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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Acts 14



Verse 1

1. κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ εἰσελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν, that they went both together into the synagogue. These words probably refer not to one special visit, but to repeated occasions in which Paul and Barnabas appeared as fellow-labourers before the Jewish congregation in Iconium.

For an example of κατὰ τὸ αὐτό in this sense, cf. LXX. 1 Samuel 11:11, καὶ οὐχ ὑπελείφθησαν ἐν αὐτοῖς δύο κατὰ τὸ αὐτό.

καὶ λαλῆσαι οὕτως, and so spake, i.e. on various occasions, on some of which not Jews only but Gentiles were hearers of the word.

Ἑλλήνων, of the Greeks. St Luke elsewhere uses Ἕλληνες to mean Gentiles and Ἑλληνισταί to mean Greek-Jews. But it has been thought that in this verse Ἕλληνες can only mean Greek-Jews, and that the word is here used differently from the other places where it is found in the Acts. Such supposition does not seem necessary. Clearly the visit of the Apostles to Iconium lasted a considerable time, and it is not to be supposed that while there they refrained from speaking the word of their message in any place but in the solitary synagogue. They went, as their wont was, to the synagogue first, that place was the scene of their joint labours on many occasions, and there many of the Jews were won to the faith. But the Apostles spake elsewhere the same glad tidings which they published to the Circumcision, and by this labour many Gentiles also were converted. This seems a simpler explanation than to make St Luke say Ἕλληνες here, when he means Ἑλληνισταί. The verse condenses the account of the Apostolic labours, marks that their commencement was at the synagogue, that Jews became believers, and then without further specification of a place of preaching adds ‘and of the Gentiles,’ to complete the description of the whole result.

Verses 1-7


Verse 2

2. οἱ δὲ ἀπειθήσαντες Ἰουδαῖοι. Render, but the Jews that were disobedient. The same verb is found John 3:36, where the rendering should be ‘he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life.’ The word is stronger than ‘unbelieving,’ it expresses unbelief breaking forth into rebellion, and so exactly describes the character of these Jews who were persecuting Paul and Barnabas. It is noteworthy throughout the Acts that persecution seems nearly in every case to have originated with the Jews.

Cf. for the verb Baruch 1:19, ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ταύης ἤμεθα ἀπειθοῦντες πρὸς κύριον θεὸν ἡμῶν, καὶ ἐσχεδιάζομεν πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἀκούειν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ.

ἐκάκωσαν τὰς ψυχάς, made their minds evil affected. The verb is not frequently found in this sense. The precise phrase κακῶσαι τὰς ψυχάς (ψυχήν) is found twice in LXX. (Numbers 29:7; Numbers 30:14), but there it is of affliction put on a person’s own soul by a fast or a vow. It is also used (Acts 12:1) to describe the harm done to the Church by Herod Agrippa. Here it implies not only an ill disposition aroused towards the brethren, but also that injury was done to the minds in which such feeling was stirred up.

Verse 3

3. ἱκανὸν μὲν οὖν χρόνον διέτριψαν, long time therefore abode they. There are two results described in this and the following verse as the consequences of the Jewish opposition. First, a long stay was necessary that, by the words of the Apostles and by the mighty deeds following wherewith God confirmed them, the faith of the new converts might be fully established before the Apostles departed. Secondly, there came about a division among the people; the Christians and non-Christians became distinctly marked parties.

παρρησιαζόμενοι ἐπὶ τῷ κυρίῳ, speaking boldly in the Lord. The preposition implies dependence and rest upon something. The παρρησία of the Apostles came from the Lord, and was sustained by Him. He made them bold by His works of power in support of their message.

τῷ λόγῳ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ, the word of His grace. So named because the word of the truth of the Gospel is a message of grace and favour.

Verse 4

4. οἱ μὲν ἧσαν σὺν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, part held with the Jews. For a similar division see the history of the preaching at Thessalonica, Acts 17:4-5. That His word should cause such division had been foretold by Jesus (Luke 12:51).

Verse 5

5. ὡς δὲ ἐγένετο ὁρμή, but when there was an onset made. The noun does not necessarily imply that any direct attack had been made, which, from what follows, we can see was not the case. It rather refers to the excitement, urging, and instigation which the Jews were applying to their heathen companions, and which was likely to end in violence. Chrysostom says οὐ γὰρ ἐδιώκοντο, ἀλλ' ἐπολεμοῦντο μόνον.

σὺν τοῖς ἄρχουσιν, with their rulers. The religious animosity calling in the civil power, as on other occasions, to work its wishes.

καὶ λιθοβολῆσαι αὐτούς, and to stone them. We can see from this that the prompting to violence came from the Jews. Stoning was their punishment for blasphemy, and such they would represent the teaching of the Apostles to be. We need not suppose that any regular legal stoning like that of Stephen was intended, or that to accomplish that object the rulers here mentioned were such Jewish authorities as could be gathered together in Iconium, and that they are indicated by a vague term because they had no very settled position. The previous verb ‘to use them despitefully’ rather points to the opposite conclusion, and marks the intended proceeding as a piece of mob-outrage, for which the countenance of any authority was gladly welcomed.

In connexion with St Paul’s residence at Iconium, there exists a story of the conversion of a maiden named Thecla, of which the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla represents the form into which the legend had grown in the fourth century. Thecla, who was espoused to Thamyris, is said to have been deeply affected by the preaching of the Apostle, which she accidentally heard, and when St Paul was put in prison on the accusation of being a magician, she bribed the gaoler and visited the prisoner, and was fully instructed by him in the Christian faith. The Apostle was punished and sent away from Iconium. Thecla was condemned to die for her refusal to marry Thamyris, but was miraculously saved, and after many troubles joined St Paul in his missionary travels, and ultimately made her home in the neighbourhood of Seleucia, where she led the life of a nun till her death, which took place when she was ninety years old.

This story may at first have had some basis of truth to rest on, but it has been so distorted with inconsistent details, that it is impossible now to judge what the foundation of it may have been.

Verse 6

6. συνιδόντες, they being ware of it. The Apostles were not without friends among the people, and of the party which sided with them there would be some who could get information about any attack which was being planned against them. It is to be noticed that throughout the history there is no attempt to exaggerate the sufferings of the Christian teachers. Here was a narrow escape from stoning, and as such it is recorded with no more expansion than is absolutely unavoidable.

κατέφυγονκαὶ τὴν περίχωρον, fled unto the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and unto the region round about. From the violence of a mob excited by the Jews they fled into a wilder region where were few or no Jews, and the cities are enumerated in the order in which they were visited, while some to which they went are unnamed but included in the general term ‘the region round about.’ The flight of the Apostles is exactly in accord with Christ’s injunction (Matthew 10:23).

Verse 8

8. ἐν Λύστροις, at Lystra. This place lay almost south from Iconium, if the site generally assigned to it, at the foot of the Karadagh, be the correct one. See Dict. of the Bible. It is most probable that this was the home of Timothy. We cannot conclude this absolutely from Acts 16:1, because both Derbe and Lystra are there mentioned, but in Acts 20:4 we have an enumeration in which are the words ‘Gaius of Derbe and Timotheus,’ where the form of the expression makes it almost certain that the latter was not of Derbe. Further, when St Paul recalls to Timothy his sufferings undergone at this period (2 Timothy 3:10-11), he says ‘Thou hast fully known … the persecutions and afflictions which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra,’ words which seem to connect Timothy with the last-named place, and when taken in connexion with the other passages to be conclusive that Timothy did not live at Derbe.

That Timothy was made a convert to Christianity at this first visit of St Paul is plain from Acts 16:1, where on the Apostle’s second visit he is called ‘a disciple.’ It is also clear from the same passage (Acts 16:3) that there could have been but few Jews at Lystra at this time, or else the son of a religious Jewess would hardly have remained uncircumcised till he had reached man’s estate. Some, however, have thought that this may have come to pass through the influence of the Greek father of Timothy.

ἀδύνατος τοῖς ποσὶν ἐκάθητο, there sat a certain man impotent in his feet. Perhaps this cripple, like that other in Jerusalem (Acts 3:2), was brought by his friends to some much frequented place that he might ask alms of them that passed by. There is no mention of a synagogue in Lystra, and it is very improbable that there was one. The Apostles therefore would seek out some place of public resort where they might proclaim their message, and such a position would also be most adapted for the purposes of a begging cripple.

It is worth while to notice once again in what precise and peculiar terms Luke, the physician, describes the nature of this and other maladies which claim mention in the history.

Verses 8-18


Verse 9

9. οὗτος ἤκουσεν κ.τ.λ., this man heard Paul speaking. The aorist leaves it quite indefinite whether the man heard on this one occasion only, or had listened to frequent teachings, and so become filled with faith in what was taught.

ὃς ἀτενίσας αὐτῷ, who fastening his eyes upon him. This verb is common with St Luke, and seems to indicate that the person using it was an eye-witness of what he relates. It occurs several times of St Paul, as in Acts 13:9, where he fixes his gaze on Elymas, and Acts 23:1, where he attentively beholds the council. From the context of the latter passage, in which we learn that the Apostle did not recognize the high-priest, some have thought that this straining earnest gaze, so frequently ascribed to St Paul, was due to some weakness of sight remaining ever since his blindness at the time of his conversion.

καὶ ἰδὼν ὅτι ἔχει πίστιν τοῦ σωθῆναι, and seeing that he had faith to be healed. The man’s heart shone out in his face, and the Spirit within the Apostle recognized that here was a fit object to be made, by his cure, a sign unto the men of Lystra. Cf. Mark 10:23.

The genitival infinitive τοῦ σωθῆναι may here be regarded as a noun regularly governed by πίστιν.

Verse 10

10. εἶπεν μεγάλῃ φωνῇ, said with a loud voice, i.e. raising his tone above that in which his ordinary address was given. Chrysostom says, διατὶ μεγάλῃ φωνῇ; ὥστε τοὺς ὄχλους πιστεῦσαι, having their attention called to the cure which followed at once upon the words.

ἀνάστηθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας σου ὀρθός, stand upright on thy feet. It has been noticed in chap. 3 how different is the narration of this miracle from that wrought by St Peter at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. The two cures were of exactly the same character, and had the historian been giving his own words only and aiming at producing a harmony in his picture between the words and works of St Paul and St Peter, no finer opportunity could have been found than by making the narratives in these two places as much as possible alike. A careful perusal leaves the impression that the latter may have been written from personal observation (see below on Acts 14:22) or from the information of St Paul, but that the former was drawn from an entirely different authority, and that the historian has faithfully preserved the distinct character of the two sources from which he derived his information.

καὶ ἥλατο καὶ περιεπάτει, and he leaped and walked. The difference in tense is to be remarked in these verbs. ἤλατο is aorist as expressing one act, the upward spring, which shewed once for all that the cure was wrought; περιεπάτει is imperfect, and indicates that the act of walking was continued, that he henceforth was able to exercise his new power.

Verse 11

11. Λυκαονιστί, in the speech of Lycaonia. Which would come more naturally to their lips than any other. The people were bilingual, and St Paul had been speaking to them in Greek. This fact may give us some additional light on the question of what the gift of tongues was which was bestowed upon the Apostles. Clearly, from what we see here, it was not such a power as enabled them at once to understand and converse in the various dialects of all the people into whose countries they might be brought in their missionary labours. For it is manifest that neither Paul nor Barnabas understood the cry of these Lycaonians. If they had, we cannot suppose that they would have allowed a moment to elapse before they corrected the false impression which the words conveyed, and at which, when they came to know its purport, they expressed such horror. They, however, left the place where the multitude of listeners had been assembled, and departed to their own lodgings without any knowledge of what the mistaken people were about to do.

On this compare the words of Chrysostom, Ἀλλ' οὐκ ἧν τοῦτο (the intention to offer sacrifice) οὐδέπω δῆλον. τῇ γὰρ οἰκείᾳ φωνῇ ἐφθέγγοντο λέγοντες ὄτι οἱ θεοὶ ὁμοιωθέντες ἀνθρώποις κατέβησαν πρὸς ἡμᾶς. διὰ τοῦτο οὐδὲν αὐτοῖς ἔλεγον. ἐπειδὴ δὲ εἶδον τὰ στέμματα τότε ἐξελθόντες διέῤῥηξαν τὰ ἱμάτια.

οἱ θεοὶ ὁμοιωθέντες κ.τ.λ., the gods are come down to us. Nothing was more familiar to the heathen mind than the thought of the gods assuming human shape and going about among mankind, and it has often been noticed that the scene of the legend of Baucis and Philemon related by Ovid (Metam. VIII. 611 seqq.), and in which Jupiter and Mercury are said to have wandered on earth and to have been received as guests by Baucis and Philemon, is laid in Phrygia, which province was close to Lycaonia.

Verse 12

12. ἐκάλουν τε τὸν Βαρνάβαν Δία, τὸν δὲ Παῦλον Ἑρμῆν, and they called Barnabas, Jupiter [Zeus]; and Paul, Mercurius [Hermes]. Of course this was not known until afterwards. We can understand how the heathen people concluded that if any deity came to visit them with a beneficent purpose it would be that god Jupiter whose temple was before their city, and to whom therefore their chief worship was paid; and Mercury was counted as the principal attendant on Jupiter, and moreover as the god of eloquence. It was obvious, therefore, to assign that name to the chief speaker, and the name of Jupiter to that one of the two Apostles who had the more commanding presence. That St Paul was not such a figure we know from his own words, and tradition describes him as ἀνὴρ μικρὸς τῷ μεγέθει, ψιλὸς τῇ κεφαλῇ, ἀγκύλος ταῖς κνήμαις, Acta Pauli et Theclæ, 2. Of the aspect of Barnabas, Chrysostom writes, ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς ὄψεως ἀξιοπρεπὴς εἶναι ὁ Βαρνάβας.

ἐπειδὴ αὐτὸς ἦν ὁ ἡγούμενος τοῦ λόγου, because he was the chief speaker. This character is always assigned to Hermes by the heathen writers. Cf. Macrobius, Sat. I. 8, ‘Scimus Mercurium vocis et sermonis potentem,’ and Iamblichus, de Mysteriis ad init., says of him θεὸς ὁ τῶν λόγων ἡγεμών.

Verse 13

13. ὅ τε ἱερεὺς τοῦ Διὸς τοῦ ὄντος πρὸ τῆς πόλεως, the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, i.e. ‘whose temple was before their city.’ Zeus was their tutelar divinity, and it was to his priest that the people ran with their cry, and brought him, with all the preparations for a sacrifice, to the gate of the house where the Apostles were lodged.

ταύρους καὶ στέμματα, oxen and garlands. The latter were sometimes put on the heads of the victims, and sometimes used by the worshippers for their own decorations at religious rites. Probably in this case they were meant to make gay some temporary altar.

ἐπὶ τοὺς πυλῶνας, unto the gates. Even though we have the plural here it seems impossible to regard the word as used of the gates of the city, because of the action of the Apostles (ἐξεπήδησαν) who sprang forth upon the intending worshippers. The word must refer to the entrance of the house where the Apostles lodged. They were within the house, and as it was meet to offer the victims to the supposed gods in their presence rather than on the altar at Jupiter’s temple, it was to the house of their host that the procession came.

Verse 14

14. ἀκούσαντες δέ, but when they heard. As they did first from the clamour and excitement of the would-be worshippers.

ἐξεπήδησαν, they sprang out. They were horror-stricken at what was contemplated, and with garments rent to shew, by signs (for there would be many among the crowd who could understand little of what they said) as well as by words, their repudiation of such worship. they sprang forth from the house, through the vestibule, and into the midst of the crowd, that they might put an end to the delusion of the people. Cf. Matthew 26:65.

Verse 15

15. εὐαγγελιζόμενοι, preaching unto you. Literally, ‘bringing you good tidings’ as the message must be which makes known to men a living God in the place of a dumb idol.

ἀπὸ τούτων τῶν ματαίων ἐπιστρέφειν, that ye should turn from these vain things. τὰ μάταια is a frequent expression in the LXX. for ‘false gods’; cf. 2 Kings 17:15, καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν ὀπίσω τῶν ματαίων. Also Jeremiah 2:5; Leviticus 17:7, &c.

Verse 16

16. ὃς ἐν ταῖς παρῳχημέναις γενεαῖς κ.τ.λ., who in bygone generations suffered all the heathen to walk in their own ways. On this cf. Acts 17:30; Romans 1:2.

πορεύεσθαι ταῖς ὁδοῖς. This phrase in the LXX. almost always has the preposition ἐν, but it is found without a preposition (according to some MSS.) in 2 Chronicles 11:17.

God had chosen Israel only for His own people before the coming of Christ, and had given to the rest of the world no revelation of Himself except what they could read in the pages of the book of nature. But that, St Paul says, spake clearly of a careful Creator and Preserver of the world.

Verse 17

17. οὐκ ἀμάρτυρον αὐτὸν ἀφῆκεν, He left not Himself without witness. This is the same argument which the Apostle employs (Acts 17:27) to the more philosophic multitude whom he addressed on Mars’ Hill. God’s natural teaching is meant to speak alike to all men. Cf. also the similar reasoning in Romans 1:19-20.

ὑμῖν ὑετοὺς διδούς, giving you rain. The reading ἡμῖν of the Text. recept. seems unnatural. For the Apostle could not include himself amongst those to whom God’s appeal had been made through the gifts of nature only.

A few rather unusual words and forms which occur in this verse have suggested to some that we have here a fragment of a Greek poem on the bounties of nature, which the Apostle quotes, as he sometimes does quote the Greek poets, to illustrate his speech from the language familiar to his hearers. Attempts have therefore been made to arrange the words into some dithyrambic metre. But it is hardly probable that St Paul would quote Greek poetry to the people in Lycaonia, to whom Greek was not sufficiently familiar for them to appreciate its literature to the extent which this supposition presumes, and certainly the other quotations which he makes from Greek authors (Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12) are used to much more cultured audiences.

τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν, your hearts, to correspond with the first part of the verse. With the Greeks καρδία was the seat of the appetites, so that there could be no harshness in such an expression as ‘to fill the heart with food.’

Verse 18

18. τοῦ μὴ θύειν αὐτοῖς, that they had not done sacrifice unto them. Here the genitival infinitive is in strict government by the verb κατέπαυσαν, which like other verbs of detention and hindering can be properly constructed with a genitive.

Verse 19

19. ἀπὸ Ἀντιοχείας καὶ Ἰκονίου Ἰουδαῖοι, certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium. Their anger, like that of ‘the circumcision’ in Jerusalem, was roused against the Apostles, whom they knew to be born Jews, but whom they saw casting away the legal restraints to which they themselves clung. They therefore followed them to other places and represented them no doubt as renegade Jews, and probably taught the heathen people, that what they had seen done was done by evil powers and not by beneficent ones. Some such argument they must have used. The mighty work of the cured cripple bore witness to the reality of the Apostle’s power. It was only left, therefore, to ascribe it to evil agency, as the Jews aforetime said of Christ, ‘He casteth out devils through Beelzebub.’

πείσαντες τοὺς ὄχλους, having persuaded the multitudes. Dean Howson (Life and Epistles of St Paul, I. 208) quotes from the Scholiast on Homer (Il. IV. 89–92) the following, ἄπιστοι γὰρ Λυκάονες, ὡς καὶ Ἀριστοτέλης μαρτυρεῖ, a passage which is confirmed by the fickle conduct of the people on this occasion. For a similar sudden change of temper in the populace, cf. the conduct of the multitude at Jerusalem just before the Crucifixion, and the sudden alteration of opinion in the people of Melita (Acts 28:6).

καὶ λιθάσαντες τὸν Παῦλον, and having stoned Paul. Their jealous rage carried them to such a length that they became themselves the active agents in taking vengeance on the ‘chief speaker’ of the two missionaries. This must be the stoning to which Paul alludes (2 Corinthians 11:25), ‘Once was I stoned.’ And Paley (Horæ Paulinæ, p. 69) calls attention to the close agreement between the history of St Luke and the letter of St Paul. At Iconium St Paul had just escaped stoning; at Lystra he was stoned. The two circumstances are mentioned by the historian, only the actual suffering by the Apostle himself. Nothing but truth to guide them, says Paley, could have brought the two writers so close ‘to the very brink of contradiction without their falling into it.’

ἔσυρον ἔξω τῆς πόλεως, they drew him out of the city. The stoning had not been in a place set apart for such executions, for there were few Jews in Lystra, but had been done publicly in the midst of the city, perhaps in the place of common resort where St Paul had been wont to preach.

νομίζοντες αὐτὸν τεθνηκέναι, thinking that he was dead. As they had apparently every reason to do, when the body could be dragged along the road.

Verses 19-28


Verse 20

20. κυκλωσάντων δὲ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτόν, but as the disciples stood round about him. Among this ring of disciples we may well believe that the young Timothy was included. Braving all danger that might attend on their act, the believers at Lystra gathered about what they, as well as his assailants, deemed the corpse of their teacher, and their sorrowing thoughts were perhaps concerned how they might procure for it reverent burial.

ἀναστὰς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὴν πόλιν, he rose up and came into the city. The word ἀναστάς conveys the impression that this was a resurrection from the dead, and that the restoration of the Apostle, and his immediate exhibition of vigour, and boldness to enter again into the city, was the effect of a miracle. That one stoned and left for dead by a savage mob should revive and go about as if nothing had befallen him must have been a still more striking evidence of the mighty power of God present with these teachers than what the people had seen before in the restoration of the cripple.

On the zeal of the Apostle and his readiness to return to the scene of his danger, Chrysostom remarks οὐδαμοῦ δὲ λέγει ὅτι ὑπέστρεψαν χαίροντες ὅτι σημεῖα ἐποίησαν, ἀλλ' ὅτι κατηξιώθησαν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ ἀτιμασθῆναι.

καὶ τῇ ἐπαύριον ἐξῆλθεν, and the next day he departed. Having been sheltered for the night in the house of some disciple, perhaps in that of Eunice and Lois, the mother and grandmother of Timothy, of whose faith the Apostle speaks (2 Timothy 1:5) as though he had been witness of its fruits in their lives.

σὺν τῷ Βαρνάβᾳ εἰς Δερβήν, with Barnabas to Derbe. Barnabas, it seems, had not been an object of jealousy to the Jews. His power, though great as the ‘son of exhortation or consolation,’ was not so demonstrative as that of his fellow Apostle. Derbe, the town to which the Apostles next went, was to the east of Lystra. We have no mention of any other places in Lycaonia than these two as visited by Paul and Barnabas, but from Acts 14:6 we gather that their preaching was extended to other parts of the surrounding country.

Verse 21

21. μαθητεύσαντες ἱκανούς, and having made many disciples. According to Christ’s words (Matthew 28:19), μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη. Of course teaching was a part of the process, but μαθητεύειν implies a stage beyond that. Perhaps ‘Gains of Derbe,’ whom St Luke mentions as one of Paul’s companions in a subsequent journey (Acts 20:4), may have been one of these. This is the more probable because he is there mentioned in the same clause with Timothy, who undoubtedly was converted by St Paul during this visit to Lycaonia.

ὑπέστρεψαν, they returned. Thus going back over the ground which they had travelled before, that they might provide for the spread of that seed of the word which they had imperilled themselves so greatly to sow.

Verse 22

22. ἐπιστηρίζοντες τὰς ψυχὰς τῶν μαθητῶν, confirming the souls of the disciples. The strengthening indicated by ἐπιστηρίζειν is of that kind which St Peter was charged to afford to his fellow disciples. ‘When thou art converted strengthen (στήρισον) thy brethren,’ i.e. by warnings and exhortations drawn from thy own trials and thy deliverance from them. We see that this was the purport of St Paul’s charge to the Churches.

τῇ πίστει, in the faith. This expression seems to point to the existence of a definite creed. ἡ πίστις is certainly so used in later books of the N.T. Cf. Colossians 1:23; 1 Peter 5:9, &c.

καὶ ὅτι διὰ πολλῶν θλίψεων δεῖ ἡμᾶς κ.τ.λ., and that we must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom of God. From the use of the pronoun ‘we’ in this sentence some have thought that, although unmentioned, the writer of the Acts was present with Paul and Barnabas in this first missionary journey as well as in the others. St Luke only indicates his presence at Troas and elsewhere in the same manner (Acts 16:10-12, &c.), though in those passages the mention is more conclusive than in the verse before us.

Verse 23

23. χειροτονήσαντες, having ordained. The word is found elsewhere in N.T. only in 2 Corinthians 8:19. It is used of the like ordination in the ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,’ 15, χειροτονήσατε οὖν ἑαυτοῖς ἐπισκόπους καὶ διακόνους ἀξίους τοῦ κυρίου. So Philo de præm, et pæn. 9, ὑπὸ θεοῦ χειροτονηθείς. So too Josephus, Ant. VI. 4. 2.

κατ' ἐκκλησίαν πρεσβυτέρους, elders in every Church, i.e. men who should have the oversight, and take care for the growth of these infant Churches when the Apostles were gone. It appears, then, that the Church in these places must have gone on without any regular ministry. On the appointment of Elders cf. Acts 11:30.

προσευξάμενοι μετὰ νηστειῶν, having prayed with fasting. They used the same solemn service, at the dedication of these men to their duties, which had been used when they were themselves sent forth from Antioch for their present labour (Acts 13:3).

On this conduct Chrysostom says: εἶδες θερμότητα Παὺλου; προσευξάμενοι, φησὶ, μετὰ νηστειῶν παρέθεντο αὐτοὺς τῷ κυρίῳ. ὅρα· μετὰ νηστειῶν αἱ χειροτονίαι. πάλιν νηστεία τὸ καθάρσιον τῶν ἡμετέρων ψυχῶν.

παρέθεντο κ.τ.λ., they commended them to the Lord. Cf. St Paul’s parting commendation (καὶ τανῦν παρατίθεμαι ὑμᾶς) of the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:32) who had come to meet him at Miletus. The Lord was able here also to build these men up, and to give them an inheritance among those which are sanctified.

Verse 25

25. καὶ λαλήσαντες ἐν Πέργῃ τὸν λόγον, and when they had spoken the word in Perga. Which, for some unstated reason, they appear not to have done as they passed through it before. See Acts 13:13-14, note.

εἰς Ἀττάλειαν, to Attalia. A seaport of Pamphylia, at the mouth of the river Catarrhactes. For its history see Dictionary of the Bible. The Apostles had sailed, as they came from Paphos, directly to Perga, which they reached by coming some way up the river Cestrus. Now they go by land from Perga to the seacoast at Attalia, where there was more likelihood of finding a vessel in which they could sail into Syria.

Verse 26

26. ὅθεν ἦσαν παραδεδομένοι τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ, from whence they had been commended to the grace of God. It is necessary to recur to the more usual meaning of παραδίδοσθαι before we reach the whole sense of these words. It is most commonly used of giving up to enemies, and of exposing to danger; and that there were dangers and foes in abundance before them those who sent out Barnabas and Paul knew, but while sending them into danger, they had faith in the grace of God for them.

Verse 27

27. καὶ συναγαγόντες τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, and having gathered the Church together, i.e. the Christian congregation at Antioch who had been moved by the Spirit (Acts 13:2) to send them forth. It was fitting therefore that to them should be made a declaration of the results of the Apostolic mission.

ὅσα ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς μετ' αὐτῶν, all that God had done with them. The expression occurs again in Acts 15:4. The preposition implies that they felt through the whole work that their motto was Immanuel = God with us, cooperating and conspiring with every effort. Chrysostom on this verse says, οὐκ εἶπον ὅσα αὐτοὶ ἐποίησαν, ἀλλ' ὅσα ὁ θεὸς μετ' αὐτῶν.

ἤνοιξεν τοῖς ἔθνεσι θύραν πίστεως, had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles, i.e. had made faith the ground of admission to His kingdom. It was now no longer through circumcision that men should enter in and be known as God’s people. The Gospel privileges were offered to every one that believed. The phrase ἀνοίγειν θύραν in this sense first occurs here: cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; Revelation 3:8.

Verse 28

28. διέτριβον δὲ χρόνονμαθηταῖς, and they abode no little time with the disciples. St Paul was naturally more attached to Antioch than to Jerusalem, for here was the centre where Gentiles had first formed a Church, and where consequently he found most sympathy with his special labours.

The termination of St Paul’s first missionary journey seems a fitting place to notice the general character of the Apostle’s labours as they are set forth for us by the historian. A space of three or four years at least must be assigned for the duration of this first mission, and as the district traversed was comparatively small, a considerable time must have been spent at each place which was chosen for a centre of labour. This is very clear from St Luke’s narrative. He tells us (Acts 13:49) how ‘the word of God was published throughout all the region.’ He speaks also (Acts 13:52, Acts 14:22) of ‘the disciples’ as though converts had been made in no small numbers. Again at Iconium he mentions (Acts 14:1) that (a great multitude both of Jews and Greeks believed,’ and (Acts 14:3) that ‘long time’ was spent there in striving to overcome the opposition of the ‘unbelieving Jews,’ and at last the whole city seems to have been divided through the influence of the missionaries into two great and warmly opposing factions. Such results were not produced by a couple of unknown Jewish preachers except after long-extended labour. At Lystra they abode long enough to attract crowds to their discourses and to form a congregation of earnest disciples, who did not allow the work to die out. Another proof of the abundant fruit of their labours is the necessity for ordaining elders in the various centres and providing for orderly Church government. It took too no short time, we may feel sure, to secure converts of such a character as to be fit for the presidential offices in every Church. And the subsequent language of St Paul (Acts 15:36) where he speaks of revisiting their brethren in every city where they ‘had before preached the word of the Lord,’ shews that he believed a good foundation had been laid in the various places where they had ministered. We judge from this that the plan of the mission was that Barnabas and Paul made a stay in some centre of population, and there continued their preaching till converts enough and of such a character had been gained to continue the work when the Apostles departed, and some of them so far instructed as to be fit to become teachers to the rest.

It is however when we read of the Christian congregations that the narrative of St Luke becomes most replete with interest. The vision by which St Paul was called (Acts 22:21) declared him expressly chosen to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. In his letter to the Galatians he confirms (Galatians 2:7) what St Luke tells us on this point in the history. Yet the history exhibits him to us as quite acting up to the feelings which he himself has expressed (Romans 10:1), where he declares that his heart’s desire for Israel is that they may be saved, and it shews us how his whole life was in accord with the language of that same Epistle (Romans 11:1) when he completely identifies himself with the children of Israel. Throughout all this missionary tour the Apostle in no instance neglects to publish the glad tidings of salvation first to his own people. The Jews reject him in one place, yet he still goes to their brethren first at the next station to which he comes. In Cyprus both he and Barnabas went first to the synagogue in Salamis. It is true that they preached mightily unto the Gentiles, but the Jews had heard their message first. At Antioch it was in the synagogue that their mission was commenced. They took their places there as ordinary Jewish worshippers, and were asked by the rulers to address the congregation as being brethren and of the same faith. The address which St Paul made on that occasion, the summary of which St Luke has preserved for us, echoes in more than one place the language of the Epistle to the Romans. While in the latter St Paul says (Romans 3:28) ‘we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law,’ the historian relates (Acts 13:39) that he said to the Antiochene congregation in similar terms, ‘By Him all that believed are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.’ In the same way we find in the Epistle St Paul explains to the Romans (Romans 10:19) that God’s purpose had been to rouse His ancient people to jealousy by them that are no people, so at Antioch the history tells us how he said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be first spoken to you, but seeing ye adjudge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.’ This is quite in harmony too with Romans 1:16. There the Gospel is proclaimed to be ‘the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,’ but the order in which it is offered is ‘to the Jew first, and afterward to the Gentiles.’

To notice the unanimity of the language of St Paul’s chief Epistle with that of such abstracts of his speeches as are furnished by St Luke has much interest and is of much importance. For there are those who maintain that the St Paul of the Acts is a very different person in character and teaching from the St Paul of the Epistles. To establish such an opinion, those passages in the letters have been singled out and unduly dwelt on, wherein the Apostle speaks severely of the opposition which he met with from the Jews. A theory has been started that in the early Church there were two opposing parties, one named from Peter, the other from Paul, and that the Acts of the Apostles is a work of a late date written with the view of bringing about harmony between them. It cannot therefore be too prominently set forward, that in the narrative of St Luke there is a great deal for which we find an exact counterpart in St Paul’s Epistles. And if the comparison of the history with the letters be extended as far as the materials at our command permit, at every step it will become more and more apparent, that the agreement between the Apostle and the historian exists, because the latter is faithful to what he saw and heard, and his record therefore cannot but harmonize with the spirit and words of him who was the chief actor in the history.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 14:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 26th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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