Tuesday, August 7, 2012

aily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 40 and Acts 19

Sirach 40 – On Fear of Death: A “heavy yoke lies on the sons of Adam from the day they come out of their mother’s womb, till the day they return to the mother of them all. What fills them with brooding and their hearts with fear is dread of the day of death” (40:1-2).

Life is all “fury and jealousy, turmoil and unrest, fear of death, rivalry [and] strife” (40:4). 

Despite this pessimism, the writer believes in the end “all bribery and injustice will be blotted out” (40:12).  

Acts 19 – While Apollos is in Corinth, Paul goes back to Ephesus by land. The issue there is the one introduced with Apollos – whether believers there have just received the baptism of John or if they also have received the Holy Spirit. The baptism of repentance that John administered is not enough; there must also be a spirit-given faith in the one who came after John – Jesus Christ. Whether there is another water-baptism in Jesus’ name is not clear. It may just have been a laying on of hands to impart the Holy Spirit. The sign of it is the 12 or so believers speaking in tongues and prophesying.

In what may be from a different source, the next verses talk about Paul’s return to Ephesus and his preaching about the Kingdom of God [this may be connected with belief in the messianic purpose of Jesus].  After three months or so, there begins to be a division in the church there. Paul ends up taking his followers to another location. He lectured daily from 11 to 4 over a period of two or three years. It is from Ephesus that he writes the Letters to the Corinthians, Galatians and Philippians. Miracles are reported to have occurred from contact with Paul and even from things touched by him. Even exorcists start using Jesus’ name in their magic – a number of infamous incidents came from the group and people were “impressed” [it’s all pretty unclear].  In the end, though, use of magic is rejected and all the magic books are burned by those who once used them [not by their opponents].

Paul decided to return to Jerusalem through Macedonia and Achaia and then plans to go to Rome He stays for a while, though, sending Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia. A serious conflict arises “in connection with the Way” (19:23). A silversmith with a big business in making shrines to Diana stirs up those dependent on the trade against Paul. Two of Paul’s friends – Aristarchus and Gaius – are taken by a mob. He wants to appeal to people but believers are afraid of the response if he goes to the “theatre” [the lecture room of Tyrannus, where he taught]. It apparently is an argument between the Jews and Christians. Alexander speaks for the Jews. The crowd starts chanting support for Diana. The Temple of Diana (associated in Ephesus with Artemis) was one of the wonders of the ancient world, opened in 550 BC. Diana was Apollo’s twin sister. The crowd is finally convinced to leave and take their objections to the “regular assembly” of the town (19:41).

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