Acts 15:34

Cool wall and gate. Montpelier.

Tuesday, 4 April 2023

However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there.  Acts 15:34

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous verse said, while speaking of the emissaries from Jerusalem, “And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.” Now, a verse that is not found in many manuscripts says, “However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there.”

The context of the previous verse was based on verse 15:32 which spoke of Judas and Silas. As it said in verse 15:33 that “they were sent back,” it would be assumed that it also spoke of Judas and Silas. However, in verse 15:40, it will say that Paul chose Silas to join him on a second missionary journey.

Because of this, it is believed by many that the words of this verse now were a later insertion to explain why Silas was available to join Paul. Some believe it to be a margin note that crept into the text. It is not found in the Syriac, Arabic, and Coptic versions. On the other hand, the Latin Vulgate says, “It seemed good to Silas to remain, but Judas went alone to Jerusalem.”

Supposing it belongs there, the plural of the previous verse could indicate that others came from Jerusalem with Judas and Silas, and together they left while Silas remained behind. However, that would seem to fly in the face of verse 15:27 where the council only mentions Judas and Silas.

Supposing it doesn’t belong, no contradiction between verses 15:34 and 15:40 should be assumed. Verse 15:36 will say, “Then after some days.” There is nothing to suggest the timeframe. It could be a few weeks or a year. It is a statement that could mean almost any amount of time. Therefore, Silas could have returned to Jerusalem and decided to go back to Antioch during those days, weeks, or months.

No matter what, either one text added a thought which is spurious, or a part of the true text was dropped out that does not affect any point upon which the overall narrative or any set doctrine hinges. If it is included in a version, it should be footnoted with a comment concerning why it is not in other versions. If it is not included in a version, it should be footnoted why it is not.

Life application: God has allowed man to copy and pass on His original word. God is not fallible and the word He originally breathed out is perfect because it comes from Him. However, man is fallible. Anytime man is involved in something such as this, a process of corruption will result because of man’s inability to maintain the perfection of the original.

We cannot reasonably look at such differences in texts and say, “This cannot be the word of God.” Rather, we can look at the whole and feel confident that it is the word of God, but that man has been graciously allowed to transmit it, causing contamination of it. And yet, God has preserved His word in a sure enough form that it still can be rightly considered His word.

It is certain that if a copy of a manuscript of Shakespeare’s work was found and it had spelling errors, transpositions, margin notes, missing words or sentences, etc., anyone who evaluated it would say, “This is a copy of Shakespeare’s work.” In fact, it would be ridiculous to say otherwise. And yet, naysayers of the Bible demand perfection of transmission to be a part of the process of conveying His word. If such perfection does not exist (which it could not because of the nature of man), then to them it somehow cannot be God’s word. The thinking is biased and flawed.

This is the trap that too many Christians have fallen into, thus believing that God has somehow preserved His word in an exacting manner that is 100% infallible in one particular version or another. They then choose a version, claim that the version they have chosen is God’s only infallible word, and condemn all others as being of the devil. This leads to a cult-like mentality and very poor theology.

But this claim has been made time and again over various versions in various languages. Rather than look at the matter from this viewpoint, we should look at the massive number of texts available as a blessing by which comparisons can be made to weed out obvious errors that have entered the various texts. This is responsible and it is certainly what God intended so that His word would be safely transmitted in a form that carries with it the essential information we need to share with others.

Lord God, do we have a sure word? We sure do. Thank You for Your precious word, O God. Amen.