Acts 19: 1 – 10 Paul in Ephesus – part 1
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’
They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’
So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’
‘John’s baptism,’ they replied.
Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrranus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
* * *
What does Luke mean when he refers to people as Greeks?
The territories through which Paul travelled were ruled by the Roman empire. Sometimes the Romans ruled directly but more often they used local leaders. Provided the taxes rolled into Rome’s treasury, and the province was kept stable, they weren’t too concerned who held day-to-day power.
Luke only refers specifically to Romans a few times, but he refers frequently to Greeks. He almost seems to use the description as a synonym for Gentile.
I think this is probably because Greek was the common language of countries surrounding the Mediterranean. Educated men and women would have spoken Greek as their first or second language in the same way that most people today speak English/American. Greek culture was also all-pervasive. The Romans had adopted Greek gods – the names were changed, but the characters and myths persisted. Greek philosophy underpinned intellectual life.
It’s interesting how many Greeks found Paul’s teaching attractive. Possibly that is to do with the Jewish ethical principles. Greek ethics were based more on philosophy than religion, but there is a good deal of common ground between Stoicism and Judaeo-Christian ethics.
There were Greek converts to Judaism in all the synagogues; it’s clear that Judaism was attractive to the Greek mind. Paul’s teaching of the Way (or Christianity as we now call it) differed from Judaism mainly through proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. However, it was also based on Jewish ethics – only without the emphasis on ritual purity.
Whenever Paul taught in the synagogue, eventually a core of Jews would take such exception to his message that he would be forced to leave. Possibly it was the removal of the need for ritual purity that caused the split? And at the same time this change to Judaism made it even more attractive to the Greeks, hence Paul’s success when he left the synagogue and taught elsewhere.
At all events, we have no requirements for ritual purity today. We have a much tougher challenge – to love our neighbour as ourself. May the knowledge of God’s love for us give us the strength to accept the challenge!
Heavenly Father, thank you for the message preached by Paul. Thank you for the love you have for each one of us. Please help me to love my neighbour as myself.
In Jesus’ name, Amen