Monday, June 07, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Acts 22-26

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 22-26.

Chapter 22

  • Verse 1 - It's clear enough that the chapter begins to include all of Paul's speech.  Still, I don't see why they didn't include the few verses at the end of chapter 21 which provide context.  They actually broke right in the middle of the sentence to do it this way!
  • Verse 7 - I won't go so far as to call this a contradiction o f the account in Acts 9, but it's worth paying attention to the differences in how the two versions of Paul's conversion are told.  In chapter 9, we are not told wehter or not Paul's companions can see the light.
  • Verse 21-22 - I actually needed to go back to chapter 21 to remember that Paul is currently giving his speech in Jerusalem (and, thus, his audience is mostly Jewish).  Luke even specifically notes that this is the point when Paul's audience decides to stop listening to him.  I wonder why he had to add this point about going to the Gentiles right now?  It doesn't seem very wise....
Chapter 23
  • Verse 2 - I guess that Ananias is a common name.  That's at least three distinct individuals with that name in Acts alone!
  • Verse 2 - That said, it seems really... wrong for a man of God to, in his role as a man of God, order people to physically hit someone... in the mouth yet!  (Before I start to get comments, it occurs to me that some Christian denominations actually include being slapped on the cheek as a part of confirmation.  That is, part of becoming a member of that denomination.  In that context, the slap is to remind the new member that persecution comes as being part of following Christ.  I don't think that's Ananias' purpose here, although one could certainly argue that Paul's experience is an example of that kind of persecution.)
  • Verse 3 - Paul thinks so, too.
  • Verse 5 - I find myself in agreement with Williams.  Paul probably did not actually fail to recognize that Ananias was the high priest, but was being ironic: Ananias was not acting at all like a high priest of God should be acting, so how could Paul be expected to recognize him?1
  • Verses 12-15 - I guess that Paul's enemies expect to have him killed rather quickly.  Otherwise, a vow not to eat or drink seems rather short-sighted and counter-productive.  How do they expect to have the strength to kill him if they're starving?
  • Verse 16 - I'm not sure which is more noteworthy: that Paul has family (that we actually learn about), or that they are apparently not hostile to him (as many Jews are)?
  • Verses 26-30 - Although obviously not Christians themselves, the Romans (and their law) are clearly being used to help Paul.
Chapter 24
  • Verses 2-8 - For all we hear about first-century Jews wanting to be free of their "Roman oppressors," they sure knew how to suck up to them when it suits their purposes.
  • Verse 15: "...there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" - I don't think Christians make nearly enough of this phrase (either for the purposes of advocating that the wicked are condemned to eternal punishment nor for more universalist interpretations).
  • Verse 27 - We shift from the days surrounding Paul's trial to two years later (still as a prisoner) almost off-handedly.  I wonder what Paul did in all that time (writing epistles, perhaps?).  Williams suggests that Luke may have occupied his time during this period by collecting data for writing Luke and Acts.2
Chapter 25
  • Having already followed Paul through one trial, I see little to comment on in this one, except perhaps to note how Paul avoids the dangers of a Jewish kangaroo court (and of likely not even making it to one alive in the first place!) by appealing to the Roman government.  Indeed, I see some aspects her that might be said to parallel Jesus' own trial, and his being passed on between Jewish and Roman leaders, but Paul has a very different result, of course.
Chapter 26
  • Verse 14: "It is hard for you to kick against the goads." - Williams says that this was "a familiar proverb in the ancient world," but I can hardly be alone in not really understanding what it means, myself.  I see no reason to dispute Williams' suggestion that "the general sense of the proverb is that it is foolish to struggle against one's destiny."3
  • Verse 24 - Apparently, anti-intellectualism is hardly a modern phenomenon.
  • Verse 32 - Agrippa may well believe that Paul has miscalculated, and that Paul's continued imprisonment is only the result of this misstep.  However, we've already noted that Paul made this legal appeal, at least in part, to avoid what would almost assuredly have been a non-legal death sentence at the hands of an angry mob.

1See David J. Williams, Acts (New International Bible Commentary), Hendrickson, 1990, p. 385.
2See Williams, p. 403.
3Williams, pp. 418-419.

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