Tip for Dungeon Masters: if you need an intriguingly foreign-sounding name for a non-player character in your tabletop RPG, put aside those random name generators and just turn to any of the genealogy chapters in Genesis. You only need open today’s text, chapter 25, and you can populate your Dungeons and Dragons game with the likes of Ishbak the Barbarian, the great wizard Zohar, or the noble king Adbeel, ruler of the plains of Eldaah. That said, if you would rather be playing Dungeons and Dragons than reading the genealogies, I wouldn’t entirely blame you.
Paul is one shrewd dude. On two previous occasions, in order to outmaneuver Roman authorities who would otherwise punish him unjustly, we’ve seen him reveal his Roman Citizen Card (which is, of course, a trap card to be played face-down in the defense position). In today’s chapter, he shows he has more tricks up his sleeve, not only with the Romans, but with his own people.
Today Paul finally arrives in Jerusalem. What awaits him there? Enemies, certainly, but also friends. For the first time since chapter 15’s concern over Gentile circumcision, we’ll see James again, and we’ll also see other disciples not mentioned by name. Philip even makes an appearance as Paul’s trip to Jerusalem takes him through Caesarea.
You probably know Acts 17 for Paul’s sermon at Mars Hill. It’s a brilliant piece of apologetics, meeting the Greek population of Athens right where it is, starting from what’s laudable in their religious practices and leading those interested step-by-step to the truth of Christ’s resurrection. Here in Cincinnati, Mars Hill lends its name to a K-12 Christian private school, though when it comes to Mars Hill namesakes, you’re more likely to know of Mark Driscoll’s controversial and now-defunct Seattle-based megachurch. The earlier portions of Acts 17 really just kinda work the spotlight as the Mars Hill sermon takes center stage; after all, apart from the sermon, most of the chapter is just Paul going here and there. But let’s consider his here-and-there-going.
Welcome to Friday on Sunday. Got a post to catch up on, so let’s check out Matthew 14. It’s one of the three chapters in Matthew that gives the story of John the Baptist. He first arrived on the scene in chapter 3, and in chapter 11 Herod imprisons him, though I kinda skipped over that because I had a single verse to focus on, to the omission of everything else in the chapter. But we’re not skipping over John the Baptist today, because Matthew 14 is the chapter where he dies. Spoiler warning, John the Baptist dies.
Y’know, I’ve had something on my mind lately: sometimes I’m wrong about stuff. My background’s in English, and I know just enough theology, philosophy, and history to be dangerous. In all these fields, time and time again I’ve thought one thing was true, only to read or hear the actual fact of the matter and find my perspective overturned. I’ve never liked Socrates’ adage “I only know that I know nothing,” in part because it violates the Law of Non-Contradiction, and if there’s anything I know, it’s that. But even then, some days I find myself doubting that A is not non-A, whether that’s because of the weakness of my own mind or the viability of the notion that something could really, truly be what it isn’t, which would of course undermine all possibility of rationality and logic. But all of that is a roundabout way of saying that as we open up Matthew 8 today, I’m going to talk about first-century Judaism and the Roman Empire, so watch out.
Okay, so last week ended kind of catastrophically. Let’s see if we can get back on our feet. This week we return to the Triad study with Matthew 12:46-50, which the study authors chose to illustrate the theme of “family.” What do you think? Can I go the whole week in this passage without actually addressing the theme of “family?” I kid, but all good jokes have a grain of truth to them.