Paul and Gallio

by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor
Paul and Gallio
Jerome Murphy-O'Connor
Journal of Biblical Literature
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Critical Notes


In a recent article in this journal Dixon Slingerland argued that Acts 18:12 proved no more than that Paul arrived in Corinth sometime between 47 and 54 CE? Challenges to received orthodoxy are always welcome, and a number of the points made by Slingerland are well taken, notably his exposure of the unwarranted character of certain assumptions that have led to blatant illogicality in some assessments of what little data we have. His basic criticism of the current consensus, however, is simply that it is not certain! He gives the impression that he alone is aware of the amount of conjecture involved in the attempt to establish an absolute date in Paul's career, and considers the pointing out of such conjecture sufficient to make his case. He idealistically makes certitude the test, whereas the question that realists ask of any reconstruction con- cerns its relative probability: Is this hypothesis more probable than any alternative? From this perspective one can do much better than Slingerland imagines.

He overstates his case by referring to Paul's appearance before Gallio as a "trial" which leads to the public humiliation of the Jewish community (p. 441). He is led to do so by his concern to make the episode appear typical of what he considers to be Luke's Tendenz and thus of no historical value. In fact there is no trial, because Gallio denies that he has juristiction: he returns the matter to the appropriate authority in Roman law, namely, the Jewish community.

In his desire to heighten the element of doubt, Slingerland exaggerates the incertitude regarding the length of Gallio's term of office; "there is no way to ascertain whether his position lasted one or two years" (p. 446). It is true that we cannot be absolutely sure, but one can answer with a significant degree of probability because of a piece of evidence that Slingerland did not check? Seneca reports concerning his brother, "When, in Achaia, he [Gallio] began to feel feverish, he immediately took ship, claim- ing that it was not a malady of the body but of the place" (Letters 104.1). First, this positively excludes the two-year option because it is certain that Gallio did not finish his term of office, whether it was one or two years. Second, the natural interpretation of Seneca's sardonic reference to a "malady of the place" is that Gallio was antipathetic to Achaia and used the excuse of a minor illness to leave. This type of instinctive aversion normally results from a first impression. It does not usually begin late, although it may intensify with the passage of time. The impression of a fussy hypochondriac given by Seneca is confirmed by Pliny (Natural History 31.62).

We can go a step further by invoking a factor that Slingerland does not take into account. The closing of the seas to winter travel meant that after September Gallio

Dixon Slingerland, "Acts 18:l-18, the Gallio Inscription, and Absolute Pauline Chronologf JBL ll0 (1991) 439-49. Page numbers within the text refer to this article.

He dismisses as speculative (p. 446 n. 28) the view of George Ogg (The Chronology of the Lqe of Paul [London: Epworth, 19681) that Gallio's health would not have permitted him to spend two years in Achaia.

Journal of Biblical Literature

could not have returned to Rome except by ordering a military ship to sea and risking serious danger, a proceeding alien to his personality. In consequence, it is probable that Gallio stayed only a summer in Achaia. Whatever the year, Paul could have met Gallio in Corinth only between 1 July3 and mid-September.

In addition to ignoring the seasonal limitations on travel, so appropriately empha- sized by R. Jewett? Slingerland also ignores the duration of the battle season (April- October) and the fact that the symbolic value of acclamations would diminish in proportion to their frequency! When a serious effort is made to correlate the six acclamations in question (the twenty-second to the twenty-seventh) with the time spans available in 51 and 52 CE, it becomes clear that it is most probable that the twenty- sixth acclamation (mentioned in the letter of Claudius to Delphi) took place after the first major military action in the battle season of 52 CE.~Thus, even though we do not have the unrealistic standard of proof which Slingerland expects, we can say with a high degree of security that the letter of Claudius was written between April 52 CE at the earliest and 1 August 52 CE (by which date Claudius had been acclaimed Imperator for the twenty-seventh time) at the latest.

Further, because of the limitations on travel, the information to which the letter responded must have reached the emperor either sometime during the late summer of 51 CE or by the first boats coming from Greece in the spring of 52 CE. Claudius's special predilection for Achaia7 makes it improbable that he delayed in responding to a report on the plight of Delphi.

Slingerland would reply that there is no legitimate absolute criterion that would decide between the two dates, which, moreover, he would consider unduly limited because he recognizes that Gallio could have been appointed as early as 50 CE (p. 446). Reflection, however, suggests that the report was brought to Rome by Gallio in September 51 CE. Gallio's decision to leave his post without authorization was certain to incur the displeasure of Claudius, and it would have been in his interest both to redeem himself and to distract the emperor by informing the latter of a subject close to his heart. This line of argument makes it most unlikely that Gallio's truncated term of office was the summer of 50 CE. What reason could he have had to withhold the report for a year? Slingerland will, of course, dismiss such reasoning as mere conjecture.

The ruling of Tiberius in 15 CE that provincial officeholders should leave Rome by 1 June (Dio Cassius, Roman History 57.14.5)implies that they took up their posts a month later. That time was allowed for travel is confirmed by the 42 CE legislation of Claudius, who moved the departure date hack to 1 April only because officials tarried in Rome (Dio Cassius 60.ll.3).This was too early for sea travel, and the following year he was forced to change the date to 15 April (Dio Cassius 60.17.3).There is no evidence of any modification of the date of assumption of office. The problem is not "unresolvable," as Slingerland claims (p. 445 n. 22) apparently in order to justify his uncritical acceptance of 1 May.

R. Jewett, A Chronology of Paul's L$e (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977) 56-57.

On the necessary connection between the salutatio imperatoria and military victory, see Dio Cassius 43.44.4-5; 46.38.1; 52.41.3-4; and the article "Imperator" in PW (9. ll47-50) or The Orford Classical Dictionary (2d ed.; ed. h'. 6.L. Hammond and H. H. Scullard: Oxford: Clarendon, 1970)

542. For details see my St. Paul:r Corinth: Texts and Archaeology (GNS 6;\Vilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1983) 142-44.

'"In commending Achaia to the senators he [Claudius] declared that it was a province dear to him through the association of kindred studies" (Suetonius, Claudius 42).

Critical Notes

In fact it represents an effort to resist the intellectual paralysis to which his approach leads by attempting to find reasonable grounds for discriminating between the various possibilities all of which he considers equally valid.

Slingerland is on much more solid ground in arguing that Acts 18:l-18 provides no basis for determining either a terminus a quo or a terminus ad quem for Paul's eighteen- month stay in Corinth (pp. 442-43). There is, however, another approach, which Slingerland ignores. On the basis of Gal 1:18; 2:l; and 2 Cor ll:32-33, it has been argued with a high degree of probability that Paul's second visit to Jerusalem coming from Corinth took place in the fall of 51 CE? If this is correct, Paul would have left Corinth roughly about the same time as Gdlio. In consequence, his arrival there should be dated in the early spring of 50 CE, because there is nothing intrinsically implausible in a stay of eighteen months.

See in particular Jewett, Chronology, 30-33 (with the corrections of C. Saulnier, "Hkrode Antipas et Jean le Baptiste: Quelques remarques sur les confusions chronologiques de Flavius Joskphe,"RB 91 [I9841 371-75) and my "Pauline Missions before the Jerusalem Conference," RB 89 (1982) 71-91. For a convincing rebuttal of the objections to Nabatean control of Damascus, see the forthcoming study by J. Taylor, "The Ethnarch of King Aretas at Damascus: A Note on 2 Cor ll:32-33," RB 99 (1992) 719-28.

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P. Ecole Biblique, P.O.B. 19053, Jerusalem

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