Ephesus – AD 52 – Darkest Timeline
Caius and Nikola linger in the front room, waiting for Justus to finishing tidying up. The house church had just finished their Sunday meeting, and they needed to get home before dark.
“So, are you going to the ZEON Conference this Saturday?” said Caius.
“Yeah, for sure! I love Apollos, man, he is, like, totally my role model.”
“Dude, me too. I just love how real he is,” said Justus, cinching up his sandals.
“Excuse me,” said Priscilla, walking in with her husband, Aquila, from the kitchen, “who is Apollos?”
“Oh, hey Pris,” said Caius as they left the house together. “Yeah, Apollos is this Egyptian dude, super spiritual, and just really cool and real and like totally loves God.”
“He holds this conference in the synagogue every Sabbath,” added Nikola.
“That’s cool. So is he a Christian?” asked Aquila.
“I’m pretty sure he is. I mean he definitely talks about Jesus and God and stuff,” said Caius, hesitatingly. “Still though, I just love the way he speaks and the conference is super fun. I always just feel really validated after hearing his stuff.”
“Does he ever come to this church?” asked Priscilla.
“Nah, he lives in the Greek district,” replied Justus.
“So he meets with the brothers and sisters at Titius’s house,” said Aquila.
“I don’t know. He never mentions it so maybe not. It’s not a big deal though,” said Caius, and he and his brothers turned left toward their home, leaving Priscilla and Aquila alone to wonder about this Apollos character. They were still pretty new in town, but Paul had sent them as deacons to help the Ephesian church get some solid grounding. If there was squishy teaching in town, they needed to know about it.
The next Sabbath, Aquila and Priscilla made their way to the synagogue. Many fashionably dressed young people were lined up down the street to get in. A large banner emblazoned with “ZEON Conference, featuring Apollos!” hung over the entrance. Inside, they found a seat near the front and waited while the Rabbi called the attendees to order. The youths were restless. It was clear whom they had come to hear, and it wasn’t this old fogey. Finally, the conference organizer got on stage to hype the crowd.
“Here it is, adelphoi, with an eloquent and competent word, all the way from Alexandria, Apollos!”
The crowd cheered, and a tall, handsome young man took the stage. For the next hour, he expounded the scriptures and taught accurately concerning Jesus. But Priscilla and Aquila noticed something odd. Apollos seemed to know that Jesus was baptized by John, and that he had taught a lot of good things. But he never mentioned Jesus’s death or resurrection, never mentioned the Holy Spirit, never mentioned the new covenant or the Lord’s Table. It’s like he knew the set up, but not the climax. But could he ever hold a room. Priscilla glanced around and was amazed at the rapt attention of the young people. Clearly, Apollos was extremely gifted, but he needed some training up.
After Apollos had finished, Aquila stood in line to meet him, while Priscilla talked with some of the conference attendees.
“So, what did you think of Apollos?” she asked one young woman.
“He’s so cool. He just really speaks to my specific felt needs.”
“I love this conference; it’s young and fresh,” added one of her friends.
“Did you know that Jesus actually died and was raised to life by God to forgive our sins?” Priscilla asked some young men.
“Yeah I heard that at some house church gathering my mom dragged me too one time,” answered one.
“Me too, but I haven’t been back to that. Too stuffy. ZEON Conference is all I need for my spiritual health,” chimed in another.
Aquila finally got to the autograph table and introduced himself. “Hello, Apollos, my name is Aquila and my wife, Priscilla, and I are deacons in the Ephesian church. We’re wondering if you’d like to grab coffee sometime this week? We’d love to get to know you more.”
“Yeah, man, that sounds great!”
They worked out a date, then Aquila found Priscilla, and they left the synagogue.
On Wednesday morning, they went to the cafe and met Apollos. They made small talk over coffee and breakfast gyros, then Aquila said, “Apollos, you are a gifted speaker, undeniably devout and knowledgeable about the scriptures. It was incredible to see you keep the attention of young people for that long on a Sabbath. We would love if you would join the church here in Ephesus. There’s a faithful body of believers, elders and deacons here that would be very blessed by your gifts. We think that we could help you as well, especially with some theological stuff. There’s a couple things we think you may not have heard about Jesus that would really help your ministry be full and complete, and we would love to explain to you the way of God more accurately.”
Apollos looked thoughtful, but his eyes darkened, and eventually he replied, “Aquila, thanks for the offer, but no thanks. I really don’t need some stodgy old church men to have authority over me. Did you see how many people I drew to ZEON? I’m bringing in the young people that you can’t hold in your living room churches without putting them to sleep. I’m surprised no one’s fallen out of the window yet!”
Priscilla pleaded with him. “Please reconsider, Apollos. We can help each other here. We learned the gospel from the Apostle Paul, who has seen Jesus! The full truth of the apostolic faith is being taught in the Ephesian church, and we want you to be a part of it!”
“I’m not interested, Priscilla. I’m turning the ZEON Conference into the ZEON Tour and taking this bad boy on the road, and I can’t be tied down to some local church, worrying about orthodoxy.” And with that, he paid for his meal and left.
Priscilla and Aquila were disappointed. How could Apollos be that flippant about the truth? Did he not understand that the very unity of the Church was on the line? Did he not realize the grave consequences of capitulating to the spirit of the age? Why was he not willing to come under the authority of the people who wanted to give him even more beautiful material to teach? They pondered this during their long days at the tent shop. One day, the three young men from their church came into their store.
“How come you tried to put Apollos under your thumb like that?” demanded Caius.
Aquila was surprised at the question. “I’m sorry, what?”
“You told Apollos he couldn’t teach anymore because he wasn’t in your church!” said Nikola.
“You’re just trying to silence him because he’s popular!” piped in Justus.
“Guys, we didn’t. We just asked him if he would join our church so that we could teach him everything about Jesus and then support him in his ministry,” replied Priscilla, warily.
“You’re just jealous because he has way more followers than you or Paul!” screamed Nikola.
“Orthodoxy is really just code for having the right body, and he’s Egyptian so he must be out, is that it?”
“This is just like the church, always trying to oppress and silence and erase and marginalize independent and popular speakers, just because they’re communicating outside the traditional structures that you set up to stay in control,” said Caius. “And by the way, Priscilla and Aquila, I have talked to dozens and dozens of church leaders who told me they’ve changed their minds on these issues too. Leaders of some of Asia Minor’s largest churches, preachers in Philippi, Galatia, and Thessalonica, and episkopoi with widely circulated letters. But they avoid these issues or lie about them because they’re afraid of what people like you and Paul and the rest of the Apostolic Mafia will do to them!”
And with that, the brothers stormed out of the tent shop. Priscilla and Aquila wrote to Paul, pleading with him to return to Ephesus. Meanwhile, Apollos set sail for Corinth, where he taught alongside the Christians in the synagogues, creating much confusion amongst the young people there. Paul returned to Ephesus to find the church greatly diminished in size and morale, and found that the young people following Apollos eventually fizzled out of any kind of faith at all. Paul left for Corinth, and found that the same had happened since Apollos had arrived. Apollos preached and taught all throughout Asia and Greece, and the presence of two similar, but markedly and irreconcilably different teachings about Jesus confused and put off any potential new converts, either Jew or Gentile. Eventually the Christian movement fizzled in the Roman Empire, and Western Civilization never happened.
C. M. Young is a PostLibNonCoProtRet and a working stiff living in Dallas.