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
Did other people have the Jewish books and not just the Jews themselves? (Cynthia)
I said that I would return to this matter in a later Gems. Yes Cynthia, the Jewish books had been translated into Greek via the Septuagint (LXX). Greek was the lingua franca of the day – the language of trade and commerce. So it is for sure that other people had the Jewish books. The quote that we have above is from Isaiah 53:7-8. The quote of Isaiah 53:7-8 comes from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Many parts of the translation were hard to understand. No wonder the Ethiopian needed help to understand it. We do too. Take a look at the text from Isaiah that the Ethiopian court official was reading.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. [KJV]
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? [NASB]
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. Unjustly condemned, He was led away. No one cared that He died without descendants, that His life was cut short in midstream. But He was struck down for the rebellion of My people. [NLT]
He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off — and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. [MSG]
He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly; he never said a word. Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, like a sheep about to be sheared, he never said a word. He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about his fate. He was put to death for the sins of our people. [GNB]
He was treated badly, but he never protested. He said nothing, like a lamb being led away to be killed. He was like a sheep that makes no sound as its wool is being cut off. He never opened his mouth to defend himself. He was taken away by force and judged unfairly. The people of his time did not even notice that he was killed. But he was put to death for the sins of his people. [ERV]
- Why have I given you all of these versions s the background to Peter’s questions?
- 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. What is going on here Ian? (Peter)
- Who now can count his kin (MSG).
- And who will recount His generation? (LITV)
Yes, this segment is very difficult to understand, especially in the Septuagint. It is like it was a hard section to translate for those who translated the LXX. That confusion or difficulty of translation comes down through the other versions as well. Peter, you have picked up on that difficulty that you have noticed in the versions. There are several of them.
Humility or humiliation: What is in focus here? Is it Humility or humiliation? Is humiliation in focus here or is it humility? The humiliation of what Jesus experienced or His humility in the process? It is hard to tell which is being referred to. It is likely to be both but it complicates the meaning.
Justice was denied Him: What is in focus here? The meaning of this is cloudy in Hebrew as well as in Greek. The Greek has a literal translation which is actually incomprehensible. The meaning swings between “His punishment was ended” or “justice was ended or denied him”.
Who can describe His generation: what does this mean? It either means who can tell of the wickedness of his generation or contemporaries or it means who can tell of his posterity, his seed, his children. This sense is of course complicated by the fact that it is likely his spiritual seed which is in focus. I.e. Those who will believe in him and become his children by faith. That results in a number of possible interpretations. Hence, the variations in the translations attempting to make the meaning of this clear when it is cloudy in the original.
That is the essence of the problem in terms of the parts of the text we have before us. I am not going to pretend and lie to myself nor am I going to con you by suggesting I have it all sorted out. However there is a higher level of understanding to all of this. It is not just a case of knowing the meaning of the line quoted but knowing the passage around it and therefore the context of the line quoted. Notice again the focus of Peter’s question and the Treasurer’s response. (Yes I know it says eunuch but as I said, I feel the fact that he was the Treasurer for the Queen, is more important than that he had been castrated).
- Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
- The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?”
- Then 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.
It is clear that Philip focused on the big picture of Isaiah 53 and not the problematic phrases we focused on above. Philip explained everything in a similar way to how Jesus explained things to the two on the road to Emmaus.
What is remarkable about Isaiah 53 is that it seems to run counter to all that the Jews were expecting of their Messiah. In fact the Jews today don’t like to read this chapter because it doesn’t fit with Messiah the son of David – the all conquering King. It fits more with the example of Messiah the son of Joseph – the suffering servant. Modern day Jews refuse to read these words, even more because they are aware Christians apply them to Jesus, whom they rejected. When you look at Isaiah 53 in the overall context, it is clearly pointing to Jesus’ First Coming and His suffering for us, in order to redeem us. As horrific as what He experienced was, it bought our pardon in the eyes of God. There is a higher purpose at work here. This chapter is predicting the work of Christ on the cross for us. This was written by Isaiah around 730 BC, c 760 years before the events of the Cross. We don’t know what Philip told the Treasurer but we know he began with this quote from Isaiah and explained to him that Isaiah was not talking about himself but speaking about the One Who would come 760+ years later to redeem us. He very clearly linked these words of Isaiah with the happenings in Jerusalem, which no doubt the Treasurer heard about when he went to worship there. Just like Jesus, Philip apparently then explained things to this Treasurer in a similar way to how Jesus explained the events to Cleopas and his mate.
You should believe everything the prophets said. The prophets said the Messiah must suffer these things before he begins his time of glory.” Then he began to explain everything that had been written about himself in the Scriptures. He started with the books of Moses and then he talked about what the prophets had said about him.Luke 24:25-27
Philip would not have told him what I am about to tell you now because he would not have known about it, although Kabbalistic Jews have said for centuries that there are secrets hidden in the Torah in equidistant letter sequences (ELS). It has been found in this computer age that there are forty names hidden behind the text of Isaiah 53 in ELS of 49 letter intervals. The names include all of the disciples including Mattias. But also in the list are Ananias and Caiaphas, the ex-high priest and current one at the time of Jesus crucifixion. It seems likely that these names represent all those who were present at the cross at the time Jesus died. That is astounding, that hidden in the very text depicting Jesus suffering, are all those who would be present approximately 760 years later. It may be unbelievable to us but it doesn’t phase God one iota. However as I said above, I don’t believe Philip would have told the Treasurer that little snippet because I don’t think he would have known about it back then.
What Philip did however, was to connect the dots for the Treasurer between the Resurrected Jesus and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. “This Jesus you hear talk of, my dear Treasurer, is none other than the predicted Messiah. Oh yes, we Jews have been waiting for the Messiah’s Coming and He did indeed come but it seems there are two Comings. He has gone away now having paid for your wrong doings but He will come again to take you into the Life of the Age to come later.”
As I told you at the end of the last Gems, He has you as His witness! That is what the Book of Acts is all about – the spreading of the Good News related to The Messiah who has come and will come again. You are a part of the process to be His witnesses in taking the message from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. The ball is now in your court.
I am fully aware that I haven’t answered your questions Peter:
- Why is Act 8:37 in 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.”]
- Why is the verse missing in some Bibles?
- Why is it italicised in the version you gave us?
I will handle these in the next Gem. But at least you know something of what Philip and the Ethiopian talked about, although only at the surface level. Neither have we addressed the issue of Baptism which I will also address before we move on.
I lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned – Daniel 4:34. For that is where reason comes from. Looking there is where it starts.John Piper
A true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.Cullen Hightower
If the Great Commission is true, our plans are not too big, they are too small.Pat Morley
This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.Jesus