Monday, May 17, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Acts 7-11

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through Acts, chapters 7-11.

Chapter 7

  • Verses 1-53 - Stephen clearly knows his Old Testament history, but it's worth asking why Stephen has focused on the parts he has.  The Pentateuch (and especially Abraham) gets all sorts of attention, then Stephen skips ahead to quickly name-drop David and Solomon, and then to a brief mention of Christ (and not even by name).
Chapter 8
  • Verses 4-40 - Philip isn't a character I hear a lot about, but he certainly gets some serious "face time" in this chapter.
  • Verse 24 - So, did Simon repent (and become a true follower of Christ) or did he remain "not right before God"?  His cry here may be nothing more than a self-serving desire to escape punishment,1 but it could represent the beginning of a faithful ministry.  Luke doesn't clarify this for us.
Chapter 9
  • Verse 10 - Was Ananias a common name back then?  Clearly, this disciple isn't the now-dead person from Chapter 5.
  • Verse 19 - I don't want to make more of this point than the text warrants, but I think it's important to note that, even though he's gotten a vision straight from Jesus himself, Saul nonetheless doesn't immediately go out on his own to do what Jesus is calling him to do.  He spends time with other disciples.  These relationships are essential.  (He does proceed to start preaching pretty quickly thereafter, of course)
  • Verse 27 - In fact, it was the testimony of one of these fellow disciples, Barnabas, that helped those in Jerusalem trust that Saul really was on "their side" now.
Chapter 10
  • Verses 13-15 - A lot has been made out of these verses, which are given in the context of Peter being told that Gentiles are entitled to salvation just as much as Jews.  Beyond that, I am struck by the apparent fact that Peter is told to do something explicitly against the law that God had given to the Jews.  We apply such a reality to ourselves today only with the greatest caution, but it does seem to me that God can overrule God's own law.
Chapter 11
  • Verses 1-18 - I can totally see why Peter should have to recount his recent visions/actions to those who did not witness them first hand.  I wonder why Luke has so much of the recounting repeated explicitly.  The readers have already gotten all this information!  Granting that the writers of these books do nothing without serious forethought, why wasn't it enough to say "Peter explained himself?" 

1See David J. Williams, Acts (New International Bible Commentary), Hendrickson, 1990, p. 158.

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