Friday, July 29, 2011

The Original Mary and Rhoda

In which city did Rhoda live? Jerusalem (Acts 12:13)

In 44 CE, Herod Agrippa I (10 BCE-44 CE) targeted the nascent Christian movement. He had the apostle James beheaded and Peter arrested (Acts 12:2-3). This barrage represented a crisis to the early Christians and they began to pray (12:5). On the night of his arraignment, an angel busted Peter out amidst heavy security (Acts 12:6-11). Free, Peter made his way to a safe house in Jerusalem owned by Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12). He was stopped at the door by Rhoda, who recognized his voice, announced him, but in her excitement failed to admit him (Acts 12:13-14). Ironically, Peter, who is often pictured as the doorkeeper to heaven, is prevented from entering by a gatekeeper. Finding the news too good to be true, the contingent of believers assembled do not believe Rhoda’s story, but that it her story and she sticks to it (Acts 12:15).

Have you ever known you were right when seemingly everyone assumed you were wrong? Did you waiver?

Rhoda and Mary were the names of two best friends featured on the iconic television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) played by Valerie Harper and Mary Tyler Moore respectively (pictured). Much like a Jewish home owner and Gentile servant, the two characters in the program are very different from one another. Many of the scenes involving Rhoda also feature the faceless expressionless voice of Carlton the doorman who presents Rhoda with decisions as to who to let up to her apartment. It is unknown if the characters’ names were influenced by the Biblical text.

The jail break marks the only time Rhoda appears in the Bible (Acts 12:13). Her name is Gentile in origin and means “Rose” or “woman from Rhodes”. She is described as a paidiske. This word means “young girl” or “maid servant” which is reflected in most translations: “maid” (ASV, NRSV, RSV), “servant girl” (ESV, NASB, NLT), “servant” (CEV, HCSB, NIV), “damsel” (KJV), “girl” (NKJV),“young woman” (MSG). Rhoda is the only paidiske named in the New Testament.

Rhoda is the first to receive the good news of Peter’s freedom. Her fellow Christians seem shocked that their prayer has actually been answered. Are you ever surprised when your prayers are answered?

The story bares many striking resemblances to another instance in Peter’s life - the night he denied Christ in the high priest’s courtyard (Matthew 26:69-76; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:56-62; John 18:17-18, 25-27). In each story, Peter is attempting to hide from someone but is recognized by his voice, not his appearance (Matthew 26:73; Acts 12:13). In both instances, he is identified by a servant girl (the same word, paidiske, Matthew 26:69; Mark 14:66, 69; Luke 22:56; John 18:17; Acts 12:13). In each case, the girl consistently confirms her identification in the face of opposition from a disciple or disciples. In fact, the word used for “insist”, diischurizomai, only occurs only in Luke-Acts and only in relation to these two stories (Luke 22:59; Acts 12:15).

Have you ever experienced déjà vu? Compare and contrast the two stories in Peter’s life. What point, if any, is Luke trying to make by using such similar vocabulary? What progress has been made in Peter’s life from one instance to the next?

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