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Essays on "Supernatural Religion"

by J. B. Lightfoot

 

APPENDIX


(The following paper has no reference to the work entitled 'Supernatural Religion'; but, as it is kindred in subject and appeared in the same Review, I have given it a place here.)

DISCOVERIES ILLUSTRATING THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.

[MAY, 1878.]

In a former volume M. Renan declared his opinion that 'the author of the Third Gospel and the Acts was verily and indeed (_bien rÚellement_) Luke, a disciple of St Paul [291:1]. In the last instalment of his work he condemns as untenable the view that the first person plural of the later chapters is derived from some earlier document inserted by the author, on the ground that these portions are identical in style with the rest of the work [291:2]. Such an expression of opinion, proceeding from a not too conservative critic, is significant; and this view of the authorship, I cannot doubt, will be the final verdict of the future, as it has been the unbroken tradition of the past. But at a time when attacks on the genuineness of the work have been renewed, it may not be out of place to call attention to some illustrations of the narrative which recent discoveries have brought to light. No ancient work affords so many tests of veracity; for no other has such numerous points of contact in all directions with contemporary history, politics, and topography, whether Jewish or Greek or Roman. In the publications of the year 1877 Cyprus and Ephesus have made important contributions to the large mass of evidence already existing.

1. The government of the Roman provinces at this time was peculiarly dangerous ground for the romance-writer to venture upon. When Augustus assumed the supreme power he divided the provinces under the Roman dominion with the Senate. From that time forward there were two sets of provincial governors. The ruler of a senatorial province was styled a proconsul ([Greek: anthupatos]), while the officer to whom an imperatorial province was entrusted bore the name of proprŠtor ([Greek: antistratŕgos]) or legate ([Greek: presbeutŕs]). Thus the use of the terms 'proconsul' and 'proprŠtor' was changed; for, whereas in republican times they signified that the provincial governors bearing them had previously held the offices of consul and prŠtor respectively at home, they were now employed to distinguish the superior power under which the provinces were administered without regard to the previous rank of the governors administering them. Moreover, the original subdivision of the provinces between the Emperor and Senate underwent constant modifications. If disturbances broke out in a senatorial province and military rule was necessary to restore order, it would be transferred to the Emperor as the head of the army, and the Senate would receive an imperatorial province in exchange. Hence at any given time it would be impossible to say without contemporary, or at least very exact historical knowledge, whether a particular province was governed by a proconsul or a proprŠtor. The province of Achaia is a familiar illustration of this point. A very few years before St Paul's visit to Corinth, and some years later, Achaia was governed by a proprŠtor. Just at this time, however, it was in the hands of the Senate, and its ruler therefore was a proconsul as represented by St Luke.

Cyprus is a less familiar, but not less instructive, example of the same accuracy. Older critics, even when writing on the apologetic side, had charged St Luke with an incorrect use of terms; and the origin of their mistake is a significant comment on the perplexities in which a later forger would find himself entangled in dealing with these official designations. They fell upon a passage in Strabo [292:1] where this writer, after mentioning the division of the provinces between the Emperor and the Senate, states that the Senate sent consuls to the two provinces of Asia and Africa but prŠtors to the rest on their list,--among which he mentions Cyprus; and they jumped at the conclusion--very natural in itself--that the governor of Cyprus would be called a proprŠtor. Accordingly Baronio [293:1] suggested that Cyprus, though a prŠtorian province, was often handed over _honoris causa_ to be administered by the proconsul of Cilicia, and he assumed therefore that Sergius Paulus held this latter office; while Grotius found a solution in the hypothesis that proconsul was a title bestowed by flatterers on an official whose proper designation was proprŠtor. The error illustrates the danger of a little learning, not the less dangerous when it is in the hands of really learned men. Asia and Africa, the two great prizes of the profession, exhausted the normal two consuls of the preceding year; and the Senate therefore were obliged to send ex-prŠtors and other magistrates to govern the remaining provinces under their jurisdiction. But it is now an unquestioned and unquestionable fact that all the provincial governors who represented the Senate in imperial times, whatever magistracy they might have held previously, were styled officially proconsuls [293:2].

The circumstances indeed, so far as regards Cyprus, are distinctly stated by Dion Cassius. At the original distribution of the provinces (B.C. 27) this island had fallen to the Emperor's share; but the historian, while describing the assignment of the several countries in the first instance, adds that the Emperor subsequently gave back Cyprus and Gallia Narbonensis to the Senate, himself taking Dalmatia in exchange [293:3]; and at a later point, when he arrives at the time in question (B.C. 22), he repeats the information respecting the transfer. 'And so,' he adds, 'proconsuls began to be sent to those nations also' [294:1]. Of the continuance of Cyprus under the jurisdiction of the Senate, about the time to which St Luke's narrative refers we have ample evidence. Contemporary records bear testimony to the existence of proconsuls in Cyprus not only before and after but during the reign of Claudius. The inscriptions mention by name two proconsuls who governed the province in this Emperor's time (A.D. 51, 52) [294:2]; while a third, and perhaps a fourth, are recorded on the coins [294:3]. At a later date, under Hadrian, we come across a proprŠtor of Cyprus [294:4]. The change would probably be owing to the disturbed state of the province consequent on the insurrection of the Jews. But at the close of the same century (A.D. 198)--under Severus--it is again governed by a proconsul [294:5]; and this was its normal condition.

Thus the accuracy of St Luke's designation is abundantly established; but hitherto no record had been found of the particular proconsul mentioned by him. This defect is supplied by one of General Cesnola's inscriptions. It is somewhat mutilated indeed, so that the meaning of parts is doubtful; but for our purpose it is adequate. A date is given as [Greek: EPI PAULOU [ANTH]UPATOU], 'in the proconsulship of Paulus.' On this Cesnola remarks: 'The proconsul Paulus may be the Sergius Paulus of the Acts of the Apostles (chap. xiii.), as instances of the suppression of one of two names are not rare' [294:6]. An example of the suppression in this very name Sergius Paulus will be given presently, thus justifying the identification of the proconsul of the Acts with the proconsul of this inscription.

Of this Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus, Dean Alford says that 'nothing more is known.' But is it certain that he is not mentioned elsewhere? In the index of contents and authorities which forms the first book of Pliny's Natural History, this writer twice names one Sergius Paulus among the Latin authors to whom he was indebted. May not this have been the same person? The name is not common. So far as I have observed, only one other person bearing it [295:1]--probably a descendant of this Cyprian proconsul--is mentioned, of whom I shall have something to say hereafter; and he flourished more than a century later. Only one test of identity suggests itself. The Sergius Paulus of Pliny is named as an authority for the second and eighteenth books of that writer. Now on the hypothesis that the proconsul of Cyprus is meant, it would be a natural supposition that, like Sir J. Emerson Tennent or Sir Rutherford Alcock, this Sergius Paulus would avail himself of the opportunities afforded by his official residence in the East to tell his Roman fellow-countrymen something about the region in which he had resided. We therefore look with interest to see whether these two books of Pliny contain any notices respecting Cyprus, which might reasonably be explained in this way; and our curiosity is not disappointed. In the second book, besides two other brief notices (cc. 90, 112) relating to the situation of Cyprus, Pliny mentions (c. 97) an area in the temple of Venus at Paphos on which the rain never falls. In the eighteenth book again, besides an incidental mention of this island (c. 57), he gives some curious information (c. 12) with respect to the Cyprian corn, and the bread made therefrom. It should be added that for the second book, in which the references to Cyprus come late, Sergius Paulus is the last-mentioned Latin authority; whereas for the eighteenth, where they are early, he occupies an earlier, though not very early, place in the list. These facts may be taken for what they are worth. In a work, which contains such a multiplicity of details as Pliny's Natural History, we should not be justified in laying too much stress on coincidences of this kind.

From the Sergius Paulus of Luke the physician we turn to the Sergius Paulus of Galen the physician. Soon after the accession of M. Aurelius (A.D. 161) Galen paid his first visit to Rome, where he stayed for three or four years. Among other persons whom he met there was L. Sergius Paulus, who had been already consul suffectus about A.D. 150, and was hereafter to be consul for the second time in A.D. 168 (on this latter occasion as the regular consul of the year), after which time he held the Prefecture of the City [296:1]. He is probably also the same person who is mentioned elsewhere as proconsul of Asia in connection with a Christian martyrdom [296:2]. This later Sergius Paulus reproduces many features of his earlier namesake. Both alike are public men; both alike are proconsuls; both alike show an inquisitive and acquisitive disposition. The Sergius Paulus of the Acts, dissatisfied (as we may suppose) alike with the coarse mythology of popular religion and with the lifeless precepts of abstract philosophies, has recourse first to the magic of the sorcerer Elymas, and then to the theology of the Apostles Barnabas and Saul, for satisfaction. The Sergius Paulus of Galen is described as 'holding the foremost place in practical life as well as in philosophical studies;' he is especially mentioned as a student of the Aristotelian philosophy; and he takes a very keen interest in medical and anatomical learning. Moreover, if we may trust the reading, there is another striking coincidence between the two accounts. The same expression, 'who is also Paul' ([Greek: ho kai Paulos]), is used to describe Saul of Tarsus in the context of the Acts, and L. Sergius in the account of Galen. Not the wildest venture of criticism could so trample on chronology as to maintain that the author of the Acts borrowed from these treatises of Galen; and conversely I have no desire to suggest that Galen borrowed from St Luke. But if so, the facts are a warning against certain methods of criticism which find favour in this age. To sober critics, the coincidence will merely furnish an additional illustration of the permanence of type which forms so striking a feature in the great Roman families. One other remark is suggested by Galen's notices of his friend. Having introduced him to us as 'Sergius who is also Paulus,' he drops the former name altogether in the subsequent narrative, and speaks of him again and again as Paulus simply. This illustrates the newly-published Cyprian inscription, in which the proconsul of that province is designated by the one name Paulus only.

2. The transition from General Cesnola's _Cyprus_ to Mr Wood's _Ephesus_ carries us forward from the first to the third missionary journey of St Paul. Here, again, we have illustrative matter of some importance. The main feature in the narrative of the Acts is the manner in which the cultus of the Ephesian Artemis dominates the incidents of the Apostle's sojourn in that city. As an illustration of this feature, it would hardly be possible to surpass one of the inscriptions in the existing collection [297:1]. We seem to be reading a running commentary on the excited appeal of Demetrius the silversmith, when we are informed that 'not only in this city but everywhere temples are dedicated to the goddess, and statues erected and altars consecrated to her, on account of the manifest epiphanies which she vouchsafes' ([Greek: tas hup' autŕs geinomenas enargeis epiphaneias]); that 'the greatest proof of the reverence paid to her is the fact that a month bears her name, being called Artemision among ourselves, and Artemisius among the Macedonians and the other nations of Greece and their respective cities;' that during this month 'solemn assemblies and religious festivals are held, and more especially in this our city, which is the nurse of its own Ephesian goddess' ([Greek: tŕ troph˘ tŕs idias theou tŕs Ephesias]); and that therefore 'the people of the Ephesians, considering it meet that the whole of this month which bears the divine name ([Greek: ton ep˘numon tou theiou onomatos]) should be kept holy, and dedicated to the goddess,' has decreed accordingly. 'For so,' concludes this remarkable document, 'the cultus being set on a better footing, our city will continue to grow in glory and to be prosperous to all time.' The sense of special proprietorship in this goddess of world-wide fame, which pervades the narrative in the Acts, could not be better illustrated than by this decree. But still the newly-published inscriptions greatly enhance the effect. The patron deity not only appears in these as 'the great goddess Artemis,' as in the Acts, but sometimes she is styled 'the supremely great goddess ([Greek: hŕ megistŕ theos]) Artemis.' To her favour all men are indebted for all their choicest possessions. She has not only her priestesses, but her temple-curators, her essenes, her divines ([Greek: theologoi]), her choristers ([Greek: humn˘doi]), her vergers ([Greek: skŕptouchoi]), her tire-women or dressers ([Greek: kosmŕteirai]), and even her 'acrobats,' whatever may be meant by some of these terms. Fines are allocated to provide adornments for her; endowments are given for the cleaning and custody of her images; decrees are issued for the public exhibition of her treasures. Her birthday is again and again mentioned. She is seen and heard everywhere. She is hardly more at home in her own sanctuary than in the Great Theatre. This last-mentioned place--the scene of the tumult in the Acts--is brought vividly before our eyes in Mr Wood's inscriptions. The theatre appears as the recognized place of public assembly. Here edicts are proclaimed, and decrees recorded, and benefactors crowned. When the mob, under the leadership of Demetrius, gathered here for their demonstration against St Paul and his companions, they would find themselves surrounded by memorials which might stimulate their zeal for the goddess. If the 'town-clerk' had desired to make good his assertion, 'What man is there that knoweth not that the city of the Ephesians is sacristan of the great goddess Artemis?' he had only to point to the inscriptions which lined the theatre for confirmation. The very stones would have cried out from the walls in response to his appeal.

Nor is the illustration of the magistracies which are named by St Luke less complete. Three distinct officers are mentioned in the narrative--the Roman proconsul ([Greek: anthupatos]), the governor of the province and supreme administrator of the law, translated 'deputy' in our version; the recorder ([Greek: grammateus]) or chief magistrate of the city itself, translated 'town-clerk;' and the Asiarchs ([Greek: Asiarchai]), or presidents of the games and of other religious ceremonials, translated 'the chief of Asia.' All these appear again and again in the newly-discovered inscriptions. Sometimes two of the three magistracies will be mentioned on the same stone. Sometimes the same person will unite in himself the two offices of recorder and Asiarch, either simultaneously or not. The mention of the recorder is especially frequent. His name is employed to authenticate every decree and to fix every date.

But besides these more general illustrations of the account in the Acts, the newly-discovered inscriptions throw light on some special points in the narrative. Thus where the chief magistrate pronounces St Paul and his companions to be 'neither sacrilegious ([Greek: hierosulous]) nor blasphemers of our goddess' [299:1], we discover a special emphasis in the term on finding from these inscriptions that certain offences (owing to the mutilation of the stone, we are unable to determine the special offences) were treated as constructive sacrilege against the goddess. 'Let it be regarded as sacrilege and impiety' ([Greek: est˘ hierosulia kai asebeia]), says an inscription found in this very theatre [300:1], though not yet set up at the time when the 'town-clerk' spoke. So again, where the same speaker describes the city of Ephesus as the 'neocoros,' the 'temple sweeper,' or 'sacristan of the great goddess Artemis,' we find in these inscriptions for the first time a direct example of this term so applied. Though the term 'neocoros' in itself is capable of general application, yet as a matter of fact, when used of Ephesus on coins and inscriptions (as commonly in the case of other Asiatic cities), it has reference to the cultus not of the patron deity, but of the Roman emperors. In this sense Ephesus is described as 'twice' or 'thrice sacristan,' as the case may be, the term being used absolutely. There was indeed every probability that the same term would be employed also to describe the relation of the city to Artemis. By a plausible but highly precarious conjecture it had been introduced into the lacuna of a mutilated inscription [300:2]. By a highly probable but not certain interpretation it had been elicited from the legend on a coin [300:3]. There were analogies too which supported it. Thus the Magnesians are styled on the coins 'sacristans of Artemis' [300:4]; and at Ephesus itself an individual priest is designated by the same term 'sacristan of Artemis' [300:5]. Nor did it seem unlikely that a city which styled itself 'the nurse of Artemis' should also claim the less audacious title of 'sacristan' to this same goddess. Still probability is not certainty; and (so far as I am aware) no direct example was forthcoming. Mr Wood's inscriptions supply this defect. On one of these 'the city of the Ephesians' is described as 'twice sacristan of the Augusti according to the decrees of the Senate and sacristan of Artemis' [301:1].

One other special coincidence deserves notice. The recorder, desirous of pacifying the tumult, appeals to the recognized forms of law. 'If Demetrius and his fellow-craftsmen,' he says, 'have a matter against any one, assizes are held, and there are proconsuls [301:2]. Let them indict one another. But if you have any further question (_i.e._, one which does not fall within the province of the courts of justice), it shall be settled in the lawful (regular) assembly.' By a 'lawful (regular) assembly' ([Greek: ennomos ekklŕsia]) he means one of those which were held on stated days already predetermined by the law, as opposed to those which were called together on special emergencies out of the ordinary course, though in another sense these latter might be equally 'lawful.' An inscription, found in this very theatre in which the words were uttered, illustrates this technical sense of 'lawful.' It provides that a certain silver image of Athene shall be brought and 'set at every lawful (regular) assembly ([Greek: kata pasan nomimon ekklŕsian]) above the bench where the boys sit' [301:3].

With these facts in view, we are justified in saying that ancient literature has preserved no picture of the Ephesus of imperial times--the Ephesus which has been unearthed by the sagacity and perseverance of Mr Wood--comparable for its life-like truthfulness to the narrative of St Paul's sojourn there in the Acts.

I am tempted to add one other illustration of an ancient Christian writer, which these inscriptions furnish. Ignatius, writing to the Ephesians from Smyrna in the early years of the second century, borrows an image from the sacred pageant of some heathen deity, where the statues, sacred vessels, and other treasures, of the temple are borne in solemn procession. He tells his Christian readers that they all are marching in festive pomp along the Via Sacra--the way of love--which leads to God; they all are bearers of treasures committed to them,--for they carry their God, their Christ, their shrine, their sacred things, in their heart [302:1]. The image was not new. It is found in Stoic writers. It underlies the surname Theophorus, the 'God-bearer,' which Ignatius himself adopted. But he had in his company several Ephesian delegates when he wrote; and the newly-discovered inscriptions inform us that the practice which supplies the metaphor had received a fresh impulse at Ephesus shortly before this letter was written. The most important inscriptions in Mr Wood's collection relate to a gift of numerous valuable statues, images, and other treasures to the temple of Artemis, by one C. Vibius Salutaris, with an endowment for their custody. In one of these (dated A.D. 104) it is ordained that the treasures so given shall be carried in solemn procession from the temple to the theatre and back 'at every meeting of the assembly, and at the gymnastic contests, and on any other days that may be directed by the Council and the People.' Orders are given respecting the persons forming the procession, as well as respecting its route. It must pass through the length of the city, entering by the Magnesian Gate and leaving by the Coressian [302:2].

 


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