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Home » Daily Readings

An Earthquake and a Jailer’s Conversion

Submitted by on Tuesday, 19 May 2009No Comment

Paull-silas-cartoon

NAB HomepageToday’s Readings

In Acts 16:22-34, Luke narrates an incident in Philippi that is similar to what happened to Peter and John earlier (Acts 5:17-21): a miraculous deliverance from prison.

Paul and Silas was imprisoned at the instigation of the owners of a slave girl whom they have exorcised (Acts 16:16-18). Because of the exorcism, the slave girl can no longer tell fortunes, a source of great income for her owners. Thus the accussation of the owners against Paul and Silas and the riot at the beginning of the liturgical selection (vv. 22-23a), the imprisonment of the evangelists and their being chained at the feet (23b-24).

Paul_silas-chained

The account of the deliverance in prison isn’t as quiet as the one in the case of Peter and John. In the case of Paul and Silas, there was a horrific earthquake that destroyed the jail house and knocked open the chains of the prisoners (vv. 25-26). The jailer was about the kill himself seeing what had happened at his watch — that would have been the honorable thing to do — when Paul stayed his hand( 27-28). What happens next is a story of conversion: Paul preaches the gospel to the jailer and to his household (29-32) and were baptized “without delay” (33). Afterwards, they had a meal in the jailer’s household, (the “agape”, 34a). So just as the deliverance of Peter and John (Acts 5) leads to their preaching the gospel(Acts 5:26.42) and building up the Church, as indirectly indicated in the speech of Gamaliel (Acts 5:35-39).

was this the place where paul was imprisoned?

It is interesting to note too that the jailer and his household was baptized “without delay” in the prison house. So how were they baptized? Was it by immersion in a river? Here is a case where fundamentalists would be wringing their heads in explaining how baptism would have been performed in a closed space with no river. The Didache,1 explains that there were two approved forms of baptism:

And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit (Didache, vii).

A final note here by Luke gives us an insight into the man who was the jailer of Paul and Silas: “and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.” (v. 34b.) This final note tells us three things about the man: (a) that before this he did not believe in God, (b) that believing now in God, his family found reason to rejoice, and (c) he now believes after hearing the gospel from Paul and being baptized in an act of repentance.

In The Catechism

Acts 16:31-33 is used in the Catechism in the following paragraphs:

 

Bible Verses CCC Paragraphs
Acts 16:31-33 CCC 1226
Acts 16:31 CCC 1655
Acts 16:33 CCC 1252
Acts 16:22-34
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
22And the people ran together against them; and the magistrates rending off their clothes, commanded them to be beaten with rods.
23And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the gaoler to keep them diligently.
24Who having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
25And at midnight, Paul and Silas praying, praised God. And they that were in prison, heard them.
26And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and the bands of all were loosed.
27And the keeper of the prison, awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the doors of the prison open, drawing his sword, would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
28But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying: Do thyself no harm, for we all are here.
29Then calling for a light, he went in, and trembling, fell down at the feet of Paul and Silas.
30And bringing them out, he said: Masters, what must I do, that I may be saved?
31But they said: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
32And they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house.
33And he, taking them the same hour of the night, washed their stripes, and himself was baptized, and all his house immediately.
34And when he had brought them into his own house, he laid the table for them, and rejoiced with all his house, believing God.
Acts 5:17-21
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17Then the high priest rising up, and all they that were with him, (which is the heresy of the Sadducees,) were filled with envy.
18And they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
19But an angel of the Lord by night opening the doors of the prison, and leading them out, said:
20Go, and standing speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
21Who having heard this, early in the morning, entered into the temple, and taught. And the high priest coming, and they that were with him, called together the council, and all the ancients of the children of Israel; and they sent to the prison to have them brought.
Acts 16:16-18
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16And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain girl, having a pythonical spirit, met us, who brought to her masters much gain by divining.
17This same following Paul and us, cried out, saying: These men are the servants of the most high God, who preach unto you the way of salvation.
18And this she did many days. But Paul being grieved, turned, and said to the spirit: I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to go out from her. And he went out the same hour.
Acts 5:26
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26Then went the officer with the ministers, and brought them without violence; for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.
Acts 5:35-39
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35And he said to them: Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do, as touching these men.
36For before these days rose up Theodas, affirming himself to be somebody, to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all that believed him were scattered, and brought to nothing.
37After this man, rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the enrolling, and drew away the people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as consented to him, were dispersed.
38And now, therefore, I say to you, refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to nought;
39But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God. And they consented to him.
Acts 16:31-33
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31But they said: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
32And they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house.
33And he, taking them the same hour of the night, washed their stripes, and himself was baptized, and all his house immediately.
Acts 16:31-33
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
31But they said: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
32And they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house.
33And he, taking them the same hour of the night, washed their stripes, and himself was baptized, and all his house immediately.
Acts 16:31
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
31But they said: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Acts 16:33
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
33And he, taking them the same hour of the night, washed their stripes, and himself was baptized, and all his house immediately.
CCC 1226
¶1226 From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans. Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household," St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi. And the narrative continues, the jailer "was baptized at once, with all his family."
CCC 1655
¶1655 Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary. The Church is nothing other than "the family of God." From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had become believers "together with all [their] household." When they were converted, they desired that "their whole household" should also be saved. These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.
CCC 1252
¶1252 The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole "households" received baptism, infants may also have been baptized.

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  1. The Didache is short for “Didache apostolorum” or “The Teachings of the Apostles”, which is a summary of the contents of the preaching and practices of the apostles compiled around 100 AD. []

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