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1. Μελίτη ] The whole course of the narrative has gone to shew that this can be no other than MALTA. The idea that it is not MALTA, but Meleda , an island off the Illyrian coast in the Gulf of Venice, seems to be first found in Constantine Porphyrogenitus, de Adminiculis Imperii, p. 36 νῆσος μεγάλη τὰ Μέλετα ἦτοι τὸ Μαλοζεᾶται , ἣν ἐν ταῖς πράξεσι τ . ἀποστ . ὁ ἅγιος Λουκᾶς μέμνηται , Μελίτην ταύτην προσαγορεύων . It has been adopted by our own countrymen, Bryant and Dr. Falconer, and abroad by Giorgi, Rhoer, and more recently Paulus. It rests principally on three mistakes: 1. the meaning of the name Adria (see above on ch. Act 27:27 ), 2. the fancy that there are no poisonous serpents in Malta ( Act 28:3 ), 3. the notion that the Maltese would not have been called βάρβαροι . The idea itself, when compared with the facts, is preposterous enough. Its supporters are obliged to place Fair Havens on the north side of Crete , and to suppose the wind to have been the hot Sirocco (compare Act 28:2 ).
Further notices of this question, and of the state of Malta at the time, will be found in the notes on the following verses. Observe, their previous state of ignorance of the island is expressed by the imperf. ἐπεγίνωσκον ; the act of recognition by the aor. ἐπέγνωμεν [ch. Act 27:30 ].
Act 27:1 to Acts 28:31 .] PAUL’S VOYAGE TO ROME AND SOJOURN THERE. I cannot but express the benefit I have derived in my commentary on this section, from Mr. Smith’s now well-known treatise on the voyage and shipwreck of St. Paul: as also from various letters which he has from time to time put into my hands, tending further to elucidate the subject. The substance of these will be found embodied in an excursus following the chronological table in the prolegomena.
2. βάρβαροι ] A term implying very much what our word natives does, when speaking of any little-known or new place. They were not Greek colonists, therefore they were barbarians ( Rom 1:14 ). If it be necessary strictly to vindicate the term, the two following citations will do so: ἔστι δὲ ἡ νῆσος αὕτη (Malta) Φοινίκων ἄποικος , Diod. Sic. Acts 28:12 . ἐν δὲ Σικελὶᾳ ἔθνη βάρβαρα τάδε ἐστίν , Ἐδυνοί , Σικανοί , Σικελοί , Φοίνικες , Τρῶες , Scylax, Periplus, p.4.
προσελάβ . ] received us , not to their fire (Meyer), but as in reff.
ὑετόν ] ‘Post ingentes ventos solent imbres sequi.’ Grot.
τὸν ἐφεστ . ] not, ‘ which came on suddenly ’ (Meyer), but which was on us : another instance of overlooking the present sense of ἕστηκα .
ψῦχος ] This is decisive against the Sirocco, which is a hot and sultry wind even so late as the month of November, and moreover (Smith, p. 109) seldom lasts more than three days.
3. συστρέψαντος ] “vincti officium fuciebat submisse, aliis quoque inserviens.” Bengel.
φρυγάνων ] From the circumstance of the concealed viper, these were probably heaps of neglected wood gathered in the forest.
ἐπιθέντος κ . τ . λ .] The difficulty here is, that there are now no venomous serpents in Malta. But as Mr. Smith observes, “no person who has studied the changes which the operations of man have produced on the animals of any country, will be surprised that a particular species of reptiles should have disappeared from Malta. My friend, the Rev. Mr. Landsborough, in his interesting excursions in Arran, has repeatedly noticed the gradual disappearance of the viper from the island since it has become more frequented. Perhaps there is no where a surface of equal extent in so artificial a state as that of Malta is at the present day, and no where has the aboriginal forest been more completely cleared. We need not therefore be surprised that, with the disappearance of the woods, the noxious reptiles which infested them should also have disappeared.” pp. 111, 112.
The reading ἐκ τ . θέρμ . has been an explanation of ἀπό , which here signifies from locally , not ‘ on account of .’ To suppose the converse (“the ἀπό was adopted by those who thought the sense was ‘ on account of the fire,’ ” Dr. Bloomf.), is simply absurd; for 1) no man ever could suppose the sense of ἐκ in such a connexion to be this: and 2) even if any one did, he would not have substituted another ambiguous preposition, ἀπό . Paul had placed the faggot on the fire, and was settling or arranging it in its place, when the viper glided out of the heat and fixed on his hand.
διεξελθ . gives the more precise sense, and is a less usual word than ἐξελθ . The serpent glided out through the sticks.
καθῆψεν ] attached itself : a usage unexampled in earlier Greek. The narrative leaves no doubt that the bite did veritably take place.
4. ] The natives, who were sure to know, here positively declared it to have been a venomous serpent. I make these remarks to guard against the disingenuous shifts of rationalists and semi-rationalists, who will have us believe either that the viper did not bite , or that if it did, it was not venomous .
πάντως φον . ἐστ . ] ‘vincula videbant,’ Beng.
The idea of his being a murderer is not to be accounted for (as Elsner, Wolf, Kuin.) by the member which was bitten (for this would fit any crime which the hand could commit), nor by supposing (Heinsius) the bite of a serpent to have been the Maltese punishment for murder; it is accounted for by the obviousness of the crime as belonging to the most notorious delinquents, and the aptness of the assumed punishment, death for death.
ἡ δίκη ] Justice , or Nemesis . What the Phœnician islanders called her, does not appear; but the idea is common to all religions.
5. ] “Luke does not so much as hint, that any divine intervention took place.” De Wette. True enough: but why? Because Luke believed that the very dullest of his readers would understand it without any such hint. According to these rationalists, a fortunate concurrence of accidents must have happened to the Apostles, totally unprecedented in history or probability. Besides, did not the natives themselves in this case testify to the fact? None were so well qualified to judge of the virulence of the serpent, none so capable of knowing that the hanging on Paul’s hand implied the communication of the venom: yet they change him from a murderer into a god, on seeing what took place. Need we further evidence, that the divine power which they mistakenly attributed to Paul himself, was really exerted on his behalf, by Him who had said ὄφεις ἀροῦσιν ? See below on Acts 28:8 . The fact that St. Luke understood what the natives said, is adduced by Wordsworth as another proof (see his and my note on ch. Act 14:11 ) that the Apostles and Evangelists commonly understood unknown tongues. But such an inference here has absolutely nothing to rest on. Are we to suppose that these βάρβαροι had no means of intercourse with Greek sailors?
6. ] Both these, the inflammation of the body, and the falling down dead suddenly, are recorded as results of the bite of the African serpents. Mr. Humphry quotes from Lucan, ix. 790, ‘Nasidium Marsi cultorem torridus agri Percussit Prester ( an African serpent named from this very verb πίμπρασθαι ): illi rubor igneus ora Succendit, tenditque cutem, pereunte figura:’ and, of the bite of the asp, ix. 815: ‘At tibi, Leve miser, fixus præcordia pressit Niliaca serpente cruor: nulloque dolore Testatus morsus, subita caligine mortem Accipis, et somno Stygias descendis ad umbras.’
προσδοκώντων ] not, as E. V., ‘ when they had looked ,’ but when they were long looking .
μεταβαλ . ] There is no need to supply τ . γνώμην , though it is sometimes expressed: so οἱ πλεῖστοι τῶν ἀνθρώπων κ . μεταβάλλονται πρὸς τὰ παρόντα , κ . ταῖς τύχαις εἴκουσι , Lysias, pro Nicia fratre (Wetst.): μεταβάλλεσθαι δοκεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν ἔχειν πιστὸν ἡ πόλις , Demosth. pro Megalop. (id.), in neither of which places can τ . γνώμην well be understood.
θεόν ] “Comparabant vel Herculi qui in ulnis adhuc jacens angues superavit: vel Æsculapio, qui cum serpente pingitur.” Wetst. and so also Grot. But so much as this can hardly be inferred: nor are we sure of the theogony of these Phœnician barbarians.
7. ] πρῶτος Μελιταίων was probably an official title: the more so, as Publius can hardly have borne the appellation from his estates , during his father’s lifetime. Two inscriptions have been found in Malta, at Citta Vecchia, which seem to establish this view: a Greek one, containing the words α ( υλος ) κ ( αστρι ) κιος κυρ . προυδινς ιππευς ρωμ πρωτος μελιταιων και πατρων αρξας και αμφιπολευς α σ ( Αὐγούστῳ σεβαστῷ ) θεω .…, and a Latin one, with the same title, ‘Mel. primus.’ If so (and his Roman name further confirms it), Publius was legatus of the Prætor of Sicily , to whose province Malta belonged; see Cic. in Ver. ii. 4. 18.
ἡμᾶς ] Hardly perhaps more than Paul and his companions, and, it may be, Julius. At Acts 28:10 , a special reason had occurred for his honouring Paul and his company: at present, his hospitality must have been prompted by the courtesy of Julius, who could hardly fail himself to be included in it. The three days were probably till they could find a suitable lodging.
8. πυρετοῖς ] Hippocrates also uses the plural. It probably indicates the recurrence of fever fits.
δυσεντερίῳ ] δυσεντερία, Ἀττικῶς· -ριον, Ἕλληνες . Mœris; dysentery . Dr. Falconer makes this an argument against ‘Melita Africana’ being meant. “Such a place, dry and rocky, and remarkably healthy, was not likely to produce a disease which is almost peculiar to moist situations.” But Mr. Smith answers, that the changed circumstances of the island might produce this change also: and besides, that he is informed by a physician of Valetta, that the disease is by no means uncommon in Malta.
ἐπιθεὶς τ . χεῖρας αὐτῷ ] It is remarkable, that so soon after the ‘ taking up of serpents ,’ we should read of Paul having ‘ laid his hands on the sick and they recovered .’ See the two in close connexion, Mark 16:18 .
10. τιμαῖς ] The ordinary interpretation of this as rewards, gifts , may be right, but is not necessary. In all the passages quoted to support it, ref. Sir., Cicero, ad Diversos, xvi. 9 (‘Curio misi ut medico honos haberetur’), the expression τιμή is general , and the context renders an inference probable as to what sort of τιμή is meant. See especially 1Ti 5:3 ; 1Ti 5:17 and notes. Here there is no such unavoidable indication, whereas the other meaning is rendered probable by the form of the sentence, which opposes to these τιμαί , bestowed on them during their whole stay, τὰ πρὸς τ . χρείας , with which they were loaded at their departure. Render it therefore honoured us with many honours (or ‘ distinctions ,’ or ‘ attentions ’).
τὴν χρείαν has perhaps been an alteration after St. Paul’s ἅπαξ κ . δὶς εἰς τὴν χρείαν μοι ἐπέμψατε , Philippians 4:16 .
11. ] They probably set sail (see on ch. Act 27:9 ) not earlier than the sixth of the ides of March (i.e. Mark 10:0 ).
παρασήμῳ Διοσκούροις ] with the sign (of) the Dioscuri , as ὀνόματι Ποπλίῳ , Acts 28:7 ; not, ‘ with the Dioscuri as a sign .’ So in the inscription found by the Rev. G. Brown at Lutro (Phœnice) in Crete, given at length in the excursus at the end of the prolegg. to Acts, we have “gubernator navis parasemo Isopharia.” The ancient ships carried at their prow a painted or carved representation of the sign which furnished their name, and at the stern a similar one of their tutelar deity. Sometimes these were one and the same, as appears to have been the case with this ship. Cyril, in Cat., says, ἔθος ἀεί πως ἐν ταῖς Ἀλεξανδρέων μάλιστα ναῦσι πρός γε τῇ πρώρῃ δεξιά τε καὶ εἰς εὐώνυμα γραφὰς εἶναι τοιαύτας . See Virg. Æu. x. 209; Ovid, Trist. i. 9. 1; Pers. Sat. vi. 30.
Castor and Pollux, sons of Jupiter and Leda, were considered the tutelar deities of sailors. See Hor. Od. i. 3. 2; 12.28.
12. ] Syracuse is about eighty miles, a day’s sail, from Malta.
13. ] περιελθόντες apparently denotes the roundabout course of a vessel tacking with an adverse wind. That the wind was not favourable, follows from ἐπιγενομένου below. Mr. Lewin’s account is, “as the wind was westerly, and they were under shelter of the high mountainous range of Etna on their left, they were obliged to stand out to sea in order to fill their sails, and so came to Rhegium by a circuitous sweep.” And he cites a case of a passage from Syracuse to Rhegium, in which a similar circuit was taken for a similar reason, p. 736. The day at Rhegium, as perhaps the three at Syracuse before, was spent probably in waiting for the wind.
ἐπιγ . νότ . ] the South wind having sprung up , succeeded the one which blew before.
δευτεραῖοι ] viz. after leaving Rhegium : a distance of about 180 nautical miles.
Ποτιόλους ] Puteoli (anciently Dicæarchia, Strab. Acts 28:4 , now Puzzuoli) was the most sheltered part of the bay of Naples. It was the principal port of Southern Italy, and, in particular, formed the great emporium for the Alexandrian wheat ships. Strabo, xvii. 1. Seneca (Ep. 77) gives a graphic account (cited by Smith, p. 117) of the arrival of the Alexandrine fleet at Puteoli: “Subito nobis hodie Alexandrinæ naves apparuerunt, quæ præmitti solent et nuntiare secuturæ classis adventum; tabellarias vocant. Gratus illarum adspectus Campaniæ est. Omnis in pilis Puteolorum turba constitit, et ex ipso genere velorum, Alexandrinas quamvis in magna turba navium intelligit, solis enim licet supparum ( the topsail ) intendere quod in alto omnes habent naves. Nulla enim res æquo adjuvat cursum, quam summa pars veli; illinc maxime navis urgetur. Itaque quoties ventus increbuit majorque est quam expedit, antenna submittitur, minus habet virium flatus ex humili: cum intrare capreas et promontorium ex quo ‘Alta procellos speculatur vertice Pallas,’ cæteræ velo jubentur esse contentæ, supparum Alexandrinarum insigne est.”
14. ] These Christians were perhaps Alexandrines, as the commerce was so considerable between the two places.
ουτως ] after this stay with them : implying that the request was complied with.
15. ] The brethren at Rome had heard probably by special message sent by some of their fellow-voyagers. See a detailed account of the stages of the journey not here mentioned, in C. and H. ii., pp. 438 ff.
τὰ περὶ ἡμῶν ] the news concerning us , i.e. that we were coming.
Ἀππίου Φόρου κ . Τ . Ταβερνῶν ] Luke writes as one of the travellers to Rome, who would come on Appii Forum (forty-three miles from Rome) first. It was on the Via Appia (“Censura clara eo anno (U.C. 442) Appii Claudii, et C. Plautii fuit: memoriæ tamen felicioris ad posteros nomen Appii, quod viam munivit et aquam in urbem duxit, eaque unus perfecit.” Liv. Act 9:29 ), which leaving Rome by the Porta Capena, passed through the Pontine marshes, as far as Capua. Being not far from the coast (Strabo, v. 233), it was the resort of sailors (‘Forum Appî differtum nautis, cauponibus atque malignis.’ Hor. Sat. i. 5. 3. It has been suggested to me, that these may have been sailors belonging to the canal boats, as Appii Forum is too far inland to have been resorted to by sailors from the coast), and an unpleasant halting-place for travellers, having, besides, ‘aqua deterrima’ (ib. Act 28:7 ).
The ‘Tres Tabernæ’ was a ‘taberna deversoria,’ or way-side inn, ten miles nearer Rome. Cicero mentions both in the letters to Atticus, ii. 10, ‘Ab Appii Foro hora quarta: dederam aliam paullo ante Tribus Tabernis.’
The brethren were in two parties: some had come the longer, others the shorter distance, to meet the Apostle. We have in Antt. xvii.12.1, an account of the pretended Alexander, on his way to Rome, landing at Dicæarchia (Puteoli, see above), and it is added, προσελθόντος εἰς τὴν Ῥώμην λόγου τοῦ περὶ αὐτοῦ , πᾶν τὸ τῇδε Ἰουδαίων πλῆθος ὑπαντιάζοντες ἐξῇεσαν . Suet. relates, on Caligula’s return from Germany, “populi R. sexum, ætatem, ordinem omnem usque ad vicesimum lapidem effudisse se.” Cal. c. 4. And Tacit. Ann. iii. 5, speaking of the honours paid by Augustus to the body of Drusus, says, “ipsum quippe asperrimo hiemis Ticinum usque progressum, neque abscedentem a corpore simul urbem intravisse.”
θάρσος ] Both encouragement as to his own arrival , as a prisoner, in the vast metropolis, in seeing such affection, to which he was of all men most sensible; and encouragement as to his great work so long contemplated, and now about to commence in Rome, in seeing so promising a beginning for him to build on.
16. ] [The omission of the words ὁ ἑκατ … to στρατοπεδάρχῳ (- χῃ ) [though too strongly attested to allow us to retain them in the text] may have been originally caused by the transcriber’s eye passing from - αρχος to - αρχω , as in Syr. (‘permisit centurio Paulo’): this done, the emendation of the text so as to construe by ejecting ὁ ἑκατόνταρχος was obvious.
It does not follow, from the singular being used , that there was but one præfectus prætorio at this time, and that one Burrus; though it may have been so. The prefect mentioned might be one of the two who preceded Burrus, or one of the two who followed him so that no chronological datum is here contained (against Wieseler, who builds upon it: Chron. der Apostg. p. 86). He attempts to meet the above argument by accounting it improbable that the prisoners would be consigned to either of the prefects; this may have been so, but they certainly would be delivered to one, not to both ; and the fact might well be thus related. Luke is not so precise in Roman civil and military matters, as that he necessarily should in this case have written ἑνὶ τῶν στρατοπεδάρχων .
The ‘ præfectus prætorio ’ was the person officially put in charge with the prisoners sent from the provinces: so Plin. Epp. x. 65, “Vinctus mitti ad præfectos prætorii mei debet.”
The prætorian camp was outside the Porta Viminalis, where it had been fixed and fortified by Sejanus: see Tacit. Ann. iv. 2. [It was incorporated in Aurelian’s walls, and now forms a square projection from their line.] ]
ἐπετράπη τῷ Π . ] This permission probably resulted from the letters of Festus, expressing that no crime was laid to the charge of Paul; perhaps also partly from the favour of Julius, and his report of the character and bearing of Paul on the journey.
στρατιώτῃ ] a Prætorian, to whom he was chained; see below, Acts 28:20 ; and note on ch. Acts 24:23 .
17. ] The banishment of Jews from Rome (ch. Act 18:2 ) had either tacitly or openly been abrogated some time before this. Priscilla and Aquila had returned when the Epistle to the Romans was written, Romans 16:3 .
Paul was naturally anxious to set himself right with the Jews at Rome to explain the cause of his being sent there, in case no message had been received by them concerning him from Judæa, and to do away if possible with the unfavourable prejudice which such letters, if received, would have created respecting his character.
The fact of his sending for them, and their coming to him, seems to shew (as in the gloss on Acts 28:16 ; see digest) that he was not imprisoned in the Prætorian camp, but was already in a private lodging.
18. ἐβούλ . ἀπολῦσαι ] This may have been at ch. Acts 25:8 . The possibility of such a release is asserted by Agrippa, ch. Acts 26:32 .
19. ] ‘My appeal was a defensive and necessary step not an offensive one, to complain of my nation.’
The inf. aor. of the rec. would point to some one definite charge : κατηγορεῖν means ‘to play the accuser against my nation in any thing:’ indicating the habit.
20. ] παρεκάλεσα is here in its primary meaning, I have called you to me.
διὰ ταύτ . τ . αἰτ . , for the reason just stated: because I have no hostile feeling to my nation. Then ἕνεκεν γὰρ … adds another motive; for not only so, but I may well wish to see and speak with you, being a prisoner for the hope of Israel (see ch. Acts 26:6 , and notes).
21. ] It may seem strange that they had received no tidings concerning him. But, as Meyer well remarks, (1) before his appeal, the Jews in Judæa had no definite reason to communicate with the Jews in Rome respecting him, having no expectation that Paul, then a prisoner in Judæa, and the object of their conspiracies there, would ever go to Rome, or come into connexion with their brethren there. And (2) since his appeal, it would have been hardly possible for them to have sent messengers who should have arrived before him. For his voyage followed soon after his appeal (ch. Acts 25:13 ; Act 27:1 ), and was so late in the year , that for the former reason it is as unlikely that any deputation from them should have left before him, as for the latter, after him. Had any left within a few days, the same storm would have in all probability detained them over the winter, and they could not certainly have made a much quicker voyage than Paul’s ship to Puteoli. Still, as casual, non-official tidings might have reached them, Paul shewed this anxiety. It appears, however, that none had come . Olshausen’s view, that the banishment of the Jews from Rome under Claudius had interrupted the relations between the Roman and Judæan Jews, is hardly probable: see on Acts 28:17 .
22. ] The δέ and μέν are inverted: “ μέν si dicitur non sequente δέ , aut intelligi potest δέ , aut omittitur illa pars orationis in qua sequi debebat δέ , quæ aliquando præcedit.” Herm. ad Viger., p. 839. It precedes, because it connects with the foregoing.
ἀξ . παρὰ σοῦ , we beg of thee : see reff.
τῆς αἱρ . ταύτ . ] To which they perhaps inferred that Paul belonged, from Acts 28:20 ; or they might have heard thus much generally respecting him by rumour, though they had received no special message.
Their short notice of Christianity is perhaps the result of caution, seeing as they did the favour shewn by the authorities towards Paul (see Hackett, p. 392): or perhaps of dissimulation.
Many Commentators have noticed the omission of all mention of the Christian Church at Rome , and of Paul’s connexion with or work among them. And some recently in Germany (e.g. Bauer) have called in question the credibility of the Acts on this account. But without any reason: for the work of the Apostle among churches already founded is not the subject of our history, and is seldom related by Luke, without a special reason. Of the three years at Ephesus (ch. Act 20:31 ), the year and a half (ch. Act 18:11 ), and three months (ch. Act 20:3 ) at Corinth, we know from the narrative nothing that took place among the Christians themselves. Besides, one great object of this history is to shew forth Paul as working out the Lord’s implied command (ch. Act 1:8 ), to preach the Gospel ‘to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile,’ and, having every where done this, it is but natural that he should open his commission in Rome by assembling and speaking to the Jews .
23. τ . ξενίαν ] Probably the μίσθωμα of Acts 28:30 ; hardly, as Olsh., the house of Aquila.
πείθων ] persuading : not ‘ teaching ,’ as Kuin., nor ‘ trying to persuade .’ Meyer well remarks, Paul, on his part, subjectively, performed that indicated by πείθειν ; that this did not produce its objective effect in all his hearers, does not alter the meaning of the word.
25. εἰπόντος ] they departed, but not before Paul had said one saying . It is very remarkable, that the same prophetic quotation with which our Lord opened his teaching by parables [ Mat 13:14-15 ], should form the solemn close of the historic Scriptures.
26. ] the πορεύθ . κ . εἰπόν is referred to himself , in his application of the prophecy. These words are not cited by our Lord ( Mat 13:14 ).
28. ] τοῦτο was probably omitted as superfluous, and perhaps to suit Luke 3:6 . It adds greatly to the force: this, the message of God’s salvation , q. d. ‘ there is no other for those who reject this .’
αὐτοὶ καὶ ἀκ . ] They will also (besides having it sent to them) hear it . “Quod expertus erat Paulus in multis Asiæ et Europæ urbibus, ut apud gentes sermonis felicior esset seges, idem et nunc futurum prospiciebat.” Grot.
[29. ] This verse has not the usual characteristic of spurious passages, the variety of readings in those manuscripts which contain it. It may perhaps, after all, have been omitted as appearing superfluous after Acts 28:25 . ]
30, 31. ] It is evident that Paul was not released from custody , but continued with the soldier who kept him, (1) from the expressions here; he received all who came in to him , but we do not hear of his preaching in the synagogue or elsewhere: he preached and taught with all boldness and unhindered , both being mentioned as remarkable circumstances, and implying that there were reasons why this could hardly have been expected: and (2) from his constantly speaking of himself in the Epistles written during this period, as a prisoner , see Ephesians 6:19-20 ; Colossians 4:3-4 ; Philemon 1:9 ; Philipp. passim. On the whole question regarding the chronology of his imprisonment, and the reason of this abrupt ending of the history, see Prolegg. to Acts, § iv. 4 7: and on its probable termination and the close of St. Paul’s life, see the Prolegg. to the Pastoral Epistles, § ii. 7 ff.
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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Acts 28". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17