The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Acts 18

Act 18:1

Act 18: "The exciting record of the apostle Paul continues, as Luke outlines their experiences in Corinth and the travel to Antioch. It was here that they met two very dedicated Jews, Aquila and Priscilla, in the same trade as the apostle. One can only imagine the exciting discussions that would have passed between the tent-makers in their daily occupation. It is an example to those who have opportunity to discuss the principles of the Truth with their fellow-workers. But soon, the enjoyment of fraternal association was disturbed by the presence of controversy, as the Jews in the area rejected Paul's preaching at Corinth. The courage of the apostle is again manifested as he maintained his work in the city for 'a long time' (v 18), until he continued in his service for the Truth to make a journey to Syria, Ephesus and towards Jerusalem" (GEM).

CORINTH: "A very ancient city; the earliest settlers came in the 5th or 6th millennium BC. But Corinth of the classical period was really established with the Dorian invasion. About 1000 BC these Gr people settled at the foot of the acropolis of Corinth. Occupying a place of safety, they also controlled the main overland trade route between the Peloponnesus and central Greece, as well as the Isthmian route. Coming early to a height of prosperity, the city colonized Syracuse on Sicily and the island of Corcyra and achieved a peak of prosperity through commercial and industrial development. Corinthian pottery and bronzes were exported widely over the Mediterranean. About the middle of the 5th century the city's fortunes declined as a result of the effective competition of Athenian industrial production. During the classical period Corinth controlled about 248 square miles of territory, approximately one-fourth the size of Rhode Island.

"It is not possible to tell the history of Corinth in detail. Suffice it to say that she clashed with Rome during the 2nd century BC, was finally destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, and lay virtually uninhabited until Julius Caesar refounded it in 44 BC. The growth of Corinth was rapid, and by the time of Paul or soon thereafter it became the largest and most flourishing center in southern Greece. It served as capital of the Roman province of Achaia, with a population estimated variously from 100,000 to several hundred thousand.

"In Paul's day the city lay about one and a half miles south of the Corinthian gulf on the north side of its acropolis at an altitude of c 400 feet. The Acrocorinthus or acropolis hill towered c 1,500 feet over the city to an altitude of 1,886 feet. The city and its acropolis were enclosed by a wall over six miles in circumference. Outside the walls in the surrounding plain stretched grain fields, olive groves, vineyards, and other agricultural holdings of the city.

"In the N central part of town stood the Agora, nerve center of the metropolis. The Agora was almost 700 feet east and west, and about 300 feet north and south... Here Paul appeared before Gallio governor of Achaia, as a result of Jewish accusations to the effect that he had broken the law (Acts 18:12-13). Along the S side of the Agora stood a stoa or colonnaded shipping center about 500 ft long. Here and on the nw side near the temple of Apollo were shops for meat and wine merchants, probably the 'shambles' or market which Paul referred to in 1Co 10:25 (KJV). An inscription was found near the theater stating that Erastus had laid the pavement at his own expense...

"Near Corinth the Isthmian games were held every two years in honor of Poseidon, god of the sea. Athletic events included footraces, two-horse chariot racing, the pentathlon, (running, jumping, discus and javelin throwing, wrestling) and the pankration (a combination of boxing and wrestling). The victor's crown seems to have been withered wild celery during the 1st century AD, a corruptible crown indeed (1Co 9:25)" (WyE).

Act 18:2

AQUILA: "A Jew from Pontus in N Asia Minor, resident in Rome, where he and his wife Priscilla became Christians. The edict of the emperor Claudius (c AD 49) expelling Jews from Rome, forced this couple to migrate to Corinth, where they set up a branch of their tentmaking or leather-working business, and met Paul, who joined them because that was his trade too (Acts 18:1-3). When Paul left Corinth in AD 52, they accompanied him as far as Ephesus, where they settled for some years. Early in their residence there, they gave hospitality to the Alexandrian Jew Apollos and repaired deficiencies in his knowledge of Christianity (Acts 18:18-26). By AD 57 they were probably back in Rome, according to Rom 16:3. Claudius' expulsion edict doubtless lapsed for practical purposes with his death in AD 54. According to 2Ti 4:19, they seem to have located in Ephesus again. The picture of such tradespeople moving from place to place, probably leaving branches of their business here and there in charge of a manager, is quite true to conditions of life under the Roman Empire. Wherever they lived, Aquila and Priscilla provided the local church with accommodation in their home (Rom 16:5; 1Co 16:19). On one occasion, possibly in Ephesus, they risked their lives for Paul (Rom 16:4)" (WyE).

PRISCILLA: "The wife of Aquila. While Luke calls her by this familiar name (Acts 18:2, Paul prefers to give her the more formal name of Prisca (Rom 16:3, ASV, RSV; 1Co 16:19, ASV, RSV; 2Ti 4:19). The name belonged to a noble Roman family, the Prisca. Both Luke and Paul usually mention her before her husband; this may reflect her higher social status or (more probably) her more impressive personality" (WyE).

CLAUDIUS: "The fourth Roman emperor, who reigned AD 41-54. He was a nephew of Tiberius Caesar (AD 14-37), under whose rule Jesus' ministry was carried on. Between these two emperors came the short rule of Caligula, who greatly antagonized the Jews by his cruel policies toward them. Claudius revived the more generous attitude of Augustus and Tiberius, the first two Roman emperors, who had been conciliatory toward the Jews.

"At the beginning of his reign Claudius issued an edict in favor of the Jews of Alexandria, who had been undergoing persecution, Josephus reports part of it as reading thus: 'I will, therefore, that the nation of the Jews be not deprived of their rights and privileges on account of the madness of Caius; but that these rights and privileges, which they formerly enjoyed, be preserved to them, and that they may continue in their own customs' (Ant 19:5:2). Josephus further relates that Claudius sent an edict throughout the world in which he wrote: 'Upon the petition of king Agrippa and king Herod, who are persons very dear to me, that I would grant the same rights and privileges should be preserved to the Jews which are in all the Roman empire, which I have granted to those of Alexandria, I very willingly comply therewith' (Ant 19:5:3). 'Agrippa' was Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great. Claudius gave him the territory ruled by his grandfather, with the title of king.

"Claudius is mentioned by name only twice in the NT. In Acts 11:28 a famine is recorded as occurring in his reign. Historical records indicate that famines were frequent and severe in this period.

"Aquila and Priscilla are said to have been compelled to leave Rome when Claudius made a decree expelling all Jews from that city (Acts 18:2).

"The unfortunate emperor was murdered by his wife Agrippina in AD 54" (WyE).

Agrippina had persuaded Claudius to name her son Nero heir instead of his son Britannicus. After Claudius was murdered, Nero became emperor.

Act 18:3

Paul worked for his living, so as not to be a burden to any believers: 1Th 2:9; 2Th 3:8.

See Lesson, Carpenter and tentmaker.

Act 18:4

REASONED: Gr "dialegomai": an argument; an appeal to reason. Possibly a quiet, indirect preaching method.

Act 18:5

SILAS AND TIMOTHY CAME FROM MACEDONIA: They brought favorable reports of the new ecclesias (1Th 1:3), but Paul could not return to Thessalonica (1Th 2:18); so he wrote them the first letter instead.

PAUL DEVOTED HIMSELF EXCLUSIVELY TO PREACHING: Did the good news invigorate Paul in his preaching?

Act 18:6

THE JEWS OPPOSED PAUL: "They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit" (1Th 2:15,16).

HE SHOOK OFF HIS CLOTHES: Cp Mat 10:14: "Shake the dust off your feet." But in ct Jesus, Paul does not leave the city; instead, he now goes to the Gentile Corinthians.

Act 18:8

See Lesson, Acts, conversions.

CRISPUS: He was one whom Paul baptized, along with Gaius and the household of Stephanas (1Co 1:14,16).

HIS ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD: That is, all who believed (cp Act 16:33).

MANY OF THE CORINTHIANS: Including many "sinners" (1Co 6:9,10).

Act 18:9

Vv 9,10: Parenthetical: an explanation; should be inserted betw v 6 and v 7.

Examples of prophetic reluctance: Exo 4:10; Jer 1:6; Eze 3:14; Jon 1:3; 1Ki 19:10; Luk 5:8,10; 9:59; 18:23; Act 13:13; 18:9. Ct Isa 6:8.

Act 18:10

I HAVE MANY PEOPLE IN THIS CITY: "This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved" (CHS).

Paul writes of his "weakness and fear, and with much trembling" (1Co 2:3); was this malaria? And does it explain his slowness to preach, and his need for encouragement from the Lord?

// 7,000 who have not bowed to Baal: 1Ki 19:18; Rom 11:4.

Act 18:11

SO PAUL STAYED FOR A YEAR AND A HALF: Prob also preaching in neighboring districts of Achaia (2Co 1:1).

Act 18:13

CONTRARY TO THE LAW: The Roman law, not the LM. (This was a Roman court. Ct v 15: 'your own law".) The Jews had a special dispensation from Rome to practice their own religion, but Paul and the Christians did not!

Act 18:17

THEY: The Greeks, according to KJV. "Taking their cue from the snub Gallio gave the leaders of the Jewish community, the crowd at the forum -- in an outbreak of the anti-Semitism always near the surface in the Greco-Roman world -- took Sosthenes, the synagogue ruler, and beat him in the marketplace before the forum. Gallio, however, turned a blind eye to what was going on, evidently because he wanted to teach a lesson to those who would waste his time with such trivialities. Larger Jewish synagogues sometimes had more than one leader or ruler (cf Act 13:15), and Sosthenes may have served jointly with Crispus (before his conversion) in the local synagogue chapter at Corinth. Or perhaps he took Crispus' place after the latter's conversion. Perhaps he became a Christian and is the Sosthenes of 1Co 1:1, who served as Paul's amanuensis in writing the Corinthian believers from Ephesus, though that is only conjecture" (EBC).

SOSTHENES THE SYNAGOGUE RULER: "The name occurs twice in the NT. The man in Acts 18:17 was chief ruler of the synagogue at Corinth when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia. He may have become a Christian believer through Paul's preaching, as had his predecessor Crispus (Acts 18:8). If so, he quickly suffered for his faith, for when trouble broke out Sosthenes was beaten before the judgment seat of Gallio, who failed to intervene. It is possible that he did not become a Christian at this time, however, and that he was beaten because he was a Jew stirring up trouble in Corinth.

"If 1Co 1:1 refers to the same man, Sosthenes remained (or became) a firm believer, however; for several years later when Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, Sosthenes was not only with Paul but Paul bracketed his name with his own in saluting the church in Corinth. It is not to be understood that Paul meant that he and Sosthenes enjoyed joint inspiration in writing 1Co, but it does indicate Sosthenes' stature as that of a traveling companion of Paul" (WyE).

Why 2 "chief rulers" of the synagogue (vv 8,17)? (1) Poss "archisunagogus" does not indicate chief ruler to the exclusion of any others; the word occurs in the plural in Acts 13:15; cp Mar 5:22; (2) Or, note interval of 18 months (v 11); or (3) Perhaps there was more than one synagogue in Corinth.

BUT GALLIO SHOWED NO CONCERN WHATEVER: Callous indifference is a deadly enemy of the gospel.

Act 18:19

EPHESUS: "Christianity was founded in Jerusalem, extended to the Gentiles from Antioch, and branched out into all the world from Ephesus" (SB 13:187).

Act 18:22

GREETING THE CHURCH: The apostles at Jerusalem?

WENT DOWN: The classic language of theophany, or Yahweh-manifestation, occurs often in Acts in the context of gospel preaching, as if the witness to the gospel were another manifestation of the Yahweh-Name: Act 8:5; 10:21; 13:4; 14:25; 15:30; 16:8; 18:22.

Act 18:24

APOLLOS: "The name is a shortened form of Apollonius. He is described in Acts 18:24-28 as an Alexandrian Jew, an eloquent man, and one 'mighty in the scriptures.' He had been 'instructed in the way of the Lord'; that is, he knew of the teachings of the followers of Jesus (cf Acts 9:2, 'the Way'). His teaching, done with fervency, concerned 'the baptism of John' (cf Luk 7:29).

"His preaching in Ephesus, listened to by Priscilla and Aquila, was not incorrect; rather, it was incomplete. They explained to him 'the way of God' more accurately; ie, the rest of the message was made known to him, particularly concerning the ascension of Christ and the advent of the Holy Spirit. That these elements seemed to be lacking in his initial preaching is implied by Acts 19:1-3.

"Other NT passages giving information about Apollos are 1Co 1:12; 3:4-6,22; 4:6; 16:12 and Tit 3:13. We learn there that he had been associated with Paul, and that he had become one of four 'party favorites' in the church at Corinth (along with Cephas, Paul, and Christ). Paul referred to him as a 'fellow worker' and as 'our brother,' although making it clear that he himself had 'laid the foundation.'

"Apparently Apollos' eloquence had made an impression on the Corinthians, and Paul took pains to emphasize that he (Paul) 'did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom' (1Co 2:1, NASB), and that their faith 'should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God' (v 5).

"Apollos seems to have become aware of the problem of tensions in the Corinthian church, and although Paul encouraged him to revisit them, he declined to go at that time (1Co 16:12). Tit 3:13 appears to indicate that he was with Titus in Crete at a later date" (WyE).

Act 18:25

AND TAUGHT ABOUT JESUS ACCURATELY: This plainly indicates that John's "gospel" included some knowledge of the sacrifice of Jesus ("the lamb of God").

Act 18:27

APOLLOS... WAS A GREAT HELP...: Apollos visits Corinth, "watering the seed" which Paul had "sown" (1Co 3:6).

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