the weblog of Alan Knox

Come now, let us reason together…

Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in edification, gathering, scripture | 1 comment

No, this post is not about Isaiah (from Isaiah 1:18). Instead, it is about the early church as described by Luke in the book of Acts.

But, you may be wondering, what does “reasoning together” have to do with the early church? Not only is this related to the early church, but the phrase “reasoning together” is used by Luke to describe what happened when the church gathered together.

Here’s the passage that I’m talking about:

And he [Paul] entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:8-10 ESV)

If you would allow me, I’d like to retell this story in my own words. It begins with Paul coming back to Ephesus. He had visited the city briefly, and had returned. As was his custom, his began by going to the synagogue where he often found people who were interested in hearing about God’s kingdom and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Luke says he continued gathering with the synagogue for three months. Now, he may have only met with them weekly on the Sabbath, but many texts from that time period indicate that Hellenistic Jews gathered as the synagogue more often than weekly. Regardless, while Paul was gathered with them, he had opportunities to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some believed and began to walk in “the Way” (one of the earliest names given for following Jesus Christ, i.e., Christianity). However, others became more stubborn and contentious and even began to “speak evil” of the new manner of life in Jesus Christ that Paul was proclaiming.

So, Paul and the disciples stopped gathering with the synagogue and began gathering in “the hall of Tyrannus.” For two years, followers of Jesus Christ in the city of Ephesus gathered daily at that hall (perhaps a school?). (I’m not assuming that the same group of believers gathered every day. I’m assuming that at least some of the believers were there at some point every day.)

What did the disciples of Jesus Christ do when they gathered at the hall of Tyrannus? They were “reasoning.” What does this mean? While the word “reasoning” is a translation of the Greek verb διαλέγομαι (dialegomai). This is the verb that eventually becomes the English verb “dialog.” But, we can’t assume that’s what διαλέγομαι (dialegomai) means – that would be a logical fallacy.

Instead, let’s look at a few other places where διαλέγομαι (dialegomai) is used in Scripture:

But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) with one another about who was the greatest. (Mark 9:34 ESV)

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 1:9 ESV)

We can see that this verb is used to indicate some type of discussion (at least in the instances above). It definitely did not indicate one person speaking.

We also find this verb used to describe what Paul did when he gathered with other Jews among the synagogue:

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) with them from the Scriptures… (Acts 17:2 ESV)

So he reasoned (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17:17 ESV)

This makes sense also, since we know that many of the Jews often disagreed with him. We can assume that Paul would not have been allowed to make a prolonged speech concerning the gospel without some response from those who disagreed.

In fact, Luke used the same verb to describe what Paul did in the synagogue in Ephesus, both the first time he visited the city and also in the passage quote above just before he and the disciples left the synagogue:

And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) with the Jews. (Acts 18:19 ESV)

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) them about the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8 ESV)

We also find this same other verb later in Acts when Paul spent some time with the church in Troas:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. (Acts 20:7-9 ESV)

So, for Luke especially, one of the favorite verbs to describe what happened when the church gathered is a verb that points to some type of discussion… so much so that it can even be used to describe a dispute or argument.

One Comment

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-19-2013