The Bible Project

Acts E4: Saul & Subversive Christianity

Episode Summary

This is episode 4 of our series breaking down the book of Acts!

Episode Notes

In part 1 (0- 14:00), Paul was a zealous Pharisee before he converted to following Jesus. Tim says this “zeal” that Paul showed as a Pharisee is a hyperlink to an Old Testament story in Numbers 25 where the priest Phineas exercised “zeal” to preserve the Jewish law. Jon comments that zeal is an interesting emotion that is complicated to understand in religious movements. Tim comments that Paul never lost his zeal; he just redirected it upon his conversion to Jesus.

In part 2 (14:00-25:30), the guys discuss Acts 13 and the missionary journeys. Tim explains that there were more missionary journeys going on than just those recounted in the book of Acts. He references a book called “The Lost History of Christianity” by Philip Jenkins. Regarding Paul’s missionary journeys, Tim recounts that Paul bridged the gap between Jews and Gentiles, and Luke recounts this with all these short stories about converts like Lydia the Gentile purple merchant, Timothy the child of a Jewish mother and Greek father, the Philippian jailer, a rough and tough character, and Dionysius the Areopagite an ancient intellectual aristocrat. Luke desires to portray Paul as a person who reaches a diverse group of people with the message of Jesus.

In part 3 (25:30-36:00), the guys discuss the circumcision controversy portrayed in Acts 15. Should Gentile converts to Christianity be required to observe traditional Jewish customs? This is one of the fundamental questions underpinning the whole New Testament, but it’s largely missed today because Christianity is now majorly non Jewish. Tim says the disciples determined what to do by using a passage from the Old Testament prophet Amos found in Amos 9:11-15.

In part 4 (36:00-48:45), the guys discuss what ancient Rome was like and why Christianity was viewed as a threat to the Roman empire. The Roman economy was made up largely of indentured servants and slaves. Roman religion was polytheistic. Tim cites quotes by scholars Kavin Rowe and Larry Hurtado saying that Christians posed both an economic and religious threat to the Roman society. Why?

Because they refused to participate in communal worship of the Roman gods or in the economy built on violent nationalism. Tim says this is evident in the stories Luke shares, like the one about the silversmith Demetrius in Acts 19. He views Christianity as a threat to the entire religious and economic system of the world and incites a riot in Ephesus against Paul.

In part 6 (48:45-53:05), Tim shares a few quotes from NT Wright.
The guys discuss how modern Americans’ lives look very similar to Roman lives. We tend to worship sex and money as a culture, but without the mythology wrapped around it. Are Americans or modern westerners that much different from our historical Roman predecessors? Perhaps we’re more alike than we care to believe.

In part 7 (53:05-59:50), the guys cover Acts 17. Wherever Christianity spread, there tended to be riots as the local communities felt the Christians were disrupting their way of life. Tim says that Luke was purposefully portraying the Jesus movement on a collision course with the Roman world. Paul and other Christians would create disruption wherever they went, yet they were preaching a gospel of peace.

In part 8 (59:50-end), the guys make an interesting historical observation that the foundation for religious liberty and the separation of church and state comes from the ancient church fathers like Tertullian arguing for their right to worship the Jewish God, but serve a Roman emperor.

Thank you to all our supporters!

Produced By:
Dan Gummel, Jon Collins, Matthew Halbert-Howen

Resources:

Philip Jenkins, Lost Christianity
Kavin Rowe, World Upside-Down: Reading Acts in a Graeco-Roman Age
Larry Hurtado, Destroyer of the Gods
Larry Hurtado, Why on Earth Did Anyone Become Christian?
N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God

Music:

Beautiful Eulogy, The Fear of God
Beautiful Eulogy, Come Alive (Hidden)
Beautiful Eulogy, Come Alive
Moby, Shot in the Back of the Head
Shipwrecked, Noah Dixon
KV, Wild
Rosasharn Music, Defender Instrumental