Harmony of the Gospel (Conservative Version) shorter form Chapters 36-42
|Chapter 36||Bible texts|
In these days, Peter stood up in the middle of the disciples (and the number of names was about one hundred twenty), and said, “Brothers, it was necessary that this Scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to those who took Jesus. For he was counted with us, and received his portion in this ministry. Now this man obtained a field with the reward for his wickedness, and falling headlong, his body burst open, and all his intestines gushed out. It became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem that in their language that field was called ‘Akeldama,’ that is, ‘The field of blood.’ For it is written in the book of Psalms,
“Of the men therefore who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, to the day that he was received up from us, of these one must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
They put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. They prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two you have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away, that he might go to his own place.”
They drew lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.
Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place. Suddenly there came from the heaven a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Tongues like fire appeared and were distributed to them, and one sat on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under the heaven. When this sound was heard, the multitude came together and were bewildered, because everyone heard them speaking in his own language. They were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Behold, are not all these who speak Galileans? How do we hear, everyone in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians: we hear them speaking in our languages the mighty works of God!”
They were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
Others, mocking, said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing up with the Eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke out to them, “You men of Judea, and all you who dwell at Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to my words. For these are not drunken, as you suppose, seeing it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel:
“Men of Israel, hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him among you, even as you yourselves know, him, being delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by the hand of lawless men, crucified and killed; whom God raised up, having freed him from the agony of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it. For David says concerning him,
“Brothers, I may tell you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Christ, the Anointed One, to sit on his throne, he foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, the Anointed One, that his soul was not left in Hades, and his flesh did not see decay. This Jesus God raised up, to which we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this, which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself,
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Anointed One, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Anointed, for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.”
With many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. There were added that day about three thousand souls. They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ Teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer, and were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
Fear came on every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the Apostles. All who believed were together, and had all things in common. They sold their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need. Day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. The Lord added to the Assembly day by day those who were being saved.
Peter and John were going up into the Temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, 3 P.M.. A certain man who was lame from his mother’s womb was being carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the Temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms, gifts for the needy, of those who entered into the Temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the Temple, he asked to receive alms, gifts for the needy. Peter, fastening his eyes on him, with John, said, “Look at us.”
He listened to them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have, that I give you. In the name of Jesus the Anointed One of Nazareth, get up and walk!”
He took him by the right hand and raised him up. Immediately his feet and his ankle bones received strength. Leaping up, he stood and began to walk. He entered with them into the Temple, walking, leaping, and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God. They recognized him, that it was he who used to sit begging for alms, gifts for the needy at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
As the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering. When Peter saw it, he responded to the people, “You men of Israel, why do you marvel at this man? Why do you fasten your eyes on us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up, and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had determined to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, to which we are witnesses. By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which is through him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
“Now, brothers, I know that you did this in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But the things which God announced by the mouth of all his prophets, that the Anointed One should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Anointed Jesus, who was ordained for you before, whom heaven must receive up unto the times of restoration of all things, which God spoke long ago by the mouth of his holy prophets. For Moses indeed said to the fathers,
“Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel and those who followed after, as many as have spoken, they also told of these days. You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham,
"God, having raised up his Servant Jesus, sent him to you first to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your wickedness.”
As they spoke to the people, the priests and the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees came to them, being annoyed because they Taught the people and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. They laid hands on them, and put them in custody to the next day, for it was now evening. But many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.
In the morning, their rulers, elders, and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and as many as were relatives of the high priest. When they had stood Peter and John in the middle of them, they inquired, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we are examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, may it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus the Anointed One of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands here before you whole. He is
"There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven that is given among men, by which we must be saved!”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled. They recognized that they had been with Jesus. Seeing the man who was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? Because indeed a notable miracle has been done through them, as can be plainly seen by all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that this spreads no further among the people, let us threaten them, that from now on they do not speak to anyone in this name.”
They called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor Teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves, for we cannot help telling the things which we saw and heard.”
When they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people; for everyone glorified God for that which was done. For the man on whom this miracle of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
Being let go, they came to their own company and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard it, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, “O Lord, you are God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who by the mouth of your servant, David, said,
“For truly, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together against your Holy Servant, Jesus, whom you Anointed, to do whatever your hand and your council foreordained to happen. Now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your Holy Servant Jesus.”
When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. With great power, the Apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace was on them all. For neither was there among them any who lacked, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the Apostles’ feet, and distribution was made to each, according as anyone had need. Joses, who by the Apostles was also called Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, having a field, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the Apostles’ feet.
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira, his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being aware of it, then brought a certain part and laid it at the Apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the price of the land? While you kept it, did it not remain your own? After it was sold, was it not in your power? How is it that you have conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.”
Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and died. Great fear came on all who heard these things. The young men arose and wrapped him up, and they carried him out and buried him. About three hours later, his wife, not knowing what had happened, came in. Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.”
She said, “Yes, for so much.”
But Peter asked her, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”
She fell down immediately at his feet and died. The young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her by her husband. Great fear came on the whole Assembly, and on all who heard these things.
By the hands of the Apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. They were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. None of the rest dared to join them; however the people honored them. More believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. They even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mattresses, so that as Peter came by, at the least his shadow might overshadow some of them. The multitude also came together from the cities around Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits: and they were all healed.
But the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy and laid hands on the Apostles, then put them in public custody. But an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors by night, and brought them out and said, “Go stand and speak in the Temple to the people all the words of this Life.”
When they heard this, they entered into the Temple about daybreak and Taught. But the high priest came, and those who were with him, and called the council together, and all the Senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But the officers who came did not find them in the prison. They returned and reported, “We found the prison shut and locked, and the guards standing before the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”
Now when the high priest, the captain of the Temple, and the chief priests heard these words, they were very perplexed about them and what might become of this. One came and told them, “Behold, the men whom you put in prison are in the Temple, standing and Teaching the people.”
Then the captain went with the officers, and brought them without violence, for they were afraid that the people might stone them. When they had brought them, they set them before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to Teach in this name? Behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your Teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood on us.”
But Peter and the Apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you killed, hanging him on a tree. God exalted him with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins. We are his witnesses of these things; and so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
But they, when they heard this, were cut to the heart, and were determined to kill them. But one stood up in the council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a Teacher of the law, honored by all the people, and commanded to put the Apostles out for a little while. He said to them, “You men of Israel, be careful concerning these men, what you are about to do. For before these days Theudas rose up, making himself out to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves. He was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were dispersed, and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the enrollment, and drew away some people after him. He also perished, and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered abroad. Now I tell you, stay away from these men, and leave them alone. For if this counsel or this work is of men, it will be overthrown. But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow it, and you would be found even to be fighting against God!”
They agreed with him. Summoning the Apostles, they beat them and commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. They therefore departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus’s name. Every day, in the Temple and at home, they never stopped Teaching and preaching Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One of God.
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, a complaint arose from the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily service. The Twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables. Therefore select from among you, brothers, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will continue steadfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word.”
These words pleased the whole multitude. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch; whom they set before the Apostles. When they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. The word of God increased and the number of the disciples greatly multiplied in Jerusalem. A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Stephen, full of faith and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. But some of those who were of the synagogue called “The Libertines”, and of the Cyrenians, of the Alexandrians, and of those of Cilicia and Asia arose, disputing with Stephen. They were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, and came against him and seized him, then brought him in to the council, and set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking blasphemous words against this holy place and the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”
All who sat in the council, fastening their eyes on him, saw his face like it was the face of an angel. The high priest said, “Are these things so?”
He said, “Brothers and Fathers, listen. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him,
"Then he came out of the land of the Chaldaeans and lived in Haran. From there, when his father was dead, God moved him into this land, where you are now living. He gave him no inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on. He promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his offspring after him, when he still had no child. God spoke in this way: that his offspring would live as aliens in a strange land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years.
"He gave him the covenant of circumcision. So Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day. Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
“The patriarchs, moved with jealousy against Joseph, sold him into Egypt. God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. He made him governor over Egypt and all his house. Now a famine came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction. Our fathers found no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers the first time. On the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph’s race was revealed to Pharaoh. Joseph sent and summoned Jacob, his father, and all his relatives, seventy-five souls. Jacob went down into Egypt and he died, himself and our fathers, and they were brought back to Shechem, and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a price in silver from the children of Hamor of Shechem.
“But as the time of the promise came close which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, to the day there arose a different king, who did not know Joseph. The same took advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers, and forced them to throw out their babies, so that they would not stay alive. At that time Moses was born, and was exceedingly handsome. He was nourished three months in his father’s house. When he was thrown out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up and reared him as her own son. Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was mighty in his words and works. But when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. Seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him who was oppressed, striking the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers understood that God, by his hand, was giving them deliverance; but they did not understand.
“The day following, he appeared to them as they fought, and urged them to be at peace again, saying,
"But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying,
"Moses fled at this saying, and became a stranger in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.
“When forty years were fulfilled, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight. As he came close to see, a voice of the Lord came to him,
"Moses trembled, and dared not look. The Lord said to him,
“This Moses, whom they refused, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—God has sent him as both a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. This man led them out, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is that Moses, who said to the children of Israel,
"This is he who was in the Assembly in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received living revelations to give to us, to whom our fathers would not be obedient, but rejected him, and turned back in their hearts to Egypt, saying to Aaron,
"They made a calf in those days, and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands. But God turned, and gave them up to serve the army of the sky, as it is written in the book of the prophets,
“Our fathers had the Tabernacle of the Testimony in the wilderness, even as he who spoke to Moses commanded him to make it according to the pattern that he had seen; which also our fathers, in their turn, brought in with Joshua when they entered into the possession of the nations, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, to the days of David, who found favor in the sight of God, and asked to find a habitation for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built him a house. However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says,
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so you do. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, of whom you have now become betrayers and murderers. You received the law as it was ordained by angels, and did not keep it!”
Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears, then rushed at him with one accord. They threw him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”
He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”
When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Saul was consenting to his death.
A great persecution arose against the Assembly which was in Jerusalem in that day. They were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the Apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and lamented greatly over him.
But Saul ravaged the Assembly, entering into every house and dragged both men and women off to prison. Therefore, those who were scattered abroad went around preaching the word. They went out, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed. Amen.
|Chapter 37||Bible texts|
Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven, went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ, the Anointed. The multitudes listened with one accord to the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many of those who had them. They came out, crying with a loud voice. Many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. There was great joy in that city.
But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who used to practice sorcery in the city, and amazed the people of Samaria, making himself out to be some great one, to whom they all listened, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is that Great Power of God.”
They listened to him, because for a long time he had amazed them with his sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching good news concerning God’s Kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself also believed. Being baptized, he continued with Philip. Seeing signs and great miracles occurring, he was amazed.
Now when the Apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for as yet he had fallen on none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of Christ Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Now when Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that whomever I lay my hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.”
But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this, your wickedness, and ask God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”
Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that none of the things which you have spoken happen to me.”
They therefore, when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the Good News to many villages of the Samaritans.
Simon, being convicted of his wickedness by the Apostle Peter, undertook a great journey from the east across the sea, and fled to the west, thinking that this was the only way for him to live according to his own mind.
But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert road.”
He arose and went; and behold, there was a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship. He was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, “Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.”
Philip ran to him, and heard him reading aloud Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
He said, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?”
He begged Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this,
The eunuch answered Philip, “Who is the prophet talking about? About himself, or about someone else?”
Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached to him Jesus. As they went on the way, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Behold, here is water. What is keeping me from being baptized?”
And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may."
And he replied, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
He commanded the chariot to stand still, and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him any more, for he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found forty miles away at Azotus (anciently called Ashdod). Passing through, he preached the Good News to all the cities, before he came to Caesarea.
Now you have heard of Saul's way of living in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure he persecuted the Assembly of God and ravaged it. He had advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of his own age among his countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of his fathers.
But Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, about A.D. 36 went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Remember the words of the Lord, how he said, "Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God."
We understand Saul's heart according to what is written by the sweet Psalmist of Israel in the Book of Psalms, one hundred nineteen. And we know the mercy of the Lord. Think of his zeal for the law. (The scriptures are not open to the understanding of fools, nor are they read by those impatient to be entertained.)
As he traveled, he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light from the sky shone around him. He fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
He said, “Who are you, Lord?”
The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise up, and enter into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the sound, but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no one. They led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. He was without sight for three days, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
He said, “Behold, it is me, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judah for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus. For behold, he is praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight.”
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem. Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to him, “Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
Ananias departed, and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. Ananias said, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. For you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you wait? Arise, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
He arose and was baptized. He took food and was strengthened.
But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated him from his mother’s womb and called him through his grace to reveal his Son in him, that he might preach him among the Gentiles, he did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did he go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before him, but he went away into Arabia. Then he returned to Damascus.
Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus.
Immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed the Christ, the Anointed One, that he is the Son of God. All who heard him were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem made havoc of those who called on this name? And he had come here intending to bring them bound before the chief priests!”
But Saul increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ, the Anointed One.
Then after three years, in A.D. 40, when many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired together to kill Saul. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas guarded the Damascenes’ city, desiring to arrest him. But their plot became known to Saul. They watched the gates both day and night that they might kill him, but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket. He was let down in a basket through a window by the wall, and escaped his hands. Then he went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter.
When Saul had come to Jerusalem, when he had returned to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the Apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus; and he stayed with Peter, who is also called Cephas, the Rock, fifteen days. But of the other Apostles he saw no one except James, the Lord’s brother. He was with them entering into Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He spoke and disputed against the Hellenists, but they were seeking to kill him.
The brothers heard it. And while Saul prayed in the Temple, he fell into a trance, and saw Jesus saying to him, “Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not receive from you testimony concerning me.”
He said, “Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those who believed in you. When the blood of Stephen, your witness, was shed, I also was standing by, consenting to his death, and guarding the cloaks of those who killed him.’
He said to Saul, “Depart, for I will send you out far from here to the Gentiles.”
So the assemblies throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Then Saul came to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. He was still unknown by face to the assemblies of Judea which were in Christ, but they only heard: “He who once persecuted us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy.”
So they glorified God in him. He testifies that he knew a man in Christ, (whether in the body, he does not know, or whether out of the body, he does not know; God knows), such a one caught up into the third heaven. He knows such a man (whether in the body, or outside of the body, he does not know; God knows), how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. On behalf of this man he will boast, but on his own behalf he will not boast, except for his own weaknesses.
As Peter went throughout all those parts, all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, because he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!”
Immediately he arose. All who lived at Lydda and in Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which when translated, means Dorcas, which means, Gazelle. This woman was full of good works and acts of mercy which she did. In those days, she became sick, and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. As Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. Peter got up and went with them. When he had come, they brought him into the upper room. All the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out, and knelt down and prayed. Turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, get up!”
She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand, and raised her up. Calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. He stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.
Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man, and one who feared God with all his house, who generously gave alms, gifts for the needy to the people, and always prayed to God. At about the ninth hour of the day, about 3 P.M., fifteen hundred hours military time, he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God coming to him, a man standing before him in bright clothing, and saying to him, “Cornelius!”
He, fastening his eyes on him, and being frightened, said, “What is it, Lord?”
He said to him, “Your prayers and your gifts to the needy have gone up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and get Simon, who is also called Peter. He lodges with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the seaside.”
When the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier of those who waited on him continually. Having explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
Now on the next day as they were on their journey, and got close to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about noon. He became hungry and desired to eat, but while they were preparing, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him, like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky. A voice came to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!”
But Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
A voice came to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.”
Again he saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him, like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky.
A voice came to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!”
But Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
A voice came to him again, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.”
Again he saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him, like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky.
A voice came to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!”
But Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
A voice came to him again, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.”
This was done three times, and immediately the vessel was received up into heaven.
Now while Peter was very perplexed in himself what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood before the gate, and called and asked whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was lodging there. While Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men seek you. But arise, get down, and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”
Peter went down to the men, and said, “Behold, I am he whom you seek. Why have you come?”
They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous man and one who fears God, and well spoken of by all the nation of the Jews, was directed by a holy angel to invite you to his house, and to listen to what you say.”
So he called them in and provided a place to stay.
On the next day Peter arose and went out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. On the next day they entered into Caesarea. Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his relatives and his near friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet, and worshiped him.
But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up! I myself am also a man.”
As he talked with him, he went in and found many gathered together. He said to them, “You yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man who is a Jew to join himself or come to one of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. Therefore also I came without complaint when I was sent for. I ask therefore, why did you send for me?”
Cornelius said, “Four days ago, I was fasting up to this hour, and at the ninth hour, I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer is heard, and your gifts to the needy are remembered in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and summon Simon, who is also called Peter. He lodges in the house of a tanner named Simon, by the seaside. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ Therefore I sent to you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God to hear all things that have been commanded you by God.”
Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I perceive that God does not show favoritism; but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him. The word which he sent to the children of Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all—you yourselves know what happened, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they also killed, hanging him on a tree. God raised him up the third day, and gave him to be revealed, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen before by God, to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that this is he who is appointed by God as the Judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him, that through his name everyone who believes in him will receive remission of sins.”
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. They of the circumcision who believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in other languages and magnifying God. Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers. For they had not believed that God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just like us.”
He commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay some days.
Now the Apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. When Peter had come up to Jerusalem, those who were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men, and ate with them!”
But Peter began, and explained to them in order, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision: a certain container descending, like it was a great sheet let down from heaven by four corners. It came as far as me. When I had looked intently at it, I considered, and saw the four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter, kill and eat!’ But I said, ‘Not so, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered into my mouth.’ But a voice answered me the second time out of heaven, ‘What God has cleansed, you do not call unclean.’ This was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. Behold, immediately three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent from Caesarea to me. The Spirit told me to go with them, without discriminating. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying to him, ‘Send to Joppa, and get Simon, who is called Peter, who will speak to you words by which you will be saved, you and all your house.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave to them the same gift as us, when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?”
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!”
They therefore who were scattered abroad by the oppression that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews only. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. The report concerning them came to the ears of the Assembly which was in Jerusalem. They sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch, who, when he had come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad. He exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they should remain near to the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and many people were added to the Lord.
Barnabas went out to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they were gathered together with the Assembly, and Taught many people. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
About this time, in A.D. 41, Caligula died, and Claudius was made emperor of Rome. Tiberius Caesar had already died in A.D. 37, and after him Gaius Caligula had become Emperor of Rome, about the time of Saul's conversion. And now four years later Caligula died by assassination, and the Praetorian Guard made Claudius emperor, and he reigned for over thirteen years, A.D. 41 through 54.
After the capture of their city by Pompey in 63 B.C., experience and apprehension through the subsequent seventy-eight year period afterward had taught the Jews much. Availing themselves of the corrupt policy of the Claudian era to purchase the right of fortification, they now raised in time of peace such walls as were suited for war. Since the inhabitants of the newly-built part of the city called Bezetha in the Jewish language, which, interpreted in the Grecian language, may be called New City, stood in need of protection, King Agrippa began the wall enclosing it; but he ceased when he had only laid the foundation, fearing that Claudius Caesar should suspect that so strong a wall was built as a prelude to introducing major changes in public affairs.
Now in these days, prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up, and indicated by the Spirit that there should be a great famine all over the world, and this took place in the days of Claudius. The river Euphrates was dried up and became passable. As any of the disciples had plenty, each determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea; which they also did, sending it to the Presbyters by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Now about that time, A.D. 44 King Herod stretched out his hands to oppress some of the Assembly. He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, also called Passover. When he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. Peter therefore was kept in the prison, but constant prayer was made by the Assembly to God for him. The same night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. Guards in front of the door kept the prison.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side, and woke him up, saying, “Stand up quickly!”
His chains fell off from his hands. The angel said to him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.”
He did so. He said to him, “Put on your cloak, and follow me.”
And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went out, and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. When Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I truly know that the Lord has sent out his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from everything the Jewish people were expecting.”
Thinking about that, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. When Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she did not open the gate for joy, but ran in, and reported that Peter was standing in front of the gate. They said to her, “You are crazy!”
But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.”
But Peter continued knocking. When they had opened, they saw him, and were amazed. But he, beckoning to them with his hand to be silent, declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. He said, “Tell these things to James, and to the brothers.”
Then he departed, and went to another place.
Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. When Herod had sought for him, and did not find him, he examined the guards, and commanded that they should be put to death. He went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.
Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. They came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus, the king’s personal aide, their friend, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day, Herod dressed himself in royal clothing, sat on the throne, and gave a speech to them. The people shouted, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”
Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God grew and multiplied.
Herod Agrippa the First had ruled A.D. 41 through 44. His son Herod Agrippa the Second succeeded him.
Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their service, also taking with them John who was called Mark.
Now in the Assembly that was at Antioch there were some prophets and Teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Consecrate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.”
Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia. From there they sailed to Cyprus. When they were at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They had also John Mark as their attendant. When they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of understanding. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul, and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn aside the proconsul from the faith. But Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, and said, “Full of all deceit and all cunning, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is on you, and you will be blind, not seeing the sun for a season!”
Immediately a mist and darkness fell on him. He went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the Teaching of the Lord.
Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John Mark departed from them and returned to Jerusalem. But they, passing on from Perga, came to Antioch of Pisidia. They went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, speak.”
Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they stayed as aliens in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm, he led them out of it. For a period of about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land for an inheritance, for about four hundred fifty years. After these things he gave them judges up to Samuel the prophet. Afterward they asked for a king, and God gave to them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. When he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, to whom he also testified,
"From this man’s offspring, God has brought salvation to Israel according to his promise, before his coming, when John had first preached the baptism of repentance to Israel. As John was fulfilling his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. But behold, one comes after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’
“Brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, the word of this salvation is sent out to you. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know him, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. Though they found no cause for death, they still asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had fulfilled all things that were written about him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and he was seen for many days by those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people. We bring you good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled the same to us, their children, in that he raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second psalm,
“Concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he has spoken thus:
“Therefore, he says also in another psalm,
“For David, after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell asleep, and was laid with his fathers, and saw decay. But he whom God raised up saw no decay. Be it known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man is proclaimed to you remission of sins, and by him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come on you which is spoken in the prophets:
So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the synagogue broke up, many of the Jews and of the devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas; who, speaking to them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
The next Sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so has the Lord commanded us, saying,
As the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of God. As many as were appointed to eternal life believed. The Lord’s word was spread abroad throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, and stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and threw them out of their borders, outside the city limits. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy with the Holy Spirit.
In Iconium, they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed. But the disbelieving Jews stirred up and embittered the souls of the Gentiles against the brothers. Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who testified to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided. Part sided with the Jews, and part with the Apostles. When some of both the Gentiles and the Jews, with their rulers, made a violent attempt to mistreat and stone them, they became aware of it, and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra, Derbe, and the surrounding region. There they preached the Good News.
At Lystra a certain man sat, impotent in his feet, unable to stand, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. He was listening to Paul speaking, who, fastening eyes on him, and seeing that he had faith to be made whole, said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet!”
He leaped up and walked. When the multitude saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voice, saying in the language of Lycaonia, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”
They called Barnabas “Jupiter”, and Paul “Mercury”, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Jupiter, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and would have made a sacrifice along with the multitudes. But when the Apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it, they tore their clothes, and sprang into the multitude, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the sky and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them; who in the generations gone by allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you rains from the sky and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
Even saying these things, they hardly stopped the multitudes from making a sacrifice to them. But some Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there, and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul, and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But as the disciples stood around him, he rose up, and entered into the city. For where two or more are gathered in his name, there is Jesus in the midst of them.
On the next day he went out with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the Good News to that city, and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through much tribulation we must enter into God’s Kingdom. When they had appointed Presbyters for them in every Assembly, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed.
They passed through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, from where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled. When they had arrived, and had gathered the Assembly together, they reported all the things that God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith to the nations, to the Gentiles. This was about A.D. 44-45. They stayed there with the disciples for a long time.
In A.D. 48, Agrippina, after poisoning her second husband, helped to bring about the murder of Valeria Messalina, her predecessor as the wife of Claudius. She next incestuously became the wife of the emperor Claudius, her uncle, and persuaded him to favor Nero, her son by a previous marriage, for the succession, over the rightful claim of his own son, Britannicus, and to also marry his daughter, Octavia, to Nero.
About A.D. 50, some men came down from Judea and Taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small discord and discussion with them, they appointed Paul and Barnabas, and some others of them, to go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and Presbyters about this question. They, being sent on their way by the Assembly, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles. They caused great joy to all the brothers.
Paul later testified,
When they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the Assembly and the Apostles and the Presbyters, and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
The Apostles and the Presbyters were gathered together to see about this matter. Paul wrote of this afterward to the assemblies of Galatia, saying,
When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Good News, and believe. God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you test God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”
All the multitude kept silence, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul reporting what signs and wonders God had done among the nations, the Gentiles, through them. After they were silent, James answered, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has reported how God first visited the nations, to take out of them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets. As it is written,
“Therefore my judgment is that we do not trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God, but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Then it seemed good to the Apostles and the Presbyters, with the whole Assembly, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brothers. They wrote these things by their hand:
Paul wrote later of what followed, saying,
So, when they were sent off, they came to Antioch. Having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the Letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers with many words, and confirmed them. After they had spent some time there, they were sent back with greetings from the brothers to the Apostles. But it seemed good to Silas to remain there. But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, Teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. Afterward, Peter also came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Paul later wrote,
But afterward, Paul repented that he had reproached Peter; for when he had grown in maturity, he said to those in Corinth,
He also said,
This is what Peter was doing, and Paul had rebuked him for it.
And Paul said to those in Rome,
He also said,
This is what Peter was doing, and Paul had rebuked him for it. You see how he repented.
Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, Teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
|Chapter 38||Bible texts|
About this time Paul wrote the following letter:
Barnabas planned to take John, who was called Mark, with them also. But Paul did not think that it was a good idea to take with them someone who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and did not go with them to do the work. Then the contention grew so sharp that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him, and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas, and went out, being commended by the brothers to the grace of God. He went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the assemblies.
He came to Derbe and Lystra: and behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewess who believed; but his father was a Greek. The brothers who were at Lystra and Iconium gave a good testimony about him. Paul wanted to have him go out with him, and he took and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts; for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered the decrees to them to keep which had been ordained by the Apostles and Presbyters who were at Jerusalem. The assemblies were confirmed in the faith, and increased in number daily.
When they had gone through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not allow them. Passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night. There was a man of Macedonia standing, begging him, and saying, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.”
When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go out to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the Good News to them. Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a straight course to Samothrace, and the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia, the foremost of the district, a Roman colony. We were staying some days in this city.
On the Sabbath day we went outside of the city by a riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down, and spoke to the women who had come together. A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one who worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay.”
So she persuaded us. As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!”
She was doing this for many days. But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!”
It came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. When they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men, being Jews, are agitating our city, and advocate customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”
The multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates tore their clothes off of them, and commanded them to be beaten with rods. When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, who, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and secured their feet in the stocks.
But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were loosened. The jailer, being roused out of sleep and seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”
He called for lights, sprang in, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, brought them out, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
They spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to all who were in his house. He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was immediately baptized, he and all his household. He brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his household, having believed in God.
But when it was day, the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, “Let those men go.”
The jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go; now therefore come out, and go in peace.”
But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, without a trial, men who are Romans, and have cast us into prison! Do they now release us secretly? No, most certainly, but let them come themselves and bring us out!”
The sergeants reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, and they came and begged them. When they had brought them out, they asked them to depart from the city. They went out of the prison, and entered into Lydia’s house. When they had seen the brothers, they confirmed them, and departed.
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. Paul, as was his custom, went in to them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ, the Anointed One, had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
Some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas, of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and not a few of the chief women. But the unpersuaded Jews took along some wicked men from the marketplace, and gathering a crowd, set the city in an uproar. Assaulting the house of Jason, they sought to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and certain brothers before the rulers of the city, crying, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here also, whom Jason has received. These all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus!”
The multitude and the rulers of the city were troubled when they heard these things. When they had taken security-bond from Jason and the rest, they let them go. The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea.
When they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed; also of the prominent Greek women, and not a few men. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Beroea also, they came there likewise, agitating the multitudes. Then the brothers immediately sent out Paul to go as far as to the sea, and Silas and Timothy still stayed there. For Paul sent Timothy, an Apostle, his brother and God’s servant in the Good News of Christ, to confirm the Thessalonians, and to comfort them concerning their faith. But those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens. Receiving a commandment to Silas and Timothy that they should come to him very quickly, they departed. They found Timothy and Silas at Thessalonica.
Now while Paul waited for them alone at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw the city full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who met him. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also were conversing with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?”
Others said, “He seems to be advocating foreign deities,” because he preached Jesus and the resurrection, in Greek, Iesus and Anastasis.
They took hold of him, and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new Teaching is, which is spoken by you? For you bring certain strange things to our ears. We want to know therefore what these things mean.”
Now all the Athenians and the strangers living there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing. Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus, and said, “You men of Athens, I perceive that you are very religious in all things. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I announce to you.
“The God who made the world and all things in it, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, neither is he served by men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself gives to all life and breath, and all things. He made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth, having determined appointed seasons, and the boundaries of their dwellings, that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live, and move, and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring.’ Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold, or silver, or stone, engraved by art and design of man. The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent, because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; of which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.”
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, “We want to hear you again concerning this.”
Thus Paul went out from among them. But certain men joined with him, and believed, among whom also was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth. He found a certain Jew named Aquila, a man of Pontus by race, who had recently come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome. He came to them, and because he practiced the same trade, he lived with them and worked, for by trade they were tent makers. He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks. But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. When they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook out his clothing and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on, I will go to the Gentiles!”
He departed there, and went into the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house.
About this time Paul wrote the following letter:
He lived there a year and six months, Teaching the word of God among them.
About this time Paul wrote the following letter:
|Chapter 39||Bible texts|
But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”
But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If indeed it were a matter of wrong or of wicked crime, you Jews, it would be reasonable that I should bear with you; but if they are questions about words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves. For I do not want to be a judge of these matters.”
And he drove them from the judgment seat.
Then all the Greeks laid hold on Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. Gallio did not care about any of these things.
Paul, having stayed after this many more days, took his leave of the brothers, and sailed from there for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila. He shaved his head in Cenchreae, for he had a vow. He came to Ephesus, and he left them there; but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay with them a longer time, he declined; but taking his leave of them, and saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem, but I will return again to you if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus.
When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the Assembly, and went down to Antioch. Having spent some time there, he departed, and went through the region of Galatia, and Phrygia, in order, confirming all the disciples.
Timothy was imprisoned. They had endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. They had compassion on the prisoners, and joyfully accepted the plundering of their property, knowing that they themselves had a better possession and an abiding one. We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.
Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus. He was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and Taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the Way of God more accurately. When he had determined to pass over into Achaia, the brothers encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him, saying also, "Timothy has been released. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you. Amen."
When Apollos had come into Achaia, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he powerfully refuted the Jews, publicly showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
In Judea, where secular matters were going from bad to worse, the governor Felix had to capture imposters and brigands on a daily basis. When the high priest Jonathan continually urged him to improve his administration, Felix hired sicarii, "dagger-men", terrorist Assassins, to murder him. When they were not punished, the sicarii boldly attacked their enemies with hidden daggers, even in the Temple area, defiling the Temple.
An Egyptian imposter promised his followers to make the walls of Jerusalem fall down at his command. Felix attacked them on the Mount of Olives and killed four hundred, taking two hundred prisoners, although the imposter escaped. At Caesarea, a quarrel broke out between Jews and Syrians over equal civil rights. The Jews claimed precedence because Herod had founded the city, while the Syrians asserted that the place had been Strato's Tower before Herod, without any Jew living there. When both sides started stoning each other, Felix intervened with his troops and many Jews were killed. He then sent leaders of both parties to argue their case before Nero in Rome.
Now about this time, what we now call the Letter to the Hebrews was of great encouragement to those who were persecuted, giving them cause to hope, with stern warnings of the wrathful judgment to come from God on those who turn away from Christ, on those who apostatize, apostates:
They said to him, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
He said, “Into what then were you baptized?”
They said, “Into John’s baptism.”
Paul said, “John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.”
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke with other languages and prophesied. Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers. For though they were indeed true believers in Jesus and disciples before Paul came to them, they had not believed there is a Holy Spirit and, like Apollos before them, had known nothing of baptism into Christ Jesus. Thus tongues were a sign for unbelievers. They were about twelve men in all. He entered into the synagogue, and spoke boldly for a period of three months, reasoning and persuading about the things concerning God’s Kingdom. In the law it is written,
But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all those who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
At the end of that time, Paul rejoiced at the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus from Corinth, and he wrote the following letter:
There were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did this. The evil spirit answered, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”
The man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived at Ephesus. Fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Many also of those who had believed came, confessing, and declaring their deeds. Many of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. They counted their price, and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing and becoming mighty.
Having sent into Macedonia two of those who served him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
The great foreign-policy problem of the time was that of Armenia. The Armenians had long chafed under Roman rule, and in the emperor Claudius’s last years before Nero's reign a Parthian prince named Tiridates, Tiridates the First, had made himself king of Armenia with the support of its people. Roman-Parthian relations had become increasingly centered on Armenia, which was geopolitically situated between the Roman Empire and Parthia, Rome’s implacable foe in the east, "the kings of the east". Since the reign of Augustus, it had been Roman policy to appoint vassal kings there and so make Armenia a buffer state against Parthia and the kings of the east. Thirty-three years before, in A.D. 20, Parthian generals who conquered the regions of northern India had declared independence to form the “Indo-Parthian Kingdom.” Throughout the remaining history of Roman-Parthian relations, Armenia would have the role of a “buffer state” between the two powers. The Armenians had already played a role in the early history of Roman-Parthian relations. In both Crassus’s and Antony’s campaigns, the Armenian king had a large role as a guide, and “betrayer,” as some sources state. The political turmoil in the Parthian Empire was also a significant factor, which has been attributed to the lack of open war during the early Pax Romana period; the Parthians had a number of problems on their other borders. An advance on Armenia from one side was often interpreted as a pretext for war by the other, and now, about A.D. 52-53, the Parthian prince Tiridates had made himself king of Armenia with the support of its people.
During the reign of Claudius, at the time of the famine, as a warning from heaven, the "river Euphrates was dried up to prepare the way for the kings of the east", making it passable.
The faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ having been spread among men by the Apostles and brothers, the enemy of salvation, seeking to capture the imperial city, sent Simon Magus there, the man who was previously rebuked by Peter in Samaria for seeking to purchase from the Apostles the power of laying hands on believers who had been baptized that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Thereafter avoiding the Apostles, he had quickly fled overseas from East to West so that he could live as he pleased. With the enemy assisting his sorcery, he attached to himself many in Rome and deceived them. Simon worked many magic rites during Claudius's reign, by the demons who possessed him. At Rome he was deemed to be a god, and was honored as a god with a statue erected on a site in the River Tiber between the two bridges. It carries an inscription in Latin, which many have interpreted as saying SIMONI DEO SANCTO, which means "To Simon the Holy God". Nearly all Samaritans and a few in other nations at the time of the Apostles also confessed him as the Supreme God and worshiped him. A woman named Helen, who had previously lived in a brothel at Tyre and traveled around with him, the worshipers called the First Emanation from him, his original Thought and Concept.
According to tradition, Simon took the lead in all heresies leading away from Christ, and primary among them the gnostics, who are trained in sorcery and magical arts. His original followers, while displaying the outward form of religious piety, and pretending to have the modest philosophy of the Christians which is famous among all for purity of life, turn from Christ and prostrate themselves in idolatry before pictures and images of Simon and Helen. They worship them with incense, sacrifices and libations, and their more secret rituals are so full of frenzy, madness, and degradation that it is not only impossible to commit them to writing in detail, but to even utter them with the lips and tongue to decent persons in words without causing scandal. They include the so-called "deep things of Satan", and they glory in their shame. The most disgusting and foul crime imaginable is completely surpassed by the utterly repulsive heresy of these worshipers, drenched in vice, who take advantage of the needs of weak women, burdened with sins and moved by various impulses, who will listen to anybody and are ever learning, yet never coming to a knowledge of the truth. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.
This was the wickedness which that malignant power, the enemy of all good, and the robber of human salvation, made use of, in order to make Simon Magus the father and author of this heresy. In Rome his success was short-lived. For during the same reign of Claudius, about A.D. 53, the gracious Providence of God brought Peter also to Rome. Peter, with Mark accompanying him as he Taught the Good News of light and the Word that saves souls, having come at last to Rome, extinguished and immediately destroyed Simon's power, along with the man himself. According to tradition he fell headlong into the Tiber and drowned.
In A.D. 54 Claudius was assassinated by his fourth wife Agrippina, who poisoned him and took charge of the empire for her son Nero.
By this time, Paul had preached the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum, in labors abundantly, in prisons abundantly, in stripes above measure, close to death often. Five times from the Jews he received forty stripes minus one. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was stoned. Three times he suffered shipwreck. He had been a night and a day in the deep. He had been in travels often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils from his own countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brothers; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are outside the Assembly, there is that which pressed on him daily, anxiety for all the assemblies.
When Timothy returned he showed Paul that it had now pleased Macedonia and Achaia to make some contribution to the poor among those at Jerusalem.
Paul wrote the following letter:
|Chapter 40||Bible texts|
In A.D. 54 the emperor Claudius was assassinated by his fourth wife Agrippina, who poisoned him and took charge of the empire for her son Nero. It was during this same period that Paul in Asia had written to the Assembly in Corinth and in Rome. Timothy had returned from Macedonia with news of the Assembly there, and Paul stayed in Asia for a while.
Nero was the fifth Roman emperor, the stepson and heir of the emperor Claudius. Nero’s father, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, had died fourteen years before, about A.D. 40, and Nero was then brought up by his mother, Agrippina the Younger, a great-granddaughter of the emperor Augustus. After poisoning her second husband, Agrippina helped, in A.D. 48, to bring about the murder of Valeria Messalina, her predecessor as the wife of Claudius. She next incestuously became the wife of the emperor Claudius, her uncle, and persuaded him to favor Nero, her son by a previous marriage, for the succession, over the rightful claim of his own son, Britannicus, and to also marry his daughter, Octavia, to Nero. Concerning the Gentiles who believe, the Apostles and Presbyters together with the Holy Spirit and Peter and James, in 50 had written their decision that they should observe no such thing as circumcision and the law of Moses, except that they should keep themselves from food offered to idols, from blood, from strangled things, and from sexual immorality. Paul wrote to the Galatians and the Thessalonians, and established communities of believers throughout Greece and Asia. Peter had come to Rome. Ceaselessly pursuing her intrigues to bring Nero to power, Agrippina eliminated her opponents among Claudius’s palace advisers. She probably had Claudius himself poisoned in A.D. 54, to insure the succession of Nero, rather than Claudius's own son Britannicus. It was about this time that Paul in Asia had written to the Assembly in Corinth and in Rome. Timothy had returned from Macedonia with news of the Assembly there, and Paul stayed in Asia for a while. Claudius Caesar died after a reign of almost fourteen years, poisoned by his wife, Agrippina. Brought up in this atmosphere, Nero might well have begun to behave like a monster upon his accession as emperor in 54 but, in fact, he behaved quite otherwise. Claudius had put forty senators to death, but, between 54 and the year 62, there were no like incidents in Nero’s reign.
Nero was sixteen in the year anno domini fifty-four when news of Claudius's death was announced.
Upon the death of Claudius Agrippina at once had Nero proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian Guard, whose prefect, Sextus Afranius Burrus, was her partisan; she also immediately eliminated the powerful freedman Tiberius Claudius Narcissus, who had always opposed her aims. Nero presented himself to the Guards later the same day between the sixth and seventh hours Roman time, between noon and one o'clock, because the interpretation of ugly omens had ruled out an earlier appearance. After being acclaimed imperator on the steps of the palace, he was carried by litter to the camp of the Praetorian Guard, where he briefly addressed the troops. Then he visited the Senate House. The Senate thus had to accept a fait accompli as the will of the Roman gods. He refused only one of the many high honorific titles voted to him, because of his youth: Father of His Country. He remained there to nightfall. For the first time absolute power in the Roman Empire was vested in a mere boy, who was not yet seventeen. The testimony of contemporaries depicts Nero at this time as a handsome young man of fine presence but with soft, weak features and a restless spirit.
He began his reign by making a show of virtuous civil behavior, giving the dead Claudius a lavish funeral, at which he delivered the oration himself, and then deifying him. Afterward, as a guarantee of his virtuous intentions he promised to model his rule on the principles laid down by Augustus Caesar.
Agrippina completed her work with the poisoning of Britannicus in A.D. 55; and some contemporaries suggest that it was Nero himself who afterward poisoned Britannicus. Most people thought both Claudius and his son Britannicus had been poisoned. Agrippina had hoped to control the government, but the Praetorian prefect, Sextus Afranius Burrus, formerly her partisan, and Nero’s old tutor, the Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, though they owed their influence to Agrippina, were not content to remain her tools. They encouraged Nero to act independently of her, and this resulted in Nero growing increasingly distant in his relations with his mother.
To his credit he put an end to the practice of secret trials before the emperor and the dominance of corrupt freedmen, and he accorded more independence to the Senate. When he could not abolish some of the heavier taxes, he lowered them. He gave the people four hundred sesterces each, secured annual salaries for distinguished but impoverished senators, in some cases in the amount of five hundred thousand sesterces, and granted the Praetorian cohorts a free monthly issue of grain. Nero also inaugurated competitions in poetry, in the theatre, and in athletics as counterattractions to gladiatorial combats. He saw to it that assistance was provided to cities that had suffered disaster and, at the request of the Jewish historian Josephus, gave aid to the Jews.
Meanwhile, the imperial government had some success in the east.
In response, Nero’s new government took vigorous action, appointing an able general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, to the command.
While directing the government themselves, Burrus and Seneca had largely left Nero uncontrolled to pursue his own tastes and pleasures. Seneca urged Nero to use his autocratic powers conscientiously, but he obviously failed to harness the boy’s more generous impulses to his responsibilities. About one year after Britannicus was poisoned in 55, and two years after Nero's accession as emperor of Rome in 54, Nero soon became infamous for his personal debaucheries and extravagances. His nocturnal rioting in the streets was a scandal as early as A.D. 56. In 56 Agrippina was forced into retirement. From that time, Burrus and Seneca were the effective rulers of the empire.
At first Nero hated signing death sentences, and the extortions of Roman tax collectors on the populace over the next two years 56-57 led him in A.D. 58 to unrealistically suggest that the customs dues should be abolished. Even later Nero was capable of conceiving grandiose plans for conquests or for the creation of public works, but for the most part he used his position simply to gratify his own personal pleasures.
Nero quickly became bored with his wife Octavia; he tried to strangle her on several occasions. He had fallen in love with Poppaea Sabina, the young wife of the senator Otho. Otho was born into a family that had held the consulship under Augustus. He had married Poppaea Sabina. But when the emperor Nero took Poppaea for his mistress in A.D. 58, Otho was sent from Rome to govern Lusitania. For 10 years Otho ruled this province with integrity.
Up to the year A.D. 59, Nero’s biographers judiciously cite only acts of generosity and clemency on his account. His government forbade contests in the circus involving bloodshed, banned capital punishment, reduced taxes, and accorded permission to slaves to bring civil complaints against unjust or cruel masters. Nero himself pardoned writers of epigrams against him and even those who plotted against him, and secret trials were few. The law of treason was dormant: he put no senators to death.
The emergence of real brutality in Nero under the malign influence of the genius of the emperor can be fixed in the 35-month period A.D. 59 through 62 beginning with the open killing of his own mother on his orders in A.D. 59. He was led to the murder of Agrippina by her insanity and her fury at seeing her son slip out of her control. Having disposed of his mother Agrippina, Nero proceeded to murder his powerful aunt Domitia. When he found her confined to bed with severe constipation, he ordered the doctors to give her a laxative of fatal strength, and then, just before she died, he seized her property and tore up her will, thus avoiding legal complications.
Seeing that he could do what he liked without fear of censure or retribution, Nero began to give free rein to inordinate artistic pretensions. He fancied himself not only a poet but also a charioteer and lyre player, and in A.D. 59 or 60 he began to give public performances; later he appeared on the stage, and the theatre furnished him with the pretext to assume every kind of role. To the Romans these antics seemed to be scandalous breaches of civic dignity and decorum, offenses against the dignity of the people of Rome, maiestas. God allowed Nero to expose the fraudulent gods of Rome, the worship of the Senate and the people of Rome. Nero even dreamed of abandoning the throne of Rome in order to fulfill his poetical and musical gifts, though he did not act on these immature, juvenile ambitions.
About that time, in Asia Minor there arose no small stir concerning the Way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen, whom he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, “Sirs, you know that by this business we have our wealth. You see and hear, that not at Ephesus alone, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are no gods, that are made with hands. Not only is there danger that this our trade will come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be counted as nothing, and her majesty destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worships.”
When they heard this they were filled with anger, and cried out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
The whole city was filled with confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel. When Paul wanted to enter in to the people, the disciples did not allow him. Certain also of the Asiarchs, being his friends, sent to him and begged him not to venture into the theater. Some therefore cried one thing, and some another, for the assembly was in confusion. Most of them did not know why they had come together. They brought Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. Alexander beckoned with his hand, and would have made a defense to the people. But when they perceived that he was a Jew, all with one voice for a time of about two hours cried out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
When the town clerk had quieted the multitude, he said, “You men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great goddess Artemis, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here, who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a matter against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them press charges against one another. But if you seek anything about other matters, it will be settled in the regular assembly. For indeed we are in danger of being accused concerning today’s riot, there being no cause. Concerning it, we would not be able to give an account of this commotion.”
When he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, took leave of them, and departed to go into Macedonia. When he had gone through those parts, and had encouraged them with many words, he came into Greece. When he had spent three months there, and a plot was made against him by Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he determined to return through Macedonia. These men accompanied him as far as Asia: Sopater of Beroea; Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians; Gaius of Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. But these had gone ahead, and were waiting for us at Troas. We sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas in five days, where we stayed seven days.
On the first day of the week, when the disciples were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and continued his speech to midnight. Among them was Luke, a physician from Antioch. There were many lights in the upper room where we were gathered together. A certain young man named Eutychus sat in the window, weighed down with deep sleep. As Paul spoke still longer, being weighed down by his sleep, he fell down from the third floor, and was taken up dead. Paul went down, and fell upon him, and embracing him said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.”
When he had gone up, and had broken bread, and eaten, and had talked with them a long while, even to the break of day, he departed. They brought the boy in alive, and were greatly comforted.
But we who went ahead to the ship set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for he had so arranged, intending himself to go by land. When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard, and came to Mitylene across from Pergamum. Sailing from there, we came the following day opposite Chios. The next day we touched at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium, and the day after we came to Miletus. For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening, if it were possible for him, to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to himself the Presbyters of the Assembly. When they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you all the time, serving the Lord with all humility with many tears, and with trials which happened to me by the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, Teaching you publicly and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus. Now, behold, I go bound by the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there; except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions wait for me. But these things do not count; nor do I hold my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to fully testify to the Good News of the grace of God.
“Now, behold, I know that you all, among whom I went about preaching God’s Kingdom, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you today that I am clean from the blood of all men, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you Episcopes, to shepherd the Assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore watch, remembering that for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish everyone night and day with tears. Now, brothers, I entrust you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up, and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver, or gold, or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands served my necessities, and those who were with me. In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring you ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
When he had spoken these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. They all wept a lot, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all because of the word which he had spoken, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.
When we had departed from them and had set sail, we came with a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. Having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail. When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left hand, we sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload her cargo. Having found disciples, we stayed there seven days. These said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
When those days were over, we departed and went on our journey. They all, with wives and children, brought us on our way to where we were out of the city. Kneeling down on the beach, we prayed. After saying goodbye to each other, we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.
When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais. We greeted the brothers, and stayed with them one day. On the next day, we, who were Paul’s companions, departed, and came to Caesarea.
We entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the Seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. As we stayed there some days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming to us, and taking Paul’s belt, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit: ‘So will the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ”
When we heard these things, both we and they of that place begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
When he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The Lord’s will be done.”
The Holy Spirit had revealed what would happen to him, but had not forbidden Paul to go. Those at Tyre in Syria and these, knowing in the Spirit what would happen to him, had done to him as Peter had done to Jesus, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem for the sake of the Gospel of God.
After these days we took up our baggage and went up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea also went with us, bringing one Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we would stay. When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly.
The day following, Paul went in with us to James; and all the Presbyters were present. When he had greeted them, he reported one by one the things which God had worked among the Gentiles through his ministry. They, when they heard it, glorified God. They said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law. They have been informed about you, that you Teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the customs. What then? The Assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them, and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses for them, that they may shave their heads. Then all will know that there is no truth in the things that they have been informed about you, but that you yourself also walk keeping the law. But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written our decision that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from food offered to idols, from blood, from strangled things, and from sexual immorality.”
Paul obeyed them, submitting himself to their authority in all humility.
Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purified himself and went with them into the Temple, declaring the fulfillment of the days of purification, before the offering was offered for every one of them.
When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, when they saw him in the Temple, stirred up all the multitude and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who Teaches all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this Place. Moreover, he also brought Greeks into the Temple, and has defiled this Holy Place!”
For they had seen Trophimus, the Ephesian, with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the Temple.
All the city was moved, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the Temple. Immediately the doors were shut. As they were trying to kill him, news came up to the commanding officer of the regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar, rioting. Immediately he took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. They, when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, stopped beating Paul. Then the commanding officer came near, arrested him, commanded him to be bound with two chains, and inquired who he was and what he had done. Some shouted one thing, and some another, among the crowd. When he could not find out the truth because of the noise, he commanded him to be brought into the barracks. When he came to the stairs, he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd; for the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!”
As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he asked the commanding officer, “May I speak to you?”
He said, “Do you know Greek? Are you not then the Egyptian, who before these days stirred up to sedition and led out into the wilderness the four thousand men of the Assassins?”
But Paul said, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city. I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.”
When he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, beckoned with his hand to the people. When there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying, “Brothers and Fathers, listen to the defense which I now make to you.”
When they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they were even more quiet. He said, “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict tradition of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest and all the council of the elders testify, from whom also I received letters to the brothers, and traveled to Damascus to bring them also who were there to Jerusalem in bonds to be punished. As I made my journey, and came close to Damascus, about noon, suddenly a great light shone around me from the sky. I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.’
“Those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not understand the voice of him who spoke to me. I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Arise, and go into Damascus. There you will be told about all things which are appointed for you to do.’ When I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. One Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews who lived in Damascus, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ In that very hour I looked up at him. He said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. For you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you wait? Arise, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
“When I had returned to Jerusalem, and while I prayed in the Temple, I fell into a trance, and saw him saying to me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not receive testimony concerning me from you.’ I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those who believed in you. When the blood of Stephen, your witness, was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting to his death, and guarding the cloaks of those who killed him.’
“He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you out far from here to the Gentiles.’”
They listened to him up to the moment he said that; then they lifted up their voice, and said, “Rid the earth of this fellow, for he is not fit to live!”
As they cried out, and threw off their cloaks, and threw dust into the air, the commanding officer commanded him to be brought into the barracks, ordering him to be examined by scourging, that he might know for what crime they shouted against him like that.
When they had tied him up with thongs, Paul asked the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and not found guilty?”
When the centurion heard it, he went to the commanding officer and told him, “Watch what you are about to do, for this man is a Roman!”
The commanding officer came and asked him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?”
He said, “Yes.”
The commanding officer answered, “I bought my citizenship for a great price.”
Paul said, “But I was born a Roman.”
Immediately those who were about to examine him drew back from him, and withdrew, and the commanding officer also was afraid when he realized that he was a Roman, because he had bound him.
But on the next day, desiring to know the truth about why he was accused by the Jews, he freed him from the restraints, and commanded the chief priests and all the council to come together, and brought Paul down and set him before them. Paul, looking steadfastly at the council, said, “Brothers, I have lived before God in all good conscience to this day.”
The high priest, Ananias, commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to judge me according to the law, and command me to be struck contrary to the law?”
Those who stood by said, “Do you malign God’s high priest?”
Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was high priest. For it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
When he had said this, an argument arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess all of these. A great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees party stood up, and contended, saying, “We find no evil in this man. But if a spirit or angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God!”
When a great argument arose, the commanding officer, fearing that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.
The following night, the Lord stood by him, and said, “Courage, Paul, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must testify also at Rome.”
When it was day, some of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink before they had killed Paul. There were more than forty men who had made this conspiracy. They came to the chief priests and the elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great curse, to taste nothing before we have killed Paul. Now therefore, you with the council inform the commanding officer that he should bring him down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to judge his case more exactly. We are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
But Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, and he came and entered into the barracks and told Paul. Paul summoned one of the centurions, and said, “Bring this young man to the commanding officer, for he has something to tell him.”
So he took him, and brought him to the commanding officer, and said, “Paul, the prisoner, summoned me and asked me to bring this young man to you, who has something to tell you.”
The commanding officer took him by the hand, and going aside, asked him quietly, “What is it that you have to tell me?”
He said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though intending to inquire somewhat more accurately concerning him. Therefore do not yield to them, for more than forty men lie in wait for him, who have bound themselves under a curse neither to eat nor to drink before they have killed him. Now they are ready, looking for the promise from you.”
So the commanding officer let the young man go, charging him, “Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me.”
He called to himself two of the centurions, and said, “Prepare two hundred soldiers to go as far as Caesarea, with seventy horsemen, and two hundred men armed with spears, at the third hour of the night.”
(This corresponds to 9 P.M., twenty-one hundred hours military time.) He asked them to provide animals, that they might set Paul on one, and bring him safely to Felix the governor. He wrote a letter like this:
So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. But on the next day they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the barracks. When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. When the governor had read it, he asked what province he was from. When he understood that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will hear you fully when your accusers also arrive.”
He commanded that he be kept in Herod’s palace.
After five days, the high priest, Ananias, came down with certain elders and an orator], one Tertullus. They informed the governor against Paul. When he was called, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, “Seeing that by you we enjoy much peace, and that excellent measures are coming to this nation, we accept it in all ways and in all places, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. But, that I do not delay you, I entreat you to bear with us and hear a few words. For we have found this man to be a plague, an instigator of insurrections among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the Temple, and we arrested him and would have judged him according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come before you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him.”
The Jews also joined in the attack, affirming that these things were so. When the governor had beckoned to him to speak, Paul answered, “Because I know that you have been a judge of this nation for many years, I cheerfully make my defense, seeing that you can recognize that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem. In the Temple they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the synagogues, or in the city. Nor can they prove to you the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that after the Way, which they call a sect, so I serve the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets; having confident expectation toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. Herein I also practice always having a conscience void of offense toward God and men. Now after some years, I came to bring alms, gifts for the needy to my nation, and offerings; amid which certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the Temple, not with a mob, nor with turmoil. They ought to have been here before you, and to make accusation, if they had anything against me. Or else let these men themselves say what injustice they found in me when I stood before the council, unless it is for this one thing that I cried standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged before you today!’”
But Felix, having more exact knowledge concerning the Way, deferred them, saying, “When Lysias, the commanding officer, comes down, I will decide your case.”
He ordered the centurion that Paul should be kept in custody, and should have some privileges, and not to forbid any of his friends to serve him or to visit him. But after some days, Felix came with Drusilla, his wife, who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ Jesus. As he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was terrified, and answered, “Go your way for this time, and when it is convenient for me, I will summon you.”
Meanwhile, he also hoped that money would be given to him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore, also he sent for him more often, and talked with him.
Two years passed.
About this time the Apostle Peter wrote the following encyclical letter to the assemblies that Paul had established:
At first Nero revealed only gradually and secretly his insolence, lust, extravagance, greed and cruelty. They were not merely youthful mistakes. There was no doubt that they were faults of his character.
He gave an immense variety of entertainments: youth games, chariot races in the Roman Circus, stage plays, a gladiatorial show. The series of plays devoted to the hope of his reigning forever he called "the Great Games". He made four hundred senators and six hundred of the equestrian class, equites, many of them rich and respectable, do battle in the arena, and some had to fight wild beasts and perform various duties about the ring. He staged a naval battle on an artificial lake of salt water which had large sea creatures swimming in it; also ballets and competitions of poetry and oratory. Throughout the games all kinds of gifts were scattered to the people: one thousand assorted birds daily, quantities of food parcels, vouchers for grain, clothes, gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, paintings, slaves, transport animals, trained wild beasts, and for ships, blocks of income tenements and farms.
Merchants dealt in cargoes of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine four and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is human souls.
When he judged a case, he preferred to defer his judgment to the following day, and then gave it in writing. He ruled that a case should not be presented whole, first by one side, then the other, but that every relevant charge be debated separately. He made each of his judicial advisors write out an opinion on a problem of law instead of consulting them openly, withdrew to study and consider these documents in private, then came to his own conclusion, and passed it off as a majority opinion.
He ordered his consuls to read certain of his speeches sent for the Senate's information, going over the heads of the quaestors, whose business it should have been. He considered a scheme for extending the city wall as far as Ostia, and cutting a canal which would allow ships to sail straight up to Rome; but neither of these plans was realized.
In the practical matters of government, Burrus and Seneca were the effective rulers of the empire to A.D. 62. More and more the spirit of empire, the genius of the emperor, ruled the passions of Nero. After Burrus’s death in 62 Seneca felt that he had lost all influence over Nero, and he retired.
Nero finally announced that his wife Octavia was barren, and divorced her. This act of divorcing Octavia in 62 made Nero so unpopular and caused so great a scandal that he banished Octavia. He was motivated also by his fear that his repudiated wife Octavia was fomenting disaffection at court and among the populace.
Nero then stole Otho's wife Sabina Poppaea. Twelve days after he had divorced Octavia, he married Poppaea, and finally murdered Octavia, having her executed in June A.D. 62 on a charge of adultery.
Such was the state of affairs in that Babylon called Rome.
|Chapter 41||Bible texts|
While Paul was in prison, James wrote the following letter:
Festus therefore, having come into the province, after three days went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. Then the high priest and the principal men of the Jews informed him against Paul, and they begged him, asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem; plotting to kill him on the way. However Festus answered that Paul should be kept in custody at Caesarea, and that he himself was about to depart shortly. “Let them therefore”, said he, “that are in power among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong in the man, let them accuse him.”
When he had stayed among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he sat on the judgment seat, and commanded Paul to be brought. When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing against him many and grievous charges which they could not prove, while he said in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the Temple, nor against Caesar, have I sinned at all.”
But Festus, desiring to gain favor with the Jews, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem, and be judged by me there concerning these things?”
But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also know very well. For if I have done wrong, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true that they accuse me of, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you shall go.”
Now when some days had passed, King Herod Agrippa the Second and Bernice arrived at Caesarea, and greeted Festus. (This Agrippa was the son and successor of the same Herod Agrippa the First who killed James the brother of John with the sword, and whom the angel struck down because he did not give God the glory; and he was eaten by worms and died.) As he stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix; about whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, asking for a sentence against him. To whom I answered that it is not the custom of the Romans to give up any man to destruction, before the accused has met the accusers face to face, and has had opportunity to make his defense concerning the matter laid against him. When therefore they had come together here, I did not delay, but on the next day sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought. Concerning whom, when the accusers stood up, they brought no charge of such things as I supposed; but had certain questions against him about their own religion, and about one Jesus, who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. Being perplexed how to inquire concerning these things, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. But when Paul had appealed to be kept for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be kept, before I send him to Caesar.”
Agrippa said to Festus, “I also would like to hear the man myself.”
“Tomorrow,” he said, “you shall hear him.”
So on the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and they had entered into the place of hearing with the commanding officers and principal men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. Festus said, “King Agrippa, and all men who are here present with us, you see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and as he himself appealed to the emperor I determined to send him. Of whom I have no certain thing to write to the Lord Nero. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, that, after examination, I may have something to write. For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to also specify the charges against him.”
Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak for yourself.”
Then Paul stretched out his hand, and made his defense. “I think myself happy, King Agrippa, that I am to make my defense before you today concerning all the things that I am accused by the Jews, especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.
“Indeed, all the Jews know my way of life from my youth up, which was from the beginning among my own nation and at Jerusalem; having known me from the first, if they are willing to testify, that after the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. Now I stand here to be judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers, which our twelve tribes, earnestly serving night and day, hope to attain. Concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, King Agrippa! Why is it judged incredible with you, if God does raise the dead?
“I myself most certainly thought that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem. I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them. Punishing them often in all the synagogues, I tried to make them blaspheme. Being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
“Whereupon as I traveled to Damascus with the authority and commission from the chief priests, at noon, O king, I saw on the way a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who traveled with me. When we had all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
“I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But arise, and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose: to appoint you a servant and a witness both of the things which you have seen, and of the things which I will reveal to you; delivering you from the people, and from the Gentiles, to whom I send you, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the Temple, and tried to kill me. Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would happen, how the Christ must suffer, and how, by the resurrection of the dead, he would be first to proclaim light both to these people and to the Gentiles.”
As he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Your great learning is driving you insane!”
But he said, “I am not crazy, most excellent Festus, but boldly declare words of truth and reasonableness. For the king knows of these things, to whom also I speak freely. For I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”
Agrippa said to Paul, “With a little persuasion are you trying to make me a Christian?”
Paul said, “I pray to God, that whether with little or with much, not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become such as I am, except for these bonds.”
The king rose up with the governor, and Bernice, and those who sat with them. When they had withdrawn, they spoke to one another, saying, “This man does nothing worthy of death or of bonds.”
Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
When it was determined that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan band. Embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to places on the coast of Asia, we put to sea; Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. The next day, we touched at Sidon. Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him permission to go to his friends and refresh himself. Putting to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. When we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and he put us on board.
When we had sailed slowly many days, and had come with difficulty opposite Cnidus, the wind not allowing us farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. With difficulty sailing along it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.
When much time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, because the Fast of Yom Kippur had now already gone by, Paul admonished them, and said to them, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
But the centurion gave more heed to the master and to the owner of the ship than to those things which were spoken by Paul. Because the haven was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised going to sea from there, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, and winter there, which is a port of Crete, looking northeast and southeast.
When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to shore. But before long, a stormy wind beat down from shore, which is called Euroclydon, a Mediterranean typhoon or nor'easter. When the ship was caught, and could not face the wind, we gave way to it, and were driven along. Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were able, with difficulty, to secure the boat. After they had hoisted it up, they used cables to undergird the hull and help reinforce the ship. Fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis sand bars, they lowered the sea anchor, and so were driven along. As we labored exceedingly with the storm, the next day they began to throw things overboard. On the third day, they threw out the ship’s tackle with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars shone on us for many days, and no small storm pressed on us, all hope that we would be saved was now taken away.
When they had been long without food, Paul stood up in the middle of them, and said, “Sirs, you should have listened to me, and not have set sail from Crete, and have gotten this injury and loss. Now I exhort you to cheer up, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel, belonging to the God whose I am and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. Behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore, sirs, take heart! For I believe God, that it will be just as it has been spoken to me. But we must run aground on a certain island.”
But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven back and forth in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors surmised that they were drawing near to some land. They took soundings, and found twenty fathoms. After a little while, they took soundings again, and found fifteen fathoms. Fearing that we would run aground on the rocks, they let go four anchors from the stern, and wished for daylight. As the sailors were trying to flee out of the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, pretending that they would lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”
Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it fall off.
While the day was coming on, Paul begged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you continue fasting, in suspense, having taken nothing. Therefore I beg you to take some food, for this is for your safety; for not a hair will perish from any of your heads.”
When he had said this, and had taken bread, he gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it, and began to eat. Then they all cheered up, and they also took food. In all, we were two hundred seventy-six souls on the ship. When they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea. When it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a certain bay with a beach, and they decided to try to drive the ship onto it. Casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time untying the rudder ropes. Hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. But coming to a place where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground. The bow struck and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up by the violence of the waves.
The soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim out and escape. But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should throw themselves overboard first to go toward the land; and the rest should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship. So they all escaped safely to the land.
When we had escaped, then they learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us uncommon kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped from the sea, yet Justice has not allowed to live.”
However he shook off the creature into the fire, and was not harmed. But they expected that he would have swollen or fallen down dead suddenly, but when they watched for a long time and saw nothing bad happen to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us, and courteously entertained us for three days. The father of Publius lay sick of fever and dysentery. Paul entered in to him, prayed, and laying his hands on him, healed him. Then when this was done, the rest also who had diseases in the island came, and were cured. They also honored us with many honors, and when we sailed, they put on board the things that we needed.
After three months, we set sail in a ship of Alexandria which had wintered in the island, whose figurehead on the bow was Castor and Pollux, “The Divine Twin Brothers.” Touching at Syracuse, we stayed there three days. From there we circled around, making a compass of the coast, and arrived at Rhegium. After one day, a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli, where we found brothers, and were entreated to stay with them for seven days. From Rome the brothers, when they heard of us, came south to meet us as far as The Market of Appius and The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God, and took courage. So we came to Rome. When we entered into Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard, but Paul was allowed to stay by himself with the soldier who guarded him.
After three days Paul called together those who were the leaders of the Jews. When they had come together, he said to them, “I, brothers, though I had done nothing against the people, or the customs of our fathers, still was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, desired to set me free, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was constrained to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything about which to accuse my nation. For this cause therefore I asked to see you and to speak with you. For because of the expectation of Israel I am bound with this chain.”
They said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor did any of the brothers come here and report or speak any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think. For, as concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”
When they had appointed him a day, many people came to him at his lodging. He explained to them, testifying about God’s Kingdom, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning to evening. Some believed the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. When they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had spoken one word, “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah, the prophet, to our fathers, saying,
“Be it known therefore to you, that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles. They will also listen.”
When he had said these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.
Now about this same period, during the reign of Nero, the Roman-Parthian War of A.D. 58 to 63 was occurring.
|Chapter 42||Bible texts|
When Porcius Festus replaced Felix, the Jewish leaders accused him before Nero, and Festus would have been punished if his brother Pallas had not interceded. Meanwhile, Festus had to contend with the sicarii who were plundering Judea, and with assorted imposters, and with the controversy over a newly erected western wall of the Temple which blocked Roman surveillance. The priests built a high wall to block the Romans' view and that of King Agrippa the Second, who had the right to appoint high priests, and enjoyed watching activities inside the Temple as he dined high in the Hasmonean palace to the west. Both he and Festus ordered it demolished, but the Jews appealed to Nero. Poppaea, Nero's wife, was sympathetic to the Jews and gained his permission to let the wall stand.
In A.D. 60 Nero appointed Galba governor of Nearer Spain, who served in that post for eight years. At this time in A.D. 60 or 61 a revolt in Britain was headed by Queen Boudicca, also called Boadicea. Meanwhile, Porcius Festus remained procurator of Judea.
Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house in Rome, and received all who were coming to him, preaching God’s Kingdom, and Teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, without hindrance.
During this time Paul wrote the following letters:
Josephus Antiquities 20.8.9-11 [182-195]