“They came to Thessalonica…Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas…but the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the market-place, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas…but when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials.”
Acts 17:1-6 (NIV UK)
One of the most exciting places to visit in the UK is the British Museum. In it there are many artifacts and exhibits from ancient civilizations, some of which relate to biblical times. The leading scripture is a case in point.
It was a tense moment for the early Christians in the Greek port of Thessalonica. Jewish leaders had incited a mob in order to force their views on the city’s authorities. Politicians sometimes do similar things today: they turn to violence and organize gangs of “bad characters”, as Luke calls them, in order to assert their positions. In this instance a Christian called Jason and some other believers were dragged before “city officials”. It is this phrase – “city officials” – that links us to the British Museum.
At the time of the rise of biblical criticism in the nineteenth century many scholars thought Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, had made a mistake in his Greek. The problem was that he used a word that appeared to be unknown in other Greek texts. The word is transliterated as “politarches”, which is translated above as “city officials”.
Had Luke invented the word? Had he made a mistake? In 1867, however, a first century arch from Thessaloniki was torn down, and later made its way to the British Museum. Inscribed on the arch is “politarches” (in Greek letters, of course). If you go to the British Museum, you can see this arch today. Since then other instances of the usage of the word have been discovered.
So Luke was precise and correct in the way he used this word. Once again the Bible is shown to be authentic in its settings.
From Day By Day by James Henderson. For daily encouragement from the Bible visit: