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Bible Commentaries
Acts 18

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Verse 1

After these things - After what occurred at Athens, as recorded in the previous chapter.

Came to Corinth - Corinth was the capital of Achaia, called anciently Ephyra, and was seated on the isthmus which divides the Peloponnesus from Attica. The city itself stood on a little island; it had two ports, Lecheeum on the west, and Cenchrea on the east. It was one of the most populous and wealthy cities of Greece, and at the same time one of the most luxurious, effeminate, ostentatious, and dissolute. Lasciviousness here was not only practiced and allowed, but was consecrated by the worship of Venus; and no small part of the wealth and splendor of the city arose from the offerings made by licentious passion in the very temples of this goddess. No city of ancient times was more profligate. It was the Paris of antiquity; the seat of splendor, and show, and corruption. Yet even here, notwithstanding all the disadvantages of splendor, gaiety, and dissoluteness, Paul entered on the work of rearing a church; and here he was eminently successful. The two epistles which he afterward wrote to this church show the extent of his success; and the well-known character and propensities of the people will account for the general drift of the admonitions and arguments in those epistles. Corinth was destroyed by the Romans 146 years before Christ; and during the conflagration several metals in a fused state, running together, produced the composition known as Corinthian brass. It was afterward restored by Julius Caesar, who planted in it a Roman colony. It soon regained its ancient splendor, and relapsed into its former dissipation and licentiousness. Paul arrived there in 52 or 53 ad.

Verse 2

And found a certain Jew - Aquila is mentioned elsewhere as the friend of Paul, Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19; 1 Corinthians 16:19. Though a Jew by birth, yet it is evident that he became a convert to the Christian faith.

Born in Pontus - See the notes on Acts 2:9.

Lately come from Italy - Though the command of Claudius extended only to Rome, yet it was probably deemed not safe to remain, or it might have been difficult to procure occupation in any part of Italy.

Because that Claudius - Claudius was the Roman emperor. He commenced his reign 41 a.d., and was poisoned 54 a.d. At what time in his reign this command was issued is not certainly known.

Had commanded ... - This command is not mentioned by Josephus, but it is recorded by Suetonius, a Roman historian (“Life of Claudius,” chapter 25), who says that “he expelled the Jews from Rome, who were constantly exciting tumults under their leader, Chrestus.” Who this Chrestus was is not known. It might have been a foreign Jew, who raised tumults on some occasion of which we have no knowledge, as the Jews in all pagan cities were greatly prone to excitements and insurrections. Or it may be that Suetonius, little acquainted with Jewish affairs, mistook this for the name Christ, and supposed that he was the leader of the Jews. This explanation has much plausibility; for:

(1) Suetonius could scarcely be supposed to be intimately acquainted with the affairs of the Jews.

(2) There is every reason to believe that, before this, the Christian religion was preached at Rome.

(3) It would produce there, as everywhere else, great tumult and contention among the Jews.

(4) Claudius, the emperor, might suppose that such tumults endangered the peace of the city, and resolve to remove the cause at once by the dispersion of the Jews.

(5) A Roman historian might easily mistake the true state of the case; and while they were contending about Christ, he might suppose that it was under him, as a leader, that these tumults were excited. All that is material, however, here, is the fact, in which Luke and Suetonius agree, that the Jews were expelled from Rome during his reign.

Verse 3

The same craft - Of the same trade or occupation.

And wrought - And worked at that occupation. Why he did it the historian does not affirm; but it seems pretty evident that it was because he had no other means of maintenance. He also labored for his own support in Ephesus Acts 20:34 and at Thessalonica, 2 Thessalonians 3:9-10. The apostle was not ashamed of honest industry for a livelihood; nor did he deem it any disparagement that a minister of the gospel should labor with his own hands.

For by their occupation - By their trade; that is, they had been brought up to this business. Paul had been designed originally for a lawyer, and had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. But it was a regular custom among the Jews to train up their sons to some useful employment, that they I might have the means of an honest livelihood. Even though they were instructed in the liberal sciences, yet they deemed a handicraft trade, or some honorable occupation, an indispensable part of education. Thus, Maimonides (in the Tract Talin. Torah, chapter i., section 9) says, “the wise generally practice some of the arts, lest they should be dependent on the charity of others.” See Grotius. The wisdom of this is obvious; and it is equally plain that a custom of this kind now might preserve the health and lives of many professional people, and save from ignoble dependence or vice, in future years, many who are trained up in the lap of indulgence and wealth.

They were tentmakers - σκηνοποιοὶ skēnopoioi. There have been various opinions about the meaning of this word. Many have supposed that it denotes “a weaver of tapestry.” Luther so translated it. But it is probable that it denotes, as in our translation, “a manufacturer of tents, made of skin or cloth.” In Eastern countries, where there was much travel, where there were no inns, and where many were shepherds, such a business might be useful, and a profitable source of living. It was an honorable occupation, and Paul was not ashamed to be employed in it.

Verse 4

And he reasoned ... - See the notes on Acts 17:2.

Verse 5

And when Silas and Timotheus ... - They came to Paul according to the request which he had sent by the brethren who accompanied him from Thessalonica, Acts 17:15.

Paul was pressed - Was urged; was borne away by an unusual impulse. It was deeply impressed on him as his duty.

In spirit - In his mind; in his feelings. His love to Christ was so great, and his conviction of the truth so strong, that he labored to make known to them the truth that Jesus Was the Messiah.

That Jesus was Christ - That Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Compare Acts 17:16. The presence of Silas and Timothy animated him; and the certainty of aid in his work urged him to zeal in making known the Saviour.

Verse 6

And when they opposed themselves - To him and his message.

And blasphemed - See the notes on Acts 13:45.

He shook his raiment - As an expressive act of shaking off the guilt of their condemnation. Compare Acts 13:45. He shook his raiment to show that he was resolved henceforward to have nothing to do with them; perhaps, also, to express the fact that God would soon slake them off, or reject them (Doddridge).

Your blood ... - The guilt of your destruction is your own. You only are the cause of the destruction that is coming upon you. See the notes on Matthew 27:25.

I am clean - I am not to blame for your destruction. I have done my duty. The gospel had been fairly offered and deliberately rejected; and Paul was not to blame for their ruin, which he saw was coming upon them.

I will go ... - See Acts 13:46.

Verse 7

A certain man’s house - Probably he had become a convert to the Christian faith.

Joined hard - Was near to the synagogue.

Verse 8

And Crispus - He is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:14 as having been one of the few whom Paul baptized with his own hands. The conversion of such a man must have tended greatly to exasperate the other Jews, and to further the progress of the Christian faith among the Corinthians.

With all his house - With all his family, Acts 10:2.

And many of the Corinthians - Many even in this voluptuous and wicked city. Perhaps the power of the gospel was never more signal than in converting sinners in Corinth, and rearing a Christian church in a place so dissolute and abandoned. If it was adapted to such a place as Corinth; if a church, under the power of Christian truth, could be organized there, it is adapted to any city, and there is none so corrupt that the gospel cannot change and purify it.

Verse 9

By a vision - Compare the notes on Acts 9:10; Acts 16:9.

Be not afraid - Perhaps Paul might have been intimidated by the learning, refinement, and splendor of Corinth; perhaps embarrassed in view of his duty of addressing the rich, the polite, and the great. To this he may allude in 1 Corinthians 2:3; “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” In such circumstances it pleased God to meet him, and disarm his fears. This he did by assuring him of success. The fact that God had much people in that city Acts 18:10 was employed to remove his apprehensions. The prospect of success in the ministry, and the certainty of the presence of God, will take away the fear of the rich, the learned, and the great.

Verse 10

For I am with thee - I will attend, bless, and protect you. See the notes on Matthew 28:20.

No man shall set on thee - No one who shall rise up against thee will be able to hurt thee. His life was in God’s hands, and he would preserve him in order that his people might be collected into the church.

For I have - Greek: there is to me; that is, I possess, or there belongs to me.

Much people - Many who should be regarded as his true friends, and who should be saved.

In this city - In that very city that was so voluptuous, so rich, so effeminate, and where there had been already so decided opposition shown to the gospel. This passage evidently means that God had a design or purpose to save many of that people, for it was given to Paul as an encouragement to him to labor there, evidently meaning that God would grant him success in his work. It cannot mean that the Lord meant to say that the great mass of the people, or that the moral and virtuous part, if there were any such, was then regarded as his people; but that he intended to convert many of those guilty and profligate Corinthians to himself, and to gather a people for his own service there. We may learn from this:

(1) That God has a purpose in regard to the salvation of sinners.

(2) That that purpose is so fixed in the mind of God that he can say that those in relation to whom it is formed are his.

(3) This is the ground of encouragement to the ministers of the gospel. Had God no purpose to save sinners, they could have no hope in their work.

(4) This plan may have reference to the most frivolous, the most guilty, and the most abandoned, and ministers should not be deterred by the amount or the degree of wickedness from attempting to save them.

(5) There may be more hope of success among a dissolute and profligate population, than among proud, cold, and skeptical philosophers. Paul had little success in philosophic Athens; he had great success in dissolute Corinth. There is often more hope of converting a man openly dissolute and abandoned, than one who prides himself on his philosophy, and is confident in his own wisdom.

Verse 11

And he continued ... - Paul was not accustomed to remain long in a place. At Ephesus, indeed, he remained three years Acts 20:31; and his stay at Corinth was caused by his success, and by the necessity of placing a church, collected out of such corrupt and dissolute materials, on a firm foundation.

Verse 12

And Gallio - After the Romans had conquered Greece they reduced it to two provinces, Macedonia and Achaia, which were each governed by a proconsul. Gallio was the brother of the celebrated philosopher Seneca, and was made proconsul of Achaia in 53 a.d. His proper name was Marcus Annaeus Novatus, but, having been adopted into the family of Gallio, a rhetorician, he took his name. He is mentioned by ancient writers as having been of a remarkably mild and amiable disposition. His brother Seneca (“Praef. Quest.” Nat. 4) describes him as being of the most lovely temper: “No mortal,” says he, “was ever so mild to anyone as he was to all: and in him there was such a natural power of goodness, that there was no semblance of art or dissimulation.”

Was the deputy - See this word explained in the notes on Acts 13:7. It means here proconsul.

Of Achaia - This word, in its largest sense, comprehended the whole of Greece. Achaia proper, however, was a province of which Corinth was the capital. It embraced that part of Greece lying between Thessaly and the southern part of the Peloponnesus.

The Jews made insurrection - Excited a tumult, as they had in Philippi, Antioch, etc.

And brought him to the judgment seat - The tribunal of Gallio; probably intending to arraign him as a disturber of the peace.

Verse 13

Contrary to the law - Evidently intending contrary to all law - the laws of the Romans and of the Jews. It was permitted to the Jews to worship God according to their own views in Greece; but they could easily pretend that Paul had departed from that mode of worshipping God. It was easy for them to maintain that he taught contrary to the laws of the Romans and their acknowledged religion; and their design seems to have been to accuse him of teaching people to worship God in an unlawful and irregular way, a way unknown to any of the laws of the empire.

Verse 14

About to open his mouth - In self-defense, ever ready to vindicate his conduct.

A matter of wrong - Injustice, or crime, such as could be properly brought before a court of justice.

Or wicked lewdness - Any flagrant and gross offence. The word used here occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It denotes properly an act committed by him who is skilled, facile, or an adept in iniquity an act of a veteran offender. Such crimes Gallio was willing to take cognizance of.

Reason would ... - Greek: “I would bear with you according to reason.” There would be propriety or fitness in my hearing and trying the case. Thai is, it would fall within the sphere of my duty, as appointed to guard the peace, and to punish crimes.

Verse 15

Of words - A dispute about words, for such he would regard all their controversies about religion to be.

And names - Probably he had heard something of the nature of the controversy, and understood it to be a dispute about names; that is, whether Jesus was to be called the Messiah or not. To him this would appear as a matter pertaining to the Jews alone, and to be ranked with their other disputes arising from the difference of sect and name.

Of your law - A question respecting the proper interpretation of the Law, or the rites and ceremonies which it commanded. The Jews had many such disputes, and Gallio did not regard them as coming under his cognizance as a magistrate.

Look ye to it - Judge this among yourselves; settle the difficulty as you can. Compare John 18:31.

For I will be no judge ... - I do not regard such questions as pertaining to my office, or deem myself called on to settle them.

Verse 16

And he drave them ... - He refused to hear and decide the controversy. The word used here does not denote that there was any violence used by Gallio, but merely that he dismissed them in an authoritative manner.

Verse 17

Then all the Greeks - The Greeks who had witnessed the persecution of Paul by the Jews, and who had seen the tumult which they had excited.

Took Sosthenes ... - As he was the chief ruler of the synagogue, he had probably been a leader in the opposition to Paul, and in the prosecution. Indignant at the Jews; at their bringing such questions before the tribunal; at their bigotry, and rage, and contentious spirit, they probably fell upon him in a tumultuous and disorderly manner as he was leaving the tribunal. The Greeks would feel no small measure of indignation at these disturbers of the public peace, and they took this opportunity to express their rage.

And beat him - ἔτυπτον etupton. This word is not what is commonly used to denote a judicial act of scourging. It probably means that they fell upon him and beat him with their fists, or with whatever was at band,

Before the judgment seat - Probably while leaving the tribunal. Instead of “Greeks” in this verse, some mss. read “Jews,” but the former is probably the true reading. The Syriac, Arabic, and Coptic read it “the Gentiles.” It is probable that this Sosthenes afterward became a convert to the Christian faith, and a preacher of the gospel. See 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, “Paul, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth.”

And Gallio cared ... - This has been usually charged on Gallio as a matter of reproach, as if he were wholly indifferent to religion. But the charge is unjustly made, and his name is often most improperly used to represent the indifferent, the worldly, the careless, and the skeptical. By the testimony of ancient writers he was a most mild and amiable man, arid an upright and just judge. There is not the least evidence that he was indifferent to the religion of his country, or that he was of a thoughtless and skeptical turn of mind. All that this passage implies is:

(1) That he did not deem it to be his duty, or a part of his office, to settle questions of a theological nature that were started among the Jews.

(2) That he was unwilling to make this subject a matter of legal discussion and investigation.

(3) That he would not interfere, either on one side or the other, in the question about proselytes either to or from Judaism. So far, certainly, his conduct was exemplary and proper.

(4) That he did not choose to interpose, and rescue Sosthenes from the hands of the mob. From some cause he was willing that he should feel the effects of the public indignation. Perhaps it was not easy to quell the riot; perhaps he was not unwilling that he who had joined in a furious and unprovoked persecution should feel the effect of it in the excited passions of the people. At all events, he was but following the common practice among the Romans, which was to regard the Jews with contempt, and to care little how much they were exposed to popular fury and rage. In this he was wrong; and it is certain, also, that he was indifferent to the disputes between Jews and Christians; but there is no propriety in defaming his name, and making him the type and representative of all the thought less and indifferent on the subject of religion in subsequent times. Nor is there propriety in using this passage as a text as applicable to this class of people.

Verse 18

And sailed thence into Syria - Or set sail for Syria. His design was to go to Jerusalem to the festival which was soon to occur, Acts 18:21.

Having shorn his head - Many interpreters have supposed that this refers to Aquila, and not to Paul. But the connection evidently requires us to understand it of Paul, though the Greek construction does not with certainty determine to which it refers. The Vulgate refers it to Aquila, the Syriac to Paul.

In Cenchrea - Cenchrea was the eastern port of Corinth. A church was formed in that place, Romans 16:1.

For he had a vow - A “vow” is a solemn promise made to God respecting anything. The use of vows is observable throughout the Scripture. Jacob, going into Mesopotamia, vowed one-tenth of his estate, and promised to offer it at Bethel to the honor of God, Genesis 28:22. Moses made many regulations in regard to vows. A man might devote himself or his children to the Lord. He might devote any part of his time or property to his service. The vow they were required sacredly to observe Deuteronomy 23:21-22, except in certain specified cases they were permitted to redeem what had been thus devoted. The most remarkable vow among the Jews was that of the Nazarite, by which a man made a solemn promise to God to abstain from wine, and from all intoxicating liquors, to let the hair grow, not to enter any house polluted by having a dead body in it, or to attend any funeral. This vow generally lasted eight days, sometimes a month, sometimes during a definite period fixed by themselves, and sometimes during their whole lives. When the vow expired, the priest made an offering of a he-lamb for a burnt-offering, a she-lamb for an expiatory sacrifice, and a ram for a peace-offering. The priest then, or some other person, shaved the head of the Nazarite at the door of the tabernacle, and burnt the hair on the fire of the altar. Those who made the vow out of Palestine, and who could not come to the temple when the vow was expired, contented themselves with observing the abstinence required by the Law, and cutting off the hair where they were. This I suppose to have been the case with Paul. His hair he cut off at the expiration of the vow at Cenchrea, though he delayed to perfect the vow by the proper ceremonies until he reached Jerusalem, Acts 21:23-24. Why Paul made this vow, or on what occasion, the sacred historian has not informed us, and conjecture, perhaps, is useless. We may observe, however:

(1) That if was common for the Jews to make such vows to God, as an expression of gratitude or of devotedness to his service, when they had been raised up from sickness, or delivered from danger or calamity. See Josephus, i. 2, 15. Vows of this nature were also made by the Gentiles on occasions of deliverance from any signal calamity (Juvenal, Sat., 12, 81). It is possible that Paul may have made such a vow in consequence of signal deliverance from some of the numerous perils to which he was exposed. But,

(2) There is reason to think that it was mainly with a design to convince the Jews that he did not despise their law, and was not its enemy. See Acts 21:22-24. In accordance with the custom of the nation, and in compliance with a law which was not wrong in itself, he might have made this vow, not for a time-serving purpose, but in order to conciliate them, and to mitigate their anger against the gospel. See 1 Corinthians 9:19-21. But where nothing is recorded, conjecture is useless. Those who wish to see the subject discussed may consult Grotius and Kuinoel in loco; Spencer, De Legibus Hebrae., p. 862; and Calmet’s Dictionary, “Nazarite.”

Verse 19

And he came to Ephesus - See the notes on Revelation 2:1-5. This was a celebrated city in Ionia, in Asia Minor, about 40 miles south of Smyrna. It was chiefly famous for the Temple of Diana, usually reckoned one of the seven wonders of the world. Pliny styles this city the ornament of Asia. In the times of the Romans it was the metropolis of the province of Asia. This city is now under the dominion of the Turks, and is almost in a state of ruin. Dr. Chandler, in his Travels in Asia Mirror, says: “The inhabitants are a few Greek peasants, living in extreme wretchedness, dependence, and insensibility; the representatives of an illustrious people, and inhabiting the wreck of their greatness; some in the substructions of the glorious edifices which they raised; some beneath the vaults of the stadium, once the crowded scene of their diversions; and some in the sepulchres which received their ashes” (Travels, p. 131, Oxford, 1775). The Jews, according to Josephus, were very numerous in Ephesus, and had obtained the privilege of citizenship.

Left them there - That is, Aquila and Priscilla, Acts 18:24-26.

Reasoned with the Jews - See the notes on Acts 17:2.

Verse 21

Keep this feast - Probably the Passover is here referred to. Why he was so anxious to celebrate that feast at Jerusalem, the historian has not informed us. It is probable, however, that he wished to meet as many of his countrymen as possible, and to remove, if practicable, the prejudices which had everywhere been raised against him, Acts 21:20-21. Perhaps, also, he supposed that there would be many Christian converts present, whom he might meet also.

But I will return ... - This he did Acts 19:1, and remained there three years, Acts 20:31.

Verse 22

At Cesarea - See the notes on Acts 8:40.

And gone up - From the ship.

And saluted the church - The church at Jerusalem. This was Paul’s main design; and though it is not distinctly specified, yet the whole narrative implies that he went there before returning to Antioch. The word saluted implies that he expressed for them his tender affection and regard.

To Antioch - In Syria. See the notes on Acts 11:19.

Verse 23

The country of Galatia and Phrygia - He had been over these regions before, preaching the gospel, Acts 16:6.

Strengthening - Establishing them by exhortation and counsel. See the notes on Acts 14:22.

Verse 24

And a certain Jew named Apollos - Apollos afterward became a distinguished and successful preacher of the gospel, 1Co 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:5-6; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Titus 3:13. Nothing more is known of him than is stated in these passages.

Born at Alexandria - Alexandria was a celebrated city in Egypt, founded by Alexander the Great. There were large numbers of Jews resident there. See the notes on Acts 6:9.

An eloquent man - Alexandria was famous for its schools, and it is probable that Apollos, in addition to his natural endowments, had enjoyed the benefit of these schools.

Mighty in the scriptures - Well instructed, or able in the Old Testament. The foundation was thus laid for future usefulness in the Christian church. See the notes on Luke 24:19.

Verse 25

This man was instructed - Greek: was catechised. He was instructed, in some degree, into the knowledge of the Christian religion. By whom this was done we have no information.

In the way of the Lord - The word “way” often refers to doctrine, Matthew 21:32. It means here that he had been correctly taught in regard to the Messiah, yet his knowledge was imperfect, Acts 18:26. The amount of his knowledge seems to have been:

(1) He had correct views of the Messiah to come - views which he had derived from the study of the Old Testament. He was expecting a Saviour that would be humble, obscure, and a sacrifice, in opposition to the prevailing notions of the Jews.

(2) He had heard of John; had embraced his doctrine; and probably had been baptized with reference to him that was to come. Compare Matthew 3:2; Acts 19:4. But it is clear that he had not heard that Jesus was the Messiah. With his correct views in regard to the coming of the Messiah he was endeavoring to instruct and reform his countrymen. He was just in the state of mind to welcome the announcement that the Messiah had come, and to embrace Jesus of Nazareth as the hope of the nation.

Being fervent in the spirit - Being zealous and ardent. See the notes on Romans 12:11.

Taught diligently - Defended with zeal and earnestness his views of the Messiah.

The things of the Lord - The doctrines pertaining to the Messiah as far as he understood them.

Knowing only the baptism of John - Whether he had himself heard John, and been baptized by him. has been made a question which cannot now be decided. It is not necessary, however, to suppose this, as it seems that the knowledge of John’s preaching and baptism had been propagated extensively in other nations beside Judea, Acts 19:1-3. The Messiah was expected about that time. The foreign Jews would be waiting for him; and the news of John’s ministry, doctrine, and success would be rapidly propagated from synagogue to synagogue in the surrounding nations. John preached repentance, and baptized with reference to him that was to come after him Acts 19:4, and this doctrine Apollos seems to have embraced.

Verse 26

And expounded - Explained.

The way of God - Gave him full and ample instructions respecting the Messiah as having already come, and respecting the nature of his work.

Verse 27

Into Achaia - See the notes on Acts 18:12.

The brethren wrote - The brethren at Ephesus. Why he was disposed to go into Achaia the historian does not inform us. But he had heard of the success of Paul there; of the church which he had established; of the opposition of the Jews; and it was doubtless with a desire to establish that church, and with a wish to convince his unbelieving countrymen that their views of the Messiah were erroneous, and that Jesus of Nazareth corresponded with the predictions of the prophets, that he went there. Many of the Greeks at Corinth were greatly captivated with his winning eloquence 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:4-5, and his going there was the occasion of some unhappy divisions that sprung up in the church. But in all this he retained the confidence and love of Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:3. It was thus shown that Paul was superior to envy, and that great success by one minister need not excite the envy, or alienate the confidence and good will of another.

Helped them much - Strengthened them, and aided them in their controversies with the unbelieving Jews.

Which had believed through grace - The words “through grace” may either refer to Apollos, or to the Christians who had believed. If to him, it means that he was enabled by grace to strengthen the brethren there; if to them, it means that they had been led to believe by the grace or favor of God. Either interpretation makes good sense. Our translation has adopted what is most natural and obvious.

Verse 28

For he mightily convinced the Jews - He did it by strong arguments; he bore down all opposition, and effectually silenced them.

And that publicly - In his public preaching in the synagogue and elsewhere.

Showing by the scriptures - Proving from the Old Testament. Showing that Jesus of Nazareth corresponded with the account of the Messiah given by the prophets. See the notes on John 5:39.

That Jesus was Christ - See the margin. That Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Acts 18". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/acts-18.html. 1870.
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