Archives For Bruce Winter

Movement at the QTC station

Nathan Campbell —  February 17, 2011

Speaking of press releases… it was announced to us yesterday at college, and released to the world via a media release, that the Rev Dr. Bruce Winter is stepping down from his role as principal at our college and moving into a role as a research professor, lecturing in New Testament and Systematic Theology.

It’s cool that he’s sticking around, sad that he’s stepping down. So a little bittersweet. I’ve really appreciated Bruce’s hermeneutic and his emphasis on family based ecclesiology. Plus he’s a leading expert on the socio-historical context of the New Testament and going to Greece and Turkey with him was a pretty life changing experience.

That photo sits on his desk. In a frame. Because I put it there.

If you’re an Old Testament/Hebrew expert who wants to fill theses big shoes – then QTC would like to hear from you.

Paul doesn’t just spend a lot of time in 1 and 2 Thessalonians talking about his parousia but also about the parousia, the second coming of Christ. There was certainly an element of eschatological hope underpinning the gospel the Thessalonians are said to have accepted – but Paul’s main concern seems to be putting those expectations in their right place.

Ben Witherington III (or BW3 as Tamie called him in the comments the other day) suggests the word parousia often had royal significance, he notes that Christ’s parousia is mentioned six times in the letters to the Thessalonians – he suggests Paul is co-opting the imperial terminology here and applying it to Christ.

Paul’s view of Christ’s parousia involves him descending from heaven and the dead rising – it is eschatological. BW3, and BW1 (Bruce Winter) both think that the talk about the second coming is to help comfort the bereaved. Bruce argues that food shortages and earthquakes had been taking a toll, and that this had caused a heightened eschatological anxiety. BW3 says the hope of heaven, and the second coming, was part of that healing process. Especially in 1 Thessalonians 4-5. Which he says (I should mention this is in his socio-rhetorical commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians) in verses 14-16 are about reassuring the Thessalonians that their dead loved ones will take part in the parousia event.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 makes the Imperial context clear – if the son of lawlessness is understood to represent the Roman Imperial Cult, and the Emperors who turn themselves into gods. It also draws a direct contrast between Jesus’ parousia, and that of the emperor.

Dunn says that Thessalonians is dominated by the parousia like no other Pauline writings – and suggests that 1&2 Thessalonians are amongst his earliest letters (implicitly suggesting that Paul got over this phase), he also (like BW3) points out that the parousia will bring relief from the Thessalonian’s present sufferings (at the hands of lawless men). Paul was concerned that they know the day of the Lord had not arrived already, which some had suggested, but that they’d know it if they saw it. He says that it’s clear Paul was addressing a particular concern of the Thessalonians here that didn’t come up elsewhere. Paul was not surprised, as the Thessalonians were, that some of them had died. And the dead were to share in the benefits of the kingdom too.

Here are some related paragraphs regarding the Imperial Cult in Thessalonica from the same extended edition of an essay that I used for the Galatians post (read: this is the stuff that got deleted from the final version so I’m just happy to be using it). He says that it is particularly in cases where Paul speaks eschatologically that imperial terminology crops up.


Harrison (2002) suggests Thessalonica was enraptured with the ‘imperial gospel’, whose ‘eschatology’ proclaimed that Augustus had arrived as the ultimate Saviour, and that Paul writes to radically subvert this idea.[1] He suggests use of κυριο without deference to Rome was inconceivable.[2]

Numismatic and epigraphic evidence support the notion of a flourishing imperial cult in the city.[3] Its citizens are zealous for the emperor. The accusation brought against Jason and his fellow Christians in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-7) is that they preach a different emperor. Judge (1971) suggests this charge arises from an oath of fealty the Thessalonians swore to the emperor as part of their cultic practices.[4] Donfried (1997) suggests Christians in Thessalonica had been martyred at the time of Paul’s epistle, for breaking this oath.[5]

Paul believes the Thessalonians to have given up on idol worship (1 Thess 1:9), which included the deified Caesars.[6] Donfried suggests the calling of the Christians into God’s own kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12), and παρουσία, απάντηση (1 Thess. 4.15-17) has imperial undertones,[7] Harrison agrees, drawing on the use of the Latin equivalent of παρουσια on imperial coinage to support this view,[8] Oakes suggests the use of παρουσια, in this case, has no imperial significance, [9] but agrees with both that the use of the shorthand form of an imperial slogan (1 Thess. 5.3), was deliberate. [10]


[1] Oakes, P, p 306, Harrison, ‘Paul and the Imperial Gospel at Thessoloniki,’ JSNT 25 1, 2002, pp 71-96, Harrison suggests 1 Thess 4:13-5:11 is a deliberate and provocative reimagining of Augustan eschatology, post death Augustus is believed to rule the world from heaven via his star sign, maintaining the political status quo. Paul’s contrast of a king who will return from death is couched in imperial terminology and could not fail to be understood that way.

[2] Harrison, J.R, p 78

[3] Harrison, J.R, ‘Paul and the Imperial Gospel at Thessoloniki,’ p 81, “The obverse of a series of Thessalonian coins show the laureate head of Caesar and carry the legend ΘΕΟΣ. The reverse displays the bare head of Octavian either with the legend ΘΕΣΣΑΛΟΝΙΚΕΩΝ or ΘΕ|ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΥ”

[4] Judge, E.A, ‘The Decrees of Caesar at Thessalonica,’ The First Christians in the Roman World: Augustan and New Testament Essays, ed. Harrison, J.R, (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck), pp 456-462, orig 1971, the oath (CIL II172) the people of Antium swore to Caligula thirteen years before Thessalonians was written reads: “On my conscience, I shall be an enemy of those persons whom I know to be enemies of Gaius Caesar Germanicus, and if anyone imperils or shall imperil him or his safety by arms or by civil war I shall not cease to hunt him down by land and by sea, until he pays the penalty to Caesar in full I shall not hold myself or my children dearer than his safety and I shall consider as my enemies those persons who are hostile to him If consciously I swear falsely or am proved false may Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the deified Augustus and all the other immortal gods punish me and my children with loss of country, safety, and all my fortune.

[5] Donfried, K.P, ‘The Imperial Cults and Political Conflict in 1 Thessalonians,’ Paul and Empire, ed Horsley, R.A, pp 221-223

[6] Oakes, P, p 309

[7] Donfried, K.P, ‘The Imperial Cults and Political Conflict in 1 Thessalonians,’ Paul and Empire, pp 215-216

[8] Harrison, J.R, ‘Paul and the Imperial Gospel at Thessoloniki,’ JSNT 25 1, 2002, pp 71-96, p 81, 83

[9] Oakes, P, p 315, though it was common terminology that described an arriving political leader

[10] Oakes, P, p 318, Harrison, p 86-87

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.

Bruce’s teaching on this matter has been pretty influential – here’s a photo of two of his students seeking the welfare of the ancient city of Corinth.

As mentioned in the previous post, the issue of public benefaction presents an interesting dilemma for interpreting 1 Thessalonians 4 – which prima facie (at first glance, just a little phrase I picked up in my three years as a law student) suggests Christians should live quite lives…

Bruce’s contention is that the rhetorical purpose of 1 Thessalonians is to break down harmful social structures the church have inherited from Roman culture, or in this case, a particular harmful social structure – the patron client relationship.

A secular patron who converts to Christianity must go from being a patron seeking honour from his clients, to a private benefactor, bestowing generosity on those around him without the honour his previous status brought. Bruce contends that Paul’s sharp use of his own example in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 came as a result of the Thessalonians’ collective inability to do this. Christians, so far as Paul was concerned, were to be benefactors (whether public or private) of those around them.

“7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

And this, in verse 12:

12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”

Some scholars have speculated that the situation underpinning these non-working eaters was a drought and work shortage – Bruce suggests this would make Paul a little unsympathetic to their plight. Others suggest that converts had taken the example of the Cynics and quite their jobs, taking to the streets. Others suggest it was an aversion to manual labor that prevented the Thessalonians getting in and working.

Underpinning the issue in 1 & 2 Thessalonians (especially 2) is the fact that some Christians are providing food for those who aren’t working for it – there’s some sort of patron-client thing going on. And Paul has a problem with this. But some have identified a problem with suggesting there’s a problem with the patron-client relationship being the model – because patrons only formed relationships with people of the same social status with less wealth, this objection comes from the characterisation of the early church as lower class only… So the idea that they’re clients suggests that they have some status.

Clients had all sorts of social obligations to their patron, and by keeping them they were able to receive the generosity of the patron, it was a symbiotic rather than parasitic relationship though, because the patron’s social status was based on the size of his clientele. It’s possible that a bloke named Aristarchus who gets two mentions in Acts as a member of the church was a wealthy guy (there is an Aristarchus from Thessalonica at the same time who was a local pollie). Someone of that standing would have had the means to be both a civic and a private benefactor. Jason, Paul’s host in Thessalonica also appears to have been a wealthy man. And women could be benefactors too.

A patron who converted would have had to maintain their non-Christian client base. And Christian patrons with Christian clients would have resulted in an unhealthy power dynamic cutting both ways (the patron would have to honour their client’s requests, while the client would be the patron’s subordinate). Not an easy situation to be in, so Paul was keen for them to avoid those relationships all together.

Many have taken the 1 Thessalonians 4:11 verse mentioned in the previous post to entail keeping out of public life, to turn to a life of political quietism. The term was used to describe a person who gave up public duties in order to rest – but the alternative Paul puts forward is not to rest, but rather to stop being a busy body and to get back to working with one’s hands. Bruce thinks the starkest contrast possible to the life of the quiet worker who fed themselves by their labours was the client. Clients were political activists for their patrons – like a crowd in South Park chanting “rabble, rabble, rabble” their job was to make noise on their patron’s behalf. There are shades of Plato’s Republic in this command not to be a busybody, Plato says to “do one’s business and not to be a busybody is just.” Paul’s use of the term “busybody” most likely describes clients doing their patron’s work in the public square, and not looking to their own affairs.

Paul wanted Christians to live lives admired by all, “commanding the respect of outsiders” (1 Thes 4:12), and the life of the client impressed nobody but his patron – groups of clients would even get into fisticuffs with clients of their patron’s rival.

Paul’s exhortation towards quietism is not a general command – but a specific one to the “some” who do not work, “such” as they are to do their own work and eat their own bread.

Paul wants the Thessalonians to follow his paradosis his example amongst them, in word and deed. Commanding people to stay away from (and not feed) the idle man was the manner Paul used to break the link between patron and client within the church – but Christians weren’t just to work for their food, they were to do good too (2 Thes 3:13). They were to be a benefit for their city – Bruce argues that Paul’s objections to the patron-client relationship aren’t about upsetting the civic apple cart, but rather are about encouraging the Christians to make positive contributions to the city, rather than being a drain on resources. Christians were to be benefactors to the truly needy, not to those who were able to work, but wouldn’t.

Galatia. A place Paul wrote to. That’s about all I know about Galatia, not having been there. Except that Galatian Christians faced much the same problem from Rome as Christians throughout the empire. Which is where this post is heading. I’m finally finding a use for the extended edition of an essay I wrote last semester (the extended edition was twice the word limit, I removed half the essay and handed it in – taking out pages at random1). Eagle eyed readers will notice the same clump of references regarding the legal status of Christianity that featured in the last post. It’s from a different essay. I aim to include them in every essay I write for Bruce (3 out of 3 so far)2.

Basically, one of the issues going on in Galatia is circumcision. Sometimes you just have to cut to the chase on these things. Romans weren’t circumcised. As demonstrated by this picture that Facebook flagged as inappropriate.

Romans weren’t circumcised, but Jews were – which meant that Roman converts to Christianity could literally blend in by getting the snip (really? How literal is that? Did they invert their clothing in the first century? Covering everything but their bits?). Well no. But Romans thought circumcision was an abominable practice, and they tolerated it in Jews but abhorred it personally – and it was a real marker of converting to Judaism, which earned one exemption from the Imperial Cult, and thus freedom from some of the persecution that came from converting to Christianity. Below you’ll find my take on the issue from the essay I hacked to pieces (the footnotes are there so you can dig up Bruce’s article on the matter – except I can’t find it on google, I think last time I found it I found the book of the proceedings of the conference it was presented at somewhere on the interwebs), it was more than possibly identical to whatever handouts he gave us in class. Anyway, here are some bits and bobs:

The question of references to the Imperial Cult in Galatians is a Jewish question. Winter’s (2002) thesis on the motives behind Jewish agitation in Galatia (Galatians 6:12) is that Jewish Christians were encouraging gentile converts to use Jewish camouflage to avoid participating in imperial cult, or persecution for failing to participate.[1] Jews in the Roman Empire are understood to have been exempt from cultic practices, free instead to practice their own religion.[2] This freedom varied from emperor to emperor, and region to region. There was no written charter providing such freedom.[3]

Josephus and Philo record that the Jews abrogated their cultic responsibilities by offering sacrifices for the emperor,[4] Herod, not content with this arrangement, built three temples dedicated to the emperor and Rome, McLaren (2005) suggests honouring the cult was a major priority in Judea.[5] This did not prevent the use of the cult as a weapon in Jewish-Roman relations.[6]

Winter (2001) argues that Gallio’s decision (Acts 18:12-17) initially served to protect Christians from participating in the Imperial Cult under the mos maiorum, and Gentile converts to Judaism were recognised as Jewish by imperial law.[7]

Hardin (2008) in his extensive treatment of the situation follows Winter, adding a minor addendum to reflect his findings that the Jews actually participated almost fully in the practices of the Imperial Cult. He suggests Christians were in no man’s land – neither Jew, nor gentile, and that the agitators, Jewish converts, wanted the church to pick a side.[8] He concludes his monograph by suggesting that the imperial cult forms an important backdrop for the study of Galatians, and the New Testament as a whole.[9]


[1] Winter, B.W, ‘The Imperial Cult and Early Christians in Roman Galatia (Acts XIII 13-50 and Galatians VI 11-18),’ in Actes du ler Congres International sur Antioche de Pisidie, eds., T. Drew-Bear, M. Tashalan and C. M. Thomas: Iniversite Lumiere – Lyon 2 and Diffusion de Boccard, 2002, 67-75, This thesis finds some support from Stanton, G, Jesus and Gospel, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2004, pp 43-46, and Hardin, J.K, ‘Avoiding Persecution and the Imperial Cult,’ Galatians and the Imperial Cult, (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck), 2008, pp 85-115

[2] Letter of Claudius to the Alexandrians, Papyrus found at Philadelphia in the Fayum, Egypt, The Roman Empire: Augustus to Hadrian, ed. and trans. Shrek, R.K, pp 83-86 – “Therefore, even now I earnestly ask of you that the Alexandrians conduct themselves more gently and kindly toward the Jews who have lived in the same city for a long time, and that they do not inflict indignities upon any of their customs in the worship of their god, but that they allow them to keep their own practices just as in the time of the god Augustus, which practices I too have confirmed after hearing both sides”

[3] Rajak, T, ‘Was there a Roman Charter for the Jews?’, The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol 74 (1984) pp 107-123, Pucci Ben Zeev, M, ‘Jewish Rights in the Roman World – The Greek and Roman Documents quoted by Josephus Flavius’, 1998, Mohr Siebek, pg 412, Rutgers, L.V, ‘Roman Policy Towards Jews’, Judaism and Christianity in First Century Rome edited by Donfried, K.P and Richardson, P, pp 93-116, one only needs to consider Caligula’s aborted attempt to hijack the temple, and its destruction under Nero to accept this point.

[4] McLaren, J.S, ‘Jews and the Imperial Cult,’ p 271

[5] McLaren, J.S, ‘Jews and the Imperial Cult,’ p 259, these temples were constructed at Caesarea Maritima, Sebaste, and Banias

[6] McLaren, J.S, ‘Jews and the Imperial Cult,’ p 262, Imperial cultic requirements were a flashpoint. The Greek citizens of Alexandria triggered the incident leading to Claudius’ missive by erecting statues of the emperor in the synagogue. If the Jews removed the statues this would be seen as imperial impropriety, Josephus’ account of the incident suggests the Greek citizens used the cult as a weapon, Pilate also caused some consternation in Judea by introducing inscribed shields to Jerusalem, see Fuks, G, ‘Again on the episode of the gilded Roman shields at Jerusalem,’ Harvard Theological Review, 75 no 4, 1982, pp 503-507

[7] Winter, B.W, After Paul Left Corinth, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), 2001, pp 278-280, Winter, B.W, ‘Gallio’s Ruling on the Legal Status of Early Christianity (Acts 18:14-15),’ Tyndale Bulletin 50.2 (1999) 213-224.

[8] Hardin, J.K, ‘Avoiding Persecution and the Imperial Cult,’ Galatians and the Imperial Cult, (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck), 2008, pp 85-115

[9] Hardin, J.K, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, p 155

1 That is simply not true, and I apologise for the dishonesty.
2 That is actually true.

Bruce has a real soft spot for Gallio. I reckon if he played that speculative game “who would I invite to dinner,” Gallio would make the list. Gallio is a popular boy in Corinth too. His appearance in Corinth at the Bema (Justice Seat) in Acts 18 marks the one exact spot we know Paul stood in Greece. The Orthodox Church in Corinth made the scene with Gallio the mural on the back wall of their brand new conference room…

Here’s Robyn standing in front of the Bema.

All this is only vaguely related to the potential essay question. But I’m setting the scene.

Here’s the passage from the Extra Spiritual Version (ESV), complete with whatever footnotes Bible Gateway thinks are relevant:

12But when Gallio was(W) proconsul of Achaia,(X) the Jews made a united attack on Paul and(Y)brought him before the tribunal, 13saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to(Z) the law.” 14But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious(AA) crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint.15But(AB) since it is a matter of questions about words and names and(AC) your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16And he drove them from the tribunal. 17And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

Cool story. I love how the crowd turn on the agitator at the end. They were there to give a beating – so they’re going to give a beating. All right. This judgment may well, if some first century historical reconstruction type people, have made Christianity a legal presence in at least the Achaian province of the empire. Gallio was the proconsul of the province. He was like Chuck Norris in Walker Texas Ranger. If you messed with him you got round house kicked to the face. Gallio’s brother was Seneca. So was his father. Seneca the Older paid to have his kids brought up real good in Roman society. Gallio was even adopted by a rich benefactor (and so changed his name from Novatus to Gallio) His kids were movers and shakers. Seneca the Younger (he’s on wikipedia) was a philosopher who was also Nero’s (the crazy emperor) tutor and adviser. He eventually killed himself (because he had to) after failing to topple Nero in a backstabbing conspiracy (the guy was a nutter – Nero that is). Gallio suffered a similar fate – Nero ordered him put to death, but he may have beaten him to it. Dodging a bullet by taking a bullet (well, a sword or an arrow).

The crux of it

Some people suggest he was basically a pimple on the backside of Roman history who made no real contribution to Rome or humanity. Others think Gallio was a bit blasé about the whole trial of Paul thing. Wikipedia does anyway.

“His behaviour on this occasion shows the impartial attitude of the Roman officials towards Christianity in its early days.”

Lets treat that as a summary of the consensus view on the matter and then we’ll disagree with it. And show that Gallio’s snap judgment (and he was famous as a juror) was a legal decision with consequences that spread through his province and made Christianity a legal subset of Judaism under his rule. While this didn’t set an empire wide precedent (Gallio wasn’t the emperor) – it certainly says something about the legal situation of Christians in first century Rome.

The esteemed B.W Winter wrote an article for the Tyndale Bulletin called Redeeming Gallio and His Judgment in Acts 18 (PDF), there’s another one called Gallio’s Ruling on the Legal Status of Early Christianity (.doc) You should definitely read them if you want to pass this exam.

Here’s the summary of the first one:

“By first-century Graeco-Roman standards, a recent assessment of Gallio – a Roman senator, proconsul and consul of Rome – would have been seen as something of a damnatio that resulted in the dismissal of his achievements and the formal disfiguring of his name from the imperial inscription that bears it in Delphi. However, a re-examination
of the evidence of ancient witnesses comes to a somewhat different conclusion about this important Roman senator. Such testimonies would confirm Luke’s presentation of this legally competent proconsul who made a landmark judgement under Roman law on the status of the early Christian movement.”

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (and what would he know – he’s only an “expert on Paul” according to Wikipedia) reckons Gallio was a hypochondriac wuss who ran away from his post when the going got tough. But Bruce says the Emperor Claudius reckons Gallio was alright, and if he was alright by Claudius, he’s alright by us too. Gallio’s name wasn’t removed from the Delphi inscription because he wasn’t disgraced. And he went on to be a consul of Rome. Basically Murphy-O’Connor is the bad scholar in this answer. And Bruce is fighting the good fight for Gallio. Murphy-O’Connor says the only good thing about Gallio is that he helps us date Paul’s time in Corinth (because Gallio himself was only in Corinth for a year (51-52 A.D).

Gallio did his year of regional service, and then got sick (he wasn’t a hypochondriac, as the bad guys have suggested). Here’s a paragraph from Bruce about a paragraph from a primary source about Gallio:

“In a discussion titled ‘On the Medicinal use of seawater’, Pliny the Elder (AD c.23/4-79) recorded ‘there being many other uses, the chief however being a sea voyage for those attacked by consumption, as I have said, and for haemoptysis, such as quite recently within our memory was taken by Annaeus Gallio after his consulship (post consulatum)’ According to Pliny it was after he completed the one-year term set for a senatorial consulship.”

Gallio the Juror
Gallio was a nice guy. According to his brother.

“Seneca reminded Lucilius that his brother was not inept in his rela­tionships with others. He had a great ability to get along with other people and his unaffectedly pleasant personality charms even those it pays no attention to … No other human being is so charming to just one person as he is to all people.’ In Corinth, Gallio politely addressed them as Ό Jews’, and explained that he simply could not proceed be cause there was no case to answer under Roman law. Luke records that he added, ‘If it were a matter of wrong-doing or vicious crime, then I would have reason to allow the legal proceedings’ (18:14).”

Bruce makes the point that Gallio has more integrity, and was less swayed by Jewish political pressures, than Felix or Pontius Pilate before them – he recognises the trial is a farce. And he calls them on it.

“The impression gained from Seneca is that Gallio was an astute judge of situations, and would have been aware of the hubris and the troubling nature of the litigation that had driven the Jews to pursue this case, and the duplicity that stood behind their charges. In fact Luke recorded that he ‘drove’ (άττήλασεν) the plaintiffs from the tribunal.”

Bruce further suggests the decision was thoroughly grounded in Roman law – and a right exercise of due process. He thinks the Jews were suggesting that Paul was operating outside the law because he’d left Judaism but had not taken up the Roman Imperial Religion (which was his legal obligation – from which Jews were exempt). Gallio decides that it is a Jewish matter, that Christianity is still “Jewish” in essence, and that Roman law doesn’t apply. He says the only law that is relevant to the case is “your law” – meaning Jewish law. He made the judgment before Paul had even had a chance to start his defense because he was such a top-notch juror. Like Judge Judy.

On the Beating of Sosthenes

“What was the reason for this fracas in the Corinthian forum? There are a number of possibilities. It is known that leading Roman citizens followed by their clients attended in the forum, and they operated as loyal supporters of their patrons in the realm of politela. Those standing around saw the dismissal of Jews’ case in the Roman criminal court as an opportunity to demonstrate their support for the emperor’s recent anti-Jewish decree recorded by Luke in Acts 18:2 – ‘because
Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome”

“It is more likely that Luke’s final comment [But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.] is to be interpreted as referring to how Gallio had operated in this case. He drove the accusers from the judgement seat because their case was groundless in Roman law, carefully following the correct legal protocol within whose paramètres he alone operated. He was rightly not concerned with matters outside the formal court hearing, for what happened was not within his remit unless Sosthenes subsequently brought another private prosecution, for assault. As Luke rightly noted ‘and none of these things (18:15, 17) concerned Gallio’, but had Paul been guilty of those in 18:14 he would certainly have proceeded with the case.”

On the Legal Status of Judaism (not from Bruce’s article)

If you’re a student preparing an exam answer you’ll already have done the subject The Cross and the Clash of Cultures, which apart from having an alliterative title, prompted me to do some research on the legal status of Judaism under the empire. Here’s a quote from one of my footnotes that may or may not be of use:

The actual nature of  Judaism’s status, whether or not it was a “religio licita” is in some dispute. The term religio licita seems to be a later development than this question – but the freedoms and exemptions for the Jews certainly existed. Caesar provided some freedom for Jews to practice their religion within the empire – but this may not have had the effect of freeing them for all time. cf Rajak, T, ‘Was there a Roman Charter for the Jews?’, The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol 74 (1984) pp 107-123 (I think it’s on EBSCO), which suggests that the phrase “religio licita” to describe Judaism was first recorded by Tertullian, that they only required “public backing, with muscle behind it” rather than a charter to establish these rights, and that it was not the nature of the polis to exclude citizens from the practice of customary activities. See also – Pucci Ben Zeev, M, ‘Jewish Rights in the Roman World – The Greek and Roman Documents quoted by Josephus Flavius’, 1998, Mohr Siebek, pg 412 –the treatment of Jews throughout the empire after Caesar’s death suggests this declaration was not all encompassing precedent, while Rutgers, L.V, ‘Roman Policy Towards Jews’, Judaism and Christianity in First Century Rome edited by Donfried, K.P and Richardson, P, pp 93-116 suggests that Jewish status under Roman law varied greatly from Emperor to Emperor – and that there was no charter or official policy regarding the Jews.

The Romans placed huge value on time honoured traditions – it was part of their shtick, they called it the Mos Maiorum and this was the recognition of tradition that protected the Jews from participating in the Imperial Cult.

On the Imperial Cult and Gallio’s Exemption

Here’s what Bruce says in the second article linked (up the top):

“Christianity was a sect within Judaism and therefore a religio licita, part of the mos maiorum. This was how Christianity was judged in the eyes of the Roman governor with expertise as a jurist. What Gallio ruled ‘when Paul was about to open his mouth’ (18:14a) had implications for this early Messianic movement. Whether Jewish Christians or Gentile Christians, Roman citizens, or provincials, they were all seen as ‘a party’ operating under the Jewish umbrella. Therefore being a Christian in the province of Achaea was not a criminal offence, according to Gallio.

Attention has been briefly drawn to the legal immunity the Jews enjoyed with respect to the veneration of the emperor because of the mos maiorum. While New Testament scholars have underestimated the importance of this cult during the Julio-Claudian emperors, evidence showed that it grew more spectacularly throughout the empire during the first century than even the early Christian movement did…

Paul used the same defense again in front of Felix, and then again in Rome in front of Festus and before Agrippa II – and Bruce argues that the verdict was the same on all counts – and the word “unhindered” at the end of Acts is incredibly important.

In the final hearing before Festus in the presence of Agrippa II, Paul again mounted his defence along the same lines—‘I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said should happen’ (26:22). Festus confirmed Gallio’s ruling that the case concerned ‘certain questions of their superstition’ and the alleged resurrection of Jesus (25:19).

While awaiting the hearing of his appeal, Paul was still allowed to engage in his ministry ‘with all boldness’. After that comment, Luke added the highly significant word, ‘unhindered’ (28:31). This term was used to indicate that there was no legal impediment to what a person was doing.

Addendum: On Murphy-O’Connor

Don’t be too nasty in your answer to the bad cop – Bruce has this to say in his final footnote:

“My point of departure with J. Murphy-O’Conner on the assessment of Gallio should not detract in any way from my appreciation of his important service to New Testament Corinthian studies with what is now the third edition of his excellent collection of primary literary sources and some of the important inscriptions.”

We’re doing a bit of a mini-subject on apologetics this semester as part of a weekly “preparations for ministry” session.

Yesterday’s session featured Bruce Winter sharing some insights on the important discipline of apologetics garnered from his extensive studies on Paul and his culture, and from his experience as an apologist in Singapore and while working as an academic in England (Cambridge).

Here are my notes:

Every Christian is required to be ready to give a reason to the hope that lies within them.

It’s interesting that the word there – apologia – goes beyond the idea of giving some answer. Stoic philosophers used apologia to argue their case while interacting in a substantial way with the mindset of the people they’re addressing.

How are we going to engage in apologia with people in the 21st century? Two Ways To Live isn’t going to work for everybody. We see from the way that Paul tackles apologetics that he engages the culture around him.

We need to engage the audience and move around their world – Paul’s letter to the Romans is a great apologia that removes objections to the gospel – objections that come from the mindset of people living in first century Rome.

Paul argues that we need to pull down every argument against God both within and outside the church – he talks about demolishing the stronghold of people’s ideas contrary to God, he distinguishes between the argument and the person. Paul demolishes and reconstructs these arguments “captive to Christ.

Acts 17 is a good example, and a good paradigm, of Paul connecting with the audience and their expectations and producing converts. This is the parliament of Athens.

Five things to learn from Paul to connect and engage with people’s world. This message needs to engage the thought world of the people around it.

  1. We have to connect our message with the audience we’re speaking to – Paul connects – he makes the connections the audience required (in introducing a new God to the council – eg the building of a temple, holy days/sacrifices), he also uses their culture (eg the statue of the unknown god) to engage.
  2. We have to structure our message in a way that provides a hearing for the gospel - The framework we present the gospel in changes based on the audience – talking to sciency people requires a different presentation to talking to people from different religious backgrounds. The main aim is that people hear the gospel connected to their world.
  3. Know how to connect the message, and know what it needs to correct – Paul knows that people need the gospel, but he also knows what the objections to it are, and he addresses them with the correction of the gospel.
  4. Converse with their world – it’s remarkable when you read historical sources talking about the nature of God and compare it to the way Paul quotes their arguments and poets/philosophers in his apologia. He understands their world, their language, and their issues. Paul is even able to point out inconsistencies in their current thinking and actions (they talk about the nature of Gods not living in temples made by man, but visit temples – Paul points out they aren’t living up to their basic beliefs and teachings.) He’s read the literature. He knows their teaching. He is well able to bring them to that point through the quotations of their poets.
  5. He confronts his audience - Paul doesn’t steer clear of the topic of God’s judgment and the predicament that places his audience in. God’s judgment coupled with God’s amnesty (he calls on all people, everywhere, to repent). Paul doesn’t compromise. He’s not prepared to negotiate on the fixed points that his audience was bound to be opposed to. It’s a different worldview.  Paul’s sermon in Acts 17 converts people from those opposing points of view and philosophy.

Some questions to ask regarding our approach:

  • How are we going to talk to different audiences?
  • How do we talk to those dealing with the certain uncertainty of death?
  • How do we connect with their views and preconceptions about Christianity and the world?
  • How can we talk to them about their world?
  • How do we talk to affluent people who think they have everything? Their question is different – “what’s missing?” – “what is it?” How do we raise the issue of the gospel in a way that articulates this need in a way they might never have considered?

A question to prompt thought in others is: If you had your life over again how would you do things differently? Everybody is fundamentally aware that they do the wrong thing at least occasionally.

We’re not dealing with blanks slates but people who have spent their lives deliberately ignoring (and justifying ignoring) general revelation. Romans 2 suggests that it’s our conscience that judges us as we face God at judgment day – so the question “how can God…” is irrelevant.

Bruce says “always contribute to the body of knowledge”…

Argument should take place in the main body of the thesis, not in the footnotes. Some have used footnotes to disown arguments.

In the metamorphous from student to scholar we need to move on from attributing every notion or idea in footnotes and be prepared to argue things out in the text.

What does it mean to be a Christian and an Academic?

Bruce resolved never to engage, in his writings, with trashing other scholars. He believes that evidence should be argued out in the pages without playing the man.

A non-Christian friend made the comment that one of Bruce’s books “wasn’t an easy read.” He came to the realisation that the first paragraph has to be engaging if we are to grab the attention of a reader. Bruce’s rules of thumb:

  1. The heading must entice.
  2. The first sentence must grab the attention.
  3. The second sentence must inform.

This, in my opinion, a good rule of thumb for writing anything. Basically you’ve got to think about how you yourself approach a text – how many academic books have you read right through?

Bruce resolved to agonise most over headings and sub-titles, and introductions. They are important.

Chapter headings need sub-headings. They need to be well thought out structures. We must write with purpose.

Bruce reads the preface, the chapter headings, the chapter introductions and the conclusions (including the links between chapters) before deciding whether to read the whole book. His approach to writing follows his approach to reading.

There must also be a Christian approach to criticism, and especially to the review process. Some journals offer authors the right of reply to reviews – how do you take this opportunity without trashing someone who has trashed your work? We want academic interactions to also be Christian interactions.

Bruce avoids fads in academic circles because they pass. Some publishers love fads and are always in search of the next new thing.

We are accountable to Christ – not to reviewers or audiences.

Questions to ask of your work.

  • Have we added to the body of knowledge?
  • Have we illuminated the text?
  • Have we built people up?
  • Who are we writing for?
  • What we write is the application of our gifts for the benefit of others. So does it benefit others?

Publish or perish is not the motto of the Christian.

I’m on of those bandwagon jumping fanboys who thinks that my Bible College principal knows everything. I’ve also been wondering what the early church’s position on ancient wrestling was – a sport that was essentially the same as UFC – it barred eye gouges and groin shots. Paul seems to allude to fighting in his analogy in 1 Corinthians 9:26… but while googling for an answer to an unrelated question I found this statement from B.W. Winter

The early Christians faced this question just as we do. Entertainment in their day involved the Roman spectacles, chariot races, gladiatorial fights and those sorts of things. Some of these activities encouraged a perverse interest in violence and sex, so in that sense, they were unhelpful to a Christian’s growth. Should a Christian be aware of what is going on in the wider culture in terms of entertainment? I don’t think we can be ignorant of it. However, what most people are unaware of is that many of these forms of entertainment have a subliminal effect on our thinking. This means that we need to be very selective about what we choose to entertain us. It’s easy to stumble if you simply want to be amused and suspend your critical faculties. I may sound like a bit of a killjoy, but I think it’s important to be evaluating films as we watch them. Too many Christians fail to do this, and stumble. If you suspend your critical faculties, it’s possible to assimilate all sorts of ungodly ideas and behaviour.

Seems relevant – though I think the “perverse interest” is the key. I think it’s possible to watch UFC without being perversely interested in violence. But I think there’s a real danger that this isn’t the case.