Many biblical characters – even ones whose influence or actions are important – are relatively unknown.

Who Is This Guy?

Seth, Genesis 4:25-26, 5:3-8; 1 Chronicles 1:1-4; Luke 3:23, 38

Jesus (not the one you've heard of): Jesus Barabbas, Bar-Jesus, and Jesus Justus, Matthew 27:15-26, Acts 13:4-7; Colossians 4:10-11

Gamaliel, Paul's teacher, Acts 5:27-42, 22:1-3


Doeg the Edomite, 1 Samuel 21:1-7, 22:6-23

Jethro, Exodus 3:1, 4:18, 18:1-27

Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:25-30, 4:15-20


Epaphras and Erastus, Colossians 1:1-8, 4:12; Philemon 1:23; Acts 19:21-22; Romans 16:23; 2 Timothy 4:20

Apollos, Acts 18:24 – 19:1; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 3:4-6, 3:21-23, 4:6, 16:12

Othniel, the first Judge of Israel, Joshua 15:16-17; Judges 3:1-12




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Jethro advising Moses, by Jan van Bronchorst, 1659. Click to enlarge.
Jethro advising Moses, by Jan van Bronchorst, 1659. Click to enlarge.


Genesis 4:25-26, 5:3-8; 1 Chronicles 1:1-4; Luke 3:23, 38, Seth (01/10/22)

Normally I average about one movie a year, but last Mother's Day, my youngest gave me a two-month subscription to DisneyPlus, primarily because he thought I should watch "The Mandalorian." In two months, I watched (mostly along with him) 16 episodes of "The Mandalorian," 4 animated films, and 16 Marvel movies. I would now recognize the Mandalorian, Captain America, the Iron Man, the Black Widow, Fury, Pepper Potts, Thor, and several others, even under assumed names in other movies or as Lego characters. However, there seemed to me to be about 437 named characters (not to mention thousands of extras), and I spent a lot of time during the 32 episodes and movies saying, "Who is this guy? Have we seen this guy before?"

Many biblical characters – even ones whose influence or actions are important – fall into the "Who is this guy?" category. The first one, of course is Seth, whose name appears only nine times. We have no personal data, except that he is the only child of Adam and Eve created in Adam's "image and likeness." I'm certain you've heard of Cain and Abel, but if Abel died and Cain gave rise to some foreign nations (Genesis 4), where did we come from? Seth is the ancestor of Noah, and therefore the ancestor of all of us. That's everything we know about him, but you have to admit that Seth's important!


Matthew 27:15-26, Acts 13:4-7; Colossians 4:10-11, Jesus (not the one you've heard of): Jesus Barabbas, Bar-Jesus, and Jesus Justus (01/11/22)

When my family goes to a movie, we stay until the house lights come on. We watch all of the credits. The number of people it takes to make a modern fantasy or science-fiction movie is astonishing – those Marvel movies I watched had 3000 to 4500 crew credits, which presumably does not count extras and computer-generated characters. Who keeps track of all these people?? What got me thinking about this is a comment from fellow reader Donna A.: "I'm thankful that I'm not an unknown to God." Amen! No matter how small your part is, God thinks you are perfect for it.

Did you know that there are four men named Jesus in the New Testament? Bar-Jesus and Jesus Justus have such small parts that they are mentioned in only one verse apiece. Jesus Barabbus isn't even given his first name "Jesus" in many manuscripts. But God knows who they are, because God keeps track of the whole crew.


Acts 5:27-42, 22:1-3, Gamaliel, Paul's teacher (01/12/22)

A brief appearance by a well-known person in a movie is called a cameo appearance. Gamaliel is one of the most revered rabbis of all time, even though he left only a sentence or two of written teachings. The Mishnah says, "Since Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, there has been no more reverence for the law, and purity and piety died out at the same time." Fellow-reader Daryl L. once said in Sunday School that "saying you were student of Gamaliel is like a physicist saying he was a student of Einstein!" Even though Gamaliel makes only a cameo appearance, he had great influence on the early Church, both by encouraging the Sanhedrin to ignore the apostles and by being the teacher of Paul.


1 Samuel 21:1-7, 22:6-23, Doeg the Edomite (02/11/22)

You've heard of King Saul and David, and you've probably heard of Abiathar the priest. How about Doeg the Edomite? When Saul was getting paranoid about David and trying to find him and kill him, Doeg happened to be present when David went to Abiathar's father Ahimelech to get some provisions. Doeg reported what happened to Saul, who ordered that Ahimelech and all his family be killed. Well! Saul's Israelite followers rightly want nothing to do with such an illegal order, but Doeg, a foreigner, was perfectly willing to carry it out. Abiathar was the only survivor, and he later became the high priest.

New, hot shewbread, or bread of the presence, was placed before the LORD each Sabbath day in the tent of the tabernacle, and the previous week's bread was taken away to be eaten only by the priests (Leviticus 24:5-9). Jesus refers to the incident of the shewbread in Mark 2:26, where he says that David "entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence." Much ink has been spilled about whether Jesus made a mistake, but John Wesley is undoubtedly right in saying, "This phrase therefore only means, In the time of Abiathar, who was afterward the high priest."

Exodus 3:1, 4:18, 18:1-27, Jethro (02/21/22)

Jethro was the father-in-law of Moses, and he took care of Moses' wife and kids while Moses was off rescuing the Hebrews in Egypt. When Moses came back, he had about a million people with him. If Jethro hadn't taught Moses how to delegate, Moses would have been worked to death in the first two years, and the children of Israel would still be in the desert. Don't expect your pastor to do everything. (Or to be good at everything; see 1 Corinthians 12.)

Philippians 2:25-30, 4:15-20, Epaphroditus (02/22/22)

We all know that Paul had fellow workers in Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Luke, and John Mark. The fact is, he had a lot of fellow workers, many of whom were his own converts and trainees. Because Epaphroditus [eh-paf-row-DIE-tuss] was from one of Paul's first churches, the one in Philippi, I'm assuming he was one of Paul's own students. Epaphroditus is one example of all those who work to advance the kingdom of God without becoming famous for it. Hold such people in honor.


Colossians 1:1-8, 4:12; Philemon 1:23; Acts 19:21-22; Romans 16:23; 2 Timothy 4:20, Epaphras and Erastus (02/23/22)

I have some friends who, as near as I can tell, keep in touch with every other friend they've ever had. Paul was like that. He had an enormous circle of friends, converts, and fellow-workers. Even in our brief reading about Epaphrus [eh-PAF-russ] and Erastus (eh-RASS-tuss], we see the names of Gaius, Quartus, and Trophimus. If you read more about Gaius (Acts 19:29, 20:4; 1 Corinthians 1:14; 3 John 1:1), then you run into Aristarchus, Sopater, Secundus, Quartus, Tychicus, and Crispus. Follow up on Aristarchus, and you find Demas, and so on. Most of these folks we know almost nothing about, except that they were early followers of Jesus, and they formed a web of Christians believers from Judea through Macedonia to Rome. COVID kept us out of touch for two years. Call or write an old Christian friend today to keep your personal web in good condition.


Acts 18:24 – 19:1; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 3:4-6, 3:21-23, 4:6, 16:12; Titus 3:13, Apollos (02/28/22)

If you think "Apollos" sounds like a Greek name, not a Hebrew name, you're right. By the first century, most of the Jews outside of Judea didn't speak Aramaic or read Hebrew, they spoke and read Greek. Apollos was Jewish though, and learned in the scriptures. When he became a Christian (as many Jews did), he was able to interpret the life and teaching of Jesus in the light of the Old Testament scriptures, and we know that he was influential in the early Ephesian and Corinthian churches. Paul seems to treat Apollos as an equal in his letter to the Corinthians, saying in 1 Corinthians 4:6, "I'm using myself and Apollos as an example that you shouldn't say one of you is better than another."


Joshua 15:16-17; Judges 3:1-12, Othniel, the first Judge of Israel (03/09/22)

Between the time the Israelites arrived in Canaan and the time of the first king, Saul, they had no central government. Presumably the tribal elders and leading men and women (don't forget Deborah) kept some sort of order and settled disputes. Each tribe had its own territory and ran its own affairs, although they had a common history and a common faith, and there seems to have been substantial intermarriage and interaction between tribes.

Once in a while, some tribe or group of tribes would start intermarrying and interacting with the local peoples. They'd forget who the real God was and start worshiping the local gods. God would allow some portion of the Canaanites to overpower them, and the tribal system wasn't adequate to lead a military resistance. Whenever the Israelites finally figured out the problem and repented, God's spirit would come upon someone that God had chosen to be a judge. A judge was a charismatic military leader. After leading the military action by a tribe or tribal coalition to get rid of the oppressors, the judge would lead Israel – or at least some of the tribes – for the rest of his life. Othniel, the nephew and son-in-law of Caleb, was the first Judge.



More of Who Is This Guy?
Introduction
Three guys named Ananias, Two Prophets, and Several Foreign Kings
Foreign gods and goddesses, Caleb, the Sons of Aaron, and Two Jehus
Gehazi, Four or five guys named James, Three Important Wives, Children with Ominous Names, and Ten Simeons and Simons
Biblical guys who are gals, Several queens, and who is this guy really?
Guys, and one Gal, with God in their Name

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