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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Gallio governed Achaia as a proconsul of praetorian rank. His name was Marcus Annaeus Novatus; but he was adopted by L. Junius Gallio, a Roman orator, and took his name. He was the elder brother of Seneca the philosopher, to whose influence at court he may have owed his governorship. There is no other direct evidence that Gallio governed Achaia than St. Luke’s statement (Acts 18:12). But Seneca’s reference to Gallio’s catching fever in Achaia and taking a voyage for a change of air so far corroborates St. Luke. Gallio came to Corinth, the residence of the governor, during the time of St. Paul’s labours there (circa, about a.d. 50-53).* [Note: On the exact date of Gallio’s proconsulship see art. Dates, iii. 3.] Angered by the conversion of prominent members of the synagogue, the Jews took advantage of the new governor’s arrival to lay a charge against St. Paul which they tried to put in such a serious light as to merit a severe penalty. But Gallio was not so complaisant or inexperienced as they hoped. He elicited the true nature of their complaint, and, cutting short the trial, he abruptly dismissed the case as referring only to interpretations of Jewish law, not to any civil wrong or any moral outrage of which Roman law took cognizance.

Two effects of this decision are noted. (a) It was a snub which gave the Greek bystanders grounds for venting their animus against the Jews, by seizing and beating Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue. This seems the true interpretation of a scene which has been supposed to describe Jews beating a Christian-or even their own leader-in revenge for their defeat. But such a savage and illegal protest against Gallio’s decision could not have passed unnoticed by him; on the other hand, a public demonstration against the unpopular and disputatious Jews whom he had just dismissed might appear to him a rough sort of justice which he could afford to overlook, especially as it put the seal of popular approval on his action (see Sosthenes).

(b) The decision seems to have influenced St. Paul in another direction. Gallio being governor of Achaia, his judgment would become a precedent and would have far-reaching influence. It gave St. Paul a new idea of the protection he could gain from the Roman law. Although Judaism was a religio licita, evidently the Imperial Government did not consider Christian preaching illegal. This amounted to a declaration of freedom in religion of immense value to Christians. From this point of view Gallio’s treatment of the Jewish complaint was a landmark in St. Paul’s missionary labour, and did a great deal to confirm his confidence in Roman protection for his preaching.

Gallio’s private character is eulogized by Seneca in glowing terms. He was very lovable and fascinating; amiable, virtuous, just, and witty. The casual glimpse we get of him in Acts 18:12-17 shows him in a favourable light as governor. The clause ‘Gallio cared for none of these things’ does not bear in the least the interpretation put upon it by proverbial Christian philosophy. No doubt he had more than a touch of the Roman aristocrat’s contempt for religious quarrels and for all Jews. But he appears as an astute judge, seeing quickly into the heart of things, firm in his decisions, and not too pompous or punctilious to turn a blind eye to a bit of rough popular horseplay. He seems to have shared the fortunes of his more famous brother, and was put to death by Nero.

Literature.-Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , article ‘Gallio,’ ib. article ‘Corinth,’ i. 481; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, 1895, pp. 257-261, The Church in the Roman Empire, 1893, pp. 250, 346-349; R. J. Knowling, Expositor’s Greek Testament , ‘Acts,’ 1900, ad loc.; F. W. Farrar, Seekers after God, ed. 1879, pp. 16-21.

J. E. Roberts.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Gallio'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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