Herod's palace, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea Maritima. Words mean something.

I know that saying is a bit of a cliche, but it is true. Words do mean something. And, in the Bible, they really mean something. The writers of the Bible did not just add words to meet some "minimal word count". They meant exactly what they said.

Recently, I finished a study of the Book of Acts. In one of the passages, Luke records a conversation between Festus and the Jews in Jerusalem. Note the prepositions that Luke uses:

Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.” After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” - Acts 25:1-12

Isn't that interesting?

Today, we usually refer to "up" as "going to the north". And, we refer to "down" as "going to the south". However, that is not the way that the Biblical writers used those words. According to them, "up" meant "up" and "down" meant "down".

Jerusalem sits on the crest of the central mountain range at an elevation of approximately 2,700 feet. Caesarea, since it is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, sits at sea level. So, from their perspective, the path to go to Jerusalem was definitely going "up". And, from Jerusalem, you would go "down" to get to Caesarea.

As you read through the Bible, don't just read past these small prepositional phrases without thinking about them. Why? Because words mean something.