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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Acts 13

 

 

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Introduction

THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 13

OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY - MARK DUNAGAN

I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 13:

I. Barnabas and Saul are sent out:

II. Barnabas and Saul in Cyprus:

III. Barnabas and Saul in Pisidian Antioch:

"Luke has reached the a decisive turning point in his narrative. In keeping with the risen Lord"s prophecy (), witness has been borne to Him "in Jerusalem" and "in all Judea and Samaria": now the horizon broadens to "the ends of the earth"" (Stott p. 215).


Verse 1

"Now there were at Antioch" As noted in chapter 11, the city of Antioch was a very cosmopolitan city. It was situated geographically on some of the main travel and trade routes both by land and sea. The population of Antioch at this time was over half a million people. The church there had been established in Acts 11:19 ff. "Prophets and teachers" The prophets were inspired, a teacher may or may not be inspired. All prophets are teachers but not all teachers are prophets. Compare this verse with Ephesians 4:11. "Barnabas" Who has already been mentioned (Acts 4:35-36; Acts 11:22 ff; Acts 12:25). "Simeon who was called Niger" Niger (NIE jur) is a Latin name meaning black, and some feel that this means that he was a black African. Some have tried to identify him with Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus (Mark 15:21), yet he is probably called "Niger" here to distinguish him from the other Simon"s mentioned in the New Testament. "Lucius of Cyrene" Cyrene was located in North Africa, and this same man appears to be mentioned in Romans 16:21. "Manaean who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch" Manaean (MAN uh en) is the Greek way of spelling the Jewish name "Menahem". Herod the tetrarch is the same man as Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, the son of Herod the Great, who had John the Baptist beheaded, wanted to see a miracle from Jesus, and who by this time has been banished to Gaul. Remember, this is not the Herod who died in the previous chapter. Somehow Manaean had been connected with the Herodian family, and apparently was around the same age as Herod Antipas. He may have been educated in Rome with Herod"s brother Arachaleus. What a contrast in destinies! Two boys who grew up together, one kills John the Baptist and the other becomes a faithful Christian. "Brought up with" This phrase can also be translated "foster brother" or "intimate friend". "And Saul" The apostle Paul.


Verse 2

"And fasting" Fasting was a completely voluntary practice and is unregulated as far as time is concerned; there are not set times or days for fasting. These men are busy serving God, and teaching others, and such fasting may also have been due to the fact that they were on the run and at times did not get a chance to eat as they went about instructing, edifying, and converting the lost. "Set apart for Me" Notice that when the Holy Spirit calls or speaks, one does not have to guess what God desires. God is always clear when He directs men. "For the work which I have called them" That is the work of spreading the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.


Verse 3

"When they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them" Seeing that Paul already was an apostle, this laying on of hands was not for the purpose of conferring spiritual gifts and neither was this some type of denominational "ordination" service. Rather, "this would be a solemn way of impressing upon the church the serious and important duties that were to be performed" (Reese p. 457). These men are being sent on a very important task and the church is praying that God would protect them, that their labors would be successful and it indicates their own support in this endeavor. "It was rather the recognition by the church that God had called them, and it symbolized the identification of the Antioch church with these workers and the bestowal of their blessing" (Kent p. 108). To use this Scripture today and argue that one "feels" that God is either calling them to preach or go somewhere and preach would be a misapplication. Saul and Barnabas do not "feel" that God is directing them, rather God is speaking directly from heaven! And the entire congregation hears this "call".


Verse 4

"So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit" The Holy Spirit is the one who commanded this mission. This also tells us that the Holy Spirit would set the route. "The journey"s now entered upon by Saul and Barnabas are the most momentous ever undertaken. They have shaped the history of the world" (Reese pp. 458-459). "They went down to Seleucia" (sih LOO shuh). This was the seaport near Antioch. The city was located near the mouth of the Orontes River where it falls into the Mediterranean. The distance from Seleucia to Antioch by water was 41 miles, while overland it was 16 miles. The river itself was not navigable by ocean-going boats because of its many rapids. It was founded in 300 B.C. by Seleucis I Nicator, to provide a seaport for Antioch. "Sailed to Cyprus" Remember Barnabas was born on Cyprus (Acts 4:36) and many Jews lived there.


Verse 5

"Salamis" This was the largest city on the island and was located on the SE part of Cyprus. With a few hours of favorable weather, Barnabas and Saul were now off to their journey. "In the synagogues of the Jews" What better place to start preaching, seeing that these people already believed in the true God and in the inspired status of the Old Testament (Acts 17:2-3). Notice that the word synagogue is in the plural, they preached in many synagogues on the island. In addition, they start with the Jews first, for God had ordered it (Romans 1:16; Acts 13:46). "They also had John" John Mark is also with them.


Verse 6

Here we learn that they crossed the entire island going from town to town and synagogue to synagogue. The length of the entire island is about 150 miles and it is 100 miles from Salamis to Paphos. "Paphos" This city is located on the western end of the island and served as the Roman capital. "They found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus" This is the second "magician" that we have encountered in Acts (8:9). Like many people today, this man claimed that God was speaking through him, but that claim was false. The name "Bar" means "son of", and "Jesus" or "Joshua" was a common name among the Jews. He would claim to be the "son of salvation" but Paul would reveal his true nature as a "son of the devil" (13:10). "Certain Jewish people claimed, in addition to their sacred books from Jehovah, some books (having supposedly come down from Solomon had information about charms and spells and how to cast them" (Reese pp. 461-462).


Verse 7

"Who was with" This false prophet had attached himself to a local Roman official. Since Bar-Jesus was Jewish, the proconsul may have assumed that he was a true prophet of Jehovah. Like many false prophets, Bar-Jesus coveted positions of influence and power. "The proconsul" "The island of Cyprus swung back and forth between government by proconsul and government by a governor" (Reese p. 462). Coins have been discovered dated from this time period which confirm that Luke is accurate. At this date, Cyprus was ruled by a proconsul. "Sergis Paulus" Luke will describe him as a man of intelligence. His intelligence and honesty will be revealed by wanting to hear the gospel and by immediately believing when he is given clear evidence. Yes, men of intelligence may have around them swindlers like Bar-Jesus, but eventually such men see through them when the truth is presented. "Paulus showed some sense in trusting a so-called prophet of that nation (the Jewish nation), rather than of some pagan nation" (McGarvey p. 8). "Summon Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of the Lord" The verb "sought" means in the classical Greek, "to put questions to" someone. This man wanted to hear God"s word!


Verse 8

"But Elmas the magician (for so his name is translated)" The name Elymas is a Greek spelling of an Arabic word, that either means strong or wise. Elymas is a translation of the word "magician"; it is not a translation of the name Bar-Jesus. "Was opposing them" He clearly saw Barnabas and Saul as a threat to his position of influence with the proconsul. Compare with 2 Timothy 3:8. "Seeking to turn away the proconsul away from the faith" He is actually trying to stop the proconsul from hearing the truth and becoming a Christian. Carefully note in the verses that follow how God feels about someone who tries to hinder people from learning about and obeying the faith. "Faith here stands either for the Christian religion, or the body of doctrine that Christians believe, which not only points in the right direction, but also points out the error of magic and witchcraft" (Reese p. 463). Compare with Romans 1:18.


Verse 9

"Saul, who was also known as Paul" This will be the last time in Acts that Luke will call the apostle by his name "Saul", save when reference is made to his previous life. Many people in the ancient word had two names, Saul would have been his Hebrew name (after King Saul in the Old Testament), and Paul which is of Latin origin, which means "little". We are not told why the apostle opted to use his Roman name instead of his Hebrew name for the rest of his life. "Filled with the Holy Spirit" That is, the Holy Spirit is going to speak through Him (2 Peter 1:20-21). This does not mean that Paul did not have the Holy Spirit previously, but rather the Holy Spirit is delivering a specific message. "To show that this boldness, outspokenness and power in condemning Elymas were all from God" (Stott pp. 219-220). "Fixed his gaze on him" (Acts 1:10; Acts 3:4; Acts 6:15).


Verse 10

"You who are full of all deceit and fraud" The Holy Spirit immediately labels Elymas as a fake and a fraud. He was not full of miraculous powers and wisdom, rather he was full of deception and falsehood. "You son of the devil" He is not a son of salvation, rather he is a son of condemnation. He is doing the devil"s will and he has completely given himself to this realm of evil. Compare with John 8:44. "You enemy of all righteousness" One who stands opposed to God"s attempt to bring righteousness to the proconsul. "His activities are opposed to both a man"s becoming saved, and then living right" (Reese p. 465). "Will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?" Men and women like Elymas are constantly trying to pervert and twist God"s truths for their own personal benefit. They do not want people hearing the truth, rather they are always trying to convince others that one can be right with God without really having to do what God says (2 Timothy 4:3). How many people today are unceasing in their efforts to pervert the straight ways of the Lord?


Verse 11

"The hand of the Lord" God"s power manifested in a punishment. "You will be blind... for a time" Note God"s mercy. This blindness was temporary and was designed to put this false prophet out of commission and bring him to repentance. Yes, God even wants Elymas saved (2 Peter 3:9). "And immediately" That is, "on the spot". "As he groped about, calling on one and then another of the frightened by-standers to lead him by the hand, the falsity and iniquity of his pretensions stood practically confessed; and the divine mission of the apostles was demonstrated" (McGarvey p. 9).


Verse 12

"Then the proconsul believed" Which will include the acts of repentance, confession and baptism (Acts 8:12; Acts 11:21; Acts 16:34). "Being amazed at the teaching of the Lord" "The amazement may stem from the fact that they are surprised to find out that the Lord actually objects to the occult, and directs men away from it" (Reese p. 467). In addition, he was probably amazed by seeing a true miracle verses the type of tricks that Elymas had been presenting (Acts 8:13).

IN PERGA


Verse 13

Notice that Paul is now mentioned first. Apparently, the Holy Spirit sees him as taking charge or exercising now the commission on which he was sent by Jesus, to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-18). "Perga in Pamphylia" Perga was the capital city of the Roman province of Pamphylia, which is located in what is now Turkey. The trip from Cyprus to Perga would have been about 100 miles by sea. Today there are extensive Greek and Roman ruins at Perga. "But John left them and returned to Jerusalem" "It is plain from Acts 15:37-39 that Mark"s reason for returning to Jerusalem was something that Paul deemed unworthy - enough so that Paul was unwilling to have him as a companion on another journey" (Reese pp. 467-468). The good news is that John Mark will prove himself in the years to come to be a valuable coworker (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). There were many dangers and trials in this part of the world. The highways were known to be infested with thieves and bandits (2 Corinthians 11:26), malaria was prevalent, and the trip from Perga to Pisidian Antioch involved a steep climb over the Tarsus mountains (Pisidian Antioch sits at 3500 feet above sea level) and a journey of 100 miles.


Verse 14

"Pisidian Antioch" It was called Pisidian Antioch to distinguish it from the Antioch in Syria. "There are extensive ruins in the spot today, testifying that Pisidian Antioch was a great city on the main route between Ephesus and Cilicia" (Reese p. 468). The city was originally built by Selecius I Nicator and named after his father Antiochus. In Roman times, this city was the capital of the Roman providence of Southern Galatia. So keep the sermon in this chapter in mind when you read the Galatian letter. In 6 B.C., it has been designated a Roman colony by Augustus, and there was a considerable Jewish population here. "On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down" The gospel was to the Jews first (Romans 1:16), and what better place the best prospects and a captive audience than in the local synagogue.


Verse 15

Synagogue officials had the authority to conduct the services, and choose people to read a Scripture, offer a prayer, or deliver a sermon. "It was customary for synagogue rulers to invite visiting rabbis to speak. Someone may have heard that Paul was a former student of Gamaliel.


Verse 16

"Motioning with his hand" Paul stands (17:22), and he uses gestures to summon the attention of the audience. "You who fear God" Probably this designation includes converts of Judaism. "Listen" Notice that paying attention is a choice.

PAUL"S SERMON

As you read this sermon be impressed with the logical order and all the historical citations. The Old Testament, as well as the happenings in the New Testament, are historical facts.


Verse 17

God choose Israel as His particular people (Deuteronomy 7:6-7), multiplied Israel while in Egyptian bondage (Exodus 1:7), and brought them out of Egypt by great manifestations of His power, including all the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.

God "put up with" the complaining, unbelieving, and murmuring Israelites in the wilderness for about 40 years. Yet despite their complaints, He cared for and feed them.


Verse 19

God subdued seven nations in the book of Joshua, the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and the Jebusites (Joshua 3:10; Nehemiah 9:8). After this the land was then divided (Joshua chapters 14-15). "About four hundred and fifty years" The dividing of the land did not take 450 years, rather this statement picks up the events from verses 17-19. Israel was in bondage 400 years, plus 40 years in the wilderness and another 10 to conquer the land.


Verse 20

Samuel was the last of the Judges and the first in a long line of prophets.


Verse 21

"In the process of asking for a king like the nations round about them, the Jews were rebelling against God"s order of government (1 Samuel 8:5; Hosea 13:10). Still, God had foreseen this (Deuteronomy 17:14-15), and it had been predicted that they would have a king" (Reese p. 473). 13:21 King Saul was from the same tribe as the speaker! (Philippians 3:5). Josephus notes that Saul reigned 18 years before Samuel"s death and 22 years after it. The Old Testament does not record how long Saul reigned, but by inspiration Paul reveals that it was 40 years.


Verse 22

God removed Saul from being king because he rebelled (1 Samuel 15:8-23), and raised up David (1 Samuel 16:1 ff). "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will" In contrast to Saul, the characteristic of David would be obedience (1 Kings 14:8-9; Psalms 89:20; 1 Samuel 13:14). David was not perfect (he committed adultery), but the overall pattern of David"s life was obedience. Even after he sinned, David obediently repented and was willing to suffer whatever consequences God decreed (2 Samuel 12:1-31; Psalms 51:1-19).


Verse 23

Paul quickly moves from David, to one of David"s descendants, Jesus, who he declares to be the promised Messiah. Notice that Israel needed a Savior.


Verse 24

The work of John the Baptist, which involved preparing the people to accept the coming Savior is mentioned here. "Paul uses the very terms found in the Gospel accounts of the Baptist"s preaching (Matthew 3:11)" (Reese p. 475).


Verse 25

See John 1:21; Matthew 3:11. John made it clear that he was not the Christ, but he had predicted the coming of Jesus. "Paul is now able to follow the Baptist"s example and direct his hearers attention to the same Jesus" (Stott p. 223). The words of John the Baptist confirm two truths, first that the Messiah had been born and second, he was coming after John.


Verse 26

Salvation is based in Jesus and Paul has this message and can tell people what to do to be saved.


Verse 27

Even though the prophecies concerning the Messiah are read continually (passages such as Psalms 22:1-31; Psalms 69:1-36 and Isaiah 53:1-12), the Jewish rulers ignored these predictions, just like they ignored the testimony of John the Baptist. Not only did John predict Jesus, but the prophets also predicted that the Messiah would be rejected, crucified, and a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. In crucifying Jesus, the rulers did just as the Old Testament prophets had predicted that people would do to the Messiah. "Recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets" They did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah because He did not fit their preconceived ideas, even though Jesus offered clear proof that He was the Messiah (John 5:36 ff).


Verse 28

They found no ground for condemning Jesus even though they hired false witnesses. "It was not because they didn"t try that the Jewish religious leaders could find no crime. They employed Judas to be a traitor, they bribed false witnesses, they held a preliminary trial in hopes that Jesus would utter some unguarded word that they could use against Him" (Reese p. 477). "They asked Pilate" In the end, they were forced to put pressure on Pilate, that if he did not release Jesus, they would do their best to portray him as being disloyal to Caesar.


Verse 29

Jesus suffered and died just as the Old Testament had predicted that the Messiah would.


Verse 30

In spite of what men did, God raised Him from the dead. "That God raised Him is seen as evidence that He approved of Jesus" sacrifice for sins, and is setting Him out in a conspicuous way for all men to consider and obey" (Reese p. 478).


Verse 31

And many people actually saw the resurrected Jesus (1 Corinthians 151 ff). While Paul was preaching in Antioch the other "witnesses" were preaching elsewhere.


Verse 32

This is the thing promised to the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), the coming of the Messiah, the one who would bless all nations. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promise made to the fathers. Notice that the promise that the apostles mention is not the land promise in the Old Testament.


Verse 33

What Paul calls the "second Psalm" is actually the second Psalm! "Thou are My Son; today I have begotten You" Psalms 2:7. From verse 34 it is clear that the "day" and the "begetting" under consideration is the day Jesus was raised from the day. Remember, Jesus is divine, and thus He was never "begotten" in the sense of being created (John 1:1).


Verse 34

"I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David" This is a quotation from the Greek rendering of Isaiah 55:3. Remember, God had also promised David that one of his descendants would sit upon his throne forever (2 Samuel 7:13-14). Notice in the context of Isaiah 55:1-13, the faithful mercies shown to David obviously include salvation. Such blessings are holy in the sense that they come from a holy God, and they can make men holy and they are sure, or dependable.


Verse 35

Peter had quoted the same Psalm (16) and made a similar application in Acts 2:27. Notice that Peter and Paul taught the same gospel and the same truths. "Served the purpose of God in his own generation" "One of the contrasts between David and Christ is stated in this verse. David"s service lasted only for a generation whereas the service of Christ lasts through all generations continually" (Reese p. 481).


Verse 38

Forgiveness of sins is obviously only through Jesus because He is the only Savior (Acts 4:12). Forgiveness is in Christ, but one is not into Christ until they are baptized (Galatians 3:26-27).


Verse 39

In Christ one is freed or justified from all things (all sins), this the Law of Moses could not accomplish, because the sacrificial system in the Law could not remove sin (Hebrews 10:1 ff). The inference is clear that the Law of Moses has been removed. It was the purpose of the Law to bring the Jews to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Even the Law itself predicted its own removal (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and taught that salvation would not be based on keeping the Law by on the basis of an obedient faith (Habakkuk 2:4).


Verse 40

Yet great blessings bring an equal condemnation upon those who reject these blessings. "The reason Paul did not, like Peter, urge his hearers to repent and be baptized, that they might be in Christ and enjoy the remission of their sins, was because, as we shall see below, he saw that they were not prepared for such an exhortation" (Reese p. 483).


Verse 41

This is a quotation from Habakkuk 1:5. The point from the passage is that if men scoff and refuse to obey when God visits them, they will certainly perish. "The thing about which Habakkuk spoke was the invasion by the Chaldeans. God has a hand in history, and used the Chaldeans as an instrument of judgment and punishment upon the rebellious Jews. So Paul implies similar calamities, both temporal and eternal, will come those who reject the Messiah" (Reese pp. 484-485). "You will never believe" Keep this verse in mind when someone reads a passage in the Bible and then says, "Oh, I can"t believe that God would ever do that!" The Bible and history is filled with many events that people would never have believed were possible or that God would do - even if someone described it to them. Yes, God will do many things that unbelievers can"t accept.


Verse 42

Yet many in the synagogue want them to come back and preach again a week later.


Verse 43

During that week Paul and Barnabas urged those who appeared to be receptive to continue in God"s favor - that is to continue to listen and believe. "Keep on believing, that they may remain in the sphere of God"s favor" (Reese p. 486).


Verse 44

An extremely large crowd shows up on the next Sabbath. 13:45 "No such overflow crowds came to the synagogue when the Jewish teachers were the speakers" (Reese p. 487). Sadly these men were more interested in human praise than in a love for the truth. They immediately try to undermine Paul"s preaching by contradicting Paul"s application of Scripture to Jesus and by blaspheming.


Verse 46

The gospel was to the Jews first, but seeing that they repudiated it, and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, Paul would start preaching to the Gentiles. "Judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life" "By their conduct they had condemned themselves" (Reese p. 488). Notice that this is a judgment that unbelievers bring upon themselves. If one rejects the gospel or seeks to hinder others by their actions they are saying that they do not deserve to have the chance to be saved.


Verse 47

Even the Old Testament had predicted preaching and salvation being brought to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6). Once again note who has Scripture on their side! "The aged Simon, who had been promised he would see the Messiah before he died, quoted this same passage as he held the infant Jesus in his arms (Luke 2:25-32)" (Reese p. 489).


Verse 48

"And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" Calvinists had long argued that this verse is teaching that God predestined specific individuals for salvation and that men were saved or lost simply because God had so decreed it. Yet such a view violates a number of things in the context:

The entire sermon assumes that men have a choice, in fact the Jews are warned about rejecting the message ().

If one is predestined to heaven or hell without any choice in the matter then how does one obey the warning "take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you" ()? If predestination is true, then such a fate is unavoidable!

God does "appoint" eternal life to believers, but the difference is that anyone can become a believer (Mark 16:15). God determined that obedient believers would be saved, but specifically who would believe or not believe was not determined - that is a freewilled choice. Thus, when I choose to believe and be baptized I automatically become part of a chosen group.

Notice that Paul said that the unbelieving Jews had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life (), yet such a statement is inaccurate if predestination is true. In that situation God already judged you unworthy. In addition, in Calvinism one could judge themselves unworthy yet still be selected by God, because the choice has nothing to do with what one says or does in this life.

Brother Larry Hafley wrote the following comments:

The easiest way to explain the text is to refer to verses 26, 38,39. Verse 26 encompasses Jews and Gentiles--men, brethren, children of...Israel (Jews) and whosoever among you that feareth God (Gentiles)."

So, all are given "the word of this salvation." This same truth is echoed in verses 38, 39--"all that believe are justified from all things." See how comprehensive that is? Now, compare it with the affirmation of Romans 1:16. But, how could that be, how could it be that "all that believe ("whosoever")" may be justified, if, according to verses 46-48, God had arbitrarily and capriciously determined who should be saved and who should be lost? Now, in this case, we have the plain and clear import and teaching of verses 26, 38, 39. We know what those verses say. About them, there is no doubt. Now, verses 46-48 are in controversy. However, we can form no opinion regarding them that would conflict with or contradict those other texts.

Next, in view of the conclusions established above, that the gospel is "sent" to all, is effective for all, note the contrast in verses 46 & 48. First, one judges himself either worthy or unworthy of eternal life, for if some judged themselves unworthy of it, it follows, given the conclusions established above, that some judged themselves "worthy" of it. The meaning of verse 48 is partially explained by John 5:40 and Acts 2:41. There, some would not, or "willed not" to come to Christ (not that they

could not, but that they "will not"). Jesus spoke to them that they might be saved (John 5:34). This correlates with Acts 13:26; Acts 13:38-39. But, they, like those in Acts 13:46, did not "will" to be saved; hence, they judged or condemned themselves. On the other hand, those in Acts 2:41"gladly received the word." Those folks, they who gladly receive the word, are

they are ordained unto eternal life. In essence, this is what Romans 1:16 says.


Verse 49

Remember, this is the southern Galatian region.


Verse 50

Unfortunately the unbelieving Jews found some powerful allies in influential men and women. Compare this with 2 Timothy 3:10-11.


Verse 51

There are times to just shake off the dust of your feet (Luke 9:5) and move on. Iconium was located about 80 miles from Pisidian Antioch. This city is called Konya on modern maps.


Verse 52

The unbelieving Jews and others could kick the preachers out of town but they could not get rid of the gospel message or the joy in the hearts of the new converts. "With the Holy Spirit" Before Paul left he imparted various spiritual gifts to the members of this new congregation. Paul would write back to the Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit is... joy.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 13:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/acts-13.html. 1999-2014.

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