Christianity 201

October 6, 2015

Retelling the Story: Paul in Prison

Acts 24.5 “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him.  By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

A few weeks ago at Thinking Out Loud, I looked at a book which retells many of the well known gospel narratives in modern language. This is type of exercise that can be really effective or go rather badly. I guess much depends on the audience.

From the point of view of the writer, however, this is an excellent way to study scripture. Forget lectio divina or the inductive study method; if you really want to lock into a passage, either be a scribe and copy it out, or be a translator and attempt to pass on the information to a different group of people. You have to really slow down and read the text in a way that people often don’t read in a busy world.

The latter is what our friends at Flagrant Regard did this week with two chapters from Acts. Click the title below to read this at source.

“PROMINENT GOVERNOR TERRORIZED BY CHRISTIAN PREACHER”

Excerpted from THE TIMES ROMAN, circa A.D. 60.

* “In a shocking series of events this week, a Jew and former member of the religious sect known as the Pharisees, laid into Caesarea’s most esteemed overseer, Felix of Arcadia, with a diatribe about ‘justice, self-control and the supposed ‘coming judgement”, causing the governor great consternation.

As has been provided to us through his transcriptions of all the goings on with respect to the movement known as ‘The Way’, Luke – a Jewish doctor – recorded that Paul, who is also a Roman citizen, has been accused of causing a disturbance in Jerusalem for both Romans and Jews in the area. Though Paul was to stand on trial in Jerusalem before authorities there, an assassination plot was uncovered to take out the Nazarene cult-leader and it was then he was secretly escorted by no less than 270 members of the Roman guard to Caesarea, where he would appear before Antonius Felix, the area governor.

Governor Felix, apparently well acquainted with ‘The Way’, a new religion that combines Jewish beliefs with the understanding that Jesus, a putative healer, self-proclaimed king and savior of all of mankind, would also have known about the alleged resurrection of this ‘Christ’. (Members of ‘The Way’ continue to claim this resurrection event as being true despite the fact that their Christ was crucified under Roman decree for crimes of insurrection.)

In the Caesarean court at Paul’s preliminary hearing, a representative of the Pharisees, Tertullus, stated that in Jerusalem, Paul had been causing a disturbance. “He agitates trouble in Jewish communities throughout our empire as a ringleader of the heretical sect known as the Nazarenes. He even tried to desecrate the temple!”

Paul, a weary looking man with poor eyesight – hardly an imposing figure – was then brought before the respected governor and allowed to represent himself in his own defense.

The Tarsus native proceeded to detail his account of events: that he went to ‘worship’ in Jerusalem just twelve days before and while in Jerusalem did not argue publicly, stir up crowds or cause civil disorder within the city. He then summarized what he believed was the reason his accusers became aggressive toward him:

“I have a hope in God that there will be a resurrection of both the just and unjust, which my opponents also share. … Perhaps my crime is that I spoke this one sentence in my testimony before them: “I am on trial here today because I have hope that the dead are raised.””

After hearing this, the most noble governor dismissed the hearing, promising a decision on the issue when the commandant of Jerusalem arrived to provide his evidence on the matter.

But it was a few days later, when Paul was graciously allowed to enjoy the company of the felicitous governor Felix, that things went south for the radical preacher.

Given an opportunity to speak freely of his faith in the Christ and possibly persuade the governor of the supposed ‘Good News’ message being taught by members of the infant religion, he made a grave error in judgment. Rather than pay homage to the esteemed Felix by complimenting him on his education and knowledge of The Way, Paul expanded on his beliefs by addressing the extreme importance of ‘justice, self-control and the coming judgment’.

Our revered governor was made to feel extremely uncomfortable – fearful, in fact! – due to Paul’s choice of subject matter. How dare this Jew turned Nazarene-follower address a most noble judge and Roman overseer in such a manner! It would have been far more prudent to secure the governor’s interest in (or possible conversion to) the new faith by stating how forgiving of sins the Christ was. Or that if one were to just believe in the Christ, pray a particular set of prayers or offer a specific type of offering, they would be guaranteed a place of honor in the afterlife.

Had Paul remained somewhat reserved with respect to his more incendiary beliefs, he very likely could have secured a shorter stint in Roman custody; the estimable Felix would surely have responded favorably toward Paul had the more positive aspects of the Nazarene faith been furnished during their time together and if Paul had thought to offer a generous donation to Rome’s interests via the fiduciarily responsible governor.

But such was not to be. Paul remains in prison and most likely will stay there until the esteemed governor Felix steps down and retires with his family to his beautiful summer home in Pompeii, near Herculaneum, in two short years.”

Correspondent for The Times Roman, Martinus Chrestus

© Flagrant Regard, 2015

*Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 23 thru 24

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