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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Acts 13

Verse 1

1. ἦσαν δὲ ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ κατὰ τὴν οὖσαν ἐκκλησίαν, now there were at Antioch in the Church which 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.

προφῆται καὶ διδάσκαλοι, prophets and teachers. Cf. Acts 2:17. The words of Joel were now to receive a wider fulfilment.

We see from the ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,’ chap. 13 that these two classes of instructors became recognized in the Church, πᾶς δὲ προφήτης ἀληθινός, θέλων καθῆσαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἄξιός ἐστι τῆς τροφῆς αὐτοῦ, ὡς αὔτως διδάσκαλος άληθινός ἐστιν ἄξιος καὶ αὐτός, ὥσπερ ὁ ἐργάης, τῆς τροφῆς αὐτοῦ.

Συμεὼν ὁ καλούμενος Νίγερ, 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.

Λούκιος ὁ Κυρηναῖος, 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 other parts of northern Africa. Perhaps he is the person mentioned Romans 16:21.

΄αναήν, Manaen, i.e. Menahem. The name is Jewish, and is found in Josephus (Ant. 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.

Ἡρώδου τοῦ τετράρχου σύντροφος, the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch. The Vulg. gives ‘collectaneus.’ Herod the tetrarch (Antipas) had a brother Archelaus by the same mother. Manaen would hardly be said to have ‘been brought up with’ (as A.V.) 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.

Verses 1-12


Verse 2

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[5].

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 for 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 to Genesis 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 to Genesis 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 to Genesis 17:27) contains the history of Abraham, and the reading from the Prophets begins with Isaiah 40:27 to Isaiah 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 they do the same on Monday morning and on Thursday morning. 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.[6]

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 besides 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 quasi-festival.

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.

[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 feast, 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.

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.

Verse 3

3. τότε νηστεύσαντες. This verse indicates that there was a solemn dedication service at the end of the ministration and fasting with which the devotions of the Church had commenced.

Verse 4

4. ἐκπεμφθέντες ὑπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, sent forth by the Holy Ghost. This repetition marks the solemn character which St Luke and also his informant attached to this new form which the Christian work was taking.

εἰς Σελεύκειαν, unto Seleucia, which was the seaport of Antioch at the mouth of the river Orontes.

ἀπέπλευσαν εἰς Κύπρον, 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 (Acts 9:20), 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 (Acts 9:19).

Verse 5

5. γενόμενοι ἐν Σαλαμῖνι, 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.

ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς τῶς Ἰουδαίων, in the synagogues of the Jews, who were in sufficient numbers in Salamis to need several synagogues.

εἶχον δὲ καὶ Ἰωάννην ὑπηρέτην, and they had also John as their minister. This is John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas (see on Acts 12:12). His office may have been to baptize, from which service the Apostles seem to have refrained where it was possible (see above on Acts 10:48). But there is perhaps also implied in the word ὑπηρέτης 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).

Verse 6

6. διελθόντες δὲ ὅλην τὴν νῆσον ἄχρι Πάφου, and when they had gone through the whole island 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 the Bible.

εὗρον ἄνδρα τινὰ μάγον ψευδοπροδήτην Ἰουδαῖον, they found a certain man, a 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. So also Lucian, Necromantia, where a wonderful story is told of a magician named Mithrobarzanes. Also Lucian, Philopseudes, where one of the wonderworkers is called ‘A Syrian from Palestine.’

Βαρϊησοῦς, 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.

Verse 7

7. ὃς ἦν σὺν τῷ ἀνθυπάτῳ Σεργίῳ Παύλῳ, which was with the 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 propraetor, 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 description.

ἀνδρὶ συνετῷ, a prudent man. The presence of such a man as Elymas among his staff shews that the proconsul was a man of inquiring mind, and the same characteristic is displayed by his desire to hear Barnabas and Saul.

Verse 8

8. ζητῶν διαστρέψαι τὸν ἀνθύπατον ἀπὸ τῆς πίστεως, seeking to turn aside the 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.

On this Chrysostom has: ὅρα τοῦτον, ὅτε μὲν τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐκήρυττον οὐ σφόδρα ἀγανακτοῦντα, ἐπείδη σὲ τῷ ἀνθυπάτῳ προσίεσαν τότε. τὸ δὲ θαυμαστὸν τοῦ ἀνθυπάτου, ὅτι καὶ προκατειλημμένος τῇ μαγείᾳ ἐκείνου ἤθελεν ἀκοῦσαι τῶν ἀποστόλων.

Verse 9

9. Σαῦλος δέ, ὁ καὶ Παῦλος, but Saul, who also is called Paul. In spite of Elymas, 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, see Ter. And. 1. 5. 31; Adelph. 5. 4. 22), and its fitness to be the name of him who called himself the least of the Apostles. But perhaps he did only 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 Joses—Jason; Hillel—lulus, 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 that Apostle was separated was now begun, names him henceforth only by the name which became most current in the Churches.

The article before καὶ belongs to the understood καλούμενος, and is not to be considered a substitute for the relative.

πλησθεὶς πνεύματος ἁγίου, filled with the Holy Ghost. So we learn that the punishment inflicted on Elymas was dictated to the Apostle by the Spirit, and that he knew, from the inward prompting thereof, what would be the result to the offender.

ἀτενίσας εἰς αὐτὸν εἶπεν, fastened his eyes on him and said. For Elymas was standing by, ready to catch at anything which he could turn to the discredit of the Apostles. This is meant by St Paul’s rebuke of him, as διαστρέφων τὰς ὁδοὺς κυρίου τὰς εὐθείας.

Verse 10

10. ἐχθρὲ πάσης δικαιοσύνης, enemy of all righteousness. We may judge from this expression that St Paul recognised an earnest zeal for truth in the inquiries of the proconsul, and that his wrath against Elymas was not only because of what he did at the time, but for the tendency of all his teachings. He had led astray for a long time one who was desirous to understand the ways of the Lord. That there were such anxious inquirers among the Greeks and Romans we can see from the case of Cornelius and his friends. These were sure to seek to Jews for guidance, and in Elymas and such as he they found false guides.

Verse 11

11. χεὶρ κυρίου, the hand of the Lord, i.e. of that Jehovah whose ways Elymas had perverted, for it could only have been after the Jewish faith that Sergius Paulus had made his inquiries of Elymas, who instead of teaching him to know the Lord, seduced him by his own pretensions.

For the expression cf. LXX. Exodus 9:3, ἰδοὺ χεὶρ κυρίου ἐπέσται ἐν τοῖς κτήνεσί σου, and 1 Samuel 12:15, καὶ ἔσται χεὶρ κυρίου ἐφ' ὑμᾶς.

τυφλὸς μὴ βλέπων, blind, not seeing. As the infliction is still in the future, and so only a conception in the mind of St Paul, however firmly settled, it is reasonable to use the subjective negative μὴ. Cf. for an exactly similar expression Luke 1:20, σιωπῶν καὶ μὴ δυνάμενος λαλῆσαι.

ἄχρι καιροῦ, 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 to 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.

ἀχλὺς καὶ σκότος, 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.

καὶ περιάγων ἐζήτει χειραγωγούς, and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

περιάγειν = to lead about, is also used in N.T. in the intransitive sense, ‘to go about,’ cf. Mark 6:6, καὶ περιῆγεν τὰς κώμας κύκλῳ διδάσκων.

χειραγωγός is rare, and only here in N.T. The verb is found in the LXX. (some texts) Judges 16:26.

As Elymas 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.

Verse 12

12. τότε ἰδὼν ὁ ἀνθύπατος κ.τ.λ., then the deputy, 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 that 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 Acts 13:48), 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.

Verse 13

13. ἀναχθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς Πάφου, now having sailed from Paphos. Their course would be N.W. to reach the south coast of Asia Minor.

On the prompt departure from Paphos, Chrysostom says: ὅρα καὶ αὐτοὺς οὐκ ἐγχρονίζοντας αὐτόθι ἅτε τοῦ ἀνθυπάτου λοιπὸν πιστεύσαντος οὐδὲ μαλακισθέντας τῇ κολακείᾳ καὶ τῇ τιμῇ, ἀλλ' εὐθέως τοῦ ἔργου ἐχομένους καὶ τὴν ἀντίπεραν χώραν ὁρμῶντας.

οἱ περὶ Παῦλον, Paul and his company. Literally ‘those around Paul.’ Henceforth the Apostle of the Gentiles is made the central figure of nearly every scene in the Acts.

ἦλθον εἰς Πέργην τῆς Παμφυλίας, they came to Perga in Pamphylia. 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 (Acts 14:25).

Ἰωάννης δὲ κ.τ.λ., 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 (Acts 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. Cf. Acts 10:48 note.

Verses 13-15


Verse 14

14. αὐτοὶ δὲ διελθόντες ἀπὸ τῆς Πέργης, but they having passed through from Perga. διέρχομαι is a very correct expression and should be precisely rendered. The direction in which they went obliged them to cross a whole district. See below.

εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν τὴν Πισίδιαν, to Antioch in Pisidia. Pisidia lay inland to the N. of Pamphylia, and Antioch was at its extreme northern point.

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 even in these times, from which Paul and his company may have been in danger.

εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν, into the synagogue. Though he is the Apostle of the Gentiles, it is always to the synagogue that St Paul first makes his way. The Law of Moses ought to be a better schoolmaster to bring men to Christ than the law of nature.

Verse 15

15. μετὰ δὲ τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν, and after the reading of the Law and the Prophets. Which was a prominent portion of the synagogue-service. 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 4:15) it seems worth while to give in detail an account of the manner in which the Scriptures are read in the Jewish synagogues. For this see the Excursus at the end of this chapter.

ἀπέστειλαν οἱ ἀρχισυνάγωγοι πρὸς αὐτούς, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them. These were the persons who had the control of the arrangements for calling up readers and preachers.

εἴ τις ἔστιν ἐν ὑμῖν λόγος παρακλήσεως, if ye have any word of exhortation. The sense of λόγος παρακλήσεως is well seen from Hebrews 13:22, where the writer calls his whole epistle by that name. λόγοι παρακλήσεως are spoken of 1 Maccabees 10:24, where the A.V. renders ‘words of encouragement,’ while a similar expression, ἡ ἐν τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς λόγοις παράκλησις (2 Maccabees 15:11), is rendered ‘comfortable and good words.’

Verse 16

16. κατασείσας τῇ χειρί, beckoning with his hand. Cf. Acts 12:17, where it is explained that the gesture was for the purpose of procuring silence.

ἄνδρες Ἰσραηλῖται καὶ οἱ φοβούμενοι τὸν θεόν, men of Israel and ye that fear God. The audience consisted of born Jews and proselytes as well as perhaps some Gentiles. (See Acts 13:42-43.) When the audience and the subject and the end aimed at were 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.

Verses 16-41


Verse 17

17. ὁ θεὸςτοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, 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. In that history the LXX. continually represents God’s choice of Israel by this word ἐξελέξατο. Cf. Deuteronomy 7:7; Deuteronomy 14:2; Ps. 33:12, 77:70, &c.

ἐν τῇ παροικίᾳ, when they dwelt as strangers. The expression occurs Wisdom of Solomon 19:10, ἐμέμνηντο γὰρ ἔτι τῶν ἐν τῇ παροικίᾳ αὐτῶν, where the allusion is to the sojourn in Egypt. In the LXX. of Ezra it is also found (Acts 8:35), οἱ υἱοὶ τῆς παροικίας, of those who were in Babylon.

Verse 18

18. ἐτροφοφόρησεν αὐτούς, He bare them as a nursing father. This is the expression in Deuteronomy 1:31, where the LXX. have rendered, καὶ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ταύτῃὡς τροφοφορήσει σε κύριος ὁ θεός σου ὡς εἴ τις τροφοφορήσαι ἄνθρωπος τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ. The allusion of St Paul is so clearly to this passage that there can be no hesitation about the choice of reading. ἐτροποφόρησεν is well supported by MS. authority, and is represented in the A.V., and in the text of the Revised Version, ‘he suffered their manners.’ But for this reading, true as it is to the facts, there is no such close parallel to be found in the books of Moses, while the other is equally true to fact, much more beautiful, and borne out by the words of the LXX., with which we can have no doubt that St Paul was very familiar.

Verse 19

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

κατεκληρονόμησεν τὴν γῆν αὐτῶν ὡς ἔτεσιν κ.τ.λ., he gave their land for an heritage about the space of four hundred and fifty years. According to the received chronology there was about this length of time between the call of Abraham and the death of Joshua. So that the land is regarded as a κληρονομία from that early time. But it is dangerous to found any conclusions on chronology based, as the O.T. chronology must be, on such insufficient data.

καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἔδωκεν κριτὰς ἕως Σαμουὴλ προφήτου, and after these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. On Samuel as the prophet above all others cf. Acts 3:24, note.

Verse 20

20. ὡς ἔτεσιν τετρακοσίοις καὶ πεντήκοντα. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα with אABC. Supported by Vulg.

Verse 21

21. κἀκεῖθεν, and after that. The word indicates from that point in their history where Samuel appears they began to clamour for a king, and thus the local becomes a temporal meaning in the adverb.

τὸν Σαοὺλ υἱὸν Καίς, ἄνδρα ἐκ φυλῆς Βενιαμείν, Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. And to the speaker himself some part of this description applied, for he also was of the tribe of Benjamin.

The forty years’ duration of Saul’s reign is only to be gathered indirectly from Holy Writ, but Josephus (Ant 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.

Verse 22

22. εὗρον Δαυεὶδ κ.τ.λ., I have found David, &c. This sentence is a combination and adaptation from two separate verses out of the O. Test. [1] ‘I have found David my servant,’ Psalms 89:20; [2] ‘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.

Verse 23

23. τούτου ὁ θεὸςκατ' ἐπαγγελίαν ἤγαγενἸησοῦν, from this man’s seed hath God according to promise brought unto Israel a Saviour Jesus. 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. Cf. Zechariah 3:8-9.

Verse 24

24. πρὸ προσώπου is only the rendering of the Hebrew לפני = at the face of, and means no more than πρό, and the A.V. has rightly rendered it only by before.

βάπτισμα μετανοίας, the baptism of repentance, i.e. baptism which was to be an outward sign of an inner change of life and mind. Cf. Mark 1:4.

Verse 25

25. τί ἐμὲ ὑπονοεῖτε εἶναι, what think ye that I am? For John’s words see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16; John 1:20; John 1:27.

Verse 26

26. οἱ ἐν ὑμῖν φοβούμενοι τὸν θεόν. Cf. above on Acts 13:16.

ὑμῖν ὁ λόγοςἐξαπεστάλη, to you was the word of this salvation sent forth. Some of the oldest authorities read ἡμῖν here, and for the Apostle to say ‘to us’ is quite in accord with the language of Acts 13:17, ‘God chose our fathers.’ Through the whole address he 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.

In λόγος σωτηρίας the reference is to the σωτήρ mentioned in Acts 13:23, so that the meaning is ‘the message of the work of Jesus as Saviour.’

There appears to be a reference in the aorist ἐξαπεστάλη to the first announcement of the message of salvation.

Verse 27

27. τοῦτον ἀγνοήσαντες, because they knew Him not. Cf. the very similar language of St Peter at the Temple (Acts 3:17), ‘I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers,’ and see note there.

Verse 28

28. καὶ μηδεμίαν αἰτίαν θανάτου εὑρόντες, and though they found no cause of death in Him. These words are part of the declaration of Pilate (Luke 23:22).

Verse 29

29. πάντα τὰ περὶ αὐτοῦ γεγραμμένα, all the things which have been written of Him. Various prophecies received their fulfilment in Christ’s sufferings, some in the betrayal, others in harsh treatment, and agony which preceded His death, the greatest of them all.

Verse 30

30. ὁ δὲ θεὸς ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν, 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.’

Verse 31

31. ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, from Galilee. The Apostles, and the main body of Christ’s followers, were drawn from Galilee, in so much that, before the Crucifixion, Galilæans was a name by which they were known (Mark 14:70).

οἵτινες νῦν εἰσὶν μάρτυρες αὐτοῦ, who now are His witnesses. St Paul has not mentioned the Ascension of Jesus, but when he says that now men are His witnesses, it is implied that Christ was no longer on earth for men to see Him. The Apostle also thus marks out what was the especial work of those who had companied with Jesus during His life.

Verse 32

32. καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελιζόμεθα, and we declare unto you glad tidings. While the companions of Jesus are to be His witnesses, we are His Evangelists, the bringers of the good news of His salvation.

τὴνἐπαγγελίαν, of the promise which was made unto the fathers. Thus ἐπαγγελίαν becomes the direct object of the verb εὐαγγελιζόμεθα.

Verse 33

33. ὅτι ταύτην ὁ θεὸς ἐκπεπλήρωκεν. Render, how that God hath completely fulfilled this. The ‘glad tidings’ are about the promise, and the precise message which is the cause for gladness is contained in the announcement that the promise has been fulfilled, and the strengthened form of the verb (ἐκπεπλήρωκεν) marks the completeness of this fulfilment.

τοῖς τέκνοις ἡμῶν, unto our children. This well-supported reading certainly merits Tischendorf’s remark, ‘insolenter illud quidem dictum est.’ We should naturally expect what the Text. recept. has given, ‘to us their children.’ But when the complete force of the preceding verb is taken into account, the sentence may be explained. The promise was made to Abraham, and generation after generation was born and passed away, having received the promises only by faith. Even the generation contemporary with Jesus was not born to the complete fulfilment, but now after Christ’s resurrection Christians may say ‘for our children’ the promises are utterly fulfilled.

ἀναστήσας Ἰησοῦν, 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 first-fruits of them that slept.

ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ ψαλμῷ, in the first Psalm. What we now call the first and second Psalms were originally joined into one, which will account for what is now Psalms 2:7 being named as in the text. Justin Martyr (Apol. I. 40) treats the whole from μακάριος ἀνήρ (‘Blessed is the man’ &c.) to μακάριοι πάντες οἱ πεποιθότες ἐπ' αὐτόν (the close of the present second Psalm) as all one composition and on one subject. So Tertullian (Adv. Marc. IV. 22) writes ‘in primo psalmo, “filius meus es tu, hodie genui te.”’

Verse 34

34. οὕτως εἴρηκεν, He [i.e. God] hath spoken on this wise. The quotation is from Isaiah 55:3.

δώσω ὑμῖν τὰ ὅσια Δαευὶδ τὰ πιστά, I will give you the sure (faithful) mercies of David. τὰ ὅσια is often used by the LXX. to represent the Hebrew word for ‘mercies’ as here. St Paul speaking to the people of Antioch no doubt used the Greek version, though he would carry the Hebrew thought along with him. But having τὰ ὅσια as the explanation of the ‘everlasting covenant’ of which Isaiah is speaking, St Paul at once connects τὰ ὅσια with the τὸν ὅσιον of Psalms 16:10, where it is said God will not give His Holy One to see corruption.

Verse 35

35. διότι καὶ ἐν ἑτέρῳ λέγει, because He saith also in another place. These words of Psalms 16, which David was inspired to utter, cannot refer to David himself, and this St Paul now proceeds to shew. Cf. on the whole passage Acts 2:29-31 notes.

Verse 36

36. Δαυεὶδ μὲν γὰρἐκοιμήθη, for David, after he had served his own generation by the counsel of God, fell on sleep. There are several other constructions possible in this verse. Thus βουλῇ might be taken as dependent on ὑπηρετήσας, ‘after that in his own generation he had served the counsel of God, fell asleep.’ Or βουλῇ might be taken after ἐκοιμήθη, ‘he fell asleep by the counsel of God.’ But the A.V. seems preferable. 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.

Verse 38

38. ἄφεσις ἁμαρτιῶν, 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. Cf. Acts 10:43, the conclusion of St Peter’s speech in the house of Cornelius.

Verse 39

39. ἀπὸ πάντων ὦν, from all things from which. On the non-repetition of a preposition before the relative when it precedes the antecedent, see note above on Acts 13:2.

Verse 40

40. μὴ ἐπέλθῃ, lest there come about, 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.

Verse 41

41. ἴδετε, οἱ καταφρονηταί, behold, ye despisers. This the rendering of the LXX. and of 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.

ἔργον ὃ οὐ μὴ πιστεύσητε, a work which ye 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.

Verse 42

42. ἐξιόντων δὲ αὐτῶν, παρεκάλουν, and as they were going out, they besought. The congregation had been in the synagogue where we may presume that only Jews and proselytes were assembled. We do not read of Gentiles among the throng of listeners until the next sabbath. The τὰ ἔθνη of the Text. recept. makes the verse unintelligible.

εἰς τὸ μεταξὺ σάββατον. In 44 we have the expression τῷ δὲ ἐρχομένῳ σαββάτῳ, and some thinking a difference of meaning intended would render here ‘during the intervening week.’ This does not seem needed, but as is pointed out in the Excursus on Acts 13:15 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, when the people desired to hear once more the message which St Paul had just preached to them.

τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα. Render, these tidings, to mark that the word is not λόγος. Cf. Acts 10:37.

Verses 42-52


Verse 43

43. τῶν σεβομένων προσηλύτων, of devout proselytes. This name may have been used to distinguish those proselytes who conformed entirely to Judaism from the proselytes of the gate.

ἔπειθον αὐτοὺς προσμένειν τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God, as Barnabas in like circumstances had urged on the converts at Antioch in Syria (Acts 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 inquirers as though they were already ‘in the grace of God.’

Verse 44

44. σχεδὸν πᾶσα ἡ πόλις, almost the whole city. Shewing that the Apostles must have been labouring diligently, both among Jews and heathen during the intervening days.

Verse 45

45. ἐπλήσθησαν ζήλου, they were filled with jealousy. That spirit of exclusion, 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.

ἀντιλέγοντες καὶ βλασφημοῦντες, contradicting and blaspheming. Cf. the singular conduct of the Jews at Corinth under like circumstances (Acts 18:6). There is considerable authority for omitting ἀντιλέγοντες καὶ here. It may be that they fell out because of the previous ἀντέλεγον in the verse. The sense seems better conveyed by their retention. They contradicted and, in doing so, became blasphemers.

Verse 46

46. ὑμῖν ἦν ἀναγκαῖον κ.τ.λ., 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.

καὶ οὐκ ἀξίους κρίνετε ἑαυτούς, and adjudge yourselves unworthy, i.e. you pronounce a sentence upon yourselves by your actions. Cf. Matthew 22:8, ‘They that were bidden’ to the marriage-supper were found in this fashion to be unworthy. He who sent to call them had deemed them worthy, but they made it clear they were not so by their refusal to come.

Verse 47

47. οὕτως γὰρ ἐντέταλται ἡμῖν ὁ κύριος, for thus hath the Lord commanded us. The Lord’s command which the Apostle quotes is from Isaiah 49:6, and it shews that from the prophetic times the reception of the Gentiles was made manifest in the counsels of God. Whatever application be made of the words of the Prophet (i.e. to whomsoever the ‘thee’ be referred) it is clear that, with the Jews, the Gentiles also are to be recipients of the promised blessings.

Verse 48

48. καὶ ἐπίστευσαν ὅσοι ἦσαν τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, and as many as were ordained unto 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 Acts 13:46 we are told that the Jews had adjudged 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 (τεταγμένοι = marshalled) 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. Nor is the rendering ‘ordained’ necessarily an evidence of the Calvinistic bias of our translators. The same rendering is found in other English versions and the Rhemish, strange to say, is even stronger, having ‘pre-ordinate.’

Verse 50

50. τὰς σεβομένας γυναῖκας τὰς εὐσχήμονας, 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.

τοὺς πρώτους τῆς πόλεως, the chief men of the city, i.e. the heathen magistrates. 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 the heathen authorities against Paul and Barnabas.

ἀπὸ τῶν ὁρίων, from their borders. The old English word ‘coasts’ (A.V.) did not mean only land bordering on the sea as now, but any borderland.

Verse 51

51. οἱ δὲ ἐκτιναξάμενοι τὸν κονιορτὸν κ.τ.λ., but they having shaken off the dust of their feet against them. This significant action, like that of the ‘shaking of the raiment’ (Acts 18:6), implied that those against whom it was done were henceforth left to go their own way. Cf. Matthew 10:14.

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

Verse 52

52. οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπληροῦντο χαρᾶς, and 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.

καὶ πνεύματος ἁγίου, and with the Holy Ghost. This inward presence of the Comforter was the spring from which came the fulness of joy. On this Chrysostom says, πάθος γὰρ διδασκάλου παρρησίαν οὐκ ἐγκόπτει ἀλλὰ προθυμότερον ποιεῖ τὸν μαθητήν.


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[3], 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[4], and hereby may be accounted for some other of the unused subdivisions of the copies of the Jewish Law.

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