In this previous post, I speculated about whether Priscilla and Aquila were Jews or Christians or something in between when they were in Corinth (Acts 18). That was four months ago, and our class has “advanced” by only four chapters since then. I take the class’s slow pace as a generally positive sign, although tangents do occur because our teacher takes an inviting stance. At this juncture in the study, I have yet stronger perceptions of one of the key features of Acts: its display of the transitional history from a Jewish to a Christ-based system of belief and practice. In this regard, I think of Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18) and Apollos (18/19), the “Jerusalem conference” (Acts 15), and another, apparently mini-conference (Acts 21:17ff). Through out this collection of stories, transition was in progress.
The narrative progresses. At the end of Acts 21, Paul is bound by a prisoner’s chains and is brought before a Jewish mob. He speaks to these Jews, mounting his own defense in a rhetorically sound manner. What’s curious to me is the different cloaks he puts on at the beginning and end of this story.
Is Paul a Jew or not? A Christian? Is he Greek or Roman or what? The answer may be “yes, all of the above.” He is primarily a Christian, but he uses the other identifications and identities for his good purposes. First, he makes a point of speaking Greek, positioning himself as educated and perhaps a “man of the world.” To the Jews, he becomes a Jew, speaking Aramaic. At the end, he asserts his Roman citizenship. Will the real Paul please stand up? He’s not exactly in transition, but he does seem chameleonic in this story.
I also find curious the presentation of Ananias. He is clearly a Christian, both in Acts 9 and here. (He does not appear in the 2nd retelling in Acts 26.) There is no other way to understand his feelings and actions. What I notice here is that Ananias seems to be presented as a character in transition—neither Jew nor non-Jew. What do we know of his background? Please come back for Part 2 in a day or two.