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Gallio’s Pedigree

Gallio’s Pedigree

In the book of Acts, we’re told about the Apostle Paul being brought before the Roman Proconsul Gallio by the Jewish synagogue leaders:

“But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” And he drove them from the tribunal. And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.” (Acts 18:12-17)

Part 1 of Phoebe’s Journey, imagines a further meeting between Gallio and Paul with a fascinating series of exchanges between the two. Gallio arguing from his Stoic background, the Apostle Paul making his case as a Christian.

Gallio, the Proconsul of Achaia [Ancient Greece] when Paul was in Corinth, was the son of Seneca the Elder, and brother to Seneca the Younger. All three were prominent in Roman society.

Seneca and Gallio were born in Cordoba, Spain into a wealthy equestrian family, but moved with their father to Rome where he became a famed speaker and writer. Seneca the Elder oversaw his sons’ education in the Stoic school of philosophy. Gallio and Seneca the Younger rose in their careers to seats of power.

As an adult, Seneca the Younger was an essayist, a playwright, and Stoic philosopher. He also was a tutor and adviser to the evil emperor Nero. Seneca the Younger was one of the wealthiest men of his time.

Seneca’s life was one of opposites: Great wealth, ambition, and power vs. introspection, self-examination, and a philosophy advocating humility, civil obligation, and self-denial.

Seneca wrote several essays, one was a treatise on The Happy Life that he wrote to his brother, Gallio. Following are some of Seneca’s observations and suggestions:

  • Find a role model.
  • Never be a slave to your riches.
  • Fight your ego.

I pondered whether we find similar admonitions in the New Testament:

  • Find a role model: Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.”
  • Never be a slave to your riches: Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
  • Fight your ego: I Peter 5:5 “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.”

In Phoebe’s Journey, Gallio and the Apostle Paul are educated and wise men. They come from similar, but different backgrounds. They don’t agree about everything, but they find common ground and form a mutually respectful relationship proving that even in our differences, we have similarities.

If you’d like to read more about the philosophy of stoicism, here are three recommended books:



Corinth–Rebuilt Bigger & Better

Corinth–Rebuilt Bigger & Better

Did you know that in the time-setting of Phoebe’s Journey, beginning around 51-53 AD, Corinth was five times larger than Athens?

This was actually Corinth’s second go-around. In 146 BCE, Corinth was completely destroyed by the Romans. The citizens were either killed or taken into slavery. Seems the Roman occupiers were not too happy with the citizenry when some Corinthians dared to pour the waste from their homes onto Roman officials passing by. The officials sent an army and the city was razed.

Corinth was deserted for nearly one hundred years until Julius Caesar rebuilt the city as a colony in 44 BCE. By the middle of the first century AD, Phoebe’s era, Corinth was bigger and better than ever. In fact, it was the largest city in Greece. A hustling metropolitan area, Corinth was known for its diversity, its great wealth, and yes, its immorality.

Two Sentences

Two Sentences

Phoebe was only mentioned one time in the New Testament. In Romans 16:1-2 the Apostle Paul tells the Christians in Rome: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.”

Those two sentences are jam-packed with information about our leading lady. Let’s dig deeper.

It seems obvious that in the first century A.D., most letter writers didn’t carry their own letters. Why would Paul write a letter if he was going to see the recipients in person? Much like letter writers today use the post office, in ancient times, emissaries carried letters on behalf of their writers. It was common for letter writers to include an introduction of the person(s) who brought the letter on their behalf. When Paul introduces `Phoebe, from Cenchrea,’ it’s logical to assume that Phoebe was person who brought Paul’s letter nearly 1000 miles from Corinth, Greece all the way to Rome.

What else can we super-sleuth from this one verse? Well, when Paul says “Welcome her [Phoebe] in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people,” we know that Phoebe was a Christian. We also hear that Paul expects brothers and sisters united in Christianity to treat each other with respect and Christian love–whether or not we have ever met before. Paul wants Phoebe to be honored and to be warmly welcomed into their lives.

Paul goes on to tell his friends in Rome, “…give her any help she may need from you…” There are so many possibilities as to what kind of help Phoebe may have needed while in Rome. In the third book of the Phoebe’s Journey series, you’ll read all about the work I’ve imagined Phoebe doing in Rome. Of course, Paul doesn’t specify any business reason for Phoebe to have traveled to Rome, but we can use our imaginations.

Paul wraps up his introduction of Phoebe, “…she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.” Phoebe was obviously special in Paul’s eyes. Doesn’t that sentence make you wonder about the kindnesses she showed to her fellow Christians, and especially the Apostle Paul?

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