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not think of all of the slaves as though they were the poorest, or like those we have seen in a picture of the slave market in Zanzibar, often they were better off than the poor citizens. The slave had no share in the government, he could be bought and sold; and cruelly treated if he was owned by a bad man; but in many homes he was spoilt and petted, and often grew very rich. The freedmen (those who had been given freedom from slavery) were chiefly traders, and professional men ; St. Luke refers to a body of Libertini or freedman having a synagogue in Jerusalem (Acts vi. 9). and Aquila of Corinth, the tent-maker, was probably a freedman.
The Greek boys were most carefully trained in gymnastics, their fathers spending much money on this ; but their education, as we use the word, was left to very poor school-masters, sometimes slaves or freedmen. St. Paul mentions the slave who took the boys to school in the Galatians; he was called the “ paidagogus.” Jewish boys were more carefully trained in their own schools ; Paul's father sent the young Paul to finish off in Jerusalem under Gamaliel.
Roads and Travelling.
The Romans were great road-builders. We have in England still the remains of some of their great roads, such as the great Bath road from London to Bath. These great roads ran all over the empire, and made travelling easy ; St. Paul followed the great roads in his missionary journeys; and all roads led towards Rome, the centre of the Empire.
There were four things which made travelling easy for people in those days : government, language, money, and roads; “it was easy, swift, and secure and water and land alike alive with trade and travel.”
We have in Europe to-day railroads instead of roads, and can travel faster and in greater comfort: but if we gain there, we have no common language as Greek was to them; no common coinage like the gold and silver coins of the Romans; and no common government like the rule of the emperors.
Lastly, as there was one emperor, there was peace throughout his empire for the space of two and a half centuries.
The position of the emperor over this empire can well be imagined to be a powerful one ; although his empire was not nearly as big as the British empire, the Roman empire was really great in another way-it knit into one brotherhood many and various peoples; Romans, Greeks, Jews, Asiatics, Germans, Britons, Gauls, Egyptians, etc., and made them all proud of belonging to it. So proud were some of them of the Emperor that they made images of him and worshipped him; and the Emperor actually allowed it by law. This was an abomination to the Jew and the Christian, and in the end the great struggle began between the worship of Divus Cæsar and the worship of Christ; but that is not in the Acts.
THE JEWISH NATION.
Jerusalem : (The Capital).
The Acts tells very little about the city itself; it mentions two houses : the upper room where the brethren met (i. 13), and the house of Mary, the mother of Mark (xii. 12); the prison where Peter was kept by Herod (xii. 5); and later the castle" or Tower of Antonia from which the soldiers ran down into the Temple court to rescue Paul (xxi. 32 ff.).
Herod's Temple :
Herod the Great was a lover of beautiful architecture ; to gain the favour of the Jews, he rebuilt the Temple on a new plan, double the area of the old, by keeping the breadth as before, but making it twice the length from north to south.
He carried the southern portion over the Tyropoon Valley by immense arches; thus when the worshipper entered at the southern gate he descended, and then ascended a flight of steps.
The large outer court is familiarly known as the Court of the Gentiles. Here was the famous porch of Solomon where the early disciples met for prayer, and where Peter once preached (iii. 11; V. 12).
The gate Beautiful, where the lame man was healed (c. iii. 2), was probably the Shushan or Golden Gate ; but as it is never mentioned elsewhere we cannot identify it with certainty.
The inner court was enclosed by a stone parapet, on which were placed tablets inscribed in Aramaic, Greek and Latin forbidding all aliens to pass
within. St. Paul was accused of breaking this rule because the Jews of Asia thought he had taken Trophimus, an Ephesian, within the sacred enclosure; and it nearly cost him his life (xxi. 27 ff.).
There was first the Court of the Women; then the Court of Israel (or of the men); lastly the Court of the Priests; finally the Temple building.
The Captain of the Temple :
St. Luke once in the Gospel and twice in the Acts mentions the Jewish officer who had charge of the temple guard, consisting of priests and Levites; and he must not be confounded with the Roman officer in c. xxi. 31.
The Jewish officer is called “the captain of the temple” (iv. I; V. 24); but the Roman officer is called “the chief captain of the band." Temple Services and Feasts.
There were three chief hours of prayer in the Temple courts. The first was probably at the time of the morning sacrifice, the second in the afternoon, about three o'clock, at the time of the evening sacrifice ; and the last about sunset. It was at the ninth hour, that is about three o'clock, that Peter and John healed the lame man (c. iii.).
Of the great festivals two are mentioned in the Acts, the Passover, and the feast of Pentecost.
At Pentecost, which fell fifty days after the Passover, the Holy Spirit was given. It was the first of the great harvest feasts, when the first ripe barley was presented to God (c. iii. I).
The Passover is mentioned as the time when Herod Agrippa I. put James to death and imprisoned Peter ; in the A.V. it is called “ Easter” (xii. 4); in the preceding verse we have connected with it the days of unleavened bread.” The feast commemorated the deliverance from Egypt. St. Paul was apparently hurrying up to Jerusalem to keep this feast at the end of the second missionary journey (xviii. 21).
The Day of Atonement is also alluded to once, under the term the Fast" (xxvii. 9); St. Paul was on his voyage to Rome, and Luke refers to the Fast to show us the time of year, in October, when navigation was dangerous. The Sanhedrin or Great Council at Jerusalem.
In the Gospels it is composed of the “Chief Priests, Elders and Scribes ” (Mark xv. 1). The Chief Priests belonged to the aristocratic or Sadducean party, but amongst the elders or Scribes were many Pharisees. In the Acts the most influential part of the council are the kindred of the high priest” (iv. 6); they were Sadducees. Luke mentions the high priest Annas, Caiaphas, John and Alexander. They twice summon the council to deal with the apostles (iv. 5; V. 17). Amongst the Pharisees on the council he mentions Gamaliel (v. 34).
From the account of St. Paul's trial at Jerusalem we gather that the two parties were fairly evenly balanced, at that time one Ananias was high priest (Acts xxiii. 6, 7).
The powers of the council were much limited by the Romans, and we know from the Gospels that they had no power of life and death (John xviii. 31).
The chief place of teaching was the synagogue. The temple at Jerusalem was used chiefly for sacrifice ; the ordinary Jew of Palestine would go up to Jerusalem perhaps only once a year, the Jew of the Dispersion less frequently ; but he attended the synagogue in his own town every Sabbath as well as sometimes on other days of the week. The synagogue building served three purposes : (1) as a school; (2) as a place for teaching the Law to the people ; (3) for worship. There was generally a school for boys, and a college for elder students ; but besides this there were frequent meetings for older members of the congregation to be taught the Law; lastly, there was the service for worship. The chief parts of the service were the repetition of the Shema (Deut. vi. 4-9; xi. 13–21; and Num. xv. 37-41), prayer, and a lesson taken in a fixed order from the Law of Moses, and a lesson from the prophets. The conduct of the service could be taken by any layman, who was often called upon by the “ruler of the synagogue,” who had charge of the service, and was responsible for order and decency; so Paul and Barnabas were called upon to speak in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (xiii. 15); another officer connected with the building was the chazzan, who had charge of the sacred rolls of the Law, and handed them to the reader. This officer also taught in the school, and carried out the sentences of punishment decreed by the synagogue court. St. Luke mentions synagogues at Damascus, Salamis, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus.
Proselytes and God-fearers.
Connected with the synagogue were two bodies of Gentiles; the proselytes, as Nicolas, of Antioch (vi. 5), who had been received into communion with the Jews by submitting to a form of baptism, and to circumcision ; and men whom St. Luke calls “ God-fearers," or as our translation renders it, those that fear God,” like Cornelius. These men had not been circumcised, or baptized, but had forsaken idolatry and accepted the religion of the One true God (x. 2, 22; xiii. 16, 26). They seem to have been permitted to attend the synagogue service; but from the case of Cornelius, it is clear that it was not the custom of the strict Jew to eat with them (x. 28; xi. 3).
The Pharisees and Sadducees.
About two hundred years before our Lord, the Jews passed under the rule of the Kings of Antioch, who tried to force them to adopt Greek customs, and many of the Jews fell in love with Greek games and sports, boxing and wrestling and the chariot races, but the stricter Jews, called the Chasidim, or “pious,” thinking this would lead those who did it away from the God of Israel to worship idols, condemned it. Thus there sprang up two parties called the Chasidim (or “pious ") and the Hellenists (or Greek party).
From the Chasidim came in after days the Pharisees (or Perushim-separated ones) ; so called because they separated themselves from the irreligious and careless, and specially from the Hellenists.
They were very exact in keeping the law of Moses. So as to prevent themselves from breaking it in any way they drew up a number of rules for nearly every action in life, called “ the tradition of the elders (Mark vii.). We hear little of them outside of Jerusalem in the Acts; but they did not oppose the Apostles as they had our Lord; Gamaliel pleaded for them; and we also find them taking St. Paul's side (xxiii. 6 ff.).
Many joined the Church, and formed the chief of the party who wished to have the Gentile converts circumcised (Acts xi. 2; xv. 1-5).
The Sadducees came from the Hellenistic party, and they belonged chiefly to the priests and nobility. They rejected entirely this Tradition of the Elders, and although they kept the Law they were not strict as the Pharisees; they did not believe in a resurrection nor in the existence of angels or spirits; all of which the Pharisees believed (xxiii. 8).
The origin of the name is very doubtful. Some say it means Sons of Zadok”; others the righteous ones”; a third suggestion is that it comes from a Persian word, Zindik (on this point consult the Larger Manual, St. Mark, p. 21).