Listen to episode three of our series on the book of Acts.
In part 1 (0-11:00), the guys briefly discuss the other Jewish messianic sects that were also in the ancient world. Jon comments that in his imagination, there were just two sects of Judaism, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Tim responds saying that in fact, Judaism was extremely diverse. There were more sects and messianic movements than just the ones that were explicitly covered in the Protestant Bible, and ancient Judaism had a whole spectrum of beliefs with nominal to radical followers.
In part 2 (11:00-34:00), Tim outlines Acts chapter 8-11. This section is known as the persecution and scattering of the ancient church. Luke (the author) intentionally weaves stories of Peter and Saul/Paul together. Peter and Paul both wake up to the reality of the risen Jesus in two different ways. Peter’s vision on the rooftop, where God shows him that the kosher food laws no longer apply, would have been extremely offensive and destabilizing for ancient Jews. Jon says that it’s difficult for him to imagine the lives of ancient Jews and their customs. Jon asks if there are any modern cultural symbols that we hold to be true that could be equivalent to how the ancient Jews saw these laws. Tim comments that every culture has their norms, their accepted beliefs, and those who choose to break away or live outside of those cultural norms will be thought of as strange and potentially undermining the culture they live in. This is exactly how the early Christians were viewed.
In part 3 (34:00-44:00), Tim outlines a few famous stories in Acts, like Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch and Paul visiting Antioch. Antioch was a melting pot city, a kind of San Fransisco of the ancient world. While Jerusalem was the symbolic center of Christianity, Antioch became the hub from which the first missionary journeys were launched.
In part 4 (44:00-end), Tim explains that fundamentally Christianity is an ancient eastern, multiethnic religious movement. This is unique among other world religions. Christianity is the largest multiethnic religious movement in history. The guys discuss how this places Christians in a unique position in their respective cultures.
Thank you to all our supporters!
"Cities of God" by Rodney Stark
"Acts, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament" by Eckhard J. Schnabel
"The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus" by Alan Thompson
"World Upside-Down: Reading Acts in a Graeco-Roman Age" by Kavin Rowe
Dunkirk (The Movie) directed by Christopher Nolan
Dan Gummel. Jon Collins. Matthew Halbert-Howen
Defender Instrumental by Rosasharn Music; Reveur by Pyrus; Lights by Sapphiros; Ehrling by Typhoon
Podcast Date: May 14, 2018
Speakers in the audio file:
Jon: This is Jon at the Bible project. Today on the show, we're going to continue our
conversation on the book of Acts. These conversations are going to turn into a four-part
animated series covering the story of the book of Acts. Reading Acts kind of
reminds you of a movie script "The Shipwrecks" inspired speeches, heartwarming
reunions, and bitter arguments. One of the main themes of these arguments:
Tim: The inclusion of Gentiles into the Jesus movement. And on what terms is hands
down the most controversial issue rocking the whole New Testament.
Jon: For most of us today, we think of Christianity as a global movement. But it wasn't
always that way. It started as a small Jewish messianic sect. Really just a handful of
Jewish people sitting around in a tiny room in Jerusalem trying to figure out how
they were going to restore the Kingdom of God Israel. This was a Jewish faith based
on the Jewish scriptures, built around a Jewish man, but they were about to
experience a twist.
Tim: The story of Israel wasn't just about Israel.
Jon: The way of Jesus wasn't just for them.
Tim: But as the story develops, Luke really wants to show actually the Jewish Jesus
movement is in continuity with the deepest roots of Israel story and Israel scriptures.
Jon: This movement is still alive, and it started with stories like the one found in the book
of Acts, because...
Tim: Luke's trying to show that the Christian movement is inherently a destabilizing
movement into whatever culture it enters. Not by proposing a new system of beliefs
but by a group of people creating an alternative culture.
Jon: So today, Jesus in the start of global Christianity. Thanks for joining us. Here we go.
We're talking about the book of Acts.
Tim: We're talking about Acts.
Jon: The Acts of the Apostles yet or Acts of Jesus.
Tim: Or the Acts of Jesus in the spirit, better so-called. That's right. I have a frog residing
in my throat today so don't mind that. You usually don't.
Jon: You're a little horse?
Tim: It happens to me like once a winter.
Jon: Really? And you're not sick?
Tim: No. I mean, I have some kind of cold or something, but it doesn't make me feel bad.
It just my voice does this for a few days, every winter. Portland, man.
Jon: Portlanders beats up their throat.
Tim: Yeah, anyway. We are making an Acts trilogy.
Jon: The Acts trilogy?
Tim: Yeah. The second part of that trilogy is going to cover the central section of the
book which goes from murder of Stephen, which Saul of Tarsus will become Paul. So
we end up with him...
Jon: Looming over the dead body.
Tim: ...standing over the bloody corpse of Stephen. Then it's going to end with - That's
Acts chapter 8 - is going to end with Acts 21, which is Paul, the same man who's
going to get aboard a ship to go to Jerusalem to face what he thinks might be a
similar fate as Stephen's in Jerusalem.
In between those two events, the Jesus movement has gone from a small persecuted
Jewish messianic sect in Jerusalem to a multi-ethnic international movement across
the Roman world.
Jon: That's the first section? Oh, well, even in the first section, it's kind of multicultural
Tim: Yeah, it's Jews from all over the world who've gone to Jerusalem. Here in this set in
the center of the book from Paul standing over Stephen's bought dead body to Paul
go into Jerusalem, he's going to die.
Jon: He's going to go outside of the Jewish communities.
Tim: The thing explodes outside the ethnic boundary lines of Israel. That's the main
burden of the section of the book is we end in Jerusalem. We're going to end this
video looking back towards Jerusalem, but the movement has fundamentally
Jon: If I were a Jewish reader, this section would probably feel really surprising and
Tim: Well, I think it depends on what group within Judaism you are a part of. Judaism was
as diverse as Christianity is today across the world.
Jon: You think so?
Tim: Oh, yeah.
Jon: As diverse? Christianity is really diverse.
Tim: Yeah. Especially in the Second Temple period, extremely diverse.
Tim: Yeah. What became the mainstream form of Judaism after the destruction of
Jerusalem in 70 AD, what survived and became the mainstream was just one stream
of Judaism in Jesus's time period. It was a much more diverse movement.
Jon: In my imagination, there was just two sects: The Pharisees and Sadducees.
Tim: Oh, sure.
Jon: They're the ones that are talked about.
Tim: Yeah, because they're the main influencers in Jerusalem and Judea, which is where
the Jesus story comes to its showdown. And so they figure in the gospels.
Jon: But they are two of many?
Tim: Yeah. The community that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Qumran community,
they were most likely a group, the Josephus, a Jewish historian called Essenes and
they separated. They would self-identify as not Pharisees, definitely not Sadducees.
Jon: But they were contemporaries?
Tim: Contemporaries, yeah. There's the movement, a broad movement of resistance
against Rome, anti-Rome crew.
Jon: The zealots?
Tim: One arm of which became known as the zealots. We'll talk about other zealots in this
conversation because Paul viewed himself as a zealot. Then you just have all of the
Jews around the world who—
Tim: Who are living in different country and different kingdoms.
Tim: Living in different countries. Yeah, totally. Because Judaism pre 70 AD was a temple
Jerusalem centered religion, many people living out in what was called the diaspora,
just had varying degrees of commitment and varying degrees of assimilation to their
surrounding culture in Greece and Macedonia. Just like today in Jewish and Christian
tradition, you have your nominal believers, real firm believers.
Jon: So some of them would say, "We need to go to Jerusalem every year," and they
Tim: Yeah, for the feast and they would. You have others who are like, "Yeah, I've got a
mezuzah little prayer scrolls on my door.
Jon: Feast are really more about what's in my heart?
Tim: Yeah, that's right. And maybe sometimes I'll have a ham sandwich with my Greek
neighbors because it does taste good after all. So just the whole spectrum you can
imagine. Actually, that spectrum is going to be really important because—
Jon: They didn't need sandwiches back then.
Tim: Yeah, that was my retrojecting.
Jon: Retrojecting. That's a great word.
Tim: The book of Acts, Luke is going to love giving us brief portraits of all of these
different kinds of people, Jew and non-Jew, who fall in love with Jesus and become a
part of the Jesus movement. Many of them are Jewish. And Jews of all kinds who
were living out in different parts of the Roman Empire.
That's one of the things Luke's has done as he tells the story, the spreading of the
movement, each leg of the movement spreading, he includes the short little story it's
about all the different kinds of people. He just give them a few sentences about
Lydia, or a guy named Chrispus, or Tabitha, or just all these people who become a
part of the church. It's really neat.
Jon: So this Jewish sect, it's just one of now dozens?
Tim: Yes, you're right. In this period, the Jesus movement is one Messianic movement of
others. There were other messianic movements. Meaning a movement where a key
leader or prophet figure claiming to be representative of the hope from the line of
Jon: So there are many different types of Judaism all in Jerusalem and then all over the
Jon: And then there were specific ones that were messianic and that they would come
around a key figure - and this is a form of Judaism that happened to be messianic
Tim: Yeah. They're called the Nazarenes. They call themselves the way. Actually, in the
section of the book of Acts, the word Christian is going to appear for the first time in
history. It's in the city of Antioch that the Christ-ones, which means Messiah, the
Messiah ones are called messianic or Christianos. Which means the anointed ones
who follow the anointed one.
Tim: There you go. So that's what the section is about. In the framework of Jesus's
announcement at the beginning of the book, remember from Jerusalem, he said,
"The message will be my witnesses in Jerusalem first ring, then the next ring, Judea
and Samaria, and then outer ring to the ends of the earth."
Jon: And Judea and Samaria are like the outskirts of the Israelites territories, right?
Tim: Yeah. Jerusalem is a city. Judea and Samaria would be like the states or counties, to
use American terminology.
Jon: Yeah. The boundary lines of their ethnic territory.
Tim: That's right. Actually, in this video, we're going to cover two movements. The whole
of the Judea and Samaria section is Acts 8 through 12, and then in Acts 13, Paul and
Barnabas are sent out into the first of three missionary journeys throughout the
West Roman world, the west of Jerusalem. There are three missionary journeys, and
our job is to summarize the essence of those journeys and what happened.
Jon: So we're going to look at all three of those as well?
Tim: Yeah. Or at least the key themes that Luke develops in the missionary journeys. So
Acts 8 through 20 is what we're going to do in Acts Part 2.
Jon: All right. That's a lot of territories to cover.
Tim: It is. And our goal, again in the videos isn't to tell every story. He's included dozens
and dozens of episodes, but as usual in biblical narrative, he's given us clues as to
the key themes because of the same words keep repeating the same themes. The
same types of stories keep coming over and over. So there's really just about half a
dozen of themes that he's trying to communicate.
Tim: So the first movement out of Jerusalem is the Judea and Samaria section of Acts,
and Luke's really wrap this up with a nice literary architecture. He gives you an
introduction, he gives you a series of episodes, he gives you a transition summary
about halfway through, some more episodes, then he gives you a concluding
summary. It's just really nice. He's wrapped it pretty tight.
So introduction is in Chapter 8:1 where he says, "A great persecution came against
the church in Jerusalem." It's where the first part of the book to play.
Jon: So Stephen just gets killed get. He gets rocked?
Tim: Yeah, literally.
Jon: Now, this is like they're going after everyone.
Tim: The execution of Stephen becomes like thematic of a whole way of opposition now
to people that represent—
Jon: For this Jewish act in Jerusalem
Tim: In Jerusalem.
Jon: Which is where this has been home base?
Tim: Yeah, that's it.
Jon: And then it's only existed in Jerusalem.
Tim: That's right. Then Luke says, "And everyone scattered into Judah and Samaria except
the apostles." So even just those words there, Jerusalem Judea Samaria, you can
view this narrative moment as a tragedy. Like, "Oh, death murder, scattering," but
those same words are precisely the itinerary that Jesus directed. So it's an interesting
statement where, by itself, this sentence is a tragedy, but in the framework of the
larger book, you can see divine providence.
Jon: If the persecution hadn't happened, then they just would have been content just to
hang out in Jerusalem potentially?
Tim: Yeah. The persecution becomes the means by which the disciples now are going
outside of Jerusalem.
Jon: And so these disciples, it's not the apostles, they stay put, but basically all of these
multi-ethnic Jewish people from all over would you assume they're going back to
their homelands? No, because you're going to do Judea and Samaria?
Tim: Just what he says, "In Judea and Samaria." And then he's going to give us the
snapshot portraits of things that started happening.
Tim: In the chart here, you can see Luke's literary strategy. He has three narratives about
Paul, that he's interwoven with a series of narratives about Peter or other apostles
going out. So the three narratives about Paul, if you were to just take them out and
stick them all together, it would be Paul standing over Stephen's dead body, Paul
trying to get more Christians arrested. He's going up to Damascus in Chapter 9.
Jesus rocks his world and appears to him in Chapter 9.
Jon: Paul gets rocked.
Tim: Paul gets rocked metaphorically. And then he realizes that Jesus people that he's
been persecuting, this Jesus actually is the Messiah. He has a full conversion of his
mind and heart about Jesus of Nazareth. Then he immediately starts promoting
Jesus everywhere he goes and people are freaking out.
Then in Chapter 11, there's a story about Paul and Barnabas who go to what's
becoming the largest, most influential church in that part of the empire.
Jon: Barnabas is just a disciple?
Tim: A Jewish follower of Jesus who's awesome. So you have three stories about Paul, but
instead of telling them all together, he's broken them up into three sections and
interwoven them with stories about Peter and other disciples going out into Judea
Jon: Sorry, this is really nitpicky but the introduction says that the apostles don't leave
and then the stories are of them actually leaving.
Tim: Well, of Peter in particular.
Tim: So there are the three stories about Paul, the three other stories are first about a guy
named Philip who goes into Samaria and he starts announcing the good news about
Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Samaria was full of ancient enemies, like half related
to Israelites. So many of them start following Jesus that Peter is sent by the apostles
to be like, "Hey, go check this out. These are not our friends."
Jon: But now they're following Jesus.
Tim: But they are following Jesus. "We should go see what the deal is." Then Peter comes
and he's like, "Oh, my gosh. The same thing that's happened in Jerusalem? The Spirit
coming to empower and lead people to Jesus it's what's happening here." And that
becomes a slow...this section, it's Peter waking up to the fact that God has His eye on
the whole of the human race to redeem them and make them new humans not just
the ethnic covenant people of Israel.
Luke's literary strategy is really cool here. He has a whole bunch of material from this
period of...this is really just a few years, but what he's done is he has interwoven the
story of Paul because he's going to become the main representative disciple to the
nations. But at the same time, he wants to show the organic connection between
Paul's mission and what the apostle were doing and waking up to.
So the section becomes really a Peter and Paul. It's a great narrative technique.
What's the movie or show that does the story where there are two main characters
and their stories will eventually meet in some way, but they don't know about each
other? You're flashing back one scene to the next between them and—
Jon: Did you watch the "Dunkirk"?
Tim: Oh, yes. Oh, great example.
Jon: But that one it messes with time a lot too.
Tim: Oh, yeah.
Jon: I mean, that's fine. It still works. You are watching three stories converge.
Tim: Yes. Three different plotlines. They all converge at some moment in the story.
Jon: Yeah. One plotline happens over the course of like a week, one happens in course a
day, and one happens in the course of an hour? But then they all climax together.
Tim: Yes. It's the guys on the boat, the guys on the shore, soldiers on the shore, and then
the Air Force pilot. That's a great example.
Tim: And that each one of them has stories of courage and of cowardice but at different
moments. That's a great analogy. That's what Luke's doing with the—
Jon: Splicing these two stories.
Tim: Splicing the Paul stories with Peter and other stories.
Jon: Because Peter and Paul, they may have run into each other at some point but—
Tim: For sure did. And they will in the section.
Jon: And they will the section?
Tim: Yeah. And each one is waking up to the reality of the risen Jesus and that the story
of Israel wasn't just about Israel. It was about the family of Abraham becoming a
family of all nations so that the divine blessing and the new humanity can
encompass all humanity. So that's what they're both waking up to - simultaneously
but unbeknownst to each other. It's a neat effect.
I think in the video we can do something cool here, where it'll be the snippets from
the Paul story, and the snippets—
Jon: They're both having a conversion of sorts.
Tim: They both have visions. Paul has a vision and he sees and talks to the risen Jesus,
Peter has the vision on the roof...
Jon: That weird tarp thing.
Tim: ...about these ritually impure animals from Leviticus are declared pure. Then he goes
into the house of a Roman soldier who wants to know about Jesus. So two unlikely
people end up giving their allegiance to Jesus. Paul and a Roman centurion, both
Jon: You know, it's hard for me to get to the mental space where that is scandalous or
that is really crazy for Peter to have that vision and to hang out in a Roman house.
To me, it's kind of expected at this point versus like, Whoa, what is happening?
Jon: That's why I'm saying, if you're a Jewish reader, this might feel really disturbing. Just
really unexpected and taking you aback.
Jon: Unorthodox, yeah. This is against everything you grew up caring about. It was very
important for you to keep a kosher diet because it was central part of your identity
as this people.
Tim: It was a public cultural symbol of your unique identity.
Jon: And not only that God told you, this is how you should eat it.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. There were three. I mean, they're going to all come into play here
in Acts, and especially in the rest of the New Testament where the kosher food laws,
male circumcision, which in Greek and Roman city was just men were a lot more
naked. Unlike in the bath houses and in the gymnasiums - public centers.
Jon: They don't have as many stalls you can go and change in.
Tim: There were as many of these venues as there were gyms in probably American or
European city, except they're male only and all the men are naked all the time. So
circumcision was a very public work.
Jon: Very clear.
Tim: It's very clear who's Jewish in this neighborhood right because they'll stick out at
gymnasium or at the bathhouse. And then Sabbath, because Romans unless you
were part of the elite or wealthy, they didn't have weekends.
Jon: You have to just keep working.
Tim: You just work. So the Jewish practice of Sabbath was extremely counter-cultural.
Jews were viewed as lazy or seditious.
Tim: Just undermining the Roman work ethic and undermining the foundation of the
Empire which is hard work. If you're a Jewish and you're a slave, and you're asking
your master for a day of rest like that? That kind of thing.
Jon: "Who do you think you are?"
Tim: In this time period in Acts, man, just 150 years ago in Jerusalem, the whole thing
with the Maccabees went down. There was that Syrian King Antiochus, he made it
illegal to be Jewish in Jerusalem for three years. Then the Maccabees had their
uprising and revolt. And so we know have ancestors that bled and died for the
kosher law and the Sabbath.
These are really potent cultural symbols and they're each going to be relativized n
this messianic Jesus movement. And that's the paradox. That's what Peter's
beginning to wake up to in his vision.
Jon: Do we have any parallels, like things that if you told me or if I told you, "Hey, this is
not important anymore," you would just get pretty rocked?
Tim: Surely. We just need to take a few minutes and brainstorm. There are silly examples.
Here's a silly example, but it's a big deal to me as a 15-year-old. When I started
skateboarding in the late 80s, the California coast scene dominated the culture of
skateboarding. Santa Cruz, Venice Beach, Malibu, and all this kind of thing.
But then in the early 90s, the center of gravity in skateboard culture shifted to San
Francisco. There was a whole new wave of skateboarders, a whole new kind of
Jon: So it got a lot more technical?
Tim: Yeah, more technical. And for some reason, I think it was the rave subculture, this
was early 90s, so ravers. We called them ravers in high school, which is like a drug
dance party scene. But something about raver style clothing, which was just
unbelievably gigantic pant.
Jon: Could fit a couple more people in there.
Tim: I was 15 wearing size 40 waist pants with this belt that there was so much excess on
the belt, it hung down almost to my knee. This was what all the skateboarders were
wearing in San Francisco who are part of this new movement in skateboarding. In
the videos, that's all they're wearing, and they go to skate shop here in Portland.
Jon: That's what everyone's wearing.
Tim: It's what everyone's wearing. So for most of high school, I wore these gigantic pants.
It was so irrational.
Jon: But you didn't think of it as irrational.
Tim: No, but pant legs were so huge they would wave around while you were skating.
Jon: It was so impractical.
Tim: They just get caught in your wheel. But it was like, "That's fine." We just thought it
was cool. I still remember I was junior year in high school, I had a friend Sam Charlie
who came to school. He's a really good skateboarder. He was a part of our crew. He
came wearing normal pants. He wore normal pants. And it was part of this next wave
or whatever. This was now mid-90s. This is just my own life experience just to make
this meaningful. This won't be meaningful to anybody else.
But I remember I was just like, He's betrayed us. He's violated the code which is
dressing like a normal person." That kind of example could be multiplied.
Tim: It's just human subcultures, we get together and we create these rules and codes.
Jon: But now add on top of that generation after generation, and century after centuries
of the same kids wearing size 50 waist pants. In fact, in their story, God told them
like, "Thou shall wear large baggy pants." And then the guy comes and wears the
Tim: My example is actually trivializing.
Jon: No, but it's helpful.
Tim: Because it's like an American fashion trend, then they come and go like every two
years. So do your experiment with it, which is put it in your cultures Bible and give it
centuries of history. So from America, because America's so young on the world
Jon: We don't have quite as much. We do have things - gun rights.
Tim: Sure. Yeah, there you go. Actually, here you go.
Jon: That might be a good one.
Tim: That's a great example. And many people that have certain right, will practice like
gun right is tied into the roots of our culture into a constitutional right is where
people will connect it to, and they'll therefore connect that to a divine right to liberty
and self-protection and private property.
Jon: Being in the constitution or an amendment of the constitution is like God having
said it in America.
Tim: Sure. Yeah, that's right. Then it becomes so interwoven into a religious culture that a
form of Christianity with this practice seems they're inextricable now. It's like Jesus,
God, gun rights, America it's all one thing.
I'm not making a judgment one way or another about that particular example. I'm
just saying it's an example of...there's nothing about gun rights in the Bible, but
certain passages in the Bible about liberty or about the dangers of the monarchy or
something you got appeal to. And the dangers of the Israelite monarchy like Samuel
speech in 1 Samuel 12 was—
Jon: What's that?
Tim: It's where he talks about all the kings do is take your property.
Jon: Oh, right. Yeah, that one.
Tim: Oh, yeah, the founding fathers were into that speech. It's really interesting people
have done studies on this. The founding fathers interest in 1 Samuel Chapter 12.
Jon: Oh, really?
Jon: That makes sense.
Tim: It totally does. Because it's in the Bible—
Jon: It's suspicion about power—
Tim: It's a biblical critic of monarchy. And so that gets joined to all kinds of other stuff.
There you go. The moment you go to Idaho or some part of the country where that's
just the norm and you start saying, "You know, the Jesus movement actually takes a
totally different posture towards violence or weapons," it's like, You're both attacking
the foundation of a religious culture, but of the culture itself. That's kind of scandal
that the Jesus movement represented when Paul and Peter started integrating non-
Jews into the church.
Jon: Another interesting example, actually is I've been learning a little bit about the
Quaker tradition. Many Quaker traditions, they don't take sacraments, they don't
baptize, and they don't take the Lord's Supper, because, for them, it's more of an
That's pretty close to home for tradition - and I'm not trying to say whether or not
that's legit or whatever - but we were told by Jesus to do this thing, right?
Tim: It seems to be the case.
Jon: Yeah. And so for a group to come along and say, "Actually, no, you don't have to do
it," that seems very similar to like, "Oh, you don't have to follow these food laws."
That's a good example.
Tim: I think the difference at least for what the apostles are doing is that they very much
are appealing to their common Scriptures for the precedent of this. For the full
inclusion of non-Jews without having to take on these cultural symbols. They're
going to appeal to the Bible to see like, "Oh, well, this is actually what was supposed
to happen all along." We'll talk about that. That comes to head in the missionary
journeys later. But the seeds of that are being sown right here.
It seems like at first, God's doing an about-face. "I told you to do this, now I'm telling
you to do this."
Jon: It does seem that way.
Tim: But as you as the story develops, Luke really wants to show actually the Jewish Jesus
movement is in continuity with the deepest roots of Israel story and Israel scriptures.
That's a big deal that God's not just changing His mind, He's actually fulfilling
something that in the apostle's view has simply been forgotten or rejected.
Jon: It's also important to probably realize, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, the
kosher laws that were observed weren't like strictly taken from the Mosaic Law. They
were developed to becomes something even more.
Tim: Yeah, sure. They're centuries old and they have developed into all kinds of more
clarifying rules. And those are embodied or collected a couple of hundred years
later, but the preserve all these earlier clarifications in the missioner - what's called
the mission and the Talmud.
Jon: If you take almost any example, I don't even know if I want to do it because it will
make us uncomfortable and people listening uncomfortable, but things that become
so central to your faith...Well, we talked about guns so some people are already
uncomfortable. But if you take a bunch of other things and then you talk about God
coming and giving a vision of like, "Actually, no. This is fine now." That's very
uncomfortable. Especially in the spiritual tradition I grew up in, if someone came and
said like, "Hey, by the way now women can preach or now different things," you'd be
like, "Stop. What's happening?" And I'm not trying to create parallels to anything. I'm
just trying to get my mind into—
Tim: Yeah, around the shock factor of Peter having this vision.
Tim: It seems in some people out of sync with the whole story or like you're breaking
what this thing has been about. But then at the same time Peter and the apostles are
gone to go back even further into Israel story before...back to Abraham and say,
"Actually, this is what the calling of Abraham was always about to bring divine
blessing to all the nations."
Abraham is actually called a father of nations, plural, in Genesis 17, which is the
chapter about circumcision. So yes, I want to honor your point because it's a good
one. The shock factor. The inclusion of Gentiles into the Jesus movement and on
what terms is the hands down the most controversial issue rocking the whole New
Testament. It's the central debate driving most of the New Testament documents.
Certainly Paul's letters in the book of Acts and the developments that are seen and
Peter's letters, it was huge.
Jon: Yeah, it's interesting.
Tim: The Gentiles Jew divide isn't the—
Jon: It's like the subtext almost behind every issue.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. In the New Testament.
Jon: In the New Testament
Tim: And then once the church became majority non-Jewish, it just wasn't an issue
anymore. So this is why—
Jon: But then you still have these documents that was the issue.
Tim: Yeah, that's right.
Jon: I mean, I grew up reading these documents and I didn't see that as the main issue.
Like I remember the first time someone pointed that out to me was Ephesians and I
was like, "Oh, easy."
Tim: Yeah, it's what the whole thing is about.
Jon: It's what the whole things about.
Tim: It's the joining of Jew and Gentile.
Jon: I never saw that.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. So this first movement, the Judea, Samaria movement, it's Paul and
Peter bouncing back and forth. Each one of them is having a radical vision encounter
blows their minds and is going to lead into the next major movement of the book
which is to the ends of the earth and all humans discovering Jesus. But they're really
specific vignettes. Blocking for the videos it's about choosing the right stories to
Jon: So the Simon the sorcerer story, is that the one where the sorcerer is like, "Hey, can I
have these powers too?" And he's like, "Not for sale."
Tim: Yeah. He prays like a curse on him and he goes blind.
Jon: And in the Ethiopian eunuch, that's the guy who's reading the...?
Tim: Yeah. Philip goes to Samaria; all kinds of people are following Jesus. Peter goes to
check it out to make sure it's legitimate and he's blown away. He's like, "Oh, my
gosh. What happened in Pentecost in Jerusalem is happening here." And that's
where he has a run in with I guess Simon the sorcerer.
Then there's a story of Philip being prompted by the Spirit to go up to this chariot
this royal chariot that's cruising down the road.
Jon: What would that have looked like? It would have been like some horses pulling just
Tim: I guess so. What comes to my mind is medieval carriages. So I'm sure didn't look
like. It's a good point. I am not up to speed on my ancient carriages.
Jon: We may have to visualize it.
Tim: Yeah, that's a good point. And he looks inside and he sees a royal attendant of the
queen of Ethiopia Candace. He's called the Ethiopian eunuch, but we should really
think it's like a state official.
Tim: The whole point is he's...
Jon: He's like a diplomat.
Tim: ...extremely important individual and he's sitting in there listening to Isaiah scroll be
Jon: To him?
Tim: Yeah. And he's like, "Oh." Philip says, "Hey, hello," and they have this conversation
about Isaiah 53 and the guy is like, "Holy cow. Jesus's the suffering servant King. I
want to join these people right now." That's a good example. It's like brief little
portrait. Just paragraph of the story and you're like, "It's cool, but why is Luke
Jon: Because he's an outsider.
Tim: Yeah, this his strategy of he'll paint the scene between the leaders of the church
about the growing movement and then he'll just pepper the stories with these short
little vignettes of all these different kinds of people who are coming to acknowledge
Jesus as a new human and as their Redeemer. So there's that. That's a pretty epic
story. There's Peters vision. Then going into Cornelius house, that's I think pretty
Then after that, we get a transition to Paul. There's a guy were introduced to,
Barnabas, and then he goes and gets the newly converted Paul and they go to the
City of Antioch, which was the biggest city in that part of the world. It was the third
most populous city in the Roman Empire. Antioch.
Jon: And where was it?
Tim: Well, it's right where the coast of the Mediterranean goes from being vertical northsouth
and then turns. So it's a modern-day Turkey. The modern city of Turkey right
near it is called Antakya. It's the same word. So it's southern Turkey, right near the
Syrian-Turkey border. This is like half a million people just within the city. I mean,
proper secondly to Rome and I think Alexandria. I mean, gigantic city.
So it's Jerusalem focused. It goes in outside of Jerusalem, and then Antioch becomes
the base for Paul and Barnabas. This is the first multi-ethnic international Jesus
community in history.
Jon: What would have been their main ethnicity in Antioch at that time?
Tim: It's a port city, for all indications that we have. I could do a little more homework on
this. There's guy named Rodney Stark, who's written a lot on the early Christian
urban movement and the makeup of the cities. Wow, that'd be good. I should go relook
at that again. He wrote a book called "Cities of God" on the topic.
From what I remember, this is a number of years ago, this is truly melting pot. These
handfuls of major cities and the Roman Empire, they were all on the coasts. So they
were major trade harbors, all the highways intersected. So melting pot. So you got
Greeks, Macedonians, Jews, Arabs, Eastern Europeans.
Jon: Those was founded near the end of the fourth century by one of Alexander the
Great's generals. So I mean, it's not that old of a town.
Tim: Well, it's 3 years old.
Jon: Compared to Jerusalem.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. Okay, got it.
Jon: It's old.
Tim: Sure. But Alexander the Great is part of the Greek and Roman legacy.
Jon: His general begun it. So geographically, it was a military and economic location.
Spice trade, Silk Road. It rivaled Alexandria as a chief city in the Near East and it was
also the main center of Hellenistic Judaism. So there's a lot of Greek Jews there.
Tim: Hellenistic meaning culture.
Jon: Hellenistic meaningful culture.
Tim: Greek language and culture. Hellenism, it's the equivalent of what Western culture is
through TV and media throughout the world. There's clothing, lifestyle, economic
Jon: So the end of the Second Temple period, it became where the Hellenistic Judaism
was its epicenter. Most of the urban development in Antioch was done during the
Roman Empire, so it's a Roman Empire city.
Jon: I was wondering if it would have another heritage if it was another people group
have founding it.
Tim: I understand. Got it. It's like San Francisco of the Mediterranean. Something like that.
Jon: Yeah, right. This melting pot. Trade harbor.
Tim: It goes back to early American history in that part of the world in the Bay Area, or in
that part of the country, the upper Mediterranean. It goes back to the really roots of
the Greek and Roman Empires. So it was from this city and church community that
was launched the first international missionaries.
Luke, as he's trying to show the nature of what Jesus and the Spirit we're up to in
this next phase he just focuses in on it's the Holy Spirit who leads the disciples to
Antioch to start sending out missionaries. That's how he tells the story in Acts
chapter 13. And so Barnabas and Paul become the focus after that. Peter disappears
Jon: From the storyline?
Tim: Yeah. So he's really key in the transition. He was key in the Jerusalem part.
Jon: And he stays in Jerusalem, right?
Tim: He's key in this, and then he will be leaving because he went up to Samaria, and
then that's where he's left. That's where the narrative leaves him. Later church
tradition has him traveling all over. When he writes First Peter, he's writing to
communities all in the area of modern Turkey, Asia Minor. Same area where Paul
writes his letters. But there's no new testament apostolic record of his travels. It's
Jon: It's interesting. It's also interesting that it wasn't Jerusalem that becomes the
epicenter of Christianity. It's become Antioch.
Tim: Yes. And Jerusalem remains a symbolic type of center as the origin point—
Jon: And most of the apostles are still there.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. In the next movement of the book, once lots of non-Jews are
coming to follow Jesus, then they have to settle this question about the circumcision
and food laws and so on. So they don't have a leadership meeting in Antioch. They
have a leadership meeting in Jerusalem. And of course, Jesus's brother James
Jon: He's running the show there.
Tim: He's the key leader there now, not Peter. Peter's there at the meeting, but the
narrative is very clear that James, Jesus's brother has been appointed as the leader.
James the righteous. He's called right just one. There's so much Luke doesn't tell us
about those early decades.
It's just like the Old Testament narrative. He's offering not just a history. He's offering
a theological narrative about the meaning of those early decades and so he's super
selective. The moment Paul goes up to Antioch and the international mission starts,
that's all he cares about. He just focuses on that.
Maybe this will fit more into the atmosphere of the video. But I think personally, this
has become more and more significant as the years go by that the birth of the
Christian movement, so Jewish messianic movement, was from its very early years a
multi-ethnic reality. It's a multi-ethnic Eastern religious movement. Which if you ask
anybody in Western culture today what they think about Christianity, it's so
embedded now with the history of Western culture that people assume that it's
bound to one political, one demographic or associated with Western institutions.
For me, this was just so refreshing and mind opening to see that this is an ancient
Eastern religious movement that was multi-ethnic from its origins.
Jon: When you say that, you mean by the fact that even all of the initial Jewish followers
of Jesus were from all different ethnicities?
Tim: That's right. All different cultural backgrounds because of the exile in the diaspora.
But then what Luke's trying to tell us in Acts is that we're not a decade into the
movement, and the thing is by nature meant to burst out of that one cultural mold
into the larger human family.
Jon: That's not typical of religious systems.
Tim: That's correct.
Jon: Religious systems are usually to create cohesion within one people group, not break
down all these boundaries between people groups.
Tim: Yeah that's right. Acts is giving us like the genetic code of a movement that will
become the most culturally, ethnically diverse religious movement in human history
- The Church of Jesus Christ. And that's still true today. The majority of the world's
Christians in 2018 don't live in western America or Europe. Vast majority. That's still
true today, but for the middle age period and early modern period, it was primarily
being carried through the power structures and institutions of Europe and America.
So there's just this fascinating shift in the modern era that actually makes it much
more like it was in those early centuries.
Jon: That's interesting. It's like that original DNA that you're talking about was not lost
but it was a bit buried yeah for a while when it became part of the power structure in
Tim: Yeah, that's just what happens when the Christian movement gets too closely
wedded or identified with one particular culture. Just not meant to do that. It's not
that kind of religious movement. People make it into that. We all do. It's actually our
greatest temptation is turn it into something that's just like me.
Jon: And to protect what I know to be my way of life, protect what works what. Then if it
can if we can work towards that, then I'll take it.
Tim: Actually, that's a great segue. We might want to talk more. I don't know if you want
to talk more about how we want to block out the video for that part of the book of
Acts. But as we move on into Acts 13 and forward, there's one scholar of Acts in
particular who just...Oh, man. I've just tried to read everything I can get my hands on
by him about the book of Acts. His name's Kavin Rowe and he's done the best job of
any Acts scholar I know to capture the destabilizing, disorienting nature of the Jesus
movement in the early Roman world.
And what Luke's doing, he's already shown us the way that it was a Jewish
movement, but was also rejected by many of the leaders of the power systems in
Jerusalem. That's why he kept getting persecuted and people are.... Stephen is
murdered. It's by Paul is persecuting. So he has that on that front, the Jewish front.
Then on the other front, Luke's going to start tracing the same culture clash with the
Greek and Roman world.
So most of the narratives to follow in the book of Acts are about Paul going to
places, announcing the Christian message that Jesus is King, and he's being
persecuted and rejected. And riots. It's just riot, riot, after mob after riot. This is
whole section of the book of Acts. Once we leave Antioch, he come out. So you have
to stop and ask yourself, what's Luke trying to do here? What is he trying to say?
This guy Kavin Rowe, I'll have some quotes to kind of walk through that section of
the book., but he's trying to say, "Luke's trying to show that the Christian movement
is inherently a destabilizing movement into whatever culture it enters. Not by
proposing a new system of beliefs, but by a group of people creating an alternative
culture, the question, the foundations of any and every culture because it's built on
the conviction that Jesus is the true king of the, of the human race."
Jon: Yeah. And who sets culture, especially in this time in the world? It's the king.
Jon: It's one man.
Jon: Isn't it with the Roman Empire, that was very multicultural? There was same
similarities in that Hellenism, like you said, everyone started kind of acting the same
way became unifying in that way.
Tim: Yeah, that's right.
Jon: So Christianity kind of fits that mold, which is, hey, the Roman Empire is breaking
down all these cultural barriers in certain ways.
Tim: Yeah, I see. Rome was offering a unified, political, religious, cultural narrative about
human history and it culminates in the Roman Empire. And it's precisely in this first
century that the Roman emperors knew the end of their lives, and after their deaths
are being announced as gods that they were embodiments of the Divine Pantheon
in the flesh. They have temples built to them.
So their descriptions they're like birth inscriptions about different Roman emperors
that the gods have ordained their births. And they use the same vocabulary as the
apostles - good news, salvation, peace redemption - to describe the birth of a New
Roman Empire. So the Christian announcement would have just been heard as a very
Jon: As another empire.
Tim: Yeah. An alternative Empire that posed no military threat, but that posed a religious
Jon: It's so interesting.
Tim: It is.
Jon: It's like you would know what to do with a bunch of people who said, "Let's build an
army and takeover and this guy's going to be our leader. Let's be a Counter-Empire."
The Roman emperor would be like, "Oh, yeah, let's try." And just kind of stop you.
Tim: Yeah, they know how to deal with that. Yeah, go kill them all.
Jon: But you get a bunch of people who say, "Hey, we're happy. We'll begin the Roman
Tim: "Pay taxes, we'll pray for the Empire's well-being."
Jon: "We'll follow the laws, but you're not our true king."
Tim: Yeah, that's right. "We believe there's another king." In fact, that's precisely how
people summarizes Paul's message when he goes into the Thessalonica. He saying
there's another Emperor. That's what they hear him saying.
Jon: Then when you start questioning and you're like, "Oh, you're talking about a dead
guy." Like, "Okay, this isn't a threat." If you're a Roman official, you'd be like, 'Yeah,
Tim: We'll explore that more. To me, that's an exciting part of the I think the second main
half of this video is I'm excited to capture that ethos of the early Christian movement
going out into the world. They're saying, "Good news. There's a new king, it's the
risen Jesus." And these communities that are being formed are so diverse - all the
portraits Luke gives of these different people. The poor being cared for. But man,
there's a lot of angry people, particularly associated with politics and religion,
namely: people who preserve the worship of the Roman gods. That'll be the second
main half of the video.
Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of Bible Project podcast. Our show today was
produced by Dan Gummel. If you liked this show, you might also like the podcast of
Tim's sermons and lectures. It's called "Exploring My Strange Bible." You could find
out more about what we're up to and all of our free resources, there at
Woman: [foreign language 00:54:14]. We believe the Bible is a unified story that leads to
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