Scholars frequently note Alexandria’s reputation as a center of learning when commenting on Acts 18:24, where Apollos is introduced as “a native of Alexandria.” By contrast, the very similar formulation in Acts 18:2, where Aquila is identified as “a native of Pontus,” is almost always regarded as inconsequential. Against this scholarly consensus, I argue that Aquila’s Pontic identity is important to the story of Acts 18 because the gentilic Pontic would have invited associations entirely opposite to those of Alexandrian. While the stereotype concerning the latter was one of learning and cultural sophistication, the common prejudice about people from Pontus was that they were uneducated and dim-witted barbarians. When Acts tells the story of how a man from Pontus and his wife “took aside” the learned Alexandrian “and explained the Way [of God] to him more accurately” (18:26), this likely would have seemed very surprising to an ancient audience familiar with these widespread stereotypes. The unexpected scenario of a Pontic manual laborer instructing a learned Alexandrian undercut negative stereotypes about the people from Pontus and, more generally, called into question the utility of such stereotypes. The plausibility of this interpretation is strengthened by the observation that it accords with the way ethnic identifiers function elsewhere in Acts.

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