Phillip in Gaza with the Ethiopian [16 verses]
After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. And they stopped in many Samaritan villages along the way to preach the Good News. As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.” Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of His descendants? For His life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” [“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.Acts 8:25-40
A number of you have responded with more questions, which is great. The more the merrier. As yet there have been no higher level questions on this chapter of Acts 8. We will come back to pick up on the big picture issues when we have finished this segment related to Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. It seems for now that most of you are focused on the matter in-hand and haven’t yet lifted your head to look toward the horizon to gain a reference point. That’s fine, although you have added a record number of questions. One person is still thinking about Simon and thinking what I wrote about him “being into himself” was a bit harsh. They thought perhaps he was hard done by and I overlooked the fact that he had asked for prayer from Peter, John and no doubt Philip so that the things that Peter said of him wouldn’t happen. Which probably also combines with a question from David relating to whether or not Simon repented of his sin. (I seem to have let that question fall between the cracks and didn’t pick up on it but I remember it in his list of queries.) Yes indeed, there are some issues there which I intend to pick up on after this current story. Thanks Linda for reminding me.
Some of my questions I didn’t need to include because you asked them for me already or at least raised the issues. This is a new record set for the number of questions on one short passage. There are only 16 verses and you have come up with 39 questions. That’s over two questions per verse. There are no questions that have taken me by surprise. They are all predictable. Some of them I would have dealt with anyway. Others I would have bypassed as not being important but now I guess I need to say something about them to keep you all happy. It made me laugh when I realised how many questions I am now faced with. I have been thinking that Gems 1500 would be a milestone Gems set on something that really was important – like higher level matters. But now it may well be spent discussing whether the Ethiopian was a homosexual or not. As David added to one of his questions – does it even matter?
Stephanie recently told me a family member had bought Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe’s Big Book of Bible Difficulties. She asked me if it was a good book. it is one I am not familiar with. It has just come out it seems. I have seen many other books like that. The sad thing is that often those sort of books answer the questions you don’t care about and don’t have anything to say on the issues that are important. Maybe that is what I will do with my retirement – I.e write a book called “The World’s First Book that Answers all Bible Difficulties”. But I think that would be impossible because I would miss some of the questions that you have and I didn’t realise were questions people would ask. To write such a book I would need your help and you have given me several chapters worth in your questions below. At least I know you are alive and well out there. Someone told me in Deeper Bible that in working on the task at hand they had ended up asking questions they didn’t know were questions. Yes indeed, that’s how it works. There is no end to the questions we could ask so I will not be writing such a book in my retirement. As the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote:
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else.Ecclesiastes 12:12
Here is the list of questions on this passage:
- Don’t you think you were a bit hard on Simon in what you wrote Ian? He did ask for prayer so what was said wouldn’t happen to him. That has to count for something. (Linda)
- Did Philip go back to Jerusalem with Peter and John and then later go to Gaza or did he go straight away? Ben
- Was Philip involved in talking with Simon as well or was it just Peter and John? Ben
- How did Philip know to go to Gaza?
- Did he have an idea he was going there to meet one person? Wasn’t that wasteful?
- Did Philip preach in other towns as well on the way there like Peter and John?
- What is a eunuch? Is it like a gay person? (Name withheld)
- Wouldn’t the treasurer of Ethiopia have had more people travelling with him Ian? (Yohanes)
- Does it matter where he was, on which road? Why is that detail included? (Stephanie) Good question Stephanie!
- Was the Ethiopian eunuch a Christian already but just needed some things explained to him?
- Was Philip surprised to see someone on the road? Did it happen suddenly? Why the word “Behold”? (Peter)
- How did Philip get his guidance?
- What actually happened to Philip that made him go to the new place? Ben
- How far was it between the two places? Ben
- Did Philip catch up to the chariot or was the chariot stopped? How could Philip keep up with the chariot?
- Why was the eunuch reading aloud if he was the only one there? (Peter)
- I looked up Candace and there were a lot of them. Which one was this one mentioned? (Gillian)
- It’s hard to know what details to look up and what details to ignore. Any advice Ian? (Gillian)
- What does “He was humiliated and received no justice” mean? (Peter)
- What is the meaning of “who shall declare his generation?” in verse 33. I looked it up in a number of versions as you told us to do and I was even more confused. (Peter)
- I found a baffling amount of variation between the versions, including: And who will recount His generation? (LITV) who now can count his kin (MSG). What is going on here Ian? (Peter)
- How did the question of baptism come up?
- What sort of things did they talk about?
- Why is Act 8:37in brackets and greyed out? [“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] (Peter)
- Why is the verse missing in some Bibles? Why is it italicised in the version you gave us? (Peter)
- Phillip himself had the Holy Spirit (proven by the miracles) why was Peter and John needed to call on the Holy Spirit for the people of Samaria? (Andre)
- Why do Peter and John come after Simon and then leave before Simon leaves? (Gillian)
- Why is it that Peter and John are often together (and James)? Is there a reason for that? (Gillian)
- Why do they stop in many Samaritan villages when Jews don’t like Samaritans? (Gillian) What is the background story for this eunuch, how come an Ethiopian went to Jerusalem to worship (as he is not a Jew)? (Andre)
- Why was an Ethiopian reading the book of Isaiah? (Cynthia)
- Did other people have the Jewish books and not just the Jews themselves? (Cynthia) Does Acts 8:39-40 mean Phillip literally gets teleported via the Holy Spirit? (Andre)
- What is meant by “the Holy Spirit said to Philip”? It seems those words mean that the Holy Spirit spoke like a human being to Philip. Is that right? (David)
- What is a eunuch? (Dewi)
- Why did the Ethiopian ask to be baptised when he saw the water? Did he know about baptism already? How? (David)
- Does God snatch other people away like he did to Philip? What does that mean? I don’t understand it. (Ron)
- Where is Azotus Ian? Ilooked for it in the atlas but I couldn’t find it. I want to see how far Philip went when he disappeared.
- Just a question on baptism: l noticed that the Eunuch asked to be baptised. I gather from this and other instances that baptism wasn’t something that the Christian church or even Jesus invented but was already familiar to Jews and surrounding cultures. Is that correct or am I just jumping to a conclusion? Kev
More important than the answers I give you are the questions I stir you to ask for yourself.Ian Vail
The quality of your life is set by the questions you ask yourself. The more honest & brave the questions, the further you’ll go.Rick Warren
Life is less a matter of getting the right answers and more a matter of asking the right questions.Anon
If we are searching & haven’t found the right answer … maybe it’s because we haven’t asked the right question.Jonny Herjawan
Better to ask a question and be a fool for 3 minutes, than not to ask a question and be a fool the rest of your life?Rick Godwin
If your encounters with God don’t leave you with more questions than what you started with then you have had an inferior encounter.Bill Johnson
Don’t twitter away your life! Go find the answer to some of Life’s questions.Ian Vail