Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke - Advocating unlawful customs?

After Paul completed his successful first mission trip, he returned to Antioch in Syria to begin preparing for his next trip.  Before beginning this trip, he first had to help settle a dispute that had developed in the early church.  Many of the church leaders wanted the new Gentile converts to become Jews first, which would include adherence to all Jewish legal restrictions and circumcision.  Paul disagreed with this policy and largely through his efforts a compromise was reached.  The Gentiles would only be expected to obey some of the Jewish legal traditions.  As an historical note, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD the Christian church and the Jews would be permanently separated.  However, as late as the second century there is still much evidence that the Christian church continued to follow the traditions established by Paul and the other early church leaders.   Now begins Paul’s second mission trip.

Paul and Barnabas had separated ways, and Paul’s new travel companion would be Silas. (Acts 16)  Along the way, Paul and Silas picked up Timothy, and a strong relationship begins.  In fact, if you turn to II Timothy you will note that Paul refers to Timothy as “my dearly beloved son.”   Paul also wrote of Timothy, “I have no one else like him…” (Philippians 2: 20)  Paul and his companions traveled to Troas in Asia Minor, where Paul received a vision that directed him to proceed to Philippi in Macedonia.  The vision Paul received further showed him, “…a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘come over to Macedonia and help us.’” (Acts 16: 9)  Many believe that this ‘man’ turns out to be Luke.  Luke is the author of Acts, and you will notice that after Paul meets this man, instead of referring to the group as Paul and his companions, the group is now referred to as ‘we’, which puts Luke in the group.   At any rate, their efforts did not go unnoticed.  Many were converted to Christianity, but others were angered by the efforts of Paul’s group.  They were brought before the magistrate and their accusers said, “…these men are Jews and are throwing our city in to uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” (Acts 16: 20-21)  The magistrate, concerned about the reaction of the crowd against Paul, had them flogged and thrown in to jail.

You can, and should, read the account of Paul’s time in jail in Acts 16, starting in verse 23.  But, for my purpose, I want to focus on the historicity of the event.   Some have questioned whether there would have been a person with the title of ‘magistrate’.   The historical record shows that such a title would have been used.  The day after the magistrate had the men flogged and imprisoned he came to them to appease them.  Would such a high ranking official actually do this?  Well, yes!  Let me explain.  Under first century Roman law, the magistrate had no right to strip and flog these men.  There are other Roman reports of Government leaders ignoring the laws to appease a hostile crowd.  But now in the light of day, the magistrate would have just wanted this matter to go away, so they “sent their officers to the jailer with orders: ‘release those men… (tell them) you can leave.  Go in peace.” (Acts 16: 35-36)  It was at this time that Paul dropped the bomb shell.  He told these officers that they were ‘Roman citizens’.   Under Roman law it was a capital offense for a local magistrate to flog a Roman citizen.  Are we surprised the magistrates wanted to appease Paul?  (part 4, next blog)


Dan Porte

Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.

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