Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Monday Paul 3.3

Paul and Barnabas managed to stay in Antioch of Pisidia for a few months before their inroads into non-Jews finally reached a boiling point in the community. It upset the Jews in the city who had not believed, but it also upset the social elite of the city. Several prominent women in the city believed on Jesus, which created turmoil between them and other prominent women in the city who did not believe. [1] They convinced their husbands to kick Barnabas and Paul out of the city.

So they moved east to Iconium, where the same dynamics soon played out again. It didn't take long for rumors of Paul's disruptive impact to trickle from the one city to the next. Many Jews were alarmed at this new sect and the way it seemed to be spreading. It didn't help that Paul was now focusing so much on Gentiles, which made some Jews furious. To them he was corrupting the faith of Israel!

It was about this time that Paul's eyes began to cause him severe problems again. He had gone blind for a time in Damascus, when Jesus appeared to him. Then the Holy Spirit had granted him sight yet again at the hands of Ananias. It had never fully returned, though, and as he climbed higher and higher into the center of Asia Minor, he began to have greater and greater difficulty.

When he and Barnabas finally were kicked out of Iconium, they faced a choice. What would they do now? Where would they go next? Barnabas wondered if they perhaps should head back toward Antioch. In fact, he was wondering if Paul should just return to Tarsus.

Paul reluctantly agreed to head back east. There were some fair sized cities on the way back toward the Cilician Gates and Tarsus, cities he had not visited during his years back home. There was Lystra and Derbe. Perhaps there was a doctor in one of those cities through whom the Lord might deliver Paul from this thorn in his flesh... [2]
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continued from last week

[1] A comparison of Paul's own writings with Acts suggests that Acts may sometimes emphasize Jewish opposition to Paul's mission when Paul more identified Gentiles as his opposition. A key example is Paul's escape from Damascus. Acts blames Jews (9:23-25), but Paul blames the Nabateans and does not even mention Jews (2 Cor. 11:32-33). This dynamic in Acts was perhaps meant to minimize Paul's conflict with the Romans and to identify Paul's main opposition as Jewish.

[2] Paul suggests in Galatians 4:13-15 that he ended up preaching to the Galatians at first because of troubles with his eyes. Many connect this physical problem with his "thorn in the flesh" in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. We do not know for certain if this was his "thorn." Nor is it easy to figure out how eye trouble would have led him to south Galatia (this comment might lead us to suppose Galatians was written to north Galatia in the area of Ancyra today. But Acts seems to point to south Galatia). I've done my best to come up with a possible scenario here.

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