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Volume 27 - Page 8 of 212 Index | Zoom | |
"It was an unheard of collection of jugglers, charlatans, pantomimists, magicians,
thaumaturgists, sorcerers, and priestly impostors; a city of races, of games, of dances, of
processions, of festivals, of bacchanalia, of unchecked luxury; all the extravagancies of
the East, the most unhealthy superstitions, the fanaticism of orgies. In turns, servile and
ungrateful, worthless and insolent, the Antiocheans were the finished model of those
crowds devoted to Cęsarism, without country, without nationality, without family
honour, without a name to preserve. The great Corso which traversed the city was like a
theatre, in which, all day long, rolled the waves of a population empty, frivolous, fickle,
turbulent, sometimes witty, absorbed in songs, parodies, pleasantries, and impertinences
of every description."
Let us retrace our steps a little in order to link up Paul's movements with this city of
In Acts 9: we find that on two occasions Paul's life was at stake, and that although
he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord at Jerusalem, he was persuaded to go back to his
home at Tarsus. On the surface and lacking further explanation, this circumstance might
lie open to question. Did Paul's courage give way? Did he too easily allow himself to be
persuaded to seek refuge in Tarsus? Would it not have been more to his credit if he had
braved the storm by continuing to witness at Jerusalem? All that we know of that ardent
soul leads us to suppose that he would have so stayed. Yet he retired into obscurity.
There is however full and legitimate explanation, though it does not come to light until
the twenty-second chapter of Acts is reached.
"And it came to pass that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in
the temple, I was in a trance: and saw Him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee
quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I
said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed
on Thee: and when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by,
and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And He said
unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles" (Acts 22: 17-21).
This is the Paul we know and love. At any cost he wished to remain in the place
where he had sought so hard to destroy the faith; but this might have savoured of more
heroics and the Lord had greater work for this chosen vessel; therefore, disregarding the
misunderstanding to which his action might lay him open, he returns to Tarsus, to abide
the call that he knows must surely come.
We learn that as a result of the persecution that arose about Stephen, many "traveled
as far as Phenice" (a harbour on the south of Crete), "And Cyprus" (an island on the East
coast of Cilicia in the Mediterranean), "and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto
the Jews only" (Acts 11: 19). Some of the men who traveled thus far, were men of
Cyrene, a city of Lybia, in North Africa, and these, when they came to Antioch, spake
unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus (Acts 11: 20). There is a difference of
opinion among experts as to the true reading here. The Received Text reads Hellenistes,
and means Greek-speaking Jews. The Revised Text reads Hellenes, Greeks, that is
uncircumcised Gentiles. It is almost impossible to decide which is the true reading. Let
us consider the alternative readings and their bearing on the narrative.