Getting Together to Hear

Bob Zerhausen wrote an article a long time ago that explains the miracle in Acts 2 not as the Apostles speaking in languages they didn’t know, rather that they were all speaking in Greek. The lingua franca of all the places mentioned there was Greek. So why were people amazed at that? Because, Bob maintains, the event took place at the temple and only the sacred tongue of Hebrew would be spoken there. So it was an amazing thing to hear people at the temple speaking in the common tongue.

Yeah, I didn’t buy it either and Bob and I have been round and round about the problems with that interpretation. Not the least of which is the fact that the temple is not mentioned in Acts 2.

Today as I’m studying Nehemiah 8 something hit me. The people gather, Ezra prays and reads the Law and a group of men explain it. For me, this is the high point of Nehemiah. It shows the covenant community returning to their covenantal center with all their heart.

And what this has to do with Bob’s idea is that it didn’t take place at the temple. It took place at the Water Gate which was in the City of David, a district on the other side of Jerusalem. Bob claims that the only place in Jerusalem you could get 3,000 people together to hear the Apostles would be at the temple and therefore the Apostles must have moved there from their upper room. But that isn’t what we see in Nehemiah 8. The people gathered at a convenient spot and a big city gate was opened enough for them.

To be fair, there are a lot of differences between Nehemiah and Acts. Centuries had passed. Jerusalem at Nehemiah’s time was a mess except for the rebuilt temple and the city walls. In Acts, the city had grown considerably. In Acts we’re told explicitly how many people were there and in Nehemiah we’re not.

All of that not withstanding, it is still a remarkable thing that Nehemiah 8 did not take place at the temple. I mean it was a significantly religious event. If I were the planner the temple would have been the first place I would have thought of. The city was in bad shape but the temple had been rebuilt so that is something too.

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