“Hi, I’m Paul and this is Barnabas…”

26 Apr

Bourges cathedral stained glass (image source: Wikipedia)

This last week I’ve been tutoring a group of trainees in ethnographic research methods. Sounds grand, but basically  this is about conducting formal interviews with a cultural informant in order to better understand a culture from an insider’s point of view.

All this made me wonder what Paul and Barnabas’s trip to Lystra might have looked like if they had enlisted the help of a local informant before heading straight into the market place to preach…

Paul & Barnabas: So, you’re from Lystra?

Random Lycaonian: That’s right, born and bred here. And proud of it {laughs}.

P&B: Thanks so much for being willing to speak to us.

RL: No problem. I saw you looked a bit lost, and well, as I speak a bit of Greek, I thought maybe I could help.

P&B: That’s great. It’s probably obvious, but we don’t understand a word of Lycaonian, so we sure do appreciate it. Do you think you could tell us a little about life here?

RL: Fire away. What d’you want to know?

P&B: Religion, for example, do you go to the temple to worship?

RL: Absolutely. Can’t be a true-blood Lycaonian without going to the temple.

P&B: Quite. So could you describe what a typical visit to the temple would look like?

RL: Sure. Well, you go to the temple. But you knew that already right?

P&B: {laughs} Yeah, we figured that one out! Can you go to any temple?

RL: I guess so, though most of us go to our local shrine, it’s just easier like that. Unless there is a festival and half the town is going, then we go to the big Zeus one, just outside the city.

Wilhelm Lübke's illustration of the temple as ...

Wilhelm Lübke’s illustration of the temple of Zeus as it might have looked in the 5th century BCE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

P&B: Oh yes, we saw that one on the way here. Let’s imagine you are going to the big temple of Zeus then – what do you do when you get to the temple?

RL: Well, it depends. If there is a special festival it’s different.

P&B: What about a normal day when there’s no festival?

RL: OK, so I go in, and I stand at the back for a minute. That temple is something else. Just awesome, man. Then I go to the front and talk to one of the gods.

P&B: So you have various gods? Can you give me the names of your gods?

RL. There are dozens of them! Do you want them all?

P&B: Another day maybe. Which are the most important ones for you?

RL: Well, Zeus is number one. He’s my favourite, and this is his temple after all, so I would always talk to him first. And then there’s Hermes. There are a few others but I guess those are the most important two.

P&B: Zeus and Hermes. That’s really interesting. What kind of things would you say to Zeus that you wouldn’t say to Hermes?

RL: Well Zeus is mega busy, I mean he’s the top guy. So I wouldn’t bother him most of the time. Only for something really important that I don’t think the others would be able to cope with. Or sometimes if one of the others is giving me grief I’ll go and ask Zeus to get them to cut me some slack. Especially that Ares guy, I just can’t make him out.

P&B: And what about Hermes?

RL: To be honest, I don’t say much to him. He won’t stand still, flying up and down from Olympus. He’s the one who speaks to us, brings us Zeus’s messages, you know, but he’s too busy to listen. No point talking to him!

P&B: And what happens in a festival?

RL: Well, normally there’ll be a sacrifice.

P&B: A sacrifice?

RL: Yeah, not a human one {laughs}.

P&B: Phew! What animals can be sacrificed?

RL: Well it can be a sheep or a goat, but for that really special occasion, it’s just got to be a bull. Or two. Or more even on a really special occasion.

P&B: What would be a really special occasion?

RL: Well, imagine that Zeus came here. I mean here, not Athens or Delphi, but suppose, just suppose, he turned up here. And did something amazing.

P&B: What sort of thing would be amazing for you? I mean, what would make you think it was Zeus?

RL: Oh I don’t know. Like, see that guy sat over there? The one begging?

P&B: Um-hum.

Raphael: The Sacrifice at Lystra (image source: Wikipedia)

Raphael: The Sacrifice at Lystra (image source: Wikipedia)

RL: Well, he’s never walked. Born like that, poor chap. What if Zeus came along – with Hermes, of course, he never goes anywhere without Hermes – and Zeus says to him – I mean Hermes, Zeus just tells him what to say – so Hermes says to him “stand up”, and he does. Now that would be something else. Boy, would we celebrate that. There’d be flowers, garlands and garlands of them, and we might even make it to a dozen bulls. The priests would start playing their drums and shouting, then they’d come out from the temple all dancing and singing, it would be wild. You’d know something special was going on and the whole town would turn out to sacrifice to them. Ooh, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

P&B: Us too. Really appreciate the heads up {nervous laugh}.

RL: You’re welcome. See you around then. By the way, what did you two say you were doing here?…

One Response to ““Hi, I’m Paul and this is Barnabas…””


  1. Cryptoquote Spoiler – June 1st, 2013 | Unclerave's Wordy Weblog - June 1, 2013

    […] “Hi, I’m Paul and this is Barnabas…” (eatingwithsinners.wordpress.com) […]

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