Paul, Phoebe, Timothy, and Their Collections for Judea

In: Novum Testamentum
Richard G. Fellows Independent researcher Vancouver Canada

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Studies of Paul’s collection(s) for Judea have suffered from the largely unexamined assumption that he wanted all regions to donate at the same time. Paul and Phoebe collaborated to organize a collection from Rome, and Paul anticipated a collection from Asia. There was likely a collection from Galatia several years before the collection from Macedonia and Achaia, and there is little reason to doubt the collection from Antioch. The silence of Acts concerning these collections is no argument against them, and it can be explained as a protective measure. We have no evidence that any of the collections were rejected.

1 Introduction

When Paul wrote Romans, he was about to deliver a collection of funds for Judea from Macedonia and Achaia (Rom 15:26). He explains his reasons for organizing this collection (Rom 15:27; 2 Cor 8:13–15; 9:11–15). Now, nothing in Paul’s rationale for this collection applies uniquely to Macedonia and Achaia, nor does it apply uniquely to the time of writing. We should therefore be alert to the possibility that Paul encouraged collections from other provinces at different times.

We have direct evidence of three collections. (1) Acts 11:27–30 tells us that Paul and Barnabas delivered aid from Antioch to believers in Judea because of a famine. (2) 1 Cor 16:1–2 and perhaps Gal 2:10 indicate that at least one collection was requested from the churches of Galatia. (3) A collection from Macedonia and Achaia is well attested by 1 Cor 16:1–4; 2 Cor 8:1–9:15; 12:13–18; Rom 15:25–32. Interpreters have a tendency to minimize the number of collections associated with Paul. The first, from Antioch, corresponds to Paul’s so-called “famine visit,” which is frequently doubted.1 It is almost invariably assumed that there was only one collection from Galatia, and that it was more or less contemporaneous with the collection from Macedonia and Achaia.2 Similarly, when scholars consider the possibility that Paul encouraged collections from Rome and Asia, they assume that such collections would need to be simultaneous with the collection from Macedonia and Achaia.3

Paul thought it possible that the churches of Judea, if they prospered, would send funds to Corinth in the future, if the need arose (2 Cor 8:14).4 This shows that Paul was concerned with relieving poverty and not with simultaneity.

This article explores the data without presupposing simultaneity, and argues for up to five collections for Judea. We will consider the possibility that Paul hoped for future collections from Rome and Asia, and that he organized a collection from Galatia at the start of his so-called “second missionary journey.” Also, an explanation for Luke’s silence on the collection(s) will be given.

The trans-local delivery of aid was counter-cultural.5 Watson performed an extensive survey of ancient texts and concluded “specific practical concern for the needs of the poor is not attested in the Greco-Roman literature.”6 Both Longenecker and Kloppenborg come to a very similar conclusion, and show that there is a wide consensus that aid for the poor was almost absent from Greco-Roman culture.7 Similarly, Massinelli writes that “there seem to be no good non-Christian models” for “early Christian intergroup support and Paul’s collection.”8 Paul’s collection(s) would therefore have been hard for Gentile Christians to comprehend, and Watson suggests that this explains “the challenges to Paul in communicating the need for and significance of the collection,” and why “questions and opposition arose as the idea of the collection was introduced.”9 If Watson is right, then we should expect Paul to have had as much difficulty persuading Rome and Asia and Galatia to give as he had with the Corinthians, and we will use this thought later.

2 Rome

Massinelli writes:

Around 170 CE, Christians in Corinth received economic help from the Roman church. We know about this interaction from a thank you letter that Dionysius, the bishop of Corinth, sent to the Romans …: “From the beginning, this is your custom, namely, to benefit all the brothers in various ways and to send provisions to many churches in every city, thus relieving the poverty of those who are in need and providing supplies to the brothers who are in the mines. You have been sending this help from of old. You preserve, as Romans, the inherited customs of the Romans. Your blessed bishop Soter not only preserved this custom but also augmented it by supplying the plenty sent out to the saints …” (Hist. eccl. 4.23.10; my trans.).10

Dionysius commends the church of Rome for funding trans-local poverty relief, from its earliest days. An example of this would be a collection by the Christians in Rome for the poor among the saints in Judea shortly after Paul wrote Romans. It is even possible that Dionysius had such an interpretation of Paul’s letter in mind.

We will first discuss Paul’s hints that the churches of Rome should collect money for the poor in the churches of Judea. We will then explain why Paul was not more explicit.

In Rom 15:25–32, as we would expect at this point in the letter, Paul gives his travel plans. While doing so, he sneaks in some additional information about the present collection (Rom 15:26–28) and a prayer request (Rom 15:30–32). This will have subtly prompted the audience to consider organizing their own collection. Paul names the regions that have donated (Macedonia and Achaia) and thus offers them as examples for the churches of Rome to follow. He does this in much the same way that he held up Macedonia as an example for Achaia to follow (2 Cor 8:1–5), and vice versa (2 Cor 9:2).11 Paul then explains that Achaia and Macedonia had a duty to give (Rom 15:27). This takes the discussion well away from travel plans and serves to tell the audience (indirectly) that they too have a duty to give.

At Rom 15:28a Paul tells his audience that he will ensure that the collection reaches the intended recipients: “So, when I have completed this, and have sealed (σφραγισάµενος) to them this fruit.” The verb σφραγίζω “underscores the importance of a formal authentication” and carried with it “a nuance that care has been taken to guard against fraud and deception.”12 It is hard to imagine how these words would be relevant to the church of Rome unless Paul was hoping that they would organize their own collection. Paul’s statement assures the audience that collections can be delivered securely and that he can be trusted to help them organize such a collection.

While Paul no doubt wanted the churches of Rome to pray for him, the prayers that he requested will have also served to keep the collection at the front of their minds. In hearing Rom 15:31a, and in their subsequent prayers for Paul’s safety, they would be reminded that Paul was risking his life to deliver this collection, and they would be persuaded to do more themselves. As he so often does (e.g. Phil 1:12–26; 3:17), Paul is here offering himself as an example for his readers to follow. Rom 15:31b encouraged them to pray that the collection would be sufficient to meet the needs of the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. In praying that prayer, they would feel hypocritical if they had not started their own collection. Thus, the whole of Paul’s prayer request serves to subtly prompt (we might say manipulate) the churches of Rome to start their own collection.13

There is no need to suppose, as most do, that Rom 15:31b expresses anxiety about whether the recipients of the aid might refuse it (for theological reasons or otherwise), rather than concern over whether the amount will be enough to meet the needs of the saints.14 When Paul uses εὐπρόσδεκτος (acceptable) in connection with the collection (2 Cor 8:12) he is thinking of the amount. In the New Testament the word has a positive feel—there is never a hint of a danger of rejection (Rom 15:16; 2 Cor 6:2; 8:12; 1 Pet 2:5). Indeed, the meaning is “(easily) acceptable, pleasant, welcome.”15 In 2 Cor 9:11–14 Paul is confident that the collection will be well received.16 Similarly in Rom 15:29 he expresses confidence that he will come to Rome “in the fullness of the blessing of Christ” after delivering the collection and in Rom 15:32 he hopes to come with “joy,” not relief. Paul speaks of the recipients of the collection in very positive terms, describing them as “saints” (Rom 15:31b) and stating that they had delivered spiritual blessings to the Gentiles (Rom 15:27). It is doubtful that Paul would have used such positive terms to describe them if they were on the verge of rejecting his collection (which would be a declaration of enmity). Furthermore, it is unlikely that Paul would cajole two provinces to part with their money before first establishing whether the gift was wanted, and it is doubtful whether he would admit to such incompetence in his letter to Rome. Also, if Paul feared that the collection would be rejected, he would likely have limited his travel companions to those from the donor provinces. It would have been humiliating for him to have his collection rejected in front of representatives of the churches of Asia and Derbe (Acts 20:4), as well as those of Macedonia. In summary, there are many reasons to doubt the usual interpretation of Rom 15:31b, and we should resist the temptation to see theological conflict and intrigue behind this text.17

Paul commends Phoebe (Rom 16:1–2) immediately after discussing the fund raising. She is a διάκονος. Cognates διακονία (Rom 15:31) and διακονέω (Acts 19:22; Rom 15:25; 2 Cor 8:19, 20) are used to refer to the collection and its helpers. She is also a benefactor of many (προστάτις πολλῶν). She was committed to providing material support for fellow Christians so she might well have wanted to initiate a collection in Rome. Paul presents her as someone who can be trusted to administer a collection. Paul asks his audience to stand by (παραστῆτε) Phoebe in a certain matter or matters, and his justification for this request is that Phoebe was a benefactor of many (καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ προστάτις πολλῶν ἐγενήθη). In what way does Paul hope that his audience will stand by Phoebe? What will be the nature of Phoebe’s request? It will probably be a request to donate funds, because Phoebe’s role as benefactor is used to justify the request and is closely associated with it by Paul’s word play between παραστῆτε and προστάτις. The believers in Rome are to stand by (παραστῆτε) Phoebe in her project of collecting funds, because she has been a benefactor (προστάτις) of many. Being a benefactor, she was also likely a host and leader and risked persecution. However, Paul chooses to emphasize her role as benefactor/patron, presumably because it was more relevant to the request that will be made. In much the same way, the Corinthians are to submit to the household of Stephanas because it has put itself at the service of the saints (1 Cor 16:15–16). The Philippians are to struggle beside Euodia and Syntyche because they had struggled alongside Paul (Phil 4:2–3). Paul praises the church leaders for behaviors that he wants to see others display toward them.

Robert Jewett proposed that Phoebe will ask the believers in Rome to support Paul’s mission to Spain.18 This cannot be the immediate task that Paul has in mind in these verses, because it is unreasonable to expect the audience to start making preparations for Paul’s journey to Spain before they have even met him. Collecting funds for Judea needs to begin early (see 1 Cor 16:1–3; 2 Cor 9:2–5), but preparations for Spain are best left until Paul’s arrival in Rome. Also, the sequence does not support Jewett’s proposal, because Paul commends Phoebe immediately after discussing the collection, not immediately after announcing his plan to visit Spain.

The collection from Rome therefore seems to be a collaboration between Paul and Phoebe. He gives only hints about the need for a collection from Rome, but she will interpret his words when the time is right.

Paul was not the founder of the churches of Rome so he did not have the authority of a “father” over them (contrast 1 Cor 4:14–15). Indeed, he carefully avoids asserting authority over them (Rom 1:11–12; 15:15–16). It is therefore not surprising that Paul introduces the delicate subject of money tentatively. Security considerations also may have caused him to avoid explicit references to a collection from Rome. In 2 Cor 8:18, 22; 12:18 there are three collection helpers who are afforded anonymity. This is presumably to protect these people in case opponents of the church overhear the letter being read or get access to the letter. The only named person whom Paul associates with a collection is “Titus,” who is given a degree of anonymity since Paul names him only by praenomen. Acts is largely silent about the collections (as will be discussed later), but it gives evidence of Paul’s security concerns. Luke tells us that there was a plot against Paul as he was about to sail. If the plot was against Paul’s person he would have travelled with the protection of the larger group, but Acts narrates that he travelled with Luke only (Acts 20:5–6) and later alone (20:13–14). These decisions for Paul to travel separately are explicable if the plot was an attempt to intercept the collection or have it confiscated by the civil authorities. The money could be carried by the larger group, who were not under suspicion (due to the protective silences such as those discussed above), as long as Paul was not seen embarking with them. So, the need for tact and/or security explains why Paul does not make his request explicit in his letter. Phoebe herself can make that request verbally when the time is right.

Phoebe will likely interpret Paul’s letter to both men and women in meetings of the churches. This brings the authenticity of 1 Cor 14:34–35 and 1 Tim 2:12 into question since we read there that women are not to speak in church or teach men.

3 Asia

Lucian, who witnessed Peregrinus’s death in 165 CE, writes that Peregrinus became an influential Christian and was imprisoned, presumably in Palestine. Lucian ridicules the Christians, describing their response to Peregrinus’s imprisonment:

Indeed, some arrived even from the cities in Asia sent by the Christians [with money] from the common fund in order to aid, defend, and encourage the man. They show incredible speed whenever such a public action takes place. For they give everything at once. And so, much wealth came then from them to Peregrinus because of his chains, and he made no little profit.19

Lucian here is making no kindly exaggeration of the generosity of Christians, but is mocking their naivety. The text therefore gives clear evidence of the habit of churches of Asia to send aid.

For three reasons, it is highly unlikely that the churches of Asia contributed to a collection at the time of Paul’s final journey to Jerusalem. Firstly, Rom 15:26 suggests that only Macedonia and Achaia gave at that time. Secondly, it would make little sense to arrange a rendezvous for the collection in Achaia if Asia was contributing. It would have been better for the delegates to assemble in Ephesus to save the cost and dangers of having to carry the Asian contribution in the wrong direction from Asia to Achaia. Why expose an Asian collection unnecessarily to increased dangers of confiscation, shipwreck and robbery? It is clear that Achaia was the designated departure point, from the time of 1 Corinthians or earlier (Rom 15:25–27; Acts 19:21; 20:2–3; 1 Cor 16:3–6).20 Thirdly, the counter-cultural nature of the collections would have made it hard for Paul to convince Asia to start giving within two years of their evangelization. Paul probably arranged no collection from Macedonia and Achaia during his first visits to those provinces (since 1 Thessalonians is silent on collections and the Corinthians needed instructions at the time of 1 Corinthians), so it is unlikely that Asia contributed during Paul’s first visit to them.

Why, then, did two Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus, accompany the collection (Acts 20:4; 21:29)? Why did they travel to Judea at that time, and why did they not take a more direct route? While other explanations are possible, the problem is solved when we consider the effect that their journey would have on the believers in Asia, after their return. They would report to the churches of Asia that the poor among the saints in Judea were in need of further aid, that Macedonia and Achaia had given generously, and that the collection had been delivered to the intended recipients without scandal. All this would have encouraged the Asian churches to make a collection themselves. By witnessing the donation, transportation, and delivery of this collection, Tychicus and Trophimus would be able to inspire the Asian churches to give, and allay their concerns about this counter-cultural enterprise. Indifference to the collection and suspicion of it could be overcome by building personal connections between the recipient and potential donor communities.21

In support of this understanding of the journeys of Tychicus and Trophimus, we can point to other occasions when Paul encouraged journeys to allay concerns about the collection and to encourage generosity: (1) He recommended that the Corinthians (and Galatians?) appoint delegates to carry their collection (1 Cor 16:3). (2) He sent a trusted “brother” to Corinth so that “no one should blame us” (2 Cor 8:18–21). (3) He sent Timothy to Macedonia with Erastus, who was experienced in the administration of money (Acts 19:22; Rom 16:23). (4) He twice sent trusted Titus to Corinth (2 Cor 8:16–17; 12:16–18) to help with the collection. Titus had certainly been to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1–3) and would be able to emphasize that the money was needed there. He would also be able to assure the Corinthians that earlier collections had been delivered without misappropriation or any other scandal. (5) It was argued above that Phoebe will organize a collection in Rome. (6) It will be argued below that Paul sent Timothy to Galatia to organize an earlier collection.

4 Galatia

Paul collected money from Macedonia and Achaia during his second visit to them. Did he similarly organize a collection from Galatia at the time of his second visit to them? There are three independent hints that he did.

Firstly, 1 Cor 16:1–3 confirms that Paul made a collection from Galatia. This collection was likely already completed by the time of writing (perhaps years before), for it is not mentioned in Rom 15:26, or indeed in 2 Cor 8–9. This is confirmed by the fact that Galatians contains no explicit encouragement to give to a collection. The Galatian collection was probably completed years before the Corinthian correspondence.22 Nickle has two objections to this understanding of 1 Cor 16:1–3.23 His first objection is that there is an “implication here that the Galatian churches are still following these instructions,” but he does not justify this assumption of simultaneity. It seems more likely to me that Paul is referring here to a collection that is known to have been successfully completed. Since trans-local aid was rare in Graeco-Roman culture, the Corinthians were naturally hesitant to trust Paul with their money. As in 2 Cor 8:18–21, Paul was keen to show that it was his policy to administer the collection in such a way that everyone would know that he and his co-workers were not misappropriating the funds. Paul therefore asks them to put aside the money in their own homes, where they will have control over it (1 Cor 16:2) and then send it to Jerusalem with their own trusted representatives (1 Cor 16:3). Paul further reassures the Corinthians that the same procedure had been followed in Galatia, and on his own initiative (rather than because the Galatians found that it was the only way to keep Paul’s hands off the money). Paul’s mention of the Galatians here reassures the Corinthians precisely because the Galatian collection had been delivered without any scandal. The procedure that the Corinthians are to follow is tried and tested, and that is Paul’s point. Nickle’s second objection is that he sees “the presence of Galatian representatives with Paul on the trip to Jerusalem.” He refers, presumably, to Gaius of Derbe and Timothy (Acts 20:4). However, it is very unlikely that these men would carry a collection from Galatia to Jerusalem via Corinth, rather than choose a more direct, and therefore safer, route. It is more likely that Gaius was returning home to Galatia after encouraging Macedonia and Achaia to give, by reassuring them that the (earlier) collection from Galatia had been completed without scandal.

Secondly, Gal 2:10 likely alludes to a collection from Galatia.24 The apostles’ request that Paul and Barnabas should “remember the poor” was made during the Jerusalem council, which can be dated to 48 or 49 CE. Paul’s assertion that he was eager (σπουδάζω) would fall flat if he had waited until the mid-fifties to organize a collection from Galatia. The poor cannot wait that long.25 More probably, he organized a collection from Galatia at the start of his so-called “second missionary journey,” immediately after the conference. This was indeed the time of Paul’s second visit to the region. This collection would then probably have been completed before Galatians was written, and this could explain why the letter contains only a brief allusion to it. As Joubert writes, “this cursory reference to the collection does not only indicate that the project was well-known among the Galatians but also that it was already successfully completed.”26 Becker agrees.27

Thirdly, a collection from Galatia can explain why Timothy was there when Paul arrived (Acts 16:1–3), for Paul may have sent him there to organize it. It is often supposed that Timothy was a resident of Lystra and had been converted by Paul on his so-call first missionary journey. This, however, creates a tension. Why would the Jews in the region be able and willing to require the circumcision of Timothy if they had not been able and willing to prevent the union of his mother with a Gentile? The tension is resolved if Timothy was from Antioch, where the Jews and Gentiles mixed more freely.28 It might be objected that the silence of Acts concerning Timothy’s origins implies that he was from Lystra. However, this argument is weak. If Timothy went to Lystra to organize a collection then the silence of Acts on this is merely part of its silence about all collections, except the early collection from Antioch.

It has been argued on other grounds that “Titus” was nothing other than Timothy’s praenomen.29 This would create a plausible scenario. Titus was with Paul in Jerusalem (Gal 2:1–3) when the apostles were asked to “remember the poor” (Gal 2:10). He would have seen first-hand the needs of the poor there and he may have heard how the earlier collection from Antioch had been spent. He would therefore be an ideal choice for Paul to send to Galatia to request a collection. He later took this same role of collection organizer (2 Cor 8:6, 16–17; 12:18; Acts 19:22; 20:4). Benefactors in the early church often received new names.30 It may therefore be no coincidence that the name “Timothy” means “honoring God,” which is exactly what collections for Judea did, according to Paul (2 Cor 9:11–13). Paul may have given Titus the name “Timothy” because his support of a collection (prior to the writing of 1 Thess 1:1) honored God.

In summary, we have found that three passages (1 Cor 16:1–3; Gal 2:10; and Acts 16:1–3) provide evidence for a collection from Galatia at the start of Paul’s second missionary journey. These three arguments, while falling short of proof, are cumulative in force.

5 Antioch

The historicity of the famine visit (Acts 11:27–30; 12:25) has been questioned by many, on the grounds that Paul does not mention it in Galatians.31 Paul explains in Gal 1:16–24 that he had had minimal contact with the Judean churches in the years immediately following his calling/conversion. If his purpose in doing so is to show that the gospel that he preached in Galatia cannot have been received from the believers in Judea, then he would indeed be obliged to mention every contact with the Judean churches prior to his first visit to Galatia. However, this is not his purpose, because two weeks would have been plenty of time for Paul to receive gospel teaching from Peter (Gal 1:18). Hunn has shown that Paul’s purpose is rather to show that, following his conversion, he was no longer the kind of person who would want to ingratiate himself with the Jerusalem church to rise through their ranks (he was not a people-pleaser).32

I support this understanding of Galatians in a recent article.33 Paul had circumcised Timothy and delivered the decision of the Jerusalem church leaders that circumcision was not needed (Acts 16:1–4). I argue that the Galatians (under the influence of the agitators) concluded from these events that Paul approved of circumcision and spoke against it to the Galatians just to please the Jerusalem church leaders. This hypothesis is synergistic with the present article in three ways. Firstly, it supports Hunn’s view of Gal 1:10–24 described above. It seems that the agitators had told the Galatians that Paul had been ambitious for advancement since before his calling (Gal 1:13–14) and that he was still similarly ambitious and that that is why he wanted to please the Jerusalem church leaders by opposing circumcision. To correct this misunderstanding Paul needs only to point out that his behavior changed after his calling. Thus, he points out that he did not go up to Judea immediately after his calling, and when he did finally go there, he did not seek to promote himself, but remained unknown by face to the churches (1:15–24). Paul is not obliged to mention his subsequent visits to Jerusalem because they would not undermine his point, which is that this lack of contact with the Judean church leaders in the years immediately following his calling proves that his earlier desire for human advancement did not carry over to this post-calling life.

Secondly, my article confirms that Timothy was Titus and thus affirms that there was an early collection from Galatia.

Thirdly, it shows that there was no theological rift between Paul and the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and this calls into question the usual interpretation of Rom 15:31. The alternative understanding of this verse as an encouragement to give is thereby supported.

6 The Silence of Acts Concerning the Collections

Acts makes no explicit mention of any collection, except the collection from Antioch (Acts 11:27–30). It is often supposed that the collection from Macedonia and Achaia was the only other collection, and that Acts suppresses it because the Jerusalem church refused it for theological reasons. However, it has been suggested above that there was no theological rift between Paul and the Jerusalem church leaders, and that Rom 15:31 does not imply that Paul was worried that this collection would be rejected. Also, the supposed failure of the collection would not fully explain why Acts is largely silent about it. Why would Luke not simply gloss over the failure of the collection rather than suppress its existence? Also, there is a lot of conflict within the church that Acts does not suppress (Acts 5:1–10; 6:1; 8:18–24; 9:26; 11:2–3; 15:1–2, 5, 37–38, 39–40; 21:20–21).

It will now be argued that Luke’s silence is better explained by his well-known tendency to avoid saying anything that would encourage Roman suspicion of the Church. How would Roman authorities have interpreted Paul’s collections if they had learned about them from a copy of Acts? As we have seen, aid for the poor was not a part of Greco-Roman culture, so the Romans would have found Paul’s collections odd, at the very least. The collection from Antioch, which Luke does mention, is a possible exception, since it was performed in anticipation of an imminent famine. Watson writes that in the Graeco-Roman world “many, if not all, attested formal responses to hunger constituted an effort to avert impending crisis or diminish the effects of an existing one.”34 So, the collection from Antioch may not have raised suspicion, but the collections about which Luke is silent would have been harder for the Roman authorities to understand.

More importantly, the Romans would have concluded that the donor churches knew that the collections would weaken the provinces from which they were sent, and strengthen Judea when it was preparing for war with Rome. Today when someone makes a donation to an aid agency we normally suppose that the individual donor pays the price alone, and that the direct recipients of the aid get most of the benefit. The Romans held a different economic theory that emphasized the effects on the wider communities. Concerning the temple tax paid by Jews in the provinces, Downs speaks of “the opposition that Jews often faced from pagan neighbors upset with the transportation of such large sums of money away from their local communities. … From the perspective of their non-Jewish neighbors, the exportation of substantial quantities of gold was a serious drain on the local economy.”35 Downs cites Cicero, Josephus, and Philo.36

Sanders writes, “Ancient governments controlled the export of money, and during the Roman period it was a point of Jewish privilege that Diaspora Jews could pay the [temple] tax,” and “Unless the Jews had permission ‘from the top,’ city councils or Roman administrators might stop the outflow of funds.”37

Wan writes:

The temple tax levied from the diaspora Jewish communities was a source of friction between the Jews and the Roman authorities. The latter objected that gold was being channeled out of their provinces and funneled into the Jerusalem temple. Cicero’s defense of Flaccus, the Roman governor in Asia Minor who seized a sum of money collected for the temple in 62 BCE, affords us a glimpse of the authorities’ resentment (Pro Flacco 28.67): “When every year it was customary to send gold to Jerusalem on the order of the Jews from Italy and from all our provinces, Flaccus forbade by an edict its exportation from Asia. Who is there, gentlemen, who could not honestly praise this action? The senate often earlier and also in my consulship most urgently forbade the export of gold. But to resist this barbaric superstition was an act of firmness.”38

Barclay writes, “That they transported this money to a foreign country and thereby drained such cash away from impoverished local communities must also have been a matter of local concern” and “In some cities the authorities took steps to rectify this ‘injustice’—with what legal proceedings we cannot now tell—and seized the temple collections in lieu of money they reckoned owing to them. The Jews bitterly resented such confiscations, as they had resented those by Flaccus.”39

Romans would therefore have seen Paul’s collections as a drain on the finances of Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia. If donations weakened the neighbors of the donors it would be logical to suppose that they strengthened the neighbors of the recipients. Presumably, therefore, the Romans would also have thought, rightly or wrongly, that these collections strengthened the economy of Judea, a province preparing for war against Rome.

Tellingly, Josephus records Titus saying about the temple tax: “We permitted you to exact tributes for God and to collect offerings, without either admonishing or hindering those who brought them—only that you might grow richer at our expense and make preparations with our money to attack us!”40

So, whether or not the Christians in Judea supported the Jewish war, the Romans would have been critical of the donor churches for sending money to a rebellious province. The Roman authorities would have looked unfavorably on the churches of Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia if Acts had mentioned their collections for Judea, especially as Acts was likely written after the war with Rome.41 While synagogues had permission to deliver temple tax to Jerusalem, the Christians had no such cover.42

The purpose of Luke’s silence is illustrated by what he does mention. He mentions the famine relief, which the Romans would have understood. He also included Acts 24:17 where Paul chooses his words very carefully when referring to the collection. As Nickle points out, Paul portrays the collection “as the delivery of religious contributions recognized as legally permitted.”43 He also honors the delegates who delivered one of the collections, by mentioning them by name (Acts 20:4), while carefully avoiding direct mention of the collection itself.

7 Conclusions

We have seen that Paul’s collection from Macedonia and Achaia was not his only one. He had probably already completed collections from Antioch and Galatia, and he probably hoped that there would be later collections from Rome and perhaps Asia. Paul was probably consistent in seeking collections from all provinces, and in waiting until after their evangelistic visits.

The idea of collecting money for the poor in a distant province was strange to Greco-Roman culture. This can explain why the Corinthians had misgivings and suspected that their funds would be misappropriated. The reluctance of the donor congregations could be overcome by creating personal links to the recipient churches. Thus, someone travels from Jerusalem to the donor churches prior to each collection. Agabus came from Jerusalem to Antioch; Titus-Timothy went from Jerusalem to Galatia; Paul started the collections in Achaia and Macedonia after visiting Jerusalem (Acts 18:22); a collection in Asia may have followed the return there of Tychicus and Trophimus from Jerusalem; and Paul may have hoped to arrange a collection in Rome after visiting Jerusalem. It is through these travelers that the donor congregations gain a bond of friendship with the recipient congregations and learn about their present needs.

Luke is conspicuously silent about the collection from Galatia as well as about the later collection from Macedonia and Achaia. This silence protects those involved, in case the text of Acts fell into the wrong hands.

Finally, we no longer have reason to suspect that the believers in Judea rejected any of the collections or that the Galatians refused to give. Against Wedderburn, the data are explicable without the need to hypothesize what he calls “certain perhaps rather disturbing implications with regard to the history of Paul’s relations with his churches.”44


Longenecker accepts this collection, but not Paul’s delivery of it. Bruce W. Longenecker, Remember the Poor: Paul, Poverty, and the Greco-Roman World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010) 193 n. 32. Other deniers of the famine visit include Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1971) 376–379, M. Hengel, Zur urchristlichen Geschichtsschreibung (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1984) 94, and Gerd Lüdemann, Early Christianity According to the Traditions in Acts: A Commentary (London: SCM, 1989) 138. A thorough survey of opinion is given by Georges Massinelli, For Your Sake He Became Poor: Ideology and Practice of Gift Exchange between Early Christian Groups (BZNW 251; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021) 159.


Wedderburn, even though he considers the possibility that the collection from Galatia had been completed by the time of Galatians, nevertheless assumes (without argument) that it would then still have had to have been close in time to the collection from Corinth. A.J.M. Wedderburn “Paul’s Collection: Chronology and History,” NTS 48 (2002) 95–110, here 97 n. 4. Indeed, he rejects the idea that the Galatian collection was already completed before 2 Corinthians on the grounds that it is not mentioned in 2 Cor 8–9, yet he accepts a collection from Antioch, which is also absent from that text (page 103). Becker simply states, “According to 1 Cor. 16:1 the completion of the Galatian collection is still to come,” but does not justify his assertion. Jürgen Becker, Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles (Louisville: Westminster, 1993) 24. Massinelli, whose work of 762 pages reviews scholarship extensively, assumes, without discussion, that the collection from Galatia was simultaneous with that from Macedonia and Achaia. Massinelli, For Your Sake He Became Poor, 159.


Wedderburn, for example, points out that Paul does not ask the church of Rome to contribute to his present collection, but does not discuss a possible later collection in Rome. Wedderburn, “Paul’s Collection,” 109. Other examples are given below.


Margaret E. Thrall, II Corinthians Vol. 2: VIII–XIII (ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2001) 540–542.


Deborah Elaine Watson, “Paul’s Collection in Light of Motivations and Mechanisms for Aid to the Poor in the First-Century World” (Doctoral thesis, Durham University, 2006). Online


Watson, “Paul’s Collection,” 10.


Longenecker, Remember the Poor, 60–107. John S. Kloppenborg, “Paul’s Collection for Jerusalem and the Financial Practices in Greek Cities,” in Paul and Economics: A Handbook (ed. Thomas R. Blanton IV and Raymond Pickett; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017) 326.


Massinelli, For Your Sake He Became Poor, 298.


Watson, “Paul’s Collection,” 13, 122.


Massinelli, For Your Sake He Became Poor, 299–302. Emphasis mine.


This point and the idea of a collection from Rome comes, with his permission, from Scott McKnight (unpublished lecture of June 26, 2017). Fitzmyer writes, “Paul may also be hinting delicately to the Romans that they too should think similarly of their indebtedness to the other churches.” Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans (Anchor Bible 33; New York: Doubleday, 1993) 723. Olshausen similarly writes, “In the observation that the believers of Macedonia and Achaia had regarded themselves as debtors to the Jewish Christians, there is implied a delicate hint for the Romans, that they should also do so, and consequently should contribute to the collection.” Hermann Olshausen, Studies in the Epistle to the Romans (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1983) 423. Dunn writes “The suggestion that Paul was hinting to the Romans that they should also contribute to the collection (Leenhardt) forgets the implication of v 25 that Paul was about to set off for Jerusalem.” James D.G. Dunn, Romans 9–16 (WBC 38B; Dallas: Word, 1988) 876. Dunn, suffering from the assumption of simultaneity, fails to address the possibility that Paul is encouraging Rome to deliver a collection after his visit to Jerusalem.


John S. Kloppenborg, “Fiscal Aspects of Paul’s Collection for Jerusalem,” Early Christianity 8 (2017) 153–198, here 172.


Against Downs, who writes, “There is a reason to believe, in fact, that the Pauline collection for Jerusalem was a one-time caritative project. In his discussion of his plans to deliver the fund in Rom 15:25–32, Paul does not indicate that he plans to continue his fundraising efforts after this journey to Jerusalem, nor does he encourage the church in Rome to begin gathering a follow-up offering for Jerusalem.” David J. Downs, The Offering of the Gentiles: Paul’s Collection for Jerusalem in Its Chronological, Cultural, and Cultic Contexts (WUNT II/248; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008) 25.


Buck noted that Paul’s fear “that his collection may not be acceptable to the Christians in Jerusalem … comes as something of a surprise to the reader. Nowhere in his earlier mentions of the collection does he reveal that he has any misgivings as to the friendship of the Jerusalem Christians or their willingness to accept relief from his churches.” He went on to hypothesize that, between writing 2 Corinthians and Romans, Paul received the news that led to the writing of Galatians: “The activities of the Judaizers, first at Antioch and later in Galatia had undermined his confidence in the friendship of the Jerusalem church.” Charles H. Buck, Jr., “The Collection for the Saints,” HTR (1950) 1–29, here 11–13. However, there is no indication in Galatians that, after the events of Gal 2:11–14, Paul received any further information about the Jerusalem church. Also, Buck’s view is built on a misreading of Galatians (see below).


BDAG s.v.


Joubert must suppose that “his earlier optimism in 2 Corinthians 9,11–14, that Jerusalem would respond to the collection with prayers of thanksgiving and bestowals of honour, now makes way to the realism of an expected hostile reception.” Stephan Joubert, Paul as Benefactor: Reciprocity, Strategy and Theological Reflection in Paul’s Collection (WUNT II/124; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000) 209.


Watson rightly cautions against an “often overly politicised picture of the collection.” Watson, “Paul’s Collection,” 1.


Robert Jewett, “Paul, Phoebe, and the Spanish Mission,” in The Social World of Formative Christianity and Judaism: Essays in Tribute to Howard Clarke Kee (ed. Jacob Neusner, Ernest S. Frerichs, Peter Borgen, and Richard Horsley; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) 142–160.


Peregr. 13. Translation by Massinelli, For Your Sake He Became Poor, 259–260.


Against Joubert, who takes the presence of Trophimus and Tychicus to indicate that Asia did contribute (Paul as Benefactor, 204–205).


Ascough writes that the Corinthians “remained unconvinced that they had a social and religious obligation to an otherwise unknown group.” Richard S. Ascough, Paul’s Macedonian Associations: The Social Context of Philippians and 1 Thessalonians (WUNT 2/161; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003) 104.


So, rightly, Theodor Zahn, Der Brief des Paulus an die Galater (KNT 9; Leipzig: Deichert, 1905) 105–106.


Keith F. Nickle, The Collection: A Study in Paul’s Strategy (London: SCM, 1966) 15 n. 11.


Longenecker is probably correct that the pillars did not have aid for Judea in mind when they asked Paul and Barnabas to “remember the poor.” However, L. Hurtado was probably also correct that Paul brings up the subject of remembering the poor, and his response to the request, precisely because the Galatians had misinterpreted Paul’s motives for organizing a collection in Galatia. L. Hurtado, “The Jerusalem Collection and the Book of Galatians,” JSNT 5 (1979) 46–62. Unfortunately, Hurtado’s insight has been rejected because there is little evidence that a collection was still on-going when Galatians was written, and scholars labor under the assumption of simultaneity, which prevents them from considering the possibility of a completion of the collection before the writing of Galatians. See for example, Downs, The Offering, 34.


Those who connect Gal 2:10 to the later collection have a chronological problem here. John Knox and his followers recognized this and attempted to solve the problem by abandoning the chronology of Acts and placing the conference after the evangelization of Macedonia and Achaia. John Knox, Chapters in a Life of Paul (revised edition; Macon: Mercer University Press, 1987) 40. However, they reduce the gap from eight years to about four years, which still seems too long.


Joubert, Paul as Benefactor, 78.


Becker, Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles, 24.


“[The Antiochian Jews] were constantly attracting to their religious ceremonies multitudes of Greeks, and these they had in some measure incorporated with themselves”; Josephus, BJ 7.45.


See Udo Borse, “Timotheus und Titus, Abgesandte Pauli im Dienst des Evangeliums,” in Der Diakon: Wiederentdeckung und Erneuerung seines Dienstes (ed. Josef G. Plöger and Hermann Joh. Weber; Freiburg: Herder, 1980) 27–43. R.G. Fellows, “Was Titus Timothy?,” JSNT 81 (2001) 33–58. See also Robert King, Who Was St. Titus? The Scripture Notices on the Subject Compared to Received Opinions (Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1853).


See Richard G. Fellows, “Name Giving by Paul and the Destination of Acts,” TynBul 67 (2016) 247–268. Consider also Joseph-Barnabas (Acts 4:36–37) and Simon-Peter, who was an important host of Jesus’s work.


For examples, see note 1. Also, Funk believed that the famine visit was a misplaced account of the collection from Macedonia and Achaia. Robert W. Funk, “The Enigma of the Famine Visit,” JBL 75 (1956) 130–136.


Debbie Hunn, “Pleasing God or Pleasing People? Defending the Gospel in Galatians 1–2,” Biblica 91 (2010) 24–49.


Richard G. Fellows, “Paul, Timothy, Jerusalem and the Confusion in Galatia,” Biblica 99 (2018) 544–566.


Watson, “Paul’s Collection,” 31.


Downs, The Offering, 116–117.


Cicero, Flac. 28.66–69; Josephus, Ant. 16.163–170; Philo, Legat. 156–157; 311–313.


E.P. Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah (London: SCM press, 1990) 409, 410. Also, McKnight writes, “Roman authorities would have been nervous about too much money leaving individual districts.” S. McKnight, “Collection for the Saints,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid; Downers Grove: IVP, 1993) 144.


Sze-kar Wan, “Collection for the Saints as Anticolonial Act: Implications of Paul’s Ethnic Reconstruction,” in Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation: Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl (ed. R.A. Horsley; Harrisburg: Trinity, 2000) 201.


John Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora from Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE– 117 CE) (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996) 266, 269.


Josephus, BJ 6.335 (LCL).


Similarly, Nickle, The Collection, 150.


Josephus, Ant. 16.160–178.


Nickle, The Collection, 150.


Wedderburn, “Paul’s Collection,” 96.

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