on Acts 18 :17
Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes - As this man is termed the chief ruler of the synagogue, it is probable that he had lately succeeded Crispus in that office; see Acts 18:8; and that he was known either to have embraced Christianity, or to have favored the cause of St. Paul. He is supposed to be the same person whom St. Paul associates with himself in the first epistle to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 1:1. Crispus might have been removed from his presidency in the synagogue as soon as the Jews found he had embraced Christianity, and Sosthenes appointed in his place.
And, as he seems to have speedily embraced the same doctrine, the Jews would be the more enraged, and their malice be directed strongly against him, when they found that the proconsul would not support them in their opposition to Paul.
But why should the Greeks beat Sosthenes? I have in the above note proceeded on the supposition that this outrage was committed by the Jews; and my reason for it is this: Οἱ Ἑλληνες, the Greeks, is omitted by AB, two of the oldest and most authentic MSS. in the world: they are omitted also by the Coptic and Vulgate, Chrysostom, and Bede. Instead of Οἱ Ἑλληνες, three MSS., one of the eleventh, and two of the thirteenth century, have Ιουδαιοι, the Jews; and it is much more likely that the Jews beat one of their own rulers, through envy at his conversion, than that the Greeks should do so; unless we allow, which is very probable, (if Ἑλληνες, Greeks, be the true reading), that these Hellenes were Jews, born in a Greek country, and speaking the Greek language.
And Gallio cared for none of those things - Και ουδεν τουτων τῳ Γαλλιωνι εμελεν. And Gallio did not concern himself, did not intermeddle with any of these things. As he found that it was a business that concerned their own religion, and that the contention was among themselves, and that they were abusing one of their own sect only, he did not choose to interfere. He, like the rest of the Romans, considered the Jews a most despicable people, and worthy of no regard; and their present conduct had no tendency to cause him to form a different opinion of them from that which he and his countrymen had previously entertained. It is not very likely, however, that Gallio saw this outrage; for, though it was before the judgment seat, it probably did not take place till Gallio had left the court; and, though he might be told of it, he left the matter to the lictors, and would not interfere.
The conduct of Gallio has been, in this case, greatly censured; and I think with manifest injustice. In the business brought before his tribunal, no man could have followed a more prudent or equitable course. His whole conduct showed that it was his opinion, that the civil magistrate had nothing to do with religious opinions or the concerns of conscience, in matters where the safety of the state was not implicated. He therefore refused to make the subject a matter of legal discussion. Nay, he went much farther; he would not even interfere to prevent either the Jews or the apostles from making proselytes. Though the complaint against the apostles was, that they were teaching men to worship God contrary to the law; see the note on Acts 18:15, yet, even in this case, he did not think it right to exert the secular power to restrain the free discussion and teaching of matters which concerned the rights of conscience in things pertaining to the worship of the gods. As to his not preventing the tumult which took place, we may say, if he did see it, which is not quite evident, that he well knew that this could rise to no serious amount; and the lictors, and other minor officers, were there in sufficient force to prevent any serious riot, and it was their business to see that the public peace was not broken, besides, as a heathen, he might have no objection to permit this people to pursue a line of conduct by which they were sure to bring themselves and their religion into contempt. These wicked Jews could not disprove the apostle's doctrine, either by argument or Scripture; and they had recourse to manual logic, which was an indisputable proof of the badness of their own cause, and the strength of that of their opponents.
But in consequence of this conduct Gallio has been represented as a man perfectly careless and unconcerned about religion in general; and therefore has been considered as a proper type or representative of even professed Christians, who are not decided in their religious opinions or conduct. As a heathen, Gallio certainly was careless about both Judaism and Christianity. The latter he had probably never heard of but by the cause now before his judgment seat; and, from any thing he could see of the other, through the medium of its professors, he certainly could entertain no favorable opinion of it: therefore in neither case was he to blame. But the words, cared for none of those things, are both misunderstood and misapplied: we have already seen that they only mean that he would not intermeddle in a controversy which did not belong to his province and sufficient reasons have been alleged why he should act as he did. It is granted that many preachers take this for a text, and preach useful sermons for the conviction of the undecided and lukewarm; and it is to be deplored that there are so many undecided and careless people in the world, and especially in reference to what concerns their eternal interests. But is it not to be lamented, also, that there should be preachers of God's holy word who attempt to explain passages of Scripture which they do not understand? For he who preaches on Gallio cared for none of those things, in the way in which the passage has, through mismanagement, been popularly understood, either does not understand it, or he wilfully perverts the meaning.
on Acts 18 :17
Then all the Greeks - The Greeks who had witnessed the persecution of Paul by the Jews, and who had seen the tumult which they had excited.
Took Sosthenes ... - As he was the chief ruler of the synagogue, he had probably been a leader in the opposition to Paul, and in the prosecution. Indignant at the Jews; at their bringing such questions before the tribunal; at their bigotry, and rage, and contentious spirit, they probably fell upon him in a tumultuous and disorderly manner as he was leaving the tribunal. The Greeks would feel no small measure of indignation at these disturbers of the public peace, and they took this opportunity to express their rage.
And beat him - ἔτυπτον etupton. This word is not what is commonly used to denote a judicial act of scourging. It probably means that they fell upon him and beat him with their fists, or with whatever was at band,
Before the judgment seat - Probably while leaving the tribunal. Instead of "Greeks" in this verse, some mss. read "Jews," but the former is probably the true reading. The Syriac, Arabic, and Coptic read it "the Gentiles." It is probable that this Sosthenes afterward became a convert to the Christian faith, and a preacher of the gospel. See 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, "Paul, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth."
And Gallio cared ... - This has been usually charged on Gallio as a matter of reproach, as if he were wholly indifferent to religion. But the charge is unjustly made, and his name is often most improperly used to represent the indifferent, the worldly, the careless, and the skeptical. By the testimony of ancient writers he was a most mild and amiable man, arid an upright and just judge. There is not the least evidence that he was indifferent to the religion of his country, or that he was of a thoughtless and skeptical turn of mind. All that this passage implies is:
(1) That he did not deem it to be his duty, or a part of his office, to settle questions of a theological nature that were started among the Jews.
(2) that he was unwilling to make this subject a matter of legal discussion and investigation.
(3) that he would not interfere, either on one side or the other, in the question about proselytes either to or from Judaism. So far, certainly, his conduct was exemplary and proper.
(4) that he did not choose to interpose, and rescue Sosthenes from the hands of the mob. From some cause he was willing that he should feel the effects of the public indignation. Perhaps it was not easy to quell the riot; perhaps he was not unwilling that he who had joined in a furious and unprovoked persecution should feel the effect of it in the excited passions of the people. At all events, he was but following the common practice among the Romans, which was to regard the Jews with contempt, and to care little how much they were exposed to popular fury and rage. In this he was wrong; and it is certain, also, that he was indifferent to the disputes between Jews and Christians; but there is no propriety in defaming his name, and making him the type and representative of all the thought less and indifferent on the subject of religion in subsequent times. Nor is there propriety in using this passage as a text as applicable to this class of people.
on Acts 18 :17