During the Biblical period, there were three times that Jewish males, regardless of where they lived, was to commanded to go to Jerusalem and the Temple –Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Therefore, one can understand why the Libyian Jewish man, Simon the Cyrene (along with his sons Rufus and Alexander), was present to carry Jesus’ cross on Passover. Hence, the reason why the 3,000 Jewish souls were saved on Shavuot (Pentecost) all heard the truth in their home language.
WAIT … You did not realize that all those souls were Jewish? Don’t worry … most of Christendom doesn’t either.
However, much of this information has been clarified and codified in Thomas Oden’s Early Libyan Christianity. Oden shows how many of the citizens of Libya/Cyrene were Jewish but had been scattered during an Greek diaspora (Ptolemaic Period). More than likely, many were Hellenistic in worldview but they still knew and obeyed the requirement to return to Jerusalem for these three festivals.
Simon the Cyrene was in Jerusalem to observe Passover and ended up carrying the cross of Messiah Jesus up Golgotha’s hill. Thousands of Jewish men (some of whom must have been a part of the Diaspora) were at the Temple just as the Holy Spirit filled the Upper Room on Shavuot and consequently came to believe in Messiah Jesus. It would be safe to assume, therefore, that these Jewish believers took the Gospel message back to their home cities and began to spread the Gospel message to those around them.
By now, you might be wondering what silphium has to do with this post or these Jewish believers in Jesus. Well … it is because this plant used primarily for an antiseptic, aphrodisiac, horse stimulant, and a seafood spice was the source for commerce and import/export in the North African world during and after the time of Messiah Jesus (Oden, 62-63). In addition, Jewish people who lived in what is now called Libya were heavily involved in the silphium business and transported around the world … along with the Gospel message.
One could make the argument that without this plant, it would have taken even longer for the Gospel to spread to Europe and to the non-Jewish world. Perhaps Acts 11:20 gives us a possible insight into this spreading of the Gospel to those who were at least fully assimilated Hellenistic Jews but possibly also not members of the Chosen People of God.
Silphium … a little known plant that was quite possibly the method by which the Gospel was brought to the Gentile nations. Quite remarkable when you think about it.
Therefore, the only question which remains now is … what can we use to give the Gospel back to God’s Chosen People (Romans 11:11)?