23068How did Paul protect the collection from theft or confiscation?
- Feb 4, 2009Paul may have had security concerns concerning the funds that he
collected from Achaia and Macedonia. Firstly, bandits were a danger (2
Cor 11:26). Secondly, Jews are likely to have been ideologically
opposed to the collection. Thirdly, the collection may have been
illegal under Roman law. Luke's silence concerning the collection is
explicable if it was judged illegal (so Nickle p149). Acts has a
tendency to keep silent about the trouble that the church got into
with the civil authorities (compare Acts 9:23-25 with 2 Cor 11:22-23).
If Luke had drawn attention to an illegal collection he would have
endangered himself, the others who delivered the collection, and the
church as a whole.
Is there evidence that Paul took measures to protect the collection? I
suggest that there is.
1. There seems to be a consensus nowadays that "PAR EAUTW" in 1 Cor
16:2 means "at home". Paul asked the Corinthians to put aside money
for the collection at home. A consequence of this instruction (and
perhaps the motive for it) is that no-one would be able to intercept
the collection until it was gathered together just before its carriers
sailed. This point has been overlooked, as far as I can tell.
2. Paul never identifies any of those who helped him with the
collection. Indeed, the two 'brothers' in 2 Cor 8:18-24 and the
'brother' in 2 Cor 12:18 are surprisingly anonymous. I believe Paul's
silence about the identity of the helpers is protective. Anyone could
attend the meetings of the Corinthian church (1 Cor 14:23), so Paul
had to be careful not to write anything that could get his colleagues
into trouble or endanger the collection, and he needed to signal to
his friends in Corinth that the identities of the collection helpers
needed to be protected. In any case, Paul's involvement in the
collection was probably more widely known than that of anyone else.
Any outsiders who wanted to intercept the collection would therefore
probably plan to make their move when Paul boarded a ship. They would
expect that the collection would be aboard.
3. Now, Acts 20:3 tells us that, as Paul was about to sail for Syria,
he changed his plan and decided to travel first to Macedonia because
Jews had plotted against him. It seems to me that this information
strongly suggests that the plot was an attempt to intercept the
collection. The timing of the plot is explicable it if was an attempt
to intercept the collection (point 1 above) and fat that it was
directed against Paul rather than against the whole group suggests
that the others kept their plans secret (point 2 above).
4. Luke's style was to use the first person plural whenever he
travelled by sea, but to use third person narrative when he was
present on land. This suggests that Paul and Luke went to Philippi by
land (otherwise why is there no first person in Acts 20:4?). In any
case this journey from Corinth to Philippi took Paul further from
Jerusalem and consumed time, which he did not have in abundance (see
Acts 20:16). However, Paul's very circuitous route makes sense if he
was trying to protect the collection from those who knew that it was
destined for Judea.
5. The seven companions went ahead to Troas, but Paul and Luke sailed
there independently. This decision to split the party makes sense if
we suppose that the plot was against the collection and that the seven
were not under suspicion of involvement in the collection (so
Gilchrist). These seven could carry the collection while Paul could
travel separately with his pockets turned out. Paul's later decision
to travel overland from Troas to Assos may also have been to wrong-
6. It seems that Paul chartered a coastal freighter for his journey
from Philippi to Patara and this would have helped to protect the
collection (so Jewett). By having exclusive use of the boat and by
avoiding changes of boat (see Acts 20:13, 15-17), he could reduce the
risk of being betrayed by fellow passengers, crew, or boat owners,
etc.. He switched to an ocean-going vessel at Patara in Lycia, which
was the province on the route where he ran the lowest risk of being
Comments? What are the best alternative explanations for the plot of
Acts 20:3 and the anonymity of the brothers in 2 Corinthians?
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