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Erastus, Gallio, and Paul

The Gallio Inscription at Delphi
Gallio Inscription from Delphi

Two inscriptions may offer important windows into the social and historical context of Paul’s activity in Achaia. Each possibly mentions named figures associated with Paul in the New Testament: Erastus “the treasurer of the city” of Corinth (Rom 16:23; cf. 2Tim 4:20; Acts 19:22) and Gallio the proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12-17).

In a Latin inscription upon limestone pavement discovered at Corinth in 1929, a local official named Erastus gives thanks to the public for his election to the office of aedile: “Erastus, in return for his aedileship, laid (the pavement) at his own expense.” The pavement dates to the second half of the first century C.E. At Corinth, two aediles served under the chief local magistrates of the city, the duoviri. Elected annually, aediles maintained public buildings and streets, managed the activities of the marketplace, and administered financial revenues that arose from these endeavors. Since the name Erastus stands alone, without mention of a father or family name, it is possible that he represents one of the many “freedmen,” former slaves, who helped to resettle Corinth after 44 B.C.E. and rose to prosperity there in subsequent generations.

While we can’t be certain, this inscription may directly refer to the same “Erastus, the treasurer of the city,” whom Paul mentions as an associate when he writes to the Romans from Corinth (Rom 16:23). Three factors may favor a positive identification. First, the inscription is contemporary to Paul’s own activity. Second, the name Erastus is otherwise rare among Corinthian inscriptions. Third, while the two titles are not precisely equivalent, the term “treasurer” (oikonomos) may roughly approximate the functions of the Latin aedile; on the other hand, some scholars imagine that Paul’s reference may reflect Erastus’s earlier official position (perhaps as a quaestor) prior to his election as aedile. Since aediles purchased their offices for substantial amounts of money, Erastus would certainly have represented the upper range of social and economic classes within the early church. It is further possible that his contributions to the city of Corinth paralleled his patronage of the nascent church there and perhaps Paul’s own mission.

Dating circa 52 C.E., a Greek inscription from the Emperor Claudius to the local inhabitants at Delphi mentions “Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend and proconsul of Achaea,” the same figure who mediates between Paul and the Jews of Corinth in Acts 18:12-17. In the inscription, Gallio’s conscientious concern for the governance of Delphi is apparent, as is his good favor with Claudius. The date of the inscription has often been used as an important benchmark for the chronology of Paul’s Corinthian mission. If Paul’s original mission lasted “a year and a six months” (Acts 18:11) and he appeared before Gallio during his brief proconsulate, then his activity at Corinth seems to have lasted from 50-51 C.E. The inscription’s dating to 52 C.E. has provided further confirmation for some scholars that Gallio was, in fact, acting as proconsul of Achaea during these very years.

  • C. D. Elledge

    C. D. Elledge is associate professor of religion at Gustavus Adolphus College.