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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Acts 16



Verse 1

1. κατήντησεν. The preposition in this verb seems to have little or no force. Cf. its use in 2 Maccabees 4:21; 2 Maccabees 4:44.

εἰς Δέρβην καὶΛύστραν, to Derbe and Lystra. This is the beginning of that revisiting spoken of in Acts 15:36. See notes on Acts 14:6.

ἧν ἐκεῖ, was there. The verb does not make it certain that Lystra, to which ἐκεῖ is most naturally referred, was the birthplace of Timothy, but only his home at the date of Paul’s visit. He must however have resided there a good while to have earned the favourable report of the people both of that place and Iconium.

Τιμόθεος, Timothy. This is the person to whom St Paul addresses two Epistles, and who was the companion of his labours in this journey until his return into Proconsular Asia (Acts 20:4). He was the son of a Jewish-Christian mother, and his father was a Greek, whether a proselyte of the gate or not we are not told. The mother’s name was Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5) and the grandmother’s Lois. Timothy is spoken of as a fellow-worker with St Paul (Romans 16:21). From 1 Corinthians 4:17 we find that he was St Paul’s messenger to that Church, and he is joined with that Apostle in the greeting of 2nd Corinthians. He also went to and fro between St Paul and the Church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:6) and must have been at Rome with St Paul soon after the Apostle’s arrival there, for he is mentioned in the Epistles, to the Philippians (Acts 1:1, Acts 2:19), to the Colossians (Acts 1:1) and to Philemon [1]. An imprisonment which he underwent is alluded to (Hebrews 13:23), but we cannot be certain when or where it was. According to tradition (Eus. H. E. III. 14) he was the first bishop of Ephesus, and is said to have suffered martyrdom at the hands of the populace (Niceph. H. E. III. 11).

υἱὸς γυναικὸς Ἰουδαίας πιστῆς, the son of a Jewess which believed. Her earnest education of her son in the holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15) from his early youth marks the character of the woman, and makes it probable that the husband of such a woman was at least a proselyte of the gate. Timothy’s father is so little mentioned that it seems likely he had died early.

πατρὸς δὲ Ἕλληνος, but of a father who was a Greek. The word Ἕλλην was widely used by the Jews about all who were not of their own nation. The world for them was divided into Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ Ἕλληνες. Cf. Acts 14:1; Romans 1:16, &c.

Verses 1-12


Verse 2

2. ὅς ἐμαρτυρεῖτο, who was well reported of. The same word is used about Cornelius (Acts 10:22), and by Paul about Ananias (Acts 22:12).

ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν Λύστροις καὶ Ἰκονίῳ ἀδελφῶν, by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. The ‘brethren’ are the members of the Christian Churches. Five or six years had elapsed since St Paul’s previous visit. In that time congregations had been gathered together and the characters of their most earnest members were well known. We see too that there was an interchange of kindly offices between the neighbouring Churches.

Verse 3

3. περιέτεμεν αὐτόν, he circumcised him. It must be remembered that the decree of the synod of Jerusalem only related to the exemption of Gentiles from circumcision. It was a very different thing for a Jew to consent to become a fellow-worshipper in the Christian Churches with a Gentile who remained uncircumcised, and to tolerate, at this time, the non-observance of the rite by one who was counted for a Jew. For by the Rabbinical code the child of a Jewish mother was reckoned as a Jew (T. J. Jebamoth, II. 6). It was because of this prejudice that Timothy was circumcised. It could be no offence to the Gentiles, and would render the labours of Timothy more acceptable to the Jews. Because he was the child of a mixed marriage the rite had been unobserved, and so long as he did not come forward as a teacher there would be no need felt that it should be enforced, and there would be doubtless many others of a like class. But when he was to take a share in the missionary labours of St Paul all this was altered. He would at once have been met with the objection from the Jews, that he who had been but a bad Jew was not likely to guide others right as a Christian teacher. That St Paul saw no inconsistency in what was done in this matter is dear, for the narrative of St Luke tells us in the next verse that to the Churches to which they went forth he delivered the decrees of the synod at Jerusalem.

Verse 4

4. παρεδίδοσαν αὐτοῖς, they delivered to them, i.e. to the converts in the several cities. They gave to the Gentile-Christians the decrees to observe, for there was nothing in them which a Jew would be likely to disregard. All that would be needed for the Jews in such cities would be to explain the terms on which Gentiles were to be admitted to the Christian communion.

τὰ δόγματα τὰ κεκριμένα, the decrees that were ordained. The phrase of James (Acts 15:19) was ἐγὼ κρίνω, and the decree was in the form ἔδοξεν ἡμῖν (Acts 15:25).

Verse 5

5. ἐστερεοῦντο τῇ πίστει, were established in the faith. This verb is peculiar to the Acts, and is used (Acts 3:7; Acts 3:16) of the strengthening of the limbs of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. So its employment here indicates that thus the Church was now prepared to make great progress. The barrier to Gentile admission was removed, and so the number of Christians multiplied daily.

στερεόω is found both in the literal and metaphorical senses in the LXX. The former is mostly concerning God, ὁ στερεώσας τὴν γῆν καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ (Isaiah 42:5). In a figurative sense (Proverbs 20:21) διαλογισμοὶ ἐν βουλῇ στερεοῦνται.

Verse 6

6. διῆλθον δέ, and they passed through. The reading διελθόντες of the Text. recept. is probably due to the participle which immediately follows and has no conjunction.

τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν, Phrygia and the region of Galatia. This was scarcely the direction, so far as population was concerned, which would have been chosen by them of their own accord, but the inner admonition of the Holy Ghost kept them from entering Proconsular Asia. The news of the events at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were known to some in Phrygia already (Acts 2:10), but of Galatia the history has yet made no mention, though we know from St Paul’s Epistle to that Church that he afterwards had the warmest interest in and greatest anxiety concerning the Christians there, among whom Judaizers wrought like mischief with that done in Antioch. From some expressions of St Paul (Galatians 4:19) it seems likely that it was from his own preaching at this time that Churches in Galatia were founded.

κωλυθέντες, having been forbidden. As they had been forbidden the one route they went by the other. St Luke says little about the events in this part of the journey, probably because he was not of the company, for his language below (Acts 16:10) seems to shew that he only joined St Paul at Troas.

Chrysostom’s reflection on the hindrance here spoken of is: διατί μὲν οὖν ἐκωλύθησαν, οὐ λέγει. ὅτι δὲ ἐκωλύθησαν εἶπε, παιδεύων ἡμᾶς πείθεσθαι μόνον καὶ μὴ ζητεῖν τὰς αἰτίας.

ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ, in Asia. See note on Acts 2:9.

Verse 7

7. ἐλθόντες δὲ κατὰ τὴν ΄υσίαν, and being come over against Mysia. The ‘to’ of A.V. is incorrect. The course of the journey seems to have been through Galatia and Phrygia, until they got so far to the west as to be opposite to, and on the borders of, Mysia. From this point they were inclined to go north into Bithynia, rather than further to the west, but were again hindered of their intention.

ἐπείραζον εἰς τὴν Βιθυνίαν πορευθῆναι, they attempted to go into Bithynia. This was their plan and they were ready to carry it out, when they were inwardly admonished to go another way.

τὸ πνεῦμα Ἰησοῦ, the spirit of Jesus. In like manner (Romans 8:9) the ‘Spirit of God’ is called also the ‘Spirit of Christ.’ Cf. also Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19; 1 Peter 1:11.

Verse 8

8. παρελθόντες δὲ τὴν ΄υσίαν, and having passed by Mysia, i.e. without preaching there. Mysia was a district of Proconsular Asia, where they were forbidden, by the Spirit, to preach.

εἰς Τρωάδα, to Troas, the well-known seaport on the coast of Mysia.

Verse 9

9. καὶ ὅραμα διὰ νυκτὸς τῷ Παύλῳ ὤφθη, and a vision appeared to Paul by night. That such divine communications should be made after the descent of the Holy Ghost was part of the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel about which Peter spake on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). For their frequent occurrence cf. Acts 9:10, Acts 10:3; Acts 10:17; Acts 10:19, Acts 11:5, Acts 12:9, Acts 18:9

ἀνὴρ ΄ακεδών, a man of Macedonia. His nationality was made known by the words of his request.

Verse 10

10. ἐζητήσαμεν, we sought. The steps taken would be in the way of inquiry how and when they could cross into Europe. For ζητεῖν with a verb of going, cf. LXX. 1 Kings 11:22, ἰδοὺ σὺ ζητεῖς ἀπελθεῖν εἰς τὴν γῆν σου.

At this point the writer begins to speak in the first person as if now he became a sharer in St Paul’s labours. This he continues till Acts 16:17.

ἐξελθεῖν, to go forth. A word suitable for the first step in the next extension of missionary work from Asia into Europe.

συμβιβάζοντες, assuredly gathering. The verb has the sense of ‘coming to a conclusion from putting things side by side.’ So it is rendered ‘proving’ in Acts 9:22 and elsewhere. Here it means ‘deeming it to be proved.’

Chrysostom explains thus: τί ἐστι συμβιβάζοντες; στοχαζόμενοι, φησί. τῷ τε γὰρ Παῦλον ἰδεῖν καὶ μηδένα ἕτερον, καὶ τῷ κωλυθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος καὶ τῷ πρὸς τοῖς ὅροις εἶναι, ἀπὸ τούτων ἁπάντων ταῦτα συνῆγον.

Verse 11

11. Σαμοθρᾴκην, Samothrace. This island lies in the north of the Aegean Sea, opposite to that part of the Thracian coast at which the river Hebrus empties itself.

Νέαν πόλιν, Neapolis, the port of Philippi. This place is generally identified with the modern Kavalla. On the discussion about its identity see Dictionary of the Bible (s. v.).

Verse 12

12. κἀκεῖθεν εἰς Φιλίππους, and from thence to Philippi. As there is no change of the verb (εὐθυδρομήσαμεν) for the whole description of the journey, we may conclude that it was all made by ship.

ἥτις ἐστὶνκολωνία which is a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a colony. Philippi and the country round had long been famous by reason of the neighbouring gold-mines. At the time of St Paul’s visit it was held by the Romans, and a colony had been founded there by Augustus. The civil magistrates and the military authorities were Roman. Hence the fear (Acts 16:38) when they heard that prisoners whom they had scourged were Roman citizens. For a history of Philippi, see Dict. of the Bible.

It should be borne in mind that a Roman colony was not like what we now call a colony. The inhabitants did not settle as they pleased, but were sent out by authority from Rome, marching to their destination like an army with banners, and they reproduced, where they settled, a close resemblance of Roman rule and life. They were planted on the frontiers of the empire for protection, and as a check upon the provincial magistrates. The names of those who went were still enrolled in the lists of the tribes of Rome. Latin was their language, and they used the Roman coinage, and had their chief magistrates sent out or appointed from the mother city. Thus were they very closely united with Rome, and entirely free from any intrusion on the part of the governors of the provinces.

Verse 13

13. τῇ τε ἡμέρᾳ τῶν σαββάτων, and on the sabbath. The form of the phrase is common in the LXX. Cf. Leviticus 24:8; Numbers 28:9; Jeremiah 17:21-22. But ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ σαβάτου is also frequent.

ἔξω τῆς πύλης, outside the gate. The Jews probably found that their worship was less likely to attract hostile notice and less liable to interruption there than it would have been in the city.

οὖ ἐνομίζομεν προσευχὴν εἶναι, where we supposed there was a place of prayer. The meaning of προσευχή here and in Acts 16:16 is ‘a place of prayer.’ The Jews had such προσευχαί, sometimes in buildings, sometimes in the open air, as was the case in this instance. The word is found in this sense in Josephus, De vita sua, 54, συνάγονται πάντες εἰς τὴν προσευχὴν μέγιστον οἴκημα πολὺν ὄχλον ἐπιδέξασθαι δυνάμενον. They are described by Philo (ed. Mang.) II. 282. They were very numerous in Rome (see Mayor, Juvenal, III. 296). Because of Jewish ceremonial washings they were, when in the open air, as often as might be, near a river-side or on the sea-shore. Cf. Ezra 8:15; Ezra 8:21. And no doubt the language of Psalms 137:1, ‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat down,’ applies to a similar state of things.

καὶ καθίσαντες, and having sat down. Sitting was the usual attitude of Jewish teachers.

ταῖς συνελθούσαις γυναιξίν, unto the women which were come together. The Greek refers to those gathered together on this particular occasion only. Considering the little regard which the Jews had for women as persons to be conversed with and taught, it is noteworthy how large a part women play both in the Gospel History and in the Acts. It was one effect of Christianity to place woman in her true position.

Verses 13-34


Verse 14

14. Λυδία, Lydia. This may have been the woman’s proper name, or it may only have been that by which she passed among the colonists of Philippi, being from the Lydian town of Thyatira. From inscriptions which have been found on the site of the ancient town, it is clear that dyeing was one of the staple trades of Thyatira, and it was from thence that Lydia brought over the purple which she sold in Philippi.

πόλεως Θυατείρων, of the city of Thyatira. This city was on the Lydian river Lycus. There was another river Lycus in Phrygia, in the valley of which stood the cities of Laodicæa, Hierapolis and Colossæ, all afterwards the seats of Christian congregations in whose welfare St Paul was deeply interested. See Colossians 4:13.

σεβομένη τὸν θεόν, who worshipped God, i.e. who had become a proselyte to Judaism.

ἦς ό κύριος διήνοιξεν τὴν καρδίαν, whose heart the Lord opened. St Luke recognizes that without this the word would have made no entrance. He probably makes special mention of this here because he had previously stated that the Lord had called them to preach at Philippi. Having pointed out their work, He helps them to perform it.

For the phrase compare the prayer 2 Maccabees 1:4, καὶ διανοίξαι τὴν καρδίαν ὑμῶν ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτοῦ.

προσέχειν, that she attended. For the construction see note on Acts 8:6. She gave such heed that she was convinced of the truth of what was taught.

Chrysostom says here: τὸ μὲν οὖν ἀνοίξαι, τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ δὲ προσέχειν, αὐτῆς· ὥστε καὶ θεῖον καὶ ἀνθρώπινον ἦν.

Verse 15

15. καὶ ὁ οἶκος αὐτῆς, and her household. Of a like baptizing of a household see below (Acts 16:33), and also cf. Acts 11:14. We are not justified in concluding from these passages that infants were baptized. ‘Household’ might mean slaves and freedwomen.

μένετε, abide there. Like the two disciples who followed Jesus (John 1:38) Lydia was anxious to have the teachers whose lessons she found so suited to the needs of her opened heart near unto her.

παρεβιάσατο ἡμᾶς, she constrained us. Used in N.T. only by St Luke here and Luke 24:29, of the two disciples at Emmaus. In the LXX. it occurs more frequently and is used (1 Samuel 28:23) of the constraint put upon Saul at Endor to make him take food, also (2 Kings 2:17) of the urgent request made to Elisha by the prophets at Jericho. Cf. also 2 Kings 5:16.

The force used was that of a prayer which would accept no ‘Nay.’

Verse 16

16. πορευομένων ἡμῶν εἰς τὴν προσευχήν, as we were going to the place of prayer (see on Acts 16:13). This verse must refer to a different occasion from that on which Lydia was converted. In the previous παρεβιάσατο it is implied that they consented to her request. Thus they had already taken up their abode in Lydia’s house.

ἔχουσαν πνεῦμα πύθωνα, having a spirit, a Python. According to Plutarch (De def. Orac. 9) those persons who practised ventriloquism, called also ἐγγαστρίμυθοι, were named Pythons. But the damsel in this history clearly laid claim to some prophetic power, and was used as a means of foreknowing the future. So that the word Python is better here referred to the name of Apollo, the heathen god of prophecy, and the A.V. ‘spirit of divination’ gives the correct idea.

ἐργασίαν πολλήν, much gain. ἐργασία means first the ‘work done’ and secondarily the ‘profit from it.’ Cf. Wisdom of Solomon 13:19, περὶ δὲ πορισμοῦ καὶ ἐργασίας, ‘and concerning gaining and getting’ (A.V.).

τοῖς κυρίους αὐτῆς, to her masters. Some persons who having found a strange power in the maiden made use of it, as has oft been done, for their own purposes of gain, and persuaded the people to resort unto her with their questions.

μαντευομένη, by soothsaying. This word is found nowhere else in N.T., and wherever it is used in the LXX. it is invariably of the words of lying prophets, or those who used arts for bidden by the Jewish Law. Thus of the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:8) μάντευσαι δή μοι ἐν τῷ ἐγγαστριμύθῳ, and (Ezekiel 13:6) βλέποντες ψευδῆ, μαντευόμενοι μάταια. Cf. also Deuteronomy 18:10; Ezekiel 12:24; Ezekiel 21:29; Ezekiel 22:28; Micah 3:11. Here therefore we must take it in the bad sense, ‘by pretending to foretell the future.’

Verse 17

17. κατακολουθοῦσα τῷ Παύλῳ καὶ ἡμῖν, following Paul and us. Whatever may have been the nature of the mental and spiritual malady under which this damsel suffered, it produced on her the like effect which is oft recorded of evil spirits in the history of Jesus (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:41), and forced her to confess to the true character of the Christian teachers. The devils believe and tremble (James 2:19).

After this verse the writer ceases for a time to indicate by his language that he was with St Paul, but in Acts 20:5, where the Apostle comes once again to Philippi, the first person plural appears in the narrative. It seems therefore not improbable that St Luke was left behind to labour for the spread of the Gospel in Macedonia, and only taken away again by St Paul after the work had been well established.

δοῦλοι τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου, the servants of the Most High God. Cf. the words of the demoniac, Mark 5:7.

οἵτινες καταγγέλλουσιν ὑμῖν, who proclaim unto you. This is an older reading than ἡμῖν, and it seems more like what one who had been engaged in speaking as a soothsayer to others would say.

Verse 18

18. τοῦτο δέ ἐποίει ἐπὶ πολλάς ἡμέρας, this she did for many days. Whether this following took place only on the sabbaths, when the Apostles were going to the place of prayer, in which case the Apostles must have remained in Philippi some weeks, or whether it was on every occasion on which they appeared in public, we are not told.

διαπονηθεὶς δὲ Παῦλος, but Paul being grieved. The same verb is used (Acts 4:2) of the annoyance of the priests and Sadducees at the teaching of the Apostles, and nowhere else in N.T. (See note there.) Its sense is ‘to be thoroughly worn out with vexation.’

τῷ πνεύατι εἶπεν, said to the spirit. As Christ had acted when on earth, so Paul now will not allow the cry of the evil spirit, even though the words proclaim that he and his companions are servants of the Most High God. So in Christ’s name he bids the evil power come forth.

Verse 19

19. ὅτι ἐξῆλθεν ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς ἐργασίας αὐτῶν, that the hope of their gain was gone. The verb ἐξῆλθεν is the same word which was used of the spirit coming out of the damsel. We cannot produce the same effect by English words. When the spirit went out, the hope of their gain went out also. What the damsel herself may have thought of her power we cannot tell. Probably, for their money-making purposes, they had persuaded her that her ravings were prophetic.

ἐπιλαβόμενοι τὸν Παῦλον καὶ τὸν Σίλαν, having caught Paul and Silas, as being the most prominent members of the mission party.

εἰς τὴν ἀγοράν, into the market-place. This was the great place of concourse and where, as in the Roman forum, would be the seat of the authorities.

ἄρχοντας, rulers. A very general term, the special members of the magistracy being indicated in the next verse.

Verse 20

20. προσαγαγόντες αὐτοὺς τοῖς στρατηγοῖς, having brought them to the magistrates. These στρατηγοί were the duumviri, the two prætors specially appointed to preside over the administration of justice, in cases where there was no appeal to Rome, in the municipia and coloniæ of the Romans. The title στρατηγοί seems to indicate somewhat of a military authority, which could administer summary punishment.

ἐκταράσσουσιν, do exceedingly trouble. Only used here in N.T. In the LXX. it is twice found of terror arising from visions (Wisdom of Solomon 17:3; Wisdom of Solomon 18:17 φαντασίαι μὲν ὀνείρων δεινῶς ἐξετάραξαν αὐτούς). Also in Psalms 17:5; Psalms 87:7, of the trouble caused by floods of ungodliness, and by the terrors of the Lord. The kind of trouble spoken of in the text is seen from Acts 17:6. ‘These that have turned the world upside down’ is the description of the preachers.

Ἰουδαῖοι ὑπάρχοντες, being Jews. On the ways in which Roman aversion was aroused and exhibited towards the Jews, for their religious exclusiveness, see Mayor Juvenal XIV. 96–106 notes, with the authorities there given. Jew-baiting is no modern invention.

Verse 21

21. καὶ καταγγέλλουσιν ἔθη, and set forth customs. The verb refers to the proclamation or preaching of the Apostles.

Verse 22

22. καὶ συνεπέστη ὁ ὄχλος, and the multitude rose up together, i.e. along with the aggrieved proprietors of the damsel.

περιρήξαντες αὐτῶν τὰ ἱμάτια, rent their (i.e. Paul and Silas’s) clothes off them.

ἐκέλευον ῥαβδίζειν, they commanded to beat them. ῥαβδίζειν, to beat with rods was the office of the Roman lictor, who carried rods for this purpose when attending on the magistrates. The use of this special word is an indication that St Luke was aware of the particular kind of beating, and perhaps beheld the infliction. This is one of the occasions, no doubt, to which St Paul alludes (2 Corinthians 11:25), ‘Thrice was I beaten with rods’ (ἐραβδίσθην).

On the sufferings of the Apostles at Philippi, Chrysostom says: τούτοις συνεχῶς ἀναμιμνὴσκωμεν ἑαυτοὺς παρακαλῶ, ὅσα ἔπαθον, ὅσα ὑπέμειναν. πῶς οὐκ ἐθορυβοῦντο; πῶς οὐκ ἐσκανδαλίζοντο; τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἔργον ἐποίουν καὶ ταῦτα ἔπασχον, οὐκ ἔλεγον, τί τοῦτο κηρύττομεν καὶ οὐ προίσταται ἡμῖν ὁ θεός; ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῦτο αὐτοὺς ὠφέλει, καὶ χωρὶς τῆς βοηθείας αὐτῷ τῷ πράγματι εὐτονωτέρους ἐποίει, ἰσχυροτέρους, ἀκαταπλήκτους. ἡ θλῖψις, φησίν, ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται.

Verse 23

23. ἔβαλον εἰς φυλακήν, they cast them into prison. So that they should have no chance of teaching any longer. They appear (see Acts 16:35) to have intended to keep them one night in prison and then to turn them out of the city.

Verse 24

24. εἰς τὴν ἐσωτέραν φυλακήν, into the inner prison. Necessarily a place dark and without ventilation, and hence foul and loathsome, perhaps underground, like the Tullianum at Rome (Varr. L. L. 5. § 161; Liv. 29:22).

καὶ τοὺς πόδας ἠσφαλίσατο αὐτῶν εἰς τὸ ξύλον, and made their feet fast in the stocks. The ξύλον (literally wood) was a means of additional security and additional torture. The feet passed through holes and held secure made rest almost impossible. The instrument was of early use (cf. Job 33:11 (LXX.) ἔθετο δὲ ἐν ξύλῳ μου τὸν πόδα); and the Greeks, as well as ourselves, had also the pillory, and had it made with five apertures for head, hands and feet (Aristoph. Eq. 1049).

ἀσφαλίζομαι is used (Wisdom of Solomon 13:15) of man making his idol firm in its place, ἐν τοίχῳ ἔθηκεν αὐτὸ ἀσφαλισάμενος σιδήρῳ.

Verse 25

25. κατὰ δὲ τὸ μεσονύκτιον, and at midnight. Sleep being out of the question they passed the night in devotion. The imperfects ὕμνουν and ἐπηκροῶντο in the verse indicate that the prayers and singing were continued; but we have no means of adequately representing this by idiomatic English.

οἱ δέσμιοι, the prisoners. The inner prison appears to have held more than Paul and Silas, or it may be that bars in the inner walls allowed the sound to pass into other cells. The verb is not the common one for ‘hearing,’ and is rarely found anywhere. It indicates attentive hearkening.

The derived noun ἐπακρόασις is found in LXX. 1 Samuel 15:22 ἡ ἐπακρόασις ὑπὲρ στέαρ κριῶν, ‘Hearkening [i.e. obedient hearkening] is better than the fat of rams.’

Verse 26

26. σεισμὸς ἐγένετο μέγας, there was a great earthquake. Just as the place wherein the Apostles prayed (Acts 4:31) was shaken, so here God testifies that He is near at hand.

πάντων τὰ δεσμὰ ἀνέθη, every one’s bands were loosed. The sense in which these words are to be taken may be gathered from the rest of the description. The chains (δεσμὰ) were made fast to the wall, and the shock which burst asunder the bolts of the doors also released the fastenings which held the chains in the masonry.

Verse 27

27. ἔξυπνος δὲ γενόμενος ὁ δεσμοφύλαξ, and the jailor awaking out of his sleep. For ἔξυπνος cf. 1 Esdras 3:3, ὁ βασιλεὺςἐκοιμήθη καὶ ἔξυπνος ἐγένετο. It is only found in N.T. in this verse.

σπασάμενος μάχαιραν, having drawn his sword. The jailor probably slept in such a place that on rising he could observe at a glance whether the prison doors were secure, and had his weapon close at hand so that he might seize and use it on any emergency. He must also have been so near to the open doors before he manifested any design of suicide that the prisoners within could see what he was doing. St Paul out of the dark could observe him before the jailor could see farther than the opened doors.

ἤμελλεν ἑαντὸν ἀναιρεῖν, he was about to kill himself. For he knew what his fate would be. See Acts 12:19; and compare Acts 27:42, for the way in which Roman officials must answer with their lives for the escape of prisoners. Suicide under such circumstances would to the jailor’s mind present the easiest way out of his difficulties, and the teaching of even the greatest minds both of Greece and Rome was that it was justifiable and under some circumstances praiseworthy. The suicide of Cato (Catonis nobile letum) furnished a constant text for such teaching. (Cf. Cic. Tusc. I. §§ 9–119; Plat. Apol. 40.)

Verse 28

28. ἐφώνησεν δὲ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ Παῦλος, but Paul cried with a loud voice. The sound of even one voice would arrest the jailor’s action, for at the sight of the open doors he had concluded that all had made use of the opportunity and had escaped.

Verse 29

29. αἰτήσας δὲ φῶτα, and having called for lights. He would summon all the help he could, and would wish to make an inspection of his charge as speedily as possible.

ἔντρομος γενόμενος, being terror-stricken. For the word see above, Acts 7:32. It is also found in LXX. Daniel 10:11; Wisdom of Solomon 17:9; 1 Maccabees 13:2 ἔντρομος καὶ ἔμφοβος; and in Psalms 17:8, Pss. 76:18 of the earth in an earthquake, ἐσαλεύθη καὶ ἔντρομος ἐγενήθη ἡ γῆ. The jailor connected all that had occurred with the two prisoners Paul and Silas, and as they were not fled away, a change of feeling came over him, and he at once judged them to be more than other men. Hence his attitude becomes one of supplication and worship.

Verse 30

30. καὶ προαγαγὼν αὐτούς, and having brought them out. For there could be no fear that they would flee now who had remained when the open doors made escape easy.

κύριοι, Sirs, literally, ‘Lords.’ He acknowledges by the word their great superiority.

τί με δεῖ ποιεῖν ἵνα σωθῶ; what must I do to be saved? He had probably heard about the testimony of the possessed damsel, that Paul and Silas shewed the way of salvation (Acts 16:17), and now without knowing what it fully meant, he cries out (in his misery, when despair had prompted suicide), asking for the teaching which they had to give.

Verse 31

31. πίστευσον ἐπὶ τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν, believe on the Lord Jesus. The word Χριστὸς which is inserted here in the Text. recept. would not have the same significance for a Gentile as for a Jew, and may well have been omitted in the address to the jailor. What was asked from Gentile converts was to accept Jesus as their Lord. The men whom he had just called ‘Lords’ point him to the only ‘Lord.’

καὶ ὁ οἶκός σου. and thy house. The thought is that what the head of the family did would be followed by the rest. The remark made above (Acts 16:15) on the meaning of οἶκος is not so applicable here. The jailor was not likely to have a slave-household. But whoever the members were, we see from the next verse that they were willing hearers.

The reflection of Chrysostom is: μάλιστα τοῦτο τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἐφέλκεται, τὸ καὶ τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ σωθῆναι.

Verse 32

32. τὸν λόγον τοῦ κυρίου, the word of the Lord, i.e. he preached to him the doctrine of Christ, in the only way then possible, by the narrative of His life and its purpose.

Verse 33

33. ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ τῆς νυκτός, in that same hour of the night. It was midnight, see Acts 16:25. But a new day, a birthday, had already begun for him and it must be kept as a feast. So he does his utmost to shew his rejoicing by care for those who had caused it.

ἔλουσεν ἀπὸ τῶν πληγῶν, he washed their stripes. An act of attention which had not been bestowed before. They were thrust into the inner prison with their wounds all bleeding and uncared for. The literal sense is ‘washed (them) from their wounds,’ i.e. from the stains and blood which their wounds had caused. Cf. Revelation 1:5, λούσαντι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν.

Chrysostom here remarks: ἐκείνους μὲν ἀπὸ τῶν πληγῶν ἔλουσεν, αὐτὸς δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἐλούθη, ἔθρεψε καὶ ἐτράφη.

Verse 34

34. παρέθηκεν τράπεζαν, he set meat (lit. a table) before them. He would not let them remain longer in the dungeon, but took means to testify how the dawn of faith had filled him with joy.

καὶ ἠγαλλιάσατο πανοικὶ πεπιστευκὼς τῷ θεῷ, and rejoiced with all his house, having believed in God. He had been taught in Acts 16:31 ‘to believe on the Lord Jesus,’ and we must explain this verse by that. To believe on Jesus is to believe what God has made known concerning Him. This the jailor had heard in ‘the word of the Lord’ (Acts 16:32), that story which told how in Jesus all the prophecies were fulfilled, and how by His mighty works He had shewn that He was the Son of God.

It is scarcely possible to help being struck in this chapter with the account of the effect of the first preaching of the Gospel in Europe. We see at once its universality and its power. The first notable convert is Lydia, the Asiatic settler, a woman evidently of wealth, position and refinement; then the demoniac slave-girl is made an instrument of proclaiming the presence and power of the Most High God; and last, the Roman jailor, of a class, insensible as a rule and hardened by habit, and also disposed to despise the Jews who were the bearers of the message of the Gospel. The converts of Philippi (the firstfruits of St Paul’s preaching in Europe) were types and an earnest of how Christ’s cause would make its way.

Verse 35

35. τοὺς ῥαβδούχους, the serjeants. Literally, ‘rodbearers.’ These were the lictors, that attended on the prætors (duumviri, στρατηγοί), probably the same persons who on the previous day had scourged Paul and Silas, and were now sent to see that they were got rid of.

Verses 35-40


Verse 36

36. ἀπήγγειλεν δὲτοὺς λόγους τούτους, and he reported these words. No doubt he came with great joy, and it is evident that Paul and Silas had gone back to their prison after the events at midnight.

ἐξελθόντες πορεύεσθε, come forth and go, i.e. out of the prison, in which they were still remaining to abide what should befall.

Verse 37

37. ὁ δὲ Παῦλος ἔφη πρὸς αὐτούς, but Paul said unto them, i.e. to the lictors, through the jailor. It is highly probable that the conversation of the Roman officers would be in Latin, and that the proceedings of the previous day may have been conducted in that language. In this way, if Paul and Silas were unfamiliar with the Latin speech, we might account for the non-mention or the disregard of their Roman citizenship. If either the Apostle did not comprehend all that was going on or could not, amid the confusion of such a tumultuous court, make himself understood, the message which he now sends to the magistrates might have had no chance of being heard before the scourging was inflicted.

δείραντες ἡμᾶς δημοσίᾳ, having beaten us publicly. For no doubt they had been lashed to the palus or public whipping-post in sight of all the people.

ἀκατακρίτους, uncondemned. There had been no reality of a trial, no attempt to get at the truth. For all that had been listened to was the charge of the accusers, who, leaving out all mention of the real reason of their charge, viz. that they had lost a source of money-making, put forward the plea that the missionaries were disturbers of public law and order. The crowd shouted with the accusers, and the magistrates, forgetting their position, joined with the mob (Acts 16:22) in the assault on the Apostles.

ἀνθρώπους Ῥωμαίους ὑπάρχοντας, men that are Romans. This is in marked contrast with the charge of the accusers, which ran, ‘These men, being Jews.’ The laws which had been violated by this act were the Lex Valeria (B.C. 508) and the Lex Porcia (B.C. 300). On the outrage, compare Cicero’s language in the Verrine orations (v. 66), ‘Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum, scelus verberari, prope parricidium necari.’

λάθρα ἡμᾶς ἐκβάλλουσιν; are they thrusting us out privily? The Apostle would say, Our punishment was in public, let our dismissal be public too.

οὐ γάρ, ἀλλά. The explanation of this combination of particles appears to be to understand the previous question as a refusal to come forth = ‘We will not be thrust out privily. For that is not what ought to be, but let them come,’ &c. So that the ‘Nay verily’ of A.V. gives the sense very well.

Verse 38

38. ἐφοβήθησαν δέ, and they were afraid, because a Roman citizen had a right of appeal to the emperor, and outrage on such a man was visited with severe penalties.

Ῥωμαῖοί εἰσιν, they are Romans. The words are reported exactly as the messengers would utter them; ὅτι is no more than a mark of quotation.

Verse 39

39. ἠρώτων απελθεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως, they desired them to depart from the city. Finding how much they had offended, they become very humble, and beg the disciples to relieve them of their anxiety by quitting Philippi. We are not told how Paul and Silas established their statement, but they must have produced satisfactory proof to inspire so much fear. We hear of Paul’s claim afterwards when he appeals to Cæsar. Of Silas’ right to citizenship we have no further evidence.

Verse 40

40. πρὸς τὴν Λυδίαν, into the house of Lydia. Waiting there probably till they were fit to travel farther. But in the midst of the suffering they still exhort and comfort the Christians whom in their stay they had gathered into a Church.

How deep the mutual affection was, which afterwards existed between St Paul and these Philippians, his first European converts, is manifest in every line of the Epistle which he wrote to them from Rome in his first imprisonment. They are his greatest joy, they have given him no cause for sorrow, and from first to last have ministered to his afflictions, and made manifest how they prized their ‘Father in Christ.’ The jubilant language of the letter is marked by the oft-repeated ‘Rejoice in the Lord.’


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 16:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 30th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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