MARCUS Annaeus Novatus (Seneca's elder brother) is known to history under the name of Junius Gallio, which he took when adopted by the orator of that name, who was a friend of his father. He is none other than the Gallio of the Acts, the Proconsul of Achaia, whose name has passed current among Christians as a proverb of complacent indifference.
The scene, however, in which Scripture gives us a glimpse of him has been much misunderstood, and to talk of him as " careless Gallio " or to apply the expression that "he cared for none of these things " to indifference in religious matters, is entirely to misapply the spirit of the narrative. What really happened was this. The Jews, indignant at the success of Paul's preaching, dragged him before the tribunal of Gallio, and accused him of introducing illegal modes of worship. When the Apostle was about to defend himself, Gallio contemptuously cut him short by saying to the Jews, " If in truth there were in question any act of injustice or wicked misconduct, I should naturally have tolerated your complaint. But if this is some verbal inquiry about mere technical matters of your law, look after it yourselves. I do not choose to be a judge of such matters." With these words he drove them from his judgment-seat with exactly the same fine Roman contempt for the Jews and their religious affairs as was subsequently expressed by Festus to the sceptical Agrippa, and as had been expressed previously by Pontius Pilate to the tumultuous Pharisees. Exulting at this discomfiture of the hated Jews, and apparently siding with Paul, the Greeks then went in a body, seized Sosthenes the leader of the Jewish synagogue, and beat him in full view of the Proconsul seated on his tribunal. This was the event at which Gallio looked on with such imperturbable disdain. What could it possibly matter to him, the great Proconsul, whether the Greeks beat a poor wretch of a Jew or not ? So long as they did not make a riot, or give him any further trouble about the matter, they might beat Sosthenes or any number of Jews black and blue if it pleased them, for all he was likely to care.
What a vivid glimpse do we here obtain, from the graphic picture of an eye-witness, of the daily life in an ancient provincial forum ; how completely do we seem to catch sight for a moment of that habitual expression of contempt which curled the thin lips of a Roman aristocrat in the presence of subject nations, and especially of Jews ! If Seneca had come across any of the Alexandrian Jews in his Egyptian travels, the only impression left on his mind was that expressed by Tacitus, Juvenal, and Suetonius, who never mention the Jews without execration. It has been often conjectured—it has even been seriously believed—that Seneca had personal intercourse with St. Paul, and learnt from him some lessons of Christianity. The scene on which we have just been gazing will show us the utter unlikelihood of such a supposition. Probably the nearest opportunity which ever occurred to bring the Christian Apostle into intellectual contact with the Roman philosopher was this occasion when St. Paul was dragged as a prisoner into the presence of Seneca's elder brother. The utter contempt and indifference with which he was treated, the manner in which he was summarily cut short before he could even open his lips in his own defence, will give us a just estimate of the manner in which Seneca would have been likely to regard St. Paul. It is highly improbable that Gallio ever retained the slightest impression or memory of so everyday a circumstance as this, by which alone he is known to the world. It is possible that he had not even heard the mere name of Paul, and that, if he ever thought of him at all, it was only as a miserable, ragged, fanatical Jew, of dim eyes and diminutive stature, who had once wished to inflict upon him an harangue. He would indeed have been unutterably amazed if any one had whispered to him that well-nigh the sole circumstance which would entitle him to be remembered by posterity, and the sole event of his life by which he would be at all generally known, was that momentary and accidental relation to his despised prisoner.
Seekers after God, p. 16.