Announcer - Hi this is Dr. Craig Keener in his teaching on the book of Acts, this is session number 12. On Acts chapter 9.  

Dr. Keener - Well, Saul has been arresting people. But now Saul gets arrested by the Lord Himself. Do you ever think that God couldn't use you, or God couldn't use you very much? Well, if God can use Saul, God can use any of us. In fact, that application is even made in I Timothy 1. God here shows his sovereign power, a persecutor becomes an agent of grace. And we read that sometimes like in the Maccabean literature where God intercepts of persecutor, but here, God actually makes him a vessel, for his own purposes. 

Saul initiates this level of persecution. That's why you have peace, in 9:31, after his conversion, and after the apostles make sure that he gets out of town. But Saul is the one initiating this level of persecution. He goes to get letters of recommendation from the high priest. Letters of recommendation were very common epistolary form back then, because people would, if you wanted to get ahead, you needed somebody to help you. And so you'd go to somebody of higher social station. And they would write a letter of recommendation to one of their peers, or sometimes to somebody who was subordinate. And Cicero was a master of this. In fact, book 13, a collection of, one of the collections of his letters, is just letters of recommendation. And you have a lot of other letters of recommendation from antiquity as well. But somehow, Cicero was such a master of this. He learned how to write different letters of recommendation for different people. Once in a while, he said more than one person, this guy's the best. I can't recommend anybody like him, you know, like, Paul says of Timothy in Philippians. Cicero said that for a little bit more than one person, but he usually reserved that for just a few. But other times, he'd say, you know, show me your loyalty to me, you are my friend. And so I know you'll do even more than what I asked. 

The kind of the kind of letters of recommendation, we have in the New Testament. Philemon are calling up a debt, you know, this reciprocity was a big social issue back then. So, you owe me a favor? Well, this is a time to, for me to capitalize on that. They wouldn't usually put it that way. Or I owe you, I owe you a favor. If you do this for me, I'm in your debt, whatever, whatever this cost you, I'll repay it, things like that. That we have in letters of recommendation, the New Testament, similar letters in the New Testament have partial in a part of it is letter recommendation. Phoebe has recommended Romans 161-2, and so forth. 

Well, anyway, Saul wants letters of recommendation from the high priest. That would be very compelling, it would suggest that the high priest supports this mission. And we talked earlier about how he could have gotten access to the high priest, while the high priest at this point would have been Caiaphas. The young man ordinarily would have more trouble getting access to the high priests. But remember Galatians 1:14. Saul is advancing among his peers. 22:3 that he's a student of Gamaliel suggests he's from a wealthy family. So in the in the fact that he was Hellenist wouldn't really count against him much in the chief priests. You look at the tomb inscriptions, the tomb inscriptions are often in Greek, they valued the wider Greek culture of the eastern Mediterranean world. The high priest was respected by Jewish communities outside of Judea and Galilee, outside of Palestine. The high priest no longer necessarily had authority for extradition, as in the Maccabean period. He wasn't like ruling everything by himself, but the high priest was respected, and Diaspora synagogues would likely be happy to cooperate with him if they could. 

Also in 9:2, we read about the way. Interestingly Saul is actually traveling on the way on the on the on the way to Damascus, it's it's said in one of the passages uses the same Greek word hodos he hodos. But the phrase the way, of course, Jewish wisdom spoke of the way of truth in the way of righteousness, as opposed to way of folly and so on. The Essenes claimed that they preached the divine path, the right way in which you should go. And of course, John the Baptist came proclaiming the way of the Lord: make make the path straight for the new Exodus. So it's not surprising that the movement was called the way. In the United States, we can't really call our churches that because a cult appropriated that name instead. But in any case, that was that was a chosen name, that the early Christian movement used for itself. The Essenes would have appreciated using that for themselves, too. 

He's on his way to Damascus. That's a long journey, that's 135 miles or 220 kilometers north of Jerusalem. That would take probably six days on foot for the average traveler in this period. There were a number of Essenes in in Damascus. In less that's meant symbolically in the Damascus document, which may be there's a bit of debate on that. But in any case, it speaks of synagogues in Damascus. Most of these would not have been Essenes, but there were synagogues in Damascus. Obviously, it's synagogues, plural. You couldn't fit all these in one synagogue, by any means known to us useful in ancient architecture. According to Josephus, there were over 20,000 Jewish people living there. So you needed multiple synagogues. In fact, Josephus tells us that there was many as 18,000 Jews massacred there in the year 66. So they have a sizable Jewish community. Did Paul go on foot or not? Well, that's that's a question. If he if he went on horseback, it wouldn't have taken a full six days it would have been a lot quicker. 

9:3. Saul, and his companions are astonished by a light from heaven. And we've already read about God revealing himself at Mount Sinai. Stephen talks about that in Acts 7. Well, this light from heaven would be understood as the Shekinah God's God's presence, God's glory. And this happens various times in theophanies, including Theophany, a theophany, that accompanies the divine calling. It happens in Exodus 3. at the burning bush. It happens in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah sees the glory of the Lord. Happens in Ezekiel 1, where each of these passages has a divine calling. It's not reported in every case. It's not reported in Jeremiah’s case, not exactly in Gideon's case, although in Gideon's case, and in Manila's case, in in Judges, Judges 6 and Judges 13, you know, the angel does do some interesting, amazing, glorious things. But anyway, Chapter Chapter 9:3, this is associated with a theophany. And actually, Luke would expect even an audience that didn't know the Old Testament, although he expects his audience to pretty much know the Old Testament. But even an audience that didn't know the Old Testament would recognize what this. Because at Jesus birth, the glory of the Lord shines around the, the shepherds. When that's annunciation to them is made of Jesus birth. And at this point, Saul should know his companions should know this is the Lord, this is God. But Saul is going to have a hard time swallowing that. 

So chapter 9:4, he falls to the ground. Well, that was common, it divine or angelic revelations, both in the Old Testament and in Jewish literature, you find it in in Daniel a number of times with angels falls to the ground. Saul, Saul, his name is doubled.  Why is that? Genesis 22:11 Abraham, Abraham as an angel Sf Lord as the angel the Lord calls to him. And in chapter 46:2 of Genesis, Jacob Jacob, as the Lord speaks to him in the night vision Exodus 3:4. Moses, Moses and his calling, I Samuel 3:10. Samuel, Samuel. So sometimes when God would speak, and have something very important to say, the name would be doubled. And some of these cases were very nice cases. So Saul may be expecting something nice. Even though he fell off, well either fell off his horse or fell off his feet. But Jesus doesn't say anything nice. Exactly He says, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? So how can you be persecuting the Lord? How can you be persecuting God. 

But remember what Jesus said, back in Luke's first volume, Luke chapter 10, and verse 16. If they reject you, they reject me. They receive you; they receive me. Saul has been persecuting Jesus followers, is therefore persecuting Jesus. What they do to us, as we proclaim the Lord's name they do to the Lord. In fact, Paul says something like this later himself. When the Corinthians some of them are being moved toward his rivals, who are preaching a false gospel. And Paul says, you know, as ambassadors for Christ, we beseech you be reconciled to God. And in the context basically, he's saying, You need to be reconciled to us to be reconciled to God, because what God's agents to you? Well, that can be very easily abused, people have abused that a lot. And we want to be careful never to do that. But having said that, you know, as we speak for Christ is we're letting people know about Christ. We act as as agents as his representatives. 

Well Saul's Saul's confused now? He doesn’t want to admit the obvious. Who are you, Lord? It's an obvious theophany, but how can Paul be persecuting God? And so, you know, Lord Correa, it's a respectful title, but used in vocative, used as a direct address kurios, in the direct addresses kurios it can mean sir. But it also can mean something stronger, it can mean Lord, it can mean the Divine Lord. So, you know, is this God? Is this an angel? What is going on here? And Jesus answers in chapter 6. Well, Jesus answers, I'm Jesus whom you are persecuting. But in verse 6, he says, go to Damascus. And you'll get more instructions there, it will be told you what you must do. In Greek, this language of what you must do, actually echoes what we also have in in 2:37, where the where the crowds save, what must we do in order to be saved? And Peter says, Repent, we're in chapter 16, verse 30. What must I do to be saved? The Philippian jailer asks? Well, Paul is about to find out what he must do. What he must do to acknowledge Jesus as Lord is to embrace the mission that God has for him. 

Verse 8, he finds out that he's been blinded. Now, God had sometimes blinded people to prevent an evil purpose. Remember, in Genesis chapter 19, in verse 11, the men of Sodom are blinded. II Kings, 6, a whole army of struck blind, and Elisha leads them somewhere else. So at least they're, they're blinded in terms of what the surroundings really are. And Elisha leads them to a place where they're, where they're captured, and then the purposes are benevolent for them in the long run. But this is probably also similar to Zechariah being struck mute in Luke chapter one. Except Zechariah was an imperfect but good character, and Saul, at this point has been a bad character thinking he's doing God's will, but he was clearly wrong. 

He fasts for three days, according to verse 9, three days was not uncommon for fast but without water, it would cause dehydration, especially in a very dry area of the world. And Judaism was often coupled with mourning or repentance. By the way, you normally don't want to do a three day fast without water. It's actually dangerous for your kidneys to do. Long, fast without water. Although God did a miracle for Moses, and and so on. But in any case, there were people who did this. And Saul does this in this case. I mean, this is life and death. He can't believe. But he has to believe that he's been on the wrong side. He thought he was serving God thought he was serving the Torah. And he finds out that basically everything he believes needs to be rethought. So in Judaism, fasting was often used for mourning or repentance. He really has reason for repentance. Usually in the New Testament, it's conjoined with prayer. And that's what he's doing. And we find out later he's also had a vision. We find that out not because Luke has narrated, he just tells us, he just informs us about by recounting the Ananias was told by Jesus and that Saul had one. 

Chapter 9:10-19. We read about Ananias' mission. Well, Jesus calls to Ananias, and Ananias, answers very, respectfully, very obediently. Here I am, you know, in the Old Testament in any I Samuel 3:10, the Lord is calling us to Samuel and Eli, the priest says, Well, okay, finally he later figures it out. This is the Lord calling the boy and he says, next time you say, Lord, speak, your servant listens. So he goes and lays down and the Lord calls him again a third time and, and Samuel says, Here I am, or Isaiah. It his calling, here I am, Here am I. Ananias is going to be so obedient. He's so happy that Jesus is appearing to him. And then he gets his instructions. You're supposed to go to Saul of Tarsus. Oh, wait a minute. I've heard of this Saul. Now this Saul is, you know, Jesus appears to Saul. And Saul it first is like, who are you? Now? Now he appears to Ananias and Ananias said I don't know if this is good idea. I’ve heard that, that he was he's come here to persecute us. Well, that's it's none of his bid. If the Lord gives you instructions, even if it's going to send you into trouble you need to do it. But the Lord says he's the chosen vessel for my honor. And this is something that's going to be repeated three times in the book of Acts. In one place, Paul can narrate it in a briefer way and leave out Ananias' involvement, but it behooves him certainly to mention Ananias is a man devout according to the law, when he's speaking to a Jerusalemite crowd in Acts chapter 22. The Lord speaks is called directly to Saul in and that's narrated. In some places, some places it's narrated, that he speaks the Call Saul through Ananias, Saul gets it from more than one direction. I mean, the Lord clearly wants him and the Lord confirms it multiple ways. So anyway, Ananias is obedient. Now, he says that the Jesus So Jesus says, that Saul is staying with Judas on Straight Street. 

Jewish culture emphasized hospitality very much it was emphasized throughout the Mediterranean world. And there been a number of studies in Koenig, Arthur Barry and others. Very heavy emphasis on hospitality, Jewish hospitality even more so. So if a traveling Jew came to your area, and you were Jewish, you would probably take them in, especially if they had letters of recommendation, and if they had letters of recommendation from high priest, you certainly would want to take them in. So we don't know whether Judas was a believer. More likely, he's not a believer at this point. Or at least not before Saul got to him. Straight Street. Probably. Well, many scholars think it's the long East West Street running through Damascus. Damascus was a very ancient city. Some things had been updated according to the Greek way of building things in a grid by the Spirit, but Straight Street may have been the  East West Street. And that would fit tradition of which street is in view. But the important thing is it was directions were being given. So he knew where to go Find him just like Cornelius is given some direction as to where to find Peter in the house of Simon the tanner, later on. 

Tarsus. Saul of Tarsus. What do we know about Tarsus? Tarsus was a very important city. And not surprisingly. So Paul later on says, you know, I'm a citizen of no insignificant city, which was a good way of saying it's a very significant city it was. It was the capital of Cilicia.  It was prosperous representative sports merchants were many other cities. In the ancient Mediterranean world, it was also a major university center, especially for philosophy. So depending on what age Paul was, when he left there is probably pretty young. But depending on what age he left there, he, at least his family may have had some exposure hearing, hearing this in the streets. There was also a large Jewish community there, which is particularly relevant. 

So Ananias is to go. And he hears that Saul has also had a vision. Well, paired visions were pretty common. Actually, paired visions were very uncommon in the ancient world. But when you have anything that was narrated as a paired vision, like maybe in the Book of Tobit, it confirmed divine coordination. This was not an accident. And it's also not an accident that we have these two chapters in a row, you have the paired visions with Saul and Ananias both having visions. That can't be a coincidence. I mean, it's if one person has it, maybe they’re hallucinating. Two people have it independently. That's, that's multiple corroboration. Acts chapter 10. Cornelius and Peter have coordinated visions in the same way. So Ananias gives his objections to an absurd command, not unlike Moses, who gave his objections to God's command to go to Egypt and liberate the people. But he sent it sent to Saul.

Verses 15 and 16, resemble Old Testament call or commissioning narratives. And then in verse 17, he says, brother Saul, presumably figurative kinship language, they weren't really literally closely related, necessarily. You could use that for fellow Jews. And you find that sometimes in Luke Acts, you could use it for fellow members of a trade guild or something like that. Here, it probably, however, means fellow believer. And this is remarkable, because Ananias, belongs to this movement that has been scattered to places like Damascus, precisely because Saul of Tarsus is persecuting them. And now he's ready to receive him is a fellow believer. And that's, that's the way the gospel is that we can love people, we recognize that all of us have been saved by grace, and only by grace. And we could give a lot of accounts of that of people who, from either side, people that we had wronged. I remember, when I was an atheist, I used to make fun of Christians. And after my conversion, you know, going back and finding some of those Christians I made fun of and saying, you know, I was so wrong, you were so right. And they were so happy to have me as a brother in the Lord. So gracious. And even, there were reports of this people who were planning to attack Christians and were converted in the night by vision. And then they had to join the Christians and flee for themselves to the Christians, because their own colleagues would have wanted to kill them. 

So he says, The Lord sent me to lay hands on you, so you might be filled with spirit and receive your sight. Obviously, he's going to have to be filled with spirit for his mission of speaking the Word of the Lord. And we're going to see very quickly what His mission is starting a couple of verses later; he's already starting to preach. But verse 18, says the scales fell from his eyes. Well, that recalls the language of the Book of Tobit were Tobit was was blinded, and in the scales fell from his eyes when he was healed. And he was baptized. Well, there were plenty of places where it could have been baptized. One of the places he could have been baptized was the Barada River, which runs through Damascus and was near where the tradition says that Strait Street was.

Chapter 9:19-31. Where we read about confrontations in Damascus, and Jerusalem, and we have parallel responses to Saul him in Damascus in Jerusalem, in parallel, things are narrated, he starts preaching people want to kill him, and the disciples have to send him away. Because he's just too outspoken about his faith. He doesn't know how to be quiet about it. We need we need people like that. But we probably also need people to send them away so that he get martyred prematurely. Both can be valuable. But we but thank God for people with zeal for truth. In any case, the response to Saul in Damascus, it his first preaching of Jesus is similar to the response to Jesus opening message and Luke 4. 

Now, it says, in Acts, that all this happened, after many days. Luke doesn't really tell us how many days it was possible. He didn't know it's not like Paul told him everything, Paul wouldn't have given him a blow-by-blow account of every detail. Luke probably didn't write all this down. Exactly when he was with Paul anyway. That's my guess. But also, it's just possible that Luke didn't want to get into it. You know, it was it was Aside from his main point, Luke is going to want to emphasize the Jewish opposition that Paul faced in Damascus, not the specifically Nabataean opposition. We know from Galatians that Paul spent three years, in ancient parlance meant at least parts of three years, so it could have been anywhere from a year and a half to three years in Arabia, Nabataean Arabia. That was the the area where the Nabateans lived. That included the Decapolis. It probably didn't include Damascus in this period over that's a matter of debate, because some of the coins are missing. We don't know exactly who controlled Damascus at this point. But we read in II Corinthians 11:32, about the Nabatean ethnarch, who would have been head probably the Nabatean trading community in Damascus. You didn't have to go too far beyond Damascus to be in the territory of the Nabataean Arabs. The course Paul has a reason to emphasize that in Galatians, because he's going to go on to talk about Mount Sinai in Arabia. 

And in chapter 4 Paul doesn't tell us what he did, among, in Arabia in Galatians, chapter 1, but he probably made some people mad note, when I say Arabia, again, this is the area of the Nabataean Arabs. This isn't and this is Syrian Damascus, not the later Damascus in the Arabian Peninsula. Although the Nabataean Arabs were there as well. But it doesn't say what Saul did, but probably at least part of it with some preaching. Because you apparently have the Nabataean ethnarch angry with them, according to II Corinthians chapter 11. And people could coordinate things I mean, there are a lot of Jewish people living in Nabataea, a lot of Nabateans living in Perea, which was under Herod Antipas' jurisdiction, the Tetrarch of Galilee. So there there were, there were a lot of relations between them, it's not surprisingly, would have teamed up. But Paul mentions, especially the Nabatean opposition, in II Corinthians 11. 

Luke is going to focus on the Jewish opposition, which fits his theme of, you know, the people who had the most opportunity neglected at the most. And we need to make sure we don't do that today as well. But the idea that they would have worked together, it's not surprising, because I mean, even later on, Paul goes to the Jewish Community first. Well, that would have made sense to Jewish people in Nabataea that's where he would have gone first as well. But in any case, he's back in Damascus. Galatians also talks about him being converted near Damascus and having having to escape Damascus, we have in II Corinthians 11. So some of this, we actually have attested by Paul's own letters about his own experience. In any case, Paul experiences parallel responses in Damascus and then in Jerusalem, where he says that he started preaching from there, that's where he counts it in Romans 15, because Jerusalem is the key heart of the place from which the Gospels to go forth in Acts 1:8. 

So in 9:22, Saul is already an expert in scriptures. And look, he had these letters. So you can expect that he's going to be welcomed in the synagogues. He has expertise in the scriptures, his training in the scriptures, probably tertiary level training. Most people in antiquity if they had any training at all, it was elementary level. A few a number had secondary training. Only, you know, the highest level, the people with the most resources got tertiary level training. He knew the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, backward and forward. Well, God often uses parts of your backgrounds. He doesn't always, but he often does. Jesus calls in Luke, Luke 5, Jesus calls disciples, his fishers Mark chapter 1, Matthew, chapter 4 disciples who were fishers became Fishers of people. And Moses and David who were shepherds, well, they had good experience to get them ready to be shepherds of of people. So in this case, God uses the positive aspects of his background. 

Well, eventually, there's a plot that's known to Saul. That's not too surprising, because in antiquity plots usually got leaked. Plots that were hatched within the Roman Senate got leaked, plots from the Sanhedrin got leaked. In fact, Josephus there were a few people working in this in the Sanhedrin with a plot against Josephus, and Josephus is one of his friends heard about it and came and told him about it, so he was ready. So, word often got out about plots. People were watching the gates day and night, the gates were closed at night, the gate area could be pretty wide, but the gates were closed at night. So that would limit those exiting to a very small, very small exits at the gates. So Saul doesn't dare try to escape that way. The Nabataean ethnarch has people against him. And according to Luke, the Jewish community there in Damascus, which is pretty sizable, also had people watching the gates. So, this passage in II Corinthians 11:32, and 33, both mentioned that he escaped from the wall. 

Houses were sometimes built in the city walls. The tradition, the traditional side of Ananias's house, actually is in the Nabatean quarter built on the wall. Now that tradition may have arisen from putting together some things here, but it may also it may have also been something with the Christian community, they are preserved. So he was let down from the basket in a wall. Normally, windows even on homes that were that were on walls would be very high up so that people couldn't break in something. Now, this would not arouse as much suspicion there were probably people living outside the city walls. Most cities grew beyond the walls. But they wouldn’t be too shocked to see a basket coming down the wall because people you know, it was it was easier than carrying something around and night you know, when the gates are closed, somebody could lower a basket with things in it. But in any case, where did Saul and his his friends get this idea? Well, this biblical precedent for it, Joshua 2:15. Remember Rahab let the spies down from her house on the wall. In I Samuel 19:12, David knew that technique as well. And his wife, Michal, let him down from the wall. 

Chapter 9:26-27. He went to the Apostles in Jerusalem. Initially everybody was afraid of him. But Barnabas is really we see God using different personalities in the book of Acts. Barnabas is the kind of person who reaches out to people Son of Encouragement. The apostles called him. Later on, he does that in Antioch. And still later he wants to do that with John Mark. Saul is so zealous for the mission the mission comes first. We need both Barnabases and Sauls you know sometimes we don't get along at certain times like happened there. But God uses our respective gifts. My wife is probably more of a Barnabas and I'm more of a more of a Paul in some ways, but the Lord uses both of us and we're complementary. 

In any case, he reached out, he introduced who took them and introduced him to the apostles. Well, Luke is being very concise. Paul's own writings tell us that the only ones he really got to know they're among the apostles with Peter, and James, the Lord's brother, on this occasion. But in any case, the things that are happening to him, he's debating with Hellenist Jews, they're wanting to put him to death. This is the same thing that happened to Stephen, remember. Saul was also a member of the synagogue and now they're wanting to silence him. So he appears headed for martyrdom, just like Stephen, and this build suspense in the narrative, especially for first time here are the book of Acts when doubtedly had heard of Paul, but might not have heard of Saul. 

So they sent him away to Tarsus. Now, this fits what Paul says that he is early days he spent time and in the regions of Syria, which would include Damascus, and Cilicia, which certainly included Tarsus. So he sent away to Tarsus, he probably has relatives there, at least possibly have some relatives there. His family may have moved to Jerusalem, or they may have just sent him there. But we know that his nephew lives there later on. But he probably, or at least possibly had some relatives in Tarsus, or at least some people that he would know about, that he could be in touch within Tarsus, that's where he had been born. And he stayed there for a long time. This may have been one of the places that he describes in II Corinthians 11, where he received beatings in the synagogue, we don't know where he got all these beatings. But we do know, from the book of Acts, that it was a long time, before he's actually sent out from the church in Antioch, he doesn't even get to Antioch, yet. 

It was probably a number of years after his conversion, and his calling, before he really was able to enter into the heart of his mission. That doesn't mean he didn't start preaching beforehand. But before he was able to really see the fulfillment of what he'd been called to do, or the beginning of the fulfillment of what he'd been called to do, sometimes today, we have people, you know, you're called, you're zealous, I was this way, as a young Christian. I wanted to go straight out and preach; I didn't want to get training. You know, I was reading 40 chapters of the Bible a day, you know, so I was learning the Bible pretty well. Although after a while, I began to realize some I need some cultural background, I'd really like to learn Greek and Hebrew, and, and so on. But initially, I just wanted to go out and preach, I didn't want to get training. Not all of us have equal access to training. Not all training is equally useful, or equally good. But my point is just the call doesn't always mean, right now you're going to fulfill everything you're called to do. The call gives you a direction, it doesn't usually even give you all the details of what you're called to do. I'm still discovering some of the things the Lord spoke to me years ago. Oh, that's what that means. This makes perfect sense. But in any case, don't be discouraged, if some of the things the Lord has called you to do, you haven't been able to do yet. And you know, you're following what the Lord wants you to do. The Lord often has time when he's getting this ready and different ways for a calling. So you know, where you're headed, you keep headed there, and at the right time you do it. Until then, keep in mind, that's your calling, and you're preparing to do it. So people who who need to spend time in school or whatever to fulfill their calling, it's alright. 

So the narrative is going to go back and forth between Paul and Peter. And it's going to stay on Peter for the rest of the chapter. And then all of Chapter 10. Chapter 9:32, through chapter 9:43. We read about continuing miracles through Peter. And Peter follows in the footsteps of Philip going to the places where Philip is preached. And he ends up in Lydda in verse 32 of chapter 9. Lydda was about 25 miles or 40 kilometers northwest of Jerusalem. So he's not staying in Jerusalem all the time now, even though there are other apostles there. It was about 11 miles or so. 17 and a half kilometers from Joppa that appears in verse 36, Joppa and Lydda were the major Jewish coastal cities. Caesarea was an even more major coastal city, but it was it had more Gentiles so we wouldn't call it a distinctively Jewish city. The Jewish residents wanted to call it Jewish. The gentile said no, this is our city, and they clashed over that issue. But Joppa and Lydda were Jewish controlled cities on the coast. 

Chapter 9:35. Sharon is the coastal plain. And Lydda was on the southern end of the, of the coastal plain. Now, when all of Lydda and Sharon turn to the Lord, after a miracle takes place there, Peter says, Aeneas, Jesus heals you. And this man has been bedridden is healed. Aeneas, by the way, of course, this is a it's a name in the Iliad, and was considered the ancestor of the Trojans, or sorry, it was a Trojan it was an ancestor of the Romans. But a lot of Greek and Roman names were used by a lot of diaspora Jews. So that's not too surprising, but all of Lydda and Sharon, this coastal plain, they turned to the Lord. Now, Luke and others sometimes use hyperbole, but the Christian presence was so strong, that in the second century, observers noted that there was still there still a very strong Christian presence in Lydda. 

Verse 36, Jaffa, Jaffa Tel Aviv today. Jaffa was a profitable port city. It was about 30 miles 48 kilometers south of Caesarea. It was under Jewish control until it came under direct Roman authority in the year 6. So it had a history of Jewish control. And there was still a strong Jewish population in this site. Tabitha was there. She's also called Dorcas. Tabitha is Semitic for gazelle. Dorcas is Greek for gazelle. So she's just going by her name in a couple of different languages. I have friends who do that as well. She's also a benefactor or benefactress. We do know of women patrons in antiquity and inscriptions. Women didn't usually have as much money as men, but sometimes they did. And they donated their money to important causes or provided for important causes. About 1/10 of patrons in antiquity, in the inscriptions that, at least according to current estimates, were women patrons. She may have been the benefactor of the widows mentioned in verse 41. She's been providing for them, and they're all mourning her. They have a very close relationship while she's died. And the Jewish dead were always washed before burial, that was the custom. Now women could wash either men's corpses or women’s corpses. But the women's corpses only women could prepare women's bodies for burial. And this was partly because of Jewish male teachers concern for men, lusting after women's bodies. 

And in verse 38, they send to Peter and they want him to hurry. And he really does have to hurry because burial was normally done before sunset, on the same day, remember Ananias and Sapphira very, very quickly, burial was normally to be before sunset and same day, so it was very urgent. There were 11 miles or 17.5 kilometers, between Joppa and Lydda. So that that could be about four hours travel, each direction is pretty good pace. So they have to hurry to get to him to bring message to him. And he has to basically drop everything and go with them very quickly. In verse 39, he arrives there. Tabitha is is laid in Upper Rooms were usually small, the one in chapter 1 was probably not but usually, they were small. Often, they were built on flat rooftops. And we have some other sources from antiquity that talk about bodies being prepared there. In fact, an upper room was also mentioned in some of the some of the other stories about raisings in the in the Old Testament and also The falling from a from a higher floor with Eutychus when he gets raised in in Acts chapter 20. But well to do Roman matrons had maids to take care of some of the things that are mentioned in verse 39. But they were still responsible for seeing to it that it was done. 

Verse 40 the, the widows were mourning. They've been showing Peter. Its pathos. It's inviting a response from Peter, in verse 40. Peter goes into the body; the body would have been covered before Peter was brought into the room. But Peter sends the others out, just like in II Kings 4:33, where Elisha wants nobody else there for the raising of the of the Shulamite son. I have, a one of the people that we know, in Congo, John Nabeala deacon of the Evangelical Church of Congo, tells the story of Marie, who was from one of the outlying areas, and Marie was dying of malaria. She had a fever, for it had been so many days before she had eaten since she'd eaten or drunk anything. And so they they brought the brought the body into Dolisie, which was the nearest sizable town trying to get it to the hospital. But while she was in Dolisie, she died. And the taxis were on strike that day, there was no way to get her to the hospital, and they didn't have any money to take her to the hospital in any case.  And so they brought the heard that there was this prayer meeting going on at Mama John's home. So they brought her to Mama John's home. And laid her on a prayer mat there. And Mama John's assistant Delphine said, Take this body away. This is not the place you can’t bring a body here. This is a this is our place of prayer. And Mama John said, No, let's, let's, let's pray. She felt the Lord preparing her for a long time for something really dramatic. And so she they brought the body inside. And she said, Okay, everybody who's not part of this prayer group, you go out, following, following the same model, and they went out. But they were they were peeking in the window. And so she said, what's her name, and the people who are peeking in the window, said Marie.  And so she felt led to call Marie's name, as she was praying for her. And Marie came back to life and still alive, last I heard. 

In any case, so we have this account here, where, Elisha, it's done similarly to Elijah raising the Shunamite’s son, and in some other respects, similar to Elijah, raising the widow of Zarephath's son. And you could be speaking of widow’s sons, you can also think of the widow of Nain's son in Luke 7. There, I actually made a chart in my Acts commentary paralleling some of the different accounts. The parallels aren't there with all of them. But there are enough parallels to see that Luke where he has access to details that match some of the details in the Old Testament who wants to record them. And of course, in some of these details, Peter and others would have liked to follow them themselves. And Peter had been present when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter, had been present when the widow of Nain’s son was raised. It's not surprising that Quadratus, an early Christian apologist in the early second century, probably is in his old age when he writes this, but he says, into our own time, some of those that Jesus raised from the dead, lived on into our own time. So in the into a time when he was Quadratus was alive. And since Jesus raised some children from the dead, that would make sense. But in any case, Peter sends the others out. And then he prays, and in verses 41, and 42, Tabitha arise, and then he presents her alive to the widows. Just like in I Kings chapter 17 Elijah presents the child to the widow of the widow of Zarephath and in II Kings 4 Elisha presents the child to the Shunamite woman. And in Luke 7 in verse 15, you have it with with the widow of Nain's  son. 

Well, after this, we have a verse that is transitional. But it also makes a very, very, very important point that I think many of Luke's readers, or Luke's hearers would have caught. They say, Here's because usually one person would read and the others would listen, they didn't have enough copies for everybody, and most people back then couldn't read anyway. So there was a he was staying in the house of one, Simon, the tanner. Simon again, being a common name one of the most common names of this period. Simon was a Greek name, but it was often used for Jewish people. They liked that name, because it was also a patriarchal name. Simeon was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. So it had become one of the most common names in this period. But tanners were associated with strong odors. You were tanning hides from dead animals. So they lived outside cities. They weren't allowed to live inside the city limits because the neighbors would cause trouble. Later, rabbis even went so far as to say that wives could divorce tanner's if they couldn't stand the smell. Well, many were more lenient. However, if the tannery was near water, as it is here, this is a Jewish Tanner, and so he's doing it near the sea. This is a coastal coastal town. But what it shows us is that Peter is not being as particular, of course, he had handled dead fish a lot himself, but he's not being as particular, as some very conservative Jews, among his contemporaries, would have been. And that’s going to be helpful, because he's about to be in for the shock of his life, as he sent not just to a tanner, not just a Samaritans, but to a Gentile. And not just any kind of Gentile, but somebody who works for the Roman military. 

In Caesarea of all places, where Syrian auxiliaries in the Roman military often did not get along very well with the Jewish community that lived there. Starting with Acts chapter 10, and just introducing Acts chapter 10, we're going to have paired visions paired visions of Cornelius, and Simon Peter. And those are similar to the paired visions you have of Paul or Saul and Ananias, back in chapter 9:12, this is something that's going to be confirmed. And this is a very strategic central transitional section in the book of Acts, because we have very few things that are narrated three times in the book of Acts. But Saul's conversion is one of them. It's narrated in Acts chapter 9. It's narrated in Acts chapter 22, by Paul himself. It's narrated by Paul himself again in Acts chapter 26. Well, Cornelius, his conversion is narrated here. It's narrated, again, by Peter, telling you more briefly to the Jerusalem church in chapter 11. And it's narrated again by Peter in chapter 15, briefly, as he's appealing to it as precedent on in support of what's happening among the Gentiles. So this occurs in Caesarea Maritima.

Caesarea Maritima was the largest Judean city. It's where the Roman governor stayed. Jerusalem was a very uncomfortable place for him, but there were a lot more Gentiles and Caesarea Maritima Caesarea Maritima is not the same as Caesarea Philippi that you read about, say in Matthew 16, or Mark 8. Caesarea Maritima was originally called Stratos tower. It was renamed by Herod the Great, Herod built the best Harbor on the Judean coast. The significant part of it remains to this day we still have monuments; archaeologists have studied it. That the theatre in Caesarea seated about 4000 people. So by usual estimates at least currently, people often estimate the city's population at about 10 times the size of a theater. Not everybody was a resident and not everybody would not sorry, not every resident would would be a citizen. And not every citizen necessarily always showed up at the theater. But this might mean that the city had maybe 40,000 people or something. But it was it was the most significant of the cities on the coast. It was the residence of the Roman governor of Judea. And also the Roman governor had a lot of troops there. 

There were five auxiliary cohorts, plus cavalry. A cohort consisted of 480 to 600 troops in this period. This was a period of transition. So it depends some cohorts may have been for at some may have been 600. 5 cohorts there another cohort in Jerusalem. A Legion was made of 10 cohorts, and altogether had about 6000 troops. But the Syrian soldiers there the auxiliaries were mainly local recruits. In fact, even in legions by this period, a lot of them were local. They were from the local region, they would be Syrians, although they would be Roman citizens. But among the auxiliary troops, mainly Syrians, they have half of a legion just in Judea, most of them here in Caesarea except for the cohort in Jerusalem. The Syrian soldiers often sided with the Syrian other Syrian residents, as opposed to the Jewish residents of the of the city, something about which the Jewish residents often complained. And the Syrian residents were very attached to the local area. Some of them may be from the local area, and others certainly became attached to it with concubines or so on. In practice, maybe wives, although you weren't really allowed to marry during your 20 years of service. 

Centurions Cornelius is a Centurion. The century consisted of about 80 troops. And you know the name is is a century you think it's 100 but that was the paper strength was about 80, 80 men. Unlike Tribune’s, or legates, who were normally from the aristocracy, they were these were basically political offices when would work one's way up through through these higher ranks straight straight out of Rome. But unlike the the aristocrats, who got those offices, tribunes commanding Legion, commanding legions and cohorts, the Greek term for this was Achilli Arch commander of 1000 troops, again, that's a paper strength. But usually, Centurions just work their way up through the ranks. So you'd have some Roman aristocrats who might become centurions, but most of them started as soldiers. And by the end of their 20 years of service, or maybe they chose to stay longer, they became Centurions. This group is called the Italian cohort. That doesn't mean that they were all brought here from Italy. The original cohort may have been from Italy but may be made up mainly of Syrians. Now, we do have evidence for this not not in the particular years of this range, because we have very limited evidence. But we do have it from this period. The Italian cohort is known in Judea in the year 69. It's attested there, archaeologically. 

Cornelius was probably retired by the War of 66 to 70, because you'd retire at the age of 60, from the Roman military, if not before then, because, you know, 20 years of service, they normally were enlisted at the age of 18. So well before that, but Cornelius, surely would have retired, would have had to have retired by the age of 60. So he's not really involved in the Judean Roman war that may have taken place, but the time that Luke may be writing. I'll say just a little bit more about military service. And then we'll be ready for the transition into talking more about Cornelius. 

Military service was a preferred occupation. Although only probably roughly half of the enlisters survived a full 20 years of service, so it was taking a big risk for mages. Sorry, I said between ages 17 to 37. Normally, their enlistment became 25 years later in the first century, but in this period, it was still 20 years. Noncitizens could not join legions, but they could join the auxiliary troops. And that was very useful if you if you survived, especially if you were not in a heavy-duty military conflict. Auxiliary troops received Roman citizenship at their discharge. And that was a particular privilege. Particularly prestigious, if you lived in the eastern Mediterranean world where sometimes even many of the Civic officials did not have Roman citizenship yet in this period. But they would also have to swear oaths of allegiance to the Divine emperor. That was one reason why you didn't have Jewish people serving in the Roman military. 

We read about soldiers elsewhere in Luke Acts. Luke's Luke seems to if anything, go out of his way to value them.  Luke 3, we have soldiers who are saying to John the Baptist, well, what must we do? And John says Don't cheat anybody. Don't use your position in exploitive or abusive way. Because they could see okay, you have to let me use your donkey you have to let me use your they had. They had the weapons they could later on in Acts and Acts 27. We'll see that Julius the centurion, who's accompanying Paul to Rome gets passage for them on ships and he can, he can have food provided for them, because, you know, he's a soldier, and he is representative of Rome. They had their sometimes they exploited it used it to get things for themselves. In Luke 7, we have a centurion who is God fearing. In Luke chapter 23. The centurion at the cross who confesses Jesus is an innocent man. Acts chapter 27 is where you have the centurion, Julius, you also have centurions, taking care of Paul and Acts 24, and so forth. 

So, Luke, maybe teaching us about the Prince of Peace. In fact, there's that announcement that that contrasts with the Emperor Augustus in Luke 2. Augustus has this tax census people go to go back to places where they own property to answer the census. And you have this contrast because the mighty Emperor he was, he was hailed as Lord. He was hailed as Savior and as a God. And he was hailed as the bringer of the Pax Romana, the Roman peace which was really nothing but a legal fiction because he claimed the conquered the known world. And everybody knew they hadn't conquered Parthia, their archenemies they hadn't conquered the Nubians. They hadn’t conquered the Germans. They hadn't even conquered the Britons yet. But in any case, he was hailed as the bringer of peace. 

And then you have these shepherds, who were considered low class. They were normally despised by elite people. The shepherds who are informed by the angels, Lord and the host of heaven, about the true and greatest king, who has been born in an animal feeding trough. And this king that the Promised One of him it said to you is born this day, a Savior. The real Savior was Christ, the real Lord on earth, peace, goodwill towards humanity. And when Peter is preaching to Cornelius, he's going to speak of Jesus who went about preaching peace. Well, Romans like to hear that. But Romans were not expanding their empire normally by peaceful means, they'd normally expanded it by conquest, as Claudius would be doing in Britain soon after this. They, Jesus was a prince of peace. And yet, talking about peace didn't mean that they didn't care about people who were in military service. Those people were loved by God. Luke obviously does care about them. He tells us a lot about have them and the good news is about to go to this not only soldier, but this officer in the Roman military.  

Announcer - This is Dr. Craig Keener in his teaching on the book of Acts. This is session number 12 on Acts chapter 9 

Last modified: Monday, August 21, 2023, 12:34 PM