Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Twelve Apostles (Part 6): Philip

     Philip is always listed fifth among the apostles, and most of what we know about him comes from the Gospel of John. Even though Philip was a Galilean Jew, his name (Philippos), meaning “horse lover,” is a Greek name.1 The fact that Jesus “found Philip” (John 1:43) may suggest that the Lord was seeking him out. Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Peter and Andrew (v. 44). Not only was he one of Christ’s earliest disciples, he in turn directed Nathanael to the Lord (vv. 45-51).
     Having just returned from an intensive evangelistic campaign, Philip and his fellow-apostles were tired and needed to rest. But a demanding crowd had other plans (Mark 6:30-34). Jesus singled out and tested Philip, enquiring of him where bread might be purchased to feed these 5,000 hungry people (John 6:5-6). Philip replies, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little” (v. 7 NKJV). For the average manual laborer, a denarius was equivalent to one-day’s wages. Philip recognized, from his limited perspective, that even eight months’ wages would not be enough to feed such a large group. Yet from the divine perspective Philip and his companions needed to learn about the Lord’s compassion, power, and providence, although the development of their understanding and faith was a slow and gradual process (Mark 6:34, 52; 8:17-21; cf. John 12:16).
     On another occasion Philip was approached by certain Greeks who wanted to see Jesus (John 12:20). From an outsider’s viewpoint, evidently Philip, having a Greek name and having grown up in the culturally diverse region of Galilee, was approachable. Nevertheless, not being a lone spirit he recruits Andrew (another Galilean Jew with a Greek name) to serve as co-liaison (v. 22). This prompted Jesus to speak of his imminent atoning death, while also making statements about humility and sacrifice, service and discipleship, and the honor that is due the heavenly Father (vv. 23-28a). When the voice of affirmation responded from heaven, Philip would have been among those who heard it (vv. 28b-30).   
     In the hours leading up to Christ’s arrest, trials, and execution, it was Philip who made the request, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14:8).2 Philip’s statement led to an extensive response from Jesus concerning his deity, his divine authority, his divine power, his divine intercession, his divine teachings, and the sending of the divine Spirit of truth (vv. 9-21).
     It is traditionally believed that the apostle Philip, in the year 63, sent Joseph of Arimathea to Great Britain, where Joseph settled with other disciples at Glastonbury in Somersetshire and established the Lord’s church.3 Philip himself purportedly evangelized in Syria, Phrygia, and Greece before dying as a martyr (either by crucifixion or beheading) in the Greek city of Hierapolis.4
     Jesus had taken the initiative in calling Philip, and Philip did not hesitate to answer the call. Not only was he approachable as an advocate of the Lord, he reached out to others to help them connect with Christ and be involved in Christ’s service. And due to Philip’s prompting, we have access to some of Jesus’ most profound teachings.
     As the Lord continues to take the initiative (Acts 2:39; 2 Thess. 2:14), how am I responding? Am I fulfilling my God-given ministry as an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-20)? Am I approachable? Am I proactively reaching out? Am I committed enough to give my life totally to the Lord? Thank you, Philip, for providing such a worthy example to imitate.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Several ancient kings of Macedon were named Philip, including the father and the half-brother of Alexander the Great. On the multicultural environment of first-century Galilee, see The 12 Apostles (Part 1).
     2 There are only two occurrences of the word arkeō (“to be sufficient”) in John’s Gospel (6:7; 14:8), both attributed to Philip.
     3 See M’Clintock and Strong 4:1020. Around 208 Turtullian reported that Christ had 
followers on the far side of the Roman wall in Britain. He writes: “all the limits of the Spains, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and the haunts of the Britons, inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated to Christ” (adv. Judaeos 7.4).
     4 What is reported to be the tomb of Philip was discovered in 2011 in Hierapolis; see Biblical Archaeology Review 38:01 (Jan./Feb. 2012).

Related PostsThe 12 Apostles (Part 1)

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Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Twelve Apostles (Part 5): John of Zebedee

     The name John is translated from the Greek Iōan[n]ēs, from the Hebrew Yohanan or y’hohanan, meaning “Yahweh has favored.”1 Being a fairly common name in ancient Palestine,2 this study concerns John the son of Zebedee and Salome and younger brother of James (Matt. 4:21; 27:56; cf. Mark 15:40). He worked as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee with his father and brother, plus Simon [Peter] and Andrew and hired servants. One day as John was mending fishing nets in a boat on the shore, Jesus invited him to join his newly developing band of followers, and John dutifully complied (Matt. 4:18-2; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11).
     Boanērges, Aramaic for "sons of thunder," is the description Jesus applied to John and his older brother (Mark 3:17), presumably because of their explosive dispositions. They were easily angered and brash (Luke 9:54), not to mention pretentious and self-seeking (Mark 10:35-44). One might wonder why these two volatile individuals, along with the erratic Simon Peter, were allowed into Christ’s “inner circle” and afforded opportunities unavailable to anyone else (Mark 1:29-31; 5:37; 9:2; 13:3; 14:33). Perhaps it was due to the fact that they were especially flawed and thus required the Lord’s extra attention.3
     John was married and owned a house, and he was responsible and gracious enough to take in Jesus’ mother and siblings after the Lord’s death (John 19:25-27; 20:10; 1 Cor. 9:5; cf. Acts 1:13-14). He would go on to prove himself as a pillar in the Lord’s church (Gal. 2:9) and contribute five documents to the New Testament: a Gospel, three epistles, and the book of Revelation.5 His self-description as “the beloved disciple” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) may seem a bit arrogant from a modern, westernized perspective, but within the context of John’s particular life-setting it is seen as a humble and appreciative way of saying, “Christ loved even me.”
     John’s brother was brutally martyred (Acts 12:1-2), but that did not deter John from faithfully continuing his apostolic ministry. According to tradition he moved to Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia during the Jewish War of 66-70 and spent the remainder of his days in that area.5 His writings were said to be at the request of area congregations as a summary of his teachings to meet special needs prominent near the close of the first century.6 In his latter years he was banished to the Mediterranean isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9), a rugged, rocky island about 40 miles/24 kilometers southwest of Ephesus in the Aegean Sea, used by the Romans as a place of exile (cf. Pliny, Natural History 4.23).
     John’s ministry spanned an impressive seven decades. He reportedly lived into the reign of Trajan (98-117),7 and Jerome marks the apostle’s death at the year 98 (De vir. ill. 9). It is commonly believed that John is the only apostle to have died naturally of old age, although an alternative tradition (attributed to Papias of Hierapolis) claims that he was murdered by the Jews.
     John’s initial self-centeredness and ill temperament were no match for the transforming influence of Jesus Christ. John will always be affectionately remembered as the apostle of love.8 At the same time, his writings vigorously challenge anyone who misconstrues biblical love as a soft, permissive, or shallow ambiguity. The inspired words of the apostle of love are simple yet forthright, authoritative, absolute, and uncompromising. As one whom “Yahweh has favored,” we will do well to learn from John’s example and to diligently study and apply his perpetually-relevant teachings.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 It is possible that the name is also a variant form of Iōnas or Jonah (Heb. Yonah = dove/pigeon). Compare Matt. 16:17; John 1:42; 21:15-17.
     2 John Hyrcanus, John the baptizer, John the apostle, John Mark, an associate of the high priest (Acts 4:6), etc.
     3 See Christ's Inner Circle. John, James, and Peter are the only original apostles mentioned by name in the New Testament outside the Gospels and beyond Acts 1:13.
     4 The author of the Fourth Gospel was a Palestinian Jew (1:19-28; 4:9, 20; etc.), an eyewitness (1:14; 19:35; etc.), and one of the twelve (13:23; 18:15-16; 19:26-27; 20:2-9). The epistle of 1 John shares a number of striking similarities in theme, vocabulary, and syntax with John’s Gospel, and the other two epistles are linked to 1 John in vocabulary and theme. Revelation explicitly claims to be from John (1:1, 4, 9; 21:2; 22:8).
     5 See Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.31.3; 5.24.2; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.1.1.
     6 Sources include Clement of Alexandria (cf. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6.14), the Muratorian Canon, the Anti-Marcionite Porlogue, Jerome (Comm. Matt. Prol.), Epiphanius of Salamis (Adv. Haer. 41.12), Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.1.2), and Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. 3.1.1; 3.24).
     7 Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 2.22.5; 3.1.1; 3.3.4; Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.23.3.
     8 Cf. John 5:43; 8:42; 10:17; 13:34-35; 14:15, 21, 23, 31; 15:9, 10, 12, 13, 17, 19; 17:26; 21:15-17; 1 John 2:5, 15; 3:1, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, 23; 4:7-12, 16-21; 5:2-3; 2 John 1, 3, 5, 6; 3 John 1.

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Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Twelve Apostles (Part 4): James of Zebedee

     The name James is translated from Iakōbos, which is the Graecized form of "Jacob."1 While multiple individuals in the New Testament wore this name, the present study concerns the son of Zebedee and Salome and older brother of John (Matt. 4:21; 27:56; cf. Mark 15:40). James was a Galilean fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, laboring with his father and brother, along with Simon [Peter] and Andrew and hired servants. He was summoned by Christ while mending nets in a fishing boat and did not hesitate to forsake all to follow the Lord (Matt. 4:18-2; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11).
     Jesus gave the nickname Boanērges, Aramaic for "sons of thunder,” to James and his brother (Mark 3:17), presumably due to their fiery temperaments. They were impatient, intolerant, and quick to judge, wanting to call down fire from heaven on an inhospitable Samaritan village (Luke 9:54). They were also prideful and self-seeking, desiring superior positions in the Lord’s kingdom (Mark 10:35-44) and using their mother to make the request (Matt. 20:20-28). If anyone needed the longsuffering and guidance of the Lord, these brothers certainly did!
     James was involved in the private conversation (Mark 13:3) that prompted Jesus’ prophetic discourse about Jerusalem’s imminent fall and the Son of Man’s unexpected return (Matt. 24:4–25:46; Mark 13:5-36; Luke 21:8-36). James was included in Christ’s “inner circle,” along with John and Simon Peter.2 After witnessing the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31), James was allowed to accompany Jesus when he raised Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37). On the mountain where Christ was transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah, none of the apostles had the opportunity to witness this glorious event except James and his brother and Peter (Mark 9:2). In the Garden of Gethsemane, not long before Jesus’ arrest and eventual crucifixion, James was among the three who were asked to accompany the Lord to a solitary place for prayer (Mark 14:32-35).
     Battling through a brief period of doubt (Mark 16:13-14), James was privileged to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ. Prior to the Lord’s third appearance to him and his companions, James followed Peter’s lead and went fishing (John 20:19, 26; 21:2-14) but eventually gave up the trade all together to search for the souls of men (Mark 16:20). The ministry of James appears to have been limited to the general vicinity of Judea and lasted only about fourteen years. He then became the first of his apostolic comrades to die as a martyr, killed “with the sword” (probably beheaded) in the year 44 by the order of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1-2).
     With God’s help James overcame his struggles with anger, intolerance, selfishness, pride, and doubt. His close relationship with Jesus almost certainly contributed to his victory over these spiritual impediments. James was a fisherman by profession, but his heart was so convicted by the love of Christ that he could no longer be comfortable catching fish for a living. Though his evangelistic ministry was comparatively brief, he literally gave his life for the Lord’s cause. As we appreciate where our priorities ought to be, may we be just as dedicated.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 The name means "heel-grabber" or "supplanter" (Gen. 25:26). Etymologically the Old French, derived from the Late Latin Iacomus (a variant of Iacobus), gave to English speakers two alternatives: "James" and "Jacques." Heavily influenced by Norman French, the English preferred "James,” and it became a very popular moniker when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of Great Britain in 1603 (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed.). See also The NT Epistle of Jacob.
     2 See Christ's Inner Circle. Beyond the Gospels and the 13th verse of Acts 1, James and John and Peter are the only ones of the original apostles mentioned by name in the rest of the New Testament.

Related Posts: The 12 Apostles (Part 1)

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Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Twelve Apostles (Part 3): Andrew

     Andrew, the son of Jonah (or John),1 was a fisherman by trade, partnering with his brother Simon, James and John and their father Zebedee, and hired servants (Matt. 4:18-2; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11). Andrew was from Bethsaida in Galilee (John 1:44) and lived near Capernaum with his brother’s family (Mark 1:29-30). The name Andrew (Greek Andreas) is derived from the Greek anēr (“man”) and its genitive form andros (“of a man”), meaning “manly” or “brave.” The fact that he had a Greek name and his brother Simon (Heb. Simeon) had a Jewish name is indicative of the cultural diversity of first-century Galilee.2
     At the instigation of John the baptizer, Andrew was the first of his fishing companions to encounter Jesus and to recognize him as the promised Messiah, also bringing his brother to meet the Lord (John 1:35-42). Jesus must have made quite an impression on them. When the call to discipleship was issued, both Andrew and Simon left their fishing nets to follow him and to train as fishers of men (Mark 1:16-18).
     Andrew appears to have been among the select few who got to witness the healing of his sister-in-law’s sick mother (Mark 1:29-31), the experience of which no doubt contributed to the development of his young faith. He was among the four who asked Jesus about the temple’s destruction and the sign of his second coming (Mark 13:3). This prompted the Lord’s prophetic discourse about Jerusalem’s imminent fall and the necessity of always being ready for Christ’s unexpected return (Matt. 24:4–25:46; Mark 13:5-36; Luke 21:8-36).4
     As Jesus prepared to demonstrate his great power and providential care by feeding 5,000 hungry people, it was Andrew who informed him of the boy with five barley loaves and two small fish, though at the time Andrew seems to have been oblivious to what the Lord was capable of doing (John 6:8-9). They happened to be near Andrew’s hometown of Bethsaida (Luke 9:10), so Andrew could have known the boy personally, introducing yet another individual to Christ. This feeding miracle is significant in that it is the only supernatural work of Jesus (barring the resurrection) recorded in all four Gospel accounts. In fact, there was something important to be learned from this incident that the apostles did not immediately grasp (Mark 6:52; 8:17-21).5 Mature faith and spiritual insight obviously take time to develop.
     On another occasion there were certain Greeks (perhaps God-fearers or proselytes?) who desired to meet Jesus, and it was Philip and Andrew (both of whom had Greek names) who served as intermediaries (John 12:20-22). Andrew is once again involved in bringing people to the Lord.
     In the biblical record, as well as in subsequent church history, Andrew is markedly eclipsed by his older sibling. Even though Andrew was among the first of the Lord’s disciples, it is Simon Peter who is always listed before him, and more often than not Andrew is identified merely as “his brother” (Matt. 10:2; Mark 1:16; Luke 6:14; John 1:40; 6:8). Simon Peter consistently stands in the limelight, while Andrew remains hidden in the shadows (cf. Acts 1:15; 2:14, 37; 5:12-15, 29; 15:6-7; etc.).
     Andrew was a truth-seeker, eagerly receptive to the preaching of John the baptizer and then of Jesus himself. He left all to follow Christ (Luke 5:11) and is probably best remembered as one who regularly brought others to the Lord. Like his fellow-apostles, Andrew struggled with his faith (Mark 4:38-41; 6:51-52; etc.) and momentarily forsook the Lord (Mark 14:15) before his penitent return to faithfulness (Acts 1:12-14).
     According to tradition3 Andrew went on to evangelize areas now known as Ukraine, Romania and Russia, dutifully carrying out his ministry in places like Scythia, Georgia, Byzantium (Constantinople), Thrace, and Achaia. He is believed to have died as a martyr by crucifixion (possibly on a Latin X-shaped cross) in the city of Patras in Achaia, northwest of Corinth.
     From Andrew we learn the importance of seeking and receiving and obediently responding to the message of Jesus Christ. He demonstrates that public recognition is of far less value than faithfully serving the Lord in whatever ways one is capable. He provides a notable example of bringing souls to Jesus. Though significantly overshadowed by his older brother, he is a great hero of the faith in his own right whose life is worthy of emulation.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Andrew’s brother is called Bariōna (Aramaic “son of Jonah”) in Matt. 16:18, and [huios] Iōannou (Greek “son of John”) in John 1:42 and 21:15-17 (with textual variation). See The 12 Apostles (Part 2): Simon Peter.
     2 See The 12 Apostles (Part 1).
     3 See Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.1; also the Chronicle of Nestor.
     5 Matthew (14:13-21; 15:32-39) and Mark (6:30-44; 8:1-10) both include two feeding miracles, although Mark devotes more space to the first than the other Gospel writers and more space to the second than Matthew (omitted by the others). The feeding of the 5,000 was in the Jewish territory of Galilee, while the feeding of the 4,000 was in the predominantly Gentile area of the Decapolis.

Related PostsThe 12 Apostles (Part 1)

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