Monday, February 08, 2010

Some residual thoughts from Acts 20:1-13

"Hidden" in the story of Paul and company's trip to Troas are a few little issues that are slightly controversial.

1. Was there a church at Troas?
2. Did the disciples take the Lord's Supper?
3. Did Paul raise Eutychus from the dead?

Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight...20:11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

I will discuss the first two together, because they are tied together in the minds of some. For others, this is probably not even a blip on their radar. This text and question is problematic to most Landmarkers, or at least to local-church-only communionists.

For many Baptists, the Lord's Supper is viewed as a church ordinance that should be taken in church capacity. So whether or not there was a church at Troas relates to the Lord's Supper as a church ordinance. For a smaller group of the whole, the Lord's Supper is viewed as a local-church-only church ordinance; that is, only the members of a local church is supposed to take the Lord's Supper together.

Davis Huckabee, in The Ordinances of the Church, puts it this way: "There are several erroneous assumptions about the events of this passage in Acts, viz., (1) That there was ever a church at Troas. (2) That the meal eaten was the Lord’s Supper...(5) That Paul observed the Lord’s Supper with a church of which he was not a member." J. R. Graves, in Intercommunion, Unscriptural and Inconsistent, resolved the issue to his satisfaction by both denying that there was a church at Troas and denying that the Lord's Supper was celebrated by Paul and his companions.

But the language of Acts 20 seems to indicate Eutychus, not a traveling companion (cf. v 4), was a disciple who was listening to Paul's speech, and that there were others there who were comforted by his being alive. The motivation for a drawn-out service on the eve of their departure was very likely that there were disciples in Troas they expected to see no more (cf. v. 25). This is not conclusive, but causes one to wonder whether some expositions are not driven more by assumptions outside the text.

Acts 20:9-10 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him...12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

In A Dictionary of the Bible by W. R. F. Browning, it is written that Eutychus fell from an upstairs window and that "Paul was able to assure the company that he was not fatally injured." Some think the language -- especially of Paul in v. 10 -- indicate that the people just thought he was dead and Paul discovered he was still alive.

I personally see the words "taken up dead" as meaning he was actually dead, and Paul brought him back to life. Some may want to deny miracles and resurrection by saying Eutychus wasn't dead. But others believe in the power of God and are simply trying to understand the words of the Bible. Whether Eutychus was alive or dead, we see that God has the power to either keep alive to raise back to life.

[Note: An interesting take on these two points is found in the writing of Jonathan Teram, who assures us, "Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday and broke bread with his disciples (Luke 24:30). In Troas, Eutychus was raised from the dead, then the disciples broke bread with each other."]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There were a couple of thoughts which came to mind over the "taken up dead" phrase.

From a literal point of view, if someone who has passed away is picked up from the ground, floor, etc., then they are in fact, taken up dead.

I was also reminded of a phrase not used all that much any longer. It used to be said that if someone had started to pursue or delve into something, they were "taking it up." This would usually mean they were not yet actually acclimated to it, but would be shortly.

However, I also tend to agree with the former translation.