Roman Jew Series: Volume 4
PROFESSIONS OF FAITH
Summer has passed and it seems the chill in the fall air summons me to push pen to paper. This exercise in the study of Saul of Tarsus the self proclaimed “Roman Jew” has yielded many credible explanations for terms in the Bible which were unclear after attending Christian church for years.
In the third volume of this study, we explored what Jesus of Nazareth called himself “the son of man”. This work will focus on the origins of Saul’s renaming to Paul, and of course along the way we will elaborate on interesting historical tid bits found in the new testament.
Acts 13:1 says, ” Now they were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene and Manaen who was brought up with Herod the Tetrarch and Saul.”
A man brought up with Herod the Tetrarch more often called “Antipas” was considered a prophet or teacher?
Luke 13:31 says, “Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to him, ‘Go away, leave here, for Herod (Antipas) wants to kill you.'” “He said to them, ‘Go tell that fox, behold I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach my goal.'” Calling Herod Antipas a fox may be akin to calling him sly in modern American slang. Jesus was more likely calling him an unclean animal (refer to Leviticus 11) which would have been a considerable insult even for a “half” Jew like Antipas.
There is little known of Jesus in his early years outside of friend and foe referring to him as “the Nazarean” and the brief reference in Mark 6:3 referring to him as a Tekton (woodworker or builder). I have read that the Romans used the word Tekton as slang describing any uneducated peasant.
Nazareth, was a small hamlet in the Galilee located very close (walking distance) to the regional capitol Sepphoris.
In 4 B.C. with Herod the Great dead, a zealous band of Jewish warriors lead by Judas the Galilean broke into the armory in Sepphoris. Now well armed, launched a guerrilla war across the Galilee! Like all the rest Judas was captured, and murdered by Roman forces. As retribution for allowing Judas to empty the armory, Sepphoris was burned to the ground. Jesus of Nazareth was likely born during the rampage of Judas the Galilean and may have been around 10 years old when the Romans captured Judas, crucified his followers and leveled Sepphoris. At this time, Augustus divided rulership among the sons of Herod the Great. Herod Antipas would initiate an extravagant building campaign to include Sepphoris and later Tiberias. Every Tekton in the region would have poured into Sepphoris to take part in largest restoration project of the time.
One can be fairly certain that Jesus and his brothers living a short distance away in Nazareth would have been among them. I can imagine that Jesus may have set eyes on “the fox” who lived in Sepphoris until 20 A.D.. The same man who would cut off the head of his closest friend John the Baptist and play a role in the demise of the charismatic Tekton from Nazareth.
It could be that Jesus of Nazareth helped build an elegant home for Manaen. A home that he would likely be unwelcome.
In Acts 13, we find Barnabas, Saul and John Mark in Cyprus “proclaiming the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.” Acts 13:6 says, “when they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar Jesus (Son of Jesus), who was with proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence.”
This “Jewish Magician” opposed Saul’s teachings, and was seriously reprimanded by the “Roman Jew” from Tarsus. Acts 13:10 says, “You are full of deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” “Now , behold, the hand of the Lord upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” “And immediately a mist, and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.”
Sergius Paulus “a man of intelligence” converted after witnessing Saul cast his spell on the Jewish devil.
At this point in Acts, Luke(a gentile convert) renames Saul as Paul. John Mark and later Barnabas abandon him.
Unfortunately, this is not the last time the Jewish people are cast as devils. It seems that this “mist” would turn to a cold wet blanket smothering the Jews in the centuries to come.
Galatians 1:9 says, “If any man is preaching to you a Gospel other than what you have received (from me), he is to be accursed.”