Hot Air or Foul Air?
Was it the Preacher or the Air Conditioning?
Acts 20:7-9 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. (There is a happy ending in the next 3 verses.)
We read in the above Scripture a simple story of an event which is usually used to imply, light-heartedly, we hope, what happens if a preacher goes on for too long. Be that as it may and preachers without Paul’s qualifications often do go on too long, but I find the passage an example of amazing accuracy and detail so consistent with the conditions of the time and clearly illustrating the need for an understanding of contemporary context.
I am sure many others have seen this amusing little detail but have not heard it explained from the pulpit as an example of the normality and common sense reliability of the Holy Scriptures. I record the story simply for that reason, that we may accept the accuracy of the Bible, even in such detail.
Let us examine the story.
(1) They - (probably a good crowd, Paul was popular speaker) - were packed in an "upstairs room".
(2) There were "many lamps" in the room, (a big power bill?).
(3) Eutychus was "Seated on the window sill"* - for a long time.
(4) Eutychus fell asleep and tumbled from the window.
If you have been to Israel or other middle eastern countries you will still see this type of dwelling. It is a hot land, the buildings have thick stone walls to keep out the heat and an economy of windows for the same reason. If you visualize this event in an "upstairs room" you will see that the air circulation would have been up the stairs and out the single window - hot air rose then also. The "many lamps" would have been oil lamps, flames, heating the atmosphere and diminished the oxygen supply, so much so that "Eutychus" was, in effect, sitting in a chimney and soon became sleepy and overcome by the carbon dioxide and insufficient oxygen without any help from Paul's preaching.
It is interesting to speculate whether Luke understood what had actually happened - I'm sure he did - and made an accurate report of the scientific cause (Verse 8) but whatever, the Holy Spirit made sure the inspired record was accurate, in what we may consider, in our wisdom, insignificant detail.
I feel we, not God, sometimes shroud the Scriptures in a mystery of "scholarly interpretation" that leads to division and mis-understanding. Where not the Scriptures given for our guidance and instruction? And what use is a guide book that is subject to "private interpretation?"
* Your Bible probably says, as did the verses we quoted from the NIV, "a window sill" but the original Greek says "the window sill" which is consistent with building practice in those days and the single window mentioned above.