January 30, 2011

Judaism & Ritual

Another thing Jesus and Paul both had in common was love for God's Law. I don't share that devotion, so much, but I'm convinced they both did.  Whatever else we do with that, it means we shouldn't overgeneralize or misapply Jesus' specific critiques about certain aspects of pre-70 AD Palestinian Judaism. Note well these words by Notre Dame scholar John P. Meier:
an implicitly hostile opposition between the "cultic", "ritual", or "purely legal" elements of Mosaic Law on the one hand and the "truly moral" or "ethical" elements on the other would have been alien to the mind-set of the ordinary Palestinian Jew of Jesus' day. For such a Jew, what was "moral" (if we may use that term) was to do God's will and to walk in his ways as laid out in the Torah God had given to Israel. Doing God's will applied to all areas of one's life, in and out of the temple, in and out of the marketplace, [etc...]. But ancient Jews saw no opposition between a type of behavior that was "purely ritual" (and hence to be considered of little value) and a type of behavior that was "purely moral" (and hence to be highly valued in the eyes of God). -- A Marginal Jew, Volume IV:  Law & Love, p.45
Not sure? Think about it. If this hadn't been true, Paul's dear Gentiles would never have had so much trouble dealing with their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ. And although Jesus himself (following several Old Testament Prophets) emphasized "moral" adherence as more important than "ritual" adherence... it must be noted that neither Jesus nor Paul condemned Jewish customs right out - neither absolutely nor categorically.  In fact, both Jesus and Paul criticized Jewish custom *only when* such custom was held over and above the more important aspects of Torah.

Now, shifting gears slightly, let's talk about rituals. I love mine and you love yours, but the Galatians didn't like the Judeans' rituals, and the Reformers didn't like the Catholics' rituals. To this day, it remains common for Protestants (like me!) to rail against someone else's (or one's own former) program as "stiff", "empty", "legalistic", "performance driven", etc. All too often, people leveling such accusations take great encouragement in the example of Jesus' critiques of "the Jews" in the Gospels... but such efforts are getting things backwards.

Once that connection's been made, the Protesters play up those negative stereotypes of Judaism even more. The worse Jewish religion can be made to look, the better Jesus' message looks by comparison, and the stronger that contrast becomes, the more vehemently the new breakaway sect can justify their vitriol against "Religion". This sad tradition goes back at least as far as Martin Luther, whose view of those Judaizers in Galatia was unquestionably influenced by his opinions of the 16th century 'Papists' he was struggling against. Not that those Judaizers weren't bad, but they weren't selling indulgences!

We should all be more careful about what we add to our readings of scripture.

Another person whose influence I'm grateful for in this area is Amy-Jill Levine, whose wonderfully challenging book The Misunderstood Jew helped inform a great deal of this post so far.  (I highly recommend you purchase a copy today.)  One of A.-J.'s many helpful illustrations (p.221) comes from stanza 3 of the popular 1965 recording (yes, it's that recent) "Lord of the Dance":
I danced on the Sabbath/ And I cured the lame;
The holy people/ Said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped/ And they hung me on high,
And they left me there/ On a Cross to die.
Now, the songwriter, Sydney Carter, doesn't seem to have been anti-semitic, but the London company that's sold his music since the 1950's (and apparently still holds copyright) does proudly remember Sydney as a "radical", "no stranger to controversy" and one "outside the theological establishment". His 1994 obituaries confirm his WWII era pacifism, and his sympathy to the Shaker and Quaker traditions. Carter himself wrote, "By Christ I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other Lords of the Dance. But Jesus is the one I know of first and best." Ahem!

Whatever else we might say, this was clearly a man who felt disenfranchised by the authorized programs of London's "holy people".

Now, although the lyric doesn't seem motivated by anti-semitism, and although congregations may not think consciously of "the Jews" when singing this song, many others have often insisted that the lyric still subconsciously promotes the idea that "Jews are Christ killers", which we should always denounce. To do so once more:  It wasn't an entire race that crucified Jesus. It was a few powerful men, afraid that a man being proclaimed 'King' would bring Rome down upon them. Period.

My own point today is that Protestant Christians who like to demonize "Religion" should - firstly - be very careful not to demonize the New Testament's Jews, which includes nearly all the NT's chief protagonists, of course, and - secondly - become a little more thoughtful about whether Jesus and Paul were actually quite as anti-religionist as we've been told that they were.

Neither Jesus nor Paul ever condemned Jewish ritual, right out. Neither Jesus nor Paul ever critiqued "holy people" in general. Neither Jesus nor Paul was categorically against "Religion", per se.

Deal with that as you read and re-read your New Testament, and sing your hymns.


January 29, 2011

Evangelizing Believers

"This story was written so that YOU may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and so, by believing, that YOU may have life in his name."
Assuming John wrote to a mixture of believers and unbelievers, then apparently John felt believers and unbelievers alike both needed to be "evangelized". And we do. So, then, what is True Evangelism?

If Evangelism is defined as sharing Jesus with someone so that they may believe and have life... why would anyone think we're supposed to do that only for non-christians?

Personally, although I do NOT believe every christian is necessarily called to attract new believers into the fold, I most certainly DO believe every christian is automatically gifted with a spirit and voice that is able to speak His Name. And this means that if someone will just teach us how, we can all be trained to bring Life to the church by speaking HIM to one another.

There is LIFE in His Name. Why do some act like the "laity" should minister Jesus Christ only to unbelievers, and never on Sunday morning?

January 26, 2011

Sin does have an actual opposite...

but it's usually called a word that we don't like to use, or to hear.  At least, we don't think we like this word.  (Btw, this opposite word business follows up on my last post.)  Nevertheless, in English, the double negative of "don't sin" can best be replaced with the positive imperative term, "obey".

Ahem.  However...

Naturally - and unfortunately, for many reasons - we haven't all felt the same graciousness from others while being called (by them) into obedience.  There are no perfect parents, but it's certainly true that many children at least don't often perceive that their parents' commands and demands are coming purely from the context of love and care for that child.  And of course, some parents are just horrible, aren't they?  Still, 'Honor thy parents' is the first commandment with a promise.  "That it may go well with you..."  Hopefully, one way or another.

In the best situations, in the context of strong relationship, obedience doesn't often need to be underscored verbally.  There have been people in my life (who never used that "o" word) for whom I would have run through burning buildings, at a moment's notice.  And there have been people in my life whose most earnest demand couldn't get me to stand from my seat.  It should be obvious to anyone else who's had both heroes and villains in life that the difference between such loyalties had little or nothing to do with vocabulary.  It's always all about how much someone cares about pleasing another.

Apparently, if John 15 is any indication, Jesus waited until the end of his life to tell his closest lieutenants, "If you love me, you will obey me."  The first time we read that Gospel, we at least get to wait till the end of the story to hear it.  But I guarantee, the people who quote that verse to you most quickly, in starting a new relationship - they're the ones you're most likely to NOT wish to please.  Oh, dear God, help us all...

Without question, "obedience" is a very good word.  Or it ought to be.  But I try not to use it, in general, and when I do talk about it (to anyone, including my own kids), I think the best way to speak of obedience is within the context of a loving relationship.  No.  The *best* way is to speak of Jesus' obedience to the Father, and that being within the context of *their* relationship.  For instance...

We should know for an absolute fact that, in Nazareth, there were moments when young Jesus heard, spoke and meditated on this word, from the scriptures.  But there's always more than one way to hear scriptures, such as, "I desire obedience and not sacrifice."  Most of us probably hear the o word loudest in that sentence.  I suspect Jesus fixed in on the "I desire" part.  If we can see Jesus rightly, by looking at the Gospels, I believe it's fair to say His devotion was never to a task list.  It was always to a Person.

May we all learn to be so devoted.

January 23, 2011

"Sinless Jesus" - Why so negative?

A bad swimming pool lifeguard says, "Don't run!" Half the phrase is subliminally counterproductive, and the last word the kid hears reinforces what he's already doing. Instead, a good lifeguard says, "Walk!" Try both, some time. It's amazing, what a difference it makes. It also works in school and at home, with all kinds of topics.

In some discussions, however, sometimes points need to be made with a "not". It's very different to say "good" versus "not bad". And ZERO is a "non-negative" number, but not the seeming opposite of a non-negative. That is, zero is also "non-positive". Therefore, sometimes precision requires mathematicians to say "non-negative". And so forth.

Theologians appreciate precision also. Sometimes a bit too much, maybe.

Now, the following scriptures are true and I fully believe them. Paul says, "he who knew no sin". Peter says, "He committed no sin". John says, "In him is no sin". Hebrews says he was "without sin". Even Pilate said, "I find no fault in this man." And Jesus himself said, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?"

All true. All necessarily negative. All make a more absolute point than anything that would approach an opposite, "more positive" rendering. But all these are not all that scripture says.

A bad preacher spends an hour or so declaring how it might have been possible that Jesus "did not sin". What a horrible thing to talk about for a whole hour! There's no need for all that!  There's certainly no passage of scripture that remains totally negative for even a half-page! But during such preaching, what must be the predominant thought in the audience's mind. As we listen to such a message, are we thinking about Jesus? Or are we thinking about sin? And what must we begin to imagine was on Jesus' mind all those years?

 "Not sinning"? Is that how Jesus lived? He was thinking "Avoid sin"? No. That could not possibly have been his lifelong most predominant thought.  So why should we speak about his whole life in such terms?

So then, here is a better alternative.

It may or may not be the precise theological equation with "not sin" to proclaim instead that Jesus loved - that Jesus loved God, and that Jesus loved others. But it's true. Jesus did. And which of these two messages is more inspiring? More encouraging? More effective? More helpful?  Jesus loved.  Plus, in terms of the forest being more than a few trees, the more positive message is by far the more scriptural.

Jesus loved his Father and his neighbors, daily. But how? And how do we?  Ah, yes, I think that is what scares us.

Subconsciously, resisting sin is a better message to preach because it's a self-perpetuating problem and message. If we focus on sin, we'll always be resisting, and we'll always need reminders to keep right on resisting. Thus, preachers maintain job security. Thus, christendom found institutional sustainability. Thus, christianity floundered into muddling humanism.

In contrast, proclaiming the more positive message [of what Jesus' life must have been like] should rightly cause any preacher (and audience) to fall down on their faces and repent before God. We can't live like he lived. Glory! Oh, how he lived!!!

Resist sin? Yeah, he did that. But not by focusing on sin. Jesus simply cared more about God, and about pleasing God, than he cared about anything else. Or, to put that another way, He was simply the number one "fan" God has ever had.

Preachers, as often as you preach, talk about God and Jesus in a way that might make us care more about him. Don't merely make us focus more on our own behavior.  If you must preach, preachers, be good preachers. Don't challenge us to resist sin. Inspire us to please him.

Be more positive, about God. Make us bigger fans of Him. Please.

It might even... possibly... perhaps often... make us less sinful.  But you know that's NOT my point.  ;-)

January 22, 2011

Did Peter follow John the Baptist?

Probably not. At least, not for long. In fact, if Peter stayed in John's company at all, I think the Gospels give us plenty of reasons to doubt that it could have been much more than a week or two. In the simplest terms, here's why:

We know Peter & Andrew shared a home. We don't know if other adult males were involved in that household, but we do know somebody had to provide food for a large family there. And Andrew is the one who appears to have been with the Baptizer for some time. But let's hold on comparing the brothers for just a moment.

More generally, the Gospels give us a broadly consistent view of Peter that suggests he was far more likely to be found fishing than to be long-suffering in prayer. But, and this goes especially more to the point, apart from miraculous catches of fish (or wealthy women providing for peoples' needs), we just don't see Peter leaving his family to travel with Jesus. At least, not for very long stretches.

First, upon leaving Jesus in Samaria, Peter had only been gone for some weeks. Lastly, upon leaving his post-Easter devotionals in the [surely] 'presence-practicing' upper room, it had been at least eight and some days after Easter. By that point, the days of unleavened bread were gone, meaning Peter left Jerusalem not too long after it became non-conspicuous for him to be doing so. In other words, he didn't over-linger. Sure Jesus' Spirit was in them, but hey! People still had to eat.

At another point, this also happened: IF the Gospel narrative sections from Mark 1:16-38 and Luke 4:31-5:11 are both chronologically sequenced, and if they can be 'harmonized', so to speak, then it appears Peter here refused a one-on-one invitation to travel with Jesus again. To explain this point in more detail, putting Mark's v.36-39 into Luke 4:42-44 adds specific color to Peter's "sinful man" confession. It also helps explain why Jesus needed to pull up all those fish. Simon's chief concern? Hey! He might be the Messiah, but people still had to eat.

But now let's get back to that household, which was probably in Capernaum, even though Peter may himself have originally been from Bethsaida. But that's all by the by.

The question at hand is - Did Peter follow John the Baptist? And I say the answer to that is quite simple. If Peter left home, who else would provide for that household? The fact that Peter's mother-in-law lived there, as did Peter's wife (assuming the MIL's daughter is the same wife Peter took to Corinth, twenty-something years later) - that, combined with his staunch work ethic, as detailed above - makes Peter the most likely candidate to be acting head of the family home. And that means, Peter likely did not leave them for long stretches, if at all.

To be fair, we don't know that Andrew wasn't married. Maybe he was. For all we know, Peter and Andrew could even have taken shifts following John. But I don't think they did.

What I do think is this. If we conclude from the Gospels that Andrew had been John's disciple at some length, then we should NOT take the family connection as support for a view that Peter probably was also. If anything, the family connection makes it most likely that if Andrew had left home for a long time to follow the Baptizer... then Peter had not.

January 17, 2011

Did Jesus escape extradition in John 4:1?

Luke 13:31 clearly puts Jesus in Judea when some Pharisees warn him, "Get out of here.  Herod wants to kill you."  Whether friendly Pharisees or conniving ones, they presumably weren't urging Jesus to go back into Galilee.  But why would Judea be dangerous for Jesus, because of Herod Antipas?

A similar puzzle presents itself after John the Baptist's arrest.  Matthew says, "when Jesus heard... he withdrew into Galilee."  Mark says, "After John had been taken... Jesus came into Galilee."  Luke, having already previewed John's arrest before Jesus' baptism, leaves it unconnected from his "Jesus returned to Galilee".  But John says, "when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John... he left Judea and went away again into Galilee."  (The Fourth Gospel does not record the Baptizer's arrest, but he drops from the narrative a good while before the quotation above.)

These four accounts each touch on a pivotal phase near the outset of Jesus' ministry, and - if they can be looked at in tandem - may portray a similar situation to the Pharisees' threat of Luke 13.

In Luke 13, the puzzle is odd enough.  Why would Jesus leave Judea because Herod Antipas wanted him?  The Tetrarch of Galilee had no jurisdiction in Judea.  But, as Luke 23 illustrates, the Judean arrest of a Galilean can be offered in extradition to Antipas.  On that occasion, we're told, Herod turned down Pilate's offer.  And it's most likely that Antipas' hunt (from Luke 9) had been suspended the moment Jesus entered Judea.  Why borrow back trouble already cast off?

But whether or not Luke and Luke's Pharisees knew what Antipas might do, the point at hand is established.  That these Pharisees acted as if Jesus might leave Judea, because of Antipas, shows that there must have been customs of extradition between Judea and Herod's Tetrarchy.

It all seems clear enough on the balance.  But how does our knowing about extradition customs affect how we might view that early phase of Jesus' ministry, which was mentioned above?

Matthew says it was news of John's arrest that drove Jesus into Galilee.  The fourth Gospel says it was knowledge that some Pharisees were marking Jesus down as a bigger political thorn in their side than even John had been.  If these are not contradictions, they must be related somehow.  But taken separately, each account has its problems.

The verb in Mt.4:12 ("went away") suggests not just that Jesus entered Galilee, but that he specifically needed to leave where he'd been, because of John's arrest.  Surely Matthew would not have us believe that Jesus somehow risked angering Herodias, as John had (Mt.14:3-4).  But surely the fourth Gospel would not have us suppose that the Pharisees could do much more than harass Jesus, as they had the Baptizer in Bethabara (Jn.1:24-28).  Perhaps, west of the Jordan, the Pharisees could arrest Jesus manage to get Jesus arrested.  But what then?  The fourth Gospel gives us no suitable answer.  Why should the Pharisees' jealousy have run Jesus out of Judea?

Taken together, these accounts offer answers for one another.  Viewed historically, the most effective way for the Pharisees to get rid of Jesus was extradition to Galilee.  Any minor arrest could have served that purpose quite easily; at least, potentially.  And if this was historically what the Pharisees were thinking, it could very well have been John's arrest that got them thinking about it.  The comparison in John 4:1 also suggests this.

The scenario under consideration is that John's arrest prompted the Pharisees to wish Herod could take Jesus also.  Or perhaps Jesus merely feared they would soon wish this.  It makes no difference.  Chronologically, either case would require that Jesus' knowledge in John 4:1 came extremely near the time of Jesus' hearing news in Matt.4:12.  That is, approximately one right on top of the other, but not simultaneously.

Finally, what does this suggest for the origins of our sources, here?

What Mark offers as merely sequential ("after"), Matthew relates as explicitly causal ("when").  However, if Matthew himself had less than the full picture (of what's being suggested today), his vague sense of causality becomes more understandable.  Perhaps knowing only that these two events were related in some way, Matthew simply summed up.

But much later on, for his part, the fourth Gospel writer gave more detail about the Pharisees' role in causing Jesus' withdrawal from Judea, after John had been taken by Herod.  Of course, since the fourth Gospel writer had some other reason to avoid mentioning John's arrest and beheading, he could not explicitly clear up the matter of Matthew's confusion.

Like Luke-Acts, the Gospel of John is more careful than Mark or Matthew to avoid making specific indictments of Herodian rulers.  But if these parts of their narratives do in fact coincide with the same early, pivotal phase of Jesus' historical ministry, then what John attributes to the jealousy of the Pharisees may actually refer to the same decision Matthew attributes to the Baptist's arrest.

It seems probable that Jesus left Judea over concerns that Herod's seizure of John could have given the Pharisees an idea to get rid of Jesus by extradition to Galilee.  Did the Pharisees actually plan this?  Perhaps not.  But that part doesn't matter.  That the Pharisees could have conceived such a plan seems like it must have been reason enough for Jesus to leave Judea.

A related question is how did Jesus go on to avoid Antipas' notice until John's death?  But once Antipas did want Jesus gone from Galilee, at that moment, the tables turned and Judea became Jesus' safe place to be.

January 13, 2011

excerpt: History and Heritage

"Correcting the heritage that distorts and violates the authentic history of persons and documents in the past is presumably what critical historians are supposed to do. That may be appropriate when we are correcting obvious myths like the stories of Parson Weems about George Washington. But what about the uses that Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., made of Jefferson and his statements about equality? By the precise standards of critical history, these uses were part of a false heritage that is presumably the responsibility of historians to correct.

Yet these distorted heritages are precisely what many people want and perhaps need in order to keep the past alive and meaningful. Should we critical historians tamper with this popular memory?  Can we... Is it even possible to do so?"  (From Gordon S. Wood's The Purpose of the Past, Chapter 13)
I've been meaning to get back here. I do so love this book.

Wood went on to quote historian Nell Palmer, who reportedly proved that Sojourner Truth never spoke the famous words, "A'n't I a woman?" but Painter concluded (in 1966) that "the symbol of Sojourner Truth is stronger and more essential in our culture than the complicated historic person... [and] still triumphs over scholarship."  Woods' conclusion:  "We haven't yet worked out the precise role of critical history in the culture.

Take a moment and process all that as you might.  Now, here's my take.

A wise old man once said that culture is stronger than anything, including God.  Probably by definition, ALL cultures must to some degree deliberately reinforce their preferred view of the past.  In New Testament scholarship, that goes equally for the subcultures of liberal criticism and conservative apologetics.  And the normal question is this:  can we ever be anything close to objective when fighting these Battles for History?

Maybe not.  Maybe.  But my question is different.

I think I get why Americans today need to re-envision Thomas Jefferson to support cultural trends... and I guess that's fine for America.  But we're supposed to be God's Kingdom.  And so, my question is - Why should Christendom ever attempt to re-envision [or re-frame] the New Testament to support, well, to support whatever it may be that some Christians are wanting to do next?

Of all people on Earth, can't we be honest with ourselves?  I'll go first.  I admit that I've never been part of a group that tried to "do church" in precisely the same way Peter or Paul did.  Likewise, I've never been part of a group that tried to build up community just like Jesus or John the Baptist did.  But by the way, just in case you don't know this, whoever you are, neither have you.  There is no Christian group today, anywhere in the world, whose living together is perfectly modeled on any one of the New Testament's churches.

We have a Christian History, that begins in the New Testament.  And that Heritage is what ought to inspire us to make God's Way into our ways, in our lives, for our time.  Viewing this History as our Primary Heritage, and giving all due respect to the King whose Name blesses our Kingdom, Christians should go on and feel free to do all the things on their hearts... for the sake of the Glory of God.

But Christians should NOT try to revise History for the sake of any particular heritage.

January 11, 2011

Jesus' Lifelong Desire

At age 12, he said, "I've got to be [among the doings/beings] of my Father."(*)  Not just some particular task, Jesus needed to go see who was still devoted to God (in the Temple) after the Passover crowds had all vanished.  And he needed to be there, among such folks.

At age twenty-something, he was still just a peon back home.  Still working construction.  Still showing up each Saturday at the Synagogue.  Wanting so much more than what he was (often) hearing, Jesus did not push their envelope.  For whatever reason, in Nazareth, the impressiveness he'd displayed since age twelve was now visible only to God.

And so, a most sacred devotion progressed, intimately, between Jesus and his Father.  But the young man still wanted that one single thing more.  "I've got to be en the (*)s of my Father."  In some deep and vigorous way, Jesus still yearned to be more intently involved in the doings of God with God's people.  Except now, he was being more patient about it.  While he kept busy, loving God, loving others, Jesus added on something like twenty years worth of perseverance to godliness.

His perseverance was that he still wanted more.

At thirty-something, when one disciple (finally!) asked Jesus, "Teach us to pray."  He modeled a prayer that he must have prayed many times before - certainly thought for thought, and probably word for word, often.  And the first supplication was, "Bring your Kingdom."  Jesus still yearned, above all, to be among persons who would hallow God's name, who were into God's 'business'.

And if we long for this, also... if we long to have more of God in the midst of God's people...

It'd be a shame to grow too quickly weary of working and praying for that.

*The text of Luke 2:49, at this point:  ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου.  For you illiterates, that "tois" is a plural "the" with no persons, places or things there attached.  So the verse reads "in the [somethings] of my Father".  I don't know what that means, but it doesn't say Temple or business.  So I'm leaning on the context of Jesus' reported actions for that week.  For you super-literates, if you have any Greek grammar insights, please do share.

January 9, 2011

Titus and Troas (or) Paul's Developing Ecclesiology

After delivering Paul's Galatian letter, why would Paul need for Titus (and Luke) to go onward and wait for himself (and Silas) at Troas/Troy?  Here's a comment I just left on my last post, Titus and Galatia, answering that very question:
This has to do with part of my own church experience.

On the one hand, imagine a small leaderless congregation in turmoil, waiting for direction from an outside worker, without complete agreement among the body members as to whether we trust his authority at the moment...

On the other hand, imagine the outside worker, far away, far removed from his last visit, unsure how many saints might still be 'in his corner', if anyone...

Now, imagine the worker has to strategize HOW to send this group THAT particular letter... and not only strategize how to SEND it, but how to FOLLOW UP on that sending.

(I'm going to keep saying "imagine" because this is so foreign to most church experiences.  But it isn't to me.)

Imagine that the dynamics of such a group are in flux, and that Paul knows they may very well need a good deal of UNSUPERVISED REACTION TIME, *after* reading the letter, before the group - as a group - determines what its substantial response to that letter will be.

Got all that?  Now...

Paul has to get the letter in there, with a gracious and skillful carrier.  Then the carrier(s) need to move on.  Then Paul needs to WAIT... before arriving himself to find out whether a positive result has occurred AND has *stuck*.

So, why does Luke go ahead?

Two reasons.  One, because this particular group mission from Antioch was headed further on anyway.  And Two, because the Galatians needed TIME to react, to reflect, and to settle into their corporate response to Paul's letter.  And Galatia needed that time to be theirs *as an unsupervised group*.

And don't say they had elders.  A lot of those elders got Judiazed, so that ship had sailed.  (More on Paul vs. Barnabas & elders is here.)


That's why I believe they set up a rendezvous location.  No point in going back.  There was a mission ahead.

Btw, I actually think this was when Titus (and Luke) planted Troas...
Here, I will add to that point. Why do I conclude Titus most likely planted Troas?

(1) First, as stated, because I believe Galatians 2 places Titus at Acts 16:10 (as well as in Acts 15).

(2) Secondly, because Paul told the Corinthians he expected to find Titus at Troas.

(3) This statement (2 Cor. 2:13) came about six years after Acts 16:10, a span of time during which we know Luke had remained steadfastly with the new church Philippi.

(4) In 2 Cor. 7-8 & 12, Paul describes Titus as being experienced in doing the work of an apostle.

(5) In Acts 20, Troas seems to be doing very well, as (presumably) as has been Philippi, up to Luke's departure.  This was true of both Corinth and Ephesus while Paul was present.  This pattern would seem to suggest Troas had also benefited from a period of long-term ministry.

(6) Aside from the brethren in Rome, where Paul had not been, Troas is the only church Paul visits in Acts whose origin Luke does not relate.  Since Luke (for whatever reason) always omits Titus, and given the five points above, this seems likely not a coincidence.


Conclusion:  Titus and Luke visited Galatia, delivered Paul's letter, testified about Acts 15, left Galatia, went on to Troas, proclaimed the Gospel and planted a church.  Then, after Paul, Silas and Timothy arrived, Titus stayed in Troas while the other four went on to Philippi.

In the year the Galatia disaster resolved, upon realizing their hastily appointed elders had proven utterly useless to settle their crisis, Paul resolved to keep planters with new churches for as long as possible.

And so, Paul's ecclesiology continued developing.


Amen, Lord.  May ours keep on (or begin) developing, also...

Related Posts:
Pauline Chronology
Appointing Elders:  Barnabas vs. Paul

January 8, 2011

Titus and Galatia

If you've not yet had the pleasure, here's a tasty excerpt from my world-famous (and very succinct) blogpost on Pauline Chronology:
Galatians - 50 AD - Writen to the four South Galatian churches of Acts; before the Epistle of James, but after the council; it was carried by Titus & Luke, who visited all four churches and went on to wait for Paul at Troas (the one city everyone knew how to find, in West Asia Minor); that Titus' circumcision *was even an issue* and *could have been* "compelled" strongly suggests that this visit was part of the council occasion and virtually confirms that Galatians 2 refers to Acts 15. Further, the fact that Paul expects the Galatians to know who Titus is most likely means Titus himself was the letter carrier. As a witness to the events in Jerusalem, Titus was the perfect one to send, and he could easily have been holding Jerusalem's letterin reserve, as additional support for Paul's position. Thus, Paul had no need to mention the shorter letter because Titus was probably carrying it also - presumably on loan from missionally-minded Antioch. (For even more on Galatians and the Council, see here, here, here, and (again) here.)
For more detail, follow those links.  If you found this at all worthwhile, you can read the rest HERE.
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"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton