Acts 14-15

Chapter 14

These stories of the early evangelists sound very simplistic, like the unsophisticated personal testimony of an enthusiastic believer. The author’s bias is evident in every chapter. So is the anti-Jewish slant (v 2 & 19); and the eagerness to prove the story credible by citing ‘miraculous signs and wonders’.

Paul and Barnabas

Paul and Barnabas

I find it interesting that in v 12, Paul and Barnabas are thought to be Jupiter and Mercury in the KJV, but Zeus and Hermes in modern translations. It seems that for some reason (perhaps increased familiarity?) the KJV translators used the names of Roman gods, even though at that time, the language of Lystra would have been Greek. So presumably the modern versions corrected this by replacing the Roman names with their Greek counterparts.

Paul’s thanks for rain and good crops (v 17) seems childlike and unscientific, but then I have to remind myself that there are still people who think this way. Does it seem plausible that Paul could survive stoning? (v 19-20) Or is the author trying to make a point about his invincibility? (Maybe divine protection?)

Chapter 15

The great circumcision debate. I find it almost laughable that these early converts were risking their lives for Christianity (facing persecution and stoning), and yet they made a big fuss over that. Looks like Peter wins the argument, and circumcision will not be required (v 11). If the vote had gone the other way, would Christianity still have become as widespread? I’d bet not! And here we go again with another vague reference to ‘miraculous signs and wonders’ (v 12). Details about these supposed miracles are pretty scanty in the bible, and the history books record nothing.

Next, there is a misquote (v 16-18) from Amos 9 to prove that conversion of the Gentiles was predicted in the scriptures. Look it up – there’s nothing in there about Gentiles, or anything that would link it in any way to the current situation. (Surprise.) V 20 lists the agreed upon commandments – abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. Too bad these acts are not better defined; what exactly is ‘sexual immorality’, and ‘consuming blood’? More than a few people have died (and continue to die) because of the way these lines are interpreted.

In v 22 we are introduced to Silas. Up until now I had only heard the name in a children’s Christmas song; I had no idea who he was or that he was in the bible.

In v 36, another trip is planned, but Paul and Barnabas separate over a disagreement about John Mark, who had “deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work.” Huh? Did I miss something? Yup, go back to 13:13. All it says is “John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem”. Nothing about why (maybe he had good reason), or that there were hard feelings over that decision at the time. I sense the honeymoon is over. I knew that all the ‘happy happy’ of the past few chapters couldn’t last.

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