ALEXANDER (Ἀλέξανδρος, ‘helper of men’)

ALEXANDER (Ἀλέξανδρος, ‘helper of men’)

This name is found in the NT in five different connexions, and possibly designates as many different individuals.

  1. The son of Simon of Cyrene, who bore the cross to Calvary (Mk 15:21), and the brother of Rufus. In all probability Alexander and his brother were well-known and honoured men in the Church of Rome (cf. Ro 16:13 and art. Rufus), to which the Gospel of Mark was addressed, as St. Mark identifiés the father by a reference to the sons. We may regard the allusion as an interesting instance of the sons being blessed for the father’s sake.
  2. A leader of the priestly party in Jerusalem at the period subsequent to the death of Christ. After the healing of the impotent man we are told that Alexander was present at a meeting of the Jewish authorities along with Annas, Caiaphas, and John, and ‘as many as were of the kindred of the high priest’ (Ac 4:6). It is probable, though not quite certain, that this indicates that Alexander belonged to the high-priestly class; and it is impossible to identify him with Alexander the ‘alabarch’ of Alexandria and brother of Philo.
  3. A leading member of the Jewish community at Ephesus (Ac 19:33), who was put forward by the Jews at the time of the Ephesian riot to clear themselves of any complicity with St. Paul or his teaching, but whom the mob refused to hear. He may have been one of the ‘craftsmen,’ though on the whole it is unlikely that a Jew would have any connexion with the production of the symbols of idolatry. There are, however, slight variations in the MSS of Ac 19:33, and different views have been taken with regard to Alexander and the intention of the Jews. Meyer holds that Alexander was a Jewish Christian who was put forward maliciously by the Jews in the hope that he might be sacrificed (cf. Com. in loco). The omission of τις, ‘a certain,’ before his name has been regarded as an indication that Alexander was a well-known man in Ephesus at the time.
  4. A Christian convert and teacher, who along with Hymenæus (q.v.) and others apostatized from the faith, and was excommunicated by the Apostle Paul (1 Ti 1:19–20).
  5. Alexander the coppersmith, who did St. Paul much evil and whom the Apostle desires to be rewarded according to his works (2 Ti 4:14–15). This Alexander has been identified with both 3 and 4. We are able to gather certain facts regarding him which would seem to connect him with 3.—(1) His trade was that of a smith (see Coppersmith), a worker in metal, originally brass, but subsequently any other metal, which might associate him with the craftsmen of Ephesus. (2) The statement regarding him was addressed to Timothy, who was settled in Ephesus. On the other hand, we are told that Alexander greatly withstood St. Paul’s words—a reference which seems to indicate a bitter personal hostility between the two men, as well as controversial disputes on matters of doctrine which might rather connect him with 4, the associate of Hymenæus. It is possible that 3, 4, and 5 may be the same person, but Alexander was a very common name, and the data are insufficient to allow of any certain identification. Those who hold the Epistles to Timothy to be non-Pauline regard the statement in Ac 19:33 as the basis of the references in the Epistles, but the only thing in common is the name, while there is no indication in Acts that Alexander had any personal connexion with St. Paul.

Literature.—R. J. Knowling, EGT, ‘Acts,’ 1900; Comm. of Meyer, Zeller, Holtzmann; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul, 1895, p. 279; artt. in HDB and EBi.

F. Boyd.

art. article.

MSS manuscripts.

q.v. quod vide, which see.

EGT Expositor’s Greek Testament.

artt. articles.

Boyd, W. F. (1916-1918). Alexander. In J. Hastings (Ed.), Dictionary of the Apostolic Church (2 Vols.) (J. Hastings, Ed.) (1:47). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

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