Witness Despite Differences (April 14)

Acts 8:26-40

Comment


Good News to the Least of These

Philip demonstrates that the Good News is for all people, even the outcast, lowly and despised. After proclaiming the Good News to the Samaritans (Acts 8:25) Philip is sent to the Ethiopian Eunuch. On the racial purity scale neither Samaritans nor Eunuchs were even on the chart and were not allowed to marry any other Israelites (Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969, p. 272). One listing ranks them this way:

(a)
1. Priests
2. Levites
3. Israelites (full)
(b)
4. Proselytes
5. Freedmen
(c)
6. Illegitimate children of priests
7. Temple slaves
8. Bastards
___________
9. Eunuchs

The Ethiopian Eunuch was, of course, not an Israelite and Samaritan’s were considered of mixed and impure descent.

Jeremias had this to say about Eunuchs and Samaritans: “To sum up, it must be said that bastards [original language used] and eunuchs were included among those Israelites with grave racial blemish.  Rabbinic legislation, appealing to Deut. 23:2-3, was ever watchful to keep the community, and the clergy in particular, apart from these elements by marking them as a caste outside the law” (p. 344). The Ethopian Eunuch was a Gentile and thus would have been even farther off the scale.

Of Samaritans, he writes, “Descending to the lowest degree of the scale, we come to the Samaritans . . . . the Jewish attitude to the Samaritans was very much the same as their attitude to Gentiles. They ‘have no law nor even the remains of law; therefore they are contemptible and corrupt’ (j. Pes. i. 1, 27b.51) declares R. Simeon b Johai (c. AD 150) (pp. 352, 358).

Reading the Scripture

Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:

•    Video:
o    The Book of Acts: The Visual Bible (Dramatized video movie, word for word from the NIV text. Available from Keith or the web page).
o    WatchWord Bible, New Testament on DVD is available in the library. (These videos display and read the text in Contemporary English Version with background pictures, video and sound. Not exactly dramatized or all that exciting, but could be another way to read the text.)

•    Audio:
o    The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o    Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the library and the church office.)

•    Cotton Patch Gospel Version (In Keith’s office). Excerpt: “So the spirit said to Phil, ‘Flag that bus!’ So he flagged it and got on and saw the man reading from Isaiah. Phil asked him, ‘Does what you’re reading make sense?’ The man replied ‘How can I make heads or tails of it when there’s no one to explain it to me?’ “ (p. 103).

Teaching Suggestions

•    Our Church’s Witness to the World - Ministry Focus (Note: Today is Women’s Day). Please say to your class, “Your gifts to the church budget and to the Glocal Missions Offering helps support these ministries.”:
o    Share about our partnership with the Nada Baptist Mission and the work of Paula Settle using information from the Glocal Missions Offering brochure and from our website (/labc-glocal-ministries/). You might focus on the jewelry making ministry of the GORGEous Gals of Nada (See: http://cbfportal.wordpress.com/2008/12/09/reflections-from-appalachia-part-2/ ). Note: Paula will be sharing with us in worship today.
o    Share about the work Women’s Missionary Union of Kentucky using information from the Glocal Missions Offering brochure and from our website (/labc-glocal-ministries/)
o    Share about the work of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Central Kentucky using information from the Glocal Missions Offering brochure and from our website (http://www.lexingtonavenue.org/labc-glocal-ministries/)
o    Or choose one of our Glocal Ministry groups of special interest to your class.

•    Missions Video: Show a video about the Partners for Hope ministry to the twenty poorest counties in the United States including Nada and Owsley County (on our web site: /sunday-school-supplements/).

•    Maps: Show the locations mentioned in this passage, Jerusalem to Gaza, Ethiopia, Azotus, and Caesarea.
o    “Philip Speaks to the Ethiopian Eunuch on the Road to Gaza,” A Visual Guide to Bible Events (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009) p. 222-223. (Article and a map with the road from Jerusalem to Gaza Marked)
o    “Philip’s Travels,” Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996) p. 339.
o    Oxford Bible Atlas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007): Jerusalem to Gaza, Azotus, Caesarea, pp. 150-151; Ethiopia, p. 110
o    Atlas of Bible Lands (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1977): “Journey of the Apostles,” Jerusalem to Gaza, Azotus, Caesarea, B-31; Ethiopia, B-20
o    Aerial Atlas of the Holy Land (John Bowker, Photography by Sonia Halliday and Bryan Knox, Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books, 2008): “Gaza and the Philistines,” pp. 200-205; “Ashdod (Azotus),” pp. 210-211.
o    Bible Map Guide (Common English Bible, 2011), Map 17.

•    Ethiopian Eunuch: Frederick Buechner’s story about the Ethiopian Eunuch, in Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who (New York: Harper and Row, 1979, pp. 32-33), is available in my office. The story begins:
    “His name isn’t given but he was Secretary of the Treasury under Queen Candace of Ethiopia, and he had been to Jerusalem on a religious pilgrimage. It was on his way home that the high point to the trip occurred . . . .”

Resources

I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons. Other resources are kept in my office.

•    Maps/Atlases:
o    “Philip Speaks to the Ethiopian Eunuch on the Road to Gaza,” A Visual Guide to Bible Events (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009) p. 222-223. (Article and a map with the road from Jerusalem to Gaza Marked)
o    “Philip’s Travels,” Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996) p. 339.
o    Oxford Bible Atlas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007): Jerusalem to Gaza, Azotus, Caesarea, pp. 150-151; Ethiopia, p. 110
o    Atlas of Bible Lands (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1977): “Journey of the Apostles,” Jerusalem to Gaza, Azotus, Caesarea, B-31; Ethiopia, B-20
o    Aerial Atlas of the Holy Land (John Bowker, Photography by Sonia Halliday and Bryan Knox, Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books, 2008): “Gaza and the Philistines,” pp. 200-205; “Ashdod (Azotus),” pp. 210-211.
o    Bible Map Guide (Common English Bible, 2011), Map 17.

•    Commentaries in Keith’s office
o    Acts: The New American Commentary, Volume 26, John B. Polhill (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992).
o    Acts: The Gospel of the Spirit, Justo Gonzalez (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2001).
o    Acts, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, J. Bradley Chance (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007).
o    Journeying Through Acts: A Literary Cultural Reading, (Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997)

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)