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23069Re: [XTalk] How did Paul protect the collection from theft or confiscation?

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    Feb 4, 2009
    • 0 Attachment
      To: Crosstalk
      Cc: GPG
      In Response To: Richard Fellows
      On: Paul's Security Measures
      From: Bruce

      I appreciate Richard's analysis. I admit I am always nervous on Paul's
      behalf when I read that part of the story. How can he expect to get a
      substantial sum safely across the ocean to Jerusalem?

      But some of Richard's points seem to me to be open to other interpretations.

      1. "Paul asked the Corinthians to put aside money for the collection at
      home." I think this was a request to collect it in advance, so that it would
      not have to be done when Paul arrived. This is the motive Paul states in the
      end of 1 Cor 16:2. Speed, not security, seems to have been the chief
      concern. I don't find this implausible, and thus don't feel that any
      alternative explanation is unavoidably called for.

      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." How public a document was 2 Cor when first
      written and received? Would mentioning these 'brothers' by name have tipped
      anybody not already in the know, about Paul's travel plans? I would think
      that silence as to Paul's own movements would be more to the point. Maybe it
      would help, at this juncture, to review all persons mentioned but not named
      in the genuine Epistles. Can anyone cite such a study?

      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." Acts I flatly
      don't trust; Acts always has something of its own in mind. Knox and others
      have shown (by correlating Acts and Epistles) how a Lukan agenda has been
      superimposed over the probable course of events. Accepting Acts as actual,
      we still have the possibility that what the Jews were after was Paul, not
      the money. This reading seems to fit the many mentions of "Jews" in the
      Epistles, no? [See further below].

      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." For
      myself, I am not convinced that the problem of the "we" passages has been
      that convincingly solved, which is to say that, for one thing, I am not sure
      that Luke himself was along. Barnabas? It is at this point in the argument
      that I feel a need to check up on the structure of Acts as a whole,
      deferring the present more specific question meanwhile.

      "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)." Again Acts. Same comment. The
      objection is not decisive, but I would still rather hear from Paul.

      "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."
      Multiplying time in difficult country exposes the money longer to whatever
      risk factors existed, including normal bandits, who I would consider to have
      been the main risk. That is the basic gambler's calculation. If in fact Paul
      went to Philippi despite the added risk, it may have been because he wanted
      to see people there. And if this excursion had put him in time trouble, then
      his wish to compensate by speeding up the subsequent part of the journey
      ("For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to
      spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on
      the day of Pentecost" - Acts 20:16) makes sense, without any additional

      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)." This supposes
      that the main danger was an attempt by previously informed persons to waylay
      Paul. I am not convinced that the security question can be reduced only to
      that variable. I should think that the general hazards of carrying money
      along any known commercial route, or indeed any route whatever, were the
      chief problem. I should also think that if many were in the Collection
      Party, a better plan would be to divide the money among them, so that they
      would have a better chance of getting something through, rather than to use
      the larger party solely as a decoy or distractant.

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

      Acts 20:3. "There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against
      him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he determined to
      return through Macedonia." If the Jews were after Paul because they knew he
      was carrying money, they certainly waited long enough to act on their
      knowledge. From the text, and taking it (for the sake of argument) as
      reportive or at least accurate, I would judge that Paul felt safer from the
      Jews on the Asian than on the Asia Minor side of the sea. And well he might,
      since Jews were probably more numerous on the Asia Minor side. We know (from
      Paul) of many accusations made by Jews against Paul, and of many punishments
      administered to Paul because of those accusations. They cannot all have been
      because he was carrying money. I would suppose that the best first
      hypothesis about the Acts 20:3 trouble is the one which best fits all the
      other instances of similar trouble. (And I note that the same trouble also
      awaited Paul in Jerusalem, and that he was elaborately warned not to go
      there. The danger in Jerusalem was not theft, it was imprisonment and

      So I'm not convinced by the present argument, but my own worries about
      Paul's safety continue. Maybe some classically acquainted person can tell
      us, How were large sums of money carried in those days? High denomination
      coins? Letters of credit? And how safely? I feel I could use some more
      background of this sort, before entering in detail on the security
      probabilistics of Paul's travels.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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