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272

WERE NOT OUR HEARTS


BURNING WITHIN US
WHILE HE TALKED WITH
US ON THE ROAD?
LUKE 24:32, ROAD TO EMMAUS

T
he good news of Jesus’s 7 miles (11km) from the city
IN BRIEF resurrection is first told to of Jerusalem. The two disciples,
female disciples by angels, one of whom is named Cleopas, are
PASSAGE
who appear to them at Jesus’s reflecting on recent events when
Luke 24:13–35
empty tomb. The angels remind Jesus starts traveling alongside
THEME the women that Jesus had already them. The disciples, however, do
Witnessing Jesus’s foretold His death and resurrection, not recognize Him. He probes them
resurrection and the women subsequently about their conversation and they
report the miracle to the other
SETTING disciples. However, the disciples
c.29 ce Jerusalem, at the Jesus takes supper at Emmaus with
do not believe them. the disciples. Like other Renaissance
end of Jesus’s ministry. Later that same day, two of depictions of the event, Caravaggio’s
Jesus’s disciples make their way 1601 version includes an innkeeper not
KEY FIGURES
to a village called Emmaus, about mentioned in Luke’s account.
Jesus The Son of God,
crucified by the Romans
but resurrected days later.
Jesus’s disciples A group of
men and women who followed
Jesus. They traveled with
Him during His ministry and
preached about Him and His
teachings after His death.
Peter Also called Simon Peter;
one of Jesus’s closest disciples,
to whom Jesus appeared after
the resurrection.
THE GOSPELS 273
See also: The Last Supper 248–53 ■ The Crucifixion 258–65 ■ The Empty Tomb 268–71 ■ The Great Commission 274–77

explain the cause of their grief to


the “stranger”: the prophet and
miracle worker, Jesus, had died Women find Jesus’s
on the cross three days before. empty tomb.
They tell Him the story of the
women at the tomb and, finally, Why are you troubled, and
acknowledge their sorrow because why do doubts rise in your
they had formerly believed Jesus minds? Look at My hands
was the Messiah. As they recount and My feet. It is I Myself!
recent events and admit to feeling Touch me and see; a ghost
disillusioned, they reveal their does not have flesh and Jesus appears to
denial of the truth of Jesus’s Mary Magdalene
bones, as you see I have. outside the tomb and to
resurrection—while, unbeknown Luke 24:38 three other women.
to them, He stands right before
their eyes. Jesus then declares
them ignorant of the scriptures
and proceeds to explain how Jesus
is, indeed, the Messiah. Still, the
disciples do not comprehend who
the man is or what He is saying. the dead. Unlike when the women
first reported the news, the others Despite the
Jesus is recognized believe their story, and tell them women’s testimony, the
The disciples finally become aware that “it is true! The Lord has risen disciples do not believe
of their companion’s identity when and has appeared to Simon” (24:34). the good news.
they stop for the evening and share Shortly before He joined Cleopas
a meal. Jesus takes the bread, and and the other disciple on the road,
after blessing and breaking it, He Jesus had appeared to Simon
gives it to the disciples—an action Peter in John 21.
reminiscent of the Last Supper in
Luke 22. With that action, they Witnesses of Christ
recognize Him as Jesus. Jesus appears on several other Jesus appears to
Luke highlights this moment occasions in the New Testament. Peter and also walks with
the two disciples on the 
with an inversion of a metaphor In 1 Corinthians 15:5–8, Paul
road to Emmaus.
from the beginning of the story: provides a list of those who have
at first, the disciples did not witnessed Him, including: Peter;
recognize Jesus (24:16), but now, the 12 disciples; 500 men and
“their eyes were opened and they women “at the same time”; James;
recognized Him” (24:31). Before the the apostles; and Paul, the letter-
disciples can even blink, however, writer himself. Other famous Gospel
Jesus disappears. Dumbfounded accounts include Jesus appearing
and embarrassed, they remark that to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16; John The disciples
they had felt their hearts burn while 20) and Thomas (John 20). These realize the truth of
Jesus spoke to them on the road. stories function as proof for
Jesus’s resurrection
Soon after their conversation, Christians that Jesus died and
the disciples return to Jerusalem, rose again; they also point to a
and affirm their
find the other disciples, and share deeper theological belief that
faith in Him.
the good news—also known as the Jesus conquered death and offers
Gospel—that Jesus has risen from everlasting life to others. ■
274
IN BRIEF

GO AND MAKE
PASSAGE
Matthew 28:16–20
THEME

DISCIPLES
Spreading the good news
SETTING
c.29 ce Around Galilee
and Judea, during the

OF ALL
40 days following Jesus’s
resurrection.
KEY FIGURES
Jesus The risen Jesus,

NATIONS
who is both familiar and
unfamiliar to His disciples.
He is often recognized by
His actions or His words, or
when He performs miracles.

MATTHEW 28:19, THE GREAT COMMISSION Peter A member of Jesus’s


inner circle of disciples and
often a spokesman for the
other disciples.
The other disciples The
remaining 10 disciples.

F
or the 40 days following
His resurrection, Jesus
spends time with His
disciples, teaching them about
the significance of His death and
resurrection, and preparing them
for the future. On the evening of
His resurrection, He had told
them, “As the Father has sent
me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
Although they have spent three
years traveling with Jesus, only
now do they begin to appreciate
what He is asking them to do. In
the past, He had sent them out to
neighboring villages and towns
to tell people about the kingdom of
God that would soon be arriving
through Jesus (Luke 9:1–6). Now,
THE GOSPELS 275
See also: The Calling of the Disciples 200–03 ■ Peter’s Denial 256–57
The Road to Emmaus 272–73 ■ The Word Spreads 288–89

The Ascension
Forty days after Jesus’s
resurrection, He summons
His disciples to a hillside
near Bethany, just outside
Jerusalem. As He blesses
and commissions them, He
is “taken up before their very
eyes” and hidden from sight
by a cloud (Acts 1:9). His
ascension is the end of His
earthly ministry; Christians
understand that He now
ministers in God’s presence,
praying for His disciples to
receive His Spirit and go out
and gather more followers.
Aspects of the ascension are
familiar. The hill is a reminder
of the mountain where Moses
received God’s Law, the cloud
is a visible image of God’s
presence during the Exodus
journey from Egypt, and
Heaven was long perceived
as a physical realm above
the Earth. Theologically, the
significance of such imagery is
however, He is sending them out The risen Christ appearing to His to emphasize Jesus’s divinity.
on a permanent mission that would disciples in the 40 days before His
last the rest of their lives. Jesus ascension is depicted on a colorful,
carved wooden frieze in the Cathedral
understands that it will take some of Notre Dame, Paris, France.
persuasion to transform the fearful
disciples into bold ambassadors for
His message and tells them that so, the net fills with so many fish
the Holy Spirit will support them. that it nearly breaks. One of the
disciples exclaims, “It is the Lord!”
Inspiration at Galilee Peter immediately jumps out of the
At the end of the Passover festival, boat and wades to the shore, and
the disciples return to Galilee, the other disciples follow in the
where they had first met Jesus, vessel, towing the net full of fish.
and had been called to follow Him. On the shore, Jesus has already
Peter decides to go fishing and prepared a “fire of burning coals”
several disciples accompany him. with fish and bread on it. He
They catch nothing all night, but asks them to bring a few more
as morning breaks, they turn fish and they all sit down to eat
toward the shore and see a man breakfast together.
on the beach. He calls out to them, After breakfast, Jesus turns to The Ascension of Christ (1884)
“Friends, haven’t you any fish?” Peter and asks him, “Do you truly painted by the Polish artist Jan
Matejko shows Christ in a cloud
“No,” they reply. He tells them to love me?” Peter says that he does. known as an “aureola,” often used
throw the net out to the right of the Then Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” by artists to depict God or Christ.
boat. Miraculously, when they do Twice more, Jesus repeats the ❯❯
276 THE GREAT COMMISSION
The number 12 question, and both times Peter
replies that he does. Both times,
Throughout the Bible, the Jesus also instructs Peter to take
number 12 recurs often, and
care of His sheep—a reference to
signifies the complete people
of God. Early on, Abraham’s
the family of believers. Peter, who
grandson Jacob has 12 sons. had denied that he knew Jesus
They become the fathers of three times in the high priest’s
the 12 tribes of Israel, God’s courtyard during Jesus’s trial, is
special people and a sign of now restored as a faithful disciple
His presence in the world. For of Christ and instructed to take
this reason, Jesus chooses 12 care of the community of believers
disciples to be the foundation that would soon grow.
of a renewed family of God,
marked out by faith. After his Telling the world
betrayal of Jesus, the disciples During this period, Jesus often
have to find a replacement for meets the disciples as they eat A 5th-century Roman mosaic from
Judas in order to restore their together. On one occasion, He tells an eastern Mediterranean church has
number to 12. The criteria for the cross as a central image, testimony
them to “wait for the gift my Father
apostleship was personal to the spread of Christianity at the time.
promised, which you have heard
knowledge of Jesus’s ministry, It is now in the Louvre, Paris.
so that the apostle could me speak about” (Acts 1:4). The gift
provide witness to the fact is God’s Holy Spirit, whom He has
and significance of Jesus’s told them is “power from on high” known as “the Great Commission.”
life, death, resurrection, and (Luke 24:49) that will strengthen First, He reminds the disciples of
ascension. The disciples chose them in their mission. God’s power the significance of His resurrection
Matthias. The number 12 also will be essential, because Jesus is from the dead: “All authority in
appears frequently in the Book sending them to take His message heaven and on Earth has been
of Revelation, referring to the not just to Judea and Galilee, but given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
final completeness of God’s also to Samaria (a region often By defeating death, Jesus proves
worldwide family. avoided because of longstanding that God has validated His life and
political tension) and “to the ends teaching, and has granted Him
of the earth’” (Acts 1:8). divine authority over all things.
At the end of the 40 days, in He then commissions the disciples
His last moments with the disciples, to bring others into His kingdom:
Jesus sums up all He has taught “Therefore go and make disciples
them in words that have become of all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching
them to obey everything I have
commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–
20). Jesus will be with the disciples,
but is now entrusting His divine
Declare His glory mission to human hands and feet.
among the nations,
His marvelous deeds From disciples to apostles
among all peoples. Jesus’s Great Commission signals a
Psalm 96:3 change in the identity of His closest
followers. Throughout His ministry,
The Tree of Life bore 12 crops the 12 have been called “disciples,”
of fruit in John of Patmos’s vision of
Eden restored (Revelation 22:2), which comes from a Greek word
one for every month. meaning “learners’” or “followers.”
Now, the 11 disciples remaining—
THE GOSPELS 277
after Judas’s betrayal and suicide— and faith. The Great Commission
have become “Apostles,” from the subverts this idea. Rather than
Greek word meaning “sent.” For people converging on Jerusalem,
three years, Jesus has drawn them the apostles must go from the city
closer to Him, demonstrating the to the four corners of the world,
reality of God’s kingdom through even to those Gentiles who have Therefore I want you
stories, teaching, and miracles. no regard for Jewish faith at all. to know that God’s
Now, His “inner circle” can no longer Baptism in the name of the Father, salvation has been
stay by His side, but must go and Son, and Holy Spirit becomes the sent to the Gentiles,
announce the good news of Jesus initiation ritual for new believers. and they will listen!
and His resurrection to all the world. Those who are baptized must Acts 28:28
center their lives, not on the Temple
A blessing for all in Jerusalem, but on Jesus and His
The Great Commission must have presence in their lives through the
been both daunting and exciting Holy Spirit. The Great Commission
for a group of ordinary men from thus fulfills an older promise given
Galilee and Judea. For a long time, to Abraham that through his
the Jewish people had thought descendants “all people on earth ends of the known earth within
that the appeal of their God would will be blessed”. the first two centuries ce. Today, the
bring people of all nations streaming After two millennia, the Great mission is as focused on sharing
to the Temple of Jerusalem. Converts, Commission remains a regular the message of the resurrection as
or proselytes, would then have to impetus of the Christian faith. The it is about journeying to the other
commit to Jewish customs of life teachings of Jesus reached the side of the world. ■

Spread of early Christianity

Area mostly Christian Key:


by 325 ACE
1. Londinium
Area mostly Christian 2. Lutetia
North by 600 ACE
3. Colonia
Sea 4. Massalia
Spread of Christianity
1
5. Rome
6. Syracuse
3 7. Athens
Atlantic 2
EUROPE 8. Pergamum
Ocean 9. Ephesus
10. Sirmium
Ca

26
sp

11. Byzantium
ian

25 10
12. Sinope
Se

4 Black Sea 13. Antioch


a

11
12 14. Damascus
24 5 15. Jerusalem
23 16. Alexandria
22 20
21 8 17. Memphis
7 18. Cyrene
19 13
6 19. Carthage
9 20. Caesarea
14 21. Tingis
Mediterranean Sea 22. Gades
15 23. Corduba
16 24. Carthago Nova
18 ASIA 25. Tarraoo
AFRICA 26. Burdigala
17
Red Sea
ACTS,
EPISTLE
REVELA
S, AND
TION
280 INTRODUCTION

Paul is arrested in
The Apostles receive Philip converts Jerusalem and is
the Holy Spirit on an official of the imprisoned for two
the feast of Pentecost Queen of Ethiopia years, after which
in Jerusalem. on the road to Gaza. he is taken to Rome.

ACTS ACTS ACTS


2:1–47 8:26–38 21:17–26:32

ACTS ACTS 1 CORINTHIANS


3:1–10 9:1–30 12:27

Peter performs the Saul, a persecutor Paul tells the


Apostles’ first miracle of Christians, Corinthians they are
when he heals a is miraculously the body of Christ
beggar outside the converted on the and each one of
Temple in Jerusalem. road to Damascus. them is a part of it.

T
he Acts of the Apostles Acts demonstrates the struggles “speak” with the reader when
is the first Christian work of the early Christians to deal face-to-face conversation was
to trace the dissemination with persecution, hypocrisy, old impossible. They often followed
of the Gospel message. Written jealousies, and the cultural divide the same basic structure: an
by the author of the Gospel of Luke, between Jews and Gentiles. It also introduction of the author and the
the book presents key events and narrates the spread of the Gospel recipients, a short prayer before the
speeches in support of the mission through the eastern Roman main text of the letter, concluding
that Jesus gave His followers: “You Empire by means of the preaching greetings to mutual acquaintances,
will receive power when the Holy and church-founding efforts of and a brief blessing.
Spirit comes on you; and you will Paul. Descriptions of Paul’s ministry Thirteen of the New Testament
be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Corinth, and the churches of letters name Paul as their author.
in all Judea and Samaria, and to Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, and Most of them address churches or
the ends of the Earth” (Acts 1:8). It Thessalonica, provide valuable groups of churches with which Paul
describes the coming of the Holy contextual material for the New had contact. Others (1–2 Timothy,
Spirit at Pentecost, the witness Testament Epistles. Titus, and Philemon) address
of the disciples in Jerusalem and specific individuals, but with the
Judea, and the persecution that The Epistles apparent intention of being read
drives the Apostles through the Part of a larger tradition of letter- in the recipient’s churches. The
Roman Empire. A pivotal point writing in the Greco-Roman world, remaining letters (James, 1–2 Peter,
is the conversion of the zealous the Epistles comprises 20 of the 1–3 John, and Jude) are known
persecutor Saul into the missionary 27 books of the New Testament. collectively as the “general” or
Paul, the most influential leader in Letters were taken to be a way for “catholic” (meaning “universal”)
the early Church. the author to be “present” and epistles. This designation indicates
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 281

Paul asserts the Paul warns against John of Patmos


Trinity in a blessing “false teachers” in his receives a series
at the end of a letter letter to the Philippians of dramatic and
he writes to the and urges belief in terrifying visions
Corinthians. the resurrection. of the apocalypse.

2 CORINTHIANS PHILIPPIANS 3 REVELATION


1–20

EPHESIANS JAMES REVELATION


2:1–10 2:14–26 21–22

Paul tells the Ephesians James rejects passive After the Final
that personal faith and praises active Judgment, John’s
salvation can only faith that honors God vision shows heaven
happen through faith, through good deeds. and Earth renewed in
not good deeds. the New Jerusalem.

that they were written to churches nature of the societies in which the or Luke. Some modern scholars
scattered over a wide geographical recipients lived. One important area have also challenged authorship of
range, or to all Christians wherever of discussion focuses on opponents certain Pauline epistles (especially
they might be found. The Book of called “false teachers,” which are Ephesians) and 1–2 Peter.
Revelation, while not a letter in its mentioned and/or rebutted several
entirety, begins with seven brief times in the Epistles. The false A new beginning
letters to churches in Asia Minor. teachers included practices and Taken together, the Book of Acts
Its apocalyptic message describing philosophies, such as Jewish and the New Testament Epistles
Christ as the Final Judge of the legalism and mysticism, popular demonstrate that the resurrection
wicked and vindicator of believers Greek philosophical and religious of the crucified Jesus was not the
was partly an encouragement to ideas, speculation about angels and end of God’s work in the world,
those experiencing persecution. spiritual powers, and ascetic and but a new beginning through the
ritual practices. Holy Spirit. The Epistles, while
Academic debates Fierce debate also rages about written by men, are included in
Given their nature as letters, the the authorship of several Epistles. the canon because they are seen as
Epistles give readers access to one Since the 2nd century CE, scholars divinely inspired. They unpack the
side of a conversation. Readers can have speculated about the significance of the Gospel message
“overhear” the authors speak to authorship of Hebrews. An of faith in Christ, in the service of
congregations and individuals. The early tradition attributed Hebrews “teaching, rebuking, correcting,
situation being addressed, however, to Paul, but others credited Peter’s and training in righteousness,
must be inferred from the letters companion Silvanus, the early so that the servant of God may
themselves. This has led modern preacher Apollos, or one of Paul’s be equipped for every good work”
scholars to speculate about the companions—Barnabas, Priscilla, (2 Timothy 3:16–17). ■
282

EVERYONE WAS
FILLED WITH
AWE AT THE MANY
WONDERS AND SIGNS
ACTS 2:43, THE DAY OF PENTECOST

J
ust as thunder, lightning, pray, as they have done regularly
IN BRIEF and dense cloud accompany since His ascension, ten days
the giving of the Torah in previously. Suddenly, a noise like
PASSAGE
Exodus, so dramatic phenomena that of a strong wind fills the house
Acts 2:1–47
accompany the giving of God’s where the disciples are meeting
THEME Spirit at the beginning of Acts. and tongues of fire come to rest on
The day of Pentecost This happens during the feast their heads. Impelled by a strange
of Pentecost, or Shavu’ot—one of inner power, the disciples find
SETTING three great pilgrimage festivals themselves speaking in languages
c.29 ce Jerusalem. The city that each year brought throngs of they do not know.
is full of Jewish pilgrims, Jews from across the known world
who converge there annually to Jerusalem. Also in Jerusalem, A great confusion
for the feast of Pentecost according to Acts, is the core group The disciples make so much noise
(Shavu’ot), seven weeks of Jesus’s disciples, who have met to that a crowd gathers, including
after Passover. many of the pilgrims who have
come to Jerusalem from other parts
KEY FIGURE of the world. These foreigners are
Peter Despite his denial astonished because the disciples,
of Jesus following Christ’s who by now appear to have spilled
arrest, Peter is again leader out onto the street, are miraculously
among the core disciples. speaking to them in their native
Other disciples According languages, telling them about the
“wonders of God.”
to Acts, the male disciples
In response to these strange
number about 120. Alongside
happenings, some of the onlookers
them are Jesus’s mother Mary are skeptical and dismissive,
and the other female disciples. accusing the disciples of being

Celebrating the ascension (top)


and Pentecost, this miniature is from
La Somme le Roi, an illuminated
manuscript produced in France
between 1290 and 1300 and now
held in the British Museum.
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 283
See also: The Calling of the Disciples 200–03 ■ The Crucifixion 258–65 ■ The Empty Tomb 268–71 ■
The Great Commission 274–77

drunk. At this point, Peter, the put into the mouths of leading
leader of the disciples, stands figures in order to comment upon
up and addresses the crowd. the events they describe.
The strange phenomena they Peter’s speech begins with
are witnessing, he announces, are the words of the Prophet Joel, who
not the result of drunkenness, but All of them were said the Spirit would be poured out
they are the work of God—as filled with the Holy on God’s people at a critical point
foretold by the Prophet Joel in the Spirit and began in history: “Even on my servants,
Hebrew scriptures. He reminds his to speak in other both men and women, I will pour
listeners of Jesus, who was God’s tongues as the Spirit out my Spirit in those days, and
prophet and Messiah and whom enabled them. they will prophesy. ... And everyone
the people of Jerusalem have Acts 2:4 who calls on the name of the Lord
recently killed. This same Jesus, will be saved” (Joel 2:18–32). Peter
God has now raised from the dead. goes on to argue that God had
Peter’s speech has an empowered Jesus’s life and ministry,
electrifying effect on the crowd, leading to His crucifixion. He quotes
many of whom are “cut to the David’s words that God would not
heart” and beg to know what they abandon His holy one to death
can do in an attempt to make things to be witnesses to His resurrection, (Psalm 16:8–11), noting that while
right. Peter exhorts them to repent beginning in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8). David’s body was still in its tomb,
and become baptized. According At Pentecost, God gives His Spirit— God had raised Jesus and poured
to the Book of Acts, some 3,000 dramatically and emphatically— out His Spirit as promised. Jesus
pilgrims follow his command, to the disciples. Just as the Spirit had then risen into heaven in
creating a massive increase in enabled the disciples to speak in fulfillment of God’s command that
the number of believers. other languages, so He inspires the Messiah sit at His right hand
Peter’s speech to the people of until God defeated all the Messiah’s
The Pentecost event Jerusalem. Some scholars, however, enemies (Psalm 110:1). Luke reports
Acts presents Peter’s speech as think that Luke—the author of that 3,000 of the assembled people
a work of the Holy Spirit. At His Acts—employed a literary device, of Jerusalem, convinced by Peter’s
ascension, Jesus promises that the common among ancient Greek words, repent their sins and receive
Spirit would empower His disciples historians, in which speeches are forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. ■

The early Christian distributing the money that


community they raised according to people’s
needs—all in a spirit of gladness
Luke’s account of the events of and generosity.
Pentecost concludes with a brief All four elements were no
description of the community doubt present in the early
that emerged in Jerusalem as a Christian community of
result of that day’s conversions. Jerusalem, but later in Acts,
This is marked, says Acts, by Luke reveals tensions among
four elements: teaching by the them as well. Attempting to
Apostles; fellowship; the win unwarranted regard, some
breaking of bread; and prayer. lie about their generosity and
The fellowship is radical: the are judged by the Holy Spirit The Apostles Going Forth to
believers are said to have (Acts 5:3–5). For Christians Preach, a 15th-century miniature
owned everything in common, since, it has remained an by the Limbourg brothers, shows
selling their possessions and inspiration and a challenge. the Christian community at work.
284
IN BRIEF

IN THE NAME OF
PASSAGE
Acts 3:1–5:42

JESUS CHRIST
THEME
The disciples work
in Jesus’s name
SETTING

OF NAZARETH,
c.29–31 ce Jerusalem.
KEY FIGURES
Peter A leader among the

WALK
believers, twice imprisoned by
the Sanhedrin but defiantly
loyal to God. Peter was in
Jesus’s inner circle of disciples.
ACTS 3:6, THE HEALING OF THE BEGGAR John Brother of James, son
of Zebedee. He is with Peter
when they heal the beggar.
Sanhedrin A supreme court
in Jerusalem presided over by
the high priest.

A
cts 3 tells the story of
one of the first holy works
performed by Jesus’s
disciples in the wake of His death,
resurrection, and ascension. Peter
and John approach a gate of the
Temple in Jerusalem. It is a time
of prayer, and they have come to
pray, but they stop at the gate
when they come across a beggar.
Crippled from birth, this beggar
is a familiar figure at the Temple;
he is carried there each day by
friends or family to beg for money
from the worshippers who stream
by. On this day, the beggar is being
carried to what was referred to as
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 285
See also: The Raising of Lazarus 226–27 ■ Peter’s Denial 256–57 ■ The Great Commission 274–77 ■

The Day of Pentecost 282–83 ■ The Word Spreads 288–89

Peter (right) heals the lame man and jumping, and praising God”
in this detail from Renaissance master (3:8)—a triumphant sight that
Raphael’s depiction of the miracle. It is draws a large crowd. This gives
one of a set of tapestries by the artist
depicting the works of Peter and Paul.
Peter an opportunity to make
a speech similar to the one he
made at Pentecost: he reminds his
beggar’s feet and ankles heal in listeners of their guilt in handing
an instant. He jumps up and walks Jesus over to be killed, telling them
for the first time in his life. Peter to “repent … and turn to God” (3:19).
has just performed an astonishing,
awe-inspiring miracle—the very Disciples on trial
kind, in fact, that Jesus used to Some 5,000 people are converted
perform before He was killed. that day, although some scholars
suggest that this figure given by
Powerful proof Luke is not meant to be taken
Following Pentecost, Jesus’s literally—it simply suggests a large
disciples continue to preach and number. However, while ordinary
the Beautiful Gate—possibly the perform great works. Luke, the people react with jubilation and
bronze-clad Nicanor Gate, between author of Acts, gives many awe to the healing of the beggar,
the court of the Gentiles and the examples of signs and wonders that it also attracts negative attention
court of the women. the disciples perform. As Jesus had from the authorities, who are
The beggar asks the disciples promised them, His believers start greatly disturbed by the events.
for money, and both of them look to do even greater things in His That same evening, the Temple
him directly in the eyes. “Look at name than He himself did during guards arrest the two Apostles and
us!” Peter says, and so the beggar His three-year ministry. throw them into prison overnight,
looks. “Silver or gold I do not have, The healing of the beggar is, before bringing them before the
but what I do have I give you. In the as it were, the inaugural miracle of high priest and Sanhedrin the next
name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the post-Pentecost order. According morning. Standing before them, a
walk” (Acts 3:4–6). Peter then takes to Luke, the beggar goes with Peter Spirit-emboldened Peter speaks out
the beggar by the hand and the and John into the Temple, “walking yet again about Jesus, in whose ❯❯

Almsgiving
For people with disabilities— (giving to the poor) as one of
such as Bartimaeus, the blind the three prime works of piety,
man whom Jesus healed outside along with prayer and fasting
Jericho (Mark 10:46–52), and (Matthew 6:1–4). From the point It is by the name of
the man at the Beautiful Gate— of view of beggars hoping to Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
begging was not demeaning, receive alms, location was key. whom you crucified but
but simply one of the few ways Bartimaeus positioned himself whom God raised from
they could make a living. Giving by one of the gates into Jericho, the dead, that this man
to the poor was encouraged by to benefit from the constant flow stands before you healed.
Jewish scripture—“I command of people into and out of the city; Acts 4:10
you to be open-handed toward the man at the Beautiful Gate
… the poor and needy in your relied on the visiting pilgrims
land” (Deuteronomy 15:11)—and who were especially aware, as
by Jesus. In the Sermon on the they entered or left the Temple,
Mount, He names almsgiving of their religious duty to give.
286 THE HEALING OF THE BEGGAR
name the beggar has been healed. opposition they face from the
Baffled at such eloquence in the authorities, the believers pray to
mouth of these two “unschooled, God for renewed boldness in telling
ordinary men” (4:13)—and by the the world about Jesus. They ask,
undeniable fact that a great miracle “Lord, consider their threats and
has taken place—the council enable your servants to speak your After they prayed, the
commands the Apostles to keep word with great boldness” (4:29). place where they were
silent from now on. The Greek word that Luke uses for meeting was shaken.
Peter and John’s reply is simple: this boldness is parrhesia, also Acts 4:31
“Which is right in God’s eyes: to meaning “free speech,” “frankness,”
listen to you, or to Him? You be the even “plain speaking.” As a sign of
judges! As for us, we cannot help divine approval, the building where
speaking about what we have seen the believers are meeting shakes.
and heard” (4:19–20). The council Thereafter, the community of
members threaten them further, believers in Jerusalem prospers:
but with so much excitement at “all the believers were one in heart lied—wanting to receive praise,
the miracle, the Sanhedrin has no and mind” and they shared their they pretend to hand over all
option but to let the men go free. possessions among each other their property while keeping
(4:32). Most but not all of the some back for themselves.
The second Pentecost believers are willing to take part The community thrives, as
Peter and John return to their in this. Acts 5 tells the story of many more signs and miracles
community. What follows is Ananias and Sapphira, a couple lead to an impressive growth in
sometimes called the “second who suddenly fall down and die numbers. Inevitably, however, such
Pentecost.” Aware of the growing after Peter reveals that they have success brings further jealousy and

Peter raises Tabitha,


a disciple, from the dead.
(Acts 9:36–42)

Peter heals Paul exorcises


a paralytic man a possessed girl.
named Aeneas.
(Acts 16:16–18)
(Acts 9:33–35)

The miracles performed


by the Apostles show that
Jesus was working through
them and granting them
spiritual authority.
Paul heals a Paul cures
man who cannot Publius’s father
walk in Lystra. of dysentery.
(Acts 14:7–9) (Acts 28:7–8)
Paul raises a young man,
Eutychus, from the dead.
(Acts 20:9–12)
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 287
persecution from the authorities, end, the Apostles are flogged, once
at which point Luke’s narrative more told not to speak in Jesus’s
borders on comedy. Once more the name, and allowed to go free. Yet
Apostles are arrested and thrown again they ignore the Sanhedrin’s
into prison, but during the night an orders. They continue, Luke writes,
angel comes and opens the prison joyfully “teaching and proclaiming
doors, allowing them to go free. The the good news that Jesus is the
angel tells them to go back to the Messiah” (Acts 5:42).
Temple and preach as they usually
do. When morning comes, the Inherited leadership
Sanhedrin meets and sends for the Throughout this narrative, Luke
prisoners. Shocked officers return makes important theological
empty-handed with this report: points. With their bold Spirit-
“We found the jail securely locked, empowered preaching, confirmed
with the guards standing at the by God in signs and wonders, the Simon Peter
doors; but when we opened them, Apostles have established that they
we found no one inside” (5:23). stand in a clear line of continuity One of Jesus’s closest disciples
Simon Peter became a leading
reaching back as far as Abraham,
member of the early Church.
Outwitting the council Moses, and the prophets of the His real name was Simon, but
Baffled once more, the Sanhedrin Hebrew scriptures. God has been Jesus called him “Rock”:
then receive a report from the faithful: the great covenants He “Peter” in Greek, “Cephas”
Temple: the men imprisoned last made with Abraham and the in Aramaic. He and his brother
night are there teaching the people. Hebrew patriarchs have found Andrew were both fishermen,
Yet again the Apostles are arrested. fulfillment in Jesus, the promised and worked with another pair
When upbraided for continuing to Messiah, whom God affirmed with of brothers, James and John.
teach about Jesus, they reply: “We miraculous works—notably, the John’s Gospel says Peter met
must obey God rather than human supreme miracle of His resurrection. Jesus through Andrew, who
beings!” (5:29). Infuriated, many of Now though, the traditional leaders was a disciple of John the
the Sanhedrin want to put them of the Jews, the Sanhedrin refuse Baptist. However, the Gospels
to death and are only dissuaded to accept Jesus as the Son of God, of Mark and Luke report
by the more cautious counsels of and so the leadership of God’s that Peter and Andrew were
working as fishermen when
a Pharisee named Gamaliel. In the people passes out of their hands
Jesus called them to be
and to the Apostles. The believers
His disciples.
are portrayed by Luke as the “new During the ministry of
Israel,” true heirs of the covenant Jesus, Peter was one of the
promises of the Old Testament. inner circle of three disciples,
In this context, the fact that along with James and John,
Peter and John heal the beggar in but when Jesus was arrested,
People brought the the name of Jesus is important. Peter denied Him three times.
sick into the streets and Peter’s speech acknowledges that This failure marked a turning
laid them on beds and not only are the disciples following point in Peter’s life; he was
mats so that at least in the tradition of Jesus’s ministry, forgiven by Jesus and soon
Peter’s shadow might the power they are exercising is emerged as a dauntless leader
fall on some of them not their own: Jesus now works in the early Church. He was
as he passed by. through them. Peter, John, and also the first to share the
Acts 5:15 their fellow disciples have been Christian message and baptism
with non-Jews. Peter was
empowered by the Holy Spirit to
famously crucified upside-
continue Jesus’s work on Earth, down during the persecution
and have been given the authority unleashed by Emperor Nero
to carry out this task because of in 64–68 ce.
their faith in Him. ■
288

HE TOLD HIM
THE GOOD NEWS
ABOUT JESUS
ACTS 8:35, THE WORD SPREADS

L
ife for most of the believers garments. Luke’s Gospel describes
IN BRIEF in Jerusalem is relatively Saul going from house to house,
peaceful in the period after dragging off men and women
PASSAGE
Pentecost, despite some conflicts and throwing them into prison.
Acts 7:54–8:40
between the Sanhedrin and the
THEME Apostles. However, this changes From curse to blessing
God’s word is for everyone when the Sanhedrin, alarmed The Apostles stay in Jerusalem to
by the evangelical success of face the persecution, while the rest
SETTING a Hellenistic Christian called of the community scatter across
c.32–35 ce The countryside Stephen, sentences him to death Judea and Samaria to escape the
around Jerusalem. by stoning. Stephen’s execution violence. However, what at first
begins “a great persecution” seems like a setback leads to the
KEY FIGURES
against the Jerusalem Church, fulfillment of Jesus’s prophecy
Saul of Tarsus A Hellenistic
masterminded by a young man at His ascension: “You will be my
(Greek-speaking) Jew later called Saul, at whose feet Stephen’s witnesses in Jerusalem, and …
known as Paul. At this stage, killers had laid their outer to the ends of the Earth” (Acts 1:8).
he is a diehard persecutor of
the fledgling Church.
Proselytes and God-fearers
Philip One of the “Seven”
appointed to oversee the In the period after Jerusalem’s proselytes and God-fearers were
distribution of food to widows Temple was rebuilt in the 6th drawn to the teaching of Jesus
in Jerusalem. He spreads the century bce, there was a growth and His disciples.
in the number of “proselytes”— In Matthew’s and Luke’s
word of God. those who went through the full Gospels, a Roman centurion
Ethiopian official Chief rites of conversion to Judaism, whose servant Jesus heals may
treasurer to the Queen of including circumcision—and well be a God-fearer, as may the
“God-fearers,” who followed Ethiopian official in Acts. Two
Ethiopia; a eunuch who is
many Jewish religious practices converts in Acts—the centurion
baptized by Philip. without full conversion. This Cornelius, and Lydia, a cloth
growth resulted partly from dealer in Philippi—are described
increased contact between as God-fearers. Cornelius and
Jews and non-Jews, and partly his household are baptized after
because of the missionary zeal hearing Peter preach, Lydia and
of the Pharisees. Later, many hers after hearing Paul.
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 289
See also: Ruth and Naomi 108–09 ■ The Suffering Servant 154–55 ■ The Great Commission 274–77 ■

The Day of Pentecost 282–83 ■ The Road to Damascus 290–91

Wherever the believers go, they


“preach the word” to the great joy
of those who hear and accept it.

The Ethiopian
In Samaria, Philip, a former
associate of the martyred Stephen,
makes an impact. He was one of
seven men appointed to oversee
the distribution of food to widows
in Jerusalem. Now in Samaria,
he preaches to large crowds and
performs dramatic healings.
Luke describes two aspects
of the events that follow. On one
level is the persecution that
scatters the believers, who then
set out to preach the word. On the
other is the direct intervention of
God, whose influence becomes
clear when He sets Philip a new
task. As Philip returns to Jerusalem
from Samaria, an angel tells him to
take the road to Gaza. He sets out
and sees a chariot ahead. God’s
Spirit tells Philip to catch up with of the Suffering Servant Songs The Ethiopian eunuch is baptized
it, and there he finds a high official from the Book of Isaiah, which by Philip the Evangelist, in a
of the Queen of Ethiopia, a eunuch speaks of the arrival and suffering stained-glass window in Brackley,
England. This act symbolized the
who has been to Jerusalem to of the Messiah. Philip asks the start of the Ethiopian Church.
worship. The man is reading one eunuch if he understands what
he is reading. The eunuch replies
that he does not and invites Philip the “good news” has spread from
to sit with him to explain the Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria.
passage. Philip agrees and tells Now, with the conversion of the
the man “the good news about Ethiopian, it pushes farther afield.
Jesus,” as predicted by Isaiah.
They all paid close attention Later, when they pass a stretch God of all
to what He said. For with of water, the eunuch asks Philip The conversion of the eunuch
shrieks, impure spirits came to baptize him. Philip does so, shows a key difference between
out of many, and many and then the “Spirit of the Lord” Judaism and Christianity. For Jews,
who were paralyzed or miraculously takes Philip away, castration was unlawful, so, as a
lame were healed. depositing him on the coast near eunuch, the Ethiopian would not
Acts 8:6–7 Caesarea. The eunuch, meanwhile, have been allowed to worship in
continues on his way, rejoicing. the Temple. God, however, prompts
Joy thus marks the spreading Philip to baptize the man. The
of the Gospel—a process that episode is seen as proof that the
Saul’s persecution has only, in the word of God was meant for the
end, promoted. As Jesus foretold, whole world—not just the Jews. ■
290

I AM JESUS,
WHOM YOU ARE
PERSECUTING
ACTS 9:5, THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

T
he conversion of Paul on Saul, who has fallen to the ground,
IN BRIEF the road to Damascus is asks who is speaking. The voice
one of the most dramatic replies, “I am Jesus, whom you
PASSAGE
episodes in the Book of Acts. are persecuting. Now get up and
Acts 9:1–19
The most fanatical persecutor go into the city, and you will be
THEME of the early Christians has an told what you must do” (9:5–6).
Miraculous conversions overwhelming experience with Finding himself blinded, Saul
the risen Jesus and becomes is taken into Damascus by his
SETTING a member of the very community traveling companions. After three
c.33–36 ce The road to he has previously attacked. Within days, the Lord appears to a local
Damascus, Syria, where many a short space of time, Paul became believer named Ananias and tells
Jews have become Christians. one of his new community’s most him to visit Saul. Ananias does as
eloquent preachers, earning him the Lord says and baptizes Saul,
KEY FIGURES
many converts but also the enmity who receives the Holy Spirit and
Saul Better known by his of his former allies. Not once but the return of his sight.
Latin name Paul, Saul is twice he has to flee for his life. According to Luke, Saul is
initially a fanatical persecutor The arch-persecutor thus joins the soon preaching about Jesus in the
of Christian believers. ranks of the persecuted. Damascus synagogues, arousing
Ananias A Christian believer the animosity of local Jews, who
in Damascus who was a Saul’s vision conspire to murder him.
former disciple of Jesus. The story in Acts begins with Lowered in a basket from the
Described as a “devout Paul, who is then known by his city wall by his disciples, Saul
Hebrew name, Saul, “breathing escapes the conspirators and goes
observer of the Law,” he
out murderous threats against the to Jerusalem, where he makes
was sent to heal Paul and
Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1). Armed contact with the initially suspicious
bring him the Gospel. with warrants from the high priest, Apostles. Once again, his preaching
he is on his way to Damascus to earns him the hostility of certain
hunt down believers and bring them Jews—probably the very group of
back to Jerusalem as prisoners. Just diaspora Jews with whom he had
outside the city, however, he has an previously associated—and he has
extraordinary encounter. A “light to flee, this time to his home city of
from heaven” flashes around him, Tarsus. The conversion of Saul is so
and a voice says, “Saul, Saul, why fundamental to the evolution of the
do you persecute me?” (9:3–4). early Church that Luke tells the
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 291
See also: The Word Spreads 288–89 ■ The Council of Jerusalem 292–93 ■

Paul’s Arrest 294–95 ■ The Power of the Resurrection 304–05

Paul, Apostle to
the Gentiles
Paul was born in the city of
Tarsus, in today’s Turkey,
to a family of Hellenistic
(Greek-speaking) Jews. The
well-educated young man
had a knowledge of Greek
thought and studied under
the famous Pharisee Rabbi
Gamaliel in Jerusalem.
Paul makes reference to
his conversion in his letters to
the Galatians and Corinthians.
Paul adds to Luke’s account in
Acts, saying he traveled from
Damascus to Arabia after his
conversion and that it was
three years before he went
to Jerusalem to meet Peter
and the other Apostles.
In the years that followed,
Paul traveled around the
eastern Mediterranean,
story three times (Acts 9, 22, and The drama of Paul’s experience is preaching the Gospel and
26). His aim is clear: to establish captured by Caravaggio’s Conversion establishing communities
Paul as an apostolic and prophetic on the Way to Damascus (1601), in of Christians in the major
which the blinded Saul is thrown cities. The hostility of Jewish
figure, who was called, revealed, into a pool of light.
and confirmed as such by God. opponents led to his eventual
arrest in Jerusalem and then
God’s prophet Hebrew prophets who came before transportation to Rome for
trial. The New Testament
As in the rest of the Bible, God Him. As God reveals to Ananias, He
gives no account of his death,
works through signs and wonders, has selected the former enemy of but an early tradition asserts
but also through suffering. The His people to become His “chosen that he died by beheading
fact that Paul is now persecuted instrument to proclaim My name during the persecution
affirms both the power of God and to the Gentiles. … I will show him unleashed in 64 ce by the
the status of Paul as God’s prophet, how much he must suffer for my Roman Emperor Nero.
suffering with Jesus and the name” (9:15–16). ■
292

HE PURIFIED
THEIR HEARTS
BY FAITH
ACTS 15:9, THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM

T
he growing influx of Barnabas deny this, insisting
IN BRIEF Gentile believers posed that circumcision is not necessary
problems for the early for Gentile believers. The debate
PASSAGE
Church. Questions arose as to becomes so heated that the Antioch
ACTS 15:1–35
whether they should be regarded church sends a delegation, led by
THEME as full members of the Church, or Paul and Barnabas, to consult the
Accommodating Gentiles have to meet further requirements elders of the founding church in
to put them on an equal footing a meeting that became known as
SETTING with Jewish followers of Christ. the Council of Jerusalem.
c.49 ce Antioch and Jerusalem. According to Acts, these burning
KEY FIGURES questions come to a head in Antioch The Council meets
after Paul’s return to the city at the In Jerusalem, much like in Antioch,
Paul The Apostle argues in
end of his first missionary journey. the debate becomes vigorous. Peter
both Antioch and Jerusalem
Jewish believers, having recently speaks first, insisting that faith
against an insistence on arrived from Judea, are teaching that alone is necessary for salvation.
Gentile circumcision. all believers must be circumcised, He cites the recent conversion of
Barnabas Paul’s longtime according to the Law of Moses. the Roman centurion Cornelius
friend accompanies him on Paul and his long-standing ally and his household, who heard the
his journey to Jerusalem. Gospel from Peter and believed.
God confirmed their salvation by
Peter The Apostle speaks filling them with the Holy Spirit,
decisively at the Council of just as He did with Jewish
Jerusalem against the need believers. God, Peter says, “did
for circumcision. not discriminate between us and
them, for He purified their hearts
James A leader of the by faith” (Acts 15:9). As a result, no
Jerusalem church, James sums extra yoke, such as circumcision,
up the Council’s findings. should be placed on their necks.
Following further testimony from

A Bible study card (c.1900) illustrates


Acts 15:22–33, in which the Gentile
believers of Antioch are told which
of Moses’s Laws they must keep.
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 293
See also: The Nature of Faith 236–41 ■ The Word Spreads 288–89 ■ Salvation Through Faith 301 ■

The Power of the Resurrection 304–05

Paul and Barnabas, James, an


increasingly influential leader in The elders of the Church
the Jerusalem church, cites the meet in Jerusalem.
prophet Amos to show that it was
always God’s intention that people
from other nations would “seek The rest of mankind
the Lord” (15:17). Like Peter, he may seek the Lord,
concludes that “we should not even all the Gentiles
make it difficult for the Gentiles who bear my name. Some argue that because
who are turning to God” (15:19). Acts 15:17 Christianity is the fulfillment
of promises made in the
A compromise Pentateuch …
James proposes a compromise:
there will be no circumcision for
Gentile believers, but they will be
required to observe certain Jewish
dietary and cleanliness laws, between God and His people, as
chiefly to ensure that Jewish and reflected in a famous clause from … Gentiles converting to
Gentile believers can eat together. the letter the Council sends to the Christianity should be
James’s proposal is accepted, and believers in Antioch: “It seemed circumcised, according
so believers from Jerusalem are good to the Holy Spirit and to us to Mosaic Law.
chosen to go back to Antioch with not to burden you” (15:28). In the
Paul and Barnabas, bearing a letter new “kingdom” that is therefore
confirming the Council’s resolutions. established, Gentile believers
The Council of Jerusalem is a enjoy full and equal citizenship
watershed. It stresses above all the with Jewish ones. Faith alone
importance of understanding that gives entry. With these truths But the Council decides that
God wants to reach out to Gentiles, firmly established, the rest of Acts salvation does not require
as He did with Cornelius and his is dominated at the human level by adherence to the Law …
household, and the Gentile converts Paul, God’s “chosen instrument”
Paul and Barnabas made in their (9:15), for bringing the message
travels. This creates a consensus of the Gospel to the Gentiles. ■

Paul and Peter’s fight at Antioch ... and makes no faith


In his letter to the Galatians, yet you live like a Gentile … distinction between
Paul describes a combative How is it, then, that you force Gentile and Jew.
encounter in Antioch with the Gentiles to follow Jewish
Apostle Peter over Jewish customs?” (2:14).
dietary laws. Paul publicly These were difficult issues
accuses Peter of inconsistency for leaders of the early Church.
and hypocrisy because Peter As shown at the Council of
sometimes eats with Gentile Jerusalem, Peter and other
believers, but at other times Church leaders eventually agree This decision preserves
refrains from doing so for fear that outreach to the Gentiles the unity of the Church
of offending Jewish visitors from was God’s initiative through and takes its reach beyond
Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11–12). Christ and could not be ignored that of Judaism.
Paul argues, “You are a Jew, by the Church.
294

I ADMIT THAT I
WORSHIP THE GOD OF
OUR ANCESTORS AS A
FOLLOWER OF THE WAY
ACTS 24:14, PAUL’S ARREST

D
espite it leading to his this. “I am going to Jerusalem,” he
IN BRIEF arrest and near lynching tells friends, “not knowing what
at the hands of a mob, the will happen to me there. I only
PASSAGE
Apostle Paul’s decision to return to know that in every city the Holy
Acts 21:17–28:31
Jerusalem from Rome is made for Spirit warns me that … hardships
THEME a simple and virtuous reason: he are facing me” (Acts 20:22–23).
Faith under trial wants to hand over money that
has been collected among Gentile Pain and trials
SETTING churches to relieve the poor of It is not long until Paul must face
c.57–60 ce Jerusalem and the Judean Church. The intent is these hardships. His first act
Caesarea Maritima. generous, yet, as Luke makes clear, upon arriving in Jerusalem is to
by traveling to the Jewish capital, meet with James, the leader of
KEY FIGURES
Paul is entering dangerous territory. the Judean Church, who warns
Paul An Apostle of Christ.
The Apostle is only too aware of him that many believers in Judea
Claudius Lysias A tribune think Paul is subverting the Law
(high-ranking military officer) of Moses because of a rumor that
in command of the Roman Paul has been teaching Jews to
garrison in Jerusalem. abandon their obedience to that
law. To prove them wrong, he
Roman procurators suggests that Paul join four local
Governors of Judea, first believers who are about to undergo
Marcus Antonius Felix a Jewish purification rite. Paul
c.52–60 ce, then Porcius agrees and reaches the last day of
Festus c.60–62 ce. the rite before he is spotted in the
Temple by Jews from Asia. He has
Agrippa II Great-grandson also been seen in the company of a
of Herod the Great. A Roman- Greek from Ephesus, and the Jews
appointed king whose realms assume he has sacrilegiously taken
include Galilee.
The arrest of Paul is a popular
subject in religious artwork, such as
this fresco from the Papal Basilica of
St. Paul Outside the Walls, which was
built on the site of Paul’s burial.
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 295
See also: Peter’s Denial 256–57 ■ The Crucifixion 258–65 ■ The Word
Spreads 288–89 ■ The Road to Damascus 290–91

the Greek into parts of the Temple


forbidden to Gentiles. A riot ensues
in which, according to Acts, the
Asian Jews drag Paul from the
Temple and try to kill him. He is
saved only by the intervention of My brothers … I stand
a Roman commander who takes on trial because of the
him into protective custody and, hope of the resurrection
after discovering a plot within the of the dead.
Jewish Sanhedrin to murder Paul, Acts 23:6
sends him to the headquarters of
the Roman governor, Felix.
Paul remains a prisoner there
for two years until Felix is replaced
by another Roman governor, Festus, Persecution
who reviews the case alongside
and martyrdom
the Herodian King Agrippa. He death, and he is sent on to Rome
proposes another meeting with to live under house arrest for a For prophets in the Bible,
the Sanhedrin, but Paul, revealing further two years, before he faithfulness to God draws
that he is a Roman citizen, insists eventually gains his freedom. hostility. Jeremiah speaks for
on his case being referred to Rome. many when he begs God to
While imprisoned, Paul tells Gospel parallels “think of how I suffer reproach
the story of his conversion outside Throughout the trials of Paul, there for your sake” (Jeremiah
Damascus twice and portrays the are parallels with the account in 15:15). Likewise, Jesus makes
risen Jesus he encountered there Luke’s Gospel of the trial of Jesus, clear in the New Testament
as the fulfillment of all that God has who, like Paul, strived to spread the that just as He will suffer,
promised the Jewish people. In the word of God amid often barbaric so will the disciples that
end, Festus and Agrippa can find opposition. Unlike his portrayal of spread His message: “they
will seize you and persecute
no just cause to sentence Paul to Jesus, who remained largely silent
you … all on account of my
during His torments and judgment, name” (Luke 21:12).
in Acts Luke records three major The changing meaning of
speeches in which Paul defends the Greek word transliterated
himself and his record. Moreover, as “martyr” reflects this
Paul advocates for his own holiness close link between preaching
with a vehemence that Jesus does and suffering. In the New
I am saying nothing not display, arguing that he is not Testament, the word occurs
beyond what the prophets merely a Jew, but a Pharisee, and often, meaning “witness”—
and Moses said would thus, like all Pharisees, fully believes someone who bears witness
happen—that the Messiah in bodily resurrection, like that to Christ. By the end of the
would … bring the message experienced by Jesus. 1st century ce, as witnessing
of light to his own people Although the trajectories of increasingly began to lead to
and to the Gentiles. Jesus and Paul are not identical— persecution and death, the
word took on its modern
Acts 26:22–23 after all, within biblical scripture
meaning of one who suffers
Paul escapes his mission alive—
and dies for the sake of their
both men represent devout teachers religious beliefs. Paul himself
of the word of God who, despite was beheaded on the orders
suffering, choose to persist under of Emperor Nero.
the burden of their holy mission. ■
296

LOVE IS PATIENT,
LOVE IS KIND. IT DOES
NOT ENVY, IT DOES NOT
BOAST, IT IS NOT PROUD.
1 CORINTHIANS 13:4, THE WAY OF LOVE

T
he Apostle Paul’s letters Paul’s extended “hymn” to love,
IN BRIEF to the Corinthians are which itself forms the heart of a
his response to various discourse by Paul on how believers
PASSAGE
questions the Corinthian believers should behave and relate when
1 Corinthians 13:1–13
have sent him on topics ranging they meet for worship.
THEME from marriage and divorce to the For Paul, as for all other New
Love is everlasting use of spiritual gifts, such as Testament writers, love is the
speaking in tongues. In his first touchstone of the Christian faith;
SETTING letter, he describes seven things this begins with God’s love. In
54 ce Ephesus, a province that love is and does—love is the words of John’s Gospel: “God
in modern-day Turkey. patient; is kind; rejoices with so loved the world” (3:16) that He
truth; protects; trusts; hopes; and sent His own son to die for the
KEY FIGURES
perseveres; and, eight that it is not sins of man. That son, Jesus,
Paul Apostle who became a
or does not do—does not envy or shows that same love with acts
Christian after Jesus’s death. boast; is not proud, rude, self- of mercy, healing, and forgiveness,
One of the leading figures in seeking, or easily angered; keeps and tells His followers that love is
the early Church, he travels no record of wrongs; and does not the greatest commandment of all:
extensively, preaching the delight in evil. This is the core of love your neighbor, and “love the
word of God. Lord your God with all your heart
Corinthian believers The … with all your soul and with all
community in Corinth, who your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
are prone to factionalism
and cliquishness.
Above all else
Writing to the Romans, Paul says:
“you shall not commit adultery,”
“you shall not murder,” “you shall
not steal,” “you shall not covet,”
which are summed up in one

The martyrs Spes, Caritas, and Fides,


or Hope, Love (a modern translation for
Caritas), and Faith, named after the
three virtues, depicted in the Church
of St. Martin, Cumbria, England.
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 297
See also: The Golden Rule 210–11 ■ The Road to Damascus 290–91 ■
Paul’s Arrest 294–95 ■ Fruits of the Spirit 300

Types of love in the Bible

Agape—Divine love Eros—Romantic love Corinth


Love found between God and Jesus, The “erotic” or romantic love between
Jesus and His disciples, believers and two lovers (spouses), as depicted in The believers in Corinth were
God, and also among believers. Song of Songs. citizens of a rich, culturally
diverse metropolis. Much of
its prosperity was because
of its location on the isthmus
connecting the Peloponnese
with the rest of mainland
Greece, commanding not one
but two trade routes: from the
south to the north between
the Peloponnese and the rest
of the mainland, and west to
Philia—Brotherly love Storge—Familial love east between the Adriatic and
Love found in close friendships, such The love between family members, as Aegean seas. The capital of
as that between Jonathan and David shown in the Bible between Jacob and the Roman province of Achaea,
in the Old Testament. Isaac, or Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Corinth had sizable foreign
communities, which included
Egyptians and Jews, as well
command: “Love your neighbor things last: faith, hope, and love.
as many native Greeks.
as yourself” (Romans 13:9). Writing Of these three, Paul writes, the
According to Acts 18:1–11,
to the Corinthians, Paul applies this greatest is love. Love is produced Paul arrived in Corinth for the
“royal law” in a particular context. by God’s Spirit and should guide first time around 50 ce during
The Corinthians, he believes, are the use of the Spirit’s gifts. While his second missionary journey,
far too individualistic. They pride tongues and other gifts may fade and stayed for 18 months with
themselves on spiritual gifts, such and cease, love brings humility, a Jew, Aquila, and his wife,
as speaking in tongues or prophecy, unity, and peace. Priscilla. The couple had fled
in a way that causes division. Love from Rome the year before,
is missing, and Paul highlights the Apostle of love after the Jews were expelled
emptiness this causes in the first Some describe Paul as the “Apostle from the city.
part of his hymn: “if I speak in the of love.” As he writes in his letter The fractious church Paul
tongues of … angels, but do not to the Galatians—where the issue helped to establish in Corinth
have love, I am only a resounding is “Judaising” believers trying to remained close to his heart,
gong or a clanging cymbal” impose circumcision on Gentile and was the recipient of a
number of the Apostle’s
(1 Corinthians 13:1). believers—“neither circumcision
letters and appeals. Two of
The last section of Paul’s letter nor uncircumcision has any value. these letters became part
begins with the declaration, “love The only thing that counts is of the New Testament as the
never fails” (13:8). In a world of faith expressing itself through books of 1 and 2 Corinthians.
constant change, he says, just three love” (Galatians 5:6). ■
298

THE GRACE OF THE


LORD JESUS CHRIST
AND THE LOVE OF GOD
AND THE FELLOWSHIP
OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
2 CORINTHIANS 13:14, THE HOLY TRINITY

T
he church in Corinth, dignity of the three persons. It
IN BRIEF which the Apostle Paul had is thus one of the most complete
founded and led for several references in the New Testament
PASSAGE
years, faced many difficulties after to the concept of the Trinity.
2 Corinthians 13:1–14
Paul left to continue his missionary
THEME work, mainly arising from the arrival Three in one
The Trinity of teachers opposed to Paul. These The New Testament affirms that
problems prompted two letters there is only one true God, yet also
SETTING from the Apostle to correct and asserts that the Father is God,
54–55 ce Corinth, a major city redeem the wayward church.
in Greece and the provincial Writing from Ephesus in Asia
capital of the Roman province Minor, Paul takes a sharp tone
of Achaea. It was occupied by in 2 Corinthians, but ends on a
Rome until around 521 ce. gentle note. In the final paragraph
(13:11–14), he exhorts his readers
KEY FIGURES to become spiritually mature and to
Paul The Apostle who come together, reminding them
founded the church at Corinth that God is hard at work among
in around 50 ce during his them to this end. Paul then ends
ministry in the Aegean. by blessing the entire congregation,
The Corinthians Christians concluding, “May the grace of the
in the troubled church of Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of
God, and the fellowship of the Holy
Corinth, who have been led
Spirit be with you all” (13:14).
astray by teachers opposed
In this blessing, Paul combines
to Paul. three ideas about the relationship
of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit
to Christians, affirming the equal

The Holy Trinity (1440) by the Master


of the Darmstadt, an anonymous artist
from Germany, shows God holding the
body of His Son, and the Holy Spirit
represented by a dove.
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 299
See also: The Divinity of Jesus 190–93 ■ The Nature of Faith 236–41
The Council of Jerusalem 292–93 ■ Salvation Through Faith 301

Council of Nicaea
Constantine the Great’s
Council of Nicaea was the first
Holy Trinity of seven ecumenical councils
held between 325 and 787 ce.
The Trinity The purpose of each of these
refers to the meetings was to address
existence of
some of the heresies that
Jesus Christ God as three
The Father were arising within the
(The Son) consubstantial
persons. These Church and answer difficult
God three persons questions raised by Christian
are distinct— skeptics. Constantine realized
The Father, that by establishing universal
Christ, and Holy doctrines that could be widely
The Holy Spirit Spirit—yet share shared and promulgated,
one nature. the Church, and his empire,
would strengthen and expand.
Prior to the Council of Nicaea,
doctrine had been decided at
the local level, such as at the
Jesus is God (John 5:22–23), and but most eventually agreed that Council of Jerusalem in 50 ce.
the Holy Spirit is God (Matthew to deny the deity of Jesus was to Constantine himself
12:32). Christians have therefore render dependence upon Jesus presided over the council
concluded that the Bible teaches for salvation and that worship of meeting, even though he
its readers that, while there is only Him was a form of idolatry. While was a Catechumen (the
one divine being, there are three Arians affirmed that Jesus had name given to an adherent
divine persons within that being. a nature that was homoiousios of Christianity who had not
Reinforcing this idea are texts in (similar) to that of God the Father, been baptized). The rest of
which each Person is present but defenders of the Nicene Creed the council was made up of
distinct, such as in the baptismal insisted that Jesus’s nature was representatives drawn from
formula in Matthew 28:19; and the homoousious (same). In English, across Christendom.
“confessions” of faith in Ephesians the latter idea is expressed by the
4:4–6 and 1 Peter 1:1–2. word “consubstantial” or “being of
one substance with the Father.” ■
The Nicene Creed
In 325 ce, centuries after Paul’s
death, Church leaders met at
Nicaea (modern Iznik, Turkey) to
address the teachings of Arius. His
followers defended the uniqueness
of God and the personal distinction I believe in the Holy Spirit,
between the Father and Son by the Lord, the giver of life,
denying the godhood of Jesus, who proceeds from the
arguing that the Son merely had Father and the Son, who
a nature “similar” to the Father’s. with the Father and the Son
The Council of Nicaea developed is adored and glorified.
the ideas essential to the doctrine The Nicene Creed
of the Trinity: the uniqueness of Constantine the Great presides
God, the divinity of the Father and at the Council of Nicaea, in 325 ce,
in a 12th-century fresco in the
Son, and the personal distinction Bachkovo Monastery in Bulgaria.
between them. Christians argued The figure below him is Arius.
over these concepts extensively,
300

BUT THE FRUIT OF THE


SPIRIT IS LOVE, JOY,
PEACE, FORBEARANCE,
AND KINDNESS
GALATIANS 5:22–23, FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT

I
n his letter to the Galatians— Although Greek and Roman
IN BRIEF new churches in a province philosophers often made lists of
in present-day Turkey—Paul vices and virtues, Paul’s primary
PASSAGE
delivers an impassioned affirmation intention in Galatians is to draw
Galatians 5:13–26
of the importance of having faith in attention to the inevitable choice
THEME Christ, as he implores the people between the sins of the self-
Living by the Spirit not to return to a sinful life. righteous and living by the Spirit.
In Galatians 5, in particular, Paul focuses on vices that cause
SETTING Paul uses two lists in order to dissent among communities, such
48–55 ce Galatia, a province compare the vices produced by as jealousy, factions, and envy. The
in modern-day Turkey. human effort to the virtues that “fruit of the Spirit,” in contrast,
are “the fruit of the Spirit” (5:22). emphasizes principles centered on
KEY FIGURES
The first list outlines “acts of the healing communities; such as love,
Paul An Apostle of Christ who
flesh,” listing qualities such as patience, and gentleness. ■
acted as a missionary in the “sexual immorality … hatred” and
early Christian Church, later “selfish ambition” (5:19–20) among
writing letters to the churches the vices of sinful humanity. For
he founded. Many of these Paul, these sins dominate a society
epistles became books of the that has become focused purely
New Testament. on its selfish impulses.
The second list establishes So, I say, walk by the Spirit,
Galatians Lapsed followers of and you will not gratify
Christ from Galatia, a Roman the virtuous alternative to sin
as the “fruit of the Spirit”—love, the desires of the
province founded in the 3rd sinful nature.
joy, peace, forbearance, kindness,
century bce. Galatians 5:16
gentleness, and self-control. For
Paul, those who have embraced
these “have crucified the flesh”
(5:24) within themselves and have
been freed from their egotism,
enabling them to better serve God.

See also: Council of Jerusalem 292–93 ■ The Way of Love 296–97 ■

The Power of the Resurrection 304–05


ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 301

FOR IT IS BY GRACE
YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED,
THROUGH FAITH …
NOT BY WORKS
EPHESIANS 2:8–9, SALVATION THROUGH FAITH

A
fter he is arrested, and
IN BRIEF while he awaits trial in
Rome, Paul writes letters
PASSAGE
of encouragement to churches he
Ephesians 2:1–10
has founded around the Aegean
THEME Sea. In one such letter, to the
Faith and salvation people of Ephesus, Paul discusses
the importance of having faith in
SETTING God, compared to the significance
61–62 ce Ephesus, a province of performing “works”—that is,
in modern-day Turkey. good deeds and actions. Despite
stating that “we were created …
KEY FIGURES
to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10),
Paul An Apostle of Christ who
Paul repeatedly writes that personal
acted as a missionary in the salvation—being welcomed into Protestant reformer Martin Luther
early Christian Church. He the kingdom of heaven—can only was a firm proponent of the doctrine
wrote letters to the churches happen through faith in Jesus. of sola fide—salvation through faith
he founded, such as the church alone. This view was fundamental to
in Ephesus. Many of these the Protestant Reformation.
A gift from God
epistles became books of the According to Paul, the Ephesians
New Testament. were “dead in [their] transgressions Crucially, Paul tells the Ephesians
Saints in Ephesus Jewish and sins” (2:1), yet because God is that even their faith is a gift from
loving and merciful, He made them God, rather than a virtue they have
and Gentile Christians
alive with Christ. By this, Paul cultivated themselves. According
in the church in Ephesus.
means that the people’s actions to Paul, God alone may take credit
were previously of a sinful nature, for the salvation of the Ephesians:
not good works in the name of God. the people have been saved not
However, when the Ephesians were because they have done good
converted, they were saved through deeds, but because God, in His
God’s favor, His grace (2:8–9). grace, gave them faith. ■

See also: Fruits of the Spirit 300 ■ The Power of the Resurrection 304–05 ■

Faith and Works 312–13


302

PUT ON THE
FULL ARMOR
OF GOD
EPHESIANS 6:11, ARMOR OF GOD

T
he author of Ephesians “righteousness as His breastplate,
IN BRIEF uses fierce military imagery and the helmet of salvation on His
to convey his view that head” (Isaiah 59:17), Ephesians
PASSAGE
believers face all-out warfare in the describes the “full armor of God”
Ephesians 6:10–20
fight against evil. It is a struggle (Ephesians 6:11) that believers, too,
THEME populated not with human foes at can and must adorn to take their
The protection of God the earthly level, but with powerful stand “against the rulers, against
and malevolent supernatural the authorities, against the powers
SETTING beings—the scheming devil and of this dark world” (Ephesians 6:12).
c.61–62 ce Ephesus The the hierarchy of “spiritual forces
Ephesian letter was probably of evil in the heavenly realms” The Ephesian audience
written for churches in (Ephesians 6:12). As with all New Testament
western Asia Minor, of which For believers, however, God’s writings, Ephesians is addressing
the church in Ephesus was the power is greater. Drawing on the believers in a particular context.
largest and most important. Old Testament prophet Isaiah, The Ephesians live in a region
who depicts God putting on of Asia Minor whose chief city,
KEY FIGURES Ephesus, is famous for magical
Author of Ephesians Early practices associated with the
Christians believed this to be goddess Artemis. For them,
Paul. Some modern scholars as for the area’s Jewish converts,
argue that it is more likely to the world has two dimensions—
be one of his disciples. earthly and heavenly—and the
heavenly realm includes fearsome
Readers The recipients of
forces of evil as well as of good.
the letter were mostly Gentile
Ephesians in no way denies this
converts to Christianity. vision of things—it simply puts
this idea into a wider perspective
by asserting the supreme power

St. Michael the Archangel dons


full armor in his victorious battle
against Satan in the book of Revelation.
This painting, composed in the early
16th century, is by an unknown artist.
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 303
See also: The Nature of Faith 236–41 ■ The Crucifixion 258–65 ■ The Road to Emmaus 272–73 ■

The Power of the Resurrection 304–05 ■ The Final Judgment 316–21

of God and the authority of the risen The full armor of God is stated The Armor of God
Christ seated “at His right hand in as including truthfulness,
Helmet of
the heavenly realms, far above all righteousness, salvation, peace, salvation
rule and authority, power, and and faith. Ultimately, Ephesians Sword of (6:17)
dominion” (Ephesians 1:20–21). is about resisting the assaults of the Spirit
temptation—originating in both (6:17)
Standing firm the individual’s sinful nature and the
Just as God’s power has raised spiritual forces of evil—and living
Christ from the dead, so it has also one’s daily life in a truly Christian
raised believers from their pagan way by being moral, honorable,
practices. Even so, Ephesians says, and loving. ■
the world and believers are in an
interim state. There is a fullness Breastplate of
yet to come—a further, definitive righteousness
(6:14)
stage in history “when the times
reach their fulfillment” and unity
will be brought to “all things in Belt of truth
heaven and on earth under Christ” Stand firm then, (6:14)
(Ephesians 1:10). with the belt of truth Shield
Until this happens, believers buckled around your waist, of faith
are still vulnerable to the ever- with the breastplate of (6:16)
active forces of spiritual evil. For righteousness in place,
this reason, they need to “be strong and with your feet
in the Lord” (6:10), emphasizing fitted with … peace. Feet fitted with
peace (6:15)
their complete reliance on God Ephesians 6:14–15
when cultivating courage. Believers
According to Ephesians, the
are instructed to put on the “full conflict with Satan is a spiritual one.
armor” of God and stand firm— Thus, one requires a full complement
a command that is repeated in of spiritual weapons to use against
Ephesians three times. him and other evils.

Ephesus Standing on the Aegean coast According to the Book of Acts,


of Asia Minor (roughly modern Paul visited Ephesus twice.
Turkey), Ephesus was an He most likely founded the
intellectual and cultural hub of community of Christian
up to 250,000 people and capital believers there on a brief visit
of the Roman province of Asia. during his second missionary
The city was also an important journey. Later, during his third
religious center renowned for mission, Paul spent more than
magical practices, mystery cults, two years in the city before
and, above all, the worship of he and his companions were
Artemis, Greek goddess of woods forced to leave—their ministry
and hunting and the most success triggered a riot among
venerated deity of Asia Minor. silversmiths, who saw them
Her temple at Ephesus was one as a threat to their livelihood,
of the seven wonders of the which depended on making
ancient world and the largest devotional offerings to the
Greek temple ever built. goddess Artemis.
304

I WANT TO
KNOW CHRIST
PHILIPPIANS 3:10, THE POWER
OF THE RESURRECTION

P
aul wrote his letter to the
IN BRIEF Christians in Philippi while
imprisoned, preparing his
PASSAGE
defense in rebuttal of charges of
Philippians 3:1–14
treason against the Emperor Nero.
THEME The charge arose because early
The power of Christ’s Christians affirmed that “Jesus
resurrection is Lord,” refusing Roman oaths of
loyalty, because they considered
SETTING them blasphemous. To their
c.50 ce Philippi, a Roman enemies, however, their refusal
colony in Macedonia. suggested subversive intent.
A critical part of Paul’s defense
KEY FIGURES
would have been that loyalty to
Paul The Apostle, who Jesus did not foster rebellion, but
founded the church in Philippi. instead produced virtuous citizens.
According to the letter, he Philippi, a military colony, was
is a prisoner at the time of mainly populated by retired Roman
writing—most likely in Rome. soldiers or their descendants—an
The Philippians Christians outpost of loyalists with a duty to
in Philippi, most of whom are secure the province of Macedonia.
Gentile converts. Demonstrating that Christians
were exemplary citizens in a city
unquestionably loyal to the Empire
would persuade the Romans to
tolerate the new religion.
Paul seemed to have this in
mind when he urged the people to
“conduct yourselves”—literally, live
out your citizenship—“in a matter
St. Paul holding the sword of the worthy of … Christ” (Philippians
Spirit. This painting is attributed 1:27). The key to Paul’s defense
to the Italian Renaissance artist was the moral behavior of the
Macrino d’Alba, 1490–1527. Christians in Philippi. Yet he
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 305
See also: The Empty Tomb 268–71 ■ The Road to Damascus 290–91 ■ Paul’s Arrest 294–95 ■ Armor of God 302–03

notes that their good character had “for you died, and your life is now
been threatened by “false teachers,” hidden with Christ in God. When
who claimed that righteousness Christ, who is your life, appears,
depended on keeping the Mosaic then you also will appear with
Law of circumcision. Paul was Him in glory.”
writing to the Christians in Philippi Paul teaches that the power of At the name of Jesus
to testify against this belief, and the resurrection drives the entire every knee [shall] bow …
argue that Christians received their Christian way of living: Jesus’s and every tongue
righteousness from God. resurrection enables His people acknowledge that
thereafter to live new, transformed Jesus Christ is Lord,
Alive in Christ lives, characterized by obeying to the glory of God
Christians believe they become God’s laws in all that they do. the Father.
righteous when faith leads them to Peter’s teaching echoes this idea: Philippians 2:10–11
experience “the power of [Christ’s] “His divine power has given us
resurrection” (3:10). This means the everything we need for a godly life”
power of God that raised Jesus (2 Peter 1:3). Even in difficult times,
from the dead similarly transforms such as those faced by the early
the spiritually “dead” (sinners) into Christians, belief in Christ’s
“living” saints. Indeed, Paul saw resurrection would transform
any person’s conversion to faith in the character of the converts to is the true place of Christian
Jesus as a manifestation of the make them exemplary citizens in citizenship. At that time, the
power of the resurrection. Philippi—justifying the claim that dead will rise, and the living will
In a letter to the Colossians, “Jesus is Lord” (Philippians 2:11). be brought up to meet Christ
Paul writes that although believers in the air, in physical bodies like
once lived in sin, their sins have The final resurrection that of the resurrected Lord.
been buried, and they have been Paul concludes that ultimate In that moment, Paul writes,
reborn through Jesus. By coming experience of “the power of His the appearance of the resurrected
to know God, they now share in his resurrection” will come in the savior will complete the process
resurrecting power. In Colossians future, at the Second Coming of eliminating sin and perfecting
3:3–4, for example, Paul writes of Christ from heaven—which righteousness in Christians. ■

Paul’s influence Gentile converts should not be


on Christianity made to submit to the rite of
circumcision and Jewish dietary
Paul molded Christianity more laws. This helped Christianity
than any other Apostle, paving to spread throughout the Greek
the way for it to become a major and Roman worlds, rather than
world religion. Although Peter and merely remaining the faith of
Philip converted the first Gentiles, a small Jewish sect.
it was Paul’s tireless missionary Paul’s other legacy was
journeys that brought the Gospel his letters. Thirteen of the
to thousands across the eastern 27 books of the New Testament
Roman Empire and finally in are attributed to him. These
Rome itself. Crucial in this quest letters elaborate much of the
An illustration of the preaching was Paul’s insistence, against New Testament’s theology and,
of the first missionary Apostles, considerable opposition, that all for Christians, act as a guide for
after a 15th-century Arras tapestry believers—Gentile and Jewish— the application of its teaching
in Tournai Cathedral, Belgium. had equal status and that in a practical context.
306

AND HE IS THE
HEAD OF THE BODY,
THE CHURCH
COLOSSIANS 1:18, THE BODY OF CHRIST

T
he image of the community fractious people and chastising
IN BRIEF of believers as a discrete them, Paul employs the image to
entity unfolds and develops press home a message about unity
PASSAGES
in the Pauline writings of the New despite diversity. “Just as a body,
Colossians 1:15–23,
Testament. It was by no means a though one, has many parts …
1 Corinthians 12:12–31, new idea. The concept of the “body all its many parts form one body,”
Ephesians 4:1–16 politic”—an understanding of a he tells his readers. Then, he
THEME nation of peoples as one body— continues: “So it is with Christ”
The body of Christ as was commonplace among Greek (1 Corinthians 12:12).
a metaphor for the and Roman philosophers. Plato had
Christian Church used it, as had Aristotle, Cicero, A united body
Seneca, and many others. Despite coming from diverse
SETTING For his part, Paul takes hold backgrounds, the Corinthian
c.54 ce Letters written to of the idea and begins to develop believers must remember the basic
the churches of Asia Minor it in earnest in his first letter to unity they have through God’s
by Paul and his disciples. the Corinthians. Writing to the Spirit. “For we were all baptized by
one Spirit so as to form one body—
KEY FIGURES whether Jews or Gentiles, slave
Paul An Apostle of Christ, or free—and we were all given the
writing to the churches in one Spirit to drink” (12:13).
Corinth and Asia Minor. Continuing with the image of
Author of Colossians Early the body, Paul reminds the different
cliques among the Corinthians
Christians believed this to be
of their inescapable need for one
Paul. Some modern scholars
another: “The eye cannot say
argue that it is more likely to to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’
have been one of his disciples. And the head cannot say to the
feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (12:21).

St. Ignatius, painted in oils by


Giuseppe Franchi (1565–1628), was
an early Christian writer and Bishop
of Antioch. He was the first to employ
the term “Catholic Church” in writing.
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 307
See also: The Word Spreads 288–89 ■ The Way of Love 296–97 ■ The Holy Trinity 298–99 ■

The Power of the Resurrection 304–05

Pope Francis, the 266th head of the


Roman Catholic Church, rides through
the crowds of the faithful in September
2015, as he attends mass at the Vatican.

Nor is there any room for one group


of members to regard itself as
better than the others: “God has
put the body together, giving
greater honor to the parts that
lacked it, so that there should be
no division in the body, but that
its parts should have equal concern
for each other” (12:24–25).
In several letters, Paul refers to
certain “gifts,” such as wisdom or This is the first mention of “the
faith, that Christians receive by body of Christ” in the Bible and, The concept
believing in Jesus. The analogy of in 1 Corinthians, the concept has of the Church
the body as a united entity is a way a relatively narrow focus. It is about
of ensuring that none of these gifts living out the Christian message of In Greek, the word ekklesia,
usually translated in the New
is viewed as superior to others. If love and service in the context of a
Testament as “church,” simply
more visible “gifts” are held in too local place of worship.
refers to an assembly called
great esteem, they will promote together for, say, a political
pride, with one exception—love— Developing the image purpose. The Greek version
as there is no greater gift that one Two later writings of the New of the Hebrew Bible, the
can possess or give in return. Testament—the letters to the Septuagint, uses the term in
Paul ends his exhortation with Colossians and the Ephesians— this sense to describe various
a simple metaphor: “Now you are are regarded by some scholars as assemblies of the people of
the body of Christ, and each one the work of two of Paul’s disciples, Israel. It is later—in Acts and
of you is a part of it” (12:27). and add to the image of the united the Pauline writings, above
body. Jesus Christ “is before all all—that the word starts to
things, and in Him all things hold acquire the meaning of
together” (Colossians 1:17). “church” as we know it today.
The author of Ephesians Generally, in the Pauline
expounds on this idea: “We will writings, the term refers to
an assembly of believers in
grow to become in every respect
Instead, speaking the a particular city or region—
the mature body of Him who is the as when Paul refers to the
truth in love, we will head, that is, Christ. From Him Galatians, for example, as the
grow to become in every the whole body, joined and held “churches in Galatia.” In the
respect the mature body together by every supporting later New Testament books
of Him who is the head, ligament, grows and builds itself of Colossians and Ephesians,
that is, Christ. up in love, as each part does its the use of the term “church”
Ephesians 4:15 work” (Ephesians 4:15–16). This (ekklesia) further develops the
vivid depiction presents the body more transcendent meaning
of Christ as a living, breathing of the body of all believers,
organism. Built on love, the body united as the body of Christ
of Christ depends and thrives on and the Holy Spirit.
the faith of its members. ■
308
IN BRIEF

SCRIPTURE
PASSAGE
2 Timothy 3:14–17
THEME

IS GOD-
Authorship of scripture
SETTING
c.64–67 ce Letter written
by Paul in Rome.

BREATHED
KEY FIGURES
Paul The Apostle, who is
imprisoned in Rome awaiting
trial. He writes letters to
various churches and disciples,
2 TIMOTHY 3:16, including Timothy.

THE BIBLE AS GOD’S WORD Timothy A disciple and


former representative of the
Apostle Paul. Timothy serves
as the pastor of the church
Paul founded in Ephesus.
Jesus The Messiah and Son
of God, whose proclamations
are divine. Jesus’s teaching
highlighted the divine
authority of scripture.

N
ear the end of his life,
Paul was imprisoned
in Rome, awaiting trial
before the emperor for charges
related to his faith. During this
time, the Apostle wrote several
letters to colleagues and friends,
including to his young disciple,
Timothy. He had become a
trusted aide to Paul as the two
men traveled to Greek cities on
both sides of the Aegean Sea.
In his second letter to Timothy,
Paul encouraged him to deal
with false teachers and remain
committed to what he had been
taught. As a child, Timothy’s
mother and grandmother had
taught him the Hebrew scriptures,
ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION 309
See also: The Divinity of Jesus 190–93 ■ The Word Spreads 288–89 ■

Paul’s Arrest 294–95 ■ The Power of the Resurrection 304–05

who had been trained among the


Pharisees as a rabbi, would see
the Old Testament as coming
directly from the Lord. Since Moses,
the prophets had introduced their
[Scripture] is useful pronouncements with the phrase,
for teaching … and “This is what the Lord says …”
training in righteousness, more than 400 times, while “the
so that the servant word of the Lord came” appears
of God may be 245 times in the Bible.
thoroughly equipped.
2 Timothy 3:16 Prophecies of old
At roughly the same time as Paul, Timothy
the Apostle Peter writes that the
Timothy was a colleague
prophets of the Old Testament
of the Apostle Paul during
never came by their prophecies several of Paul’s missionary
based on their own interpretations: journeys and his imprisonment
“For prophecy never had its origin in Rome. The son of a Jewish-
which had prepared him to hear in the human will, but prophets, Christian mother and a Greek
and understand Paul’s message though human, spoke from God father, Timothy had been
that Jesus was the fulfillment of as they were carried along by taught the Hebrew scriptures
the Old Testament prophecies the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). These (the Old Testament) from an
of a messiah who would redeem writings were not considered to be early age. Paul used Timothy
God’s chosen people. the prophets’ personal opinions as either a coauthor or the
These scriptures, Paul wrote, about what was happing or what recording secretary for his
were “God-breathed” (2 Timothy they wanted to see happen in the letters to the Philippians,
3:16). This phrase indicates that future. The prophets were mere Colossians, and to Philemon.
Paul himself understood the agents; they spoke from God, During Paul’s life, Timothy
served as his representative
Hebrew scriptures to be God’s and they had as much control
to churches in Thessalonica,
Word. It is little surprise that Paul, over the content of their writings
Corinth, and Philippi, before
as sailors on a small boat in a he eventually took up the role
storm. God’s Spirit was the wind of pastor in Ephesus. Paul
that carried them along and wrote two letters directly to
determined their course. Timothy in Ephesus; these
Jesus speaks in ways similar became the books of 1 and 2
to the Old Testament prophets, Timothy. The latter, written
but with a unique development. from prison in the last days of
Like the prophets, Jesus says that his life, is considered to have
He speaks from God (John 12:49). been Paul’s spiritual last will
Unlike the prophets, however, Jesus and testament.
does not preface His sermons with One Christian author in
“This is what God says.” Instead, ❯❯ the eighth century claimed
Timothy was present with
Mary, the mother of Jesus, at
Illustrated manuscripts of the the end of her life. According
Bible, such as this page from the Book to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs,
of Kells, an Irish manuscript of the Timothy was beaten to death
Gospels from c.800, both glorified by a mob in Ephesus in 97 ce.
God’s word and aided understanding.
310 THE BIBLE AS GOD’S WORD
The Bible in its entirety has been
translated into 363 languages, and
the New Testament into 1,442. These
pilgrims in Lalibela, Ethiopia, hear the
word of God in their native Amharic.

proverbs. The prophetic books of


the Old Testament (from Isaiah
to Malachi) identify human authors,
as do each of the New Testament
epistles, except for the mysterious
Epistle to the Hebrews.
The human authors of the Bible
each display vast differences in
background, language, and style,
as well as geographical, cultural,
and historical location. They wrote
in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and
the common Greek spoken in the
first century ce. Some authors
were highly educated (for example,
Moses, Isaiah, and Paul), while
others were farmers and fishermen
He prefaces His pronouncements (Amos and Peter), producing a wide
Apocrypha with “I tell you,” and uses this variety of literary genres ranging
phrase nearly 140 times throughout from narratives and histories to
The apocryphal books are the Bible. Paul indicates that he genealogical records. Other biblical
an additional set of writings
sees Jesus’s teachings as the writings take the form of poetry,
associated with the Old
Word of God when he introduces proverb, and apocalyptic vision.
Testament. Mostly written
in Greek, all were completed a combined quote of Deuteronomy The concept of dual authorship
between 300–100 bce, and and Jesus with the words, addresses the question of how to
came into use by Christians “Scripture says …” Interestingly, reconcile the interaction between
due to their inclusion in some this expanded understanding divine and human in the scriptures.
Greek translations of the Old of the divinity of scripture also The Bible depicts authors as
Testament (the Septuagint). encompasses the writings of Paul recording messages that they had
While many early Christian himself. Peter says that Paul writes
bishops did not accept the with God-given wisdom and warns
apocryphal books, recognition that false teachers will attempt to
of them grew among Roman distort Paul’s writings, “as they do
Catholic bishops in the late the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).
Middle Ages. They were
formally adopted as scripture Dual authorship Prophets, though human,
by the Council of Trent in spoke from God as they
The Bible’s words on its divine
1546. Of the 18 apocryphal were carried along
texts, Roman Catholics accept
origin stand alongside clear
seven as scripture, plus the acknowledgment of its human by the Holy Spirit.
expanded versions of the authorship. Jesus attributes the 2 Peter 1:21
books of Daniel and Esther. Pentateuch of the Old Testament
They can be found in the to Moses. The Psalms are
Old Testament of the Roman attributed to King David, while
Catholic Bible. David’s son, Solomon, is identified
as the author of many of the

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