I have joined a Men’s Bible Study at my parish. We meet once a week and tackle one chapter each week led by a volunteer from among our sub-community. This coming week we will tackle Acts 25 and, having never learned from my Navy days (NAVY being a backronym for “Never Again Volunteer Yourself”), I volunteered. I’m no theologian so please take my observations with a grain of salt. Also, if anything I say is contrary to Church teaching, please let me know ASAP so I can correct it.
Many of us will recognize this reading if you attend Mass on May 17, 2013 (Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter), as the first reading in the Lectionary comes from that chapter. The Chapter is available to read here.
Before I begin my observations, I like to begin in prayer asking for God’s wisdom to fill me so I am free of error:
O Creator of the universe,
who has set the stars in the heavens
and causes the sun to rise and set,
shed the light of your wisdom into the darkness of my mind.
Fill my thoughts with the loving knowledge of you,
that I may bring your light to others.
Just as you can make even babies speak your truth,
instruct my tongue and guide my pen
to convey the wonderful glory of the gospel.
Make my intellect sharp,
my memory clear,
and my words eloquent,
so that I may faithfully interpret the mysteries which you have revealed.
The first reading on Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter (May 17, 2013) is taken from Acts 25.
Unlike Pontius Pilate—who was a prefect—Porcius Festus was the procurator of the Roman Province of Judea. Procurators were civilian, while prefects were military. “prefects had had a considerable influence on the appointment of the high priest; under the procurators, the high priest was appointed by a Jewish prince named Marcus Julius Agrippa.””
At the beginning of Acts 25, Porcius Festus was new to his position, having just replaced Felix. He visited Jerusalem “to be inaugurated”. One of his two homes is in Jerusalem, the other being in Ceaserea, the capital of the Province. Politically, it seems like he had a need to “appease” to various political factions, or at least appeal to them, including to the Jews. He was a supporter of King Agrippa, even supporting “Agrippa II in a dispute with the temple priests.”
King Agrippa II and Bernice
King Agrippa II was the grandson of King Herod the Great, who was the last king to rule Judea (subordinate to Rome). Agrippa grew up in the court of Rome, so his playmates were future Caesars and senators including ”later emperors Caligula and Claudius.” He developed an affinity for Rome, which is evident in his allegiance when the Jews rebel later in his rule and Agrippa sided with the Romans. Initially he used his position to benefit the Jews but it appears he felt a greater kinship with Rome.
Observation: His education in the court of Rome appears to parallel similar programs in the U.S. that allow allies to enroll their top students in the service academies of the U.S. in order to develop relationships with developing leaders with hopes of strengthening alliances.
“Though Claudius made him administrator of the temple in Jerusalem, Agrippa himself was not a religious Jew & created scandal among Jewish subjects by continuing his incestuous relationship with another sister, Berenice.”
Iudaea was not a Senatorial province, nor exactly an Imperial province, but instead was a “satellite of Syria” governed by a prefect who was a knight of the equestrian order (as was Roman Egypt), not a former consul or praetor of senatorial rank.
Judea was not a significant source of revenue but instead was significant because of its location on the crossroads of commerce.
Read Acts 25
Post Reading Observations
Paul seems to be using a technicality, his Roman citizenship, to avoid persecution by the Jews. He demanded audience before the emperor in Rome, as is his right as a citizen, instead of going to Jerusalem to appear before the Jews. But while in the modern usage, the use of a “technicality” is often perceived as a way to “game the system” and avoid prosecution or get off the hook, Paul seems to actually use this technicality to spread the Word to Rome, as God told him would happen in Acts 23:11: “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”
How can we use “technicalities” to help us to evangelize?
- Abortion. If it’s really killing (which it is), what are the advantages and dangers of using tangential facts to fight abortion?
- If we argue the current abortion techniques and abortifacients are “unsafe”, do we lose perceived legitimacy if a “safe” form is developed?
- If we place great emphasis on Gosnell-type clinics, do we lose ground when arguing against “clinics” that adhere to all safety regulations?
- What ground do we lose by failing to address the redefinition of “conception” from “fertilization” to “implantation”
- Contraception. If we focus on efficacy of NFP instead of it rightness, do we lose apparent authority if another method or technology is developed that is contrary to Church teaching?
King Agrippa wanted to hear Paul out of curiosity.
- Did God use this curiosity to spread the Word?
- Who was in the court to hear Paul’s recitation? (“Agrippa and Bernice came with great ceremony and entered the audience hall in the company of cohort commanders and the prominent men of the city”)
- Parallel: recombinant engineering of e coli to create vaccines
- Do we use curiosity of others to help evangelize?
- How do we pique others’ curiosity? Crucifix at work?
Parallels to Christ’s accusation unjustly accused. We, like Paul and Jesus are targets of the evil one and his earthly minions when we put on Christ.