Acts 20:9, “And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.’
In May of this year, I will turn 51 years old. In those 51 years I cannot remember a time when Acts chapter 20, specifically the previously cited verse, being the focal point of topic as much as it has in the last few years. All those years in Sunday School classes as a child before joining the Primitive Baptist; the years after joining the Primitive Baptist and attending meetings all over Georgia; it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I heard the argument about this verse in God’s Holy Word.
The argument? There are some that interpret this verse to declare the Apostle Paul actually conducted a question and answer seminar at Troas. Why? The word “preaching” in Acts 20:9 is translated in the King James Bible from the Greek dialogomai. I firmly disagree with this interpretation. Why? Please consider the following:
(1) The Greek word dialogomai (Strongs #1256). If we complete a quick etymology word study, we learn that the English word “dialogue” is derived from this Greek word. Those who interpret Paul’s preaching to be a Q and A seminar declare the Greek dialogomai (Strongs #1256) to mean the exact same as the English word “dialogue”. Much has been built upon this word study to defend many activities which are being introduced in the Lord’s Church. It is always important to keep in mind, the Greeks prided themselves in saying much with few words. Often, and almost in every case, a Greek word will have a very broad definition. In the King James Bible, this Greek word dialogomai is translated in many ways. (used thirteen times, Mk 9:34; Acts 17:2, 17; Acts 18:4, 19; Acts 19:8, 9; Acts 20:7, 9; Acts 24:12, 25; Heb 12:5; Jude vs. 9).
(a) Mark 9:34 as “had disputed among themselves…”
(b) Acts 17:2, “reasoned with them out of the scripture…”
(c) Acts 19:9, “disputed daily in the school of one Tyrannus…”
(d) Jude verse 9, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”
(e) In Hebrews 12:5 we find an interesting verse of scripture concerning the word, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of him:…”
I trust the reader can see how the Greek dialogomai (Strongs #1256) cannot be made synonymous with the English word “dialogue”. The word dialogomai is too broad in its nature to be confined into one English word.
(2) I searched through the Translators prefix to the King James Bible and found this under “Reasons inducing us not to stand curiously upon an identity of phrasing.” In the first paragraph of this section we read, “Another thing we think good to admonish thee of, gentle Reader, that we have not tied ourselves to a uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done, because they observe, that some learned men somewhere have been as exact as they could that way.” The Translators of the King James Bible did not tie themselves to use the same English word when translating the same Greek word.
(a) One example of this would be the Greek Eutheos (Strongs 2112) in the Gospel According to Mark. The Greek Eutheos is translated in the Gospel According to Mark as straightway (Mk 1:10), forthwith (Mk 1:29), immediately (Mk 1:31), as soon as (Mk 11:2), and anon (Mk 1:30).
(b) The Oxford Universal Dictionary shows definitions of the word dialogue being used in the English language in 1589 and 1597. Other sources declare the word dialogue to be used in the English language well before these years which convinces me the Translators of the King James Bible had the word dialogue available for them to use when the King James Bible was translated.
If the word dialogue is synonymous with the Greek dialogomai (Strongs 1256) and the translators had the word available for them to use, knowing their purpose was not to be “tied” in using the same word repetitively, it makes sense that they would have used the word dialogue in at least one of the thirteen occurrences. The word dialogue was never used by the King James Translators when translating the Greek dialogomai.
(3) There is not one occurrence in Paul’s letters to the Churches where the word dialogomai is used. The Book of Acts teaches us much history concerning the Lord’s Church; how the Church passed from the Jews to the Gentiles, etc. But I struggle going to the Book of Acts and basing what I believe about the practices of the Church with one single verse found in this portion of God’s Holy Word. The practices of the Lord’s Church is given in clarity by the Apostle Paul in his letters to the Churches. If we cannot find a verse in those letters to establish the principal, we may should steer away from considering it altogether.
If the reader would allow, let me share my past experience before joining the Primitive Baptist. I was raised the son of a Missionary Baptist Pastor. My dad labored to pastor Missionary Baptist Churches throughout North Georgia. I was taken to Church and Sunday School classes at a very young age and attended regularly. During my middle teen years, my dad left the Missionary Baptist and joined the Primitive Baptist. He told me why, and tried to convince me of what he had come to believe. After a period of time (few years, I cannot remember how long), I was convinced and joined the Primitive Baptist. The Missionary Baptist Church where I was a member excluded me for denying what I once believed. I fell out of love with what was being taught (the music, the entertainment, and the Sunday School classes). I was, and still am, convinced the Primitive Baptist are the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, back to what happened at Troas. I find it quite amazing, that the Missionary group I had previously been part of, never used this verse or an etymology study of the word in the verse, to defend their position on Sunday Schools. They believed in the public question and answer format, but always interpreted the King James Bible to say what it says, “preaching.” I also find it amazing that a person would need a Greek dictionary to come to the conclusion that this verse, or word in the verse, is teaching a dialogue format. Just on a side note, my daddy told me years ago that if a person raced to the Greek to establish their argument, they probably couldn’t establish/defend it with the (English) King James Bible (loved my dad, he always had sayings that would stick with you). I struggle to believe a child of God could read Acts 20:9 in a King James Bible and conclude that Paul conducted a Question and Answer Bible study of some kind in this verse. Also, if we would pay close attention, Luke writes that “Paul” (singular) “was long preaching”. There is no scriptural evidence in the context where anyone was speaking but the Apostle Paul. Now just for study sake, lets put the word dialogue in place of preaching – And as Paul was long dialogue. Was Paul running a question and answer seminar with himself, by himself? Hmm, struggling a bit to make it fit here folks; a bit confusing for me.
What happened in Troas? The Apostle Paul was there for seven days. Upon the first day of the week the Apostle preached unto them. I’m sure his preaching stirred questions, so he spent time with the folks and listened and tried to answer, just as any pastor should be willing to do after Worship services and during the week, (on the telephone, email or at the Bible students home would be similar situations in today’s world). The Apostle would then preach again, and this time he would labor to ask their questions and answer them in his preaching efforts, “Paul was long preaching”. If we pay close attention, it’s the way he would often write. In Romans 8:31-39, Paul asks seven questions that he would go on to answer. Paul, with the time that he spent with those disciples, knew these questions were on their minds and he took the time to answer them. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the Apostle asked and answered several questions concerning the resurrection. Why? Because these were questions he knew were on the minds of the people that he felt needed to be answered.
In the end, I suppose if someone has already decided what they want to do, they can find a verse and twist it until it reads the way they want so they are able to justify what is on their mind. But remember, any effort to replace the Worship Service with a Q and A Bible Study (where men, women, and children, members and non members alike get to audibly ask their questions and discuss topics) will never stop there. Usually those things will end with the congregation receiving written hand outs, kids getting coloring book pictures, some type of outline for a future event, and even a division of people by age group (which I personally witnessed when a Georgia Primitive Baptist pastor took children to the front of the Church House between singing and preaching when I visited one Sunday several years ago). I’ve been there folks. Remember I used to be part of the group that did these things. My position on Church and Worship Services? Keep it simple; singing, praying and preaching. It’s been my experience that much peace, joy and spiritual growth is found in pastors being pastors, spending time with the flock and trying to help them learn more about the Lord and His Word; members of the Church being faithful members showing forth a good example of good works and humility; daddy’s and mama’s teaching their children at home, having a pastor that they can call upon when needed. This is the pattern that scripture will confirm over and over. And this is the pattern that convinced this sinner to leave a group that he loved, and still loves, in an effort to have a closer walk with God and His Truth. I love the Lord’s Church, the Primitive Baptist. And I love her the way the Lord blessed me to see her years ago. I love her so much, I have no desire to alter or change anything about her. I just pray that God will give me more grace to serve in His Kingdom in a way that pleases Him (Eph 3:21; Psalm 19:14).