Hah! A Tiny Biblical Mystery Solved [Akin]


jimmyakin.com/wp-content/uploads/st-paul-baptizing-300x192.jpgI just realized the solution to a minor biblical mystery.

There is a famous passage in 1 Corinthians, where Paul is rebuking the Corinthian Christians for forming factions around different Church figures, and he writes:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

I am thankful*that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius; lest any one should say that you were baptized in my name (1 Cor. 1:13-15).

Then he writes:

I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else (1 Cor. 1:16).

Paul clearly forgot about having baptized the household of Stephanas, but something jogged his memory.

What was it?

At the very end of the epistle, we read about a group of Corinthians who had come to visit Paul and were with him at the time. He writes:

Now, brethren, you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia *, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to be subject to such men and to every fellow worker and laborer. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence; *for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men (1 Cor. 16:15-18).

A-hah! Stephanas was**with Paul at the time the letter was written!*

That gives us a very good idea what–or rather, who–jogged Paul’s memory: Stephanas himself!

In all likelihood, Paul was dictating away, he mentioned baptizing Crispus and Gaius and then moved on, and then Stephanas piped up with something like, “Um, you baptized my household as well.”

And so, having been reminded, Paul mentioned them as well and–lest he forgot anyone else–said he didn’t remember if he baptized anyone else.

Heh. I love little discoveries like that–and imagining the human dynamics at play in the event, such as Stephanas’s embarrassment at having to correct Paul and Paul being embarrassed that he forgot Stephanas’s household and possibly others.

It would have been particularly embarrassing for him to realize that he had forgotten that he baptized the household of Stephanas since, as he says in the second passage, they were the very first converts in Greece!




Great article. Biblical mysteries could be a great series. :smiley: Especially when they are solved.


As Jimmy implies, the actual act of writing in the ancient world was mainly done by a professional secretary or scribe (an amanuensis); the author dictated, the amanuensis wrote it down. So I’m kinda imagining here a situation involving St. Paul, his scribe, and Stephanas.

PAUL: “‘I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius’ … oh wait, what’s that, Stephanas? …Oh! I’m so sorry, I totally forgot - hey, uh, will you correct what I just said? …What do you mean ‘This is papyrus - I don’t wanna erase this’? Well, just write, ‘By the way, I also baptized Stephanas’ family…’”


I agree, it’s good to look deeply into scripture and to wait for God’s answer.

Paul had a lot on his mind when he was writing letters to the Corinthians. While the New Testament numbers two letters, the second seems to be a compilation of a couple letters. One scholar thinks there were at least six letters to the Corinthians.

The topics are so disjointed in these letters, it took two Bible study courses for me to slow down and figure out what Paul was saying.

After he talks about faith, hope, and love, in the next chapter, 14 if I’m not forgetting, Paul says that we all should strive for the gift of prophecy – to be able to explain the gospel and the Bible books to others. That’s a big point to take away from I Co.

An important point for us even today he makes in II Co 13:5, about testing to see if we are living in faith.


Paul was very learned and literate- being a priest novitiate at the Second Temple. Plus, he originally came from the Greek world, and so knew it well and the Greek language.

I would bet he wrote his own stuff.


I, Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.” (Romans 16:22)

Most often what Paul does is that he limits himself to writing greetings - which is what almost everybody did back then. The scribe wrote the main body of the text, while the actual author often just wrote the final greetings. (The quote from Romans above is interesting: it was the scribe rather than the author who gave the greeting.)

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11)
“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.”* (1 Corinthians 16:21)
“I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.” (Philemon 1:19)
“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” (Colossians 4:18)
“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.” (2 Thessalonians 3:18)

  • The actual Greek goes more like: “This greeting is in my own hand—Paul.” (O aspasmos tē emē cheiri Paulou)


I would imagine writing their own stuff had more to do with personality and skill than anything else. Personality plays a huge part in writing and speaking. Usually people are much better at one than the other. If someone is extroverted and is a smooth talker then oftentimes they struggle with writing. And for those who are more introverted(like me) they oftentimes are much better at expressing what they are thinking in writing and generally have a harder time saying what they are thinking. So Paul may have been a much better talker than a writer.

I know that many people today with lots of charisma and the gift of speaking, when writing a book they usually have someone write while they speak.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.