Supporting Teachers

Some priests in Asia Minor became wealthy from the fees charged for entering some temples, though they did not offer teaching. Local churches were more like associations, but in contrast to associations, which charged dues, Christian assemblies depended on voluntary contributions.

Teachers were supported by various means in antiquity. Various philosophers allowed different means of support: fees (tuition), dependence on a wealthy household, begging, and manual labor. Begging was an especially Cynic practice, though this generated others’ disdain. Some Cynics thus instructed others to practice begging from statues so they could grow accustomed to having their requests ignored. For many others, manual labor was the least appealing means of support, distracting one from intellectual concerns. Although Socrates did not charge fees, his successors normally did; so did most sages who could make a living this way. Nevertheless, this practice too generated criticisms about greedy preachers or sages gaining wealth at the expense of the gullible.

Because wandering mendicant preachers developed reputations for seeking money, Paul countered potential accusations of greed (cf. 2 For. 2:17; 7:2; 11:7-13; 1 Thess. 2:5) by refusing pay from churches that might view him as a dependent (1 Cor. 9; 2 For. 12:13-15). Some other popular preachers likewise sought to distinguish themselves from disreputable preachers. Those careful about accepting money elicited praise.

Those reputed to be good teachers, however, could gain respect and income. It was also respectable to supply the needs of one’s past teachers. Probably most house congregations were too small to afford a full-time teacher, unless a wealthier patron sponsored one. Insofar as time spend preparing teaching (or preparing knowledge that eventually could be used for teaching) might reduce time spent earning income, contributions to offset this would benefit the teacher’s household.

This content is by Craig Keener, but edited and posted by Defenders Media.

For more on the book of Galatians, please check out Galatians: A Commentary.

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