Paul Charged by the Jews: Part 1 of 3

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,

the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,

April 26, 2015
Acts of the Apostles

Acts 18:12-17 (KJV)

12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,
13 Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship contrary to the law.
14 And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:
15 But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.
16 And he drave them from the judgment seat.
17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.


The appearance of Paul before Gallio is of particular importance in two respects. First, it established a precedent for the manner in which the Roman leaders should consider charges against Christians brought before them. Second, the mention of Gallio is an important reference point for determining the date of Paul’s work in Corinth and for establishing the entire Pauline chronology.


12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,

We should begin with Gallio1, because there is a great deal known about him from literary sources and from inscriptions. Gallio had influential connections in Rome. Marcus Annaeus Novatus, as he was first called, was born in Cordova Spain and came to Rome with his father when Tiberius was on the throne. In Rome, he was adopted into the family of his father’s friend Lucius Junius Gallio, and took the name of his adoptive father (he was now Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeus). His father was the son of Seneca the orator, and his brothers were Lucius Seneca, Nero’s tutor, and Mela, the father of Lucan the poet.

Dr. Luke shared only one example of divine protection during Paul’s ministry in Corinth (Acts 18:12-17), but it was a significant one. The arrival of a new proconsul gave the unbelieving Jews hope that Rome might declare this new “Christian sect” illegal. They broke the law by attacking Paul and forcing him to go to court. This was not the first time that fanatical Jews had tried to prove that Paul was breaking the Roman law (Acts 16:19-24; 17:6-7).

Gallio’s service in Corinth occurred during the proconsular period of his career2. Achaia at this time was a second rank province, and these were under the supervision of the Senate and were administered by proconsuls. Generally in this region proconsuls served a one-year term, two at the most; and his tenure seems to have begun in the early summer. An inscription discovered at Delphi, which relates to the dedication of an aqueduct, mentions Gallio as being proconsul of Achaia and dates this during the period of Claudius’s twenty-sixth acclamation as emperor. Such “acclamations3” were made by the Roman Senate at irregular intervals as affirmations of an emperor’s rule. On the basis of other inscriptions, Claudius’s twenty-sixth acclamation can be dated as covering the first seven months or so of A.D. 52. On this basis, he is assumed as having begun his office in the summer of either A.D. 51 or A.D. 52. If one assumes that Gallio served the maximum two-year term, his tenure would have ended in summer of A.D. 54 at the latest. Putting this together with the date of Claudius’s edict, Paul’s 18 months in Corinth would have occurred sometime between winter of A.D. 49/50 and summer of A.D. 54; he stayed, knowing that God was with him and that people would be saved. During those 18 months of witness, Paul saw many victories in spite of Satan’s opposition. Most interpreters are inclined to see Gallio as having the more usual one-year tenure and Paul as having appeared before him during the early days of his term of office. This would place Paul’s Corinthian ministry roughly between early 50 and late 52. The divine promise that none would harm him had a notable fulfillment while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia(all of Greece south of Macedonia).

It was soon after Gallio’s appointment that the Corinthian Jews made their move against Paul—they instigated a riot and brought Paul before Gallio’s judgment seat, accusing the evangelist of propagating a religion that was contrary to the Roman law. Evidently, they considered the time was now right to take legal action against Christianity and to embroil Paul with the authorities. The pleasant and charming Gallio, a man whose attractive personality had helped carry him successfully through life, must have seemed an easy mark to the crafty Jews, or they may have been banking on his inexperience. Gallio had come to Acadia having only been a praetor and not yet a consul, the senior Roman magistrate, and in any case, he may have only recently arrived and would for that reason be eager to please his petitioners. They miscalculated badly, however, mistaking Gallio’scordiality and general amiability for weakness. Under the false impression that Gallio was a pushover, they banded together, rose up against Paul in a body, and had him dragged before Gallio as a lawbreaker.

13 Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.

The Gallio episode is typical of Paul’s appearances before Roman officials in Acts. None of them found him guilty of having broken the Roman law. This becomes very apparent with Gallio’s judgment regarding the Jewish charge against Paul. Their charge was that Paul was “persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law”; that is, that he was spreading an illegal religion. Judaism itself was a recognized religion of the empire (but not every religion was permitted in the empire), and was accorded the protection of the courts; Christianity, however, remained a “licensed religion” only so long as it could shelter itself under the auspices of Judaism. The Jews wanted a legal distinction to be made and a verdict handed down branding Christianity4as so different from Judaism as to be separate from it all together. There would then be a legal precedent, and Christians could be prosecuted for teaching an outlawed religion. That subtle move by the enemy was of great importance and was bound to have far-reaching effects. The charge as it stands is vague. What law had he broken? Roman law or Jewish law?

(If Paul had broken Roman law.) There were Roman laws against the proselytizing of Roman citizens by foreign cults, but Gallio obviously did not take the charge in that sense. He saw it for what it was—an internal dispute within the Jewish community—their interpretations of “words” (the Scriptures?), of “names” (Jesus as Messiah?), of “law” (the Torah)5. The best charge for the Jews to bring “was that Paul was preaching to Romans, not to Jews, contrary to the Roman law, not the Jewish law, just as at Philippi”, that he was attempting to proselytize Roman citizens.

(If Paul had broken Jewish law.) If this were the case, then they were asking the governor to enforce their own law, perhaps with the hope of having him exclude the Christians who did not submit to it from the protection that the Jews enjoyed as a religio licita (a permitted religion). But there was no reason to think that the Jews had any grounds for expecting such an enforcement by Romans of their law upon their own people. The position taken by the Jews was Paul had broken their law by not requiring the Gentile converts to be circumcised.

14 And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:

Being a Roman citizen, Paul was prepared to defend himself. Paul was about to make his defense when he was silenced by the proconsul. No defense was necessary. Gallio had already made up his mind. So far as he was concerned, the whole matter was an internal Jewish religious dispute and the case should not have been brought to him in the first place. The phrase, Reason would that I should bear with you, could be put this way; “I should naturally have taken up your case.” Paul had no need to defend himself before the Roman court because his activities lay well within the confines of the law, which recognized Judaism and its various sects (Christianity, at the time, was viewed as a Jewish sect.) as legal. In effect, he said, “Leave him alone,” or, at least, “Settle this among yourselves. Paul has broken no law.” Had the apostle broken any real law, Gallio said, then of course he would involve himself, but he could not see any breach of the peace, any reckless disregard of Roman law or any misbehavior on Paul’s part. Indeed, why had they presumed to bother him with their pity disagreements?

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