Acts - Lesson 19
In this lesson, you will learn about Paul's ministry in the city of Corinth. You will gain knowledge about the location of Corinth and the characteristics of its society. You will see how Paul arrived in Corinth and the opposition he faced from the Jews in the synagogue. You will also learn about his meeting with Aquila and Priscilla, as well as the Lord's encouragement to Paul. Finally, you will see the importance of this episode in the book of Acts and Paul's continued ministry in Corinth.
NT619-19: Acts 18:1-11
I. Introduction to Corinth
A. Location of Corinth
B. Characteristics of Corinthian Society
II. Paul's Ministry in Corinth
A. Arrival in Corinth
B. Ministry in the Synagogue
C. Meeting with Aquila and Priscilla
III. The Opposition to Paul's Ministry
A. Opposition from the Jews
B. The Lord's encouragement to Paul
IV. Concluding Thoughts
A. Paul's Continued Ministry in Corinth
B. The Importance of this Episode in the Book of Acts
- Acts is often referred to as "Luke: Part 2" suggesting that Luke was the author. Internal and external evidence confirms this authorship. It is believed that Acts was written in the 70's or 80's of the first century as a historical monograph with a biographic focus.
You will gain knowledge and insight about the authorship, date, and genre of the Book of Acts. The lesson will present evidence that Luke is the author of the Book of Acts and provide historical context to help determine the date of its writing. The genre of the Book of Acts will also be discussed, giving you a better understanding of its composition and purpose.
Acts is not a novel because it doesn't fit the style that novels of that time period were written in. It has elements of both common folk literature and elite literature. One motive that Luke had in writing Acts is as an apologetic to support a Jewish perspective. Acts is an apologetic, ethnographic history in a monograph form.
- In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the genre, historiography, purpose, and historical reliability of the book of Acts and its implications for interpretation.
This lesson teaches you about the themes of theology, history, culture, and miracles in the book of Acts, including Christology, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God, and the historical and cultural context of the first-century Roman Empire and Jewish culture. You'll learn the role of miracles in establishing the credibility of the gospel message and its relationship with faith. By the end, you will have a complete understanding of the main themes in the book of Acts.
In this lesson, you will learn about the role of miracles in the early church and how they were used to support and advance the gospel message in the book of Acts. The purpose of miracles, such as healings and other supernatural events, were seen as signs of the Holy Spirit's power and evidence of the truth of the gospel, which helped attract people to the message. Through exploring specific examples from the book of Acts, you will see how miracles played a crucial role in the growth of the early church and the spread of the gospel.
- This lesson covers the historical context of Acts, including the Jewish World, Roman Empire, political/social structures, and Mediterranean Geography. The purpose and authorship of the book, including Luke as the author, the purpose of the book, and its theology, will be discussed. The narrative structure, major sections, and events will be overviewed.
- The lesson is about the historical and theological context of the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit in the early Church as described in the first two chapters of the Book of Acts.
In this lesson you will learn about Peter's healing and sermon, the persecution and expansion of the church, and Stephen's martyrdom. You will gain insight into the early church's growth and the challenges they faced, as well as the impact of Stephen's death on the spread of Christianity.
- The lesson teaches about the events in Acts 5-7, including the story of Ananias and Sapphira, the growth of the church, the appointment of the seven, Stephen's defense, and his martyrdom, providing insight into the early Christian community and its challenges.
- The lesson is about the early events of the Church of Jerusalem and the role of the seven men chosen to serve the community, the first major persecution of the Christian Church, the spread of the gospel, and the conversion of Saul to Paul.
- The lesson covers the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem and beyond following Stephen's death, including Philip's preaching in Samaria, conversion of Simon and the Ethiopian Eunuch, and the challenges faced by early Christians.
- This lesson provides an overview of Saul's conversion and the events that took place on the Damascus road, including his baptism and ministry, and the implications for our lives today.
- This lesson provides an understanding of the events leading to the inclusion of Gentiles in the early Christian church and the spread of the gospel to non-Jewish people.
- This lesson explores the early Christian church's growth and challenges through the events of Acts 12 and 13, including the arrest and deliverance of Peter, Herod's death, the mission of Barnabas and Saul, and the first missionary journey.
- The First Missionary Journey in Acts 13-15 provides insight into the early Christian church through covering the team sent out, their ministry, and the results of their ministry.
- In this lesson, you will learn about the major issue that arose in the early Christian church regarding the relationship between Gentile converts and Jewish customs, the decision of the Jerusalem Council, and the implementation and response of the Gentile churches.
- In this lesson, you'll learn about the spread of the gospel in Philippi through Paul and Silas and the conversions of Lydia and the jailer, showcasing the gospel's power.
- In this lesson, you will learn about Paul's encounter with the philosophers of Athens and his message to them about the one true God, the judgment of humanity, and the resurrection of Jesus.
- This lesson provides a comprehensive overview of Paul's ministry in the city of Corinth, including the challenges he faced, the Lord's encouragement, and the significance of this episode in the book of Acts.
- This lesson provides insight into Paul's second missionary journey and his preaching, as well as the importance of the Holy Spirit's work and the ministry of the Word.
- The lesson provides an overview of Paul's journey to Jerusalem and the events that took place during his arrival in Jerusalem, the incident at the temple, his arrest, and his appearance before the Sanhedrin and its significance in the early Christian church.
- The lesson covers Paul's defenses in the final four chapters of Acts and his navigation of political and religious tensions while remaining faithful to his beliefs and mission.
- In this lesson, you will gain insight into Paul's journey from Caesarea to Rome, including details about the voyage and shipwreck, the aftermath of the shipwreck, and the significance of Paul's ministry.
The book of Acts portrays, in a narrative way, the life of the early church. The theme of the book is, "the mission of the early church." It tells how Jesus continued to carry out his mission that he started as recorded in the book of Luke, by working through the people of the early church. Dr. Keeener discusses the growth of the church from its Jewish roots through reaching the ends of the earth to fulfill the Great Commission.
Dr. Craig Keener
A. Paul in Corinth
1. Rome and the Jews
So, Paul leaves Athens and goes to Corinth where he found two Jews named Aquila and Priscilla also called Akulas and Priska. Aquila was a native of Pontus. Both had just left Rome due to Claudius decree that all Jews had to leave Rome. Macedonia was very rough on Paul and Silas, physical and probably emotionally. Even when we suffer at times, there are times of reprieve afterwards. However, when they get to Corinth, things had calmed down. There was verbal opposition in Athens were no persecution in terms of beating, etc. It was the same with Corinth, at least for one and a half years. Actually the Lord is going to encourage him in a vision while there. So Corinth was not too far from Athens and it was the capital of Achaia; it seems that the Gospel actually spread out from there because Paul talks about the churches of Achaia in 2 Corinthians. The expulsion of Jews from Rome was attested by Suetonius. There is a debate about when this actually happened; it was normally dated around AD 41 or more often in the year AD 49. Dio Cassius in the 3rd century doesn’t attest to their expulsion, but he does attest that the Jews under Claudius couldn’t meet, and that may have been in AD 41 which was perhaps a lessor restriction and then AD 49 was when they were expelled. Both Suetonius and Luke attest this expulsion. Luke is writing before Suetonius, but Suetonius didn’t get it from Luke as Suetonius provides a few more details that Luke doesn’t give. Suetonius was writing in the early 2nd century, long before Dio Cassius, about a century before. There was a similar expulsion when Tiberius was the Emperor where at the same time a number of young Jews were drafted into the Roman army to fight against Rome’s enemies. At the time of Tiberius, it is estimated that there were about forty to fifty thousand Jews in Rome which would have been about five percent of the population. Now, when we talk about an expulsion, we mean officially they were expelled, not that everybody actually left. Often, the Romans would official make popular announcements but these things weren’t enforced as much as they were decreed. So, most scholars don’t think all the Jews left despite the language of Suetonius and Luke.
Remember that Luke sometimes uses words hyperbolically, like in Acts 19 where he says that all of Asia received the Word through Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. It certainly did eventually spread to all of Asia, but not literally every individual person. It is just like Matthew 4, all those who were in Syria, who were sick were brought to Jesus and he healed them all. If Jesus had healed everybody in Syria who was sick, where do we get all the sick people in the remaining chapters of Matthew and in Acts? So, there is an element that all writers would use ‘all’ in this way; it meant very wide spread. Suetonius says that this happened on the account of a person by the name of Prestos which was a common slave name in Rome. It is actually a Greek word referring to a kind. It was also a common misspelling of Christos. Suetonius knew the name of Christ, but his source may not have known. Suetonius’ source misunderstood Christos and so the expulsion of the Jewish community from Rome had to do with this Christos or Christ or the Christians which would make sense because Christ was a king and that wouldn’t go over too well in Rome. What would the Jewish community be debating over? Most like over the identity over Christ, not a slave as such. So some Jews had to leave, certainly the instigators would have had to leave. Why would Luke not mention this? Remember that Luke is writing in Apologetics and therefore you write like this, you mention the good precedence, not the bad precedence. If this had anything to do with debates about Jesus being the Christ, there could have been good reason for Luke not to emphasize this point. There were also good reasons for Aquila and Priscilla being there; they could have been Jewish believers from Rome. There were some believers there already. The year AD 49 also fits this narrative as it happened somewhere around AD 51 or so.
2. Aquila and Priscilla
Paul uses Aquila and Priscilla’s formal names in his letters. Luke uses the more informal names of Aquila and Priscilla. There are four of six New Testament references that mention Priscilla before they mention Aquila which suggest that she was of a higher status. Often in antiquity, the husband could have been slave, born where the wife was free born. And so then, they would name the wife first, otherwise they would have named the husband first. With Roman names, they were common for Greek and Latin speaking Jews in Rome. Priscilla was perhaps a Roman citizen belonging to the clan name of Prisca. We read in Paul’s letters in Romans 16:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 16 and elsewhere that they had a house church. We have already mentioned house churches back in chapter 12, so this was common. So what was the economic base for Aquila and Priscilla? Well, they had a lot of mobility which most people didn’t have. The majority of people lived their whole lives in one place. They had moved from Pontus to Rome and then to Corinth and then to Ephesus and then back to Rome, at least Aquila did. We see this in Paul’s letters. They were craft’s people and traders and so these kinds of people often had to move; traders often moved from one place to another and whenever migrants went to a new city, they would have to live by the laws of that host city. They could meet together for business; foreigners of different groups would meet together and they were sometimes recognized as a semi-autonomous trade group. We see that they must have had some economic means because they functioned as patrons.
The average person lived in cities in the upper stories of building where the rooms would just be large enough to sleep in. Most people were poor for they couldn’t afford to be patrons and sponsor people in their homes. You could have it where neighbors would get together in larger tenements. In the upper floors, there would be a long hallway which would connect the different rooms, so you could have a meeting there. They had more space normally on the first floor with better apartments. So, if Aquila and Priscila were hosting a church in their home, they presumably would have had a home large enough for that purpose. They are eastern provincials and thus Jews that was in a more favorable status but more culturally simulated. They were artisans which were of a lower occupation but far beyond what peasants had. Their independence and mobility shows that they some income. In Corinth you had significant class disparity and as probably in Rome, you could have wealthy people living on the lower floors with poorer people living on the upper floors. You also had some segregation in terms of an economic class. The wealthy in Corinth lived especially near the Cranium, a special neighborhood in Corinth. Probably more of the house churches were there except for the first house church which was more likely in the Jewish area. Some women were artisans and more often they helped in selling; husbands and wives sometimes formed business partners, sometimes with the wife’s money in this period. The partnership was called a koinonos. Why was Paul in Corinth to begin with? Well, Corinth was a very significant city and probably had the most significant Jewish community in Greece, south of Macedonia. The Roman element is prominent and even dominant; eight of the seventeen names of Christians that we have from Corinth are Latin; this is from the Corinthian church. You had Crispus, Justus, and Erastus with many of the names being in Latin. Corinth had a very high population of people with Roman names and people who spoke Latin. Many Jews had Roman names. A third of the people named in Paul’s letters had Roman names. This was ten times higher than expected among non-Romans. So, they were obviously making in-roads among the Romans in sharing the Gospel there.
3. Corinth and Its History
If you were a citizen of Corinth, you were an honorary citizen of Rome; it had been founded as a Roman colony earlier. Because of that, they had a class of people beside veterans who had settled there. You had a lot of Roman freedmen who lived there and they had advanced economically. Corinth had been destroyed around 146 BC when the Roman commander Lucius Mummius sacked the city; it had lain dormant for a long time, although archeologists show there were Greeks who had moved back and lived there. It was official restarted as a city under Caesar in the 1st century BC. At this point, a lot of Romans moved in but Greeks were also moving in to this newly founded city. There were also a lot of foreigners there because it was a place with a lot of trade. It was right on the Isthmus of Corinth. Nero had actually tried to dig a canal but didn’t succeed. They had what was called the Diolkos, a paved trackway near Corinth in Ancient Greece which enabled boats to be moved overland across the Isthmus of Corinth. In going around the southern tip of Greece, it was very rocky and less navigable. In coming from Italy, you could go north and take the land route, the Via Egnatia or you could sail from Italy across the Adriatic Sea to the Isthmus of Corinth. Then cargo could be dragged across the Diolkos and on the other side, you had the Aegean Sea and from there you could sail directly to Asia Minor which was the most prosperous province during this period.
Of the sanctuaries in the Agora, one was of the Ephesian’s Artemis who was a Greek Goddess and the Ephesian’s version was particularly famous. There were images of Dionysus and Athena was in the middle. Above the Agora, you had the temple of the sister of Augustus, Octavia. So, you would be surrounding by signs of paganism. Corinth also had a lot of sexual immorality which was common in port cities. It was said to Corinthianize was said to act like a Corinthian sexually. It had been famous for prostitution that was dedicated to the god Aphrodite in an earlier period, although archaeology shows that on the Aqua Corinth, the Temple of Aphrodite could not have held the so-called thousand prostitutes. That was old Corinth but new Corinth still had a reputation for immorality which is found in documents from that period. Ephesus had a lot of this as well. There were many cults at the time, like that of Dionysus and Krokotos and the following of the goddess known as Cybele and Artemis of the Ephesian’s. At the time, some who followed Cybele, a castrated priest would wear a veil, necklace, earring and feminine dress, exchanging his sexual identity to become a she priest. This is just one example of the immorality in the city.
Corinth also had a port on one side known as the Lechaeum and then the Cenchreae was on the other side where Phoebus was from in Romans 16:1-2 with Cenchrea also mentioned where Paul sails from in Acts 18:18. In any case, you had a lot of foreigners coming into Corinth and so the city had become diverse. A lot of the foreigners were from the eastern Mediterranean; they naturally spoke Greek, although the people who ran the city spoke mainly Latin. They used Latin in their inscriptions; this underside of the city could be seen from broken fragments of pottery which was written in Greek of which they probably actually spoke. A lot of foreigners lived in Corinth, including a number of Jewish people. We see that Paul worked with many of the Corinthians in the same trade, tent making. Such a trade was looked down on by the elite and Paul actually lists it among his sufferings in 1 Corinthians 4:11 and 12, working with his hands. Manual labor was despised by philosophers and especially by the elites. There were four ways that a sage could earn wages: they could charge fees for tuition; they could have a patron or be hired as a household sage. Another way of getting money was begging, but most philosophers didn’t approve of this. It was considered too low class; however, that is what the Cynics did. They would stand on the street corner with little except for their clothing. They would have a bag for begging and a staff. Sometimes, they would entertain people, while others, could be very harsh and mean. This one Cynic philosopher said that he would practice begging from statues so that you could get used to being refused. Sometimes they would use their staff to hit you if you didn’t give them money. They would sometimes insult you anyway, just to show that they didn’t care what you thought about them. One Cynic was invited to a banquet and everything was very fine around him. After a while, he spat on the lap of the host and the host asks him why did he do that? He replied that everything else was so nice that there was nothing else to spit on. They were also known, sometimes, for stimulating themselves sexually or excreting in public. They just didn’t care what anybody else thought about them.
4. Shops, Jobs and Work
So Paul was clearly not in that tradition of Cynic philosophers for he did manual labor. Now the Cynics had some similarities with the Stoics, especially in preaching openly, Cynics were amongst those who did that as well as other philosophers, especially those who couldn’t get jobs anywhere. Some people would beg, but most of them despised this; Cynics didn’t want to do it. Other philosophers didn’t want to work or beg. Some, however, would regard it as being better than begging. In an aristocratic ideology, it was very demeaning. There were certain crafts that were considered better than others. A silver-smith was better than, say, an iron-smith. There were exceptions like Musonius Rufus, a 1st century AD Roman Stoic philosopher, who did value work; the Stoic idea of self-sufficiency. But it was more valued by manual laborers themselves; they wouldn’t disrespect Paul for that. It was praised in Jewish sources. Early sages Shemaiah and Octillion, Shemaiah said to love labor. Rabin Gamillo ben Judah Hinossy, a much later rabbi said that the study of the Torah was good along with the way of earth. In other words, working; for labor causes sin to be forgotten. Sometimes we say today, that an idol mind is the devil’s workplace. Rabbi Eliezer ben Ezzariah said that if there were no Torah, there is no way of earth. If there was no way of earth, there is no Torah. Later Rabbis warned against dependence on others, but you have Rabbi Nahunniya ben Haccona saying that if you take on the yoke of the Torah, you are freed from the yoke of Rome and from the way of earth. And later sources also mandate that the teacher should be paid. Eventually it became more of a profession and included more of those who weren’t more independently wealthy already. Early Jewish sources however, despised some basic crafts, but there were some that they praised: sandal makers, bakers, and carpenters; we know of a Jewish teacher who was a carpenter, raised by a carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. There were leather workers and Scribes. Now, leather working was interesting and Paul may have done that.
Artisans worked hard; their production was mainly small scale, in homes, often in mezzanine apartments on the ground floor in small shops. Most businesses employed family members or household members, including slaves. The larger businesses, however, would employ up to a hundred slaves. But most businesses were smaller operations; family businesses with six to twelve workers. The work day could be from sun rise to sun set. It gave them many opportunities for conversation. Some shops were loud and dangerous, especially some smith shops and sculpture shop. When I did manual work at some apartments once, the one that people hated most, especially with the sound, was chiseling out between the bricks which I was doing all day long. Other work, like leather workers, sandal makers were quiet. Valisius, the shoe-maker stitched while someone read aloud; some people would sleep there while some came in just to talk. Shops were usually single rooms, people worked there, supplies were stored there; they displayed and sold wares there and families often slept upstairs or in a mezzanine apartment. Leather workers had at least a table, stool, awl, knives, sharping stones and oil and blacking for treating leather. Shops were usually near the Agora, the market place. In Corinth, that would be near the Roman forum or Bema where judgements and decrees were given. Artisans were an economic bracket, intermediate between the upper class and lower classes which weren’t as poor as peasants. At least among urban residents, they were better off than the poorest, but they didn’t belong to the upper class.
b. Paul & Tent Making
Apprenticeship was usually within the family and could start at the age of ten for both boys and girls. It could start as late as the age of twenty-five. Rabbis urged Judean and other eastern fathers to train their sons in the same trade. So Paul may have learned his trade from his father in his earlier days alongside the study of the Torah. You were expected in that period to do both, even though Paul probably came from a fairly well-to-do family. Some think that Paul was a tent maker or cloth worker; usually cloth workers were not citizens of Rome as Paul was, nor were they citizens of Tarsus. In fact, cloth workers in the 1st century AD raised protests in Tarsus because they weren’t citizens of Tarsus. This may suggest that Paul’s family wasn’t cloth workers per se. Artisans were despised by the elite as slavish. Cicero said that no work shop befits a free person. The elite considered them incapable of virtue and uneducated, but again if you look at how manual labors described themselves from the inscriptions on tombstones, they were proud of their work. They did good work. But the elite would have been embarrassed at Paul’s work; they would think that he should not have been working, they would have supported him. This would have been an embarrassment to such people that Paul was coming across. Tents were important in Corinth as these were needed for the games that were held there. The Isthmus games happened every other year and he was there when they were held in 51 AD. Tents were also used by the theatre, etc. So the Linen industry was very big in Tarsus; a linen tabernacle was used by merchants for market stands and by individuals as sun shades. They could also be used in the markets in Corinth; Tarsus’ tent-making was renowned throughout the Mediterranean world. It even appears transliterated into Hebrew. Cilician wool, Cilicia, the province that Tarsus was from, from goat’s hair was famous. It was so prominent that warn cloaks were known as Cilicium, a hair cloth which was imported to Italy in the time of Augustus. Some think that Paul’s father may have worked for the army there. Some have suggested that is how they got their Roman citizenship, but it is far more likely that their citizenship came from being freed slaves.
Others have argued that Paul wasn’t a weaver of tents from goat’s hair or linen; that required tools that was too large for travel. Paul was very mobile as he had to move often, especially before he got to Corinth. We also know that he worked in Thessaloniki. He probably had a bag of tools to make and repair tents and other leather products. The term that is used for tent-making had also come to be applied widely to leather working in general. In Corinth, those who needed leather work, especially civilians who travelled a lot. So, for the conversations in the work shop, Paul could reach travelers and merchants, of the names mentioned in Corinthians, nine of them are on travels, probably for commercial reasons. These were people of some means and status; they were ones that most Judeans believers in Jesus couldn’t reach, but Paul was able to reach them. Randle Hock has done work on this in terms of leather workings. There were two tasks in leather working, cutting and sewing, and you would learn how to cut the leather into pieces in order to make use of the advantage of its’ strength. In sewing them, you had the bastion and seam stitch or felling stitch. These last two was where the seams needed to be water-proof. After completing an apprenticeship, an apprentice might get his own tools. Well, leatherworking certainly had an advantage over tent-making in terms of linen making. One advantage was the lack of noise associated with it and thus you could have more conversation during the work. In the religious milieu of the market place there were public statues throughout the Corinthian market place: Aphrodite, Poseidon, Apollo, and Demeter, Zeus and Hermes. If you live in a majority Christian culture, keep in mind that Christians can flourish in other cultures as well. If you live in a majority non-Christian culture, you can remember that the first Christians had to do that as well. We can live at peace with people who disagree with us, at least from our end.
c. The Market Place & Trade Guilds
People would talk at work all day long; there were stories about Socrates and others; discussions on politics and philosophy. So there was a culture that values talking and gossip; people would be leaning out the windows talking with their neighbors. People were drinking and eating together in taverns; in Rome, most people couldn’t cook in their homes and so they would have to go down to the street level and eat in taverns, apart from bread in the market place. People would do business lunches with co-workers at taverns and restaurants, etc. Cynics engaged in intellectual discourse in such locations and so did some other philosophers. Paul talks about his long hours in Acts 20:34. They also had trade guilds which were mainly social bodies that met roughly once a month. Sometimes that would have a better meal and wine than they would normally get on their own. They might come together to celebrate a birth or patron or patron deity. As an association, they would band together and provide certain help for any of their members. Ramsey McMullan points out that they usually opened their meetings with prayer to the deity that they had chosen when they first began. For woodcutters, that might be Silvanus the deity of the protector of forests. For restaurant owners, it might have been Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, fertility and prophecy, patron of Rome’s plebeians. It is one thing to have all these idols around but another thing to participate in meals that have been offered to these idols. So some streets might be known as the glass street or Incense Street or perfume or jewelry or cobbler’s market place and places were food was sold, etc. I get this from Ramsey McMullan, the Greek historian. One of the most basic question people ask, where do you live? This would identify the person’s occupation. The answer could be descriptive as well such as among the barbers. This was actually used as descriptions on grave stones as well. So, usually one would know which part of town to go to in order to find what you were looking for. In this period, it is hard to believe but there was friendly cooperation from people of the same occupation or profession. They had common supply lines and often worked together instead of cut-throat competition.
5. Living Conditions, The Roman Home and Church Meetings
In Acts 28:30 we read that Paul lived there for one and one half years in his own rented quarters and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of god and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete boldness and without restriction. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 1 Corinthians 4:12 and 2 Corinthians 12:14; some text talks about ministering day and night while other texts talk about him working day and night. He may have been doing either one at the same time. I’m sure that Paul, when not working he was doing other things. But trade groups, sometimes families that were working in the trade would organize together as guilds and they might control the whole street or a section of the city. So Aquila and Priscilla probably were not participating in the leather-workers guild as such, whether they lived in that part of town or not; they probably preferred to live in a Jewish section of town over these other places. Their living conditions consisted of tenements with the wealthier living on the bottom and less wealthy living higher. The poorest would live in tiny rooms on the top or small lofts above workshops. As they got higher, the buildings were less stable and secure. Juvenile from Rome was a Satirist and says that in any given day you would hear a building collapsing somewhere in Rome. Of course, what they did for sanitation; Rome was famous for its drains but the water only ran to the bottom floor; it wasn’t pumped upstairs. The people in the upper level of apartments had containers in which to put their water, etc. and often they would store it under the stairs. Also, people were known for emptying their chamber pots out the window and they could be prosecuted if they hit anyone in the street. There were also public toilets where a person could go. You also had slum lords with hit quads that would take out troublesome tenets. In Egypt with its details of business documents that survived in Papyri, sometimes you would have as many as twenty people crowded into a single room. And sometimes, people would rent or own a quarter of a room. A lot of those people were very poor and childhood mortality in Egypt may have been close to fifty percent. There were a lot of abandoned babies in other places of the Roman Empire, less so in Egypt.
The Synagogue in Corinth from verse 4; an inscription speaks of it belonging to the Hebrews which was written in Greek, but the date of this inscription is uncertain; almost certainly a later date than Paul’s time. It was found near the Agora. We do know Jews in the 2nd century; Trypho was a Jewish teacher there that is if Justine, the historian, didn’t make him up, and so we do have some attestation for there being a Jewish community there. We don’t have a lot to know enough about it. What Roman historians often do; they will use the Book of Acts as a source to get details of some of these places.
In Acts 18:5: Silas and Timothy came and brings word of the Thessalonian believers that they were actually doing well. Paul was really happy about that and they also brought a gift from Philippi and we read about that in 2 Corinthians 11. Some of the Corinthians were concerned that he wasn’t depending on them, but he accepted support from the church at Philippi. He didn’t want the Corinthian church to support him because they wanted to act as if Paul was their patron. He wanted the freedom to say what he was supposed to say. As a pastor and associate pastor, I have never taken a salary but I get paid for plenty of other things. I’m not saying that pastors shouldn’t be paid salaries; for me, I get paid for teaching. I get paid more for teaching more than I do for writing, even though writing takes far more work. Anyway, Paul gets a gift form Philippi and then he is able to stop working so much and able to devote himself fully to the work of ministry.
In the synagogue, things become divided; some people believed what he said and agreed with him while some don’t. Paul doesn’t take over the synagogue; he leaves and goes next door to the house of Titius Justus who apparently was a wealthy God fearing gentile donor to the synagogue. Some think that Titius Justus was the same person as the Gaius who is mentioned in Roman’s 16:23 as the host of the church in Corinth, although it is debated as to what that means. Perhaps it means that he was the original host or perhaps it means that he is so wealthy that he has a place where everybody can gather together. Titius Justus is a familiar title that is used in other places. It isn’t for sure if this is the same person but it could be. With the Roman nomine and cognomina, Titius Justus probably indicates that this person is a Roman citizen. Perhaps he is from one of the Roman families settled in new Corinth.
The home where they would have initially met was a Roman home which would have had a triclinium. The best room for banquets in a spacious Roman home was, on average about thirty six square meters. Ideally it held about nine to twelve people. First class seating over reclining would be in the triclinium and you still had your atrium, a large airy room sighted by the opening in the roof having smaller rooms or cubicles on either side. There was usually a shadow pool right below the opening in the roof. With normal furniture you could put in about thirty or so people in such a place. The impluvium under the open space collects the rain water right in the middle of the floor. Others have said that not all homes were exactly the same; this gives us an idea at least to think about. If you add up all the names in Corinthians and Acts and Paul’s writings plus their families, you might have about fifty people. Most likely, there were way more than fifty people. Some of the names were leaders in the churches or people of high status. Even with fifty people, most likely you had multiple house churches. Meetings in a home provided a family type atmosphere and that is was really useful because you build relationships that way. There is a dynamic there like what is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14 where you could all prophesize one by one. Well, you can’t do that in a church. There is a dynamic of each having their own gifts from God where we can minister to one another. This allows you to get to know one another in a face to face way. That is why even some mega-churches will have small groups. We have to remember that the church isn’t the building; we, as the people, are the church. When we meet to do church, what we are doing is relational and if not, we are missing a key dynamic of what the early church had.
So in chapter 18:8, Crispus, the president of the synagogue, believed in the Lord together with his entire household, and many Corinthians who heard about it believed and were baptized. Crispus was probably a wealthy person and as such, people often used their own means for the upkeep of the synagogue. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1 said that he had baptized Crispus and Gaius but didn’t know if he baptized anyone else. In this, he was talking about not baptizing in his own name; he said no, he baptized in Jesus’ name. One disadvantage of a small house group is the possible tangents they can go in. Anyway, they had many places where they could have used for baptisms. There were pools all over the place in Corinth; some were dedicated to deities.
6. Paul Has a Vision
In chapter 18:9-10, the Lord speaks to Paul through a vision telling him not to be afraid but to speak for the Lord said that he was with Paul. In pagan and often early Jewish sources, there were dreams of deceased people; we don’t have this in the New Testament or in the Bible. So, Paul has this dream where Jesus appears to him. These are my favorite dreams; the ones where I have seen Jesus; he is so kind and so gracious. It makes me love him all the more. What the Lord says to him is common in regards to statements of assurance. It is very common in oracles; often where God or an angel would appear to somebody; the first thing that they would say is not to be afraid. Of course, you can see why. It is one thing to see Jesus in a dream but some people have seen angels in real life who have appeared to them. I have never experienced that personally; if I ever do experience that, I think I would want the angel to tell me not to be afraid. I have never had visions where I saw something with my own eyes open. These are things that are Biblical, provided it is in keeping with what we know from Scripture. This gives us a measuring stick in regards to things of revelation. So Paul stayed in Corinth for eighteen months. Later on when Paul writes the Corinthians; they had already had some of Paul’s teaching. So, Paul would have been in Corinth over a summer. Now the Isthmus Games took placed in April to May of AD 51; so Paul would have been there at the time.
7. The Proconsul Gallio
In 18:12, Paul is in Achaia of which Corinth being the capital. Now the governor of Achaia was a proconsul; they had their own proconsul from 27 BC to the year AD 15 and then from AD 44 onwards. Politically, a person would go from being praetor to a governor, like a proconsul to a consul, one of the people who would be in charge of Rome under the emperor, of course. Gallo is identified here as being the proconsul; he was the brother of Seneca, the younger of the famous Stoic philosopher, who I mentioned before. He was the son of Seneca, the orator. He was born in Cordova, Spain. He was adopted by Junius Gallio and originally his name was Markus Ananias Novotus, but renamed Gallio. He was known for his charm and wit; more for his wit in this passage than charm. Apparently he was sent in April AD 51 to Corinth and took up his office on July 1st of the year. That is how we can date Paul as being in Corinth; he appears before Gallio. Paul probably arrived in late 49 or early 50. It was after Claudius expelled Jews from Rome. That is why he finds Aquila and Priscilla there already. Before July 52 AD, normally the proconsul would be there for a couple of years but Gallio didn’t finish his term of office; he didn’t even finish one year of his office. He had become ill and had to leave. So, we see Acts as being very precise as these things fit very well. Luke could not have researched these things somewhere; he would have learned this from Paul. This is also known to us with modern archaeology. Ion White, an expert in Roman law wrote about Roman law and Society. He was very excited about the accuracy of Acts on details like this. The year AD 51 was also a time of unrest; there was a food shortage and a lot of unrest in Corinth at that time. So Paul was brought before the Bema or court. This bema was a standard feature in Greco-Roman cities of the time. This judgment seat was a raised platform mounted by steps and sometimes furnished with a seat, used by officials in addressing an assembly or making pronouncements, often on judicial matters. This was often located in the agora, the Public Square or marketplace in the center of a city. What is under dispute is the manner in which God was being worshiped and a hint of creating public chaos or disturbing Jewish custom since it was the Jews who were making the complaint. This raised platform was nearly five hundred feet long and it was the largest tribunal in the empire. When Paul talks about taking things before a gentile court in 1 Corinthians 6, he is probably envisioning this bema. It was built under the Emperor Augustus. Some say that this was only used for ceremonial and a few official matters. So, probably this tribunal was instead held in an administrative building. In any case, Paul was certainly familiar with the bema as he writes about the judgement seat of Christ in Romans 14 and in 2 Corinthians 5, he writes about the judgement seat of Christ. Law courts were known to be very loud with shorting on both sides as we will see in the next session as Paul is brought before the court of Gallio.