Even though the relationship between the Apostle Paul and the Corinthians was always a strained one, we know the names of numerous saints at Corinth who were helpful to Paul in his ministry.
Paul calls attention to a person named Erastus who was a “city treasurer.” He would be one of the few (“not many”) Christians who were among the socially elite at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:26). A person named Erastus is mentioned three times in the New Testament. Whether these are two or three different persons, or all the same person, I do not know. Here are the biblical references:
- “And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.” (Acts 19:22 ESV)
- “Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.” (Romans 16:23 ESV) [We understand that Romans was written from Corinth. The Greek term for “city treasurer” is oikonomos.]
- “Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus.” (2 Timothy 4:20 ESV)
It is of interest that during the 1929 archaeological excavation of the area near the theater (see here), a plaza was located that contained a stone inscription bearing the name of Erastus and indicating that he was a public official.
John McRay says the pavement in which this inscription was found dates to before A.D. 50. The letters are 7 inches high. The complete inscription reads:
In full: Erastus pro aedilitate sua pecunia stravit.
The English translation of the inscription is, “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense.” (Archaeology and the New Testament, 331).
Originally the letters were filled with bronze, but most of that was removed long ago. The name ERASTVS is seen in the closeup below.
For those who have interest in a more technical discussion of this inscription may find it in David W.J. Gill, “Erastus The Aedile.” Tyndale Bulletin 40.2 (1989): 298. Gill asks,
Are we to identify the Erastus inscription with the Erastus of Romans? It needs to be pointed out that the evidence will not allow a certain identification or a certain rejection.
We are not able to answer the question with certainty, but the possibility that this man was among the disciples at Corinth, and a friend of Paul, is intriguing.