This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Johann Michaelis on Crispus-Sosthenes

John Chrysostom (4th century), A. Myrou (1999) and I (2005) have argued that Sosthenes was Crispus renamed. But neither Myrou nor I were aware that a certain Dr. Hoven make the same proposal, presumably in the 18th century.

The 1823 English translation of Johann David Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament, p46 reads:

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.

This is a very weak counter-argument. Crispus-Sosthenes was responsible for the conversion of many in Corinth (Acts 18:8) and had so much authority among the believers in Corinth that Paul chose to include him as his co-sender of 1 Corinthians. The readers of 1 Corinthians would surely then have known both names of Crispus-Sosthenes, so there was no risk of 'confusion'. In 1 Cor 1:14 Paul correctly calls him "Crispus" because he is referring to his baptism, which would have been before he was renamed.

Furthermore, Paul refers to Simon as both "Peter" and "Cephas" in Galatians.


  1. I get a kick out of scholars who lapse into the assumption that Paul was writing for them instead of his actual recipients. We have to work to put ourselves into the shoes of the first century audience, because Paul did not write with us moderns in mind.

  2. Yes. The problem is particularly acute for Galatians. Even today the majority of scholars read Galatians as if it were written for them, or at least for people with no background information about the situation in Galatia.

    Thanks also, Stephen, for your comments on 1 Cor 14:34-35.

  3. Hi Richard,
    Perhaps I am reaching, but I wonder if “Sosthenes” could be a kind of title of respect, reflecting a “strong protector” of the religious community, which, according to Strongs, is the meaning of the words from which “Sosthenes” is derived. The reason I ask is that the one who accused Paul before Gallio was also called by this “name”, and he was the leader of the Jewish synagogue in Corinth. It seems a bit odd to me that two men who are both leaders of their respective religious communities have identical names. Am I forcing the issue or is there something to this line of thinking?

  4. Ed, I believe the Sosthenes of 1 Cor 1:1 was the same as the Sosthenes of Acts 18:17 and, yes, I believe that the name had been given to him because he was a 'strong protector'. He was Crispus renamed. See here. I suspect he protected the church during the time of food shortage of A.D. 51. and was beaten because he could not (or would not) fulfill his obligations to protect the synagogue community.