Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 18:9-18; John 16:20-23)

The account of Gallio’s judgment in Acts today is significant for two reasons.  First, it gives a clue for dating Paul’s missionary activities.  Second, it gives biblical precedent for the separation of Church and state.

Roman records show that Gallio was proconsul in Corinth for only the summer of 51 A.D.  Because Paul is thought to have left Corinth shortly after the episode with Gallio, he must have stayed there from 50 to 51 A.D. (if what Acts says about his being there only a year and a half is accurate).  That year then acts as a hinge for determining other dates in Paul’s sojourn.  Although the date is disputed, Paul likely concluded the controversy over circumcision in Jerusalem in 49 A.D.  Also, his first letter to the Thessalonians, the earliest New Testament piece and written in Corinth, carries a 50-51 A.D. vintage. 

The Jews haul Paul off to the tribunal because he is converting non-Jewish “God-fearers” to Christ rather than to Orthodox Judaism.  However, Gallio, the emperor’s representative, does not adjudicate in their favor.  Believing it imprudent for the state to meddle in religious affairs, he dismisses the case.  His action would be praised by the Church today.  Since a human should follow conscience, religious belief must not be imposed on anyone.  The role of government is to guarantee this freedom.