Acts 13:1 names five individual “prophets and teachers” “in” the church at Antioch. Is this a similarity to our church “at” wherever we are, or a difference? In what way(s)? What images or impressions do we have of these prophets and teachers? Where do those come from (since Acts 13:1 doesn’t describe them beyond their names)? How might that (our background, things we already know) affect the way we read this story?
Acts 13:2 reports a specific saying of the Holy Spirit. How do you understand this statement? What experience(s), if any, do you draw on for this understanding? What difference does it make if we imagine the scene in different ways?
Acts 13:2-3 lists four ritual acts: worshiping the Lord, fasting, praying, and laying on of hands, which “they” do. Who are “they” in these verses – the “prophets and teachers,” the church at Antioch, other? Why do you think this? What difference might an answer to this question make?
What is the significance of the fasting and praying in particular in these verses? What other stories in the Bible can you think of where people fasted and prayed? What was the purpose of the fasting and praying in those stories, and what was the result? How might that affect the meaning of what happens in these verses? What implications might this text have for our own practices?
Read through the text and note where and how the word “hand” or “hands” appears, and how it is used. What do you notice? What might that mean, or affect how you understand the text?
Read through the text and note references to the sense of sight and of hearing? For instance, who “sees” and when? Who hears, what, and when? What do you notice? What might that mean, or affect how you understand the text?
There are two episodes of direct discourse in the text, in v 2 and v 10-11. Notice who speaks in each case, and what they say. What do you notice? What might it mean, or affect how you understand the text? What’s your reaction to Paul’s speech in particular? How would you describe that speech (for instance, kind/unkind, harsh/mild, rhetoric/conversation/prophecy/teaching/information/proclamation, etc. …)? How does the way you describe or think of the text affect how you understand it? Does the speech seem to be “doing” anything in the text? What? How important is that? Why?
Can we tell from the text where Bar Jesus/Elymas gets whatever power he has? Where? How can we tell that? What about Paul? Again, where, and how do we know? Can we tell from the text what Bar Jesus’/Elymas’ motives are for his actions? What are they, and how can we tell that? Again, what does the text tell us about Paul’s motives, what are they, and how can we tell that? Are there things we know about these actors’ power and motives that aren’t stated in the text? If so, how? If we didn’t know that stuff, would it make a difference to how we understand the text? What difference would it make?