32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
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I would say that Paul could not have been referring to a fight against literal beasts, since there is no such event recorded in Acts, and (as I understand it) Paul's Roman citizenship would have protected him in any event from such treatment. Instead, Paul is likening the anti-Christian human opponents whom he faced at Ephesus in connection with his missionary work as wild beasts, due to the number of them (to which Paul referred in 1 Corinthians 16:9), and the ferocity of their opposition. (Other passages in Scripture (such as in Psalm 22) use the same imagery, and the pre-Christian Greek philosopher Heraclitus (who was from Ephesus) also referred to the inhabitants of the city as beasts in his writings (using the same Greek word that was later used by Paul.)
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