Welcome to 2019! The end of the year sped away from me and I’ve had a slow start to the new year. I find that’s how life works at times. Maybe you do as well. Today’s lesson will be our final one in this series on Paul’s second missionary journey. All of the lessons for this series can be found under Current Study. A new study will begin in a couple of weeks and I will be releasing information on that study soon.
“While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law – settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” So he had them ejected from the court. Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever.” Acts 18:12-17
This man, Gallio, was the son of Marcus Annaeus Seneca, a Spanish rhetorician and the younger brother of famous Stoic philosopher, Lucius Annaeus Seneca. He was born in Cordova around the beginning of the Christian era. Gallio “obtained the name Lucius Junius Gallio because during the reign of Claudius he came to Rome with his father and was adopted by the famous rhetorician of this name.” He was highly spoken of by his brother in his writing and Dio Cassius writes of his wit in the History of Rome. Gallio was anti-Semitic which bears weight into the biblical account. His tenure as proconsul would have lasted about two years. However, Gallio left early due to a fever. Therefore, he was probably in Corinth no later than May A.D. 51. This event would have occurred in the Fall of that year.
Paul was brought before the court and charged with persuading others to worship in a way contrary to the law. Those bringing the charge before the court were ambiguous concerning which law Paul was steering others from. They perhaps attempted to persuade Gallio to think Paul had offended Roman religion rather than Jewish Law. Gallio chose to dismiss the case. With that refusal, he revealed his little concern for the matters of Jews and recognized their ability to settle matters among themselves as well as his refusal to recognize Christianity as an illicit, superstitious religion. Gallio does not dismiss the case because he acted as Paul’s benefactor.
In their anger and need to place blame, the Jews turn on Sosthenes, the synagogue ruler, and beat him. They humiliated him by beating him in this honor/shame culture. Perhaps, they did it because they were unable to successfully prosecute Paul or maybe the answer can be found in a cross-reference in 1 Corinthians 1:1; “Paul called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,”. The Jews, therefore, might have chosen to make Sosthenes, a Christian sympathizer, an example.
“Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, ” I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.” Acts 18: 18-22
Paul, before embarking on his sea voyage with Priscilla and Aquila, has his hair cut in Cenchreae (an eastern Corinthian port) because of a vow he had made. This vow is believed to have been a Nazirite vow, a voluntary sacrifice to God. Certain procedures accompanied this vow. Following the vow’s completion, specific sacrifices along with the shaved hair were brought and presented as offerings before God.
“”The LORD said to Moses,“Speak to the Israelites and say to them:‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the LORD as a Nazirite, he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.“‘During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to the LORD is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long. Throughout the period of his separation to the LORD he must not go near a dead body. Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head. Throughout the period of his separation he is consecrated to the LORD.’”” Numbers 6:1-8
Sailing season began in early spring. The time “between the beginning of sailing season and the start of Passover was short. In A.D. 52 it fell in early April, and the seas only opened for navigation March 5-10. In A.D. 53 Passover fell on March 22.” The trip to Ephesus “had to transpire during the spring and summer when the passage through the gates was possible, apparently the summer of A.D. 53. It was a long and arduous journey of some fifteen hundred miles, undertaken on foot … unlikely Paul arrived in Ephesus before the fall of A.D. 53.” Paul continued his journey until he arrived in Antioch, thus completing his second missionary journey.
Questions to Consider
- What do I think is the reason Gallio dismissed the case?
- Why does Paul escape judgment? Was it the prejudice of Gallio against Jews or God at work in the life of Paul? How do I know?
- What do I think is the reason Paul made a Nazirite vow before the Lord?
- Can I think of any other biblical examples of possible Nazirite vows before the Lord?
- How serious do I take my vows before God? Why or why not?
Reference: The Acts of the Apostles A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Ben Witherington III ppg. 535-559; The NIV Study Bible Zondervan Publishing House 1985