Three Words

The Brick Elephant ate the whole fig tree in one shot. (Yup, and then he started right in on another one!)

The Stainless Steel Elephant looked disdainful. There’s simply no justification for gluttony like that – it’s undignified. She sniffed over the sad state of youth today. (Maybe she is older than Brick, but he’s fully growed up. Snooty old hag!)

The Plastic Elephant looked impressed. He knew his limitations, and if he tried to eat a whole fig tree at once he’d just be sick. He probably wouldn’t be able to finish it, anyway. (That Brick, though, he doesn’t even think twice about it – there’s not much as slows him down!)

The Flesh-and-Blood Elephant looked determined. She was sweet on Brick, and found her own fig tree and set to, trying to impress her hero. (She kept glancing over at him – you could tell that hussy was hoping he’d notice her. As if!)

The Helium Elephant didn’t look like anything much at all, and floated off, unnoticed. (Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. And don’t come back round here, neither!)

The Wooden Elephant looked shocked. Shocked! In conflicts between pachyderms and forest, she doesn’t know who to support. (”Can’t we all just get along?” No, we can’t, so shut up already!)

And, finally, the Force-Field Elephant looked thoughtful. He then transformed himself into a fig tree – not so much to change sides as to gain perspective. (He’d change back right quick if Brick headed his way, though – you can bet on that!)

The Brick Elephant, completely oblivious to all this fuss, finished his second fig tree and calmly moved on to the third. (That’s old Brick for you!)

Imagine This With a Smoky Sax Solo

When this dame walked through my office door, all I saw was trouble. Trouble, and the longest pair of legs in California. By that point in the morning I was having trouble telling whether there was one or two of her. Didn’t matter – they both looked good, but they both looked bad, too.

However, I had bills to pay. And since I hadn’t been sapped, stabbed, or shot at in at least a week, I was getting restless. I downed the shot, put the desk bottle back where it belonged, and listened to an improbable story about her runaway husband.

All of that is prelude to me being on top of a parking garage the next morning, being shot at by the improbable husband, instead of sitting in my stuffy apartment reading philosophy and sipping the best bourbon I can afford.

Which is usually the exact same thing as the cheapest bourbon I can find.

I didn’t want to have to kill this bum – that brings down more heat than it’s worth. Besides, wives who pay for you to bring their husbands back usually want them to still be warm and fully functional and mostly unpunctured.

I would have appreciated him pausing the gunfire long enough for me to explain myself. “Hey, your wife asked me to…”

A couple more rounds hit the concrete wall above me. He screamed, “My wife? Don’t talk to me about my wife! She was a saint!”

“She wants you to come home! That’s all I’m here for!”

The car window above me exploded from his next shot. “Who are you? How did you find me? My wife died two years ago!”

I thought this one might get weird. Still, it beat spending the morning getting quietly drunk and brooding.

Or so I thought then.

Dinosaur

The head paleontologist had the work crew haul the brontosaurus into one of the back rooms.  “Thanks guys.  Can you give us a few minutes here?”

As the crew filed out the dinosaur waited, and watched the scientist.  Once they were alone she asked, “What’s going on, Doc?”

He cleared his throat. “I don’t know how to say this…you are a mistake.  We classified you incorrectly, and made some wrong guesses about your skull.  New research shows that you didn’t really exist.”  He looked away, embarrassed.  “I’m sorry.”

The brontosaurus told herself to be cool.  Be cool.  She tried to take a deep breath, but that doesn’t work when you’re just a collection of fossilized bones and a few bits of wire.  No lungs.

“So, Doc, that just means you’ll revise me, make a few tweaks based on the new findings, right?” Be cool.

He sighed and took off his glasses.  “I’m afraid that this is bigger than that.  Brontosaurus is being written out of the books.  You’re all really just Apatosauruses.  It’s not just a simple adjustment.”

“Doc, I’m not just a dinosaur!  I’m THE dinosaur!  I represent the whole superorder in the public mind!” Her voice was beginning to sound frantic.

He smiled sadly.  “Well, actually, I think that Tyrannosaurus Rex is what…”

“No! When people see a T-rex they say ‘Ooo, a T-rex’.  Same thing for Stegosaurus.”  She was panicking now.  “But when people see me they say, ‘Ooo, a dinosaur!’.  When kids draw a dinosaur, they draw me!  When…”

He interrupted her, “I’m sorry.  It’s out of my hands.”  The work crew started coming back into the room.  “There won’t be any pain.  Goodbye.”  He turned and left.

He was wrong.  There was pain, but thankfully it was brief.

Oblivion doesn’t hurt.

Notes on The Acts of The Apostles Chapter 6

See this post for the introduction to these posts on The Acts of The Apostles.

Chapter 6 of The Acts of The Apostles

Outline:

  • V1 – 7: Seven chosen
  • V8 – 15: Stephen seized

Characters:

Narrator:

  • Luke

Audience:

  • Luke is addressing “Theophilus” (1:1)

Speakers:

  • The twelve
  • False witnesses

Non-speakers:

  • Hellenists (Hellenized Jewish Christians)
  • Hebrews (non-Hellenized Jewish Christrians)
  • Full number of the disciples
  • Stephen
  • Philip
  • Prochorus
  • Nicanor
  • Timon
  • Parmenas
  • Nicolaus
  • priests obedient to the faith
  • Members of the synagogue of the Freedmen*
  • Cyrenians**
  • Alexandrians**
  • Those from Cilicia and Asia**
  • People and elders and scribes
  • The council
  • People and elders and scribes

It’s not very clear if the ** groups were all part of *, or separate groups just working together in this story.

Off-screen:

  • God
  • Jesus
  • Moses

Other observations:

  • The Seven are often seen in church history as the first deacons, but the word for deacon (diákonos) is not used for these guys – in fact, diákonos is never used in the Acts of the Apostles.
  • Seven people are listed, but only the first (Stephen) and last (Nicolaus) get a description in the list.
  • Of the seven, only Stephen and Philip will ever be mentioned again in this book. Stephen disputes with other Jews later in this chapter and (SPOILER WARNING!) gets martyred in the next chapter. Philip evangelizes Samaria and teaches an Ethiopian eunuch in Chapter 8.
  • However, early church traditions have Nicolaus of the seven being the founder of the Nicolatians, mentioned so unfavorably in the second chapter of Revelation.
  • Nowhere in Scripture does it ever mention any of these guys doing the job they were hired for (taking care of the daily distribution to widows).
  • It’s interesting that the conflict at the beginning of the chapter is between “Hellenists” and “Hebrews”, and the seven chosen to resolve the conflict all appear to have Greek names. This doesn’t mean that they were Hellenists (in Maccabees you often see the Hellenists with Hebrew names, and the Hebrews with Greek names).  Still, interesting (to me, at least).
  • When the disciples dispute with the leaders of the people in earlier chapters, it ends up with them getting in trouble – you threaten somebody’s power, they don’t like it. But when Stephen disputes with the Freedmen, it ends up leading to his death. The freedmen are thought to be the descendents of Jews enslaved by Pompey who have returned to the land – these are people who had to work hard to maintain their identity as Jews. When you are perceived as threatening somebody’s identity, it gets ugly quick. It would be interesting to know whether Stephen was originally a member of the synagogue of freedmen – we don’t know, but it would make sense if he was.
  • Interesting that they would have false witnesses (V13) in defense of the law, since the law most stringently prohibits false witness. (Many Old Testament references, see Exodus 20:16 as one example.)  Again, when someone’s identity feels threatened, they sometimes go a little crazy in fighting back.
  • This whole chapter is the beginning of the first big plot point in Acts – the martydom of Stephen and the scattering of disciples from Jerusalem.
  • This is the first chapter where we don’t get a speech from Peter.
  • This chapter features two conflicts – internal to the church and resolved peaceably, external to the church and resolved violently.

Understanding:

If the overall arc of Acts is the spread of the Gospel to different groups, this chapter has the key moment of showing two different groups (Hellenist Jews and Hebrew Jews) in conflict within the church, and then resolving it.  It’s interesting how the Gospel spreads concentrically – first we see just people who knew Jesus, then Jews in Jerusalem, we see now that this includes the Hellenist Jews. Next up will be Samaritans, then God-fearing Greeks, then all peoples. We can see the ripples expanding. The ripples are still expanding today, until someday “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

See swordfighting! Raise money for the library! At the same time!

The Duke of Urbino

The Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro, and his son Guidobaldo, attributed to Pedro Berruguete. Picture credit

Galeazzo used to say that without books, nobody can truly be a Master or student in this art. I, Fiore, agree with this: there is so much to this art that even the man with the keenest memory in the world will be unable to learn more than a fourth of it without books. And a fourth of this art is not enough to make someone a Master.
-Fiore De’ Liberi’s Fior Di Battaglia (Flower of Battle), 1409, translated by Tom Leoni

My school, the Sacramento Sword School, is teaming up with the Sacramento Frei Fechter to put on a fundraiser tournament for the Sacramento Public Library. We want books on Western Martial Arts at the library, so we decided that the best approach was to raise the money and buy them ourselves and donate them.

Remember the swordfight from The Princess Bride? I hope you do – it’s the greatest swordfight in movie history. As The Man in Black fights and talks with Inigo Montoya, they drop several names – among them are Capoferro and Agrippa. Surprise – these are real people who wrote important books about swordfighting. English translations of these books are on the list of things we want to buy for the library.

So, if you want to see what swordfighting really looks like, or if you want to help us buy books for the Sac Library, come to the Sacramento HEMA Open on August 17, 2014. It’s free for spectators (but we’d be really happy to have you contribute to the book buying fund!). There will be a sidesword/rapier tournament starting at 9:00 AM, and we will have a longsword tournament in the afternoon.

It’s at the Sacramento Turn Verein Gymnasium:

3349 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95816
Note that parking and gym entrance are on I Street between 33rd and 35th

If you practice Western Martial Arts and want to compete, see this post on SFI for details.

We hope to see you there!

Notes on The Acts of The Apostles Chapter 5

See this post for the introduction to these posts on The Acts of The Apostles.

Chapter 5 of The Acts of The Apostles

Outline:

  • V1 – 11: Ananias and Sapphira
  • V12 – 16: Continuing healings and growth of the early church
  • V17 – 42: Apostles arrested again

Characters:

Narrator:

  • Luke

Audience:

  • Luke is addressing “Theophilus” (1:1)

Speakers:

  • Peter
  • Sapphira
  • Angel of the Lord
  • Officers
  • “Someone” (reporting to the council)
  • High Priest
  • Peter and the apostles (probably Peter, but the attribution implies that possibly others spoke as well)
  • Gamaliel

Non-speakers:

  • Ananias
  • Apostles
  • Holy Spirit
  • God
  • the young men (members of the church)
  • the whole church
  • “all who heard of these things” (about Ananias and Sapphira)
  • the people (of Jerusalem and surrounding towns)
  • the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits
  • the Sadducees
  • the council – the Senate of the people of Israel
  • Prison Guards
  • Captain of the Temple
  • chief priests

Off-screen:

  • Jesus
  • our fathers
  • Theudas and a number of men
  • Judas the Galilean and his followers

 Observations:

  • I’ve seen some casual commentators use the phrase “Peter struck down Ananias”, but that’s just clearly wrong – Peter talks with Ananias, then Ananias dies.
  • Worth noting that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira was in lying about how much they were donating – Peter makes  it clear (V4) that they could have donated nothing, or only donated part of it, and it would have been fine. The problem was in trying to get credit for donating the whole thing when that’s not what they were doing. (More on this in the next section.)
  • Note that people were trying to at least have Peter’s shadow touch them, then note that it doesn’t say whether that worked or not. It seems like most of the healings in Luke and Acts involve touch.
  • V29 – 32: we get a mini-version of the Petrine-format speech (explanation why Peter is talking, connect that to Jesus who you killed, Jesus is the Annointed One, and the only way to be saved). We’ve had a nice run of these speeches, with one in every chapter between from 2 to 5, and we will get one more of them in chapter 10.
  • Gamaliel is mentioned in the Talmud as an important rabbi. In Acts 22:3 Paul states that he studied under him (Paul never makes this claim in any of his own writings, however.)
  • When the leaders agree with Gamaliel to not oppose the disciples, they bring them in and beat them, then let them go. Clearly Gamaliel was cooler-headed than these other folks – he suggests letting them go, but the other guys just have to at least get a beating in there first.
  • V36 – 37: there are some chronology problems here – Theudas’ revolt was in 44 – 46 AD, and Judas the Galilean’s revolt was in 6 AD (and that’s about when Luke has Gamaliel date Judas by saying “in the days of the census”). So saying that Theudas was prior to Judas seems to be wrong; also, the narrative of Luke doesn’t seem to have burned through fourteen or fifteen years after Christ yet, and lots of other chronology starts breaking down if Acts 5 is taking place after Theudas’ revolt.  So I tend to think that Luke is reporting Gamaliel’s speech as it was described to him long after the fact – Luke’s reporters are garbling Gamaliel’s speech. There’s no reason to assume that these are the exact words that Gamaliel himself spoke on the occasion. Remember that ancient ideas about how historians give quotes don’t necessarily conform to our ideas about this sort of thing.

Understanding:

  • As I said in my notes on Acts 1, I see interesting parallels between the New Testament book of Acts, and the Old Testament book of Joshua. The story of Ananias and Sapphira seems to parallel the story of Achan found in Joshua 7, but with some key differences. In both cases the whole community is threatened by someone’s selfishness. Achan’s theft lead to Israel’s defeat in battle. Ananias and Sapphira’s deception was worse than that – it threatened to undermine the sense of community that the fledgling church was developing. They wanted it both ways – they wanted credit within the church for generosity and sacrifice, and they wanted to retain wealth outside the church. But the most interesting difference between these two stories is in how they are resolved. In Achan’s case, he and his family are stoned and/or burned to death. The punishment is delivered by the community, and only after the community had suffered as a result of his sin. Ananias and Sapphira, on the other hand, died, but not at the hand of any member of the community, and before their sin could really cause harm to the community.
  • The second half of the chapter is another piece showing how those in power were in opposition to the church. The leaders barely blink when anything miraculous is done, such as the apostle’s prison escape (similar to how they really didn’t care about the man being healed in Acts 3). They are far more interested in preserving their own power than they are in seeing if God is moving. HOWEVER, there is a notable exception to this in Gamaliel – what a fantastic model of reserve and wisdom. We would all do well to think about his advice before we decide to tear into some movement we don’t understand or approve of.  Too many theological debates are far more about preserving boundaries than they are about seeking truth. Maybe, just maybe, that group you are mad at and denouncing is actually doing God’s work. Don’t oppose them! And if they aren’t doing God’s work, well, nothing they do will last, so don’t worry too much about that, either. I’m not suggesting that we don’t have debates and discussions – I just want them to be about seeking truth, not about preserving power.

Gunther

1. Philosophy

As he waited, Gunther reflected, not for the first time, that only a pantheist can rationally employ violence without a trace of anger.

He’d watched many of his colleagues spiral into madness over the years – killing lots of people in cold blood can be rough on the psyche.  Other people would work themselves up into a rage just to do the job, but Gunther disdained this approach as amateurish – rage makes you sloppy, and sloppy makes you dead. Continue reading

Notes on The Acts of The Apostles Chapter 4

See this post for the introduction to these posts on The Acts of The Apostles.

Chapter 4 of The Acts of The Apostles

Outline:

  • V1 – 4: Peter and John arrested
  • V5 – 12: Peter’s rebuttal to their arrest
  • V13 – 18: leaders attempt damage control – try to silence Peter and John
  • V19 – 20: Peter dismisses their warnings
  • V21 – 22: wrap up of this incident (which is really a continuation from Chapter 3)
  • V23 – 31: the believers pray for boldness
  • V32 – 37: snapshot of the early believer’s life together (a continuation of the one provided in Acts 2:24-47) – this also introduces us to Barnabas for the first time

Characters:

Narrator:

  • Luke

Audience:

  • Luke is addressing “Theophilus” (1:1)

Speakers:

  • “They” (rulers of the people) – this specifically includes the following subgroups (but it’s not clear who is and isn’t speaking):
    • Rulers
    • Elders
    • Scribes
    • Annas the high priest
    • Caiaphas
    • John (of the priestly family)
    • Alexander
    • All who were of the high-priestly family
  • Peter
  • “They” (Peter and John’s friends)

Non-speakers:

  • Priests
  • Captain of the temple
  • Sadducees
  • The people (crowds in the temple)
  • “The men” (those who believed)
  • The man who was healed (in the last chapter)
  • Holy Spirit

Off-screen:

  • Jesus
  • All the people of Israel
  • All the inhabitants of Jerusalem
  • Herod
  • Pontius Pilate
  • The Gentiles
  • Apostles
  • Joseph called Barnabas

Promises:

  • V12: “And there is salvation in no one else”

Commands:

  • I didn’t really see any commands in this chapter – more thoughts on this below

Direct quotes of other scripture:

Events mentioned elsewhere:

  • The whole chapter is a continuation of the story that started in Chapter 3.
  • V2 (again in V10): Jesus death and resurrection are covered in all four gospels:  Matthew 27 – 28, Mark 15 – 16, Luke 23 – 24, John 18 – 20
  • V27: Jesus interaction with Herod during the Passion is only mentioned in Luke 23, but the interaction with Pilate is mentioned in all four gospels (see links above).

Other observations:

  • We’ve now had three chapters in a row where Peter speaks to a crowd, and in all three, his speech follows the same outline:
    • Something happened to get your attention
    • Here’s how that thing connects to Jesus (who you killed but God resurrected)
    • Jesus is the Anointed One we’ve all been waiting for
    • And he’s the only way to be saved

    In his earlier speeches (chapters 2 and 3), Peter ends up referring to the audience as “Brothers”, and ends with a call to repentance, but does neither of those things in chapter 4, where he is speaking to the leaders.

  • Emphasis throughout is on boldness – Peter speaks boldly, leaders are surprised by this, then the church prays for boldness.
  • The last section on the early church feels very much like it is picking up the same subplot that was started at the end of chapter 2, and it really setting up what comes next week in chapter 5.
  • The Sadducees getting annoyed at the resurrection isn’t new – they hassled Jesus about it in Matthew 22 and Mark 12. Paul will use the disagreements between the Sadducees and the Pharisees over the resurrection to his advantage in Acts 23.

Understanding:

Two big things struck me about this chapter:

  1. It’s probably only been a few months (maybe) since Peter and John watched these same crowds and leaders arrest Jesus, and work through the Romans to have him publicly tortured to death. When that had happened they were terrified! But now they are nothing but boldness. Then, when they pray later, they do not even bother to ask for protection, safety, preservation, etc. They just ask that God help them continue to be bold. This is a bold prayer.
  2. In the two previous chapters, Peter never asked any fellow Jew to “convert” – he didn’t see this as a new religion. Instead he saw that everything they’ve been waiting for has arrived! He never softens the blow (“Jesus, who you killed…”), but he then calls them “brothers” and tells them to repent – literally to turn around. Here, same stuff, except he doesn’t “brother” them, doesn’t call them to repentance. There is no command, suggestion, or even offer to change given here. And I think the difference is that these leaders have no interest in the truth – in V16 they acknowledge that something big had happened, but instead of looking for the movement of God, they only think of how to control it, to limit the damage this miraculous good deed might do to their power. These aren’t guys who are mislead or deceived, but are open to truth. These are guys who have their own agenda, with little interest in truth.

How often have I had the chance to be bold, but preferred to not risk anything? How often have I been more interested in protecting my own turf, my own power or prestige, than in seeing the truth, seeing the movement of God? How often have you?

 

Notes on The Acts of The Apostles Chapter 3

See this post for the introduction to these posts on The Acts of The Apostles.

Chapter 3 of The Acts of The Apostles

Outline:

  • V1 – 10 Healing beggar at the temple
  • V11 – 26 Peter’s Second Sermon

Characters:

Narrator:

  • Luke (the second half of this chapter is quoting a sermon by Peter, though)

Audience:

  • Luke is addressing “Theophilus” (1:1), but Peter is addressing the crowds in the temple

Speakers:

  • Beggar
  • Peter

Non-speakers:

  • John
  • “They” (people who put the beggar in place to beg at temple)
  • All the people at the temple

Off-screen:

  • God
  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • “Our Fathers”
  • Jesus
  • Pilate
  • Moses
  • Samuel
  • “All the prophets”

Promises:

  • v19 – 20: repentance will lead to sins being blotted out and a time of refreshing
  • V23: don’t listed to the prophets and you will be destroyed from the people
  • V25: the whole world will be blessed through the offspring of Abraham

Commands:

  • V19: repent

Direct quotes of other scripture:

Events mentioned elsewhere:

  • V1 – 10: parallels many stories of Jesus healing, especially Mark 2:1-12. One things that matches in both of these is that other people seem to be helping the disabled person (in Acts, they put him where he can effectively beg, in Mark they bring him to Jesus for healing).
  • V12 Pilate, v14 Barabbas, v15 Jesus’ death: these are covered in all four gospels:  Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 18 – 19
  • V15: Jesus resurrection described in all four gospels: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20
  • v18 Samuel: there isn’t a really clear thing I can find that matches this – Samuel did annoint David as king, and there is a prophesy in 2 Samuel 7:12-17 about a successor in the line of David having “his throne established forever”, but it’s Nathan the prophet speaking those words (Samuel has actually been dead for some time by then).

Other observations:

  • This is the first time in the New Testament that any internal locations are given in the temple – v2 (Beautiful Gate) and v11(Solomon’s Portico). All prior mentions just say they’re at the temple, but don’t say where.
  • There is a probably apocryphal story that Thomas Aquinas and Pope Innocent II that references Acts 3. Innocent II had a large amount of money scattered around as Aquinas came to him, and remarked, “You see, the Church is no longer in that age in which she said, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’“. Aquinas replied, “True, holy father, but neither can she any longer say to the lame, ‘Rise up and walk.’
  • V15 – refers to Jesus as the Author of Life, support for the divinity of Christ.

Understanding:

This is Peter’s second sermon in a row where he clearly sees Jesus as the culmination of Israel’s story. He does not invite his fellow Jews into a new religion – this is not a “conversion story” in the modern sense. He just invites them to see that the Messiah has come!

This seems to be the overarching theme of the first half of Acts. The second half is where they start really getting serious about this being a blessing for “all the families of the earth”, but that is being pointed to even this early in the book.

Notes on The Acts of The Apostles Chapter 2

See this post for the introduction to these posts on The Acts of The Apostles.

Chapter 2 of The Acts of The Apostles

Outline:

V1 – 4: Arrival of the Holy Spirit

V5 – 13: Reaction of the crowds to Holy Spirit

V14 – 36: Peter’s sermon

  • V14-21: Holy Spirit’s arrival foretold by Joel
  • V22 – 23: Connects this back to Jesus
  • V24 – 32: The resurrection of Jesus, foretold by David
  • V33 – 35: the ascension of Jesus, foretold by David
  • V36: So Jesus is Lord and the Messiah

V37 – 41: Reaction of crowds to sermon

V42 – 47: first description of the early church

Characters:

Narrator:

  • Luke (much of this chapter is quoting a sermon by Peter, though)

Audience:

  • Luke is addressing “Theophilus” (1:1), but Peter is addressing the crowds in Jerusalem

Speakers:

  • “They” (some group of believers, but it’s not clear to me whether this is the 120 people mentioned in 1:15, or just the apostles, mentioned in 1:26 – I think the larger group makes more sense, though)
  • Devout Jews of every nation (gives list of nations, makes sure to mention proselytes)
  • Peter

Non-speakers:

  • Holy Spirit
  • The eleven
  • God

Off-screen:

  • Joel – quoted
  • Jesus of Nazareth
  • David – quoted

 Promises:

  • V17 – 18: “I will pour out my spirit…”
  • V19: “And I will show wonders in the heavens above / and signs on the earth below…”
  • V21: everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved
  • V38: Repent and be baptized and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit

Commands:

  • V14: Listen to this (repeated at V21)
  • V36: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified”
  • V38: Repent and be baptized
  • V40: Save yourselves

Direct quotes of other scripture:

Events mentioned elsewhere:

Other observations:

  • Peter addresses the crowd in multiple ways:
  • Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem
  • Men of Israel
  • Brothers
  • All the house of Israel
  • Brothers
  • In the final section describing the early church, listening to teaching is listed once, but breaking bread is mentioned twice.
  • Peter, who just experienced the arrival of the Holy Spirit, refers to it as the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (V38). I love that he immediately realizes that this is a gift.
  • In the quote from Joel, it doesn’t say that “the young men will conquer, and the old men will rule…” It talks about prophesy (speaking for God), visions, dreams (more on this below).
  • We treat the word “repent” with special religious significance, but it really means to turn around, to change course. (In some of Paul’s letters he tells the Gentile believers to not repent – don’t turn around and leave your new faith.) It’s clear that Peter sees the arrival of the Holy Spirit as a continuation of the religion in which he has lived his whole life. He doesn’t offer his Jewish brothers a new religion – instead he quotes from the Scripture they all already acknowledge, and tells them to turn around and recognize that the Anointed One has already arrived.
  • When we leave a word untranslated, we tend to add things to it that aren’t necessarily there in the original text. “Christ” is not a proper name for Jesus – it is a translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah” into Greek. If they can translate it, why can’t we? The translation into English is the Anointed (or maybe clearer in English as Annointed One).

Understanding:

I think there’s a tendency to remember the fire and the speaking in tongues as the primary action of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But the biggest movement of the Spirit I see in this chapter is in Peter’s sermon: this is the first time that he really gets it. He really gets everything Jesus has done and is doing. He seems to be giving up his idea of a political Messiah – his quote from Joel shows that he is expecting dreams, visions, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, not war, conquest, domination.

When I pray for the Holy Spirit to come to someone who needs comfort or wisdom or whatever, I often visualize a “tongue of flame” on their head as I am praying. But what I really want for them (and for myself!) is the transforming clarity and power that Peter shows in his sermon.