Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Sunday School Lesson #29

Posted by Jim F. on July 24, 2007

Lesson 29: Acts 6-9

Acts 6

Verses 1-7: Who were the “Grecians”? We would probably call them “Hellenists.” Remember that as yet the Gospel has not been preached to the Gentiles, so who might these people have been? Is there anything comparable to this division in today’s Church? Why were the Grecians complaining? The word “disciples” (verses 1-2) translates a Greek word that means “learners” or “students.” Why would Luke use that name to describe the members of the Church? In verse 2, the phrase “serve tables” is a misleading translation of a Greek idiom meaning “keep accounts.” (Just as one of our words for bench, “bank,” can mean either “bench” or “financial institution,” the Greeks used “table” to mean both the tables at which they ate and the tables at which they conducted monetary transactions.) The second translation fits the context better. What does Peter mean by “leave the word of God” (verse 2)? How does Peter propose to solve the problem that confronts him? Why is it important for Luke that “a great company of the priests [i.e., of the Zadokites—Sadducees—the party which controlled the temple] were obedient to the faith”?

Verses 8-15: Stephen’s church calling is to see to it that the welfare funds are distributed equitably among the members of the Church. However, from here on we see nothing of him carrying out that job. We see only his preaching. Why? Is there any connection between the story of solving the welfare problem and Stephen’s martyrdom other than the fact that Stephen was involved in each? The description of Stephen in verse 8 is parallel to his description in verse 5. Why does Luke focus on these aspects of Stephen’s character? In verse 9, “the Libertines” seems to refer to the descendants of Jews who had been taken as slaves to Rome in 63 BC. The descendants were later given their liberty and returned to Rome. Several additional groups meet in this synagogue. What do you think they are disputing about with Stephen? What does verse 10 tell u? In what sense can the members of the synagogue not resist Stephen’s wisdom and spirit? How are “wisdom and spirit” connected with the earlier descriptions of Stephen as “a man of full of faith and the Holy Ghost” (verse 5) and as a man “full of faith and power”? What is the connection between wisdom and faith? What is the connection between having the Holy Ghost and having power? What kind of power? What are the charges against Stephen (verses 11-14)? Is there a parallel between Stephen’s experience and Christ’s? If so, what does that parallel teach us?

Acts 7

Verses 1-53: How does Stephen’s sermon (verses 2-53) answer the high priest’s question (verse 1) and the charges made against him (Acts 6:11-14)? If it doesn’t, why not? When Jesus taught the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), he did so by teaching them from the history of Israel recorded in scripture. When he then taught the disciples (Luke 24), he did the same thing. When Peter preached (Acts 2-3), he does the same thing. Now Stephen does it. Why is this the pattern of preaching for the first Christians? What does this pattern have to do with the audience to whom they are preaching? Does it have anything to do with Peter’s assumption that those to whom he is preaching do what they do out of ignorance (Acts 3:17)? What does that ancient pattern suggest about our preaching today? In verse 51 Stephen tells them that they resist the Holy Ghost just as their fathers did. Does the history of Israel that he has recounted show that they have resisted? How? Which of the prophets did Israel persecute (verse 52)? (See, for example, 2 Chronicles 36:14-16 and 1 Kings 19:14.) Which did it slay (verse 52)? (See, for example, Jeremiah 26:23 and 2 Chronicles 24:20-21.) In verse 53 Stephen accuses them of having received the Law but not having kept it. In what sense have they not kept it? Remember that Stephen is speaking not only to Sadducees, for whom the Law means keeping the temple ordinances and the associated purity laws, but also to the Pharisees, for whom the Law means the temple ordinances and purity laws and their interpretations of those purity laws for everyday life. Both groups have been zealous in keeping the Law as they understand it. Do we have comparable groups in the Church today, those who understand differently what our law means? How might we who are also zealous in keeping the law we have received be like these people to whom Stephen speaks? Is there a sense in which we, too, receive the law but don’t keep it—in spite of our zeal for the law?

Verses 54-60: Though the King James translation of verse 54 makes it appear that members of the council starting chewing on Stephen, it probably really means that they gritted their teeth and showed their anger to him by doing so: “they gritted their teeth at him” might be a more literal translation. What is the significance of Stephen’s vision (verses 55-56)? What does it mean to see “the glory of God”? Is that the same as seeing the Father himself? Why does the council react to Stephen’s vision as they do (verses 57-58)? In verse 57 why do the members of the council shout out loudly and cover their ears in response to the vision? It appears that the stoning of Stephen was not done in accordance with Jewish law. If that is true, what does it tell us? “They stoned Stephen” could better be translated “they kept on stoning Stephen.” Who was calling out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (verse 59)? Compare verse 59 to Luke 23:46. What does that comparison suggest?

Acts 8

Verses 1-3: Why does this section begin and end with comments about Saul? How do verses 1 and 3 differ in their depiction of Saul? Why do the apostles remain in Jerusalem even though the other members of the Church flee to the countryside to avoid persecution?

Verses 4-25: What is the consequence of persecution (verse 4)? Is the Philip mentioned here (verse 5) one of the apostles or is he one of the seven men chosen to deal with the welfare problem (Acts 6:5)? How do you know which he is? What would traditional Jews have thought of Philip preaching to the Samaritans? Why does Simon join himself to Philip (verses 9-13)? What effect do you think that would have had on Philip’s preaching? Why do Peter and John go to Samaria to see that the people there receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; why didn’t Philip give them that gift (verses 14-17)? Did Peter and John know of Philip’s preaching beforehand? What was not right about Simon’s heart (verse 21)? In Deuteronomy 29:17, we also see the phrase “gall of bitterness” (verse 23), where that phrase has to do with idolatry. Does it have that or a related meaning here? Had Simon’s conversion been genuine? (See verse 13.) What does Simon’s response (verse 24) show us?

Verses 26-40: The word translated “eunuch” may not mean a person who has been emasculated but, instead, a government official. Indeed, that was the most common use of the term in ancient literature. Since eunuchs in the former sense were not allowed to convert to Judaism (Deuteronomy 23:1—but see Isaiah 56:3-8 for the Lord’s promise to them), it is likely that the latter is the intended sense, especially given the way verse 27 describes him. What would traditional Jews have thought of this man’s conversion? (Remember that at this time the Christians were still considered part of Judaism, both by themselves and by the Jews.) What does Luke intend to show by telling this story and the story of Philip’s preaching in Samaria, one right after the other? If the eunuch has gone to worship in Jerusalem (verse 27), what do we know about him? Note that he was almost certainly reading out loud (verse 28). It was very rare in the ancient world for a person to be able to read silently. What problem is the eunuch having with Isaiah 53:7-8 (“Esaias”—see Acts 8:30-31)? Note that though the meaning of verse 37 is consonant with the story in which it appears, that verse was probably not part of the original manuscript. It seems to be a later addition. Why do you think that the Spirit carried Philip off after he baptized the eunuch (verse 39)?

Acts 9

Verses 1-2: It is probably helpful to know that the Roman government had given the council of Jerusalem (the Sanhedrin) authority over Jews living in cities outside the boundaries of Judea. Why do you think Paul would have chosen Damascus as a place to root out Christianity?

Verses 3-9: How is Saul persecuting Christ (verse 4)? Jesus uses a Greek proverb: It is difficult to kick against the goads (verse 5). What is the point of that proverb? What happens to an ox that kicks when it is goaded by its master? Is Christ warning Saul? If so, of what? Why doesn’t the Lord tell Saul what he wants him to do (verse 6)? Why does he send him to Damascus to find out? Why do you think that Saul was struck blind?

Verses 10-22: A saint is someone dedicated or consecrated to God (verse 13). What does it mean to say that we are consecrated to our Christ? How are verses 15 and 16 parallel? Why and in what sense or senses must those who bear Christ’s name to unbelievers suffer for his sake? Given what we have seen before about the early Christian method of preaching, how do you suppose that Saul went about proving that Jesus was the Messiah (verse 22)?

Verses 23-31: Why do the Jews want to kill Saul? How does the Jerusalem church’s response compare to that of those in Damascus (compare verse 26 to verses 19-22)? Why does Barnabas take Saul to see the apostles (verse 27)? Why might Saul have particularly preached to the Grecians in Jerusalem (verse 29)? Are these the same Grecians referred to in Acts 6:1? Why would they want to kill Saul (verse 29)? What does it mean to say “then had the churches rest” (verse 31)?

Verses 32-43: Why is it important for Luke to tell this story? Presumably there were other miracles stories that he does not tell. Why tell this one?

Note on the names “Saul” and “Paul”

Though it is common to say that the name is “Saul” before his conversion and “Paul” afterward, that appears not to be the case. For one thing, the book of Acts refers to him as Saul after his conversion (Acts 13:1). For another, the scriptures give us no reason for the two names. Roman citizens generally had three names, a personal name, a clan name, and a family name. Many people also had a nickname. “Paulus,” “Paul” in English, was a common Roman family name and never occurs as a personal name in any documents outside the New Testament, so it is unlikely that it is a personal name there either. However, “Saul” was a common personal name among Jews. So, the name “Saul” appears to have been his personal name while the name “Paul” was probably his family name.

An outline for teaching the lesson on these materials

I. Jesus’ prayer — John 17:20-23

“perfect in one

D&C 38:27

“Not one ⇒ not mine”

Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35

all in common

Acts 6:1

murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews
Why?

II. Why was Stephen called to solve the problem?

Acts 6:5, 8: full of faith and the Holy Ghost
How is that relevant?
Acts 6:10: can’t resist his wisdom and spirit
Why not?
So what?

After a long sermon rehearsing the history of Israel, Stephen says they have received the law but not kept it (Acts 7:53).

Pattern of his sermon: history of Israel, namely Canaan – Egypt – deliverance – return

Also a common pattern in the Book of Mormon

How can it be that these Jews have received the Law but not kept it?

“Keep” = ?

Lesson for us?

III. Paul

Acts 9:3-6: Saul’s vision and conversion

29 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #29”

  1. dan seefelt said

    I have a question regarding Saul. Can’t we consider being a “party to the death of Stephen” on the same level with David’s party to the death of Uriah? After all, both of them got what they wanted in the end, the death of a certain person! So why don’t we talk about Paul losing his reward as we do David?

  2. brianj said

    dan: If I were to answer your question, I’d first have to answer my own question: “Why do we talk about David losing his reward?” It’s one of those beliefs that I just don’t ‘get’.

  3. Jim F. said

    dan seefelt: David set up things so that Uriah would be killed. Paul assented to Stephen’s death–he agreed to it, and the coats of the witnesses were laid at his feet, though we don’t know what that means–but that is different than actually bringing it about. Agreeing that someone should die is awful, but it is not as bad as actually doing things in order bring about that death. From what we see here, didn’t Saul do the former rather than the latter?

    brianj: D&C 132:39 does say that David has fallen from his exaltation and that he will not have his wives in the world to come. I don’t know any more than that, and I’m not sure what that entails, but it seems to be the basis for our discussions of David losing his reward.

  4. BrianJ said

    Jim F: I’m familiar with the scripture in D&C. What I meant is that I just don’t understand it. I read Psalms (yes, I know that some amount of it was not written by David) and I see a person who is a lot like me: a sinner who is sickened by his sin. The difference is that David (or the Psalmist) seems to grieve much more than I do; he seems to be an example of how I should repent. He also seems to have an incredible knowledge about the coming Messiah, and it at least appears to me that some of that came post-Uriah (but I’m no expert; it’s just how it reads to me).

    All of this is to say—being open and honest here—that I simply want to reject the notion that David was not forgiven. I want to find him exalted. (And if that’s a sin on my part, then…I don’t know what.) Because Psalms contains so much reaching that I don’t want it to be in vain.

    A side issue is that it feels very awkward to me to talk about someone else’s condemnation. That just seems like a private matter between them and the Lord (but maybe it isn’t).

    One more point: I don’t get what it means that David lost his portion or exaltation. What exactly did he lose? It seems like we (as a Church) talk about that without really knowing what it means (Cf robf’s Feasting Upon the Vision post).

  5. Jim F. said

    brianj: I assumed that you were familiar with the scripture from the D&C. You, however, asked why we talk about David losing his reward, and that’s the reason, though, as you point out in #4, the scripture says he lost his portion rather than his reward.

    I agree with you that we don’t know much about what that means, so I also agree that trying to decide David’s fate is pointless, if not in fact sinful. In addition, I don’t think it can possibly be a sin to hope that David will be exalted, whatever the scriptures say, since I don’t think it can be wrong to hope the good for another person.

  6. Matthew said

    I’m not taking a position on this question of David’s punishment for his sins except to say that I don’t think this is purely a private matter or it wouldn’t be a topic in the D&C. However, I do want to argue that there is another big difference between Paul and David. It seems to me that what Paul did is very different than what David did. Paul was clearly wrong but it isn’t even clear he sinned. He may have been acting in accordance with what he truly thought was best. In contrast, David makes it clear he did sin. And from reading the story it is apparent that what he did shouldn’t be interpreted as possibly innocently done. David was attempting to cover up his own sin by killing another person.

  7. Matthew said

    BrianJ, just so you don’t misunderstand my point on this question of a David’s punishment being a private matter or not….I think I agree with your point in that…I am uncomfortable with any position which has as an important plank the need for other people to suffer and be punished. It is one thing for God to tell us that someone will be punished and how; it is quite another, in my mind, to construct a theology around this punishment and its importance. The way some people talk about this stuff it seems that if God came and said that David wouldn’t be punished any more than he already has been, they would feel cheated somehow. Clearly that position is wrong. How God chooses to punish David is, I agree in that sense, a matter between him and David.

  8. Jim F. said

    Matthew, good point (#6). I overlooked that difference between Paul and David when I responded to BrianJ, and it is an important difference.

  9. BrianJ said

    Jimf: thanks for your thoughts. I didn’t mean to come across in #4 as though I was bothered by your reply in #3. My attempt to clarify my thoughts came across (now as I reread them) as sounding annoyed. Sorry about that.

    Matthew: You made your point clear and I understood. Thanks for helping me think through this. The part that bothers me is when, as you allude in #7, David’s “loss of reward” becomes almost an article of faith: “We believe that for the death of Uriah, David lost….”

  10. MLadd said

    There are some interesting parallels between what will “happen” to David and what happend to his wife Michal. If you remember the story in 2 Samuel 6:17-23, Michal sees David dancing as the ark is brought into Jerusalem and “despises” him in her heart. The sentence is intentionally unclear, so one might wonder if she despises the Lord or David, and that is the point. By despising David, whose heart is most like (reflects)God’s, she despises the Lord as well. Further, the word in the Hebrew for “despises” is bazah, which means to “make light of”, take lightly, or “set at nought” (regard as nothing). Curiously, this is the exact word that Nathan will use when condeming David for Uriah’s death in 2 Samuel 12:9, “Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight.” Of Michal we are told, “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.” Perhaps the “portion” denied David is the portion denied Michal, for the same offence, which is the denial of inheritance, covenant glory – life, seed. By the way, this is the same word (bazah)used to describe how Goliath esteemed young David before he (Goliath)was slain, “And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was [but] a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.” If you are wondering about the remarks of David, that he will be “yet more vile and base, and of the maidservants will I be had in honour”, this is a poor rendering for the English reader. The Hebrew for “vile” is qalal, which means to be light as a primary meaning, and the word for “base” in Hebrew means humble or lowly. Obviously this is a play on the earlier thought the Michal “esteemed David and the Lord lighty”. To finish, the word in the Hebrew for honour is Kabad which means “to be heavy”. Kabad is also the Hebrew for “glory’. So, we have a final play on words or thoughts, as David in essence says that, and I paraphrase (again), “I will be be even more light and lowly, and in so doing be heavy or glorious.” To my thinking, this is a very New Testament concept or juxtaposition, that the “least is the greatest”. King David’s heart truly does reflect his Lord’s as he brings the ark into Jerusalem, that he later forgets is sad beyond words. We weep for David, and for ourselves.

    Perhaps knowing the preceding adds meaning to the verses in Luke 22, “And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked [him], and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.” In the Greek, a better translation might be that they “esteemed him as nothing”, (from oudeis, nothing)

  11. brianj said

    MLadd, Thanks! This is very interesting.

  12. MLadd said

    Brianj: I know that “heavy” does not seem a very likely primary meaning for the Hebrew word kabad, which is almost exclusively rendered “glory” in the Old Testament, but I think that it has to do with the concept of heavy in child bearing, which results in fruit, one’s posterity and ultimately one’s glory. In her book Beloved Bridegroom, Donna Nielson tells us: In Jewish understanding, glory was always associated with the ability to give life and indicated also a willingness to labor and suffer affliction in order to bring forth. Work and glory were inseparably connected.” This glory-life concept is somehow part of the David story. Christ ultimately will come through David and Bathsheba, inspite of David’s sin. By robbing life/glory from Uriah, by lightly esteeming him, David in essense robs Christ, or lightly esteems Christ, of whom Uriah is a type, just as Michal once did to him (David then as a type). Inspite of this apparent awful circimstance, the ultimate result is that the the world is redeemed, given life, through the fall of David. Again, it is very New and Old Testament, the impossible is possible, or like Abraham and Saria who have an endless covenant and yet no seed, or like Zacchaeus, a pure publican (oxymoron) told to come down from the tree to abide with Christ, but in descending ascends to dwell with his Master. Blessed are the merciful for they shall recieve mercy.

  13. ThaddeusRex said

    I’m not the scholar that many here seem to be, and I was confused by Jim F saying “as yet the Gospel has not been preached to the Gentiles” in reference to Acts 6: 1-7.

    When I read the lesson manual for this lesson, it clearly states “Read and discuss Acts 6:1–7. Explain that under the Apostles’ direction the Church grew rapidly, making converts in many nations.”

    So…what’s going on here? Are the “Grecians” here Greek Gentiles who have converted, Greek Jews who have converted, Jews who happen to have a “Hellenistic” attitude, or what?

  14. Robert C. said

    ThaddeusRex, in Acts 10, Peter is given a vision in which he is commanded to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Up until then (i.e. in this chapter), I think preaching was confined to the Jews. So I think the manual is just saying that eventually the gospel was taken to many nations under Peter’s direction.

  15. Robert C. said

    BrianJ, MLadd, etc.: I’ve often wondered about this. Your discussion gave me a new thought. D&C 132:39 says that David “hath fallen from his exaltation.” I’ve wondered if this might be a temporary fall from “exaltation” in the sense of ultimate reward. But I’ve never thought that exaltation here might refer to a temporary “holding up” (nasa` in Hebrew). In 2 Sam 5:12, we read that “the Lord had established [David] king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his poeple Israel’s sake.” Perhaps it is this exaltation that is lost, at least partly in reference to the problems David has at the end of his life (the last several chapters of 2 Samuel).

    (BTW, I think the rest of D&C 132:39 is even weaker in terms of imposing some sort of limit to what David will inherit, we only seem to know that it won’t be the same as what he would’ve inherited otherwise—just because what he would’ve inherited has been given to another doesn’t mean there’s an upper limit to what he can inherit, at least on my reading….)

  16. Karl D. said

    ThaddeusRex, in terms of identifying the Grecians (“Hellinists”) it seems like there is a quite a bit of debate in the scholarly literature about who Luke is referring to. Scholar, Ben Witherington suggests the following identification:

    If one takes all the clues that Luke gives us in Acts 6-11, it appears that in Acts 6 and 9 Luke uses the term “Hellenist” to refer to Diaspora Jews living in or around Jerusalem (or their descendants) for whom Greek is their spoken language, and who attended synagogues where Greek was the language of worship. Some of these people, such as Stephen, have become Christians.

  17. Jim F. said

    ThaddeusRex: What Robert C and Karl D said. They said what I would have if I weren’t so slow.

  18. nhilton said

    Jim, all other Bible translations leave off the Greek Proverb from the end of Acts 9:5. Yet, this is something so often “quoted” within our church. It is interesting to me to consider why there was such a scribal insert and also to read the text w/o this insert. The exchange between Saul & Jesus is quite different in the NIV than the KJV, less personal and more commanding from Jesus’ position, I think. Can you speak to this?

  19. BrianJ said

    nhilton: In Acts 26:14, Paul retells his conversion story, and there he uses the phrase, “kick against the pricks.” You will see that every translation, including the NIV, includes the phrase in 26:14. So the insertion in 9:5 simply seems like a way to make the two accounts agree.

  20. Jim F. said

    I think Brian is right, the proverb was added by someone familiar with both accounts to make them agree.

    What is it about the KJV account that seems to you be more personal the the NIV account? Looking at the particulars of what you see would help me think about your question.

  21. nhilton said

    The tone of the NIV is commanding with no distraction from the imperative “go & do” by the Savior. The KJV has Jesus almost making a sideline rationalization for Saul’s behavior, “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” I see the Lord leaning his head to the side, lowering his eyes and voice in a condescending and understanding tone when he said this. (clearly my overimaginative mind at play, but it seems a tender aside, nonetheless) Instead, the NIV goes straight to the identification of Jesus and then his command to Saul that he “get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” In the NIV Saul isn’t given the opportunity to ask any more than Jesus’ identity, as is the case in the KJV where Saul asks a 2nd question “Lord, what whilt thou have me to do?” Almost like Saul is now choosing to obey the Lord while before he wasn’t. In the NIV it’s more like he must do as the Lord commands or be destroyed.

  22. BrianJ said

    Here are the two passages, for anyone like me who has a hard time thinking about this without the words in front of you. I added emphasis to the part that is most different.

    NIV: He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

    KJV: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

    nhilton: I see what you mean about the effect of inserting Paul’s question—it does soften the Lord’s command, because it doesn’t seem like Paul is caught off guard anymore.

    But I would argue that the phrase “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” is not a sideline rationalization of Paul’s behavior. Rather, it is a caricaturization—a sarcastic summary of how the Lord sees Paul’s labor, casting Paul as a stupid, stubborn animal that fruitlessly kicks against a sharp stick (as though being poked weren’t painful enough).

    (I actually visited a primitive slaughterhouse once in Brazil. To get an animal into the chutes, several men looped a rope around its horns and pulled it in the direction they wanted it to go. Still, 1400 lbs of beef is not easily moved by even six muscular men, so an intrepid—or desperate—and agile man, standing inside the pen, jabbed the beast in the rear with a sharp, one meter-long stick. Occasionally, an animal kicked the goad, which as you can imagine caused bleeding and intense pain. At first I thought that this was the purpose of the goad: to cause more pain-from-behind than fear-in-front, forcing the animal to ‘choose’ the chute over the stick. I was only partially correct: the real value of the goad was that when the animal kicked—usually with one leg but sometimes with two—a hoof or two came off the ground, the animal lost it’s mechanical advantage, the men on the ropes could slide it a few feet before it regained its footing. Over and over again until the animal was down the chute and then I’m sure you don’t want to hear anymore.

    I’m not sure why the goad was only about 1 meter—which, importantly, is less than the distance a steer reaches with his kick, creating a very dangerous situation for the goader—and now I’m wishing I had asked one of the vaqueiros why they didn’t use a longer stick.)

  23. Jim, you write “It appears that the stoning of Stephen was not done in accordance with Jewish law. If that is true, what does it tell us?”

    What leads you to think Stephen’s trial or stoning (which?) is unlawful? BYU Rel. 212, I.S. 2006 states that “Stephen’s death was carried out in accordance with correct judicial procedure (i.e., he was not lynched). Permission from Roman authority was usually necessary in order for the Sanhedrin to perform an execution. However, there were some offense so peculiar to Jewish law that the Romans gave the council capital jurisdiction. Speaking against the temple seems to have been one of them.”–Nanette

  24. Ah, Brianj #22, a good visualization of the Greek proverb. So, this was beef you were observing. I wonder what animal the proverb originated from. I really liked your “the real value of the goad was that when the animal kicked—usually with one leg but sometimes with two—a hoof or two came off the ground, the animal lost it’s mechanical advantage, the men on the ropes could slide it a few feet before it regained its footing. Over and over again until the animal was down the chute and then I’m sure you don’t want to hear anymore.” Does this apply to the old cliche that God won’t force a man to Heaven? Or are our adversities simply distractions that compell us in the right (or wrong) direction, until we eventually go “down (or up) the chute?–Nanette

  25. And another thought…who is the goader?

  26. Jim F. said

    nhilton,thanks for explaining what you were talking about. As soon as you described it, I felt dumb for not having understood in the first place. Thanks, too, to BrianJ for making the two versions available so that we can see more easily nhilton’s point. She’s right. The NIV does come across as more harsh. I think it is a better reflection of what the Greek text, as we now understand it, says.

    BrianJ, thanks for explaining what “the pricks” are. I’ve heard other possible explanations as well, for example, pointed spikes attached to the traces of an ox cart that the ox would kick against if he tried kicking. I think, however, there is general agreement that Paul is talking about an ox goad, a pointed stick used to herd oxen—I assume as you’ve seen it done.

    As for Stephen: he was taken before the court, but there is no evidence of a trial. In the midst of what would have been a trial, he is lynched by an angry mob. If not, then the detail about the gnashing of their teeth seems irrelevant. In other words, I think the study materials have it wrong. (I’m feeling a little sheepish here. It seems like I’ve been saying that a lot. I hope it is only because we’ve come across one or two of a few places where I don’t agree with others. I’m suspicious of people who think everyone is out of step but them, so I don’t want to be one of them.)

  27. I would consider Stephen’s experience in front of the Sanhedrin council a trial. These are the aspects of the scene that lead me to view it as a trial: the suborned men & false witnesses = witnesses, taken before a council = judges, testimony being given by Stephen and by witnesses before judges, the law is in question, cross examination, defense. –nanette

  28. Jim F. said

    Nanette, as is often the case in these matters, reasonable people have exactly the same evidence before them and disagree about what it means.

    I think a trial has clearly started, but it seems to me to have been interrupted. The accusation is made, including false witnesses. Stephen answers the high priest’s question with his sermon 7:2-53. Then those listening (I assume on-lookers as well as members of the Sanhedrin) become angry. Stephen reports his vision and, in response to that vision, the people “run upon him with one accord,” take him out of the city, and stone him. The trial begins, but no verdict is reached before the mob attacks Stephen and kills him. For me, 7:54 and 57-58a are the key to seeing that this is a lynching.

  29. brianj said

    Nanette asks, “Does this apply to the old cliche that God won’t force a man to Heaven? Or are our adversities simply distractions that compel us in the right (or wrong) direction, until we eventually go ‘down (or up) the chute’?

    And another thought…who is the goader?”

    Well, I wouldn’t draw too much from my experience into the analogy with Paul. Remember that I was at a slaughterhouse when I saw the goad employed. The chute that the animal refused to go down ended in a grueling death.

    I think it’s probably better to think of the goad as it was used to move an animal around the field—nothing too sinister about telling Bessie (or Bruno, if an ox) where to pull a plow.

    What’s interesting to me is that what Paul is ‘kicking’ against is the Church, which he ultimately joins, and then he ends up wielding the goad from Rome to Asia.

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