Now That’s Interesting

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Acts 16:1-5

In this little tidbit, we can pick up a little more insight into Paul’s second missionary adventure. Notice that he has arrived in Lystra, with no mention of Silas, and it would appear that he was looking for a young believer who had been brought to his attention as a potential member of Paul’s traveling party. Luke gives us some interesting personal information about this young man named Timothy; his mother was Jewish, his father Gentile, and clearly he was well respected in the church.

Since Paul wanted Timothy to travel with his party, he circumcised Timothy, because the Jews in the area knew his father was a Greek… and then Luke tells us that they went from town to town telling the believers about the results of the Jerusalem conference and how they need not be circumcised to be a Christian. At first blush, this seems beyond bizarre; didn’t Paul just violate the Jerusalem decision?

Well… yes and no.

“Yes” in the sense that Timothy didn’t need to be circumcised to be a Christian; but “no” because Timothy was not a Gentile, even though his father was, for his mother was a Jew, and that means that Timothy was also a Jew, a Jew who hadn’t been circumcised. Since the other Jews in the area knew that Timothy had not been circumcised, Paul did not circumcise him so that he would be accepted as a Christian; he did it so that Timothy would be accepted as a Jew.

We don’t really come across that situation very often…

So they went around with the Conference news and strengthened the churches in the area, and their numbers continued to increase. After a time, the party moved on to Macedonia as we will see next time.


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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6 Responses to Now That’s Interesting

  1. pipermac5 says:

    I wondered about that for a long time too, because it seemed to be an oxymoron, until I started to understand the life and culture of the 1st-century Jews in the light of Old Testament history. We take private bathrooms for granted, but they didn’t have any such conveniences.

    I used to have a sister-in-law who raised her family in a three-room house with a pump and a path. She didn’t get indoor plumbing until she moved into town in the early 90’s.



    • Don Merritt says:

      And as you would also point out, their idea of what is “modest” was quite different than ours today 🙂

      • pipermac5 says:

        Yes, hundreds of people gathered every day at the Roman bath-houses, others gathered every day at the Greek gymnasiums, and the “purification-pools” got lots of visitors. While I prefer to take care of my “business” in a private restroom, I, and many like me, think nothing of showering in an open-air shower.

        Naked slaves, going about their business, were a common sight, as were naked fishermen, naked farm-workers and naked gardeners. There is nothing “immodest” about the unclothed human body. It is OUR culture that has a problem with nudity. OUR culture has redefined “modesty” in a way that bears no resemblance to Biblical- modesty.

  2. Matt Brumage says:

    Paul says he becomes all things to all people so that by all means he might win some, and I believe the context of that is that Paul puts no stumbling blocks before people’s faith in Jesus. His dirty, death, burial, and resurrection are enough difficulties without being culturally offensive too.

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