It is the 5th of February 2024. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
A happy Monday- I’ve heard from many of you regarding Rod’s death. My friend Gretchen reminded me of a quote from Rod that now applies to him: “I imagine him leaping into heaven, like a calf leaping out of his stall, laughing and laughing, as if it's all too good to be true.”
Ok,- two, TWO questions on today’s show because they are both answerable in a relatively short manner. Coincidentally, I do know both of these people, both of whom were students of Rod’s- decades apart from each other.
The first is Steve in Lake Forest- that’s right- what the cool kids still call “El Toro” and home of the plush CHA studios (the lakes and forests are all man-made). He wrote to me: “Does the Ethiopian Church tradition have info on the Eunuch after he meets with Phillip in Acts? If there is, it could be a show.”
Dude- studies on the Eunuch have exploded in recent years- because it’s a crazy (and wonderful) story. As for later authors, Irenaeus, the church father in the 2nd century, identifies the Eunuch as the man called “Simon the Black” that we read about in Acts 13, who commissions Paul and Barnabas as missionaries. The Ethiopian Church does the same. But the Eunuch was probably not “Ethiopian” in the way you think of it today. “Ethiopian” meant black, not “Abyssinian,” which was the kingdom where modern Ethiopia is. The point, while particulars can be debated, is that we have a foreigner, perhaps convert to Judaism, who hears the gospel, believes, and is baptized. But, some say- could he be a convert to Judaism (he was coming from the Temple) if he was a Eunuch? Deuteronomy says no. But if he’s reading Isaiah, he’d get to chapter 56, which promises Eunuchs will be welcomed into the new coming kingdom of God.
I’m surprised, Steve, there isn’t more on him. Even in the church fathers, we read them quote Irenaeus about him being Simon the Black and thus would have not only converted but been an evangelist, perhaps back home in North East Africa.
And a quick second question from Juliette in Bloomington, Minnesota, home of the Mall of America and one time home to Lane Kiffin- former SC coach now at Old Miss. In regards to this weekend’s show, she wrote a very thoughtful email that wound up with:
“What are your recommendations for having these healthy arguments with others? Our world is so divided about differences of opinion, and it feels like more and more relationships are broken over political opinions and religious beliefs. How can we have these arguments and still love each other in the end?”
I don’t have “the” answer, but I have an answer that I think is working for me: curiosity and love. Don’t debate to win, but share ideas because you’re curious how someone might come to a conclusion different from you. And if they extend you the same courtesy, you’re going to learn about something and someone. And this needs to be someone you love. We are called to love our neighbors and enemies- which is sometimes easier than loving our close loved ones with different ideas. So, it takes work. My old pastor, the late Ron Hodel, used to say, “We hold on to holy things gently”- we don’t just toss out a doctrine for the purpose of “winning a debate” but discuss and debate within the beloved community to better understand it. There are some times you agree not to discuss certain things- that’s not weak, that might be wise. But, in the spirit of your email, I think the best place to start is with the question, “What do you think about X, and how did you come to that conclusion?” A short answer, I know, but hopefully a good starting place.
All right, I did it- 2 quick answers to 2 good questions. You can send me yours at Danv@1517.org.
The last word for today is from, speaking of Simon the Black and Paul and Barnabas, from Acts 14:
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the gospel.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 5th of February 2024, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man in Wisconsin who doesn’t care for the Minnesotan tradition of playing “Duck, Duck, Grey Duck.” He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by who, because it’s going to rain, was told by the freeway sign to “avoid travel.” Welcome to California- I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.