SAINT PAUL THE MISSIONARY PART III
WE resume our re- consideration of
St Paul the Missionary Part III
THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY 53 - 58 A.D.( Paul is 48-52 years old as he begins.) Covers modern Syria, Turkey, Greece and Israel.
SILAS RETURNED to St. Peter. Timothy remained with Paul and they were joined by Luke’s brother Titus.
From Caesarea Paul returned to Antioch in Syria. He spent some time there during the winter months building up the church. Then he moved on again through the Phrygian region of Galatia strengthening the Faith of the churches he and his companions had previously visited. At Derbe they were joined by the disciple Gaius.
They travelled on to Ephesus. For three months Paul preached in the synagogue there, but the Jews in the main hardened their hearts against his teaching. So Paul and his companions withdrew from the synagogue and based their preaching and teaching efforts each day in the school of Tyrannus. They operated in this way with great effect for two years. Paul worked many miracles and exorcisms in this time by the power of God.
Numbers of others purported to perform exorcisms in Our Lord’s name. Among them were the seven sons of Skeva one of the Jewish chief priests. In the course of one of their efforts, the evil spirit addressed them. It acknowledged the Name of Jesus and even of Paul which they had used, but expressed contempt for them and violently attacked them forcing them to flee naked and wounded. News of the event spread widely through Ephesus. The Name of Jesus came to be treated with great reverence and those who had followed the black arts of sorcery came forward making a bonfire of their books and instruments and seeking conversion.
Paul decided to travel on through Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem and on to Rome. Pausing a little longer in Asia Minor, he sent Timothy and another disciple, Erastus, on into Macedonia. During this period there was a spectacular disturbance when the silversmiths of Ephesus, whose business relied on making images of the goddess Diana, stirred up a riot against Paul and his companions. The mob seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonian companions of Paul, and forced them to the theatre where the tumult grew with great confusion and lack of direction. Paul wanted to go to the theatre to address the mob but was dissuaded by the disciples who feared he would be killed. The Jews at the theatre pushed forward Alexander who tried to speak. But as soon as the mob found out he was a Jew, he was drowned out. For two hours the tumult went on aimlessly. Finally, the town clerk calmed the mob down, reminding them that if called to account for this disturbance of the peace, they could not do so. He convinced them to break up and, if they had any legitimate complaint to take it to court.
Paul then gathered the disciples to comfort and encourage them and set out on his journey to Macedonia with Titus, Gaius and Aristarchus.
Here, where the Church had been hounded by an enraged mob shouting “Great is Diana of Ephesus”, some 374 years later, the Council of Ephesus was to define the doctrine that Mary is the Mother of God. A man-made “goddess” had been forgotten and the honour of the Blessed Virgin became the focus of attention in Ephesus.
Having travelled through Macedonia, Paul and his companions went on to Greece where they spent 3 months preaching and teaching. Paul was preparing to sail for Syria when he learned of a plot by the Jews to murder him during the voyage. Rapidly changing his plans, he returned through Macedonia accompanied by Sopater of Beroea. Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius of Derbe and Timothy, together with Tychicus and Trophimus of the Asian church sailed on to Troas where they were re-united with Paul, Sopater and Luke. It was at Troas, whilst Paul was preaching for many hours, that the young man Eutychus, who had been sitting on the sill of a window dozed off and fell to his death in the street.. Paul miraculously brought him to life.
Paul moved on to Assos by land whereas the rest of the group travelled on by sea. Assos was an ancient city founded around 1,000 B.C. In 133 B.C. it was absorbed into the Roman Empire. Here Paul came aboard and they sailed on to Mitylene the capital of the island of Lesbos.
This group of representatives of the various churches which Paul led was travelling to Jerusalem with funds collected to aid the disciples there. Paul was eager to reach Jerusalem promptly, hoping to be in Jerusalem in time for the feast of Pentecost. It was for this reason that from Mitylene he asked the leaders of the Church of Ephesus to come to him on the coast, and there in most moving terms encouraged them and farewelled them forever, well aware of the continuing peril to his life.
They sailed on via Cos and Rhodes to Patara where they joined another ship sailing for Phoenicia and on to Syria where the vessel was busy discharging cargo and re-loading for a week. They spent this time in Tyre. This very ancient city was founded around 3,000 B.C., so that, even in Paul’s time it was truly ancient. It had been devastated by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. – its 30,000 inhabitants massacred or sold into slavery. In 64 B.C. the inevitable happened and, along with the rest of Syria, it came under Roman control.
Paul and his group stayed with the church in Tyre. Here disciples were moved by the Spirit to warn Paul against going to Jerusalem .Undismayed they sailed on in due course to Ptolemais and Caesarea where warnings and prophesy of danger to Paul in Jerusalem multiplied. Despite it all Paul would not be deterred – “the will of the Lord be done “ was his response..
After some days they set off for Jerusalem, accompanied by some of the brethren from Caesarea. They were joyfully welcomed in Jerusalem and stayed at the home of Mnason a Cypriot and one of the first converts in Jerusalem. The following day they called upon St. James the Bishop of Jerusalem and all of the presbyters had gathered to meet them and hear their account of all that God had done through them.
It is interesting to recall that it was on this visit, his first to Palestine, that St Luke gathered much of the information for his Gospel and Acts, including, for example, the encounter between St. Phillip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8)
The leading brethren in Jerusalem were concerned for Paul’s safety because many Jewish converts were still hostile toward Paul, principally over the circumcision issue .To make a public demonstration of his respect for the Law they encouraged Paul to accompany four men under a vow to the Temple to join in their purification rite and meet the cost of their head shaving.
The following day, taking their advice, Paul did just that. He repeated the action daily as the vow observances required, but nearing the seventh day, some Jews from Asia Minor saw him in the Temple. They quickly stirred up the crowd thronging the Temple for Pentecost time, accusing Paul of disrespect for the Law and the Temple. Further they accused him of bringing a Gentile into the Temple ( some had seen Paul and Trophimus in the city and assumed he had also brought him into the Temple). The commotion extended beyond the Temple precinct into the city. They dragged Paul out of the Temple seeking to kill him The Roman garrison was installed in the Antonia Fortress which was next to and higher than the Temple site, affording good supervision of what went on there. The Romans were on high alert during such religious festival times, when the population of the city swelled enormously and any number of factors could create major problems if not nipped in the bud. As a result the mob dragging Paul out of the Temple ran straight into the arms of the Roman detachment which had been turned out in the most efficient bit of “policing” recorded in the Gospels. The mob was quickly subdued and the Tribune had Paul secured in double chains mistaking him for an Egyptian trouble maker then being sought. He ordered that Paul be taken into the Fortress since the mob had again become rowdy and irrational.
Paul asks to speak to the Tribune - a Greek who had purchased his Roman Citizenship at high cost (Acts 22:28) The Tribune is surprised that Paul speaks Greek. Paul asks for permission to address the mob and the Tribune agrees. Paul is known to many of the leading Jews from his studies under Gamaliel and his pre-conversion persecution of the Church. He addresses them in Hebrew, the language used by their biblical scholars and he gains a hearing. He moves them beyond what they know of him, relating the story of his miraculous conversion, the vision of Our Lord during Paul’s visit to Jerusalem ( it seems he is speaking of the second visit after his conversion, not the first)commanding him to preach to the Gentiles.
At the mention of the Gentiles, the mob, which had listened quietly until then, burst out in a new clamour. The Tribune ordered Paul to be removed to the soldiers’ quarters and examined under the lash. As the Centurion moved to execute the order Paul asked if he had the right to scourge a Roman citizen who had been neither tried nor sentenced.
The assertion of his Roman Citizenship alarmed the Centurion who went directly to the Tribune to warn him of the problem. The Tribune came to question Paul on the point. Noting Paul’s simple attire, the Tribune comments that his own Roman Citizenship had cost him a great deal of money. Paul is quick to point out that he is a Roman citizen by birth.
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But seeing the obvious division between the Sadducees and the Pharisees on the Council, he states that he is being attacked because of his belief as a Pharisee in the resurrection of the dead. The assembly dissolved into a furious dispute between the two factions .The Tribune, fearing for Paul’s safety ordered his troops to protect him and return him in custody to their quarters
Copyright This article first appeared in the October 2008 issue of FOUNDATION.