Friday, June 10, 2011

Paul and Barnabas: Mistaken Identity

In which city did Paul and Barnabas receive oxen and flowers? Lystra (Acts 14:13)

When in Lystra, in modern day Turkey, missionaries Paul and Barnabas were mistaken for the Greek gods Hermes and Zeus respectively. The priests responded by bringing oxen (the Greek tauros could also be translated “bull” as evidenced by the CEV, NIV and the NLT) and wreaths in hopes of offering a sacrifice for the people. (Acts 14:8-20)

Paul and Barnabas refused the irregular gifts and corrected their theology. Besides, what would they have done with the oxen?

The fact that the people responded as they did is perhaps not surprising. In his legendary epic, Metamorphoses, the Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE-18 CE) relays a fable of a previous visit by Zeus and Hermes to the Phrygian region (also in modern day Turkey). The deities came in human form disguised as peasants and no one in the region demonstrated hospitality except the poor elderly couple, Baucis and Philemon. The duo were rewarded by being spared when the gods flooded the valley and destroyed its inhabitants. (Metamorphoses VIII. 616-724). The people of Lystra naturally wished to avoid the same fate.

While the people were misguided, they did look the in breaking of the divine in their daily lives. How do you recognize when God is involved in your life?

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