Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s television series ”A.D. ”continued this week with episode 11 “Rise Up.” We asked for your questions. The following are brief responses to top questions.
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Did the Ethiopian eunuch supply weapons with the Zealots?
This episode focused on account in Acts 8 of the Ethiopian eunuch. It rightly portrayed Philip explaining the prophet Isaiah to him and the man’s quick baptism (minus a clear confession of Christ, unfortunately). However, this episode provides a convenient and controversial reason for the Ethiopian’s departure from Jerusalem—he was expelled as a weapon supplier to the Zealots.
The Bible does not mention this. While perhaps possible, it is unlikely the Zealots and Ethiopians worked together in this way. Instead, the Ethiopian eunuch likely came to Jerusalem on behalf of his nation, bringing gifts to stay on good terms with the Jewish people. In the process, this man came to faith in Jesus, marking one of the first conversions outside of the Jewish people.
Were the Zealots really that well organized?
In the New Testament, the Zealots were only mentioned in connection with the name of Simon the Zealot (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). Was this group really the highly organized rebellion portrayed in the A.D. series?
Historically, the Zealots were a strong political force in the first century. However, it was during the 60s that their power was most clearly noted. The first century Jewish historian Josephus listed them as a fourth sect after the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. During the first Jewish-Roman War (66-70), the Zealots incited the Jewish people to rebel against the Romans through war. They lost, as Jerusalem was burned in 70 A.D.
The Jewish Talmud also wrote that the Zealots were a non-religious group known for their aggression against the Roman government. Historically, the Zealots have often been blamed as the reason for the destruction of Jerusalem.
Was Tabitha really raised from the dead?
Acts 9:36-38 notes, “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, ‘Please come at once!’”
The woman named Tabitha was apparently an early Christian who lived in Joppa. This is a different location than in the A.D. series where she serves in the palace in Jerusalem, but otherwise is accurate. Verses 40-43 reveal her resurrection by Peter:
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.
Notice the following details in this scene: First, Peter’s healing led many to faith in Christ. Second, this miracle became known all over Joppa (not Jerusalem). Third, Peter stayed in Joppa for some time. Later in Acts, Peter is back in Jerusalem and is arrested (around 42 A.D.). Following a miraculous escape, he flees the area and is no longer seen again in Acts with the exception of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
How close did Caligula come to placing his statue in the Jewish temple?
Caligula did attempt to place a statue of himself in the Jewish temple in 40 A.D. However, the Jews greatly petitioned this act, ultimately leading to the end of this attempt. The A.D. series shows the statue showing up in a crate. However, the historical sources on this matter do not show that this attempt made it this far.
Further, Caligula was not in Jerusalem, a major historical inaccuracy in this series, and the chronology is problematic. The series appears to show all of these events taking place within months or a few years at the most. Even if the resurrection occurred at the later date of 33 (scholars debate whether it was 30 or 33), it was seven years later before this attempt to place Caligula’s statue in Jerusalem occurred.
How did Joanna really die?
In this episode of A.D. the early Christian Joanna is strangled to death. Is this how she really died? The Bible does not record her death, and history leaves no information about how she died.
Instead, the Bible notes Joanna was wife of Chuza, a manager or steward of Herod Antipas. She may have also been cured of an evil spirit or sickness by Jesus (Luke 8:2-3), and helped financially support Jesus and His followers.
Luke 24:1-12 records Joanna as one of the women at the tomb, making her one of the first people to see the resurrected Jesus. She certainly would have served among one of the 120 noted in Acts 1 and was part of the first church in Jerusalem described in Acts 2:42-47. It is doubtful she served secretly in the palace.
Some have attempted to identify Joanna as Junia mentioned in Romans 16:1 that reads: “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Joanna was certainly a believer before Paul and was a Jew who was “outstanding among the apostles.” However, whether this is the same woman is uncertain.
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