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.

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