A close-up photo capturing an ancient parchment containing the name "Sosthenes" alongside biblical scriptures, symbolizing the search for understanding this enigmatic biblical figure.

Who Is Sosthenes In The Bible?

The intriguing name of Sosthenes appears only twice in the New Testament, but his role in early church history has sparked debate among biblical scholars for centuries. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Sosthenes was likely the ruler of a Jewish synagogue in Corinth who was beaten by Greeks after Paul was acquitted in a trial before Gallio around 50-52 AD.

In this comprehensive article, we dive into all the biblical and historical evidence to uncover the identity of Sosthenes and his significance. We examine his background as a synagogue ruler persecuted for his faith, the intriguing theory that he later converted to Christianity and assisted Paul as a missionary companion, and the continued mysteries around who this enigmatic figure really was.

Sosthenes the Synagogue Ruler

Introducing Sosthenes in Acts 18

Sosthenes is briefly mentioned in Acts 18 as the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth during the time of Paul’s ministry there. When Paul was brought before the Roman proconsul Gallio on false charges from the Jews, Sosthenes was apparently beaten by the crowd for some reason. The text says:

“But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you.

But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” And he drove them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat.

But Gallio took no notice of these things.

” (Acts 18:12-17)

So this passage gives us a few details about Sosthenes:

  • He was a ruler of the synagogue in Corinth
  • He was present when Paul was seized and brought before Gallio
  • For some reason, he was beaten by the crowd after Gallio dismissed the case

Not much else is said about him in Acts. But he surfaces again later with Paul…

His Background as a Jewish Leader in Corinth

As the synagogue ruler in Corinth, Sosthenes would have been a prominent Jewish community leader. Theulers of synagogues supervised services, maintained order and handled administrative matters. They also often had religious training to interpret the Torah and prophets.

We know from Acts 18 and other evidence that there was a sizable and influential Jewish population in the city of Corinth at this time. As the chief ruler, Sosthenes likely came from a respected Jewish family in the city.

Some experts think he may have belonged to the Jewish ruling council and served as a link between the Jewish community and Roman authorities.

His position shows he was regarded as an honorable leader among Corinthian Jews before Paul arrived. But tensions escalated when Christianity began making inroads through Paul’s preaching. The Jewish leaders likely felt threatened, leading to Paul’s arrest.

Remarkably, later this same Sosthenes became a Christian himself.

The Attack Against Sosthenes After Paul’s Trial

It’s not clear exactly why Sosthenes was beaten after Gallio dismissed the case against Paul. Possibly it was a spontaneous act by a mob that became anti-Jewish after Gallio refused to get involved. Another theory is that Gallio ordered Sosthenes beaten as discipline for allowing such a petty dispute to be brought before his judgment seat.

Or the Greeks were fed up with Jewish persecution led by Sosthenes against the increasingly popular Paul.

Whatever the specifics, the beating illustrates how controversial and divisive the Christian message had become in Corinth. As a prominent Jewish leader tied to Paul’s arrest, Sosthenes bore the brunt of hostility once the trial collapsed.

Luke highlights the irony of a synagogue official being attacked right after an attempt to convict an apostle of wrongdoing failed.

God was at work even through this, as suffering often precedes redemption. Not long after, the ruler who once opposed Paul became a sympathetic follower and fellow minister for Christ.

Sosthenes the Christian Convert?

The Bible mentions a man named Sosthenes in a couple of places in the New Testament. There is some debate as to whether this is the same Sosthenes or two different men who happen to share the same name.

Let’s examine the evidence for and against Sosthenes being a Christian convert who assisted the apostle Paul in his ministry.

The Case for His Conversion

In Acts 18, we read about Paul’s ministry in Corinth. The Jewish leaders brought Paul before the Roman proconsul Gallio and accused him of persuading people to worship God in ways contrary to the law. Gallio refused to judge the matter, so a mob seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal.

This suggests Sosthenes had become a Christian ally of Paul, facing persecution for his new faith.

Just a few years later, in 1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul mentions a Sosthenes who joined him in sending greetings to the Corinthian church. It seems plausible this could be the same man – persecuted as a Jewish leader in Acts 18, now a Christian coworker of Paul.

Sosthenes Mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1

In 1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul writes:

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes.”

Here, Sosthenes is called a “brother” – a common way for Paul to refer to fellow Christians. The letter is addressed to Christians living in Corinth. So if this man is the Sosthenes from Acts 18, it would make sense that he became a believer and joined Paul in ministering to the Corinthians.

However, some scholars debate whether this means Sosthenes co-authored 1 Corinthians or if Paul simply included greetings from both of them. Either way, it at least suggests Sosthenes was a respected Christian associated with Paul’s work.

Was He Paul’s Secretary and Traveling Companion?

Later in his ministry, Paul refers to a Sosthenes as a “brother” again in 2 Corinthians 1:1 – this time calling him his co-sender of another letter to Corinth. From this, many infer Sosthenes became a close ministry partner of Paul’s, perhaps serving as his secretary or scribe.

Some church traditions claim Sosthenes is the “Sopater of Berea” who traveled with Paul on part of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:4). However, this connection is more speculative.

While we can’t say definitively, the circumstantial biblical evidence suggests the Sosthenes who persecuted Paul later converted and assisted him in ministry. His journey from hostile Jewish leader to suffering Christian brother would display the revolutionary transforming power of the gospel.

The Significance and Mysteries of Sosthenes

His Importance in Paul’s Ministry

Sosthenes is an intriguing biblical figure who appears briefly in Acts 18 and 1 Corinthians 1 alongside the Apostle Paul. Though little is known about him, he seems to have played a vital role in the early Christian community.

In Acts 18, Sosthenes is identified as the leader of the synagogue in Corinth who was beaten by Greeks when Gallio refused to judge Paul. This suggests Sosthenes had become a believer and faced persecution for his faith.

According to GotQuestions.org, he likely replaced Crispus as the synagogue leader after Crispus’ conversion under Paul’s ministry (Acts 18:8).

Just a few years later, in 1 Corinthians 1:1, Sosthenes is called a “brother” by Paul and joined in sending the letter. Amazingly, the man once persecuting followers of The Way was now Paul’s ministry partner spreading the gospel!

As CompellingTruth.org notes, “Sosthenes underwent a complete life and spiritual turnaround.”

This turnaround no doubt encouraged the early church and displayed the transformative power of the gospel. As such, Sosthenes’ legacy is a testimony to God’s ability to change anyone into a witness for Christ!

Lingering Questions About His Identity

While Sosthenes’ role alongside Paul is fairly clear, his precise identity remains mysterious and disputed by scholars. There are three main theories according to BibleOdyssey:

  • Sosthenes the synagogue leader is the same person as Sosthenes the brother.
  • They are two different people who coincidentally had the same name.
  • The Sosthenes beaten in Acts 18 was actually Crispus, creating only one Sosthenes.
  • Each view has its challenges. If the first, how did Paul’s furious persecutor become his fellow minister? If the second, isn’t it an astounding coincidence receiving no explanation? And if Crispus was misidentified, why would Luke make this mistake?

    While it’s impossible to know for sure, the continuity between accounts seems to favor the traditional view that synagogue leader turned Christian Sosthenes worked alongside Paul. As the Compelling Truth article summarizes nicely:

    “Sosthenes’ story is a powerful testament both to the convictions of the earliest Christians and to the ability of God to bring about change in a person’s life.”

    So in one sense, the uncertainty around Sosthenes’ identity parallels the greater hope his life represents – that God can transform anyone or anything, no matter how unlikely it seems! Sosthenes stands as living proof of this.


    The brief mentions of Sosthenes in Acts and 1 Corinthians give us tantalizing glimpses into this important, yet still mysterious figure in early church history. While debate continues over whether he converted to Christianity after Paul’s trial, Sosthenes undoubtedly played a pivotal leadership role in the Jewish community in Corinth.

    His beating by the Greeks indicates the intense persecution faced by early believers, and raises profound questions about how he responded to that suffering.

    Could that very persecution have set Sosthenes on a path to embrace the Christian gospel? And might that explain his apparent later assistance to Paul in Ephesus as a trusted fellow laborer? We may never fully uncover the secrets of his identity, but Sosthenes stands as an admirable example of steadfast faith and courage for all believers, both then and now.

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