Allow me to repeat what I said in the last Gems. In noticing the “meanwhile” of the NLT translation and seeing that the Greek beginning in each case is exactly the same made me stand up and take notice. By using the exact same words to begin each section I believe Luke is drawing ou r attention to the fact that these events are linked. But how? I have always seen them as sequential but I am wondering now if they are in parallel. Is Luke wanting us to see that he has followed one strand of dispersion after Stephen’s death and now he has gone back to pick up the other one. What I once saw to be the first phase of activity following the death of Stephen, I now wonder if these two dispersions happened simultaneously. Is Luke drawing our attention to the fact that these two dispersions paralleled each other? I feel that the “meanwhile’ of the NLT and the AMP is indicating that after the persecution and martyrdom of Stephen they were all scattered, some to here and some to there.
Now Saul heartily approved of putting him to death. That day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all of them, except for the apostles, were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen as they mourned loudly for him. But Saul kept trying to destroy the church. Going into one house after another, he began dragging off men and women and throwing them in prison.Acts 8:1-3
Now those who were scattered went from place to place preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began to preach the Christ to the people.Acts 8:4-5
Now in that city there was a man named Simon. He was practicing occult arts and thrilling the people of Samaria, claiming to be a great man.Acts 8:9
But when Philip proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and of the name of Jesus Christ, men and women believed and were baptized.
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.Acts 8:12, 14
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south by the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert road.”Acts 8:26
But Philip found himself at Azotus. As he was passing through the region, he kept proclaiming the good news in all the towns until he came to Caesarea.Act 8:40
Now Saul, still breathing threats of murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priestActs 9:1
He (Saul) immediately started to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “This is the Son of God.”Acst 9:20
When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they all were afraid of him because they wouldn’t believe he was a disciple. Barnabas, however, took him and presented him to the apostles, telling them how on the road he had seen the Lord, . . . and how courageously he had spoken in the name of Jesus in Damascus. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking courageously in the name of the Lord.Acts 9:26-28
So the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed peace. As it continued to be built up and to live in the fear of the Lord, it kept increasing in numbers through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit Now when Peter was going around among all of the disciples, he also came down to the saints living in Lydda.Acts 9:31-32
As Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples heard that Peter was there and sent two men to him and begged him, “Come to us without delay!”Acts 9:38
Meanwhile, Peter stayed in Joppa for several days with Simon, a leatherworker.Acts 9:43
<< Cornelius’ Story >>
When they heard this, they quieted down, and praised God, saying, “So God has given even the gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” Now the people who were scattered by the persecution that started because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men from Cyprus and Cyrene who came to Antioch and began talking to the Hellenistic Jews too, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and so they sent Barnabas all the way to Antioch. When he arrived, he rejoiced to see what the grace of God had done, and with a hearty determination he continuously encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And so a large crowd was brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas left for Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him to Antioch, and for a whole year they were guests of the church and taught a large crowd. It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
At that time some prophets from Jerusalem came down to Antioch. One of them named Agabus got up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine all over the world. This happened during the reign of Claudius. So every one of the disciples decided, as he was able, to send a contribution to the brothers living in Judea. They did this by sending Barnabas and Saul to the elders.Acts 11:18-30
<< Peter’s Story >>
As I read through this passage a number of times in my mind’s eye I perceived there was a correspondence between these two chunks set apart by the clause “now those who were scattered” following Stephen’s martyrdom and marked by the conjunction “meanwhile”. Precisely the same words mark the beginning of each section following Stephen’s martyrdom. Also it appears Luke writes for us a similar chain of events. The word is preached, many believe, news reaches the Jerusalem church and they send someone. Barnabas is involved each time in connection with Saul and the preachers stays a period of time with each new group of believers. There is a similar pattern to each thrust from Jerusalem at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom. Luke has very clearly linked these two events in parallel. It is almost like Luke is starting again from the same point, with the same persecution by Saul and with the similar pattern of events but this time connects the line of expansion up to Antioch. Luke very clearly marks these two expansions of the Gospel, which is in line with the overall ripples outlined in Acts 1:8, parallel and not sequential. It seems that Luke knows that the story of the Gospel reaching Antioch is not sequential with the Judaean expansion but parallel to it. So to make it clear to us Luke deliberately uses this clause
“Now those who were scattered went from place to place . . .
“Now those who were scattered went as far as . . . thus connecting both dispersions in parallel as I have set them above. Both stemming from Saul’s persecution of the believers following the martyrdom of Stephen.
Although he is a meticulous historian, Luke doesn’t give us any specific way to tag the time frame here. Rather it is set in general historical terms and the places also are general. What also seems apparent is that the believers in each case didn’t appear to know of the other expansion taking place. What brings them together is Peter’s report on the Cornelius incident in detail which then gets back to the Apostles in Jerusalem and with the report the Cyprian and Cyrenean believers become aware that God gave repentance to the Gentiles. Was this then the motivation which prompted them to take the Good News to the Gentiles of Antioch to such good effect? Another question arose in my mind regarding the time frame of this if these two expansions were indeed parallel and not sequential as I have always imagined them to be. How do we account for the time frame of Saul staying a year in Antioch. Can this match the time frame of the other strand? Something for me to look at in detail.
Gathering the evidence for this new thought will be on-going. Hang on to your hat. This is live and uninterrupted.
Waiting to develop courage is just another form of procrastination. The most successful people take action while they’re afraid.Anon
Fear is wetting your pants. Courage is taking the next step with wet pants.Bruce Van Horn
Anyone who is different from the ordinary is going to be considered crazy.Anon
Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.Walter Elliot