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23068How did Paul protect the collection from theft or confiscation?

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  • Richard Fellows
    Feb 4 9:00 PM
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      Paul 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-
      foot opponents.

      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
      recognized.

      Comments? What are the best alternative explanations for the plot of
      Acts 20:3 and the anonymity of the brothers in 2 Corinthians?

      Richard Fellows
      Vancouver
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