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THE SHIPWRECK: LUKE’S APOLOGETIC THEOLOGY OF ACTS
PRESENTED TO DR. DAVID CROTEAU BIBL323 D02 201240 – ACTS
BY Michael Wright L23893877
SPOKANE, WASHINGTON DECEMBER, 2012
INTRODUCTION A STANDARD OF APOLOGIA CONSIDERING HISTORICITY INNOCENCE OF PAUL SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD CONCLUSION BIBLIOGRAPHY
1 2 5 8 12 15 17
INTRODUCTION In the final two chapters of Acts, Luke presents an apologetic argument on behalf of the righteousness of Paul to the Greco-Roman World, utilizing elements of Hellenistic mythology such as the “Hero cult” as antithesis. While famous epics such as the Argonautica, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid combined elements of tragedy at sea with the wrath of petty gods, Luke uses the favorable outcome of Paul’s calamitous journey to Rome as not only a defense of Paul’s innocence, but an argument of God’s superior and unique divine favor in the circumstance. Since the beginning of written history, the mystery of the sea has captivated man. The Enuma Elish of Mesopotamian lore links the ocean with chaos as the primordial goddess Tiamat, slain by her own children to create the world.1 The Bible begins with a description of a formless creation of God expressed as deep waters from which God raises the world. In the tale of Jonah, after rejecting his duty to preach to Nineveh, attempts to sail to the ends of the Earth. For this, God sends some manner of fish to swallow him. Later as Jesus walks the shores of Galilee, he encounters Simon Peter and Andrew, inviting them to become fishers of men. The tale of Jonah is a perfect example of the sort of Apologetic argument Luke offers in Acts 27-28. Jonah, guilty of disobeying God, through his actions brings a deadly storm that endangers the lives of all sailing with him. The idea of “secondary pollution,” traveling with someone who has offended the gods and therefore bringing diving retribution on the entire traveling party is even here present in Hebrew literature. While these parallels to Hellenistic literature and concepts are certainly frequent in the Bible and Luke in particular, their purposes are entirely different. For instance, Apollonius of Rhodes in Book 3 of Argonautica tells the story of Jason’s dealings with Medea, princess of
1 John H. Walton, "Genesis," in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary , ed. John H. Walton (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 13.
Colchis. Through her assistance, he is able to obtain the Golden Fleece, but due to the interference of the gods she murders her brother to protect Jason. Apollonius offers that victory over the fleece corrupted by accepting Medea, the evil (yet ignorant) instrument of the gods, who plagues the rest of the journey.2 Luke takes a different approach. In appealing to the same Hellenistic cultural references and ideas, using their own standards of evidence, builds for them an argument of God’s greater sovereignty over the imperfect pagan gods. A STANDARD OF APOLOGIA The book of Acts is filled with holy justifications for the actions of the Apostles before Jew and Gentile alike. In Paul’s case, there are three episodes in particular that stand out, offering further insight into Luke’s mind and theory of apologia. These “speeches of Acts” show the manner in which Paul pleaded the case for Christ. The first speech takes place in Acts 13:14-43, delivered to a Jewish Synagogue at Antioch Pisidia. Here Paul uses a form of homiletic that came to be known as the “proem homily,” in which instead of using expository exegesis of one set of scripture, the speaker appeals to multiple areas, particularly the “third division” of Hebrew scripture to exhort rather than expound on his point.3 Paul moves from Exodus to Judges to the choosing of Saul and David as kings of Israel to establish Jesus as the Messiah, and John the Baptist as the one who came before proclaiming him. In verses 26-31 Paul exhorts the synagogue that the prophets spoke of the rejection of Jesus and his execution that took place in Jerusalem. Paul then uses the prophets to appeal to the God-fearing Gentiles that through this good news they have now become recipients of the same promise once offered only to the Jews.
2 Theodore D. Papanghelis and Antonios Rengakos, Companion to Apollonius Rhodius, Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava. Supplementum, 0169-8958 ; 217 (Brill, 2001), 262-267. 3 David E. Aune, New Testament in Its Literary Environment: Import, ed. Wayne A. Meaks, 8 vols., Library of Early Christianity, vol. 8 (James Clarke, 1988), 202.
The second speech in Acts 14:15-18 takes place in the farming community of Lystra. After the healing of a crippled man leads to a crowd calling Paul and Barnabas gods, Paul responds by assuring the people that they are just as human, and that they are there to tell the people of the true God who provides the earth, rain, seasons, and crops that support the people. Paul’s method is to appeal to the nature of the community they are speaking to, which is less than effective in a rowdy crowd. They were stoned and thrown out of the city, but later returned to encourage the disciples. The third and probably more known speech occurs in Acts 17:22-34. In an event known as the Mars Hill Discourse, after little success in the synagogue Paul, moves to the Areopagus to engage the Stoics and other philosophers. Paul opens by noting that Athens has many altars, including one dedicated to “an unknown god.” In associating God with this unknown figure, Paul accomplishes two things; first, he bypasses the law in Athens forbidding the preaching of foreign deities in Athens. Second, Paul portrays a particular local historical event to God’s forbearance, one in which no other pagan deity had the power to solve. This event took place some 600 years before, as recorded by Diogenes Laërtius in the 3rd Century.4 According to Diogenes, in the 6th Century BC a plague fell upon Athens of such severity that no offering to any god would remedy. Counsel of the Pythian Oracle revealed that a god had cursed Athens for some past treachery. When answered that appeal was extended to every god, for Athens knew them all, the priestess revealed that this god the Athenians did not know and remained unappeased. The Oracle could not name this god but identified a certain Epimenides of Crete would hold the answer. When this philosopher/poet was brought to Mars Hill, he
Diogenes Laërtius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, 1.11.3 Life of Epimenides trans. Charles Duke Yonge in the Peithô's Web, http://classicpersuasion.org/pw/diogenes/dlepimenides.htm (accessed Dec. 13, 2012).
reportedly marveled at the number of idols on display, remarking that “apparently you need one more.” Epimenides instructed the people to bring a flock of sheep of various sizes and color, along with stones and other masonry. They were not to feed them, so that on release the sheep would naturally graze. When all were gathered, Epimenides addressed the people; Learned elders, you have already expended great effort in offering sacrifice to your numerous gods, yet all has proved futile. I am now about to offer sacrifices based upon three assumptions rather different from yours. My first assumption is that there is still another god concerned in the matter of this plague-a god whose name is unknown to us, and who is therefore not represented by any idol in your city. Secondly, I assume also that this god is great enough, and good enough also, to do something about this plague, if only we invoke his help. My third assumption is a very simple one. Any god great and good enough to do something in this manner may also be great and good enough to smile upon us in our ignorance; if we then acknowledge our ignorance and call upon him!5 Epimenides directed the people to let the sheep graze and prayed a rich prayer asking for the “unknown god” to reveal his willingness to respond to have whichever sheep he pleased kneel in the grass instead of graze, and they would sacrifice it in acknowledgment of their ignorance to this god. Believing that no sheep would lie down hungry, they watched as many rams lay down in an area said to be too rich for those animals to resist. Seeing this as a sign, Epimenides directed that on each spot where a sheep lay an alter be built with the name agnosto theo in acknowledgement of their ignorance and unwillingness to further anger the god. After sacrificing the animals, within a week the affliction lifted.6 Consider for a moment that while “educated at the knees of Gamaliel,” Paul was primarily born a Roman citizen from the city of Tarsus, location of a great Stoic University
Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World, 3rd ed. (Ventura, CA: Gospel Light Regal Books, 2006), 12.
rivaled only by Athens itself.7 The Stoics, Epicurians, and other philosophers surely would have known at this point that Xenophanes, Plato, and Aristotle had all used Theos as the personal name of the “uncaused cause” of the Universe, who was certainly not Zeus. In finding this obscure altar Paul not only had an opening for conversation to legitimately speak of God, not as the God of the Jews, but God proclaimed in ignorance by Epimenides. In proclaiming this god as the Theos their philosophers spoke of, Paul declared God sovereign over all creation, including the contrived idols of the pagans.8 CONSIDERING HISTORICITY The book of Acts is considered by Biblical scholars to be a “Rhetorical History,” inclusive of sociological, historical, and theological monograph in parallel to such works as the Maccabees.9 Essentially Luke is a historian who does not attempt to hide his intentions. In considering history in the modern day often there are those who look at ancient literature in black and white; it is either a factual account or a mythology, perhaps even one based on actual events. This is simply not the case when it comes to ancient histories. Josephus likewise includes prefaces to his work assuring his readers of his authenticity, and indeed offers valuable historical date, only to stray into politically charged rhetoric.10
William Mitchell Ramsay, St. Paul: The Traveler and Roman Citizen, WORDsearch CROSS E-Book ed. (London: Hodder AND Stoughton, 2007), 34-37. I have read many arguments (and been in many arguments) with regard to the order of Paul’s likely education, and if he indeed were influenced by Stoicism or Hellenistic Rhetoric (if not, his Amanuensis would have). Ramsay insists the Roman civitas would have insisted this education come before that of his nationality. Could Paul possibly have known the story of Epimenides and the altar to the unknown god? It is highly likely that he did. In Titus 1:12-13 Paul gives instruction for Titus on his dealings with the Cretans by quoting the poetry of Epimenides himself. So it seems very likely Paul was familiar with this story before arriving at Athens.
9 Darrell L. Bock, Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2007), 8. 10 Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 3. 8
The very nature of ancient historical literature cannot be adequately measured against fiction or myth without determining the purposes of the historian. For example, Herodotus is considered the “Father of History” for the popular tenacity in which he recorded events; however, critics are prompt in noting the embellishments of his work. Herodotus, in seeking the motivations of all parties behind an action displayed little restraint in incorporating the pagan mythologies of a culture as part of history. Thucydides on the other hand is known as the “Father of Scientific History,” in that his histories are barren of mythology. Thucydides approached history for the purpose of future usefulness, noting that other historians often considered the aim of history to be entertainment.11 In the best traditions of his contemporaries, Luke began both his Gospel and Acts of the Apostles with a stated purpose, to relay the truth of Christ’s work and his followers. The first thing Luke offers in doing so is the statement that his work can be confirmed by secondary counts then in existence to examine their accuracy. Unlike his contemporaries Luke never disparages the authors of these competing accounts, instead counting himself as “one of the many.” In giving his sources Luke even uses the word αὐτόπται, from which we derive “autopsy,” suggesting the scientific care in which testimony was gathered. Like Thucydides, Luke preferred to document what he saw and vigorously sought firsthand contemporary information, with numerous opportunities to do so during his stays in Jerusalem and Caesarea. There is also tremendous evidence that Luke used all his disciplines as a doctor and historian to interview Mary, the mother of Jesus directly, forming the most complete account of Christ’s birth in the Bible. In sum, Luke was an extremely accomplished historian.12
A. E. Wardman, "Myth in Greek Historiography," Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 9, no. 4 Earle Edwin Cairns, "Luke as a Historian," Bibliotheca sacra 122, no. 487 (1965).
While the quality of recording events is one consideration, what about the method by which Luke compiled that information into narrative? Cairns does note four observations of Luke’s methodology, the first idea being the careful, investigative research Luke insists should be undertaken in backing his account. The second observation is that Luke investigated all matters “from the first” or “from above,” meaning his consideration of facts concentrated on the earliest claims and sources. The third observation is Luke’s usage of the word ἀκριβως, meaning the high degree of accuracy and objectivity he desired. Lastly it seems by the word καθεξ͡ης Luke intends to write his account systematically, most likely chronological in nature. Ultimately, it comes down to Luke’s motivations, as any historian can be prejudiced by the purpose for which they are writing. Luke outlines his motive in Luke 1:4, to communicate the truth of matters in aiding understanding of Christianity. There is no higher goal, nor higher credit to be given a historian than the honest reconstruction of the past for the benefit of educating the present. As Thucydides said, “Truth is to be an aid to the interpretation of the future.”13 This then raises the question, if Luke’s primary duty was to communicating the truth, how could he also use Acts as an apologia, particularly when these accounts so resemble Hellenistic Romance or Hero literature? There are three considerations to take into account when considering these parallels. The first is quite simply the Holy Spirit as co-author, in the fullness of knowledge, assisted Luke in crafting Acts in such a fashion to serve as both history and apologetic. Second is the dynamic nature of the Greek language itself. While one can express the phrase “God loves Paul” sixteen ways, this colloquialism hardly reaches the complexity of the situation. It does not mean that “any Greek word can mean anything,” but rather the consideration of the ancient history of the language, its constant development, its meanings
determined by inflection and theme, and the great number of dialects involved… The New Testament is said to have been written in the conversational form of Koine (or “Common”) Greek, a dialect spread by Alexander the Great and based on the Attic Dialect. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Gospel of Mark, where a writer whose primary language is clearly not Greek can be seen.14 Luke is quite different however, his mastery of the language, knowledge base, and vocabulary appear to be quite extensive. While Koine is an Attic construct, there are instances in which Luke appears to use words of Aeolic, the dialect of the poets, including Homer and Hesiod. In this manner, Luke can easily communicate factual data while constructing a parallel to other mythologies or significant historical events.15 The third consideration has to do with parallels identified in the nature of literature itself. Indeed there are another three principals to this consideration, boiled down can be stated as the requirements of dative order, relevance, and independence.16 However, the parallel myths Luke alludes to indeed were in the cultural mind and needed to be relevant to make his point, and therefore are to some degree dependent. So it falls on Luke’s intention as a writer; did Luke parallel mythology because the mythology overrode his historical intent, or was it simply a means to make his point? In the following sections as the sea journey of Acts 27-28 is examined this intent will be determined.
Ben Witherington, The Gospel of Mark : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2001), 18. William Mitchell Ramsay, Luke the Physician and Other Studies in the History of Religion, WORDsearch CROSS E-Book ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2007), 7-68. Ramsay notes the scholar Harnack who refers to statements by Eusebius made that Luke was a “Fellow Antiochian,” and that his father Nearchos was in fact Cretan by birth. This could explain Luke’s diverse usage of Greek, as Crete’s conservation of ancient Macedonian, Doric, and Aeolic dialect literature is of particular note. Indeed today, Doric remains the primary dialect of the island nation.
16 Greg Koukl, 2011. "Greg Koukl - Jesus and Other Myths," Stand to Reason. Video Blog, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ty58TcalENM (accessed 07/20/2012). 15
INNOCENCE OF PAUL Nowhere in the New Testament can there be found such an abundance of direct parallels to Hellenistic literature than in Acts 27-28. The words of Homer echo in Acts 27:41 in which the beaching of the ship uses same verb and noun formations of The Oddyssy, written in the Ionic/Aeolic combination known as the Homeric Dialect.17 Rather than considering the construction of parallels Luke possibly intended, examining what these parallels accomplished will show the manner with which Luke argued the innocence of Paul. As shown by the episode with Epimenides and the plague of Mars Hill, natural disasters were seen as divine retribution for some impropriety committed by a society or individual. This belief was by no means restricted to the Hellenistic age, as we see a mountain of examples through the Old Testament in particular, and even the New Testament. One could say Luke’s treatment of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 follows the same theme. With regard to Paul’s journey to Rome however, Luke breaks the mold. In Hellenistic thought and mariner tradition, the idea of retributive justice included the belief that travel could be complicated by religious pollution. This concept was the idea that the innocent, even by associating unknowingly with a person guilty of some deific offense, was equally endangered by the punishment meant for that individual. Another example of this can be shown in the works of Titus Livius Patavinus, who wrote of the dreadful defeat of the Roman Army at Lake Trasimine due to the flippant arrogance and imatience of Consul Gaius Flaminius in taking office.18
Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 764.
Gary B. Miles and Garry W. Trompf, "Luke and Antiphon : The Theology of Acts 27-28 in the Light of Pagan Beliefs About Divine Retribution, Pollution, and Shipwreck," Harvard Theological Review 69, no. 3-4 (1976).
Such thoughts consumed the Hellenistic and Roman mind, becoming a part legal precedent. Antiphon of Rhamnus recorded a relevant parallel of legal proceedings fitting the kind of defense Luke is presenting. According to Antiphon there was an Athenian named Helos traveling to Aenos on the coast of Thrace whose ship hit bad weather and was forced to land at Methymne. A traveling companion of Helos named Herodes disappeared, and Helos was charged as a “malefactor” in his murder. Further stressing the fear of religious pollution was the argument that Helos’ trial moved to the Areopagus in Athens to prevent calamity from befalling the jury! However, the relevant note of Helos’ testimony was that he could not be shown to be polluted in a manner that would cause the storm, as he had previously traveled by sea many other times and experienced only unthreatened encounters. Helos was not agreeing with the notion that the storm was caused by divine retribution, only that his successful voyages were proof of his innocence. Such was the argument Luke would present in this passage.19 Another contextually relevant point comes in the case of Theophrastus of Eresos, successor of Aristotle. He tells of the tradition that those held “uninitiated” or even an unbeliever of the patron deity of the vessel was not only cause for pollution, but almost certain doom in the deities release of responsibility for the safety of the crew and vessel.20 This holds particular relevance in the curious notation by Luke in Acts 28:11. Nowhere else in Acts does Luke go so far as to describe and name the patron deity of the ship, an Alexandrian vessel with the twin heads of Castor and Pollux, likely named the Dioscuri.21 That Paul travelled on this vessel from Malta to Puteoli safely and in optimal time (by Luke’s evidence, about 90 miles a day)
20 David J. Ladouceur, "Hellenistic Preconceptions of Shipwreck and Pollution as a Context for Acts 2728," Harvard Theological Review 73, no. 3-4 (1980). 21 Craig Keener, The Ivp Bible Background Commentary: The New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 405.
demonstrated to the court the divine approval or favor on Paul despite his non-initiation or unbelief in the pagan gods.22 One of Luke’s continuing themes through Acts is the perceived innocence of the Apostles by the Roman authorities. As Paul is stands before King Agrippa and is transferred from Festus to the centurion Julius, that this official escort continued to show hospitality to him furthered that notion.23 The converse respect was just as true however; in always portraying the Roman authority in a positive light (despite the barbaric behavior of the lower class and opposing Jews), Luke extended empathy and courtesy to Government authority in contrast to popular accusations against Christians. It would not be long before the Christian refusal to participate in pagan worship lead to the charge of obstinacy against the Empire, a motivation leading to several persecutions.24 Paul’s exhortation in Acts 27:21-25 may have accorded him a small “I told you so” moment; but that he reveals how the crew will survive the storm by divine revelation, also counted towards his character. The Hellenistic Greeks and Romans had a special appreciation for the sincerity of a philosopher who was calm under pressure and consistent in their teachings. That Paul here speaks boldly and calms the crew was the mark of a true philosopher.25
Ibid. Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 752, 759.
24 Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity. Volume 1, the Early Church to the Reformation , Rev. and updated ed. , 2nd ed. (New York: Harper One, 2010), 50; James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era : Exploring the Background of Early Christianity (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 109-110. 25
Acts 28:1-5 likely inspired part of the “Longer Ending” of Mark, specifically Mark 16:18 to explain by what power Paul overcame this episode.26 In that context, Roman readers would have regarded the locals’ conclusion of Paul’s deity after surviving the bite by a poisonous snake as an amusing anecdote. Many other stories of men mistaken as gods, or men so holy that the snake died instead (such as the story of Hanina ben Dosa) permeated the ancient world.27 It may also have been a point of interest depending on one’s knowledge of Malta at the time, for today no poisonous snakes live on any of the islands.28 SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD It has been said that of all the characters documented in Acts of the Apostles, the main character is certainly the Holy Spirit.29 The God‘s power is demonstrated through the Apostles as they expand the church and encounter the world around them. It is especially effective in Paul, perhaps because of the sense of urgency Luke portrays in him. As Saul killed Christians on account of their zeal for Christ, when the Spirit descended upon him Paul then used his own zeal for Christ to kill Christians by boring them to death. Thankfully, God’s grace allowed Paul to perform elevator miracles, falling to their death only to be raised from the dead.30 In Acts 27:14 there is a very subtle, yet powerful parallel that Luke makes in this regard. Luke has incorporated many elements of Hellenistic and Homeric literature in this account, but left out a great deal in his historiography that someone of Greek or Roman influence would miss
Bruce Manning Metzger and United Bible Societies., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament; a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (3d Ed.) (London, New York,: United Bible Societies, 1971), 107.
27 28 29 30 26
Keener, 405. Bock, 743; Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 777. Bock, 2, 7.
Sorry… I’m working on using mind mapping to write new jokes. It’s hit and miss. For example, if a pregnant cheerleader has a water birth, does the child still need to be born again? When Jesus approached the disciples, he invited them to become fishers of men. When asked to go to Nineveh and Jonah refused, he was swallowed by some manner of fish. Acts 28:27 is about corn and artichokes.
from the perspective of narrative. During the journey the captain of the vessel and Centurion ignore Paul’s exhortation to land at Crete for the winter, causing them to encounter a strong storm. Some might consider this an offense committed by those who did not listen to God’s prophet, but as the reader will see, it is to the Greek and Roman audience the ultimate display of the power of God. Luke uses a very peculiar wording in Verse 14 to describe this storm. From the standpoint of historiography he is likely describing the “levanter,” a kind of Mediterranean storm often encountered in this area of that sea. In its most direct reading it simply says “a hurricane force called the Northeaster.” The transliteration “Euroclydon” is at times used in translation. But just as Luke uses words directly from The Oddyssy, should it really surprise us that here Luke uses words from Homer’s contemporary, Hesiod? The notion is not totally without evidence. There are two Greek words in focus here, the one giving scholars so much trouble being Εὐρακύλων. If that word is broken down as Strong suggests, we get Εύρος (“Euros,” meaning “East Wind”) and ακύλων (“Aquilo,” meaning “North Wind”). Basically, it just means Northeast wind. However, if one were to examine the Aristotelian wind rose, the word placed on the direction for the Northeastern wind is καικίας.31 This discrepancy is not unimportant, nor does archaeology fail to support it. The majority of Aristotelian wind roses constructed throughout the Empire are so designated; all but one. In the modern day city of Dougga, Tunisia lie the remains of the Roman city of Thugga. In an area designated “The Square of the Four Winds” lies a compass-rose, and for the Northeastern wind is
D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, "The Greek Winds," The Classical Review 32, no. 3/4 (1918).
the inscription Εὐρακύλων.32 Which means that at some point in history, these two words Εὐρακύλων and καικίας, were synonymous. How is this important? This is where Hesiod, the father of Greek Mythology comes in. While it is uncertain who gave them names, Hesiod was the author of many of the stories behind the Greek gods. One such deity was the evil Titan Typhon, a monster with the head of a hundred dragons.33 This beast was the enemy of the gods and father of all monsters… including the demonic wind deities. One such deity was Kaikias, the demon god of the Northeast wind.34 It then becomes an interesting parallel when καικίας can be archaeologically tied to Εὐρακύλων, and that Acts 27:14 contains the that word and τυφωνικὸς. This word, if expressed in noun form, is rendered τυφωεύς, or “Tuphōeus.” Typhon, the demon king and enemy of the gods and his offspring Kaikias, the devouring Northeastern wind attacking Paul’s ship because the crew failed to heed his prophetic warning. This of course is merely a coincidental parallel, but given Luke’s usage of alternate dialect Greek synonymous with the “Hero Cult” literature, it seems that Luke is attempting to very subtly suggest a very powerful statement. The creature that all gods which these pagans worship actually fear attacked the prophet of the one true God, only to momentarily divert Paul and further display His glory through him. It is a statement of ultimate triumph; the darkest fear that your greatest imagination can manifest has no power over the God of Paul, father of Jesus Christ.
Archaeological Institute of America, Archaeological Society of Washington, and College Art Association of America, Art and Archaeology (Archaeological Institute of America, 1917), 27.
33 C. Scott Littleton, Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology Volume X, 11 vols., vol. 10 (Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2005), 1393. 34 C. Scott Littleton, Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology Volume I, 11 vols., vol. 1 (Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2005), 77.
CONCLUSION In the final book of The Argonautica, Jason successfully takes the Golden Fleece with the help of Medea after promising to marry her. The Argo is then pursued by the Colchian fleets, and caught at the Brygean Islands. Medea’s half-brother Apsyrtus agrees to allow Jason to take the fleece, but Medea must answers for her crimes. Medea lures her brother into a trap, allowing Jason to kill him. Because the Colchians have lost their leader, they are forced to withdraw. Zeus is so incensed and the murder that he curses the Argonauts to wander the world for eternity. After a series of encounters involving bargaining with the gods and losing several members of the crew, the Argo comes as close as the coast of Greece before a wind blows them away again. The Argonauts become resigned to their fate and agree to separate and die alone. After several days Jason is given instructions on how to return home, but this only leads them to an encounter with Triton, who gives them a clod of dirt to plant the island of Thera. The Argo lands at the island of Anaphe, where they institute the rites of Apollo and begin a festival. In closing, the author Apollonius says, And thence they steadily left behind long leagues of sea and stayed on the beach of Aegina; and at once they contended in innocent strife about the fetching of water, who first should draw it and reach the ship. For both their need and the ceaseless breeze urged them on. There even to this day do the youths of the Myrmidons take up on their shoulders full-brimming jars, and with swift feet strive for victory in the race.35 It is as if the Argonauts are consigned to history, ever hunting for water to satisfy their thirst. By comparison, though in custody Paul finally reaches Rome, a location he has intended to visit for years. Luke concludes the book of Acts with the statement “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:31)
35 Rhodius Apollonius, The Argonautica, 4.2.1765-1772 trans. Robert Cooper Seaton in the Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/830 (accessed Dec. 14, 2012).
While this is the end of Acts, we know it is not the end of the journey for Paul. His next missionary journey is uncertain, but we know he eventually returns to Rome to die. Here he writes to his brother in Christ Timothy, a man Paul treats as his own son. In what may be considered in effect his “last words,” Paul states, For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Jason got his Golden Fleece, but the Argonauts are never victorious, left to continuously strive for water. Paul, in captivity and humility before God, offers himself as a drink offering, winning the race and gaining a crown of righteousness, along with everlasting life at his Lord’s side. The fictional Jason set out for victory and failed. The very real Paul of Tarsus lived out a life of faith in Jesus Christ. The message of that life, as exemplified by a subtle choice of words by Luke is echoed by Paul himself to the Ephesian church; “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
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