The Great Persecution

27 Dec
Persecution -- scattering

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I think we often read past Acts 8:1-4 just to get to Philip’s ministry to Samaria and the Ethiopian eunuch. Nevertheless, these four verses tell us a great deal, and are pretty much continued at Acts 11:19. It seems Luke placed Philip’s ministry to Samaria and the Ethiopian plus Saul’s conversion plus Peter’s going to the Roman centurion and his household right in the middle of this persecution, or to but it another way: between Acts 8:4 and Acts 11:19. It serves as a kind of parenthesis within the persecution and its information helps us to forget what is really taking place. Believers are dying for their faith.

What happened? Well, it seems that the ruling Sadducees finally got what they wanted. They are now able to strike out at the Messianics without fear of causing an uprising among the people (cp. Acts 6:11-12a). Still they are kept from hurting the Apostles, but that won’t last forever as we shall see once we get to the reign of Herod Agrippa in Acts 12. The Pharisees are also in the mix now, and it seems this means Gamaliel (Acts 5:34-40) as well. We couldn’t expect Saul, who grew up under the teaching of this man (Acts 22:3), to revolt against his teacher and side with the Sadducees, whom the Pharisees normally resented and opposed (cp. Acts 23:6). So, we have a united ruling body who lashes out at the Messianic Jews and their decision to do so is supported by the people.

What sort of persecution was this? Was it a minor uproar within Jewish society that could hardly be noticed otherwise? According to Paul (Acts 26:9-11) he entered every synagogue (house in Acts 8:3) and seized believers and brought them before the Sanhedrin for punishment up to and including death. Moreover, during his interrogation of believers, he tried to get them to deny Jesus. He also punished them himself (Acts 26:11) which probably included beatings (cp. Matthew 10:17), and he was an equal opportunity enemy of the faith in that both men and women were included (Acts 8:3; 22:4) in his efforts to stamp out this growing sect (Galatians 1:3). Not only did Saul seek to eradicate the believing community from Jerusalem, but he pursued believers even to foreign cities with the intent of imprisoning them and bringing them to Jerusalem for judgment (Acts 26:11; 9:1-2).

Saul, however, was not on a one-man-mission. On the contrary, he was one among many, but excelled above all (Galatians 1:14). Saul advanced in the Jewish religion by being a good Jew, by doing the bidding of the high priest (Acts 22:5; 26:12), and being a good Jew meant hurling insults at Messianic believers (Acts 8:3) and more. Persecution became state policy, backed up with the approval of the high priest and the Sanhedrin—composed of both Sadducees and Pharisees.

It isn’t said in the text, and neither does Josephus give a reason for the replacement of the officiating high priests during this time, but Caiaphas, Annas’ son-in-law, was removed from office and replaced by Jonathan, Annas’ son. Caiaphas seemed to otherwise have a good rapport with Rome in that he served in that office for about 10 years. Jonathan served less than 2 years before he was replaced by his brother Theophilus. So, in the space of 2years, Jerusalem had three different high priests officiating at the Temple, when prior to this Caiaphas had officiated in that office for about ten years without any interference from Rome. On the face, it seems there is a good argument that Rome really opposed the persecution conducted by the Sanhedrin. Perhaps, leading believers even complained to the Roman governor for how they were being mistreated as was done when James, the Lord’s brother, was killed by another of Annas’ sons (cir. 62 AD).[1] Later in Acts, Luke shows that the believing community enjoyed a relatively good relationship with Rome, in that, believers in Jesus were considered innocuous by Rome, although every other messianic cult was pursued and destroyed by the Roman governors ruling Judea and Samaria.


[1] JOSEPHUS: Antiquities of the Jews; Book 20, chapter 9, paragraph 1.


Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Kingdom of God


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13 responses to “The Great Persecution

  1. Ed Bromfield

    December 29, 2011 at 19:03

    Shalom, Rabbi Mike. Thank you for the trouble you are taking for me. Please don’t let it interfere with your duties. This is just for our fun and enjoyment of the Scriptures as they are seen through ancient Judaism. Take your time.

    Shalom. :-)

  2. Ed Bromfield

    December 29, 2011 at 09:30

    Rabbi Mike, it is good to find your comment. I was beat up pretty badly on the discussion forum for bringing out material that Dr. Martin had in his book. I enjoyed it very much, as I said, but I tread as lightly as possible speaking about it, due to how he speaks of the stars. Btw, did you ever hear of the book “Witness of the Stars” by E. W. Bullinger? I read it years ago and couldn’t get enough of it either. His book is also on line. You can find them here: “The Star that Astonished the World” and “The Witness of the Stars.” Both books are excellent, but Dr. Martin’s book has a lot more historical information.

    I’m a little surprised with how you are taking this subject. I’ll have to continue to reconsider my own feelings about the subject. I really enjoyed the truth I found evidenced in these works, but I recoiled a bit at the method they used and marveled at their straightforward courage in doing so.


  3. Return of Benjamin

    December 29, 2011 at 09:24

    Shalom Ed. I haven’t had a chance to work up a full reply, but I did get a chance last night to go to the full-sized Talmuds at the synagogue and look at the Aramaic text. Specifically, I wanted to know what word was being translated “philosopher.”

    The answer: “Philosopha.” It’s just “philosopher” transliterated. I chuckled when I read that one.

    The sages are never called by that term in the Talmud, so I don’t think it could refer to R. Eliezer. However, I was also able to get a better idea of how the sentences could be parsed in the original and to get an alternate take on the passage–which could potentially weaken my case, though in a different way than the alternate understanding you’ve proposed. I’ll get back to you on that one in a few days once I’ve had a chance to dig in a bit deeper.


  4. Return of Benjamin

    December 28, 2011 at 15:49

    “Dr. Ernest Martin. He wrote a book (free on line) called ‘The Star that Astonished the World.'”

    I’ll definitely check that out. I happen to subscribe to the “Gospel in the Stars” theory (Joseph Seiss’ book on the subject is my favourite), so I find no problem in the idea that Hashem might have used certain conjunctions in the heavens to mark special events like Messiah’s birth. In my view, astrology is the Adversary’s co-opting of God’s markers for “signs and seasons” into a fortune-telling device, turning men back from the Gospel and to their own selfish desires.

    I’ll get back to you on the Talmud in a few days. We’ve got a synagogue dinner tonight, so I won’t be able to dig into the commentary you’ve provided until tomorrow night at least.

    Dang, I wish I could be retired. :)


  5. Ed Bromfield

    December 28, 2011 at 13:00

    “Imma Shalom, R. Eliezer’s wife, was R. Gamaliel’s sister.
    If Rabbi Eliezer is not the “certain philosopher” below, it is difficult to understand why he and his wife Imma are mentioned.

    Now, a certain philosopher lived in his vicinity,
    I assume **his vicinity** means Rabbi Gamaliel and not Rabbi Eliezer.

    and he bore a reputation that he did not accept bribes.
    I assume **he** is also Rabbi Gamaliel and not the philosopher

    They wished to expose him, so she brought him a golden lamp, went before him, [and] said to him, ‘I desire that a share be given me in my [deceased] father’s estate.’
    **They** seem to refer to Rabbi Eliezer and Imma, his wife (and sister to Rabbi Gamaliel. She (Imma) went before him (R. Eliezer) and said to him (R. Gamaliel)…

    ‘Divide,’ ordered he.
    i.e. R. Eliezer ordered R. Gamaliel

    Said he [R. Gamaliel] to him, ‘It is decreed for us, Where there is a son, a daughter does not inherit.’
    R. Gamaliel replies to R. Eliezer

    [He replied], ‘Since the day that you were exiled from your land the Law of Moses has been superseded and another book given, wherein it is written, ‘A son and a daughter inherit equally.’
    At this point, it is difficult to say R. Eliezer is the philosopher, since he speaks of the **land** as though he is not a Jew. Yet, if Imma and R. Eliezer are not meant by **they** above, why are they mentioned at all?

    What book had superseded that of Moses? Nothing is said in the NT of a son and a daughter inheriting equally. Certainly, reference is made of there being neither man nor woman, but this is not speaking of physical inheritance. Neither is **equality** of inheritance implied—only that both man and woman are equal before the Lord. If we presume this does refer to the NT, note that R. Gamaliel has been **exiled** from his land. This might be seen as taking place after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. However, when could it be construed to mean that the NT has superseded the Mosaic Law? It seems to me that the timeframe would be more like the 4th century and later, if the NT should be considered, but this would be after the lifetime of R. Gamaliel. Nevertheless, I did find an interesting passage in Kethuboth 52b, immediately following the Mishnah. We read:

    “R. Johanan stated in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: Why was the kethubah for MALE CHILDREN instituted? In order that any man might thereby be encouraged to give to his daughter as much as to his son. But is such a regulation found anywhere else? Seeing that the All-Merciful ordained that a son shall be heir; a daughter shall not’, would the Rabbis proceed to make a provision whereby a daughter shall be the heir? — This also has Scriptural sanction, for it is written, Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters,’ and take wives far your sans, and give your daughters to husbands; [now the advice to take wives for one’s] sons is quite intelligible [since such marriages are] within a father’s power but [as to the giving of] one’s daughters [the difficulty arises:] Is [such giving] within his power? [Consequently it must be] this that we were taught: That a father must provide for his daughter clothing and covering and must also give her a dowry so that people may be anxious to woo her and so proceed to marry her. And to what extent? Both Abaye and Raba ruled: Up to a tenth of his wealth. But might it not be suggested [that the sons] should inherit [what their mother received] from her father but not [that which was due to her] from her husband? — If that were so, a father also would abstain from assigning [a liberal dowry for his daughter]. May it then be suggested that where her father had assigned a dowry her husband must also enter the clause but where her father did not assign any dowry her husband also need not enter the clause? — The Rabbis drew no distinction. But should not then a daughter among sons also be heir? — The Rabbis have treated [the kethubah] like an inheritance. But should not then a daughter among the other daughters be heir? — The Rabbis made no distinction. Why then is not [the kethubah] recoverable from movables also? — The Rabbis treated it like the [statutory] kethubah. Why then should not distraint be made on sold or mortgaged property? — [The expression] we learned [was] SHALL INHERIT. May it then be suggested [that It Is recoverable] even if there was no surplus of a denar? — The Rabbis have made no enactment where the Pentateuchal law of inheritance would thereby be uprooted.” [Babylonian Talmud; Kethuboth 52b; Soccino translation]

    The next day, he [R. Gamaliel] brought him a Lybian ass. Said he to them, ‘Look at the end of the book, wherein it is written, I came not to destroy the Law of Moses nor to add to the Law of Moses, and it is written therein, A daughter does not inherit where there is a son.” (b.Shabbat 116a-b, Soccino translation)

    If we are to consider Matthew 5:17 as a reference made by R. Gamaliel, what would he mean by “Look to the end of the book…” Deuteronomy would be the end of the Pentateuch but Matthew 5:17 is neither found at the end of Matthew nor is Matthew the last book of the NT or any NT grouping of books. While Jesus’ words do have a foundation in Deuteronomy, I cannot see R. Gamaliel using Matthew 5:17 as his source. What do you think about this?

    Lord bless you,


    P.S. and you thought your reply was long! :-)


  6. Ed Bromfield

    December 28, 2011 at 12:55

    Rabbi Mike, thank you for your explanation of your journey into Messianic Judaism. I think it is a beautiful story of God’s love for you and his people, the Jews.

    Concerning the Lord’s birth having to do with the reign of Cleopatra, I would enjoy reading about that, but take your time. I’m retired and your not, so I can wait. Btw, the Revelation 12:1 reference is not mine. I read a study in a book by the late Dr. Ernest Martin. He wrote a book (free on line) called “The Star that Astonished the World.” I simply couldn’t put it away without studying it and considering its Biblical references. He does use astrology as the method used by the Magi. It was a little overdone for my taste, and I don’t embrace every conclusion he makes, but my sensitivity to astrology may be because delving into it had been one of my sins in a time when I turned my back on the Lord. I do understand that there was no separation of astronomy and astrology in ancient times.


  7. Return of Benjamin

    December 28, 2011 at 12:33

    “. . . but I suspect the Lord’s birth occurred on the Feast of Trumpets.”

    We’re within two weeks of each other, which still fits with my own calculations (derived from knowing the order of the priesthood that John the Immerser’s father belonged to) and I like your reasoning. I’ll have to dig in a bit deeper there. I’ve also got some references from the ECF that date Yeshua’s birth from the reign of Cleopatra and which put it in the 2-3 BCE range. If you don’t have those already, I’ll dig them out for you.

    “Since you were already a Christian, why did you change to Messianic Judaism, if this is not too personal?”

    Not too personal at all–but I do apologize in advance for the length of this post. It’s a long story.

    Basically, it all started when a Messianic Rabbi came to my nice, normal, well-adjusted Southern Baptist Church to put on a Passover Seder. I loved it: Every single element, even the stuff that was purely (in my mind then) rabbinic tradition all pointed right to Jesus. Why weren’t we doing this every year? It made so much more sense than chocolate bunnies laying colored eggs!

    Shortly after that, I was going through Matthew 5 with my Sunday school class and vv. 15-17 suddenly lept out at me in a way they never had before. If Jesus was really saying that the Torah would never be abolished and that we should keep and teach even its least commandments, as He seemed to me to say, then how could Paul teach otherwise? Within that class, I managed to get to a politically-correct answer that broke the Torah down into moral vs. ceremonial commandments, but I wasn’t satisfied with it myself.

    That started a years-long study of the whole Bible with special interest in Romans and Galatians. I came to the conclusion that Paul was not against keeping the Torah, but against relying on keeping the Torah for salvation. After I reached a certain point, I began publishing my ideas in a couple of web forums to get feedback and correction. Well, I got a lot of feedback in the form of accusations of heresy, but little in the way of useful correction. I took my questions, concerns and theories to several pastors, but they couldn’t answer my questions to a satisfactory degree either.

    About that time (and this was a nearly decade-long process), a friend came across a flyer for a Messianic synagogue, and three of us decided to drop in and check it out. Without intending to, we happened to show up on the Shabbat of Sukkot–and once again, I found out how every single element, including all of the extra-Biblical traditions, pointed to Yeshua. When the Holy One gets your attention with Passover and brings you to your synagogue on Sukkot, it gets your attention. I ended up staying on and the rabbi took me under his wing.

    For about five years, I was perfectly content to be a Messianic grafted-in (Rom. 11) Gentile–and I was by no means excluded from anything because of that. I became one of the youth leaders, participated in and even led the study sessions, stepped in as the new assistant Messianic minister when the old one left, and joined the yeshiva (rabbi school).

    I need to emphasize that there was no assumption at all that conversion via b’rit milah (circumcision) was supposed to be a “next step” on anyone’s journey. In my discussions with the rabbi, we agreed with 1Co. 7 that in general, a person should remain in the condition in which he or she is called. Nevertheless, the more I learned about Jews and Judaism and the more I had contact with the Jewish people, the more I felt a yearning to draw closer–not to Hashem, whom I was already in full union with, but to the Jewish people.

    The final “argument” if you will, for my conversion came when I fell in love with a beautiful young Jewish woman in our synagogue with a wonderful little girl. Well, the Spirit and the Word had already convicted me that causing a Jew to Gentilize was a sin worse than pressuring a Gentile to Judaize. Whenever you have a mixed marriage outside of Israel, the children almost inevitably assimilate into the larger culture. After discussing this with the rabbi for a while (his concern was making sure that marrying in wasn’t my sole motivation and that I was under no illusions about how the rest of the community would receive me), I began the proselytization process.

    I actually came to the end of the process at a time when Sara and I had broken up. I believe now that this was a final test from Hashem: “Are you proselytizing because you loved a woman? Or are you doing it because I called you to and you love Me?” I went forward and completed my conversion.

    A couple of months later, the rabbi helped me finance a trip to Israel, which he considered vital to solidifying my sense of peoplehood. A few months after that, Sara and I reconciled, and I ended up proposing to her before the end of the year. Last year, I finished my yeshiva classes, was ordained as a Messianic rabbi, and entered the internship phase of my training.

    Like I said, sorry about the length. It’s hard to explain a fifteen-year process in my life that led to some controversial conclusions and decisions on my part without going into a lot of detail to avoid misunderstandings.

    Gotta get back to work. Shalom!

  8. Ed Bromfield

    December 28, 2011 at 10:31

    Shalom Rabbi Mike, this will be a partial reply. I want to investigate further what you have said about R. Gamaliel. I, too, believe the Annunciation took place about this time of year, but I suspect the Lord’s birth occurred on the Feast of Trumpets. I have read that Revelation 12 nails it down to Sept. 11th **if** Jesus was born in 3 BCE, and I believe he was. It has to do with where the moon is in the sign of the woman (Revelation 12:1; Virgo or Betulah in Hebrew). The moon was at the “feet” of the constellation for only one day—and really visible in Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 3 BCE for only one hour and a half before the moon dipped below the horizon. I don’t know how important this might be, but it seems exciting to me to know within an hour and a half of when our Savior was born. It is like I have been invited to “see” him with the shepherds.

    I didn’t remember if you told me you were not a Jew by birth, but I suspected (so maybe it is partial memory if you did mention it). Since you were already a Christian, why did you change to Messianic Judaism, if this is not too personal? I used to celebrate the Jewish Holy Days awhile back, but not Chanukah or Purim—just those in Leviticus 23. At that time I considered Christmas pagan—and Easter as well.

    Lord bless you,


    P.S. If my friend and I get into a discussion again, I’ll drop you a line. If you are too busy, don’t give it a second thought, but it would be nice to know someone is watching who is in my corner. :-)

  9. Return of Benjamin

    December 28, 2011 at 08:33

    Shalom Ed.

    I was wondering. You did come across as touchier than usual. No matter; we’re all friends and brethren here.

    Shoot me a link if you get back into it with your Jewish friend; I’d enjoy watching–and if you find yourself in need of Talmudic references to mess with his head, I don’t mind helping with the legwork. :)

    I got in early to work so I could go ahead and get the reference for you:

    “Imma Shalom, R. Eliezer’s wife, was R. Gamaliel’s sister. Now, a certain philosopher lived in his vicinity, and he bore a reputation that he did not accept bribes. They wished to expose him, so she brought him a golden lamp, went before him, [and] said to him, ‘I desire that a share be given me in my [deceased] father’s estate.’ ‘Divide,’ ordered he. Said he [R. Gamaliel] to him, ‘It is decreed for us, Where there is a son, a daughter does not inherit.’ [He replied], ‘Since the day that you were exiled from your land the Law of Moses has been superseded and another book given, wherein it is written, ‘A son and a daughter inherit equally.’ The next day, he [R. Gamaliel] brought him a Lybian ass. Said he to them, ‘Look at the end of the book, wherein it is written, I came not to destroy the Law of Moses nor to add to the Law of Moses, and it is written therein, A daughter does not inherit where there is a son.” (b.Shabbat 116a-b, Soccino translation)

    Hmm . . . which group of “philosophers” (i.e., Greeks) had “another book” which some construed to mean that the Torah had been set aside in favor of a new law? Moreover, the Codex Oxford of the Talmud actually reads, “and the law of the Evangelium has been given.” Finally, every commentary and footnote on this passage that I’ve been able to find states that R. Gamaliel was citing Mat. 5:17 against this “philosopher” who wanted to replace the Torah with “another book.”

    I find some significance, however, in the way the Talmud actually cites Mat. 5:17–it’s obviously not a direct quote. In fact, it reads very much like Deu. 12:32, “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” This would indicate that R. Gamaliel did not consider Yeshua to be one who enticed Jews either into the worship of other gods nor “from the way in which the Lord your God has commanded you to walk” (13:5).


    P.S. I personally believe Yeshua was born on the Feast of Tabernacles, but my parents still celebrate Christmas, so every year we join them for Christmas dinner. Since it falls at about the time the Annunciation most likely happened, I celebrate that alongside Hanukkah and everyone’s happy.

    So I guess a belated Merry Christmas is in order: Merry post-Christmas and a happy New Year!

  10. Ed Bromfield

    December 27, 2011 at 23:29

    Rabbi Mike, Shalom. You don’t need to hurry about the reference in the Talmud. I was just curious. Concerning Rabbi Hillel, I don’t mean to take anything away from him and make it Jesus’. I am content with whatever is true.

    If I came across a little touchy, I apologize. I didn’t mean to. I may be still in my defensive mode. I had been debating with a very knowledgeable Jew on a discussion forum. I have been debating with him for a few years off and on. Previous to this time (perhaps a year ago, can’t remember) our discussion didn’t end well. Although he makes an effort at being very cordial in our discussions, the constant denying of Jesus and the NT Scriptures as eyewitness records brought a sharp rebuke on my part. I almost immediately regretted it (almost, but I half-way enjoyed doing it). Anyway I began another discussion about a month ago and he responded. I immediately apologized for my previous behavior, and he was very gracious and said he didn’t remember it, but told me he probably acted similarly. Well, as I said, he is very knowledgeable and his debating style is such that it denies an early writing of the NT. We ended our discussion about Christmas and the coming of the Messiah when the discussion forum did an upgrade and lost the last 14 pages of our ongoing discussion — there were more than us discussing. I told him I was ready for a break and would put something else up about mid January. If he felt like it was something that he would like to participate in to drop by.

    Long-story-short, between him and the atheists on the forum I am not at my best in gracious behavior. I didn’t lose it this time, but my normal approach to debating Scripture is such that I respond with very little apparent emotion–at least from my pov. Others may disagree–don’t know. So, I hope I wasn’t offensive with you. Looking back, I don’t see anything specific, but I do appear very straightforward and business like–no real cordiality. Sorry for how that might have felt.

    Lord bless,


    P.S. do you celebrate Christmas. I know you celebrate the Jewish Holy Days, but don’t know if Messianic Jews celebrate Christmas. I know Chanukah is celebrated at this time of year, so probably not. Just curious. :-)

  11. Return of Benjamin

    December 27, 2011 at 17:01

    “One has Hillel referring to the Golden Rule, making it look like Jesus quoted him.”

    You are deeply mistaken on that point; R. Hillel lived in the late 1st Century BC and died when Yeshua was between seven and fifteen years old. If there was any borrowing, it was Yeshua who took Hillel’s formulation and transformed it from a “thou shalt not” to a “thou shalt,” not the other way around.

    (Personally, I just think they both got their Golden Rules from correctly understanding the Torah. Hillel put it as a “thou shalt not” to avoid discouraging a potential convert while Yeshua made it more difficult because He was teaching His disciples.)

    On the exact Talmudic reference and context, I’ll have to pull my notes and give it to you tomorrow; I’m currently without internet so I’m limited to posting at work at the moment.


  12. Ed Bromfield

    December 27, 2011 at 15:31

    I don’t share the view you have of Gamaliel. I understand, due to your mission to the Jews, you must give him the benefit of a doubt more than I might do. I am not certain where in the Talmud you see him referring to Matthew 5:17, but there are several references to the NT in the Talmud. One has Hillel referring to the Golden Rule, making it look like Jesus quoted him. But if this were true, why wouldn’t Jesus’ point in Matthew 5:17 be a common paraphrase of Deuteronomy 12:32 or 4:2? If this is so, Gamaliel may not be referring to Jesus’ statement at all.

    Concerning Paul, as Saul, why would he have such altruistic views of unity at this early date, since the party of the Pharisees was often at odds with the Sadducees with or without considering the Christians/Nazarenes? With the emphasis that believers placed upon the resurrection of Jesus, I would think this had more in common with the Pharisaic teaching than the denials of the Sadducees. Therefore, if Saul should require theological unity at this point, he had more in common with the Apostles. In my opinion Jesus was a common enemy of both Sadducees and **leading** Pharisees, which would include both Saul and Gamaliel. The Pharisees in the council could not side with the Sadducees because of the popularity the Apostles enjoyed with the common Jews. The political power of Gamaliel and the Pharisaic party was vested in the support of the people while the Sadducees’ power was vested in Roman approval. It was essential that popularity should shift from the believers before the Pharisees (the leaders in the council) could side with the Sadducees. The Pharisees could not ignore the people, if they hoped to keep their support against the Sadducees on other matters. I am more inclined to take this pov than a friendly Gamaliel.

  13. Return of Benjamin

    December 27, 2011 at 11:08

    An interesting note on Rabban Gamaliel: The Talmud actually shows him citing Yeshua’s own teaching to rebuke a min (heretic; in this context, a Nazarene) who wanted him to make a ruling in violation of the Torah. Gamaliel cites Mat. 5:17, but reworks it into a paraphrase of Deu. 12:32. This shows that Gamaliel at least did not consider Yeshua a Law-breaker, which probably factored in very heavily into the entire Pharisee party rising to Paul’s defense as Gamaliel solidified his leadership.

    In Paul’s case, given the extreme emphasis he puts on unity in the Body of Messiah, I have to wonder if the thing that set him off was the disunity and apparent rebellion among the Nazarenes–Peter and John flat out refusing to do the bidding of the Sanhedrin, Stephen lecturing them, etc.–at a time of extreme political danger to Judea. If you’re right that the Damascus mission represents a shift in alliances to draw the Pharisees and Sadducees together against a common enemy (with Gamaliel likely dissenting, but not yet having the political currency to steer his own party), then Paul’s zealousness for unity would have had him leaping to put down these minim (lit. “dividers”).


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