Acts of the Apostles – third lecture

Acts of the Apostles 3
Paul with a foot in each world
Paul’s Roman identity
• Chapter 16 begins the “we” account of Paul’s
• Paul is accused, obviously falsely, of contravening
Roman customs, laws.
• And is arrested and beaten – contrary to law for Roman
• Paul refuses to take advantage of the liberating
• Saves the jailer, then refuses freedom and presses the
issue of the beating.
• Revealing that he is a Roman citizen!
• (In his actual letters, Paul never says anything about
• This Roman identity of Paul becomes increasingly
important in Acts.
New directions
• From this point we hear more and more about friction and failures in
Paul’s preaching in the synagogues.
• In the Areopagus of Athens, Paul reaches toward Greek
philosophical/religious world.
• Attempting a synchronism with Greek intellectual language.
• And expresses a new universalism of religious experience.
• At 18: 6, he makes the momentous decision to abandon the
synagogues and go only to the Gentiles.
• Gallio plays a Pilate-like role vis à vis Paul. But without serious
consequences yet for Paul.
• At Ephesus Paul finds a community of followers of John the Baptist
(19: 1-7), who are easily incorporated into the new belief.
• But this suggests an interesting historical situation: followers of John
the Baptist still active in mid-first cent.
• And again, he leaves the synagogue and goes to a gentile location,
“the lecture hall of Tyrannus.”
• At 19: 21 Paul seems to conclude his work in Greece, vows to return
to Jerusalem, then on to Rome.
Paul in Ephesus
• Acts reports a two-year sojourn in the
most important city of Asia Minor (ch.19).
• Performs a Christ-like role in the healing
that comes of his garments or
• But the power is non-transferable.
• Rather comic conclusion to the attempted
theft of Paul’s healing power (19:16)?
• And the economic cost of turning Christian
in the magic books that are burnt.
“Great is Artemis of the Ephesians”
• An illustration of the clash of cultures? Part of the
“adventures of Paul”?
• Or maybe the real reason Paul had to leave Ephesus?
• Suggests a great clash between Greek fertility goddess
and emerging Christian belief – and the economic
• This Artemis a fusion of the Phrygian Cybele, a mother
goddess, and/or the Phoenician Astarte.
• But the real point, for author of Acts, seems to be the
role of Roman law in relation to Paul’s mission.
• Speech of the “town clerk” (mayor?) emphasizes the role
of law in adjudicating the complaint again Paul and his
• Here’s Artemis:
“Artemis of the Ephesians”
Prolepsis? Another death in
• Paul’s speech to the Ephesians in Miletus seems to
foreshadow his death: 20:22.
• “As a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem,
not knowing what will happen to me there.”
• And none of them will see him again.
• Much weeping and grief 37-38).
• Then in ch. 21 “We” again.
• More apprehension of danger: disciples in Tyre tell Paul
not to go to Jerusalem (21:4).
• Agabus encounter: more anticipation of danger in
Jerusalem (21: 10ff).
• “I am ready not only to be bound, but to die in
Jerusalem” (21: 13)
• And in fact, the possibility of death does seem to await
Jew or gentile? In Jerusalem the danger of
double identity.
Danger from “believers among the Jews.”
The plan is to show that Paul is a good Jew.
But it doesn’t finally work.
Another commotion in the Temple.
And another death threatened (21:31).
BUT rescued – and arrested – by Romans.
Speaks Greek to the tribune, “Hebrew” (Aramaic) to the
Jews (21: 37-40).
• And tells his story of his conversion (2nd time this
narrative occurs, 22: 6-16).
• Mention of “gentiles” (22: 21) again causes violence.
• The turning point? “The Lord” appears – presumably
Jesus -- and predicts Paul’s witness in Rome, as in
Jerusalem (23: 11).
But saved by the Romans
• Jesus was flogged; now Paul is almost flogged.
• And Paul claims his Roman citizenship – in fact he’s
“more Roman” than the tribune.
• But in answering the high priest, also insists he’s a loyal
Jew: 23: 5.
• In face of conspiracy, Paul is hustled out of Jerusalem –
again saved by Romans.
• “Luke” writes some “Roman” speeches (23: 26-30, 24: 28, Paul’s speech, 24: 10-21).
• Paul appeals to “emperor’s tribunal” – Rome.
• Felix > Porcius Festus > Agrippa and Bernice.
• (Festus procurator of Judea from around 60 to 62.)
• Paul gives a very Hellenistic/Roman speech to Agrippa,
telling the conversion story (3rd time), becoming more
Roman by the minute!
• And makes a little joke at the end? (26: 29).
The voyage to Rome
• Now the narrative becomes a stirring sea story: a
Hellenistic genre. “Luke” becomes a salty sea dog!
• “We” again.
• With lots of seafaring terminology (sea anchors, tackle,
lowering boats, etc.) and a close itinerary of the voyage.
• It’s a large grain ship (27: 37).
• Surprisingly (!), the centurion pays more attention to
what the ship’s captain and the owner say about sailing
than to Paul: 27: 10.)
• But Paul is right, even about sailing.
• “Undergirding the ship”: 27: 17.
• Shipwreck – rather exactly described.
• And everyone survives, even Paul when a viper attaches
• And Malta is touched by the power of the Spirit.
Then finally to Rome
• The “Twin Brothers” out of Alexandria – the
“Dioscuri,” Castor and Pollux, an Egyptian cult.
• Across to Sicily (Syracuse, modern Siracusa),
then to Reggio Calabria, and up to Bay of
Naples (Puteoli, modern Pozzuoli).
• Where they find “brethren” (“adelphoi,” Christian
• Then overland to two towns just south of Rome.
More brethren . . .
• . . . and sistren?)
• Then to house arrest in Rome.
The end of Paul’s story?
• Doesn’t really tell the end –
• Which was, according to second-century
tradition, execution in Rome.
• The narrative ends around 61 or 62 (Nero is
emperor), but was presumably written some 20
years later.
• Perhaps “Luke” intended to write a third volume,
but wasn’t able to?
• Or tradition about Paul’s execution may not be
right (it’s late 2nd century)?
• And there’s another tradition that Paul went on
to Spain.
• So finally, a mystery.
But thematically, not really “the
• The Jerusalem/Rome theme remains prominent
in speech to Roman Jews.
• Paul continues to preach Jesus in terms of “law
of Moses and all the prophets.”
• Some converted, some not.
• And the prophecy of Isaiah, used in Luke 8:10,
now used to signal the transfer of the Spirit to
the gentiles.
• And a concluding statement, that doesn’t really
• A George Lucas sort of ending -- an opening for
a sequel?
Some conclusions about Acts
As Jesus ascends in the opening, the Spirit descends.
And becomes the hidden protagonist?
Active in Peter first, then Paul.
And negotiates the cultural divide from Judaism to
The continued relevance of Israel, the Hebrew
Scriptures, even as gentiles predominate.
Several key turns, the final Paul’s treatment in Jerusalem
and his rescue by the Roman authorities.
The “error” of Pontius Pilate is undone by Festus and
The innocent man is not condemned, is not executed.
And in the last sentence Jesus is proclaimed as messiah
in Rome.
Luke/Acts as narrative
• The message to the gentiles: “the Way” begins in Israel,
in the Hebrew Scriptures.
• Jerusalem, though destroyed and superceded, was the
site where “the Way” begins.
• And so both Hebrew Scriptures and Jerusalem (a literary
version?) retain presence, authority.
• The message to the Jews: “the Way” has become
Hellenized, Romanized.
• Protected both from Hellenistic cult (at Ephesus) and the
threat of Jewish violence (in Jerusalem) by Roman law.
• And it survives hardship and danger as it traverses the
Mediterranean world.
• And perhaps the ending is that it doesn’t end, but leaves
itself open?
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