The Church From the Resurrection to the Conversion of Paul

ACTS 1 The book of Acts provides the only historical record of the activities of the earliest Christians from the time of Jesus' resurrection until the conversion of Paul. Acts 1-8 precedes the first mention of Paul, and these chapters provide a selective report, primarily detailing the activity of the apostles in Jerusalem following Jesus' resurrection.

The earliest believers began to establish a communal life. They were frequently in conflict with the Jewish authorities, and followers of Jesus soon were expelled from the temple. Seeds of dissension between Hellenistic, and Jewish Christianity began to sprout even during these early years (6:1). Meanwhile, although Acts does not tell much about early missionary work outside of Jerusalem, it is certain that the church saw extraordinary growth. The brothers of Jesus, who are mentioned among the earliest believers (1:14), are known to have been active in spreading the gospel throughout the region later known as Palestine. We are not given many details, but Acts intimates that communities of Christians were established in Antioch (11:19),2 Damascus (9:2),3 North Africa (8:27) and Samaria (8:5) prior to Paul's conversion. The Good News even reached Rome,the leading city of the Roman world, prior to the advent of Paul's missionary enterprise.

It is highly likely that some pilgrims who had been present in Jerusalem during the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus became believers (2:5).When these masses returned to their hometowns, they took the gospel with them. Persecution also played a role in the spread of the Good News and the growth of the early church. As believers migrated in order to avoid persecution, they established new Christian communities in the towns and cities where they settled.

The Jewish Diaspora in the First Century A.D.

ACTS 2 Jews had been living outside the land of Israel at least since residents from the northern kingdom of Israel were taken as exiles by Assyria and those from the southern kingdom of Judah were exiled by Babylon. During the Hellenistic era these Jews of the Diaspora were scattered throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. The long list of place-names mentioned in Acts 2:9 - 11 is consistent with the literary and inscriptional evidence on the widespread geographic distribution of Jews at this time. Special mention may be made of the long-standing presence of a vibrant Jewish community in Babylonia (which contributed ch to the intellectual vigor of the faith), of large community at Rome (which lobbied passionately for the political interests of Judaism)' and of the community in Alexandria (which produced a wealth of scholarship, including the writings of Philo).

Jews of the Diaspora struggled to preserve their unique ethnic and religious identity, while remaining good citizens of the cities in which they lived. In general, they appear to have succeeded on both counts. Their zeal in contributing to the half-shekel tax for the Jerusalem temple and their frequent pilgrimages to the Holy City are evidence that the vast majority maintained allegiance to their faith.

While serious outbreaks of violence against Jews did occur from time to time (notably in the years surrounding the Jewish revolt in A.D. 66-70 and later, under the reign of Hadrian), the Jewish people were generally permitted to maintain their unique customs - while continuing to make a contribution to the civic life of the empire.

The High Priests Annas and Caiaphas

ACTS 4 From the reign of Herod onward,' several high-caste priestly families ("houses") in Israel competed for the high priest-hood.2 Since high priests were regularly deposed by the political authorities (whether Herod or the Romans), numerous individuals undoubtedly served in the capacity of high priest during the first half of the first century A.D.To make matters even more complicated, it appears that even if an individual did not actually serve as high priest, he might still

adopt the title if he belonged to one of the high-priestly families.

Annas (high priest from A.D.6 to 15;five of his sons held the position after him) and his son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas (high priest from A.D.18 to 36) were of the house of Hanan.The Gospels indicate that while Caiaphas was the official high priest during the time of Jesus, Annas still wielded considerable power. It is noteworthy that Ananus, one of the sons of Annas, was the high priest who engineered the execution of James, Jesus' brother, in Pa, 62 (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.9.1). According to Josephus, those who were "strict in the observance of the law" (likely the Pharisees)' were so disturbed at this action that they protested to King Agrippa and to the procurator Albinus. As a direct result, Ananus was deposed as high priest after only three months in office.


ACTS 5 The remains of the plateau fortress called Masada (see"Map 9") still stand in the Judean desert, south of En Gedi., The table-land,which overlooks the Dead Sea, rises more than 437 yards (400 m) above the surrounding land and measures a half mile (.8 km) in length. Masada was the location of several palaces in use during the New Testament era and became an important stronghold for Jewish zealots fighting against Roman occupation during the first century A.D.2

Masada was established during the second century B.C. and completed by Herod (r. 31-4 B.c.),, who erected on the site an elaborate palace, a rain collection system and fortified walls that permitted long periods of isolation. Control passed to the Romans in A.D. 6 and then to Jewish Zealots in 66. The Zealots transformed the palaces into military outposts, converted other buildings into ceremonial baths and a study house and constructed a synagogue.

The Romans attacked Masada in A.D.73.The army's slaves built a ramp nearly 219 yards (200 m) in height along the side of the cliffs in order to wage a full-scale attack. Recognizing that defeat was inevitable, Eleazer, Masada's leader, convinced the 960 inhabitants that death would be more satisfactory than Roman slavery.Ten men were assigned to kill all of the others, including women and children, and one of them was selected to kill the final ten, including himself. When the Romans reached the top of the plateau,there was no one left there to conquer.

Gamaliel's advice in Acts 5:38-39 proved true with Masada: Although the Zealots stationed there led remarkable uprisings, their well-constructed plans were eventually thwarted because they were of human origin and not from God.

Proselytes in Second Temple Judaism

ACTS 6 Although Jews were a distinct minority within the Roman Empire, they nonetheless managed to attract a significant number of sympathizers and converts to their community. Gentiles could have varying levels of adherence to Judaism:

    • Benefactors, like the centurion in Luke 7:1-10, supported the Jewish community and presumably were sympathetic to Jewish beliefs.

    • "God-fearers" were affiliated with the synagogue and showed keen interest in Judaism (see, e.g., Ac 10:2; 13:16; 17:4; there is also an important mention of God-fearers in an inscription from approximately A.D. 210 in Aphrodisias in modern Turkey).

    • Full proselytes converted to Judaism and embraced all of its requirements. Josephus mentioned a certain Izates of the royal family of Adiabene, who embraced Judaism and arranged to have himself circumcised in order to accept fully the Jewish way of life (Antiquities, 20.2.3-4).

The number of Gentile converts to Judaism was not insignificant, but it is doubtful that there was a concentrated Jewish missionary movement among the Gentiles comparable to that in early Christianity.The majority of those who joined the Jewish community likely did so as an outcome of personal or business relationships with Jews (most notably marriage), or from a personal quest for truth.

The Geographic Expansion of the Church Under Persecution

ACTS 8 The expansion of Christianity was a direct—if unanticipated result of persecution. On the very day that Stephen became the first Christian martyr, a severe persecution broke out in Jerusalem. Christians who fled the city became scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, proclaiming the gospel wherever they went (8:1-4). Philip headed north to an unidentified city in the region of Samaria, which many scholars conjecture to have been ancient Samaria (1Ki 20:1), then called Sebaste.Others point to Gitta, or to Sychar, which Jesus was reported in John 4 to have visited.

At any rate, so many converts were won through Philip's evangelistic endeavors that Peter and John came to join him. As they later returned to Jerusalem, they followed Philip's lead, preaching in Samaritan villages along the way (Ac 8:25).2 Philip was then dispatched south of Jerusalem toward the ancient Philistine city of Gaza, where he experienced his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (vv.26 —39). In the Greco-Roman world, Ethiopia was considered to be the southernmost extent of civilization, so this incident may have previewed for early Christians the promise of the message going out "to the ends of the earth" (1:8).

Chapter 8 concludes with Philip, farther north on the Mediterranean coast, preaching from Azotus to Caesarea, where he eventually settled (21:8).3 His travels would have taken him through Lydda and Joppa, probably the "cities" (8:40) in which he preached. It seems that Peter again followed Philip's path by stopping to preach in Lydda and Joppa, as well as to Cornelius in Caesarea (9:32 — 10:48).

Christianity also spread eastward to Damascus; Saul had been en route there when he had experienced his dramatic con-version (9:1-6).4 In 11:19-26 Luke added additional detail about the scattering of the Jerusalem believers: Some disciples ventured north of Galilee into the region of Phoenicia and even farther to the city of Antioch,5 while others journeyed westward to the island of Cyprus. By the end of Acts, Paul had reached Rome, the capital of the then-known world. It was from this city that the Good News eventually spread throughout the Roman Empire to provinces as far away as Africa and Europe.

Ancient Synagogues

AcTS 9 The earliest archaeological evidence of ancient synagogues derives from Greek inscriptions found in Egypt dating from the third century 8.c., although the synagogue as an institution dates from a much earlier time. Literary and epigraphic sources employ various terms for these structures, which indicate the range of functions for which they were used. The Greek term sometimes used, proseuthe, literally"(a place of) prayer,"attests to the synagogue as a location for worship and communal prayer; this usage is found in the New Testament (Ac 16:13,16). The later term synagogue, which eventually became dominant, means "a place of assembly" and suggests a range of corporate functions, most particularly the public reading, exposition and study of Scripture.

The Theodotus inscription unearthed in the Jerusalem excavations of 1913-1914 describes the essential functions of a first-century A.D. synagogue.This Greek dedicatory inscription mentions a certain Theodotus, the son and grandson of a priest and ruler of the synagogue (cf.Mk 5:35; Lk 13:14; Ac 18:8,17), who constructed the synagogue''for the reading of the Torah and the teaching of the commandments." The text also refers to guest rooms and accommodations for those traveling from abroad. Ancient synagogues served as a central meeting place for local Jewish communities. The synagogue played a complementary role to the temple by providing a venue for local services of word and prayer, as well as a forum for communal assemblies, study, hospitality and even religious courts. Synagogues are mentioned in a wide variety of Jewish literary works.

    • According to Talmudic sources there were some 480 synagogues in Jerusalem Pr* to the destruction of the temple. Josephus (Against Apion, 2.17) considered the Public reading and learning of the Torah to he the essential element of the weekly synagogue service, a practice he perceived to have been ordained by Moses.

    • Philo likewise referred to synagogues as schools at which the ancestral philosophy was taught (Life of Moses, 2.39).

    • The New Testament corroborates this general picture (Ac 15:21) and also presents numerous examples of reading and teaching Scripture in synagogues by Jesus (Mt 4:23; 9:35; Mk 1:21; Lk 4:16 —21; in 6:59;18:20), Paul (Ac 9:20; 17:10; 19:8) and other early leaders (13:5; 14:1).

    • According to rabbinic sources the synagogue service included the recitation of the Shema and its blessings (i.e., Nu 15:37-41; Dt 6:4-9; 11:13-21), the Amidah or Prayer of Eighteen Benedictions, the reading of the weekly Torah portion, a reading from the Prophets, an exposition or translation of the Scripture and the priestly benediction. Those in attendance were seated according to age and status (cf. Mt 23:6; Lk 20:46), and the entire congregation was orientated toward the Most Holy Place in Jerusalem (cf.1Ki 8:48).

Synagogues were typically built in close proximity to rivers or other bodies of water that could provide for the ritual washings required of those participating in the service (cf. Ac 16:13)) Architectural styles of ancient synagogues varied considerably. In fact, the earliest synagogue meetings may have been held within large private dwellings, with synagogue buildings appearing as separate edifices approximately one century after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.R. 70.

The building was usually oriented toward Jerusalem, perhaps reflecting the practice of praying toward this sacred city (d. 1Ki 8:44-48; Da 6:10). The Torah ark (the box containing the Torah) represented the visual focal point of the synagogue, communicating a holiness flowing from the temple in Jerusalem. Synagogues are distinguished archaeologically by the presence of Jewish religious symbols such as the menorah (candelabrum), shofar (ram's horn), and a niche for the Torah. At a further stage of development, during the late Roman and Byzantine periods, Biblical scenes and even characters were depicted in elaborate stone mosaics. Surprisingly, even astrological symbols appear in some mosaics. Spectacular examples of such mosaics have been uncovered in excavations at the synagogue of Beth Alpa, Gerasa, Hammath and Dura Europos.

Caesarea Maritima

ACTS 10 Caesarea Maritima (also called Caesarea Augusta), located near the site of modern Tel Aviv, is to be distinguished from Caesarea Philippi, located north of the Sea of Galilee.' Caesarea Maritima was constructed by Herod the Great from 22 to 10 c.c., Built to be one of the great cities of the Roman Empire, Caesarea was renowned for its beauty. The city boasted a temple dedicated to Augustus Caesar, a large hippodrome, a theater (including an inscription that mentions Pontius Pilate),, large waterfront warehouses and a sewer system. Five major roads led into Caesarea. Its harbor, Sebastos, was an engineering wonder that included artificial breakwaters and features that mitigated silt accumulation and wave damage. Ships entering the harbor passed through an entryway flanked by colossal statues of the imperial family. Underwater archaeology was carried out in the harbor area by the Caesarea Ancient Harbor Excavation Project (CAHEP) during the 1980s.

Paul often traveled by way of the port at Caesarea (Ac 9:30; 18:22;21:8;27:2) and was guarded in Herod's Praetorium there during the last two years of procurator Antonius Felix's governorship (c. A.D. 58-59).4 Caesarea, the Roman headquarters for the province, maintained a large Roman garrison. Vespasian and Titus used the city as a base of operations for the Roman army during the war of A.D. 66-72 against the Jews.

Both Christians and Jews established schools of higher education in Caesarea Maritima. Christian scholars who worked there include Origen, Pamphilus and the church historian Eusebius. Numerous remains from the later Byzantine, Crusader and Muslim periods have also been excavated there.

Claudius, Emperor of Rome

ACTS 11 Claudius, the Roman emperor from A.D.41 to 54, was an effective ruler, with the style of administration becoming less despotic and more bureaucratic during his tenure. He expanded the empire and improved roads and aqueducts in Italy and the provinces. Classical writers have reported, however, that the reign of Claudius was a period of distress and scarcity due to scanty harvests and other causes.

Early in his rule Claudius issued edicts favoring the Jews, reversing the policy of Caligula (Ac 37-41) and permitting Jews in all parts of the empire to freely observe their own laws and customs. Claudius made poor choices, however, in appointing procurators over Judea, and the situation there continued to deteriorate.2 Jews in Rome were not allowed to assemble because of their large number. Later, around the year 50, he expelled the Jews from Rome (18:2).The historian Suetonius (c. 70-130) recorded this event (Claudius, 25.4), which is historically significant for its connection to the rise of Christianity.3 For the infant Christian church, the reign of Claudius was a relatively quiet environment in which to grow, in contrast to the tumultuous reign of his successor, the infamous Nero (r. 54-68).

The Ancient City

ACTS 12 Ancient cities varied widely in size, structure and appearance. Models for the "ideal" city—such as those of the Greek engineer Hippodamus — existed, but reality was determined by topography; the availability of natural resources, especially water; and the need for provisions for protection, commerce and religious observance.

A city's outside walls were designed to protect residents from attack. Stone was the material of choice, yet mud brick and wood (which was vulnerable to burning) were also used. Major New Testament cities employed large, cut blocks (ashlars) for their walls. These fortifications were impressive for their depth and height, but during the Greco-Roman period walls were seldom comprised of solid rock. The outside and inside faces were stone, but a gap between them was filled with rubble, especially dirt. This added girth rendered a wall more resistant to bombardment, since the middle layer absorbed shock. It is common to find city walls between 5.5 yards and 7.7 yards (5 x 7 m) thick, as well as quite high. Fortified towers were often placed regularly along the course of the walls, giving guards the ability to monitor them and fire defensive weapons.

A second wall was typically constructed around the citadel (Greek acropolis), the highest point in the city and the last line of defense against an attack. Flavius Josephus reported that Herod the Great (37-4 B.c.)' expanded and strengthened Jerusalem's walls. Part of this project was the construction of the Tower of David on the city's citadel. Standing nearly 21 yards (19 m) above ground level and measuring 24 yards (22 m) by nearly 17 yards (15.5 m), it was a monument to the strength of Jerusalem's defenses. In 35 B.C. Herod also constructed the impressive Fortress of Antonia, the headquarters for the Roman military forces and perhaps also a prison (the likely location of Peter's incarceration), beside the temple mount. A city's market, located along the main road to maximize the flow of visitors and goods, was its social and commercial center. Known to the Greeks as the agora and to the Romans as the forum,this locale bustled with the sounds of haggling merchants, tethered animals and playing children.' During the Hellenistic period the Greeks surrounded the markets with stoas (open, roofed colon-colonnades).The Lower Agora at Pergamum, built during the reign of Eumenes II (197-49 B.c.), is an excellent example. Surrounded by two-storied stoas, it featured two aisles opening to the interior of the agora. These were left clear for foot traffic, with small shops inhabiting the rear aisles, allowing customers to escape the relentless sun. A cistern in a nearby house fed a fountain in the central courtyard of the agora through a system of underground clay pipes.

The market was also the site of monuments to local heroes and deities and an informal meeting place for residents and visitors. Especially in port cities, it was the location for debate on religious and philosophical ideas. This was the scenario in Acts 17, when Paul engaged the Athenians in discussion in their agora, reasoning with Epicureans, Stoics and any others who happened to be there.4 The subsequent debate with the council of the Areopagus would have occurred on Mars Hill, between the agora and the Acropolis.

In the ancient world it was believed that each city had a primary protector deity responsible for its well-being, and it was customary to honor that deity with a temple on the citadel. For example, the temple to Athena Parthenos (the Parthenon) was constructed between 447 and 432 B.C. in honor of the patron goddess of Athens. ln the polytheistic religions of antiquity, however,where dedication to a single deity was considered undesirable, temples to multiple gods were the rule. Athena,therefore, shared the Acropolis with sanctuaries to Poseidon,to the mythical king Erechtheus and to Nike (Victory). Rome displayed a similar variety of temples: to Roma, Venus, Diana, Apollo, Jupiter, Mars and other lesser deities and deified emperors,' as well as a temple dedicated to all the gods, the Pantheon., This highlights the uniqueness of the Jerusalem landscape, with its lone temple to the one true God.

Sergius Paulus, Proconsul of Cyprus

ACTS 13 Sergius Paulus was Paul's first recorded convert on his first missionary journey that took place around A.D. 46 (Ac 13:6-12).' This conversion took place in the city of Paphos on the island of Cyprus, off the coast of Syria. Paul and Barnabas landed at Seleucia, on the eastern coast of the island, and traveled overland to Paphos, on the western coast—a journey of about 105 miles (169 km) that would have taken at least a week. Cyprus was a Roman province ruled by a proconsul, or governor, from Paphos.2 Cicero, in a letter to one Sextilius Rufus (c. 50 e.c.), indicated that Paphos was the administrative center for the island.

Romans typically had three names: a praenomen, a nomen and a cognomen. The praenomen was a personal name, the nomen a clan name and the cognomen the name of iSee"The Missionary Journeys of Paul" on page 1795.

a particular branch within the clan.Thus, in the name Gaius Julius Caesar, Gaius was the personal name (praenomen),Julius the name of the clan (nomen) and Caesar the name of the extended family or subclan (cognomen) within the Julian clan.

The name Sergius Paulus provides only the nomen and the cognomen. Either of two inscriptions found in Cyprus may relate to the Sergius Paulus named in Acts 13:7. One records that a man named Paulus was proconsul around the year A.D. 50 (probably too late to relate to Paul's visit), while the other designates a Quintus Sergius Paulus as proconsul during the reign of Caligula/from A.D.37 — 41.In addition, a Latin inscription from Rome refers to a Lucius Sergius Paulus, who held an administrative position during the reign of Claudius, from A.D. 41-54.3 2See "The Roman Governor" on page 1824.

These inscriptions demonstrate that the Roman family Sergius Paulus was prominent during the period of Acts, and it is entirely feasible that a member of that family could have been serving as proconsul of Cyprus at the time of Paul's first missionary journey.

The Missionary Journeys of Paul

Acts 14 Although the apostle Paul embarked upon numerous missionary travels, traditionally these have been divided into three major journeys. It is estimated that the first lasted from A.o. 46 to 48; the itinerary moved from Syrian Antioch to Cyprus and then on to southern Asia Minor (Turkey), where Paul visited several cities before returning to Syrian Antioch., The second journey 2S (A.D. 49-52) involved an overland trip from Syrian Antioch across Asia Minor to Troas in the northwest, followed by a sea voyage is across the Aegean to Greece, with visits to Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens and Corinth.' Paul then crossed the Aegean to Ephesus (in Asia Minor) and from there made a lengthy sea voyage to Judea., The third journey, from A.D. 53 to 58, once again took him across Asia Minor and into Greece.

Certain elements of Paul's strategy and style are evident in his missionary work:

    • Paul was seldom without a fellow worker; his partners at various times included Barnabas,Silas, Luke and others. He also endeavored to train young Christians, such as John Mark, Timothy and Apollos, in the work of missions.

    • Paul always endeavored to speak in terms that would be meaningful to a particular audience (1Co 9:22). This is perhaps best demonstrated during his second journey in the city of Athens, where Paul delivered his famous sermon on Mars Facing an educated tribunal, he addressed his audience using logic and Greek poetry. Although his stay in Athens was not particularly successful overall, this strategy demonstrated a great strength of the apostle's style of communication.

    • From time to time Paul participated in the trade of tent-making in order to support his travels (Ac 18:3). Even though he believed that a minister of the gospel is worthy of pay, he did not want to alienate or antagonize anyone on the issue of financial support (1Co 9:6).

    • Paul tended to speak first at a local synagogue when preaching in a new city. This encounter generally met with forceful Jew-ish opposition,compelling him to move on to the Gentiles. This practice began in Pisidian Antioch (Ac 13:14), where Paul and Barnabas, after meeting with Jewish opposition, first proclaimed that they would then take the gospel to the Gentiles. This familiar pattern was once again repeated in Rome near the end of Paul's ministry (28:26-28).

    • Paul had to deal with persecution from both Jews and Gentiles.

The apostle was opposed by some Jews simply for preaching Jesus and by others (who believed in Jesus) for not requiring Gentiles to become proselytes to Judaism. Jewish leaders sometimes tried to prejudice local authorities against Paul, causing his expulsion from Antioch on charges of disturbing the peace (13:50).

Paul was opposed by Gentiles because he led his converts to abandon their traditional gods (see 19:23-41). Even though Paul was at times jailed and beaten by Roman authorities, he invoked his Roman citizenship at strategic points to further his ministry., Paul demonstrated deep commitment to the churches he planted, and his emotional ties to the new converts were deep (2Co 6:4-13): He worked on behalf of these fledgling churches night and day (1Th 2:9) and prayed for them continuously. Throughout his journeys Paul revisited churches, analyzing their growth and ministering to them. Paul also wrote letters to the various churches throughout his missionary journeys.

Debate and Rhetoric in the Ancient World

ACTS 15 Although the ability to speak persuasively has always been important, the formal study of rhetoric may be traced back to the fifth century B.C. Around 467 B.C. the tyrant Hieron died on the island of Syracuse, initiating a debate about land ownership among the inhabitants of the island. A man named Corax used this debate as an opportunity to offer training in the art of courtroom disputation and persuasion. A number of the city's inhabitants hired Corax as a private tutor, and the practice of systematic rhetoric was born. Corax's approach traveled to the cosmopolitan world of Athens,, and rhetoric quickly became one of the most significant intellectual disciplines.

The most renowned group to embrace rhetoric was the Sophists, a society of philosophers who believed that useful opinion was far more significant than knowledge or truth. They established an educational system that taught young men the"art" of language and persuasion.The Athenian political landscape, characterized at the time by change and unrest, offered the Sophists the opportunity to become quite wealthy in their pursuit.They prided themselves in their ability to debate from either side of an argument. This fact, which demonstrated their relative view of truth and justice, coupled with the exorbitant fees the Sophists charged, led many Athenians to distrust them.

The Greek philosopher Plato held only disdain for Sophists, believing that rhetoric's strength lay in its ability to attain and convey truth in the pursuit of justice—not in its power per se.The most renowned advocate, however, of systematic rhetoric in the ancient world was Aristotle, who insisted that value and truth had to be a part of the rhetorical process. A good rhetorician, he emphasized, needed to understand the argument as well as the human emotion surrounding it, maintain a worthy character, understand the relevant type of oratorical expression and be gifted with a natural persuasive ability. The persuasive process, he insisted, was accomplished by employing one or more of the three categories of appeal: logos (reason), pathos (emotional appeal) and ethos (virtue and goodwill).

Whether he was spreading the gospel via spoken word or pen, it is obvious that the apostle Paul to some degree employed the rhetorical training he had most certainly received (2Co 5:11). On the other hand, Paul was careful to avoid verbal trickery and insisted upon reliance on the power of God in winning people over (1Co 2:1-2). Even though systematic rhetoric has often been criticized as immoral or unethical, it is important to appreciate its value when it is properly employed.

The Ancient Agora

ACTS 16 In antiquity the agora (market-place) was the social, political and administrative center of the city. Two such marketplaces are mentioned in Acts. In the Roman colony of Lydia, after Paul cast out a demon from a slave girl, her owners dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities in the agora (16:19). Later, while in Athens, Paul reasoned daily with philosophers in that city's agora (17:17— 18). These Hellenic marketplaces would have been gathering places for the dissemination of ideas and for commerce, worship and the official business of the city authorities.

The ancient Athenian agora, lying at the foot of, and to the northwest of, the Acropolis, was impressive. Before the sixth century B.c. the space was used as a cemetery and domestic area during different periods. At the beginning of the sixth century, assemblies were held and dances performed on this site. Pisistratus erected a nine-spouted fountain and palace there, as well as a stadium for the Panathenaic games. The Panathenaic Way passed through the agora; its remains are still visible. When Athens became a democracy in the late sixth century B.c., a court was built in the agora, followed by several other public buildings on the western side of the area.Throughout the history of the marketplace, temples to various gods were erected, the most well preserved being the Temple of Hephaestus, built in the late fifth century a.c.The military headquarters was located there, as well as a prison. During the second century B.C. King Attalus of Pergamon constructed a stoa (an open, roofed colonnade) on the site with shops on one end.Today this ancient stoa is home to a museum dedicated to archaeological finds from the agora.

The Romans added more buildings and repaired those that had been damaged by war. A new marketplace, known as the Forum of Caesar and Augustus (popularly called the Roman Agora), was built to the east of the ancient one, and the two were connected by a street behind the Stoa of Attalus. The Roman Agora had a more commercial function. Interestingly, the water clock known as the Tower of the Winds (built during the first century A.D.) still stands. Other buildings from the first century A.D. include public lavatories and what was possibly the headquarters for law enforcement. Both the ancient and the Roman agoras would have been places of bustling activity during Paul's day.

The Areopagus

ACTS 17 In Acts 17:19 Paul was taken to a meeting of the Areopagus ("rock of Ares" or"rock of Areia,"another name for Athena), where he used the Greek altar to an unknown god as a point of contact to preach the gospel to the Athenian citizens (vv.22 — 31). Also known in antiquity as Mars Hill (Mars and Ares are both names for the Greek god of war), the site was used as an early meeting place by a council of nobility. The Council of the Areopagus had ruled Athens before it became a democracy in 620 B.C.' Thereafter, the power and prestige of the council declined, although it did retain some juridical prerogatives, especially the right to try those accused of murder. During the trial the accused would stand on the Rock of Insolence, while his accuser stood on the Rock of No-Mercy. (This procedure was still practiced a century after Paul's visit.) During the first century A.D. the council directed the internal affairs of Athens, especially in religious matters.

Although the location of Paul's speech is unknown, tradition places the Areopagus itself on a rocky hill just below the Acropolis and just above the agora. This hill rises approximately 380 feet (116 m). An ancient stairway carved into the rock is still used today, although centuries of wear have left the steps extremely slippery. On the crest may be seen the possible foundations of a building. Several finds suggest that the hill may have been an early religious site.On the other hand, since the council tried cases in the "Royal Stoa" (a building located at the northeastern corner of the Athenian agora), Paul's speech may have taken place there, before the Council of the Areopagus, instead of atop Mars Hill.


ACTS 18 Athens is situated five miles (eight km) from the Aegean Sea on the peninsula of Attica. Life there began at and has continued to revolve around the Acropolis, a rocky hill that rises 171 yards (156 m) above the city. It was there that Athenian culture began during the Neolithic Age' (4000 —3000 B.c.). Agricultural settlement on the Acropolis continued through the Bronze Age (3000-1100 B.c.), giving rise to the Mycenaean culture (1550-1050 B.c.), which saw the advent of commerce and the arts in the city. This culture declined during the twelfth century B.C., when Athens entered the Dark Ages, which were to last until the eighth century B.C.

The recorded history of Athens dates to the end of the seventh century B.C. Solon, an aristocrat who gained authority around 594 B.C., introduced the concept of democracy into Athenian culture.The same Solon, who was also a poet, used his art to instill a sense of patriotism and care for the common good into the Athenian culture.The process of democratizing Athens was completed around the end of the sixth century B.C. under Cleisthenes.

Athens became a fortified city in the fifth century B.C. during the threat of Persian invasion. In 490 B.C. Darius sent an expeditionary force to attack Athens,' but the Athenians defeated him on the plain of Marathon. In 480 B.C. Xerxes, Darius's son, made another attempt but was again forced to retreat. Although Athens withstood the invasion, the city was ravaged.

The 30 years following saw the rebuilding of Athens and the continued development of democracy. This period reached its zenith during the radical democratization under Pericles. During the years of his influence (450— 429 B.C.), Athens experienced the height of her glor; during this time the city saw the construction of the great temples of the Acropolis.Of the four great buildings, the first to be constructed was the Propylaea, a gateway offering access to temples dedicated to Athena Nike, as well as to the Erechtheum and the Parthenon, the masterpiece of ancient Greek architecture constructed from 447 to 432 B.C.

At the height of its power Athens dedicated itself to learning and art, with philosophy, rhetoric, drama and science becoming the foci of the educated populace. Still, the city suffered from a short-sighted foreign policy (characterized by a harsh domination of other Greek states) that led to the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.c.).This 27-year conflict between Sparta and Athens eventually saw the defeat of Athens. During the war the city fell victim to the military power of Sparta and to a plague that decimated a third of her population. In 404 B.C. Athens surrendered tinder the duress of a blockade. Sparta, beginning a tradition of treating Athens with respect, levied lenient terms against the defeated city.

At the onset of the fourth century B.C. Athens attempted to reclaim some of her previous glory.This quest was buoyed by the rise within the city of great intellectual power. Socrates (d. 399 B.c.) had begun an unprecedented period of intellectual pursuit. Although he did not write, his philosophical method and intellectual prowess created an impressive model. He was followed by his illustrious student Plato (427-348 B.c.).The Academy, established by Plato in 385 B.C., gained wide fame and attracted the great minds of the period.

In the middle of that century, however, Athens again faced invasion. In 338 B.C. Philip of Macedonia defeated the Athenian forces on the plain of Chaeronea. Due largely to the cultural stature it had achieved, Athens was once again spared harsh terms of peace. Macedonian rule continued until 228 B.C.

Athens later came under Roman influence. Many wealthy Romans sent their sons to study there, and the cultural prestige of Athens continued into the Christian era.The apostle Paul brought Christianity to Athens in A.D.54,as he defended the gospel at a meeting of the Areopagus (Mars Hill).He began by mentioning the altar to the "unknown god" and proceeded to call for the Athenians repentance. Although there is a monument dedicated to Paul's sermon on a hill traditionally known as the Areopagus, the location of the actual hill from which Paul spoke his sermon is uncertain., In 529 B.C. Emperor Justinian, in an attempt to eradicate paganism from the empire, closed Athens' schools, effectively ending the age of Alhek ian intellectual glory.


ACTS 18 The city of Alexandria ("Map 14"), founded by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. in the north-western Egyptian delta between the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Mareotis, quickly became one of the great cities of the Hellenistic culture. A center for education, it boasted the most renowned library of ancient times. At its harbor stood the lighthouse of Pharos, one of the wonders of the ancient world. Recently, the harbor waters of Alexandria have been the site of submarine archaeology; researchers have discovered under the sea magnificent examples of Egyptian and Greek art and also what may be remnants of the great lighthouse.

Alexandria, home to a large Jewish community that flourished even though the Jews there sometimes clashed with other groups, was also a center of Diaspora Jewish learning. By legend and no doubt in fact, much of the work of translating the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint version) was accomplished there.2 The great Jewish philosopher and Biblical scholar Philo (died c. A.D. 50) also lived and worked in Alexandria. Acts 18:24 describes Apollos of Alexandria as a Jewish intellectual, and what we know of the city and its Jewish population accords well with this description.

With the rise of Christianity, Alexandria became a center of Christian learning. A number of Christian scholars, including Clement and Origen, made the city their home. Following the lead of Philo, who read the Old Testament as an allegory of philosophical truth, the city became the center of"Alexandrian" interpretation, a method of reading much of the Hebrew Bible as an allegory for Christian teaching.

Gallio, Proconsul of Achaia

ACTS 18 During his second missionary journey Paul spent 18 months at Corinth (v. 11), the capital of the Roman province of Achaia ("Map 131.1 While there he was brought before Gallio, the Roman proconsul, (vv. 12-17).

Gallio was born in Corduba, Spain, as Marcus Annaeus Novatus. His name was changed to Gallio when the orator and senator Lucius Junius Gallio adopted him. Gallio's biological father was Lucius Annaeus Seneca

(Seneca the Elder), a well-known writer and rhetorician, and his younger brother was Lucius Annaeus Seneca, (Seneca the Younger), a renowned writer and politician. In A.D. 41 Gallio and his brother Seneca were banished to Corsica because of Seneca's alleged adultery with Julia Livilla, the sister of Emperor Caligula. Agrippina, Nero's mother, recalled the two in A.D. 49 so that Seneca could become Nero's tutor.

Gallio was proconsul of Achaia in 51-52. The date is accurately known thanks to an inscription discovered in Delphi, Greece, a copy of a letter from Emperor Claudius referring to "Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend, and the proconsul of Achaia."4 Seneca wrote of Gallio's charm and humility and dedicated two of his books to him.The Gallio inscription is of enormous importance in dating Paul's 18-month stay in Corinth. It suggests that he was there from the fall of 50 until the late spring of 52.

Artemis of Ephesians

ACTS 19 Artemis of Ephesus ("Map 13") was a tremendously popular deity; in fact, the Greek traveler Pausanias stated that she was the god(dess) most worshiped in private devotions in the Mediterranean world. Her cult idol was unusual—a stiff, elongated body with legs bound together in mummy-like fashion. The upper half of the front torso was covered with protuberances resembling human breasts, so that she was sometimes called the"many-breasted Artemis."She wore a necklace of acorns, for the oak tree was sacred to her, and on her breastplate appeared the signs of the zodiac. On her head rose a high crown, often topped with the turrets of the city of Ephesus.' This crown may have concealed a meteorite "which fell from heaven"(Ac 19:35). Frequently her skirt was decorated with rows of animals, an indicator of fertility, and along the sides were bees, depicted as both actual insects and as priestesses ("honey bees"), adorned with crowns and wings. Artemis herself was known as the queen bee, and her castrated priests were called"drones."

Her image, said to possess particular sanctity, appears on coins, papyri, wall paintings, reliefs, statuettes (cf.v. 24) and in larger statuary. Some 50 stone statues of Artemis have been excavated at ancient sites in widely separated parts of the ancient world. It was said that six magical words were inscribed upon the image of the Ephesian Artemis, although these have never been found. Incantations in the name of Artemis were said to have had a powerful force (v. 19), a claim attested by magical papyri.

The first idol to Artemis was said to have been carved of wood and set in an oak tree at Ephesus by the Amazons. The sanctuary was soon surrounded by a village as it became a site of pilgrimage.On the site one temple succeeded another in size and splendor, until the final shrine was considered one of the wonders of the ancient world. Thousands of personnel served within the immense confines of the sanctuary, and huge sums of money were entrusted to the keeping of Artemis. As a result the temple complex became the major banking center of Asia., Not only was Artemis the guardian deity of Ephesus, but she also figured as savior goddess in inscriptions. The dead were entrusted to her care, and she was thought to have lent her assistance to women in childbirth. Secret rituals known as "mysteries," portraying both birth and death, initiated her devotees.

The book of Acts (19:23-41) records the first of many confrontations between the followers of Christ and those of Artemis.At last the cause of Christ prevailed:The great temple was demolished and the cult statues were hidden.

Greece: From the Prehistoric Period Through the Mycenaean Empire

ACTS 20 The habitation of Greece dates back to the prehistoric period, with the earliest identifiable farming communities in the fertile plains of Thessaly and Macedonia, two regions in northern Greece. Between 2200 and 2000 B.C. several waves of invaders overran the region and established settlements. It is believed that these tribes were the ethnic ancestors of the modern Greeks, although they left no evidence of an organized society.

The first great civilization in the area developed on Crete. Modern scholars refer to this culture as that of the Minoans, a name that comes from Minos, a legendary king of Crete. We do not know what these people called themselves, since researchers have been unable as yet to decipher the script in which their language was written, known simply as Linear A.

The Minoans were highly accomplished artists, engineers,sailors and merchants (Minoan motifs appear in some Egyptian art-work). Eventually,Minoan civilization declined until it disappeared entirely by 1000 B.c. The collapse of the Minoan civilization is often attributed to a catastrophic volcanic eruption on the nearby island of Thera (modern Santorini) during the mid-second millennium B.C. perhaps c. 1640 a.c.). Although that must lave been a major trauma, the Minoans continued as a people long after that event. It was probably the pillaging of their territory by the Sea Peoples, beginning around 1200 B.c.,that finally brought the Minoan age to an end. Today a traveler may visit the ruins of four grand Minoan palaces at Knossos, Pha-estos, Malia and Zakros, replete with numerous famous frescoes, jewelry and other artwork.

Around 1400 B.c. the Mycenaean Empire rose to prominence. Its capital, Mycenae, was a heavily fortified city located in the north-eastern part of the Peloponnesian peninsula. Its influence spread over the mainland and many of the islands,and the Mycenaeans developed their own written language, known to archaeologists as Linear B. In 1952 Michael Ventris, a British architect, managed to decipher this language, discovering it to be a pre-alphabetic form of Greek—making the Mycenaeans the first identifiable Greek speakers. Their most famous king, Agamemnon, was said by Homer to have led a Greek military campaign in approximately 1250 B.C. against the city of Troy, located on the western coast of modern Turkey. According to Homer, rulers of the various districts of Greece were obliged to provide men and supplies for this operation. For many years scholars doubted the historicity of the Trojan War, but archaeological discoveries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including that of the city of Troy itself, have led most researchers to conclude that Homer's epic was based upon actual events, even if his account was mythologized.

By 1150 B.C. the great centers of Mycenaean civilization had been destroyed. The collapse of the Mycenaean civilization is often attributed to invaders from the north, but there is little clear evidence to support this hypothesis. It is possible that the end of Mycenaean civilization came as a result of changes in military strategy and weaponry that made the older military aristocracy of Mycenae obsolete and led to the emergence of roving troops of infantry (the Sea Peoples), bent upon conquest and plunder. Regardless of the cause, for several hundred years Greece was immersed in a dark age. Settlements became isolated on account of poverty and the rugged, mountainous terrain that separated Greece from her neighbors.

Greece: From Independent City-states Through Alexander the Great

ACTS 20 During this period the autonomous city-state, or polls, developed. Fear of attack was constant, and most of the hundreds of city-states grew up around a high, easily defensible stronghold called a citadel or acropolis. During the Archaic period (seventh—sixth centuries B.c.) Greece began to rebound, and particular city-states asserted themselves. In the Peloponnesian peninsula (southwestern Greece), Sparta rose to prominence, as did Corinth and Argos in the north and east, respectively. In northern Greece Thebes exercised hegemony over the Boeotian League, a federation of cities in that area, while Athens and Megara vied for authority in the region of Attica.' Meanwhile, Greek colonies thrived across the eastern Mediterranean. The two major centers for Greek colonies were the western coastline of Anatolia (Turkey) and the lower half of Italy, including Sicily.

Soon after 500 B.c.the Greeks found themselves facing a formidable external threat. The Persian king Darius I had extended his influence as far east as modern Pakistan and as far west as Thrace and Macedonia., The Greek cities of western Anatolia, with the help of several Greek city-states, rebelled against Persia in 499-493 B.C. After Darius crushed the revolt, he decided that all of Greece must be subdued, and he dispatched envoys throughout the region to demand allegiance. Many City States —but not Athens or Sparta—acquiesced. Darius, arriving in 490 with a sizable army, destroyed the city of Eretria and began pushing south toward Athens. His force of perhaps 20,000 soldiers met an inferior Athenian contingent of 9,000 at Marathon. The brilliant Athenian general Miltiades nonetheless led his men to a decisive victory (492 B.C.)

Following the death of Darius, his son Xerxes returned to Greece in 480 B.C. with a massive army. The Persian war machine moved south, overwhelming everything in its path. Sparta prepared for land defense, while Athens enlarged her navy.The Persians sacked Athens (which the Athenians had abandoned), but the Athenian navy managed to lure Xerxes into a battle in a narrow channel near the island of Salamis,where the trapped Persians were thoroughly defeated. Because his army was extremely vulnerable without support from the sea, Xerxes retreated, leaving a contingent of 60,000 troops that attempted to subdue the Greeks in the following year. They were destroyed by a Spartan-led army at Plataea, effectively ending the Persian threat.

Just prior to 500 B.C. Athens became the first democracy in history. The people had expelled a series of tyrants and established a popular assembly. The other city-states mis-trusted the Athenians and their aberrant form of government, and Athens gave the others additional cause for concern: Following the expulsion of the Persians from Greece and, soon afterward, from some Greek cities of Asia Minor, Athens founded the Athenian League, a confederation of Greek cities around the Aegean Sea. Athens, as leader, became tremendously wealthy from the tribute it gathered. The glorious monuments on the Athenian Acropolis were funded by money extracted from the league's members, and by the mid-fifth century B.C. Athens had become Greece's wealthiest, as well as culturally dominant, city. The comic playwright Aristophanes;the tragic playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; and the philosopher Socrates all inhabited the city at this time.

In 431 B.C. Sparta, Corinth, Megara and other allies responded with military force.The historian Thucydides recounted the events of the conflict in The Peloponnesian War. A plague ravaged the Athenian population in 430, yet Athens continued to hold up under the heavy threat. The turning point came when the Athenians launched a failed campaign to conquer Syracuse on the island of Sicily. The Spartans seized their advantage and forced an Athenian surrender in 404, pulling down its walls but sparing the city.

For much of the fourth century B.C. Greece was entangled in conflicts among a resurgent Athens, Sparta, Corinth and Thebes. Alliances among the four prominent cities were repeatedly formed and broken.The future of Greece, however, by this point lay to the north, with Philip II of Macedon, whose army swept south and crushed the confederated Greek army in 338 B.C. at Chaeronea, near Thebes. Several attempts at revolt proved pointless, and Macedonian control of Greece was strengthened under Philip's son, Alexander the Great, who launched an invasion of the Persian Empire and, in the course of a few years of lightning campaigns through Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia, brought that empire to its end.

Greece: Roman Domination and the Growth of Christianity

ACTS 20 Following Alexander's death in 323 B.c., a power struggle ensued among his leading generals. Greece eventually fell under the control of Antigonus and his descendants, referred to as the Antigonids.The malcontent Greeks countered by forming two federal states, the Aetolian League in the north and the Achaean League, led by Corinth, in the south. Beginning in 214 B.C. the Antigonid king Philip V attempted to punish these states and to tighten his grip on Greece. In response, the Greek states sought help from an emerging power in the west: Rome. The Romans, who had previously attempted to invade Philip's territories, answered by dispatching a sizable military force. In 197 B.C. the Roman general Titus Quinctius Flaminius soundly defeated Philip V's army in Thessaly. By 196 the "liberation" of Greece was complete, and the Roman province of Achaea was born.

The Romans held Greek civilization in the highest regard and adopted many of its customs and traditions. Rome protected the great cities and monuments of Greece, as long as Roman dominance was not challenged by the Greeks—who did test this on two occasions, both with disastrous results. In 172 B.C. Perseus, son of Philip V, invaded Greece in an attempt to win back the lands of his father. Many Greeks were sympathetic to Perseus, and, after his total defeat in 167, the Romans punished the Greeks by carrying a thousand noble Greek youths to Rome as hostages. In 146 B.C. the Achaean League, led by Corinth, rose in revolt. The Romans responded by sending the general Mummius, who defeated an insignificant Achaean force and entered Corinth unopposed. He burned the city, killed its inhabitants and took much of its valuable artwork back to Rome. This incident put an end to any realistic dreams of resurgent Greek independence.

Corinth was reestablished by Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. as a Roman colony, and the Greeks lived in relative peace within the Roman Empire from that point on. Corinth, which had major harbors opening to the eastern and western Mediterranean, grew to be Greece's commercial capital and most cosmopolitan city.' Athens retained its position as the cultural center of Greece, while Sparta and Thebes became insignificant.The impressive system of Roman roads brought commercial prowess to other locations in Greece, such as Thessalonica and Philippi. Under Roman rule Greece enjoyed something it had never experienced while free: peace. In this ideal situation, the New Testament church took root and was able to thrive.

Gamaliel, Paul's Teacher

ACTS 22 Gamaliel was one of the greatest teachers of Judaism. His grandfather, Hillel, founded the more liberal of the two main schools of the Pharisees,' and Gamaliel was the first of seven leaders of the school of Hillel to be honored with the title Rabban,"Our Rabbi." Paul, while making his defense on the steps of the Fortress of Antonia after his arrest in the temple, stated that he had been brought up in Jerusalem and, under Gamaliel, "thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers" (Ac 22:3). Paul, in other words, had received the best possible Jewish education of his day.

Gamaliel, Paul's Teacher Gamaliel is also mentioned in chapter 5 in connection with the appearance of Peter and the apostles before the Sanhedrin on the charge of teaching about Jesus.2 The members of the Sanhedrin became incensed when Peter and the apostles declared "We must obey God rather than men!" (5:29) and were about to put them to death. But Gamaliel," a Pharisee ... a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people" (5:34), as a member of the Sanhedrin persuaded them to let the apostles go, wisely observing,"If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men" (5:38-39).

Gamaliel was a man of great intellect who studied not only Biblical law but also Greek literature (his love of Greek set him apart from many of his more zealous rabbinical colleagues). Gamaliel tended to be pragmatic in his interpretation of the law and was known for his tolerant attitude. He recommended that Sabbath observance be less rigorous and burdensome, regulated laws of divorce in order to protect women and urged kindness toward Gentiles.

The Sanhedrin

ACTS 23 The Greek noun synedrion can be used generically to indicate a civic council or a local court. Within the New Testament, however, the Sanhedrin refers to the highest Jewish judicial council in Jerusalem, under the leadership of the high priest (Ac 5:21; 22:5; 23:1-2). According to rabbinic sources, the Jerusalem Sanhedrin was comprised of 71 members, reflecting the Biblical practice instituted by Moses (70 elders plus Moses; see Ex 24:1,9; Nu 11:16).

The idea of a ruling council composed of leading aristocratic citizens reflects the structure of Greek civic constitutions. The high priestly aristocracy played a leading role from the outset, but the Sanhedrin was gradually forced to make way for lay representatives drawn largely from the Pharisees. During the New Testament period, the Jerusalem Sanhedrin consisted of a sometimes mutually-hostile mixture of aristocratic, priestly Sadducees and learned, lay Pharisees (Ac 23:6-9). Membership in the Sanhedrin was conferred by appointment and accompanied by a ceremony of ordination through the laying on of hands (cf. Nu 27:18-23; Dt 34:9).

The Sanhedrin functioned as the supreme Jewish court, trying appellate cases sent up from lower courts and maintaining an exclusive competence over certain cases. For example, a high priest or a false prophet could be tried only by the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. Even during the era of direct Roman rule, the Sanhedrin retained a significant degree of juridical authority.This was particularly true on matters deemed to be of importance specifically within Jewish law (in 18:31; Ac 18:15; 24:6).

The authority of the Sanhedrin to adjudicate capital crimes during the first century A.D. has been the focus of much research and debate. Prior to this time the Sanhedrin, like other supreme courts in the ancient world, clearly possessed such authority. But afterward the power of the sword appears to have lain exclusively in Roman hands.The real situation of the first century reflects a period of legal ambiguity, in which both Roman and Jewish leaders competed for ultimate control. On the one hand, key sources attest to a gradual increase in Roman claims to try and execute capital crimes (Josephus,Antiquities, 18.1.1; Wars, 2.8.1). Some Jewish and Christian sources suggest that capital authority was removed from Israel during this period (in 18:31). On the other hand, literary and archaeological sources suggest that the Sanhedrin did in fact possess authority in capital cases, especially in those pertaining to the desecration of the sanctuary or other specifically religious charges, such as blasphemy (Mt 26:59-66; Ac 6:11-7:60; 21:27-33; Antiquities, 20.9.1; Wars, 6.2.4).

The Roman Governor

ACTS 25 Six Roman governors are mentioned in the New Testament: Quirinius (Syria; Lk 2:2), Pilate (Judea; Mt 27:2-65, etc.),1 Sergius Paulus (Cyprus; Ac 13:6-12),2 Gallio (Achaia; 18:12-17), Felix (Judea; 23:23-24:27; 25:14)3 and Festus (Judea; 24:27-26:32).They administered their provinces from a capital city and lived in a palace-fortress called a praetorium. In Judea the Roman administrative center was at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast; there Paul was held prisoner (23:33-35).4 There was also a praetorium in Jerusalem where the governor would stay when he was in residence there; there Jesus was tried and mocked (Mt 27:27; Mk 15:16;Jn 18:28; 19:9). When Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, was stripped of his power in A.D. 6, the governance of the territory of Judea was transferred to the ruler of Syria, Quirinius. Coponius was chosen as the new governor of Judea and was given the title of praefectus (prefect). The prefect alone controlled the appointment of high priests and retained the prerogative of capital punishment. In cases in which the sanctity of the temple had allegedly been violated, the Sanhedrin may also have been able to exercise the right to impose the death sentence, but even then the governor had to give his consent.6 After A.D. 44 the governor's title was changed to procurator, an equestrian rank. Although the procurator continued to exercise full judicial powers, he lost the right to appoint and depose high priests.

Felix, a freed slave of the family of Emperor Claudius,' was governor of Judea from A.D. 52 to 60. During his tenure Felix married Drusilla, the great-granddaughter of Herod the Great (24:24).8 His rule was marked by unrest, and he was ultimately recalled to Rome and tried for his misgovernment, resulting in banishment. Paul was confined at Caesarea for two years, until Festus replaced Felix in A.D. 60 (24:27).9 Festus speedily acted upon Paul's case and granted his request to be tried in Rome (25:12). Festus's term was cut short when he died unexpectedly two years after his appointment. According to Josephus (Antiquities, 20.9.1), before Festus's successor arrived in Judea, the high priest Ananias usurped the procurator's sole right to impose capital punishment and had James the brother of Jesus executed, along with several others whom he claimed had broken Jewish law.

Imprisonment in Rome World: In Prison Versus House Arrest

ACTS 26 Persons were imprisoned in Roman times while awaiting trial or execution, for political reasons or for ensuring compliance with a judicial order. Paul was detained for trial in Caesarea (Ac 13:33-24:27) and in Rome (Ac 28:16), John the Baptist was imprisoned for accusing Herod of adultery and thus threatening his political authority (Lk 3:19--20) and debtors were sometimes imprisoned to pressure them to pay their debts (Mt 18:30:Lk 12:58). Imprisonment as a method of formal punishment as a method of formal punishment was rare.

Samaria (Ac 12), experienced various degrees of imprisonment. At first Emperor Tiberius, placed him in chains in a military camp under the prefect of the praetorians in Rome. Tiberius's sister-in-law, Antonia, lessened the severity of conditions during this incarceration, asking the guard to be more humane. to allow Agrippa to bathe every day and to permit his friends to bring him food and clothing. After Tiberius died Agrippa was allowed to live in his own private residence. He was still guarded and chained at the wrist to a guard each day but was permitted to handle his own affairs (Josephus, Antiquities, IS.6.6- 11). Paul was probably detained in the Praetorium, a fortress or governor's residence, while in Caesarea. While in Rome he was al ed to clv‘ c i outside the military camp, as well as to find and rent his own quarters. He received this relatively mild treatment for three reasons:

    • Paul was a Roman citizen)

    • He had received favorable verdicts from governors Festus and Agrippa.

    • The praetorian prefect overseeing prisoners from the provinces in the years A.D.51- 62 was the honest Afranius Burrus.

Paul's trial took two years to conclude. According to Eusebius (History, 2.22,25), Paul was released but later detained again in Rome when Nero began to execute Christians.' Paul was at that point probably placed in the tollionwn, the underground execution cell of the prison at Rome.

The Roman Army and the Occupation of the Holy Land

ACTS 27 The Roman army was arguably the greatest single military organization in world history, as it was consistently victorious and maintained its identity and traditions for nearly a thousand years. The early Roman armies were composed entirely of property-owning citizens because service in the army was regarded as a privilege. Wealthier citizens formed the cavalry and poorer citizens the infantry (a necessary arrangement, since troops provided their own gear). Allies provided the manpower for specialized forces, such as archers. As Rome grew to be a world power, however, this arrangement proved inadequate.

In 107 B.C. C Marius reformed the army and accepted landless recruits, equipping them at state expense. This was the beginning of professional Roman armies that owed their allegiance to their generals and also expected from them rich rewards for years of loyal service. In 88 B.C. Sulla used his legions to seize power in Rome itself, and this precedent began a series of civil wars. Julius Caesar employed his armies to end the republic and establish himself as dictator, but the turmoil did not end until Augustus established the empire and placed all legions under his direct command.

Although Rome produced a number of great generals, the secret of Roman success lay in the legendary discipline of its troops. Ancient battles, because they were fought face-to-face and were bloody affairs, tended to be extremely short, typically ending as soon as one side panicked, broke ranks and fled. Romans, when confronted, for example, with a furious onslaught of Gauls, simply refused to break ranks, and after a few minutes of fighting the Gauls turned and ran. The Carthaginian Hannibal, the greatest general Rome ever faced, inflicted a terrible defeat on the Roman army at Cannae in 216 B.C. Even so, Roman perseverance won out, and Hannibal ultimately lost the Second Punic War.

The presence of Roman armies in Judea created an explosive situation. The Jews despised the Romans as pagans and were offended at the presence of Roman war standards, with the idol-like eagle at the top, in close proximity to their temple. Fanatics and messianic pretenders, such as Bar-Kokhba, assured the Jews that God would intervene if they were to rise up against Rome. For their part, Romans sometimes infuriated Jews with needless insults.Two Jewish revolts (A.D. 66-70 and 132-135) both ended in catastrophic defeat for the Jewish people.