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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Acts 28



Verse 1

1. διασωθέντες τότε ἐπέγνωμεν, when we were escaped, then we knew, i.e. we found out from the natives who were on the shore.

΄ελίτη, Melita. They would at once learn what the land was from the natives whom they found on the shore. Tradition has from the earliest times identified Melita with the modern Malta. But Constantine Porphyrogenitus (de Adm. Imp. p. 36) and others after him have attempted to shew that Meleda, a small island in the Adriatic Sea, not far from the coast of Illyria, was the scene of the shipwreck. They have supported this opinion by confining the sense of Adria (Acts 27:27) to the modern Adriatic Sea, by their explanation of ‘barbarians’ in the next verse of this chapter, and by the absence of vipers at the present time from the island of Malta. But the latter circumstance is not without a parallel. The advance of cultivation and alteration of temperature have destroyed poisonous beasts out of other districts besides Malta, and the two first arguments are founded on mistakes. Moreover it is hardly possible to conceive that a ship should be driven for fourteen days in the Adriatic without going ashore, and the direction in which they sailed after finding a fresh vessel (Acts 28:11-12) is also completely opposed to the idea that they were wrecked in the Gulf of Venice.

Verses 1-10


Verse 2

2. οἵ τε βάρβαροι, and the barbarians. The word is used in the original as it was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Those who did not speak their language were to them always ‘barbarians,’ not necessarily in our modern sense, but as strange and foreign folks. The language spoken in Malta was probably a Phœnician dialect, as the island had received most of its inhabitants from Carthage, but had come under Roman rule in the Second Punic War (Livy, XX. 51).

βάρβαρος is used 2 Maccabees 10:4, by Judas Maccabeus and the Jews with him, to describe the Greek enemy under Antiochus, who certainly would not be ‘barbarians’ in the modern sense.

οὐ τὴν τυχοῦσαν φιλανθρωπίαν, especial kindness. Cf. above, Acts 19:11, note.

προσελάβοντο πάντας ἡμᾶς, they received us all, i.e. took us under their care. At first of course the hospitality would be shewn by kind treatment on the beach, evidenced by their fighting a fire. Afterwards, as the stay was of three months’ duration, the sailors and prisoners would find quarters in the dwellings of the natives. Paul, the centurion, and some others were received into the house of the chief magistrate. The rain continued after they had got ashore, and the storm had so lowered the temperature that the first thing to be done was to make a large fire.

For the verb used in this sense of hospitable entertainment, cf. Philemon 1:17. Also 2 Maccabees 10:15, τοὺς φυγαδευθέντας ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων προσλαβόμενοι.

Verse 3

3. συστρέψαντος δὲ τοῦ Παύλου, but when Paul had gathered. This is only another sign of the active spirit of the Apostle. Whatever was to be done, if he were able to take a part in it, he was never wanting, whether it was in counselling about a difficulty, in comforting under danger, or helping by bodily labour to relieve the general distress.

The verb is used of gathering men together, 2 Maccabees 14:30.

φρυγάνων τι πλῆθος, a bundle of sticks. φρύγανα applies very fitly to the brushwood and furze which is said to be the only material growing near St Paul’s Bay of which a fire could be made.

Chrysostom exclaims: ὅρα αὐτὸν ἐνεργοῦντα καὶ οὐδαμοῦ θαυματουργοῦντα ἁπλῶς ἁλλ' ἀπὸ χρείας· καὶ ἐν τῷ χειμῶνι γὰρ αἰτίας οὔσης προεφήτευσεν, ἀλλ' οὐχ ἁπλῶς, καὶ ἐνταῦθα πάλιν φρύγανα συλλέγει καὶ ἐπιτίθησιν.

ἔχιδνα ἀπὸ τῆς θέρμης ἐξελθοῦσα, a viper coming out by reason of the heat. Dr Farrar (Life of St Paul, II. 384 note) has remarked that the viper has disappeared from the isle of Arran, as it is now said to have done from Malta.

The viper in this case had been numbed by the cold, and on feeling the sudden heat woke up and sprang away from it.

In καθῆψεν we have an instance of the active voice used for the middle, which became not uncommon in later Greek. Cf. Acts 27:43, note.

Verse 4

4. τὸ θηρίον, the beast. There is nothing in the Greek to represent ‘venomous’ (as given in the A.V.), though it was because the inhabitants knew that such was its character that they were so astonished at what happened.

But θηρίον must have been very frequently applied to venomous creatures; for ἡ θηριακή (its derivative) is the name for an antidote against poisonous bites.

ἡ δίκη ζῇν οὐκ εἴασεν, Justice suffereth not to live, i.e. She is, as is her wont, finding out the wrongdoer.

Verse 5

5. ὁ μὲν οὖν ἀποτινάξας τὸ θηρίον, howbeit having shaken off the beast. The verb is used (Luke 9:5) of shaking off dust from the feet. The idea conveyed is that St Paul was quite composed in what he did, and that the beast was no cause of alarm to him.

Verse 6

6. οἱ δὲ προσεδόκων αὐτὸν μέλλειν πίμπρασθαι, but they expected that he would have swollen. Such being the usual effect of the viper’s bite, and making itself apparent in a very short time.

The verb πίμπρημι in classical Greek means ‘to burn,’ ‘to burn up,’ and in the passive ‘to be inflamed,’ but in the LXX. we have the verb used in the sense of ‘to swell’ in Numbers 5:21; Numbers 5:23; Numbers 5:27, καὶ πρηθήσεται τὴν κοιλίαν.

ἐπὶ πολὺ δὲ αὐτῶν προσδοκώντων, but when they had been long in expectation. Keeping the same rendering for προσδοκέω in both places in the verse. The people had seen cases of viper-bite before, and they had no doubt about what was going to happen.

καὶ θεωρούντων μηδὲν ἄτοπον εἰς αὐτὸν γινόμενον, and beheld nothing amiss come to him. For the word cf. Luke 23:41; Acts 25:5. It can be applied to anything abnormal whether it be a breach of the law or a change of bodily condition. For the latter sense, see Joseph. Ant. XI. 5. 2 ὅπως εὐχὰς ποιήσωνται τοῦ μηδὲν κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν παθεῖν ἄτοπον.

μεταβαλλόμενοι, changing their minds. For the word cf. Test. xii. Patr. Daniel 4, καὶ ἐάν τις ἐπαινῇ ὑμᾶς ὡς ἁγαθοὺς μὴ ἐπαίρεσθε μηδὲ μεταβάλλεσθε. The previous clause speaks of anger, and the last verb indicates the change to the contrary.

ἔλεγον αὐτὸν εἶναι θεόν, they said that he was a god. Compare the conduct of the Lycaonians in Lystra (Acts 14:11 seqq.), whose behaviour afterwards shews that the opinion quickly formed was unstable, and liable to change as suddenly as it came.

Chrysostom’s comment here is: ἄρα καὶ τὸν περὶ προνοίας λόγον εἶχον καὶ πολλῷ τῶν φιλοσόφων οὗτοι οἱ βάρβαροι φιλοσοφώτεροι ἐτύγχανον. αὐτοὶ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ἁφίασι προνοίας ἀπολαύειν τὰ ὑπὸ σελήνην· οἱ δὲ πανταχοῦ νομίζουσι παρεῖναι τὸν θεόν.

Verse 7

7. ἐν δὲ τοῖς περὶ τὸν τόπον ἐκεῖνον ὑπῆρχεν χωρία, now in the neighbourhood of that place were lands belonging, &c. The nearest place to what is believed to have been the scene of the wreck is the town now called Alta Vecchia.

τῷ πρώτῳ τῆς νήσου, to the chief man of the island. Πρῶτος is known from inscriptions (see Bochart, Geogr. II. 1. 26) to have been the official title of the governor of Melita. The island of Melita belonged to the province of the Sicilian Prætor (Cicero, Verr. IV. 18), whose legate Publius probably was. Tradition makes him become bishop of Malta.

For πρῶτος used in this way, cf. Acta Pauli et Theclæ 11, where Thamyris supports his promises by saying, εἰμὶ γὰρ πρῶτος τῆς πόλεως.

ὃς ἀναδεξάμενος ἡμᾶς, who having received us. This was only natural in the Roman official, for Paul was under the charge of a Roman officer, and had appealed for hearing to the Roman emperor.

τρεῖς ἡμέρας φιλοφρόνως ἐξένισεν, entertained us courteously three days. This was until arrangements could be made for a more permanent dwelling-place. As they must remain in the island through the stormy weather of winter, before they could start again, it would be needful to provide them with settled quarters. They could not be guests for the whole three months.

Verse 8

8. ἐγένετο δέ, and it was so, that, &c. The words do not mean as might be thought from A.V. ‘and it came to pass, that,’ &c., that the father of Publius fell ill after St Paul’s arrival, but that he was ill before.

πυρετοῖς καὶ δυσεντερίῳ, of fever and dysentery. The words are technical, such as a physician, as St Luke is reputed to have been, would be likely to use in describing the disease. πυρετοί, in the plural number, implies the fits of fever which occur at intervals in such diseases as ague.

Verse 9

9. καὶ οἱ λοιποί, the rest also. It was not a few who came, but during the three months of their stay all the others who were in sickness and heard of what had been done for the father of the chief magistrate (and it was sure to be widely noised abroad) came to be cured.

Verse 10

10. πολλαῖς τιμαῖς, with many honours. No doubt these included gifts of money and such things as would be needed by travellers who had lost everything in the shipwreck: but to restrict the word to the sense of ‘honorarium’ or fee, such as might be paid to a physician, is to narrow the meaning needlessly, and to put a construction on the proceeding which it cannot bear. The Apostle who prayed and laid his hands on the sick and healed them was not the sort of person to whom men would offer money as a fee.

ἐτίμησαν ἡμᾶς, they honoured us, i.e. not only St Paul, but for his sake the rest of the party were honoured by the people of the island.

καὶ ἀναγομένοις, and when we sailed. See above on Acts 27:3.

ἐπέθεντο τὰ πρὸς τὰς χρείας, they put on board such things as we needed. The bounty must have been large if we consider the number of those for whom it was given. But Publius would set the example, and others would not be slow to follow it.

Verse 11

11. μετὰ δὲ τρεῖς μῆνας, and after three months. The proper season for sailing having again come round, now that winter was over.

ἀνήχθημεν, we set sail. See on Acts 27:3.

ἐν πλοίῳἈλεξανδρινῷ, in a ship of Alexandria which had wintered in the island. This was another vessel employed probably in the same corn-carrying trade as that other in which (Acts 28:6) they had embarked at Myrrha, and suffered so many perils. This vessel had got as far as Melita, on its way to Italy, before the stormy weather came on. As the harbour was then where it now is, the ship had wintered in what is now Valetta.

παρασήμῳ Διοσκούροις, whose sign was the Twin brothers. Διοσκοῦροι is the name given in mythological story to Jupiter’s two sons (Castor and Pollux) born of Leda, who, when they were translated to the sky, became a constellation of special favour towards sailors. Horace speaks of them as ‘lucida sidera’ (Od. I. 3. 2), where he describes their beneficent influence on the ocean. By παράσημον πλοῖον is meant a boat with what we should now call a figure-head. But the ancient ships had such signs both at stem and stern, and often the figure was that of some divinity.

If for no other reason than the description of the vessel in which the further journey was performed we cannot accept the theory that the wreck took place in the Adriatic Sea. It would be hard to conceive of a vessel from Alexandria, which had stopped on its voyage to Italy to avoid the storms of winter, being found so far out of its course as Meleda in the Adriatic.

Verses 11-16


Verse 12

12. καὶ καταχθέντες εἰς Συρακούσας, and touching at Syracuse. The vessel takes the regular route, sailing north from Valetta to Sicily. Syracuse was one of the chief towns of Sicily lying on the south-eastern extremity, and was famous in classical history as the scene of many of the disasters of the Athenian fleet and army in their expedition to Sicily during the Peloponnesian war.

Verse 13

13. περιελθόντες, having made a circuit. They made this winding course because the favourable wind, for which they had probably been waiting during the three days’ stay at Syracuse, did not come.

κατηντήσαμεν εἰς Ῥήγιον, we arrived at Rhegium. The modern Reggio, situated at the southern point of Italy, on the straits of Messina. At this place Caligula designed to construct a harbour for these corn ships coming from Egypt to Italy, but his intention was never carried out.

ἐπιγενομένου νότου, when a south wind sprang up. Thus by a change of wind they were able to go speedily forward, instead of tacking as they had been obliged to do from Syracuse to Rhegium.

εἰς Ποτιόλους, to Puteoli. This is the modern Pozzuoli, near Naples. In St Paul’s day it was a principal port of Rome, and to it came most of the corn supply from Egypt.

A Greek name of Puteoli was Δικαιαρχία. Philo in Flaccum 521. Josephus, Vita 3.

Verse 14

14. οὗ εὑρόντες ἀδελφούς, where having found brethren. There was, we see from this, a Christian Church already established in Puteoli, and it was to such a degree well known, that the Apostle on his arrival at once learnt of its existence. From this we may gather that the Christians in Italy had already spread to a considerable extent, and hence it seems very probable that Christianity had been carried into that country from Jerusalem soon after the first Pentecostal preaching, at which time Roman visitors were present in the Holy City. Of course in such a place as Puteoli the Jews were likely to congregate, for the sake of trade, more than in many other places of Italy, and from their body the earliest converts to Christianity must have been made. But that, without any previous recorded visit of an Apostle, there should already be in Puteoli a numerous band of Christians is evidence of the zeal with which the new faith was being propagated. For it was now only about 28 years since the death of Jesus.

παρεκλήθημεν, we were intreated. It has generally been thought that the duration of this stay (seven days) was arranged so that the Apostle might be present with the Church in Puteoli at least over one Lord’s day. Thus the Christian congregation would be able to gather in its entirety, and to hear from the lips of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, the Gospel for which he was now ‘an ambassador in bonds.’ We do not know whether any circumstances occurred to detain Julius in Puteoli, but if it were not so, it is a token of the great influence which St Paul had obtained over the centurion, that he was permitted to stay such a long time with his Christian friends, when the capital was so near at hand.

καὶ οὕτως εἰς τὴν Ῥώμην ἤλθαμεν, and so we came to Rome. The narrative at first speaks of the completed voyage, and then in Acts 28:16 mention is made of some details which relate to the short land journey from Puteoli to the capital.

Verse 15

15. οἱ ἀδελφοὶ ἀκούσαντες τὰ περὶ ἡμῶν, the brethren having heard of us. Between Puteoli and Rome there was constant communication, and the seven days of the Apostle’s sojourn in the port were amply sufficient to make the whole Christian body in Rome aware of his arrival in Italy and of the time when he would set out towards the city.

ἦλθαν εἰς ἀπάντησιν ἡμῖν, they came to meet us. Because the verb ἀπαντάω takes a dative after it, the same case stands after the noun. For examples cf. LXX. 2 Chronicles 15:2, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν εἰς ἀπάντησιν τῷ Ἀσᾷ. Also 2 Chronicles 20:18; Judges 6:35; Judges 20:25; 1 Samuel 13:10, &c. If it were quite certain that the sixteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans was part of the letter which was sent to that Church we might make sure of the names of some who would be of the party which started from Rome to welcome St Paul on his arrival in Italy. Aquila and Priscilla, Epænetus; Andronicus and Junias, who are both spoken of as having been formerly fellow-prisoners with the Apostle; Rufus, Herodion and Apelles, who are mentioned there in terms of the greatest affection, could hardly have failed to be among the company at Appii Forum. But the whole closing chapter of the Epistle to the Romans appears to apply better to some Asiatic Church, probably Ephesus, than to Rome, and so it is unsafe to conclude that the Christians there mentioned were those who now met St Paul and cheered him on his way.

Perhaps however when we remember the Greek influence which prevailed in the early centuries of the Christian era at Rome we need not marvel at the Greek names we meet with in this xvith chapter. The first Bishops of Rome have nearly all Greek names, and even Clemens Romanus wrote in Greek, and not in Latin.

ἄχρι Ἀππίου φόρου, as far as Appii Forum, i.e. the Market of Appius. The name ‘Forum’ seems to have been given by the Romans to places such as we should now call borough-towns. The town here mentioned was situated on the Appian Way, the great road from Rome to Brundusium. Both road and town owed their name to the famous Appius Claudius, the Roman Censor, and this town is mentioned by Horace as crowded with sailors, and abounding in tavern-keepers of bad character (Sat. I. 5. 4). It was distant rather more than forty miles from Rome, and as the Appian Way was only one of two ways by which travellers could go from Appii Forum to the Imperial City, it was natural that the deputation from Rome should halt here and wait for the Apostle’s arrival.

καὶ Τριῶν ταβερνῶν, and the three Taverns. The name ‘Tabernæ’ had in Latin a much wider signification than the English ‘Taverns’ and was applied to any shop whatever, not as the English word to one where refreshments are sold. The site of this place has not been identified, but it is said to have been about ten miles nearer to Rome than Appii Forum: and the body of Christians who came as far as this had perhaps set out from Rome later than their brethren. The whole distance from Puteoli to Rome was about 140 miles. ‘Tres Tabernæ’ is placed 33 miles from Rome.

εὐχαριστήσας τῷ θεῷ ἔλαβε θάρσος, he thanked God and took courage. When thinking and writing about his coming to Rome, Paul had never thought that his first visit to it would be as a prisoner. He had hoped (Romans 1:11-12) to come as the bearer of some spiritual blessing, and to be comforted himself by the faith of the Roman brethren. How different was the event from what he had pictured. But yet here were some of the brethren, and their faith and love were made manifest by their journey to meet the Apostle, and no doubt they brought with them the salutations of all the Church. This was somewhat to be thankful for. The prisoner would not be without sympathy, and the spiritual gift might be imparted even though Paul was no longer free. The cause of Christ was advancing; and cheered by the evidence of this the Apostle’s heart revived.

Verse 16

16. ὅτε δὲ εἰσήλθομεν εἰς Ῥώμην, and when we came to Rome. There was much that might have been said of this land journey from Puteoli to Rome, and the writer of the Acts was one of the fellow-travellers. But it is foreign to his purpose to dwell on anything which does not concern the spread of the Gospel according to the command of Jesus (Acts 1:8), and so he leaves all the glorious sights and scenery unmentioned, and tells us no word of the many monuments which stood along the Appian Way, only noticing, what his history required, the two little bands, that represented Christ’s cause and the work of the Gospel, in the great city to which they were approaching.

Here in some MSS. there is an addition, see above on the various readings of the chapter. These additional words, not given in the oldest MSS., are yet not of the same character as many of the sentences which seem introduced into the text of the Acts by later hands. They are entirely independent of anything either in the Acts or the Epistles of St Paul, and it is not easy to understand why they should have been added to the original text. There is moreover such similarity between the ending of the first and last words in the clause, that the eye of an early scribe may have passed over from the one to the other, and thus omitted the clause, and in this way may have originated the text of the MSS. which leave the passage out.

ἐπετράπη τῷ Παύλῳ μένειν καθ' ἑαυτόν, Paul was suffered to abide by himself. This lenity was probably due to the commendation of the centurion Julius, who cannot but have found that in St Paul he had charge of no ordinary prisoner, and having been saved and aided by the Apostle’s advice would naturally wish to do something in return.

Here Chrysostom says, οὐ μικρὸν καὶ τοῦτο τεκμήριον τοῦ πάνυ θαυμασθῆναι αὐτὸν· οὐ γὰρ δὴ μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων ἠρίθμουν αὐτόν.

σὺν τῷ φυλάσσοντι αὐτὸν στρατιώτῃ, with the soldier that guarded him. The custom was that the prisoner should be chained by one hand to the soldier while he was on guard. And to this chain the Apostle often makes allusion in the Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon) written during this imprisonment. See also below, Acts 28:20. The frequent change of the person who guarded him would give the Apostle an opportunity of spreading the knowledge of his cause, and the message of the Gospel, very widely among the Prætorian guards who had him in charge, and many things would have been heard by them from the soldiers who had sailed with St Paul, which would make them ready to attend to the narrative of their prisoner.

Verse 17

17. μετὰ ἡμέρας τρεῖς, after three days. At first the Apostle would naturally desire to learn all he could of the Christian congregations at Rome from those who had been the first to welcome him on his approach to that city. But for this, three days sufficed. Then he set about explaining his position to those of his fellow-countrymen, not Christians, who were of most importance in Rome. For to them would most probably be forwarded an account of the charges to be laid against the Apostle, and of the evidence by which they were to be supported.

συγκαλέσασθαι αὐτὸν τοὺς ὄντας τῶν Ἰουδαίων πρώτους, that he called together the chief of the Jews. Keeping still to the rule that the Gospel should be offered first to the Jews, even here in Rome, where he had good reason to think that his message would not be received. The decree by which in the reign of Claudius all the Jews had been banished from Rome (Acts 18:2) was evidently no longer in force. For clearly there was an important body of them resident in the city.

ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί. See note on Acts 1:16.

οὐδὲν ἐναντίον ποιήσας τῷ λαῷ κ. τ. λ., though I had done nothing against the people or the customs of our forefathers. For everywhere he had shewn himself desirous that his own people should hear the message of the Gospel first, and for Jews he had never forbidden circumcision, only insisting that Gentile converts should not be forced to submit to the Jewish law before they were received into the Christian Church.

δέσμιος ἐξ Ἱεροσολύμων παρεδόθην, I was delivered a prisoner from Jerusalem. The Apostle describes the result, rather than the steps by which it was brought about. The chief captain had rescued him from the violence of the Jewish mob, and he had never since been out of the care of the Roman authorities. Yet but for the Jews he never would have been a Roman prisoner, and when the Sadducees in Jerusalem found that he was not to be given up to them, they made themselves his accusers before Felix and Festus.

Verses 17-28


Verse 18

18. ἀνακρίναντές με ἐβούλοντο ἀπολῦσαι, having examined me, they desired to set me at liberty. Alluding most probably to Agrippa’s remark (Acts 26:32) and the statement of Festus (Acts 25:25). It seems probable that Felix would have found means to set Paul free had the requisite bribe been offered to him (Acts 24:26). All were convinced of his innocence.

Verse 19

19. οὐχ ὡς τοῦ ἔθνους μου ἔχων τι κατηγορεῖν, not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. St Paul shews himself the patriotic Jew. He knew how many things his fellow-countrymen had suffered at the hands of the Roman power, and he did not wish in any way to bring on them more trouble. He therefore explains that he had taken the course of appealing to Cæsar only because he saw no other means of obtaining his release. If that were secured he wished to lay no charge at the door of his accusers or their brethren in Rome.

Verse 20

20. διὰ ταύτην οὖν τὴν αἰτίαν παρεκάλεσα ὑμᾶς ἰδεῖν καὶ προσλαλῆσαι, for this cause therefore have I called for you to see and to speak with you. It is possible in this sentence either to take ὑμᾶς as the object of ἰδεῖν and προσλαλῆσαι, or to understand με, and render (as in Rev. Vers.) ‘did I entreat you to see and to speak with me.’ As it seems more probable that Paul would say he wished to speak to the Jews than that he wished them to come and speak with him, the A.V. which the Rev. Vers. gives on the margin appears the preferable rendering. It is quite true that παρακαλέω is generally rendered by ‘beseech’ ‘desire’ or ‘entreat,’ but there is no doubt that St Paul’s message would be an earnest request, and we might render here ‘have I desired.’

ἕνεκεν γὰρ τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, because that for the hope of Israel. The ‘hope of Israel’ is the general expectation of Messiah. In Jesus Paul believed that the expected Saviour had appeared, and for preaching this he had been attacked and made a prisoner. He held the same faith as all the Jews, only going in this matter farther than they in that he believed the ancient promise was now fulfilled. We can see from the reply of the Jews that they understood his position exactly.

τὴν ἅλυσιν ταύτην περίκειμαι, I am bound with this chain. περίκειμαι has a construction like that of passive verbs of which the active governs a dative of the person with the accusative of the thing, e.g. πιστεύω τινί τι of which the passive form becomes (Galatians 2:7) πεπίστευμαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον. Since περίκειμαι has to serve for both active and passive we cannot have the form equivalent to πιστεύω τινί τι, but in its passive sense περίκειμαι follows the same form of construction as πεπίστευμαι.

Verse 21

21. οὔτε γράμματα περὶ σοῦ ἐδεξάμεθα ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰουδαίας, neither letters from Judæa concerning thee. This may easily be understood. For no ship starting later than that in which St Paul sailed was likely to have arrived in Rome before he reached that city, and the Jews who conducted the accusation would take a little time for drawing up all the details which they desired to lay before the court of appeal, so that their despatch would be sent later than the time of Paul’s sailing. And before it was determined that he should be sent to Rome they would see no necessity for informing the Jews there concerning his case.

οὔτε παραγενόμενός τις τῶν ἀδελφῶν ἀπήγγειλεν ἢ ἐλάλησέν τι περὶ σοῦ πονηρόν, nor did any of the brethren come hither and report or speak any harm of thee. It is very conceivable that during the time between Paul’s first arrest and his arrival in Rome (a period of more than two years) many opportunities might have arisen for news about the prisoner to have been sent to Rome. But apparently the speakers here wish merely to say that no news has come to them in connexion with this trial and appeal. They seem not to have been at all anxious to move in the matter. At whatever time the edict of Claudius was withdrawn it could only be within the last few years (ten at the most) that the Jewish population had been again permitted to come to Rome. They were probably loath therefore to call public attention again to their nation by appearing before the court of appeal in a cause connected with their religion.

On the use of ἀδελφοί by the Jews in speaking of their fellow-countrymen, cf. on Acts 22:5.

Verse 22

22. ἀξιοῦμεν δὲ παρὰ σοῦ ἀκοῦσαι, but we desire to hear of thee. He was a Jew, one of their own nation, and was likely to be able to put his belief before them in its true light. They professed to be open to reason, but this may have been only because they knew not what else to do.

περὶ μὲν γὰρ τῆς αἱρέσεως ταύτης, for as concerning this sect. It is dear from this expression that they had learnt from St Paul’s speech, though St Luke does not record the words, that he was an adherent of Jesus of Nazareth, and held that in Him ‘the hope of Israel’ had been fulfilled.

γνωστὸν ἡμῖν ἐστίν, we know. Literally ‘it is known to us.’ Perhaps the speakers intended by this circumlocution to distinguish what they knew by report from a personal knowledge.

ὅτι πανταχοῦ ἀντιλέγεται, that everywhere it is spoken against. They were doubtless aware of many of the attacks which had been made by their countrymen on the Christians both in the cities of Asia and Europe, and would have heard them spoken of as the men who were turning the world upside down. The result of the conference was that a day was fixed, on which the Apostle should set forth to them his opinions, so that, as they had no other means for deciding on their course of action, they might discover for themselves what would be the best course to take.

Verse 23

23. εἰς τὴν ξενίαν, into his lodging. From this word ξενία, implying hospitable entertainment, it would seem that for the first portion of the time that Paul was in Rome, he was allowed to accept the hospitality of the Christian body, and though chained to his guard, yet to be resident in a house which his friends had provided for him, and where he was, as far as he could be under the circumstances, treated as their guest.

πλείονες, many. πλείων often loses its strictly comparative sense, though generally that sense may be observed in the context, though it be not capable of representation in a translation. Here, for instance, the first deputation who came to see the Apostle was a limited number, but on the day appointed for a meeting they came πλείονες, in greater numbers.’ Cf. Luke 11:53; Acts 2:40; Acts 13:31; Acts 21:10; Acts 24:17; Acts 25:14; Acts 27:20; 1 Corinthians 10:5; 2 Corinthians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 4:15; &c.

οἷς ἐξετίθετο, to whom he expounded. The R.V. adds in italics ‘the matter’ and something of this kind is required for the sense. What he expounded is declared in the succeeding words ‘bearing witness of the Kingdom of God.’ That is, he testified that the Messianic hope, which all Jews spake of as the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, had now been revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. This was ‘the matter’ of the Apostle’s exhortation.

ἀπὸ πρωὶ ἕως ἑσπέρας, from morning till evening. It is clear from what follows that as in Jerusalem so here, there were some to whom the Apostle’s words were not all unwelcome. This accounts for their staying to hear him the whole day through. For the Greek, cf. LXX. Ruth 2:7, ἀπὸ πρωίθεν καὶ ἕως ἑσπέρας.

Verse 24

24. οἱ δὲ ἠπίστουν, and some believed not. No doubt Pharisees and Sadducees had their representatives in Rome as elsewhere among the Jewish population.

Verse 25

25. ἀσύμφωνοι δὲ ὄντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους, and when they agreed not among themselves. This may have been the real cause of their inaction in the matter of the Apostle’s trial. He would not have been without a party of supporters among their own body.

For ἀσύμφωνος, cf. Wisdom of Solomon 18:10, ἀσύμφωνος βοή, ‘an ill-according cry’ (A.V.).

πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ὑμῶν, unto your fathers. ‘Your’ rather than ‘our’ of Text. recept. is in accord with the spirit in which St Paul is speaking. He would wish to distinguish these obstinate Jews from himself and others who received the words of the Old Testament as fulfilled in Jesus.

Verse 26

26. λέγων, saying. The passage which the Apostle quotes is from Isaiah 6:9, and had already been quoted by our Lord Himself against the Jews (Matthew 13:14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; see also John 12:40) when He was explaining why all His teaching was given in parables. He spake in this wise first because had He said openly all that He wished to teach He would have had far less chance of acceptance than when His message was veiled under a parable; and next He so spake that those only who cared to manifest a desire to know the deeper meaning of His words might be able to do so. His words were for those who had ears to hear. But most of those to whom he spake had not.

λέγων is masculine, though τὸ πνεῦμα is the noun to which it refers, because of the personality of the speaker.

ἀκοῇ, by hearing, i.e. with the outward organs ye shall catch what is said, but since ye have no heart for the message, ye shall not understand.

Verse 27

27. καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν, and should turn again. This rendering is to be preferred on account of the restricted meaning which in modern speech has become attached to the word ‘convert’ of the A.V. In the older language it signified ‘to turn round and go back again.’

Verse 28

28. τοῦτο τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ, this salvation of God. St Paul would be very anxious to press on them that the doctrine which he was preaching and they were rejecting, that this, was the very message of God’s way of salvation.

αὐτοὶ καὶ ἀκούσονται, they will also hear. The Apostle does not wish to convey, as the A.V. does, a taunt to the Jews that they come behind the Gentiles. What he wants to express is, that the message has been given according to Christ’s command to the Jews everywhere, for Rome may be regarded as the centre of the then known world, and now the time has come when the Gentiles should in their turn be privileged to have everywhere the offers of the Gospel. They also will now hear (as well as you), though they have been looked upon by strict Jews as beyond the pale of salvation.

Verse 29

29. For the authorities which warrant the omission of this verse, see notes on various readings.

Verse 30

30. ἐνέμεινεν δέ, and he remained. The non-insertion of the proper name by the oldest MSS. here comes about because they had nothing of Acts 28:29. It is only the addition of that verse which rendered Παῦλος here needful to the sense.

διετίαν ὅλην, two whole years. Of these years we have no history, except such as we can gather from the four Epistles which were written from Rome during the time (see above on Acts 28:16). We know that from first to last the chain galled both his body and mind (Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:13; Philippians 1:16; Colossians 4:18; Philem. Acts 28:1; Acts 28:9-10), and that his case was at times an object of much anxiety (Philippians 2:23-24). We also learn from the same letters that beside Luke and Aristarchus (Acts 27:27), he had also the fellowship, for some time at least, of Tychicus, who (Ephesians 6:21) was the bearer of his letter to Ephesus; of Timothy, whom (Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1:1) he joins with himself in the greeting to the Churches of Philippi and Colossæ and also in that to Philemon. In the former of these Churches Timothy had been a fellow-labourer with the Apostle. Epaphroditus came with the Philippian contributions to the need of the imprisoned Apostle (Philippians 4:18). Onesimus found out St Paul when in flight from his master he made his way to Rome (Colossians 4:9; Philemon 1:10). Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, was also there, and another Jewish convert, Jesus, called Justus, of whom we only know that the Apostle considered him worthy to be called a fellow-worker unto the kingdom of God (Colossians 4:10-11). Epaphras, from the churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis, had come to visit Paul, and to bring him the greetings doubtless of the Christians there, and carry back some words of earnest counsel and advice from the Roman prisoner (Colossians 4:12). Last of all Demas was there, soon after to be mentioned as having forsaken the good way through love of this present world (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10). More than this and the few words in this verse we do not know of this first imprisonment.

ἐν ἰδίῳ μισθώματι, in his own hired house. This was probably a later arrangement than the ξενία spoken of in Acts 28:23. The means for such hiring were provided by the liberality of the Philippians and others, for the Apostle could no longer with his own hands minister even to his own wants.

πάντας τοὺς εἰσπορευομένους πρὸς αὐτόν, all that went unto him. For the fulness of Gospel freedom had now been reached, and the word of God and the kingdom of God were open to all who sought unto them.

Verse 31

31. μετὰ πάσης παρρησίας ἀκωλύτως, with all confidence (Rev. Vers. ‘boldness’), no man forbidding him. παῤῥησία implies that ‘freedom of speech’ which was looked upon by the Athenians as the great mark of their liberty. For ἀκωλύτως cf. Josephus, Ant. XII. 1. 12.

For Englishmen there must arise the thought that perhaps from some of those Roman soldiers who heard Paul in his prison the message of the Gospel came first to our island.

The historian had now reached the end of his work, and does not even tell the manner of the Apostle’s release, though as he mentions the duration of the imprisonment, he must have known how he came to be liberated. But that concerned not the purpose of his record, and so he has no word more. “Victoria Verbi Dei. Paulus Romæ. Apex Evangelii. Actorum Finis” (Bengel).


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 28:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 23rd, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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