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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 11

 

 

Introduction

Acts 9:32 to Acts 11:18. A Collection of Peter Stories.—Lydda and Joppa (p. 28) belonged at this time to Judæa, and had a predominantly Jewish population, and Peter's activity is of a peaceful, quiet nature. Peter, who appears here alone, is carrying on a mission outside Jerusalem, to which, however, he always returns as he did in Acts 8:25 (see also Acts 12:3). The first two stories are of the same type as those in the Gospels; the third is in broader style, and gives rise to more questions.

Acts 10. The Conversion of Cornelius.—This incident is parallel to the conversion of the Ethiopian by Philip; both show the extension of the Gospel beyond the Jews, and prepare for the story of the Pauline mission. On the opening vision cf. Acts 8:26, Acts 16:9, Galatians 2:2. See also p. 767.


Verses 1-18

Acts 11:1-18. Peter Defends his Action at Jerusalem.—As Philip's action at Samaria (Acts 8:14), so here Peter's doings at Cæsarea are reported at Jerusalem. The Samaritans were, in many respects, Jews, but Cornelius and his friends were not. Would the Mother Church agree to the offering of the Gospel to Gentiles? A variant in Acts 11:2 puts quite a different colour on the course of events. D, with ancient Syriac and Latin versions, reads: "Now Peter wished for a considerable time to go to Jerusalem, and he called the brethren to him and confirmed them, speaking at length and teaching them from district to district, and he met them and announced to them the grace of God (cf. Acts 11:23) and the brethren of the circumcision disputed with him, etc." According to this text Peter had given up living at Jerusalem, but conceived a desire to go there; he did what he could for the new churches before he left them, and when he met certain people on his way told them how matters stood in the province. The place of the following discussion is changed to one not named, where the meeting took place; and it is made plain that those who disputed with Peter were not people outside but Christians of the Jewish sort. EV really points to the same conclusion. It was intolerable to the Jews in the Church that the chief of the apostles should treat the Jewish position of separateness so lightly, that he should enter the houses of Gentiles and share their food (Acts 10:28). Peter tells the story of his vision.

Acts 11:15. as on us at the beginning (i.e. Acts 11:21 ff.): in Cornelius there is a new beginning of the Gospel.

Acts 11:16. the word of the Lord: contrasting the baptism of John with the Christian rite, is quoted (Acts 1:5*).

Acts 11:18. For repentance as a Divine gift cf. Acts 5:31.


Verses 19-26

Acts 11:19-26. Another Account of the Early Gentile Mission. Antioch.—This connects with Acts 8:2. It was the Hellenists at Jerusalem, whose mouthpiece Stephen was, who were driven away at his death. There, they were scattered over Judæa and Samaria; here, they go further, to Cyprus and Antioch, but preach to Jews only. Some of them, however, men of Cyprus, as Barnabas was, and of Cyrene in N. Africa (cf. "Lucius of Cyrene," Acts 13:1) took the further step, when they came to Antioch, of addressing the Greeks, not the Hellenists as in AV (Græcians, cf. RVm "Grecian Jews"), which would mean the Greek-speaking Jews, but the Greeks who were not Jews (p. 768). To them they preached the Lord Jesus. The title "Lord" is used here with accuracy. It is not much used in Ac. where the history is on Jewish ground; other titles were there thought of for Jesus; "Christ," the "Servant," and once the "Son of God." The title which offered itself most readily for Him in Gentile lands was "Lord." The Roman emperor is Lord, as Oriental monarchs had been, and no title expressed more readily the entire devotion that was due to Jesus. (See RTP, x. 313; Morgan, Religion and Theology of Paul, pp. 46ff.)

Antioch, the capital of Syria, was the third city of the empire, a centre of art and science, and had a large Jewish population. Now it becomes the capital of Gentile Christianity.

Acts 11:21. The growth of the Church is noted as elsewhere (Acts 5:14, Acts 8:6; Acts 8:12); here it means not only that the number grew larger but that converts of a new order were added.

Acts 11:22. The Mother Church hears of the new step, (Acts 8:14, Acts 11:1) and sends an envoy to the spot. Barnabas is chosen for this; a Cyprian, he was interested in the doings of Cyprians (Acts 11:20) and he stood well at Jerusalem; the apostles had given him his new name (Acts 4:36). He saw nothing to disapprove of; his counsel to all, Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians alike, was that they should uphold their common cause, "cleave to the Lord."

Acts 11:24. a good man: i.e. thorough, efficient; cf. the character of Joseph (Luke 23:50), and of Stephen (Acts 6:8).—much people: lit. a considerable number; they might be Jews or Gentiles.

Acts 11:25. D and other early authorities read: "and hearing that Saul is at Tarsus he went out to seek for him; and on meeting him he urged him to come to Antioch."—Tarsus: for the geographical position of Tarsus, its connexion with the interior of Asia Minor, and its changeful history, see Ramsay, Cities of St. Paul, also pp. 768, 805. Tarsus had a notable school of philosophy, and if Paul had attended its lectures he would have heard Stoicism ably set forth. Nor could he fail to be acquainted with the orgiastic cults which formed the living religion of Asia Minor. But he would devote himself to the studies of his own race while he lived at home. Cf. Böhlig, Die Geisteskultur von Tarsos im augusteischen Zeitalter, 1913.

Acts 11:26. At Antioch Barnabas and Saul went to the church meetings. The name "Christian" may have come into use first at Antioch, at a somewhat later time. The word does not occur otherwise in NT except in Acts 26:28 and 1 P. (1 Peter 4:16), which is a post-Pauline work. The followers of Christ would at first be confounded with the Jews, with whom they had so much in common; the name "Christians" would be applied to them by the Gentiles when their difference from the Jews became clearly apparent; it is regularly formed like the names of sects or parties, Herodians, Csarians, Valentinians, etc.


Verses 27-30

Acts 11:27-30. Prophecy of Agabus. Mission to Jerusalem of Barnabas and Saul. Prophets from Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:32*).—Vague dating, "in those days." The story fixes its own date. Agabus appears again in Acts 21:10; he put forward strong statements dramatically. Here he prophesies a world-wide famine; such a famine did take place in A.D. 46; but the prophecy is uttered before the reign of Claudius, A.D. 41. A famine afflicted Judæa early in his reign and suits our passage better (p. 654). The prophecy gives rise to a measure of help for the brethren in Judæa, which occasions a journey to Judæa of Barnabas and Saul. The sum collected is sent to the elders at Jerusalem, a body of whom we have not heard before. This second journey of Saul to Jerusalem will be the same as that spoken of in Galatians 2:1 ff. [This view is generally combined with the view that Acts 15 relates Paul's third visit (see p. 858), but Dr. Menzies holds with several scholars that the visit in Acts 11:30 is to be identified with that in Acts 15. Another view is that the two visits in Ac. are to be distinguished, but that the visit in Galatians 2 is to be identified with neither but with an earlier visit unrecorded in Ac. The generally accepted opinion that the visits in Acts 11:30 and Acts 15 are to be distinguished and that the latter is to be identified with that in Galatians 2 seems preferable to any of these theories.—A. S. P.] It is from Antioch, and is made by Paul and Barnabas; it has reference to a collection for the poor at Jerusalem. The ingredients are the same, though differently placed with reference to each other; and the confusion as to the famine and as to the collection made before the reason for it has taken place, shakes our faith in the historical nature of this section. Barnabas and Saul are mentioned in this order down to Acts 15:12.

Acts 11:27. D and some Latin MSS add: "and there was great rejoicing. But when we were returning (or gathered together) one of them called Agabus said"—a narrative in first person plural, such as occurs in apocryphal Acts, Gospel of Peter, and later in Ac. (cf. Introd. p. 776).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 11:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/acts-11.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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