Bible Gem 484 - Fighting Wild Beasts at Ephesus (1 Cor 15:32)

1 Corinthians 15:32

If I have fought with wild animals in Ephesus from merely human motives, what do I get out of it? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." [ISV]

And what value was there in fighting wild beasts—those people of Ephesus—if there will be no resurrection from the dead? And if there is no resurrection, "Let's feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!" [NLT]

These two very different translations indicate there is something more going on behind the scenes. Most translations take the lead of the ISV but the NLT translation captures another possible slant on this experience of Paul’s. This is one of the examples of the dangerous experiences he had been in. The issue in this case, is Paul speaking literally or figuratively?

There are those who feel this is a real literal event Paul experienced. It was one case when his life was endangered, and when it was regarded as remarkable that he escaped and survived.

There were two different practices the Romans used in their amphitheatres for the amusement and entertainment of the crowd. Sometimes they cast men naked to the wild beasts, to be devoured by them. On other occasions they allowed the prisoner to be armed in the theatre to fight with beasts. If they conquered the beasts and could save themselves they were freed. If not, they fell prey to the beasts. Some feel this is what happened to Paul. Thus the most natural interpretation is to suppose that Paul, on some occasion, had such a contest with a wild beast at Ephesus. That is what would occur to the great mass of the readers of the New Testament as the obvious meaning of the passage.

Much learned criticism has been applied to this verse, to determine whether it is to be understood literally or metaphorically. That Paul didn’t fight with wild beasts at Ephesus, may be argued,

1. From Paul’s own silence on this matter, when enumerating his various sufferings, 2 Cor 11:23, etc.

2. From the silence of his historian, Luke, who, in the Acts of this apostle, gives no suggestion of this kind and it was certainly too remarkable a circumstance to be passed over.

3. From the improbability that a Roman citizen, as Paul was, should be condemned to such a punishment, when in other cases, by pleading his privilege, he was exempted from being scourged.

4. From the testimony of Tertullian and Chrysostom, who deny the literal interpretation.

Others understand this in a figurative sense, and think that "beasts" refer to Satan, the roaring lion, and his principalities and powers. Others suppose it to be figurative but feel it refers to men of savage and cruel practices; and suppose his fighting with them at Ephesus designs his disputations with the hardened and unbelieving Jews, his concern with exorcists, the seven sons of Sceva, and the troubles he met with through Demetrius the silversmith, and others of the same craft. When Demetrius and his craftsmen made the uproar mentioned in Act_19:21 it was clear that Paul was not in the ampitheatre, yet Demetrius and his men intended to have him taken there, as they did Gaius and Aristarchus his companions. So the fighting wild beasts – those people of Ephesus - indicates the likes of the 7 sons of Sceva, and Demetrius and his henchmen.

Keep dreaming God's dream for you. At first, dreams seem impossible, then improbable, and eventually inevitable. C. Reeve

Peace doesn't come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat. J. Ortberg

No One Can Ruin Your Day Without Your Permission. Robb Thompson

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