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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Acts 20



Verse 1

1. μετὰ δὲ τὸ παύσασθαι τὸν θόρυβον, and after the uproar was ceased. We may suppose some little time to have passed, and public feeling to have become calm. Then once more there could be a gathering of the Christian congregation.

μεταπεμψάμενος ὁ Παῦλος τοὺς μαθητάς, Paul having sent for the disciples. Perhaps to some place where he had been staying in private. He would hardly deem it wise to leave Ephesus till he had seen the Church in quiet again.

ἀσπασάμενος ἐξῆλθεν πορεύεσθαι εἰς ΄ακεδονίαν, having taken leave of them, departed to go into Macedonia. For ἀσπάζομαι see below Acts 21:6. Paul sets out to Macedonia in fulfilment of his intention mentioned in Acts 19:21. We see from 2 Corinthians 2:13 that he went first to Troas, expecting to meet Titus there. He did not find him till he reached Macedonia, from which country he wrote the second letter to Corinth. We may supply what is omitted here by comparing 1 Corinthians 16:17, 2 Corinthians 1:16-17; 2 Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 8:18-19, and we may learn something of St Paul’s own feelings during this time from 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; 2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 12:7.

For the seeming redundancy of verbs, cf. Genesis 12:5, καὶ ἐξήλθοσαν πορευθῆναι εἰς γῆν Χαναάν.

Verses 1-6


Verse 2

2. διελθών δὲ τὰ μέρη ἐκεῖνα, and when he had gone over those parts, visiting especially, of course, the Churches of Philippi, Thessalonica and Berœa, among which St Luke may have been left from the former visit, and have laboured to carry on the work which St Paul had begun. Some have judged this to be very probable, and that in this Macedonian residence St Luke’s Gospel may have been written. It was also, as it seems, at this time that St Paul made the journey into Illyricum alluded to in Romans 15:19.

λόγῳ πολλῷ, with much exhortation. We may form some idea of the topics which would be embraced by such exhortation, if we read the two Epistles to the Thessalonians which had been written to that Church since St Paul’s former visit to Macedonia. The most marked language in the first Epistle is against sorrowing immoderately for the dead. By the words of St Paul on this subject the Christian congregation had been much troubled concerning the nearness of the coming of the Son of Man, and the second letter is written to bring them to a calm and thoughtful mind. The Apostle’s ‘much exhortation’ would be an echo of what he had said in his letters, ‘Watch and be sober,’ ‘Abstain from every form of evil,’ ‘Be at peace among yourselves.’

The use of the masculine pronoun αὐτούς after τὰ μέρη is not unexampled. The people are understood when the land is mentioned. See above on Acts 8:5.

Verse 3

3. ἦλθεν εἰς τὴν Ἑλλάδα, he came into Greece. There is nothing said of the places which St Paul visited in this journey, but as he was always anxious to strengthen any work which he had before begun we may feel sure that Athens and Corinth, on this account, as well as for their importance as centres of intellectual and commercial life, were the places in which he spent the greater part of his three months’ stay. In the latter Church especially there were many things to be set in order. He had already written to the Corinthians his two Epistles. In the first, sent from Ephesus, he had found it necessary to rebuke them for the party-spirit in the Church, some calling themselves by the name of Peter, some of Apollos, and some of Paul himself, instead of finding true unity in Christ; he had also censured the disorders in the Eucharistic feast, had given his judgment on a notorious offender, and on many topics raised by the difficulties of a Christian Church growing up amid heathen surroundings. These matters, and the guidance into a right channel of the exercise of those special gifts of preaching and speaking with tongues with which God endowed the Church in Corinth, would give the Apostle little rest during his brief stay, even if he bestowed his whole time on Corinth alone.

ποιήσας τε μῆνας τρεῖς, and when he had spent three months. On ποιέω in this sense, cf. Acts 15:33, Acts 18:23. So also Acta Barnabæ Apocryph. 7, ἐλθεῖν ἐν Κύπρῳ καὶ ποιῆσαι τὸν χειμῶνα.

γενομένης ἐπιβουλῆς κ.τ.λ., and when a plot was laid against him by the Jews. The Jews, who had tried to engage Gallio in their matters on St Paul’s last visit to Corinth, now take a secret instead of a public means of wreaking their vengeance on him. And we may judge that St Paul anticipated some trouble from the Judaizing party at Corinth by the tone of the latter portion (after chap. 9) of his second Epistle written to them while he was on his way, but detained in Macedonia. There were persons in Corinth who spoke slightingly of the Apostle. His bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible. And in opposition to the remarks of these opponents, the Epistle concludes with an assertion of St Paul’s equality to the chiefest Apostles, a recital more full than in any other place of his sufferings for the Gospel, and an account of revelations divinely made unto him. It is clear therefore that among those who would be counted as Christians St Paul was not everywhere accepted. The Jews under such circumstances would have some abettors in their animosity even among the Judæo-Christians, and seem to have planned some means whereby St Paul might be attacked on his sea voyage to Syria. No doubt the intention was to kill him. ἐπιβουλή is the word used (Acts 9:24) when the Jews watched the gates of Damascus night and day to kill him.

μέλλοντι ἀνάγεσθαι εἰς τὴν Συρίαν, as he was about to set sail for Syria. He had apparently gone so far as to arrange for his passage and go on board, and was nearly departed, before he got the warning news. For ἀνάγεσθαι refers to the actual preparation for setting sail. Perhaps some heart, among the people to whom the plot was known on shore, was moved to give a hint of the great peril at the last moment. This is the more probable if we suppose some previous communications between the Jews and the Judaizers among the Christians.

ἐγένετο γνώμης κ.τ.λ., he determined to return through Macedonia. As the scheme for killing him had been meant to be carried out at sea, the choice of an overland journey and a prompt departure made the forming of a new plan impossible to the conspirators.

For the genitive after γίνομαι, cf. Apocal. Acts 11:15, ἐγένοντο αἱ βασιλεῖαι τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν. Also ἐλπίδος γίνεσθαι, Plutarch, Phoc. 23.

The grammar of the whole verse is remarkable for its freedom from rule. Beginning with ποιήσας, we come next to μέλλοντι, and presently the construction is once more changed in ἐγένετο γνώμης.

Verse 4

4. συνείπετο δὲ αὐτῷ ἄχρι τῆς Ἀσίας, and there accompanied him as far as Asia. We find (Acts 21:29) that Trophimus went on to Jerusalem, and (Acts 27:2) that Aristarchus was with St Paul in the voyage to Rome.

συνείπετο standing first in the sentence is in the singular to agree with the one word to which it comes closest.

Σώπατρος Πύρρου, Sopater the son of Pyrrhus. A various reading here has Sosipater, a name found also in Romans 16:21. But there is no reason why we should connect the two persons. We know nothing of Sopater beyond the mention of him in this verse, though the name occurs, with those of Gaius and Secundus, as that of one of the Politarchs of Thessalonica on an arch still existing in the modern Saloniki. See Acts 17:6.

Θεσσαλονικέων δὲ Ἀρίσταρχος καὶ Σεκοῦνδος, and of the Thessalonians Aristarchus and Secundus. Aristarchus has been before mentioned (Acts 19:29), and in the Epistles written during the Roman imprisonment to Philemon [24] he is one of those who sends greeting, and also to the Colossians (Acts 4:10), in which place the Apostle calls him his fellow-prisoner, shewing that he shared in a great degree the whole hardships of St Paul’s life at Rome. Secundus is only mentioned here. With this name we may compare Tertius and Quartus (Romans 16:22-23). It has been conjectured that all these persons belonged to the freedman, or slave, class and had therefore no family names.

Γάϊος Δερβαῖος καὶ Τιμόθεος, Gaius of Derbe and Timothy. As Timothy was probably of Lystra, these men may have been friends from an early period, and the former may have been a convert at the same time as the latter. We only know of him from this verse, and he has no connexion with any other Gaius named in the New Testament.

Ἀσιανοὶ δὲ Τυχικὸς καὶ Τρόφιμος, and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. Of the former of these we have mention several times. In Ephesians 6:21, he is called a beloved brother and faithful minister, and St Paul states that he is about to send him to Ephesus. To the Colossians (Acts 4:7) he writes, ‘All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you.’ From both which notices we see that Tychicus was with St Paul in his first Roman imprisonment. He was also at hand when the Apostle wrote to Titus (Titus 3:12), and also had been with St Paul in the later imprisonment, when the Second Epistle to Timothy was written (Acts 4:12), and had again been sent to Ephesus. Perhaps Tychicus like Trophimus was by birth an Ephesian. Trophimus also continued much with St Paul, for we read (2 Timothy 4:20) that the Apostle at that time had left him detained by sickness at Miletus.

Verse 5

5. οὗτοι δὲ προελθόντες κ.τ.λ., but these had gone before and were waiting for us at Troas. What the writer wants to point out is that these men before-mentioned did not stop like St Paul at Philippi, nor indeed tarry at all in Macedonia. As in this verse the change of pronoun indicates that the writer of the narrative again becomes a fellow-traveller with St Paul, we may presume, as has before been said, that he had been left here by the Apostle, who now separated himself for a brief time from his companions that he might pick up St Luke.

Verse 6

6. μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας τῶν ἀζύμων, after the days of unleavened bread. Another reason why St Paul tarried at Philippi seems to have been because of the Jewish feast. As there could be no sacrifice of the Passover out of Jerusalem, the Apostle would feel no difficulty about remaining at any other form of the feast, and we know how loth he was to sever himself from his people in all things which he might lawfully share with them.

εἰς τὴν Τρωάδα ἄχρι ἡμερῶν πέντε, to Troas after five days. Troas could not be without much interest both to St Paul and Luke and Timothy, for at least these three had been here together, on that former visit when they were called over to Macedonia by a vision. Aristarchus and Secundus represented in part the fruits which God had granted to their work.

ἄχρι represents the terminus ad quem, the final point of time which made up the sum of the journey. They went on until the time had reached five days.

Verse 7

7. ἐν δὲ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων, and upon the first day of the week, which had now, in memory of the Resurrection, begun to be observed as a holy day by Christians. In an Epistle written before this visit to Troas (1 Corinthians 16:2) the day is appointed by St Paul as the special time when the Christian alms should be laid aside.

For the phrase ἡ μία τῶν σαββάτων, which has come from the use of the Hebrew cardinal אֶחָד = one, for the ordinal, cf. Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1, &c. Also LXX. Genesis 1:5 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐσπέρα καὶ ἐγένετο πρωί, ἡμέρα μία, and Exodus 40:2 ἐν ἡμέρᾳ μιᾷ τοῦ μηνός.

συνηγμένων ἡμῶν κ.τ.λ., when we were gathered together to break bread. Wherever a Christian congregation was established the first and most natural religious service was the communion of the body and blood of Christ.

ὁ Παῦλος διελέγετο αὐτοῖς, Paul discoursed with them. The meeting was one where reasoning and conversation were used to solve doubts and clear away difficulties which might be in the minds of the Christians at Troas. For we can perceive that there was a Church established here. Indeed wherever St Paul came he was enabled to leave that mark of his visit behind him. It is true the meeting was only still in an upper chamber, but the ‘many lights’ shews that it was not a mere gathering of one or two with the Apostle and his friends, but a settled Christian congregation.

μέλλων ἐξιέναι τῇ ἐπαύριον, intending to depart on the morrow. They had met first for an evening service, but the consolation of Christian intercourse and the additional zeal infused into the Church by the Apostle’s visit caused the irregular conversational meeting to be protracted beyond the intended time. As the Jewish mode of reckoning would probably be retained, the meeting would be on what we now call Saturday evening. This would be the beginning of the first day of the week. If this be so, St Paul did not hesitate to travel on Sunday.

Verses 7-12


Verse 8

8. ἐν τῷ ὑπερῴῳ, in the upper room. Our thoughts go back to the upper room in Jerusalem where (Acts 1:13) the first preachers of Christianity waited for the promised gift of the Holy Ghost.

οὗ ἦμεν συνηγμένοι, where we were gathered together. The first person as in the previous verse.

Verse 9

9. καθεζόμενος δέἐπὶ τῆς θυρίδος, and there was sitting in the window. The window in that climate was only an opening in the wall, and not as in our country provided with a framework, the bars of which would have prevented the accident which is here described. The young man was sitting upon (ἐπί) the sill of the opening.

καταφερόμενος ὕπνῳ βαθεῖ, borne down with deep sleep. He is not represented as a careless hearer. But the hour was late, and he was young, and could resist sleep no longer. Here the verb is constructed with the dative, in the next line with ἀπό and a genitive. It would be hard to make a distinction between the two.

διαλεγομένου τοῦ Παύλου ἐπὶ πλεῖον, and as Paul discoursed yet longer. ἐπὶ πλεῖον refers either to the expectation of this youthful hearer or to his exhausted powers. Longer than he expected or longer than he could keep awake.

ἔπεσεν ἀπὸ τοῦ τριστέγου κάτω καὶ ἤρθη νεκρός, he fell down from the third storey and was taken up dead. The latticework with which such windows were closed in the East would be set wide open to admit the cool air into the crowded room. The lad fell out, and down to the floor of the court-yard. There has been much debate whether the restoration of Eutychus was meant to be described as miraculous; whether, that is, ‘dead’ may not be taken for ‘in a swoon like death.’ But St Luke’s expression (Acts 20:12) ‘They brought him alive’ seems to leave no room for question. That life was gone by reason of the fall and was restored by the prayer of the Apostle is the natural reading of the story, which has all the vividness that marks the narrative of an eyewitness.

Verse 10

10. καταβὰς δέ ὁ Παῦλος ἐπέπεσεν αὐτῷ, and Paul went down and fell on him. The access to Eastern houses was by a staircase on the outside, so that the way down would be at hand. The action of the Apostle recalls that of Elijah (1 Kings 17:21) and of Elisha (2 Kings 4:34). No doubt the Apostle, like the Old Testament prophets, accompanied his action with a cry unto the Lord.

καὶ συμπεριλαβών, and embracing him. The word is classical but is only found here in N.T.

As he clasped the child in his arms, Paul would feel the returning motion, and know that his prayer was heard. The boy seems to have been left to the care of some members (perhaps women) of the congregation, who tended him till the service was over.

μή θορυβεῖσθε, trouble not yourselves, i.e. don’t make any tumult or distress yourselves.

Verse 11

11. ἀναβὰς δέ, and when he was gone up. The Apostle’s calmness, as well as his words, was not without effect on the congregation. He returns to the upper room, and the unfinished act of worship is completed.

καὶ κλάσας τὸν ἄρτον, and had broken the bread, i.e. the bread of the Eucharistic service. The sermón came first (Acts 20:9) and then the Lord’s Supper.

καὶ γευσάμενος, and eaten, i.e. partaken of the more substantial meal of the ‘Agapè.’ This, in the early Church followed after the Communion.

ἐφ' ἱκανόν τε ὁμιλήσας, and had talked with them a long while. ὁμιλέω means the talking of friendly intercourse. The previous discourse had been on more solemn subjects; the spread of Christ’s kingdom and the part which each of them might take in helping it forward.

For ἐφ' ἱκανόν cf. 2 Maccabees 8:25 συνδιώξαντες δὲ αὐτοὺς ἐφ' ἱκανὸν ἀνέλυσαν.

Verse 12

12. ἤγαγον δέ τὸν παῖδα ζῶντα, and they brought the lad alive. It would seem as though those who had had the care of him brought him, before the congregation broke up, perhaps even before the Apostle’s departure, back again into the upper room.

Verse 13

13. ἡμεῖς δέ προελθόντες ἐπὶ τὸ πλοῖον, but we going before to the ship. St Luke now describes what he and the rest, without St Paul, did next. They started from Troas before St Paul’s departure, and coasted along while the Apostle went by land.

ἀνήχθημεν ἐπὶ τὴν Ἄσσον, and set sail for Assos. ἀνάγειν is the verb for ‘putting out to sea.’ Assos was in Mysia, on the north shore of the gulf of Adramyttium. Opposite and about seven miles out at sea lay the island of Lesbos. There was a Roman road from Troas passing through Assos. So while the ship went round the cape Lectum, the Apostle was able to come by land and be taken on board by his companions.

οὕτως γὰρ διατεταγμένος ἦν, for so he had arranged. This is used as a middle perfect, and intimates the personal provision of the Apostle. This is also emphasized by the αὐτός in the next clause.

πεζεύειν, to go by land. πεζεύω when opposed to a journey by sea need not necessarily signify a pedestrian journey, and it seems better not to press that meaning here. For although the distance between Troas and Assos is only 20 miles, yet after the labours and excitement of the past night, a walk of that length would scarcely have been contemplated by the Apostle, when his companions in the ship already had the start of him. Many reasons have been suggested why St Paul separated for a few hours from his friends: that he wished for solitude: that he would not be at sea one moment before he could help it: that there was some Christian duty which he could perform on the way: or for his health’s sake. The historian, who probably knew, has not told us, and conjectures in such a case are valueless.

Verses 13-16


Verse 14

14. εἰς ΄ιτυλήνην, to Mitylene. The voyage was a coasting voyage, the nights being each spent in some harbour. Mitylene was the capital of Lesbos, to which place they went from Assos, probably because it had a better anchorage. There could have been little time for anything on St Paul’s land journey like meeting Christian friends, since the vessel left Troas in the morning, and by an indirect course came to Mitylene before nightfall.

Verse 15

15. τῇ ἐπιούσῃ κατηντήσαμεν ἄντικρυς Χίου, on the following day we came over against Chios. The island of Chios is about five miles distant from the mainland. It was in the shelter of the roadstead that the Apostle and his companions passed the night in their vessel.

τῇ δὲ ἑτέρᾳ παρεβάλομεν εἰς Σάμον, and the next day we touched at Samos. For παραβάλλειν in this technical sense cf. Joseph. Ant. XVIII. 6. 4 Ἀγρίππας δὲ εἰς Ποτιόλους παραβαλών.

The island of Samos lies off that part of the coast of Asia Minor where the ancient Ionia joined on to Caria. It has been famous both in ancient Greek and modern European history. See Dict. of Greek and Rom. Geog. s. v.

In the Text. recept. we find here καὶ μείναντες ἐν Τρωγυλλίῳ. But in the oldest MSS. there is no trace of these words. How they came to be inserted it is not easy to say. Trogyllium lay on the mainland opposite Samos, at the termination of the ridge of Mycale. It may be that some annotator noticed that the previous verb παραβάλλειν only implied the touching at Samos. If he knew the locality it is possible that on his margin he suggested Trogyllium as the night’s halting-place, of which the historian had made no mention. But it is more difficult still to understand how if they had formed part of the original text they should be wanting in the earliest of all our authorities.

τῇ δὲ ἐχομένῃ κ.τ.λ., and on the day after we came to Miletus. Miletus had been a most famous sea-port in the earlier Greek history, but in the days of St Paul its fame was eclipsed by Ephesus. It lay on the coast of Caria, some 20 or 30 miles distant by land southward from the city of Ephesus, and one day’s sail from Trogyllium. The site of the town is now some distance from the sea, and was not close to it in the Apostle’s time, as we shall see below (Acts 20:38).

Verse 16

16. κεκρίκει γὰρ ὁ Παῦλος, for Paul had determined. In the midst of a large Christian congregation, such as we know to have existed by this time in Ephesus, there would have arisen many causes of delay which the Apostle in this rapid journey desired to avoid. Perhaps too there might have been some hostility roused against him, and either from a wish not to awaken this, or from fear lest the allaying of it should consume time, he resolved to send for the heads of the Church to confer with him at Miletus.

ὅπως μὴ γένηται αὐτῷ χρονοτριβῆσαι ἐν τῇ Ἀσία, that he might not have to spend time in Asia. St Paul felt that he could not go to Ephesus and leave again in a day or two.

χρονοτριβέω is nowhere else in N.T. or LXX. and very rarely in any Greek authors, though χρόνον τρίβειν is common enough. See however Aristot. Rhet. III. 3.

ἔσπευδεν γάρ, for he was hastening. The verb expresses the whole character of his journey, and we can only conclude that there was some difficulty in finding a vessel at Troas, or he would not have stayed there so long as he did, and not have given a day to Ephesus, which he felt he was hardly likely to see again.

τὴν ἡμέραν τῆν Πεντηκοστῆς, the day of Pentecost. Pentecost at Jerusalem must have become a Christian as well as a Jewish festival. There would be at such a time an opportunity for the Apostle to meet the more prominent members of the Christian body, and, while bringing his contributions from the Churches which he had founded, he would gladden them with the news of what God had enabled him to do.

Verse 17

17. ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς ΄ιλήτου, and from Miletus. At Miletus the Apostle and his party must have tarried more than one day. It would take quite that time to send his messenger and summon those whom he wished to see. If they came to him on the next day, that would be consumed in their conference and leavetaking, and the voyage could hardly be begun again till the third day at the earliest.

μετεκαλέσατο, he summoned to him. This verb, found in N.T. only in the Acts (Acts 7:14, Acts 10:32, Acts 24:25), is used of very earnest or authoritative invitation.

τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους τῆς ἐκκλησίας, the elders of the Church. These might be called ‘presbyters.’ In Acts 20:28 however they are named ἐπίσκοποι, i.e. ‘bishops.’ It is well established that the titles πρεσβύτερος and ἐπίσκοπος were in the early ages of the Church synonymous.

It is curious to notice in connexion with the history of these words that in the recently discovered ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles’ there is no mention anywhere made of πρεσβύτεροι.

Verses 17-38


Verse 18

18. εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, he said to them. This is the only speech recorded in the Acts of the Apostles which we can be sure that the writer heard St Paul make. This is probably the reason why we have it somewhat in detail, and why it is so marked, as we shall see it is, with expressions that are to be found in the Apostle’s letters. While giving other speeches in abstract St Luke employs his own diction or that of some who were his authorities.

ὑμεῖς ἐπίστασθε, ye yourselves know. The pronoun is expressed emphatically, and should be represented. Had St Luke been giving the speech in substance, his Greek training would have made him commence, as he so often does, Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί. That he has not done so in the speech which he gathered from St Paul’s own lips is an evidence of a faithful reporter.

ἀπὸ πρώτης ἡμέρας ἀφ' ἧς, from the first day that. The repetition of the preposition in the relative clause is not common. The more usual form is either to omit the second preposition or to write ἀφ' ἧς ἡμέρας, but when πρώτης was to be used this was not very practicable. We must understand ἡμέρας with the relative to make the grammar complete.

ἐπέβην εἰς τὴν Ἀσίαν, I set foot in Asia. The Apostle is appealing not only to what he had done in Ephesus itself, but to what they had heard of his labours elsewhere in Asia. Ephesus was no doubt the greatest centre of Christian life in Proconsular Asia, and all that was done elsewhere would be reported there, and the lesser Churches would seek for intercommunion with a Church in which they could learn so much of what St Paul had taught.

πῶς μεθ' ὑμῶν τὸν πάντα χρόνον ἐγενόμην, after what manner I was with you all the time, i.e. all the time which I spent with you. The Apostle calls to their remembrance how he had borne himself during all the period of his ministry in Asia.

Verse 19

19. δουλεύων τῷ κυρίῳ μετὰ πάσης ταπεινοφροσύνης, serving the Lord with all humility of mind. The verb is interesting when we remember how often St Paul calls himself in his Epistles δοῦλος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Cf. Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1.

καὶ δακρύων, and tears. The πολλῶν of the Text. recept. is a comment derived from the statement in Acts 20:31 below. In 2 Corinthians 2:4 St Paul uses διὰ πολλῶν δακρύων.

καὶ πειρασμῶν τῶν συμβάντων μοι ἐν ταῖς ἐπιβουλαῖς τῶν Ἰουδαίων, and with trials that befell me by the plots of the Jews. We could only see in the account of the tumult at Ephesus some indications how anxious the Jewish population were to make it plain that they had no sympathy with the Apostle who was so obnoxious to the Gentiles. Here we have an express declaration made before those who knew all the circumstances that plots had been laid against Paul’s life by the Jews. It did not fall in with St Luke’s purpose to tell us of them, but he manifestly knew about them, for he feels no difficulty in recording the Apostle’s own mention of them here, nor has he a thought that his narrative will be held for other than true, though men may point out here an allusion to events of which he had made no mention before. We cannot too often bear in mind that the book is not meant for a history of either one or other Apostle, but as a record of how the course of the Gospel was guided according to Christ’s injunction, (beginning at Jerusalem’ and ending when an Apostle had proclaimed Christ in the Imperial capital.

Verse 20

20. ὡς οὐδὲν ὑπεστειλάμην τῶν συμφερότων τοῦ μἠ ἀναγγεῖλαι ὑμῖν, how that I shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable. For the form of the sentence, cf. Acts 20:27 below. ὑποστέλλω is applied to the wrapping up of anything to keep it out of sight or to stow it away. For example, it is applied to the ‘furling’ of sails. Hence it has the metaphorical sense of ‘cloaking’ what ought to be spoken out. St Paul had never from any cause done this. What he means by τὰ συμφέροντα we may gather from his own words, 1 Corinthians 10:33, τὸ [συμφέρον] τῶν πολλῶν ἵνα σωθῶσι. The message, which pointed men to the way of salvation would at times be couched in terms of rebuke and reproval, and would not always be pleasant to deliver, however necessary. From none of this had the Apostle shrunk.

καὶ διδάξαι ὑμᾶς δημοσίᾳ καὶ κατ' οἴκους, and from teaching you publicly and from house to house. Here we are afforded another glimpse into the zealous character of St Paul’s work. It was not only in the school of Tyrannus that he waited for and taught those who came to hear, but he also went about among the people, seeking to impress any who would listen.

Verse 21

21. διαμαρτυρόμενος, testifying, i.e. proclaiming to them their need of.

Here Chrysostom says: οὐχὶ πρὸς ὑμᾶς, φησί, μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πρὸς Ἕλληνας. ἐνταῦθα ἡ παῤῥησία. καὶ ὅτι κἃν μηδὲν ὠφελῶμεν λέγειν δεῖ. τὸ γὰρ διαμαρτύρασθαι τοῦτό ἐστιν, ὅταν πρὸς τοὺς μὴ προσέχοντας λέγωμεν.

Verse 22

22. καὶ νῦν ἰδοὺ δεδεμένος ἐγὼ κ.τ.λ., and now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem. In these words the Apostle refers to his own spirit, the constraint which in his own mind was laid upon him. Some therefore to make this plain would render ‘in my spirit.’ The verb implies that he felt there was no freeing himself from the impulse to go, but it has no such sense as that he already regards himself as a prisoner, that he will be seized and deprived of his liberty when he arrives at Jerusalem.

μὴ εἰδώς, not knowing. Hence we see that the Holy Ghost had not given to the Apostle more than a general sense that in all places he would be called on to suffer for Christ.

Verse 23

23. πλὴν ὅτιδιαμαρτύρεταί μοι, save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth unto me in every city. The Holy Ghost had called him to the work (Acts 13:2) and moved the disciples (Acts 21:4) and Agabus (Acts 21:11) to warn him of the sufferings which were at hand. We may suppose too that such warnings came more frequently than St Luke has recorded them.

δεσμὰ καὶ θλίψεις, bonds and afflictions. The two nouns are combined in Philippians 1:16 θλιψιν ἐπιφέρειν τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου, where the sense is most probably ‘to add mental grief to my bodily suffering in prison.’ Such ‘afflictions’ are harder to bear than any ‘bonds.’

Verse 24

24. ἀλλ' οὐδενὸς λόγου ποιοῦμαι τὴν ψυχὴν τιμίαν ἐματῷ, but I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself. This is the best rendering possible of the text for which there is most support. But it is a very feeble expression, and unlike the words of St Paul. In a very clear paper on the verse Dr Field has shewn that there is probably some omission before ‘dear unto myself’ of the same character, though not exactly the same, as what is supplied in the A.V., and that the reading of א, B, and C, which the R.V. has tried to give in English, arose after the words, of which he suggests the loss, had fallen away from some very early exemplar. The literal English of Dr Field’s suggestion would be ‘Neither make I account of anything, nor think my life dear unto myself.’

ὡς τελειῶσαι, in order to complete, i.e. I leave everything else out of consideration, so as to finish my course. This is the solitary instance in N.T. of a final ὡς followed by the infinitive. Cf. 3 Maccabees 1:2, Θεόδοτος δὲδιεκομίσθη νύκτωρ ἐπὶ τὴν τοῦ Πτολεμαίου σκηνήν, ὡς μόνος κτεῖναι αὐτόν.

τὸν δρόμον μου, my course. The figure of the Christian life as a race is common enough in St Paul’s language (cf. Acts 13:25). The Apostle signifies by his words that the race will last as long as life endures, and that he must not faint in the middle, whatever suffering may be in store.

καὶ τὴν διακονίαν ἣν ἔλαβον, and the ministry which I received. The Apostle refers to the commission which he received at his conversion. The work and the sufferings are both foretold to Ananias from the first (Acts 9:15-16), and St Paul speaks of this ministry or service by the same word as here in 1 Timothy 1:12, ‘I thank Him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that He counted me faithful, appointing me to His service’ (θέμενος εἰς διακονίαν).

διαμαρτύρασθαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆν χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. To bear witness to men of the good news that God is willing to be gracious. In the context of the passage just quoted (1 Timothy 1:14) St Paul shews how fit a person he was to bear such testimony. He had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious, but had obtained mercy … and to him the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ abounded exceedingly.

Verse 25

25. οὐκέτι ὄψεσθε κ.τ.λ., ye all shall no more see. We cannot be sure that the Apostle never again came to Ephesus. For we learn from Philemon 1:22 that, toward the close of his imprisonment at Rome, he had hopes and the intention of visiting Philemon, who was at Colossæ, and we can hardly think that if he went to Colossæ he would fail on the way to stay at Ephesus. Some have therefore been inclined to lay a great stress on the word πάντες in this clause, as though the Apostle only meant that they were sure some of them to be dead before he paid their city another visit. It seems better to take the words as the conviction of the Apostle’s mind at the moment. He was impressed with the belief that he would never come back. We have seen, however, just above that the Spirit did not give him definite knowledge of what would befall him in every place. And the sense that he was to be seized and imprisoned might make him sufficiently alive to the chances of his martyrdom for Christ to warrant the words which he here uses.

ἐν οἶς διῆλθον κηρύσσων τὴν βασιλείαν, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom. Though speaking to the Ephesians only, the memory of the Apostle recalls those missionary visits throughout Proconsular Asia which we may feel sure that he made during his ‘three years’ residence at Ephesus.’

For the use of βασιλεία alone as equivalent to ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, cf. Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35, &c.

Verse 26

26. διὰ μαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν, wherefore I take you to record. St Paul testifies unto his hearers, but he also challenges them to confirm or refute what he says.

ἐν τῇ σήμερον ἡμέρᾳ, this day. For this redundant expression, cf. LXX. Joshua 22:29; 1 Samuel 26:21; Jeremiah 1:18, &c. Joseph. Ant. XIII. 2. 3.

ὅτι καθαρός εἰμι ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος πάντων, that I am pure from the blood of all men. St Paul looks upon himself as one like the watchmen of the house of Israel (Ezekiel 33:8) to each of whom God says, if he warn not the wicked from his way, ‘his blood will I require at thine hand.’

For the phrase καθαρὸς ἀπό cf. Tobit 3:14, καθαρά εἰμι ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας.

Verse 27

27. οὐ γὰρ ὑπεστειλάνην κ.τ.λ., for I shrank not from declaring, &c. See above on Acts 20:20.

By πᾶσα ἡ βουλὴ τοῦ θεοῦ is meant the whole plan of salvation, what God offers and what he asks from men. This includes ‘repentance and faith’ (Acts 20:20) as well as the ‘grace and mercy’ (Acts 20:24).

Verse 28

28. προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς, take heed to yourselves. On the construction see on chap. Acts 5:35, Acts 8:6. The Apostle now resigns into their hands a charge which before had been his own, and the form of his language would remind them that the discharge of their duty after his example would be the means of saving both themselves and those over whom they were placed.

καὶ παντὶ τῷ ποιμνίῳ, and to all the flock. The Apostle commits to them, as Christ had at first done to St Peter, the charge to feed both lambs and sheep. This must be in the name and with the word of the ‘Good Shepherd’ Himself.

ἐπισκόπους, overseers. Above they are called πρεσβύτεροι (Acts 20:17), and here the R.V. renders ‘bishops.’ We have no information how these ‘elders’ had been chosen or appointed, but we can see from this verse that there had been some solemn setting apart of the men for their office. The Church, as in Acts 13:2, had recognised some indication that they were to be placed over the Church. By reminding them from whence their appointment came, St Paul would enforce on them the solemnity of their position. Though they be ‘in the flock’ they are not as others, more has been given unto them, and so more will be required. Cf. ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles’ § 15.

ποιμαίνειν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ κυρίου, to feed the Church of the Lord Perhaps no text in the N.T. has been so much discussed as this Many ancient authorities read θεοῦ instead of κυρίου, and this has been claimed as a direct testimony to the Divinity of our Lord. That doctrine does not stand or fall by this verse. The whole subject has been discussed fully by the late Dr Ezra Abbott of Harvard University who decides in favour of κυρίου (see Bibliotheca Sacra for 1876). Westcott and Hort on the contrary think θεοῦ assuredly genuine. One difficulty which arises if θεοῦ be read is that from what follows there must be implied the use of some phrase like ‘the blood of God’ which is only found in the Epistles of Ignatius, and is unlike N.T. language. Some have found support for θεοῦ in the peculiar collocation of the words which follow, διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίον. Some special force is thought to lie in ἰδίου thus placed, and that it must be taken in the sense of ‘through the blood that was His own,’ i.e. because it was His Son’s. Another suggestion which would make all easy, is that after τοῦ ἰδίου the word υἱοῦ fell out in very early times anterior to all our MSS. Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles declare in favour of κυρίου.

ἣν περιεποιήσατο, which He purchased. The verb conveys the idea of making anything peculiarly one’s own.

Verse 29

29. μετὰ τὴν ἄφιξίν μου, after my departing. This noun is only found here in N.T. In classical Greek it most frequently means ‘arrival,’ but not always. But as the person who arrives at one place must have departed from some other, it is only a change in the point of view. Here there is no doubt of its meaning. It does not refer to St Paul’s death, but to his departure from Asia, with the thought that he should return no more.

λύκοι βαρεῖς, grievous wolves. The Apostle seems first to refer to false teachers who should come in from without. He must have been familiar with the dangers to which the Ephesian Church was exposed, and we know from his Epistles how much harm had already been inflicted on the Christian Church by the Judaizers and Gnostics. Even when writing to so undisturbed a Church as that in Philippi, we find the Apostle giving warning against both kinds of error. And if we turn to those early parts of the Apocalypse in which the condition of the Churches of Asia is described, we can read of a crop of errors the sowers of which St Paul may have had in his mind as he spake at Miletus. ‘Nicolaitans,’ ‘those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan,’ ‘those that hold the teaching of Balaam,’ ‘the woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess,’ all these could not have risen in a moment, but must have given indications of their existence long before they became so prominent as they were when St John wrote. He must have read the New Testament with little appreciation who speaks of the words here ascribed to St Paul as a ‘prophecy after the event’ made by the writer of the Acts in the second century. Cf. ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles’ § 16.

Verse 30

30. καὶ ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν, and from among your own selves. This gives an idea of the greater nearness of the apostasy which the Apostle predicts. Not some who may come of those to whom he speaks, but even out of the present existing Christian body. We know from St Paul’s own experience that he learnt (and no doubt had learnt this long before he wrote to Timothy) how out of the professedly Christian body some would go back like Demas (2 Timothy 4:10) through love of this world’s good things, and some would err concerning the truth, like Hymenæus and Philetus, and that their word would eat like a canker, and they would overthrow the faith of some. These are the speakers of perverse things, such as would twist even the Apostle’s own words into a wrong sense.

τοῦ ἀποσπᾷν τοὺς μαθητὰς ὀπίσω ἑαυτῶν, to draw away the disciples after them, i.e. to pervert the other members of the Christian body. It is not that these men will desire and endeavour to gain disciples, but they will do their best, after their own falling-away, to drag others likewise from the true faith. This is expressed also by the verb which implies the tearing away from that to which they are already attached, and this more literal translation of the verb expresses the labour and exertion which these false teachers will spend to achieve their object.

On the genitival infinitive τοῦ ἀποσπᾷν cf. Acts 3:2 note, and for an exact parallel to the instance in this verse, see 2 Chronicles 20:23 ἀνέστησαν εἰς ἀλλήλους τοῦ ἐξολοθρευθῆναι.

Verse 31

31. διὸ γρηγορεῖτε, therefore watch. And the sort of watching indicated is that unsleeping alertness which can never be taken by surprise.

μνημονεύοντες κ.τ.λ., remembering that by the space of three years. St Paul enforces watchfulness by appealing to his own example. Be ye watchful, bearing in mind that I was so night and day while I laboured among you. The three years may be a speaking in round numbers, but it cannot have been a much less time that St Paul spent in Ephesus. See notes on Acts 19:8; Acts 19:10.

οὐκ ἐπαυσάμην μετὰ δακρύων νουθετῶν κ.τ.λ., I ceased not to admonish every one with tears. We know from his appeal to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:29) and from other places, how sympathetic St Paul was in all that concerned his flock. ‘Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?’ And if for weakness and offences, how much more in a city like Ephesus where idolatry was rampant everywhere! We need not confine the ‘every one’ to the presbyters; St Paul’s labour was spent on the whole Ephesian Church.

Verse 32

32. καὶ τὰ νῦν παρατίθεμαι ὑμᾶς, and now I commend you. It is as if he said: I am to leave you, but I leave you to the care of One who will help you as He has helped me, and who will not leave you. ὁ λόγος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ means the gracious promises of the Gospel, such as those which Christ gave to His disciples when He foretold the mission of the Comforter (John 16:7-12), and which the Christian preachers might repeat as His words to the converts who believed on His name.

τῷ δυναμένῳ, which is able. This must be referred to θεῷ, and not to the intervening explanatory clause. It is God who can build up His people and give them their heavenly inheritance.

τὴν κληρονομίαν, the inheritance, that to which, by becoming sons of God through Christ, you are made heirs. The figure is taken from the apportionment of the promised land among the Israelites. The share of each of God’s servants in the heavenly Canaan is to be regarded as definitely as were the possessions of the chosen people in the earthly Canaan.

ἐν τοῖς ἡγιασμένοις πᾶσιν, among all them which are sanctified. More literally ‘which have been sanctified.’ But just as the Apostle uses ‘saints’ frequently in his Epistles to mean those who have been called to be such, so here his words do not indicate that those of whom he speaks have attained the perfection of holiness. When they reach their inheritance, then they will have been perfected in Christ.

Verse 33

33. ἱματισμοῦ, apparel. In which Oriental wealth largely consisted. Hence Naaman brings ‘changes of raiment’ as well as money among the rewards which he expects to give for his cure (2 Kings 5:5), and the value attached to changes of raiment may be noticed in many other parts of the Scripture history. Cf. Genesis 24:53; Genesis 45:22; 2 Kings 7:8, &c. Cf. ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles’ § 13.

ἱματισμός is frequent in the LXX. Cf. 1 Samuel 27:9; 1 Kings 22:30; and in 1 Maccabees 11:24 we find λαβὼν ἀργύριον καὶ χρυσίον καὶ ἱματισμὸν ἐπορεύθη πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα, where there are put together the three classes of Eastern riches exactly as in this verse.

Verse 34

34. αὐτοὶ γινώσκετε, ye yourselves know. The working in company with Aquila and Priscilla, which the Apostle began in Corinth, was probably continued when they came together to Ephesus, and so the Apostle’s trade and his steady pursuit of it would be well known to many of the listeners. It has been suggested that he was a partner in trade-matters with Philemon during this residence at Ephesus. Cf. Philemon 1:17.

τοῖς οὖσιν μετ' ἐμοῦ, to them that were with me. We cannot determine under what circumstances the Apostle felt himself called upon to minister by his hand-labour to the support of his companions. We may be sure however that the necessity was there, and that St Paul, working himself, did not countenance indolence in others. And when we read of Timothy’s ‘often infirmities’ (1 Timothy 5:23) we may conjecture that there were those among the companions of St Paul who were less able to work with the hands than the Apostle himself.

αἱ χεῖρες αὗται, these hands. No doubt, he held them forth, and they bore marks that not only while at Ephesus, but since that time they had laboured for the means of living.

Verse 35

35. πάντα ὑπέδειξα ὑμῖν, in all things I gave you an example. Cf. John 13:15, ὑπόδειγμα γὰρ ἔδωκα ὑμῖν.

ὅτι οὕτως κοπιῶντας, how that thus labouring, i.e. as I myself laboured and you beheld and knew. The verb implies ‘wearying toil.’ He had spared for no fatigue. He speaks of this toil (2 Corinthians 11:27) ἐν κόπῳ καὶ μόχθῳ.

δεῖ ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῶν ἀσθενούντων, ye ought to help the weak. By ἀσθενοῦντες does St Paul here mean those standing in need of material or moral help? Grimm (s. v.) takes it for the poor, those who are in want from any cause, as those must have been who could not support themselves, and whose wants the Apostle supplied by his own labour. Yet this is a very rare sense, as he admits, for the verb to have, and ‘feebleness’ of faith and trust is much the more common meaning. And that sense suits well here. If among new converts large demands should be made for the support of those who minister, they who are weak in the faith as yet may be offended thereby, and becoming suspicious, regard the preacher’s office as a source of temporal gain. An example like St Paul’s would remove the scruples of such men, and when they became more grounded in the faith, these matters would trouble them no more. For the use of ἀσθενής and ἀσθενέω in the sense of moral, rather than physical, weakness, cf. Job 4:3-4; Isaiah 7:4; 1 Maccabees 11:49.

τῶν λόγων τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ, the words of the Lord Jesus. St Paul appeals to these words as though the saying was well-known, and as we notice this, we cannot but wonder at the scanty number of the words which have been handed down as ‘words of Jesus’ beyond what we find in the Gospel. This is the only one in the New Testament, and from all the rest of the Christian literature we cannot gather more than a score of sentences beside. See Westcott, Introd. to Study of the Gospels, pp. 428 seqq.

ὅτι αὐτὸς εἶπεν, how He himself said. The emphatic pronoun should not be overlooked.

μακάριόν ἐστιν μᾶλλον διδόναι ἢ λαμβάνειν, it is more blessed to give than to receive. In support of what has just been said about strengthening the feeble in faith, these words seem as readily applicable to that view of the Apostle’s meaning, as to the sense of ‘poverty.’ What would be given in this special case would be spiritual strength and trust; what is referred to in λαμβάνειν is the temporal support of the preacher, which St Paul refrained from claiming. We cannot doubt that he felt how much more blessed it was to win one waverer to Christ than it would have been to be spared his toils at tent-making by the contributions of his converts.

Verse 36

36. θεὶς τὰ γόνατα, having knelt down. The kneeling posture marks the special character and solemnity of the prayer. We find the Apostle doing the same in his parting from the brethren at Tyre (Acts 21:5). On the usual custom of standing in prayer, cf. Mark 11:25 and the account of the Pharisee and publican (Luke 18:11-13). It has often been noticed that the historian, who gives the speech with unusual fulness, does not venture to record the prayer.

Verse 37

37. κατεφίλουν αὐτόν, they kissed him. The verb expresses earnest and sorrowful salutations.

Verse 38

38. ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ ᾦ εἰρήκει, for the word which he had spoken. On the attraction of the relative cf. Acts 1:1.

τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ θεωρεῖν, to behold his face. The Apostle in Acts 20:25 uses only ὁράω, the ordinary word. Here in θεωρεῖν is expressed the earnest reverent gaze, with which we can fancy those who knew the Apostle and his work would look upon him. His presence filled not only the eye, but the mind, they contemplated the scenes which the sight of him would recall.

προέπεμπον δὲ αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον, and they brought him on his way to the ship. Cf. Acts 15:3, Acts 21:5. They would not lose a word or a look until they were forced to do so. We gather from this verse that the harbour was at some distance from the town of Miletus. See above on Acts 20:15; Acts 20:17.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 20:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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