Who was Apollos?
Apollos was a Jew of Alexandrian race (Acts 18:24) who reached Ephesus in the summer of 54 AD, while Paul was on his third missionary journey, and there he "spake and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus" (Acts 18:25). That he was eminently fitted for the task is indicated by the fact of his being a "learned man," "mighty in the scriptures," "fervent in spirit," "instructed in the way of the Lord" (Acts 18:24,25).
His teaching was however incomplete in that he knew "only the baptism of John" (Acts 18:25), and this has given rise to some controversy. According to Blass, his information was derived from a written gospel which reached Alexandria, but it was more probably the fruits of what Apollos had heard, either directly or from others, of the preaching of John the Baptist at Bethany beyond Jordan (compare John 1:28).
Upon receiving further instruction from Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26), Apollos extended his mission to Achaia, being encouraged thereto by the brethren of Ephesus (Acts 18:27).
In Achaia "he helped them much that had believed through grace; for he powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ" (Acts 18:27,28).
During Apollos' absences in Achaia, Paul had reached Ephesus and learned of what had been taught by Apollos there. (Acts 19:1). Since Paul was informed that the Ephesians still knew nothing of the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 19:2-4), it is probable that Apollos had not imparted to his hearers the further instruction he had received from Priscilla and Aquila, but had departed for Achaia shortly after receiving it.
Paul remained upward of two years among the Ephesians (Acts 19:8,10), and in the spring of 57 AD he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians. By this time Apollos was once more in Ephesus (compare 1 Corinthians 16:12). It is incredible that this epistle of Paul could have been prompted by any feelings of jealousy or animosity on his part against Apollos.
It was rather the outcome of discussion between the two regarding the critical situation then existing in Corinth. The mission of Apollos had met with a certain success, but the breeding of faction, which that very success, through the slight discrepancies in his teaching (compare 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4) with that of Paul or of Cephas, had engendered, was utterly alien to his intentions.
The party spirit was as distasteful to Apollos as it was to Paul, and made him reluctant to return to the scene of his former labors even at the desire of Paul himself (1 Corinthians 16:12). The epistle voiced the indignation of both. Paul welcomed the cooperation of Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:6: "I planted, Apollos watered").
It was not against his fellow-evangelist that he fulminated, but against the petty spirit of those who loved faction more than truth, who saw not that both he and Apollos came among them as "God's fellow-workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9), the common servants of the one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
This view is also borne out by the tenor of Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians (compare Hennecke, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen, 84-112, especially 105): nor does it conflict with the passages 1 Corinthians 12:1-7; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 11:16, where Paul seems to allude to Apollos' eloquence, wisdom, and letter of commendation.
Paul wrote thus not in order to disparage Apollos but to affirm that, even without these incidental advantages, he would yield to none in the preaching of Christ crucified. The last mention of Apollos is in the Epistle to Titus, where he is recommended along with Zenas to Titus (Titus 3:13).
He was then on a journey through Crete (Titus 3:15), and was probably the bearer of the epistle. The time of this is uncertain, as the writing of the Epistle to Titus, though generally admitted to have been after the release of Paul from imprisonment at Rome, has been variously placed at 64-67 AD.
The following article is excerpted from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain