Who Was Sergus Paulus? -- By: Bill Cooper

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 29:3 (Fall 2016)
Article: Who Was Sergus Paulus?
Author: Bill Cooper


Who Was Sergus Paulus?

Bill Cooper

In Book II of his famous Natural History, Pliny names 18 Latin authors whom he has relied upon for much of his information in the second and 18th books of his history, and among those names is that of Sergius Paulus.1 This is most interesting. Sergius Paulus, it appears, was a writer on Natural History in his own right, though his works are now lost; and even more interestingly, Pliny has much to say in his second and 18th books about the island of Cyprus—and its magicians— where Sergius Paulus was Proconsul. To be quoted and relied upon by Pliny as an authority, your scholarly credentials had to be second to none, and Sergius Paulus was clearly highly esteemed as an author on Natural History for Pliny to rely on his work as he did. Against this background, Luke’s statement concerning Sergius Paulus—that he was “a prudent man” (Ac 13:7)—takes on added meaning. The word Luke uses, and which is translated “prudent” in the KJV, is sunetos, meaning prudent, wise, sagacious, shrewd and discreet—in a word, learned. That would be a curious detail for some forger to have added, for outside of Pliny, there is no indication that Sergius Paulus pursued any intellectual interests at all. Clearly, he was something more than just a Roman aristocrat. Luke was certainly aware of that fact, and he duly noted it for us.

Luke, moreover, is right in other fine details concerning Sergius Paulus. For example, he refers to him as the anthupatos (translated as “deputy” in the KJV) of Cyprus (Ac 13:7). This is precise and entirely accurate, for anthupatos is the Greek word for “proconsul,” which was Sergius Paulus’ office. He was made Proconsul of Cyprus by the Emperor Claudius in AD 46, and probably remained in office for the next two, perhaps even three years. And here’s where things start to get really interesting.

If contemporary inscriptions are anything to go by, this is what appears to have happened. Sergius Paulus was Proconsul of Cyprus, where he sat and governed, as it were, as the voice of Caesar. Then he became a Christian under Paul’s preaching, and was sometime thereafter recalled to Rome where, according to another inscription which was found in Rome in the late 19th century, he was given the job of looking after the river Tiber as it flowed through the city.2 To go from being the voice of Caesar, one of the top jobs of the empire, to being a comparatively minor civil servant responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the city’s riverbanks (removing rubbish and corpses), is...

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