Acts 14

After a long sojourn teaching in Iconium [1], Paul and Barnabas [2] are forced to flee because some Jews stirred up dissension. They go to the Lycaonian [3] cities of Lystra [4]and Derbe [5]. In Lystra, Paul healed a man who had never walked because of some defect in his feet. The crowd who witnesses the miracle is overcome and calls Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes “because he was the chief speaker.” The local Zeus priest brings bulls and wreaths so that the people can sacrifice to their new gods. Paul and Barnabas are shocked and tear their clothes to emphasize to the crowd their message that they are not gods. Jews from Antioch and Iconium come and persuade the crowd that instead of being worshiped, Paul and Barnabas should be stoned. Paul is stoned and left for dead.

Reviving, Paul returns briefly to Lystra and he and Barnabas proceed to Derbe. After a less-lethal and more successful mission there, they return to Lystra (!), Iconium, and Syrian Antioch. They explain to the disciples that hardships are necessary to enter the Kingdom of God [6], and appoint elders for the churches [7]. They then travel through Pisidia [8] to Pamphylian [9] Perga [10], and then to Attalia[11] and back to Grecian Antioch [15]. There they reported and rested.

If we substitute in the meanings of the names used, the story would read as follows: Small (formerly Desired) and Son of Encouragement flee from Little Image to Ransoming in mountainous, wild Wolf Land, where Small performs a miracle and is almost killed as thanks. So they go to Tanner, then back to Ransoming, Little Image, through Pitchy to Earthy in All-Tribes, and back to Driven Against. There are a few interesting points here: Paul rescues (ransoms) the cripple from disability, and his own life is ransomed from death. By going to the Tanner in Wolf Land, they appear to be protected from further attack when Paul returns to the city (Ransoming) that almost killed him.

Notes

1. Iconium. According to Strong’s, it means “little image.” It was on the border of Lycaonia and Phrygia, about 150 miles south of Ankara where Konya is now.
2. Barnabas means “son of encouragement”
3. Lycaonia, according to the Bible Atlas, “consists of a level plain, waterless and treeless, rising at its southern fringe for some distance into the foothills of Taurus, and broken on its eastern side by the volcanic mass of Kara-Dagh and by many smaller hills.” Strong’s says Lycaonia means “wolf land”
4. Lystra about 15 miles southwest of Iconium was ” in the time of Paul, a center of education and enlightenment. ” Strong’s says “Lystra” means “ransoming”
5. Derbe about 40 miles southeast of Iconium had “considerable importance and prosperity as well as strong pro-Roman feeling” due to its position as a customs post along the Antioch-Iconium-Tarsus road. Strong’s says Derbe means “tanner of/coverer with skin”
6. This is a very important theological point. We have very little guidance on the path to enter the Kingdom of God. We are told that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to “the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3) and to “those who are persecuted because of righteousness” (Matt. 5:10), that practicing the commandments makes one great in the Kingdom and breaking them makes one small (Matt. 5:19), that one must be more righteous than the Pharisees to enter the Kingdom (Matt. 5:20), that doing the will of the Father is a requirement for entering the Kingdom (Matt. 7:21), that the Kingdom is near (Matt. 10:7) and that we must become like little children (Matt. 18:3). We are told that it is “like a man who sowed good seed in his field” (Matt. 13:24), “like a mustard seed” (Matt. 13:31), “like yeast” (Matt. 13:33), “like treasure hidden in a field” (Matt. 13:44), “like a merchant looking for fine pearls” (Matt 13:45), “like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish” (Matt. 13:47), “like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants” (Matt. 18:23), “like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard” (Matt. 20:1), “like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son” (Matt. 22:1), and “like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom” (Matt. 25:1).
Luke and John refer to the Kingdom of God. Luke’s usage seems to be similar to Matthew’s, and John famously says, that to enter the Kingdom of God, we must be “born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:5). The epistles say the Kingdom of God is of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17), “is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20), is barred to the wicked (1 Cor 6:9-10, Gal. 5:21), and that “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). So the admonition that we must suffer to enter the Kingdom is a critical element of our understanding of the path.
7. Elders. The importance of elders in a church is not fully appreciated. The epistles are vague in distinguishing elders (presbyteros, mentioned dozens of times in the epistles), pastors/shepherds (poimano, mentioned 8 times in the epistles), and overseers (episkopos, which is mentioned 7 times). Many commentators see these as being used interchangeably. However, I would propose that the early church only recognized three categories of people: apostles, elders, and deacons. The apostles had direct experience of Jesus. Although many churches claim apostolic succession, human frailties over the ages make this improbable. Elders were church leaders, trained by the apostles, but lacking their direct experience. Deacons were, as described in Acts 6, chosen to wait tables to permit. Nowhere is an administrative structure of church hierarchies described. It seems more likely that the system the apostles envisaged was of a church being led by a council of elders, each taking the function which suited him best.
8. Pisidia is a mountainous region north of Pamphylia, about 150 miles southwest of Ankara and 75 miles northwest of Konya. Strong’s says Pisidia means “pitchy.”
9. Pamphylia, which lies along the southern coast of Turkey, was “never an independent kingdom; it was subject successively to Lydia, Persia, Macedonia, Pergamos and Rome.” Strong’s says Pamphylia means “of every tribe.”
10. Perga means “earthy, according to Strong’s. It is near the modern city of Antalya along the southern coast of Turkey
11. Attalia served as “the chief port for ships from Syria and Egypt” Strong’s says Attalia means “Jah’s [Yahweh’s] due season”
12. Antioch, according to Strong’s, means “driven against.”

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