essentials of this particular sermon because of its importance: for the first time St. Paul addressed both Jews and Gentiles together as ‘brethren’ without distinction or apology. After their expulsion from this Colonia Antiocheia, St. Paul and St. Barnabas proceeded on to evangelise Iconium. Here they stayed for a ‘considerable time’, the winter of 46/47.* 21
In 47 the missionary party founded churches in two towns on the Lycaonian plain: Lystra and then Derbe. Lystra was the home town of St. Timothy. At Lystra, after his healing of a cripple had caused him and St. Barnabas to be taken for the gods Mercury and Jupiter, St. Paul was nearly killed by stoning. After being ‘dragged out of the town and left for dead’ however, he regained consciousness and, on the following day, left for Derbe. In Derbe they ‘taught many’ and St. Paul stayed to recuperate over the winter of 47/48.* 22
In 48, St. Paul and St. Barnabas returned to complete the establishment of their new ‘Galatian’ churches. Thus ‘in each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting entrusted them to the Lord.’ (This ‘prayer and fasting’ makes it clear that these were more than mere administrative arrangements. These were sacramental acts for conferring priestly powers.) Used in preference to the normal pagan Greek word for ‘priest’ (hiereos) this title of elder was borrowed from the synagogue. These elders (‘presbyteroi’) were naturally ‘supervisors’ (‘episcopoi’) over their churches. While the Jewish term emphasised their priestly dignity, the Greek term emphasised their protective duty. Later in 58 we will glimpse St. Paul at Miletus exhorting his ‘elders’ from Ephesus to ‘be on your guard…over all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the supervisors, to feed the church.’ Later still, in 65, St. Paul will instruct St. Titus in Crete to ‘appoint elders in every town’; he then lists the criteria for the choice of each elder ‘since as a supervisor he will be God’s representative’. 23
In the autumn of 48, after ordaining priests for each of their four new Galatian churches, the missionaries returned south to Perge and the port of Attalia and thence by sea to Antioch. In 49 however St. Paul in Antioch received news that his Galatian churches had been plunged into crisis by visiting ‘Judaisers’. A Judaiser was a Jewish Christian who taught that all baptised Christians, ex-pagans included, were bound to observe all the prescriptions of the full Mosaic Law, including circumcision. Failing this, they wanted all ex-Gentile Christians to be kept in a second class status similar to that of the proselytes or ‘God-fearers’ in the synagogues. They would have kept the newly born Church as a Jewish sect. Had these Judaisers come armed with St. Matthew’s Gospel newly translated into Greek? Such verses as our Lord’s words in 5:17-19 would surely have made their arguments most formidable.
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...