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.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rom 16:21-23 and the missing names

With a single hypothesis I will show that a) In Rom 16:21-23 Paul sends greetings from everyprominent believer who was in Corinth at the time, b) There were no prominent believers in Corinth when 1 Corinthians was written, c) Acts mentions all of Paul's prominent co-workers.

In Romans 16 Paul sends greetings to no fewer than 26 individuals and others. As is often pointed out, he does this to emphasize his close links with the Roman church. In Rom 16:21-23 he sends greetings from 8 companions, and, in the collectivist culture of the day, this further emphasizes the strong close relationship between Paul and the church of Rome. We should therefore expect that Paul would send greetings from every prominent believer who was with him in Corinth during the days or weeks when he wrote the letter. Any conspicuous absences from the greeters would have raised eyebrows in Rome. There are, however, 4 names that are strangely absent from the list. These are shown in the red box below.

Titus was sent to Corinth shortly before Romans was written (2 Cor 8). Furthermore, he was to bring the collection to completion in Corinth (2 Cor 8:6) and was the Corinthians' co-worker. We should therefore expect that he would be the Corinthian's delegate to deliver their collection to Judea.

Stephanas is also absent, in spite of the high praise that Paul has for him in 1 Cor 16:15-17.

Crispus was an archisynagogos, and therefore his important role is recognized by Luke (Acts 18:8). He was one of the first converts in Corinth and was baptized by Paul himself (1 Cor 1:14). The omission of Stephanas and Crispus is surprising as it would have been seen as a snub to the church of Rome, or indeed to Stephanas and Crispus themselves.

Acts 20:4 names those who must have assembled in Corinth when Romans was written. The first named is Sopater/Sosipater, who does send greetings. Second, and therefore also prominent, is Aristarchus. He had been chosen to deliver the collection from Thessalonica and was therefore a leading, trusted, believer. We travelled a lot on church business, and was therefore widely known (Acts 19:29, 27:2)


The green box in the diagram also highlights another problem: the name "Titus" is strangely absent from Acts, and the same is true of "Stephanas". Acts mentions all Paul's other important co-workers (Luke chooses to down-play Paul's imprisonments, and therefore has no occasion to mention Epaphroditus).

The blue box represents further problems. We read in 1 Corinthians that there were divisions in the church of Corinth, and this problem is explicable if there was a power vacuum there. But if Gaius-Titius-Justus, Erastus, and Crispus were all in Corinth at that time there could be no power vacuum, and the divisions would be somewhat surprising. James Dunn writes, "Even if we assume that the problems in Corinth were being caused by some of the leaders - the patron, or elite group in the church - it is hardly likely that there was not one to whom Paul could appeal." (Beginning from Jerusalem p639). Paul urges the Corinthians to unite behind Stephanas, but makes no mention of Gaius, Erastus, or Crispus in this context.

There is a further problem associated with the presence in Corinth, of these prominent Corinthians at that time. At that time not many of the Corinthians were powerful or of noble birth (1 Cor 1:26). Yet Gaius was able to host the whole church, Erastus was the oikonomos and Crispus was the former synagogue ruler! The church of Corinth met together in the house of Gaius (Rom 16:23; 1 Cor 11:18; 14:23) and from this it is generally estimated that it can have consisted of no more than 50 people. Paul's statement that "not many" of them were of high social status is therefore surprising if those fewer than 50 people included Gaius, Erastus, Crispus, and all Crispus's household (Acts 18:8), especially when it is remembered that only about 3% of urban populations were rich.

The solution to all the problems outline above is the observation that we are looking at some cases of double naming. The practice of giving new names in the early church did not die out after the cases of Simon-Peter and Joseph-Barnabas, and then revive with the case of Ignatius-Theophorus. No, I propose that new names were also given to prominent members of Paul's churches. This is hardly a radical suggestion, yet it sheds a flood of light on the New Testament. All four people in the red box above have dopplegängers elsewhere, as indicated by the dotted lines.
Udo Borse and I have argued that Titus was Timothy. John Chrysostom, A. Myrou, and I have argued that Crispus was Sosthenes. Stephen Carlson and I suggested that Stephanas was Gaius Titius Justus. I have also argued on this blog that Aristarchus was Jason. Each of these 4 cases, the name that occurs later chronologically is Greek and has a meaning that suits the individual perfectly. I believe that the Titus-Timothy hypothesis and the Crispus-Sosthenes hypothesis are each strong enough to stand alone, and it is certainly possible to assess each case individually. But I am now struck by the synergy between these four hypotheses in the way that they collectively solve the problems described above.

The red box is emptied: Titus-Timothy, Gaius-Titius-Justus-Stephanas, and Jason-Aristarchus all send greetings to the Romans. Crispus-Sosthenes was probably in Ephesus when Paul wrote Romans (1 Cor 1:1).

The Green box is emptied: Both Titus-Timothy and Gaius-Titius-Justus-Stephanas are mentioned in Acts.

The blue box is emptied: Gaius-Titius-Justus-Stephanas and Crispus-Sosthenes were both in Ephesus with Paul when 1 Corinthians was written. Furthermore, if Titus was Timothy, he was on his way to Corinth via Macedonia with Erastus (see Acts 19:22 and 2 Cor 12:18) when 1 Corinthians was written. Therefore Erastus too was absent from Corinth at the time.

Having emptied all the problem boxes we get the following picture:

In short, it seems to me that the new name hypothesis brings the NT into sharper focus. We see that Paul sent greetings to the church of Rome from all the prominent believers who were in Corinth at the time. We see that Luke is silent about no important companions of Paul. Finally, we see that Paul had few, if any, high status friends in Corinth when 1 Corinthians was written, and this explains how divisions had arisen, and how Paul could write that not many of his addressees were of high social standing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Luke was from Antioch

Here I conclude the series of posts on the identity of he author of Acts. I will argue that he was a resident of Antioch and was probably Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1).

It is often thought that Luke was from Troas because the first person plural begins there (Acts 16:10-11). However, the start of the 'we passages' does not correspond to the start of Luke's presence with Paul. We have seen here that Luke (=Lucius) was with Paul in Corinth, yet the first person plural starts only at Acts 20:5-6. The switch to first person narrative occurs, not when Luke joins the party, but when the party (including Luke) sets sail. It is no coincidence that every "we passage" begins with a sailing (Acts 16:9-10, Acts 20:5-6, Acts 21:1, Acts 27:1). Vernon Robbins is right that Ancient writers preferred to use the first person for sea voyages (see here), (though his suggestion that the person behind the "I" need not have been present has been rightly rejected). Therefore Luke can have joined the missionary group at any time before the departure from Troas (Acts 16:9-10). The view that Luke was from Troas is problematic because:

a) Acts 16:6 tells us that the holy spirit had forbidden Paul from preaching in Asia. Luke could not have written this if he had been converted through Paul's preaching in Troas, which is in Asia. The two further pieces of divine direction in Acts 16:7-10 similarly have the purpose of getting Paul and his companions to Europe without delay. The implication is that the missionaries did not linger to preach until they got to Europe.

b) When Paul later preached in Troas he did not know whether a door would open for him (2 Cor 2:12-13) and this further suggests that he had not attempted to preach there before. See my blog post here.

c) Chronology does not allow time for extensive preaching in Asia (or indeed during a hypothetical trip to north Galatia). Paul's visit to Jerusalem (Acts 15) cannot have been earlier than 48. The Gallio incident can be dated to 51 (for all the usual reasons and because the probable food shortage in that year is likely the cause of the urban unrest that resulted in the beating of Crispus-Sosthenes). Paul's arrival in Corinth can therefore be dated to early 50 at the latest. Therefore we have two years or less for the events of Acts 15:1-18:1, which included a trip to Jerusalem, "some days" in Antioch (Acts 15:36), a visit to the south Galatian churches, the evangelization of Macedonia and Athens, and lots of walking. Little time can be allowed for preaching in Asia.

d) Paul's travel companions were always experienced believers whom he had known for some time. Consider Barnabas, John-Mark, Silas/Silvanus, and Titus-Timothy. If Luke was from Troas he would have become a travel companion of Paul within days of first meeting him, and there is no precedent for this.

The evidence that the author of Acts was from Antioch is as follows:

1. He was a part of the mission team that evangelized Europe (Acts 16:11). Antioch was the point of departure for this mission, (Acts 15:40). Paul was a resident of Antioch, and there are good reasons to suppose that Timothy was also from Antioch (whether or not he was Titus). Silas was also known in Antioch.

2. I have argued that the author of Acts was Lucius/Luke. Lucius of Cyrene was one of the "prophets and teachers" in Antioch (Acts 13:1). He has the right name and sufficient prominence to have been the Lucius of Rom 16:21. He was evidently one of the "men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus" (Acts 11:20). He was therefore probably a preacher to non-Judeans and this would make him a likely companion of Paul on the second missionary journey.

Dunn and Jewett have suggested that the Lucius of Rom 16:21 is not given a very full description and therefore cannot have been Lucius of Cyrene, an important figure in Antioch. However, they fail to account for the importance of name order in the ancient world. Paul indicates Lucius's prominence by placing him second of the eight who send greetings in Rom 16:21-23. Also, Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater were about to deliver the collection, and this was illegal (see here), so a full description might have identified them too precisely and thus endangered them.

Others assume that the author of Acts would not have mentioned himself by name. But why not? The writers of Luke-Acts and the other gospels deliberately did not identify themselves, but that does not mean that the genre required that they not name themselves. Indeed, the gospels of Matthew and John were soon attributed (rightly or otherwise) to characters named in their texts. Furthermore, Josephus generally refers to himself in the third person as "Josephus". The writers of Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke-Acts leave themselves unidentified in conformity to a style of Jewish literature that goes back to the old testament history books (so Baum Nov Test 50 (2008)). By leaving themselves unidentified they kept their readers' focus on the narrated events. It seems to me that this style does not require that the author not write about himself: it requires only that he not identify himself.

3. At Acts 11:28 Codex Bezae inserts the words, "And there was much rejoicing; and when we were gathered together". The first person verb suggests that the author was present in Antioch at that time.

4. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue (2nd-4th century) says that Luke was "an Antiochian of Syria".

In conclusion, the author of Acts was a resident of Antioch and was probably Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1). Paul mentions him in Rom 16:21 and uses the diminutive form of his name in Philemon 24. He was a witness of some of the events that he narrates beyond those covered by the 'we passages'. I believe that the identity Lucius (and that of Titus) would be more widely recognized if it were not for the misinformation found in the pseudonymous letters.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The unreliability of 2 Tim 4:9-18

Michael Bird blogs on the question of whether authentic material is contained in 2 Tim 4:9-18. Was this a fragment from a letter written by Paul? Does it contain reliable information?

Before we can answer this question, we need to discern the method that the author of the Pastoral Epistles used to compose similar passages. I propose that the author had access to some of Paul's letters and used them to create verisimilitude, but made errors by consulting only one text at a time.

Historical errors made by the author
2 Tim 4:19 indicates that the author believed that Prisca and Aquila were in Ephesus, and he would have inferred that from 1 Cor 16:19. But it is clear from Rom 16:3 that Prisca and Aquila had moved to Rome before Paul's imprisonment there.

A further problem is created by the statement in 2 Tim 4:20 that Paul left Trophimus ill in Miletus. Acts 20:15 shows that Paul did indeed stop at Miletus, but Acts 21:29 shows that he did not leave Trophimus there.

1 Tim 1:3 says that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus while there were adversaries there, and went himself to Macedonia. This situation is a natural inference from 1 Cor 16:5-11, where Paul expects Timothy to be with him in Ephesus when he departs for Macedonia, and where there are adversaries. The problem is that 2 Cor 1:1 shows that Timothy did not stay in Ephesus.

1 Tim 1:3; 3:14, Titus 1:5; 3:12 require that Paul visited Ephesus and the Aegean after an imprisonment in Rome. However, Acts 20:25, which should be trusted, says that Paul knew that he would not be able to return to Ephesus. It would be too dangerous for Paul to go back there after he illegally delivered the collection.

1 Tim 3:12 says that Timothy was young. The author may have inferred Timothy's youth from 1 Cor 4:17, where Paul calls Timothy his child (likewise Phil 2:22). The problem is that, while Timothy was probably younger than Paul, he could not have been young at any time that 1 Timothy could have been written.

2 Timothy 1:5 suggests that Timothy was a third generation Christian, but this is historically unlikely since his conversion must have been before 49 CE.

2 Tim 4:9-18
It might be suggested that this passage, unlike other parts of the PE is somehow more authentic. This is special pleading. Moreover, there are indications that the author made the same types of errors in this passage that he made elsewhere.

He refers to Lucius-Luke and Demas by their diminutive name forms, rather than by the long forms of their names (Lucius and Demetrius). I can see no reason why Paul would use the diminutive forms here, and note that 2 Tim 4:19 uses the name form "Prisca", which found in Paul's letters, rather than the diminutive, "Priscilla". In Philemon Paul had good reason to use diminutive name forms, but the author of Colossians simply copied the names unaltered. Likewise the author of 2 Tim 4:10-11 seems to have copied these names from Philemon or Colossians.

Similarly, Philemon 23 mentions the name "Mark", which was probably the praenomen of someone who would ordinarily have been called by his cognomen. The author of Colossians seems to have misunderstood this and wrongly identifies him as John-Mark. The author of 2 Tim 4:11 may have taken the name "Mark" from Philemon or Colossians, for we have no evidence that Paul had a co-worker who normally went by that name.

2 Cor 4:13 seems to have been inspired by 2 Cor 2:12-13. The author could easily have imagined that Paul forgot his coat when he left the Troad in a great anxiety. The problem is that Acts 20:5 shows that Paul would have had opportunity to pick up his coat if he had left it in Troas. Some suppose that Paul deliberately left his coat, knowing that he was going to Jerusalem, but Jerusalem and Rome have very similar temperatures.

More importantly, for me, the author makes a big blunder by using the name "Titus". The two brothers of 2 Cor 8:18-22 and the brother of 2 Cor 12:18 are given protective anonymity because of their role in delivering and organizing the collection. Paul, when referring to Timothy's collection work, calls him by his lesser-known name, "Titus", in 2 Corinthians to afford him similar protection. By this time "Timothy" was the name that Paul generally used for him. The mention of "Titus" in 2 Tim 4:10 is therefore out of place, particularly in a letter that was addressed to Timothy! The author simply copied the name "Titus", perhaps from 2 Cor 2:12-13, which he seems to have known (see above).

Finally, 2 Tim 4: seems dependent on Ephesians 6:21.

The combined weight of these points makes me feel confident that 2 Tim 4:9-18 was written by the author of the Pastoral Epistles, who had little historical information about Paul's companions.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Textual variants of Romans as protection against persecution

I will argue here that the believers in Rome deleted the end from copies of Paul's letter because it contained sensitive information that they did not want to fall into the hands of Nero's men.

Peter Head and Douglas Campbell have here been discussing the role of Phoebe in the delivery of Romans, and they raised the issue of the complex textual history of the letter.

There is strong evidence that there was widespread use of a version of Romans that consisted basically of chapters 1-14. Also, P46 has the doxology (Rom 16:25-27) at the end of chapter 15, suggesting that there may once have been a 15 chapter version of the letter. A further oddity is that some texts lack all references to Rome (the word is missing in both 1:7 and 1:15). From what I have been able to gather, all the versions that we have can be explained as deriving from the following early versions:

1. A version consisting of 1:1-16:27 (possibly without 16:24)
2. A version consisting of 1:1-14:23 + 16:25-27
3. A version consisting of 1:1-15:33 + 16:25-27
4. A version without mention of Rome. It doesn't matter much whether this was a form of version 1, 2, or 3.

How did these 3 or 4 versions come to be? I suggest that version 1 was the original, and that the believers in Rome created the other versions during the persecution under Nero by excising sections that contained sensitive information. Tacitus describes the persecution thus:
To scotch the rumour [that the fire had taken place to order], Nero substitued as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First, then, those who confessed were arrested; next, on their disclosures vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts' skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fasteded on crosses, and when daylight failed, were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his Circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. (Annals 15:44.2-5)
This translation is from James Dunn, who is surely right to say, "those first arrested were tortured to divulge the names of others" (Beginning from Jerusalem p57). It seems that the authorities did not have good information on who was a Christian, and they attempted to extract information from those Christians whom they arrested. This is confirmed by what Pliny tells us about a similar situation at the start of the second century:
An anonymous list was published containing the names of many. Those who denied that they are or were Christians I have dismissed, ..... This convinced me that it was all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by the torture of two female slaves who were called deaconesses.
The relevance of all this is that Nero and his men would have been eager to get their hands on a text such as Romans 16, which contained a list of the names of many of the prominent Christians in Rome. Equally, the Christians would have taken measures to keep the list of names in Romans 16 from them. They may well have cut Rom 16:1-23 from a copy of the letter, leaving Rom 1:1-15:55 + 16:25-27, which is version 3 listed above.

Another protective strategy would be to remove the references to Rome. Nero's men, on discovering such a text would have less reason to suspect that the letter contained (or had originally contained) a list of Christians in Rome. This, then, explains the version 4, listed above.

There is sensitive information also in chapter 15. I argued here that Paul's collection for Jerusalem was illegal, and I showed here that, when Paul was on trial, he had to choose his words very carefully when alluding to the collection. Therefore, when Paul was facing trial in Rome, his case might have been jeopardized if Rom 15:25-27 fell into the hands of the authorities. I imagine also that Rom 15:12 could have been used against Paul by the prosecution. So, the owner of a copy of Romans might have wished to protect Paul and/or their friends by removing Rom 15:12 and/or Rom 15:25-27 and/or Rom 16:1-23. They might also have needed to remove the dangerous text in such a way that it would not be obvious that the excision had taken place (lest they be tortured for the information in the missing fragments). To hide their surgery they would have to delete more than just the dangerous text. They would need to shorten the letter to a point that sounds as though it could have been a letter ending. They may have cut off the last sheets, so 14:33 was on the final sheet. Then, having erased the text below 14:33 they may have copied out 16:25-27 just below 14:33 to make it seem like no excision had taken place. This, then, would explain version 2, listed above.

So, it seems to me that the puzzling variations in the texts of Romans can be simply explained by the persecution under Nero. I am no expert in textual criticism and would be happy to know if I have missed something.