Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Acts 20

 ESV Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

As you may recall, there was a "Second Passover", a month after the first, for those who could not, for reason of being ceremonially unclean (e.g. for having touched a corpse, etc), participate in the first one. You can read about this in Numbers 9:1-14.

Although the timing is somewhat off, the Acts 20:7 event could conceivably be this second Passover.

Luke and his contingent sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread (Acts 20:6). So they sailed at least one week after the first Passover. It took 5 days to each Troas; that's almost a second week. Then they spent seven days at Troas. That's a third week.

If Luke and his company waited an extra 10 days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread before setting sail, instead of leaving immediately after (maybe they wanted to visit another week, or they were having trouble getting on a ship, with all the hordes from the Feast week vying for tickets), that puts the Acts 20:7 meal right on the mark for the second Passover.

Granted, this is just speculation, but it's worth putting on the table for consideration.

Another thing about Acts 20:7, there's no indication whatsoever that they had not been meeting every day that week. There's no indication that they were, but there's no indication that they weren't. It would be more consistent with Paul's standard method of operating to meet daily with the locals. Otherwise the group has just wasted a week (even more for Paul, who had already been there a while - v. 5) waiting seven days for meeting-time.

Likewise, there's no indication that they had not been eating supper together every night that week. After all, people do eat pretty much every day.

If we were writing a brief account of one of our travels, we might write something like, "So we left Hickstown after the Parade Day, was on the road for five days, and got to Dingleville, where we stayed seven days, having a gospel meeting. The first day of the next week, when we had gathered for supper, expecting to leave the next morning, an amazing thing happened. Let me tell you about it."

There's no reason to conclude from this reading that the "gathering for supper" is anything special, or that it hadn't been done every night of the week.

Or, maybe it was a special supper, but not the Lord's Supper; maybe it was a going away supper for the visiting missionaries. Don't we do that sort of thing in our time?

Or maybe the local synagogue always met for supper after the close of the Sabbath assemblies; don't some of us often do that in our churches in our time?

I'm more inclined to think that Paul's crew had been meeting with the locals all week, and when the Sabbath rolled around, they met again in the synagogue, as was Paul's custom, and at the close of the Sabbath, after sundown marked the start of the first day of the week, everyone left the synagogue and met in their "fellowship hall" for a pot luck, just like we often do after Sunday morning assemblies. While the women were preparing the food (they wouldn't have prepared it on the Sabbath itself, both because of their cultural conditioning and so they wouldn't be offensive to the not-yet-converted Jews in their realm of influence), the men talked a long time (the women listening as best they could while cooking), and one of the young men fell asleep and fell out the window. After the excitement of that event, they all went back inside to the dining hall, where the women served the meal, and then the women cleaned up, later joining the men who were in deep discussion until daybreak. And if the Lord's Supper was conducted as a part of this meal (as Jesus had done in the original Lord's Supper, and as the Corinthians had been doing, but selfishly in that they were looking just to feed their own faces, and as probably referenced in Jude 1:12 as a "Love Feast", and as probably intimated in 2 Peter 2:13), it's probably the women who served the Lord's Supper to the congregation, unlike our modern practice where we exclude the women from being servers, because somehow we equate serving with leading or teaching or wresting authority from the men.

And if any of the travelers were meticulous about keeping the Law (which we know Paul was - v. 24 of the very next chapter), they would not be traveling on the Sabbath, which would add another reason for waiting until the first day of the week before having a final meal with everyone.

That's not even touching the meaning of "mia ton sabbaton" as idiomatically meaning "first day of the week" as opposed to the literal meaning of "first [or one] of the sabbaths". People a lot smarter in Greek than I am come done on both sides of the issue (even though most of the standard consensus writers claim it's an idiom meaning "first of the week").

In other words, there are a lot of gray, unanswered questions about this text, and for us to be dogmatic about any one of them is, in my estimation, unwise.

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