Paul in Corinth
Verse 1: After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. (NIV)
- This is not ancient Corinth, that had been destroyed. This city was a colony that Julius Caesar founded and became very rich (Johnson 321).
Verse 2: here he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, (NIV)
- Pontus is an ancient region on the Black Sea, and this indicates that Aguila is Diaspora Jew.
- Aquila is a traveler, a well versed one at that. Traveling was lengthy, and often dangerous. That he lived in Rome, Corinth, and came originally from Pontus indicate this is probably a fairly well educated man.
- Emperor Claudius kicked out all Christians from Rome because they were causing controversy in the Jewish community in AD 49-50 (Fitzmyer 620).
- Pricilla and Aquila had only recently returned from Rome, so both Paul and them were getting established. It only makes sense that they would work together.
- Aquila is not a Roman citizen because they would not have been kicked out (Barrett 276).
Verse 3: and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. (NIV)
- This is the clearest indication on how Paul is bi-vocational. We don't know what the other apostles did, if anything, but we do know that Paul made money creating tents.
- Another possible interpretation of “tent-maker” is “leather worker” (Barrett 277).
Verse 4: Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (NIV)
- Interesting that Paul is mentioned as only reasoning in the synagogue and yet is working with Gentiles as well as Jews.
- What Paul is doing here is specifically discussing and reasoning with them.
Verse 5: When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. (NIV)
- There is some question about whether Paul was occupied with preaching when Silas and Timothy came (NRSV), or that when they came Paul began to preach (NIV).
- The word used here for “preach” is not the standard one, but means “to protest” against something (Liddell 191).
- This is probably about going from bi-vocational to preaching full time (Johnson 323).
- Again, it is the Jews who are being reached here, not the Gentiles. This is a similar approach to what happened in Antioch.
Verse 6: But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” (NIV)
- The ”opposing” that the people were doing against Paul is used to talk about setting up battle lines against someone, meeting someone in battle face to face (Liddell 81).
- ”Insulting” Paul is more literally “blaspheming” him.
- Shaking the dust off of him in protest is a standard device in protest, disgust, and a public way of showing that you want nothing more to do with those people.
- It should be noted, however, that the term “dust” never actually appears in this verse, though most translations add it as that is the obvious intent.
- What was Paul's responsibility here? Was it because the Jews were his people or because they Jews were God's people originally? How we answer that changes how we do missions ourselves.
Verse 7: Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. (NIV)
- Titius Justus is obviously a Roman, given his name. That he is mentioned as being a worshiper of God is interesting because it shows that Paul did not neglect reaching those who were of the Jewish faith, just the Jews themselves.
- This appears to be more than a simple change in preaching location, but a change of living address too.
Verse 8: Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. (NIV)
- There is a Crispus mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:14, probably the same person.
- ”Synagogue ruler” is singular here, but someone else is mentioned as having that title as well in verse 17.
Verse 10: For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (NIV)
- Here again is the classic “ego eimi” or “I am” that can be either a standard way of saying anything, or the Jewish way of speaking the name of God. “The I AM is with you”.
- The value of Paul is not mentioned here as a reason why he would not come to harm, nor is God's will. It is because there are numerous people who will be following God that provides the assurance that Paul would not be hurt.
- Possibly this is an indication that there are many more people who will receive God so there is more work to do.
- Another interpretation is that there are many people already who will be instruments of God and keep Paul safe.
Verse 11: So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. (NIV)
- In our rushed world it is sometimes easy to forget that the events in Acts took a great many years
- That this time frame is given before telling about Paul being pulled before the proconsul says that it is important to know that Paul was not immediately dragged up the next day.
- That probably means something set the Jews off with a fresh anger. Possibly Sosthenes' conversion, though that is merely speculation.
Verse 12: While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. (NIV)
- This timing with Gallio seems to be January 52 to August 52 (Fitzmyer 622).
Verse 13: “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” (NIV)
- Jews were given special rights to keep to themselves but also deal with their own laws when it came to religion (Fitzmyer 629). By Paul trying to evangelize, he was breaking the rules.
Verse 14: Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. (NIV)
- Christianity is treated here like it is still part of Judaism (Fitzmyer 619), and so is passed off and ignored for the moment.
Verse 15: But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” (NIV)
- There are no specific charges brought against Paul according to Roman law, and so the case is thrown out. The procounsul didn't want to decide anything based on Jewish law so he didn't.
Verse 16: So he had them ejected from the court. (NIV)
- The Jews here are literally driven away, banished like you would banish an enemy (Lidell 91).
- This would have been extremely embarassing to the Jews, who wanted this solved. Instead, their case got thrown out.
- The action in verse 17 is possibly a result of wanting to keep the Christians from thinking this court case was a victory and therefore becoming even bolder.
Verse 17: Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever. (NIV)
- Galllio ignored it all because it was seen as inter-Judaic struggle (Fitzmyer 631).
- Who attacked Sosthenes?
- The text only says “they” and the antecedent is unclear.
- One theory is that the Jews attacked him because Gallio said to deal with it themselves.
- Another interpretation is that the Greeks were the ones who beat up Sosthenes (Barrett 280), and not the Jews, so Gallio ignored it as punishment for bringing such a petty issue before him.
- As “the Jews” are the only group of people mentioned here, and only Gallio is mentioned as a single Gentile, it seems that the Jews attacked is the more probable.
- Sosthenes was apparently a Christian, as his name is mentioned one other time in 1 Corinthians 1:1 as a co-sender with Paul of 1 Corinthians.
- Sosthenes is not the name mentioned earlier as leader of the synagogue. That was Crispus. There are a variety of thoughts on why this is.
- Perhaps Cripsus was replaced when he became a Christian.
- The synagogue was possibly large enough to have multiple leaders, like the one mentioned in Acts 13:15. But both of the uses of “synagogue ruler” here are singular.
- Another idea is an ancient one, from St. John Chrysostom, who thought that Crispus and Sosthenes were the same person (Myrou 207). This is supported by Crispus meaning “unsteady” and Sosthenes meaning “steady in strength” (Myrou 209). Perhaps he got a name change in baptism.
- If There was a name change, however, no one mentions it, which is unusual. Peter and Paul's name changes are both explicit.
- Also, the mention of both Crispus and Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians 1 would seem to indicate that they are separate people.
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