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III. The Church is Brought to the Gentile World 15.36-28.31

Up to this point, Luke has been showing us the significant events and trends which were characteristic of the early church. He assumes, and his narrative reflects this assumption, that the will of God was for the Church to grow and expand through the whole civilized world. The Church had to face challenge after challenge in its growth -- and not all turns and twists were clearly foreseen. Yet, the Holy Spirit was behind the scenes guiding and guarding the fledgling community.

In St. Paul, the Spirit found a receptive and trustworthy spokesman. His preparation took some time, and his leadership developed by phases. Following the first intentional missionary venture, headed up by the venerable Barnabas, Paul was ready for the implementation of the call which he had received from the Risen Christ. Henceforth, the narrative of Luke centers on the dynamic “apostle to the Gentiles.”

15.40-41: Paul and Silas set out

St. Silas iconPaul chose Silas (whose icon is at the left) as his co-minister. It was typical for early Christian missionaries to go out in groups of two or more -- following no doubt the command of the Lord in this.

Both Paul and Silas were commended to “the grace of the Lord.” This was not a new ‘ordination’, since already Paul and Silas were both apostles. Instead, it was understood that nothing that affected the Church could be done at whim -- it had to be undergirded by prayer.

Vs.41 says “he went.” Paul was clearly in charge of this missionary expedition.

The route this time was over land -- through Syria to the territory of Cilicia.

16.1-5: Paul finds Timothy

Paul’s company first came to Derbe to check up on the progress of the Christians there. The community which Paul and Barnabas had established had, in the meantime, continued to grow and prosper.

Paul next came to Lystra. There, since his departure, a young man had risen to prominence in the Christian community -- Timothy. His mother was a Jew who had become part of the community -- his father was a Greek (although it is not clear whether he had also become a member of the Church). Timothy was highly respected not only in his native Lystra, but also in neighboring Icomum where, no doubt, he had worked and preached as well.

Paul wanted to take Timothy with him on his journey. He had Timothy circumcised -- in order to prevent his non-circumcision from presenting an obstacle to other Jews on their travels. At this point, Paul had not yet developed his own unremitting opposition toward this Jewish rite. In this act, he shows a ‘politic’ approach.

On the journey, Paul and his companions read the letter that came out of the Jerusalem council -- a decision well-received by the Gentiles.

16.6-10: Paul receives a vision

After some time spent in Cilicia, Paul next decides to travel through the region of Phrygia and Galatia. This appears not to have been his first choice, however. Vs. 6 indicates that Paul had wanted to head straight for Asia -- that is, the part of Turkey closer to the western shoreline. For some unknown reason, this plan could not be followed-up. So Paul lost no time he simply adjusted his plans to establish communities where he was.

Finally, Paul came to the city of Mysia -- attempting to travel farther north into Bithynia. Again, this was not to be possible. Now, however, the door was opened to Asia, and Paul and his company found themselves at Troas.

Troas was the doorway to Europe: here Paul received a vision -- a man calling for his help in Macedonia. Paul concluded that this was God’s call, and so made preparations immediately to “invade” Europe.

16.11-40: Paul reaches Philippi

Paul moves into Europe

From Troas, Paul sailed to Samothrace, and then to the sea-port of Neapolis. Neapolis served the grandest city in Macedonia -- named for the great Philip, founder of the Macedonian Empire and father of Alexander the Great.

Philippi was a very cosmopolitan city, made up of native Thracians, Greeks, and Romans. It had a large forum, and a library.

Philippi lay on the major road leading East-West.

Philippi had been the site of the decisive battle between Octavian (Augustus) and Antony, and Cassius and Brutus -- a city with a spot in history.

On the Sabbath following, Paul and his companions went outside the city (as a Roman colony, a synagogue could not be built inside it), by the riverside (along the Ganga River). There they found an Arch placed by the Romans to honor the city as a COLONIA, where Jews gathered. On this particular day, it seems only the women gathered for prayer.

Here Paul met and converted a woman named Lydia -- a Gentile woman who met with the Jews. She was an independent business woman. This woman was baptized, along with her household, and invited the apostles to use her home as a base for their operations. They took her up on her offer.

dVss. 16-18: A young woman who was employed by a soothsayer (fortune-teller) because of her unusual gifts (divination = she could foretell the future) followed Paul and his company. She would cry out that Paul was a servant of the ‘Most High God’, a pagan term which, as it happens, had affmities with the OT term. Paul, annoyed at this unsolicited testimony, “cast out the spirit” in her.

The response of the slave-girl’s owners was quick and calculated:

They brought Paul and Silas to the forum for a trial.

The charge was, they were Jews disturbing the peace; sedition.

Incited by the crowd, the magistrates gave orders for the men to be beaten. Then

Paul and the others were imprisoned.

Vss. 25-34: Paul and the others were in prison when an earthquake struck. Although they had the opportunity, the Christians did not try to escape. The jailer saw this as an ‘act of God’ and drew the conclusion that these were special men -- and that he had better get his act in order. The jailer and all his house were baptized, and tended to Paul and the others.

The magistrates, satisfied that their way of dealing with these ‘disturbers of the peace’ would scare them away, sent to have the prisoners released. But Paul, indignant that he – a Roman citizen -- had been publicly humiliated and deprived of his due process of law, decided to stay put. Word got back to the magistrates who now found themselves in the embarrassing position of having taken unlawful action against Roman citizens. The magistrates swiftly come to apologize, formally, to Paul and his companions.

The company returned to Lydia’s home -- addressing and comforting the rest of the community. And then, they depart for another destination, a new Church having been established in Philippi.

17.1-9: Paul in Thessalonica

The company went next to Amphipolis (the capital of the district) and Apollonia in order to come to Thessalonica. In Thessalonica there was a synagogue.

Paul worked for three weeks in and through the synagogue -- explaining how it could be that a man who had suffered death could also be the Messiah. Some of the members of the synagogue accepted his message, and became Christians., including some Greeks attracted to the Jewish faith, and a number of “leading women” in the community.

As in previous situations, Jews who did not accept Paul’s message and who were no doubt envious of his successes (however meager), incited a crowd to turn on Paul.

One Jason, a leader of the synagogue, who had offered his home to Paul (as had Lydia in Philippi) was attacked when Paul could not be found.

Jason was eventually brought to trial for helping “these men who have turned the world upside down.” In order to assure security, the court demanded a bond to be posted by Jason. He did so.

Although he had only a few days, really, Paul’s work was sound. 1 Tb. 2.9: he worked night and day with individuals (instead of large groups). The lot of the Christian community in Thessalonica was “persecution” -- constant annoyance and false charges (1 Th 2.14-16).

17.10-15: Paul in Berea

Paul’s company departed Thessalonica, undoubtedly to ‘protect’ the Christians there from further harassment. They came to Berea (at night).

Again, Paul went to the synagogue. Here Paul found a very receptive audience -- men willing to study the scriptures to verify Paul’s message.

A large community developed in a relatively short time in Berea -- a community that could afford to protect Paul and the company from outside attacks. Although Jews from Thessalonica came down to cause trouble, the whole group did not have to beat a hasty retreat. Indeed, Silas and Timothy were left by Paul in Berea, while he himself went on to Athens to let things cool down.

Paul was accompanied by some of the community at Berea to insure his safe arrival at Athens. Paul then sent message back by these Bereans to have Silas and Timothy come to him as soon as possible (that is, when the church was well-established and functioning smoothly).

17.16-34: Paul in Athens

Athens - The ParthenonOn his own, Paul begins to work in Athens. He again would go to the synagogue, and he also engaged people wherever he could find them.

He came to the AGORA (field, marketplace) and began to teach, where he attracted some attention. Next, he was brought up to the Areopagus, and there he gave a sermon to interested philosophers (teachers and students).

The ‘sophisticates’ were put off by Paul’s insistence on the resurrection, and his work did not reap many benefits among them. It did succeed, however, in converting a certain Dionysius -- in some texts described by the title, “the prominent” -and a woman named Damaris. These brought some others into the new Church. Eusebius tells us that Dionysius (the Areopagite) became the first bishop of Athens.

After some time, it is conjectured that Timothy met Paul in Athens. Assured that the work in Thessalonica was continuing and was very promising, Paul sent Timothy back, and he himself continued on to Corinth.

18.1-17: Paul in Corinth

Corinth and AcrocorinthAgain on his own, Paul went to Corinth. Here he met a Jew named Aquila, and his wife, Priscilla. Both had lived in Rome where, presumably, they had become Christians (while Peter was there?). The Emperor Claudius had expelled Jews from Rome in the year 49, whereupon the man and his wife came to live in Corinth where there was a significant Jewish population.

Paul took up his old trade of “tent-making” (actually, leather-working) in concert with Aquila and Priscilla (they were also leather-workers). Thus he supported himself.


Once again, Paul, following his usual course, went to the synagogue to begin his work.

Sometime later, Silas and Timothy rejoin Paul in Corinth -- finding the apostle at his typical work: preaching and teaching.

More quarrels break out with the Jewish community. Paul, now so thoroughly involved with working with Gentiles, declares his policy to be to have nothing to do with the Jews ... and he goes off to live in the house of Titus (or Titius) Justus -- RIGHT NEXT DOOR!

fA certain Crispus, a ruler of the synagogue, did accept Paul’s ideas and became a Christian. And many more of the population of Corinth generally came around to accepting Paul’s message -- they became Christians.

Paul, assured by the Spirit of his safety, stayed on in Corinth for a year and a half, building up his community. It was a slow, tedious, but ultimately rewarding experience.

When Timothy arrived in Corinth, he brought with him several questions posed by the community in Thessalonica: resurrection, immorality, idleness (1 Th 3.6; 4.3-11; 5.14). Paul writes 1 Thessalonians and sends Timothy off with it.

Timothy brings a reply back from the Church - more clarification needed. Paul writes 2 Thessalonians. DATES: Both letters written in 50 AD.

Toward the end of his stay in Corinth -- and perhaps shortening it somewhat -- Paul was charged with inciting men to break the law: Paul was heard by the proconsul Gallio (brother of the great Latin writer, Seneca), who dismissed the charges entirely.

18.18-21: Paul in Ephesus

Ephesus - Celsus LibraryPaul had now been away for some time from his community in Antioch. Perhaps weary of the battles he had fought, perhaps longing for rest and support, Paul set his head to go to Antioch.

Paul took Aquila and Priscilla with him this time. His plan, knowing that his time at Ephesus was to be short, was no doubt to place Aquila and Priscilla in an important center for evangelizing Asia.

At Cenchreae, Paul made an unspecified vow, cutting his hair as a symbol.

Paul spent very little time in Ephesus. He seems to have done nothing more than spark some interest and direct that interest to Aquila and Priscilla.

 10.18,22: Paul comes back home

Paul came to Caesarea and there went up to greet the Church -- perhaps Philip’s Church --or perhaps a short briefjourney at Jerusalem.

Then Paul came back to Antioch and continued there for quite a period of time, resting up with a view to further expansion of his missionary work.


48 AD   Jerusalem Council
    Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch, with Silas & Judas
49 AD   Peter makes an impromptu visit to Antioch
49 AD   Jews are expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius
49 AD   Aquila and Priscilla, expelled, move to Corinth
49 AD   Paul and Barnabas break company over the Mark question
49-50 AD mid - 49
early 50
Paul with Silas embarks on a new missionary journey:
Derbe, Lystra (meets Timothy), Philippi (jailed); Thessalonica (run out of town); Berea (good work); goes to Athens
50 AD   Paul comes to Corinth
50 AD   Timothy arrives with question from Thessalonica:
Paul writes 1 Thessalonians
50 AD late Timothy returns with a reply and follow-up questions:
Paul writes 2 Thessalonians
51 AD mid Paul brought before Proconsul Gallio; charges dismissed, Paul leaves Corinth
51 AD late Paul leaves Aquila and Priscilla in charges of Ephesus; departs for Antioch

18.23-21.15:  The Third Journey

Vs. 18.23: after spending “some time” in Antioch --doubtless for R & R -Paul decides it is time to make a new round of visits to the churches in Galatia: Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch). Spring, 52 AD.

Vss. 18.24-28: About this time, i.e., while Paul was resting, then setting out on his inspection tour, a certain Apollos came to Ephesus.

Apollos is a Christian from Alexandria (Egypt), where a robust Christian community had already -- we do not know how -- been established.

He is described as both an eloquent speaker and well-versed in the Old Testament.

Apollos speaks at the synagogue in Ephesus.

Aquila and Priscilla, Paul’s assistants left behind to strengthen the Church there, hear Apollos and are favorably impressed -- though they hear some defects in Apollos’ teaching --the exact nature of which cannot be determined.

Apollos, for his part, is eager to accept this correction. NOTE: the placing of Priscilla’s name before that of Aquila shows that she was at least on a par with her husband, if not the leading member of the twosome: Priscilla may, therefore, rank as the first woman seminary professor in history!

Apollos expresses a desire to visit Corinth (Achaia). Undoubtedly, he heard a great deal about the Church there from these associates of Paul and former residents of that great city. Aquila and Priscilla and the community at Ephesus support Apollos in this venture. It is very likely that Apollos thought of himself as enlisting in the missionary work of Paul himself.


19.1-20.1: Paul comes back to Ephesus.

Ephesus was a large city with many smaller “suburbs” in the out-lying areas, Paul’s previous trip into Ephesus was by sea, and then only for a short time. He had left Aquila and Priscilla in charge of the work at Ephesus, but it appears that they stayed pretty much within the limits of the inner city -- not venturing beyond to the out-lying areas. Paul’s second approach to Ephesus was over land, from the north east.

Ephesus - Hillside villasAs Paul came into the “suburbs,” he found a small group of Christians -- in fact, 12 disciples! These disciples had only been baptized with the baptism John -- i.e. a baptism for repentance from sins -- and had never heard of the Holy Spirit. This is remarkable. It reflects a state of affairs in the early Church where there was a very primitive form of Gospel being preached -a form which emphasized repentance from sin and undoubtedly God’s forgiveness --yet which did not present an alternative form of life, “life in the Spirit.” Despite its rather simple appeal, it had a missionary emphasis too. We do not know who formed this small community, but clearly whoever it was felt a missionary impulse (the founder does not appear to have stayed on with the group). Paul now corrects this ‘primitive’ Gospel with a fuller understanding of the Christian life -- much as Peter and John had when they visited Phillips work in Samaria. The small band “receives the Holy Spirit” at the hands of the apostle.

That Paul baptizes the disciples again, this time in name of Jesus, reveals an understanding that baptism in the Christian sense is NOT just for the remission of sins -- it is baptism into the kingdom of God, a full, rich sense of life.

This work of Paul on the fringes of Ephesus must have taken some amount of time. He may have stayed with the disciples for a matter of a few weeks.

Paul now comes into Ephesus proper. Summer of 52 AD.

He resumes preaching in the synagogues as he had previously.

After about three months, and due to some disputes within the synagogue community, Paul rents a hall from a certain philosopher named Tyrannus, and begins his own teaching. One ancient text records that he taught from II AM to 4 PM. This was during the heat of the day, a time when people normally took a siesta. This meant that Paul -- with Aquila and Priscilla -- worked at his own living, then during his “free time” taught the Christian faith to all who would listen. This would be the equivalent of attending evening classes in our day.

Luke records two events during this time of working in Ephesus:

Vss. 19.11-20: Paul is depicted as a worker of miracles. Paul himself acknowledges that “signs and wonders” were performed through his ministry (Rom 15-1 8-19; 2 Cor 12.12), though he is careful to attribute these to the presence of the Spirit in his work, not to himself. As a result of these healings and other types of signs, a large community developed in Ephesus. (NOTE: the humor of the story about the exorcisms, 19.15)

Vss. 19.23-41: Paul and his movement are caught up in a controversy which results in a near riot in the great stadium of Ephesus. The controversy arose because a craft guild associated with the Temple of Artemis felt that their livelihood was threatened by Paul’s success.

The Temple of Artemis was regarded in antiquity as one of the seven wonders of the world, it measured 425 ft long, 220 ft wide, 60 ft high, had 127 pillars! The Temple drew pilgrims and worshippers from all over the ancient world. In addition to the Temple, Ephesus was home to one of the major games of the ancient world -- something on the scale of modem Olympics. An Asiarch was one of the officials of the games.

Ephesus - the Great TheaterPaul was precluded from making his own defense in this highly charged situation. Curiously, Paul seems to have won friends in positions of influence at Ephesus -- whether they became Christian or not, An Asiarch came to his defense, and eventually the town clerk persuaded the riotous crowd to realize the danger of the situation in which they found themselves, and to take the matter to court -- if they had good grounds -- rather than incur the wrath of the Roman Emperor. With that, sanity returned to the city.

Paul, even before the riot at the stadium, had determined to go to Rome. Now, in light of recent events, he hastens his departure having spent two years in Ephesus. He had previously sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia -- an area he had previously visited -- and now he departed on his own.

What prompted his departure? Was it only the riot at Ephesus?

Luke is largely silent on the matter of Church disputes. We know from the letters of Paul, however, that the Christian communities were sometimes full of internal problems -- his letters are attempts, in most cases, to deal with such problems. Thus we must fill in the picture which Luke presents with supplementary material from the letters themselves.

At some point in the year 53 AD (probably the Spring), Paul receives word that there are some disputes in the Church at Corinth. The problem seems centered on the proper use of Christian freedom.

Paul wrote a short letter advising the Corinthians. We do not have the whole letter -- called for convenience Proto-Corinthians. A fragment of the letter may exist, however: it may be found at 2 Cor 6.14-7.1

This letter was likely dispatched to Corinth by the same people who had sought Paul out with the bad news from Corinth.

The first letter did not have much effect. Divisions reached urgent proportions in Corinth -- especially in the absence of Paul -- and more word arrived at Paul’s doorstep in Ephesus.

Paul now wrote a lengthy letter to deal with the problems in Corinth, chief among which were the divisions that were rapidly consuming the community. This letter is known to us as 1 CORINTHIANS (Spring 54). Paul dispatched Timothy (and Erastus) to deliver this letter (Acts 19.22).

Paul must have felt the necessity by now of moving on from Ephesus, making his way ultimately to Corinth (Achaia): Acts 19.21.

Timothy now returns after a very short period. He brings more bad news. Paul puts his plans on hold, and resolves to make a personal visit directly to Corinth. Traveling by sea, he heads straight for the ‘battle zone’.

His personal visit was very disappointing. He did not meet with much success. He returns to Ephesus and writes “The Severe Letter”: 2 Cor 10-13. He dispatches Titus with this letter. (Late summer 54 AD)

Paul finalizes his plans to leave Ephesus and travel through Macedonia. On this trip he will gather a collection for the Christians at Jerusalem. He is certain that he will make one more trip to Jerusalem and then get on with his desire to visit Rome.

The intent to leave Ephesus, then, was not a simple matter of continuing his missionary journey. Acts 20.1 says that Paul met with the community he had founded and “exhorted them.” The realities of building up the Church had hit Paul very hard, we may imagine. He was intent on emphasizing certain themes of unity and the Christian life which he had learned from experience with Corinth. He seems to have been resigned to accepting the loss of Corinth, but working on in any case to preserve and protect his other churches.


20.2: Paul makes his way to Greece.

a.             Paul went on to visit the churches he had established in Macedonia. While there, Titus returns with some good news -- at long last.

Now in the ascendancy, and a much improved climate of unity and Christian love now prevails in Corinth.

Paul sits down to write “The Joy Letter” - 2 Corinthians 1-9:

1)            Note the sound of relief from “afflictions”, 2 Cor 1.8 ff.

2)            Note the indications of his present work in Macedonia, 2 Cor 9.1 ff.

b.             Now Paul, emboldened by his “success” with Corinth, moves through the churches encouraging them and strengthening them to meet similar problems.

c.             While still in Macedonia, word reaches Paul that a new set of problems have arisen in Galatia (the churches of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch). These problems are occasioned by Jewish Christian influences seeking to undo the freedom which was the mark of Pauline churches -- they insist on a return to Law and to the practices which had been specifically rejected at Jerusalem (e.g. Circumcision).

Paul writes the Letter to the Galatians. Fall of 54 AD.

Paul shows no hesitancy in dealing with the issues raised by the “Judaizers” in Galatia. His letter is vigorous, even brutal. Clearly he has learned from his pastoral experience with Corinth.


20.3: Paul now arrives in Corinth.

a.             Paul made his triumphal re-entry to Corinth. His stay would not be long. He simply wanted to re-confirm his leadership in the Church and to take up the collection which had been made in Corinth for the community at Jerusalem. Luke says he stayed on for three months. Spring of 55 AD.

b.             Paul’s travel plans were now back on target. His intention was to go to Jerusalem, deliver the collection, then hasten on to ROME. In preparation for that visit, he wrote a sort of summary of his theology -- and introduction to his thought. This is the Letter to the ROMANS.

Paul, reflecting on the community at Ephesus, had a copy of the Letter to the ROMANS made and sent to the church at Ephesus -- with an additional “chapter” -- Romans 16.

At the same time, he writes a Pastoral Letter to his representative whom he had left in Ephesus: I TIMOTHY.

c.             Originally, Paul had decided to sail directly from Corinth to Syria (Antioch), and then travel by land to Jerusalem. Now he changed his plans and decided once again to travel through Macedonia.


20.5-12: Paul at Troas

1.             Paul came to Philippi, then sailed for a short trip to Troas. This was the doorway to Europe -- a place which must have held much meaning for Paul now after his long struggles to preserve the churches he had founded.

2.             At Troas, Paul took some time just to visit with his Church and, perhaps, to find physical and spiritual refreshment for himself. While at Troas, Paul restored a young disciple to life after a tragic accident.


20.13-38: Paul at Miletus.

a.             Paul sent most of his party along by ship from Troas to Assos. Paul himself traveled for a few days by land to come to Assos and rejoin his party. Then, aboard ship, the party came to Mytilene, then to Chios, then to Samos, then to Miletus. Paul by-passed Ephesus -- a logical stop -- because he did not want to spend a great deal of time there. Time was now of the essence to Paul: he wanted to get on with his trip to Rome, and significantly, he wanted to celebrate Pentecost with the Church at Jerusalem.

b.             At Miletus, Paul called the Presbyters (Priests) at Ephesus to meet with him. We have to read between the lines as we approach Luke recollection of his address to the Presbyters of Ephesus:

1)            Paul has learned a great deal out the struggles he has had with his churches. The way ahead will not be easy -- and everything depends on the character and commitment, the wisdom and humility of those entrusted with leadership in the community.

2)            Paul addresses the Presbyters in very direct terms. He recalls his own style of life and pattern of ministry -- the implication is that the leaders are supposed to imitate him in his sincerity and self-discipline.

3)            Vs. 29 is an express prediction that the threat of division may arise (may already have arisen) in the Church at Ephesus. Paul implores his picked men to be alert and ready to counter such divisions. He finishes his address by calling them to selflessness and generosity.

4)            Vss. 26-28 -- Paul “washes his hands” of the church-- not in animosity, but in the mature reflection that the future of the community rests with the community itself as it struggles to be the Church and to live by the word of God. It is as if Paul is saying:

There is a great wide world out there. My call is to bring the Gospel to it. Your call is to preserve and nourish what you have been given. If you do your job, I will be able to do mine. Let’s get on with it.

c.             The Presbyters were deeply moved at Paul’s words -- undoubtedly the directness as well as the deep spirit of it,

8.             21.1-14: Paul comes to Palestine

a.             From Miletus, Paul sailed eventually to Tyre. There, he came ashore for 7 days staying with Christians in that city. Some of the members of the community, “through the Spirit” told Paul NOT to continue his journey to Jerusalem. Paul was determined, however, to continue.

b.             From Tyre, Paul came down to Ptolemais, then Caesarea where he stayed with the famous Philip. While at Caesarea, Agabus, the traveling prophet, came to announce to Paul the word of the Holy Spirit-- namely that Paul would be bound and imprisoned at Jerusalem. Paul avows that he is ready even to die for the cause of the Church.

c.             Now Paul entered Jerusalem, his third great missionary journey ended.


D.            Paul’s Arrest and Imprisonment

1.             21.15-26: Paul and his party, including some of the members of the church in Caesarea, do to Jerusalem -- to the house of a Cypriot Christian named Mnason.

The party receives a joyful welcome. On the next day, Paul gives a report of his work to James (the brother of Jesus, Bishop of Jerusalem), and the assembled Presbyters (Eiders). This report is received with approval.

The council, however, raises a problem: Certain Jewish Christians in Jerusalem are deeply concerned about rumors that Paul has subverted the place of the Law in the Christian Church. A plan is devised to allay their suspicions of Paul: He is to take some men with him and perform the ritual act of purification, making certain vows.

Paul was willing to follow this procedure both for practical as well as religious reasons: although Paul refused to allow the Jewish faith to dominate his Christian Gentile communities (via the practice of circumcision), he still saw himself as a Jew and was no doubt fully convinced of the religious practices which he had inherited as a Jew. Therefore, he does not object to this ritual arrangement; although he probably reinterpreted its meaning as a devotional act fully compatible with his new life in Christ. He would let the symbolism of his act be interpreted by the Jewish Christian community as they chose.

2.             21.27-40: But the plan did not work. Some Jews from Asia (Turkey) came up to Jerusalem and caused a stir by drawing attention to Paul. They had seen him in the company of Paul’s fellow-worker, Trophimus (from the Church at Ephesus) and apparently jumped to the conclusion that the ‘liberal’ Paul had taken this gentile into the Temple. These people incited a riot around Paul.

The mob attacked Paul and might well have killed him except for the intervention of the Tribune and the Roman guard (cohort). The Tribune took Paul into protective custody (carrying him bodily out of the danger). The Tribune mistakenly assumed that Paul was an Egyptian terrorist leader.

At the barracks, Paul requests and receives information to address an assembled crowd.

3.             22.1-21: Paul recounts the story of his ‘conversion’ to faith in Jesus.

4.             22.22-29: Paul is bound and interrogated (by beating) until it is realized that he is a Roman citizen. This puts the Tribune in an awkward situation, and he immediately begins to treat Paul with more compassion.

5.             22.30-23.10: Paul now has a hearing before the Sanhedrin. Paul spoke openly of his belief in the resurrection of the dead. This was a tactical ploy: Paul realized that he could shift the deliberation in the Sanhedrin from a discussion of HIS case, to a bitter argument between the Pharisees(resurrectionists) and the Sadducees (non-resurrectionists). The Tribune, finding this a dangerous place for Paul, removes him for protection.

6.             23.11-15: The Lord supports Paul, while 40 Jews make a conspiracy to kill him.

7.             23.16-23: Paul’s nephew gets wind of the conspiracy and reports, first to Paul, then to the Tribune. The Tribune determines to send Paul to Caesarea for protection and trial.

8.             23.24-25: Paul is delivered to Felix the governor at Caesarea. The Tribune had sent a letter along to explain the particulars. Paul is held in prison, pending the arrival of his “accusers.” Date: mid-55 AD.

9.             24.1-27: Paul is brought up on charges eventually and Felix attempts to hear the case. Apparently, the governor was not interested in justice, or in Paul’s faith (they met often for discussion), but in a bribe which he expected Paul (or his supporters) to come up with. Consequently, Paul is held in custody for at least two years -- at the end of which time, Felix is replaced by his successor: Portius Festus. Date: Late 57 AD.

10.          25.1-12: After two weeks in Jerusalem, Festus interviews Paul and receives his appeal of his case to Caesar (a legal right of a Roman citizen).

11.          25.13-26.32: After some period of time (perhaps weeks) had passed, King Agrippa and his wife pay an official visit on the new governor. Festus, anxious to understand the case and personally impressed with Paul, brings the apostle before a special hearing at which the King and Queen are present as guests. Paul explain his history and his teaching to the King, although this raises questions in the mind of Festus about Paul’s sanity.

Agrippa and Festus are agreed that Paul has done nothing deserving of death, yet now that he has appealed to Caesar, the matter is out of their hands. Orders are given for sending Paul to Rome.

[The period between the imprisonment of Paul in Caesarea under Felix, and the hearing before Festus and Agrippa is very important for the dating of some of Paul’s correspondence --namely, the imprisonment letters. Therefore, some attention needs to be paid to this interval.

There was a period in his imprisonment when Paul was uncertain about his future, but at least optimistic that he could get a fair hearing from the Roman official. Luke buttresses this optimism by his report that Felix listened attentively to Paul’s presentation of his faith (Ac 24.24).

This corresponds well with the attitude of Paul in writing Philippians. We may assume that Philippians was written well into this forced confinement period, say 56 of early 57 AD.

During his confinement, Paul had continued to witness to others about his faith. In the course of this, he converted a certain Onesimus, a run-away slave who, as it turns out, was the property of a fellow Christian, Philemon. Paul then wrote to Philemon begging him to let Onesimus have his freedom. Philemon was written sometime after Philippians -- early 57 AD.

With the arrival of Festus, Paul’s fortunes changed. At first, Festus, the efficient administrator of justice, set about to clear up Paul’s case. Within a few weeks of his arrival, Paul was being tried in Caesarea.

But things were seldom easy for the governors of Judea. Festus was sidetracked by the intransigence of the Jews. Thus what appears at first to be a speedy resolution of Paul’s problem begins to drag on, with no certain resolution in view. Luke ascribes this prolongation of justice to Festus’ attempt to “do the Jews a favor”, thus keeping peace and harmony.

At some point in the proceedings, Festus seems to have decided to change his tack. He suggests that Paul might be transferred to Jerusalem for the completion of his trial. (The governor could hear the case in either Jerusalem or Caesarea -- but Jerusalem would have been a more favorable venue in the eyes of the Jewish accusers of Paul). At this juncture, Festus is turning from the efficient administrator of justice to an appeaser of vested interests. Doubtless, many forms of pressure had been brought on Festus by this move.

Paul would have been shocked and unsettled by this turn in Festus’ attitude. The trial, now virtually over, should have resulted in his acquittal by Festus. Now he faces the prospect of being transferred back to Jerusalem with the almost certain fate of being exposed to death -- not at the hands of Roman justice bait from a conspiracy such as Luke had previously narrated.

It is a fact that the later letters from Paul’s imprisonment turn very pessimistic: 11 Timothy indeed shows signs of imminent doom expected by the apostle. Therefore, it is necessary to conclude that these later letters were written during this interim period when the future was not at all clear for Paul -- that is, during Festus’ vacillation.

Only if we assume that the initial attitude of Festus’ -- namely speedy resolution of the case -- is the controlling factor in the whole narrative is it necessary to posit a short interval of time. Yet, it appears that for his own purposes, Festus was willing to let things drag on a little bit longer. Thus, the visit from Agrippa may well have come in early 58, and this would give Paul several months, at least, for the composition of the letters: Ephesians, Colossians, and II Timothy.

Agrippa’s stay seems to have relieved Festus’ mind on the correctness of letting Paul’s appeal to Caesar take full effect. In any case, Paul is soon on his way again to Rome -- and the apostle’s mind was doubtless also much relieved by this turn of events.

12.          27.1-9: Once the decision had been made to send Paul off to Rome, things moved swiftly. Paul and some other prisoners were transferred to a ship which then set sail. But the going was rather slow, due to the weather. Luke notes that by Yom Kippur (“the fast” -- mid-September) much time had been lost. Worse yet, the treacherous fall weather meant danger ahead on the seas.

13.          27.9-28.6: Paul’s advise to the ships captain is not to sail -- but he does so anyway with disastrous results. Eventual shipwreck brings the party to Malta, where Paul once again carries out some missionary work.

14.          28.7-10: Paul is able to convert Publius and some of the natives of Malta.

15.          28.11-16: The party eventually comes to Rome. Luke’s note that Paul took courage upon his reception by the Christians from places around Rome indicates that for the first time since the darkest days under Festus, Paul began to feel some relief at his contemplation of the future.

16.          28.17-22:

Paul felt it was perhaps better to fmd out what the situation in Rome was with regards to the Jews, immediately, rather than wait for events to overtake him. He called together a consultation with the Jewish leaders in Rome, who reported that they had nothing against him. But they were curious about “this sect” (the Christians) and what it was that seemed to cause such a stir. They departed this consultation ready to return and hear a full report from Paul.

17.          28.23-29:

Paul gave his best at the time appointed for a full representation of the Christian message. It is interesting to note that Luke points out the topics on the agenda: 1) the Kingdom of God; 2) The correct (from the Christian point of view) interpretation of the Law and the Prophets concerning the role of the Messiah, and how Jesus filled that role.

Some of the Jews believed. Others were more reluctant. Apparently, Paul was able to make some headway with the persons inclined to belief, while the others departed. Paul drew from this his usual explanation that “the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles” as a distinct group -- though not unalterably opposed to the Jews.

18.          28.30-31: Conclusion

The book closes with Paul still engaging in his preaching task. The note that he continued for two years apparently brings us up to date, rather than indicating that there is more to the story. Luke is content to end his tale with the relatively unmolested activity of Paul in Rome going on. If he knew of the fate of the apostle, he gives no indication of it here.

Tradition relates that within a few years (64 AD) Paul was martyred in the Neronian persecution. It is out of the question that Luke could have known of this fate and not made some comment about it. The only conclusion we can draw is that Luke’s narrative intended to end at this point, because it was the only place it COULD end. It may well be that Luke himself intended to continue his chronicle of the spread of the Church but was unable to do so because either he died of natural causes before he had the opportunity to continue the tale; or he died in the persecution too, and was unable to collect the information needed to do so.