This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology. You can visit my web pages here, but note that they are not kept up-to-date.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Craig Keener on the identity of Titus and Timothy

On page 2320 of his Acts commentary, Craig Keener discusses the hypothesis that Titus was Timothy, and expresses some hesitations in his characteristically cautious style. He refers to my 2001 paper, but he is presumably unaware of the ways that I have developed the hypothesis since then. His comments are the fullest defence of the two-person hypothesis printed in English and they give me useful feedback concerning how the Titus-Timothy hypothesis is being viewed. In this blog post I duplicate Keener's words (indented) and try to respond to his concerns.
How could Paul battle circumcisionists in Acts 15:1-2 (on the Lukan literary level) and struggle with Barnabas and contend for Titus's freedom (Gal 2:3-5, 13, on the historical level), then circumcise Timothy afterward? This would become a genuine contradiction only if we argue that Timothy is Titus, 233 and given the sequence, not necessarily even then.
Yes, the non-circumcision of Titus in Gal 2:3 was before the circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3.
233 Fellows, "Titus," skillfully defends the identification of Timothy and Titus (developing a suggestion by Borse, "Timotheus und Titus," 34). Some evidence supports this position's plausibility: Apart from 2 Tim 4:10, which Fellows can discount as later misinformation ("Titus," 35-36), Timothy and Titus do not appear together. Certainly, this argument would also resolve why "Titus" does not appear in Acts.
Yes, the Titus-Timothy hypothesis explains why "Titus" does not appear in Acts. Keener ponders this problem also on pages 242, 2862, 2947, 2954, 2958. The strongest arguments for the Titus-Timothy hypothesis, however, are found in the Corinthian correspondence, where it allows us to greatly simplify the sequence of events without duplications or multiple changes of travel plans. Keener does not discuss this.
Also, "Titos" would make a good nickname, a useful shortened form for "Timotheos."
Against Borse, I do not see Titus as a nickname or a shortened form for "Timothy". I think Titus was his praenomen from birth. "Timothy" could have been his cognomen from birth, but I now think it more likely that it was a new name that was given to him to reflect his role in the church (like Simon-Peter or Crispus-Sosthenes). New names often did have a phonetic similarity to the original name, and "Timothy" has an appropriate meaning (honouring God). No NT name is more appropriate for Titus than "Timothy".
Against it would be the oddity of changing names for a person without explanation, even in same letter (2 Cor 1:1, 19 for "Timothy", and thereafter "Titus," e.g., 2:13), though this sometimes occurred (even in Gal 1:18; 2:7-11, 14; Fellows, "Titus," 34-35). Moreover, "Titus" was not a particularly rare name (e.g., 2 Macc 11:34; it appears 201 times in Josephus, but this is because of Vespasian's son); "Titius" in Acts 18:7 is closer to "Titus" than "Timothy" is, yet most do not link them.
Every time that Paul uses the name "Timothy" he is appealing to Timothy's authority, and this raises the possibility that Paul calls him something else in other contexts. Co-senders are included to endorse the contents of the letters (see Fulton's PhD thesis), so Paul is appealing to Timothy's authority at 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; Phlm 1:1. Similarly in 1 Cor 4:17 and Phil 2:19-22 Paul is setting up Timothy as an example for his readers to follow. At 1 Cor 16:10 and arguably 1 Thess 2:2-6 Paul is bolstering Timothy's authority, and he is appealing to his authority also in 2 Cor 1:19. In Rom 16:21-23 he must use the names by which the greeters were best known.

 "Titus", on the other hand, was a praenomen, and praenomina were used among intimate friends and family. In 2 Corinthians, in the context of Titus's recent and forthcoming visits to Corinth, Paul is wanting to emphasize that Titus and the Corinthians had a close and affectionate relationship (2 Cor 7:13, 15; 8:16-17). Presumably Paul is trying to secure that close relationship, perhaps because the success of the collection depended on it. In this context the praenomen is appropriate. By using the praenomen, "Titus", Paul implies that Titus-Timothy considered himself to have a warm relationship with the Corinthians, and that is exactly what Paul wanted to emphasize. Paul's switch between "Timothy" and "Titus" would not have created ambiguity for the original audience, of course, since they would have known him by both names and they would have known his movements and they would have known that there was no other envoy that Paul could be referring to.

Timothy had been circumcised in Galatia and Paul did not want the Galatians to follow Timothy's example. When discussing Timothy in his letter to the Galatians, Paul therefore avoids honouring Titus-Timothy with the name "Timothy". He therefore calls him "Titus" instead, which is appropriate since they knew him well.

So, the name selections are consistent: When Paul wants his audience to follow Titus-Timothy's example, he calls him "Timothy". When he wants to emphasize the warm relationship between Titus-Timothy and his audience, he calls him "Titus".
The thesis is certainly plausible, but given the uncertainty of the positive evidence, whether it is the likeliest solution depends partly on how much one thinks that the author of the Pastorals knew. I favour accurate information in the Pastorals about distinct persons more than Fellows does, believing that the concrete tradition in 2 Tim 4:10 may reflect traditional assumptions about  their distinct identities within living memory of Timothy;
When reading 2 Corinthians, it is natural for readers (other than the original audience) to assume that Titus was a different person from Timothy (see Keener's earlier comment). 2 Corinthians could therefore have led the pastor to assume that there was a Titus who was not Timothy (even if he knew that Timothy's praenomen was Titus). It is possible that there were two Titus's but, for me, it is more likely that the pastor made an understandable mistake. Now, 2 Tim 4:10 reads, "for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia; Titus to Dalmatia." Commentators are too kind to "Titus" here, perhaps because of a pro-Gentile bias. The text is ambiguous about whether Titus had deserted Paul, and such ambiguity would not be fair on Titus if in fact he had gone to Dalmatia on Paul's instructions. My suggestion is that Titus never existed (as a person separate from Timothy) and that therefore no-one in the pastor's community had heard anything about him (other than what they read in 2 Cor and Gal). The pastor than wrote 2 Tim 4:10 to explain why no-one knew anything further about him: he had deserted to Dalmatia where no churches were established. 2 Tim 4:10 has verisimilitude if "Titus" was remembered only as a name in 2 Cor and Gal.
the evidence of Acts 16:3 is also against this speculation, since the author belongs to the Pauline circle and, on my view of authorship (see Keener, Acts, 1:402-16, and comment on Acts 16:10), would have known Timothy and presumably whether or not Paul had him circumcised.
I fully agree that the author of Acts was a companion of Paul and had good information. Indeed, the Titus-Timothy hypothesis supports the historical accuracy of Acts. I admit that the uninformed reader would not necessarily infer from Gal 2:3-5 that Titus was circumcised, but the original audience was not uninformed. Paul did not need to tell them that he circumcised Timothy because they already knew. The issue at the time of writing was not whether Timothy had been circumcised, but how his circumcision should be interpreted.

Acts 16:1-3 suggests that Paul would have let Timothy pass himself off as a circumcised Jew if people did not already know that he was uncircumcised (see my last post), and Gal 5:11-12 hints that the Galatians had misunderstood the circumcision of Timothy and concluded that Paul had come over to the agitators' position. Gal 2:4-5 works well as Paul's correction of the Galatians' interpretation of the circumcision of Timothy. Here Paul implies that the circumcision of Timothy occurred only because the false brothers found out that Timothy was uncircumcised. He then emphasizes that his circumcision of Timothy did not indicate that he had yielded to the agitators. In short, Gal 2:3-5 is just the sort of thing that we would expect Paul to write about Timothy to the region where he was circumcised.

Keener (p2954-5) makes the suggestion that Titus may have been Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4). This is highly unlikely since both "Titus" and "Gaius" were common Latin praenomina. It was very rare for someone to have two such names.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Acts 16:3 confirms that Luke was a Jew

Here I argue that Acts 16:3 makes best sense if the author took it for granted that his audience knew that Christian missionaries had to be circumcised to be effective. This is one of a series of posts arguing that all Christian missionaries were Jews in Paul's day.

Acts 16:1-3 reads:
1 Paul went on also to Derby and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
τοῦτον ἠθέλησεν  Παῦλος σὺν αὐτῷ ἐξελθεῖν, καὶ λαβὼν περιέτεμεν αὐτὸν διὰ τοὺςἸουδαίους τοὺς ὄντας ἐν τοῖς τόποις ἐκείνοις, ᾔδεισαν γὰρ ἅπαντες ὅτι Ελλην ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ὑπῆρχεν.
 After deciding to recruit Timothy to his mission team, Paul had three options
1. Leave Timothy uncircumcised and present him as uncircumcised in the mission field.
2. Leave Timothy uncircumcised and let others assume that he was circumcised. This was a real option (see b. Yev 45a-b and see here).
3. Circumcised Timothy.

At first sight it seems odd (to us) that Paul should circumcise Timothy soon after winning an agreement that circumcision is not necessary (Acts 15). We can assume that Acts 16:3 explains this apparent contradiction, at least to the satisfaction of the intended audience.

In Acts 16:3 Luke gives two reasons why Paul chose option 3.
(i) He wanted Timothy to accompany him.
(ii) The Jews in those places all knew that Timothy's father was a Greek.

Luke accompanied Paul and Timothy on the second missionary journey. Most commentators assume  that Luke was a Gentile (and that Titus remained uncircumcised). If this were the case, then being a circumcised Jew was not a necessary qualification for being an effective missionary partner on the second missionary journey. So, if Luke was a Gentile (and was presented as such), then reason (i) was insufficient to rule out option 1. On the assumption that Luke was a Gentile, most commentators then conclude that Acts must be saying that option 1 is ruled out by a combination of reasons (i) and (ii), and that option 2 is not considered. They suppose that the Jews tolerated Luke, an uncircumcised Gentile, but would not have tolerated an uncircumcised son of a Jewish woman. This is problematic, not least because the text does not say "they all knew that his mother was a Jew". It says that they all knew that his father was a Greek. Furthermore it is not clear that an uncircumcised son of a Jewish women would have been any more objectionable to anyone than an uncircumcised son of two Gentile parents, since matrilineal descent did not pertain in the first century.

If, on the other hand, Luke was a Jew (see my recent posts), then all of Paul's missionary partners were circumcised (Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Timothy, and Luke). This then raises the possibility that Luke expected his audience to know that Paul's missionary partners had to be circumcised (to be able to have effective ministries in synagogues). We can assume that the audience of Acts knew much more than we do about the required qualification of Christian missionaries in their day. This allows a very different understanding of how Acts 16:3 explains why Paul circumcised Timothy: Luke wrote reason a) to explain why Paul did not choose option 1, and he wrote b) to explain why Paul did not choose option 2. That is to say, Luke wrote "Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him" and the readers knew at that point that it would be necessary for Timothy to at least pass as a Jew. He then wrote "for they all knew that his father was a Greek", which implies that they all knew that Timothy was uncircumcised. Luke wrote this to show that Paul would have let uncircumcised Timothy pass as circumcised (option 2) if people had not already known that he was uncircumcised. Thus Luke communicates that the circumcision of Timothy was not ideological but was merely expedient.

To sum up, in Paul's lifetime his missionary partners would not have been effective in their work if others knew that they were uncircumcised (whatever their parentage). Timothy could not pass himself off as a circumcised Jew because the Jews already knew that his father was a Greek and that therefore  he was uncircumcised.

For me, this understanding of Acts 16:3 is confirmed by Gal 2:3-5
But not even Titus, who with me was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us - we did not submit to them even for a moment so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.
I infer from this that the circumcision of Titus (who was also called Timothy) had been misunderstood. The Galatians thought it indicated that Paul had yielded to the position of the agitators, but Paul points out that it was only because the agitators had, by spying, found out that Titus-Timothy's father was a Greek. For more on Titus-Timothy, see here.



Sunday, December 28, 2014

Craig Keener on whether Luke was Lucius (Rom 16:23)

In Keener's judgment the Lucius of Rom 16:21 is probably different from the Luke of Phlm 24; Col 4:14. See, for example, p412 n66. His reasons are as follows:

1. Whereas Lucius was a Jew, Keener (p404) thinks that Col 4:11,14 favours Luke being a Gentile. However, in my last post I argued that Col 4:11, 14 confirms that Luke was a Jew.

2. Following Fitzmyer, Keener points out that the name is spelled differently in Rom 16:23 than in Phlm 24; Col 4:14 (p404 n17). However, this is not surprising. "Luke" is a hypocoristic form of the name "Lucius" and hypocoristic name-forms abound in Philemon and Colossians (Epaphras, Demas), perhaps because the greeters had visited Colossae and had a close relationship with the believers there. Romans, on the other hand, was not written to a city that the greeters had visited, so familiar, abbreviated name-forms would not be appropriate. The greeters had, on their travels, met some believers who subsequently moved to Rome, but they had not met the majority of the audience. Thus Sosipater has his full name-form in Rom 16:21, and the shortened form, Sopater, in Acts 20:4.

3. Keener (p1987n52) notes the view of e.g. Dunn that someone as important as the Lucius of Acts 13:1 would be given a fuller description than that given to the Lucius of Rom 16:21. However, Dunn overlooks the importance of name order. In the list of Greeters, Lucius is named second only to Timothy. This suggests that he had travelled extensively among the churches for many years and had thereby met many who had moved to Rome. It seems that he knew more members of the church of Rome than any of the greeters except Timothy. His position in the list shows that he was prominent and his absence from Acts would be surprising (unless he is the author).

4. Keener correctly argued that Luke may have been present for events where he does not use "we" (as well as events where he does use "we") (p2363-74). However, he back-slides from this conclusion on pages 1987, 2531, 2957, and 2954 where he writes,
Paul there[in Rom 16:21] lists greetings from his coworkers, mentioning Timothy, Lucius (possibly but not necessarily our Luke; the "we" resumes only in Acts 20:5)
But the original plan was for Paul and his companions to sail to Syria directly from Achaia, so it is highly likely that the author of acts assembled, with the others, in Achaia. We should therefore expect to find his name in Rom 16:21-23 since he would know many of the members of the church of Rome. Keener avoids the problem by suggesting, without evidence, that Luke changed his mind about whether to accompany the collection. Keener (p2958) writes,
This may have been a late decision based on Paul's change of course; Macedonia's contribution was complete (cf. 20:3), and Luke could have planned to stay on in Philippi until he learned that Paul was passing through Macedonia en route to Jerusalem. 
This is a desperate move by Keener. Luke had long known about the collection, for Paul had passed through Macedonia on his way to Achaia. Why would Luke decide not to participate in the journey, and then change his mind later?

In conclusion, Keener's tentative decision to distinguish between Lucius and Luke is not well founded.

My own earlier post arguing that Lucius was Luke and also the author of Acts is here.

Col 4:11 and Luke's Jewishness

In the next posts I will argue that all Christian missionaries in Paul's day were Jews. In this post we look at Col 4:10-11, 14, which is often cited to indicate that Luke, at least, was probably a Gentile.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions - if he comes to you, welcome him. 
11 And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. καὶ Ἰησοῦς  λεγόμενος Ἰοῦστος, οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτομῆς οὗτοι μόνοι συνεργοὶ εἰς τὴνβασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, οἵτινες ἐγενήθησάν μοι παρηγορία. 
14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you.
In verse 11 the phrase "ones of the circumcision" is often taken to mean simply "Jews", and it is then inferred that Luke was not a Jew. But it is not the case that Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus Justus were Paul's only Jewish co-workers. What about Prisca, Aquila, Apollos, Mary (Rom 16:6), Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7), Crispus-Sosthenes, Silas, as well as Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen (Acts 13:1), and also Lucius, Jason and Sosipater (Rom 16:23)? A further problem is that if Paul really did have so few Jewish co-workers, it would be a remarkable coincidence that they were all in the same city as him at this time.

Clearly the scope of Paul's statement here must be limited in some way. Many take it to refer to only those who were with Paul at the time of writing, but this too is problematic. Firstly, there is nothing in the text to suggest this to the audience. Secondly, Timothy was with Paul at the time of writing (Col 1:1), and he was, by then, a Jew (Acts 16:3). If Rome is the provenance, then Prisca, Aquila, Mary, Andronicus, and Junia were probably also close at hand.

Furthermore there is a good reason to suppose that Epaphras and Luke, who were with Paul, were Jews. Here's why. Paul had to defend himself against the charge of bringing a Gentile into the temple. To do so, he stressed his own Jewish credentials and the piety of his friend, Ananias (see here). Given the nature of the charge against him, it was in Paul's interest to be seen to be surrounded by Jews, not Gentiles. Gentile friends could help Paul most by keeping a low profile. Indeed, the tasks of openly supporting Paul and of testifying in his defence would fall particularly to those co-workers who were particularly strict in their observance of the Law, for their testimony would carry weight. It was expedient that those who spent the most time with Paul should be Jews, and preferably strict ones, because of the optics. This suggests that Luke, who accompanied Paul to Rome, was a Jew. Also Epaphras was particularly close to Paul at the time, because Phlm 23 describes him (metaphorically?) as Paul's fellow prisoner, so he too was probably a Jew. Furthermore there are strong arguments that Luke was Lucius (Rom 16:23), who was a Jew (see my next post and here).

How, then, are we to understand Col 4:11? The problems are solved if, with E. E. Ellis and others, we take the "ones of the circumcision" to refer not to Jews in general, but only to those who observed the law rigorously. This seems to be consistent with usage elsewhere (Acts 10:45; 11:2; Rom 4:12; Gal 2:12; Tit 1:10). If we combine this idea with the insights above, we find that Epaphras, Luke, and Demas were Jews, but not of the strict variety. Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus Justus may then be the only co-workers of Paul anywhere in the world who were of the strict class. They may have been with Paul in Rome specifically because their presence would help his case against the charge of taking Trophimus into the temple. That is to say, Aristarchus may have travelled to Rome with Paul precisely because he was more strict in his observance of the Law than others such as Secundus, Sopater, or Gaius. Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus-Justus, being the strict, will have spent much time openly with Paul and this explains why Paul sends their greetings before those of Epaphras, Luke and Demas, and it also explains why Paul says that they have been a comfort to him. Paul could not put in writing that the strict Jews were with him to help his legal case, but that could be one of the details that Paul has asked Tychicus and Onesimus to pass on in the immediately preceding lines (Col 4:7-9).

In conclusion, Col 4:11 does not argue that Luke was a Gentile, but actually supports the view that he was a Jew.

While the analysis above is consistent with the Pauline authorship of Colossians, it does not require it. I argued before that Jesus Justus was fictional.

Friday, December 26, 2014

New evidence that Theophilus was from Philippi

Acts 16:11-12 reads
11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is
a leading city of the district of Macedonia (πρώτη τῆς μερίδος Μακεδονίας πόλις)and a Roman colony.
I suggest that 16:12 is explicable if Theophilus was from Philippi and Luke wrote this verse to honour him.



πρώτη means "first", but in what sense? Luke is not saying that Philippi was the first city that Paul came to, because Neapolis was the first. Luke must mean "first" in the sense of "most prominent/leading". This presents a problem. Why would Luke honour Philippi in this way, but not other cities? Only Tarsus is similarly honoured (in Acts 21:39, where Paul says "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city"). The problem is particularly acute because 16:12 seems to exaggerate the importance of Philippi. Thessalonica, not Philippi, was the capital of Macedonia, which was divided into four districts. Amphipolis was the largest city in Philippi's district, and Philippi had only 5,000 to 15,000 residents (Keener p 2380). Why would Luke proclaim the importance of Philippi, a relatively minor city, but not do the same for major cities, such as Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Corinth? Some have tried to solve the problem by suggesting a reading that is unattested in any Greek manuscript, but Witherington rightly dismisses this as a "step of desperation". Ramsay, however, attempted to answer the question by suggesting that Luke here is boasting of his own hometown (St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen p206-7):
The description of the dignity and rank of Philippi is unique in Acts; nor can it be explained as strictly requisite for the historian’s proper purpose. Here again the explanation lies in the character of the author, who was specially interested in Philippi, and had the true Greek pride in his own city. Perhaps he even exaggerates a little the dignity of Philippi, which was still only in process of growth, to become at a later date the great city of its division. Of old Amphipolis had been the chief city of the division, to which both belonged. Afterwards Philippi quite outstripped its rival; but it was at that time in such a position, that Amphipolis was ranked first by general consent, Philippi first by its own consent. These cases of rivalry between two or even three cities for the dignity and title of “First” are familiar to every student of the history of the Greek cities; and though no other evidence is known to show that Philippi had as yet began to claim the title, yet this single passage is conclusive. The descriptive phrase is like a lightning flash amid the darkness of local history, revealing in startling clearness the whole situation to those whose eyes are trained to catch the character of Greek city-history and city-jealousies.
It is an interesting fact that Luke, who hides himself so completely in his history, cannot hide his local feeling;
This idea was taken up (in slightly different ways) by Witherington (1998 p489),  Keener (2014 p2383), and Ascough ("Civic Pride at Philippi: the Text-Critical Problem of Acts 16.12" NTS 44 1998). There are three problems with the idea:
1. Philippi was not the author's hometown, for "we" occurs in 16:10, well before the group arrived in Philippi. Keener avoids this problem by suggesting that Luke is boasting of the town where he settled, not of the town of his birth. However, I doubt that people would boast of an adopted town, and Ascough's paper gives no examples of of such.
2. Luke was not interested in honouring himself. His work is anonymous and he refers to himself sparingly. On the occasions when he does use the first person, he generally uses the plural. Keener (p2373) writes that the use of the plural "allows Luke to avoid entirely the risk of self-commendation". Luke was keen to avoid drawing attention to himself. See my last post, here. Furthermore, the name "Luke" was a hypocoristic form of "Lucius", which was a Latin praenomen. It is testement to Luke's humility that he did not insist that others use his nomen or cognomen. See here.
3. Acts was not written exclusively for the church of Philippi, for other Aegean cities receive just as much attention in the narrative. Acts was probably written for churches in multiple cities, as Keener shows (p431-2). It would be undiplomatic for Luke to express civic pride in Philippi, for the purposes of honouring either himself or ordinary members of the Philippian church, if (as is likely) his audience also included believers from other cities, such as Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus. It seems unlikely that Luke would take sides in inter-city rivalries in this way.

It therefore seems to me that it is Theophilus whom Luke is honouring in 16:12. We know that Luke wanted to honour Theophilus, for he calls him "most excellent" (Luke 1:3). Luke's use of a dedicatee (Theophilus) works only if the intended audience knew Theophilus, so it is likely that most of them knew which town he came from. Theophilus was of high status and had probably performed benefactions for the churches, for example by paying for the production of copies of Luke-Acts. Luke's hearers would expect Luke to honour Theophilus, in accordance with ancient conventions concerning the honouring of benefactors. The audience of Luke-Acts were beneficiaries of Theophilus, assuming that he had indeed payed for the publication of the work, so they would not have resented Luke's rather exaggerated emphasis on the status of Philippi. Even today it is common to use hyperbole when thanking sponsors and other contributors to events, books, and films. It is not surprising that Luke describes Theophilus as "most excellent", and his city, Philippi, as first in rank. When a text is inexplicable to us, it is usually because the original audience knew something that we do not. I suggest that they knew that the sponsor of the text was from Philippi.

It seems, then, that Theophilus was from Philippi, and that he may have payed for the distribution of Luke-Acts among the churches of the Aegean, where he was known. This, of course, fits nicely with my view that Acts was written for the Aegean churches, where people such as Jason, Crispus-Sosthenes, Alexander, Tyrannus, and perhaps Pyrrhus, were already known (see here). It also fits with  the data that connect Luke with Macedonia and with Philippi in particular. The author of Acts travelled to Macedonia with Paul, Silas and Timothy, but he did not proceed to Corinth, for his name is absent from 2 Cor 1:19 and 1 Thess 1:1. He may have stayed in Macedonia. He probably next appears in 2 Cor 8:18-19 (see here), where he is probably the collection representative of the church of Philippi, for there is no named Philippian in Acts 20:4, and there is every chance that 2 Corinthians was written from Philippi as subscriptions indicate. Finally, he travels through Philippi in Acts 20:6.
Luke spent time in Philippi and the church there came to trust him with their money, and one of them, Theophilus, trusted him to write a history of the church.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Craig Keener on the "we passages" of Acts

Craig Keener's "Acts An Exegetical Commentary" is a must-have for all those doing research into Acts. It has a particular emphasis on background material and, with four volumes, it is able to go into much greater depth than other commentaries. While I will go to other commentaries for quick reference and for text critical questions, Keener's volumes will be my most valued resource on Acts. He writes clearly and considers many sides to every question, and is generally cautious in his conclusions.

Particularly important is Vol 3 p2350-74, where Keener discusses the use of the the first person plural in Acts. He surveys styles of self-reference in ancient writings and concludes that when ancient historians used first person narrative ("I" or "we"), they did so to show that they were present at the events. The style of self-reference in Acts, Keener shows, is no different, except that Luke's Judeo-Christian humility prevents him from naming himself or using first person singular as much as other writers. Luke was a participant in the events where he uses "we", and he was probably also present for other events that he narrates (Keener thinks it likely that Luke was in Judea during the time of Paul's imprisonment there (Acts 21-26)). Keener's conclusions are almost identical to mine (see here), and he has the same concerns as I do about William Campbell's inferences.

I intend to interact with Keener on other issues in my next blog posts.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Edward Adams' "The Earliest Christian Meeting Places"


In this recent monograph in the LNTS series, Edward Adams suggests that the early Christians may have met in such places as shops, workshops, barns, warehouses, hotels, inns, bathhouses, rented dining rooms, gardens, watersides, open urban spaces, and burial sites. He explores literary evidence, archaeological evidence, and comparative evidence (meaning data on the meeting places of Jews, associations, and philosophical schools).

Some of the book is available online here.
Hurtado has summarized the book here.

Adams helpfully gathers together a lot of relevant data from a wide variety of sources, so the book is a valuable resource. However, I have some criticisms.

1. Adams claims that there is a consensus that the early Christians met almost exclusively in private houses (homes). His thesis is that this consensus is mistaken. The problem that I have with this is that it is much too vague to be useful. What exactly does Adams mean by "almost exclusively"? 99% of the time? 90%? 70%? He does not say. It is therefore not clear to me whether Adams actually disagrees with his opponents. Perhaps he and they merely have different understandings of what constitutes "almost exclusively". This is one of many cases were New Testament Studies suffers from lack of numeracy. Nowhere does Adams deny that the Christians met in private houses most of the time.

2. He does not make a clear distinction between meetings designed to spread the word to non-believers and meetings of established churches. Evangelistic proclamations will naturally occur in public spaces (e.g. the agora and Areopagus of Athens, Acts 17:17-19). Established churches, however, are more likely to meet in private houses for greater to avoid provoking hostility from the non-Christian population.

3. On page 13 he writes "During spells of persecution or intense harassment, to be sure, inns, restaurants, bathhouses, etc., are not really plausible as meeting places, but in such periods, even meeting in houses would have been difficult." and "the persecution of Christians was sporadic and local and not constant and empire-wide." Thus, Adams considers times when persecution was so intense that it was not safe for believers to meet at all, and times when persecution did not threaten at all, but he overlooks the much more common intermediate scenario. It is clear from the New Testament that there was an ever-present risk of persecution, but that the persecution was not so intense as to make it impossible for Christians to meet at all. Paul suffered frequent persecution (Rom 15:31; 16:4; 7; 1 Cor 4:12; 2 Cor 1:8-11; 4:8-10; 6:4-9; 11:23-26, 32-33; Gal 5:11; 6:17; Phil 1:7; 1 Thess 1:6; 2:2, 15; 3:4, 7; Phlmn 9, 13; Acts 9:6, 23-25, 29;13:50; 14:5, 19; 16:19-24; 17:5, 10, 13-14; 18:12; 19:26; 20:3, 23; 21:27-28:31) precisely because he proclaimed his message publicly in synagogues and public spaces. His converts suffered much less persecution (Phil 1:28-30; 1 Thess 1:6; 2:14; 3:3; Acts 14:22; 17:6; 18:17), presumably because they took the precaution of not doing what Paul did. They met in private houses, and thus minimized the risk of provoking opposition. The relative lack of persecution of Paul's converts does not show that they had no need to restrict their meetings in private houses. Rather, it shows that they minimized their exposure to persecution by taking sensible precautions, such as meeting in private houses. Adams' logic seems flawed.

4. On page 29 Adams writes:
In 1 Cor. 11.22, Paul asks rhetorically, 'Do you not have homes (οἰκίας) to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God...?' In 11.34, he issues the instruction: 'If you are hungry, eat at home (ἐν οἴκῳ), so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation'. The rhetorical questions of 11.22 and the injunction of 11.34 would have less persuasive value if some th the congragants (the host and his family) were eating in their own house.
Adams makes a very important point there, and I am grateful to him for it. He is right to infer that 1 Corinthians was not addressed to a group that included a host and his household. However his is wrong to conclude that the church of Corinth had not host. Another option, which I have argued before on other grounds, is that the host and his household were Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who were with Paul at the time of writing and were therefore not part of the audience. So, while Adams makes much of this text, I am not convinced that he draws the right conclusion.

5. On page 72 he quotes the Martyrdom of Justin:
Rusticus the prefect said, 'Where do you (Christians) assemble?'
   'Wherever is chosen and it is possible for each one', said Justin, 'for do you think it is possible for all of us to gather in the same place (of assembly)?'
   Rusticus the prefect said, 'Tell me, where do you assemble, that is, in what place?'
   Justin said, 'I have been staying above the baths of Myrtinus for the entire period I have resided in Rome for this the second time. And I know no other meeting place except the one there. If anyone wishes to come to me there, I am accustomed to share with him the words of truth.'
Adams (p74) writes:
An intriguing feature of this passage, and one that is constantly overlooked, is Justin's claim, in response to Rusticus's questioning, that the Christians gather, 'wherever is chosen and it is possible for one'. The answer implies that Roman Christians at the time utilized whatever space (not just domestic space) they could for meeting purposes.
But it is important not to overlook the fact that Justin is choosing his words carefully to avoid betraying other Christians. If Justin had replied, "we meet in the house of Claudia and the house of Vibius", Rusticus might have raided those houses and arrested the owners and the congregants. Rusticus was not asking about meeting places out of idle curiousity. He was considering arresting other Christians. Justin answers the question as vaguely as possible. His statement "I know of no other meeting place except the one there [above the baths]" is surely not true, but we can assume that Justin expected Rusticus to find it plausible. This, and the fact that Rusticus needs to ask where the Christians meet, suggests that there was no well-known public meeting place of the Christians in Rome. They met in private houses, it seems. The evasion, incidentally, continues in the next passage, where Rusticus asks Justin's co-accused who had taught them the faith. When they say "our parents" he asks them "where are your parents". They disclose no sensitive information: Euelpistus says that his parents are in Cappadocia (which is convenient) and Hierax says that his parents are dead (which is even more convenient).

6. Adams (p74) makes much of the words of Celsus. Celsus discusses Christian "wool-workers, cobblers, laundry makers, and the most illiterate and bucolic yokels", who encourage children to go to "the wooldresser's shop, or to the cobbler's or the washerwoman's shop" to receive Christian instruction. Adams (p138) concludes "Celsus identifies the wooldresser's shop, the cobbler's workshop and the fuller's workshop as settings in which Christian instruction typically takes place." However, it is not clear to me how he differentiates the workshops from the adjoining living spaces. If the washerwoman wanted the children to come to her house she would surely still direct them to "the washerwoman's shop", for that is the landmark that they would know. In any case, Celsus is not referring here to the main church meetings. These probably took place in large private houses, but Celsus does not mention them because he is trying to emphasize that the Christians were of low social status.

7. Adams tries to show that the word οἶκος (house) is not often used in the New Testament to refer to an assembly of Christians, and he includes the compound οἰκονόμος in his analysis. He writes:
The term οἰκονόμος refers in the first place to a household manager or estate manager, but it could also be used for the holder of a civic office, as in Rom. 16.23, with regard to Erastus, who is designated,   οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως, or more generally for someone entrusted with management.
But Adams assumes his own conclusion that οἰκονόμος in Rom 16:23 refers to a civic office. If οἶκος = church, then οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως can mean "manager of the church of the city". That is to say, Paul could be describing Erastus as the treasurer of the believers of Corinth, as Justin Meggitt has proposed. Paul nowhere refers to the secular role of any fellow-believer, so it is unlikely that he does so here.

8. On pages 25, 26, 31, 39, 65, 95, 111, 118, and 131 he uses arguments from  silence that seem week to me.

9. Adams does a fine job of assembling a lot of evidence that church meeting places were generally in houses. I therefore find it surprising that he comes down against the consensus view. From the evidence  that he cites, I would have expected a conclusion like "churches met in houses at least 70%-95% of the time".


My assessment, then, is that this book is a valuable resource, but its conclusion is misleading. Leave comments below if you disagree.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

1 Cor 16:15-18, the cost of sea voyages, and the identity of Stephanas

Stanford University has produced "ORBIS", a valuable site for calculating the cost of travel in the Roman empire. Thanks to Charles Savelle for bringing this to our attention.


Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus travelled from Corinth to Ephesus and back (1 Cor 16:15-18). According to ORBIS the land journey was 1473 km and would have taken 50 days each way. So if they took the land route they would have been on the road for 100 days each (300 days combined), with a commensurate loss of income. Even a labourer earned one denarius per day (Matt 20:2). The opportunity cost of sending three men by land to Ephesus and back was therefore large.

The sea route is only 453 km and took only about a week, but it cost about 65 denarii each way per person in the first century. It therefore cost about 390 denarii to send the three men to Ephesus.

Now, what does all this tell us about the purpose of the journey of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus to Ephesus? It is normally assumed that they visited Ephesus to deliver the Corinthians' letter, at the request of the church. But if this were the case it is surprising that three people were sent. Why would the Corinthians not have sent just one letter carrier by sea, costing just 130 denarii for the round trip? Why expose three people to the dangers of shipwreck when only one was needed? People did not make unnecessary journeys and the group of three men demands an explanation. No explanation has been given before, as far as I know.

All is clear when we accept that Paul had honoured Gaius, by giving him the name "Stephanas", as I argued here. The church meetings were held in the house of Gaius-Stephanas (Rom 16:23). It was therefore the role of Stephanas and his household to control the proceedings, but the meetings had become disorderly (1 Cor 11-14) because the church members did not show enough respect for their hosts. Stephanas and two members of his household (Fortunatus and Achaicus) therefore travelled to Ephesus to report the problems to Paul and solicit his support, which he gave in 1 Cor 16:15-18. Fortunatus and Achaicus accompanied Stephanas because they shared with him the responsibility of hosting the church and they too needed Paul's endorsement if they were to be able to control the unruly congregation.

The church as a whole did not initiate the visit of the three men to Ephesus. They went on their own initiative and the church merely took the opportunity to send a letter with them.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Continuity of leadership in Paul's churches

In this post I argue that local church leaders tended to remain in their leadership positions and were not eclipsed by later converts. This helps us to discern the identities of several of Paul's co-workers.

Probably towards the end of the first century the church of Corinth deposed its leaders. Clement of Rome then wrote to them to urge them to re-instate their elders. The shock that Clement expresses in his letter suggests that it was rare for churches to turn against their leaders. Indeed, Clement's words imply that it was expected (and perhaps the norm) for church leaders to remain in office until death.
And as they [the apostles] went through the territories and townships preaching, they appointed their first converts (ἀπαρχή) - after testing them by the Spirit - to be bishops and deacons for the believers of the future. (42:4)
Similarly, our Apostles knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be dissensions over the title of bishop. In their full foreknowledge of this, therefore, they proceeded to appoint the ministers I spoke of, and they went on to add an instruction that if these should fall asleep, other accredited persons should succeed them in their office. (44:1-2)
How happy those presbyters must be who have already passed away, with a lifetime of fruitfulness behind them; ...  (44:5).
Continuity of leadership is not surprising. In the early days of the movement, those who took prominent positions within the churches risked persecution, so it is reasonable to suppose that they were dedicated to the cause. It therefore seems unlikely that the apostles, who appointed the leaders, would later replace them with other leaders.

Also, the numbers of Christians grew dramatically in the early years, and we know from the writings of Ignatius and Polycarp that Paul's churches continued to flourish. This suggests two things. Firstly, apostasy cannot have been common. Secondly, while divisions within churches were inevitable, they cannot have been so serious as to have jeopardized the viability of the churches. Continuity of leadership is therefore to be expected.

The first leaders of the early church were Peter, James, and John. It is no coincidence, I think, that these were the first, or among the first, disciples of Jesus (Mark 1:16-20; John 1:40-42). These were the "firstfruits" of the Jesus movement and they retained their leadership roles until they died, as far as we can tell. It may also be significant that when Peter becomes the first to declare that Jesus was the Christ, he is immediately appointed to a permanent position of leadership (Matthew 16:16-19).

The disciples decided to appoint someone to replace Judas (Acts 1:21-22). Their criterion is interesting. The candidate had to have accompanied Jesus since the time of the baptism of John. Only an early convert was suitable for the role. Now, it is true that James the brother of Jesus became the leader of the Jerusalem church even though he was not a follower of Jesus before the resurrection. However, he seems to have been given the leadership at the time when Peter had to go into hiding in ~44A.D. (Acts 12:17), after he had been within the fold for more than 10 years (Acts 1:14).

Acts 13:1 gives the names of 5 "prophets and teachers" in Antioch in about 46 A.D.: Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul. Barnabas was a believer already in the earliest days of the movement (Acts 4:36-37). Lucius was from Cyrene and was therefore probably among those from Cyrene who came to Antioch from Judea following the death of Stephen (Acts 11:20-21). He therefore probably came to the faith before Paul (Saul). Manean and Simeon had Hebrew/Aramaic names and Manean had been  σύντροφος of Herod. They were therefore probably not natives of Antioch. They may well have escaped to Antioch during the time of the persecution, along with Lucius. Saul's conversion had been in 35A.D.. Perhaps he is mentioned last because he was the most recent convert of the five. While we cannot be sure of all the biographical details, we can be assured that the group as a whole had many years of experience in the faith. They had probably all been believers for longer than the native Antiochenes whom they taught.

During the "first missionary journey" Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church (Acts 14:23). I doubt that Luke would have gone to the trouble of mentioning this if elders such as these were appointed for only a short time and were soon replaced by others.

Paul's letters also show that it was considered an honour to be an early convert. In 1 Cor 16:15 Paul commends the household of Stephanas for being the "firstfruits (ἀπαρχή) of Achaia". Similarly Rom 16:5 celebrates Epaenetus for being the "firstfruits (ἀπαρχήof Asia", and in Rom 16:7 Paul recognizes Andronicus and Junia for being in the faith before he was. Also, in 1 Cor 15:8-9 Paul shows that he was "the least of the apostles" by pointing out that Christ appeared to him "last of all". Furthermore, Luke honours his host, Mnason, by writing that the was a disciple of long standing (Acts 21:16).

It is generally acknowledged that Euodia and Syntyche were leaders of the church of Philippi (Phil 4:2-3). They were probably also among the earliest converts there because Paul writes that they had "struggled beside me in the work of the gospel". This probably refers to Paul's first visit to Philippi because:
a) the struggle referred to here may allude to the persecution that Paul suffered in Philippi at that time (1 Thess 2:1; Acts 16:22-23),
b) on the assumption of an Ephesian provenance Paul had visited Philippi only once,
c) the "work of the gospel" may refer to the evangelization of Philippi.
Therefore Euodia and Syntyche were probably early Philippian converts who had leadership roles there after several years.

In summary, all the data suggests that Clement was right. Those who were first to believe commanded the respect of later converts and retained their leadership roles. We should not suppose that new converts could attain positions of leadership in the church (except of course in new churches when all the local believers were new converts). Experience mattered. Being filled with the Spirit was not enough.

Implications for the identities of Crispus, Sosthenes, Gaius, Titius Justus, Stephanas, Jason, Aristarchus, Timothy, and Luke

We have seen above that prominent early converts were appointed to permanent leadership positions so it would be natural for them to be given new names to reflect their new identities and roles. Thus Jesus gave new names to his "firstfruits", Simon (Peter), and James and John (Boanerges) (Mark 3:16-17), in accordance with the OT practice of renaming those who were given a new calling.  Did Paul, likewise, give new names to his "firstfruits"? I have made the case in detail on this blog and I will not repeat the arguments here. I will merely show that the observations about church leadership above lend a little support to the renaming hypotheses.

Crispus-Sosthenes
I argued in Tyn Bul 2005 p111ff that Sosthenes (Acts 18:17; 1 Cor 1:1) was Crispus (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor 1:14) renamed. He was an early convert in Corinth and therefore had the respect of the Corinthian believers. This, and his role in the conversion of many Corinthians, explains why Paul includes him as his co-sender of 1 Corinthians. His name added authority to Paul's letter.

Gaius-Titius-Justus-Stephanas
Gaius was the host of Paul and the whole church of Corinth (Rom 16:23), yet in Acts Paul preaches from the house of Titius Justus (Acts 18:7). It is often supposed that Paul used Titus Justus's house during his first visit to Corinth, but switched to Gaius's house later. However, our findings on the continuity of church leadership makes this less likely. This supports the view that "Gaius" was the praenomen of Titius Justus.

In 1 Cor 16:15-16 Paul urges the Corinthians to be submissive to the household of Stephanas, the "firstfruits of Achaia". Is he promoting the leadership of Stephanas at the expense of Gaius and Crispus? Again, this would conflict with the evidence that changes of leadership were rare. The problem is resolved by the realization that Stephanas was Gaius Titius Justus renamed (see here for the evidence), and that Crispus was Sosthenes, who was no longer in Corinth (1 Cor 1:1).

Jason-Aristarchus
Jason (Acts 17:5-9; Rom 16:21) was the earliest known convert in Thessalonica and host of Paul. He was Paul's firstfruits in the city and therefore, in light of our findings above, he probably became a leader of the church there. Indeed, Luke mentions him as if he is already known to the audience of Acts. This supports my view that he was probably renamed "Aristarchus", which means "best leader". See here.

Titus-Timothy
Acts 16:1-2 tells us that in Lystra Paul found Timothy, who "was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium". Paul then appointed Timothy to be his fellow-missionary (Acts 16:3; 1 Thess 3:2; 2 Cor 1:19 etc.). Now, if Timothy was a resident of Lystra he could have been converted no earlier than Paul's first missionary journey. He would then have been a relatively new convert at the time that he joined Paul's traveling team. This is unlikely, given the importance placed on being a Christian of long standing. Why would Paul appoint a novice from Lystra rather than an experienced believer from Antioch? It is more likely that Timothy was an earlier convert and that Paul had sent him as his emissary to the churches of south Galatia, including Lystra. This explains why the believers in Lystra and Iconium commended Timothy: he had fulfilled his duties as Paul's envoy well.  So, while Luke does not say so explicitly, the implication is that Timothy was in Paul's orbit in Antioch prior to the "second missionary journey". This supports my contention that he was Titus renamed.

So, it seems to me that the observations about continuity of leadership in the first century church strengthen the cumulative case that Paul gave new names to his prominent early converts.

Lucius-Luke
It is often suggested that Luke was from Troas, simply because the first "we passage" in Acts starts there (Acts 16:8-10). It is, however, unlikely that Paul would recruit someone who would have been so new to the faith. This supports my view, which I have argued on other grounds, that Luke had joined Paul's team in Syrian Antioch and had avoided first person narrative for the land journey for stylistic reasons. See here. He may have been Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1).

Let me know if I have missed any arguments, for or against.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Von Lips revises his view on Titus-Timothy

The only publication to argue that Titus and Timothy were different people  is Hermann von Lips' 2008 book. At the time von Lips understandably knew only my 2001 paper and the earlier work of Borse. I then addressed his points on my blog here.

However, in a 2012 book von Lips gives a very different assessment of the Titus-Timothy hypothesis ("Ohne den 2. Korintherbrief kein Titusbrief!" in Der zweite Korintherbrief. p160-174)". Most of this article is available at google books here. He gives an overview of biographical details about "Titus" and  "Timothy" and presents many of the reasons for seeing him as one person, and cites a post from this blog. He concludes:
Wir können nicht definitiv klären, wie die Relation zwischen Titus und Timotheus ist, ob mit diesen Namen ein oder zwei Personen angesprochen werden.

(We can not definitely clarify the relationship between Titus and Timothy - whether one or two people are addressed with these names)
He gives two reasons for his indecision on Titus-Timothy (p167):
1. He finds tension between the circumcision of Timothy and the non-circumcision of Titus in Gal 2:3. He mentions that I offer a solution, but unfortunately he does not discuss it.
2. He is unconvinced by Borse's explanation for why Paul calls Timothy "Titus" when he does. However, Borse's explanation is not mine.
Even though von Lips does not properly explain his reservations about Titus-Timothy, this recent article is much better than his 2008. It is encouraging to see some engagement with my blog, and I think that this discussion of Titus-Timothy does indeed belong in a book on 2 Corinthians.

So we have now had four authors who have supported Titus-Timothy in print, and one who is undecided. No-one now argues against Titus-Timothy in print. So come one, you two-person theorists (you know who you are), you must either argue your case or abandon your position.
Also, Titus-Timothy has made his first appearance in a historical novel. You can download this well researched Spanish novel for free, here. Thanks to Xabier Aletheia for bringing this novel and von Lip's new article to my attention.