Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The baptism of John, whence was it? (Acts 19)

Acts chapter 19 opens with a few more people in Ephesus who are only familiar with the work of John the Baptist. Paul meets these men and asks them if they've received the Holy Ghost, and they essentially respond with, "Holy Ghost? Never heard of it!" Paul tells them about Jesus, and baptizes them again. It's an interesting doctrinal point here that Paul makes, saying the baptism of John was a baptism of repentance, which might make one wonder what the baptism of Jesus is about, because it sounds like Paul is contrasting here. The men receive the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues, prophesying. (Here's another instance of the Holy Ghost being given for the SAB.) After speaking in the synagogue for three months, the non-believing Jews start slandering Paul, so he leaves the synagogue and relocates to "the school of one Tyrannus" which the SAB notes as the only school in the entire Bible; while this may be technically true (that is, it's the only mention of "school") I think the idea of education is present throughout the Bible, and on the flipside, it's not really clear what kind of "school" this is. Anyway, Paul is in Ephesus for two years, and apparently his teaching of the gospel spreads throughout Asia (note that "Asia" in the Bible is referring to what we would call "Asia Minor" today).

There is mentioned some actually rather strange miracles here. It seems that Paul was working in Ephesus, and people would take his sweat rags and aprons and touch sick people with them, causing them to be cured. The Bible doesn't explain why this is effective, and yeah, I can see the "Absurdity" tag here. In a related story, some professional exorcists who are non-Christian Jews try to cast out a demon by saying, "We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth." The demon apparently finds this amusing saying he knows Jesus and Paul (with a different Greek word for "know" in each case, the NIV rendering the response, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?") but doesn't know who the exorcists are, and he beats them up and strips them naked. Once again, the absurdity of this story is pretty obvious, although to those contemporary to it happening, it was apparently scary, and a bunch of people are essentially spooked into the kingdom of heaven.

Then there is noted a book burning. The SAB should really include this passage on their Is magic OK? page, because it's implied here that these are something like spellbooks. Paul is apparently thinking about traveling back to Jerusalem and then to Rome, but for now he sends Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia. In Ephesus, a silversmith named Demetrius gathers together craftsmen in the city who make money crafting (I assume) idols of the goddess Diana, and points out that the idol making craft is losing money from all these people turning to Christianity. They stir up a sort of rally for Diana, which turns into a would-be lynch mob for some Christians. The town clerk gets them to calm down and implores them to not do anything rash and illegal that they will regret, and the crowd disperses.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus (Acts 18)

Acts chapter 18 is short and doesn't have many notes, so this should be a short entry. Paul comes to Corinth, where he meets a Jewish couple named Aquila and Priscilla who apparently have been recently kicked out of Rome along with other Jews. We hear about them several times in the New Testament, and often, Priscilla's name is mentioned first, which, as the SAB notes, implies that she is rather important, certainly not just as a wife. In 1Corinthians 16:19, Priscilla and Aquila are said to be leaders of a church together, and later in this chapter they teach a Jew named Apollos (who becomes a prominent leader in the Corinthian church) about the gospel. Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia just as more troubleis being stirred up by some Jews opposing Paul. This time, Paul is provoked to some pretty angry words as he declares he's leaving to go preach to the Gentiles, although he leaves to the house of a man named Justus who, having a house connected to the synagogue, is probably a Jew, and Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, is said to be a Christian.

Rather than leaving town this time, Paul has a vision in which Jesus encourages him and tells him no harm will come to him in Corinth, so Paul stays for a year and a half. Some Jews decide to bring him to the ruler of Corinth, but the man says that the matter sounds like a religious thing, and he isn't getting involved. Paul takes Priscilla and Aquila to Syria, shaving his head as part of a vow to the Lord. The SAB says this is backwards, as Numbers chapter six says you shave your head after completing the vow, but it's always been my understanding that a person making a vow shaves their head at the beginning of the vow as well (note that in verse nine, if he is accidentally defiled, he shaves his head and starts over again). Anyway, they come to Ephesus and apparently make some converts there, and after a little while, Paul leaves to travel back to Jerusalem for a feast (probably Passover) by way of several churches along the way. After he leaves, Apollos shows up, one of the first of a handful of Jews in the book of Acts that are disciples of John the Baptist who somehow haven't heard of Jesus. Priscilla and Aquila get him caught up, and he goes on to become prominent in the church.

Friday, October 27, 2023

The God of Heaven and the God of the earth (Acts 17)

Acts chapter 17 doesn't seem to have any new contradictions, but there's probably something worth commenting on. Paul and Silas continue their travels, eventually coming to Thessalonica, where they go to the synagogue and talk about Jesus for three weeks, resulting in many converts. As is often the case, there are some Jews who don't like this, and stir up trouble, going to the house of someone named Jason who probably was someone who was intimately involved with them. They try to get Jason arrested, but eventually let him go after he posts bail. Paul and Silas move on to Berea, where the people there are said to be more noble because they listen and check the scriptures that Paul refers to, making sure that he's saying truth. The Thessalonican Jews hear Paul is there and follow him, stirring up more trouble. Paul leaves by sea, with Silas and Timothy staying behind.

Paul comes to Athens, where he makes a very interesting speech on Mars Hill. After his usual talking in the synagogue there, some Greek philosophers invite him to talk in public about his doctrine, which they suppose is about "strange gods". In the KJV, Paul calls the Athenians "too superstitious", although it's worth noting that virtually every other translation renders this single Greek word as "very religious", which sounds more charitable. Paul notes that he came across an altar inscribed with "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD" (The source of this inscription is an interesting story which I happen to know and will share in the comments.) and Paul declares that it is this unknown God that he has come to preach. This is really quite fascinating, and I think supports the "very religious" translation, because Paul is here choosing not to belittle their religion, but meet them where he perceives them to be spiritually. A lot of people who try and share the gospel should take notes here. Paul talks about the God of Israel, the God who made the entire universe and is too vast to be contained in a temple. (I answered who is the Lord of this world interestingly enough in Ruth chapter four, which doesn't address this issue, but it came up in my response there. I answered whether God dwells in temples in Acts chapter seven.) Paul says that God is the God of all people, and anyone can follow him and be reconciled to him. (I answered whether we are all God's children in Matthew chapter six. I answered whether Jesus is God in Matthew chapter nine. I answered whether Jesus judges people in John chapter five.) When Paul talks about Jesus raising from the dead, the group breaks up, some mocking him, others expressing interest in hearing more, and a few leaving with Paul to become believers.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Timothy our brother (Acts 16)

Acts chapter 16 opens with a vingette that seems to contradict the previous chapter, and the SAB takes it that way. Is circumcision required? This was really answered in chapter 15, which oddly enough isn't linked to on this page, but I suppose there's no specific verse to link to there. The answer is no for Christians, yes for Jews. (If the question is required for salvation, it's a straight across the board "no".) The Old Testament passages are all for Jews (as well as the Luke passage, because Jesus was Jewish), and most of the New Testament passages are addressed to Gentile Christians. Timothy, whose mother was a Jew and father was a Greek, is a believer, and wants to go with Paul, but for some reason, Paul decides Timothy needs to be circumcised. It's not made particularly clear why Paul decides this, especially so soon after the Jerusalem council; it may be because what with Timothy's mother being Jewish Paul felt a need for Timothy to have some Jewish cred, so to speak. (Paul notes in Galatians that he didn't compel Titus to be circumcised because he was Greek.)

I already responded to whether the Gospel should be preached to everyone in Acts chapter one, where I pointed out, as I will again, that Phrygia and Galatia are in Asia, so it's not even very clear what verse six is trying to say! Paul has a dream about a man in Macedonia asking for help, so Paul goes there. The SAB, always with an attention to detail, notes that the narrative switches to first-person, and wonders why. The standard Christian explanation is that Luke (the author of Acts) must have joined Paul around this time. Anyway, shortly after they get to Macedonia, they meet Lydia, and convert her. The SAB's suggestion that Lydia might be a lesbian because she sold purple (I assume purple clothes rather than the actual dye) seems a bit of a stretch, as purple is more likely associated with nobility; it is interesting that she does appear to be an independent woman, which may have been more common in Europe. (Note I'm not saying Lydia definitely wasn't a lesbian, I just don't think the evidence is compelling enough.)

Paul's encounter with the demon possessed woman is actually pretty absurd, I have to agree. She's demon possessed, but follows Paul around hyping him up. Apparently there's something annoying or otherwise distracting about it, and she is demon possessed, so Paul casts the demon out of her. Her owners are pissed off, because they were making money off of her, so they bring Paul and Silas to the rulers of the town where they are beaten and thrown into prison. That night, while they're sitting in prison in chains, they are singing praise songs, and a miraculous earthquake happens, that opens the doors of the prison and loosens everyone's chains. The warden wakes up, and seeing the doors open, makes to commit suicide, as apparently he's going to be in trouble. Paul calls out to him, letting him know they are still there, and not to kill himself. He comes in to Paul and Silas and asks how he can be saved. Paul gives him a curious answer, saying if he believes in Jesus, he and his whole family will be saved! There are actually Christians who believe that if the husband is saved, that covers the whole household. I actually used to know a witch online who said she had a husband who was a pastor, and as far as he was concerned, she was saved because he was. So the SAB has to ask, Is salvation by faith alone? I'm sure I've answered this question elsewhere at least in part, but as the page doesn't have a link, I'll address it here in full. The answer is yes, but it's complicated. There are a few things that need to be said that may address the "no" verses. First of all, despite the fact that a person is "saved" doesn't mean they won't be judged; there seems to be both a judgment concerning salvation and a judgment concerning rewards and punishment that is separate. Also, many of the Old Testament passages are talking about judgment here on earth, the idea that God rewards good people and punishes bad people. Also, there is another important teaching that is especially accentuated in the book of James: that faith, if it is genuine, should result in good works, and if the good works are not present in a person's life, you should question their faith. Oh, and said works also include one's words that one speaks. So, for those passages not covered by these issues... The Matthew five verse I explained in Matthew five, basically saying that Jesus is using hyperbole to say that you can't get in to Heaven on righteousness. Matthew 19 in the broader context is illustrating that most rich people are violating the first Commandment by having money as their god. The Romans two passage is, I think, being taken wrong, as the broader context of the entire book is salvation by faith; perhaps Paul is saying, as Jesus sometimes did, that nobody is capable of keeping the whole of the law, because in the end, we are all sinners. The Philippians two verse is not at all clear in and of itself, and certainly could be saying to keep the faith. Revelation 22 is a tricky one, but I think it can certainly be said that Jesus had Commandments (the SAB has them all tracked, in fact), which were mainly about faith. If a husband believes, is his wife saved also? I think it's arguable that the point of all of these verses is that the faith of one spouse has a great influence on the other, although as I said above, some people believe the answer is a simple "yes".

So, the warden puts his faith in Jesus, and is baptized, along with his family. Just because it doesn't say what the rest of his family thought about all of this doesn't automatically imply that they were baptized against their will; it's entirely possible that the whole family made confessions of faith as well. Lack of information doesn't imply that something didn't happen, but it's certainly true that it leaves us wondering. In the morning, the order is given to let Paul and Silas go. Paul is apparently offended that they arrested them publicly, but want to release him privately. The people in charge hear about this, and the fact that Paul and Silas are Roman citizens, which is serious business, since there are special rules about how you treat citizens, and they haven't been treated properly. The rulers release them and ask them to leave the city. After visiting with Lydia one more time, they depart.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised (Acts 15)

Acts chapter 15 is where the Jewish Christians say, hey, isn't it time we talked about circumcision? Because, as some Jewish believers contend, how can you possibly get into Heaven without cutting off the tip of your penis? So Paul and Barnabas decide to travel to Jerusalem and get this sorted out. (I already answered whether the gospel should be preached to everyone in Acts chapter one.) When they arrive, the Christians get together and debate over circumcision and whether it's required of believers in Christ. Finally, Peter stands up and says that since God has already shown that Gentiles are welcome in the kingdom of God, why should Jewish Christians require them to follow the Mosaic Law? (I answered whether God can be tempted in Exodus chapter 17.) After Peter, Paul and Barnabas talk about all the missionary work that they have done among the Gentiles. Finally, James speaks, and quotes the prophet Amos, and suggests that they should just tell Gentiles to abstain from idols, fornication, strangled things, and blood. This is a fascinating thing that I think I mentioned before a couple times: that Christianity actually does have dietary restrictions, and here they are. I answered whether it's okay to eat blood in John chapter six. I answered whether it's okay to have sex outside of marriage in Exodus chapter 20. Is it OK to eat meat sacrificed to other gods? Finally, a new question! The answer to this one is pretty much a "depends"; note that most of these verses come not just from the same book, but from the same chapter! 1Corinthians 10 is just a place where Paul is taking time to examine this in detail, and the message is clearly not a contradiction when he has two things to say immediately following one another.
1Corinthians 10:27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:
The guidelines Paul gives for this is that if you don't know whether the meat set before you had been a sacrifice, don't worry about it, but if you do know it was, don't eat it in that case. He's saying it's really a matter of conscience pretty clearly.

So with everyone in agreement, they write a letter to send to the churches so the Gentiles will know about this. They send Paul and Barnabas, since they know all these churches, and Judas Barsabas and Silas, since they're apparently prophets. And the Gentiles were very glad they didn't have to cut off the tips of their penises. After a while, Paul wants to go back and visit all the churches one more time, but Barnabas wants to take John Mark, who (as I mentioned a few chapters back) Paul is angry at for abandoning them on their first journey. So they split up, Barnabas taking John Mark to Cyprus, and Paul taking Silas to Syria.

Friday, October 20, 2023

The people of the land shall stone him with stones (Acts 14)

Acts chapter 14 doesn't have a lot of notes, but there is some interesting stuff here. Barnabas and Paul travel to Iconium, where they preach and do some signs to some affect, but when they hear the people there want to stone them, they move on. In Lystra, they heal a lame man, which provokes the Gentiles there to think they are gods. When they find out about this, they rend their clothes--a common expression of outrage in the Jewish culture--and explain to them that they are only humans who acted in the power of Jesus. Shortly after this, some Jews show up and incite the crowd to stone Paul to death. Now, it's not made clear whether Paul just appears dead or if he's actually dead and comes back to life. In 2Corinthians 12, Paul talks about someone going to Heaven and coming back, and some people believe that Paul is talking about himself, and possibly it was at this point in his life (or death) that it happened. In any case, Paul somehow walks away from being stoned to death, and the next day they leave for Derbe. After preaching in Derbe for a while, they head back and visit a number of cities that they had been to previously to encourage the believers there.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

They sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch (Acts 13)

Acts chapter 13 opens with a bunch of believers fasting, looking for direction from God. The Holy Ghost says Barnabas and Saul are chosen to go do missionary work, so they pray for them and send them off. So when they get where they are going, there's a government official who wants to hear their message, but a false prophet and sorcerer named Elymas tries to keep them away. Paul apparently pronounces a curse on this man, temporarily blinding him. I answered whether we are all God's children in John chapter one. I answered whether magic was okay in Acts chapter eight.

Barnabas and Paul continue on their journey, John Mark leaving them to return to Jerusalem. (This is notable because Paul later expresses the feeling that John Mark had abandoned them.) They eventually come to Antioch (a different one, there were several in Asia Minor) and visit a synagogue. When the teacher finishes his message, he asks if anyone has anything to add, and Paul jumps in. He tells the history of the Jews up until David, and segues from David to Jesus. When did Solomon's reign begin? The SAB is clever to note the math here, and while I usually side with the earlier source, Paul's numbers sound right, so I don't know why 1Kings gets it so wrong. The SAB notes that what Paul says in verse 22 is not found in the Old Testament, but perhaps Paul doesn't mean to be quoting any specific scripture? I'm sure I've answered whether Joseph was Jesus's father somewhere (it's in Matthew chapter one), but it's worth pointing out particularly that while Joseph was not Jesus's biological father, Mary was also descended from David, so Jesus is indeed the descendant of David. I answered who buried Jesus in Matthew chapter 27. I answered who raised Jesus from the dead in John chapter two. I answered when Jesus ascended into heaven in John chapter 20. I answered whether there was an unforgivable sin in Matthew chapter twelve.

Paul's message over, most of the people go home, but a few, apparently mostly Gentiles, are excited to hear the message, and ask Paul to preach again next Saturday. The next Saturday, there's a huge crowd, and some of the Jews are unhappy to see people turning out for Paul. Paul says if the Jews won't receive the gospel, they will happily preach to the Gentiles, and a lot of people come to faith.

Do humans have free will? This is a big philosophical question that goes even beyond theology. At the time I'm writing this, the contradiction page has some technical issues, so I don't know what verses in the Bible are referenced over this, but I have some general thoughts about free will and predestination. I don't believe they are mutually exclusive, which of course I will have to explain. The thing that is important to understand is that God is omniscient, and exists outside of our spacetime continuum. Allow me to illustrate with an example I use commonly. I write these posts linearly, so there is a sense in which I am constrained by time; however, you the reader are not constrained, as you see the whole of the post at one time, outside, if you will, of my time constraints. So you can play the part of God, and this six-sided die I have in my hand can play the part of free will. Look to the last sentence of this post and read it. If you did that, you now have knowledge that I did not have at the time of me writing this. The die is still free to land on any number, and at the same time, from your "omniscient" perspective, the number is already predetermined. I'm actually going to wait an hour to finish this post to leave myself in suspense, but you've already been there. Okay, I'm back! Sorry, I'm writing this at work, so I have to wait for my breaks. So, time to end the suspense for me and roll the die. The die came up a five.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Bring my soul out of prison (Acts 12)

Acts chapter twelve presents me with a moment where I need to rescind something I said a few chapters back. I said the SAB doesn't mark violence or intolerance when it's against Christians or Jews, but here, verses one through three are marked for intolerance; it's actually not entirely clear who the intolerance is against, however, because while it describes persecution of Christians, it could be that the SAB is implying verse three is antisemitic. If it is the latter, it needs to be noted that "the Jews", as in the gospels, is referring to the Sanhedrin, and not Jews in general. Nonetheless, it is true that many Jews are hostile towards Christianity. I don't know how prevalent it is, but I do know my father was very strongly against it. My Jewish father is no longer part of my life--by his choosing, not mine--and doesn't know I'm a Christian, but if he did, I'm sure he would be outraged. It's actually far from unheard of for a Jewish family to have a funeral for a family member who converts to Christianity. It's actually understandable on numerous levels, because Christianity in many ways is based on doctrine that says Jewish tradition is erroneous, Trinitarianism sounds a lot like polytheism, and the cherry on top is the extensive history of antisemitism in the Gentile church. But this is all a huge tangent from our passage that I'm happy to continue in the comments if anyone cares, but it's cluttering up the regular content. (Oh, one last side note: Verse three says it was "the days of unleavened bread" which is Passover. Verse four mentions "Easter", which was not a holiday in existence during this time. The actual Greek word here is "πάσχα", which is translated "Passover" the other 28 times it appears. I have no idea why the KJV makes this odd translation choice here.)

So... As the SAB notes, Peter is in prison, but God sends an angel for a magical prison break. Happy to be free, he heads to the house of Mary, mother of John Mark (the author of the gospel of Mark) and knocks at the gate. A woman named Rhoda hears him and, recognizing his voice, instead of letting him in, she runs and tells the others (who are praying for Peter's release) that he's at the gate. They don't believe her, and say, "It's his angel." This is all very silly, and it's not clear what is meant by this claim. Did they think Peter had a guardian angel who was at the gate instead of with Peter in prison? The word "angel" actually means "messenger", so maybe they thought Peter had sent them a message? Anyway, they finally open the gate and see Peter, which astonishes them. Peter tells them God got him out, and to tell James and the others. He takes off, probably to find a place to hide.

In the morning, Herod sends for Peter, but he can't be found. Herod has the guards put to death and goes to Caesarea. While he's there, a bunch of people praise him, saying of his speech, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man." Herod dies, apparently for not denying this blasphemous statement.

Barnabas and Saul return to Antioch with John Mark.

In the days of famine they shall be satisfied (Acts 11)

Acts chapter eleven is almost entirely Peter telling the story of chapter ten to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem, apparently some of whom ("of the circumcision") were angry that Peter went among Gentiles. Since that's all that's in the first 18 verses, any issues there I addressed in my previous post.

After this, the story moves back to Barnabas, who was the one who originally introduced Saul/Paul to the believers in Jerusalem. Barnabas does some traveling, and eventually goes to Tarsus to find Saul again. Barnabas and Saul go to Antioch to work with the church there for a year, where apparently the term "Christians" (Greek: "Χριστιανούς") is coined. Then a disciple from Jerusalem named Agabus prophesies that a famine is coming, and when it does, the Christians in Antioch send resources to the church in Jerusalem by way of Barnabas and Saul.

I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh (Acts 10)

Acts chapter ten is also a turning point. We go back to Peter for a bit, and his discovery that the gospel is for Gentiles, which shouldn't have been so surprising since Jesus told him and the other disciples that the gospel was to go "to the ends of the earth." Perhaps Peter, like other believers we hear about later in Acts, believed that you had to convert to Judaism to be a Christian?

Anyway, the chapter starts with the focus on Cornelius, a Roman centurion who is not a Jew, but is a devoted follower of the God of Israel. It even says in verse 22 that he is "of good report among all the nation of the Jews." Cornelius has a vision of an angel who tells him to send men to Joppa to fetch Peter. So he sends two servants and a soldier with directions on where to find Peter according to his vision.

As the men are approaching, Peter is on the roof of the house praying, and he has a vision. In his vision, a sheet comes down from the sky filled with all sorts of animals, many (maybe all) of them not kosher, and a voice tells him to get up, kill something and eat it. Peter says, "Not so, Lord," (which I've heard in sermons pointed out to be a ridiculous thing to say in itself) because, as he explains, he keeps kosher. The voice (of God) tells him if God calls something clean, don't call it unclean. This whole thing repeats three times. I answered "What kind of animals may we eat?" way back in Genesis chapter nine, and it's actually a rather thorough response for my early work, some of which I'm not happy with now. As for What the Bible says about vegetarians, I think there's a need for cultural context with all of these verses. I think I already explained Peter's vision, but in case it's not fully clear, Jesus was trying to break down the wall between Jews and Gentiles for Peter so the gospel could spread. As for the two passages from Paul's letters, there were apparently some people who came to Christianity from faith traditions that had meat eating rituals and/or rules, and because of it, they chose to not eat meat at all as Christians. This was perhaps a sign of weak faith but Paul doesn't want people judged for that personal choice. On the other hand, if someone was against meat eating and wanted to force others to abstain, well, that's just false doctrine. I'm a vegetarian, but I don't judge people who eat meat.

So, the men arrive, and God tells Peter to go with them. It's an interesting thing here about God's character in that really, one would suppose anywhere in the process, God could have just simplified things by delivering the message himself. He could have just told Cornelius about Jesus directly; he could have told Peter to go find Cornelius instead of having Cornelius send men to fetch him; he could have told Peter what this trip was all about instead of "go with them, doubting nothing"; but God doesn't do any of those things. For whatever reason, God likes to set up people to meet and spread his message for him; he wants people to spread his love. Peter goes with the men and brings along a few fellow believers. When they arrive at Cornelius's home, Cornelius falls down and worships Peter, which Peter tells him not to do. Peter tells the people gathered there that normally a Jew wouldn't go among Gentiles, but God has revealed to him that he shouldn't be prejudiced. Cornelius shares his vision, and asks Peter to share his message, and Peter shares the gospel. I answered whether God respects people in Genesis chapter four. I answered whether Jesus was peaceful in John chapter 14. I answered whether there is an unforgivable sin in Matthew chapter 12.

After sharing the gospel, all the Gentiles believe, receive the Holy Ghost (another instance of the Holy Ghost being given!), and speak in tongues like on Pentecost. The Jewish believers are astonished, and decide to baptize them. The SAB has some interesting stuff here that I've never heard of about how if the disciples were surprised about Gentiles, but accepted them, wouldn't they also accept homosexuals? I'm not sure if the logic is sound, nonetheless it's my belief that anyone can be a Christian, so yes, regardless of what one believes about the morality of same-sex relationships, homosexuals can be Christian; whether they should abstain from same-sex intimacy is obviously a sticking point among Christians, however. I answered whose name people should be baptized in in Acts chapter two.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

And the voice of God answered him (Acts 9)

Acts chapter nine is where the story really pivots and follows Paul, here still known as Saul. (I don't think we're ever given a specific time when or reason why he changes his name, but maybe I forgot and we'll get to it.) So Saul is working hard at persecuting Christians and apparently now the Jewish leaders have some pretext for throwing them in prison, although I don't think it's made real clear what that is. He gets a letter from the high priest explaining that he can do this and heads to Damascus. On the way to Damascus, he has a vision; a bright light shines from the sky and apparently the voice of Jesus speaks to him and convinces him to cease his persecution and become a Christian. He is temporarily blinded. Did the men with Paul hear the voice? There's a standard explanation for this apparent discrepancy, and that is that while the men heard the voice, they didn't hear the actual words that were spoken; it was just a noise to them. I don't know if there's anything in the Greek that supports that, but there it is. Were the men with Paul knocked to the ground? Yes, the response to this is that just because it's not mentioned in this chapter doesn't mean it didn't happen. The assumption is that the voice knocked them down, and then they stood up again.

So Saul has to be led to Damascus, and he remains blind for three days, during which time he doesn't eat or drink. It's not specified whether Saul had chosen to fast, or if he couldn't eat because of shock. Nearby, a Christian named Ananias has a vision in which "the Lord"--assumedly Jesus--speaks to him and tells him to go find Saul and lay hands on him to restore his sight. Ananias is hesitant, and essentially asks if going to Saul is safe. The Lord tells him that Saul is going to be some sort of super missionary, and Ananias goes. Ananias lays hands on Saul, giving him his sight and the Holy Ghost, and Saul is baptized. After spending a few days hanging out with the believers in Damascus, he starts preaching the gospel in the synagogue, and now the Jews want him dead, so he has to be snuck out of the city in a basket. Did Paul go to Jerusalem immediately after his conversion? There is no contradiction here, because there is no time frame given in Acts; it doesn't say "immediately" here. Did Paul visit all of the disciples when he went to Jerusalem after his conversion? Well, it never says "all", but Luke certainly makes it sound like it's more than two Apostles. I wouldn't say it's a clear contradiction, but it's certainly confusing, and the SAB page should say "Apostles" rather than "disciples" which is obviously not true.

The chapter ends with some miracles by Peter. He cures a man of palsy in Lydda, and raises a woman from the dead in Joppa. As with pretty much all miracles, the SAB marks these with "absurdity" and "science". Jesus said the disciples would do greater works than him, and it certainly seems that way.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree (Acts 8)

Acts chapter eight has a lot of interesting stuff, not all of which is noted on by the SAB. As I said in the comments of the last chapter, I find it interesting that the SAB doesn't mark a passage as violent if the violence is against Christians or Jews; here I note we start the persecution of the church, but the passage is not marked for intolerance.

Philip goes to Samaria to preach the gospel, and is apparently well received. However, there is an interesting distinction here in that for some reason the Samaritans aren't given the Holy Ghost, and Peter and John have to come and lay hands on people. I already answered the question of what name people should be baptized in back in Acts chapter two, but this passage would also fit under the question of when the Holy Ghost was given, and I wonder why the SAB doesn't put it there.

One of the people is a sorcerer named Simon, which prompts the SAB to ask, Is magic OK? I think that what the SAB is missing here is there is a difference between supernatural acts that come from the power of God and ones that come from another source. In fact, generally those that come from God tend to be called "miracles" rather than "magic". There are a few things on that page that need clarification nonetheless. When Hezekiah destroyed Moses's bronze serpent in 2Kings 18, it's not because it's magic; it's because people were worshipping it as an idol. Also, it's worth noting that the two run-ins with sorcerers in the Book of Acts don't end with them being killed, but merely rebuked; in fact, here in this chapter there's nothing to suggest Simon wasn't a Christian, he was just one who was misled in his intentions. Oh, and while it's not an entirely clear passage one way or the other, it's notable that the witch in 1Samuel 28 does actually manage to call up the spirit of Samuel, so does the Bible at least give legitimacy to magic? It seems to. I answered "Should the gospel be preached to everyone?" in Acts chapter one, although the page links to a much less thorough response in Matthew chapter ten. I should get that redirected.

So God tells Philip that he should go to Gaza, and apparently, it's so he can have an appointment with an Ethiopian eunuch of some importance. (This is perhaps how Christianity got to Ethiopia.) The man is reading the book of Isaiah, and when he meets Philip, he asks him about the meaning of the passage. Philip explains that the passage is a prophecy about Jesus and proceeds to share the gospel with him. The eunuch is very excited, and asks to be baptized, which Philip does. The SAB asks: May a eunuch enter into the congregation of the Lord? It's important to understand what these verses are saying, and what they are not saying. I'm pretty sure that the Leviticus passage is saying that that a eunuch (among others) may not serve as a priest. The Deuteronomy passage may possibly be echoing this, or it may be a more general ban on eunuchs participating in Jewish religious practices at all. Now the Isaiah passage is saying that while a eunuch can't participate, he can still actively serve God in his life, and God will definitely accept him. The New Testament passages that mention eunuchs are a completely separate matter, because the requirements for being a Christian are pretty much wide open. As for the possibility that the eunuch was a homosexual, I don't know about that, but I don't think it really matters, as I said, anyone can be a Christian.

The chapter ends in a bit of a strange way, with the statement that Philip goes away as soon as they come out of the water. As the SAB notes, it rather sounds like God magically teleported Philip to a town over 20 miles away, and some people interpret it like that, but it's also entirely possible that what's meant here is that Philip got abother call and immediately left, traveling quickly to Azotus. (If Philip was able to keep up with a chariot, he probably had a horse.)

Monday, October 09, 2023

And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed (Acts 7)

I'm not sure why Acts chapter seven is a new chapter, as it's clearly a continuing of the story from chapter six. Nonetheless, we pick right up with Stephen answering the accusation of blasphemy. He for some reason decides to respond by summarizing the Old Testament. Now, I've said this before in the blog, because it's come up: Stephen makes a few factual errors in his speech here, and I consider them errors by Stephen rather than Biblical contradictions, so I'm not likely to answer cases of claimed contradiction based on this speech. (I will ask the SAB to link to this explanation, however.)

Stephen starts with Abraham, and gets some timing matters wrong in his life, but the gist of the story is correct. He also rounds off the length of the Egyptian captivity, although God did the same thing in Genesis 15, which Stephen is referring to. (I also answered that issue in Genesis chapter 15.) After Abraham, he moves quickly to Joseph to tell the story of how the first generation Israelites came to be in Egypt. Somehow Stephen counts Jacob's family wrong (which I actually addressed in Genesis chapter 45-46) and gets some burial details off. Then he moves on to Moses, a man he calls "mighty in words" completely at odds with the impression you get of him in Exodus, although that's mainly Moses's impression of himself, and he does manage a few good speeches here and there in his story. The SAB takes issue with the description of who appeared in the burning bush, which oddly enough I didn't discuss in Exodus three, but in Mark twelve, where I explained it's a technicality. Stephen recalls the incident of the golden calf. He jumps from there to David and Solomon, and mentions the latter built the Temple, but the SAB asks a question here that is dependent on more than just Stephen, so I'll address it: Does God dwell in Temples? I would say the answer is "no", actually, and I'm appealing to the words of the verses on that page. The verses claimed for "yes" do call the Temple a "house", but neither actually says God dwells there. 2Chronicles seven says that God's name would be there, which is fine enough, but when it says his eyes and heart will be there, I think the sentiment is that God will watch over it rather than actually be contained by it, as Stephen quotes Isaiah 66 in verses 49-50.

As he finishes his speech, "Stephen blames the Jews for persecuting the prophets and murdering Jesus." (As the SAB puts it...) It sounds antisemitic, but it's true, and as I said in a previous chapter, when addressing the Sanhedrin, it's essentially true about Jesus as well. Anyway, this infuriates his audience, and he has a vision of Jesus in Heaven just before they grab him and take him outside to stone him to death. As they stone him, Stephen prays for them and falls asleep.

The persecution that arose about Stephen (Acts 6)

Acts chapter six is a pretty boring chapter, as the SAB notes, but it's a lead-in to seven, which is a bit more exciting. The Apostles have some trouble with squabbles among the believers, and they get worried that with the church growing, they're going to be distracted from their work of preaching. So, they pick out seven men to deal with day-to-day administrative issues, and they list them, but watch those names, because five of them you're never going to hear again. So some nonbelievers at the synagogue start having issues with Stephen, and since they can't win a debate with him, they slander him with blasphemy. The chapter ends with an observation that Stephen had the face of an angel, which I've always just assumed that meant he looked calm and innocent, but who knows?

A lying tongue is but for a moment (Acts 5)

Okay, I thought it might happen; Acts chapter five is misunderstood here. Maybe it's harder to understand in the KJV, but verse four is trying to clarify the matter here:
Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
Peter is saying here that the land belonged Ananias and Sapphira, and was therefore theirs to do with whatever they wanted. Maybe the distinction is not so great, but the sin wasn't keeping some of the money; the sin was lying about doing so. Verse three likewise Peter isn't talking about keeping the money, but keeping the real price. So, is this story violent, cruel, and unjust? Well, there's nothing indicating this was a painful death for them, so I would say no to violent and cruel; unjust is subjective. It's not really clear whether, as the SAB suggests, they were scared to death, or whether God struck them down for their sin. I'm not sure which would be considered more likely to be unjust. I think that arguably what happened here was that God established the serious nature of the new church, as it is clear it had an impact on people. (It's worth noting that in verse three, Peter says Ananias has lied to the Holy Ghost, which is often used as evidence that the Holy Ghost is a person, and God.)

The next bit of the chapter has the Apostles performing miracles, which of course the SAB marks with "absurd" and "science" because it's always that way. Then the Apostles get thrown in prison, but an angel breaks them out. The SAB marks this as absurd as well, and admittedly it's funny, partly because they get busted out of prison without the guards even noticing somehow. The Sanhedrin brings the Apostles back for questioning. Should we obey human or divine law? The answer is both. Note that here in Acts, the Apostles haven't broken the law, they're just not letting the Sanhedrin boss them around. More in general, however, it's understood that Christians should follow the laws of the land they live in so long as they don't compel them to go against morality, which is probably a good guideline for anyone. Here in verse 30, the SAB points out that "Peter accuses the Jews of murdering Jesus." Yes, but in this case, he's addressing the Sanhedrin, so it's quite appropriate. Gamaliel, a prominent member who is later mentioned to be Saul of Tarsus's teacher, pulls the council aside and reminds them of a number of recent revolutionary movements that failed, suggesting that they should just leave the Jesus people alone to likewise fail, unless they turn out to be the right beliefs, in which they can't possibly stop them. They agree, but beat the Apostles up a little before letting them go. This just makes the Apostles happy because "they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." Their preaching continues.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Faith in his name hath made this man strong (Acts 4)

Acts chapter four has only one contradiction (who raised Jesus, which I answered in John chapter two), but there are a lot of other notes that I don't want to pass up.

Verse twelve has a lot of notes on it, because it's the controversial moment in which Peter says that only in the name of Jesus can one be saved. As always, the SAB marks such a statement as intolerant and unjust, and it's understandable! There is something fascinating to me about exclusivity claims by religions, because people find them intolerant, but most religions (including, as not a religion, but a religious classification, atheism) claim to be the one true religion. Yeah, there are exceptions, but think they are likely representative of less of the world population. Putting that aside and focusing on Christianity's exclusivity for the moment, I think there is something that can be said about it to soften the harshness. As I've discussed several times in both John and even earlier in Acts, it's largely understood that when Jesus died, he went to Hell and "set the captives free". It's pretty darn likely that the majority of people in Hell waiting for salvation had never heard the name Jesus of Nazareth, but they were saved anyway. I figure if people before the crucifixion could be saved without knowing Jesus, why would that change afterwards? So no, the name Jesus isn't "the password to heaven" as the SAB puts it; we are all saved by Jesus, but it isn't about any specific words or name that we know or say. I truly believe that Heaven will be full of plenty of non-Christians. (Should I say something about the side comment to Jehovah's Witnesses? I don't think I know JW theology well enough to comment on this. They don't believe that Jesus is God, I know, but does that bring up an issue with this particular verse? I don't know.)

So verse 13 brings up the issue of Peter and John being uneducated. The SAB says that if this is true, they couldn't have written the Bible books attributed to them. I don't think this follows, though, for a few reasons. First of all, it's not clear what is meant by "unlearned and ignorant". It doesn't necessarily mean that they were illiterate idiots; as obserant Jews they probably knew how to read and write Hebrew and Aramaic, and had some amount of teaching in the Hebrew Bible, but didn't have the sort of formal teaching a Rabbi would have had. More importantly, the fact that they were "unlearned" at this time is probably irrelevant because from this time forward, they stopped being fishermen and started being pastors, which probably involved a lot of time reading and writing, thus furthering and refining their knowledge. The time between Pentecost and the writing of John's books is actually many decades; I'm sure he had a long time to get as good as he did.

So, Peter and John get threatened by the religious leaders, but since they haven't technically broken any laws, they get to leave the Temple without any punishment. They say a prayer of thanksgiving (which the SAB finds boring) and for some reason, after they pray, there's an earthquake. The SAB marks this with "science" but this was either a miracle or maybe even just a coincidence; there's nothing antiscientific about earthquakes happening. The last bit of the chapter again talks about the church and how they were essentially communists. This is marked with "politics", which is one I haven't seen before; I don't know if it was added or if I just haven't come across it before. I suppose the point of the marking is that you don't tend to hear a lot about Christian communists in the 21st century, although they do exist; I know a few. It's actually very interesting that modern conservative evangelical Christians have sort of made a marriage between Christianity and capitalism, when the Bible says a whole lot about the love of money being evil, and that a country is judged by how they treat the poor, and other such things that are really the antithesis of capitalism, in my opinion. I think it's a subject worth examining.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Then shall the lame man leap as an hart (Acts 3)

Well, Acts chapter three has no contradictions listed, so this should be easier than the last two. The chapter opens with Peter and John meeting a lame man begging at the gate of Jerusalem. Peter decides to perform a miracle and heal the man's legs. The man goes with them to the Temple, where they draw a crowd because people recognize the formerly lame man. Peter tells the crowd they shouldn't be amazed, because he healed the man by the power of the Son of God. Peter tells the crowd that they were responsible for turning Jesus over to Pilate (which is a bit harsh, and perhaps presumptuous) but at least they did it out of ignorance. He tells them that all of it was foretold by the prophets, and they should repent and be converted into Christians (actually the word "Christian" hasn't been coined yet, that happens in chapter eleven). Peter reminds them of the prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18, identifying Jesus as that prophet, and saying those who do not listen to him will be destroyed. The SAB marks this as intolerant, unjust, and violent, but I really don't think Peter is calling for anyone to be killed, but rather pointing out that Jesus is the only way to salvation. (So count this as a verse against the idea of universal salvation, I guess.) The SAB seems confused about verse 24, but I think Peter is just saying that all of the prophets have at some time spoken about the Messiah, which may not be strictly true, but it's largely correct.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2)

Acts chapter two is where we finally get to Pentecost and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. There's a lot of weird, supernatural, one-of-a-kind stuff going on in this chapter, so, yeah, it's going to be called absurd by the SAB. I already explained when the Holy Ghost was given in the last chapter.

The interesting thing about this event is that--as some have pointed out--the spiritual gift of "tongues" seems to be about speaking known languages, rather than glossolalia. The people who thought the disciples were drunk were probably speakers of Aramaic and Greek who couldn't figure out what was going on. If you don't know a foreign language and you hear it spoken, it's just nonsense to you.

Will those who call on the Lord be delivered? Yes and no. I think there's more of an element of earnestness here that simply saying a name. It's a contradiction if you take what Peter says at very simple face value, but I don't believe it's meant that way. I answered whether Jesus performed many signs and wonders in John chapter three, where the answer was yes. I answered who raised Jesus from the dead in John chapter two, where the answer was all persons of the Trinity were involved. Verse 31 has Peter mention Jesus being in Hell (the Greek word here is "Hades") and the SAB wonders why. I talked about Hell in John chapter five, but I didn't discuss this aspect in depth; the reason Jesus went to Hell was twofold: the sin of the world was put on him at his crucifixion, and he needed to go to Hell apparently to set free some (or maybe all?) of the people held captive there.

In whose name is baptism to be performed? I don't think it particularly matters, actually. Yes, Matthew reads differently, but the important thing is just that baptism happens for new believers in Jesus. Yes, 3,000 new Christians were baptized that day, which is a lot, but there were a lot of Jews in Jerusalem at that time because it was still the tail end of Passover, which lasts for seven days. And also yes, technically the early church, well through the 2nd century, practiced what was essentially a form of communism!

Monday, October 02, 2023

He was received up into heaven (Acts 1)

So, back to the New Testament, and Acts chapter one. Some people believe that Luke's gospel and the book of Acts were actually intended as documentary evidence for the trial of Paul, the former being an overview of Christianity and the latter the story of Paul and his role in the church. There are a lot of supposed contradictions here that are pretty easy to deal with. Right off the top, Does the gospel of Luke contain everything that Jesus did? No, of course not, and I think it's silly to imply Luke is making such a claim. What is most likely is that Luke is saying he included everything important that Jesus did, or even quite possibly the "all" represents the opposite Venn diagram of what the SAB implies, i.e. that all of Luke's gospel contains things Jesus did (which is not strictly true either, but we're just taking "all" too seriously here).

I answered when Jesus ascended in John chapter 20; the answer is 40 days as described here, the only passage that gives a specific time frame. Where did Jesus tell his disciples to go after his resurrection? It's always been my understanding that Jesus told them to go to Galilee, where they would see him, and then back to Jerusalem, where they would see him again and he would ascend into Heaven. Sure, it can be confusing. Should the gospel be preached to everyone? Yes! There is some information missing on this page, I would say. While Jesus's ministry during his time on earth was generally limited to the Jews in Judea and Galilee, it's recorded that he went to the Samaritans in John 4, and the the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 was ministered to. After Jesus was resurrected, he told his disciples to bring the Gospel to all people, so this apparent limiting of preaching to Jews only seems to have been for pre-resurrection times only. In addition to this, the passage from Acts 16 quoted is a bit odd, as Galatia is actually in Asia! Clearly Paul did preach in Asia, as he established several churches there, so whatever is going on in Acts 16:6 was temporary. (The seven churches written to in the first few chapters of Revelation are all in Asia, actually.) It's understood historically that the Apostles actually went pretty far with the Gospel just in the first century; some went to the area around the Black Sea, while others went to Parthia, which may have included parts of modern-day India. The Gospel also went pretty quickly to Ethiopia, perhaps by way of the eunuch mentioned in Acts chapter eight?

The "science" note on verse eleven I think can be outright dismissed as silly; just because someone somewhere had a weird interpretation of a Bible verse doesn't mean everyone has to care. (I assume that since it was brought up, it may have mattered to Galileo, but what happened to him is a whole can of worms outside of my scope here. I've read a lot about Galileo, and it's fascinating both what he accomplished as a scientist and what persecution he faced from the church because of it.)

What were the names of the Apostles? I actually addressed this in Matthew chapter ten, but I probably wasn't quite as thorough as I should have been. I honestly don't think there is such a thing as a "rank" of Apostles (although, yes, Peter is always listed first and Judas Iscariot is always last), so the real issue is discrepancy in the actual names. I think it's a safe assumption that Simon the Canaanite and Simon the Zealot are the same person; the hard one is whether Lebbaeus Thaddeus is the same person as Judas, brother of James. If you don't want a contradiction, you'd have to assume so; the Bible doesn't say they are, but it doesn't say they aren't, either. As I said in my previous comments, Lebbaeus Thaddeus seems to possibly be a nickname, so it's not out of the question. How many believers were there at the time of the ascension? I don't think this is a real problem. There's nothing in the text to indicate that these two verses are describing the same moment in time. I think the number given here in Acts is not the total number of believers, but the number that happened to be present when Peter was speaking. The "above five hundred" in 1Corinthians actually doesn't necessarily even mean believers; this could have happened in Galilee to a mixed group of believers and nonbelievers (the nonbelievers would mostly have not been aware that Jesus was resurrected, not having been witnesses of his death). It's really not specified. When was the Holy Ghost given? I know I've addressed this before, maybe several times, but I'll try and give a definitive answer here and make sure it's linked to on the page. As Jesus said earlier in this very chapter, there was a special event that happened on Pentecost when the believers were "baptized with the Holy Ghost". This is a special giving of the Holy Ghost that was for all believers in Jesus, and many theologians believe that from that day forward, the Holy Ghost was given to every believer from the time of their conversion. However, the Holy Ghost existed from eternity along with the other two persons of the Trinity, and there were special times and people before Pentecost that had the anointing of the Holy Ghost. The existence of these people is not a contradiction to the fact that the Holy Ghost was given on Pentecost; it's just that what happened on Pentecost was a major change in the role the Holy Ghost played in the Bible. Before Pentecost, even those mentions in the Old Testament of the "Spirit of God" are referring to the Holy Ghost.

Okay, on verse 18, there are three questions that are all intertwined, so I will answer them together: Who bought the potter's field? How did Judas die? What did Judas do with the silver? I actually addressed these in Matthew chapter 27, but let me reiterate here as a single narrative that puts this all together. Judas feels remorse for betraying Jesus, so he returns to the priests, and throws the silver down in front of them. He goes out and finds a field with a tree in it, and hangs himself on it. After his body hangs for some time, it somehow falls down and breaks open on the ground (and honestly, it doesn't make sense for a living human to burst open just from falling down; he would have to either fall from some height or have something wrong with him, like a partially decomposed body). The priests don't know what to do with the silver, because it's blood money, and they can't take it back, but they decide to buy the field Judas hanged himself in to serve as a cemetery; because the money was Judas's, in a sense he vicariously bought the field through the priests. The only thing not completely tied up by this narrative is why the field is called "the field of blood"; the answer is for both reasons given.

Okay, so the Psalms quoted by Peter were, in fact, written by David; I don't know why the SAB says they weren't. Yes, technically they weren't about Judas, but prophetically, scripture can have different shades of meaning, and I don't understand the basis for picking on Peter's choices like this.

Does God know and see everything? Yes, he does, and the verses being suggested to make a point against this are mostly misunderstood. Let me clear out a bunch of them by three statements: (1) Just because God asks a question doesn't mean he doesn't already know the answer, (2) the fact that people sometimes try to hide from God doesn't mean the attempt is in any way useful, and (3) when God tests someone it's so they will know themselves. In Genesis 11, the fact that God came down to see Babel doesn't imply he couldn't see it before, he's just putting in a more personal appearance for unknown reasons. Genesis 18:17 says nothing whatsoever about God not knowing something. In Genesis 18:20-21, God already knows about Sodom and Gomorrah, but for some reason feels it appropriate to have a face-to-face encounter with these people, so to speak (perhaps to call out comparatively righteous people like Lot?). I believe Hosea 8:4 is implying that God was in no way a part of the process of setting up these kings. Does God know what is in everyone's heart? I'm not sure why this is a separate question, but the answer is pretty much the same.

Does the Bible condemn gambling? This is a particularly interesting question for me on a personal level, because my degree is in mathematics, and my senior thesis was on gambling theory, with a particular focus on blackjack. I also at the end of my senior year took a class on the history of mathematics, and so for a project in that class, I did a report on the history of gambling. The simple answer to this question is "no" as the SAB itself admits, but it gets complicated because a lot of religious people have suggested that gambling is sinful, and have suggested verses in the Bible to support that idea. The thing I want to say about the history of gambling is that most forms of gambling have their roots in religious practices of divination. There certainly are places in the Bible where gambling is happening, but a lot of what the SAB implies to be gambling is just standard forms of divination. It simply was very common in many cultures, including the ancient Jewish world, to pray for the guidance of a god and then cast lots, or roll dice, or some such thing. So with all that being said, there's something to be said about items in both categories. Most of the verses on the "yes" side are about getting rich in general, which the Bible seems to be against. Proverbs 13:11 does seem particularly applicable to gambling, however, as it talks about "wealth gotten by vanity" (rather than hard work). 2Thessalonians 3:10 perhaps could be applied to gamblers, because most people don't consider gambling "work", but it's a controversial verse anyway. The Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus's robe are probably the clearest case of actual gambling in the Bible, and it's pretty clear it's not something to look up to. As for all the verses in the "no" section, those are just standard methods of divination, as I said above. So here in Acts, the lot falls on Matthias to be the new member of "the twelve", and we never hear him mentioned again.