APOLLOS, THE ORATOR (Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ)

As I sit in my room to write about Apollos, I am reminded of an author. I do not remember his name. But it does not matter. The author had agreed to give a talk in a seminar in a distant city. The author had also a deadline to submit his manuscript of a book to the publisher, which was just after the talk.

As the date of the talk was coming the author realized that he would not be able to give the talk and complete the manuscripts to submit on the agreed date to the publisher.

So the author put a long distance call to the organizing secretary of the seminar: Sir, I would like to honour my commitment to give a talk in your seminar. But I am terribly busy finishing a manuscript which I have submit just after the seminar days. So would it be possible for you to find someone else to talk in the seminar and free me from the talk?

After a long pause the organizing secretary of the seminar came back to phone.

As you say, if you cannot do justice to both the talk and the manuscript you are preparing, then we will free you from the talk-engagement in the seminar. You see, we would like to have a Paul than an Apollos, the seminar secretary said.

Sir, I am understand your reference to St. Paul, a great apostle. But your reference to Apollos is puzzling me. Could you please explain? the author asked.

You see both Paul and Apollos were great preachers of the early Church. But Apollos was a great orator and an effective preacher who moved his audience. He did not leave any legacy behind him. But Paul not only preached perhaps with less oratorical skills but he left a legacy of his letters, addressed to different Churches and they are invaluable part of the New Testament. That is why I said that I would like to have a Paul than an Apollos.

I have recreated the conversations between author and the organizing secretary of the seminar. But in the original conversation Apollos characterization as an orator left on me a lasting impression and that is why I have recalled the story here.

We meet Apollos first time in chapter 18 of the Acts of the Apostles. The Act says, At that time a Jew named Apollos, who had been born in Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures (Acts 18, 24). Luke the author of the Acts with his literary skill has said much in introducing Apollos in the first sentence. He was a Jew from Alexandria. He was an eloquent speaker who knew very well the Scripture, that is, the Old Testament.

Apollos and his companions have received only the baptism of John and preach what is foretold about Jesus in the Jewish Scripture the Old Testament.

He was a good teacher and his special strength was his eloquence. His eloquence and knowledge of Scripture impressed Priscilla and Aquila when they heard him. So they took Apollos to their home and explained more correctly about Jesus.

The Acts says, He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he proclaimed and taught correctly the facts about Jesus. However, he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home with them and explained to him more correctly the Way of God. (Acts 18, 25-26)

Apollos knowledge of Jesus was limited to the Jewish Scripture. He knew that Christ was coming. Priscilla and Aquila recognized his strength of scriptural knowledge and eloquence as well as his limited knowledge of Jesus Christ. So they taught Apollos what they themselves had learnt from Paul: the truth of Jesus and his message. He learnt correctly the facts about Jesus and began to proclaim it enthusiastically. He became a great and fearless proclaimer of Christian faith especially among his fellow Jews.

Acts says, For with his strong arguments he defeated the Jews in public debates by proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 18, 28)

Apollos has won not only the admiration of the disciples at Ephesus but he also won their hearts. So when he decided to leave Ephesus and go to Achaia, the people helped him by writing to the believers in Achaia urging them to welcome him. When he reached Achaia he was a great help to those who through Gods grace had become believers. (Acts 18, 27)

At Corinth, the capital of Achaia region Apollos preaching made a deep impression on many Corinthians. From Pauls letter to Corinthians we know that there were divisions among the Christian community. Paul had preached at Corinth and won many disciples for Christ. So many Corinthian Christians remain loyal to Paul. Attracted by the oratorical skills and scriptural knowledge of Apollos many Christians followed him as a rival to Paul. Still others consider themselves as the followers of Apostle Peter.

Paul squarely faces the problem of the division among Corinthian Christians. He write: There are quarrels among you. Let me put it this way: each one of you says something different. One says, I follow Paul; another, I follow Apollos; another, I follow Peter; and another, I follow Christ. Christ has been divided into groups! Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptized as Pauls disciples? (1 Cor., 1, 11-13)

Here the reference to Apollos shows that he had a considerable influence on the early Christian community.

From Pauls letters to Corinthians and to Titus we know that Apollos became a trusted companion to Paul and collaborated with Paul in the ministry of preaching and administering to the early Christian communities.

According to ALL THE MEN OF THE BIBLE by Herbert Lockyer, Martin Luther hazarded the guess that Apollos was the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Scripture Scholars like Ronald Brownrigg, believes that Apollos was the first Bishop to Corinth. Brownrigg writes in WHOS WHO THE NEW TESTAMENT: After working with Paul in Ephesus during his long teaching mission Apollos returned to Corinth to take charge of the Corinthian congregation and became the first Bishop of Corinth.

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ફાધર વર્ગીસ પોલ, એસ.જે.
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