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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Acts 20



Verse 1

Embraced ( ἀσπασάμενος )

Better, as Rev., took leave. The word is used for a salutation either at meeting or parting. See Acts 21:6, Acts 21:7.


Verse 2


The Roman province of Achaia, comprehending Greece proper and the Peloponnesus. Luke uses Achaia (Acts 19:21) and Greece synonymously, as distinguished from Macedonia.

Verse 3

Sail ( ἀνάγεσθαι )

Better, as Rev., set sail. See on Luke 8:22; and compare Luke 5:3.

Verse 4


The best texts add, the son of Pyrrhus. Compare Romans 16:21.


Compare Acts 19:29.


Not the one mentioned in Acts 19:29, who was a Macedonian.

Tychicus and Trophimus

See Colossians 4:7, Colossians 4:8; Ephesians 6:21, Ephesians 6:22; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12; Acts 21:29; 2 Timothy 4:20.

Verse 5


The first person resumed, indicating that Luke had joined Paul.

Verse 6

In five days ( ἄχρις ἡμερῶν πέντε )

Lit., “up to five days,” indicating the duration of the voyage from Philippi.

Verse 7

First ( τῇ μιᾷ )

Lit., “theone day.” The cardinal numeral here used for the ordinal.

Week ( σαββάτων )

The plural used for the singular, in imitation of the Hebrew form. The noun Sabbath is often used after numerals in the signification of a week. See Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; John 20:19.

To break bread

The celebration of the eucharist, coupled with the Agape, or love-feast.

Preached ( διελέγετο )

Better, as Rev., discoursed with them. It was a mingling of preaching and conference. Our word dialogue is derived from the verb.

Verse 8

Many lights

A detail showing the vivid impression of the scene upon an eye-witness. It has been remarked that the abundance of lights shows how little of secrecy or disorder attached to these meetings.

The upper chamber

See on Acts 1:13.

Verse 9

The window

See on Acts 9:25. The windows of an Eastern house are closed with lattice-work, and usually reach down to the floor, resembling a door rather than a window. They open, for the most part, to the court, and not to the street, and are usually kept open on account of the heat.

Fallen into a deep sleep ( καταφερόμενος ὕπνῳ βαθεῖ )

Lit., borne down by, etc. A common Greek phrase for being overcome by sleep. In medical language the verb was more frequently used in this sense, absolutely, than with the addition of sleep. In this verse the word is used twice: in the first instance, in the present participle, denoting the coming on of drowsiness - falling asleep; and the second time, in the aorist participle, denoting his being completely overpowered by sleep. Mr. Hobart thinks that the mention of the causes of Eutychus' drowsiness - the heat and smell arising from the numerous lamps, the length of the discourse, and the lateness of the hour - are characteristic of a physician's narrative. Compare Luke 22:45.

Dead ( νεκρός )

Actually dead. Not as dead, or for dead.

Verse 10

Fell on him

Compare 1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34.

Trouble not yourselves ( μὴ θορυβεῖσθε )

Rev., more correctly, make ye no ado. They were beginning to utter passionate outcries. See Matthew 9:23; Mark 5:39.

His life is in him

In the same sense in which Christ said, “The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth” (Luke 8:52).

Verse 11

Having gone up

From the court to the chamber above.

Talked ( ὁμιλήσας )

Rather, communed. It denotes a more familiar and confidential intercourse than discoursed, in Acts 20:7.

Verse 13

To go afoot ( πεζεύειν )

Only here in New Testament. There is no good reason for changing this to by land, as Rev. The A. V. preserves the etymology of the Greek verb. The distance was twenty miles; less than half the distance by sea.

Verse 15

Arrived ( παρεβάλομεν )

Only here and Mark 4:30, where it is used more nearly according to its original sense, to throw beside; to bring one thing beside another in comparison. Here, of bringing the vessel alongside the island. The narrative implies that they only touched (Rev.) there, but not necessarily the word.

Verse 16

To spend time ( χρονοτριβῆσαι )

Only here in New Testament. The word carries the suggestion of a waste of time, being compounded with τρίβω , to rub; to wear out by rubbing. The sense is nearly equivalent to our expression, fritter away time.

Verse 17

Having sent to Ephesus

About thirty miles.


Called overseers or bishops in Acts 20:28.

Verse 20

Kept back ( ὑπεστειλάμην )

A picturesque word. Originally, to draw in or contract. Used of furling sails, and of closing the fingers; of drawing back for shelter; of keeping back one's real thoughts; by physicians, of withholding food from patients. It is rather straining a point to say, as Canon Farrar, that Paul is using a nautical metaphor suggested by his constantly hearing the word for furling sail used during his voyage. Paul's metaphors lie mainly on the lines of military life, architecture, agriculture, and the Grecian games. The statement of Canon Farrar, that he “constantly draws his metaphors from the sights and circumstances immediately around him, is rather at variance with his remark that, with one exception, he “cannot find a single word which shows that Paul had even the smallest susceptibility for the works of nature” (“Paul,” i., 19). Nautical metaphors are, to say the least, not common in Paul's writings. I believe there are but three instances: Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 6:9. Paul means here that he suppressed nothing of the truth through fear of giving offence. Compare Galatians 2:12; Hebrews 10:38.

Verse 21

Repentance toward God

Repentance has the article: the repentance which is due to God. So, also, faith: the faith which is due toward Christ, as the advocate and mediator.

Verse 22

Bound in the spirit

In his own spirit. Constrained by an invincible sense of duty. Not by the Holy Spirit, which is mentioned in the next verse and distinguished by the epithet the Holy.

Verse 23

Testifieth ( διαμαρτύρεται )

The compound verb signifies full, clear testimony. Not by internal intimations of the Spirit, but by prophetic declarations “in every city.” Two of these are mentioned subsequently, at Tyre and Caesarea (Acts 21:4, Acts 21:11).

Verse 24

But none of these things move me, neither count I, etc

The best texts omit neither count I, and render, I esteem my life of no account, as if it were precious to myself.

Dear ( τιμίαν )

Of value; precious.

Course ( δρόμον )

A favorite metaphor of Paul, from the race-course. See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philemon 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:7.

Verse 25

I know

The I is emphatic: I know through these special revelations to myself (Acts 20:23).

Verse 26

This day ( τῇ σήμερον ἡμέρᾳ )

Very forcible. Lit., on to-day's day; this, our parting day.

Verse 27


The same word as in Acts 20:20: kept back.

Verse 28

To yourselves and to all the flock

To yourselves first, that you may duly care for the flock. Compare 1 Timothy 4:16.

Overseers ( ἐπισκόπους )

Denoting the official function of the elders, but not in the later ecclesiastical sense of bishops, as implying an order distinct from presbyters or elders. The two terms are synonymous. The elders, by virtue of their office, were overseers.

To feed ( ποιμαίνειν )

See on Matthew 2:6. The word embraces more than feeding; signifying all that is included in the office of a shepherd: tending, or shepherding.

Purchased ( περιεποιήσατο )

Only here and 1 Timothy 3:13. See on peculiar people, 1 Peter 2:9. The verb means, originally, to make ( ποιέω )to remain over and above ( περί ): hence to keep or save for one's self; to compass or acquire.

Verse 29

Grievous ( βαρεῖς )

Lit., heavy: violent, rapacious.

Verse 31

Watch ( γρηγορεῖτε )

See on Mark 13:35.

To warn ( νουθετῶν )

From νοῦς , the mind, and τίθημι , to put. Lit., to put in mind; admonish (so Rev., better than warn ). “Its fundamental idea is the well-intentioned seriousness with which one would influence the mind and disposition of another by advice, admonition, warning, putting right, according to circumstances” (Cremer).

Verse 32

I commend

See on 1 Peter 4:19.

Build you up

A metaphor in constant use by Paul, and preserved in the words edify, edification (Latin, aedes,a house,” and facere, “to make”) by which οἰκοδομέω and its kindred words are frequently rendered. In old English the word edify was used in its original sense of build. Thus Wycliffe renders Genesis 2:22, “The Lord God edified the rib which he took of Adam, into a woman.”

So, too, Spenser:

“a little wide

There was a holy temple edified.”

Faerie Queene, i., 1,114.

Verse 33


Mentioned along with gold and silver because it formed a large part of the wealth of orientals. They traded in costly garments, or kept them stored up for future use. See on purple, Luke 16:19; and compare Ezra 2:69; Nehemiah 7:70; Job 27:16. This fact accounts for the allusions to the destructive power of the moth (Matthew 6:19; James 5:2).

Verse 35

I have shewed you all things ( πάντα ὑπέδειξα ὑμῖν )

The verb means to shew by example. Thus, Luke 6:47, “I will shew you to whom he is like,” is followed by the illustration of the man who built upon the rock. So Acts 9:16. God will shew Paul by practical experience how great things he must suffer. The kindred noun ὑπόδειγμα is always rendered example or pattern. See John 13:15; James 5:10, etc.; and note on 2 Peter 2:6. Rev., correctly, In all things I gave you an example.


As I have done.

To help ( ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι )

See on Luke 1:54.

He said ( αὐτὸς εἶπε )

Rev., more strictly, “he himself said.” This saying of Jesus is not recorded by the Evangelists, and was received by Paul from oral tradition.

The speech of Paul to the Ephesian elders “bears impressed on it the mark of Paul's mind: its ideas, its idioms, and even its very words are Pauline; so much so as to lead Alford to observe that we have probably the literal report of the words spoken by Paul. 'It is,' he remarks, 'a treasure-house of words, idioms, and sentences peculiar to the apostle himself'” (Gloag).

Verse 37

Kissed ( κατεφίλουν )

See on Matthew 26:49.

Verse 38

See ( θεωρεῖν )

See on Luke 10:18. The word for steadfast, earnest contemplation suggests the interest and affection with which they looked upon his countenance for the last time.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Acts 20:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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Thursday, January 23rd, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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