Sosthenes, Un-Safe in Strength


References: Acts 18:5-17; 1 Corinthians 1:1.

Heart of the Story: Before he converted to Christianity, Sosthenes was beaten for his luke-warm anti-Christian beliefs. Sosthenes name meant “safe in strength.”

Story Line: In Corinth Chrispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue in Corinth, and his household converted to Christianity after hearing Paul’s message that Jesus was the promised Messiah and Son of God. Sosthenes succeeded Crispus. Sosthenes was the synagogue ruler when the Jews united and attack Paul. The attacking Jews brought Paul before Gallio, the Roman Proconsul. Their accusation was that Paul was persuading the Corinthians, including Jews, to worship God in ways contrary to the Jewish faith.

Just as Paul was about to defend himself, Gallio stopped him and told the Jews not to use his court to bicker about ideas and concepts of the Jewish faith. Gallio’s advice to the Jews was to settle the matter among their selves. Gallio was not about to judge such matters. Gallio told the Jews including Paul to leave his court. What happened next was rather startling. The Jews turned on Sosthenes, the synagogue ruler, and beat Sosthenes in front of Gallio.

Pondering Relationships: Knowing the history of the early Christian church, we can understand when the Jews attempted to use the Roman court to stop Paul’s missionary efforts. That was a fairly common event. What is startling is the Jews beat their own synagogue ruler. The Acts narrative doesn’t explain why Jews beat Sosthenes; however, credible scholars speculate that Sosthenes had the job of presenting the Jews case to Gallio and did a weak job. Because Sosthenes presented a  less than compelling case, the Jews became iritated and beat Sosthenes. An alternative explanation of Acts 18:17 is that the Jews didn’t beat Sosthenes. Rather, he was beaten by non-Jews in the court chamber.

The next time we read about Sosthenes is in 1 Corinthians. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he sends greetings from himself and Sosthenes. This greeting sounds like Sosthenes, similar to his predecessor Crispus, converted to the Christian belief. After his conversion, apparently Sosthenes spent some time accompanying Paul on his missionary journeys. Alternatively, the Sosthenes that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians could be a different person from the Corinthian synagogue ruler. This alternative doesn’t seem compelling for two reasons. First, Sosthenes is a relatively uncommon name. Second, there is no reason for Paul to send greetings from Sosthenes to the Corinthian church unless the Corinthians knew Sosthenes.

Reflection: Sosthenes strength didn’t save him from a beating. Have you ever been beaten by people? Try to imagine how that would feel both physically and mentally. Remember, some of these individuals, Sosthenes considered friends.

The Bible provides a number of instances of men and women who stood up for their faith in spite of persecution. Read about more of them in Lesser Known Bible Characters. You can learn more about this book at Carolyn Roth Ministry,

Copyright: November 15, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth






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