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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 14

 

 

Verses 1-28


First Missionary Journey (continued)

1-7. Paul and Barnabas at Iconium. The gospel meets with great success among both Jews and Gentiles in this populous city, and miracles are wrought in confirmation of the faith.

2. The first persecution at Iconium, which probably took the form of arraigning the apostles before the magistrates, failed. Accordingly the second persecution (Acts 14:5) took the form of a popular tumult. Acts 14:2 reads thus in D, 'But the rulers of the synagogue of the Jews raised a persecution against the righteous (i.e. the Christians), and exasperated the souls of the heathen against the brethren, but the Lord quickly gave peace.'

3. For the importance of miracles as a sign of apostleship, see 2 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 15:18.

4. The apostles] The name is here first given to Paul and Barnabas: see on Acts 13:1-3.

6. Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia] Lystra (like Antioch) was a Roman colony, founded by Augustus, 6 b.c. Its official language was Latin. It lay 18 m. SSW. of Iconium. Derbe lay about 30 m. SE. of Lystra. Lystra and Derbe are correctly described as Lycaonian cities, in distinction from Antioch, which was Phrygian.

The curious second-century romance, 'The Acts of Paul and Thecla,' gives many additional particulars of St. Paul's proceedings at Iconium, some of which, perhaps, are authentic. Thecla, who belonged to one of the chief families of Iconium, over-heard from a window the preaching of the apostle. She was at that time engaged to a young man named Thamyris, but on hearing St. Paul's words she became so enamoured of virginity that She broke off her engagement. For this interference with family life, and for impiety, St. Paul was scourged and expelled from the city, and Thecla was condemned to be burnt alive. A fall of rain extinguished the fire, and she escaped and followed Paul to Antioch. Here again she was persecuted, but was rescued by Tryphsena, a lady of great influence. The presbyter who composed this romance (though it was probably founded on fact) was deposed from his office.

8-20. Lystra. Here was a typical heathen population, but little affected by Judaism, as there was no synagogue. The people were grossly superstitious, and easily led into any kind of extravagance. Though Latin was the official language, the common people spoke their own uncouth Lycaonian dialect (Acts 14:11), which was unintelligible to the apostles. While at Lystra the apostles probably lodged with the parents of Timothy: see on Acts 16:1

8. A cripple] Probably this man had learnt from the Jews the worship of the true God (D says that he was 'in the fear of God'), and consequently he had received some preparation for the gospel message. The circumstances and effect of this miracle are like those of the miracle worked by Peter and John, Acts 3:1.

11. In the speech of Lycaonia] This explains why the apostles did not protest against the proposals at the time. They appear to have gone home in entire ignorance of the construction which the people had placed upon the miracle. The gods are come down] The less educated or more credulous heathen at this time still believed that the gods were in the habit of visiting the earth in human form. It was in the neighbouring country of Phrygia that Jupiter and Mercury were said to have paid a visit to the virtuous peasants Baucis and Philemon, and to have been entertained by them. Even in Athens, in the age of Pisistratus, a visit of Athene (Minerva) in human form was believed possible.

12. The majestic appearance of Barnabas caused him to be identified with the chief god (Zeus) corresponding to the Roman Jupiter. The insignificant stature of Paul (2 Corinthians 10:10), and his gift of eloquence, suggested his identification with Hermes (the Roman Mercury). Hermes was the god of eloquence, and the attendant, messenger, and spokesman of Zeus.

13. Which was before their city] i.e. whose temple was before the city. Unto the gates] or 'porches.' It is difficult to decide where the sacrifice took place, whether at the porch of the apostles' house, or at the gates of the city, or at the gates of the temple. Perhaps the first is favoured by the statement (Acts 14:14) that they 'sprang out' among the people.

14. Rent their clothes] in horror at the blasphemy: cp. Matthew 26:65. Ran in] RV 'sprang forth.'

15. Of like passions] i.e. of like nature.

Vanities] i.e. vain gods.

17. Gave us rain] RV 'gave you rains.' There was great scarcity of water in Lycaonia, owing to a deficient rainfall.

19. Persuaded the people] The fickleness of the Lycaonians is reflected on by more than one Greek author, and perhaps St. Paul alludes to it in the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 1:6; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 4:15, etc.).

20. There is no reason to suppose a miracle here: cp. Acts 20:10.

Having at Lystra to deal with pure heathens, and not as usual with persons influenced by Judaism, St. Paul bases his teaching upon Natural Religion. The three main truths of Natural Religion according to him are, (1) God's Unity, (2) His creative power, and, (3) His benevolence. The main difficulty to which St. Paul addresses himself is, Why then has God permitted the nations to remain so long in ignorance? and the answer is that this ignorance is only for a time (Acts 14:16); and that even in the time of ignorance God did not leave Himself entirely without witness (Acts 14:17). The whole speech should be compared with that delivered at Athens, also to a purely heathen audience (Acts 17:22-31).

21-28. 'Visit to Derbe, and return journey to Antioch of Syria. Derbe, or Claudio-Derbe, where the work of the apostles seems to have been very successful, was a small Lycaonian town on the extreme boundary of the Roman province of Galatia. A convert of this city named Gaius is mentioned (Acts 20:4).

21. To Lystra] thus showing remarkable perseverance and courage.

22. Confirming] exhorting to steadfastness, so much needed by the fickle Galatians.

23. Elders] lit. 'presbyters.' We have a right to infer from this passage that wherever the apostles established a church, they established also a definite ministry. Presbyters only are mentioned, but it is to be presumed that there were also deacons to assist them. It is somewhat remarkable that St. Paul's Epistles (except the Pastorals) contain no allusion to presbyters. Bishops, however, probably in the sense of presbyters, are mentioned (Philippians 1:1): see on Acts 11:30.

25. Attalia] the port of Perga.

26. Antioch] They had been absent about 18 months.

27. furnishes the first example of a missionary meeting. It was a meeting of the whole Church, not of a few enthusiasts.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 14:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/acts-14.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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