Sunday, June 24, 2012

Acts, Chapter 14: The Road to... Attalia?

S/Paul and Barnabas go to Iconium, where they preach in the synagogue. But then some dastardly unbelieving Jews stir up the gentiles and convince them that S/P & B are a couple of lying liars. The dissent spreads through the entire city, until everybody has chosen a side. Then the gentiles and the priests grab S/Paul and Barnabas and try to stone him. But like some bad Western film, they escape in an unspecified fashion and head to Lycaonia.

In the town, they meet a man who has been crippled since birth. The bible is always very careful to point this out so so as to avoid awkward conversations such as this one, from Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ:
Christ said, ‘There’s a man called Jesus. A holy man, a healer. If he came here—’
      ‘Waste of time,’ said the leper. ‘There’s a dozen or more beggars who come here every day, pretending to be cripples, hiring themselves out to the holy men. A couple of drachmas and they’ll swear they’ve been crippled or blind for years and then stage a bloody miraculous recovery. Holy men? Healers? Don’t make me laugh.’
Anyway, S/Paul just looks at the man and says, Stand upright on thy feet (v. 10), which totally works! Of course, we don't get the second part of the conversation, also from The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ:
‘But he did heal someone,’ said the lame man. ‘Old Hiram. You remember that. He told him to take up his bed and walk.’
      ‘Bloody rubbish,’ said the blind man. ‘Hiram went as far as the temple gate, then he lay down and went on begging. Old Sarah told me. He said what was the use of taking his living away? Begging was the only thing he knew how to do. You and your blether about goodness,’ he said, turning to Christ, ‘where’s the goodness in throwing an old man out into the street without a trade, without a home, without a penny? Eh? That Jesus is asking too much of people.’
This creates tons of new converts, though to what exactly they think they're converting is questionable, given that they rename Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker (v. 12). Then the town's chief priest of Jupiter finds some cows to sacrifice and this is one of the few incidents in the entire bible that makes me actually laugh, especially S/Paul and Barnabas' response, which is to run around shouting at people to stop, because they're just human and the point of this new religion is to give up all these vanities (v. 15) and only think about god. Just as they succeed in convincing the people not to have a barbecue, though, their pursuers show up. They stone S/Paul and drag him away. The other disciples manage to rescue him and they flee to Derbe. Then they go on a long road trip through what is now Turkey, preaching and praying. I'm sure it's every bit as entertaining as a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road to... movie.

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