Monday, May 04, 2015

A new undesigned coincidence discovered

This is hot off the presses, folks, just discovered late last night. I found it while reading Paley's Horae Paulinae and comparing some biblical passages, but it is not contained in the Horae Paulinae, possibly because Paley did not have available to him the NASB or any other translation based upon the older text families as opposed to the textus receptus.

Here's the context: In II Corinthians 11:8-9, Paul says,

I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.
For this side of the UC, it doesn't matter what translation you use. That is the ESV translation of II Cor. 11:8-9.

In this passage Paul is discussing his own first interaction with the Corinthians, which is apparently recounted in Acts 18 where Paul comes to Corinth and founds the church there. Paul, in II Cor., is defending all of his proceedings with the Corinthians and, in these verses, defending himself against any idea that he tried to milk them for money. He says that, when he was in Corinth, his financial needs were supplied from other churches, by implication churches in Macedonia, rather than by the Corinthians themselves.

Now see Acts 18:3-5, first in the KJV:

And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them [Aquila and Priscilla], and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.

Now in the NASB:

[A]nd because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. (emphasis added)
Other modern translations of the crucial vs. 5 are similar to the NASB. For example, the NIV has:
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
The ESV is clearly based on the same text family but does not emphasize as much of a contrast between vss. 3-4 and vs. 5:
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
The textual difference between the textus receptus and the oldest texts lies in the question of what Paul was wholly occupied with or "pressed" by--was it the word or the spirit?

Whether one accepts the textual reading "word" or "spirit," I would argue that vs. 5 does present a contrast with vss. 3-4. As the pulpit commentary says,

As an English phrase, this ["was constrained by the word"] is almost destitute of meaning. If the R.T. [textus receptus] is right [in saying that he was constrained in the spirit], and it has very strong manuscript authority, the words συνείχετο τῷ λόγῳ mean that he was seized, taken possession of, and as it were bound by the necessity of preaching the Word, constrained as it were to preach more earnestly than ever.
The pulpit commentary continues:
In St. Luke συνέχεσθαι is a medical term: in Luke 4:28, R.T., "Holden with a great fever;"Luke 8:37, "Holden with a great fear;" Acts 28:8, "Sick of fever and dysentery;" and so frequently in medical writers ('Medical Language of St. Luke,' Hobart). But it is worth considering whether συνείχετο [the word for "pressed" or "constrained"] is not in the middle voice, with the sense belonging to συνεχής, i.e. "continuous," "unbroken," and so that the phrase means that, after the arrival of Silas and Timothy, St. Paul gave himself up to continuous preaching.
This is obviously how several modern translations have taken it, in conjunction with the word "word" rather than "spirit"--that after Silas and Timothy's arrival, Paul gave himself over to preaching more continuously than he had before. The verb translated in the NASB "began devoting himself completely" appears to be in a voice that means  that one began and continued the action. (See the pulpit commentary above.)

Either way, the idea is that something changed when Timothy and Silas arrived from Macedonia. Why would this be? Would it simply be a psychological matter of Paul's being inspired by their arrival to work harder? Yet we know that Paul always worked hard at preaching. The word "tireless" scarcely does him justice!

If we look at vss. 3-4, we find a pattern of work: Paul was working at his tent-making, presumably during the working week, and going into the synagogue and preaching on the Sabbath, when of course his tent-making work would have been forbidden by the Law of Moses. Verse 5, then, can plausibly be read as standing in contrast to this pattern. When Timothy and Silas arrived from Macedonia, Paul devoted his time more fully than before to preaching the word.

If we connect this with the coming of messengers from Macedonia to Corinth mentioned in II Corinthians 11, the inference springs to mind that Timothy and Silas are those referred to in II Corinthians 11 and that they brought money from a church or churches in Macedonia. This freed Paul from the need to work at tent-making. Hence, it was when they arrived that Paul began to devote himself entirely to preaching the word (or, if you take the textus receptus reading, became more constrained in spirit to preach). Yet Acts says nothing about their bringing money. (It is an interesting and curious fact that Acts more than once omits references to contributions or monetary transactions when these appear, from the epistles, to have been going on at the time.)

This is exactly the sort of minute but casual and subtle congruence between the epistles and Acts that Paley teases out and celebrates in the Horae Paulinae. In this case, Paley does note (p. 116) that the coming of Timothy and Silas to Corinth in Acts 18 appears to be the arrival referred to in II Corinthians 11. But he does not note the change in Paul's behavior at the time of their coming. Plausibly he does not note this because he was working with the KJV and therefore had only the odd phrase "he was pressed in the spirit" rather than the clearer "he began devoting himself completely to the word."

I have not seen this undesigned coincidence noted anywhere else, so it appears that modern textual scholarship and translations have brought to light a previously unknown undesigned coincidence between a Pauline epistle and the book of Acts. Note that this confirms that the author of Acts had intimate knowledge of the movements of Paul at this time in his ministry, even as his ministry emphasis changed from one week to the next.

A few more details:

Paley conjectures elsewhere (pp. 271-274), based on I Thessalonians 3:1-7 and Acts 17:15-16, that Timothy came to Paul in Corinth from Thessalonica at this time. Paley's idea is that Paul had (though this is not mentioned in Acts explicitly) actually seen Timothy in Athens and had, per I Thessalonians 3, sent him back to Thessalonica to strengthen the new Christians there, whom Paul had been forced to leave hastily when a riot arose in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-10). (It must have been hard being Timothy, Titus, or any of Paul's other co-workers. The epistles show ample evidence that he would summon them and then send them out again, sometimes over the very route they had just traveled and hither and yon, to check up on the churches' spiritual well-being. Compare Acts 17:15, where Paul is sent hastily to Athens from Berea to get away from a possible riot in Berea. He leaves word for Timothy and Silas to follow him ASAP. Yet it appears that when they met him in Greece they were almost immediately sent back to Thessalonica, which is near Berea in Macedonia, because Paul had meanwhile become worried about the Thessalonians!)

Philippians 4:15-16 states that after Paul left Macedonia, at least at first, only the Philippians sent him any financial assistance. Timothy and Silas were therefore in all probability bringing money from the Philippians, though they had not most recently been visiting Philippi but rather (probably) Thessalonica. Paul also says in Philippians 4:16 that the Philippians actually sent money to him more than once in Thessalonica. It is therefore quite possible that Timothy picked up a contribution that had been sent to Thessalonica for Paul and brought it down to him in Corinth. Another possibility is that Paul is saying in Philippians only that at first ("in the beginning of the gospel") only the Philippians sent him money after he left Macedonia (e.g., perhaps some came to him when he was in Athens). By the time he was in Corinth the Thessalonians and/or the Bereans might have decided to send him a contribution of their own, which could have come to Corinth with Timothy and Silas.

In any event, the inference is quite strong that Timothy and Silas brought Paul money in Corinth from some church or churches in Macedonia and that this is why he devoted his time more fully to preaching after they arrived.

The discovery of a new undesigned coincidence, especially one so much in the spirit of the great Paley himself, is always exciting.

9 comments:

Edgar Andrews said...

Excellent Lydia. This really brings the relevant scriptures to life!

Mark McGee said...

Excellent insight, Lydia! Thank you so much for sharing.

I'm also interested in a possible undesigned coincidence for 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 where Paul said he was thankful that he had not baptized many people 'lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.' What I'm looking for is a possible undesigned coincidence that would help explain this statement in verse 17 … "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect." Where else in Acts or other Pauline writings would we see this idea that Christ did not send Paul to baptize but to preach the Gospel?

Thanks again for your great work on Acts 18 and 2 Corinthians 11!

Mark McGee
Faith and Self Defense

Shandon L. Guthrie said...

An impressive find! I wonder if the omission of Paul's new-found financial backing might in part be due to Luke's penchant for emphasizing that the pursuit of money is counter-spiritual (cf. Luke 6.20; 16.13).

Mark Phillips said...

Good stuff, Lydia. Love to discover more golden nuggets in the text. Thank you for your hard work!

Mark S. Phillips

Lydia McGrew said...

Mark, nothing is springing to mind concerning Paul's not baptizing. The most I can say is that there is, to the best of my recollection, no mention anywhere in Acts of Paul's baptizing anyone. But that tells us very little one way or another.

Shandon, I really don't know what the best explanation is concerning Acts and money. I'm weakly inclined to think that it was just not a topic that interested Luke.

He does mention the _first_ contribution to Judea in connection with a famine (Acts 11:28-30). But he omits all direct reference to Paul's collection for the church at Jerusalem which Paul must have been organizing in the time represented by Acts 19-20:3. Acts records only Paul's own oblique mention of this collection in his defense before Felix: Acts 24:17.

The contrast with Paul's mind is striking. Paul talks about money a lot in the epistles.

leftunhinged said...

Thanks for sharing this with everybody! You're doing great work for the Kingdom of God!

Lydia McGrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony said...

Hot diggity! Nice work, Lydia.

Maryann Spikes said...

Love this :)