APOLLOS (a-pŏl'ŏs, Gr. Apollōs). The short form of Apollonius, an Alexandrian Jew, described in Acts.18.24-Acts.18.25 as a man mighty in the Scriptures, eloquent, fervent in the Spirit, instructed in the way of the Lord, but knowing only the baptism of John. He came to Ephesus after Paul had visited that city on his second missionary journey. There he met Aquila and Priscilla, who had been left there to minister pending the apostle’s return. They heard Apollos speak boldly in the synagogue and, observing that he was deficient in his knowledge of the gospel, they “explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts.18.26). It is not easy to determine from the brief account in Acts the precise character of his religious knowledge. Before long he went to Achaia with letters of recommendation from the Ephesian brothers. When he arrived in Corinth, “he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts.18.27-Acts.18.28).
Apollos’s gifts and methods of presenting the gospel were undoubtedly different from those of Paul, and he put the impress of his own mode of thinking on many who heard him. Before long a party arose in the Corinthian church with the watchword, “I follow Apollos” (1Cor.3.4). There does not, however, appear to have been any feeling of rivalry between Paul and Apollos. Paul urged Apollos to revisit Corinth (1Cor.16.12), and he also asked Titus to help Apollos, apparently then or when he was on his way to Crete (Titus.3.13).
Luther suggested the theory, since accepted by some scholars, that Apollos wrote the Letter to the Hebrews.——SB
Apollos was a Jew, “a native of Alexandria” (Acts 18:24), and presumably grew up in that noted center of the Hel. world where Gentile and Jewish learning met and interacted. He possessed a keen mind and had received thorough educational training. He was “an eloquent man,” possessing not only a well-stored mind but also a natural facility of speech. He was “well versed in the scriptures,” possessing a mastery of the OT. He was proficient in their use in teaching and debate. He had also developed the valuable trait of accuracy in study and teaching (18:25).
Apollos “had been instructed in the way of the Lord” (18:25), but his teacher is not known. He may have been a disciple of John the Baptist; Codex D adds that he had been instructed “in his native land.” The knowledge of Apollos was limited, for “he knew only the baptism of John.” He knew enough to be convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. That he “taught accurately the things concerning Jesus” implies that he did have a general acquaintance with His ministry and teaching, but he was uninformed concerning the outcome and spiritual results of Christ’s mission. Yet his limited knowledge concerning Jesus made him “fervent in spirit,” bubbling with enthusiasm and zeal to share it with others. It set him to itinerating.
Upon his arrival in Ephesus, Apollos “began to speak boldly in the synagogue” (18:26). He had the courage to present his convictions to his Jewish audience. In the audience were two lay Christians, Priscilla and Aquila. They doubtless were impressed with the fervor of Apollos but noted his imperfect message. “They took” Apollos, apparently to their home, and tactfully “expounded to him the way of God more accurately,” explaining to him the Gospel in its fullness as they had learned it from Paul. That it included instruction in the significance of Christian baptism may be assumed, but Luke gives no hint that Apollos was baptized. If he had received John’s baptism before Pentecost, his baptism, like that of the Twelve, would be accepted as valid.
The desire of Apollos to work in Achaia received the warm support of “the brethren” at Ephesus (18:27). They gave him a letter of recommendation to the disciples there. Codex D adds the gloss that the decision of Apollos was made at the urging of certain Corinthians resident at Ephesus.
The ministry of Apollos had great value for the Corinthian church, for he “greatly helped those who through grace had believed.” His powerful preaching strengthened the development of uninstructed believers. Thus Apollos “watered” the work that Paul had planted (1 Cor 3:6). His dynamic apologetic ministry also aided the church in silencing Jewish opposition in that “he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:28). The ministry went beyond the confines of the church, as he aggressively pressed the claim that Jesus was the Messiah through his skillful use of the OT Scriptures.
The strong ministry of Apollos at Corinth also produced some undesirable reactions in the church. Deeply impressed with his eloquent preaching, certain Corinthians began to make him the focus of partisan loyalty for one of the four factions into which the church divided (1 Cor 1:12). In dividing the church over their favorite preachers, they forgot that all of them were but “fellow workers for God” (3:9). Paul’s rebuke of their factions (chs. 1-4) was not aimed at Apollos but at the Corinthians themselves (4:6).
When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, Apollos was with him at Ephesus (16:12). The Corinthians had indicated a desire to have Apollos return to Corinth. Paul had urged him to return, but Apollos had refused to do so at the time in order to avoid reviving the party spirit in the church. That he had been made the center for one of their factions doubtless was as distasteful to Apollos as to Paul.
Nothing further is heard of Apollos until Titus 3:13. Paul instructed Titus “to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way.” They had met Paul in some unnamed place. Since their journey was taking them through Crete, Paul apparently asked them to deliver his letter to Titus.
It would seem that Apollos did not feel called to the pioneer work of planting new churches. He apparently devoted his efforts to the strengthening of churches already established.
The apt suggestion of Luther that Apollos was the author of Hebrews has found favor with many scholars. While plausible, the suggestion lacks proof.
Comms. on Acts and 1 Corinthians. W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (1909), 252, 267, 268; H. S. Seekings, The Men of the Pauline Circle (1914), 107-114; J. Hastings, ed., The Greater Men and Women of the Bible, VI (1916), 281-297; H. C. Lees, St. Paul’s Friends (1917), 68-86; A. T. Robertson, Types of Preachers in the NT (1922), 13-29; A. C. McGiffert, History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age (1951), 290-294.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
In Achaia "he helped them much that had believed through grace; for he powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ" (Ac 18:27,28). During Apollos’ absences in Achaia, Paul had reached Ephesus and learned of what had been taught by Apollos there. (Ac 19:1). Since Paul was informed that the Ephesians still knew nothing of the baptism of the Spirit (Ac 19:2-4), it is probable that Apollos had not imparted to his hearers the further instruction he had received from Priscilla and Aquila, but had departed for Achaia shortly after receiving it. Paul remained upward of two years among the Ephesians (Ac 19:8,10), and in the spring of 57 AD he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians. By this time Apollos was once more in Ephesus (compare 1Co 16:12). It is incredible that this epistle of Paul could have been prompted by any feelings of jealousy or animosity on his part against Apollos. It was rather the outcome of discussion between the two regarding the critical situation then existing in Corinth.
The mission of Apollos had met with a certain success, but the breeding of faction, which that very success, through the slight discrepancies in his teaching (compare 1Co 1:12; 3:4) with that of Paul or of Cephas, had engendered, was utterly alien to his intentions. The party spirit was as distasteful to Apollos as it was to Paul, and made him reluctant to return to the scene of his former labors even at the desire of Paul himself (1Co 16:12). The epistle voiced the indignation of both. Paul welcomed the cooperation of Apollos (1Co 3:6: "I planted, Apollos watered"). It was not against his fellow-evangelist that he fulminated, but against the petty spirit of those who loved faction more than truth, who saw not that both he and Apollos came among them as "God’s fellow-workers" (1Co 3:9), the common servants of the one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
This view is also borne out by the tenor of Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians (compare Hennecke, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen, 84-112, especially 105): nor does it conflict with the passages 1Co 12:1-7; 2Co 3:1; 11:16, where Paul seems to allude to Apollos’ eloquence, wisdom, and letter of commendation. Paul wrote thus not in order to disparage Apollos but to affirm that, even without these incidental advantages, he would yield to none in the preaching of Christ crucified.
The last mention of Apollos is in the Epistle to Titus, where he is recommended along with Zenas to Titus (Titus 3:13). He was then on a journey through Crete (Titus 3:15), and was probably the bearer of the epistle. The time of this is uncertain, as the writing of the Epistle to Titus, though generally admitted to have been after the release of Paul from imprisonment at Rome, has been variously placed at 64-67 AD. See Epistle To Titus.