Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Sirach 17 – “The Lord fashioned man from the earth, to consign him back to it. He gave them so many days’ determined time; he gave them authority over everything on earth. He clothed them with strength like his own, and made them in his own image” (17:1-3).
“He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and revealed to them good and evil. He put his own light in their hearts to show them the magnificence of his works” (17:7-8).
“Their eyes saw his glorious majesty, and their ears heard the glory of his voice” (17:13).
“One day he will rise and reward them, he will pay back their deserts on their own heads. But to those who repent he permits return, and he encourages those who were losing hope” (17:23-24).
Sirach 18 – “He who lives for ever created all the universe. The Lord alone will be found righteous” (18:1).
“What is man, what purpose does he serve? What is the good in him, and what the bad? Take the number of a man’s days; a hundred years is very long. Like a drop of water from the sea, or a grain of sand, such are these few years compared with eternity. For this reason the Lord shows them forbearance, and pours out his mercy on them” (18:8-11).
“Man’s compassion extends to his neighbor, but the compassion of the Lord extends to everything that lives; rebuking, correcting and teaching, bringing them back as a shepherd brings his flock” (18:13-14).
“In a time of plenty, remember times of famine, poverty and want in days of wealth. The time slips by between dawn and dusk, all things pass swiftly in the presence of the Lord” (18:25-26).
Acts 8:25-40 - Peter and John return to Jerusalem. There Philip experiences “the spirit of the Lord” (also referred to as an angel), telling him to get up and go south toward Gaza. On the way, he encounters an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Ethiopian Queen on his way home from worshipping in Jerusalem. He was seated in his chariot reading Isaiah.
The Spirit impels Philip to go and engage him. He asks him if he understands what he is reading, and the man answers, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (8:31), and he invites Philip into the chariot. The passage he is reading is about the suffering servant: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter . . .” (Is 53:7). Philip, using this scripture, proclaims to the man the good news about Jesus. When they come by some water, the eunuch asks if there is any reason why he may not be baptized.
A Jerusalem Bible note says that there is a verse, verse 37, that is an ancient gloss preserved in the Western Text that says “’If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” The verse is omitted in the NRSV and in the Jerusalem Bible translation (also the Good News version).
Philip does baptize the man. “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing” (8:39). Philip finds himself in Azotus (a town right on the Mediterranean in Gaza) and there proclaims the good news to all the towns between there and Caesarea (8:40).