Early Christianity and Classical Culture: Comparative Studies in Honor of Abraham J. Malherbe

By Abraham Johannes Malherbe | Go to book overview

THE TOPPLING OF FAVORINUS
AND PAUL BY THE CORINTHIANS

Bruce W. Winter

Trust not a Corinthian, and make him
not your friend.
1

What Menander had said of the Greek Corinthians, the famous Roman orator, Favorinus, would certainly have endorsed with respect to their Roman successors.2 The unexpected and humiliating treatment metered out to him by the leading citizens of Corinth on his third visit there, contrasted starkly with that accorded to him by those who had presented themselves as his Corinthian “friends” on his first two illustrious visits in the second decade of the second century CE. Favorinus was “the best known western sophist.” He was born in Aries and, according to Philostratus in his Lives of the Sophists, he had created a sensation with his Greek declamations in Rome. Even those who knew no Greek were “charmed by the sound of his voice, the significance of his glance, and the rhythm of his tongue.”3 He stunned the Corinthians with the charm of his eloquence. On a third visit, however, he discovered that the ruling class, living in the most prestigious Roman colony in the East, had no compunction in toppling those whom they had previously put on a pedestal.

Some sixty years prior to that incident, Paul also found his trust undermined and his reputation in tatters in Corinth. This time it was not the actions of its leading citizens, but of those who were “brothers” in the nascent Christian community. Relationships had been made uncertain when the Corinthian Christians indicated they wanted

1

(Menander, Unidentified Minor Fragments 763K).

2 He was a virtuoso orator of the Second Sophistic who was born c. C.E. 90 in Aries and died in the middle of the next century. He was among the elite of Rome who moved in the imperial circle until sent into exile to the East by Hadrian and was attacked by another significant orator, Polemo. He was restored to imperial favor by Antonius Pius and was to secure his status and influence in the capital where he remained until his death.

3 G.A. Kennedy, The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972), 591, cit. Lives of the Sophists, 491.

-291-

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