When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. Now the temple of Zeus was located just outside the town. So the priest of the temple and the crowd brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates, and they prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In the past He permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but He never left them without evidence of Himself and His goodness. For instance, He sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.Acts 14:11-18
Two of you have written to ask how you start to look at the reaction of Paul and Barnabas to the Lystrans calling them gods. Simply read the passage through a number of times and let the situation soak in. I am sure when you do that you will come up with questions or aspects of the story which puzzle you. Note them down and see if you can come up with answers or responses which help you get into the text of what Luke has written for us at a deeper level. Let the text of what Luke wrote guide you in terms of the aspects you need to focus on.
These are the questions before us so far related to the above passage:
- How did the Lord prove their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders? Why doesn’t Luke tell us what happened?
- Zeus is famous but I haven’t heard much about Hermes.
- Why didn’t Paul and Barnabas use the people’s thought that they were Gods for their benefit?
- “They tore their clothing in dismay and ran out amongst the people…” that must have been quite a scene. Was this form of behaviour normal and is it still in present day times?
- The respond of the crowd is confusing: if they really think that Paul and Barnabas were gods and they tell them not to sacrifice, why did they still do it?
- Here are some more questions which came to me:
- Why did the crowd automatically assume Paul and Barnabas were gods in human form?
- Why did they assume they were the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes?
- Why did they think Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes? I would have thought it would have been the other way around.
- Why would the people want to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas? What had they done to deserve that?
- What language did Paul and Barnabas use to speak to the crowd? Did Paul and Barnabas know the local dialect of Lycaonian?
- Why do some translations of Acts 14:14 have “when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening. . .”
- and others have “when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of what was happening . . .”
- Was what Paul and Barnabas did successful in stopping the crowd’s reaction or not?
I will give you the chance to get your teeth into some serious detective work on this passage before us and in response to the questions that many of you have asked. Enjoy the opportunity to wrestle with the above text and reflect on it in the context of the readers’ questions I have compiled. Take time out to reflect on the Coming of the Son of Man when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Are you aware that He still dwells among us by His Spirit?Ian Vail
That is the prime reason why you can read this book with the Author present.Ian Vail
Try it! Ask the One who created the heavens and the earth with the power of His Word to interpret the words for you.Ian Vail
Just make sure you take the time to listen for His response.Ian Vail