A few semi-connected, context-related musings will begin tonight and continue for two more days.
The historical context of Paul and Silas (Acts 16)
A. The python spirit of 16:16 is a curiosity that has been obscured by most English versions. Many agree that the allusion is more specific than to a random sort of “foretelling” or “divination.” A writer for Charisma Magazine goes way (way!) too far into the current day, so no convenience link is provided here, but there was quite a tradition out at the Oracle at Delphi, Greece. It was related to Apollo and priestesses who were thought to advise visitors, including dignitaries, through a “pythian” or “python” spirit. See next post for observations about a couple of related literary elements. Spoiler alert: I don’t think Paul was merely “annoyed” or “irritated” on a personal level.
B. A military history and presence likely pervaded in Philippi. The word στρατηγοῖς | strategois is used several times to refer to the authorities as this story unfolds. This word is relatively rare, is used for the captain of the temple in Acts 4 and 5, and is at least etymologically connected to the word for “soldier,” although presumably it has different connotations. Many retiring Roman soldiers populated the city.
C. An earthquake occurred (16:26), and Luke’s portrayal of this one may hint at the supernatural; on the other hand, earthquakes are known to have occurred naturally and regularly throughout the region.
D. I learned from reading . . .
- that inscriptions in Latin have been found at roughly double the rate of other cities–strengthening the perception that this was a uniquely Roman colony-city
- that Philippi was famous for its school of medicine (further, there is some suspicion that it might have been Luke’s hometown)
Next: a few items from the literary context of Acts 16