Friday, March 13, 2015

NT: Acts 5 - 9

The next five chapters of the Acts of the Apostles appear to be a vehicle for getting to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) in Chapter 9. It’s probably not meant that way, but knowing that Saul/Paul is really the main guy in establising the direction of Christianity, it has that feel.

Peter seems to be the main character in Chapter 5 ... healings and preaching abounds.

Stephen is the man doing the great works in Chapter 6, but the locals (Jews, apparently) are wary of his undermining the God of Abraham, and come down on him.

Chapter 7 is a continuation of the prior chapter’s story, with the (presumably Jewish) high priest offering us a flashback to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. It appears that Stephen, while being beset by these non-believers, has a vision of Jesus in Heaven:

55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

...and then he falls asleep.

In Chapter 8, Saul of Tarsus makes an appearance to oppress and torment Stephen. Philip is doing most of the good works in this chapter, presumably with Saul hot on his trail.

Chapter 9 presents us with the famous conversion of Paul on the road to damascus.

Peter remains a main source of action on and off throughout these first few chapters. It will be interesting how the Peter-vs-Paul theology struggle is portrayed.

Now that I’m re-reading this for the fourth or fifth time, the verse-by-verse action seems tedious. The apostles are preaching and doing wondrous works, and they’re being oppressed. I get it. It appears that this pattern of being oppressed, which sets up a millenia-long persecution complex rivaled only by the Jews themselves, is being presented as a foundational principle to bring people into the fold. It’s tiresome. I suspect that when I first read the New Testament verse-by-verse, I was both full of the spirit, and feeling beset upon by various forces in the world, so I probably felt kinship with these guys. I certainly don’t today.

Going into a lot of detail on the theological implications of individual chapters and verses has never been my goal, but Acts has been less interesting than I remember. If it doesn’t get better, I’ll be forced to do something drastic, like skim through the rest of Acts in an even more superficial way than I have so far. Is that possible?

FSM save me!

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