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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue.—The better MSS. omit the word “Greeks,” which was probably inserted as an explanatory interpolation by some one who thought it more likely that a ruler of the synagogue should have been assaulted by the Greek bystanders than by those of his own race. Taking the better reading, and assuming the natural construction of the sentence to be “all of them (sc., the Jews) took Sosthenes and beat him,” we have to ask for an explanation of conduct which seems so strange. This is probably found in the appearance of the same name in 1Corinthians 1:1, as associated with St. Paul in the Epistle to the Church of Corinth. It is a natural inference that Sosthenes, like his predecessor or partner in office (it does not necessarily follow that he succeeded him) became a convert to the new faith. If so, it is probable that he was already suspected of tendencies in that direction, and when the Jews at Corinth found their plans frustrated, it was natural that they should impute their failure to the lukewarmness or treachery of the man who ought to have carried them to a successful issue. They did not shrink from giving vent to their rage even before the tribunal of the proconsul.
And Gallio cared for none of those things.—More accurately, And Gallio cared nothing for these things. The words have become almost proverbial for the indifference of mere politicians and men of the world to religious truth. We speak of one who is tolerant because he is sceptical, as a Gallio. It may be questioned, however, whether this was the thought prominent in St. Luke’s mind as he thus wrote. What he apparently meant was that the proconsul was clear sighted enough to pay no regard to the clamours of St. Paul’s accusers. If they chose, after failing in their attack on Paul, to quarrel among themselves, what was that to him? “Laissez faire, laissez alter” might well be his motto in dealing with such a people. The general impression, however, as to his character is not without its truth. The easy-going gentleness of his character ill fitted him to resist the temptations of Nero’s court, and after retiring from Achaia in consequence of an attack of fever (Sen. Ep. 104), he returned to Rome, and, to the distress of Burrhus and his own brother, Seneca, he took part in ministering to the emperor’s vices (Dio. lxi. 20). He finally fell under the tyrant’s displeasure, and, according to one tradition, was put to death by him. Another represents him as anticipating his fate by suicide; Tacitus, however (Ann. xv. 73), only speaks of him as terrified by his brother’s death, and supplicating Nero for his own life.Acts 18:17. Then all the Greeks — Who were present, perceiving how little favour the Jews found from the court, and displeased with them for their turbulent, persecuting spirit, perhaps, thinking that Paul was thus insulted for the regards he had expressed for the Gentiles; took Sosthenes — The successor of Crispus, as chief ruler of the synagogue — And probably Paul’s chief accuser; and beat him — It seems, because he had occasioned them so much trouble to no purpose; before the judgment-seat — While Gallio looked an without hindering them. But though this was certainly a very irregular proceeding, Gallio cared for none of those things — Did not concern himself at all to interpose in the affair. Probably he was pleased with the indignity done by the Greeks to the chief magistrate of the Jews, whose bigoted and persecuting spirit he disliked. It seems what Sosthenes now suffered had a happy effect on him; for he afterward became a Christian.
Took Sosthenes ... - As he was the chief ruler of the synagogue, he had probably been a leader in the opposition to Paul, and in the prosecution. Indignant at the Jews; at their bringing such questions before the tribunal; at their bigotry, and rage, and contentious spirit, they probably fell upon him in a tumultuous and disorderly manner as he was leaving the tribunal. The Greeks would feel no small measure of indignation at these disturbers of the public peace, and they took this opportunity to express their rage.
And beat him - ἔτυπτον etupton. This word is not what is commonly used to denote a judicial act of scourging. It probably means that they fell upon him and beat him with their fists, or with whatever was at band,
Before the judgment seat - Probably while leaving the tribunal. Instead of "Greeks" in this verse, some mss. read "Jews," but the former is probably the true reading. The Syriac, Arabic, and Coptic read it "the Gentiles." It is probable that this Sosthenes afterward became a convert to the Christian faith, and a preacher of the gospel. See 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, "Paul, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth."
And Gallio cared ... - This has been usually charged on Gallio as a matter of reproach, as if he were wholly indifferent to religion. But the charge is unjustly made, and his name is often most improperly used to represent the indifferent, the worldly, the careless, and the skeptical. By the testimony of ancient writers he was a most mild and amiable man, arid an upright and just judge. There is not the least evidence that he was indifferent to the religion of his country, or that he was of a thoughtless and skeptical turn of mind. All that this passage implies is:
(1) That he did not deem it to be his duty, or a part of his office, to settle questions of a theological nature that were started among the Jews.
(2) that he was unwilling to make this subject a matter of legal discussion and investigation.
(3) that he would not interfere, either on one side or the other, in the question about proselytes either to or from Judaism. So far, certainly, his conduct was exemplary and proper.
(4) that he did not choose to interpose, and rescue Sosthenes from the hands of the mob. From some cause he was willing that he should feel the effects of the public indignation. Perhaps it was not easy to quell the riot; perhaps he was not unwilling that he who had joined in a furious and unprovoked persecution should feel the effect of it in the excited passions of the people. At all events, he was but following the common practice among the Romans, which was to regard the Jews with contempt, and to care little how much they were exposed to popular fury and rage. In this he was wrong; and it is certain, also, that he was indifferent to the disputes between Jews and Christians; but there is no propriety in defaming his name, and making him the type and representative of all the thought less and indifferent on the subject of religion in subsequent times. Nor is there propriety in using this passage as a text as applicable to this class of people.
took Sosthenes—perhaps the successor of Crispus, and certainly the head of the accusing party. It is very improbable that this was the same Sosthenes as the apostle afterwards calls "his brother" (1Co 1:1).
and beat him before the judgment-seat—under the very eye of the judge.
And Gallio cared for none of those things—nothing loath, perhaps, to see these turbulent Jews, for whom probably he felt contempt, themselves getting what they hoped to inflict on another, and indifferent to whatever was beyond the range of his office and case. His brother eulogizes his loving and lovable manners. Religious indifference, under the influence of an easy and amiable temper, reappears from age to age.All the Greeks; not the converted Greeks, though St. Austin thought they beat Sosthenes, as an enemy to Paul, (yet surely they had not so learned Christ), but the unbelieving or Gentile Greeks, who cared for neither Paul nor Jews, but favoured Gallio, who would have them driven away.
Sosthenes; some think him to have been the same with Crispus, Acts 18:8; others, to have succeeded him in that office; and some think that he was chief ruler of another synagogue (for in great cities there might be more than one); and others, that there might be several called chief rulers over one and the same synagogue.
Gallio cared for none of those things; either slighting the Jews and all their controversies, or prudently declined intermeddling with them. 1 Corinthians 1:1. The name is Greek, and there is one of this name mentioned among the executors of Plato's will (w). This man was now
chief ruler of the synagogue; chosen in, very likely, upon Crispus becoming a Christian, and being baptized:
and beat him before the judgment seat; of Gallio; before he and his friends could get out of court:
and Gallio cared for none of these things; which might not be owing to any sluggishness in him, but to an ill opinion he had of the Jews, as being a turbulent and uneasy people, and therefore he connived at some of the insolencies of the people towards them; though it did not become him, as a magistrate, to act such a part, whose business it was to keep the public peace, to quell disorders, to protect men's persons, and property, and prevent abuse and mischief, and to correct and punish for it. The Arabic version renders it, "and no man made any account of Gallio"; they did not fear his resentment, he having drove the Jews from the judgment seat.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 18:17. ἐπιλαβ. δὲ: of hostile action, Acts 17:19, Acts 16:19.—οἱ Ἕλληνες, see critical note. If πάντες alone is read it seems clear from the context that only the Jews could be meant, and Weiss supposes that when they had failed so ignominiously they vented their rage on their own leader, Sosthenes, who as head of the synagogue would naturally have been prominent in presenting the complaint to Gallio. Some of the later MSS. insert οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι after πάντες to make the meaning clearer. Probably confusion arose in the MSS. from identifying Sosthenes either rightly or wrongly with the Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians 1:1, and therefore Ἕλληνες was omitted on the supposition that the Jews were allowed to console themselves by beating a Christian. But not only is it difficult to conceive that Gallio would have allowed them to do this, but there is no occasion to suppose that the Sosthenes here is the same as in 1 Corinthians 1:1 (for the name was common), and even if so, he may have become a Christian at a later date. It is much more conceivable that the Corinthians in their hatred of the Jews proceeded to second as it were the supercilious treatment dealt out to them by Gallio, and they would naturally fix upon Sosthenes as the leading spirit in the Jewish community. So far as he cared at all, Gallio may have been pleased rather than otherwise at the rough and ready approval of his decision by the populace, see Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 250, and “Corinth,” Hastings’ B.D.1, p. 482; Plumptre, in loco, and Wendt (1809). The whole of the section, Acts 18:12-17, is regarded by Clemen, p. 126, Jüngst, p. 165, as an interpolation, but Hilgenfeld puts aside their varying grounds of rejection as unconvincing, and finds it very conceivable that the Jews attempted to hinder the preaching of Paul as is here described (1 Thessalonians 2:16). With regard to the whole narrative of Paul at Corinth, Acts 18:1-17, Spitta, p. 244, concludes, as against Weizsäcker’s attack on its historical character, that we may regard it as scanty or even one-sided, but that there is no valid reason to regard it as unhistorical.—ἔτυπτον: Hackett interprets the imperfect as showing how thorough a beating Sosthenes received; but “exitus rei quæ depingitur (imperf.) non indicatur, quia nihil gravius secutum est,” Blass; the imperfect may simply mean “began to strike”.—οὐδὲν … ἔμελεν, cf. Luke 10:40, a Gallio has become a proverbial name for one indifferent to religion, but there is nothing in St. Luke’s statement to support such a view. All the words show is that Gallio was so little influenced by the accusations of the Jews against Paul that he took no notice of the conduct of the Greeks (?) in beating Sosthenes. And if the beating was administered by the Jews, Gallio might well overlook it, as he would regard it as the outcome of some question which only concerned their religion (Weiss).17. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue] The conjunction is too strongly rendered in the A.V. The oldest MSS. omit “the Greeks” which is very like a marginal gloss that has been introduced into the text by some scribe. Here as before (Acts 18:8) omit “chief.” Render (with R. V.), And they all laid hold on Sosthenes the ruler of the synagogue. The verb is used (Acts 21:30) of the violent action of the mob at Jerusalem, and just afterwards (Acts 21:33) of the chief captain’s conduct when he rescued Paul. Neither would be very gentle measures. And we may understand something of the same kind here. The surrounding crowd, of whom no doubt most would be Greeks, catching the tone of the magistrate, prepared to follow up his decision by a lesson of their own, of a rather rough kind. Sosthenes had probably been the spokesman of the Jews, and Paul would not improbably have some sympathizers among the Gentiles. And “Jew-baiting” was not unknown in those days. So with impunity the crowd could wreak their own vengeance on these interrupters of the proper business of the court, and beat Sosthenes before he was out of the magistrate’s presence. The name Sosthenes was a very common one, and we need not identify this man with the Sosthenes mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1.
And Gallio cared for none of those things] Neither for the questions raised nor for those who raised them. How little Jewish life was regarded by the Romans is shewn in many places in their literature (see Farrar’s St Paul, vol. 1. Exc. xiv.). Tiberius banished four thousand of them to Sardinia, saying that if the unhealthy climate killed them off “it would be a cheap loss” (Tac. Ann. ii. 85). Coming from Rome where such feeling was universal, the lives and limbs of a few Jews would appear of small importance, and like the Emperor just named he may have thought it mattered little what became of them.Acts 18:17. Ἐπιλαβόμενοι, having laid hold of) in compliment to Gallio.—Σωσθένην, Sosthenes) the successor of Crispus [who was converted], Acts 18:8 : with this comp. ch. Acts 13:15, note. This Sosthenes headed the accusation against Paul: he was afterwards converted: 1 Corinthians 1:1, “Paul—and Sosthenes our brother—to the church in Corinth,” etc.—οὐδὲν, none) although an Acts of wrong arose out of the question.—τῷ Γαλλίωνι, to Gallio) who connived at the act of the Greeks against the Jews.Verse 17. - And they all laid hold on for then all the Greeks took, A.V. and T.R.; ruler for chief ruler, A.V., as ver. 8. The R.T. has far more manuscript support than either the T.R. or another reading, which has "Jews" instead of "Greeks." All means all the crowd of bystanders and lookers-on, mostly, no doubt, Greeks. The Jews, always unpopular, would be sure to have the Corinthian rabble against them as soon as the proconsul drove them from the judgment seat. Sosthenes. There is no probability whatever that he is the same person as the Sosthenes of 1 Corinthians 1:1. The name was very common. He appears to have succeeded Crispus as ruler of the synagogue, and would be likely, therefore, to be especially hostile to Paul.
Not said to indicate his indifference to religion, but simply that he did not choose to interfere in this ease.
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