Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Who in the world is Erastus?

I know we all have a funny bone but I believe there must also be such a thing as a curious bone and mine is a little larger than most !
Sometimes I learn the most interesting things that begin with a detail that stirs up my curiosity.

One such detail grabbed me some time ago when I was reading Acts 19:22 which says ....
"So he (Paul) sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus ....."

I thought ... Timothy we all know... but who is Erastus ???
I wondered if he was mentioned anywhere else in scripture and I found another reference to him in II Tim. 4:20 where it states that Paul left him in Corinth. Erastus's name appears one more time in Romans 16:23. In this reference we are given a clue to his identity.
He was the "treasurer of the city" from which Paul was writing the letter to the Romans. The city was Corinth.

Not much to go on, but putting our gleanings together and reading between the lines we can know the following facts about Erastus...
  1. He was a Christian
  2. He was respected and valued by Paul
  3. He ministered to Paul
  4. He travelled with Paul
  5. He was a friend of Timothy and went on mission trips with him
  6. He was the treasurer of the city of Corinth
It was that last detail that gave me an idea. If Erastus was the treasurer of Corinth perhaps there would be some references to him in secular history.
And today how easy is it to pursue a trail with Google at our fingertips ever ready to guide us.

My search was enlightening.
I learned that in 1929 an archaeologist by the name of T.L.Shear found among the ruins of Corinth a paving stone. This paving stone bore an inscription that read "Erastus, Procurator and Aedile, laid this pavement at his own expense". (see photo of the paving stone above)
An 'Aedile' - latin - was someone in charge of the financial matters of a city.
The paving stone had been laid in the 50's AD which would have been the time that Paul's Erastus lived in Corinth.
What are the chances of there being two treasurers at that time named Erastus? Probably rather slim.
I did a little more digging and learned that in Rome anyone holding public office , such as treasurer would be a wealthy man and it was the wealthy men who personally paid for the public roads.

I thought about Timothy's father being Greek and perhaps also rich and/or influential. (Timothy also ministered to Paul - indicating that he had some wealth). Therefore, it made sense to me why Timothy would have been partnered with Erastus - they may well have found things they held in common besides their faith. Both holding family wealth and also perhaps both having pagan family members who did not agree with their belief in Jesus - perhaps even causing them personal opposition.
Erastus being a city official and therefore being wealthy would have been well able to minister to Paul and provide for his physical needs and comforts.

A few interesting details but my imagination flew to wondering what could have been the personal story of Erastus.
Was he married? did he have children?
How did he become a believer ?
He was a wealthy Roman in influencial places. Somehow, somewhere he heard about the followers of the new religion. Perhaps one in his own house was a believer who told him about Jesus. He was interested, the message found a receptive place in his heart. Was it a struggle for him to turn away from his Roman gods - to turn his back on what he had always been taught and believed ?
Was he ridiculed, mocked by his Roman family/friends?
Did he risk everything to follow Jesus?
What was he able to offer from his official city office that which was helpful to the church?

We know he was sincere, that his conversion was real and that it was wholehearted.
How often did he sit with Paul in deep conversation about the believers at Corinth and what was happening in the Corinthian church as well as the other churches that were being planted and growing in other cities.
He was an important person in Paul's life and therefore important to the early church and I regret that we know so little about him.
I have a list of the people I want to look up in eternity and ask them all the questions that I have about them.
Erastus is on that list!


ellen b. said...

I admire your curiosity and your diligent research. Thanks for researching Erastus and sharing it with us.

Lovella ♥ said...

That is so interesting. I think you are more curiouser than I...and that is rather curious.

It is so wonderful that history in the secular world supports the Bible.

You must go visit Jill's blog today...she also has unearthed some rather amazing history.

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

No information is innocent...it leads to more questions every time!

Cathie Liles said...

I'm thankful you followed up on your curiosity about Erastus! & that I can benefit from your discoveries. I have a young Christian college girl from my church who is studying in Greece for a semester, posted Erastus Stone on Facebook, which led to my search & to your questions & answers!!! thank you for sharing!!!

Kathy said...

Julie...I too admire how your curiosity leads you to dig deeper. Thanks for enlightening me on this Erastus. I'm always so interested in reading what you have discovered and learned through your studies.

Anneliese said...

This was an interesting read! Your curiosity and ability to search things out are not ordinary and I am glad there are those, like you, who find these nuggets that coincide, what we believe in faith, with secular history.