Video Transcript: Acts 8

Announcer - This is Dr. Craig Keener. In his teaching on the book of Acts, this is  session number 11 on Acts 8.  

Dr. Keener - Acts 7, Stephen lays the theological groundwork for the mission  away from Jerusalem or beyond Jerusalem and Judea. But Philip is the first  one, to begin to officially carry it out. Now actually, there were many people were scattered. And we read in chapter 11, that many of them were taking the good  news with them. But Phillip is the one who's narrated. He's one of the seven,  one of the leaders of the Hellenist Jewish Christian movement. And so in  chapter 8:5-25, we we see Philip's mission to Samaria. And verses 26-40 is  ministry to an African court official. We'll start with 8:5-13, the conversion of  Samaria. Chapter 8:5, speaks of a Samaritan city, probably it's referring to the  main Samaritan city, Neapolis, which was on the site of ancient Schechem, the  probably not the site of the ancient city of Samaria, which no longer was a  Samaritan city, it had become a predominantly Greek city. And then refounded  as a Greek city. So probably Neapolis on the site of ancient Shechem,  Shechem, which actually does figure in Stephen's retelling of Israel's history  back in chapter 7:15-16. Well, many people are coming to faith, but one of the  people that he runs into there is Simon the sorcerer. Now, Gentiles used magic  a lot. It was it was popular, in love. You had, you had love magic, to try to  seduce people to, to like you to charm them into maybe leaving their spouse  and coming after you to burn with, with passion for you, and so on. It's also used in sports, where you would use magic to try to kill your opponents with curses,  and make their chariots crash and so on. Where if you were rooting for a  particular team, you would do that. So magic was very widely used. In Egypt in  particular, we have a lot of evidence for it because, well, we have a lot of papyrii  from Egypt, and there are a lot of magical papyrii. But Jewish practitioners were  sometimes considered some of the best at magic, that despite the fact that  some Jewish teachers said that magic is very bad, you're not supposed to do it.  Many of the rabbis said well, you have to make a difference between illusions.  Just magic tricks in one hand, are what you do by means of spirits, demons. And that may have been a good distinction to make. But some, even though rabbis  condemned magic, we see some later rabbis doing something that really kind of  looked like magic trying to use the secrets of creation to create the hind part of a calf, and, and things like that. The reason that Jewish people were well known  for magic was that magic often worked by invoking the name of a higher spirit to  deal with a lower spirit. And Jewish people were reputed to know the secret  name of their deity. Because Yahweh what we really had, YHWH the cons, the  letters, we didn't have the vowels to go with it. And so consequently, it was just a tradition of how it was pronounced because Jewish people normally didn't  pronounce the sacred name in public anymore. They, they called him Lord,  rather than Yahweh. So it was considered a secret name. And in magic, 

sometimes people will try every possible permutation of how to pronounce that  divine name. Although some of the things that people have thought were just  permutations of the divine name, the vowels were also used for for magic, so  sometimes people are just choosing different vowels. But in any case, Jewish  practitioners of magic were, were highly reputed. You see a Jewish magician,  Jewish false prophet, in Acts 13. Do you see the seven sons of Skiba? Who are  exorcists, but what they're doing with similar to practices in ancient magic. And  you have people who weren't Jewish trying to use the name of the Jewish deity,  and invoking angels and so forth. In any case, Simon, in the Samaritan town has gained a lot of notoriety from the practice of magic. Now, Sebaste was nearby  Sebaste. Probably our closest equivalent today might be something like  Augusta. Sebaste was a Greek city, founded in the site of ancient Samaria, and  Sebaste meant the august one, it was it was named after the title of the  Emperor. And in this Greek city, we have evidence of what was actually going on in some other places, too, but was going on there as well. That many were  blending all the male deities into one kind of synthesis of the male deity. But with the dyad, all the female deities into a female deity, Justin Martyr, who's actually  from Neapolis, in the second century, what's called Nablus today, in the second  century, Justin Martyr was a Gentile from the Samaritan area, though he wasn't  Samaritan by religion. He later became a Christian by the time he's writing his  Christian. He says that the reputation there, the tradition there was that Simon  was being portrayed as the incarnation of the male deity. And his consort,  Helena, was being portrayed as the Incarnation, with the avatar, the female  deity. We don't we don't know if that tradition goes back to the first century, but  but it could well, he's from the right region to, to know something about that. And that would make some sense, because in this passage, it says that he, he  claims to be the great power of God. Now remember, that there are people in  Acts who claimed to be somebody Gamaliel said that Theudas claimed to be  somebody. And in Acts 12, Herod Agrippa I wants to receive worship as a deity.  By contrast, Peter rejects veneration Acts 3:12. And also, in Acts 10, Paul rejects veneration Paul and Barnabas reject veneration and Acts 14. But here is  somebody who wants wants to be exalted. What did Jesus say, in Luke's  gospel, whoever seeks to exalt themselves will be brought low, and whoever  humbles himself will be exalted. Well, the Samaritans are baptized by Philip,  they were already circumcised. So the issue of whether you have to circumcise  them wouldn't come up the way it could come up later on with Gentiles. But  Samaritans, if they converted to Judaism, would have converted to Judaism by  baptism alone, because they, you didn't recircumcise somebody unless they  become uncircumcised, for which there actually was a medical procedure back  then. Some Jewish people who became very Hellenized in the Maccabean era,  and wanted to run in races, and were mocked by Greeks because they were  circumcised they found a way to pull their foreskin forward, and make it look like 

they were uncircumcised. But I didn't know of any cases of people who became  circumcised and uncircumcised and and recircumcised. But in a case, a  Samaritans conversion to Judaism, however, was viewed as tantamount to  denying their identity as a Samaritan. It was it was viewed as being a traitor to  one's people. For a Jew, like Philip, to invite Samaritans to follow a Jewish  Messiah would also be viewed as something like a betrayal of Judaism.  Because, hey, this, this is our Messiah. And you shouldn't be, you know,  welcoming these people in so, so glibly. But it follows the theological program of  decentralized witness that was argued in chapter 7, and was promoted by Jesus in chapter 1:8, Chapter 8:13. Here we see a power encounter. Pagan sorcerers,  sometimes could duplicate some of God's signs, you see that in Exodus 7: 11,  22, chapter 8:7. But there was a limit, you get to Exodus 8:18-19. You know,  Pharaoh's magicians had never been able to duplicate the scale on which God  was working. I mean, God owns the universe, God works in nature. You're not  going to ever be able to duplicate that skill of creating another universe or  something like that. But they get to the point, Exodus 8:18-19. And then further  in chapter 9:11, where they can't do the things that Moses was doing it all. And  in fact, they recognize this is the finger of God. Interestingly enough, in Luke 11,  where Jesus talks about casting out demons, Jesus says, if I by the finger of  God, and casting out demons, than the kingdom of God has come upon you  come into your midst. Many places in the world today, sorcerers are converted,  because they see that God's power is really greater. Someone I know who  graduated from Asbury seminary with a DMin has sent me some, some pictures  and some reports of how sometimes in one year, they'll have 20, practitioners of  witchcraft, who openly claimed that that's what they do, converted and baptized  in just one section of Indonesia, where he's from. And we have reports like that  from many parts of Africa, and elsewhere. One, one report from Southern Africa, a black South African evangelist of belief, among Zulus was, was preaching.  And there was a witch doctor, practice, practitioner of witchcraft, throw curses  and things like that. But he, he was curious about what was going on. And he  joined into the crowd. And he had all these charms woven into his hair. Well, the  power of the Holy Spirit was so strong that you just passed out, he fell down flat. And when he regained consciousness, all of his hair had fallen out with all the  charms, and he became a Christian and committed himself to Christ, I'm sure  his hair grew back. But in any case, we have a number of power encounters  taking place all over the world today. And I've experienced some of that. Not in  the most pleasant ways, but I've seen seen God's victory, God's power is  superior to the power of the evil one. And some people are more apt to walk into that and others I don't like going into those situations. But God, God is  victorious. Well, in verses 14 - 25, the remainder of this narrative, we learned  about apostolic ratification of the Samaritan conversions. 

Unknown Speaker - Now, I mentioned earlier talking about current debates  about baptism, the Holy Spirit, that theologically the Spirit's work is one  package, you see that in 2:38-39, although some people will say that what you  have in 2:38-39, is that repenting and being baptized are the prerequisite and  that the gift of the Spirit doesn't necessarily immediately follow. But I think it's  probably a bit messier than that. I have a friend Dana McCain, who teaches in  Nigeria, and I joined him teaching there for for three summers, but he's, he's  been there for decades. And Danny talks about how he will he will assign  members of the class different passages in the book of Acts. And they'll say,  Well, what, what does receiving the Spirit look like in the book of Acts, and  depending on the passage that they have, well, you get baptized first, then you  receive the Spirit, or you receive the Spirit and then you get baptized or, you  know, some of those may be exceptional. But the point is, God is sovereign God isn't limited to doing it just one way there may be there may be an ideal pattern,  but let God be God. In any case. In principle, we receive the spirit of conversion, but experientially we don't necessarily experience all aspects of it  simultaneously. Scholars have approached this in various ways. Some people  say, well, the Samaritans were, we're not really converted yet. That is decided  minority view. Among Acts commentators. However, most Acts commentators  recognize they were converted. But this, at least this aspect of the Spirit's work  they hadn't experienced yet. I think Calvin said they hadn't experienced the  outward signs of the Spirit yet. However, you take it to something that that the  apostles felt they needed to have, that they didn't have yet. The biggest point  here is that the Samaritans received the gift also. And the Jerusalem church  recognizes and approves of that rat least their leaders do. Peter and John want  this they want them to receive the Spirit. The Spirit according to Luke's  emphasis, Acts 1:8 the spirit is powerful witness. Thus, Samaritans become  partners in mission. Now, this is not what Jewish people normally expected.  Most Jewish people, when they were going from Galilee to Jerusalem, if there  were Galileans like Peter and John were, they would travel through Samaria. It  was a three days journey. It was longer if you took a roundabout way some  people did that. But but most Jewish people did travel through Samaria. And  Samaritan sometimes mocked them as they were going to Jerusalem. And the  story is told of this one Samaritan who was saying, why you're going up to  Jerusalem. You know, Mount Gerizim, our holy mountain, is higher than Mount  Zion. In fact, it's the only mountain that wasn't covered during the flood. And the  rabbi didn't know what to say to him, but the rabbi's assistant who was who was  his, his donkey driver, on which the rabbi was, was riding said, Well, according  to the Torah, only the mountains of Ararat were not immersed. And the  Samaritan was was ashamed. And thereupon, according to the story, the rabbi  got off his donkey and put the put his donkey driver, let his donkey driver ride it  instead, because he was so adept in scripture. But this had happened in Luke 9,

where they were passing through Samaria. And the Samaritans were very  displeased that they were heading towards Jerusalem. And Peter and John,  that's not Peter and John, John, and James wanted to call down fire from  heaven. On on the Samaritans, they wanted to act like Elijah. But they didn't  understand really what God really wanted. God really cared about Samaria and  well. John is performing a very different role at this point. But you can you can  see things moving towards that. Also in Luke 17, where Jesus heals a number of lepers, and the only one that comes back to give thanks, is a Samaritan. And  Jesus commends him. So they were learning some things and of course, we  know from John 4, the the other dealings there. But in any case, this is a  remarkable thing that they want Samaritans to receive the Spirit. This is  definitely a change for the Galileans. It's a transition. They haven't gotten to  Gentiles yet, but they're moving in the right direction. Chapter 8:17. We have  some rare Jewish examples of laying on hands for prayer. Of course, hands  were laid on to impart blessings and prayer in the Old Testament, we talked  about hands being laid on chapter 6, for the for the coming of the spirit for for  ministry, and Old Testament background for that. But laying on of hands for  prayer in general, was not all that common. But here, Peter and John, who have laid hands on the seven earlier, including Philip, now lay hands on the  Samaritans, the goal is not to keep the power for ourselves, or to keep  knowledge for ourselves for that matter, or whatever else. The goal is to  disseminate it to multiply it as much as possible, so that we have as many  coworkers as possible but the harvest is great. The laborers are few. Let's seek  to multiply it. Chapter 8:18-24. Well, sorcerers worked signs and Simon sees  something that lets him know that the people have received the Holy Spirit.  Different views on what it may have been. Whether it was something like maybe  when Stephen looks like an angel in 6:15 A lot of people think it's tongues  because tongues appears elsewhere, but I think that Luke has such a heavy  emphasis on cross cultural communication that he would love to narrate tongues if he knew for sure that it happened on this occasion. So, I'm inclined to think it  probably wasn't tongues. But probably that's the majority of you of people that  try to narrow down anything. James D. G. Dunn thinks it probably was tongues.  Fitting Luke Acts, it could have been any kind of prophesying. Although again,  Luke might have mentioned that if he if he knew exactly what it was, he may not  have the details for this occasion. But whatever it was, it was something that  Simon saw, he witnessed. And he said, I want that same power that these  apostles have. Because, whoa, that's really dramatic. Well, sorcerers were used to buying magical formulas, and Simon, he wants to buy this power to impart the Holy Spirit. But no one could buy the spirit. This is God's gift. And there's no  money in the world that would be enough to acquire God's gift worthily we have  to just accept it as is God's gift. We don't all have the same gifts. We just have to be faithful with the gifts we have. And open. If God wants to give us more gifts. 

But Simon took the wrong approach. And the other Simon, Simon Peter says,  you and your money, perish with you. So Simon asked them to pray for him. So  it ends on a somewhat positive note, at least Simon realizes he's in trouble and  he wants them to pray for him. And he acknowledges their right to be the ones  to do this prayer. It doesn't say that he repented for himself and according to  later tradition. He didn't. Justin Martyr and others, although you also have to  keep in mind that the later church when they were dealing with false prophets of  their own day, it helped if they had somebody they could link them to in the New  Testament. And some of those false prophets actually wanted some precedents  in the New Testament. There were other than the apostolic, public apostolic  tradition. So we don't know for sure whether he historically repented or not. But  Luke ends it on a fairly positive note, or at least he has the opportunity to do so.  In chapter 8:26-40, it moves to the conversion of an African official, by the way,  Phillip functions as a forerunner, maybe not in the same way that John the  Baptist does for Jesus. But Scott Spencer is pointed out that Philip often  functions is forerunner for Peter in the book of Acts, because it's Philip, who  preaches first to the Samaritans. Well, as there is the Peter and John are on  their way back home. They preach to the Samaritans also, they've learned from  something that Philip did before them. And they weren't too proud to do that.  And they could preach in the villages of Samaritans, Philip being Hellenist,  probably could only speak Greek. He could speak in the in the major town, a lot  of the Samaritans there spoke Greek, but in the surrounding villages, they would just speak Aramaic. So Peter and John can preach in the villages in a way that  Philip couldn't, unless he's with them, and they're translating for him. And the  reverse might have been more likely. But in any case, coming to verses 26 - 40,  we learn about the conversion of an African official and this is significant. This is  the first fully Gentile convert. Five times the narrative says that he's a eunich,  even though it might be more dramatic to say he's the treasurer of Queen  conducta. The narrative keeps emphasizing that he's a eunich. So it probably  means it literally rather than just as an official, there were a number of officials in fact, in antiquity who were eunuchs male servants of queens were often  eunuchs and he is the male servant of a queen. Now in the Roman world, it was despised people looked down on eunuchs, they considered them they they  called them often half men. It was understood that sometimes people were born  with certain things missing, but especially when they most eunuchs were people who had been made eunuchs humanly by human means. This was sometimes  done for servants who were male, so that they wouldn't enter puberty in the  normal way, and could continue to be sexually abused by male masters. But  especially it was associated with, with people from parts of the world where this  was done like, like Parthia. Well, if a person was literally a eunich, according to  Deuteronomy 23:1, this person could not become a proselyte. They could not  join the community of Israel, they can be a God fearer. And this man obviously is

I mean, he reads, he's, he's reading from scripture, he's been to Jerusalem  because he fears God. But he wouldn't be allowed to actually be a full proselyte. And he's the first fully Gentile Christian, the first fully Gentile Christian is, is from  Africa, later on, because people today, you know, we call him the Ethiopian  eunuch. And sometimes we think of the current nation of Ethiopia. And the  nation of Ethiopia has a wonderful Christian history. In fact, they were converted  through the witness of a couple of Syrian Christians. Around the year 333. The  Emperor is Ezana, the emperor of the relatively new empire of Aksum and East  Africa. And what's now Ethiopia, converted to Christianity, much of much of  Ethiopia converted with him. It's one of the few places in the world where the  gospel initially spread without martyrs. But probably this court official is not from  what we call Ethiopia today. Ethiopia had a wider meaning back then. And the  mention of Kandake lets us know that he was actually from the Nubian Kingdom of Meroe, which existed before Aksum did actually goes back to around 750  BCE. Well, how do we know that? That that he was he was that this conversion  is so significant in terms of Luke's narrative. He's already mentioned a proselyte. In chapter 6, we have Samaritans in the first part of chapter 8. Cornelius, is, is  clearly a Gentile, and chapter 10. And some people say, Well, he's the first  Gentile convert. He's actually the first public Gentile convert. He's the one that  the Jerusalem church knows about. But there were things happening before the  things that became commonly and widely known. So he's the, this is the first  Gentile convert Philip, remember Paul and his companions, including Luke, in  Acts 21, they spend time in Phillip's home. Well, what the Philip and Paul be  talking about when they're together, probably one of the things they'd be talking  about would be old times when, when maybe Paul was still a persecutor, and  had scattered the church. And then well, what did Philip do when he went out?  And Luke may have been staying even with Philip, later on in Caesarea when,  when Paul was in Roman custody there for up to two years. But he certainly  would have had other occasions to talk with Philip whom he'd already met. Well, he would have heard this story. But this might be a story that only Philip knew it  may there's no indication Philip went on to Caesarea. He didn't go back to  Jerusalem. So this isn't something we're worried necessarily got back to the  Jerusalem church. In contrast with the conversion, in Samaria I mean, that  would have to get back to the Jerusalem church, you had travelers going back  and forth. So word would have would have gotten there fairly quickly. There's,  there's a message here, one that that Luke, undoubtedly finds very ideal to  emphasize, in light of the Old Testament. Isaiah 56:3-5, we see that God Himself welcomes foreigners, and eunuchs. Well, here's a guy who's both of these.  That's the context of the of the passage that Luke cites earlier, where Jesus  cites from Isaiah 56 and says, this house should be called a house of prayer.  The context is a house of prayer for all nations. Also, there's an Ethiopian  eunuch in the Old Testament, who turns out to be one of Jeremiah's few allies 

and saves his life. He doesn't get as much play in the book of Acts as Cornelius  does. The Cornelius story is repeated three times in the book of Acts. But that's  because of Peter's role in that story. Cornelius was the first official convert. And  one of the most important things about that story was not just the conversion of  Cornelius, but the conversion of the Jerusalem church, the change in their  

thinking about what could happen. Now, they were regarding that as an  exception, rather than a precedent until you get to Acts 15. When Peter's  listening to what's going on through Paul's ministry and cites, that is a  precedent. But But this conversion of Cornelius wasn't the first Gentile Christian, this African court official was the first Gentile Christian. Now Luke traces the  mission of the church to the west, to the heart of his audiences empire. But that  doesn't mean he doesn't care about the gospel going to the rest of the ends of  the earth, and He narrates here are going to the southern ends of the earth.  And, you know, because he cares about going to the ends of the earth that will  also include the East and the north. So this has given as much space as the  Samaritan revival. And it may show us something significant to in terms of  reaching out to international visitors who are in our midst. Some of these visitors are for places where it would be very hard to reach people in their own contexts  where they're from. But if they, if they come into cities where we are able to  minister on where there's more freedom to minister, by all means we should be  reaching them. It's so tragic. I think that in some, in some countries where  there's freedom to preach the gospel, you have people who are, we're not doing  anything to reach the unreached. And God is sending often the unreached. To  them. Many of our cities have just a mixture of cultures. We need to be proactive and reaching out to people. I mean, it's it's their choice, how they respond. But  we certainly need to be loving them, and sharing with them. And in this case,  God certainly orchestrates the events in 8:26. Philip is told to go possibly south  or possibly the Greek wording means midday, it actually can be translated either way. If it's mid day, if he's being sent at midday, that's very urgent because  normally at midday a person would stay in the shade. Often for an hour or two  hours, shepherds would take their their flocks in the shade of trees, if possible.  Carpenters, whatever kind of work people were doing, they'd stop it at midday,  and they eat a light meal or take a siesta and sleep for a while. But more likely  the term means go south, which is also interesting because it's the South Road,  he said toward Gaza. Well what what is he expecting to find on this road?  Especially as it's apparently a deserted, either a deserted road or going toward  old Gaza, deserted Gaza. There were two major roads from near Jerusalem that led southward one lead through Hebron and into Idumea or Edom, the other  went south and joined the coast road. The other one went south, but then joined  the coast road before it reached Gaza, heading for Egypt. So this specifies  which roads to take. And we we have archaeologically we have Roman  milestones is road marker showing where these words roads were. But he 

speaks of something deserted either a deserted road, or more likely deserted  Gaza. There was old Gaza in new Gaza, the city had been rebuilt. The old Gaza was the deserted town, near the culturally Greek Ashkelon, Old Testament ash  Ashkelon, and the new Gaza after the revival in Samaria, the command to just  go walking, where you don't know what's going to happen. That must appear  absurd. Although you can think of Abraham being sent out or other things in the  Old Testament must appear absurd. God often tests his servants faith through  apparently absurd commands. Moses leads his people that come up to the Yam  Suph the sea, and he was told to stretch out his his his hand In his rod and part  the sea that sounds like an absurd command I Kings 17 Elijah is tells tells a  widow in Zarephath well you prepare the food for me first she said I just had  enough I was going to prepare for myself and my son that we were going to die  but but she goes ahead and obeys it II Kings 5 Naaman is told by by Elisha's  servant that he's to go and dip in the in the River Jordan he says are not Abana  and Pharpar the the rivers of Damascus better than this he's he's offended  because he he wanted Elijah to wave his hand over the over the leprosy or  something but his servants are the ones who aren't too proud and they say,  Look, if he'd asked you to do some great thing, wouldn't you have done it? So  they persuade him to obey this absurd command? And he's he's cleansed, he's  healed? Well, in the same way. Philip is given a fairly absurd command. But  when God gives us a command, we should obey it 8:27 Ethiopia, literally the  Greek is Aithiopia. That was that was a Greek term for all of Africa, South of  Egypt. It wasn't just what we call Ethiopia today, although if they thought of that,  that would have been included. Mediterranean legends placed Ethiopia at the  southern ends of the earth. And there were there were a number of myths about  Ethiopia Memnon, who was a who was a mighty and valiant warrior, son of the  of Eos, the dawn goddess or Andromeda, who was an Ethiopian princess who  was rescued by Perseus in Greek mythology. They sometimes in Homer had  spoke of the gods going and hanging out with Ethiopians, they were considered  a very special group of people. The most commonly mentioned feature of  Ethiopians or African south of Egypt, in Greek literature, was there black skin,  and that's also in the Old Testament. Also, you have busts of them, statues of  them, and elsewhere in the writings, it speaks of other features. It's just  absolutely clear that this is talking about Africans south of Egypt. There had  been Nubian empires since around 3000 BC. This particular Empire, heI speaks  of the Kingdom of Meroe as well. Meroe was a black Nubian Kingdom south of  Egypt, in what is now the Sudan. And it had been around since 750 BC, its main cities were Meroe and Napata. Now, eventually this empire fell about the about  the time that it was being eclipsed by the the powerful East African Empire,  Aksum. But the gospel spread again in Nubia. And in the fifth and sixth  centuries, it became a major stronghold of Christianity. And fact. It remained a  Christian stronghold for almost 1000 years. Eventually, because they couldn't 

get their own. They couldn't get priests with teaching, because the patriarch of  Alexandria couldn't spare them and Ethiopia couldn't spare them. Eventually,  they succumbed to invaders from the north, but they were able to stop them off  for for many centuries. So for most of history since this time, actually it is it was  a Christian kingdom. But we don't really have apart from oral tradition, about  Ethiopia we don't really have any anything concrete about what happened after  this official went back. Probably he shared his faith, but we don't we just don't  have any details. That Kandake or Candice we sometimes say in English.  Greeks thought of this as the title of the ruling Queen Mother. So according to  Greek usage, probably this would have been not just a queen, but the ruling  queen. But Africans probably use the title more widely, and not just for the  Queen, who reigned when there was no king, but any sort of any sort of Queen  one of them or queen, a queen mother, ruling queen mother actually beat  Augustus he had to retreat And there are another a number of other ancient  reports about these powerful Ethiopian queens. According to Jewish legend,  Moses had had married one. There was there was one ruling in this period, her  name was Queen. Nikante Qendeke. We don't know if this was the one or not,  but that was one of the Queens, who actually was ruling Nubia, or ruling the  empire of Meroe and Nubian art, it portrays the queen with many jewels, and  also depicts her wide girth, which means that she had a lot of food available that was considered a great thing. In this in this culture. This was a powerful queen,  whether she was reigning or whether she was married to husband it was  reigning, we don't know for sure in this period, because we don't. The dates of  the rulers of Meroe are not quite fixed yet in by archaeologists, but the Queen's  treasurer would definitely be a powerful person because the Queen was very  wealthy. And this was a very wealthy kingdom, archeologists have found  considerable wealth in the ruins of Meroe, which was way further south than  Egypt on the on the Nile. Greek would be used and trade ties with Egypt, Meroe  had many trade ties with the North. That's where Rome got many of its African  substances if they wanted peacocks or anything, it normally came through  Meroe and Greek was the language of the cities of Egypt. By this period, many  of the comments people still spoke, what we call Coptic, but Greek would have  been used for official things. And you know, the Nile. The Nile was very good for  trade, because you could you could sail southward in the Nile, because of the  the wind or you could sail northward on the Nile because of the of the current.  And this official undoubtedly spoke Greek since he was involved in economic  issues for the kingdom, which is important because remember, Phillip, is  Hellenist Greek is his language. So this is the common language in which they  could communicate. It's probably also the language of the scroll that this official  was reading, which he could have easily acquired. He could have acquired a  Greek scroll even in Jerusalem, but probably acquired it most easily. In  Alexandria, when he was on his way north. Verse 28, he's in a chariot. Only the 

wealthiest people had chariots. People occasionally read sitting in expensive  chariots. He might have been reading himself, undoubtedly he was literate he  was he was a class that could afford education for sure. But he might have a  

reader who would be reading it to him. And presumably this is in Greek.  Otherwise, there's, there's no way that Philip would have recognized what text  he was, he was reading, verse 29, this the spirit is told Philip to run up to the  chariot. And Philip is still a young man, apparently, he's, he's in good, good  health. Sometimes we see that positive aspect of youth in in Scripture. Peter  and John, Well, John, on my view, but different people have diffused Peter and  the beloved disciple in John 20, kind of competing, who can run fastest to get to  the tomb, and the beloved disciple outruns Peter and he remembers that but  then Peter swims to Jesus shows us devotion, lugging a bunch of fish in chapter 21. Well, Philip was young man, probably a young man. When we see him later  in the book, he's, we don't know actually what age he is, but he has four virgin  daughters. So probably, given what we know of the usual age of virgins,  probably he was young man at this point. And so, Philip, runs up to the chariot  may not outrun it like Elijah outran Ahab's chariot, but he runs up to the chariot.  Reading silently was very rare in antiquity. Not as some older commentators say that it never happened. It did happen sometimes. But usually, people read aloud. They hadn't developed, reading silently as a separate skill for the most part. He  runs up to the chariot and Here's the man reading from Isaiah. And the man  says, a for whom is the prophet speaking of himself, or someone else. Well,  that's a divine setup. You have those sometimes in Scripture, like in in Genesis  24, where Abraham, Abraham sends His servant to find a wife for Isaac from his  his own household. And the details just fall into place and in ways that make the  confirmation crystal clear, which is very important for the message of Genesis  because the line must be carried on. So Genesis 24 is narrated at great length  and the story is told at least twice as the servant narrates in detail to the family,  to whom he comes how the Lord confirmed this for him. Well, probably most of  you, most of you, if you've been followers of Jesus very long have experienced  some of these divine setups. They they they happen. Well, I would say they  happen fairly often. I've seen them happen. I've experienced them fairly often.  But this this one is a pretty dramatic one. It's very important that the good news  be able to go even to this far off land farther and Philip can go farther and  Philip's language abilities can take him. Here is a key moment. Well, the text  that's being read is from Isaiah 53. Now, who is the servant in the book of  Isaiah? Well, sometimes Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 42, and some subsequent  passages, the servant is explicitly Israel. So if anybody says, No, the servant  can't be Israel, I'm sorry, but you're contradicting what the text explicitly says. In  Isaiah 49, the servant is also Israel. But in 49:5, the servant seems to be  distinguished from the rest of Israel and suffers on behalf of Israel. And then  again, in chapter 53:1-3, the servant is rejected by Israel. And in 53:4-12. It says

that the servant bears the sins of Israel, even though Isaiah has been talking  about Israel being punished for her sins, chapter 40, double for his sins. And in  Isaiah 53:9, it it says this servant is not guilty. And 53:12 This servant suffers  voluntarily. That doesn't sound like it's describing Israel. It sounds like it's  depicting somebody who acts on behalf of Israel, one person within Israel, a  righteous remnant who acts on behalf of Israel. And, of course, this is applied in  the New Testament to Jesus, who in retrospect, we can see is the one who, who fulfilled this in Acts 8:36-38. The going along, the man is so delighted. Well, he  wasn't allowed to convert to Judaism. He couldn't as a eunuch. But now he's  welcome. He can convert. There were wadis near Gaza, they they come to a  place where they say there's, there's water here what what prevents me from  being baptized? full immersion was presupposed in Jewish baptism. So if a  Gentile wanted to convert to Judaism, they would, they would be immersed in  water. And in fact, normally, the immersion went much more immersively then, is practiced even in immersion, practicing churches today, in that the person  normally had to be completely naked. Later rabbi said that if so much of a string  of a bean was between your teeth, it invalidated the conversion, because you  you weren't fully immersed. Now, I don't think that John the Baptist was  immersing people in a river Jordan naked. In a site where you've got men and  women together, I don't think that's very likely knowing what we know about  Judaism and abhoring nakedness, and so on, except in the case of executions.  But, and so, you know, this, this may not have been a naked baptism, either. But in any case, there's a wadi there, there's, they're able to do that. And as a God  fearer, the Ethiopian probably understood the need for baptism, well, I can't be  circumcised but at least I can, I can go through this ritual. Now, by the way, I'm  not I'm not trying to get into the issue for what churches should do in a later  period. I'm just explaining this as the background for how it was done then, you  know, when you get to the didache, you know, ideally, you should, you should be immersed in running water if you don't have running water than you use still  water. It goes, it goes on down the way where you might have to pour if either,  you know so. So that the most important thing was this was an act that was  understood as an act of conversion. And how your church tradition does it based on whatever period they're looking at. I'm just talking about what it was here in  the book of Acts based on how it was normally done in this period. But in Acts  8:39, the Spirit Catches Philip away, and the Ethiopian doesn't see him  anymore. But he goes on his way rejoicing, which is also a sign of the Spirit and  Acts like an Acts 13, the end of the chapter, that the Spirit Catches Philip away.  Now, it had been thought that a prophet could that could happen to Prophet in  the Old Testament, like with Elijah Obadiah said, Oh, maybe, you know, I was  afraid when you, you're telling me to go get Ahab. Nobody's been able to find  you. You're so elusive. But what is hidden you? I'm just afraid I'll go tell Ahab  and you won't be here, the spirit will snatch you away and put you somewhere 

else or in second, which didn't happen in II Kings 2:16, some of the sons of the  prophets say to Elisha, well, you know, we knew that your master would be  taken from you today. So maybe, maybe the Spirit of the Lord is carried him  away on some mountain or something, we need to go look for him. In Ezekiel  3:12-14, the spirit actually does catch Ezekiel away. But it's not clear that it's in  his body, or whether it's in a visionary way. He, you know, in one, he's actually  picked up by his hair, and carried away in the spirit, but it's in the visions of  God's, so was it literal or not? But here, it's clearly real. And it's clearly physical.  He's he's really relocated. And I've actually talked with people who have  experienced that not very often, it's not very common in the New Testament,  either we have it here, but and then in Revelation, depending on how you take  that probably in a visionary way, that revelation, so and then Paul says, whether  in the body or out, I don't know. But I have gotten reports of that. And there are  reports of that. In Indonesia, some of the some of the ministry teams that they  were walking, and something that should have taken a week and it only took  them a day, or something like that. God has ways of doing those things if he  wants to, but it's not very frequent. The African court official goes on his way.  Phillip, however, the spirit carries him away and he starts going to the coastal  cities, Azotus, which was the ancient Philistine stronghold of Ashdod. Azotus  was the current name of the city. It was about 25 miles north of Gaza, or about  35 miles west of Jerusalem. He preaches in these in these cities until he comes  to Caeserea, Caeserea Maritima is opposed to Caeserea of Philippi. What used  to be known as Straton's Tower and then Herod renamed it in honor of Caesar.  So in settled Jews there as well as other people. So, Caeserea Maritima was  over 50 miles north of Azotus, so over 70, 75 miles north of Gaza, and it's off the same coastal road. So Phillip is just walking on the main on the main road at this point. Now, it leaves Phillip here. It's going to come back to him later, and he's  still going to be in Caesarea. So you know, there are different seasons in our  lives. Philip was itinerant, at one point is an evangelist. Here, Philip apparently  settles and does ministry. In Caesarea. Caesarea is going to be very significant  for this narrative. That's where Peter is going to share the gospel with Cornelius  will Philip has already been there. But Peter, a leader in the Jerusalem church is the one who sent for because the Jerusalem church needs to learn some things  too. Caesarea was more multicultural than Jerusalem. Jerusalem was pretty  much monolithically Jewish. Caesarea was divided between Jews and Gentiles.  And there wasn't a lot of interchange and there was also a lot of suspicion and  mistrust. But Phillip is is going to settle there and presumably do ministry there.  But that's where Peter is going to meet Cornelius in chapter 10. But before  chapter 10 is chapter 9, which is where Saul becomes a believer. And for a few  chapters, it's going to be cutting back and forth transitioning gradually between  Peter and the Jerusalem church on the one hand, and Paul and the Gentile  mission on the other. Caesarea also was probably widely known because of the 

Judean Roman war, when war broke out, Jews and Syrians started massacring  each other in the streets of Caesarea. And we're told by Josephus, that in a very short amount of time, the Syrians gained the upper hand and slaughtered  around 20,000 Jewish residents of the city. So it was an awful thing. Although  we're told by by later church tradition, that Philip was no longer there, Philip in  his in his four daughters had emigrated to Asia Minor, and were part of the  Johannine related church there. Phillip functions as Peter's forerunner here with  the Samaritans, with the Gentiles, and even with Caesarea. Luke probably has  the stories from Philip. Sometimes we have a lot of unsung heroes in history.  Philip, we wouldn't have known about any of these things. If Luke had only had  access to the the stories from the Jerusalem church. We have a lot of unsung  heroes in church history. There are a lot of there's some of those of us who are  out in front of people, there are people who know about us. But we've got people behind us who are praying for us. We have other other people that that you  never hear of, who are doing doing ministry. You think of some some major  evangelist, do you think of the people who lead them to the Lord, the people  who led me to the Lord, who brought me the gospel on the street, when I was an atheist, and I argued with them for 45 minutes, and they didn't even find out that  I was converted, until a year later, I tracked them down and made sure that that  they got to know and by then I'd lead 10 other people to the Lord. But they  people, I know their names, but most people have not heard of them. And most  people most people have not heard of most of us, in fact. But our names are  written down in heaven. They're written in the Lamb's book of life, as it says in  Luke 10. And that's what matters most. God knows who we are. And we're all  brothers and sisters, we'll all be together forever. I remember one time, I was  walking into a place of prayer, people were praying there, they were worshiping  there. And I was so wrapped up in all the things I was doing for the Lord. And  those were good things. And as I got into there, I felt like the Holy Spirit spoke to me, these are all good things, this ministry you're doing this ministry you're  doing. But someday you won't be this, and you won't be that. But what you will  always be is my child. And that's the heart of our identity. Whether people know  who we are or not. Philip does the mission before Peter. And Philip doesn't get  the same notoriety that Peter does. But God used Philip to break new ground.  And God knows in God's book, and that's what matters, that God's work goes  forth. We seek first the kingdom and everything else will be added to us. And in  the end. It's the kingdom that matters, because that's what's forever.  

Announcer - This is Dr. Craig Keener in his teaching on the book of Acts. This is  session number 11 on Acts 8.

Last modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2023, 7:58 AM