Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Still Sacrificing in the Temple (Acts 21a)

1. More foreshadowing. "Don't go, Don't go, Paul."  Don't open the door!
  • 21:4  "Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem"
  • 21:10-11 Agabas (who I always found slightly comical here) grabs Paul's belt, ties his hands and feet with it (did he lay down on the ground?), and no doubt in a Vincent Price voice says, "the leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and turn him over to the Gentiles."
  • 21:12 Luke and others plead with Paul, "Don't go, don't go!"  Paul says he's willing even to die there.  They give up.  OK, God's will be done.
  • This is clearly foreshadowing and it surely goes beyond mere imprisonment. There's more to come (e.g., 26:32).
2. Philip the evangelist was one of the seven appointed in Acts 6. He lives in Caesarea now, has four virgin prophetess daughters. Clearly women could be prophets in the early church, in fulfillment of Acts 2:17.

3. So wish we knew the stories of people like Mnason (21:16).

4. Jerusalem has become full of Christian Jews who are zealous for the Law (21:20).  James, Jesus' brother, seems to be in charge. He would die at the instigation of the high priest around the year 62 in between Roman procurators (after Festus). He seems to have been stoned.

The year is perhaps AD58.  A decade later, Jerusalem will be at war with Rome. It fits that Jerusalem would be getting more and more a hotbed of zeal. A group called the Zealots would rise (Simon the Zealot???). These groups probably made a correlation between keeping the Law and the messiah coming (or for zealous Christians, returning).

The Christian Jews in Jerusalem apparently were quite insistent that Jewish Christians needed to keep the Jewish Law in all its respects (despite concessions to Gentiles). The rumor is that Paul isn't teaching that Jews need to keep the Law.  If we look at Galatians 2, that's true--at least as far as table fellowship and purity rules. Paul is teaching Jews not to follow Jerusalem's understanding of purity laws if it interferes with Christian fellowship and unity between Jew and Gentile believer.

Either James knows this and is nudging Paul toward keeping the Law or he is trying to smooth things over between Jerusalem and Paul or maybe Acts is trying to smooth over Paul's image. We want Jerusalem to know you keep the Law, Paul... right, Paul, you keep the Law, right???

Part of keeping the Law is participating in temple sacrifices.  Perhaps Paul takes the money from the gift and uses it to pay for the sacrifices at the end of a vow certain people have taken. What?  The church is still offering sacrifices? Didn't Jesus' death take care of that?

I personally don't think Hebrews has been written yet. They believe Jesus' death atoned for the sins of Israel before God at that time.  But it hasn't completely dawned on them that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world for all time...

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