Monday, July 26, 2010

324: Paul Bores People to Death

Acts 18-20
"Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead." Acts 20:7-9

The day starts with Paul settling in Corinth for awhile. Silas and Timothy meet him there and he "devotes himself" to spreading the word of Jesus to the Jews. However, when the Jews begin opposing/abusing him (as usual) he gets fed up and says, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."

God then speaks to Paul in a vision and tells him not to fear because he will not allow the people of the city to harm him. So he stays in Corinth for another year and a half, exclusively preaching to the gentiles, if we're to take him on his word.

After this time the Jews bring a united front against Paul and send him to court. I'm not sure why they don't just run him out of town like usual. The proconsul (governor) tells them that since it is a matter of Jewish law he will not judge Paul, and tells them to judge him among themselves. The Jews respond by turning on their synagogue leader and beating him in front of the proconsul. I have no idea what that was supposed to accomplish, and neither, it seems, does the proconsul.

Some time later Paul heads to Syria. On the way there he cuts off all his hair because of the "vow he had taken". What vow? Paul then goes to the synagogue in Syria and tries to reason with the Jews. So much for only preaching to the gentiles.

Paul preaches in Syria for awhile but then goes back to Ephesus (in Turkey). He finds some followers of Jesus and asks them if they have received the Holy Spirit. They reply by saying they haven't even heard of the Holy Spirit. Well, they seem to have missed the point entirely. Paul re-baptizes them and has to lay his hands on them for the Holy Spirit to go into them.

Where did the idea come from that we all have a little Holy Spirit inside of us? I've heard countless times that all morality comes from the bit of Holy Spirit God has put inside you. Why, in the time of the early church, do the disciples have to manually insert the Holy Spirit into every non-believer they come across? I feel certain that someone would have tried to lay their hands on me if they didn't already think I had the Holy Spirit.

Paul continues to preach and argue with the Jews for two more years. Paul was so blessed, the bible says, that even handkerchiefs and aprons he touched were turned into magical healing tools. Evil spirits were also driven out with these magical aprons.

The next paragraph is interesting. A group of Jews are going around driving out demons in Jesus's name. One day, an evil spirit talks back to them and says "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" The man with the demon proceeds to kick the asses of seven men. He also apparently rips off their clothes, because they all run away naked with bloody noses. I guess the whole "in Jesus's name" thing doesn't work so well after all.

Paul then decides to go back to Jerusalem. Before he leaves, though, a silversmith claims that Paul has interfered with his idol making business, and blasphemed his god. Soon, this silversmith has gotten the whole city in an uproar. The city clerk decides that he doesn't want a riot, so he gets up in front of the crowd. He says that the whole world knows that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the image of Artemis, who fell from heaven. And that Paul hasn't even blasphemed their goddess (yes he has). This seems to appease the crowd and they disperse.

In chapter 20 we get a shift in perspective. The writer switches from saying "Paul did this... Paul did that" to "we did this... we did that". Somewhere on Paul's journey back to Jerusalem he's picked up the writer of this gospel.

In a city named Troas, Paul is preaching the gospel to a group of people in an upstairs room of a house. Since it's Paul's last night in the city, he goes on and on about the gospel. A man is listening to Paul while sitting in the window. Paul goes on for so long that the man falls asleep and falls out of the window. He falls three stories and the bible claims that he's dead. Paul runs downstairs and jumps on the man, wrapping his arms around him and says, "Don't be alarmed. He's alive!" We're, of course, meant to believe that Paul brought this man back from the dead (says my NIV bible). Even though, like Jesus, he claims that the object of his magical resurrection isn't actually dead.

On the boat to Jerusalem, he passes by Ephesus (where he came from, was he going the wrong way?). He stops and says a heartfelt fair-well to all of his friends there. This fair-well consists mostly of him telling them to keep doing what he preached, and saying how righteous he is.

Sex: The bible is apparently all for it. I guess that's why it spends so much time condemning so many forms of it:
WOMEN'S and girls' magazines are full of advice on better sex, from how to catch and hold your man down to detailed instructions on sexual techniques. Now it seems the oldest written recipe, the Bible's, might be the best.

Neuroscientific studies suggest that ''life-long heterosexual monogamy'' is most likely to provide both sexual satisfaction and excitement, a Melbourne conference heard at the weekend.
Life-long heterosexual monogamy in the bible? Maybe life-long, and certainly heterosexual, but monogamous? I seemed to have missed the bit where polygamy was condemned. In fact, most of the kings of Israel had many wives (thousands in the case of Solomon) and God never made a peep. He certainly had every opportunity to say "oh by the way, only one wife".

After some research, it seems that even apologists recognize that polygamy is not condemned. They contend, instead, that monogamy was the original plan that we should all be aspiring to. This seems dubious at best. But lets move on:
In a joint paper with her son, Sydney Presbyterian minister Kamal Weerakoon, she said non-religious people expected the church to be fearful, ignorant, defensive, repressed and hypocritical with only one message about sex: don't do it.

But a biblical understanding of sex was deeply positive - ''do it, God made us for it'' - while also being honest about human imperfections and limitations.
I never thought that the church would say "don't do it" *period*. But I did (and still do) expect them to try to tell me with whom I can have sex. "Sex is wonderful, you just have to wait till you're 26 [average age of marriage in the U.S.]. Oh, and if you're gay, you're out of luck." That seems like a lot of "don't do it" and not very much "do it".

Where in the bible does it say that God made us to have sex? I was under the impression that we were made to worship God. Sex is but a means to and end (the end being more people to worship God).
''Biologically, we are wired to desire sex, to fall in love with the person we desire sex with, and for that love to develop into deep attachment. Our bodies are wired to operate best with one sexual partner for life,'' he said. ''Both academia and pop culture assume that biblical, Christian sexual ethics are at best outdated and irrelevant, and at worst repressive and harmful. We are seen as legalist, repressed, hypocritical killjoys who spend all our time trying to stop everyone from having a good time.''
We seem to have strayed from science into the land of religious based speculation. I'm fairly certain that the thousands of practicing polygamists would disagree with the assertion that they would be happier if they were monogamous. But again, the basic premise of this article is flawed. The bible doesn't take a particularly convincing stance on the virtue of monogamy.

(via The Age)


  1. Bryan, when you read Paul's letters you'll understand how Eutychus felt.

    Acts 18

    Acts 18:13. Which law were they referring to? Maybe they meant Roman law.

    Acts 18:17. Is Sosthenes the same person as Crispus? Or was there a change in the synagogue leadership? Who beat him ("they all") and why?

    Acts 18:18. Who had the hair cut, Paul or Aquila (the Greek is ambiguous)? Probably Paul, but then what kind of vow was it? The only known vow that would fit that description is a Nazirite one (cf. Num 6:1-21). However, someone undertaking a Nazirite shaves his hair at the end of the period of the vow, which must take place in Jerusalem, where Paul obviously was not.

    Acts 18:19. Paul (presumably he, rather than Aquila - the Greek doesn't say) left Aquila and Priscilla in Epheseus and went into the synagogue? Which synagogue? Not the one in Epheseus? Did Paul travel to a synagogue in another city? Couldn't Paul take them into the synagogue with him?

    And didn't Paul just swear off preaching to Jews in the last chapter?! Has he changed his mind so soon?

    If they were sailing for Syria, why did they end up in Epheseus? And why did the other 2 not continue on with him to Syria, since that was their destination?

    Luke makes it seem as if Paul was the first missionary to Epheseus, but actually there was already a Xian community there, as we see in 18:27 (and his own letters).

    Acts 18:22. And then Paul lands in Caesarea, which is still not in Syria. Did he go hundreds of miles out of his way just to visit the community there?

    Acts 18:25-26. How accurately could Apollos have spoken about Jesus if all he knew was John's baptism and Aquila and Priscilla had to pull him aside to "explained to him the way of God more adequately."

    Acts 18:27. Actually in the Greek it is a bit ambiguous whom the brothers were encouraging. It seems likely that it was the congregation in Achaea (Corinth).

    Acts 19

    Acts 19:2-5. Who are these "disciples" that know only John's baptism and apparently nothing about the holy spirit or the coming of Jesus? It sounds like these were disciples of John, like the modern-day Mandaeans. But how could this be if John ever said anything like "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Lk 3:16), not to mention all the stuff about the "Lamb of God" in John's Gospel? Moreover, Luke tiptoes around this, but it is clear that they originally were baptized into the name of John.

    Why does Paul if they received the Holy Spirit when they became believers? Can't he tell who has the Spirit or not? Ad why would he expect them to receive the Spirit when they become believers, since all those people that Philip baptized didn't receive the Holy Spirit until Peter laid his hands on them.

    Acts 19:6. How did Paul acquire the ability to impart the Holy Spirit by the laying of hands? Paul wasn't one of the Twelve (or Eleven, now).

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