Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Paul To Tarsus

23 When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, [1] lowering him in a basket.
26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. [2] But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. (Acts 9:23-30 (ESV)

Paul begins to feel straight way some of this suffering that Jesus said he would do for the sake of his name. Already  in Damascus  Jews plot to kill him because of the gospel.  We know from Galatians that at this time Paul left for Arabia, which would have been anywhere just outside the gates of Damascus and stayed there three years. We don’t know much about this time except that Paul was busy learning and seems to have received follow up revelations from the Lord.  We don’t know where in Arabia he went, or if he preached there. Acts just skips to his return to Jerusalem.  Scripture does this, it doesn’t record all the details. In Matthew we learn Jesus went to Egypt as a boy. In Luke it doesn’t mention anything about Egypt but has him growing up in Nazareth. The authors have different concerns. Luke had different concerns than Paul while writing Acts than Paul did in writing Galatians. He isn’t writing a biography in which he wants to record every detail of Paul’s life.
In any case when Paul reaches Jerusalem many of the disciples are afraid of him and won’t accept him. They still remember the persecutions. Barnabus makes another appearance. He vouches for Paul. And with Barnabus vouching for him Paul is able to begin his work there in Jerusalem. The disciples there will see his abilities, hear his doctrine and understand what it is he is doing before he will be sent to the gentiles.

He disputes against the Hellenists who then seek to kill him. These would be Greek speaking Jews. The same ones with whom Stephen got mixed up, the same ones Saul had helped kill Stephen. Paul himself would have been considered a Hellenist having grown up in Tarsus. One wonders the nature of the dispute he has with them at this time. Obviously it centered on Christ. Though I also wonder if it had already spread to the nature of Christian freedom and that Greeks too could be saved without circumcision or giving up pork. These things will play a role later on in Paul’s ministry as many Jewish Christians begin to think that the way to convert Jews is to our Judaize them in adherence to the law. The same approach that Baptists try to take in converting Mormons in Utah. Little talk of forgiveness, or Jesus’ death and resurrection etc. and a lot of talk about who can abstain from alcohol the best. In any case because of the threats again Paul he is given an escort to Caeserea and put on a boat back to his hometown of Tarsus where he will spend some time on ice before he is summoned by the church to start his missionary work. Moe in his biography of Paul thinks that Paul may have stayed in Tarsus for up to three years before getting back to his work as a missionary. What he did in the meantime is anyone’s guess. But Tarsus was known for its tent makers in antiquity, mostly because of the goat hair fabric they used. The goats supplying this wandered the Taurus mountains overlooking the city. And tent-making would play a long role in Paul’s life. 

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...

"The same approach that Baptists try to take in converting Mormons in Utah. Little talk of forgiveness, or Jesus’ death and resurrection etc. and a lot of talk about who can abstain from alcohol the best."

Love it, Bror!