Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 8 December 2018; Revised 4 March 2020
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Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. Online DSS Bible.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. Online.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary: Targum Jerusalem (1st c. AD), Targum Neofiti (1st c. AD), Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) and Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD). See an index of targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations and pronunciation of Greek words. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
In Chapter Eleven Luke recounts Peter's defense of his visit to the house of a Gentile in Caesarea. The chapter goes on to relate the spread of the good news among Jews in the Diaspora, in particular the city of Syrian Antioch. Barnabas had a key role in the ministry there and he even traveled to Tarsus to recruit Saul (Paul) for assistance. Together these two apostles labored for a year to make disciples, and Luke mentions that it was in Antioch that disciples were first called "Messianics" (aka "Christians"). Then the disciples in Antioch demonstrated their Messianic spirit by contributing to an offering for famine relief in Judea.
Peter Criticized by Legalists, 11:1-3
Peter Describes the Vision from the Lord, 11:4-10
Peter Recounts his Trip to Caesarea, 11:10-14
Peter Reports the Result of Ministry, 11:15-18
Good News Comes to Antioch, 11:19-21
Barnabas Sent to Antioch, 11:22-24
Barnabas Recruits Saul, 11:25-26
Prophecy of Famine, 11:27-30
c. A.D. 39/40
Rome: Caesar Caligula (AD 37-41)
Prefect of Judaea: Marullus (AD 37-41)
Jewish High Priest: Theophilus, son of Annas (AD 37-41)
Peter Criticized by Legalists, 11:1-3
1 Now the apostles and the brothers, the ones being throughout Judea, heard that the Gentiles also received the word of God.
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. The conjunction continues the narrative from the previous chapter. the apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos was used in Greek and Roman culture for a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. Apostolos occurs one time in the LXX where it translates shaluach, Qal pass. part. of the verb shalach (SH-7971), "sent," of Ahijah the prophet (1Kgs 14:6). Josephus uses apostolos one time of a group of Jewish ambassadors sent to Rome to complain about the appointment of Archelaus (Ant. XVII, 11:1).
Apostolos appears in no other early Jewish literature, but it is grounded in Jewish culture in the office of shaliach. In first century Judaism a shaliach acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender (Ber. 5:5). The shaliach's mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128). In the Besekh the term "apostle" is specifically applied to the original Twelve disciples (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (Acts 1:26), and Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua (Gal 1:19). All the apostles named in the Besekh were Jewish. The apostles of Yeshua were so named because they had "seen the Lord," i.e., they were witnesses of his resurrected form (John 20:25; Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:5-9; 1Jn 1:1). In addition, the apostles had been personally sent by Yeshua with the authority to proclaim the good news, determine orthodox doctrine, and direct conduct based on application of Torah ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19; 18:18). The term is used here of the Twelve or their principal members.
Messianic Jewish versions prefer "emissary" to "apostle," because of its association with Christianity. However, the Jewish men Yeshua appointed clearly chose this Greek word to identify themselves and elevated its meaning at the same time. An apostle of the King of Israel is no minor office. All the apostles were Jews. The apostles had the authority to proclaim the good news, determine orthodox doctrine, impose requirements based on application of Torah ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19; 18:18), and shepherd the congregations they founded (cf. 1Cor 14:37). The apostolic office ceased to exist with the death of John and those Christian leaders in following centuries who sought to lay claim to the title did not deserve to bear it.
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.
the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18). The plural noun refers here to lay leaders of the Messianic congregations that had been established.
the ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). throughout: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning "down," but with the noun following referring to a place and a direction, perhaps in relation to Caesarea (10:24), the meaning would be lit. "down through" (Thayer) or "throughout." The preposition with the following named location excludes "apostles and brothers" in Galilee and east of the Jordan.
Judea: Grk. Ioudaia (for Heb. Y'hudah), transliterates the Latin provincial name of Iudaea. The territorial name of Ioudaia had two uses: (1) the historic territory of Judea that lay between Samaria on the north and Idumea on the south (Luke 2:4; Acts 1:8; 8:1; 9:31). See the map. (2) the Roman province of Judaea, which at this time and the change in governors comprised Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Idumea and Perea, with its capital at Caesarea (Luke 1:5; 23:5; Acts 10:37; 11:1, 29). See the map here. Considering the narrative of the previous chapter Luke probably had the Roman province in mind, including the cities where the good news had been proclaimed and congregations established. The identity of the apostles is not given, but probably most of the Twelve were still in the province. Some of the apostles might have traveled to other areas to strengthen disciples, such as Damascus and the Nabataean Kingdom where Saul had ministered.
heard: Grk. akouō, aor., 3p-pl., to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The second usage applies here.
the Gentiles: Grk. ta ethnē, pl. of ethnos, humans belonging to a people group as defined by language and culture; nation, people. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "community, nation, people," first in Genesis 10:5 (BDB 156; DNTT 2:790). While ethnos is used in Scripture to include Israelite or Jewish people (Luke 23:2; Acts 24:2, 10; 28:19; 1Cor 10:18; Php 3:5), the specific construction ta ethnē, like ha-goyim in the Tanakh, is generally used to mean Gentiles (e.g., Matt 6:32; Luke 12:30; Acts 4:25; 13:48; 22:21; Rom 2:14; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:9; Rev 11:18; 14:8). Here the term alludes to Cornelius, his relatives and household (Acts 15:7).
also: Grk. kai. The conjunction is a reminder that Judeans and Samaritans had received the good news of Yeshua. Now Gentiles have been added. received: Grk. dechomai, aor. mid., 3p-pl., to receive, frequently with the connotation of enthusiastic acceptance. the word: Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning, including "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087).
of God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders Heb. El and Elohim ("God," over 2500 times), but also YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel, the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination. The phrase "word of God" alludes to Peter's sermon in Acts 10.
2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those from the Circumcision began contending with him,
And: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hote, temporal adv., at which time. Peter: Grk. Petros, the translation of the Hebrew name Kêfa ("rock"), a name given to him by Yeshua (John 1:42). Peter, formerly the owner of a fishing business, was appointed an apostle early in Yeshua's ministry (Luke 6:13) and became the chief leader of the apostles. For a summary of Peter's life and ministry see my article Simon Peter: Fisherman-Apostle. came up: Grk. anabainō, aor., to proceed in a direction that is up, go up. The verb graphically illustrates the change in elevation from the starting point in Caesarea. to: Grk. eis, prep. with the root meaning of "within" focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit; as far as, for, into, to, toward (DM 103).
Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm, a transliteration of Heb. Yerushalaim ("the dwelling of peace"). The city is situated some 2500 feet above sea level and eighteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, is renowned as the capital of all Israel. Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religion with its beautiful temple and jurisprudence with the presence of the Jewish supreme court. More importantly, Jerusalem is the city God favors above all other cities of the earth and the focus of His covenantal faithfulness (Ps 135:21; 147:2; Ezek 5:5; Zech 2:8). The city figured prominently in Messianic expectation (Isa 59:20; 62:11; Zech 9:9). Jerusalem was home to the first Messianic congregation. Peter's going up to Jerusalem was likely in conjunction with a pilgrim festival and he may have traveled directly from Caesarea.
those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. from: Grk. ek, prep., used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within" (Thayer). the Circumcision: Grk. peritomē, the surgical removal of male foreskin. In the LXX peritomē occurs only two times: in Genesis 17:13 without Heb. equivalent regarding the circumcision of males in Abraham's household, and in Exodus 4:25 to render Heb. mulah, circumcision, regarding the circumcision of Moses' firstborn son. The requirement of circumcision was included as an important element in the covenant with Israel (Lev 12:3).
Some versions translate the noun as a verb "who were circumcised" (MEV, NASB), or as an adjective "circumcised believers" (CEB, NAB, NET, NIV, NJB, NRSV), which is misleading since traditional Jews and Messianic Jews were all circumcised. A few miss the point entirely with the translation of "of Jewish birth" (NEB), "Jewish believers" (ERV, ICB, NIRV, NLT, TLB, TPT) or "Jewish followers" (CEV, NLV). The apostles, brothers and those of the circumcision in this narrative were all Jews and they were all followers of Yeshua. Most versions accurately translate the noun, but some specify "the Circumcision party" (AMPC, CJB, CSB, ESV, Moffatt, Phillips, RSV).
In this context the phrase "from the Circumcision" refers to a Messianic faction whose members were Pharisees, as Luke explains later (Acts 15:1, 5; cf. Acts 10:45). Paul also uses the term with this meaning (Rom 4:12; 15:8; Gal 2:12; Col 3:11; 4:11; Titus 1:10). Stern observes that this faction would have consisted of saved Jews who, in their former life as non-Messianic Jews, considered "God-fearers" (as Cornelius) to be fence-straddlers that ought to convert to Judaism (260). Faith in Yeshua would not have made them change their opinion, because the possibility that Gentiles could be members of the Messianic Community without becoming Jews had never arisen.
The Circumcision faction could also have included proselytes who took pride in their surgery (cf. Rom 2:17; Gal 2:14; 6:13; Php 3:2). The theology of the Circumcision faction affirmed these four principles:
(1) Yeshua is the Messiah and King of Israel;
(2) There is no salvation outside Israel (Gen 35:11; Isa 42:6; Sanhedrin 11:1);
(3) Israelite and Gentile are subject to one law (Ex 12:48); and
(4) Ritual circumcision (Brit Milah) is the sign of the covenant people (Gen 17:11).
Therefore, a Gentile believer must become a full proselyte to receive the benefit of salvation. Becoming a proselyte required immersion and Brit Milah (Yebamot 22a; 46a). It's important to note that in the Besekh "circumcision" refers to the religious ritual attributed to Moses (Acts 15:1), not just the surgery. See my article The Circumcision Controversy.
began contending: Grk. diakrinō, impf. mid., may mean (1) to distinguish, as in an ethnic/class distinction; (2) to evaluate in making a decision; or (3) to dispute or contend with. The third meaning applies here. with: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" and conveys motion toward (DM 110); to, toward, with. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, which may be used to (1) distinguish a person from or contrast it with another, or to give him emphatic prominence; himself, herself (2) express the force of a simple personal pronoun of the third person; he, him, she, her, them, it, or (3) with the article function as an adjective of identity; the same. The second meaning applies here.
As indicated in verse 12 below the adversaries from Circumcision sect included the six brothers who had accompanied Peter from Joppa to Caesarea. It now becomes apparent that these brothers did not go with Peter in a supportive role, but rather as self-appointed religious police to scrutinize Peter's conduct. To take issue with Peter, the present leader of the Body of Messiah, represented considerable chutzpah on the part of these critics. They had no inkling of the danger of divine judgment for daring to challenge Yeshua's specially appointed apostle. Remember Korah!
3 saying that, "You went to men having a foreskin and ate with them."
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, enjoin, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 1 above. The conjunction introduces the following quotation. You went: Grk. eiserchomai, aor., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. to: Grk. pros, prep. See the previous verse. men: pl. of Grk. anēr, an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr renders several Heb. words, primarily Heb. ish (SH-376), man (Gen 2:23) (DNTT 2:562).
having: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application: e.g., (1) hold in one's hands, wear, preserve, seize; (2) have as one's own or at hand, possess; (3) have with oneself or in one's company (BAG). The second meaning applies here. a foreskin: Grk. akrobustia, to have a prepuce or foreskin and therefore never circumcised. The regular Greek word for "uncircumcised is aperitmētos, "no circumcision" (Acts 7:51). In the LXX akrobustia renders Heb. orlah (SH-6190), foreskin, first in Genesis 17:11. Bible versions render the verbal phrase as "uncircumcised" to lessen the effect of the shocking language to modern sensibilities. Peter's critics no doubt used the blunt language as an expression of contempt for the Gentiles.
and: Grk. kai, conj. ate with: Grk. sunesthiō, aor., to share a meal with, to eat with. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See the previous verse. The brothers from Joppa were witnesses of the salvation of the Gentiles and amazed at the manifestation of the Holy Spirit (10:45; verse 12 below), but they chose not to tell the whole story. In their mind table fellowship with uncircumcised Gentiles was a serious breach of Jewish custom. The critics demonstrated that they were more committed to their legalism than to the Great Commission. It's very possible that before (or after) the immersion of Cornelius and his household the brothers of the Circumcision returned to Joppa and only assumed that Peter ate with Cornelius. This particular charge Peter does not answer, but he felt duty bound to correct the record and in so doing rebuke and persuade his critics.
Peter Describes the Vision from the Lord, 11:4-10
4 But Peter having begun was declaring to them in order, saying,
But: Grk. de, conj. Peter having begun: Grk. archō, aor. mid. part., may mean (1) to rule or (2) to begin or commence something. The second meaning applies here. was declaring: Grk. ektithēmi, impf. mid., may mean (1) to set outside, with focus on a public aspect; or (2) to set forth, declare, expound. The second meaning applies here. The verb occurs only in Acts. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Luke does not make clear to whom Peter addressed his defense. The immediate antecedent of the pronoun is the orthodox disciples mentioned in verse 2, but some of the "apostles and brothers" of verse 1 could also have been present. The only other persons mentioned as present are Peter's companions from Joppa (verse 12 below).
in order: Grk. kathexēs, adv., in sequence; successively, afterwards. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See the previous verse. In spite of criticism Peter remained level-headed and determined to correct the prejudicial report with a first person factual account. He began his defense of sharing the good news with Gentiles in Caesarea by describing his visionary experience. The personal account that follows repeats the essential facts of the narrative of chapter ten and introduces a few details not present there.
5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and I saw in a trance, a vision, a certain vessel coming down like a great sheet with four corners being lowered from heaven; and it came as far as me,
Parallel: Acts 10:10-11
I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep., generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within," and in composition may be translated "in, on, at, by, or with." the city: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. of Joppa: Grk. Ioppē, a transliteration of Heb. Yafo ("beauty"), a coastal town of Judea about 35 miles south of Caesarea and an equal distance northwest of Jerusalem. Originally a Canaanite city, Joppa held a key position on the ancient trade route of the Via Maris that connected Egypt in the south and Syria in the north. See the road map here. Joppa also had the only natural harbor between Egypt and Tyre and was a major port of entry for maritime shipping.
praying: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. part., to petition deity for some personal desire. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. palal (SH-6419), to intervene, mediate, intercede or pray. The verb refers to earnestly petitioning God for His help with respect to an urgent need. Peter does not mention that he was on the roof of Simon's house and that a meal was being prepared at the time. and: Grk. kai, conj. I saw: Grk. horaō, aor., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. The verb denotes a personal experience. Luke's narrative uses the verb theōreō, "observe." Peter saw with the "eyes of his mind."
in: Grk. en. a trance: Grk. ekstasis, from the verb existēmi, may mean (1) the state of being in utter amazement, shock and wonder; or (2) a throwing of the mind out of its normal state into a heightened consciousness. The second meaning applies here. The great majority Bible versions translate the noun with "trance." Paul will later use ekstasis to describe the state in which he received a revelation from the Lord while in the temple (Acts 22:17). In the LXX ekstasis occurs 24 times and translates ten different Hebrew words (ABP), representing a range of human experience and emotion (cf. Philo, Who is the Heir of Divine Things, LI-LIII).
The noun is never used in the specific sense of ecstasy (DNTT 1:527). The first two occurrences of ekstasis translate Heb. tardemah (SH-8639, deep sleep, usually by supernatural agency), in Genesis 2:21 for the induced coma to remove flesh from Adam's side and in Genesis 15:12 for a deep sleep God induced on Abraham in which he was given a revelation of the future sojourn of his descendants among Gentiles. Peter's experience may be comparable to that of Abraham.
a vision: Grk. horama, something that is seen by virtue of a transcendent or revelatory experience; vision. The term refers to a pictographic image seen with the eyes, not a mental insight. The term occurs 12 times in the Besekh, only one of which is not in Acts. In the LXX horama translates six different Hebrew words that mean "vision," generally in regard to divine revelatory experiences of important persons. In biblical times God spoke to the patriarchs and prophets of Israel in visions and dreams, as ADONAI declared, "Listen to what I say: when there is a prophet among you, I, ADONAI, make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream" (Num 12:6 CJB). A number of Bible characters received messages from God while asleep or in an induced state: Abraham (Gen 15:1, 12), Jacob (Gen 28:12; 31:10f; 46:2), Joseph (Gen 37:5-10), Samuel (1Sam 3:15), Solomon (1Kgs 3:5), and Daniel (Dan 2:19; 7:1, 13).
a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. vessel: Grk. skeuos, something serviceable in carrying out a function. The term is used variously of (1) a human body, (2) a household or Temple container for holding a liquid, and (3) a ship. A number of versions have "object," but the noun refers to something functioning as a container. coming down: Grk. katabainō, pres. part., to proceed in a direction that is down; go down, come down, descend. like: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components, used here in a comparative sense; just like, similar to. a great: Grk. megas, adj., large or great in extent, used here of an extension in space in all directions. sheet: Grk. othonē, linen cloth, whether a sheet or a sail.
with four: Grk. tessares (for Heb. arba, SH-702), adj., the cardinal number four. corners: pl. of Grk. archē with the basic meaning of beginning, i.e., the initial starting point (HELPS). In the LXX archē renders Heb. reshit ("beginning," first in Gen 1:1) and rosh ("head, ruler" first in Gen 2:10) (DNTT 1:164f). Thayer says the term can also mean "the extremity of a thing." In this context the noun means an extremity, a starting point at the edge for measuring the four-sided sheet. Most versions consider the dative case of "four corners" to have an instrumental meaning and insert the preposition "by" to convey that interpretation. However, considering the Greek word order the dative case is probably only meant as descriptive of the sheet. The Wycliffe Bible (1395) does translate the phrase as "with four corners."
being lowered: Grk. kathiēmi, pres. mid. part., to let down, cause to descend or to make lower. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. heaven: Grk. ho ouranos, is used in Scripture to refer to three different cosmological locations (Ps 148:1-4): (1) the atmosphere above the ground; (2) interstellar space; and (3) the transcendent dwelling-place of God and the angels. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. plural noun shamayim (SH-8064, lit. "the heavens") with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:191). In Scripture ouranos is always "up" as a direction from the surface of the earth. Some versions opt for the first location and render the noun as "sky." Peter probably intends that while he saw the vision descending from overhead, the vision came from God.
and: Grk. kai. it came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. as far as: Grk. achri, adv., a function word signifying an interval between two points with focus on continuity, here of an extension in space; as far as. me: Grk. egō. The narrative of the previous chapter says the object came down to the earth, but Peter clarifies that the vision was physically near to him.
6 toward which having looked intently, I was observing. And I saw the quadrupeds of the earth, also wild animals and the creeping things, and the birds of heaven.
Parallel: Acts 10:12
toward: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 2 above. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. having looked intently: Grk. atenizō, aor. part., look intently; to observe with great interest and a fastened or fixed gaze (HELPS). Metaphorically the verb means to fix the mind on something. I was observing: Grk katanoeō, impf., to pay close attention to, to take a close look at. The verb is used in Acts 7:31 of Moses staring at the extraordinary and impossible sight of the burning bush. And: Grk. kai, conj. I saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See the previous verse.
the quadrupeds: pl. of Grk. tetrapous, animals or creatures having four feet. In the LXX tetrapous renders Heb. behemah (SH-929), beast, animal or livestock (first in Gen 1:24). There are a vast number and variety of animals with four legs. of the earth: Grk. gē can mean (1) soil (as in receiving seed), (2) the ground, (3) land as contrasted with the sea, or (4) the earth in contrast to heaven. The fourth meaning is intended here. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (SH-776), which has the same range of meaning (DNTT 1:517; BDB 75). This category would include terrestrial mammals. also: Grk. kai. The conjunction is used here to indicate that the following noun is included in the quadrupeds, rather than being a separate category, as in the Tanakh (Gen 1:24-25; Ps 148:10). The clarification is shown in a few versions (CEB, ERV, NIRV).
wild animals: Grk. thērion (dim. form of thēr, "beast of prey"), beast or wild animal; i.e. not domesticated and therefore unclean. This category is not included in Luke's narrative of the previous chapter. These animals could have been included in the "quadrupeds," but the distinction was apparently important to Peter. and: Grk. kai, conj. creeping things: pl. of Grk. herpeton (from herpō, "move slowly"), a crawling or creeping creature, generally translated as "reptiles." In the LXX herpeton translates Heb. remes (SH-7431), creeping thing, denoting the manner of locomotion (first in Gen 1:24). The Heb. term includes some marine animals (Lev 11:46; Ps 104:25). A "creeping thing" may also be without legs (e.g., a snake) or have many legs (e.g., a centipede). These three categories of animals inhabit the surface of the earth contrasted with the next category.
and: Grk. kai, conj. birds: pl. of Grk. peteinon, a warm-blooded animal with feathers and wings; a bird, whether clean or unclean. of the air: Grk. ho ouranos. See the previous verse. The first heaven or atmosphere is intended here. The phrase "birds of the air" refer to birds that can fly. There are over 20 types of bird that do not fly, including the emus, ostriches and penguins. Birds capable of flight can soar up to altitudes of 25,000 feet, at which point they are above two-thirds of the atoms of the atmosphere.
The categories of animals here correspond to those given in Psalm 148:10, "Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds" (ESV), which reflects the creation order found in Genesis 1:24-25. These categories of animal description do not conform to modern taxonomy. Animals are generally classified in Scripture according to their kind (Gen 1:21), their means of locomotion (wings, feet, belly), specific physical characteristics (having breath or blood, Gen 7:15; 9:4) or their habitat (air, land or water). Animals were also designated as clean or unclean (Gen 7:2). The distinction between clean and unclean in the primeval age is probably that the clean animals could be domesticated and thus were suitable for sacrificial offerings. They did not become food sources until after the global deluge.
7 Then I heard also a voice saying to me, 'Arise, Peter, kill and eat.'
Parallel: Acts 10:13
Then: Grk. de, conj. I heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See verse 1 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. a voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language (1Cor 14:10; 2Pet 2:16). The word often is used in the Besekh of articulated sound from a human mouth. In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113). Of interest is that the speaker does not identify himself, but since the sheet of animals came from heaven, then the voice must have also.
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. to me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Arise: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part., to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to the physical motion of transition from a sitting or prone position or simply standing. In the LXX anistēmi renders Heb. qum (SH-6965), to arise, stand up, or stand, first in Genesis 4:8. The verb implies that Peter had been kneeling for his prayer time. Many versions translate the verb with "Get up," which seems too peremptory. Noteworthy is the fact that the verb is not in the imperative mood, the normal mood for command.
However, the verb is clearly being used for exhortation. Scholars have long been puzzled over the usage of the participle in hortatory instructions concerning rules of social behavior within the community of faith and in families (in Romans, Ephesians, Colossians and 1Peter). Davies says that non-biblical Jewish writings used the participle in exactly the same manner, and thus the use of the participle as imperative probably reflects Jewish sources (130f). Stern concurs in this information (428). With the use of the participle the voice was appealing to the conscience rather than commanding the will.
Peter: voc. case. The direct address form of "Peter" occurs only three times in the apostolic narratives, the first by Yeshua (Luke 22:34). kill: Grk. thuō, aor. imp., may mean (1) to conduct ritual sacrifice, especially in the context of festivals (Luke 22:7); (2) to slaughter for food (Luke 15:23); or (3) to kill for the sake of destruction (John 10:10). The second meaning is probably intended here. and: Grk. kai. eat: Grk. phagō, aor. imp., to take in one's mouth, to partake of food. The unqualified nature of the commands implies that Peter could have his choice. We should note what the voice did not say. He did not say, "kill, cook and eat."
Peter's personal experience with killing animals is unknown, but we may assume it included killing fish (he was a fisherman) and killing a lamb for Passover. Ordinarily he would not have prepared his own meals, so if he had meat with a meal his wife or a servant obtained it from a market. Only one other time in Scripture did God tell someone to "arise" and "eat." The angel of ADONAI told Elijah to eat before a long journey (1Kgs 19:5, 7), at the end of which he received a revelation (1Kgs 19:15-18). Peter could not physically carry out the instruction, because the animals in the vision were not real. However, the command to "eat" may hint at Peter's later table fellowship with Gentiles (cf. Acts 10:48; Gal 2:12).
8 But I said, 'By no means, Lord, because common or unclean never has entered into my mouth.'
Parallel: Acts 10:14
But: Grk. de, conj. I said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above. By no means: Grk. mēdamōs, adv. (from mēde, "but not," and hamos, "anyone"), by no means, not at all. In the LXX mēdamōs renders Heb. chalilah (SH-2486), an interjection meaning "far be it" (first in Gen 18:25). The negative adverb is not a flat refusal, but an expression of horror that such an action would even be contemplated. Abraham used the same expression to object to killing the righteous along with the wicked in Sodom (Gen 18:25). The expression is used in eleven other situations of Bible characters objecting to doing something considered to be wrong: Job (Job 27:5), Joseph's brothers (Gen 44:7), tribes east of the Jordan (Josh 22:9), Israelite leaders (Josh 24:16), Samuel (1Sam 12:23), Israelites to King Saul (1Sam 14:45), Jonathan (1Sam 20:2, 9), Ahimelech (1Sam 22:15), David (1Sam 24:6; 26:11; 2Sam 23:17), Joab (2Sam 20:20), and Naboth (1Kgs 21:3).
Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times and is used primarily to replace the sacred name of God, YHVH. Kurios also occurs a number of times to identify men of higher rank to whom respect is owed (DNTT 2:511). Peter assumed the voice came from Yeshua and addressed him accordingly. Kurios is the principal title by which disciples addressed or referred to Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title. He would know the sound of Yeshua's voice (John 10:27).
Whatever the actual animals in the sheet may have been Peter concluded that he was being told to eat animals no Jew would eat. Yet surely Yeshua would not ask him to do something that was contrary to Yeshua's own practice and contrary to Torah. So Peter's objection is not a flat refusal but more like a pleading, "I can't believe you would say this. Far be it for me to violate your own law!"
because: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The fourth usage applies here. common: Grk. koinos, adj., may mean either (1) shared collectively, communal; or (2) belonging to what is everyday, ordinary; or (3) contrary to special religious practice or perspective, common. The third meaning applies here. The category of "common" included both the clean (suitable for eating but unsuitable for sacrifice; e.g. fish or chicken) and the unclean (unsuitable for eating and sacrifice). Peter meant the latter category of "common."
or: Grk. ē, conj. involving options and is used as (1) a marker of an alternative, "or;" or (2) a marker indicating comparison; than, rather than. The first meaning applies here. unclean: Grk. akathartos, adj., unclean or impure, used generally in a religious sense of isolating one from contact with God. In the LXX akathartos renders Heb. tamê (SH 2931), defiled or opposite of clean (first in Lev 5:2)) (DNTT 3:103). See an explanation of these terms in my comment on Acts 10:14. never: Grk. oudepote, neg. adv. denying absolutely and objectively; not ever, never. has entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. The verb is used here in relation to an organ of the human body.
into: Grk. eis, prep. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. mouth: Grk. stoma (for Heb. peh, mouth), the bodily organ used for speaking, tasting, eating and drinking; mouth. Bruce notes that Peter's comment is close to Ezekiel's protest when he was directed to eat barley bread that had been cooked over human excrement: "I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth" (Ezek 4:14 NKJV). But, in that situation God saved Ezekiel embarrassment by giving him cow's dung.
9 But a voice from heaven answered from a second time, 'What God has cleansed, you shall not consider common.'
Parallel: Acts 10:15
But: Grk. de, conj. a voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), and used in the Tanakh for various kinds of vocal expression (DNTT 3:113). In Luke's narrative the speaker did not identify himself. from: Grk. ek, prep. heaven: Grk. ho ouranos is used in Scripture to refer to three different cosmological locations (Ps 148:1-4): (1) the atmosphere above the ground; (2) interstellar space; and (3) the transcendent dwelling-place of God and the angels. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. plural noun shamayim (SH-8064, lit. "the heavens") with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:191). The use of the definite article ho identifies the third heaven as the point of origin.
answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass., to answer or reply to someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. (BAG). In the LXX apokrinomai renders Heb. anah (SH-6030), to answer or respond to something said in conversation (Gen 18:27); to respond to an occasion and speak in view of circumstances (Dan 2:15) or to respond as a witness in a legal proceeding (1Sam 12:3) (BDB 772). Thayer says that apokrinomai in imitation of the Hebrew anah may mean "to begin to speak," but always where something has preceded (either said or done) to which the remarks refer. from: Grk. ek, prep. a second time: Grk. deuteros, second, in the second place, for the second time. Peter clarifies the report of Luke that the declaration that follows occurred after the second appearance of the vision.
What: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 6 above. God: See verse 1 above. has cleansed: Grk. katharizō, aor., to clean or cleanse, and is used of (1) physical removal of stains and dirt (Matt 23:25); (2) physical healing of skin disease that enabled communal restoration (Luke 17:14-17); and (3) removal of the guilt or defilement of sin (2Cor 7:1; Eph 5:26; Heb 9:22; 1Jn 1:7). The aorist tense is probably intended as a dramatic aorist, which depicts a present reality with the certitude of a past event. In the LXX katharizō has wide application and is normally associated with removal of uncleanness that will enable a person to have contact with God and/or other people. The verb renders Heb. taher (SH-2891), to cleanse or purify, which may depict either process or result, as well as Heb. kaphar (SH-2722), make atonement (DNTT 3:104). Relevant to this context is that katharizō occurs in various LXX passages concerning atonement of sins (Ex 30:10; Lev 14:19; 16:30; Ps 51:2; Jer 33:8; Ezek 37:23).
you shall not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). consider common: Grk. koinoō, pres. imp., to defile by treating what is sacred as common or ordinary (HELPS). The verb first occurs in the controversy between Yeshua and Pharisees over eating with unwashed hands (Matt 15:11; Mark 7:15). The religious elite considered that such eating defiled a person in a moral sense, and in their culture deserved severe punishment. Yeshua rebutted this thinking and retorted that sin is what truly defiles a person (Matt 15:18-19; Mark 7:23).
Christian commentators typically interpret the vision and instruction given to Peter as validating the belief that Yeshua canceled Torah food restrictions (Mark 7:19). Apparently the Circumcision sect was not aware of such a drastic ruling of Yeshua. Christian scholars ignore the fact that the controversy between Yeshua and the Pharisees was actually over eating with unwashed hands, not diet (Mark 7:5). If Yeshua had dared to say "all the animals declared unclean in the Torah I am now declaring clean" the Pharisees would have immediately stoned him and no one would have objected. Moreover, Yeshua had said the he did not come to abolish Torah (Matt 5:17), so the Christian interpretation has made Yeshua out to be a liar.
In addition, there is no evidence in the Besekh that Jewish followers of Yeshua abandoned compliance with Torah food regulations or that the apostles encouraged such abandonment. It's unclear why Christians perpetuate this false narrative about Yeshua. Maybe it's because they love pork and shrimp and are conflicted because Yeshua never ate forbidden food. (If he had he would have been rightly considered a sinner.) See my web article Did Yeshua Cancel Torah Food Laws? (The short answer is no.) As far as the instruction to Peter is concerned Yeshua would not have used the word "cleansed" in reference to having canceled Torah food restrictions. He would have been much more straightforward as he was with the woman of Samaria when he said that the day was coming when worship would no longer be done in Jerusalem (John 4:21).
Yeshua's declaration to Peter alludes to some cleansing in the past that would have application for the future. Considering what happened in the house of Cornelius the mention of "cleansing" must hint of some historical event (or more than one event) concerning Gentiles, especially in the sense of providing spiritual cleansing or atonement. For example, God declared that Jacob would become a company of nations (Gen 35:11), a commonwealth united by atonement (Eph 2:12-13). Rahab the Canaanite and Ruth the Moabite were welcomed into Israel with its provision for atonement and God then included them in the Messianic line (Matt 1:5). In the time of Elisha there were many people suffering from skin disease, but the only one cleansed (healed) was Naaman the Syrian who also received pardon from the God of Israel (2Kgs 5:10-19; Luke 4:27).
Later God sent Peter's ancestor Jonah to Nineveh to enable their receiving God's mercy (Jon 1:2; 4:11). Then God declared through Isaiah that Israel was to be a light to the nations (Isa 42:6; Luke 2:32). Both King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Dan 4:1-3, 34-37) and King Cyrus of Persia (2Chr 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1) had revelations from the God of Israel and worshipped Him. In Acts the first cleansing was spiritual in nature of people receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 15:9) and that group included Gentile proselytes (Acts 2:10). In Peter's Pentecost sermon he quoted from Joel to prophesy that the Holy Spirit would fall upon all mankind, which includes Gentiles (Acts 2:17).
The phrase "what God has cleansed" then has the practical meaning of "what God has deemed worthy of spiritual cleansing" (cf. Acts 13:46-49). The promise of cleansing was for all nations, because "God so loved the world" (John 3:16) and Yeshua was the Savior of the whole world (John 4:42; 6:33, 51). So Peter was strongly admonished to be cautious in determining what should be avoided and he came to understand that the divine directive had nothing to do with food and everything to do with people. The heavenly declaration meant "What God has made atonement for you shall not call unworthy of God's mercy."
10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.
Parallel: Acts 10:16
This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transition from one state or condition to another; which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here. In the LXX ginomai translates Heb. hayah (SH-1961; BDB 224), to fall out, come to pass, become, be (first in Gen 1:3).
three times: Grk. tris, thrice or three times. The number refers to the total number of times the visionary revelation occurred. Among Jews the number three represented perfect completion. Three witnesses proved the truth of a matter beyond doubt (Deut 17:6; 19:15; Matt 18:16; 1Jn 5:7-8). For Peter the three-fold revelation was complete and nothing more needed to be added. It was a subtle reminder of when Peter had denied Yeshua three times (Luke 22:34, 61) and then was restored by Yeshua asking him three times to affirm his love for Yeshua (John 21:15-17). For Peter to love Yeshua meant feeding and shepherding his sheep, including the "other sheep" that would be joined to the flock of Israel (John 10:16).
and: Grk. kai, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. was drawn up: Grk. anaspaō, aor. pass., drag up, pull up, draw up. again: Grk. palin, adv. with focus on a repetitive occurrence; once more, again. into: Grk. eis, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 5 above. Gill suggests in his comment on 10:16 that the act of the vessel being received back into heaven symbolizes the names of Jews and Gentiles in the great assembly of God being written in heaven, and that they will all together be gathered and taken up to heaven to be forever with the Lord. While the "taking up" might have an eschatological meaning, the actual taking up or "rapture" will only serve to meet Yeshua in the air coming from heaven with all the holy ones. Eternity will not be spent in heaven but upon the new earth. See my web article The Rapture Debate.
Peter Recounts his Trip to Caesarea, 11:11-14
11 "And behold, immediately three men stood near the house in which we were, having been sent from Caesarea to me.
Parallel: Acts 10:17
And: Grk. kai, conj. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp., demonstrative interjection (derived from eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek verb, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG). immediately: Grk. exautēs, adv., at once, immediately, without delay. three: Grk. treis, adj. The cardinal number three. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 3 above. stood: Grk. ephistēmi, aor., to come or stand near. near: Grk. epi, prep., lit. "upon," used mostly as a marker of position or location; and in composition may be translated 'at, by, near, on, upon, or over.'
the house: Grk. oikia may mean either (1) a habitable structure, house; or (2) fig. a group within a house, household or family. The first meaning applies here. Peter omits mention of the gate. in: Grk. en, prep. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. we were: Grk. eimi, impf., 1p-pl. See verse 1 above. having been sent: Grk. apostellō, perf. pass. part. , to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. Originally in Greek culture apostellō was used of sending an envoy to represent a king or a personal representative with legal powers. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128).
from: Grk. apo, prep. used to indicate separation, here denoting point of origin; from. Caesarea: Grk. Kaisareia, a prominent coastal city located 23 miles south of Mt. Carmel. Originally called Strato's Tower the Hasmonean ruler Alexander Jannaeus brought it under Jewish control in 96 BC, but Pompey brought it under Roman rule in 63 BC. The city was home to a thriving Jewish community. Because of the lack of natural harbor Herod the Great undertook in 22 BC to build a fine port facility and support it by a new city. Great statues of Augustus and Roma were erected at the entrance. An inner harbor appears to have been dug into the land where mooring berths and vaulted warehouses were constructed.
Herod changed the name of the city to Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus (Josephus, Ant. XIV, 4:4; XV, 8:5). Josephus described the construction of the harbor and accompanying city in grandiose detail (Ant. XIV, 4:4; XV, 9:6). Caesarea was Hellenistic in design and style and in addition to the many buildings a platform was raised near the harbor upon which a temple was built for Caesar with a Colossus of Caesar. After the death of Herod the city became the capital of the province of Judaea and served as the official home of the procurators. Yeshua never went into Caesarea, but the city had a significant population of Jews. Philip had settled there (Acts 8:40; 21:8). The city is mentioned in the book of Acts 15 times as the location of apostolic visits and significant events.
to: Grk. pros, prep. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Peter notes that he was the object of the journey of the group from Caesarea. The three men had completed the first part of their mission from Cornelius.
12 And the Spirit told me to accompany them, doubting nothing. Now these six brothers also went with me and we entered the house of the man.
Parallel: Acts 10:19-20, 23, 25
And: Grk. de, conj. the Spirit: Grk. ho pneuma, wind, breath or spirit, used generally for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14). Here pneuma refers here to the Holy Spirit. told: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. to accompany: Grk. sunerchomai, aor. inf., may mean (1) to come together as a collection of persons; (2) come together in a close personal relationship; or (3) come or go together with someone. The third meaning applies here. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. doubting: Grk diakrinō, aor. part., may mean (1) to distinguish between categories; (2) to evaluate as part of decision-making; (3) to dispute or contend with; or (4) to weigh matters intellectually, leading to wavering or hesitation. The fourth meaning primarily applies here, although there could be a nuance of the other meanings. In the parallel passage the verb is a present participle.
nothing: Grk. mēdeis, adj. (from mē, "not" and heis, "one"), not even one, nothing, none. The exhortation "doubting nothing" functions as an ominous warning. Peter was not to doubt the message from Cornelius nor the instruction of the Spirit. It is a dangerous thing to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30). Thus, Peter emphasizes that he went to Caesarea out of obedience to the Spirit, and implies that his critics would have favored disobeying the Spirit. However, he omits the complete statement of the Spirit, "arise, go down and go with them doubting nothing, because I have sent them."
Now: Grk. de. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. six: Grk. hex, the cardinal number six. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 1 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. went: Grk. erchomai, aor. See verse 5 above. with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. me: Grk. egō. and: Grk. kai. we entered: Grk. erchomai, aor. the house: Grk. oikos, a structure for habitation; house, home and by extension the household of that dwelling. The term implies a fixed residence. In the LXX oikos translates Heb. bayit (SH-1004) with the same range of meaning. of the man: Grk. anēr. See verse 3 above. Peter makes an important point to his audience. The six brothers who accompanied Peter to Caesarea may have reported Peter's actions to leaders in Jerusalem. They, like Peter, were in the city to attend a festival. It's not clear whether their presence at this meeting was at the invitation of Peter or his critics.
13 And he reported to us how he had seen the angel in his house, having stood and having said, 'Send to Joppa and summon Simon, the one called Peter.
Parallel: Acts 10:30, 32
And: Grk. de, conj. he reported: Grk. apangellō, aor., may mean (1) to report back in response to a directive ; or (2) to relate as the result of personal experience, observation or other source of information; relate, report, declare. The second meaning applies here. to us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. how: Grk. pōs, adv. introducing a statement concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how, in what manner/way. he had seen: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 5 above. the angel: Grk. ho angelos, 'one sent,' a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or messenger (i.e., human) relies primarily on the context. The term is used here to mean a heavenly messenger. See my web article The Host of Heaven.
in: Grk. en, prep. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. house: Grk. oikos. See the previous verse. having stood: Grk. histēmi, aor. pass. part., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; (2) to be in an upright position; (3) to set or place in a balance; (4) fig. to stand ready, to be of a steadfast mind. The first meaning applies here. and: Grk. kai, conj. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part. See verse 3 above. Peter omits what Cornelius told him before relating the command of the angel:
"Four days ago until this hour, I was praying during the ninth hour in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and he said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God" (Acts 10:30-31 BR).
Send: Grk. apostellō, aor. imp. See verse 11 above. to Joppa: Grk. Ioppē. See verse 5 above. and: Grk. kai. summon: Grk. metapempō, aor. mid. imp., dispatch for someone's presence; send after, send for, summon. The verb occurs nine times in the Besekh, all in Acts. Simon: Grk. Simōn, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Shimôn ("Shee-mown"), meaning "he has heard." This spelling does not occur in the LXX at all. In the Tanakh the Heb. name Shimôn appears for the first time as the second son of Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:33) and then the tribe descended from him (Num 1:22-23). His name is translated in the LXX as Sumeōn and in English "Simeon." Since the apostle is known in heaven by his Hebrew name, it may be that Hebrew is the language spoken in heaven.
the one called: Grk. ho epikaleō, pres. pass. part., may mean (1) to give a name or nickname to; call, name; or (2) call upon for help, aid or intercession; invoke, appeal to, call upon for oneself. The first meaning applies here. The verb hints at the fact that the name was given to the apostle by Yeshua (John 1:42). Peter: See verse 2 above. The statement alludes to the fact that Peter's host in Joppa also had the name Simon.
14 who will speak words to you by which you will be saved and all of your household.'
Parallel: Acts 10:31
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 6 above. will speak: Grk. laleō, fut., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter. words: pl. of Grk. rhēma, a communication consisting of words, often with the implication of importance or special significance. In secular Greek literature rhēma referred to a statement, discourse or explanation. In the LXX rhēma renders Heb. dabar (SH-1697), word, whether a discourse, counsel, or utterance of a sentence (DNTT 3:1119f). The plural form of the noun alludes to the many words that would make up Peter's sermon (Acts 10:34-43). to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 2 above. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. by: Grk. en, prep., here with an instrumental emphasis. which: Grk. hos. you: Grk. su.
will be saved: Grk. sōzō, fut. pass., to deliver, or rescue from a hazardous condition; save, rescue. The verb is used in reference to rescue from bodily peril (Luke 8:50) or bodily death (Luke 23:39), as well as rescue from spiritual peril, frequently of an apocalyptic type (Luke 13:23; 19:10). In the LXX sōzō translates no less than 15 different Hebrew verbs, but the most important is yasha, (SH-34-67), to deliver, liberate and save (e.g., 1Sam 23:5), and malat, (SH-4422), to escape, deliver, or save, which is used in the Joel passage. In apostolic usage sōzō is equated with divine pardon and a present experience (Matt 1:21; Acts 2:47; 1Pet 3:21).
However, just as often sōzō is a future experience of being delivered from divine judgment (Acts 15:1; 16:31; Rom 5:9-10; 1Cor 5:5; Jas 5:20). The desire for salvation is one petition that God is willing, even anxious to answer (Ezek 18:23, 32; Luke 19:10; 2Pet 3:9). The angel could have intended the verb as pertaining to (1) the present, in that the consequence immediately follows the "calling on ADONAI" (cf. Acts 2:21); or (2) the Messianic judgment when Yeshua returns (Matt 25:31-32; 2Cor 5:10). He could also have intended both meanings. For the angel (as well as Peter) being saved certainly did not mean "going to heaven when you die" as it does to many Christians (Wright 34). The angel clearly meant that Cornelius could only call on ADONAI for salvation by acknowledging Yeshua as the Messiah.
and: Grk. kai, conj. all: Grk. pas, adj. of your: Grk. su. household: Grk. oikos. See verse 12 above. The angel gave Cornelius a tremendous promise. While it is not stated in Chapter Ten, Cornelius no doubt included the angel's promise in his explanation when he met Peter face-to-face. The angel assured Cornelius that not only would he receive salvation, but his relatives and servants as well, and on the same basis. If they had a heart of repentance and trusted in Yeshua, they would be saved.
Peter Reports the Result of Ministry, 11:15-18
15 Then in my beginning to speak, the Holy Spirit rushed upon them, just as also upon us at the beginning.
Parallel Passage: Acts 10:44, 47
Then: Grk. de, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. beginning: Grk. archō, aor. mid. inf., can mean either to rule or to begin something. The second usage applies here. to speak: Grk. laleō, pres. inf. See the previous verse. Peter implies he had much more to say, but he was not allowed to complete his sermon. Holy: Grk. ho hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity. The term is used of sacred things, places, people, angels and God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadôsh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Leviticus 11:44.
Spirit: Grk. ho pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. Pneuma is used for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a name or face of God. "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (pneuma ho theos, John 4:24), just as God is the Word (John 1:1). The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh. The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Jdg 3:10; and Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1).
rushed: Grk. epipiptō (derived from epi, "upon," and piptō, "fall or cast"), aor., come upon with sudden movement; fall upon, rush or press upon. The verb is used literally of a close physical embrace (Luke 15:20; Acts 20:10, 37). Metaphorically the verb means to seize or to take possession of (Thayer). The majority of versions translate the verb as "fell," but an almost equal number have "came," which seems to deprive the verb of its dramatic intent. A few versions give the impression of the Spirit coming from a height (e.g., "came down," CSB, EHV, GNB, NLV), but the Holy Spirit is omnipresent (Gen 6:3; Ps 139:7-10; Isa 63:11; Jer 23:23-24; Hag 2:5).
The translation of "rushed" connects the experience of those receiving the Holy Spirit on this occasion with those on Pentecost, based on Peter's analysis. In the LXX epipiptō occurs first in Genesis 14:15 to translate a Hebrew construction that depicts Abraham and his company falling upon the enemy armies that had attacked Sodom where Lot lived. The verb epipiptō is also used to translate Heb. naphal (SH-5307), to fall or lie, which depicts being overwhelmed, first of Abraham being overwhelmed by a deep sleep just prior to receiving a visionary revelation (Gen 15:12). The Hebrew verb is used to describe the Spirit coming upon Ezekiel (Ezek 11:5). The verb epipiptō is used previously in Acts of the visitation of the Holy Spirit upon the Samaritans (Acts 8:16-17).
upon: Grk. epi, prep. The preposition might seem like a redundancy considering the etymology of the verb, but epi emphasizes contact building on the verbal idea and naturally looks to the effects of such contact (HELPS). The verbal phrase "rushed upon" would be comparable to verbs used previously to describe an extraordinary experience with the Holy Spirit: "come upon" (Acts 1:8), "immerse" (Acts 1:5), "filled" (Acts 2:4; 4:8) and "received" (Acts 2:38; 8:17). them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. just as: Grk. hōsper, adv. of manner relating events and conditions, even as, just as. HELPS adds "indeed just as," "just exactly like." also: Grk. kai, conj. upon: Grk. epi. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Peter most likely refers to the 120 disciples (Acts 1:15) who had waited for the fulfillment of Yeshua's promise.
at: Grk. en. the beginning: Grk. archē. See verse 5 above. Peter refers to Pentecost, the beginning of the age of the Spirit and the divine fulfillment of the promise of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-33; Ezek 11:19; 36:26). By "beginning" Peter does not mean the birth of the Church or Christianity, which came about by the church fathers. This is an extremely important statement by Peter, one he made at the time of the miraculous event in the house of Cornelius, although on that occasion (10:47) he did not use the word "beginning." The Holy Spirit came upon the Roman centurion and his household in the same manner and produced the exact same results as happened on Pentecost. The Gentiles did not express themselves in glossolalia as widely interpreted.
16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said, 'Yochanan indeed immersed in water, but you will be immersed in the Holy Spirit.'
Parallel Passage: Acts 1:5
And: Grk. de, conj. I remembered: Grk. mimnēskomai, aor. pass., to call something to mind that one has noted or thought about in the past; recollect, remember. In the LXX mimnēskomai generally renders Heb. zakar (SH-2142) with the same meaning (DNTT 3:232). the word: Grk. ho rhēma. See verse 14 above. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 8 above. how: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 5 above. He had said: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 3 above. The imperfect tense denotes continuous or repetitive action in past time, so Peter indicates the following statement occurred more than once, although Luke only records it once (Acts 1:5; cf. John 14:26; 15:26).
Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs, attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan ("John" in Christian Bibles). His name means "the Lord is gracious,", an apt description of the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Stern 15). The Mace New Testament (1729) was the first to use the spelling of "John." Yochanan was a cousin (degree unknown) of Yeshua, born in Hebron just six months before Yeshua (cf. Luke 1:26, 36, 56-57). Only Luke provides dating information on Yochanan's birth and the commencement of his ministry (Luke 1:5; 3:1-3). Yochanan was most likely born in March, 3 BC. (See my nativity commentary on Luke 1.) Yochanan's ministry began in autumn of A.D. 26 (Edersheim 183; Santala 125). In my commentary writing I use the name "Yochanan" for the Immerser and "John" for the apostle.
indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. immersed: Grk. baptizō, aor., to dip, soak, or immerse into a liquid. The verb baptizō is derived from baptō (immerse or plunge) and means that what is dipped takes on qualities of what it has been dipped in—such as cloth in dye or leather in tanning solution. Christian versions translate the verb as "baptized" whereas Messianic Jewish versions render the verb as "immersed." In the LXX baptō is used to translate the Heb. taval (SH-2881, to dip, immerse) 13 times, whereas baptizō occurs only once to render taval (2Kgs 5:14), in reference to the story of Naaman (DNTT 1:144). In Scripture baptizō never means an action of sprinkling or pouring.
Paul's representation of baptizō as burial and resurrection (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12) is a graphic illustration of the procedure. The immersion of disciples in the apostolic era followed Jewish practice, so no one personally put their hands on the candidates and assisted them under the water as occurs in the Christian ritual. First, Jewish immersion was (and is) self-immersion, as in the story of Naaman. No one touches the one immersing. Second, Jewish immersion was gender-specific. That is, for the sake of modesty men are not present when women immerse and vice versa. Third, Jewish immersion was for those who had passed the age of accountability (13 for boys; 12 for girls). In the apostolic narratives only adults immersed themselves.
Delitzsch captures the true sense in his Hebrew translation of this verse, using the Hiphil form of Heb. tabal, "caused to be immersed." That is, the verb here depicts Yochanan superintending the immersion of all who came and expressed repentance and insured that each person completely submerged into the water. In all likelihood several people immersed at the same time.
in: There is no qualifying preposition and almost all versions insert "with," perhaps because of the practice of Christian baptism. However, considering how Yochanan conducted his immersion ministry, "with" is clearly wrong. A few versions have "in" (CJB, ERV, HNV, ICB, JUB, MW, TPT, WEB). water: Grk. hudōr, water as a physical element, here referring to the Jordan River. The immersion advocated by Yochanan was representative of repentance and inner purification in order to obtain divine mercy and prepare for the coming Kingdom of God (Matt 3:2, 8, 11; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:3; John 1:6-7). The immersion was a commitment to leave a life pattern of sin (Luke 3:10-14).
but: Grk. de. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person, i.e., the twelve apostles. will be immersed: Grk. baptizō, fut. pass. in: Grk. en, prep. See verse 5 above. Almost all versions translate the preposition as "with," assuming an instrumental function. Some versions have "in" (ASV, CJB, ERV, HNV, ICB, JUB, LITV, REV, TPT, WEB, Weymouth). the Holy Spirit: See the previous verse. Yeshua prophesied that his apostles would have an "immersive" experience (Acts 1:5), so that the Spirit would be "in them" (John 7:39; 14:17) and they "in the Spirit" (cf. Matt 22:43; Luke 2:27; Rom 8:9; Eph 2:22; 6:18). Just as water immersion is self-immersion, so Spirit-immersion is a personal contract between the Spirit and the individual. No other human being can facilitate the experience.
The phrase "in the Spirit" evokes wonder. In this context "in the Spirit" may refer to the spiritual character or condition that distinguishes the believer from the non-believer (cf. John 3:5-8; Rom 2:29; 1Cor 6:17; Gal 6:1; Eph 5:18; Col 1:8). In Romans 8:9 Paul defines "in the Spirit" as meaning the Spirit dwelling in someone. If the soul/spirit is likened to a dwelling-place, then being immersed means that the Spirit occupies the whole house and is in complete control.
17 Therefore if God gave the same gift to them as also to us having trusted on the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who was I to forbid God?"
Parallel Passage: Acts 10:47
Therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then.' if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. God: See verse 1 above. gave: Grk. didōmi, aor., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity. Here the verb has the meaning of allow, grant or permit (Mounce). In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414, first in Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). the same: Grk. isos, equal of amount, size or status; equal, equivalent, identical.
gift: Grk. dōrea, gift or bounty with the focus on liberality. BAG identifies dōrea as a loanword in rabbinic literature. The word occurs frequently in late Jewish literature, but in the canonical books always in the adverbial form dōrean (gift, gratis, without payment) and corresponds in meaning to the Heb. term chinnam, "for nothing without payment, or without recompense," (Gen 29:15; Ex 21:2, 11; Num 11:5, 2Sam 24:24; Jer 22:13) (DNTT 2:41). A "gift" is the opposite of wages, since it cannot be earned. The noun first occurs in Acts in reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), which is what Peter means by "the same gift."
to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 5 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. to us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. having trusted: Grk. pisteuō, aor. part. (derived from pistis, trust, faithfulness), to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the Besekh the verb often has the sense of a personal trust in God's power and His nearness to help. In the LXX pisteuō renders Heb. aman (SH-539), to be reliable, to stand firm, trust, believe, be faithful, first used in Genesis 15:6 where it describes Abraham's response to God. Most versions translate the verb as "believed," but the verb conveys much more than cognitive assent.
on: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 11 above. Most versions translate the preposition as "in," but some have "on" (ASV, HCSB, KJV, NKJV, TLB). the Lord: See verse 8 above. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning of his name and his titles, see my article Who is Yeshua?
the Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, to anoint), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. In Greek culture christos had no religious connotation at all and described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint (DNTT 2:334). Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, whereas the word "Christ" used by Christians has an alien and even negative meaning to Jews (Stern 1-2). For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. was: Grk. eimi, impf. mid. See verse 1 above. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. to forbid: Grk. kōluō, aor. inf., to stop someone from doing something; forbid, hinder, prevent. God: Peter asks his hearers to put themselves in his position. ("I may be an apostle, but the Lord did not give me that much authority.") The rhetorical question also implies a rebuke of the Circumcision sect, "Who are they to criticize me?" Unlike narratives that record numbers of Jews who responded to the Messianic message, Peter offers no information on the number of Gentiles at the house of Cornelius that believed.
18 And having heard these things, they became silent and glorified God, saying, "So, God has given also to the Gentiles the repentance into life."
And: Grk. de, conj. having heard: Grk. akouō, aor. part. See verse 1 above. The verb implies careful consideration. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The plural pronoun alludes to all the content of Peter's report. they became silent: Grk. hēsuchazō, aor., 3p-pl., may mean (1) abstain from work; (2) refrain from disorderly conduct; or (3) keep one's peace. The third meaning applies here. Some versions make the verb more intensive with "they stopped objecting" or "they made no further objection." and: Grk. kai, conj. glorified: Grk. doxazō, aor., 3p-pl., enhance esteem or reputation through word (of praise) or action to honor. In the LXX doxazō renders Heb. navah (SH–5115), to beautify, adorn with praises (Ex 15:2), but principally kabad (SH–3513), to be weighty, to be honored or praised (Lev 10:3; Ps 15:4).
God: See verse 1 above. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. So: Grk. ara, conj., a marker of inference based on a preceding matter or statement; so, then. God has given: Grk. didōmi, aor. See the previous verse. also: Grk. kai. to the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ho ethnos, humans belonging to a people group as defined by language and culture; nation, people. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "community, nation, people," first in Genesis 10:5 (BDB 156; DNTT 2:790). In the Besekh ethnos may refer to any people distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9). While ethnos is used in Scripture to include Israelite or Jewish people (Luke 23:2; Acts 24:2, 10; 28:19; 1Cor 10:18; Php 3:5), this construction, like ha-goyim in the Tanakh, is used to mean Gentiles, whether those not worshipping the true God (Matt 6:32; Acts 4:25; 22:21; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:9; Rev 11:18; 14:8), or those fearing the God of Israel as Cornelius (Acts 13:48; 15:7; Rom 2:14).
the repentance: Grk. metanoia, a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior. In the LXX metanoia occurs only one time and without Hebrew equivalent in Proverbs 14:15, "The guileless believe every word, but the astute one comes to repentance" (ABP). Thayer points out that the noun occurs in Josephus to represent especially the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds (Ant. XIII, 11:3). Metanoia also occurs in Sirach 44:16 where it says "Enoch pleased the Lord, and was taken up; he was an example of repentance to all generations."
The Hebrew concept of repentance means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God's will expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909). True repentance requires honest self-evaluation, which should lead the honest person to identify any number of faults for which confession is necessary. Peter would later write, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2Pet 3:9 NASB).
into: Grk. eis, prep. life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in contrast with being dead. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH-2416, alive, living) with both literal and figurative uses. The Besekh not only uses zōē in its normal meaning of physical existence in the presence age, but over forty times for life that continues into the next age and eternity (e.g., John 3:15-16). The noun "life" as used here denotes a vital relationship with God. However, Peter's hearers did not shout "praise the Lord." This statement was likely a grudging admission, given their later challenge to Paul's ministry (Acts 15:1). These legalists conveniently ignored the fact that Yeshua commanded his apostles to take the good news of salvation to the nations, i.e., the uncircumcised (Matt 24:14; 28:19; Mark 13:10; 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).
19 "Therefore those indeed having been scattered from the persecution having taken place upon Stephen passed through as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to none except only to traditional Jews.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. indeed: Grk. mén. See verse 16 above. Most versions don't translate the word. having been scattered: Grk. diaspeirō, aor. part., scatter (like seed), disperse. The verb occurs only three times in the Besekh, all in Acts (8:1, 4). from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 11 above. Some versions render the preposition as "because of." the persecution: Grk. thlipsis (from thlibō, to press or crush), distress that is the result of outward circumstances; distress, affliction, persecution, suffering, trouble, tribulation. In the LXX thlipsis renders several Hebrew words that denote need, distress, affliction, or trouble, from personal hostility to war and exile (e.g., Gen 35:3; Ex 4:31; Ps 4:1; 9:9; Isa 10:3) (DNTT 2:807). The noun refers here to religious persecution instigated by Saul (Acts 8:1, 3).
having taken place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 10 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 11 above. Stephen: Grk. Stephanos, a personal name meaning, "crown." He is first identified in Acts 6:5 as one of seven men selected to manage the charity for widows and is described as "full of faithfulness and of the Holy Spirit." In 6:8 Stephen performed great signs and wonders and proclaimed Yeshua in synagogues of Diaspora pilgrims. However, a group of Hellenized Jews disputed with Stephen over his Messianic proclamation (6:9-10) and took him by force to appear before the temple ruling council (6:12). Stephen was falsely accused of speaking against the temple and the Torah. He vigorously defended himself before the Council and concluded by accusing them of murdering Yeshua and violating the Torah (7:1-53).
As a result members of the Council were enraged and took Stephen outside the city and stoned him to death (7:54-60). Luke affirms that persecution began with the martyrdom of Stephen. Afterwards disciples of Yeshua fled Jerusalem to avoid the wrath of their enemies (8:1). This took place in AD 31. passed through: Grk. dierchomai, aor. (from dia, "through," and erchomai, "to come or go"), aor., to go through, go about. as far as: Grk. heōs, prep., may mean (1) temporal marker, till until; or (2) a terminal marker, as far as. The second meaning applies here in reference to a location. In Chapters Eight and Nine the dispersion of disciples had gone north as far as Damascus. Now Luke explains that the scattering of disciples had gone even further north.
Phoenicia: Grk. Phoinikē, a place name meaning, "purple" or "crimson," a translation of Heb. Kna'an (Canaan, "land of purple"). Phoenicia was a narrow strip of land north of Galilee that lay between the Mediterranean Sea and the Lebanon Mountains between Tyre in the south and Arvad in the north. See the map here. In the first century Phoenicia reached south to Dora. Great forest land enabled the people to build ships and become the dominant seafaring nation. At this time Phoenicia was part of the Roman province of Syria.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Cyprus: Grk. Kupros, a large island at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea mentioned most prominently in Acts. See the map here. In the Tanakh the island is known as Kittim (Heb. Chittim, Isa 23:1; Jer 2:10) (HBD). The island is 138 miles long east to west and 60 miles wide from north to south; it is eclipsed in size only by Sicily and Sardinia. Much of Cyprus is mountainous with some peaks as high as 5900 feet. In 22 BC Cyprus became a senatorial province of Rome with a proconsul in charge at the capital city of Paphos (NIBD 271). There was a significant Jewish population on Cyprus due to the widespread dispersion of Jews from Babylon (Tarn & Griffith 219). There were at least three synagogues established on the island during the Roman period (JVL). Cyprus was the birthplace of Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37).
and: Grk. kai. Antioch: Grk. Antiocheia, the name of two cities: (a) Syrian Antioch, the capital of the province of Syria, also called Antioch on the Orontes; (b) Pisidian Antioch, a city in the Roman province of Galatia. Syrian Antioch is intended. See the map here. Antioch was founded on the river Orontes about 15 miles from the sea around 300 B.C. by Seleucus I Nicator, one of the three successors to Alexander the Great. He named it for his father Antiochus the Great (OCB 32). Antioch became the capital of the Seleucid Empire (Josephus, Against Apion, 2:4). The new city was initially populated by a mix of Athenians, Macedonians, and Jews.
From the beginning it was a bustling maritime city with its own seaport. The city proper lay about 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean and 300 miles north of Jerusalem. The city came under direct Roman control in 64 BC under Pompey who declared Antioch a free city. Josephus calls Antioch the metropolis of Syria (Wars III, 2:4). Indeed, in the first century Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria having a population of more than 500,000 (Longenecker). The Romans left their stamp on the city, with the construction of a great temple devoted to Roman Jupiter, a forum, a theatre, paved highways, a circus, other colonnades, a great numbers of baths, and new aqueducts.
Antioch was a cosmopolitan city with a mixed population, a melting pot of Western and Eastern cultures, where Greek and Roman traditions mingled with Semitic, Arab, and Persian influences. including a large number of Jewish inhabitants. By the first century their numbers have been estimated at between forty-five thousand and sixty thousand (Polhill 71). The Jewish population was generally loyal to the Gentile governors. They engaged in commerce, enjoying the rights of citizenship in a free city (Ant. XII, 3:1; Wars VII, 3:3). See also the JVL article on Antioch. Nicolaus, one of the seven deacons, was from Syrian Antioch (6:5).
According to the Anti-Marcionite Prologue to the narrative of Luke (c. 160-180 AD), Luke was an "Antiochene Syrian." Eusebius (c. 260-341 AD) also said that Luke was from Syrian Antioch (Church History, Book III, §4:7), as does Jerome (347–420 AD) in Lives of Illustrious Men (Chap. 7). Based on these historical references Christian scholars (as Bruce) consider Luke a Gentile, possibly Greek, who converted out of heathenism to Christianity. This conclusion is based on a faulty premise that the first disciples in Antioch were Gentiles. These early mentions do not say that Luke was a Gentile. Moreover, according to Hippolytus (170-235) in his work On the Seventy Apostles), Luke was among the seventy Yeshua chose (Luke 10:1), and he would not have chosen a Gentile to take the good news to Jews.
speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part. See verse 14 above. the word: Grk. logos. See verse 1 above. The phrase "speaking the word" refers to proclamation of the good news of Yeshua. to none: Grk. mēdeis, adj. See verse 12 above. except: Grk. ei mē, lit. "if not." The words introduce a condition required to prove a proposition. only: Grk. monon, adv. signifying the exclusion of any other entity; alone, only. to traditional Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios, Jew, Jewish, Jewess or Judean (BAG). Danker notes that the term may be used as an adjective (Judean, Jewish) or a noun (Jew, Judean). Ioudaios designates a person by belief and practice (cf. John 4:9). In the first century the term had a particular sectarian meaning to distinguish "devout" (= Hebrew-speaking Torah/tradition-observant) Jews from non-observant Jews (Acts 2:5).
Indeed the noun Ioudaismos, "Judaism," first appears in the Maccabean writings for a way of life devoted to observance of Torah laws (2Macc 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4Macc 4:26), and then used by Saul to describe his religion before his life-changing encounter with Yeshua (Gal 1:13-14) (DNTT 2:310). Moreover, the tenets of their Judaism were governed by the Great Sanhedrin and the Pharisees, whose traditions they followed (cf. Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). Traditional Jews revered Moses (John 9:28-29; Acts 6:11) and recognized the authority of the written Torah (John 7:23; Acts 21:20) and the traditions of the Sages (Matt 15:2; Gal 1:14; Col 2:8). For more information on the Ioudaioi see my note on the term in 9:22.
This verse is clearly retrospective in viewpoint and summarizes evangelistic activity in the Diaspora from AD 31−40, before Peter went to Caesarea. The important point is these Messianic evangelists lacked the divine revelation given to Peter and so they only shared the good news with orthodox Jews in these three locations. They complied fully with the Jewish law banning fellowship with uncircumcised Gentiles (Acts 10:28). Some interpreters, as Bruce, Longenecker and Marshall, assume these evangelists were Hellenistic Jews, but Luke never describes them with this label and the fact that they were received by traditional Jews proves that they were not Hellenistic. As an adjective "Hellenistic" implies accommodation with the Greek culture in some degree.
However, like Luke, some of these Messianic evangelists could have been Hellenized Jews, a label coined by David Flusser (1917-2000), Orthodox Jewish professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (75). The Hellenized Jews spoke Jewish Greek (a form of common Greek) as their primary language and used the Greek translation of the Tanakh (Septuagint) for synagogue services. Moreover, the Hellenized Jews were completely Torah-observant, zealous for the Temple and conformed their lives to traditional Jewish customs. Such zeal can be seen in the opposition of the Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem to the proclamation of Yeshua by Saul (Acts 9:29). Familiarity with Greek allowed the evangelists to communicate cross-culturally.
Timeline Note: The dating of verse 20 is ambiguous and Luke provides insufficient data to determine whether the events described herein occurred before or after Peter's ministry in Caesarea. There is no indication that outreach in Antioch occurred because of Peter's report to the Jerusalem elders, but rather evangelism was undertaken by personal initiative.
But: Grk. de, conj. there were: Grk. eimi, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 1 above. some: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 5 above. of them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The phrase "some of them" refers back to those scattered from Jerusalem in the previous verse. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 3 above. of: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of." See verse 2 above. Cyprus: See the previous verse. In other words some of the evangelists were originally from Cyprus. and: Grk. kai, conj. of Cyrene: Grk. Kurēnaios, belonging to Cyrene, a Cyrenian. Located in northern Africa, Cyrene was the capital city of the Roman district of Cyrenaica during the apostolic era. Cyrenaica and Crete formed one province. Many Jews resided in the region. While under the Egyptian kings the Jews had enjoyed equal rights, but now they were oppressed by the autonomous Greek population (Ant. XVI, 6:1).
The fact of Jewish suffering in north Africa made Simon of Cyrene an apt choice to carry the cross for Yeshua (Luke 23:26). Jewish Cyrenians living in Jerusalem belonged to the synagogue mentioned in Acts 6:9. Later some members from this group embraced the Messiah and they were among the scattered evangelistic disciples. Luke provides important historical information that the first evangelists to Antioch were Jewish natives of Cyprus and Cyrene. One of those evangelists may have been a prophet, Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1). The syntax is clear that the men did not travel from these two locations to Antioch, but they were part of the vanguard scattered from Jerusalem.
having come: Grk. erchomai, aor. pass. See verse 5 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 2 above. Antioch: See the previous verse. Living in a thoroughly Hellenistic city had left its mark on the Jewish population. While there were many traditional Jews in Antioch who spoke only Hebrew, many other Jews had learned Greek in order to do business and accommodated the Hellenistic culture in varying degrees. were speaking: Grk. laleō, impf. See verse 14 above. also: Grk. kai. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 2 above. The preposition denotes face-to-face contact. Luke implies that the Cyprian and Cyrenian evangelists took a step that other Messianic Jews dispersed from Jerusalem were not willing to do.
the Hellenistic Jews: Grk. tous Hellēnas, pl. of ho Hellēn. The majority of MSS reads Hellēnistas, but the earliest MSS have Hellēnas. See the Textual Note below. Hellēn may mean (1) a man of Greek language and culture or (2) in the broader sense, all persons who came under the influence of Greek (i.e., pagan) culture (BAG). In the Besekh Hellēn appears first in John (7:35; 12:20). Danker says that Hellēn is not an ethnic term restricted to Greece as a specific country or people. All the lexicons specifically exclude Jews from this definition, which is strange. After Alexander the Great (356−323 BC) conquered the world he and his successors sought to educate and assimilate people in the Greek way of life. All who adopted the Greek language and culture were counted as Hellēn (DNTT 2:124). The land of Israel was not exempt from this influence and thousands of Jews in the Diaspora were Hellenistic.
The majority of Bible versions translate the noun as "Greeks." A few versions have "Gentiles" (CEB, CEV, GNB, NLT). The KJV has "Grecians," which can mean either Greek or an expert in Greek language. Christian scholars assume that Luke is making a contrast with the Ioudaioi of the previous verse, so that the term must refer to Gentiles, especially pagan Greeks. Metzger, on the other hand, thinks the term here should be understood in the broad sense of "Greek-speaking persons," meaning thereby the mixed population of Antioch in contrast to the Ioudaioi of the previous verse (342). Relevant to this context is that according to Josephus the Jews in Syrian Antioch converted a great many of the Hellenas into true God-worshippers, and thereby brought them into the fold of traditional Judaism (Wars VII, 3:3).
The translators of most versions inexplicably ignore the fact that Hellēn is not a term restricted to ethnic Greeks. Some versions apply the broader meaning of Hellēnas with the translation of "Hellenists" (DLNT, ESV, HCSB, LEB, LITV, MEV, MRINT, NKJV, NRSV, NTE, TLV, WEB, YLT). The translators of these versions are to be commended, because "Hellenists" can include Jews. I prefer the translation of "Hellenistic Jews," and two versions actually have this translation (ISV, MW). Gill stands almost alone among Christian scholars to interpret the term here as meaning Hellenistic Jews.
Given that Luke is making a contrast with Ioudaioi in the previous verse he must mean Jews who did not live by the legalistic rules of the Pharisees. Otherwise there would be no point in using the term Hellenist. The Messianic evangelists apparently decided that they could go to the Hellenistic Jews as well as the traditional Jews. The mission was to convince all the descendants of Jacob that Yeshua is their Messiah. The messengers didn't need a special revelation from the Spirit to know that salvation was for "all Israel." The most natural location for the Messianic proclamation would be the synagogues where the local Hellenistic Jews worshipped. To understand the rationale for translating Hellēnas as "Hellenistic Jews" see my article Hellenism and the Jews.
proclaiming the good news: Grk. euangelizō, pres. mid. part. (from eú, "good, well" and angellō, "announce, herald"), to announce the good message, and is used to mean (1) pass on information that provides good news to the recipient, and (2) spread good news of God's beneficial concern, specifically of a proclamation with focus on God's saving action in connection with Yeshua. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bring news or a report, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109).
of the Lord: Grk. Kurios. See verse 8 above. Yeshua: See verse 17 above. The mention of "Lord Yeshua" alludes to the statement that Yeshua is Lord of all (Acts 10:36). Expectant Jews would call Yeshua Heb. adōn (lord, master) because the Messiah would rule over Israel. Lordship implies all kinds of divine expectations that should be considered (Matt 7:21-23). Moreover, such a declaration in Antioch, a Roman provincial capital, would be especially significant. Caesar believed he was kurios of the world and the Caesar cult, with faithful devotees scattered throughout the empire, provided a serious obstacle to discipleship. Eventually, this simple confession that Yeshua is Lord would create many martyrs.
Some scholars argue that the audience for the evangelists must have been pagan Greeks, because Yeshua is presented as "Lord" instead of "Messiah." Stern argues that Yeshua was not usually proclaimed as Messiah to Gentiles, because the concept of "Messiah" was meaningful only to Jews or to Gentiles who knew Judaism well, such as Cornelius. Rather, Yeshua was announced to Gentiles as Lord, an authoritative figure who is the final judge and through whom, if they have faith, come forgiveness and incorporation into God’s people. Later, after they had been taught about Yeshua’s role as the Jewish king of the Jewish nation to whom they had joined themselves by their trust, they could be expected to understand communications about him as the Messiah.
This interpretation seems to be over-thinking the issue. If all the evangelists said was "Yeshua is Lord," their hearers would immediately begin asking questions. From the point of view of the Messianic evangelists Yeshua was given the name "Lord" because he was exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:25-29, 33-36; 3:13; 5:31), which occurred after his atoning death and resurrection. Whether the Hellenistic Jews had an expectation of a Messiah, an article of faith for Pharisees, Samaritan Jews and Qumran Jews, is unknown. However, in "proclaiming the good news of the Lord Yeshua" the evangelists would have to explain the very nature of the good news. The good news is not that Yeshua is Lord, but that his arrival fulfilled prophecy and provided salvation for the nation of Israel and the entire world.
The focus of the verb "proclaim the good news" from its first use in the nativity narratives (Luke 1:19; 2:10-11), next in the message of Yochanan the Immerser (Luke 3:18), and then by Yeshua who proclaimed the good news to the poor (Matt 11:5; Luke 4:18) was the arrival of the Kingdom of God in the person of Yeshua (Mark 1:1). The verb occurs 15 times in Acts (5:42; 8:4, 12, 25, 35, 40; 10:36; 13:32; 14:7, 15, 21; 15:35; 16:10; 17:18), always in reference to proclaiming Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel. The proclamation contained certain standard elements. Luke's narratives of evangelism do not consistently repeat those elements, but that does not mean they weren't included.
• The promises of the Messiah God made to the fathers have now been fulfilled with the coming of Yeshua (Acts 2:30; 3:19, 24; 13:23, 32-33; 26:6-7, 22).
• Yeshua conducted a ministry of doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God (Acts 2:22; 10:38).
• Yeshua was rejected by Israel's leaders (Acts 2:23; 3:13; 4:11; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28).
• Yeshua was crucified according to the purpose of God (Acts 2:23; 3:13-15, 18; 4:11; 10:39; 13:28-29; 26:23).
• God raised Yeshua from the dead and he appeared afterwards to his disciples (Acts 2:24, 31-32; 3:15, 26; 10:40; 13:30-31; 26:23).
• Yeshua was exalted to the right hand of God and given the name "Lord" (Acts 2:25-29, 33-36; 3:13; 5:31).
• Yeshua gave the promised Holy Spirit to cleanse and empower his disciples (Acts 1:8; 2:14-18, 33, 38-39; 5:32; 15:8).
• Yeshua will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21).
• There is salvation in no one else, so all who hear the message should repent for the forgiveness of sins and be immersed (Acts 2:21, 38; 3:19; 5:31; 13:38; 26:18, 20).
Textual Note: Hellenistic Jews
Two different words are found in manuscripts of the Greek New Testament to identify the audience of Messianic evangelism in this verse: Hellēnas and Hellēnistas (GNT 461). Following are the names and dates of these manuscripts:
• Hellēnas: p74 (7th c.), Sinaiticusc (4th c.), Alexandrinus (5th c.), Cambridge* (6th c.), Armenian (4th/5th), Eusebius (339), Chrysostom (407), Ps-Oecumenius (10th), Theophylactb (1077), Old Latin (4 MSS, 2nd-4th c.), Latin Vulgate (4th c.), Syriac (2 MSS, 3rd-7th c.), Coptic (2 MSS, 3rd-6th c.), Ethiopic (6th c.), and Georgian (5th c.) = 20 MSS.
• Hellēnistas: Vaticanus (4th c.), Cambridgeb (6th c.), Laudianus (6th c.), Leningrad (9th c.), Athos (8th/9th c.); 3 numbered uncials (9th-10th c.); 20 numbered minuscules (10th-14th c.); Byzantine Lectionary (majority of 42 MSS); and Chrysostom = 51 MSS.
• Superscripts: "b" = a different MS; "c" = corrector of a MS; * = the reading of the original hand of a MS.
The result is that the earliest MSS favor Hellēnas and the majority of MSS favor Hellēnistas. Greek texts differ on their choice of the Greek terms. The TR and Westcott-Hort have Hellēnistas. The NA21 and NA25 have Hellēnas, but the NA26 and NA28 adopted Hellēnistas. In deciding to use Hellēnistas, the Greek text committees gave it a "C" rating, indicating that the committee had difficulty deciding which spelling to use (Metzger 340). Metzger contends that no weight can be attached to the fact that the early versions all read Hellēnas, which in classical literature means ethnic Greeks, as well as those who spoke or wrote Hellenistic Greek as opposed to Attic Greek (LSJ). In the LXX Hellēnas is used for both Greeks (Dan 8:21; 10:20; 11:2; Joel 3:6; Zech 9:13) and Philistines (Isa 9:12).
Metzger asserts that transcriptional probability is all in favor of Hellēnistas, for the temptation to editor or scribe was to substitute an easy and familiar word (Hellēnas) for one which was by no means familiar. There is no counter temptation to set against this, so that the argument drawn from it is a strong one. The chief objection of modern scholars to adopting Hellēnistas here is the belief that it always means "Greek-speaking Jews" and therefore is inappropriate to stand in contrast with the preceding Ioudaioi. However, Metzger believes the use of Hellēnistas here should be understood in the broad sense of "Geek-speaking persons," meaning thereby the mixed population of Antioch in contrast to the Ioudaioi of verse 19 (342).
The fact remains that the hermeneutic principle of "first mention" has an application here. That is, the first mention of a word in Scripture determines its meaning in the rest of Scripture. As established in Acts 6:1 and 9:29 Hellēnistēs means Torah-observant Greek-speaking Jews. Luke coined this term and there is no reason for him to change its definition without clear explanation. So, if scholars are going to insist that Hellēnistēs is the correct word, then they must also accept Luke's definition and not impose their own bias into the word's use. Since the earliest MSS employ Hellēnas, then it's entirely possible that later MSS were changed to Hellēnistēs to make it clear that Luke was not talking about ethnic pagan Greeks. In the Besekh the first mention of Hellēnas in John 7:35 refers to Hellenistic Jews.
21 And the hand of ADONAI was with them; also a great number having believed turned to the Lord.
Luke engages in an inspired play on words to make a point about the success of evangelism. And: Grk. kai, conj. the hand: Grk. cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand, but here with a figurative meaning. of ADONAI: Grk. kurios. See verse 8 above. The Greek title lacks the definite article and Kurios is used to indicate the sacred name YHVH. The phrase "hand of ADONAI" is an idiomatic expression occurring many times in the Tanakh, generally to denote the power and might of ADONAI (Josh 4:24; Ps 118:15-16), whether in helping His people Israel (Ezra 7:6; Isa 41:20) or punishing the enemies of Israel (Ex 9:3). In the book of Ezekiel the idiom occurs often with the meaning of being empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim God's word (Ezek 1:3; 3:14, 22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1).
was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. with: Grk. meta, prep. used to mark association or accompaniment; with, amid, among. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, which alludes to the Messianic evangelists. Luke indicates that these men possessed spiritual empowerment to accomplish their mission. also: Grk. te, conj. used to denote both connection and addition, as well as connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; and, also, both. The conjunction emphasizes that the action in the second clause was a direct result of the action described in the first clause. a great: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here indicating a high quantity or a high degree, here the former. number: Grk. arithmos, number or total, and may refer to a specific number, a total number of something. Luke likely implies scores if not hundreds of new believers.
having believed: Grk. pisteuō, aor. part. See verse 17 above. The CJB has "trusted." turned: Grk. epistrephō, aor., may mean (1) go back to a point, (2) turn about within a space, or (3) change a mode of thinking. The third meaning applies here. In the spiritual sense the verb describes turning back to God and being transformed. In the LXX epistrephō is generally used to translate Heb. shuv (SH-7725), bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around, first in Genesis 8:12 (DNTT 1:354). When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God’s will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909, e.g., 1Kgs 8:33, 35, 47-48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 30:15; 59:20; Ezek 18:21; Hos 6:1; Jon 3:8).
The verb epistrephō occurs first in Acts by Peter in his second sermon to Jews in Jerusalem in which he called them to:
"repent and return, for the blotting out of your sins; in order that if possible times of refreshing may come from the presence of the LORD; and He may send the one appointed to you, Yeshua the Messiah, whom it behooves heaven indeed to receive until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from the past age." (Acts 3:19-21 BR)
to: Grk. epi, prep. the Lord: The title here refers to Yeshua and may allude to the fact that he is the Lord of the harvest (Matt 9:38; Luke 10:2). The expression of "turned to the Lord" occurred previously in Acts 9:35 of Jews in Lydda and Sharon who believed in and trusted Yeshua for salvation after the healing of Aeneas.
Rome: Caesar Claudius (AD 41-54)
King of Judaea: Herod Agrippa I (AD 41-44)
Jewish High Priest: Simon Kantheras, son of Boethus (AD 41-44)
Peter Travels in the Diaspora
Sometime after Peter gave his defense sermon in Jerusalem (verses 4-17 above) and before the events recorded in the next chapter, he traveled into the Diaspora and visited disciples in Asia Minor (as listed in 1Pet 1:1) whom he had met in Jerusalem in A.D. 30. He then pressed on to Rome where he ministered in 42-43. So for the rest of this chapter Peter has no role due to his itinerant ministry into the Diaspora. The date for this trip is supported by Eusebius who said that Peter went to Rome during the reign of Claudius accompanied by Mark (Church History, II, 14:1-6; 15:1-2). Jerome (347–420 AD) said Peter paid his first visit to Rome in the second year of Claudius (Lives of Illustrious Men, Chap. I). Likewise, Paulus Orosius (5th cent.) said that Peter went to Rome early in the reign of Claudius (History Against the Pagans, Book VII, 6.1). According to Eusebius and Jerome, Peter had a very personal reason for going to Rome at this time.
Simon Magus had traveled from Samaria to other lands spreading his antagonism against the Messianic faith and eventually arrived in Rome where he became a cult leader (Eusebius, Church History, II, 13:1; Edmundson 50ff). In the reign of Caesar Claudius, Simon performed some mighty acts of magic by the art of demons, and was considered a god, and as a god was honored by the Romans with a statue, which was erected in the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription in the Latin tongue, Simoni Deo Sancto, that is, "To Simon the Holy God" (Church History, II, 14:3). Peter went to Rome in order to counteract the influence of Simon among disciples.
Modern scholars treat the tradition of Simon Magus in Rome as a post-apostolic legend, but Eusebius was not a careless historian. In addition, modern scholars generally reject the patristic report of Peter in Rome at this time and believe he only went to Rome in the 60s. Against such consensus of opinion Edmundson (44, 50) and Robinson (114) agree with the patristic report, during which time Mark acceded to requests for him to reduce the apostle's teaching on the life of Yeshua to writing (Edmundson 56). Many modern scholars argue against Peter going to Rome before Paul because (1) Paul makes no mention of Peter having labored in Rome and said that he would not build on another's work (Rom 15:20; 2Cor 10:15-16), and (2) the report of the church fathers is just "tradition" and Scripture is silent on when Peter went to Rome.
By the same token "silence" does not support a much later date in going to Rome, either. The fact remains that no historical evidence has been produced to rebut the patristic report. In my view there is no contradiction with Peter having preceded Paul to Rome. Paul's Roman letter was written well over a decade after Peter ministered there and as Edmundson argues, Paul's comment in his Roman letter very much implies that Peter had laid a foundation in Rome. But, much had happened in the interim. In 49, well after Peter had departed, Caesar Claudius commanded Jews to depart from Rome (Acts 18:2) in order to quell open conflict between unbelieving and believing Jews. (See the section Historical Setting in my commentary on Romans 1.)
The banishment lasted until 54 at the accession of Nero. When Paul wrote to the congregation (c. 57/58) they had only been reconstituted about four years. Paul desired to add something to the spiritual character of the Roman congregation (Rom 1:11-13). Paul's desire was to go people who had not heard of Yeshua, which certainly didn't apply to Jews in Rome who had been present at Pentecost (Acts 2:10). Thus, Paul's intention was merely to stop over in Rome on his way to Spain (Rom 15:24).
Barnabas Sent to Antioch, 11:22-24
22 Now the report concerning them was heard in the ears of the congregation being in Jerusalem; and they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch,
Now: Grk. de, conj. the report: Grk. logos. See verse 1 above. The noun alludes to the success of evangelism in Antioch noted in the previous verse. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun likely refers to the Cypriot and Cyrenian evangelists in verse 20. was heard: Grk. akouō, aor. pass. See verse 1 above. This report likely happened in a natural manner of conversation during a pilgrim festival. in: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." the ears: pl. of Grk. ous, the organ of hearing, the ear, as well as the faculty of understanding or perception. In Hebrew writing parts of the human body were often used as allusions to behavior, both positive and negative (cf. Matt 5:29f; Rom 6:13; Heb 12:13).
of the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia, assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation. This is the fifth use of the term in Acts for the corporate organization of Yeshua's disciples. In Greek culture ekklēsia referred to a political body or a public meeting of citizens (Acts 19:32, 39, 41), but it primarily occurs in the Besekh for a religious body. In the LXX ekklēsia renders the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874). In the Tanakh qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or instruction (Deut 4:10; 31:30; Ps 35:18).
Christian Bibles almost unanimously translate ekklēsia in this verse as "church." The word "church" is clearly an ecclesiastical term of Christianity. (See my background note on this subject here.) A few Christian versions opt for a different translation: "assembly" (DARBY, WEB, YLT), and "congregation" (JUB, NMB). Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MW and TLV) have "community." OJB has "Kehillah of Moshiach." I prefer to translate ekklēsia with "congregation," since its definition incorporates both organic and organizational characteristics and is more neutral in tone than "church."
being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. Jerusalem: See verse 2 above. The constituency of the congregation in Jerusalem was entirely Jewish, composed of both Greek-speaking Jews and Hebrew-speaking Jews. and: Grk. kai, conj. they sent: Grk. exapostellō, aor., 3p-pl., send, which may focus on (1) moving persons from one place to another, send out/away/forth; or (2) dismissal, send away. The first usage is intended here. The sending authorities were probably the resident apostles.
Barnabas: Grk. Barnabas, a transliteration of Heb. Bar (רבּ)-Naba (נָבָא) (Thayer), which means "Son of Exhortation." Barnabas was a relative of John Mark, probably a cousin (Col 4:10). Scholars assume the name is Aramaic, because of the Aramaic prefix "bar," but Jews often used this prefix in Hebrew names. The Hebrew prefix "ben" also occurs in Aramaic names (Hamp 19). Barnabas would have been well-known to Luke since church fathers included Barnabas as one of the seventy along with Luke whom Yeshua sent out in Luke 10:1. (See Hippolytus, 170-235, On the Seventy Apostles.)
Barnabas was a Levite and native of the island of Cyprus, named Joseph, before the disciples called him Barnabas (Acts 4:36). He sold his property and gave the proceeds to the apostles (Acts 4:37), probably as an act of repentance since Levites were forbidden to own property. When Saul came to Jerusalem, Barnabas befriended him and introduced him to the apostles and commended his ministry in Damascus (Acts 9:27). Unlike other disciples Barnabas showed the spirit of Yeshua by choosing to believe the best about Saul and not holding his past against him. It's very likely that Barnabas was sent because Peter was away on his travels in the Diaspora.
as far as: Grk. heōs, prep. See verse 19 above. Antioch: See verse 19 above. The trip north was not to go farther than Antioch. While he might have traveled the 300 miles by the coastal highway, the most expeditious method would be to take a boat from Joppa. Barnabas had earned the respect and trust of the congregation leaders, so he was sent to verify the report. He was probably given the authority to evaluate the spiritual strength of the congregation in Antioch and appoint elders as necessary to oversee its work.
23 who, having come, and having seen the grace of God, was joyful and began exhorting all to remain with the Lord with resolute purpose of heart:
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. having come: Grk. paraginomai, aor. mid. part., to make one's way so as to be present; come, arrive, be present. and: Grk kai, conj. having seen: Grk. horaō, aor. part. See verse 5 above. the grace: Grk. charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus, grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favor, thanks or gratitude. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times in the derivative form of charin of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, of which 61 are for Heb. hēn (SH-2580), favor, first in Gen 6:8 in regards to Noah receiving the favor of God, and the others for Heb. racham (SH-7356), compassion, mercy, first in Gen 43:14 (DNTT 2:116).
of God: See verse 1 above. Barnabas recognized that the great number of new believers among the Hellenistic Jews was a manifestation of God's mercy, presence and power. was joyful: Grk. chairō, aor. pass., may mean (1) to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance; be happy, glad, delighted, rejoice; or (2) an expression of greeting that is normally tantamount to assuring the other of one's good will, a kind of introductory social ointment; greetings, hail. The first meaning is intended here. The verb has a direct etymological connection with the noun charis ("grace") and chara ("joy") with the same core meaning of delight in God's favor (HELPS).
In the LXX chairō for the most part renders Hebrew words from the stem samach (SH-8055), be glad, rejoice (Ex 4:14; 1Sam 6:13; Isa 39:2), but also gil (SH-1523), rejoice (Prov 2:14; 23:25), and sis (SH-7797), to exult, rejoice (Isa 66:14) (DNTT 2:356). In the Tanakh there is no apology for joy in the good things of life, such as health, children, eating and drinking and peace in the land, as well as ultimate salvation. The passive voice of the verb denotes an inner experience of joy and gladness, although as a Levite he must surely have offered a b'rakhah (blessing) to God for His great grace.
and: Grk. kai. began exhorting: Grk. parakaleō, impf., may mean (1) call to be at one's side or summon to one's aid, with a connotation of urgency; invite, entreat, urge; (2) hearten in time of trouble; comfort, console; or (3) to motivate performance; exhort, encourage. The third meaning applies here. This was a fitting action considering that he was known as the "son of exhortation" (Acts 4:36), which describes his spiritual gift. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 10 above. to remain with: Grk. prosmenō, pres. inf., continue steadily in a state, circumstance or with someone; abide, stay, remain (with). Some versions have "remain true" (CJB, CSB, NASB, NIV, OJB, TLV). the Lord: See verse 8 above.
with resolute purpose: Grk. prothesis, the basic idea is setting or placing. The noun is used to mean (1) setting forth of bread in the holy place of the Tabernacle and Temple (Matt 12:4; Heb 9:2); and (2) setting forth a plan or design in one's mind; purpose, intent. The second meaning applies here, but there is a nuance of the first meaning. This noun would have significance to Barnabas, being a Levite. of heart: Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used fig. of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia renders Heb. lebab (SH-3824), inner man, mind, heart, will (DNTT 2:181). Barnabas exhorted the new believers to make a firm commitment to wholly serve the Lord, which would require them to stand against the pagan culture.
24 for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faithfulness. And a large crowd was added to the Lord.
Luke describes Barnabas as possessing three important qualities. for: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 1 above. he was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. a good: Grk. agathos, achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. In the LXX agathos is used to describe the land of Israel, the good things of life, glad tidings of a messenger, and the nature of God (2Chr 30:11; Ps 73:1 + frequently in the Psalms). man: Grk. anēr. See verse 3 above. This is a high compliment and expresses the devotion of Barnabas to loving his neighbor, as he did after Pentecost by selling his land to donate to the charity fund (Act 4:37).
and: Grk. kai, conj. The compliment alludes to his previous actions recorded in chapters four and nine. full: Grk. plērēs, adj., in a state or condition of being supplied abundantly with something, filled up, full of. of the Holy Spirit: See verse 15 above. Barnabas manifested divine anointing in his ministry of exhortation and giving. and: Grk. kai. of faithfulness: Grk pistis incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). All Bible versions translate the noun as "faith." In the LXX pistis is used two times to render Heb. emun, 'faithfulness' (SH-529; BDB 53; Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17).
Over 20 times pistis renders Heb. emunah, firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity (SH-530; BDB 53), mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). Pistis also translates Heb. aman (SH-539), to confirm, to support (Jer 15:18); amanah (SH-548), fixed support (Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8); and emet (SH-571), firmness, faithfulness, or truth (Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6). Bible versions uniformly translate the noun as "faith," but the LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is faithfulness. Barnabas was faithful to the Lord and to the Jerusalem elders who sent him to Antioch.
And: Grk. kai. a large: Grk. hikanos, adj., of a quality or extent that is quite enough, and may mean (1) sufficient, adequate, large enough; (2) large or much of number and quantity; or (3) fit, appropriate, competent, qualified (BAG). The second meaning applies here. crowd: Grk. ochlos, an aggregate of people or an assembled company of people; crowd, multitude, great number. In many passages the term is equivalent to the Heb. am ha–aretz, "people of the land," or crowds of common people in contrast to the ruling classes and religious elite. was added: Grk. prostithēmi, aor. pass., to put to or to add to, i.e., to join to or gather with. The verb indicates a mathematical conclusion. to the Lord: See verse 8 above. Luke makes the point that the ministry of Barnabas resulted in many more souls being added to the Messianic kingdom. This is not hyperbole, and perhaps understatement.
Barnabas Recruits Saul, 11:25-26
25 Then he went to Tarsus to seek Saul;
Then: Grk. de, conj. he went: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. The subject of the verb is Barnabas. to: Grk. eis, prep. Tarsus: Grk. Tarsos, a maritime city and the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia. See the map here. In the Roman period Tarsus competed with Athens and Alexandria as the learning center of the world. The city had a university and was greatly influenced by Stoic philosophical schools. to seek: Grk. anazēteō, aor. inf., to expend effort in locating someone; search for. Saul: Grk. Saulos, a Grecized version of the Heb. Sha'ul (lit. "asked for" or "prayed for"). Saul was born in Tarsus. For a biography of Saul see my web article The Apostle from Tarsus.
Luke's last mention of Saul was in chapter nine in which he encountered Yeshua on the highway to Damascus, began an evangelistic ministry in Damascus and the Nabataean Kingdom and then traveled to Jerusalem where he was befriended by Barnabas. After bolding proclaiming Yeshua in Jerusalem the Greek-speaking Jews that had slandered Stephen planned the same treatment for Saul. The congregation elders secreted Saul out of the city and took him to Caesarea where he took a ship to return to Tarsus. Barnabas realized that with the incredible growth in new believers he needed help in pastoral care. He remembered the dynamic boldness of Saul and his effectiveness in his former evangelistic ministry. Given the providential nature of this partnership Barnabas likely went to Tarsus at the direction of the Spirit.
26 and having found him, he brought him to Antioch. And it came to pass they also for a whole year were assembled with the congregation, and taught a large crowd; also first in Antioch called the disciples, 'Messianics.'
and: Grk. kai, conj. having found him: Grk. heuriskō, aor. part., may mean (1) to come upon a person or thing by seeking; (2) to discover by inquiry, thought, examination, scrutiny, observation, or hearing; or (3) to find for oneself, to acquire, get, obtain, or procure. The second meaning applies here. Luke offers no information on how long Barnabas searched or by what methods he found Saul. Barnabas likely had not visited Tarsus before, but he was resourceful. The simplest method would be to check local synagogues. he brought him: Grk. agō, aor., to cause movement by taking the lead; lead, bring, carry, take. to: Grk. eis, prep. Antioch: See verse 19 above. Luke also doesn't explain what appeal Barnabas used to gain Saul's agreement, but as this mission was part of God's plan for Saul's life, the Spirit may have revealed to Saul that this was his time to emerge from exile. At this point of their association Barnabas had the primary role of leadership.
And: Grk. de, conj. it came to pass: Grk. ginomai, aor. See verse 10 above. The Greek construction egéneto dè is a peculiar characteristic of Luke's writing style, appearing in the Besekh only in his writings, 17 times in his narrative of Yeshua and 20 times in Acts. The phrase may be considered a Hebraism because it imitates the frequent use of Heb. v'hayah, "and it came to pass" in the historical narratives of the Tanakh (185 times; first in Gen 4:8). The phrase is used to signal a change in the narrative and often introduces some significant action by individuals in the narrative. The verb emphasizes God's sovereign plan coming to fruition.
they: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The plural pronoun probably denotes the Hellenistic Jews who responded positively to the good news of Yeshua during the ministry of Barnabas (verse 24 above). also: Grk. kai. for a whole: Grk. holos, adj., signifier of a person or thing understood as a complete unit and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire. year: Grk. eniautos, a cycle of time, a year. The noun is a word picture of the transition of seasons. were assembled: Grk. sunagō, pl. aor. pass. inf., to bring together in a collective manner; assemble, gather together. Many versions render the verb as "met," which seems to diminish its meaning. The infinitive (inf.) form makes the word a verbal noun, which may express purpose (the most common usage) or result.
The verb could be translated "they purposed to assemble." In the LXX sunagō primarily translates Heb. asaph (SH-622), to gather, which is used to mean (1) to gather or collect persons into a group or a place (Gen 29:22; Ex 3:16); (2) to gather an individual into the company of others (Deut 22:2; 1Sam 14:52; 2Sam 11:27); (3) gathering a harvest (Lev 23:39). The verb sunagō occurs frequently in the LXX to describe the gathering of the Israelite people for worship or learning. The verb especially emphasizes the Jewish setting. Sunagō is the basis for the noun sunagōgē, or synagogue. While sunagō has its non-religious uses (e.g., the harvest parables, Matt 3:12; 13:30), whenever it occurs in a religious context it almost always has a Jewish setting (e.g., Matt 13:2; 22:41; 28:12; Luke 22:66; John 11:52; Acts 4:5, 27; 12:12; 13:44; 22:30).
with: Grk. en, prep. See verse 5 above. the congregation: Grk. ho ekklēsia. See verse 22 above. The term likely refers to the congregation formed from the ministry of the Cypriot and Cyrenian evangelists. The location of the assembly is not given, but it could have been in a synagogue where believers were greater in numbers. Some of the educational meetings could have taken place in private homes. In the first century disciples typically met together in private homes (Acts 2:46; 12:12; 17:4-5; 18:7; 20:20; 21:8; Rom 16:5; 1Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; and Phm 1:2) and, for large groups, in homes or halls owned by wealthy patrons (cf. Acts 19:9).
and: Grk. kai. taught: Grk. didaskō, aor. act. inf., to teach or instruct. Being in the active voice the verb denotes the teaching of the apostles (cf. Acts 2:42). In the LXX didaskō occurs about 100 times and is used primarily to translate Heb. lamad (SH-3925), exercise in, learn, teach (Deut 4:1; Ps 119:99); as well as eight other Hebrew verbs. In its LXX usage the verb does not primarily denote communication of knowledge and skills (e.g., 2Sam 22:35), but means chiefly instruction in how to live (e.g., Deut 11:19; 20:18) (DNTT 3:760).
a large: Grk. hikanos, adj. See verse 24 above. crowd: Grk. ochlos. See verse 24 above. Since the phrase "large crowd" occurs above in connection with the evangelistic ministry of Barnabas, the primary students of the apostolic instruction may have been those whom Barnabas won to the Lord. also: Grk. te, conj. See verse 21 above. first: Grk. prōtos, adj., having to do with beforeness, whether (1) indicating primary position in sequence; first, earlier, earliest; (2) standing out in significance or importance, or (3) adverbially denoting first of all, at the first. The first meaning applies here. in: Grk. en, prep. Antioch: The tremendous growth of the congregation in Antioch may have rivaled the size of the congregation in Jerusalem.
called: Grk. chrēmatizō, aor. act. inf., in Hellenistic culture the verb meant to advise or consult with one about public affairs; to provide an answer to those who ask advice, present inquiries or requests, especially from an official point of view (Thayer). In the LXX the verb occurs in Jeremiah in the sense of giving a divine command, admonition or warning, rendering Heb. dabar (SH-1696), to speak (Jer 26:2; 29:23; 30:2; 36:4) and Heb. sha'ag (SH-7580), to roar (Jer 25:30) (DNTT 3:324). Thus, in the Besekh the verb is used of (1) receiving a warning or revelation from God (Matt 2:12, 22; Luke 2:26; Heb 8:5; 11:7; 12:25); and (2) taking or bearing a name or title in a public setting (Rom 7:3), which is its use in this verse. The three verbs ("assembled," "taught," and "called") might describe the year-long process of education and transformation. Luke describes similar lengthy periods of instruction in other passages (cf. Acts 18:11; 19:10; 20:31).
the disciples: pl. of Grk. ho mathētēs (from manthanō, to learn), one who learns through instruction from a teacher; adherent, learner, pupil, disciple. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the apostolic narratives and corresponds to the Heb. talmid (SH-8527), a student of a Jewish Sage or Torah scholar (Heb. rabbi). The term is used for members of the Pharisee party (Matt 22:15-16; John 9:28) and disciples of Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33; John 3:25), but especially of followers of Yeshua, those who not only believed in Yeshua but sought to obey his instructions (Matt 28:20). See my article Disciples of Yeshua.
Messianics: pl. of Grk. Christianos, lit. "anointed ones," an adherent of Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah. The noun does not occur in any earlier Greek or Jewish literature and occurs only three times in the Besekh (also Acts 26:28 and 1Pet 4:16). Christian versions translate the noun as "Christians." Messianic Jewish versions attempt to be more accurate considering the Hebrew root of the name. Stern has the singular "Messianic." The OJB has Ma'aminim HaMeshichiyim (Messianic Believers). The TLV has Christianoi with a marginal note that the noun corresponds to the Heb. M'shichim (Messianics), lit. "anointed ones."
The name was formed by adding ianos to Christos, the title used in the LXX to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), Anointed One or Messiah. In early times of the Roman Empire, the adjectival termination -ianos was widely applied to slaves belonging to the great households, but by the first century it had passed into regular use to denote the adherents of an individual or a party ("Christian," ISBE). The same meaning may be found in the Latin Christianus. The suffix ianus (pl. iani) was commonly used to designate followers of a particular leader or camp, or what might be considered partisans. Early historical documents speak of Caesariani and Pompeiani, that is, partisans of Julius Caesar and Pompey (e.g., Josephus, Ant. XIV, 7:4). The Herodiani or Herodians were partisans of King Herod (Matt 22:16).
Since Christianos is built on the title Christos, the expected fulfiller of the promises to Israel of the establishment of the Davidic kingdom, then a Christianos would be a follower of this Jewish Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth. Thus, the label not only says something about whom they follow, but something about status and spiritual condition as well. Indeed, the universal experience of the ones who followed Yeshua is their anointing with the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 4:27; 8:17; 10:28; 2Cor 1:21; 1Jn 2:27). In addition, the dominate use of the verb "called" implies that the application of the name came with an admonition or even warning. "You are now of the Messiah; do not take that name and dishonor it, but obey all that he commanded."
Stern, reflecting the common assumption of scholars, interprets Christianos as referring to Gentiles (262), because of the assumption that Hellenas in verse 20 above means "Greeks" or "Gentiles." Stern asserts that first century Jewish believers preferred to be known as The Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22; cf. John 14:16; 2Pet 2:21) or Natzratim or Notzrim (Nazarenes, Acts 24:5), because in context these labels identify the disciples as a sect of Judaism. The few occurrences of Christianos in the Besekh do not prove restricted usage to Gentiles. In fact, King Agrippa, a Jew, uses the term as if it were in common use, which Paul acknowledges (Acts 26:28-29) and Peter uses the term in writing to Messianic Jews in the Diaspora (1Pet 4:16).
Polhill notes that three sources of the name Christianos have been suggested by scholars (73). First, some argue that the term originated with Roman officials of Antioch who saw these disciples as a political entity that posed some possible threat to Roman law and order. Second, some argue that pagan Gentiles contrived Christianos in order to mock the disciples because of the historical meaning of the ianos suffix. Third, some, as Matthew Henry, would say that the disciples themselves originated the name, suggesting that the Greek verb should be translated as "called themselves Christians." However, there is no pronoun "themselves" in this clause.
However, a fourth source, suggested by Adam Clarke, is that the apostles actually came up with the name, because of the subject of the action in the verse is Barnabas and Saul. The infinitive form of "called" alludes to the result of apostolic action. Thus, at the end of the year-long discipleship program the "graduates" were called "Messianic." I concur with Clarke and suggest that the credit should go to Barnabas, who likely received the name by divine revelation (cf. Isa 62:2) since he was the appointed leader of the congregation in Antioch. Although the advocates of replacement theology view Paul as the founder of Christianity, the label "Christian" never occurs in any of his sermons or letters. Paul routinely addressed the members of the congregations in the letters he wrote as "holy ones" or "brethren."
For additional discussion of the use of Christianos in other passages of the Besekh see my article The First Christians. The biblical context of Acts provides clear definition of the name Christianos that should be carefully considered by all who choose to be known by this name. Thus, a disciple is a:
· Believer in Yeshua. A Christian, as demonstrated in the Antioch evangelism narrative is one who (1) believes in the good news that Yeshua is the King and Messiah of Israel and Lord of all the earth, and (2) one who trusts in God for forgiveness of sins on the basis of Yeshua's atoning sacrifice.
· Student of Yeshua. A Christian, as indicated in the Antioch narrative, is one not only devoted to learning about Yeshua, but one who recognizes Yeshua as his Teacher in the ways of God and seeks to fulfill all that he commanded. A Christian also recognizes apostolic authority and treats their writings and instruction with respect and obedience.
· Servant of Yeshua. A Christian, as determined by the original meaning of the suffix of Christianos, is a "servant" of Yeshua. Followers of Yeshua are identified as "servants" (Grk. doulos) 22 times in the Besekh. The frequent usage of doulos in the Besekh for Yeshua's followers indicates His possession and absolute authority. A Christian is the property of Yeshua and he is the Christian's Master.
· Partisan for Yeshua. Unlike first century partisans who gave their allegiance to a political leader, a Christian is first an adherent or supporter of Yeshua, as well as the cause of the Great Commission to take the good news to the Jews first and then the nations of the world. This meaning of "Christian" may be found in the numerous passages that refer to "belonging to Messiah" or being "in Messiah." A Christian has an unbending spiritual and emotional allegiance, one that will not be compromised, even in the face of persecution or death. When Yeshua returns he will replace existing national governments with his own administration.
· Messianic for Yeshua. A Christian, given that the name is built on the word Christos, the Greek translation of the Heb. Mashiach, Anointed One or Messiah, is by definition Mashiachi or Messianic. That is, a Christian recognizes his status of being grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel (Romans 11) and admitted to citizenship in the Commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12), accepts the enduring nature of God's covenants with Israel, and supports efforts to bring the good news of Yeshua to all Jews and the nation of Israel. Moreover, the Messianic or Christian is anointed by the Holy Spirit for service. The truth is, we need more truly Messianic Christians.
Prophecy of Famine, 11:27-30
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Now: Grk. de, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The fourth meaning applies here. The time reference alludes to the year of discipleship, probably towards the close.
prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). In the LXX prophētēs renders Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker, or prophet; first in Genesis 20:7. In Scripture a prophet is one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. came down: Grk. katerchomai, aor., to go down or to come down, generally of moving in a geographical context from a higher to lower elevation. from: Grk. apo, prep. Jerusalem: See verse 2 above. to: Grk. eis, prep. Antioch: See verse 19 above.
28 Moreover, one of them named Agabus having risen he foretold through the Spirit great famine was about to be over all the world; which happened at the time of Claudius.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. one: Grk. heis, the cardinal number one. of: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, which refers to the prophets in the previous verse. named: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. Agabus: Grk. Hagabos, a Messianic Jewish prophet and member of the congregation in Jerusalem. The CJB gives his Hebrew name as Agav. His name occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Acts 21:10). Hippolytus (170-236) included Agabus as one of the seventy apostles Yeshua chose in Luke 10:1. Nothing more is known of his life and ministry. having risen: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part. See verse 7 above. The verb alludes to the congregation being seated.
he foretold: Grk. sēmainō, aor., may mean (1) to make known, report or communicate something to someone; or (2) in relation to the future indicate beforehand, foretell (BAG). The second meaning applies here. In the LXX sēmainō occurs 16 times, translating eight different verbs, and is used five times without Hebrew equivalent. In a few of those passages sēmainō is used of a character explaining something (Ex 18:20; Esth 2:22). through: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here. the Spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 12 above.
great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 5 above. The adjective could imply severity or extent of impacted territory. famine: Grk. limos, a condition of misery caused by an acute lack of food and impacting a large area. In the LXX limos translates Heb. ra'ab (SH-7458; Gen 12:10), meaning famine or hunger. Throughout Bible times famines were not infrequent, generally caused by a lack of adequate rainfall. was about: Grk. mellō, pres. inf., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to. to be: Grk. eimi, fut. inf. See verse 1 above. over: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 11 above. all: Grk. holos, adj. See verse 26 above.
the world: Grk. ho oikoumenē (from oikeō, to inhabit or dwell), the world as an inhabited area, often with focus on its inhabitants. In the earliest classical Greek literature the term was used of the world inhabited by Greeks in contrast to those lands inhabited by barbarians, but later literature included the lands of barbarians. In the Roman period the term meant the lands under Roman rule, because whatever lay outside was of no account. Thus, some versions modify "world" with "Roman" (CEB, CSB, NIV, NLT) or have "Roman Empire" (CJB). In the LXX oikoumenē occurs 40 times and translates primarily Heb. tebel (SH-8398), 'world,' as an inhabited place, mostly in Psalms (e.g., 9:8; 67:4; 96:13; 98:9) and Isaiah (10:14; 24:1), particularly in relation to Babylon (13:5; 14:17, 26) and Assyria (37:18) (DNTT 1:518).
which: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb or a preceding entity; who, which. happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. See verse 10 above. at the time of: Grk. epi. The preposition is used here to denote a temporal period. Some versions have "during the reign of" (CSB, NASB, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV, TLB, TLV). Claudius: Grk. Klaudios, the fourth of the Roman Emperors, Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, born in AD 10 and ruled AD 41−54. He is also mentioned in Acts 18:2 in reference to his expulsion of Jews from Rome. A record of his life and reign may be found in various Roman histories, including Cassius Dio and Suetonius. He was particularly known for making improvements in civil administration and the judicial system, as well as expanding the empire into Britain. Claudius died in AD 54 after being poisoned by his fourth wife Agrippina. A factual summary of his life may be found at Livius.org.
Luke's narrative was completed about AD 62, so this clause is retrospective of when the prophecy was fulfilled. The grammar of this prophecy does not mean there would be only one famine, but that famine would be a condition of the Roman world. Indeed, several famines occurred during the reign of Claudius in different parts of the empire (cf. Cassius Dio, Roman History, LX:11; Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, XVIII:2; Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome, XI:4; XII:13). Yet, no single famine is recorded that impacted the entire world at the same time. Of course, Agabus was concerned with only one location in the Roman world: Judea.
According to Josephus this famine in Judea took place during the procuratorships of Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander (Ant. XX, 5:2), which would date the famine between AD 45 and 48. Clarke identifies four famines during the reign of Caesar Claudius and that the second famine happened about the fourth year of the reign of Claudius (45), which continued for several years, and greatly afflicted the land of Judea. Jeremias points out that if the harvest failed in 46/47, the incidence of the sabbatical year 47/48 would have intensified the scarcity of food in Judea and famine conditions would have prevailed until the spring of 49 (143).
29 And the disciples, as anyone was prospering, each of them determined, for a ministry, to send to brothers, those dwelling in Judea.
And: Grk. de, conj. the disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs. See verse 26 above. as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. was prospering: Grk. euporeō, impf. mid., have means, to prosper, enjoy plenty. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The phrase "as anyone was prospering" alludes to proportional giving based on available resources, rather than a specific percentage as the tithe. each: Grk. hekastos, adj. in reference to an individual person or thing; each, every, every one. of them: 3p-pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. determined: Grk. horizō, aor., establish a boundary or framework through deliberate decision for an event, activity or thing; determine, appoint, determine, designate. The verb describes a free-will choice, not something imposed by the apostles.
for: Grk. eis, prep. a ministry: Grk. diakonia, service or ministration, especially in meeting the needs of others. Sometimes the term is used in the apostolic writings of dedication to a specific divine assignment, such as prayer and proclaiming the good news. Other examples include special ministrations like that of Martha (Luke 10:40) and the collection for famine relief (1Cor 16:15; 2Cor 8:4), which is the most likely meaning here. to send: Grk. pempō, aor. inf., to send, whether (1) the dispatch of someone as an agent, usually to convey a message or complete a task; or (2) the dispatch of things, such as assistance or contribution, which applies here. Most Bible versions qualify the verb with a word that describes something tangible sent, "contribution," "help," "money," "relief," or "support."
to brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb." See verse 1 above. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. dwelling: Grk. katoikeō, pres. part., to make a specific locale or area of residence, thus to dwell, reside or live in. in: Grk. en, prep. Judea: See verse 1 above. The "brothers in Judea" are likely the same ones referenced in verse 1 above. This particular famine that impacted Judea is mentioned by Josephus as occurring during the reign of Queen Helena of Adiabene (d. c. 56 AD), who had converted to Judaism (Ant. XX, 2:5). In c. 46-47 she supplied a great quantity of corn and figs, as well as great sums of money to the principal men in Jerusalem to purchase provisions. She remained to oversee the distribution of the food.
30 which also they did, having sent to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. also: Grk. kai, conj. they did: Grk. poieō, aor., 3p-pl., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity. having sent: Grk. apostellō, aor. part. See verse 11 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. the elders: pl. of Grk. ho presbuteros may mean (1) ranked as superior in age, older, older one; or (2) ranked in terms of official responsibility, elder. The second meaning applies here.
In first century Jewish culture the term was used for the Jewish Sages (Matt 15:2), for members of the ruling council in Jerusalem (Luke 9:22), and for officers in a synagogue (Luke 7:3). The Jewish synagogue had seven elders: the nasi (President) with two assistants, chazan (pulpit minister), three parnasin (receivers of alms) (Moseley 9). This is the first mention of the presence of elders in a Messianic congregation. Elders were appointed over Messianic congregations wherever they were formed (cf. Acts 14:23; 20:17; 21:18; 1Tim 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5).
by: Grk. dia, prep. Barnabas: See verse 22 above. and: Grk. kai. Saul: See verse 25 above. Whatever the form of relief sent, the congregation had complete confidence in the integrity of Barnabas and Saul to deliver it to the elders, who would then supervise its distribution. Some scholars date this trip in AD 45-46, because Paul says in Galatians 2:1 that he and Barnabas went to Jerusalem 14 years after his life-changing encounter with Yeshua. However, Paul's historical reference makes no mention of a charitable purpose and he may have been referring to the trip mentioned in Acts 15:2.
The fund to aid the Judean disciples probably had been started before the receipt of any reports of crop failure, because of the belief in the reliability of the prophecy of Agabus. Given that the famine in Judea began in the AD 45, probably early in the year, then Barnabas and Saul could have delivered the alms to Jerusalem that year or possibly the next year. The Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), which ordinarily celebrates the wheat harvest would have been a fitting time for bringing of alms to supply the needs of those suffering from the loss of the harvest.
The narrative of Messianic disciples in Antioch providing charitable support to their Jewish brethren in Judea provides another characteristic of what it means to be "Christian." Yeshua declared in his Olivet Discourse that when he returns he will judge people on the basis of whether they served the needs of his brethren the Jews (Matt 25:34-41). Many Christians today are seeking ways to bless the nation of Israel with both labor and finances. I strongly urge Christians to provide financial support to Messianic Jewish congregations and ministries in Israel that serve the needy, as well as to bless the economy of Israel by buying its exported products.
Ant.: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Antiquities of the Jews (Latin Antiquitates Judaicae). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1954.
Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762–1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. J. Emory and B. Waugh, 1831. Online.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
Davies: W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. rev. ed. Harper Torchbooks, 1967.
Delitzsch: Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), Hebrew New Testament. Leipzig, 1877. Online. (Translation of the Greek New Testament into biblical Hebrew.)
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993. Online.
Edmundson: Charles Edmundson, The Church in Rome in the First Century. Longmans, Green and Co., 1913. Online.
Flusser: David Flusser, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, Adama Books, 1987.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
Gruber: Daniel Gruber, The Separation of Church and Faith, Volume 1: Copernicus and the Jews. Elijah Publishing, 2005.
Hamp: Douglas Hamp, Discovering the Language of Jesus: Hebrew or Aramaic? CreateSpace, 2005.
HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
ISBE: John Dickie, "Christian." International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, ed., 1939. Website, 2011.
Jastrow: Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903, 1926. Online.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
JE: Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk and Wagnalls, 1906. 12 vols., gen. ed. Isidore Singer. Website HTML, 2002-2011. Online.
Longenecker: Richard N. Longenecker, Acts. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 9. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp., 1989-1999.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell (1811-1898) and Robert Scott (1811-1887), A Greek-English Lexicon. rev. ed. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.
Marshall: I. Howard Marshall, Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity Press, 1980.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters. B&H Academic, 1999.
Robinson: John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament. The Westminster Press, 1976.
Santala: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Trans. William Kinnaird. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1993.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Tarn & Griffith: Sir William Tarn & G.T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilization. 3rd Edition. Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1952.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
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