New Testament 102: Defending Erastus

I mentioned the Erastus inscription in an earlier post. David Gill has written a useful article on Erastus the Aedile (PDF)  laying out just what it was an Aedile did, and making the case for linking the footpath with the guy in Romans 16.

What an Aedile did/was

They were responsible for the maintenance of public streets and buildings, which included the market places, they managed the revenues derived from such places, and they served as judges. In most colonies the aediles were also responsible for the public games but not at Corinth. The colony took charge of the administration of the internationally important games at Isthmia, which it did through the appointment of an agonothetes or president; judging from the careers of Corinthians this was considered to be one of the most prestigious posts.

In addition to paying for such public monuments—which would have been appropriate for marking the aedileship where responsibilities included public buildings and streets—the aedile was expected to pay a charge for holding the office. Although the costs are not known for Corinth, evidence from North Africa and Italy suggests sums in the region of HS 4,000 to HS 20,000, depending on the size of city. Thus these freedmen were likely to have had substantial means.

What was the equivalent Latin term for the post of oikonomos in a Roman colony such as Corinth? H.J. Mason has argued, using the Erastus inscription and ones from Philadelphia and Izmir, that the Greek term oikonomos was the equivalent of an aedile.  G. Theissen, however, tries to argue that the term oikonomos was the equivalent of the term quaestor.

There’s a convoluted argument from the Greek terms, and Latin terms that ends up suggesting (following a bloke named Kent) that because the Corinthian Aedile wasn’t responsible for managing the games, his responsibilities were more in line with the “oikonomos”…

“In particular he points out that although in most colonies the aediles would have been responsible for the public games, at Corinth, because of the nature of the festival at Isthmia, this aspect of their duties were dealt with by other, more senior, officials, the agonothetai. Therefore the term oikonomos may have been particularly apt for the Corinthian situation, and as Kent reminds us it ‘describes with reasonable accuracy the function of a Corinthian aedile’.

Gill’s conclusion ties in with Bruce’s argument about Paul wanting people to be civic benefactors.

“How are we to interpret this epigraphic evidence? Some (e.g. Roos, Cadbury, Lane Fox) have taken the view that an oikonomos was a slave, which would not allow a link with Erastus the aedile. However, this does not explain why Paul draws attention to this man’s standing in society, something he rarely does. The context of the epistle to the Romans may be of help here. In it Paul commanded: ‘Do the good (deed) and you shall have praise from the (civil) authority’.  Does Paul emphasise the status of Erastus because here is a Christian official who has indeed become a benefactor of his city, possibly in his capacity as aedile?”

And any article that ends with this sort of quote is probably a good idea to be pulling out in an essay at QTC:

I am grateful to A.J.S. Spawforth and B.W. Winter for their comments and advice.

Nathan Campbell

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Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His Daughter. His Son. Coffee. And the Internet. He is currently a campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of the last 8 years working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online.