Skip to comments.The Six Strangest New Testament Verses
Posted on 04/18/2013 6:52:25 AM PDT by NYer
When we think of strange verses in the New Testament, the fantastic visions of Revelation immediately leap to mind. But Revelation isnt the only place. From weird words used by St. Paul to the trance of St. Peter, here are six of the strangest verses in the New Testament.
Acts 10:11-12 The Ecstasy of St. Peter
And he saw the heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending, as it were a great linen sheet let down by the four corners from heaven to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts, and creeping things of the earth, and fowls of the air. Douay-Rheims translation (Unless otherwise noted, as here, Scripture quotations will be taken from The New American Bible, Revised Edition)
This reads like something lifted right out of Revelation, but there it is in Acts. In this trance, which Peter experiences, a voice tells him to kill and eat the beasts. Peter refuses because they are uncleanbut he is urged to do so three more times, then the mysterious vessel vanishes. This vision has traditionally been understood to be a turning point in the history of the early Churchwhen St. Peter understood that the temporal laws of the Old Testament, like the ones on circumcision or unclean animals, were no longer binding. In other words, the gospel was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. (This interpretation is certainly supported by the next chapter, where St. Peter defends himself against charges of having a meal with uncircumcised men.)
Acts 26:14 It is hard for you to kick against the goad
Put simply, this verse doesnt make much sense and the context only makes it stranger. St. Paul is recalling what Christ said to him on the road to Damascus. Immediately before the above sentence is the famous chastisement we all know: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? The mystery deepens further when we learn that the kicking the goad phrase comes from a secular Greek poet named Pindar. (Click here to read it.) It is in the context of the original poem that the phrase starts to make sensePindar writes that it is futile to resist a god. Kicking the goad is an apt metaphor for this, as a goad is a rod used by a herder to guide cattle. (In fact, the Greek word for goad, kentron, has another meaningthe sting of a bee, or other creature, which certainly is another richly provocative metaphor for how Christ wounds our souls with heavenly love!) Now, it may seem scandalous that Paul quotes Christ as using a phrase from a secular poetone that, moreover, is in the context of ancient Greek pantheismbut this comes hand in hand with the fact that the entire New Testament was originally written in Greek. It should come as no surprise that phrase and sayings from the ancient tongue would make it into the text as well.
Galatians 5:12 Would that those who are upsetting you might also castrate themselves!
Well, this is a bit disturbing. Some translations put it more politely as mutilate. Others speak of a wish that the ones who persecute the faithful readers of this letter would simply cut themselves off. Either way, this verse poses an interpretative dilemma for us: arent we supposed to love our enemies, not wish self-harm on them? The Haydock Bible Commentary sees this as figurative language for excommunicating persecutors from the Church. But theres a deeper meaning here, which St. John Chrysostom peels away for us in his commentary on the epistle. He notes that the chapter begins with a discussion about why circumcisiona requirement of the old lawis no longer necessary because of the Cross. (This makes sense after reading Acts above.) He suggests that there are some Galatians who believe circumcision still necessary, having fallen under the influence of the Manichean heresy, which held the body to be evil. So, according to Chrysostom, Paul is speaking in sarcasm, urging them to not stop at circumcision, but mutilate themselves completely.
Ephesians 6:14 So stand fast with your loins girded in truth
This is the famous chapter which describes all the spiritual armor we need in our battle with Satan and sin. We are told righteousness is our breastplate, which seems fitting since that covers our hearts. Faith is our shield, salvation our helmet, and the Spirit our swordagain these all make sense. But why are our loins girded with truth. This is not an area of the body we normally associate with truthperhaps the head, heart, or even the eyes, but not the loins. The first clue, according to Chrysostom, is the verb gird. This tells us, he says in a homily, that we sinners have been loose in life and dissolved in lusts. Girding our loins ensures we arent tripped up by the garments entangling our legs but can move freely in Christ. As for the loins, perhaps we dont give them as much credit as they are due. Chrysostom explains: They are, as it were, a foundation, and upon them as the schools of the physicians tell you, the whole frame is built. the foundation alike of the parts both above and below. If we are founded in the truth, Chrysostom concludes, we cannot fall spiritually, because truth comes from above, not the earth.
Philippians 3:2 Beware of the dogs!
No, St. Paul did not have a traumatic childhood experience with a dog. So what is he talking about here? We can surmise there must be a spiritual meaning to this, since the next phrase in the verse warns against evildoers. So, who are the dogs? This, according to commentators, is a colloquialism for the Gentiles. The Haydock Bible Commentary explains further: The Jews called so the Gentiles; and St. Paul now applies it to those among the Jews who spread false doctrine, who privately snarled and publicly barked against the true apostles.
Philemon 1:7 The bowels of the saints have been refreshed by thee, brother (Douay-Rheims)
Some translations render bowels as hearts, so where did the other translators get bowels?a word repeated two other times in this one-chapter epistle. Well, for one thing, its a faithful translation of the original Greek word, splangkhnon, which does have the primary meaning of bowels or intestines. This can include the heart but it just as easily refers to other internal organs, like the kidneys. Here a dictionary helps us sort things out (this is from the lexical resources on GreekBible.com): [T]he bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion.
If this happened in Kenya, then I know whose birth it announced.
No it's not! This vision was strictly about gentile Christians coming into the church. Previous to this they weren't.
Peter says this vision means this:
Act_10:28 Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Peter was laboring under a Jewish TRADITION that considered gentiles unclean. God showed him they were not and gave them his holy spirit:
Act 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
Act 10:45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also
The next chapter shows this again as Peter explains his vision to the elders and the subsequent giving of the spirit:
Act 11:17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?"
Act 11:18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."
It was all about the Lord giving his spirit to gentiles and had nothing to do with clean or unclean food as the "traditional" interpretation says.
If you were to list 10 or 20 of the most powerful or thought-provoking Bible passages, which ones would you list? Here is our list at Faith Facts:
None of those seem remotely strange. Do you think he is a freelance writer and needs to turn in a certain number of articles in order to eat each month..?
Vision of animals in a sheet:
This appears to be is coorelated to Peter being a fishermen and catching all kinds of things in his net.
This appears to be correlated to John 13:17 wherein Jesus ties a cloth garment around his waist, i.e., girds his loins prior to the washing of the feet of the apostles.
A goad is a metal-pointed stick used to drive an unruly ox when pulling the plow. Modern ones are called cattle-prods that shcok the cow like a small taser.
cf The Letters of Peter Damian: 91-120,
Luke 18:8 - I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?
re: “It was all about the Lord giving his spirit to gentiles and had nothing to do with clean or unclean food as the “traditional” interpretation says.”
The point of the vision to Peter was just what God said it was: “Then a voice told him, Get up, Peter. Kill and eat. Surely not, Lord! Peter replied. I have never eaten anything impure or unclean. The voice spoke to him a second time, Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.
The Lord knew Peter would hesitate about going to a gentile with the Gospel, let alone enter a gentile’s home (and a Roman soldier at that). The “clean and un-clean” animals was relevant in that Peter tells Cornelius:
You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.”
Note that when it was clear that Cornelius, and other gentiles in his home, began speaking in unknown languages - a sign to Peter that these people not only were filled with the Holy Spirit, but that they had also received God’s salvation, just like the Jews, notice that Peter did not tell them that they had to begin following Old Testament Law.
But, there is another, much clearer passage in Acts that completely refutes this idea that Gentile Christians were to follow all the Old Testament laws:
Acts 15:5 - “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses” . . . Peter got up and addressed them: Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.
The decision of the Apostles at Jerusalem were to follow Peter’s recommendation that, It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.”
Notice later in that same chapter that the Apostles agreed with Peter’s recommendations, and note that in the letter sent to the Gentile churches, they merely “requested” that the Gentiles follow these extremely light suggestions. There was not order to them to follow the Levitical law in its entirety at all, except about animals strangled or eating blood.
In the King James version, it says, "The spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son..."
I think another one of the older translations has "her bowels were moved upon her son."
Agreed. They all seem pretty obvious, or at least verses that could be easily understood with the help of a one-volume commentary. Most seem to be explained by their context.
“Having your loins girt about - The girdle, or sash, was always with the ancients an important part of their dress, in war as well as in peace. They wore loose, flowing robes; and it became necessary to gird them up when they traveled, or ran, or labored. The girdle was often highly ornamented, and was the place where they carried their money, their sword, their pipe, their writing instruments, etc.; see the notes on Matthew 5:38-41. The girdle seems sometimes to have been a cincture of iron or steel, and designed to keep every part of the armor in its place, and to gird the soldier on every side.”
“Beware of dogs - Dogs in the east are mostly without masters; they wander at large in the streets and fields, and feed upon offals, and even upon corpses; compare 1 Kings 14:11; 1 Kings 16:4; 1 Kings 21:19. They are held as unclean, and to call one a dog is a much stronger expression of contempt there than with us; 1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Kings 8:13. The Jews called the pagan dogs, and the Muslims call Jews and Christians by the same name. The term dog also is used to denote a person that is shameless, impudent, malignant, snarling, dissatisfied, and contentious, and is evidently so employed here. It is possible that the language used here may have been derived from some custom of affixing a caution, on a house that was guarded by a dog, to persons approaching it. Lenfant remarks that at Rome it was common for a dog to lie chained before the door of a house, and that a notice was placed in sight, Beware of the dog. The same notice I have seen in this city affixed to the kennel of dogs in front of a bank, that were appointed to guard it. The reference here is, doubtless, to Judaizing teachers, and the idea is, that they were contentious, troublesome, dissatisfied, and would produce disturbance. The strong language which the apostle uses here, shows the sense which he had of the danger arising from their influence. It may be observed, however, that the term dogs is used in ancient writings with great frequency, and even by the most grave speakers. It is employed by the most dignified characters in the Iliad (Boomfield), and the name was given to a whole class of Greek philosophers - the Cynics. It is used in one instance by the Saviour; Matthew 7:6. By the use of the term here, there can be no doubt that the apostle meant to express strong disapprobation of the character and course of the persons referred to, and to warn the Philippians in the most solemn manner against them.”
Both from Barnes, available online here:
Someone with a decent vocabulary, some familiarity with the world and a thoughtful mind would have come to the same conclusions as the author. It’s only a surprise to Catholics since studying the Scriptures isn’t a regular part of their religious life.
You left out:
There are a lot of thought provoking verses, no?
A minor correction. You said it was Peter’s recommendation, but in actuality it was James you quoted who, at the end of the discussion, declares “wherefore my sentence is...” and delivers the following text. I’ll also add to the point by noting that these recommendations were designed to avoid offense with those who were weak, but had no binding force against our liberty. As Paul said, all things are lawful unto me, but not all things are expedient. And then he tells believers to eat whatever is set before them at a feast, only abstaining if those who presented it declare it is sacrificed to an idol, for their sake so you do not appear to compromise the Gospel.
Being a redneck boy, growing up in the presence of other redneck boys, I can testify that the shock from a bull prod is in no way to be considered 'small'. ; ) Just sayin'.
it ain`t gonna kill ya like cop taser.
it ain`t gonna kill ya like cop taser.
Nailed it in one.