About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.)Acts 12:1-4
Last Gem I left you with a number of thoughts. Herod Agrippa had James beheaded and he was delighted with the fact that this pleased the Jews. So he arrested Peter too, AT PASSOVER TIME.
I left you with two questions:
- Who were the Jews pleased by Herod Agrippa’s act of having James beheaded?
- What is going to happen to Peter?
Beheading someone in Jewish culture was a disgraceful way to die. It was as abhorrent to the Jews back then just as much as it is abhorrent in today’s world. There is something dreadfully wrong with an execution which degrades a human being in such a way. The fact that James was beheaded demonstrates clearly that this execution was not for religious reasons. James was not being executed on charges of blasphemy as had happened with Jesus. At that time the Jewish authorities were intent on having him killed so they trumped up charges of blasphemy against Him and had him killed at Passover time, irrespective of the shame that brought. But the events of Jesus execution were unquestionably for religious reasons. Because the Jewish authorities did not have authority to condemn someone to death the Sanhedrin had to contrive the events in such a way that forced the Romans to sentence Jesus to death.
Let’s examine what happened with James’ execution. Note also the words “This took place during the Passover celebration.” Should this statement be bracketed as an afterthought or it is to be considered important to the flow of events that Luke described? Of all the versions of the Bible I have loaded on E-Sword, nine out of thirty have this verse bracketed. By far the majority don’t bracket the verse. You can find versions where verse 12:3 is bracketed as in the case of the NLT above. Equally you can find versions where the verse is not bracketed. If the verse is bracketed the conclusion ought to be that the statement by Luke is not salient to the way he has constructed his story. It is merely an after thought. Such as, “by the way, this all took place at the time of Passover.” If the verse is not bracketed then the fact that it took place at Passover, or as is literally recorded “in the days of the unleavened (bread)” is important to what Luke wants to communicate.
Normally, the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are synonymous. Strictly speaking the Passover lasted one day and then it was followed by the Days of Unleavened Bread, or the seven days which followed Passover during which the Jews were not to eat any unleavened bread. However the one day of Passover and the seven days of unleavened bread constituted the Passover Week sometimes called in its entirety the Feast of Unleavened Bread. What is being meant here and why does Luke make two references to it within the space of two verses?
This took place during the Passover celebration. Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover.Acts 12:1-4
Here are some possibilities for you to ponder:
Luke intends to highlight the fact that this took place at Passover time – during the week of Passover I.e. Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Why? Likely because he is highlighting the fact that the death of Christ and the death of James and pending death of Peter occurred at Passover. It is happened again. These disciples are being persecuted in the same way that their Lord was and it coincided again with Passover. Or Luke is making a distinction between Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. Opinion is divided among the commentators on this matter. Some feel Luke is using the terms in a different way and his intention is to distinguish between the Day of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. In other words Herod Agrippa intended to execute Peter on the day after Passover and before the Feast of Unleavened Bread started. In other words Peter was to be executed the next day. Stressing the urgency of the matter. Or Luke is using the words in their normal way and we are to interpret Passover and The Days of Unleavened Bread as Luke referring to whole week’s event of Passover and the Unleavened Bread. In other words Luke means Herod intends to execute Peter after the eight days of Passover (1 day) and The Days of Unleavened Bread (7 days) have ended.
Passover fell on the 14th of Nisan. The Days of Unleavened Bread began at sunset on the 14th of Nisan and continued until the 21st of Nisan. R. A. Parker and W. H. Dubberstein, using the Babylonian Chronology, calculated that in AD 44 the 14th of Nisan fell on the 1st of May in that year. In which case the Days of Unleavened Bread would have continued until May 8th in 44 AD. This was especially late in the calendar owing to setting of the lunar calendar according to phases of the moon. Just what importance that takes on they do not say. Rather than the lateness of the time in the calendar year I feel the importance is whether Luke intends for us to conclude Peter was to be executed on the next day or at the end of the week.
Notice the next important point. Luke records for us the fact that Herod intends Peter to go through a public trial, reminiscent of Jesus his Master. Whereas the wording of the early segment related to James infers that James’ beheading was a spontaneous event, on the spur of the moment at Herod Agrippa’s whim. When he saw it pleased the Jews he had Peter arrested and intended the same fate for him. However if that is the case and he makes a point of making it a formal trial because as a Jewish leader he does not have the authority to pass a verdict of the death penalty unless he could prove it was a crime against Rome. The question remains therefore, Who were the Jews pleased by Herod Agrippa’s act of having James beheaded? Was it the Jewish leaders, namely the religious leaders or members of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem or was it the masses still baying for blood? I suspect it was merely the religious leaders rather than the people. However it is hard for us to tell because the words Luke uses are [τοῖς ᾿Ιουδαίοις] “the Jews” plural. He is using the plural which could signify the masses but he could also be referring to the religious leaders and using the plural to indicate the plurality of the leadership of the Jewish people. You will have to ask Luke when you see him of you want to know the definitive answer to that question.
In the next Gems we will focus on the means of exactly how Peter was imprisoned given the fact the authorities have imprisoned him twice before, this was the third time. On the two previous occasions he was first imprisoned over night with John and then let go because the authorities had no reason to hold them. However they were warned not to speak in THAT NAME. On the second occasion Peter was arrested with the other disciples and imprisoned but God sent an angel to free them. The apostles went straight back to the temple and began preaching in THAT NAME again. When the Sanhedrin realised they had escaped and were back preaching they were caught again and flogged before being released. Now at this point in the story Peter is back in prison again, alone, and James has already been beheaded. Now Peter is waiting for dawn to break.
Continuing story . ..
You can’t keep a good man down, especially so if God intends to raise him up.Ian Vail
Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.Steve Jobs
The enemy doesn’t oppose and discourage you because of where you are. He opposes and discourages you because of where he fears you are going.Ian Vail
It just undoes the devil when he throws his very best at you and you just trust God and remain peaceful.Joyce Meyer
You have to pray in the dark so you can shine in the light!Ian Vail