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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Paul & Barnabas Preached at Salamis, Cyprus

January 3, 2018

“. . . they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” (Acts 13:4,5). The preaching here at Salamis in Cyprus was the beginning of what is usually called Paul’s “First Missionary Journey” (Acts 13-14).

Salamis on the Island of Cyprus. Pictured here is area of the gymnasium. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Luke, the author of Acts, is very brief in his account of the preaching that took place here, without recording any results from the proclamation of the Gospel in the synagogues, quickly moving on in his narrative SE to Paphos, and continuing on from there. Our photo here shows the area of the gymnasium at Salamis.

It is interesting to note that Barnabas, Paul’s traveling companion and fellow-preacher, was from Cyprus (Acts 4:36).

Here is the harbor into which their ship would have sailed for their arrival at Salamis.

Harbor at Salamis, Cyprus. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We have previously posted on Salamis here here and here.


Caesarea Maritima

December 6, 2017

Acts 10 narrates the exciting history of how the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles. The Apostle Peter was directed to leave Joppa and go up the coast to Caesarea where he would find a man with an honest and good heart, Cornelius the Roman Centurion, as well as his relatives and close friends.

Wave action at Caesarea, on the south side of the Herodian Palace. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Peter, who had the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” had preached to the Jews first on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and was then privileged to preach to the Gentiles in Acts 10. Peter began by saying, “Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35, NASB). Cornelius and those present heard “words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14, CSB). They were receptive to and obedient to the faith!

From this new beginning the gospel would go on to include Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 11), and on to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8; cf. Acts 13-28, etc.).

We have several posts on Caesarea, including here, here, and here.


The True Meaning of Deisidaimonia

January 22, 2011

A reader writes to ask about the meaning of Acts 17:22, “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious’.” Specifically his question is about the interpretation of “very religious.” The Greek term is deisidaimonesterous. Should the text be rendered as “I perceive that you are worshippers of many demons” rather than “very religious” or “too superstitious” (KJV)? He asks, “What would be your answer to this interpretation?”

1. My first observation would be to look at how various reliable translations render the text. The KJV has “too superstitious.” The ESV, NASB, NKJ, NIV and NET have “very religious.” The CSB and NRSV have “extremely religious.” Always be wary when one suggests a meaning for a biblical term that cannot be found in commonly used, accurate translations.

2. The real discussion among biblical students/scholars about deisidaimonesterous is whether it is best rendered by “superstitious” or “religious,”—not whether it means worshiper of demons. For example, the NET note here observes, “The term deisidaimonesterous is difficult. On the one hand it can have the positive sense of ‘devout,’ but on the other hand it can have the negative sense of ‘superstitious.’ As part of a laudatory introduction (the technical rhetorical term for this introduction was capatatio), the term is probably positive here. It may well be a ‘backhanded’ compliment, playing on the ambiguity.”

3. Paul wants to appeal to the hearts of the Athenians with the Gospel.  How can he best approach them? F.F. Bruce says, “He begins by mentioning that what he has seen in their city has impressed him with the extraordinarily religious nature of the Athenians. . .” (The Book of the Acts, p. 355). In his work, The Greek New Testament, Henry Alford observes, “He wishes to commend their reverential spirit, while he shews its misdirection” (vol. 2, p. 196). In his Greek-English Lexicon, Thayer states that Paul uses the term with “kindly ambiguity” (p.127).

These above statements seem to best fit the context.  Paul states a fact—they were religious—without expressing approval or agreement with the object of their religion. But that served as an opener to go on to show basic truths about the nature of God and His will for man, His creation.

Acropolis at top. Stoa to your left. Paul's preaching in Athens is recorded in Acts 17. View from north. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

 

4. What then is the evidence for the interpretation “worshipers of many demons.”

First, in fairness, there is the literal meaning of the compound word, as seen in W.E. Vine’s work. Deisidaimon is composed of deido, “to fear,” and daimon, “a demon.” On the surface it would seem that it should be translated “one who fears/worships demons.” But that is not how word meanings are established.  Try that with the word “butterfly.”  When you define “butter” and “fly” have you shown what “butterfly” means? Vine goes on to give the best meaning of the word in Acts 17:22, as “more than others respectful of what is divine.” He says, “It also agrees with the meaning found in Greek writers; the context too suggests that the adjective is used in a good sense” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. IV, p. 94). Meaning is established by usage.

Gareth Reese says, “It must be noted in passing that deisidaimon could be rendered “worshipper of many demons,’ an expression exactly suited to a pagan people like the Athenians who lived in fear of evil spirits and who went out of their way to keep from offending the spirits” (Acts, p. 627; thusly rendered in Amplified and Darby).  But one important rule of interpretation is to consider how the same word is used within Scripture. Our word is found in Acts 25:19 (noun form), where Festus explained to King Agrippa that the Jewish leaders, “. . . had some questions against him [Paul] about their own religion [deisidaimon] and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.” Here Reese says, “There are reasons to believe Festus used it [deisidaimon] in a good sense here. It was the regular word by which a Roman would designate his own worship, and not being familiar with any technical Jewish word for worship, would naturally use the same word for their religion as he did for his own. Further, Agrippa professes a certain deference for the Jewish religion. Festus would not speak of the religion of his royal guest [Agrippa] in a derogatory sense” (Acts, p. 866).

In conclusion, my judgment is that deisidaimon is best rendered “religion” and deisidaimonesterous as “very religious.” “It was well suited to a general and supremely neutral expression for religion or piety because diamon is used generally for a supernatural power. In the NT it is used in this sense by Festus in Acts 25:19 and the adj. is used by Paul of the Athenians in Ac. 17:22” (Kittel, Vol. 2, p. 20).


“The next day unto Rhodes” (Acts 21:1)

July 28, 2010

As Paul’s Third Missionary Journey neared its close, with Paul and his fellow travelers sailing the Mediterranean toward their destination of Jerusalem, Luke notes,  “Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them [Ephesian Elders at Miletus] and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes…” (Acts 21:1). Rhodes was an island off the southwestern shore of the Roman province of Asia Minor.  See map:

Island and City of Rhodes. Map courtesy of bibleatlas.org

You will notice both the island of Rhodes, and the city by that same name.  Regarding our Acts 21:1 passage quoted above, F.F. Bruce observes,

“Rhodes” here refers to the city rather than to the island of the same name (the chief island of the Dodecanese). The city of Rhodes, lying at the island’s north-eastern extremity, was founded in 408 B.C. by the amalgamation of three earlier settlements.  As the prevailing wind was from the north-east, they were able to accomplish this part of the voyage with a straight course (NICOT, Acts.420).

At Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes, a huge statue of the sun god Helios. It is traditionally depicted as straddling Mandraki harbor, but other believe it stood at the Temple of Apollo. See artist conception below:

Colossus of Rhodes, Painting by Fischer von Erlach, 1700. Source: Eyewitness Travel, The Greek Islands.

Gareth Reese, quoting Dale, writes:

For 56 years the brazen Colossus of Helios stood across the mouth of the barbor.  It was so large, being 105 feet high, that ships sailed between its legs.  It was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  The brazen Colossus represented the sun which shown almost every day on the island.  About 224 B.C., an earthquake threw the idol down. [Its fragments were still on the spot at the time of Paul’s visit.] In 600 A.C., its remains were sold to a Jew by the conquering Saracans.  It took 900 camels to carry the brass away (Acts.778).

Our photo below, taken in March of this year, shows the harbor looking out through the entrance to the sea.

Harbor of Rhodes. Possible site of Colossus. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

And here is a closer view:

Rhodes Harbor. Closer View. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on photos for larger view/higher resolution.