Clocks Striking Three
In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Cassius replies to Brutus, “The clock hath stricken three.” That’s called an anachronism. Cassius talked about clocks striking three 1500 years before mechanical clocks were invented to strike three. Shakespeare put something from his day in a story of Caesar’s day. But, unless you were closely paying attention, you might have never picked it up because clocks and watches are such a foundational part of our lives. It’s difficult to imagine life without a clock.
When we study the life of the early churches, we must be careful not to read what we do today, as a matter of course, back into the Book. For example, Acts 1 tells us the disciples met together and chose someone to replace Judas. Peter read the Scriptures, expounded the text, and showed that they should replace him with someone else. They nominated two men, the group cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias.
It would be easy for a Baptist to say they had a business meeting, someone made a motion, it was seconded, and the church voted, i.e., cast lots. Did they meet? Yes. Did they take care of business? Yes. But to say this was a “business meeting” brings everything one might think of in a business meeting back to the text. Roberts Rules of Order are not found in the Scripture.
What time of day did the church meet for Sunday morning worship? How do you know they met in the morning? Are we assuming first-century Christians had the first day of the week off work? The Jew’s Sabbath was on Saturday and they worked 6 days a week (Exodus 20:8-10) and the Romans were not Christians. There would be no concept of “days off on the first day of the week, especially for servants. It’s more likely that Eutychus fell asleep while Paul was preaching late into the night because he worked all day, and they started late in the day because that was the only time they could meet (Acts 20:9).
Anachronisms typically happen when we are defending a practice or trying to prove our approach to be Biblical. The danger, however, is going to the Bible to justify what we do rather than going to the Scripture to follow what we are commanded to do.
Some passages describe an event, but that doesn’t mean we must do the same thing. Just because Paul preached well into the night doesn’t mean we should. Sometimes descriptions lay down a pattern we follow. We can see from Acts 1:12-26, Peter didn’t make a decision and tell the others they would abide by it because he was in charge. He showed what the Scripture said and led the church in moving forward. Just because we don’t exactly know what it is to cast lots doesn’t mean the principle of the church making a decision together isn’t there. Peter said it was the “third hour” in Acts 2:15 but it wasn’t because the clock struck three.