Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 18:1-8
Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2016
Act 18:1 After these things, departing from Athens, he came to Corinth.
Corinth, the capital of Achaia. For description of (see the Introduction to Corinthians). Here is what Fr. MacEvilly wrote in that introduction: CORINTH was a wealthy city, situated on the isthmus that divides the Morea from continental Greece. It was destroyed by Mummius (A.C. 146) by order of the Roman Senate, and a hundred years after restored by Julius Cæsar (A.C. 44). It was constituted by Augustus the capital of Achaia (A. 27). In the time of St. Paul, it more than recovered its former opulence and splendour. Owing to its favourable situation for commerce—having a ready communication with the East and West, by means of its ports on the Ægean and Ionian seas—it became the grand emporium in these parts. It abounded in riches, and their attendant vices, of every description. There were two leading vices, however, for which Corinth was particularly remarkable, viz., pride and impurity; the latter of which is often permitted by a jealous God, as the appropriate punishment of the former. The dissoluteness of the Corinthian women became, accordingly, proverbial throughout the rest of Greece; and the loathsome vice of impurity was, to a certain extent, publicly sanctioned—Venus being one of the tutelary deities of the city. We are informed by Strabo (lib. 9), and by Herodotus (in Clio), that the temple of this goddess at Corinth was wealthy enough to support more than one thousand courtezans devoted to infamy and prostitution. Such was the wretched state, such the deplorable spiritual condition of this city, on the occasion of the Apostle’s first visit (A.D. 52), which is recorded (Acts 18). He remained there eighteen months, and founded a Church composed partly of Jewish, but principally of Gentile converts.
Act 18:2 And finding a certain Jew, named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with Priscilla his wife (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome), he came to them.
“Aquila.” There was no distinction made in the public acts of the Empire, between Jews and Christians. Christians, therefore, were comprised in the Edict of Claudius. Whether Aquila was converted at Rome, and professing the Christian religion when St. Paul came to Corinth, or was converted by St. Paul, is disputed (Vide Beelen). The exact date of the Edict of Claudius (who reigned from A.D. 41-54) is unknown. A number of scholars date the event circa 49, but this is debated. The extent of the expulsion is also debated. Luke says “all Jews” were commanded to depart, but “all” in the Mediterranean world was often used as a hyperbole (= many, most). How long the edict was in force is also unknown.
Act 18:3 And because he was of the same trade, he remained with them and wrought. (Now they were tentmakers by trade.)
“Same trade.” Tent-making, manufacturing tents from skins or cloth. The Apostle gloried in labouring for his livelihood (Acts 20:34; 2 Thess. 3:9, 10). He was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and originally destined for the legal profession. The Jews made it a custom to have their children taught some useful trade, as a part of their education. This was inculcated by the Rabbins.
“Tent-making.” Making portable tents out of cloth or skins was a pretty remunerative trade in the East.
Act 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, bringing in the name of the Lord Jesus. And he persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
“Reasoned,” discoursed, incidentally “bringing in the name of Jesus.” It was only after the arrival of Silas and Timothy, he entered boldly into discussion regarding our Lord (v. 5).
“Persuaded.” Strove to persuade. “Greeks,” Proselytes of the gate, who frequented the synagogue.
Act 18:5 And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was earnest in preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.
“Silas,” &c. (17:15), “earnest;” was animated by their presence to preach to the Jews, “that Jesus is the Christ” their long-expected Messiah.
Very likely, Silas and Timothy brought him from Macedonia some pecuniary aid (2 Cor. 11:8, 9) so that now he needed not to labour for his support and could devote his undivided attention and all his time to preaching and the work of the ministry.
Act 18:6 But they gainsaying and blaspheming, he shook his garments and said to them: Your blood be upon your own heads: I am clean. From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
“Blaspheming,” Uttering opprobrious language against our Lord, vilifying him, speaking of him scornfully and contemptuously.
“Shook his garments.” A symbolical action, conveying that he gave up all communication with them; had nothing in common with them.
“Blood.” Destruction and ruin “on your own heads.” “I am clear.” I have done my part.
“Henceforth.” This was peculiar and exceptional treatment of the Corinthian Jews. For, we find that he afterwards laboured for the conversion of his Jewish brethren elesewhere.
Act 18:7 And departing thence, he entered into the house of a certain man, named Titus Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house was adjoining to the synagogue.
Thence,” the synagogue, “entered into the house,” &c., which served for the purpose of instruction, which he gave before in the synagogue. He lodged with Aquila.
“Worshipped God.” This Titus Justus was a proselyte.
Act 18:8 And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, with all his house. And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.
Fr. MacEvilly offers no note on this verse. The following is taken from the CBSC, an Anglican commentary: This “Crispus” is alluded to, 1 Cor 1:14, as one of the few whom St Paul himself baptized. His previous distinguished position among the Jews, and the conversion of his whole family, would make him noticeable among the Christian converts. There may have been more than one synagogue in Corinth. In Acts 18:17 we read of Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue. But it is quite possible that this man may have been appointed immediately after the conversion of Crispus, and may have been desirous to shew his zeal against the Christian teachers by laying an immediate information against Paul before the proconsul.
“and many of the Corinthians … were baptized”. St Paul mentions that he himself only baptized (in addition to Crispus) Gaius and the household of Stephanas (see 1 Cor 1:14-16). But Silas and Timothy were now by his side and would care for the admission of the new converts to baptism.