Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem and the Role of the Spirit

May 16, 2018

As Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey draws to a close, the text states, “After looking up the disciples [at Tyre], we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4). At first glance it would seem that the Holy Spirit is instructing Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Is that what the passage means?

View of Jerusalem, looking west, from Mt. of Olives. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Every passage of Scripture has a context. Previously Luke recorded, “Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome” (Acts 19:21, ESV). Then a few verses later, ” And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there” (20:22, ESV). We know that capitalization is supplied by the translators but you see that the English Standard Version, along with many others, indicate this is the Holy Spirit, not Paul’s spirit, in these texts, Who is directing Paul. Further, that Paul’s journey to Jerusalem was clearly endorsed by the Lord is seen in 23:11, “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (ESV). Additionally, when Paul and his companions were forbidden by the Holy Spirit (on the 2nd Journey) to preach in Asia, Mysia and Bithynia, they did not resist the Spirit, but passed through those regions on to Macedonia (Acts 16:1-10). These passage furnish the surrounding context in which Acts 21:4 must be viewed.

J.W. McGarvey wrote, “We are not to understand that these entreaties [in our opening text, 21:4] were dictated by the Spirit; for this would have made it Paul’s duty to desist from his purpose; but the statement means that they were enabled to advise him not to go, by knowing, through the Spirit, what awaited him. The knowledge was supernatural; the advice was the result of their own judgment” (A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, p.255).

Bob & Sandra Waldron explained, “The Spirit is telling Paul there will be trouble, but it is the people who are begging him not to go” (Go Tell the Good News, p.184).

I do believe that this gives the best explanation of Acts 21:4, as any other view would contradict the related texts immediately before and after the passage. I’m convinced this must be the approach when approaching a challenging text–explanations must be ruled out which contradict other plain passages of scripture.

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Caesarea Philippi

March 23, 2018

The Banias Spring emanates at Caesarea Philippi. At center of our photo you can see the Grotto of the god Pan.

Banias River at Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jesus was in this area during the latter part of His earthly ministry, in that time-frame when He was trying to spend more private teaching/training time with the apostles for the great evangelistic work for which He had chosen them. Text–Matthew 16:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Downstream are the Banias Falls, one of the primary sources of the Jordan.

Also while at Caesarea we saw some figs today.

Figs at Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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The Treasury at Petra

March 19, 2018

This morning we enjoyed a visit to Petra, the capital of the Roman province of Arabia during the time of Christ. During Old Testament times Petra was in the territory of Edom. There is so much to see. For now I will share a photo of the “Treasury.”

“Treasury” at Petra. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Known locally as the Treasury, this tomb is where most visitors fall in love with Petra. The Hellenistic facade is an astonishing piece of craftsmanship. Although carved out of iron-laden sandstone to serve as a tomb for the Nabataean King Aretas III (c 100 BC– AD 200), the Treasury derives its name from the story that an Egyptian pharaoh hid his treasure here (in the facade urn) while pursuing the Israelites. Some locals clearly believed the tale because the 3.5m-high urn is pockmarked by rifle shots. As with all rock-hewn monuments in Petra, the interior is unadorned. (Lonely Planet).

It’s been a while since I’ve been on horseback, and I had never ridden a donkey, but I did both today.

Ferrell Jenkins and Leon Mauldin riding donkeys at Petra. Photo by local Bedouin.

Tonight we’re on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea as we continue to explore and photograph Jordan.

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On the Banks of Jordan

March 18, 2018

On the banks of the Jordan River: Ferrell Jenkins and I are enjoying an opportunity to explore biblical sites in Israel/Jordan, currently in Jordan. We have seen Pella and Jerash, which were cities of the Decapolis. The past two nights we stayed at Bethany, within easy walking distance of the Jordan.

On the banks of the Jordan at Bethany, the traditional location of Jesus’ baptism. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Seeing the reeds here along the Jordan reminded me of some biblical references. Jesus asked the people regarding John: “As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” (Mt. 11:7). John was certainly no reed shaken by the wind!

Today we saw Mt. Nebo, where Moses stood when he looked across to see the Promise Land, then Dibon, where the famous Moabite stone was discovered. We had stunning views of the Arnon gorge, and made our way on the King’s Highway to Petra, arriving after dark.

I’ve previously posted on the Jordan River here, here, and here.

I’ve not posted until now due to internet issues, but plan to be able now to share more photos.


Thessalonian Politarch Inscription & its Bearing on Acts 17:6,8

February 21, 2018

Acts 17:6,8 mention the “rulers of the city” of Thessalonica, who beat and imprisoned Paul and Silas. Luke, the inspired writer of Acts, is a most careful historian. Different cities/districts used specific words to designate their rulers. Here Luke uses the word “politarch” (πολιτάρχης) which was a “very rare title for magistrates” (see Schaff below). Was Luke correct or was he mistaken?

Last month in London I was able to photograph a very important inscription, the Politarch Inscription of Thessalonica, removed from a Roman gateway of the city.

Inscription from Thessalonica using the word “politarchs” to designate rulers, as found in Acts 17:6,8. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. British Museum.

Church historian Philip Schaff, in a section entitled “The Acts and Secular History,” wrote:

The “politarchs” of Thessalonica, 17:6, 8 (Greek text: τοὺς πολιτάρχας, i.e., τοὺς ἄρχοντας τῶν πολιτῶν, praefectos civitatis, the rulers of the city).

This was a very rare title for magistrates, and might easily be confounded with the more usual designation “poliarchs.” But Luke’s accuracy has been confirmed by an inscription still legible on an archway in Thessalonica, giving the names of seven “politarchs” who governed before the visit of Paul.

The Thessalonian inscription in Greek letters is given by Boeckh. Leake, and Howson (in Conybeare and Howson’s Life and Letters of St. Paul, ch. IX., large Lond. ed., I. 860). Three of the names are identical, with those of Paul’s friends in that region-Sopater of Beraea (Acts 20:4), Gaius of Macedonia (19:29), and Secundus of Thessalonica (20:4). I will only give the first line:

ΠΟΛΕΙΤΑΡΧΟΥΝΤΩΝ ΣΩΣΙΠΑΤΡΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΚΛΕΟ. (Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 1, p. 735). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Inscription in its original setting in Thessalonica. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. British Museum.

Schaff earlier in that section mentioned the significance and importance of such artifacts as pertains to the book of Acts:

Bishop Lightfoot asserts that no ancient work [as that of Acts, L.M.] affords so many tests of veracity, because no other has such numerous points of contact in all directions with contemporary history, politics, and typography, whether Jewish or Greek or Roman. The description of persons introduced in the Acts such as Gamaliel, Herod, Agrippa I., Bernice, Felix, Festus, Gallio, agrees as far as it goes entirely with what we know from contemporary sources. The allusions to countries, cities, islands, in Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy are without exception correct and reveal an experienced traveler. Ibid.732)

In other words, time and time again, Luke has been proven to be right! You can trust the Bible!

The British Museum Curator’s comments are interesting:

This large stone was built into a wall at the Vardar Gate of Thessalonica and was removed in 1877. The stone has been assumed to name city officials of the era. The inscription is important to New Testament scholars because it is one of the few stones that attests the existence of the office of politarch, mentioned in the Bible (Acts 17:6 and 8) and in only a few other literary sources. It is also curious because it mentions the mothers as well as the fathers of two of the politarchs. How the number of politarchs in this inscription should be counted varies among the modern editions; the translation here presents the usual interpretation of the inscription (see vom Brocke). (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=398975&partId=1)

I should mention that this inscription is not regularly on display. It took three days to get an appointment to go into the room where is it housed, but it was worth it!

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Jerusalem, SW Temple Mount Panaroma

January 26, 2018

A panoramic view looking toward the SW corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Panorama of Jerusalem, SW corner of Temple Mount. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

At the base of the ancient wall on your left (western side) you can see stones lying in place. These were from the Herodian Temple of Jesus day, falling down to their present position in the 70 AD Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Though seemingly small in our photo, some of these broken stones weight tons.

The view straight across shows southern side of temple mount. The distant view at right center is the Mount of Olives, across from the Kidron Valley (which cannot be seen from this view.

This photo is from Spring, 2017.

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A Diadem, British Museum

January 10, 2018

References to the diadem in the book of Revelation include 12:3, 13:1, and 19:2.

Gold Diadem. Made in southern Italy, 250-200 BC. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

“The diadem is the sign of royal status. Rev 12:3: the dragon had “seven diadems” on his seven heads; 13:1: the beast had “ten diadems” on his ten horns; 19:12: the rider of the white horse had “many diadems” on his head.” (Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 1, p. 298).

This is one of the literally thousands of interesting artifacts in the British Museum, so many of which can be used in the context of biblical teaching/illustrations, etc.

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