What did Paul do to Timothy?

Posted: November 29, 2012 by Ty in Rainbow Chapel, Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , , ,

St Luke the Physician

St Luke the Physician (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

Quite the catchy title eh? It is a biblical account by the Physician Luke in Acts 16, just on  the heals of the Jerusalem council that stipulated new converts to The Way did not need to adhere to the Mosaic Law or Covenants (ala circumcision).

Then we hit this passage in Acts:

Acts 16

New International Version (NIV)

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

16 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Now to the untrained eye it looks as it Paul totally just went against the message he was to give to the new church members. Yet there is a deeper question to be asked here. Timothy’s mother was Jewish, his father was not. This was a patriarchal society where non-Jews really had no truck with Jewish custom, in fact the circumcision was a sign against the Emperor because it placed allegiance to an authority higher.  So Timothy was uncircumcised.  But did Paul just arbitrarily force Timothy to be circumcised to come on this trip, or perhaps within the new found family freedom in Christ, with a household of believers, Timothy saw a way to embrace his heritage and requested such act?

This is the deeper questions we must ask about the living texts. Why? Simple, otherwise we may miss something simply because of the way the historian or writer recorded it. Timothy was getting the opportunity to experience the heritage of half his family (the Matrilenial line) that he had never had the opportunity to experience growing up possibly. As such, then it would make sense he would want full inclusion.

So is the text as simple, black and white we are doing this because it is what the culture I am going to wants done (as a recent sermon proposed it in church)? No. It can very much be read as a story of a young man finally free from the oppressive practices of his society and being able to make a choice of his own volition of what would be his path to God.

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