Studying the book of Acts has been refreshing. When I usually read through Scripture, Acts is one of those books that I know little about and doesn’t seem to have too much to impact my faith. Sure, there are plenty of passages I find moving and uplifting, but for the most part, I’d rather read a Gospel or one of Paul’s epistles.
But with my work schedule slowing down and no longer being heavily involved with a church, I’ve had some free time to study through Acts thoroughly. With at least three study Bibles and one commentary opened before me, I’ve strolled through the first eight chapters taking every detail in bit by bit. And then today, right at the end of chapter 8, something caught my attention:
“And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea,” – 8:39-40
Blame it on all the episodes of “X-Files” I watched as a kid or blame my ridiculous imagination, but when I read this verse I pictured Philip being abducted by a UFO and transplanted over in Azotus. Ancient versions of Skully and Mulder would arrive where he landed, ask him a few questions about what he saw, and then move on to the next piece of the mysterious puzzle. Maybe that’s what got Luke started on his investigation in the first place? Maybe he was just hanging out in Azotus one day, doing whatever it was ancient physicians did back then, and then saw Philip come out of nowhere? Unlikely and a bit ridiculous, but possible. Right?
In all seriousness, however, I’ve always wondered about this passage and what it does for one’s faith. Personally, I question whether or not it happened since, like Dr. Bart Ehrman writes in his Brief Introduction, ancient historians “generally had little concern for, and less chance of, getting everything ‘right,’ at least in terms of the high level of historical accuracy expected by modern readers,” (164). But beyond its historicity, a question I can try to answer is: What does it mean for Luke’s message in Acts?
Here is where I’m hoping you could help me out. I have little invested into the book of Acts, so I’m trying to see what spiritual value there might be in having Philip miraculously transported from one place to another (roughly twenty-some miles apart). What does this passage mean to you? How do you interpret what happened? Was it like Elijah being carried away or was it Luke’s simple explanation of how Philip got from one place to another so quickly?
Or was it aliens (insert audio file of the “X-Files” theme music)?