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Book of Acts Chapter 28 - Christogenea Internet Radio 01-24-2014
The end of Acts chapter 27 left us at the end of a shipwreck, as after several weeks of struggling through apparently early Winter storms, the ship carrying Paul, Luke and Aristarchus is finally run aground on an island. The nature of the wreck indicates to us the size of the ship, as evidently it could not get very close to the shore since the men had to make a swim for it, and they were not certain whether they could all make it safely. One manuscript, the Codex Vaticanus, tells us that 76 people were on board, and the Codex Alexandrinus tells us 275, however the preponderance of the manuscripts tell us that there were 276 men on board the ship. Some of these were crewmen, and some were soldiers in the company of the centurion, Julius.
There were, ostensibly, more prisoners on board than the three which Luke names, which are himself, perhaps, and also Aristarchus and Paul. We can imagine the possibility that Luke was a prisoner, as some of his language indicates, since he never tells us explicitly that he is. While in his second epistle to Timothy Paul seems to infer that Luke's presence with him was voluntary, that is not necessarily the case. Although Rome certainly seems to have been much more liberal in its attitude concerning public contact with prisoners than the modern tyrannies are, it seems that Luke would never have been able to have been Paul's constant companion throughout this ordeal if he were not also a prisoner.
In any event, Acts chapter 27 is further illustration of the provenance of God in the lives and actions of men, which is an underlying theme of the narrative throughout the Book of Acts, and of course Acts chapter 28 continues to teach that same lesson.
XXVIII 1 And arriving safely then we learned that the island is called Melita, 2 and the barbarians exhibited no common kindliness to us, for igniting a fire, they assisted all of [A wants “all of”] us on account of the pressing rain and on account of the cold.
The Codex Vaticanus (B) has Melitena rather than Melita, which may be dismissed as a scribal error. Today the island is called Malta, and while it is mentioned by Strabo in his Geography (6.2.11 and 17.3.16), he does not say much about the place except that from there “come the little dogs called Melitaean”. These dogs, also mentioned by Aristotle and Aelian, were kept as pets and were probably akin to some of the modern European lapdogs. The University of Pennsylvania museum has examples of a Greek vase from the 5th century BC which depicts a Maltese dog. Malta was also famous for honey, and the name Melita comes from the Greek word for honey, which is μέλι.
The point in illustrating the domestication of these Maltese dogs and their appearance throughout ancient Greece and Rome is that even though these people were called “barbarians” by Luke, they certainly were not savages. They would be called barbarians only if they did not speak Greek and share in Greek customs. Liddell & Scott define the word βάρβαρος (915) as “barbarous i.e. not Greek, foreign … From the Augustan age however the name was given by the Romans to all tribes which had no Greek or Roman accomplishments.” And so the word here does not necessarily imply that these people were aboriginals, or savages, or non-Whites.
Diodorus Siculus says of Melita, which is the modern Malta, that it “...lies about eight hundred stades from Syracuse [or perhaps 78 miles from the famous city which was on the southeast coast of Sicily], and it possesses many harbours which offer exceptional advantages, and its inhabitants are blest in their possessions; for it has artisans skilled in every manner of craft...and the dwellings on the island are worthy of note, being ambitiously constructed with cornices and finished in stucco with unusual workmanship. This island is a colony planted by the Phoenicians, who, as they extended their trade to the western ocean, found in it a place of safe retreat, since it was well supplied with harbours and lay out in the open sea; and this is the reason the inhabitants of this island, since they received assistance in many respects through the sea-merchants, shot up quickly in their manner of living and increased in renown.” (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 5.12.2-3, Loeb Library, translation by C. H. Oldfather.) Diodorus wrote a little over a century before Paul’s voyage, and from his account it is evident that Luke used the word barbarian to describe these people in the linguistic sense, and not in the cultural sense.
3 And upon Paul’s gathering some number of sticks and setting them upon the fire, a viper coming out from the heat attached to his hand.
Luke doesn't tell us whether any others from the shipwreck were assisting in the fire-building, however it is evident that his narrative is nearly always focused upon Paul. This passage is explained once it is realized that Paul's eyesight was very poor. Paul's condition was mentioned in his epistle to the Galatians in chapter 4 where he says “13 Now you know that in sickness of the flesh I had announced the good message to you earlier, 14 and of my trial in my flesh you did not despise or loathe, but as a messenger of Yahweh you accepted me, like Yahshua Christ. 15 Then what is your blessing? I testify to you that, if possible, your eyes being extracted you would have given them to me.” There we learn that Paul's eyes were the cause of his “trial in the flesh”. Then at the end of the epistle (Galatians 6:11) he writes his own salutation, as he did in many of his letters, but there he asks “Do you see, in how large letters I have written to you in my own hand?” In that manner he confirms the earlier testimony of his poor eyesight. The epistle to the Galatians was written several years before Paul's voyage to Rome.
Wanting to help, Paul lifted a bundle of sticks and placed them onto the fire. A viper, surely from that same bundle of sticks and which Paul did not see, then sprung out from that bundle and attached itself to Paul, thereby avoiding the fire.
4 And as the barbarians saw the beast hanging from his hand, they said to each other “This man is absolutely a murderer, who passing safely from the sea justice does not allow to live!”
The Maltese saw the snakebite as punishment from a god and a retribution for some terrible crime, imagining that even though Paul escaped the shipwreck, he would not escape justice.
5 So then shaking the beast off into the fire he suffered not any evil, 6 but they were expecting him to be about to become swollen or to suddenly fall down dead. Yet upon their long expecting and observing nothing wrong happening to him, instead they said for him to be a god.
The Greek word μεταβάλλω (3328), which appears only here in the New Testament, is literally “to throw into a different position, to turn quickly...to turn about, change, alter...” (Liddell & Scott). [Tellingly, this is the only place in the New Testament where a change of mind is ever recorded.] Here the word appears as a Participle, for which Liddell & Scott explain that “the participle … is used absolutely, almost like an Adverb instead, in turn...”. The text may be read “changing their position [or their minds] they said for him to be a god”.
In certain truly anti-Christian circles, Paul has been criticized for this account, which is grossly unfair even if he had control of how it was written. Some have criticized Paul for being attacked by the snake, since snakes do not tarry in burning fires. Quick to find contention, they are to ignorant to realize that the snake was evidently avoiding the fire, as it must have been part of that bundle of sticks Paul had conveyed. Others have criticized Paul for the natives' having imagined that he was a god, as if he could also control their thoughts.
Simply because there is no record of Paul's denial that he was a god, does not mean that the denial did not exist. In fact, in a very similar manner, the natives of Lystra of Lycaonia, who were pagans, also imagined Paul and Barnabas to have been gods, as Luke records the incident in Acts chapter 14, after they had miraculously healed a lame man. However in Lystra it is fully evident that Paul and Barnabas found it a disgrace to be considered a god, and denied the assertions of the natives emphatically. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Paul's attitude in this respect would be any different here. Rather, Yahweh God provided yet another miracle that would facilitate the spread of the gospel to the people of Malta by the hand of Paul.
There is also another dynamic here, which is language. The natives being called “barbarians” by Luke, evidently Luke did not understand their native tongue, as Luke was a Greek. However Paul was a learned speaker of what the apostles all referred to as Hebrew, and their language was also the language of ancient Tyre. Ancient Tyre being the mother city of Carthage, the Tyrians, as it can be shown in classical histories such as Herodotus, had a strong relationship with the Carthaginians all the way down to the Persian period, and ostensibly beyond that. Paul may well have been able to talk to these “barbarians” in their native dialect.
7 And among those about that place [referring not to the entire island, but to this area of the island] was an estate which belonged to the leader of the island, named Poplios, who receiving us kindly hosted us for three days.
Poplios is the Greek form, and also the archaic Roman form, of the common Roman name Publius. Whether Poplios himself was a Roman or not cannot be told. The population was generally Phoenician, however Malta was also under Roman rule. The word for “leader” which Luke employed is πρῶτος, which only means first, foremost or superior, and is not a designation of office.
8 And the father of Poplios was laying down, having been stricken with fever and dysentery, to whom Paul entering into and praying for, laying the hands upon him cured him. 9 And upon this happening then [B wants “then”] the rest of those in the island having sicknesses came forth and were healed, 10 who also honored us with many honors and setting sail provided for the things necessary.
Ostensibly, surviving the snakebite and the resulting esteem it gave him among the natives also gave Paul an introduction and opportunity to perform these further wonderful works, which would then lead to the spread of the gospel.
Where Luke says “upon these things happening”, and in the next sentence, in verse 11, “and after three months”, we should see that such language as he uses here in verse 9 is not immediate in its scope. Therefore, in other places in his writing where he uses phrases similar in meaning to this one, where he says “upon these things happening”, neither should they necessarily be interpreted as if they were immediate in scope.
11 And after three months we set sail in an Alexandrian ship which had wintered in the island, with the ensign of the Dioskouri, 12 and landing in Surakousae we stayed three days,
So Paul, Luke and Aristarchus sailed into Italy on a ship that had an insignia which meant “sons of God”, which is what Dioskouri meant in Greek, and which is quite ironic. However from the pagan perspective, the Dioskouri , or more literally the sons of Zeus, were Castor and Polydeuces (or Pollux in Latin), and in legend they were the twin brothers of Helen of Troy, and they were worshiped by both the Greeks and Romans.
At one time Syracuse was the most powerful city of Magna Grecia, as southern Italy and Sicily were referred to in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. It was founded in the late eighth century BC by Dorian Greeks, primarily from Corinth. In ancient times they had great wars with both the Etruscans and the Phoenicians. The Peloponnesian Wars, and then further wars with Carthage throughout the 4th century BC took a great toll on the city, and thereafter it declined. It enjoyed a short revival in the late 3rd century, until it was besieged and taken by the Romans circa 212 BC. Its most famous inhabitant is probably the mathematician, inventor and philosopher, Archimedes.
13 from which coming around we arrived in Rhegion.
The term “coming around” is a reference to Sicily, and Syracuse was on the southeastern shore of the island, while Rhegium was on the mainland, at the very tip of the toe on the imaginary “boot” of Italy, which is east of Sicily and almost directly north of Syracuse.
And after one day upon the south wind’s coming, on the second we came into Potioloi, 14 where finding brethren we were exhorted by them to remain for seven days, and thusly we came into Rome.
Puteoli, the modern Pozzuoli, is a short distance west of Naples and about halfway to Rome from Rhegium. While Luke writes that “we were exhorted by them to remain for seven days”, they were still prisoners, as the verses which immediately follow remind us. The circumstance described here makes manifest the fulfillment of the statement which Paul made not long before the shipwreck, where describing a vision he experienced, he attributes this admonition to a messenger of Yahweh which states: “Do not fear, Paul! It is necessary for you to stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted to you all of those sailing with you!” (Acts 27:24) Here we see that Paul and those with him were able to tarry for a week in Potioloi, where the centurion must have been willing to afford them that time. Therefore it is manifest that the centurion, and most certainly the soldiers with him, were indeed persuaded to Christianity through Paul and the experience which they had suffered in common, along with the testimony of the many things which Yahweh had done through Paul on Malta. Nevertheless, the men had worldly obligations, and in due time those obligations had to be fulfilled.
15 And the brethren from there hearing things about us came for a meeting with us as far as Appios Forum and the Three Inns, whom seeing, Paul giving thanks to Yahweh took courage.
Often called the Forum Appii, which is closer to a transliteration from Latin, the Appios Forum was about 43 miles south of Rome along the Appian Way, and was a connecting point with a canal which ran through the Pontine Marshes. The place was described by Horace, who reportedly said that it was “full of boatmen and cheating innkeepers”. By this we may imagine the reference to the “three inns” to describe a place where there actually were three inns. There are disputes over the exact location of the Three Inns, or Three Taverns, as they were called in Greek and Latin, from words which are the origin of our English word tavern. The disputing sources place the Three Taverns at any one of several points somewhat closer to Rome along the Appian Way. There are other references in ancient Roman literature to the Three Taverns, and there were also other places in Italy known by that name.
16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was permitted to remain by himself with the soldier guarding him.
The Majority Text, in concert with several other earlier Medieval manuscripts which also have the interpolation, has this verse to read: “And when we came into Rome, the centurion handed over the prisoners to the military commander, but Paul was permitted to remain by himself with the soldier guarding him.” The text of the Christogenea New Testament agrees with the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), and the 5th century Codex Vaticanus Graecus (048).
It is evident from Paul's epistles that Aristarchus was with him, and was his “fellow prisoner”, and that Luke was also with him, for at least a great portion of the two years that Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Where Luke says that “Paul was permitted to remain by himself”, Luke's narrative style was to always focus on the central character, and we cannot rule out that Aristarchus and Luke himself had also remained with him.
If we can determine the order in which Paul's epistles are written from the circumstances which seem to be displayed within those epistles, in Ephesians Paul does not mention anyone in his company. Later, in 2 Timothy, Paul states that only Luke is with him, but indicates that there were others in his company who had departed. In Colossians, Luke and Aristarchus are with him, as well as Timothy, Mark and others. Therefore the circumstances clearly changed over Paul's two years in Rome, and we cannot obtain most of the details. We shall discuss these epistles again at the end of this presentation.
17 And it came to pass that after three days there were summoned to him those who were leaders of the Judaeans.
If Paul were alone with a soldier, while it is still possible, it is nevertheless difficult to imagine that he could have done this so quickly, or that Luke could have recorded it so precisely. Rather, Paul may have had others with him, and therefore in verse 16 Luke may have only been distinguishing Paul and his company from other unmentioned prisoners who were with them on the voyage, while focusing his narrative on Paul alone.
And upon their gathering he said to them: “I, brother men, [or literally “I, men, brothers,] doing nothing against the people or the customs of the fathers, have been delivered a captive from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who examining me wished to release me because of there not being any guilt of death in me. 19 But upon the Judaeans’ speaking in opposition I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not as if having anything to accuse my nation of. 20 Therefore for this reason I have summoned you, to see and to speak with you: for because of the hope of Israel I am wrapped in this chain!”
Paul had defined his use of the term Israel and the substance of this hope in his address to Herod Agrippa, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 26 where he said “6 And now for the hope of the promise having been made by God to our fathers I stand being judged, 7 for which our twelve tribes serving in earnest night and day hope to attain, concerning which hope I am charged by the Judaeans....” So we see that Paul was the minister of the gospel to a genetic Israel, the twelve tribes of that same ancient family, and not to any substitute so-called “gentiles”. However in his epistles, in places such as Romans chapter 4, Galatians chapter 4 and 1 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul taught that the Gospel was being carried to the nations which had indeed descended from those same twelve tribes, and the truth of that is made manifest in the study of both the Old Testament and classical history. Paul did not say, in either this passage or in Acts chapter 26, that this hope was to be shared with the “world”, or with “gentiles”, and his meaning of the Greek word for nations must therefore be applied as he described it, and not as innovators would describe it.
Paul defines the “nations” to whom he brought the gospel in Romans chapter 4, as those nations in which Abraham believed: those nations which were promised to come from his loins. Paul defines those same “nations” in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, as “Israel according to the flesh”, as opposed to Israel in name only, or Israel in Palestine. There is no profession of what is now known as universalism in any of Paul's writings.
21 But they said to him “We have not received letters from the Judaeans concerning you, nor have any of the brethren arriving reported or spoken anything bad about you.
We are never explicitly told whether anyone stood against Paul in the court of Nero, or whether Paul was tried on the basis of whatever it was that Festus must have written to Nero concerning him. Much later, where after Paul withstood his first trial before Nero he wrote his letter to the Philippians, Paul mentioned only those who contended with the Gospel and spoke against Christ. He also mentions that trial at the end of his second letter to Timothy.
22 But we think it worthy to hear from you the things which you think, since concerning this sect it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.”
Indeed, approximately 11 years before this time, or around 49 AD, the emperor Claudius issued a decree expelling the Judaeans from Rome, which the Roman historian Suetonius tied to this very dispute amongst the Judaeans, where he said in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Claudius, Part 25: “Since the Judaeans constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [which must have been a reference to Christ], he expelled them from Rome.” This agitation of Judaean Christians by those Judaeans who for one reason or another still opposed Christ must have affected these Roman Judaeans whom Paul addressed here..
23 And arranging a day with him many came into the lodging to him, to whom he affirming [A has “explaining”] exhibited the Kingdom of Yahweh, and persuading them concerning Yahshua both from the law of Moses and the prophets, from early until evening. 24 And indeed some were persuaded by the things being spoken, but some did not believe.
Here it is evident once again that it was the purpose of the Gospel to separate the wheat from the tares. Once more here in Acts, the false “Jew vs Gentile” dichotomy advertised in the denominational sects is shown to be false, as it has been throughout the book, where here it explains that some were indeed persuaded by Paul, and some were not. We have seen this in all of the assembly halls of the Judaeans which Paul had visited, that many accepted the gospel, and those who rejected Christ persecuted those who accepted Christ.
25 And not being in agreement with each other they were released upon Paul’s speaking one word, that “Well did the Holy Spirit speak through Isaiah the prophet to your [the MT has “our”] fathers, 26 saying ‘You must go to this people and say: Hearing you shall hear and should by no means understand, and looking you shall look and should by no means see! 27 For the hearts of this people are grown fat, [א has “made heavy”] and with the ears they hear with difficulty, and their eyes have closed, that at no time should they see with the eyes, and hear with the ears, and understand in their hearts, that they should repent, and I shall heal [E has “may heal”] them.’
Paul's words as they are recorded in verses 26 and 27 are a quote of Isaiah 6:9-10. There are many of our more simple-minded Identity Christian brethren who interpret these words to apply exclusively to the enemies of Christ, that they were not supposed to understand His words. While true in part, it is an over-simplification of the original intent of the message. In order to understand this passage properly, we must consider what it meant in Isaiah's time, when the words were originally written. Here we shall read the chapter from Isaiah, which is rather short, so that we may see the original context in which the words were spoken.
KJV Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah [king of Judah] died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. 9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. 11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 12 And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. 13 But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. [As an aside, I would translate verse 13 differently, where it is speaking about the remnant of Judah returning to the land: “Yet a tenth will return and be kindled: a pillar of oak, in order to be a monument. Because of their felling the holy seed will be a monument.”]
[I had attempted to explain this same thing in a somewhat different manner in my Matthew chapter 13 presentation:]
We know from the prophet Jeremiah (for instance from chapters 2 and 24) and also from Ezekiel (for instance from chapter 16), that Jerusalem at the time of the prophets had a mixed-race population, much like first century Judaea later also had, and for that reason Judah was deemed by Yahweh to consist of both good and bad figs. In truth, Judah had bad figs from the beginning, in the children of Shelah, his son with the Canaanite woman. Yet Isaiah in giving this prophecy concerning blindness was talking to the people in general, and not to any specific group among the people. In our uncleanness we ourselves do not deserve the Truth of the Word of God, as we see in Isaiah chapter 6 verses 5 through 7, the prophet himself imagined that he did not deserve as much. Therefore it is clear that a lot of us, as well as our enemies, are to remain blind as to the purposes of our God. The example here is primarily that Yahweh Himself chooses out from among His people those who shall see and hear and learn His truths. The rest of the people – whether they be His or not, Israel or not, they remain blinded for as long as it is determined by Him. The children of Israel who do not heed the Word of Yahweh when they are called to hear it, those He relinquishes to the enemy. For that reason Paul, speaking of unrepentant sinners, instructs us to turn such men over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh – that their spirits may be saved in the day of Christ. This idea, that even the people of Yahweh remained blind in order that His will is fulfilled, is first expressed in Deuteronomy chapter 29: “2 And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; 3 The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: 4 Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” The children of Israel were delivered from Egypt in spite of themselves, and so it shall be at the end of the age.
The prophet Jeremiah, in chapter 5 of his book, explained the iniquity which resulted from the idolatry committed by the children of Israel, and then later in the chapter he says: “20 Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in Judah, saying, 21 Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: 22 Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it? 23 But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone.” Likewise, from Ezekiel chapter 12: “1 The word of the LORD also came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.”
Now the words of Jeremiah and Ezekiel are relevant to the people of Judah in Jerusalem before they went into Babylonian captivity. However the lessons taught in those books clearly reflect the source of the iniquity of Israel and Judah as being connected to their acceptance of the Canaanites and the idolatry, adultery and fornication which resulted from that acceptance, which is the message of Jeremiah 2 and Ezekiel 16, as well as other passages in those prophets.
From Ezekiel 16: “1 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, 3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.”
From Jeremiah 2: “4 Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: 5 Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? … 11 Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.... 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.... 20 For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. 21 Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me? 22 For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD. 23 How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? … 25 Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go....”
The people of Israel and Judah in ancient times were blinded in their idolatry, having accepted the Canaanites and their gods, something which they were warned would happen to them when they failed to destroy the Canaanites. This is explained in Numbers chapter 33: “ 55 But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.” Later, after they did indeed fail to drive out the Canaanites, the children of Israel were told in Joshua chapter 23: “ 11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God. 12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: 13 Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.”
The “strange slips” which came from out of the “pleasant plant” of Israel described in Jeremiah chapter 2, which were the “broken cisterns” and those who bore an iniquity which could not be cleansed, those are the people who resulted from the race-mixing with the Canaanites that Yahweh warned Israel about in Joshua chapter 23. The blindness of the eyes of the people – both the good figs and the bad – in the time of Jeremiah was the result of those same Canaanites being among them and being thorns in their eyes.
However the people of Judaea at the time of Christ had once again taken all of the Canaanites into their polity, both into their government and into their religion, over 100 years before Christ was born. The high priests at the time of Christ and many of the rulers and chief men of the Judaeans were Edomites, and not Israelites. Therefore, once again and in like manner, the 69th Psalm speaks prophetically about the blindness of the people in direct relation to the suffering of the Christ: “ 21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. 22 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. 23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. 24 Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. 25 Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents. 26 For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded. 27 Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.” The early history of Christianity is the persecution of “him whom thou hast smitten”, meaning Christ. Likewise upon his encounter with Yahshua Paul was asked “Why do you persecute Me?”
Furthermore, on more than one occasion Yahshua Christ Himself had quoted this same passage of Isaiah in reference to blindness of the people of Jerusalem when He preached to them, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 13 and in John chapter 12. In Matthew 13, after speaking of the blindness of the people and quoting this same passage from Isaiah, Christ was recorded as having then taught a series of parables which were all related to the issue of race. The parable of the good seed which is corrupted by the wicked and choked by the thorns, the parable of the net and the good and bad kinds of fish, and the parable of the wheat and the tares, amongst others.
Yet where Christ quoted the same passage again, as it is recorded in John chapter 12, it is even more revealing when it is seen in the context that the apostle portrayed: “37 Now having made so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 in order that the word of Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled, which says: “Yahweh, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?” 39 For this reason they have not been able to believe, because again Isaiah said: 40 “He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, that they should not see with the eyes and perceive with their hearts and turn about, that I shall heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he had seen His honor, and had spoken concerning Him. 42 Yet likewise even many of the leaders believed in Him, but on account of the Pharisees they would not profess it lest they would be expelled from the assembly hall, 43 for they cherished the honor of men more than even the honor of Yahweh.”
The enemies of Christ were those same enemies of Yahweh God in the Old Testament: the Edomites and Canaanites who infiltrated Judaea just as they had infiltrated ancient Israel, and were identified by Jeremiah as bad figs. These enemies of Christ had gained political control of Judaea nearly a hundred years before the time of Christ. As it is evident in John chapter 12, the people of God who are the bedfellows of God's enemies would rather keep the comforts of their lives than risk those comforts for their God. Their “going along to get along” was a reflection of that blindness which facilitated the crucifixion of Christ, but which resulted in salvation for all of Israel. Israel is blind because they accept the persons of the ungodly, which the 86th Psalm upbraids the children of God for doing. Again, Israel is delivered in spite of themselves. However those Judaeans who continued to reject the Gospel of Christ after His crucifixion were eventually all consumed by the “bad figs” of Judaea, good seed choked by the thorns, and they eventually all became race-mixed with the Canaanites and Edomites.
28 Therefore it must be known by you, that to the Nations is this salvation of Yahweh sent, and they shall listen!”
The Majority Text inserts at the end of this verse the text which has become verse 29 in the King James Version, but which is not included in the Christogenea New Testament: “And upon his saying these things the Judaeans departed having a great dispute among themselves.” The text here, which wants verse 29, agrees with the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Laudianus (E), and Vaticanus Graecus (048).
Paul is not telling the Judaeans here that the gospel was being sent to the Nations because the Judaeans rejected the gospel. Many of the Judaeans here accepted what Paul had said. In truth, Christ had commissioned the apostles nearly 30 years beforehand to bring the gospel to the Nations, as it is explained in Matthew chapter 28, and explained by the apostle John in John chapter 11. Rather, the gospel was sent to the Nations because the Nations to which the gospel was sent were the dispersed nations of the children of Israel who were reconciled to God upon the death and resurrection of Christ, and that is what Paul taught in all of his epistles to those Nations! However Paul did not teach the gospel of Christ to the Ionians at Athens (in Acts chapter 17) or to the Lycaonians at Lystra (in Acts chapter 14) because those nations were not of Israel, and therefore it is manifest that the gospel is not intended for non-Israelite nations!
Furthermore, the fact that the gospel was therefore sent “to the Nations” does not ever preclude the fact that those nations to whom it was sent were the dispersion of ancient Israel. As Paul attested in Acts chapter 26, the hope for which he struggled was the hope of the “twelve tribes”, and the remnant of Judah at Jerusalem was just that, a mere remnant of Judah. It was 800 years before Paul's time when the vast majority of the people of both Israel and Judah were carried off into Assyrian captivity, and roughly 640 years before his time the remainder, being descended only from those inhabitants of Jerusalem who were left behind by the Assyrians, were carried off into Babylonian captivity. The people of Judaea were descended only in part from a small portion of this later group, which had returned in the Persian period. Even long before the Assyrian captivity, many Israelites had departed from the main body of the nation and had emigrated to Europe and other destinations. From as early as the time of the Exodus, Israelites were founding colonies abroad, from among whom sprung the Romans and many, but not all, of the Greeks.
30 And he abode for two whole years in his own hired house and received all those coming in to him, 31 proclaiming the Kingdom of Yahweh and teaching the things concerning the Prince Yahshua Christ [א want “Christ”] with all freespokenness unhindered.
Paul proclaimed the kingdom of Yahweh, and Luke defines the expectation of that Kingdom at the beginning of Acts, where in Acts 1:6 he records the apostles as having asked the risen Christ “Prince, then at this time shall You restore the Kingdom to Israel?” Luke's record of Christ's answer does not deny that the kingdom would be restored to Israel, but only that when that happens is not for the apostles to know. It certainly shall happen, as the words of Christ Himself attest in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.
Presenting Acts chapters 18 through 20, we discussed where Paul had written each of seven of his surviving epistles which were written while he was a free man. Doing that, I missed the epistle to Titus, having taken my own failed memory for granted. Paul had therefore written eight of his surviving epistles while he was free. From the end of Titus, where Paul explains that he had decided to winter in Nicopolis, it is evident that this letter was written as he departed from Ephesus en route to Makedonia, to visit there for the second time in his ministry, at Acts chapter 20, verse 1. For some unknown reason, Paul had hoped to find Titus in the Troad, and when he did not, he sent for him, which is evident at the end of the epistle and in an epistle which Paul had written a short time later, in 2 Corinthians chapter 2. Paul's having left Titus in Crete must have occurred at a much earlier time, and the only opportunity seems to have been during the trip which he had made to Caesareia and Antioch which was mentioned in Acts 18:22. This also seems to lend further credibility to the idea that this Titus is the Justus, as some manuscripts call him Titos (א, E) or Titios (B) Ioustus, who is first mentioned in Acts 18:7. The events at this point in Paul's ministry are very sparsely recorded, and we see people, namely Zenas and Artemas, mentioned in the epistle to Titus who are not mentioned anywhere else. I apologize for the oversight, however it serves to justify the many assertions made throughout this series, that the Book of Acts is a very incomplete book, and only parts of the history which it incompletely narrates can be filled in from the epistles of Paul. Titus was with Paul in Rome at some point before 2 Timothy was written, where Paul states that he had gone off to Dalmatia.
The first epistle to the Thessalonians was, no doubt, the earliest of Paul's surviving epistles and was written in Corinth (Acts 18, 1 Thessalonians 3:6). The second epistle to the Thessalonians followed the first in short time and was very likely also written from Corinth during Paul's long sojourn there. The epistle to the Galatians was written during Paul's stay in Antioch which is described in Acts 18:22-23, where he also had his final meeting with Peter described in Galatians chapter 2. It could not have been written before that time. Paul visited the Galatians soon thereafter, and his epistle reflects an anticipation to visit them in its fourth chapter (4:18, 20). The epistle which we know as 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8, 19), during the three-year period that Paul stayed in Ephesus described in Acts chapter 19. The epistle to Titus was written as Paul journeyed from Ephesus to Makedonia through the Troad, and the second epistle to the Corinthians was written as Paul journeyed from Makedonia to visit Achaia for the last time, and before he reached Corinth for his final visit there. The first epistle to Timothy was written from Greece around this same time, as the circumstances indicate in conjunction with Paul's own comment at 1 Timothy 1:3. Finally, the epistle to the Romans was written from the Troad, during Paul's stay there described at the beginning of Acts chapter 20, which is evident from both the lists of men who were with Paul provided in Acts 20 and Romans 16, and also from Paul's comments concerning his ministry and his plans to visit Rome which were made in Romans chapter 15 (15:22-28).
The other six of Paul's surviving epistles were all written while he was in bonds, five of them from Rome and one, the epistle to the Hebrews, was ostensibly written while Paul was under arrest in Caesareia. Hebrews was written from Caesareia (Hebrews 13:23), or Timothy as well as Aristarchus would have been mentioned as going with Paul to Rome.
However it cannot be taken for granted that we have all of Paul's epistles. In 1 Corinthians 5:9 Paul mentions a previous letter which he had written to them, which is apparently now lost. In Colossians 4:16, one of the letters written from Rome, we see that Paul had also written an epistle to the Laodiceans, and Laodicea was not far from Colossae. This epistle is also lost. It would not be fantastic to imagine that Paul had written many more epistles during his ministry, all of which are also now lost.
There were two letters written from Rome before Timothy was with Paul:
Ephesians was written from Rome, which is evident in 2 Timothy 4:12 where Paul explained that he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus, and we see that Paul is a prisoner when he wrote Ephesians (i.e. Ephesians 3:1), and Tychicus had brought that letter to Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21) before Paul wrote 2 Timothy (2 Timothy 4:12). Perhaps the “full armor of Yahweh” prayer at the end of the epistle reveals that Paul had not yet defended himself before Caesar, something there was no mention of in the epistle, but that he was about to do so, which he mentions later in 2 Timothy.
2 Timothy was written from Rome, after Paul had offered his first defense of Christianity. This agrees with his statement that he sent Tychicus to Ephesus, ostensibly with the epistle to the Ephesians in hand. Now this certainly seems to be the case, however it cannot be explained why Aristarchus was not mentioned where Paul said “only Luke is with me”, and it must also be supposed that Demas had returned to Rome after Paul told Timothy that Demas had forsaken him, since Demas is again with Paul when Colossians was written later. In 2 Timothy (4:9, 11, 13), Paul asks Timothy to come to Rome, and to bring Mark with him. In the other surviving epistles which Paul later wrote from Rome, it is evident that Timothy indeed complied.
There were three letters written from Rome while Timothy was with Paul:
Philippians was written from Rome while Paul was with Timothy (Philippians 1:1, 7). As he had mentioned his first defense of Christianity in 2 Timothy, he did likewise in Philippians chapter 1, after Timothy had come to Rome to be with him.
Colossians was written while Timothy was with Paul (Colossians 1:1), and it was written from Rome while Paul was a prisoner and Aristarchus was still a prisoner along with him (Colossians 4:10). Tychicus had gone to Ephesus, delivering that epistle. Then Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy that he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus. However in Colossians 4:7, we can see that Tychicus also delivered this epistle to Colossae, which Paul wrote when he was with Timothy! So Tychicus must have returned to Rome after he delivered the epistle to the Ephesians, and was there with Paul again while Timothy was there.
Finally, Philemon was also written from Rome while Timothy was with Paul. In the salutation Mark, Luke, Aristarchus and Demas are all mentioned as being with Paul.
With no evidence outside of an interpretation of 2 Timothy chapter 4 by the 4th century ecclesiastical writer Eusebius, later Christians have imagined Paul to have been released from his initial imprisonment in Rome, to have then been arrested again, to have written 2 Timothy during a second imprisonment, and then to have been executed. However reading 2 Timothy chapter 4, I do not find such an interpretation to be a necessarily valid one. And furthermore, why, if 2 Timothy was written after his second arrest, would Paul find a need to explain the fates of all those who were with him leading up to his first arrest?
Rather, the writing of 2 Timothy is consistent with Paul's first and only arrest, and his later having joined Paul in Rome, as requested of him in 2 Timothy, which is when Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were written. In 2 Timothy Paul informed Timothy of the status of his relationship with many of the men whom they had worked with together in the past, and he does so whether Timothy should have known of that status or not. Ostensibly, Paul did this so that it may also serve as a form of public notice. Then when Timothy comes to Rome to be with Paul, all of the surviving epistles which he writes from that time, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, are written no longer written from Paul, but from Paul and Timothy. Luke was with Paul. Aristarchus was with Paul. They were Paul's “fellow-workers”. But there are no epistles from “Paul and Luke” or “Paul and Aristarchus”. What we are informed of in all of this, is that Timothy was chosen by Paul to be the heir to his ministry, the man he hoped would continue his own work, so Paul associated himself with Timothy in these epistles, and probably also in the missing epistle to the Laodiceans. Paul had told Timothy in his epistle to him, that he expected his end to come soon, in 2 Timothy chapter 4 where he says: “6 For I am already offered and the time of my departure approaches. 7 Having struggled the good struggle, I finished the race. I kept the faith.”
Paul was on an inevitable collision course with the emperor Nero, a vain man who, like his predecessors, had thought that he himself was a god. From the time of Octavian, the Roman emperors had control over the religion of the people, and by that their tyranny was more easily maintained. As the men whom Paul encountered in Philippi had pronounced, “These men agitate our city, being Judaeans, and they declare customs which are not lawful for us to receive nor to do, being Romans!” (Acts 14:20-21) Tyrannies, in order to maintain themselves, must also be able to control the religion of the people they rule. In order to maintain order in a multi-racial society, tyrannies must absolutely control the religion of the people. So it was in Rome, and so it is in America today, where the IRS code is used to regulate religion, and the result is that there is no opposition to multi-racialism or to tyranny. Preaching that the risen Christ is King, and that Christ is the “fulness of the Divinity bodily”, as he professed in Colossians, as well as other aspects of the gospel, Paul and the message of Christ which he represented were indeed a threat to the rule of the emperor and the stability of the empire. Paul was most likely executed in 62 AD, since Luke tells us here at the end of Acts that he had stayed in Rome preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom for two years. The year 64 AD was the year of the Great Fire in Rome and the epitome of Christian persecutions under Nero.
This completes a 34-part exposition on the Book of Acts which was begun in April of last year. I pray that this exposition has been thorough, and while certainly not explaining everything that could possibly be explained, that it nevertheless expounded upon the Book of Acts in the light of both Scripture and history sufficiently, and that it exhibited proper Christian Identity theology so that it may stand alone as a comprehensive Christian Identity commentary on the Book of Acts.