Luke sure can turn a phrase | Luke 3:19-20


But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
Luke 3:19-20

Ohh, that’s a nice literary turn of phrase. “Speaking of all the evil things he had done, he added to them by imprisoning John.”

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

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Paul is slow; Acts has gaps| Acts 28.1-11


After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it…. Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days…. They bestowed many honors on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed.

Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead.
Acts 28.1-2,7,10-11

Three months!? That’s a long time! Good lord, what were they doing?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Paul must’ve been pretty irritating | Acts 27.21-26


Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.”
Acts 27.21-26

Good lord,  Paul must have been so freaking annoying. I hope to live up to my namesake, haha.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Justice, Self-Control, & Judgment| Acts 24.24-25


Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.”
Acts 24.24-25

These are very odd, very specific things. It’s funny that these things shook him so much to the core. I wonder what it was specifically that was enough for Luke to include this? Was the Justice Paul talked about more along the lines of the wrath of God, or more like equality in society and Social Justice (that would surely shake a wealthy local governor!). It was probably something like the fact that God would make all things right someday. Maybe the judgment piece made him scared? But either way, personally, I find it interesting that the one that scares me the most is the call to self control.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

We are descendants of the Covenant| Acts 3.24-26


And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Acts 28.23-31

In this, we see that we, the New Covenant People of God, are still members of the covenant that’s been in effect the whole time: the Abrahamic Covenant. It is not done away with; only brought under a new administration: that of Christ.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Paul’s ministry thesis & maybe Theophilus’ identity? | Acts 28.23-31


After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,

‘Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.’

Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him,31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Acts 28.23-31

What a thesis statement for all of Paul’s ministry and the books of Luke: the hard-heartedness of the Jews and the inclusion of the Gentiles. Perhaps this was a main reason why Luke wrote both of these books to the mysterious Theophilus. Maybe he wrote these to offer assurance to this Gentile man (as evidenced by his Roman name) of his inclusion in the mission and salvation of God.

On a side note, it’s odd that this statement of the Gentile inclusion in the family of God (throughout Paul’s preaching) rests primarily on the a story of the preaching ministry of Paul. It’s well-known that Luke draws literary parallels between Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and Paul in Acts. But since this was being written to Theophilus, and these writings about Paul seem to rest on an implied authority and trust that it seems Theophilus would have had in Paul (if he said it, then it must be true), then could this be a hint that Theophilus met Paul at some point or even that Paul was the one that converted him?

Just a thought. A pure, conjectural thought.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Have yourself a biblical critical Christmas


Nativity-logosSorry, this post isn’t about the pessimism and critical irony that can sometimes mark how we engage in this time of year. When I use the phrase “biblical criticism”, I’m referring to (as Wikipedia says) the  “[scholarly] study and investigation of biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings”.

Last year, I wrote about how the story of the Wise Men can inform our doctrine of the Bible. This Advent, I want to do a brief series where we use the tools of scholarly observation to look at each of the two Nativity compositions (yeah, only two out of four gospels have them) and see each of them on their own terms.

For millennia, the birth narratives of Jesus Christ in the Gospels have captivated readers both within and without the Christian faith. Their reading and meditation form the beginning of the Christian Church calendar, and their theological implications of Incarnation form the foundation of nearly all of the distinctives of the Christian faith.
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