April 21, 2022
“After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth, where he found a Jewish man named Aquila, a native of Pontus who had recently come from Italy with his wife...”
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“After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth, where he found a Jewish man named Aquila, a native of Pontus who had recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla because (the Roman Emperor) Claudius had ordered that all Jews leave Rome.” Acts 18:1-2
The expulsion of the Jews from Rome is generally connected with the remark of Suetonius, “Since the Jews were continually making disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome.” (Claudius 25:4)
Some theologians believe that the unknown name “Chrestus” was a misspelling of the word “Christos,” meaning Christ. (Of course, the original Hebrew word, from which the Greek translators chose “Christos,” is Moshiach.) “Christos” seems to make more sense in light of the trial of Jesus and subsequent uproars concerning fights between Messianic and non-Messianic Jews. Today’s passage certainly deals with such an incident.
It only makes sense that the Romans would grow tired of religious Jews and their accusations and riotous actions towards the Messianic Jews. We must remember that at this time, the greater “Body of Messiah” was considered a sect of Judaism, and Gentile conversions were few & far between.
This growing anti-Semitism among Roman officials is seen first in Acts 18, with Gallio’s attitude towards Paul’s accusers.
“While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack against Paul and brought him to the judge’s bench. ‘This man,’ they said, ‘persuades people to worship God contrary to the Torah!’ As Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If it were a matter of a crime or moral evil, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you Jews. But if there are questions about words, names, and your own law, see to it yourselves. I don’t want to be a judge of such things.’” Acts 18:12-15
Fast forward several hundred years: By the time Emperor Constantine declared that all Roman citizens were to be subsequently “Christians,” it is easy to see how Christianity quickly began to lose its Jewishness. An empire, full of anti-Semites, was suddenly mandated to reckon with worshipping the Jewish Messiah and leave their paganism.
At least two good things happened due to Gallio’s lack of patience & sympathy for the Jewish case against Paul: 1) Paul was allowed to continue preaching, and 2) Synagogue leader Sosthenes was publicly rebuked and beaten by his own people. Acts 18:17
In 1 Corinthians 1:1, we read that Sosthenes became a follower of Jesus. Because of this particular incident, Sosthenes felt the bitter heartless cruelty of his own congregation. Perhaps, that is when he decided to follow his former synagogue ruler, Crispus (Acts 18:8), and follow Jesus himself.