Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Acts 8:26-40

This passage appears in the Revised Common Lectionary, Easter Season Year B, most recently May 2, 2021.

Summary:  This passage likely makes no sense to most folks because it is so unusual.  It definitely stretches the bounds of our imagination about how the Spirit directs our path along the way.  And yet...if we have done mission work, the work of evangelism, this is often what it feels like: lots of surprising twists and turns following Jesus along the way.  Life just beyond our control!  I also find it interesting that they meet in the wilderness.  The wilderness is an area of vulnerability, an area in which we are not in control.  This is where we so often meet God!

Key words (and few grammar quirks):
αναστηθι και πορευου ("Get up and go"; 8:26) Philip is told to "Get up and go" (a very familiar line from the OT; Abraham -- Get up and go!). The question is whether this is verbal coordination Hebrew style (Go in a quick way) or whether Luke is implying two separate verbs. The English translations tend to put the verbs together, but the tense is actually different in the Greek.   If one separates the verbs, I would emphasize that the first verb is the same verb for resurrection.

γαζα (gaza, two meanings, town's name or treasury; 8:26/8:27) The word for "treasury" is actually γαζα so this Ethiopians is in charge of the "gaza"; Philip is on the road heading south of Jerusalem toward γαζα, aka treasure. What is the real treasure in the story?  

ερημος (wilderness, 8:26)  Not coincidentally, the Baptism takes place in a wilderness, often a place where God and humans meet! The wilderness it seems, is a place beyond our control.  A place where demons dwell, where testing happens, but God's faithfulness is always revealed.

ευνουχος (eunuch, 8:27)  Historically speaking, the eunuch typifies a bunch of people who convert in Acts

  • People not ethnically Jewish, yet are hungry for God
  • People who have access to power in some ways, but not others:  Social misfits
  • People who may not have been accepted with Judaism (an Eunuch could not have gone into the temple because of his castration)

Christianity became an incredibly diverse group of people; it became a global community of care and common confession, quite the opposite of the way in which the Romans (and all other imperial powers) held diversity together.

κολληθητι (from κολλαω, meaning "cling"; 8:29) The word for join/stay here is κολλαω as in collate or really cling. Philip is told to cling to the chariot. (Paul tells us in Romans to cling to what is good, 12:9)

απα (ara; 8:30)  The word that begins the sentence (ara) is an untranslatable interjection that expects a negative answer, so really, Philip's question is "You don't understand..."

ογηγησαι ("lead", 8:31) The word for "guide/explain" here is ογηγεω ...which comes from οδος (road/way) and αγω (lead). So Philip has been sent on the way by the Spirit to be the way-leader for someone else.

οδος (hodos, meaning "way"; 8:32) Again, we have the word "way" here...which will also show up in 8:39, he went on his way rejoicing!  Early Christians will be described as followers of the way (Acts 9:2)

τον Ιησουν (obviously Jesus, 8:37)  What is significantly here is that 'Jesus' is in the accusative case without a preposition.  Philip proclaimed Jesus to the Eunuch.  He was not merely talking about Jesus, he was handing over Jesus to the Eunuch.  Obviously, to hand over Jesus to someone means talking about Jesus, but there is something very direct implied in what Philip was doing here.  I think Luke is making the point also that in proclaiming the Word's about Jesus, Jesus is present (see Luke 24!)

προσκυνσων (from προσκυνεω, 8:27)  I have nothing to offer here other than this is one of only 13 future participles in the New Testament :-)

No comments: