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

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chronology of Paul's collection from Galatia

Paul asked the Galatians to contribute money (1 Cor 16:1), and it is invariably assumed that Paul had intended for this money to be delivered to Jerusalem at more or less the same time as the money that he collected from Achaia and Macedonia. The assumption seems to be that Paul is here creating a kind of camaraderie among givers to encourage the Corinthians to be generous, and that this requires the the Galatian collection was contemporaneous. However, in 1 Corinthians Paul has no need to urge the Corinthians to give. He takes their commitment for granted. By mentioning Galatia in 1 Cor 16:1 Paul may instead simply be pointing out that the instructions that he gives are tried and tested: they worked in Galatia. Whatever the reason for mentioning Galatia, it is hazardous to assume, as almost everyone does, that the Galatian collection belongs to the "third missionary journey". I will argue in this post that the collection from Galatia was at the start of the "second missionary journey", some 7 years before the collection from Achaia and Macedonia.

1. Rom 15:26 says that Achaia and Macedonia contributed to the later collection, but makes no mention of Galatia. It would have been insulting to the Galatians to omit them if they had indeed contributed even a small amount to this collection. The simplest explanation is that the collection from Galatia was much earlier.

Some suppose that the crisis in Galatia caused the Galatians to withdrew from the collection. However, it seems unlikely that they would fail to make any contribution worthy of mention. Also, if, as the critics suppose, Paul's opponents in Galatia supported the theological position of the Jerusalem church, it is unlikely that they would oppose sending money to that same Jerusalem church.

2. During his Jerusalem visit of Gal 2:1-10 (=Acts 15) Paul was asked to 'remember the poor' (Gal 2:10). As many have pointed out, this does suggest a collection for Jerusalem. When was this collection. Paul's eagerness implies that he organized this collection shortly after the request was made. If Paul had delayed, the Galatians would have known, and Paul's claim that he had been eager would have sounded hollow.

As is commonly agreed, it is probable that the request was made in 48 or 49. There had been a recent famine in Judea and in 48/49 there was a Sabbatical year, in which agriculture was not permitted. The famine would have prevented Judeans from storing up food in preparation for the Sabbatical year.  This situation of acute need explains why the apostles asked Paul to 'remember the poor'. An immediate collection would be required, preferably before the harvest following the Sabbatical year (probably in the summer of 49). This, and Paul's eagerness, suggest that Paul organized a collection immediately after the visit of Gal 2:1-10 (=Acts 15).

So, what collection did Paul organize at that time? The collection from the Galatians is the only one that fits (the Galatians were south Galatians). The collection from Antioch is too early, and the collection from Achaia and Macedonia is much too late (even with Knox's chronology).

We can now discern a pattern in Paul's collections. As far as we now, he never asked any church to contribute more than once (indeed Paul's argument in 2 Cor 8:13-14 would not work if he expected to ask them to contribute again some day). Thus Antioch contributed only to the famine relief collection, and Galatia did not contribute to the final collection. Also, Paul wisely did not ask for contributions from any region during his initial evangelistic visit there. Thus Asia did not participate, and Achaia and Macedonia did not contribute until about 4 years after they were evangelized.

3. I have argued here that Timothy was a native of Antioch, not Lystra. Now, a collection from south Galatia at the start of the "second missionary journey" neatly explains why Timothy was in Lystra when Paul arrived (Acts 16:1): Paul had sent him to organize the collection. We can suppose that Timothy delivered the instructions that Paul mentioned in 1 Cor 16:1-2.

It makes perfect sense that Paul should send Timothy to organize this collection if, as I have argued, he was Titus renamed. Titus-Timothy and Paul went together to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1) and saw the poverty that existed among the believers there at that time. Paul was asked to 'remember the poor' whom he and Titus-Timothy had met, so he sent Titus-Timothy to south Galatia to explain the need for a collection to the believers there. Titus-Timothy was uniquely qualified for this job as collection envoy because he had seen the poverty first hand. He was still in south Galatia when Paul himself arrived (Acts 16:1). I will suggest in a future post that Titus may have been named "Timothy" precisely because of his involvement in this collection.

On any hypothesis Acts makes no direct mention of the collection from Galatia (or indeed of the collection from Achaia and Macedonia). Following Nickle ("The Collection" p149-150), I suggest that collections like this were illegal by the time that Luke wrote, and that his explains Luke's silence. Indeed, I have argued that the plot of Acts 20:3 was when the Jews had the Romans declared the collection from Achaia illegal. Whatever the reason for the silence, we should not be surprised that Luke does not mention that Timothy had been sent by Paul to organize the collection. It seems that, in avoiding mention  of the collection, which may have been well known to Luke's intended audience, he has inadvertently given future generations the mistaken impression that Timothy was actually a native of Lystra.

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