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.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Erastus (Rom 16:23) was Erastus (Acts 19:22)

Was the Erastus of Rom 16:23 the same man as the Erastus of Acts 19:22?

The rarity of the name Erastus
NT scholars have inexcusably failed to quantify the frequency of the name. The table below gives comments that people have made on the rarity or otherwise of the name. They range from "very rare" to "very common". 9 commentators say the name was common, 6 say it was rare, and 2 take an intermediate position. Why such contradictory assessments? And why such imprecision? What is meant by 'common'? 1 in 100? 1 in 1000? It's very vague.

Author Reference Date Comment
Cadbury "Erastus of Corinth" JBL 50 p56 1931 The name Erastus belongs neither to the commonest nor to the most uncommon of names of the Hellenistic world
F.F. Bruce The Acts of the Apostles p414 1965 The name was quite common
Cranfield ICC The Epistle to the Romans p807 1979 The name was common enough
G.A. Lee The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia p126 1982 Erastus was a common name
V.P. Furnish Biblical Archaeology Review Vol XIV No 1 p20 1988 the name itself is not common
C. Hemer The book of Acts in the setting of Hellenistic History p235 1990 this name is perhaps less common than sometimes suggested, but is attested in Ephesus
J. Fitzmyer Anchor Bible Romans p750 1992 The name Erastus is well attested in inscriptions
A.D. Clarke Secular and Christian Leadership in Corinth 1993 the name Erastus is relatively uncommon
J. MacArthur Romans 9-16 p379 1994 his was such a common name
Bruce Winter Seek the Welfare of the City p191-192 1994 The name Erastus was rare in Corinth
Justin Meggitt Nov. Test. Vol 38 p222 1996 A relatively common name for our period
Quinn & Wacker The First and Second Letters to Timothy p832 2000 otherwise not found in Corinthian inscriptions
Ben Witherington III The Acts of the Apostles p590 1998 The name Erastus was in any case a very common one
Barton & Muddiman The Oxford Bible Commentary p1110 2001 a very rare name in Corinth
Darrell Bock Baker ECNT Acts p606 2007 The name is common
R. Jewett Romans p981 2007 The name does not appear frequently
David Peterson PNTC The Acts of the Apostles p544 2009 The name was common

The table below gives the statistics from the 6 volumes of the LGPN so far published, which conveniently cover the Aegean region.

Vol 1 Vol2a Vol 3a Vol 3b Vol 4 Vol 5a
Aegean Islands, Cyprus, Cyrenaica Attica Peloponnese, Western Greece, Sicily, Magna Graecia Central Greece Macedonia, Thrace, Northern Shores of the Black Sea Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia Total
Erastus 2 14 12 0 4 8 40
All persons 6648962361 43261 43456 33724 51293 300584

Therefore we have just 40 Erasti out of a total of 300584 entries. The frequency of the name Erastus was therefore 1 in 7500. However, I estimate that only about 12000 entries in the LGPN database can be dated securely to the first century, and 11 of these were called Erastus. Therefore, restricting ourselves to the first century, the frequency of the name can be estimated at 1 in 1100.

Now, both Erasti were Christians in the Aegean region. If we assume (generously) that there were 750 Christians in the Aegean region, the chances of having a second Erastus in that group is about 50%. However, I will now show that further considerations make the two-person hypothesis very unlikely.

"Both" were well-known believers
The Erastus of Acts 19:22 travelled with Timothy from Ephesus to Macedonia. Now, as is commonly agreed, 1 Cor 4:17; 16:10-11 shows that Timothy went from Ephesus to Macedonia and was to proceed to Corinth. Assuming that this was the same journey, there is every chance that Erastus accompanied Timothy to Corinth. So, by the time Romans was written, the Erastus of Acts 19:22 was probably known by believers Corinth, and, in any case, was known in Ephesus and Macedonia. Also, the fact the Luke mentions him at all suggests that he was prominent.

The Erastus of Rom 16:23 was also probably well known among the churches, for this explains why Paul sends greetings from him. Minor characters such as Tychicus and Trophimus (Acts 20:4) (who was recognized only by others from Asia (Acts 21:27)) were probably with Paul in Corinth when he wrote Romans, but do not send greetings. Greetings are sent from the prominent believers who were well known to members of the churches who had returned to Rome after the death of Claudius. For more on Paul's selection of greeters in Rom 16:21-23 see my blog post here.

So, both the Erastus of Acts 19:22 and the Erastus of Rom 16:23 were probably well known Christians in the Aegean region. In my judgement there can have been only about 30 such people. The chances of having a second Erastus in a group of 30 people is only about 30/1100 =2.7%. So it is very unlikely that the two texts refer to different men.

"Both" were administrators of money
The Erastus of Rom 16:23 is described as οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως. The exact meaning of the term is disputed, but it is agreed that Erastus must have been an administrator of money.

The Erastus of Acts 19:22 travelled with Timothy to Macedonia and commentators have rightly suggested that their mission was to organize the collection for Judea (Bock p606, Witherington 590, Peterson p544, Albert Barnes 1950). This is because:

1) Timothy and Erastus are described as τῶν διακονούντων (helpers) and the similar term, διακονία, is used 5 times (Acts 11:29; 12:25; Rom 15:31; 2 Cor 8:4; 9:1) regarding those who help to take up the collection for Jerusalem (Bock Acts p606).

2) Dunn (p262) remarks about Acts 19:21-22, "The two verses go oddly together: Paul resolves to depart, but then sends others ahead and stays put". The oddity is removed if we suppose that the mission of Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22) was to organize the collection, which was the purpose of Paul's trip to Jerusalem mentioned in Acts 19:21. Luke may have expected his intended audience to know about the collection. The collection was probably declared illegal, particularly in Achaia, so it is not surprising that Luke does not mention the it directly, and neither is it surprising that he does not say that Timothy and Erastus proceeded to Achaia. He had to steer well clear of the collection from Achaia to avoid getting the church into trouble with the authorities (see here).

So, both Erasti were probably administrators of money. As Barnes notes, "the treasurer of the city ... was ... a very proper person to be sent with Timothy for the purpose of making the collection for the poor at Jerusalem".

In my judgement, this last point alone is enough to neutralize the rather week counter-arguments.

Some have suggested that the Erastus of Rom 16:23 is unlikely to be the Erastus of Acts 19:22 because the office of οἰκονόμος would have prevented him from traveling (e.g. Morris p544). However, οἰκονόμος here refers to Erastus's role in administering the collection in Corinth, rather than to a civil office (see Meggitt). In any case, Erastus could have taken his office of οἰκονόμος after returning from his mission to Macedonia. On my chronology there was a full year between Erastus's return to Corinth and the writing of Romans, and Aediles were elected to office for a one year term (Winter 195).

As well as this chronological clumping, we must also reckon with the possibility of social clumping. The name may have been more common in the sections of society to which the Christians belonged, than in the general population. This will change the odds, but not nearly enough to bring the two-person theory back into play.

The Erastus of Rom 16:23 and the Erastus of Acts 19:22 were both probably prominent, well travelled, believers with financial roles. This, and the relative rarity of the name, can leave little doubt that we are looking at just one person. In a future post on the Titus-Timothy hypothesis I will argue that Titus and the 'brother' (2 Cor 12:18) are Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More on Titus-Timothy and the unity of 2 Corinthians

In this post I argue that the apparent discontinuities in 2 Corinthians disappear when we accept that Titus was Timothy. I have already argued here that Titus-Timothy explains the contrast in tone between 2 Cor 1-9 and 2 Cor 10-13.

2 Cor 2:13-14
2 Cor 2:1-13 is written in the first person singular. In 2 Cor 2:12-13 Paul describes his anxiety at not finding Titus in the Troad.

2 Cor 2:14-3:3, on the other hand, is written in the first person plural. The 'we' here must refer to Paul and his co-sender, Timothy, since 2 Cor 3:1 concerns the writing of the letter. 2 Cor 3:1 refers back to 2 Cor 2:14-17 so the same 'we' is in view throughout.

So 2 Cor 2:12-13 concerns Paul and Titus, whereas 2 Cor 2:14-3:3 concerns Paul and Timothy. If Titus was not Timothy this is an abrupt switch and many commentators, working under the two-person assumption, fail to see a link between these sections.

However, if Titus was Timothy both sections concern Paul and Titus-Timothy. 2 Cor 2:12-13 concerns the Titus-Timothy's delay in Corinth and Paul's evangelistic success in the Troad and journey ot Macedonia. 2 Cor 2:14 continues the theme of the movements of Paul and Titus-Timothy. 2 Cor 2:15 refers to the work of Paul and Titus-Timothy respectively among 'those who are being saved' (which is a reference to the aforementioned converts in the Troad) and 'those who are perishing' (which refers to the opponents in Corinth, who probably caused Titus-Timothy's delay and would then be in view in 2 Cor 2:12-13). Thus Titus-Timothy allows a rather smooth reading of 2 Cor 2:12-3:1.

2 Cor 6:14-7:1
Michael Goulder showed that Paul makes the same points in the same order in 1 Cor 4-6, 2 Cor 6:4-7:1, and 2 Cor 10-13 ("2 Cor 6:14-7:1 as an Integral Part of 2 Corinthians" Nov Test 36, 1 1994 p47-57). The table below demonstrates this.

Some (sinners) criticize me,..1 Cor 4:3.........2 Cor 6:3........2 Cor 10:1-2
but I am a servant of God,.....1 Cor 4:1-5......2 Cor 6:4........2 Cor 10:7; 11:5,23
for I suffer tribulation...........1 Cor 4:6-13....2 Cor 6:4-10...2 Cor 11:23-33
I am your father and insist....1 Cor 4:14-21..2 Cor 6:11-13....2 Cor 12:14-18
you reform the sinners..........1 Cor 5-6........2 Cor 6:14-7:1..2 Cor 12:20-13:2

In each of these passages Paul responds to criticism by saying that he is a servant of God and has suffered much. He then says that he has fatherly affection for the Corinthians and tells them to put an end to the sin among them.

There is a logic to the structure of Paul's argument here. He must first address the criticisms and re-establish his authority before he can command the Corinthians to turn from sin. This explains the logical connection between 2 Cor 12:19 and 2 Cor 12:20 (notice the "for", γὰρ). A connection between the sin and the challenge to Paul's authority is also evinced by 2 Cor 13:2-3. Also note Paul's references to boasting and being puffed up in 1 Cor 4:6-7, 18-19 as well as in 1 Cor 5:2, 6.

Paul, therefore, makes essentially the same argument in all three passages. There are some important implications of this:
1) as Goulder points out, there is no need to see 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 as in interpolation, and the unfaithful in this passage may well refer to faithless Christians.
2) Nothing much has changed between the writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. This makes it unlikely that the interval between the two letters included a) a visit by Paul to Corinth, b) a letter of Paul to Corinth, c) the sending of Titus to Corinth, d) 18 months. Another day I will argue that the Titus's visit to Corinth (2 Cor 7) was one and the same as Timothy's (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10).
3) 2 Cor 10-13 repeats the line of argument found earlier in the letter, in much the same way as the subscription of Galatians (Gal 6:11-18) repeats the argument of Gal 1:1-10 and Gal 5:2-12 (see here). This confirms that 2 Cor 10-13 is indeed the subscription, written in Paul's own hand. This, in turn, supports the Titus-Timothy hypothesis and the unity of 2 Corinthians (see here).

2 Cor 9
I have argued here and here that the legality of the collection was open to challenge and that the collection was in danger of being intercepted. Paul would not have given information in his letter that would help opponents of the church intercept the collection or get it banned. This may explain why he writes in 2 Cor 9:1 that it was not necessary for him to write about the ministry to the saints. He may be referring only to sensitive information, such as the recipients of the collection, who are never named in 2 Corinthians. It is not necessary to suppose, as some do, that 2 Cor 9:1 could not have belonged to the same letter as 2 Cor 8.

The Titus-Timothy hypothesis (directly or indirectly) explains all the apparent discontinuities in 2 Corinthians and renders partition theories obsolete.