Why did the Ethiopian require "explanation" of scripture in Acts 8?

by sabastious 79 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • sizemik
    Why all the fuss?

    It's probably on account of the fact that we're free to "fuss" about anything we like now

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    From the outset, let me say that I do not have the absolute answer. But a few principles of study might help.

    To answer such a question, first discover the context. ("A text without a context is a pretext".)

    Look at its litererary and theological placement in the broad theme of the writing, not just the immediate verses but also the adjacent chapters and the overall structure of the writing.

    More importantly, unearth the cultural context. When was it written, by whom, what was the purpose of that sector of the Church, and against which "heresy" were they aiming their material. Everything was written for a purpose; they were not creating nursery tales that were aimed simply to amuse. Where was it written, what were their idioms, understandings, and such.

    The Acts of the Apostles was not the only "Acts" written at that time, so investigate and compare those. The "final" decision on the canon of Scripture was not made until centuries later, by the sector of the church that became dominant.

    The Acts of the Apostles is recognised as historically unreliable, where the writer presented stories in the manner that it was wished should have happened. It was penned about the end of the first century, some 40 years after Paul's death, and at a time of great stress within the Movement.

    Their leader had been put to death, the promised imminent coming had not taken place, and they were struggling to make sense of what was happening. The Jews only understood that the Messiah would be a fearful powerful warrior king, removing all foes from God's land and people. This Jesus/Joshua was nothing like all that the Scriptures said about the Messiah. The Jews knew nothing about the Messiah coming twice.

    So with the Christians at the end of the first century becoming a laughing stock at focusing on this dead Messiah, the Christians responded by searching the Hebrew Scriptures to explain the reason for their predicament, and in the process silence and hopefully denigrate the Jews. Anti-Semitism finds its roots, and this results in many anti-Semitic sentiments being introduced into the Christian literature.

    When they were able to find a few Hebrew texts that might have just the faintest relevance to Jesus, the Christians twisted the original meanings to make them appear relevant. Texts such as at Isa 7, Isa 53, and Ps 22 in particular were re-engineered to take them away from their original meaning so they could make them instead be applied to their dead leader.

    So it is possible that it did not matter what part of Isaiah the Ethiopean was said to be reading; that would not have been the writers' concern or objective.

    Consider, also that the use of an Ethiopean might have been relevant to the location where the Acts of the Apostles might have been written, Alexandria.

    And there was a number of significant black early Church Fathers.


  • Aussie Oz
    Aussie Oz

    Perhaps he was unfortunate to be born with the 'christian' gene...

    Thus, he had no choice but to ask somebody else what he should think and do.

    Fortunatly, he had no nuts, so he could not pass on the genetic mutation to others and his curse died with him.


  • wobble

    The WT insisted the term "Eunuch" was indicative of his office in the Queen's administration, not the number of testicles he had. but this may well be another WT definition of a word.

    As Doug says above, if we view it in the light of a struggling new cult trying to overcome the death of their leader, then we can see the thinking behind this little story, it suggests that only those who have the HS can direct you to the true understanding of scripture and its prophecies, especially as an open minded reading would not lead you to Jesus of Nazareth.

    This is why this story is beloved by the WT, each JW subliminally tells themselves that only the modern day Phillip, the GB, can expound the scriptures correctly, especially as an open minded reading of them would not lead you to the WT.

  • Aussie Oz
    Aussie Oz

    I prefer the real world explanation of Eunich over the WT definition...

    Although many bible forums discuss the varied possible meanings of the word eunich, naturaly the WT would use the one that best suits its purpose.

    I still say he was a no nuts nigel!... Thats the veiw i had as a jw too...


  • sizemik

    You're probably right OZ . . .

    I'm no whizz-bang historian, but I'm pretty sure it was common practice to "neutre" those who served in royal households among north African cultures. Basically so the attendants wouldn't be playing whoopie with the concubines and daughters etc.

  • AGuest
    I'm pretty sure it was common practice to "neutre" those who served in royal households among north African cultures.

    That was one method, dear Sizemik (peace to you!); however, there were those who, because of being born as eunuchs (sans testes), were groomed to be such servants, as well as those who were neutered from birth for that purpose (it was familial economics - the family would sell the child into such service).

    What some also don't know, however, is that some babies were also "prepped" for service to MALES... from infancy... by the insertion of tiny ceramic or glass "cones" into their tiny hineys, which cones were increased in size as they grew up.

    Which is one reason why "sodomy" was prohibited among Israel: it wasn't always a CHOICE; indeed, at was often NOT a matter of choice, but of economics (again, these children were conceived, prepped, and then sold by their families FOR such purpose). Because of this, some were MADE "homosexuals" (based on the beliefs, acceptance, pushings, and economics of their CULTURE)... in the same way some were MADE eunuchs from infancy. (And no, I am not saying that ALL homosexuals are such by choice - didn't go there... entirely different subject/thread...)

    And these practices weren't limited to North Africa. It was throughout Africa... as well as Asia (Orient)... and even remote parts of Europe.

    Sorry for the graphics, but it's the truth... and for those who are skeptical, all I can say is, "Look it up, because the truth is out there!"

    Again, peace to you!

    A slave of Christ,


  • Bella15

    AGUEST - interesting that you know about the the "prepped" for service to males ...

    I read a very insteresting article once not related to this but one of those that make you go hmmmm .... early christians that were slaves were told to be in submission to their masters even though slaves in Roman times were used for sexual purposes by them - it was common practice. Male christian slaves have to "serve" their male masters.

  • AGuest

    Yeah, that IS a "hmmmm", dear Bella (peace to you!). I'm thinking it stopped there, for some, though... you know, the more "manly" ones (no offense intended toward anyone - LOLOL!). Which most probably resulted in a different kind of "date" (you know, with some large cats in the Coliseum), if you know what I mean. Either way, they probably ended up on some kind of "date"...

    Thanks for the input and, again, peace to you!

    A slave of Christ,


  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    As I said, I've read scholarly literature concerning this and not much theology surrounding it. Everyone I know, outside of la la land, acknowledges that Acts covers the church that emerged as the orthodox version. Still, it illuminates much about the early church at this point in time. I can't cite a specifc source without going through a bunch of indexes but I recall that eunuch may not mean by what we mean by eunuch.

    What if he were a eunuch in our modern sense? He remains a man and human. Certainly, he was a very literate and powerful man. Crossan posits that Paul did not preach to gentiles in general. Rather, he targeted the large numbers of god fearers. Members raised in other pagan religious who found monotheism and montheistic worship as sort of the spirituality that attracts the New Age crowd now. If he were a eunuch without certain anatomy, it was not his choice. Why do we laugh at a "flaw" over which a person had no control. The man was responsible for vast properties and people.

    I see another level to the story that I did not mention before in my post. A man of status and fame needs help from a very common man. Do you realize how fast Phillip would have to run to catch up with a moving chariot and carry on a conversation. Phillip is empowered by the good news and Holy Spirit to have the ability to have a powerful discourse with a man of great power. Early Christians were generally of the poorer classes. Such an encounter must have been very daunting to them. They are armed with the same Holy Spirit that emboldened Stephan and Phillip.

    The story does not have to be literally true to have its powerful teaching aspects. Do I think it happened exactly as portrayed in Acts, No way. Another motif is preaching to Gentiles and not staying within Judaism. This is an early story. One element I forgot is whether Phillip is a Greek or Jewish name. It sounds Greek to me but I'm no expert. I know for certain that Stephen and his friends were Greek speaking Jews. Clearly, this is Pauline plant.

    I had no clue that the WT favored it. As I said, I've read Crossan and others, plus heard sermons in an Anglican Church. No one every raised the point the Witnesses emphasized. The eunuch has not heard about Jesus and his Ressurection. If he heard, he would need no explanation. Isn't it strange, too, that just as the writer needs to explain that Jesus fulfills Isaiah, a Gentile pops up and asks for an explanation. I would see it as a awkward conversational gambit. There was no powerful, authoritarian church with KHs for the eunuch to check out. The story does not follow his Christian adventures much.

    This may be catty but note that I can name scholars, books, and sources for my take. Some of it us from my own mind. The coincidence point. When I share sciptural discussions here, it is rarely from my own mind. I report what I have read or understood. My mind is analytical, not creative. The Witnesses smashed creativity out of me. When I do make a leap, such as coincidence not likely, it is based on much reading. I would love to be more creative. Sometimes I feel I am a mini INternet full of Jeopardy info rather than deep insight.

    The cool black dude in Rolls Royce limo having a homeless man with a squeegee running to clean his front window and preach is the essence to me. The Holy Spirit can work this way. It is my belief. I find it silly not to acknowledge that this is a run of the mill, extremely credible happening.

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