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Bible Commentaries
Acts 16

Haydock's Catholic Bible CommentaryHaydock's Catholic Commentary

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Verse 3

Circumcised him. Not to obstruct the conversion of the Jews; and because it was still lawful to observe the Jewish ceremonies, though the obligation of keeping the old law had ceased. (Witham) --- This St. Paul did in order to gain the Jews, and make Timothy acceptable to them. (Tirinus) --- To the Jew, says he, (1 Corinthians ix. 20.) I became a Jew, that I might gain the Jews. If he refused to circumcise Titus, in order to vindicate the Christian’s independence of the Mosaic ceremonies; he now submits to the observance of them, to shew there is nothing of itself bad in them, and that they might without crime be practised, till time by degrees had abolished them. (St. Augustine, ep. lxxxii. ad S. Hieronymum. [to St. Jerome.])

Verse 4

Here, as well as in the last verse of the former chapter, we see St. Paul ordering the new converts, wherever he went, to receive, as their rule of conduct, the ordinances of the apostles and priests assembled in Jerusalem.

Verse 6

They were forbidden by the Holy Ghost, to go, and preach at that time in the Lesser Asia [Asia Minor], perhaps because their preaching in Macedonia was more necessary; or because St. John was to be sent into Asia [Asia Minor]. (Witham) --- Forbidden. Why? Because they were not yet prepared to receive the gospel; or, perhaps, these provinces were reserved for St. John, as Bithynia was for St. Luke. (Menochius) --- St. Leo compares this question to many others respecting the inscrutable judgments of God. Why did not the Son of God come into the world may ages before? Why did he suffer so many to die in ignorance? Why are there yet so many in infidelity? Why, in one family, does one believe and is converted, while another remains in darkness, and crime? Who shall account for the exercise he pleases to make of his rigour, or his mercy, when all were justly victims of the former? (St. Leo, de vocat. Gentium. lib. ii. chap. 2)

Verse 7

The spirit of Jesus permitted them not. It is the same spirit, which just before was called the Holy Ghost: for the Holy Ghost is the spirit of Jesus, as proceeding from the Son as well as from the Father. (Witham)

Verse 9

A vision, &c. The tutelar angel of the province, according to most interpreters, under the form of a Macedonian, who implored St. Paul in behalf of the province he guarded.

Verse 10

We. This change in the narration from the third, to the first person, we sought, &c. is remarkable. It is hence inferred, that St. Luke, the author of this book, joined St. Paul at Troas, and became his inseparable companion. (Calmet) --- It is, however, probable, that as the narrative in the first person changes again at the end of this chapter, and is not resumed, till the fifth verse of the 20th chapter, that St. Luke was absent on some mission during the time that elapsed between this and their sailing from Philippi, as mentioned hereafter. (Chap. xx. ver. 6) (Tirinus)

Verse 13

There was prayer.[1] The Greek word signifies either prayer itself, or an oratory, or place to pray in. (Witham) --- Not every prayer is here understood, but that which was joined in the celebration of the sacred mysteries. (Estius, in different location.) See 1 Corinthians vii. and Acts vi.



Oratio, Greek: proseuche, preces, oratio & Oratorium.

Verse 16

A pythonical spirit. A spirit pretending to divination, to tell secrets, and things to come. See 2 Kings xxviii; Isaias viii. 19. (Witham) --- A divining spirit, which pretended to foretell things to come. It is strictly forbidden every where throughout the old law to have any dealings with persons of this description. (Deuteronomy xviii. 10; Leviticus xx. 27; &c.) Hence it would appear that these superstitions were of early practice among mankind. It is lamentable that the present age is still credulous enough to believe in such impostures. The ignorance of mankind, it appears, has always been made a source of emolument to the designing. (Haydock)

Verse 17

These men are the servants of the most high God. Evil spirits in possessed people, are sometimes forced to tell the truth. (Witham)

Verse 18

Observe here that the servants of God have a power granted them of controlling wicked spirits, according to the promise of our Lord, Luke ix. and x. Hence the seventy disciples, returning, said: Lord, even the devils are subject to us in thy name. (Estius, in different location)

Verse 20

Jews. this was the name the first Christians went by among the pagans. Indeed our Saviour’s being born of that nation, and his disciples adoring the same God, and following the same morality and Scriptures as the Jews, were sufficient reasons to make them confounded. When Suetonius relates that Claudius banished the Jews from Rome, he means the Christians. (Calmet)

Verse 21

There was a standing decree of the senate, which forbade the introduction of any new divinity, without the formal consent of the senate. (Bible de Vence)

Verse 24

Made their feet fast in the stocks. By the Latin and Greek text, they made them fast with wood. (Witham)

Verse 26

All the doors were opened. This made the jailer conclude the prisoners had made their escape. And he being answerable for them, and expecting to be put to death, was for stabbing himself. (Witham)

Verse 33

Was baptized, being first told what he was to believe, and do. (Witham) --- Hence Catholics draw a very plausible argument for the baptism of infants, as it is very probable there were some infants in the family. See Estius, in different location.

Verse 35

Sent the serjeants,[2] vergers, or such like officers. (Witham)



Lictores, Greek: rabduchous, vergers, rod-bearers.


Verse 37

Romans. St. Paul inherited his right of citizenship from his father; it does not appear how Silas obtained it, perhaps by purchase. There is no proof that Silas was a freeman of Rome. (Denis the Carthusian) --- It was forbidden by the Porcian and Sempronian laws, for a Roman citizen to be scourged, unless he was likewise convicted of a capital crime. Cicero pro Rabirio. Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum: scelus verberari. Id. cont. Verrem. The Romans were always very jealous of the dignity of their city. We cannot but admire St. Paul’s astonishing desire of suffering for the name of Jesus, in concealing a circumstance, the very naming of which would have saved him the cruel scourging he suffered. If he now refuses to go out of the prison privately, it is to vindicate his honour, and to avert the scandal, which the new converts would naturally feel, in seeing their master treated as a criminal. He exemplified in this instance St. Augustine’s principal; "Our lives are necessary for ourselves, but our reputation for others." (Haydock) --- Estius declares, that Silas was also a Roman citizen, and that from this circumstance he probably received a Roman name, as Paul did. For in other parts of Scripture we find him styled Silvanus. (2 Corinthians i. 19.) and at the commencement of both the epistles to the Thessalonians. --- Not so; but let them come, &c. St. Paul patiently submitted himself to be whipped in a most disgraceful and cruel manner, which he could easily have prevented or put a stop to, by saying, I am a Roman citizen. Afterwards, when they were for setting him at liberty, he claims his privilege, he puts all the magistrates in a fright; they run to ask him pardon, and entreat him with all civility to leave the town, which he does not think fit to do, till he visited his brethren and friends. (Witham)

Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Acts 16". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hcc/acts-16.html. 1859.
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