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Bible Commentaries
Acts 16

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-40

XVI 1-5 St Paul In S. Galatia —1. Crossing the Taurus through the Cilician Gates the party reached Derbe and then Lystra. Timothy’s mother had instructed him in the Scriptures, 2 Timothy 3:15, and St Paul had made him a Christian, 1 Timothy 1:2.

2. His reputation fitted him for the office for which St Paul destined him, though he was still very young, Tim 4:12.

3. Being the son of a Jewess he would, if uncircumcised, have been considered an apostate, and all relations with Jews would have been impossible. It was well known that he had not been circumcised, his father being a Gentile, cf.1 Corinthians 9:20. In the very different case of Titus, Galatians 2:3, both his parents were Gentiles, and circumcision was demanded as though necessary for salvation.

4. Cf. 15:23.

6-10 From S. Galatia to Macedonia —6. ’And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian country, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia’. St Paul’s obvious plan was to go to the great coastal towns of the province of Asia, but he was guided due north, through Phrygia to N. Galatia, and (if one accepts the North Galatian Theory) evangelized the North or real Galatians, descendants of 3rd cent. Gallic invaders.

[According to the South Galatian Theory (cf.§ 893c-d there is no need to postulate a visit to Northern Galatia, and the phrase a ’Phrygo-Galatic region’ (and the corresponding passage in 18:23) would then be taken to refer to the districts evangelized on the First Missionary Journey, which were historically both Phrygian and Galatian.—Gen. Ed.]

7-8. ’And when they had come as far as Mysia’, the Holy Spirit guided them away from Bithynia, and right through Mysia to Troas. It was not yet time for the Gospel to be preached in the rich Gk colonies of Asia Minor. Troas was the usual port for Macedonia. The Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son who works, through him, cf.Philippians 1:19; Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11; John 14:26; John 16:7.9. At length St Paul is directed positively, and into Europe. The man of Macedonia was probably recognizable by his dress.

10. The first ’We section’ beginning here shows that St Luke now joined St Paul. He seems to have remained at Philippi, where the section ends, 17, for six years, till 20:6.

11-12 At Philippi, A.D. 51—11. They made a direct crossing, stopping for the night off Samothrace. A later crossing took five days, 20:6. Neapolis was the port of Philippi, 10 m. inland, to which it was linked by the Egnatian Way.

12. Augustus had recently refounded Philippi, in gratitude for his victory there over Brutus and Cassius. He colonized it with veterans and conferred on it the Jus Italicum. It was ’the first city encountered’ or ’the leading city of that part of Macedonia, and a Roman colony’; cf. 19-21.

13-15 The Conversion of Lydia —13. The Apostles went by the river side, ’where we thought there would be a place of prayer’, perhaps open to the air, there not being enough Jews for a synagogue. Women were held in greater respect in Macedonia than in Greece; cf. 17:4, 12.

14. Lydia was a proselyte from Thyatira in Lydia, which was renowned for its stuffs dyed in purple.

15. cf. note on 21:5-6: Though a woman of position she says humbly, ’if [not ’since’] you have judged me faithful’. Her house no doubt became the centre of the church of Philippi, and the home of St Luke. He omits further details of the founding of the church, and relates how the Apostles had to leave.

16-18 The Possessed Slave Girl —16. She was possessed by a spirit of divination’. The legend ran that a python had uttered the oracles at Delphi until Apollo killed it and took its place. Hence a pythonical spirit was one that foretold the future.

17. Either the devil was under some compulsion to bear witness, or wished to discredit the Apostles by his praise.

18. Our Lord acted in his own name, Mark 16:17.

19-24 Arrest of St Paul and Silas —19. As in ch 19, loss of revenue leads to persecution. The magistrates at the Law Courts in the Forum were the Duumvirs of a Roman colony, who had the courtesy title of ’strategoi’, as in 20. 20-21. The owners of the girl appeal to anti-semitism, cf. 18:2, 17. The law forbade Jewish propaganda among Romans.

22. cf.1 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 11:25. St Paul perhaps claimed Roman citizenship but was disregarded in the tumult. Cicero, In Verrem II, v, 62, describes such a happening.

23-24. By law imprisonment followed flagellation. This was the first persecution by the Roman authorities and the first for which Jews were not responsible.

25-34 In the Prison at Philippi —25. ’Paul and Silas were in prayer, and singing hymns to God’, no doubt psalms, and remembering Luke 6:23.

26. The earthquake and its effects were miraculous; cf. 4:31.

28. Suicide was frequent among the Romans.

29-30. The gaoler knew something of the preaching of the Apostles. Reassured as to his bodily safety, he is aroused by the miracle to consider the safety of his soul.

32. Paul and Silas instruct him and his family, even before their wounds are dressed. 33. The former are washed of their wounds, the latter or their sins, cf. note on 21:5-6. 34. The gaoler rejoiced ’at having found faith in God’.

35-40 Release and Departure —35-36. In view of the events of the night the strategoi send the lictors to free the prisoners. 37. The church would have suffered if the preachers of. Christianity had escaped like criminals. By the Lex Porcia a Roman citizen could not be scourged, and he could only be beaten with rods after he had been condemned to death. Here there had not even been a trial. The magistrates and the whole colony were in danger. In a.d. 44 Claudius had deprived the Rhodians of their privileges for crucifying Roman citizens. His citizenship often protected St Paul 22:25ff. A false claim to it was punishable with death.

39. The magistrates now came personally.

40. On St Paul’s love for the church at Philippi, see comm. on Phil.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Acts 16". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/acts-16.html. 1951.
 
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