Asking Questions of a Narrative

I think it is helpful to ask questions of any narrative text we are reading.  We should ask questions to aid our thinking and reflection, not because we intend to force answers to all of the questions.  Some questions won’t be answered.

For instance, take the familiar account of Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16:25-34.  When I preached the passage last Sunday evening at FBC Santo, I posed the following 10 questions:

(1) Why were the other prisoners up at midnight with Paul and Silas while the jailer was sleeping (vv. 25, 27)?

(2) How aware were the city’s authorities that an earthquake shook the Philippian prison (vv. 26, 35)?

(3) Why did everyone’s chains come loose (v. 26) when Paul and Silas were presumably the only believers in the prison?  Why did the Lord not free just Paul and Silas?

(4) If the jailer saw that prison doors were open, why didn’t he check to see if the prisoners were still there before he decided to end his life (v. 27)?

(5) If the jailer called for lights because he couldn’t see (v. 29), how did Paul know that the jailer was about to kill himself if it was so dark (v. 28)?

(6) If the jailer was sleeping during the singing and praying (vv. 25, 27), what did he want to be “saved” from (v. 30)?

(7) If all the prisoners’ doors were opened and shackles dismantled (v. 26), why didn’t the prisoners try to escape (v. 28)?

(8) When the jailer took Paul and Silas to his house in the middle of the night (vv. 30, 32), what happened to the other prisoners?

(9) When Paul and Silas had evangelized and baptized the jailer and his family (vv. 31-33), why did the two missionaries return to prison (v. 35) instead of escaping?

(10) Why did Paul postpone professing his and Silas’ Roman citizenship (v. 37) until after being beaten and imprisoned (vv. 22-24), when professing it earlier could have avoided such treatment?

I think there are clear answers to some of the questions, less clear answers to others, and disputed answers to the rest.  But my point stands: asking questions of a narrative helps us think about the content and reflect on the relationships between some scenes to other ones.

Feel free to pose some answers to the preceding questions in the comments.  Happy reading.


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