Nov 23, 2015

Paul and Bedbugs

Recently while going through some old articles in my files, I reread this piece by Jerome Murphy-O'Conner. I thoroughly enjoyed going through it but especially tthe following excerpt about bedbugs. 

"Those who could afford better rented beds in the rooms. The snorting and stamping of the animals outside was sometimes drowned out by the snores of others who shared the room, anyone of whom might be a thief. Paul’s anxiety that he might lose the tools of his trade was hardly conducive to a sound night’s sleep. And sound sleep was made infinitely more difficult by that perennial occupant of all inns, the bedbug.
"The menace posed by the bedbug is graphically— and amusingly—described in a tale from the Acts of John written in the third century A.D. about a journey from Laodicea to Ephesus.
“On the first evening we arrived at a lonely inn, and while we were trying to find a bed for John we noticed a curious thing. There was one unoccupied and unmade bed, so we spread the cloaks which we were wearing over it, and begged him to lie down on it, while all the rest of us slept on the floor.
“But when John lay down he was troubled by the bugs. They became more and more troublesome to him, and it was already midnight when he said to them in the hearing of us all, ‘I order you, you bugs, to behave yourselves, one and all. You must leave your home for tonight and be quiet in one place, and keep your distance from the servants of God.’ And while we laughed and went on talking, John went to sleep, but we talked quietly and, thanks to him, were not disturbed. 
“Now, as day was breaking, I got up first, and Verus and Andronicus with me, and we saw by the door of the room which we had taken an enormous mass of bugs. We were astounded at their great number. All the brethren woke up because of them, but John went on sleeping. When he woke up, we explained to him what we had seen. He sat up in bed, looked at the bugs, and said, ‘Since you have behaved yourselves and listened to my correction, you may go back to your own place.’ When he had said this, and had got up from the bed, the bugs came running from the door towards the bed, climbed up its legs, and disappeared into the joints” (#60–61).'"

“On the Road and on the Sea with St. Paul: Travelling Conditions in the First Century,” Bible Review 1:2 (Summer 1985).

If you enjoyed this excerpt, you might want to check out, “On the Road with Paul” by Edwin Yamauchi at the Christian History Institute website. Use this link

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