This last section in Acts 18 marks a transition point in Paul’s speaking tours.
Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time.
Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken.
They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila.
He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.
When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then
went down to Antioch.
After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.Acts 18:18-23
Below is a map with all the above place names in it. As we move forward in Luke’s account of Paul’s movements, we can trace his basic path and timeline.
Here’s the basic timeline, beginning in about 51 AD and moving through to the end of 53 AD:
- In Acts 18:1-11, Paul stayed with Prisca and Aquila in Corinth for about a year and half. A few months in, Silas and Timothy joined them after having stayed for a time with the Berean believers.
- Towards the end of 52 AD, Paul made a vow to the Lord—many think this was a Nazarite vow—in the Corinthian seaport of Cenchrea. Incidentally, this is where Paul met the Prostatis Phoebe, who became a deacon of the church.
Prostatis is a Koine Greek word which Bible scholars have struggled to translate because its meaning conflicts with traditional theology concerning women.
Recent research reveals the likely translation as presiding officer, or leader and protector. According to Dr. J. Nyland, in the new testament translation, The Source, prostatis “referred to a person of the front-rank, the chief of a body of people; in general, a ruler, someone who stands in front of the people and protects them. It was also a term which referred to those who gave protection to people who did not have civil rights.”
The word prostatis was also used in reference to women, in antiquity. For example, in the 4th century, the wealthy and generous Tullia, a Chief City Official, was described as a prostatis who spent a great deal of her money on beautifying and building up the city.
In preChristian Macedonia, prostates referred to the senior civic official second only to the king.
- Once he had been shaven, Paul set sail for Syria with Prisca and Aquila.
- When they arrived in Ephesus, it was understood Prisca and Aquila would stay, and Paul would move on. He actually stayed for about 3 months, as he preached in the synagogue to a warm and inviting audience, and promised to return.
- From there, Paul journeyed to Caesarea where he disembarked for a brief time, possibly to visit Philip the Evangelist, who lived there. One of the original seven deacons from Acts 6, Philip is best remembered as the man who had led the Ethiopian official to accept Christ. Like father like daughter, all four of Philip’s daughters were known prophets.
- Soon, Paul was headed to Jerusalem for a brief visit to touch base with the apostles, James, and the churches there.
Verse 22 says Paul “went up and greeted the church.” Went up means he traveled up Mount Zion to the city of Jerusalem – wherever one was in Israel or the world, north or south, one always went up, literally up the mountain, to Jerusalem. Then, it says, Paul “went down” to Antioch. Even though Antioch was north of Jerusalem, one still went physically down from mount Zion and spiritually down from God’s holy city to the rest of the world.
- Paul then spent a month or so in Antioch.
- From Antioch Paul headed points west, going through Galatia and Phrygia to encourage and strengthen the churches he had established there.
- Notice Alexandria, on the north coast of Africa, the delta of Egypt. This was Apollos’ birthplace, who features in the last few verses of Acts 18.
In Acts 19, we’ll follow Paul back to Ephesus, where he established a very solid church during the longest period of service in any place he visited. After about two years in Ephesus, Paul decided to head for Jerusalem but going through Macedonia and Achaia first. Paul spent about three months in Greece – Athens and Corinth – then decided to go back through Macedonia on his way to Jerusalem rather than risk going through Syria, since he caught wind of a secret plot to kill him.
In Acts 20, we’ll go through Troas, where Eutychus was revived from the dead, then Miletus, where Paul sent for the elders of Ephesus, about 30 miles away, to meet him, where he gave the longest speech recorded in Acts. We’ll visit the famous Tyre, where the whole church, including women and children, met Paul on the beach to pray with him. And finally, back to Caesarea, where Agabus tied up his own hands with Paul’s belt, which will bring us full circle back round to Jerusalem, just a few steps away.
[Corinth | MM / Public domain]