The connection of Corinth with the life of Apostle Paul and the early progress of Christianity is so close and eventful, that no student of Holy Writ ought to be satisfied without obtaining as correct and clear an idea as possible of its social condition, and its relation to other parts of the Empire. This subject will be considered in the succeeding chapter. At present another topic demands our chief attention. We are now arrived at that point in the life of Apostle Paul when his first Epistles were written. This fact is ascertained, not by any direct statements either in the Acts or the Epistles themselves, but by circumstantial evidence derived from a comparison of these documents with one another. Such a comparison enables us to perceive that the Apostle’s mind, on his arrival at Corinth, was still turning with affection and anxiety towards his converts at Thessalonica. In the midst of all his labors at the Isthmus, his thoughts were continually with those whom he had left in Macedonia; and though the narrative (Acts 18:1-4) tells us only of his tent-making and preaching in the metropolis of Achaia, we discover, on a closer inquiry, that the Letters to the Thessalonians were written at this particular crisis.
It would be interesting, in the case of any man whose biography has been thought worth preserving, to find that letters full of love and wisdom had been written at a time when no traces would have been discoverable, except in the letters themselves, of the thoughts which had been occupying the writer’s mind. Such unexpected association of the actions done in one place with affection retained towards another, always seems to add to our personal knowledge of the man whose history we may be studying, and to our interest in the pursuits which were the occupation of his life. This is peculiarly true in the case of the first Christian correspondence, which has been preserved to the Church. Such has ever been the influence of letter-writing, - its power in bringing those who are distant near to one another, and reconciling those who are in danger of being estranged; - such especially has been the influence of Christian letters in developing the growth of faith and love, and binding together the dislocated members of the body of our Lord, and in making each generation in succession the teacher of the next, - that we have good reason to take these Epistles to the Thessalonians as the one chief subject of the present chapter. The earliest occurrences which took place at Corinth must first be mentioned: but for this a few pages will suffice.
The reasons which determined Apostle Paul to come to Corinth (over and above the discouragement he seems to have met with in Athens) were, probably, twofold. In the first place, it was a large mercantile city, in immediate connection with Rome and the West of the Mediterranean, with Thessalonica and Ephesus in the Aegean, and with Antioch and Alexandria in the East. The Gospel once established in Corinth, would rapidly spread everywhere. And, again, from the very nature of the city, the Jews established there were numerous. Communities of scattered Israelites were found in various parts of the province of Achaia, - in Athens, as we have recently seen, - in Argos, as we learn from Philo, - in Boeotia and Eubosa. But their chief settlement must necessarily have been in that city, which not only gave opportunities of trade by land along the Isthmus between the Morea and the Continent, but received in its two harbors the ships of the Eastern and Western Seas. A religion which was first to be planted in the Synagogue, and was thence intended to scatter its seeds over all parts of the earth, could nowhere find a more favorable soil than among the Hebrew families at Corinth.
At this particular time there was a greater number of Jews in the city than usual; for they had lately been banished from Rome by command of the Emperor Claudius. (Acts 18:2) The history of this edict is involved in some obscurity. But there are abundant passages in the contemporary Heathen writers which show the suspicion and dislike with which the Jews were regarded. Notwithstanding the general toleration, they were violently persecuted by three successive Emperors; and there is good reason for identifying the edict mentioned by Luke with that alluded to by Suetonius, who says that Claudius drove the Jews from Rome because they were incessantly raising tumults at the instigation of a certain Chrestus. Much has been written concerning this sentence of the biographer of the Caesars. Some have held that there was really a Jew called Chrestus, who had excited political disturbances, others that the name is used by mistake for Christus, and that the disturbances had arisen from the Jewish expectations concerning the Messiah, or Christ. It seems to us that the last opinion is partially true; but that we must trace this movement not merely to the vague Messianic idea entertained by the Jews, but to the events which followed the actual appearance of the Christ. We have seen how the first progress of Christianity had been the occasion of tumult among the Jewish communities in the provinces; and there is no reason why the same might not have happened in the capital itself. Nor need we be surprised at the inaccurate form in which the name occurs, when we remember how loosely more careful writers than Suetonius express themselves concerning the affairs of the Jews. Chrestus was a common name; Christus was not: and we have a distinct statement by Tertullian and Lactantius that in their day the former was often used for the latter.
Among the Jews who had been banished from Rome by Claudius, and had settled for a time at Corinth, were two natives of Pontus, whose names were Aquila and Priscilla. (Acts 18:2) We have seen before that Pontus denoted a province of Asia Minor on the shores of the Euxine, and we have noticed some political facts which tended to bring this province into relations with Judea. Though, indeed, it is hardly necessary to allude to this: for there were Jewish colonies over every part of Asia Minor, and we are expressly told that Jews from Pontus heard Peter’s first sermon (Acts 2: 9) and read his first Epistle. (1Peter 1:1) Aquila and Priscilla were, perhaps, of that number. Their names have a Roman form; and we may conjecture that they were brought into some connection with a Roman family, similar to that which we have supposed to have existed in the case of Apostle Paul himself. We find they were on the present occasion forced to leave Rome; and we notice that they are afterwards addressed (Romans 16:3) as residing there again; so that it is reasonable to suppose that the metropolis was their stated residence. Yet we observe that they frequently traveled; and we trace them on the Asiatic coast on two distinct occasions, separated by a wide interval of time. First, before their return to Italy (Acts 18:18, 26; 1Corinthians 16:19), and again, shortly before the martyrdom of Apostle Paul (2Timothy 4:19), we find them at Ephesus. From the manner in which they are referred to as having Christian meetings in their houses, both at Ephesus and Rome, (Romans 16:3; 1Corinthians 16:19) we should be inclined to conclude that they were possessed of some considerable wealth. The trade at which they labored, or which at least they superintended, was the manufacture of tents, the demand for which must have been continual in that age of traveling, - while the cilicium, or hair-cloth, of which they were made, could easily be procured at every large town in the Levant.
This was the first scene of Apostle Paul's life at Corinth. For the second scene we must turn to the synagogue. The Sabbath (See Acts 18:4) was a day of rest. On that day the Jews laid aside their tent-making and their other trades, and, amid the derision of their Gentile neighbors, assembled in the house of prayer to worship the God of their ancestors. There Apostle Paul spoke to them of the "mercy promised to their forefathers," and of the "oath sworn to Abraham," being "performed." There his countrymen listened with incredulity or conviction; and the tent-maker of Tarsus "reasoned" with them, and "endeavored to persuade" both the Jews and the Gentiles who were present to believe in Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah and the savior of the World.
While these two employments were proceeding, - the daily labor in the workshop, and the weekly discussions in the synagogue, - Timothy and Silas returned from Macedonia. The effect produced by their arrival seems to have been an instantaneous increase of the zeal and energy with which Apostle Paul resisted the opposition, which was even now beginning to hem in the progress of the truth. The remarkable word which is used to describe the "pressure" which he experienced at this moment in the course of his teaching at Corinth, is the same which is employed of our Lord Himself in a solemn passage of the Gospels, (Luke 12:50) when He says, "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" He who felt our human difficulties has given us human help to aid us in what He requires us to do. When Apostle Paul's companions rejoined him, he was reenforced with new earnestness and vigor in combating the difficulties which met him. He acknowledges himself that he was at Corinth "in weakness, and in fear and much trembling;" (1Corinthians 2:3) but "God, who comforteth those that are cast down, comforted him by the arrival" (2Corinthians 7:6) of his friends. It was only one among many instances we shall be called to notice, in which, at a time of weakness, "he saw the brethren and took courage."
But this was not the only result of the arrival of Apostle Paul's companions. Timothy had been sent, while Apostle Paul was still at Athens, to revisit and establish the Church of Thessalonica. The news he brought on his return to Apostle Paul caused the latter to write to these beloved converts; and, as we have already observed, the letter which he sent them is the first of his Epistles which has been preserved to us. It seems to have been occasioned partly by his wish to express his earnest affection for the Thessalonian Christians, and to encourage them under their persecutions; but it was also called for by some errors into which they had fallen. Many of the new converts were uneasy about the state of their relatives or friends, who had died since their conversion. They feared that these departed Christians would lose the happiness of witnessing their Lord’s second coming, which they expected soon to behold. In this expectation others had given themselves up to a religious excitement, under the influence of which they persuaded themselves that they need not continue to work at the business of their callings, but might claim support from the richer members of the Church. Others, again, had yielded to the same temptations which afterwards influenced the Corinthian Church, and despised the gift of prophesying (1Thessalonians 5:20) in comparison with those other gifts which afforded more opportunity for display.
Now, therefore, the Apostle left the Jews, and turned to the Gentiles. He withdrew from his own people with one of those symbolical actions, which, in the East, have all the expressiveness of language, and which, having received the sanction of our Lord Himself, (Mark 6:11) are equivalent to the denunciation of woe. He shook the dust off his garments, (Acts 18:6) and proclaimed himself innocent of the blood (See Acts 5:28, 20:26. Also Ezekiel 33:6, 9; and Matthew 27:24) of those who refused to listen to the voice which offered them salvation. A proselyte, whose name was Justus, opened his door to the rejected Apostle; and that house became thenceforward the place of public teaching. While he continued doubtless to lodge with Aquila and Priscilla that His Apostle should abide in the house where the "Son of peace" was), he met his flock in the house of Justus. Some place convenient for general meeting was evidently necessary for the continuance of Apostle Paul's work in the cities where he resided. So long as possible, it was the Synagogue. When he was exiled from the Jewish place of worship, or unable from other causes to attend it, it was such a place as providential circumstances might suggest. At Rome it was his own hired lodging (Acts 28:30): at Ephesus it was the School of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). Here at Corinth it was a house "contiguous to the Synagogue," offered on the emergency for the Apostle’s use by one who had listened and believed. It may readily be supposed that no convenient place could be found in the manufactory of Aquila and Priscilla. There, too, in the society of Jews lately exiled from Rome, he could hardly have looked for a congregation of Gentiles; whereas Justus, being a proselyte, was exactly in a position to receive under his roof, indiscriminately, both Hebrews and Greeks.
Special mention is made of the fact, that the house of Justus was "contiguous to the Synagogue." We are not necessarily to infer from this that Apostle Paul had any deliberate motive for choosing that locality. Though it might be that he would show the Jews, as in a visible symbol, that "by their sin salvation had come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy," (Romans 11:11) - while at the same time he remained as near to them as possible, to assure them of his readiness to return at the moment of their repentance. Whatever we may surmise concerning the motive of this choice, certain consequences must have followed from the contiguity of the house and the Synagogue, and some incident resulting from it may have suggested the mention of the fact. The Jewish and Christian congregations would often meet face to face in the street; and all the success of the Gospel would become more palpable and conspicuous. And even if we leave out of view such considerations as these, there is a certain interest attaching to any phrase which tends to localize the scene of Apostolical labors. When we think of events that we have witnessed, we always reproduce in the mind, however dimly, some image of the place where the events have occurred. This condition of human thought is common to us and to the Apostles. The house of John’s mother at Jerusalem (Acts 12), the proseucha by the water-side at Philippi (Acts 16), were associated with many recollections in the minds of the earliest Christians. And when Apostle Paul thought, even many years afterwards, of what occurred on his first visit to Corinth, the images before the "inward eye" would be not merely the general aspect of the houses and temples of Corinth, with the great citadel overtowering them, but the Synagogue and the house of Justus, the incidents which happened in their neighborhood, and the gestures and faces of those who encountered each other in the street.
If an interest is attached to the places, a still deeper interest is attached to the persons, referred to in the history of the planting of the Church. In the case of Corinth, the names both of individuals and families are mentioned in abundance. The family of Stephanas is the first that occurs to us; for they seem to have been the earliest Corinthian converts. Apostle Paul himself speaks of that household, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 16:15), as "the first- fruits of Achaia." Another Christian of Corinth, well worthy of the recollection of the church of after-ages, was Caius (1Corinthians 1:14), with whom Apostle Paul found a home on his next visit (Romans 16:23), as he found one now with Aquila and Priscilla. We may conjecture, with reason, that his present host and hostess had now given their formal adherence to Apostle Paul, and that they left the Synagogue with him. After the open schism had taken place, we find the Church rapidly increasing. "Many of the Corinthians began to believe when they heard, and came to receive baptism." (Acts 18:8) We derive some information from Apostle Paul's own writings concerning the character of those who became believers. Not many of the philosophers, - not many of the noble and powerful (1Corinthians 1:26), - but many of those who had been profligate and degraded (1Corinthians 6:11), were called. The ignorant of this world were chosen to confound the wise, and the weak to confound the strong. From Apostle Paul's language we infer that the Gentile converts were more numerous than the Jewish. Yet one signal victory of the Gospel over Judaism must be mentioned here, - the conversion of Crispus (Acts 18:8), - who, from his position as "ruler of the Synagogue," may be presumed to have been a man of learning and high character, and who now, with all his family, joined himself to the new community. His conversion was felt to be so important, that the Apostle deviated from his usual practice (1Corinthians 1:14-16), and baptized him, as well as Caius and the household of Stephanas, with his own hand.
Such an event as the baptism of Crispus must have had a great effect in exasperating the Jews against Apostle Paul. Their opposition grew with his success. As we approach the time when the second letter to the Thessalonians was written, we find the difficulties of his position increasing. In the first Epistle the writer’s mind is almost entirely occupied with the thought of what might be happening at Thessalonica: in the second, the remembrance of his own pressing trial seems to mingle more conspicuously with the exhortations and warnings addressed to those who are absent. He particularly asks for the prayers of the Thessalonians, that he may be delivered from the perverse and wicked men around him, who were destitute of faith. (See below, 2Thessalonians 3:2) It is evident that he was in a condition of fear and anxiety. This is further manifest from the words which were heard by him in a vision vouchsafed at this critical period. (Acts 18:9, 10) We have already had occasion to observe, that such timely visitations were granted to the Apostle, when he was most in need of supernatural aid. In the present instance, the Lord, who spoke to him in the night, gave him an assurance of His presence, (Compare Matthew 28:20) and a promise of safety, along with a prophecy of good success at Corinth, and a command to speak boldly without fear, and not to keep silence. Prom this we may infer that his faith in Christ’s presence was failing, - that fear was beginning to produce hesitation, - and that the work of extending the Gospel was in danger of being arrested. The servant of God received conscious strength in the moment of trial and conflict; and the divine words were fulfilled in the formation of a large and flourishing church at Corinth, and in a safe and continued residence in that city, through the space of a year and six months.
Not many months of this period had elapsed when Apostle Paul found it necessary to write again to the Thessalonians. The excitement which he had endeavored to allay by his first Epistle was not arrested, and the fanatical portion of the church had availed themselves of the impression produced by Apostle Paul's personal teaching to increase it. It will be remembered that a subject on which he had especially dwelt while he was at Thessalonica, and to which he had also alluded in his first Epistle, (1Thessalonians 5:1-11) was the second advent of our Lord. We know that our savior Himself had warned His disciples that "of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but the Father only;" and we find these words remarkably fulfilled by the fact that the early Church, and even the Apostles themselves, expected their Lord to come again in that very generation. Apostle Paul himself shared in that expectation, but, being under the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, he did not deduce therefrom any erroneous practical conclusions. Some of his disciples, on the other hand, inferred that if indeed the present world were so soon to come to an end, it was useless to pursue their common earthly employments any longer. They forsook their work, and gave themselves up to dreamy expectations of the future; so that the whole framework of society in the Thessalonian Church was in danger of dissolution. Those who encouraged this delusion, supported it by imaginary revelations of the Spirit (2Thessalonians 2:2) and they even had recourse to forgery, and circulated a letter purporting to be written by Apostle Paul, in confirmation of their views. To check this evil, Apostle Paul wrote his second Epistle. In this he endeavors to remove their present erroneous expectations of Christ’s immediate coming, by reminding them of certain signs which must precede the second advent. Such was the second of the two letters which Apostle Paul wrote to Thessalonica during his residence at Corinth. Such was the Christian correspondence now established, in addition to the political and commercial correspondence existing before, between the two capitals of Achaia and Macedonia. Along with the official documents which passed between the governors of the contiguous provinces, and the communications between the merchants of the Northern and Western Aegean, letters were now sent, which related to the establishment of a "kingdom not of this world," (John 18:36) and to "riches" beyond the discovery of human enterprise. (Ephesians 3:8)
The influence of great cities has always been important on the wider movements of human life. We see Apostle Paul diligently using this influence, during a protracted residence at Corinth, for the spreading and strengthening of the Gospel in Achaia and beyond. As regards the province of Achaia, we have no reason to suppose that he confined his activity to its metropolis. The expression used by Luke (Acts 18:11) need only denote that it was his headquarters, or general place of residence. Communication was easy and frequent, by land or by water, with other parts of the province. Two short days’ journey to the south were the Jews of Argos, who might be to those of Corinth what the Jews of Berea had been to those of Thessalonica. About the same distance to the east was the city of Athens, which had been imperfectly evangelized, and could be visited without danger. Within a walk of a few hours, along a road busy with traffic, was the seaport of Cenchrea, known to us as the residence of a Christian community. (Romans 16: 1) These were the "Churches of God" (2Thessalonians 1:4), among whom the Apostle boasted of the patience and the faith of the Thessalonians, (Compare 1Thessalonians 1:7, 8) - the homes of "the saints in all Achaia" (2Corinthians 1:1), saluted at a later period, with the Church of Corinth, in a letter written from Macedonia. These Churches had alternately the blessings of the presence and the letters - the oral and the written teaching - of Apostle Paul. The former of these blessings is now no longer granted to us; but those long and wearisome journeys, which withdrew the teacher so often from his anxious converts, have resulted in our possession of inspired Epistles, in all their freshness and integrity, and with all their lessons of wisdom and love.
Background of Corinth
Now that we have entered upon the first part of the long series of Apostle Paul's letters, we seem to be arrived at a new stage of the Apostle’s biography. The materials for a more intimate knowledge are before us. More life is given to the picture. We have advanced from the field of geographical description and general history to the higher interest of personal detail. Even such details as relate to the writing materials employed in the Epistles, and the mode in which these epistles were transmitted from city to city, - all stages in the history of an Apostolic letter, from the hand of the amanuensis who wrote from the author’s inspired dictation, to the opening and reading of the document in the public assembly of the Church to which it was addressed, - have a sacred claim on the Christian’s attention. For the present we must defer the examination of such particulars. We remain with the Apostle himself, instead of following the journeys of his letters to Thessalonica, and tracing the effects which the last of them produced. We have before us a protracted residence in Corinth, (Acts 18:11-18) a voyage by sea to Syria, (Acts 18:18 22) and a journey by land from Antioch to Ephesus, (Acts 18:23. See 19:1) before we come to the next group of Apostle Paul's Epistles.
We must linger first for a time in Corinth, the great city where he stayed a longer time than at any point on his previous journeys, and from which, or to which, the most important of his letters were written. And, according to the plan we have hitherto observed, we proceed to elucidate its geographical position, and the principal stages of its history.
The Isthmus is the most remarkable feature in the Geography of Greece; and the peculiar relation which it established between the land and the water - and between the Morea and the Continent - had the utmost effect on the whole course of the History of Greece. When we were considering the topography and aspect of Athens, all the associations which surrounded us were Athenian. Here at the Isthmus, we are, as it were, at the center of the activity of the Greek race in general. It has the closest connection with all their most important movements, both military and commercial.
Conspicuous, both in connection with the military defenses of the Isthmus, and in the prominent features of its scenery, is the Acrocorinthus or citadel of Corinth, which rises in form and abruptness like the rock of Dumbarton. But this comparison is quite inadequate to express the magnitude of the Corinthian citadel. It is elevated two thousand feet above the level of the sea; it throws a vast shadow across the plain at its base; the ascent is a journey involving some fatigue; and the space of ground on the summit is so extensive, that it contained a whole town, which, under the Turkish dominion, had several mosques. Yet notwithstanding its colossal dimensions, its sides are so precipitous, that a few soldiers are enough to guard it. The possession of this fortress has been the object of repeated struggles in the latest wars between the Turks and the Greeks, and again between the Turks and the Venetians. It was said to Philip, when he wished to acquire possession of the Morea, that the Acrocorinthus was one of the horns he must seize, in order to secure the heifer. Thus Corinth might well be called "the eye of Greece" in a military sense, as Athens has often been so called in another sense. If the rock of Minerva was the Acropolis of the Athenian people, the mountain of the Isthmus was truly named "the Acropolis of the Greeks."
We are thus brought to that which is really the characteristic both of Corinthian geography and Corinthian history, its close relation to the commerce of the Mediterranean. Plutarch says, that there was a want of good harbors in Achaia; and Strabo speaks of the circumnavigation of the Morea as dangerous. Cape Malea was proverbially formidable, and held the same relation to the voyages of ancient days which the Cape of Good Hope does to our own. Thus, a narrow and level isthmus, across which smaller vessels could be dragged from gulf to gulf, was of inestimable value to the early traders of the Levant. And the two harbors, which received the ships of a more maturely developed trade, - Cenchrea on the Eastern Sea, and Lechaeum on the Western, with a third and smaller port, called Schoenus, where the isthmus was narrowest, - form an essential part of our idea of Corinth. Its common title in the poets is "the city of the two seas." It is allegorically represented in art as a female figure on a rock, between two other figures, each of whom bears a rudder, the symbol of navigation and trade. It is the same image which appears under another form in the words of the rhetorician, who said that it was "the prow and the stern of Greece."
There is this difference, however, between the Oceanic and the Mediterranean Isthmus, that one of the great cities of the ancient world always existed at the latter. What some future Darien may be destined to become, we cannot prophesy: but, at a very early date, we find Corinth celebrated by the poets for its wealth. This wealth must inevitably have grown up, from its mercantile relations, even without reference to its two seas, - if we attend to the fact on which Thucydides laid stress, that it was the place through which all ingress and egress took place between Northern and Southern Greece, before the development of commerce by water But it was its conspicuous position on the narrow neck of land between the Aegean and Ionian Seas, which was the main cause of its commercial greatness. The construction of the ship Argo is assigned by mythology to Corinth. The Samians obtained their shipbuilders from her. The first Greek triremes, - the first Greek sea-fights, - are connected with her history. Neptune was her god. Her colonies were spread over distant coasts in the East and West; and ships came from every sea to her harbors. Thus she became the common resort and the universal market of the Greeks. Her population and wealth were further augmented by the manufactures in metallurgy, dyeing, and porcelain, which grew up in connection with the import and export of goods. And at periodical intervals the crowding of her streets and the activity of her trade received a new impulse from the strangers who flocked to the Isthmian games; - a subject to which our attention will often be called hereafter, but which must be passed over here with a simple allusion. If we add all these particulars together, we see ample reason why the wealth, luxury, and profligacy of Corinth were proverbial in the ancient world.
In passing from the fortunes of the earlier, or Greek Corinth, to its history under the Romans, the first scene that meets us is one of disaster and ruin. The destruction of this city by Mummius, about the same time that Carthage was destroyed by Scipio, was so complete, that, like its previous wealth, it passed into a proverb. Its works of skill and luxury were destroyed or carried away. Polybius, the historian, saw Roman soldiers playing at draughts on the pictures of famous artists; and the exhibition of vases and statues that decorated the triumph of the Capitol introduced a new era in the habits of the Romans. Meanwhile, the very place of the city from which these works were taken remained desolate for many years. The honor of presiding over the Isthmian games was given to Sicyon; and Corinth ceased even to be a resting-place of travelers between the East and the West. But a new Corinth rose from the ashes of the old. Julius Caesar, recognizing the importance of the Isthmus as a military and mercantile position, sent thither a colony of Italians, who were chiefly freedmen. This new establishment rapidly increased by the mere force of its position. Within a few years it grew, as Sincapore has grown in our days, from nothing to an enormous city. The Greek merchants, who had fled on the Roman conquest to Delos and the neighboring coasts, returned to their former home. The Jews settled themselves in a place most convenient both for the business of commerce and for communication with Jerusalem. Thus, when Apostle Paul arrived at Corinth after his sojourn at Athens, he found himself in the midst of a numerous population of Greeks and Jews. They were probably far more numerous than the Romans, though the city had the constitution of a colony, and was the metropolis of a province.
One of the proconsuls who were sent out to govern the province of Achaia in the course of Apostle Paul's second missionary journey was Gallio. (Acts 18:12) His original name was Annaeus Novatus, and he was the brother of Annaeus Seneca the philospher. The name under which he was known to us in sacred and secular history was due to his adoption into the family of Junius Gallio the rhetorician. The time of his government at Corinth, as indicated by the sacred historian, must be placed between the years 52 and 54, if the dates we have assigned to Apostle Paul's movements be correct. We have no exact information on this subject from any secular source, nor is he mentioned by any Heathen writer as having been proconsul of Achaia. But there are some incidental notices of his life, which give rather a curious confirmation of what is advanced above. We are informed by Tacitus and Dio that he died in the year 65. Pliny says that after his consulship he had a serious illness, for the removal of which he tried a sea-voyage: and from his brother Seneca we learn that it was in Achaia that he went on shipboard for the benefit of his health. If we knew the year of Gallio’s consulship, our chronological result would be brought within narrow limits We do not possess this information; but it has been reasonably conjectured that his promotion, if due to his brother’s influence, would be subsequent to the year 49, in which the philospher returned from his exile in Corsica, and had the youthful Nero placed under his tuition. The interval of time thus marked out between the restoration of Seneca and the death of Gallio, includes the narrower period assigned by Luke to the proconsulate in Achaia.
The coming of a new governor to a province was an event of great importance. As regards the personal character of Gallio, the inference we should naturally draw from the words of Luke closely corresponds with what we are told by Seneca. His brother speaks of him with singular affection, not only as a man of integrity and honesty, but as one who won universal regard by his amiable temper and popular manners. His conduct on the occasion of the tumult at Corinth is quite in harmony with a character so described. He did not allow himself, like Pilate, to be led into injustice by the clamor of the Jews; (Acts 18:14) and yet he overlooked, with easy indifference, an outbreak of violence which a sterner and more imperious governor would at once have arrested. (Acts 18:17)
The details of this transaction were as follows:— The Jews, anxious to profit by a change of administration, and perhaps encouraged by the well-known compliance of Gallio’s character, took an early opportunity of accusing Apostle Paul before him. They had already set themselves in battle array against him, and the coming of the new governor was the signal for a general attack. (Acts 18:12) It is quite evident that the act was preconcerted and the occasion chosen. Making use of the privileges they enjoyed as a separate community, and well aware that the exercise of their worship was protected by the Roman State, they accused Apostle Paul of violating their own religious Law. They seem to have thought, if this violation of Jewish law could be proved, that Apostle Paul would become amenable to the criminal law of the Empire; or, perhaps, they hoped, as afterwards at Jerusalem, that he would be given up into their hands for punishment. Had Gallio been like Festus or Felix, this might easily have happened; and then Apostle Paul's natural resource would have been to appeal to the Emperor, on the ground of his citizenship. But the appointed time of his visit to Rome was not yet come, and the continuance of his missionary labors was secured by the character of the governor, who was providentially sent at this time to manage the affairs of Achaia.
The scene is set before us by Luke with some details which give us a vivid notion of what took place. Gallio is seated on that proconsular chair from which judicial sentences were pronounced by the Roman magistrates. To this we must doubtless add the other insignia of Roman power, which were suitable to a colony and the metropolis of a province. Before this Heathen authority the Jews are preferring their accusation with eager clamor. Their chief speaker is Sosthenes, the successor of Crispus, or (it may be) the ruler of another synagogue. The Greeks are standing round, eager to hear the result, and to learn something of the new governor’s character; and, at the same time, hating the Jews, and ready to be the partisans of Apostle Paul. At the moment when the Apostle is "about to open his mouth," (Acts 18:14) Gallio will not even hear his defense, but pronounces a decided and peremptory judgment.
His answer was that of a man who knew the limits of his office, and felt that be had no time to waste on the religious technicalities of the Jews. Had it been a case in which the Roman law had been violated by any breach of the peace or any act of dishonesty, then it would have been reasonable and right that the matter should have been fully investigated; but since it was only a question of the Jewish law, relating to the disputes of Hebrew superstition, and to names of no public interest, he utterly refused to attend to it. They might excommunicate the offender, or inflict on him any of their ecclesiastical punishments; but he would not meddle with trifling quarrels, which were beyond his jurisdiction. And without further delay he drove the Jews away from before his judicial chair. (Acts 18:16)
The effect of this proceeding must have been to produce the utmost rage and disappointment among the Jews. With the Greeks and other bystanders the result was very different. Their dislike of a superstitious and misanthropic nation was gratified. They held the forbearance of Gallio as a proof that their own religious liberties would be respected under the new administration; and, with the disorderly impulse of a mob which has been kept for some time in suspense, they rushed upon the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in the very presence of the proconsular tribunal. Meanwhile, Gallio took no notice of the injurious punishment thus inflicted on the Jews, and with characteristic indifference left Sosthenes to his fate.
Thus the accusers were themselves involved in disgrace; Gallio obtained a high popularity among the Greeks, and Apostle Paul was enabled to pursue his labors in safety. Had he been driven away from Corinth, the whole Christian community of the place might have been put in jeopardy. But the result of the storm was to give shelter to the infant Church, with opportunity of safe and continued growth. As regards the Apostle himself, his credit rose with the disgrace of his opponents. So far as he might afterwards be noticed by the Roman governor or the Greek inhabitants of the city, he would be regarded as an injured man. As his own discretion had given advantage to the holy cause at Philippi, by involving his opponents in blame, so here the most imminent peril was providentially turned into safety and honor.
Thus the assurance communicated in the vision was abundantly fulfilled. Though bitter enemies had "set on" Paul (Acts 18:10), no one had "hurt" him. The Lord had been "with him," and "much people" had been gathered into His Church. At length the time came when the Apostle deemed it right to leave Achaia and revisit Judea, induced (as it would appear) by a motive which often guided his journeys, the desire to be present at the great gathering of the Jews at one of their festivals, and possibly also influenced by the movements of Aquila and Priscilla, who were about to proceed from Corinth to Ephesus. Before his departure, he took a solemn farewell of the assembled Church. (Acts 18:18) How touching Apostle Paul's farewells must have been, especially after a protracted residence among his brethren and disciples, we may infer from the affectionate language of his letters; and one specimen is given to us of these parting addresses, in the Acts of the Apostles. From the words spoken at Miletus (Acts 20), we may learn what was said and felt at Corinth. He could tell his disciples here, as he told them there, that he had taught them "publicly and from house to house;" (Acts 10:20) that he was "pure from the blood of all men;" that by the space of a year and a half he had "not ceased to warn every one night and day with tears." And doubtless he forewarned them of "grievous wolves entering in among them, of men speaking perverse things arising of themselves, to draw away disciples after them."
The three points on the coast to which our attention is called in the brief notice of the voyage contained in the Acts 18 are Cenchrea, the harbor of Corinth; Ephesus, on the western shore of Asia Minor; and Caesarea Stratonis, in Palestine. More suitable occasions will be found hereafter for descriptions of Caesarea and Ephesus.
From this port Apostle Paul began his voyage to Syria. But before the vessel sailed, one of his companions performed a religious ceremony which must not be unnoticed, since it is mentioned in Scripture. Aquila had bound himself by one of those vows, which the Jews often voluntarily took, even when in foreign countries, in consequence of some mercy received, or some deliverance from danger, or other occurrence which had produced a deep religious impression on the mind. The obligations of these vows were similar to those in the case of Nazarites, - as regards abstinence from strong drinks and legal pollutions, and the wearing of the hair uncut till the close of a definite length of time. Aquila could not be literally a Nazarite; for, in the case of that greater vow, the cutting of the hair, which denoted that the legal time was expired, could only take place at the Temple in Jerusalem, or at least in Judea. In this case the ceremony was performed at Cenchrea. Here Aquila - who had been for some time conspicuous, even among the Jews and Christians at Corinth, for the long hair which denoted that he was under a peculiar religious restriction - came to the close of the period of obligation; and, before accompanying the Apostle to Ephesus, laid aside the tokens of his vow.
A fair wind, in much shorter time than either thirteen or fifteen days, would take the Apostle across, from Corinth, to the city on the other side of the sea. It seems that the vessel was bound for Syria, and stayed only a short time in harbor at Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla remained there while he proceeded. (Acts 18:19) But even during the short interval of his stay, Paul made a visit to his Jewish fellow-countrymen, and (the Sabbath being probably one of the days during which he remained) he held a discussion with them in the synagogue concerning Christianity. Their curiosity was excited by what they heard, as it had been at Antioch in Pisidia; and perhaps their curiosity would speedily have been succeeded by opposition, if their visitor had stayed longer among them. But he was not able to grant the request which they urgently made. He was anxious to attend the approaching festival at Jerusalem; (Acts 18:21. See above) and, had he not proceeded with the ship, this might have been impossible. He was so far, however, encouraged by the opening which he saw, that he left the Ephesian Jews with a promise of his return. This promise was limited by an expression of that dependence on the divine will which is characteristic of a Christian’s life, whether his vocation be to the labors of an Apostle, or to the routine of ordinary toil. We shall see that Apostle Paul's promise was literally fulfilled, when we come to pursue his progress on his third missionary circuit.
The voyage to Syria lay first by the coasts and islands of the Aegean to Cos and Cnidus, which are mentioned on subsequent voyages, (Acts 21:1, 27:7) and then across the open sea by Rhodes and Cyprus to Caesarea. (Acts 21:1 3) This city has the closest connection with some of the most memorable events of early Christianity. We have already had occasion to mention it, in alluding to Peter and the baptism of the first Gentile convert. We shall afterwards be required to make it the subject of a more elaborate notice, when we arrive at the imprisonment which was suffered by Apostle Paul under two successive Roman governors. (Acts 21:&c) The country was now no longer under native kings. Ten years had elapsed since the death of. Herod Agrippa, the last event alluded to in connection with Caesarea. Felix had been for some years already procurator of Judea. If the aspect of the country had become in any degree more national under the reign of the Herods, it had now resumed all the appearance of a Roman province. Caesarea was its military capital, as well as the harbor by which it was approached by all travelers from the West From this city, roads had been made to the Egyptian frontier on the south, and northwards along the coast by Ptolemais, Tyre, and Sidon, to Antioch, as well as across the interior by Neapolis or Antipatris to Jerusalem and the Jordan.
The journey from Caesarea to Jerusalem is related by Luke in a single word. No information is given concerning the incidents which occurred there:— no meetings with other Apostles, - no controversies on disputed points of doctrine, - are recorded or inferred.
From Jerusalem to Antioch it is likely that the journey was accomplished by land. It is the last time we shall have occasion to mention a road which was often traversed, at different seasons of the year, by Apostle Paul and his companions. Two of the journeys along this Phoenician coast have been long ago mentioned. Many years had intervened since the charitable mission which brought relief from Syria to the poor in Judea, and since the meeting of the council at Jerusalem, and the joyful return at a time of anxious controversy. When we allude to these previous visits to the Holy City, we feel how widely the Church of Christ had been extended in the space of very few years.
We are now for the last time on this part of the Asiatic shore. For a moment the associations which surround us are all of the primeval past. The monuments which still remain along this coast remind us of the ancient Phoenician power, and of Baal and Ashtaroth, - or of the Assyrian conquerors, who came from the Euphrates to the West, and have left forms like those in the palaces of Nineveh sculptured on the rocks of the Mediterranean, - rather than of any thing connected with the history of Greece and Rome. The mountains which rise above our heads belong to the characteristic imagery of the Old Testament; the cedars are those of the forests which were hewn by the workmen of Hiram and Solomon; the torrents which cross the roads are the waters from "the sides of Lebanon." But we are taking our last view of this scenery; and, as we leave it, we feel that we are passing from the Jewish infancy of the Christian Church to its wider expansion among the Heathen.