Acts 13-14: The First Missionary Journey of Paul

Acts 13-14 discusses the leadership of the church in Antioch, and the first journey taken by Paul and Barnabas to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. The podcast entiled "Church Leadership" is on these chapters.

Leaders in the Church of Antioch

Barnabas

Of the leaders mentioned, Barnabas and Paul are the most discussed throughout the chapters. Barnabas is first mentioned in Acts 4:36. Here we learn that he was a Levite from Cyprus who was actually named Joses (or Joseph). One of the early converts to Christianity, he was likely the "senior leader" in Antioch. Interestingly, when Paul experiences his conversion, it is Barnabas that believes him (Acts 9:27).

Simeon, called Niger

Not much is known about Simeon, called Niger, but much is supposed. The word Niger is Latin for "black," which leads some to speculate that Simeon was a black man.[1][2] There are actually a lot of possibilities here and because I've seen such confusion in the comments about Simeon, I want to discuss them.

We have to remember not to read into the Bible what we want. The truth is, black does not have to refer to his skin color. In fact, the concept of calling people "black people" didn't start until much later than that. Interestingly the country Niger, is actually named for a phrase in a different language which references a river&mash;it is not called Niger in reference to the skin color of the people living there.[3] Perhaps Simeon was a blacksmith and often covered in soot. It is also possible that Simeon always wore black robes or that it was his surname (think about many of the people with the last name Black in the US today). The Bible doesn't tell us precisely why he was called black so we cannot be certain.

Now suppose he was called black because of his dark skin. One person agrues that calling him "black" would actually mean this is a unique feature. This is their counterpoint to the idea of the Israelites being black.[2] This a fallacy however. Blackness, in terms of a race, comes in many shades. I have heard black people point out the "extreme" darkness of another black person's skin. Though much of this comes from the brainwashing of colonialism and white supremacy, which would not have existed at the time of Simeon, it remains possible that Simeon was simply darker than those around him and does not rule out the idea that the Israelites were brown skinned people.

In short, we can't draw specific conclusions from Simeon's nickname (or surname).

Lucius of Cyrene

Lucius was from Cyrene, a city in modern day Libya (North Africa). There was a heavy Jewish and Christian influence in Africa, we've already seen this with the man Philip baptizes from Ethiopia (Acts 8). Despite claims that Christianity first spread in Europe, we see that there were Christians in Africa from the very beginning of the Church. It is thought tha Lucius is one of the men of Cyrene spoken of from the beginning of Acts and a Jew.[4] Just as the Jews were known to travel to Egypt, they traveled into other parts of Africa, such as Lybia, and made their home there.

Manaen

It is interesting that the discription attached to Manaen is that he was associated with Herod the tetrarch[5]. This is the only information given about him. Because of the timing, it is assumed that Manaen was a Jew who was raised alongside Herod.[6]

Saul

Saul, later called Paul, is listed last among the leaders of the church. At this time, Paul was still an infant in his career and would have been the "rookie" of the group.

Paul & Barnabas sent out to Preach

Paul and Barnabas are sent to spread the Word. It is important to notice that after converting, the goal was to teach others. People like Paul and Barnabas grew from baby Christians to leaders in their own right. The mission was to spread the Word to all who would receive it. That can't be accomplished by only talking to those who already agree with you.

Chapters 13 and 14 outline the journey Paul and Barnabas take to spread the gospel throughout the kingdom of Rome. If you compare their route to a modern map, the journey covered 3 countries: Syria, Cyrpus, and Turkey. Below is a list of locations they visited on their journey:
  • Antioch (Syria)
  • Seleucia (Syria)
  • Salamis (Cyprus)
  • Paphos (Cyrpus)
  • Perga (Pamphylia)
  • Antioch (Pisidia)
  • Iconium (Phyrgia)
  • Lystra (Lycaonia)
  • Derbe (Lycaonia)
  • Lystra (Lycaonia)
  • Iconium (Phyrgia)
  • Antioch (Pisidia)
  • Perga (Pamphylia)
  • Attalia (modern Antalya, Turkey)
  • Antioch (Syria)
Paul and Barnabas' journey to preach to the Gentiles notcibily does not include the tribes of people they usually were in contact with. They could have went East into what is modern Jordan or Iraq, or South, into modern Eygpt and Saudia Arabia. In these lands they would have spoken to the Moabites, Ishmaelites, Egyptians, etc. Since the beginning of my deeper studies into the Word, I have begun to challenge the notion that "Gentile" refers to everyone who is not an Israelite. In Genesis 10:1-5, it describes the descendants of Japheth and refers to them as the Gentiles. The descendants of Ham and Shem are never refered to as Gentiles, and as we look at the journey taken by Paul and Barabas, we see that they only visited the lands of Japheth to preach to the Gentiles.

References

  1. "Strongs G3526. Νίγερ. Blue Letter Bible; visited June 21, 2020
  2. LJ Thriepland. "Simeon was called Niger, does that prove the Israelites were black?". Follow in Truth. August 25, 2018
  3. Finn Fuglestad and Diouldé Laya. "Niger". Encyclopædia Britannica. November 8, 2019
  4. "Lucius". Bible Hub; visited June 21, 2020
  5. "Herod Antipas". Encyclopædia Britannica. April 3, 2020
  6. "Manaen". Bible Study Tools; visited June 21, 2020
  7. Underground Network. "Iconium, Lystra, Derbe & Back". Medium. August 31, 2015

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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