The Scripture for today is Acts 6:1-7
1. In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
This marks a change in the scenario the author has painted in the previous five chapters. Till now the church has been portrayed as harmoniously united. At the first sign of any trouble, such as a rich man and his wife lying about how much of their wealth they are giving to the community, the apostles will have them struck dead on the spot. Miracles like these created so much excitement that multitudes more rushed to join up with such an idyllic group.
Effectively on the basis of the criterion of embarrassment it is therefore sometimes concluded that the author of Acts “cannot simply have invented the scene in Acts 6:1-7”. The scene is said to “conflict with his special purpose.” (Schmithals, Paul and James, p. 16) Not so. Luke’s purpose is to write an origin tale to show how certain things came to be the way they were in his own day and how the “true faith” — even/especially that said to be taught by Paul — was founded on the “perfect” foundation of Jesus and the original Jerusalem church led by the apostles. Some such episode had to be found as surely as the author of Genesis had to introduce the tempting serpent and “fall” of Adam and Eve to get the story rolling.
But let’s accept an author of Acts who is working with material, tradition, whatever, that obliges him to write Acts 6:1-7. What might this passage mean? Continue reading “The Hellenistic-Hebrew division in the Jerusalem church – 1”