Bible Study Moment

The events in Ephesus in Acts 19 got me to remembering a publication I read several years ago about 1 Timothy 2:12-15. So I’m interrupting Acts to write about it.

I don’t allow a woman to teach or to control a man. Instead, she should be a quiet listener.  Adam was formed first, and then Eve.  Adam wasn’t deceived, but rather the woman became the one who stepped over the line because she was completely deceived. But a woman will be brought safely through childbirth, if they both continue in faith, love, and holiness, together with self-control.” (CEB, adjusted).

The paper pointed out that Timothy is in Ephesus (from 1 Timothy 1:3) and that Ephesus is a major center in the worship of Artemis, a female deity (from Acts 19, but I never picked up the extent until I read this paper).

The main thing this paper mentioned is that in the original Greek is a word that appears in the New Testament only once and in wider Greek writings from the time period is very rare. So knowing precisely what it means is difficult thus making translating it even more difficult. The writers offered another possible understanding of this passage; that Paul is writing to Timothy about specific women who had been very involved in the worship of Artemis before becoming Christians, and that they had a tendency to continue to teach ideas that were more about Artemis and not Jesus. Thus Paul was advising Timothy not to let these specific women teach. He was not making a blanket statement about all women.

What prompted me to read this paper was that one of the authors had died and Christianity Today had reported her death since she was a notable evangelical Christian. And seeing a woman recognized by CT without being closely related to a more notable man is rare.

 

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Acts 19:23 says that there arose no small disturbance about the Way (a means of referring to Christians). It seems that it was begun by Demetrius, a silversmith in Ephesus whose business was making silver models of the temple of Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology). Paul’s preaching was convincing so many people to follow Jesus and abandon the worship of Artemis that it was having a major economic impact on not only Demetrius, but the entire Ephesus economy. Verse 27 states Demetrius’ position very well, “This poses a danger not only by discrediting our trade but also by completely dishonoring the great goddess Artemis. The whole province of Asia—indeed, the entire civilized world—worships her, but her splendor will soon be extinguished.” (CEB)

The craftsmen began to shout “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” rush into the theater where town meetings were held, grab two of Paul’s companions, throwing the city into turmoil. Luke states the crowd was in a state of confusion, some shouting one thing, others shouting something else, and most of them not knowing what’s going on. Alexander, a Jew tries to speak but when the crowd realizes that he is a Jew they all shout “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for two hours!

The city manager is able to bring order, and even though this disturbance has been going on for a couple of hours he still believes if they disburse now they won’t be seen as was having had a riot.

The riot when I was in high school was a lot shorter than 2 hours. The Ephesians apparently believe the city manager and disburse. In Acts 20:1 Luke calls it a riot.

 

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Acts 19 is about Paul in Ephesus and there is a lot here.

First off Acts 19:1 places Apollos in Corinth while Acts 18:24 had him in Ephesus. This may be another place where the chapter division may have been better to include 18:24-28 with chapter 19.

Maybe Apollos was first in Ephesus and then went to Corinth since Paul finds about a dozen people who have been baptized into John’s baptism like Apollos had been doing. Paul asks if they received the Holy Spirit and they know nothing of the Holy Spirit. Paul places his hands on them and they receive the Spirit and start speaking in tongues and prophesying.

Those Christian groups that include things like speaking in tongues as part of their practice interpret the presence of tongues and prophesy when people are described as receiving the Holy Spirit as proof that they are the signs of the Holy Spirit. Groups that don’t regularly include them tend to look at 1 Corinthians 12 & 14 where Paul lists several gifts of the Spirit, de-emphasizing speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is part of the latter group, which is interesting because the beginning of the Christian Church side (Barton Stone) of our heritage there were people speaking in tongues, sometimes described as “barking in the Spirit” because the sound was like dogs barking. It seems that the Disciples side (Campbell) prevailed with its emphasis on reason, the idea that a reasonable (person) could read the Bible and discern God’s plan for them without any “emotional” event.

Then in verses 13-17 there is a story that has always seemed somewhat humorous to me. Seven brothers try to cast a demon out of a man by saying “By the power of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, come out!” The demon responds “Jesus I know and Paul I know but who are you” then overpowers all 7 of them so that they run out of the house naked and wounded.

Next time – the riot!

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

In Acts 18 Paul arrives in Corinth. Here we learn that Paul is a tent-maker or leather worker. He meets a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla who are also leather workers and have been forced to leave Rome. Paul ends up staying 18 months in Corinth. Scholars believe during this time he writes letters to the believers in Thessalonica, what we know as 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

We get an indication that Paul’s group sometimes splits up when in verse 5 it states that Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia, perhaps Philippi.

Again the same pattern happens in Corinth, some who reject Paul’s message cause trouble, bring him before the civil authority, Gallio, who in this case says he doesn’t care about their religious beliefs.

Paul eventually leaves, going back to Asia Minor (Turkey) to Ephesus and other cities in the area.

In Ephesus while Aquila and Priscilla are there, Apollos arrives preaching about Jesus but his practice of baptism is only John the Baptist’s type. You may recall Apollos being mentioned in 1 Corinthians. Aquila and Priscilla befriend Apollos and privately teach him more fully about baptism as it relates to Jesus.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

In Acts 17 Paul and Silas get in trouble again. In Thessalonica those upset with them cause a riot by proclaiming that the ones who have turned the world upside down are here, proclaiming that someone other than Caesar is king – Jesus.

Eventually Paul ends up in Athens. He goes about the city seeing idols to various gods and goddesses, most likely including seeing the Parthenon. One idol he sees says “to an unknown god” which he uses to talk about the Jewish god and Jesus and the resurrection.

I’ve read some Bible teacher saying that Paul never preached this way again because it wasn’t effective enough. I wonder how closely this teacher has read Acts, because the results are the same as other places; some believe and accept his message, some reject it, and some want to learn more at a later time. And Paul may not have preached that same way again, although we don’t have all his sermons so we can’t say if he preached this way again or not, and I tend to go with what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I become all things to all people in order to save some”.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Beginning in Acts 16:11, the rest of the chapter is about Paul’s (and the group with him) time in Philippi in Macedonia.

After days of being followed by a woman that is described as having a spirit in her that enables her to predict the future who  has been shouting “These people are servants of the Most High God! They are proclaiming a way of salvation to you!” Paul is annoyed and casts the spirit out of her. Our modern ways tend to discount the idea of being possessed by spirits but there seems to be something to this story, because those who have been making money off this woman now recognize that she can no longer predict the future, therefore they can’t exploit her in that way anymore. And these men grab Paul and Silas and proceed to stir up the crowd into a riot so that the authorities arrest and beat Paul and Silas.

Paul and Silas spend the night in jail praising God and singing hymns, becoming the inspiration for a verse in “The Old Time Religion” (It was good for Paul and Silas). This seems a little ironic since the message Paul is preaching is a new one within his old-time religion.

An earthquake occurs, freeing the prisoners. The jailer is about to kill himself (the punishment for allowing prisoners to escape) until Paul stops him by telling him that they are all still there. The jailer tends to the needs of Paul and Silas by cleaning their wounds and feeding them, while they tell him of Jesus and baptize him and his household.

The next morning the authorities want to quietly release Paul and Silas, but Paul won’t have it. He tells them that they are Roman citizens and therefore shouldn’t have been beaten without being found guilty of a crime, so he won’t leave quietly. They escort them out and beg them to leave Phillippi.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Between Acts 15:22 and 16:10 some individuals are introduced.

In Acts 15:22 Silas is one of the delegates chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with the results of the Jerusalem Council. In verse 40 Paul chooses Silas to go with him to the places that Paul and Barnabas went to earlier.

In 16:1 Paul meets Timothy in Lystra. In verse 3 Paul wants Timothy to go with his growing group and has Timothy circumcised since Timothy has a gentile father and Jewish mother. This can seem to be a strange decision given the whole discussion about circumcision earlier, but Paul looks at each situation, and makes what he believes is the best choice.

Then in verses 6 through 8 the Spirit keeps them from going to certain places, and then in Troas in verse 9 Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia urging them to come there and help. In verse 10 begins the “we” passages which has led many to conclude that Luke now joins Paul’s group and I have read one biblical scholar speculate that Luke may be the Macedonian urging Paul to come there.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

In Acts 15:1-21 some Jewish believers have come to Antioch insisting that circumcision is necessary to be saved. Paul and Barnabas argue strongly against their position. I can hear some yelling. The church at Antioch decides to send a delegation to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, to resolve this issue. (In Bibles with subject headings, this passage is labeled as The Jerusalem Council.)

Verse 7 mentions that there is much debate. I can practically hear one side refer to scripture like Genesis 12 where God calls Abram (later Abraham) to go where God leads him, stating that all the families or nations of the earth will be blessed because of him (Abram). And the other side refers to passages like Genesis 17 where Abram’s name is changed to Abraham and the rite of circumcision is begun and where the scripture states that any uncircumcised male will be cut off from the people.

Peter ends the debate by indirectly referring to his experience with Cornelius that is recorded for us in Acts 10, and quoting from the prophet Amos (Amos 9:11-12) that the house of David would be restored so that all who seek the Lord, including Gentiles will be able to do so.

The leaders decide in favor of accepting the Gentiles with a few qualifications, but circumcision is not one of them.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

 

In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas continue to other cities and towns. In Lystra they heal a crippled man. At that point the people believe that they are gods, specifically Hermes and Zeus. (English versions that were translated from a Latin translation, like the King James, read Mercury and Jupiter.) Paul and Barnabas do some quick talking to keep the priest of Zeus from making sacrifices to them. Then in verse 19 some of the angered Jews from other towns where they’ve been show up, turn the people against them and the crowd stones Paul until they believe he is dead, all in that one verse! Perhaps an example of how quickly a crowd can be turned into a mob.

Paul isn’t dead, obviously, and is able to travel the next day. After visiting Derbe they go back through the towns and cities they have visited, appointing elders, and return to Antioch and their home church.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

From chapter 13 on Acts becomes the Adventures of Paul. Paul and Barnabas are sent from Antioch first to Cyprus where Mark returns to Antioch, and then Paul and Barnabas go to Antioch in Pisidia. (Antioch seems to be a popular name for a city.)

They go to the synagogue and are invited to speak. Paul does so, which you can read in Acts 13:16-41. Afterwards they are urged to return the next week and speak again, when almost the whole city, Gentiles included, come. Results are mixed; some believe Paul’s message and rejoice, others are angered by it and drive Paul and Barnabas out of town.

Mark Phillips