Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

How did Paul protect the collection from theft or confiscation?

Expand Messages
  • Richard Fellows
    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,
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 4, 2009
      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
    • E Bruce Brooks
      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
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 4, 2009
        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
        assumptions.

        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
        execution).

        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.

        Bruce

        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst
      • Richard Fellows
        Bruce wrote: That is
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 8, 2009
          Bruce wrote:
          << If the Jews were after Paul because they knew he was carrying
          money, they certainly waited long enough to act on their knowledge.>>

          That is precisely my point. If the plot was aimed merely at Paul's
          person, why did the plotters not act earlier? Why not just seize him
          on the street and give him a good 39 lashes? Why wait until he is
          about to sail, when they would be seeing the back of him anyway? And
          why is Acts strangely silent about the nature of the plot and the
          motive for it? Some suppose that the plot was to do away with Paul on
          board a ship, but how could they do this without there being
          witnesses? The perpetrators of such a crime would have been trapped on
          board and it is hard to see how they would feel comfortable that they
          could get away with it. And why didn't Paul avoid the plot by simply
          taking another boat heading east from Cenchreae or indeed from Athens?
          Why did he take the drastic step of heading north to Macedonia, from
          where he had just come, and consuming time that he did not have (Acts
          20:16). As you point out, Bruce, this circuitous route will have
          increased their exposure to risks such as bandits. There must have
          been a compelling reason for the change of plan.

          All these difficulties are solved if we suppose that the plot was not
          against Paul's person, but was to rob him of the collection when he
          approached or boarded a ship. The collection could not be intercepted
          before this time because it was distributed among the homes of the
          donors (1 Cor 16:2). The plot (plan) is credible because Paul would
          have little legal recourse, since he had no permission from the Romans
          to transfer money to Jerusalem independently of the normal temple tax
          process (see below). Paul's drastic decision to head north by land is
          explicable if the Jews in Achaia (or their Roman allies) were waiting
          to confiscate the collection from him as soon as he approached a boat.

          Bruce wrote
          <<(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 execution).>>

          In the account of Paul's custody there are indications that he was
          accused of bringing funds to Jerusalem illegally:

          1. In Acts 24:17 Paul defends himself by making the collection sound
          like a private act of piety, presumably because he did not want it to
          be seen as an illegal transfer of funds by a controversial sect.
          2. In Acts 24:22 we hear that Felix resolved to decide Paul's case
          when Lysias arrived, but we hear nothing of the verdict. I suggest
          that the verdict (which Acts understandably omits) was that Paul would
          stay in custody until the church coughed up the collection money that
          had been delivered illegally. This would explain 24:26-7 where Felix
          keeps Paul for two years, hoping that Paul would give him money. Most
          assume that Felix was wanting a bribe, but we have no reason to
          suppose that Paul had much personal wealth. Felix would not have
          wanted Paul to collect funds for a bribe from the churches since this
          would require that Felix's illegal corruption become public knowledge.
          It was illegal to accept bribes.
          3. Nickle (The Collection p150) has argued the illegality of the
          collection was a charge against Paul in Judea. Acts 25:7-8 (NRSV)
          reads, "When he arrived, the Jews who had gone down from Jerusalem
          surrounded him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they
          could not prove. Paul said in his defense, 'I have in no way committed
          an offense against the law of the Jews, or against the temple, or
          against the emperor'". Paul's reply that he had done nothing against
          the emperor, and his appeal to the emperor (Acts 25:10) make sense if
          the accusation had been that the collection was against the laws of
          the emperor.

          One thing that I like about this reconstruction is that it has all
          sides behaving rationally and with integrity, from their own
          perspective. Paul delivered the collection to Jerusalem, probably
          believing that it fell legally within the scope of the privileges
          granted to the Jews by the emperors. The synagogue authorities in
          Achaia probably disagreed, believing that the privileges applied to
          them only. Felix attempted to confiscate the money, and it was finally
          left to the emperor to interpret the privileges that his predecessors
          had granted the Jews. This kind of thing has a ring of truth about it.

          Bruce wrote
          << 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?>>

          Bruce, I think you are right to be nervous for the safety of Paul's
          collection. Nickle (p83) writes that the temple tax was "accompanied
          for protection from banditry by a large retinue consisting of paid
          mercenary guards, pilgrims, and deputies from the communities which
          had contributed". Josephus (Ant 14.7.2) writes that the Jews of Asia
          minor kept their temp tax on Cos to protect it from Mithradates, who
          took it anyway. And, of course, Paul was in danger from bandits (2 Cor
          11:26).

          Bruce wrote
          <<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?>>

          See the posting on Corpus-Paul here: http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/corpus-paul/20010215/002472.html

          Bruce wrote
          <<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?>>

          See my previous comments. Also note that the letter was addressed to
          "the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints
          throughout Achaia", so it circulated and it would be difficult to
          ensure that it was heard only by loyal insiders.

          <<Would mentioning these 'brothers' by name have tipped anybody not
          already in the know, about Paul's travel plans?>>

          The identities of the brothers had to be kept confidential for their
          own protection and that of the collection. Paul wants the Corinthians
          to protect the brothers, and sets a good example by affording them
          anonymity in the letter.

          <<I would think that silence as to Paul's own movements would be more
          to the point.>>

          Are you suggesting that Paul would protect himself but not his
          colleagues?

          I suggest that, for security reasons, Paul could not administer the
          collection in an open and public way, and that this explains why he
          had difficulty in retaining the Corinthians' trust (see 2 Cor
          8:20-21 ; 12:14-18). Paul had competing pressures. If he had been too
          secretive he would have aroused suspicion among his potential donors,
          but if he had been too open he would have endangered the collection
          and those who helped organize it. The omission of the names of the
          brothers in 2 Corinthians is a simple precaution that Paul could take
          with little cost. No?

          <<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?>>

          As is often pointed out, Paul never names his opponents in the
          undisputed letters. Anonymity in the ancient world was used to deny
          someone the dignity of being named. The anonymity of the brothers of 2
          Cor 8 has occasioned so much surprise because they are so highly
          commended. No-one has found a parallel in any ancient literature, as
          far as I know. The anonymity is protective and this also explains why
          Paul is silent about their place of origin, and why the brother of 2
          Cor 12:18 (Erastus) is anonymous.

          Thanks for your thought-provoking post, Bruce. By the way, I do not
          share your skepticism towards Acts, but that could be a discussion for
          another thread, if listers are interested.

          Richard Fellows,
          Vancouver, Canada.

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.