Acts 18:1 – 8
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus with the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
This passage contains a number of transitions points in the history of the church, as it relates to the Roman empire and Jewish community. First, Claudius has expelled the Jews from Rome. Thus, Aquila and Priscilla are among the Jews who have sought refuge outside of Rome. The history of Jewish integration and separation in European societies has a long time line. After the death of Paul (around 64 ACE) and before the writing of the Acts of the Apostles (around 80 ACE), the Roman army took
over Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and brought back the artifacts of conquest, as depicted on the Arc of Titus in the Roman Forum. The Jews brought back came as slaves. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Jews were confined to a district called the Ghetto along the Tiber River.
In the text Luke refers to Paul’s trade of making tents. Aquila and Priscilla are also tent makers. In the fresco, notice the role of clothe resting on the table, and Priscilla’s hand placed over a draped piece of clothe. These are the objects of their shared trade.
A question that I often ponder is how the disciples of Jesus supported themselves while traveling and teaching. The text tells us that Paul limited his teaching to the Sabbath, until Silas and Timothy arrived. Today, we continue to have this issue of how people who teach the Gospel support themselves. Do we have “professional Christians”, verse Christians who have jobs? Maybe this has more to do with how our society divides “work” from “leisure” from “ministry” from “fundraising”.
Finally, with the resistance of the Jews in Corinth, Paul gives up on them. He proclaims that he will only aim to bring the Gospel to Gentiles from here on. Maybe this also has something to say about the relationship between people with a common interest (e.g. trade of tent maker, exiles from larger society, etc.) verse trying to persuade those who refuse to find connection.