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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Acts 13

Verses 1-99

13:1 12 . Beginning of Saul’s first Missionary journey. He visits Cyprus

1 . Now there were in the church that was at Antioch ] Rather, “Now there were at Antioch in the church that was there.”

We now come to the history of those three great journeys which the Apostle of the Gentiles undertook in his special work. It is fitting that the point of departure should be Antioch, the city in which Gentiles had first in large numbers been joined to the Church, and where as yet there had risen no difficulty about the way in which they were received.

prophets and teachers ] Cp. 2:17. The prophecy of Joel was now to receive a wider fulfilment.

Simeon that was called Niger ] The first name points out the man as of Jewish origin, and the second is a Latin adjective = black , which may have been assumed, or given to him, as a name from his dark complexion. Jews were, and are still, in the habit of having another name beside their national one, for use when they mixed among foreign nations.

Lucius of Cyrene ] This name is Latin, though his birthplace or home may indicate that he was one of the Jews who abounded in Cyrene and the other parts of the North of Africa. Perhaps it is he who is mentioned in Romans 16:21 .

Manaen ] i.e. Menahem. This name is Jewish, and is found in Josephus ( Antiq . xv. 10. 5) as the name of an Essene who foretold that Herod the Great would become king. It may well be that the name became, when the prophecy had received its fulfilment, a favourite one among those who were attached to or favoured the rulers of the Herodian family.

which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch ] Rather, “ foster-brother of Herod, &c.” The Vulgate gives “ collactaneus .” Herod the Tetrarch (Antipas) had a brother Archelaus by the same mother. Manaen would hardly be said to have “been brought up with” one brother and not with the other.

The various connections and nationalities of the men who are here. named, are worthy to be noticed when we reflect on the work which was to have its beginning from Antioch. One a Cypriote, another a Cyrenian, another a Jew, but from his double name accustomed to mix among non-Jews, one a connection of the Idumean house of Herod, and Saul the heaven-appointed Apostle of the Gentiles, the list may be deemed in some sort typical of “all the world,” into which the Gospel was now to go forth.

2 . As they ministered to the Lord ] The word is the one usually employed by the LXX. for the ministerial services in the Temple, as it is also Hebrews 10:11 , but the parallelism with the next verse, where the service here mentioned is described as “fasting and prayer ,” shews us that we are not to attach the former strict signification to it. Such has been the mind of the Church also, for from this verb comes our word “Liturgy.” The old order is giving place to the new, and the terminology is receiving a new sense.

and fasted ] as a solemn act of devotion in the prospect of the work which was before them.

the Holy Ghost said ] Speaking to and through the prophets who were there.

Separate me Barnabas and Saul ] Saul had from the first been a “vessel of election,” and so specially severed for this work, and we can see why Barnabas, who had been the first to introduce Saul to the Church at Jerusalem, and whose education may have been very like his own, (for there was much inter-communication between Cyprus and Tarsus,) was appointed to be the sharer of Saul’s labours.

for the work whereunto I have called them ] As the one portion of this admonition was from the Holy Ghost, we may perhaps be warranted in concluding that the whole course of this first great missionary journey was pointed out also by the Spirit. There is no notice of a deliberation in the Church about the best way for the Apostles to set forth.

3 . This verse implies a solemn dedication service at the end of the ministration and fasting with which the devotions of the Church had commenced.

4 . sent forth by the Holy Ghost ] A repetition which marks the solemn character which St Luke and also his informant attached to this new form of the Christian work.

unto Seleucia ] which was the seaport of Antioch at the mouth of the Orontes. See Dictionary of the Bible .

and from thence they sailed to Cyprus ] Probably, if not specially directed, the missionary Apostles were induced to take this route because Cyprus was the birthplace of one of them, and there were in the island already many Jews resident, and also some Cypriote Christians (11:20), who perhaps had been in Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost among the various nationalities then assembled, and who had, when driven away by persecution, turned their steps homeward and preached Jesus to their fellow-countrymen (11:19).

5 . And when they were at Salamis ] Salamis was the nearest port of Cyprus for voyagers from Seleucia. It is at the eastern end of the island in the bay which is now called Famagousta.

in the synagogues of the Jews ] who were living in Salamis in sufficient numbers to need several synagogues.

they had also John to [as] their minister ] This is John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas. His office may have been to baptize, from which service the Apostles seem to have refrained where it was possible (see above on 10:48). But there is perhaps also implied in the word rendered “minister” some degree of the same service which in old times Elisha rendered to Elijah (2 Kings 3:11 ). The same Greek word is used for the minister in a synagogue (Luke 4:20 ).

6 . And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos ] Probably teaching at other places in the same way as they had done in Salamis. Paphos was the capital of Cyprus, and therefore the residence of the Roman governor. It was the more modern city, not the old city of Paphos, to which Paul and Barnabas came. See Dictionary of Bible .

they found a certain sorcerer [magician], a false prophet, a Jew ] That there were living among the Jews persons well known as pretenders to magic powers we can see from a story told T. B. Berakhoth 59 a, of a certain Rab Katina who, in his walk, as he was passing the door of one who was known as a professor of witchcraft and magic arts, felt a slight shock of an earthquake. He thereupon called out and asked “Does this wizard diviner know what that shock is?” Upon this the man cried with a sanctimonious promptness worthy of his profession, “In the hour when the Holy One, blessed be He, remembers His children who dwell in sorrow among the nations of the world, He lets fall two tears into the great sea, and that is the cause of the tremor of the earth.” Chaldæan astrologers and impostors are mentioned by Juvenal (vi. 562; xiv. 248) and Horace ( Sat . i. 2. 1) and by many other Latin writers, and these were probably Babylonian Jews. See Lucian, Necyomantia , where a wonderful story is told of a magician named Mithrobarzanes. Also Lucian, Philopseudes , where one of the wonder-workers is described as “a Syrian from Palestine.”

Bar-jesus ] This was his Jewish name. The Arabic name or title Elymas = wise, was a self-assumed designation; and for that reason he is called “Magus” = the magician, a name originally applied to the Persian priests, who were deemed the wise men of the realm both in policy and religion, though their title in after times was degraded to baser arts and persons.

7 . which was with the deputy of the country [ proconsul ], Sergius Paulus ] Under Augustus the Roman provinces were divided into two classes, one class of which (needing the presence of troops for their government, and the possession of which gave the Emperor the control of the army) was called imperatorial, while the others were called senatorial provinces. The former were governed by an officer named proprætor , the latter by a proconsul . We know from Dio Cassius (liii. 12) that Cyprus was originally an imperatorial province, and therefore under a proprætor. This also Strabo confirms (xiv. 685), but says that Augustus made it over to the people along with Cyprus and part of Galatia, and took instead of these Dalmatia for one of his provinces. So that the government was at St Paul’s visit held by a proconsul for the Roman Senate, as is here recorded; and this is another instance of the historic faithfulness of St Luke’s record.

Of Sergius Paulus we know nothing, but the opportunities now afforded, by the English occupation of Cyprus, for the investigation of the antiquities of the island, may lead to some discovery of his name and office in coin or inscription.

a prudent man ] The presence of Elymas among his staff shews that the proconsul was a man of enquiring mind, and the same is displayed by his desire to hear Barnabas and Saul.

8 . seeking to turn away [ aside ] the deputy [ proconsul ] from the faith ] Sergius had not yet accepted the doctrine of the Apostles, though we may presume that both he and Elymas had heard much about their teaching since their landing at Salamis. Report going before had roused the proconsul’s curiosity and the magician’s fear, and the wish of the latter was to divert the attention of Sergius, that he might not send for the new teachers.

9 . Then [ But ] Saul, who also is called Paul ] The proconsul had been determined in his purpose, and Saul had come before him. At this point we first meet the name by which the great Apostle is best known throughout the Christian Church, and many reasons have been given why he assumed this name, and why at this time. Some have thought that the name was adopted from the proconsul’s, his first convert of distinction, but this is utterly alien to all we know of the character of St Paul, with his sole glory in the cross of Christ. Far more likely is he to have been attracted to it, if it were not his before, by the meaning of the Latin word ( paullus = little) and its fitness to be the name of him who called himself the least of the Apostles. But perhaps he only did what other Jews were in the habit of doing when they went into foreign lands, and chose him a name of some significance (for the Jews were fond of names with a meaning) among those with whom he was about to mix. Dean Howson ( Life and Letters of St Paul , i. p. 164) compares Jose Jason; Hillel Julus, and probably the similarity of sound did often guide the choice of such a name, and it may have been so with the Apostle’s selection. St Luke, recognizing that the history of St Paul is now to be his chief theme and that the work for which he was separated was now begun, names the Apostle henceforth only by the name which became most current in the Churches.

filled with the Holy Ghost ] So that the punishment inflicted on Elymas was dictated to the Apostle by the Spirit, and he knew from the inward prompting thereof, that what he spake would come to pass.

set [ fastened ] his eyes on him ] For Elymas was standing by, doubtless ready to catch at anything which he might be able to turn to the discredit of the Apostles.

10 . enemy of all righteousness ] We may judge from this expression that St Paul recognized an earnest zeal for truth in the enquiries of the proconsul, and that his wrath against Elymas was not only for what he was doing at the present time, but for his long-continued leading astray of those who were desirous to know the ways of the Lord.

11 . the hand of the Lord ] Of the Jehovah whose ways he had perverted, for it could only have been after the Jewish faith that Sergius Paulus had made his enquiries of Elymas, who instead of teaching him to know the Lord, seduced him by his own pretensions. For the expression cp. Exodus 9:3 and Judges 2:15 , “The hand of the Lord was against them for evil.”

for a season ] The punishment inflicted on Elymas is lighter than that of Ananias and Sapphira, because in their case the hypocrisy of their conduct would have brought ruin on the Church, if it had not been severely punished, and their sin was against greater light and gifts of grace than had been bestowed on the magician of Cyprus.

a mist and a darkness ] There is a gradation in the words which implies that the withdrawal of his sight was somewhat gradual. At first the eyes began to cloud over, and as the film increased upon them he became quite blind.

and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand ] As he perceives the darkness closing in upon him he turns in the direction where he had last noticed some friend, and endeavours to get a guide. For such a man would wish to shew as little as possible how exactly the Apostle’s words had come to pass.

12 . Then the deputy [ proconsul ], when he saw what was done, believed ] He was convinced by the miracle and by the words with which it was accompanied, that the Apostles were teachers of the way of the Lord after which he had been seeking in vain from Elymas. We are not told that Sergius was baptized, but we have other instances of the like omission of notice (see v. 48), yet as baptism was the appointed door into Christ’s Church, such omission of the mention thereof should not be thought to warrant us in believing that the sacrament was neglected on any occasion.

13 15 . The Apostles visit Pamphylia and Pisidia. Mark returns to Jerusalem

13 . Now when Paul and his company ] Literally, “those around Paul.” Henceforth the Apostle of the Gentiles becomes the central figure in nearly every scene of the Acts.

loosed [ sailed ] from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia ] They would sail to the north-west. Pamphylia was about the middle part of the southern seaboard of Asia Minor, and Perga was its capital. We are not told of any missionary labours in Perga at this time either because there was no opening for their commencement, or it may be that the Apostles were troubled at the departure of Mark. They did preach in Perga on their return visit (14:25).

and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem ] There is no reason given for his departure either here or elsewhere, but the cause assigned had clearly not been one which satisfied St Paul (15:38). John Mark, most probably the same person as the writer of the second Gospel, afterwards was an earnest labourer for Christ, and St Paul (Colossians 4:10 ) speaks of him with affection. If St Luke knew the cause of his present withdrawal, the remembrance of his subsequent zeal sealed his lips on the subject. Cp. 10:48, note.

14 . But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia ] Better, “But they having passed through from Perga, came,” &c. Pisidia lay inland to the N. of Pamphylia, and Antioch was in its extreme northern part, so that the verb “passed through” is very correct, for they crossed the whole district. Dean Howson ( Life and Epistles of St Paul , i. 175) suggests that it was perhaps in this journey that St Paul and his companion were exposed to those “perils of robbers” of which he speaks 2 Corinthians 11:26 . Pisidia was a mountainous district rising gradually towards the north, and the quotations given by Dr Howson from Xenophon and Strabo shew that there was a great deal of brigand-like life there even in these times, from which Paul and his company may have been in danger.

and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down ] Though he is the Apostle of the Gentiles it is ever to the synagogue that St Paul first finds his way. For the law of Moses ought to be a better schoolmaster to bring men to Christ than the law of nature.

15 . And after the reading of the law and the prophets ] For the better understanding of what was here done, and also at the time when our Lord “stood up for to read” in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16 ), it seems worth while to give a somewhat detailed account of the manner in which the Law and the Prophets are read by the Jews 1 1 See Excursus at the end of the Chapter. .

the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them ] They having the control of the arrangements for calling up readers and preachers.

Ye men and brethren ] Read “Brethren,” see 1:16.

if ye have any word of exhortation for the people ] Barnabas was called (4:36) “Son of exhortation,” where there is the same word in the original as here. The purport of the “word of exhortation” is well seen in Hebrews 13:22 , where the writer calls his whole Epistle by that name.

16 41 . Paul’s speech at Antioch

16 . beckoning with his hand ] Cp. 12:17, where it is explained that the gesture is to procure silence.

Men of Israel, and ye that fear God ] The audience consisted of born Jews and proselytes as well as perhaps some Gentiles. See vv. 42 and 43. When the audience and the subject and the end aimed at are so entirely in accord on all three occasions we cannot be surprised that the address of St Paul at Antioch partakes largely of the character and also of the language of those of St Peter at Pentecost and St Stephen in his defence. St Paul had heard the last of these, and the vision on the way to Damascus had taught him to speak with boldness on the truth of the resurrection.

17 . The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers ] He commends his words to their hearing by dwelling on the historic facts of their national life as God’s chosen people.

18 . suffered he their manners in the wilderness ] This expression has the highest MSS. support. Yet the change of one letter in the Greek verb (reading ἐτροφοφόρησεν for ἐτροποφόρησεν ) introduces a sense so much more beautiful, and at the same time so thoroughly in accord with the O. T. history and language, that it commends itself for acceptance above the Received Text. The rendering of the modified reading which has the support of many ancient authorities would be “he bare them as a nursing father in the wilderness.” This is the expression in Deuteronomy 1:31 , where the LXX. have the Greek verb which this slight change would bring in here. There is no such close parallel found in the books of Moses for “he suffered their manners.”

19 . seven nations ] They are enumerated (Deuteronomy 7:1 ) before the people went over the Jordan, viz. the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

In the latter part of this verse and in the next the oldest authorities read, “He gave their land for an heritage, about the space of four hundred and fifty years; and after these things he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.” This text would carry back the possession of the land to the first promise thereof at the time when Abram was called, for according to the received chronology about four hundred and fifty years elapsed between that event and the death of Joshua.

On Samuel, as the prophet par excellence , cp. 3:24 note.

21 . Saul …, a man of the tribe of Benjamin ] And to the speaker himself the same words applied. The forty years duration of Saul’s reign is only to be gathered indirectly from Holy Writ, but Josephus ( Antiq . vi. 14. 9) expressly states that time as the length of his reign, and as Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, whom Abner set on the throne after his father’s death, was forty years old when he began to reign (2 Samuel 2:10 ), we may conclude that the length assigned in the text is correct.

22 . I have found David , &c.] This sentence is a combination and adaptation from two separate verses out of the O. Test. First, “I have found David my servant,” Psalms 89:20 , and “The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people,” 1 Samuel 13:14 .

23 . Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus ] The word “his” has no place in the Greek text, and the oldest MSS. for “raised” read “brought.”

The promise alluded to here is preserved for us in Psalms 132:11 , “Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy seat,” and in many other similar declarations in the prophets. Cp. Zechariah 3:8-9 .

24 . the baptism of repentance ] Cp. Mark 1:4 .

25 . Whom think ye that I am? ] The oldest MSS. give “ What think ye that I am?” For John’s words, see John 1:20 , John 1:27 ; Matthew 3:11 ; Mark 1:7 ; Luke 3:16 .

26 . Men and brethren ] Read “Brethren,” see 1:16, note.

to you is the word of this salvation sent [forth] The oldest MSS. read “to us, &c.,” and this is quite in accord with the language of v. 17, “God chose our fathers.” The Apostle through the whole address avoids, as far as may be, wounding any Jewish prejudice and so classes himself with his hearers where the subject allows him to do so.

27 . they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not ] Cp. the very similar language of St Peter at the Temple gate (3:17), “I wot that through ignorance ye did it as did also your rulers.”

28 . they found no cause of death in him ] These words are a part of the declaration of Pilate (Luke 23:22 ).

29 . all that was written of him ] The Greek is rather more full, “all the things which were written of him,” meaning the various prophecies which received their fulfilment in the betrayal, harsh treatment, and the other circumstances that attended on the death of Jesus.

30 . But God raised him from the dead ] This was the proof that God had now fulfilled the promise made unto Abraham and to David, that of their seed should one come, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed, even as St Paul says below, by being justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. And elsewhere (Romans 1:4 ) the Apostle says that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead .”

31 . them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem ] The Apostles, and the body of Christ’s followers, were drawn from Galilee, insomuch that, before the Crucifixion, Galilæans was a name by which they were known (Mark 14:70 ).

who are his witnesses unto the people ] The oldest MSS. read “who now are, &c.” St Paul has not mentioned the ascension of Jesus, but the addition of this word implies that He was no longer on earth that men might see Him. The Apostle also thus marks out what was the especial work of those who had been with Christ during His life.

32 . And we declare unto you glad tidings ] While the first companions of Jesus are His witnesses, we are His Evangelists, the bringers of good news.

how that the promise , &c.] Better, “of the promise,” making this the direct object of the preceding verb.

33 . God hath fulfilled the same ] Better, “how that God hath,” &c. The “glad tidings” are concerning the promise, and the precise message which is the cause for gladness is contained in the announcement that the promise has been fulfilled.

hath fulfilled ] The verb in the original is a strengthened form and indicates “complete fulfilment.”

unto us their children ] The Greek order of the words is emphatic, “unto their children, even us.’ There are some good MSS. which read “unto our children,” but this weakens the language greatly, for what the audience whom St Paul addressed would desire was a fulfilment for themselves. Their children would inherit what they received, but a promise to be fulfilled to their children would not move them so much as one of which they were to be sharers themselves.

in that he hath raised up Jesus again ] i.e. from the dead. This is necessary to the Apostle’s argument, which is on the resurrection of Jesus as a proof that He was the Messiah. The quotation which follows need not refer alone to the birth of Jesus into this world. He was also the first-begotten from the dead, the firstfruits of them that slept.

as it is also written in the second psalm ] The reading of many good MSS. is “in the first psalm.” What we now call the first psalm was formerly regarded as an introduction to the whole and not counted in the numbering. The quotation which follows is, according to the present order of the Psalms, taken from Psalms 2:7 .

34 . he said on this wise ] Better, “He [i.e. God] hath spoken on this wise.” The words are from Isaiah 55:3 .

I will give you the sure mercies of David ] Rather, “I will give you the holy and faithful ( mercies ) of David.” There is no word for “mercies” in the original; but the word rendered “holy” is one which the LXX. have frequently used to represent the Hebrew word for “mercies.” St Paul to the audience at Antioch used the Greek version, though no doubt he carried along with him the thought of the Hebrew. But having this Greek rendering as an interpretation of the “everlasting covenant” of which Isaiah speaks in the verse here quoted, he connects the “ holy and faithful things of David” with that verse of David’s Psalm (16:10) which tells how God will not give his Holy One to see corruption.

35 . Wherefore he saith ] Better, “ Because he saith.” These words of Psalms 16:0 which David was inspired to utter cannot refer to David, and this St Paul proceeds to shew. Cp. 2:29 31 notes.

36 . For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep ] It is possible to render the Greek, “For David, after that in his own generation he had served the will of God, fell on sleep,” but the A. V. seems better. For it must be borne in mind that the contrast which most aids the Apostle’s argument is that, while David’s services could benefit only those among whom he lived, and could not be extended to other generations, Christ by His resurrection, never more to die and see corruption, is a Saviour for all generations, and remission of sins through Him can be promised to every one that believeth.

38 . the forgiveness of sins ] Just as Jesus in His lifetime on earth declared that His miracles were only signs that “the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins,” so the Apostles preach concerning the Resurrection. Cp. 10:43, the conclusion of St Peter’s speech in the house of Cornelius.

40 . lest that come upon you ] viz. a moral and spiritual overthrow as great as the destruction which the Chaldæans and Nebuchadnezzar wrought upon the land and people at the time of the Babylonish captivity to which the prophecy (Habakkuk 1:5 ) quoted in the next verse refers.

41 . Behold ye despisers ] This is the rendering of the LXX. and some other versions. The Hebrew text gives, as A. V., “Behold, ye among the heathen.” The LXX. either had, or thought they had, a different text.

a work which you shall in no wise believe ] It is the result of long-continued evil-doing that those who live in it grow incredulous and proof against all warnings. Their hearts are allowed to wax gross and their ears to become dull of hearing.

42 52 . Further preaching both to Jews and Gentiles. Jealousy of the Jews, and expulsion of the Apostles from Antioch

42 . And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought , &c.] The oldest MSS. give, “And as they were going out of the synagogue they besought, &c.” The desire was expressed by the congregation both of Jews and proselytes as they left the synagogue. We do not read of the Gentiles joining the throng of listeners until the next Sabbath ( v. 44).

that these words (tidings)] The whole declaration of the Christian faith. It is not the ordinary Greek term for “word.” Cp. 10:37.

the next sabbath ] The Greek words differ from those below in v. 44, and have been rendered by some “during the intervening week.” As is pointed out in the Excursus on v. 15, the Jewish congregations had a portion of the Law read in the synagogues not only on the Sabbath, but on the Monday and on the Thursday mornings, that they might not be for three days without hearing the Scripture. The peculiar expression in this verse may apply to the meetings in the synagogue on those days, and that then the people desired to hear once more the message which St Paul had just preached to them. As a different expression is used so immediately, for “on the next Sabbath,” it is but just to suppose that the historian had some reason for the variation of his language in the two verses.

43 . religious (devout) proselytes ] Perhaps applied to the proselytes of righteousness as distinguished from the proselytes of the gate.

persuaded them to continue in the grace of God ] as Barnabas in like circumstances had urged on the converts at Antioch in Syria (11:23). Here, though we have no mention of actual converts, the Apostles must have had regard to the “purpose of their hearts” when they spake to these enquirers as though they were already “in the grace of God.”

44 . almost the whole city ] Shewing that the Apostles must have been diligently labouring both among Jews and Heathen during the intervening days, and giving additional probability to the explanation suggested above on v. 42.

45 . they were filled with envy (jealousy)] The exclusive spirit, which was so engrafted in the Jewish race, asserted itself as soon as they saw the Gentiles gathered to hear the Apostles. The teaching of men who would admit all mankind to the same privileges, was abhorrent to them. For themselves and for proselytes they could accept a message as God-sent, and tolerate some modifications in their teaching and practice, but they could not endure that the Gentiles should be made equal with God’s ancient people.

contradicting and blaspheming ] The first two words are omitted in the oldest texts. See for similar conduct of the Jews at Corinth under like circumstances, 18:6.

46 . It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you ] That, as Christ came first unto His own, so His messengers should declare their glad tidings first unto Jews, but if they received not the word, then it was to be proclaimed to all who would receive it.

judge yourselves unworthy ] i.e. pronounce the sentence upon yourselves by your actions. Cp. Matthew 22:8 , “They that were bidden” to the marriage supper “were not worthy.” They had been deemed worthy by him who sent to call them, but had declared they were not so by their refusal to come.

47 . so hath the Lord commanded us ] And the Lord’s command which the Apostle quotes is from Isaiah 49:6 , which shews that from the prophetic times the reception of the Gentiles was made manifest in the counsels of God. Whether the words of Isaiah are referred to himself or to Christ it is clear that, along with the Jews, the Gentiles also are to be recipients of the promised blessings.

48 . and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed ] In the controversies on predestination and election this sentence has constantly been brought forward. But it is manifestly unfair to take a sentence out of its context, and interpret it as if it stood alone. In v. 46 we are told that the Jews had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, and all that is meant by the words in this verse is the opposite of that expression. The Jews were acting so as to proclaim themselves unworthy; the Gentiles were making manifest their desire to be deemed worthy. The two sections were like opposing troops, ranged by themselves, and to some degree, though not unalterably, looked upon as so arranged by God on different sides. Thus the Gentiles were ordering themselves, and were ordered, unto eternal life. The text says no word to warrant us in thinking that none could henceforth change sides.

50 . the devout and honourable women ] The conjunction is omitted in the best texts. Read, “the devout women of honourable estate.” We read that in Damascus, and we may suppose that it was likely to be the case in other large towns and cities in which Jews abounded, the wives of the men in high position among the heathen were much inclined to the Jewish religion (Josephus, B.J . ii. 20. 2). These would be easily moved by the Jews to take action against the Apostles.

and the chief men of the city ] As the Jews in Jerusalem had appealed to Pilate and the Roman power to carry out their wishes at the Crucifixion, so the Jews in Antioch excite their heathen magistrates against Paul and Barnabas.

out of their coasts ] i.e. “from their borders.” Antioch and all Pisidia was inland. But the old English “coast” was used for any borderland, and not as now for the “sea-board.”

51 . shook off the dust of their feet against them ] This significant action, like that of the “shaking of the raiment” (18:6), implied that those against whom it was done were henceforth left to go their own way. Cp. Nehemiah 5:13 , Matthew 10:14 .

Iconium ] a city in Pisidia to the east of Antioch. It is still a large town, and preserves the trace of its old name, being now called Konich . See Dictionary of the Bible .

52 . the disciples were filled with joy ] Rejoicing in accordance with the Lord’s exhortation (Matthew 5:12 ) when men reviled and persecuted them, which was the very treatment which they had received in Antioch.

on the jewish manner of reading the scriptures

The Jewish division of the Scriptures is (1) the Law, i.e. the five Books of Moses. (2) The Prophets, under which title the Jews include Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, as well as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the twelve minor prophets. (3) The Hagiographa, containing Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the two Books of Chronicles. The command which enjoins the reading of the Pentateuch is found Deuteronomy 31:10 , “At the end of every seven years in the solemnity of the year of release in the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose, thou shalt read this Law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and children and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear.”

This appointment which prescribes the reading of the whole Pentateuch on the Feast of Tabernacles was probably soon found to be impracticable, and it is not unlikely that from a very early time the people arranged to read through the Pentateuch in seven years by taking a small portion on every Sabbath, beginning with the Sabbath after the Feast of Tabernacles in one year of release, and ending with the Feast of Tabernacles in the next year of release. Thus would they in some sort be fulfilling the commandment. That such an early subdivision of the Pentateuch into small portions took place seems likely from what we know of the later arrangements for the reading of the Law. The existence of such a plan for reading would account for some of the divisions which exist (otherwise unexplained) in various copies of the Jewish Law.

For (1) we learn (T. B. Megillah 29 b) that the Jews of Palestine broke up the Pentateuch into sections for each Sabbath in such a manner as to spread the reading thereof over three years (and a half?). They arranged no doubt that the concluding portions of their second reading should be on the Feast of Tabernacles in the year of release; and they began again on the following Sabbath. In this way they read through the whole Law twice in the seven years, and by concluding it on the Feast of Tabernacles in the year of release observed the commandment 1 1 This arrangement is still observed partially in the Jewish “Temple” at Hamburg, founded in 1818, and there is at this moment (see Jewish Chronicle , Feb. 7, 1879) a movement on foot for introducing a similar arrangement in the West London Synagogue of British Jews. , and hereby may be accounted for some other of the unused subdivisions of the copies of the Jewish Law.

2 . The Babylonian Jews in the 4th century after Christ, and probably much earlier, and all Jews down to this day, have the Pentateuch so divided that it is read through once every year, such reading beginning on the Sabbath after the Feast of Tabernacles, and concluding on the so-called last day of that Feast in the next year, the day really being the day of “rejoicing in the Law” ( simkhath Torah ). Thus they bring their reading to an end in each year, and so of course in the release-year, on the day appointed, and observe the command in this manner.

This comparatively modern, though almost universally prevailing arrangement, accounts for the present larger divisions of the Law for reading, and these divisions have each of them its proper name. For the whole Pentateuch has 54 weekly portions, one for each Sabbath. No year however contains 54 Sabbaths, and beside this, some festivals (or rather, holy convocations) may fall on the Sabbath, and when that happens the Scripture appointed for the festival is read, and not the appointed weekly portion in its sequence. In order that the whole Law may still be read through on the Sabbaths, it is provided that occasionally two weekly sections are combined and read on one Sabbath 2 2 Of course there will be less need for this arrangement in an intercalated year, which will have four sabbaths extra. .

These weekly sections of the Pentateuch ( Parshioth ) are each divided into seven portions, and seven readers are called up from the congregation. These are to be (1) an Aaronite (and if such be in the congregation he may not be passed over), (2) a Levite, (3) five ordinary Israelites. These must all be males and at least 13 years and one day old. Practically, in Europe at least, though these are still called up in the congregations, they do not themselves read, but a reader is appointed to read to them. There are congregations in which as a mark of honour more than seven are called up, but this is discountenanced by some Rabbis as likely to lead to abuses.

When the reading of the Law in this manner is concluded the seventh section or part thereof is repeated, and any person may be asked to do this. Such reader is called Maphtir , i.e. the Haphtarist (the person whose reading terminates the reading of the Law). With this is connected the subsequent reading of the selected portions of the Prophets.

In olden times the Haphtarist was also the person invited to be the preacher, and this must have been the position occupied by St Paul at Antioch, and by Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth.

The sections of the prophets selected for Sabbath reading and called Haphtaroth have always some bearing upon the appointed portion of the Law for that Sabbath, e. g. with the first section of Genesis (Genesis 1:1-6:8 ), which contains the account of the Creation, there is appointed as the prophetical reading the passage (Isaiah 42:5-21 ) which begins “Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens,” &c. With the next section of the Law, which contains the history of Noah (Genesis 6:8-11:32 ), the prophetical reading is Isaiah 54:1-10 , in which passage is found “This is as the waters of Noah unto me.” The next section of the Law (Genesis 12:1-17:27 ) contains the history of Abraham, and the reading from the Prophets begins with Isaiah 40:27-41:16 , and in the passage there occurs “Who raised up the righteous man from the East, called him to his foot,” &c., and a like arrangement is observed throughout the year.

On the Sabbath afternoons the Jews in their synagogues read, to three people, the first seventh of the portion of the Law which is set apart for the following Sabbath, and do so again on Monday and Thursday mornings. So that during the week this part is read four times over.

No prophetic portions are read along with this, but (T. B. Shabbath 116 b) in the old times, as early as the commencement of the 3rd century, we find that on the Sabbath afternoons portions of the Hagiographa were read along with this smaller section of the Law, and we cannot doubt that the same principle would be observed in their selection, and that passages similar in character to the selections from the Pentateuch would be chosen in these cases also, though we have no indication what they were 1 1 Thus would be accounted for many still unexplained divisions in the Hagiographa. .

Festivals and Fasts had their own portions of the Pentateuch appointed, and therewith corresponding portions of the Prophets.

On quasi-festival Sabbaths the ordinary portions of the Law were read, but beside this occasionally other additional portions of the Law were chosen for the Haphtarist to read with reference to the festival, and instead of the usual prophetical section appointed for these days, such passages from the Prophets were chosen as bore on the nature of the quasifestival.

These quasi-festivals are

(1) Should the Sabbath be ( a ) the day before the New Moon, or ( b ) the day coincident with the New Moon.

Partaking of the character of a quasi-festival there is also the so-called “great Sabbath 1 1 It may be mentioned that the name “great Sabbath” is by the Italian Jews applied also to the Sabbath preceding Pentecost. ,” which is the Sabbath that precedes the Passover. On this day the portion of the Law to be read is neither varied nor increased, but as in (1) the appointed Haphtarah is changed for one of a suitable character. The same sort of change of the Haphtarah, but not of the portion of the Law to be read, takes place for the Sabbath between New Year and the Day of Atonement (1 10 of the month Tishri).

(2) The Maccabæan festival of the Dedication, which as it lasted for 8 days might include two Sabbaths.

(3) Four semi-festivals which are in one string.

a . The Sabbath preceding the New Moon of Adar, or coincident with that New Moon. This is called Shekalim (= the shekels), and the special portion of the Law then additionally read is Exodus 30:11-16 .

b . The Sabbath before Purim (the Haman-festival) called Zacor = remember, for which the special additional portion of the Law is Deuteronomy 25:17-19 .

c . The Red Heifer Sabbath. This is a moveable semi-festival, but must fall between ( b ) and ( d ). It is a preparation of Purification for Passover, and its special additional portion of the Law is Numbers 19:0 .

d . Ha-Khodesh = the month. The Sabbath preceding or coincident with the New Moon of Nisan, for which the special portion of the Law is Exodus 12:1-20 .

(4) To the above six must be added two Sabbaths if they fall in the middle holidays of the Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles, for such Sabbaths are even of a higher dignity than the other quasi-festivals.

(5) The three Sabbaths before the commemoration of the destruction of the city and Temple (1) by Titus, even as before, (2) by Nebuchadnezzar. On these Sabbaths the portion of the Pentateuch appointed for the day is retained, but prophetic portions are selected which suit the circumstances. These are known as the three “Sabbaths [commemorative] of Punishment and Troubles.”

(6) Besides these there are seven Sabbaths called “Sabbaths of Consolation,” for which, in the same way, special prophetic passages are read, which must all be chosen from the latter part of Isaiah (chap. 40 and after), and in the last of them probably occurred the passage (Isaiah 61:1 ), read by Jesus at Nazareth 2 2 That there is no anachronism, in supposing that these “Sabbaths of Consolation” were observed in our Lord’s time, may be inferred from the strict way in which Jewish traditions always identify, in everything but time, the destruction of the two Temples by Nebuchadnezzar and by Titus, and the observances in connection therewith. And we take it as a further proof of the antiquity of this observance that though there are slight variations in the ordinary Haphtaroth in the various Jewish rituals, those for the “Sabbaths of Consolation” are the same in all. . For although at present the Haphtarah from that chapter is marked to begin at v. 10 there are indications in some MSS. 3 3 See a South Arabian ( Yemen ) Codex, Brit. Museum, MSS. Oriental , 1470. that the selected portion formerly began at an earlier point, and this for coherence could hardly be elsewhere than at v. 1. It seems probable that in post-Christian times the verses read by our Lord have designedly been cut off from the special prophetic passage. For although any charge against the Jews of altering the words of Scripture on account of Christianity must be dismissed as utterly unfounded, it is on the other hand beyond question that they abolished the most ancient and hallowed custom of reading the ten words during the morning prayers daily, “because of the murmuring of the heretics” ( minin ), and by this word ( minin ) the Jews meant the earliest Judæo-Christians (T. B. Berakhoth 12 a), who, after Christ’s example in the Sermon on the Mount, laid great stress on the ten commandments of the Moral Law to the depreciation of ceremonial regulations.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 13". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.