Friday, September 24, 2004

Lesson 2: When the Time was Ripe (Part 3)

Priscilla and Aquila

The Jewish Roman couple arriving in Corinth sometime around A.D. 50 were named Prisca and Aquila. Prisca was usually referred to by the diminutive form of her name, Priscilla.

They were leather workers and tent makers, and because scripture often lists Priscilla's name first, it is believed that she enjoyed a higher social status.

Aquila was not a Roman by birth. Scripture informs us that he was born in Pontus on the Black Sea coast of modern-day northern Turkey (Acts 18:2).

A reasonable but not bullet-proof case can be made that Priscilla and Aquila were followers of the aforementioned variant of Judaism, the variant that taught that the Messiah had come in the form of a man named Jesus; a new sect whose great teacher would shortly join them.

The evidence is that, unlike other prominent proselytes to this new school of thought, scripture makes no mention of the conversion of this couple, causing many to infer that they arrived in Corinth already converted.

The Roman historian Suetonius wrote that Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because they were rioting on account of someone named "Chrestus", suggestive that the disruptive rioting occurred between followers of this "new way", and traditional Jews.

How could Priscilla and Aquila have been converted in Rome? How were there followers of Jesus in Rome well before any visit from any of the sect's early leaders?

The answer comes from an event just after this Jesus was witnessed ascending into heaven, on the day of Pentecost, some 15-20 years earlier. A great crowd had gathered in Jerusalem, and many in the crowd were filled with the Spirit of God. Among those in attendance were visitors from Rome:
5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2:5-12)

It was probably these visitors who, upon returning from their pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the good news of Jesus, founded a group of converts that eventually (probably) included Priscilla and Aquila.

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