians seems to have made the natural mistake of equating the Mark of Philemon 24 with the famous man of the same name.

The name Demas is an abbreviation of the name Demetrius. Of the 300,584 entries in the 6 volumes of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, only 26 are called Demas, but 2547 are called Demetrius. This further illustrates that Paul is using informal names for the greeters in Philemon. Demas would ordinarily have been referred to by his full name, "Demetrius".

In my next post I will suggest why Paul does not abbreviate the name "Aristarchus", and speculate on his identity. Any guesses?

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Jesus called Justus" as a misreading of Philemon 23

In Colossians greetings are sent by 6 people, all of whom also send greetings in Philemon, except "Jesus called Justus". But "Jesus" does appear in P
hilemon 23-24, which reads,
Ἀσπάζεταί σε Ἐπαφρᾶς ὁ συναιχμάλωτός μου ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, Μᾶρκος, Ἀρίσταρχος, Δημᾶς, Λουκᾶς, οἱ συνεργοί μου.
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
In Col 4:10-11 we read,
Ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς Ἀρίσταρχος .... καὶ Ἰησοῦς λεγόμενος Ἰοῦστος,
Greets you Aristarchus ... and Jesus who is called Justus,
Some have suggested that the original text of Philemon had Ἰησοῦς instead of Ἰησοῦ. We would then put a comma after "Christ", and "Jesus" would then be part of the list of those who sent greetings. There would then be a man called Jesus who sent greetings to Philemon and he would correspond nicely with the Jesus of Col 4:11. A difficulty with this hypothesis is that there is no textual evidence for this reading in Philemon 23.

It seems to me that the error was made, not by a copyist, but by the author of Colossians. He seems to have got the names of the greeters from a copy of Philemon. The presence of "Jesus called Justus" in Col 4:11 is explicable if he missed that Ἰησοῦ in Philemon 23 has no final sigma. We should imagine the author of Colossians dictating his text to a trained scribe, while holding a copy of Philemon in his hands. It is hard to compose, dictate, and read at the same time, so a mistake would not be surprising. I think an error by the author of Colossians, who may not have been a fluent reader, is much more likely than an error by a copyist of Philemon, who would have been chosen for his skill. Why are commentators more inclined to blame an unknown scribe than the author of Colossians? Is it possible to calculate the probability of the misreading that I am proposing?

This reading error explains the rather odd "Jesus called Justus" in Col 4:11. He is odd because he upsets the exact correspondence between the names of the greeters in Colossians and those in Philemon. He is also odd because he has a Semitic name. Paul never uses Semitic names for his co-workers. We would have to suppose, as some do, that this Jesus was an evangelist from Palestine, but it would then be surprising that he does not appear in Acts, for example. Also, the name "Jesus" seems to have been reserved exclusively for the founder of the movement, so it would be odd if the Jesus of 1 Cor 4:11 had retained the name.

Colossians no only includes the same greeters as Philemon, it also duplicates their diminutive name forms. I think this shows that Colossians is dependent on Philemon. In the next post in this series I will suggest that the author of Colossians has misidentified Mark. I will then discuss Aristarchus and Demas, and (eventually) get to the all-important Luke.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Epaphras was Epaphroditus

This is the second post in a series that will (eventually) identify the author of Acts. We saw in the first post that Paul uses informal name forms in Philemon 23-24. This is supported by the observation that "Epaphras", which appears there is a short form of the name "Epaphroditus", which was the name of Paul's associate in Phil 2:25-30. But most commentators conclude that Epaphras and Epaphroditus were different people. I think there are three reasons why they come to this conclusion.

1. They fail to notice that there is a pattern of abbreviated name forms in Philemon 23-24 and therefore assume that Paul would use the same name-form for the same individual in this text as in Philippians.

2. They suppose that Epaphroditus was a native of Philippi and that Epaphras was a native of Colossae, and they see little connection between the 'two' men.

Was Epaphras from Colossae? This is assumed on the basis of Col 4:12-13. This may well be true, but we cannot be sure since, as I will argue in my next post in this series, the author of Colossians was not a careful historian.

Was Ephroditus really from Phillipi? Phil 2:25-29 reads,
Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus - my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need; for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.
Paul here stresses the close relationship between Epaphroditus and the Philippians: "your messenger", "he has been longing for all of you", "has been distressed because you heard that he was ill". This, I assume, is what makes people assume that Epaphroditus was from Philippi, but Paul uses similar language when commending himself to the Roman church, and when commending Titus to the Corinthians. See Rom 1:9-11 and 2 Cor 8:16-17. It is sometimes assumed from Phil 2:26 ("he has been longing for all of you") that Epaphroditus was homesick, but why would Paul mention that? It seems more likely that Paul is here promoting good relations between Epaphroditus and the Philippians by emphasizing Ephaphroditus's loyalty to them. Paul's request that the Philippians welcome Epaphras with joy seems strange. Some have felt compelled to assume from this that there had been some rift between Epaphroditus and the church of Philippi, but this become unnecessary if we take him to be a non-Philippian. So, we cannot be confident that Epaphroditus was from Philippi.

Is there reason to connect Epaphroditus to Epaphras? Epaphroditus is described as a "co-worker" of Paul. This places him in a select group of companions. The named individuals with this designation are Prisca and Aquila (Rom 16:3), who are named first of the ~26 people greeted in Rom 16; Urbanus (Rom 16:9), who is named 8th; Timothy (Rom 16:21), who is named first of the greeters and was Paul's closest companion; Titus (2 Cor 8:23); Philemon (whom Paul wants to Paul encourages to be a fellow-worker by calling him one); and finally, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke (Philemon 24). The term is therefore reserved for close co-workers. Now, Epaphras, while not explicitly described as a co-worker, could not have been much further from Paul's inner circle since in Philemon 23-24 he is mentioned before the others, who are designated "co-workers". So, Ephaphroditus and Epaphras belong to a small group of close associates of Paul.

But there is more. Both were with Paul for at least part of his time in prison. Furthermore, Epaphras was Paul's "fellow prisoner", and Epaphroditus is described in similar terms as "fellow soldier". Many commentators infer that Epaphras had voluntarily chosen to share Paul's confinement to be able to minister to his needs. This would fit Epaphroditus very well. It would explain how Epaphroditus had been a "minister to my need", and how he had become ill, and how he had been "risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me". Both Epaphras and Epaphroditus therefore seem to have ministered to Paul's needs in prison.

3. Finally, the commentators believe that Epaphroditus was a "common" name. This is invariably asserted without evidence. The term "common" here is very vague. What constitutes "common"? This kind of sloppy imprecision would not be tolerated in other disciplines, so why must we put up with it in biblical studies? There is no excuse now that we have the "Lexicon of Greek Personal Names", which provides the basic statistics through free on-line searches. Here are some data:

As you can see, there are 300584 people in the database, of which 515 (0.17%) are called Epaphroditus, and just 123 (0.04%) are called Epaphras. I estimate that in the five published volumes about ten thousand references can be dated with confidence to the first century, and of these, 22 (0.23%) are called Epaphroditus, and just 6 (0.06%) are called Epaphras. Most believe that our Epaphroditus was from Philippi, but there is no evidence that the name was common there in the first century. Of the 16 cases of the name "Epaphroditus" in Macedonia, none can be dated with certainty before 150 AD, and none can possibly pre-date the imperial period. It should also be remembered that the database does not include most Latin names, so many of Paul's associates would be excluded. This reduces the probabilities further.

In conclusion, then, the probability of an associate of Paul in the Aegean region being called Epaphroditus is about 0.2%. For "Epaphras" the probability is about 0.05%. Now, Epaphras and Epaphroditus were both among Paul's close associates during his imprisonment(s). How many such people were there? 10? 20? 50? Let's be generous and assume that there were 100! The probability that Epaphras and Epaphroditus were different people would then be just 100*(0.2%+0.05%)/(1+100*(0.2%+0.05%) = 20%, and that's being generous. So, Epaphras was almost certainly Epaphroditus. And even if, by some fluke, Epaphras was not the Epaphroditus of Philippians, we would still conclude that his full name was probably Epaphroditus.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Philemon 23-24 and the identity of the author of Acts

This is the first of a series on posts, which will determine the identity of the author of Acts. We begin with Phlm 23-24.
Ἀσπάζεταί σε Ἐπαφρᾶς ὁ συναιχμάλωτός μου ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, Μᾶρκος, Ἀρίσταρχος, Δημᾶς, Λουκᾶς, οἱ συνεργοί μου.
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
John Chrysostom wrote this about the list of names at the end of Romans:
I think that many even of those who have the appearance of being extremely good men, hasten over this part of the Epistle as superfluous, and having no great weight in it. ... For because it is a catalogue of names, they think they cannot get any great good from it.
The same can be said of commentators on Philemon, who fail to appreciate the importance of Phlm 23-24, their interests being directed elsewhere.

Every part of this letter was written to persuade Philemon to send back his slave, Onesimus. Crossan and Reed (In Search of Paul) are surely right:
At the letter's start, Paul writes no just to Philemon alone, but to "Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, to Apphia our sister,, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your House" (1-2). At the end, he sends greetings not just from himself, but from "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, ...Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers" (123-24). Everyone, hints Paul, is watching you, Philemon.
It is my contention that Paul has crafted Phlm 23-24 to persuade Philemon. He mentions that Epaphras was his fellow prisoner for much the same reason that he appeals to Philemon in Phlm 9 as "an old man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus". Paul points to his own sacrifice and that of Epaphras to pressure Philemon to make a small sacrifice himself. Paul is saying, "Epaphras and I are in prison for Christ, so releasing Onesimus is the least you can do". This could well explain why Paul mentions Epaphras first in the list of greeters. I will come back to the issue of name order when I discuss Luke in a later post.

In his effort to persuade Philemon, Paul puts his arm around him, and, stressing the close relationship that Paul and Timothy had with him, he calls him "our dear friend and co-worker" (Phlm 1). Paul continues in similar vein in Phlm 4-7. After making his appeal in Phlm 8-21, he announces that he expects to visit. Presumably he wants Philemon to consider how embarrassed he will be when Paul visits if he has not released Onesimus by then. After using the second person plural in Phlm 22, Paul significantly switches back to the second person singular in Phlm 23. Paul writes that Epaphras and the others send greetings, not to Philemon and Aphia and Archippus and the church, as we might expect, but to Philemon individually. Paul and his associates are here stressing their close relationship to Philemon by greeting him and him alone.

They further emphasize their close relationship to Philemon by using diminutive or familiar name forms.
"Epaphras" is a short form of the name "Epaphroditus"; Demas is short for "Demetrius", and "Luke" is short for "Lucius". Furthermore, "Mark" is a Latin praenomen, and if he was a Roman citizen, this name would be used only by family and close friends. "Aristarchus" is not an informal name, but this exception will be explained in a later post.

The predominance of informal name forms in Phlm 23-24 is striking, and must be due to the context in some way. We should therefore expect that Paul could elsewhere name these men differently. This point has been overlooked by the commentators, I think. I will argue later that Epaphras was Epaphroditus and that Luke was Lucius.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Titius Justus, Polycharmus, and synagogue architecture

Acts 18:7 reads
Τhen he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God; his house adjoined (ἦν συνομοροῦσα) the synagogue.

It is a remarkable coincidence that Titius Justus's house happened to adjoin the synagogue .... or is it?

Well, I recently read Stephen Catto's interesting discussion of ancient synagogues here. Thanks, Mark Goodacre, for the link. Catto discusses the Stobi synagogue inscription:
[Claudius] Tiberius Polycharmus, also (called) Achyrios, the father of the synagogue at Stobi, having lived my whole life according to the (prescriptions of) Judaism, in fulfilment of a vow (have donated) the rooms to the holy place, and the triclinium, with the tetrastoa, out of my personal accounts without touching the sacred (funds) at all. All the right of all the upper (rooms of the building) and the ownership is to be held by me, Claudius Tiberius Polycharmus, and my heirs for all (our?) life. If someone wishes to make changes beyond my decisions, he shall give the Patriarch 250,000 denarii. For thus I have agreed. As for the upkeep of the roof tiles of the upper (rooms of the building), it will be done by me and my heirs.

Until I read Catto's discussion I had not realized that Polycharmus had donated rooms in his own house for use as a synagogue. Polycharmus retained the rooms on the upper floor as his house, while the rooms below became the synagogue. There seems to be a consensus that this is the scenario. Indeed, many believe that the majority of ancient synagogues were formed from domestic houses. So, after his benefaction, Polycharmus's house (the upper rooms) adjoined the synagogue (the ground floor). Sound familiar? This provides a good parallel for the case of Titius Justus and explains the apparent coincidence that his house was part of the same structure as the synagogue.

My suggestion, therefore, is that Titius Justus (or perhaps his forbears) had donated a part of his house for use as a synagogue. The remaining rooms continued to be his house. Thus, his house adjoined the synagogue. Then, after becoming a Christ-believer, he performed a similar benefaction for the church, offering the (rest of) his house as a 'synagogue' for Paul's use. I think this makes sense because someone who is able and willing to be a benefactor of the Jews is likely, after conversion, to provide a similar service for the church.

This is important because it adds another data point for the debate about the origin of synagogue buildings in the ancient world. It also brings Titius Justus into sharper focus and fits nicely with the view that he was Gaius and Stephanas (see my earlier posts here and here and here). Incidentally, the Titius Justus-Stephanas hypotheses came out of discussions with Stephen Carlson, who was the first to connect the two names. I don't know what position, if any, he holds on the hypothesis.

Also incidentally, John Chrysostom wrote about Gaius:
See what a crown (στέφανον) he has framed for him by bearing witness to such great hospitality in him, and brought in the entire Church into this man's house!

Benefactors were commonly given a crown, and for Chrysostom, Paul give Gaius a 'crown' by acknowledging his benefaction. Chrysostom seems to have been a hair's width away from realizing that Paul had given Gaius a 'crown' (στέφανος) by naming him "Stephanas" (Στέφανᾶς).