Frescoes of Paul’s Ministry, Part 10: Paul and Barnabas at Lystra

Paul & Barnabas at Lystra, (Lystra sacrifice), Casare Mariani Acts 14:5 - 18, Ovid, 190-193, Philemon & Baucis

Paul & Barnabas at Lystra, (Lystra sacrifice), Casare Mariani, Acts 14:5 – 18, Ovid, 190-193, Philemon & Baucis

Acts 14:5 – 18

There was a plot afoot amoung the Gentiles and Jews (of Iconium, 13:51), together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them.  But, they found out about it and fled to the Lycoaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the good news.

In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked.  He listened to Paul as he was speaking.  Paul looked directly at him, and saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!”  At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Laycaonian language, “The gods have come down to use in human form!”  Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.  The priests of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

But, when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed into the crowds shouting: “Men, why are you doing this?  We too are only men, humans like you.  We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.  In the past, he let all nations go their own way.  Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provided you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”  Even with the words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrifcing to them.


What’s Going On?

Paul and Barnabas have traveled to the Galatian region of Asia Minor (contemporary Turkey).

They teach in the temple, and also to Gentiles who express interest, but they continue to stir up controversy.

At Lystra, Paul heals a man who has never been able to walk.

The people of the city are familiar with the story of Philemon and Baucis, which Ovid included in his compilation of stories called Metamorphosis.  In Philemon and Baucis, the gods Jupiter and Mercury appear as humans looking for villages who will take them in.

The citizens of Lystra, upon seeing Paul heal a man, claim that Barnabas is Jupiter and Paul Mercury.  The priest of the Temple of Jupiter prepares animals for sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul.

Paul tries to convince them that they are not gods, but want to tell them about God through Jesus.

What Are We Seeing?

Paul stands on the steps, with Barnabas behind him.  

The priest kneels before them, while other men bring a cow forward for sacrifice on the white altar in the center of the fresco.

Paul gestures for them to stop the sacrifice.

In the background we see faces of many citizens of Lystra, as well as a building that may be the Temple of Jupiter.


What popular culture stories of our times give you ways of viewing life events (e.g. the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, the Harry Potter stories by J. K. Rowling, the Star Wars sagas by George Lucas…)?

Quote – Fresco 10

Moved by his own somber spirit and remorse, and his transforming vision of Christ; influenced perhaps by Platonist and Stoic denunciations of matter and the body as evil, recalling it may be, Jewish and pagan customs of sacrificing a “scapegoat” for the sins of the people, Paul created a theology of which none but the vaguest warrants can be found in the words of Christ; that every man born of woman inherits the guilt of Adam, and can be saved from eternal damnation only by the atoning death of the Son of God.

  • Will Durant


About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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2 Responses to Frescoes of Paul’s Ministry, Part 10: Paul and Barnabas at Lystra

  1. Paul John Wigowsky says:

    Great job of continuing to bring the frescoes of St. Paul’s Basilica Outside the Walls in Rome to us. And thanks for the connection to the Philemon & Baucis story in this 10th episode. One observation (correction) — in Greek Mythology it’s Zeus & Hermes (in Roman, it’s Jupiter & Mercury). Looking forward to each Sunday when you post a new fresco with your biblical quote and commentary.

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