|PAUL'S THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY
Paul's next missionary journey can also be divided into three main parts - his Ephesus phase, where he worked for two years, the Macedonian and Corinth phase and the long return journey to Jerusalem, on which he encouraged all the churches along the way. Paul's principal co-worker was Timothy, who had been on probation on the previous missionary journey. On this journey Paul also wrote his main doctrinal letters. The time of departure might be late summer 53 and the time of arrival in Jerusalem around Pentecost 57.
The nature of the third missionary journey was chiefly pastoral; Paul aimed to strengthen the churches both by his personal support and by his letters. And the choice of route was made accordingly. Beginning from Galatia and Phrygia, Paul travelled round "all" the churches "strengthening all the disciples" (18:23). At the same time he gave instructions that each person should set aside every "first day of the week" as a love gift "for the saints"of Jerusalem a suitable sum of money according to his means. It would be taken later with an accompanying letter, as he had also commanded the Galatians (1 Cor. 16:1-4).
At his main destination of Ephesus Paul stayed for over two years. Aquila and Priscilla explain to Apollos "the way of God more adequately" (18:24-28). Paul baptises twelve of John the Baptist's disciples (19:1-7). Paul works in the local synagogue for three months, speaking "of the Kingdom of God" (19:8). Afterwards he moves to the lecture hall of Tyrannus, where for two years he holds "discussions" and "all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. "Paul performs "extraordinary miracles" and those who have practised pagan magic burn their books on the bonfire (19:8-20).
A possible short visit to Corinth (2 Cor. 13:1), correspondence with the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9 and 7:1), the sending ahead of Timothy and Erasmus to Macedonia and the writing of 1 Corinthians (Acts 19:21-22). A silversmith named Demetrius and his trade union cause a riot about miniature silver models of the temple of Artemis (19:23-40).
Paul sails to Macedonia and evidently travels through Troas, Philippi and Illyricum (Rom. 15:19) to Corinth, greeting at the same time believers of the churches he has founded (20:1-2). On the journey Paul waits in vain for Titus at Troas (2 Cor. 2:12-13), but meets him later in Macedonia (2 Cor. 7:5-6). From there Paul writes 2 Corinthians, which he sends with Titus and two others (2 Cor. 8:6,16-24). Galatians is thought to have been written either before the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem in A.D. 49 or on this Macedonian journey.
Paul stays three months in Corinth and writes the letter to the Romans, which he sends with sister Phoebe (Rom. 16:1). Tertius acts as the scribe (Rom. 16:22). Greetings are sent by Timothy and by the Macedonians Lucius, Jason and Sosipater and by the local Corinthians Tertius, Gaius, Erastus and Quartus. It is illustrative that in the last chapter of Romans Paul sends greetings to twenty-four different people and for each one there is a word of thanks and consolation. Did this fine custom also derive from his great teacher Gamaliel? In the Orient personal greetings have not yet lost their value.
Paul intends to leave by sea for Syria, but due to the "plot" by his opponents he has to make his return journey by land through Macedonia -- the rest of the company sails ahead to Troas (20:1-6).
In connection with the third missionary journey return there are sensitive details which shed light on Paul as a man and as a teacher. On the one hand, we meet him in action, the description of which reveals the customs of his time, and, on the other hand, he tells openly of his weakness and fear of the future. Acts is the most exciting adventure story in the history of mankind.
Paul stayed in Troas "for seven days." We are told how during his long speech a young man called Eutychus fell asleep on the window-ledge and "sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third storey." And he was picked up dead. But Paul put his arms around him and said, "Do not be alarmed. He is still alive." And Paul returned to the upper room. There he continued the meeting, "broke bread and ate." The meeting continued until the break of day, when he set off on his journey. And the young man was taken home alive (Acts 20:7-12).
The Enigma of the Evening Meeting at Troas
The description of the meeting begins with the words: "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread..." In the original Greek is the phrase "en de te mia ton sabbaton," that is, "on the first of the Sabbath." This is usually understood as Sunday, when the church is supposed to have celebrated the Lord's Supper at this strange hour in the late evening. The Jews counted their day from the previous evening to the next one. The Syriac Peshitta, used by the ancient Oriental churches, says that the meal was a "eukharistia" and that it was "ba-yamma de-had ba-shabba," that is, "on the first day on the Sabbath" or, if we interpret it another way, "on the first day of the week." Franz Delitzsch's Hebrew translation, "be-ehad ba-shabbat", is literally "on the first day during the Sabbath." But why does the word "Sabbath" occur in the original Greek and in the Syriac? Luke should have written either "on the first day of the week" or "on the evening of the first day of the week", if it was a Sunday. Then it would also have corresponded to the Hebrew expression "be-yom ha-rishon." This alternative interpretation has led some Jews to the conclusion that it was the last meal of the Sabbath or the so-called "melaveh malkah", which always continues, according to Jewish tradition, until late at night. This meal is also called "David's meal" or popularly "the Messiah's meal", because its prayers and discussions over the meal are often connected with the coming of the Messiah.95
The ancient Syrian and Near-Eastern churches still have the custom of celebrating the Eucharist or Holy Communion "at the second hour on Saturday evening." In their churches there are many Jews who circumcise their sons. Celebrating the Eucharist on Saturday evening is based on an ancient tradition, which they say originated in the Apostolic Age. Hillel and Shammai and their followers debated about the details of that meal.96 The Midrash says of a table laid with special care that it is "like an altar and the food is just like a sacrifice, for in Lev. 2:13 it is written that 'all your grain offerings are to be salted with salt.' " "Melaveh malkah" or "accompanying the queen" of the Sabbath back to everyday life took place solemnly by performing the so-called "havdalah" or the "distinguishing" of the bread and wine. According to the school of Hillel, the bread was always blessed first and then the wine, just as Jesus did at his Messianic covenant meal. The havdalah was read after dark, when the stars were already visible. Thus the Sabbath was accompanied and "prolonged" until the night. According to the Talmud, there are three things which guarantee the life to come: if one lives in Israel, teaches one's son the Torah and if one performs the havdalah or sanctification of the wine.97
If the night meeting at Troas was a "melaveh malkah" meal, which Jews naturally celebrated, then we can understand why Paul's speech was prolonged. Similarly, Paul's words in 1 Cor. 11:29 that one must not eat and drink "without distinguishing" the Lord's body from the rest, acquire a new context. The meeting at Troas and the exhortation in 1 Cor. 16:2 to put something aside at home on the "first day of the week", has been interpreted as supporting the idea that very early on the Lord's day became the day of rest. A Jew was not, however, supposed to handle money on the Sabbath and therefore it was always done on the first weekday. Offerings collected in these homes cannot be equated with church collections. Also, Revelation 1:10 hardly refers to Sunday. When John was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day," he meant the same Lord's day as, for example, in 1 Thess. 5:2 or 2 Thess. 2:2.
In its Jewish frame of reference the Lord's Supper is connected with three main things: 1. Holy Communion was instituted on Maundy Thursday in connection with the Passover meal. Its details are connected with that Jewish "seder" meal. In sacrificial language the expression "guf ha-pesah", that is, the "Passover body", was used of the Passover lamb. Paul understood that the third so-called "cup of blessing" of the "seder" meant participation in Christ's atoning blood (1 Cor. 10:16). The main emphasis of the Eucharist is the forgiveness of sins. On the other hand, it points in many ways to the eternal perspective; one day we shall eat and drink its fruit "new" in the Kingdom of God.
2. Jewish tradition sees in some passages of the Bible a reference to the "Messiah's meal". When, for example, the Midrash on Ruth interprets the words of verse 2:14 about dipping a piece of bread in vinegar, it repeats four times the words: "Whoever eats the Messiah's meal in this world, will eat it in the life to come." Four times it says also, "This piece of bread is the bread of the Kingdom of God." And one rabbi says "in the Holy Spirit," that is, as a matter accepted by the synagogue, that "vinegar refers to those sufferings of which it is written that 'he was wounded for our transgressions.' "
Judaism's best-known Bible expositor, RaSHI, says of Psalm 22:27, according to which "the humble may eat and be nourished," that it refers to "the time of redemption, the days of the Messiah." Similarly, Midrash Shemot Rabbah interprets the shepherd Psalm 23 verse 5 as follows: " 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies' means manna; 'you anoint my head with oil' means freedom from care; 'my cup overflows' refers to a spring; and so he prepares a table for the coming (Messiah) and they eat and drink in the garden of Eden."98 By Paradise the rabbis understand the "good department" of Sheol, as Jesus too with his familiar words to the thief. In these words too we can see strongly the eternal perspective.
3. The last meal of the Sabbath, the "melave malkah"or "David's meal" or "the Messiah's meal" and its Messianic prayers contain features which are reflected in Paul's letters. "A table which is like an altar," "bread," which refers to grain offerings and "havdalah," that is, special "distinguishing" of wine and bread from the rest of the meal are reflected in Paul's thought-world. It may really be that the eucharistic meeting at Troas which continued into the early hours of the morning was a continuation of the normal melaveh malkah. And it may also be possible that the early church gradually transferred this celebration of the "Messianic meal" to the Lord's day, that is, Sunday. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, writes in about 110 A.D. to the Magnesian church, "They (that is, contemporary Jewish Christians) ceased observing the Sabbath and sanctified the Lord's day, when both their and our life began to shine" with the light of the resurrection. Justin Martyr also writes in c.140 A.D. that Christians met for their services on Sundays.
Another sensitive detail is connected with Paul's long farewell speech somewhere near the harbour of Miletus (Acts 20:17-38). In it he discloses to friends who had come from Ephesus to see him off how "for three years" he "never stopped warning" each one of them "night and day with tears" (20:31). Before this is a description in the 'we'- form of the route of his journey from Troas to Miletus. From this we know that Luke is once again in the company. When Paul "met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost" (20:13-16). Therefore the elders of the church were called to a farewell meeting at Miletus.
Paul's farewell speech is the most tender description of Paul as a man and as a teacher. In it he renders account of his feelings about his work in Asia and also about the main content of his teaching. And he says that "from the first day" that he came to Asia, he has "served the Lord with great humility and with tears." He has not "hesitated to preach" to his hearers what is useful and from teaching them "publicly and from house to house." And he has "declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus." Here was the framework and the content of Paul's activity.
And Paul goes on to say: "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me -- the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace." And Paul emphasises that he has "preached the Kingdom." He has not "hesitated to proclaim the whole will of God." Nor did he "covet anyone's silver or gold or clothing." "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " Once again are visible here the teachings given by Gamaliel.
The description of what happened next is moving: "When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship."
In practice the third missionary journey ended in Jerusalem. Paul's presentiments of sufferings to come are strengthened at the stopping places on the voyage. First the company stopped at the island of Cos and the next day at Rhodes. From there the journey continued to Patara, where they board a ship for Phoenicia. From there the voyage continues south of Cyprus towards Tyre. When the ship unloads its cargo, Paul meets the "disciples" there for seven days. "Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem." And again believers arrive to accompany Paul outside the city "with their wives and children." Luke tells of this: "And there on the beach we knelt to pray."
From there they sailed first to Ptolemais or modern Acre and the next day to Caesarea. In Caesarea Paul stays "a number of days" with Philip the evangelist. The prophet Agabus, who had earlier prophesied of a great famine, comes from Judea, figuratively binds Paul with his belt and prophesies: "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.' " But Paul says, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Luke concludes the account of the third missionary journey with the words: "After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem" (Acts 21:15). This may have happened at Pentecost in 57 A.D.
It is Paul's missionary journeys which give about him exact "snapshots"
both as a man and as a teacher. In him were united remarkable sensitivity
and profound grace. Thus he was able to establish warm and lasting human
relationships. On the first and even second missionary journey he founded
new churches and chose responsible elders for them. On his third missionary
journey he aimed to strengthen the churches by letter, although he concentrated
on his real pastoral letters only later during his long time in prison.
The narrative of Acts is very detailed. Its human description, the accounts
of different events, the choice of sea routes at different seasons, professional
terms associated with sailing and the description of his own sensitive
personality testify to real events which no writer could create out of
his own imagination. It has been said that Paul was a worm before God and
a lion before men. All this was due to his strong sense of calling.