free of doctrinal disputes. St. Paul’s happiest epistle was that which he dictated in early 63 to the Philippians: ‘You are my joy and crown’.* 4
In 51, after wintering in Philippi, St. Paul’s party travelled down the Via Egnatia to Thessalonica (today’s Salonika). This was not an orderly Roman colony but a true Greek city. When the Jews stirred up local market place loafers into a mob to riot against him, St. Paul was forced to flee southwards, off the Via Egnatia, to Beroea (Verria). Again expelled by mob violence he fled to Athens. From here he sent St. Silas and St. Timothy instructions that, after they had organised these two churches, they should join him at Athens. The missionary pattern which he established in his first mission was continued: he would preach in the synagogue until he was expelled, then he would preach to the Gentiles until he was again expelled by official action or mob violence. Meanwhile his converts were instructed and prepared for the sacraments by his assistants. He ordained a few as deacons to whom, months or a year later, he would return to ordain as priests. These deacons were also entrusted with a copy of at least the Gospel of St. Luke. After his ‘premature’ expulsion from Thessalonica, it was becoming clear that the pattern he had followed in southern Galatia was becoming impracticable. In Greece at this time there were present many Jews who had been expelled from Rome in 49. These were only too free and willing to hound St. Paul from town to town. He was now being forced to leave before he could properly complete his instructions to his new churches and their deacons. St. Paul decided therefore to settle in the provincial capital where his Roman citizenship would assure him the protection of the Roman governor, and to work more through epistles and delegates. (He continued often travelling himself, but from now on his journeys were from out of a safe base. In this way he now avoided a travel pattern which could be predicted and intercepted by the Jews.) 5
While alone and waiting in Athens for St. Silas and St. Timothy to join him, St. Paul tried preaching directly to the local pagans. In his address to the Athenians we find all the essentials of how he preached to pagans lacking in any of the preliminary Jewish grounding in morality and scripture. Here we see the beginnings of apologetics: the Faith is true because it accords with human reason, and because its high morals promote the good human life. In fact his speech to the Athenians was a masterpiece of apologetic. It was also a failure. He had tried to use only pagan philosophical ideas, and found himself being treated as a lone crank. Home to Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, this ‘university town’ was too proud, complacent, idle, immoral, ‘learned’ and ‘smart’ for St. Paul to handle alone. One of his few Athenian converts however was a member of the Areopagus (‘Senate’) of Athens, named Dionysius. This St. Dionysius the Areopagite was to become the first bishop of Athens.* 6
St. Paul soon gave up waiting in Athens. Leaving St. Dionysius as a deacon for the new church in Athens, he made his way from this ‘university town’ to the tumultuous port and city life of nearby Corinth. In late 51 St. Paul arrived in Corinth still smarting from his perceived failure in Athens. As he wrote later to the Corinthians, ‘When I first came to
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...