Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 16

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-5

Acts 15:36 to Acts 16:5 . Shorter Account of Paul’ s Journey In Asia Minor.— The editor’ s hand is apparent throughout this section. We know from Galatians 2:13 the real reason of Paul’ s difference with Barnabas, which was one of principle; here it is reduced to a personal matter. Instead of Titus, who ( Galatians 2:3) was not compelled to be circumcised, we have Timothy, who was circumcised by Paul ( Acts 16:1-3). In Acts 16:4 Paul acts as a delegate of the Jerusalem church, handing to the faithful, city by city, the judgments of that church, to which in his epistles he pays no regard. In Acts 16:5 the result of the journey is summed up in a general statement such as that at Acts 12:24; cf. Acts 9:31, Acts 11:21; and at Acts 16:6 we find we are in the substantial and authentic narrative of the “ Travel-document,” which thenceforward supplies the thread of the story.

Acts 15:36 . The statement of time is vague; the object stated for the new journey keeps up the continuity of the narrative; Paul may be supposed to have had larger ideas. The difference with Barnabas and that with Mark were afterwards forgotten ( Acts 13:13 *); here the Gr. states, with an emphasis lost in RV, that Paul had a very strong objection to Mark as a companion; he would take anyone but him. He chose Silas, the Jerusalem prophet and leading man, who was his close companion up to Corinth, took part in founding the church there ( 2 Corinthians 1:19), and is associated with Paul as fellow-writer of 1 and 2 Th., after which he appears no more with Paul, but with Peter ( 1 Peter 5:12). Of the journey the account is meagre; it has been told already. The land route is chosen this time, Barnabas taking Mark by the former sea route. Cilicia is traversed, but there is no mention of Tarsus. Derbe, the last stage of the former journey, is now the first, Lycaonia being entered from the south. Companions of travel are enlisted on the way, in particular Timothy (see Moffatt, EBi. 5074 ). He is a native of Lystra (but see Acts 20:4 *), and is favourably known among believers there and at Iconium. Paul’ s circumcising him is contrary to the principle stated in Galatians 5:2, and is thought by many eminent scholars to be an invention of the editor to counteract what is said about Titus in Galatians 2:3. It is more credible, however, that the circumcision did take place, Timothy being half a Jew by birth, as Titus was not, and Paul seeking to avoid offence to the Jews among whom he was to travel. Acts 16:4 belongs to the editor’ s scheme and is scarcely historical. The phrases are those used to describe imperial rescripts ( cf. Luke 2:1); the apostles and elders as a supreme authority have ordained them.

Verses 6-10

Acts 16:6-10 . Journey through Asia Minor to Macedonia.— Here we come to the “ Travel-document,” which is followed henceforward. It was till recently the custom to speak of the “ We-Passages,” which are found in Acts 16:10-18, Acts 20:5-16, Acts 21:1-18, Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:16, and to ascribe to these the highest degree of authenticity. The pieces in the third person lying among these were thought to have been written later by the diarist himself when he came to make up his book, or to have been taken from other sources. But see Introd., p. 776 . The speeches are to be ascribed to the editor, who also fills up lacunæ in his source, but he employs a more considerable and authentic source than hitherto. The style is short and dry; the writer has a curious power of ignoring what is most interesting in the Pauline churches and in Paul’ s thought.

What comes first in time in the sentence in Acts 16:6 f. is that the party was prevented, by the higher power that directed their journey, from preaching in Asia, i.e. Ephesus and the W. parts of Asia Minor, including the islands. This, it is plainly intimated, was the intention with which Paul set out on this journey; but when it was frustrated they “ went through” Phrygia and Galatia, a phrase which does not exclude preaching ( Acts 9:32, Acts 14:24). But of Paul’ s experience in Galatia, and of the Galatian churches, should they be in the north, as the present writer believes they were (see on the other hand, pp. 857 , 769 ), the editor is quite silent. The much-debated phrase, “ the Phrygian and Galatian land” conveys no clear impression. Probably the writer is summing up in brief phrases things which had taken place before he joined the party. After passing through Phrygia and Galatia they found themselves near Mysia and tried to go northwards into Bithynia, another land lying on the sea, but this also the guiding power would not allow. Straight west apparently it directed them to go, through Mysia, without lingering in it, to Troas. The district probably is meant, not the town of Alexandria-Troas, which lay on the coast, opposite Tenedos. Paul tells us ( 2 Corinthians 2:12 f.) of a fruitful mission there a few years later.

Acts 16:9 . Who is the person who appears to Paul and brings him finally to the step which the foregoing geographical statement shows to have attracted and yet daunted him? Ramsay thinks it was Luke, already known to Paul, and the reading of the Peshitta, “ Come over and help me,” would agree with that view (p. 770 ). But a letter would have served the purpose in that case. The party is now complete, diarist and all; “ As soon as he saw the vision we . . .”

Verses 11-15

Acts 16:11-15 . Philippi. Lydia.— The voyage from Troas to Samothrace was past Tenedos and Imbros, and Samothrace was about halfway. The voyage back took five days ( Acts 20:6); this voyage only two, the wind being favourable. Neapolis on the Strymonian gulf had wharves and gold mines and lay in a fertile district. Philippi was 8 miles N. of Neapolis. How it could be called the “ first of the district” is not clear; Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia, Amphipolis of the district which embraced Philippi. Philippi (p. 872 ) was made a “ colony” by Augustus; for its government, see below. Paul was happy in his Macedonian converts, to whom three of his extant epistles are addressed; their frankness and affection, with their freedom from conceit, made them fit for the Gospel.

Acts 16:13 . It is Paul’ s custom to open his mission in a new place among the Jewish community. Philippi had not a large Jewish population the place of prayer was by the riverside, outside the town, perhaps in the open air, as in other cases; the persons Paul finds there are women only. The teaching is of an informal nature. Lydia (a Roman name; her name at Thyatira ( Revelation 2:18 *), which is in the district called Lydia, would be different) is a Gentile devoted to the Jewish religion who has a house at Philippi; the industry in purple was carried on both at Thyatira and at Philippi and required capital. She becomes, instead of a sebomené (God-fearer, p. 625 ), a believer in the Lord, is baptized with all her house, and prevails on Paul and his party to stay with her. Many such women, affluent and devout, do we find in the second part of Ac. and in Paul’ s epistles ( Acts 13:50 *, Romans 1:6, Php_4:2 ).

Verses 16-18

Acts 16:16-18 . Exorcism of a Possessed Girl.— The walk to the place of prayer is made frequently, and the party comes to be known. A girl who carried on a trade in the fortune-telling of these days notes them; a girl believed to be possessed by a python, a spirit which could on being consulted foretell or warn, possibly a ventriloquist. She attaches herself to the party and gives her version, to be taken as inspired, of what they are. The treatment for possession is applied to her successfully by Paul, who is wearied of hearing her, and her gift ceases at once ( cf. Mark 1:23 ff; Mark 3:11 f.).

Verses 19-34

Acts 16:19-34 . Imprisonment of Paul and Silas. The Prison Broken.— The “ rulers” ( Acts 16:19) are the heads of police; they are afterwards called Strategi, which answers to the Roman Prœ tores. Philippi was a colony, its magistrates were Roman, duoviri, and had the fasces, the Roman rods, showing their power to order a beating. The missionaries are accused of making a disturbance in the city, being Jews (Jews are generally unpopular, and at Philippi they are not strong), and of introducing strange customs, i.e. a religion which was not an allowed one, in the Roman community. The populace takes the side of the accusers; a beating on the bare body is at once inflicted ( cf. 2 Corinthians 11:25). The inner prison into which they were put was, to judge by other known cases, a place totally dark and underground. ( Cf. Passion of Perpetua, 3 ; Euseb., Eccl. Hist., V. i. 31 .) The opening of the doors by the earthquake is quite possible, but not the loosening of the chains; this happens to Peter also (see Acts 12:7). Acts 12:19 shows what happened to the gaoler whose prisoners escaped. This one is about to commit suicide. The doors being open, there is some light in the inner cell; Paul can assure the gaoler that his prisoners are all safe. The reporter of the scene is not present. The gaoler brings out Paul and Silas (D says he first secured the other prisoners); and in his alarm, having heard no doubt of the nature of their mission in the town ( Acts 16:17), he addresses them respectfully and asks them to direct him for his salvation. The rest of the story speaks best for itself.

Verses 35-40

Acts 16:35-40 . Reckoning with the Magistrates.— The legal proceedings are to go no further. But Paul has two grievances to clear up with the magistrates before he will leave the prison. The proceedings of the former day had no form of law; the accused were not properly tried; and the magistrates had no power to beat a Roman citizen. Many scholars infer that Silas also held this rank, but if one of the two held it the contention was justified. The magistrates have to come themselves and to make a personal appeal to the missionaries and request them to leave the town; it is not an expulsion, but the request could not be disregarded.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 16". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/acts-16.html. 1919.
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