Apollonius was a Greek philosopher who lived in the first century AD. He is mentioned briefly in the Bible, but not many details are provided about his life or teachings. Here is an overview of what the Bible tells us about Apollonius:
Apollonius in the Book of Acts
The only mention of Apollonius in the Bible is in Acts 18:24-28. This passage describes an encounter between Apollonius and two early Christian leaders, Priscilla and Aquila:
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
(Acts 18:24-28, ESV)
This passage tells us several key things about Apollonius:
- He was from Alexandria in Egypt
- He was an eloquent speaker and well-versed in the Old Testament scriptures
- He knew about John the Baptist and his baptism
- He taught accurately about Jesus, but only knew part of the full story
- Priscilla and Aquila gave him a “more accurate” explanation of the gospel
- After this, Apollonius preached boldly about Jesus being the Messiah
- He then went to preach in Achaia (southern Greece) with the support of the church
So although his appearance in Scripture is brief, we learn that Apollonius was already a passionate teacher and believer in Jesus, but he needed some further instruction in the full gospel message. After receiving this from Priscilla and Aquila, he became an even more effective preacher and apologist for the Christian faith.
Extra-Biblical Traditions about Apollonius
Although the Bible contains minimal information about Apollonius, extra-biblical traditions do provide some additional details about his identity and ministry. However, these details should be considered legendary rather than historically reliable.
One tradition identifies Apollonius as the same person as Apollos, another Alexandrian Christian mentioned several times in the New Testament epistles (1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:4-6, 3:22, 4:6, 16:12; Titus 3:13). Apollos was a Jewish convert, colleague of Paul, and church leader in Corinth and Ephesus. If Apollonius and Apollos were the same person, it would mean his ministry continued long after the account in Acts.
Other early traditions say Apollonius became the first bishop of several cities, including Hermopolis Magna in Egypt. The Apollonius who served as bishop may have been a different person than the Apollonius in Acts. But these bishopric traditions show he was remembered as a prominent early church leader.
A third century tradition states that Apollonius suffered martyrdom by being stoned to death in Ephesus. But again, the historical accuracy of this is doubtful.
In the late second century, a Greek writer (Philostratus) composed a text detailing the life and miracles of a first century Apollonius, portraying him as a wandering philosopher and mystic. But this account is generally considered a largely fictitious, legendary work rather than historically reliable information about the Apollonius from Scripture.
Significance and Contributions
Given the limited biblical information, we only know a few details about Apollonius’ significance:
- He helped spread the gospel in Ephesus and Achaia after being mentored by Priscilla and Aquila
- His eloquent preaching and public debates helped confirm that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah
- He contributed to the growth and establishment of the early church
Apollonius was clearly an important early evangelist and apologist, used by God to advance the gospel across the Roman Empire in the midst of intense persecution and opposition. The fact that he is mentioned by name in Scripture indicates he made a notable contribution to the early Christian movement.
Beyond this, the legendary extra-biblical traditions show he made enough of an impact that his name was remembered and associated with prominent leadership roles in the early church. But the exact details of his later life and ministry remain uncertain.
In summary, Apollonius was an influential Alexandrian Jew who embraced the Christian faith, became a persuasive advocate for the gospel message, and helped strengthen the early churches he visited and taught. The Bible gives us only a glimpse of his ministry, but what it does reveal highlights his eloquence and passion for preaching Christ from the Scriptures.
Teachings and Beliefs
The Bible does not record any specific teachings or theological beliefs from Apollonius. However, we can infer some key things he likely believed and taught based on the information provided:
- Jesus was the Messiah foretold in Old Testament prophecy
- Jesus was Lord and Savior
- Salvation came through faith in Christ
- Baptism was an important sign of conversion and new life
- The Old Testament Scriptures pointed to and testified about Jesus
- Gentiles could be included in the people of God
Apollonius evidently had a strong grasp of messianic prophecies and used these effectively to prove Jesus was the promised Messiah. The passage notes he was “competent in the Scriptures” and he “powerfully refuted the Jews…showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.” He clearly treasured the Old Testament and mining it for insights about the Messiah.
When Priscilla and Aquila “explained the way of God more accurately” they likely provided fuller understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the inclusion of the Gentiles, and the blessings of the new covenant in Christ. Apollonius embraced these revelations and incorporated them into his teaching.
In summary, although details are limited, Apollonius seems to have taught a orthodox gospel message focused on Jesus as Savior and grounded in a careful study of Scripture. He was open to growing in his knowledge of the faith and apprenticed himself to other respected Christian leaders and teachers like Priscilla and Aquila.
Relationship with Paul and Other Apostles
The Bible does not expressly state if Apollonius had any direct relationship with Paul or the other apostles. However, there are a few clues that suggest he likely had significant interactions with these church leaders:
- Apollonius was based in Ephesus at the same time as Paul (mid-50s AD)
- Paul ministered in Ephesus for over two years (Acts 19:8, 19:10)
- Paul worked closely with Priscilla and Aquila, who mentored Apollonius (Acts 18:18-19, Romans 16:3)
- Apollonius then went to minister in Corinth where Paul had recently preached
Given these overlaps, it seems very probable Apollonius became acquainted with Paul and his associates during his time in Ephesus. Even if they did not work side-by-side, they likely attended the same gatherings of believers and would have been aware of each other’s ministries in the city.
The fact that Paul’s colleagues Priscilla and Aquila took Apollonius under their wing also suggests he was seen as a valuable member of the wider Pauline mission team. Their theological mentoring may have helped align Apollonius more closely with Paul’s presentation of the gospel.
Later, when Apollonius traveled to Achaia, he would have interacted with churches Paul himself had founded just a few years earlier. This means the “brothers” who encouraged Apollonius to come to Corinth were likely part of Paul’s network of fellow workers. They apparently recognized Apollonius as someone who could build on Paul’s pioneering work in the region.
So while Scripture does not explicitly describe a direct partnership, it seems reasonable to conclude that Apollonius had significant connections to Paul and his broader missionary circle. He likely learned from them in Ephesus and then extended Paul’s gospel work when he continued on to Greece.
Connection to Alexandria
The passage in Acts states that Apollonius was originally from Alexandria in Egypt. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great and by the first century AD had become an important center of Hellenistic civilization and Jewish culture. Apollonius’ roots in Alexandria likely influenced him in the following ways:
- Exposure to Greek philosophy and literature. Alexandria was famed for its scholarship and education.
- Knowledge of Hellenistic Judaism. A large Jewish community flourished in the city.
- Familiarity with allegorical and interpretative methods popular among Alexandrian Jews
- Awareness of ancient prophecy and messianic expectations
- Ability to integrate Hebraic and Hellenistic worldviews
Growing up in this rich intellectual melting pot seems to have shaped Apollonius into an especially eloquent speaker and thoughtful scholar of Scripture. It gave him the tools needed to present the gospel in a compelling way to those from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.
Alexandria was also an early site for the development of Christianity in Egypt. So Apollonius likely first learned about Jesus within a vibrant Christian community in his hometown before traveling abroad as a missionary. The theological training he received there from other Alexandrian Jewish Christians gave him a solid spiritual foundation to build on.
In summary, Alexandria’s scholarly culture, Jewish traditions, and early Christian presence all contributed to Apollonius’ effectiveness in advancing the gospel across the Roman world.
Why He is Not More Prominent in the Bible
Given Apollonius’ eloquence and enthusiastic ministry, some may wonder why he does not feature more prominently in the New Testament writings. There are a few factors that help explain his limited biblical role:
- He was not one of the Twelve Apostles or their direct associates like Barnabas or Silas. So he did not have the same level of authority or influence.
- His period of evangelistic activity occurred later in the first century when the apostles were actively preaching and writing. So the biblical spotlight was on them and their direct partners at that time.
- He was based in Alexandria rather than Jerusalem, so he was not directly involved in the key events and debates there.
- His ministry in Ephesus and Corinth built on the foundation already established by Paul. So the texts emphasize Paul’s pioneering work rather than Apollonius’ subsequent ministry.
- As a traveling preacher focused on public speaking, he did not contribute writings to the New Testament canon like Paul and others did.
In other words, Apollonius arrived on the Christian scene at a time when the apostolic leadership and writings were well established. So while he made important contributions, his influence was limited by when and where he ministered compared to apostolic forerunners.
Additionally, since Apollonius is only mentioned in Acts, he departs the biblical storyline after that book concludes. So readers never learn what became of him later on, unlike many other first century church leaders that appear repeatedly throughout Acts and the epistles.
Nevertheless, the brief snapshot the Bible provides shows Apollonius was a passionate evangelist who helped strengthen the early church. Even in his limited role, he displays the missionary zeal characteristic of so many early Christians.
Lessons from Apollonius’ Life
Although few details are known about Apollonius, his brief appearance in Acts provides some helpful models for Christian living:
- Diligent Scripture study – Apollonius was praised for his skill in using the Old Testament to prove Jesus was the Messiah. He provides an example of carefully mining the Bible for insight.
- Teachability – Despite his eloquence, Apollonius humbly received further instruction from Priscilla and Aquila. He was willing to keep learning from fellow believers.
- Flexibility – When Apollonius had an incomplete understanding, he let more accurate teaching correct and expand his beliefs. He adapted his message as he grew.
- Partnership – Although gifted, Apollonius worked alongside other leaders like Paul and Priscilla & Aquila to maximize gospel impact.
- Perseverance – In the face of opposition, he kept preaching the truth with boldness and determination to spread the Good News.
In an age when many Christians were giving their lives for the faith, Apollonius stands out as an example of quiet courage, cooperation, and commitment to preaching Christ. His life reminds us to be people of spiritual devotion, biblical fidelity, teachable attitudes, and tireless perseverance for the sake of the Gospel.