Troublemakers

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In Acts 17:6, we read “The men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here.” Why do they say this? Paul and Silas had only been in Macedonia for a few weeks. Actually, they are referring to a problem that was widespread at this time. It is easy for us to mistakenly think Paul is the only missionary carrying the gospel around the Roman world. All of the apostles traveled, as did many others. The gospel had been carried to Rome within a few years of the resurrection. Prior to this Judaism had spread and wherever Christian Jews went they, like Paul, went to the synagogue to tell their brethren the good news. Just as with Paul these missionaries were not always well received.

In Rome, the situation was so heated Claudius banished all Jews from the city. Suetonius tells us this was because of disturbances between Jews over someone named “Chrestus.” Suetonius (writing in Latin) mistranslated the Greek name: “Christos.” This was in 49 AD and lasted until the ascension of Nero in 54 AD.

This was not the first expulsion of Jews from Rome. Two prior expulsions (139 BC and 19 AD), for zealous missionary activity, had given Jews a reputation as religious trouble makers. As the latest decree is published throughout the Empire labelling Jews troublemakers and banning them from Rome for radical teaching, Paul and Silas are on their missionary journey which, within months, takes them into Macedonia.

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