Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

had charge of Paul, and that he belonged to the

Augustan band (xxvii. 1); he mentions to which ports the different ships belonged (xxvii. 2; xxviii. 11) and the figure-head of the ship of Alexandria (xxviii. 11). He tells us the whole story with a thrilling interest, and in one place lets out that he was not standing idle in the hour of danger but lending a helping hand : “We cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship,” A.V. (xxvii. 19). From ver. 44 we gather that he and Paul swam to land, since he speaks of the rest” escaping by clinging to planks and wreckage.

On the island of Melita (Malta) he stayed with the governor of the island, named Publius, who treated him courteously” (xxviii. 7). Here he had opportunity of showing his skill as a physician : after St. Paul had miraculously healed the father of the governor, St. Luke adds,“ the rest also, which had diseases in the island came, and were cured.The Greek word here means 'treated,” as a doctor might treat us for sickness.

Thus we must think of the shipwreck as the shipwreck of St. Luke as well as of St. Paul. At Rome, so far as the Acts is concerned, he passes out of sight.

an

[ocr errors]

What we learn from St. Paul.

We should naturally expect St. Paul to make some mention of his faithful friend and companion in his letters. He mentions him by name three times. In Col. iv. 14 he speaks of him as with him in his captivity at Rome; and from the passage we learn that Luke was a physician (Paul calls him “ the beloved physician"), and also that he was a Gentile, because St. Paul does not include him among those of the circumcision,” by which he means those who were Jews. In Philemon 24 he calls him his fellow-worker. St. Luke was with St. Paul during Paul's second imprisonment at Rome, this we learn from the statement in 2 Tim. iv. II : Only Luke is with me.” It has been the custom to believe that St. Paul was speaking about St. Luke in 2 Cor. viii. 18; and that he was the brother whose praise in the Gospel is spread through all the churches.

What we learn from tradition.

The writers of the early centuries of Christianity speak of Luke as the companion of St. Paul. The historian Eusebius tells us that he came from Syrian Antioch; and Luke's knowledge of that church, and especially of its leaders (Acts xi. 19-30; xiii. 1-3 ; XV. 1-2), seems to confirm this. Another writer tells us that Luke never married, and that he died in Bithynia, at the age of 74. The chief writers of the second century who mention him state that he wrote both the Gospel and the Acts; and he was generally believed to have worked chiefly in Achaia. Some modern writers doubt Eusebius' statement that Luke came from Antioch ; Philippi, Pisidian Antioch, and Troas have been suggested as his birthplace. His Character.

We gather an idea of his character from the information St. Paul has given us, and from the character of St. Luke's own writings. From Paul's allusions to him we think of him as a lovable and most faithful friend. His own writings are marked by a deep belief in prayer and the guidance of the Spirit of God.

As an historian he shows himself a clever and learned man, who has carefully planned his work, and delights to make it accurate.

He does not forget to mention the women of the church, e.g., Dorcas, Lydia, Damaris, Priscilla ; and he is interested in his own profession, always describing diseases and their cure with care.

He was a learned Greek, a scholar, not merely in medicine, but in the Greek language and the Old Testament.

Finally he was a hero-worshipper : amongst all the workers in the church Paul was his hero; and from c. xiii. he follows his fortunes with increasing closeness, until all others drop out of sight, and Paul alone fills the whole picture.

THE ROMAN AND JEWISH WORLD. Language.

There is one incident in the story of the Crucifixion which tells us a great deal about the world at the time of our Lord and the Apostles : the inscription on the cross; it was written in three languages.

On the stone parapet which separated the outer court of the Temple from the court of the women were placed tablets forbidding the stranger to enter the inner court; these tablets were also in the same three languagesHebrew, Greek, and Latin. Each language tells us something about the world the Jews lived in.

Hebrew, or, as it really was, Aramaic (for the Jews no longer spoke pure Hebrew), was the local tongue of Syria; Greek was the language spoken over all the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, in trade and government; Latin was the language of the men who had conquered the East—the Romans.

Of these three languages Greek was the common language, the one nearly everyone spoke : a Jew might not know Latin, nor a Roman Aramaic ; but both Jew and Roman would know Greek. The same was true of

all the city-peoples of Syria and Asia Minor : they could talk Greek and their own mother-tongue. Paul speaks to the mob at Jerusalem in Aramaic (xxii. 2), but to the chief captain in Greek (xxi. 37).

Greek had become the common language because the East had been under Greek rulers for a hundred years before the Roman general, Pompey, conquered it.

Coinage.

If we had some of the coins of the East in our hands we should learn the same lesson: the gold and silver coins were Roman, struck with the Emperor's image, like the penny (silver denarius) the Herodians showed to Jesus; but the copper coins might have Greek or Aramaic letters round them, according to the city or province where they were used, and a figure of the city god on them; so a coin used in St. Paul's city, Tarsus, and struck between 160-180 A.D. bears a picture of the god of the city standing on the back of a lion and being drawn through the city on a platform.

A beautifully printed plate of the coins current in Palestine C. B.C. 500-A.D. 135, shows the bronze coins of Herod the Great, of Herod Antipas, and of Pontius Pilate ; the coins of the Herods had Greek inscriptions. (See Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, iii., p. 424.)

Inhabitants.

So we learn that often there were three languages in use; the common language of the country, Greek, and Roman. And as there were three languages, so in many of the cities in the Acts there were three peoples; the natives of the country, Greeks and others who had settled there who spoke Greek, and Romans who were there to rule.

The Dispersion.

Of those who had settled in these cities and spoke Greek a great number were Jews; these are known as the Dispersion, or, to use the Greek word, Diaspora. In the Acts Jerusalem is the scene of all that happens in the first seven chapters; but after that we begin to go further and further from Jerusalem until we get to Rome; yet in nearly every city we visit we find Jews. Some had been carried there as captives, as in Lydia and Phrygia, parts of Asia Minor, whither they had been carried by the Syrian Kings of Antioch, especially Antiochus the Great; others had gone there for trade. In every city if there were enough families they built a synagogue, as in Pisidian Antioch, or they would have a place of prayer as at Philippi, and St. Paul always went to the synagogue first.

Josephus tells us that these Jewish communities enjoyed special protection and privileges under the Roman government, by which they were able to follow the customs of their fathers.

Roman oficials.

But outside of Palestine, the greater part of the people in the cities in the Acts were Greek; there were Roman soldiers, and Roman officials as well, but there would not be a great number of ordinary Romans, unless the city was a Colony.

We read of the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, at Paphos in Cyprus, and Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia. We read also of Felix and Festus, procurators of Judæa. Cyprus and Corinth had proconsuls because they were under the Roman senate; but Judæa was under the Emperor directly, and therefore had only procurators.

* Of the Roman army we ‘have Claudius Lysias, stationed at Jerusalem, the chief captain ; and two centurions, Cornelius of the Italian cohort and Julius of the Augustan cohort, both stationed at Cæsarea. But although the Romans were few in number they held the supreme power, and kept order (xxi. 31-32). Roman Colonies.

These were cities where the Romans had placed some of their own citizens, often old soldiers (“veterans as they were called), and their families to form centres of Roman influence; these cities were often garrison towns : such were Pisidian Antioch, Troas, Philippi and Corinth, although St. Luke only mentions Philippi as a Colony (xvi. 12). The citizens enjoyed the right of being Roman citizens as well as citizens of the city.

[ocr errors]

Greek Cities.

The Greeks were city folks : just as we pride ourselves on being English, or Scotch, or Irish (i.e., on our country) they prided themselves on their city ; so Paul, although a Jew, boasts to the chief captain in Jerusalem that he is a citizen of no mean city.” The citizens of Tarsus were very proud of their city. In these Greek cities citizenship was a great matter (as it was in many English boroughs in the middle ages), and secured many rights and privileges; just as the kings of England granted charters to the citizens of our cities, so the Romans granted special privileges to the Greek cities. St. Paul was both a citizen of Tarsus, and a Roman citizen. The citizens had their own town

* It does not follow that all men serving in the Roman army were Romans; the service was largely recruited from the provinces. The name Lysias is Greek.

council, called the Boule, appointed their own magistrates, and officials, like the town clerk at Ephesus, and struck their own bronze coins.

The citizens also formed themselves into “ guilds,” sometimes for trade, like the silversmiths at Ephesus, sometimes for religious purposes or for art or amusement; there were even slave guilds.

The cities were closed in with walls (like Damascus, where St. Paul had to escape over the wall in a basket); their streets were paved, and often narrow, and had names like the street called Straight,” in Damascus. Their shops were open to the street. There were no shop-windows such as we know, but often tables set outside in the street, or there was an open front with a curtain ; over the shop would hang a sign-board telling the trade. One was a seller of purple, like Lydia of Philippi ; or there were bakers, sandal makers instead of shoe makers, tent makers, like Paul, corn merchants, etc. The tanner, Simon of Joppa, had to keep his trade outside the walls of the city because of the smell so he lived by the seaside.

There were other trades unknown now; shops where you could buy and sell men, women, boys and girls (the slave dealers' shops), and shops where you could buy images of the god or goddess of the city, such as Diana or Artemis of Ephesus, or Zeus and Hermes at Lystra. The temples of the gods were very beautiful and costly; the temple of Artemis at Ephesus was one of the wonders of the world. Often you would see images of the god of the city set up in the public street, with an altar in front. St. Paul saw an altar to The Unknown God” at Athens.

Amusements.

Most of the amusements of the citizens were connected with the gods, their great gymnastic contests, their chariot races, and their plays in the theatre were held either to celebrate some festival or to honour their god in some way, and there was much evil connected with some of them; thus it was very hard for Jew or Christian to join in these amusements.

Every large city had its temples, theatres, public halls, baths, etc. The baths were often quite free. The great amphitheatre at Ephesus was capable of holding 24,000 people. Social Grades.

The population of a city was divided into at least four classes. First there were the Roman nobles and knights, who would be there to govern; under them the citizens, then a class of freedmen who had been raised from slavery; finally the slaves. But we must

« AnteriorContinuar »