Acts of the Apostles

Chapter 13

Blaine Robison, M.A.

 Published 30 October 2017

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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 two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online DSS Bible and DSS Docs. Click here for DSS abbreviations.

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. 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. 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).

See the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Acts. See a suggested chronology of Acts at BibleHub.com.

1 Now there were at Antioch, among the existing congregation, prophets and teachers: both Barnabas, and Simeon, being called Niger, and Lucius the Cyrenian, and Manaen, close associate of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Now there were at Antioch: Grk. Antiocheia, the capital of the Roman province of Syria founded on the east bank of the Orontes River about 300 BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of the three successors to Alexander the Great. The city was situated about 17 miles from the Mediterranean Sea and 300 miles north of Jerusalem. Seleucus founded Antioch on a site chosen through ritual means. An eagle, the bird of Zeus, had been given a piece of sacrificial meat and the city was founded on the site to which the eagle carried the offering. The new city was initially populated by a mix of local settlers that Athenians brought from the nearby city of Antigonia, Macedonians, and Jews.

In the first century Antioch rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the Near East. The Romans left their stamp on the city, as well, with the construction of a great temple to Jupiter Capitolinus, a forum, a theatre, paved highways, a circus, other colonnades, a great numbers of baths, and new aqueducts. When the good news arrived Antioch was a cosmopolitan city and the Jewish population was large. As Luke records, Antioch became home to a vibrant Messianic congregation and the base of missionary operations for Barnabas and Paul (Acts 13:1-3; 15:36-41; 18:22-23).

among the existing: Grk. eimi, pres. part., to be, to exist. Luke means "as it was at that time." congregation: Grk. ekklēsia, means assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation, translated in Christian Bibles as "church." In secular use ekklēsia referred to a political body or a public meeting of citizens (Acts 19:32, 39, 41), but occurs 111 times in the Besekh for a religious body. The popular interpretation of ekklēsia as “called out ones” is based on etymology and not usage, and thus has little value in understanding the word in its biblical context. 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). Ekklēsia occurs only twice in the Gospels (Matt 16:18; 18:17) and Yeshua most likely used the familiar Hebrew word.

The translation of ekklēsia with "church" in Christian Bibles was first introduced in the early English Bibles of Great Britain by Wycliffe (1395). The Tyndale Bible (1525), the Miles Coverdale Bible (1535) and the Bishop's Bible (1568) rendered ekklēsia as "congregation," but the Geneva Bible (1587) returned to the word "church" and from that time this has been the word used in Christian English Bibles. As the instructions of King James to the translators of the 1611 KJV show, the reason for using "church" was to maintain the ecclesiastical language of Christianity. The English word "church" comes from the Old English cirice, circe "church, public place of worship; Christians collectively," which itself devolved from the Greek kyriakē (oikia), kyriakon doma "Lord's (house). Greek kyriakon (adj.) "of the Lord" was used of houses of Christian worship since c. 300 A.D. (Online Etymology Dictionary).

"Church" is not an accurate translation of ekklēsia, but the decision to use it created a permanent wedge between Christianity and its Jewish roots. The Christian reader should be cautious about reading modern church organization, whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or the 57 varieties of Protestantism, into first century settings. In the apostolic writings ekklēsia is never treated as an institution, a building, a specific polity or even a specific size of group as the English word “church” can mean. Everywhere in the apostolic writings ekklēsia refers to either the entire Body of the Messiah, the sum total of the Jewish and Gentile believers in a particular city, or the disciples meeting together in someone's home. Most importantly, the term emphasizes a spiritual bond based on common trust in the God of Israel and his Messiah (Stern 54). Messianic Jewish versions naturally avoid the use of "church" and translate the word with "congregation" (CJB), "assembly" (HNV), or "community" (MW, TLV).

prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, a spokesman for deity. In Scripture the term "prophet" refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling future events or forth-telling the message of God (DNTT 3:76). and teachers: pl. of Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. The Heb. equivalent is moreh. A moreh comes from the same root as Torah and means one who throws out, or points out, directs, or instructs (BDB 435).

both Barnabas: Grk. Barnabas, the name of an important apostle appears 23 times in Acts and 5 times in Paul's letters. We meet Barnabas for the first time in 4:36 where Luke says,

"Now Joseph, also called Barnabas by the emissaries (which is translated Son of Encouragement), was a Levite and native of Cyprus. He sold a field that he owned and brought the money and laid it at the feet of the emissaries." (Acts 4:36-37 TLV)

Just as Luke will note the Hebrew and Roman names of Paul, so Luke first introduces Barnabas with his Hebrew name "Joseph" (Heb. Yosef). "Barnabas" is a Graecized version of the Hebrew name Bar-Nabba. Bar is an Aramaic prefix meaning "son of," a very common feature of Hebrew names, such as Bar-abbas (Barabbas), Bar-tholomaios (Bartholomew), Bar-iēsous (Bar Jesus), Bar-iona (Barjona), and Bar-sabas (Barsabbas). Nabba is explained in Acts 4:36 as meaning "encouragement" (Grk. paraklēseos). His name derived from the Heb. word for prophet, nabi, so his name more likely means "son of prophecy" or one who prophesies (HBD). "Barnabas" was likely a nickname assigned by virtue of his ministry.

Just as Luke will note the Hebrew and Roman names of Paul, so Luke first introduces Barnabas with his Hebrew name "Joseph" (Heb. Yosef). "Barnabas" is a Graecized version of the Hebrew name Bar-Nabba. Bar is an Aramaic prefix meaning "son of," a very common feature of Hebrew names, such as Bar-abbas (Barabbas), Bar-tholomaios (Bartholomew), Bar-iesous (Bar Jesus), Bar-iona (Barjona), and Bar-sabas (Barsabbas). Nabba is explained in Acts 4:36 as meaning "encouragement" (Grk. paraklēseos). His name derived from the Heb. word for prophet, nabi, so his name more likely means "son of prophecy" or one who prophesies (HBD). "Barnabas" was likely a nickname assigned by virtue of his ministry.

Being a Levite Barnabas would have been entitled to serve at the Temple. The importance of Barnabas selling his land is that having become a disciple of Yeshua he felt convicted to obey Torah. In the original distribution of Canaan the tribe of Levi received no allotment because the Lord was to be their inheritance (Num 18:20, 24; Deut 10:9). Levites were to be supported by tithes from the people. Unfortunately, during the exile Jews quit paying tithes and Levites were forced to support themselves (Neh 13:10). Having accepted Yeshua as Messiah and Lord, Barnabas purposed to return to his divine commission as a Levite. The Lord Yeshua was now his inheritance.

Barnabas facilitated the introduction of the transformed Saul of Tarsus to the apostolic leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-27). The apostles then chose to send Barnabas to Syrian Antioch to investigate the evangelism taking place among Hellenistic Jews there. He became the leader to the work and secured Saul as his assistant. Afterwards they took famine relief to the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 11:19-30). Barnabas became very active in traveling and proclaiming the Good News, first as a close associate with Paul and then later with Mark. Little considered by commentators is that Barnabas is included in the list of Hippolytus (170-235), On the Seventy Apostles) and Dorotheus (c. 255-362), Acts of the Seventy Apostles. According to these records Barnabas eventually became the overseer of Milan. This information is not likely to be legend, as some suppose, because the lists are too detailed and the names would have been known.

and Simeon: Grk. Sumeōn, a transliteration of the Heb. Shim'on ("he has heard"). In the Tanakh the Heb. name Shim'on appears for the first time as the second son of Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:33). His name is translated in the LXX as Sumeōn and in English "Simeon." Then the tribe descended from him bore his name, which eventually had its territory within the area assigned to the tribe of Judah. This spelling is used of only two other contemporary persons, Simeon who greeted Joseph and Miriam (Luke 2:25) and Simon Peter (Acts 15:14; 2Pet 1:1). Nothing more is known of this Simeon than what Luke provides here. being called Niger: Grk. Niger (pronounced "Nih-gehr"). BAG gives the meaning as "dark-complexioned." Stern translates the phrase as "known as the Black" (CJB). The name is only a physical description and no indication of place of origin. He is presumptively Jewish as the rest of the persons mentioned here.

and Lucius: Grk. Loukios, a Roman praenomen, or given name, which was derived from Latin lux, "light" (BehindtheName.com). He is no doubt the same Lucius mentioned in Romans 16:23. According to Hippolytus and Dorotheus this Lucius, one of Yeshua's Seventy, eventually became bishop of Laodicea in Syria. the Cyrenian: Grk. Kurēnaios, an inhabitant of Cyrene. and Manaen: Grk. Manaēn. The name appears only here in the Besekh. close associate: Grk. suntrophos, adj., one who is brought up with someone; close associate. Mounce defines the word as nursed with another; one brought up or educated with another, intimate friend, friend of the court. Bible versions differ widely on translation. BAG indicates its broad meaning with "nourished or brought up together with; familiar, on friendly terms with; subst. as foster-brother, companion (from one's youth), intimate friend of someone.

Stern suggests that Josephus may have been referring to him when he wrote,

"5. Now there was one of these Essenes, whose name was Manahem, who had this testimony, that he not only conducted his life after an excellent manner, but had the foreknowledge of future events given him by God also. This man once saw Herod when he was a child, and going to school, and saluted him as king of the Jews; but he, thinking that either he did not know him, or that he was in jest, put him in mind that he was but a private man; but Manahem smiled to himself, and clapped him on his backside with his hand, and said," However that be, thou wilt be king, and wilt begin thy reign happily, for God finds thee worthy of it. And do thou remember the blows that Manahem hath given thee, as being a signal of the change of thy fortune. And truly this will be the best reasoning for thee, that thou love justice [towards men], and piety towards God, and clemency towards thy citizens; yet do I know how thy whole conduct will be, that thou wilt not be such a one, for thou wilt excel all men in happiness, and obtain an everlasting reputation, but wilt forget piety and righteousness; and these crimes will not be concealed from God, at the conclusion of thy life, when thou wilt find that he will be mindful of them, and punish time for them." Now at that time Herod did not at all attend to what Manahem said, as having no hopes of such advancement; but a little afterward, when he was so fortunate as to be advanced to the dignity of king, and was in the height of his dominion, he sent for Manahem, and asked him how long he should reign. Manahem did not tell him the full length of his reign; wherefore, upon that silence of his, he asked him further, whether he should reign ten years or not? He replied, "Yes, twenty, nay, thirty years;" but did not assign the just determinate limit of his reign. Herod was satisfied with these replies, and gave Manahem his hand, and dismissed him; and from that time he continued to honor all the Essenes. We have thought it proper to relate these facts to our readers, how strange soever they be, and to declare what hath happened among us, because many of these Essenes have, by their excellent virtue, been thought worthy of this knowledge of Divine revelations. '" (Ant. XV, 10:5)

of Herod: Grk. Hērōdēs. The Herod mentioned here is Antipas, son of Herod the Great and his wife Malthace, a Samaritan. the tetrarch: Grk. tetraarchēs, "ruler of a fourth," the term for a ruler of lower rank than a king. The term reflects the fact that after the death of Herod the Great the land was divided among his sons. Herod Antipas was given Galilee and Perea to rule with Tiberias as his capital (Luke 3:1). Upon his succession Caesar Augustus denied Antipas the royal title of "king." His pursuit of the title would eventually lead to his dismissal and exile to Gaul in AD 39 under Caligula (Lane 211). Nevertheless, Mark uses the title of "king" for Antipas, no doubt reflecting local custom (Mark 6:14). Of course, throughout the Tanakh, the chief civil administrator of a city or region was called "king," but in Roman politics the title of king included a certain amount of independence that Caesar would no longer tolerate in a land known for its uprisings against Roman rule.

and Saul: Grk. Saulos, which transliterates the Heb. Sha'ul (lit. "asked for" or "prayed for"). Luke uses Saulos 14 times to identify Paul in his history (e.g., Acts 7:58) but none after this verse. Yeshua speaking to Paul on the Damascus Road addresses him with his Hebrew name (Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14), as did Ananias (Acts 22:13), which Luke transliterates there as Saoul in accordance with LXX usage. The Greek has no letter with an "sh" sound. "Saul" likely occurs last in the list of names to set up the scene in the next verse. For a complete summary of the apostle's background see my web article Paul the Jew.

2 And as they ministered to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "So then set apart to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

And as they ministered: Grk. leitourgeō, pres. part., to render public service (that is, to the government) at one's own expense, to provide material service directed to fellow believers (Rom 15:27) or to conduct a religious meeting of a worship nature as seems implied here (cf. Luke 1:23). In the LXX leitourgeō is used about 100 times for Heb. sharath (SH-8334), minister serve, almost exclusively for the service of priests and Levites in the temple, particularly in Exodus and Numbers. In late Judaism, especially as it was developed in the synagogue, and in the Diaspora, there is a gradual spiritualizing of this concept of service, especially in the interpretation of prayer as "sacrifice" (cf. Wisdom 18:21) (DNTT 3:551f). Paul also refers to praise as "sacrifice" (Heb 13:15).

to the 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, the great majority to translate Heb. words for God, principally the sacred name YHVH (DNTT 2:511). For more information on the use of kurios see the note on John 1:23. and fasting: Grk. nēsteuō, pres. part., to abstain from food, but the usage of the word indicates that something took the place of eating. Merely skipping a meal is not fasting. The purpose of fasting is to enable a person to draw close to God; it is primarily a spiritual exercise. For more discussion on this topic see my web article Fasting in the Bible.

the Holy Spirit: 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 (John 4:24), just as God is the Word (John 1:1). The Greek word order here is en pneumati hagiō and this word order demonstrates the Hebraic nature of the text, because it corresponds to the Hebrew word order of Ruach Qodesh, which occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11). The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Judg 3:10; and Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1). All of the passages indicate that the Holy Spirit is divine, not less or other than God.

said: Grk. legō, aor., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. So then set apart: Grk. aphorizō, aor. imp., to select or separate with these applications: (1) to sever social intercourse or excommunicate (Luke 6:22; Acts 19:9; 2Cor 6:17); (2) to separate in the judgment associated with the Second Coming (Matt 13:49; 25:32); and (3) to select or set apart for a special purpose (Rom 1:1) as here. An interesting point is that Paul also uses this word to say that he was set apart from his mother's womb (Gal 1:15).

Out of the group of prophets and teachers the Spirit directed that two individuals to be devoted to service for the Lord: Barnabas and Saul. for the work: Grk. ergon, generally means a deed, action or accomplishment with these applications: (a) in contrast to rest; (b) as a practical proof of something; (c) of the deeds of God and Yeshua, specifically miracles; or (d) the deeds of men, exhibiting a consistent moral character (BAG). to which I have called them: the verb is Grk. proskaleō, perf. mid., call to one's presence, here of a divine appointment and assignment. The perfect tense points to a time in the past when the appointment occurred, most likely before they had commenced any ministry. As in other parts of Luke's narrative no explanation is offered as to how the people knew the Holy Spirit had spoken.

3 Then, having fasted and prayed and having laid their hands on them, they sent them.

 

4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

 

5 And being in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Judean Jews; and also they had John as helper.

Mark accompanied Barnabas and Saul to Antioch to disciple the Jews who had accepted Yeshua as Messiah.

as helper:  Grk. hupēretēs, which refers to one who renders service and may be translated as helper or attendant. Just what that term implies is not clear. In all the passages where the term occurs the individuals had significant authority and responsibilities, some working for judges and others for the chief priests (Matt 5:25; 26:58, Mark 14:65, John 7:32 and Acts 5:22, 26). In Luke 4:20 hupēretēs is used of a synagogue "attendant," Heb. chazzan. A chazzan had many congregational duties, including prayer, preaching and care of scrolls. However, in several passages hupēretēs refers to one who was involved in teaching the story of Yeshua or advocating the cause of the Messiah (Luke 1:2; Acts 13:5; 26:16; 1Cor 4:1). Surely, this is the sort of service Mark rendered in Antioch.

 

6 Having passed through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a certain man, a sorcerer, a Judean false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus,

 

7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.

 

8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) opposed them, seeking to divert the proconsul away from the faith.

 

9 But Saul, the one also Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazing at him, said,

 

Paul: Grk. Paulos, from the Latin Paulus, meaning small or humble, which first occurs in Acts 13:9. He no doubt engages in a word play on this meaning of his name when he said, "I am the least of the apostles" (1 Cor 15:9). When he acquired the name of Paul is not mentioned, but as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28) it likely occurred at birth. Roman citizens had three names. The praenomen (first name) was little more than a formality. The nomen (second name) denoted the Roman tribe to which one belonged. The third name was the cognomen, the family name. Paulus was most likely his cognomen, probably taken from the patron who freed Paul's ancestors from slavery (Polhill 16).

Of interest is that the Luke uses Grk. Saulos 14 times to identify Paul in his history (e.g., Acts 7:58; but none after this verse), and Yeshua speaking to Paul on the Damascus Road addresses him with his Hebrew name (Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14), as did Ananias (Acts 22:13), which Luke transliterates as Saoul in accordance with LXX usage (The Greek has no letter with an "sh" sound.) Paul was apparently proud of his Roman name, since this is the only name by which he refers to himself in all his writings. For more background information on the great apostle see my web article Paul: Shaliach of Messiah Yeshua, Part 1.

10 "O full of all deceit and fraud, son of the devil, enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the ways of the Lord?

 

11 "And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind, not seeing the sun for a time." And at once a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he going about he sought leaders by the hand.

 

12 Then the proconsul seeing the thing having occurred believed, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.

 

Priority: The Jew First

13 Now having sailed from Paphos with those around him Paul came to Perga of Pamphylia, but John having departed from them returned to Jerusalem;

Luke's narrative occurs in the context of Paul's first missionary journey, sometime in 46-48 A.D. In this verse Luke marks the occasion of John Mark's desertion Paul, which resulted in a later conflict between Paula and Barnabas (Acts 15:38). The reason for Mark's defection was likely related to the circumcision issue (see the section below in Theological Controversies). The root of the divide may be found in what happened at Paphos when the Roman Sergius Paulus became a believer (Acts 13:5-12). Mark likely objected to the offer of salvation to the Gentiles on condition of faith alone.

14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia, and having gone into the synagogue on the day of the Sabbath they sat down.

The occasion of the sermon occurs during a weekly Sabbath in a Jewish synagogue located in Antioch of Pisidia. Paul did not attend the synagogue service merely as an evangelistic strategy but because he was an observant Jew and Sabbath-keeping was very important to him (Acts 16:11; 17:2; 18:4; 1Cor 14:26; Col 2:16; Heb 4:9; 10:24-25) as well as keeping all the appointed times (Acts 20:16; 27:9; 1Cor 5:7-8; Col 2:16).

15 And after the reading of the Torah and of the Haftarah, the synagogue rulers sent to them, saying, 'Men, brethren, if there is any among you with a word of exhortation for the people, speak.'

Luke mentions that Scripture portions were read from the Torah (Pentateuch) and Haftarah ("conclusion," readings from the Prophets). The Torah is divided into 54 Parashôt ("portions") for sequential reading in synagogue Sabbath services. (Parashôt appear in manuscripts as early as the Dead Sea Scrolls, but Jewish tradition assigns their creation to Ezra.) The annual reading through the Torah concludes on Simchat Torah ("rejoicing in the Torah") on 22 Tishri (Sept-Oct). For more information see The Parashah Cycle. Following this would be a drash (literally, “investigation,” that is, a teaching or sermon), depending on who was available to teach or expound on the Scripture passage.

The choice of text was likely providential just as Yeshua just happened to be in synagogue when the Haftarah passage was read from Isaiah 61:1-2 and he announced "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). Considering the content of Paul's sermon he likely used the text read for the service as his starting point. The Torah passage that best fits his message in found in Parashah 45: Va'etchanan ("I pleaded," Deut 3:23—7:11), particularly Deuteronomy 4:32-39, which contains these words, "And because He loved your fathers, and chose their Seed [Heb. zera] after them, and brought you out with his own presence, with his great power, out of Egypt" (Deut 4:37 BR). So from this Torah passage, interpreting the mention of "Seed" as the Messianic promise, Paul proclaimed the Good News. The 45th Parashah for this day would likely have occurred in the month of Tammuz (July).

Luke's narrative mentions different groups of hearers. First, there were synagogue rulers (Grk. archisunagōgos). Synagogue organization included a wide variety of leadership and ministry positions and there were seven rulers: the nasi (President) with two assistants, chazan (pulpit minister), and three parnasin (receivers of alms) (Moseley 9). Some representative of the rulers, perhaps the chazan, addressed Paul's group with two nouns: men (pl. of Grk. anēr, adult male or husband) and brethren (pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb"), lit. "brothers." Both nouns are in the vocative case (direct address), with "men" probably reflecting a nod of respect and "brothers" as acknowledging their common ethnic heritage as Jews. Most versions do not translate "Men." Hospitality often dictated offering the honor to a visitor to address the congregation, if he was competent. So, a representative then gives Paul the opportunity to speak.

16 And Paul having stood, and having beckoned with the hand, said, 'Men, Israelites, and those fearing God, listen.

Paul responded by going to the bima or pulpit to give his message. He made a gesture to invite attention and began to speak. Scholars note the difference between the fact that Paul stood on this occasion and Yeshua sat down after the reading of Scripture (Luke 4:16-18). Bruce suggests the difference is that Yeshua's address was an exposition of Scripture whereas Paul's was rather an exhortation (271). However, Yeshua stood on many occasions to teach, so the difference more likely owes to local custom.

In his introduction he addresses three different groups, each in the vocative case. Most Bible versions only give two groups. The first group is Men: (Grk. anēr), which could have been directed to all the men in the meeting, but Paul probably intended it as a nod of respect to the synagogue rulers. The second group is Israelites (pl. of Grk. Israēlitēs), a descendant of Israel the patriarch and member of the people of Israel. Paul does not distinguish between the different kinds or parties of Jews, but rather focuses on their kinship by blood. He might also mean those born in the Land of Israel. He does the same in verse 26 with "sons of Abraham's family."

The third group are those fearing God (Grk. hoi phobeumenoi ton theon). Generally speaking the "God-fearers" were Gentiles who attached themselves to synagogues and the Jewish religion. Luke's first use of the is of Cornelius, the Roman centurion (Acts 10:2) to whom Peter proclaimed the Good News. Based on the example of Cornelius a God-fearer was committed to the worship of the God of Israel as the only God, devout in moral and ethical practice as guided by the Ten Commandments, a generous donor to the Jewish poor and faithful in prayer. God-fearing Gentiles were not pagans like those in Lystra (Acts 14:8-18) and Athens (Acts 17:17-23). (We need more God-fearers among Christians today!)

A People of God's Choice

17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people in their sojourn in Egypt, and with an uplifted arm he led them out of it,

In verses 17-20 Paul set the stage for his narrative of salvation and his wording is strongly reminiscent of the very wording of the Tanakh narration (Bruce 272). Longenecker suggests that these verses serve as a summary that epitomized for Jews the essence of their faith. The emotional impact is heightened by the use of action verbs describing what God did. The review of history is crucial to understanding how salvation is accomplished. The God of Israel, the only God in existence, chose a people (Deut 7:6-8). In this verse Paul summarizes the history of Genesis 12—Exodus 15. The mention of Israel likely has the dual meaning of the man Jacob whose name was changed and then the nation that descended from his twelve sons. The word fathers no doubt refers to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deut 30:20). Paul emphasizes that God "chose" the patriarchs. They were recipients of special favor and privilege. They did not choose God, nor did God choose any others. This is Paul's first mention of the covenantal choosing.

In his letters Paul uses the nouns eklektos (Rom 8:33; Col 3:12; 1Tim 5:21; 2Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1) and eklogē (Rom 9:11; 11:5, 7, 28; 1Thess 1:4) to describe the community of faith that descended from "the fathers," whether in a physical or spiritual sense. While Paul does not use the word "covenant" (Grk. diathēkē) here, the choosing was the first step in establishing the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then Israel. God's sovereign election of and covenantal relationship with Israel is a constant theme in Paul's letters (cf. Rom 8:33; 9:4; 11:7, 27; 1Cor 1:27-28; 2Cor 3:6; Gal 3:17; 4:24; Eph 1:4; 2:12; Col 3:12; 2Thess 2:13; 1Tim 5:21; 2Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1; Heb 7:22; 8:6, 8-10; 9:15; 10:16, 29; 13:20). God did not end His covenant with Israel.

However, Paul hints at a new insight when he speaks of "our fathers." Paul understood that God's election was first individual before it was national. For example, God chose Isaac in preference to Ishmael (Gen 17:19-21; Rom 9:7, 10; Gal 4:28) and Jacob in preference to Esau (Gen 25:23; Rom 9:12-13). Thus, salvation is individual. Paul passes over the 400+ years of Israel's sojourn in Egypt, prophesied to Abraham (Gen 15:13; Gal 3:17). He says God exalted them, meaning He elevated their position in the land by prosperity and birthrate during the tenure of Joseph. It was only after his death and the death of Pharaoh that a new leader arose who afflicted the Israelites.

The uplifted arm, an allusion to Exodus 6:1, 6 and Psalm 136:11-12, refers to the use of a staff in imposing the plagues to prepare for deliverance. Of the ten plagues God used the physical hand of Aaron to accomplish the first three (blood, frogs, and lice) and the hand of Moses to accomplish four (boils, hail, locusts, and darkness). Then Moses lifted up the staff to part the Red Sea (Ex 14:16) and God led them out of Egypt.

Paul's words would likely remind his Jewish listeners of the recounting of the Exodus story during the Passover Seder. The message of the Exodus was summarized in four cups of wine. These cups symbolized the four promises of Exodus 6:6-7.

"Therefore, say to Bnei-Yisrael: 'I am ADONAI. and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself as a people, and I will be your God.” (TLV)

18 and about forty years of time He cared for them in the wilderness,

 

19 and having destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan and gave their land to his people as an inheritance

The seven nations destroyed in the land of Canaan are listed in Deuteronomy 7:1. Paul then offers a quick summary of history in the book of Joshua and the victory accomplished by divine power. The dispossession of these nations was spread of a very long period. It was not until the seventh year of David's reign that the Jebusites, the last nation mentioned were reduced (Paul affirms that God gave the land of Canaan to Israel as their inheritance, a promise later rejected by Christianity and even currently denied by many groups. All of the land from the Negev to the Golan Heights, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan belongs to Israel. (See my web article I Am a Biblical Zionist.)

Paul's review of history in Exodus—Judges is crucial to understanding how salvation is accomplished. The God of Israel, the only God in existence, chose a people (Deut 7:6-8). God's sovereign election of and covenantal relationship with Israel is a constant theme in Paul's letters (cf. Rom 8:33; 11:7; 1Cor 1:27-28; Eph 1:4; Php 1:22; Col 3:12; 2Thess 2:13; 1Tim 5:21; 2Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1). However, Paul hints at a new insight when he speaks of "our fathers," a term that typically refers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As the NIV correctly translates Paul uses "Israel" in the genitive case "of Israel," indicating the patriarch. Paul understood that God's election was first individual before it was national. For example, God chose Isaac in preference to Ishmael (Gen 17:19-21; Rom 9:7, 10; Gal 4:28) and Jacob in preference to Esau (Gen 25:23; Rom 9:12-13).

God's election is not absolute in that rebellion against His covenant brings judgment. (Only consider Korah.) In Paul's covenant theology lineage alone is not sufficient to assure salvation. "For not all those descended from Israel are Israel" (Rom 9:6). In that verse Paul uses "Israel" to refer to the nation and then the patriarch. Since the emphasis is on lineage he is not including proselytes who may have become citizens of the nation. It's equally obvious that he is not using "Israel" as symbolic of Christianity or the Christian Church.

20 about 450 years, and after these things he gave judges until Samuel.

about 450 years:  The period of 450 years encompasses the period of 400 years in Egypt, 40 years in the Wilderness and 10 years until Joshua divided up the Land (Stern 269; Bruce). The KJV has the time reference following the words "and after these things," assigning the 450 years to the period of the judges, but this is based on later MSS. The earliest MSS begins the verse with the time reference. The verse division should have placed the time reference at the end of verse 19.

Paul's review of history next summarizes the book of Judges, Ruth and 1Samuel. The role of the Hebrew judges point to the Messiah as the Righteous Judge.  the entire period of the Israelite confederation, from Joshua to Samuel.

21 And then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.

Paul tells of the transition from confederation to monarchy, because not only is the Messiah a judge but more importantly a king. Paul summarizes the book of First Samuel, which features the selection and reign of King Saul. Paul's Hebrew name "Saul" was not necessarily inspired by the first king, but Paul could no doubt find points of commonality between him and the monarch.

22 And removing him, He raised up David for their king whom He also said, giving witness, 'I found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.'"

Paul quotes the announcement God made to King Saul in regards to David, a man after His own heart (1Sam 13:14), and then adds an interpretation of what God meant that David would do God's will, perhaps alluding to the commentary of Jeremiah:

"For David did what was right in ADONAI’s eyes and did not turn aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." (1Kgs 15:5 TLV)

God Brought a Savior

23 From the seed of this man, according to promise, God brought to Israel a Savior, Yeshua.

Seed: Beginning with the phrase "from this man's seed" Paul continues his historical perspective and comments on the life and times of Yeshua. The information he provides in verses 23-29 above implies both second-hand and personal knowledge of these events. The genealogy of Yeshua is recorded in two of the four apostolic narratives. It's reasonable to consider to what degree Paul knew of the Yeshua histories. His visit to Pisidian Antioch is generally dated in 46-48 A.D.

Bible scholarship has generally not given a date to any of the apostolic narratives before A.D. 65, although some conservative scholars will give a date as early as 50 for the Synoptic Narratives. However, the late dating of these histories relies on literary assumptions and is entirely speculative and subjective. John A.T. Robinson in his landmark book Redating the New Testament (1976) makes compelling arguments for much earlier dating. He dates Matthew, Mark and John as early as A.D. 40. (See my web article Witnesses of the Good News for more discussion on the dating issue.) In addition, Paul had personal knowledge of Yeshua (2Cor 5:16), so combined with other available information he provides an accurate summary of the events leading up the Yeshua's death.

Promise: The unifying theme of Paul's theology, indeed all of Scripture, is what Kaiser calls the "Promise-Plan of God" (18). The doctrine of the Messiah began with a single promise spoken to the serpent on behalf of the Woman in the Garden, "I will put animosity between you and the Woman— between your seed and her Seed. He will crush your head, and you will crush his heel. (Gen 3:15). Paul wrote, "when the appointed time arrived, God sent forth his Son. He was born from a woman, born into a culture in which legalistic perversion of the Torah was the norm" (Gal 4:4 CJB).

In his sermon in Pisidian Antioch Paul mentions first the promise made to David. He quotes the announcement God made to King Saul in regards to David, a man after His own heart (1Sam 13:14), and then adds an interpretation of what God meant that David would do God's will, perhaps alluding to the commentary of Jeremiah:

"For David did what was right in ADONAI’s eyes and did not turn aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." (1Kgs 15:5 TLV)

The "promise" made to David no doubt alludes to the message of Nathan the prophet:

"When your days are done and you sleep with your fathers, I will raise up your Seed, who will come forth from you after you, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for My Name, and I will establish his royal throne forever." (2Sam 7:12-13)

According to the Good News of Paul, Yeshua was the promised Seed of David:

"Paul, a slave of Messiah Yeshua, called to be an emissary and set apart for the Good News of God, which He announced beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Concerning His Son, He came into being from the seed of David according to the flesh." (Rom 1:1-3 TLV)

"Remember Yeshua the Messiah, raised from the dead, from the seed of David—according to my Good News." (2Tim 2:8 TLV)

Then Paul quotes from Psalm 2 as the clinching argument that Yeshua was the intended subject of the announcement "You are my Son." Paul's message is consistent with prior announcements from Gabriel (Luke 1:32), Zechariah (Luke 1:69), Bartimaeus (Luke 18:38-39), and Peter (Acts 2:29-30) that Yeshua was the heir to David's throne. Next Paul mentions the promise made to the fathers, namely Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Paul reiterates this promise in his defense speech before the Jewish King Agrippa:

"Now I stand here to be judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers, which our twelve tribes hope to attain, earnestly serving night and day." (Acts 26:6-7 MW)

In his letters Paul speaks of the promise given to Abraham and its significance (Rom 4:13, 16; Gal 3:14, 16, 18, 29), as well as Isaac (Rom 9:7-8, 10; Gal 4:28) and Jacob (Rom 9:4, 9-13; Eph 2:12). The Christian idea of the Good News ("Jesus died for my sins so I could have a home in heaven") lacks the foundation Paul asserts. The fulfillment of the promise of the Messianic Seed, made in the beginning to the Woman, then declared to the patriarchs and finally to David is key to understanding the nature of the Good News. "His-Story" set forth in the Tanakh and the apostolic narratives is the story of God's great plan to fulfill His promise through His covenant people Israel.

Savior: Paul introduces the mission of Yeshua by calling him "Savior." The Greek word sōtēr refers to one who liberates from real or threatening harm or loss, and thus is a deliverer. In the LXX sōtēr renders the Heb. yeshu'ah ("one who brings deliverance") and the participle moshia a derivative of the verb yasha ("to save") (DNTT 3:217), and is related to Yeshua’s own name (Matt 1:21). Paul no doubt spoke to the synagogue in Hebrew so the hearers would recognize the play on words of "God brought to Israel yeshu'ah, Yeshua."

The Tanakh speaks concretely of God as Savior (cf. 2Sam 22:3; Ps 17:7; 106:21; Isa 19:20; 43:3, 11; 45:15, 21; Hos 13:4; Luke 1:47), so by saying that God had brought a Savior, Paul means that Yeshua is acting for God to accomplish salvation of His people. Note that the Savior was brought to Israel, and he was not the first to say it (Luke 2:11; Acts 5:31). Yeshua must be the Savior of Israel (2Tim 1:10) before he can be Savior of the world (John 4:42). This is the essence of Paul's later assertion that the Good News is for the Jew first (Rom 1:16).

24 Before his arrival, Yochanan proclaimed an immersion of repentance to all the people of Israel.

Yochanan: Paul summarizes the ministry of Yochanan the Immerser, which is recorded in the four apostolic narratives (Matt 3:1-12; Mark 1:4-8; Luke 3:1-20; John 1:6-8, 19-36). Yochanan was most likely born in March, 3 BC, six months before Yeshua. (See my nativity commentary on Luke 1.) The beginning of Yochanan's ministry coincides with Caesar Tiberius, who began the fifteenth year of his reign, thus setting the commencement of Yochanan's ministry in Autumn A.D. 26 (Edersheim 183; Santala 125). Yochanan's ministry gained considerable notice among Israelites, even in the Diaspora (cf. Acts 19:3), and Paul emphasizes that Yochanan was the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. The message of Yochanan called for immersion and repentance (cf. Mark 1:4).

immersion: The Greek word for "immersion" (translated in Christian Bibles as 'baptism') is baptisma, from the verb baptizō, which referred to any ceremonial washing. The noun means plunging, dipping or immersing. It does not mean sprinkling or pouring (DNTT 1:144). Not generally considered in Christian discussion of baptism is that Jewish immersion was (and is) self-immersion, and gender-specific. That is, men were not present when women immersed. And, no one was allowed to touch the one immersing. Yochanan did not need to put the penitent under for it to be valid. Rather, this phrase depicts Yochanan superintending the immersion of all those who came to him. As an attending witness he would insure that each person completely immersed himself. In all likelihood several people would be immersing at the same time. (See Ron Moseley, The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism.)

Paul doesn't mention the immersion of Yeshua, but he would have completed the ritual as described above. In one fascinating piece of evidence, there is an ancient drawing from a Roman catacomb which depicts Yochanan and Yeshua at Yeshua's immersion. Yochanan is standing on the bank of the Jordan River extending a hand to Yeshua assisting him from the water (R. Steven Notley, John's Baptism of Repentance, Jerusalem Perspective Online, 2004; also Moseley mentioned above).

Paul immersed himself as a result of his transformation (Acts 9:18; 22:16) and immersions were a part of his ministry (Acts 16:16, 33; 18:8; 19:5; 1Cor 1:13-16), although he later said that Yeshua did not intend for him to have a ministry of immersion as Yochanan (1Cor 1:17). Paul did not write much in the way of instruction about immersion, but what he did write is important (Rom 6:3-4; 1Cor 10:3; 12:13; Gal 3:27).

repentance: The call for repentance (Grk. metanoia) is a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior. The immersion represented the person's repentant heart. They did not immerse in order to repent. Since Paul probably spoke in Hebrew and the message was translated into Greek, then we should consider that he used the Heb. word t’shuvah. As a word for repentance t’shuvah 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). Of interest is that the LXX never uses metanoeō to translate t’shuvah, but epistrephō or strephō, which do mean to turn, turn around, turn back or be transformed (DNTT 1:354).

The choice of metanoeō in the apostolic text probably reflects a desire to emphasize the beginning point of change with a decision of the will. Repentance was actually a virtue to Pharisees. The daily prayer, Amidah, included repentance in the fifth benediction, which reads in its original Jerusalem form, "Return us, O Lord, unto Thee, and we shall return. Renew our days as before. Blessed are Thou, Who hast pleasure in repentance" (quoted in Lane 596). Rabbinic revision, reflected in the Babylonian form, would emphasize returning to Torah. There is a considerable difference in perspective between Paul's teaching and rabbinic tradition on this issue.

Yochanan and Yeshua demanded a once-for-all "turning" of one's whole self to the fulfillment of God's will. In presenting the good news for the first time Paul called his hearers to repentance (Acts 17:30; 19:4-5; 20:21; 26:20). He also expounded on the importance of repentance in his letters (Rom 2:4; 2Cor 7:9; 12:21; 2Tim 2:25; Heb 6:1, 6). The urgency in the call to repentance stems from the anticipation of God's wrath with the expectation of stopping sinful practice (cf. John 5:14; 8:11; 1Cor 15:34; Eph 4:26; 1Tim 5:20). The fact that a disciple may be instructed to cease sinning or to avoid sinning contradicts the assumption by some Christians that they must sin in thought, word and deed every day. Only consider the words of Paul the Pharisee in Romans 6:1. True repentance with its unequivocal turning away from sinful conduct is at the heart of the good news.

25 Now as Yochanan was completing his course, he said, 'Whom do you suppose me to be? I am not he, but behold, One comes after me, of whom I am not worthy to untie a sandal.'

The quotation attributed to Yochanan is found in all four apostolic narratives and was apparently a well known anecdote.

26 Men, brothers, sons of the nation of Abraham and those among you fearing God, the word of this salvation has been sent to us.

Paul again addresses those present for this sermon (verse 16 above). Men: The term could have been directed to all the men in the meeting, but Paul probably intended it as a nod of respect to the synagogue rulers. Brothers: This term includes all those descended from Jacob and therefore his kinsmen. sons of the nation of Abraham: This term in its literal sense would refer to those who can trace their genealogy to the great patriarch. Yet, the "sons of Abraham" are those who looked for the Messiah and welcomed him upon his arrival, such as Zacchaeus (Luke 19:9). those among you fearing God: As indicated in verse 16 above the "God-fearers" were Gentiles who attached themselves to synagogues and the Jewish religion. Like Ruth they had joined themselves to the people of Israel and chose to follow the God of Israel as an act of trusting faithfulness.

Having introduced the idea of Yeshua as the Savior he returns to the subject of salvation: The Greek word sōtēria means rescue, deliverance or salvation from physical harm, but often from God's wrath (Rom 5:9; 1Cor 5:5). In the LXX sōtēria translates six different Hebrew formations derived from the root verb yasha, to deliver (DNTT 3:206). Christians sometimes speak of being "saved from sin," but this is not how the apostles characterized salvation. We are not saved from sin, but the consequences of sin. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Salvation is sometimes spoken of as a present experience (1Cor 1:18; Eph 2:5; Titus 3:5), but it is also a future hope, something that will happen when Yeshua returns (Rom 5:10; 10:9; 13:11; 1Cor 3:15; 1Th 2:16; 5:9; 1Tim 4:16; Heb 1:14; 9:28).

Paul's mention of "to us" at the end of this verse demonstrates his later assertion that the Good News is intended for the Jews first (Rom 1:16), which Peter declared in his sermon before the Sanhedrin (Acts 3:26).

27 For the ones dwelling in Jerusalem and their rulers, not having understood him or the utterances of the Prophets, being read on every Sabbath, they fulfilled by condemning him.

The sufferings of Yeshua are recorded in the four apostolic narratives. Paul recounts the trial of Yeshua, of which he may have been a witness. By saying that "they found no charge worthy of a death sentence," he does not mean they did not charge Yeshua with anything. Rather, he means that the Sanhedrin could not substantiate a charge with evidence that would require the death penalty. Paul speaks more directly of the Sanhedrin's responsibility one other time saying they "killed the Lord Yeshua" (1Thess 2:15), using the same verb as Peter in his sermon before the Sanhedrin (Acts 3:15). We should note that the Thessalonian letter was written sometime during the first missionary journey, near in time to this sermon. Yet, afterwards Paul changes his rhetoric on the subject.

28 And having found not one crime worthy of death, they asked Pilate to execute him.

While he does mention the crucifixion of Yeshua in his letters (1Cor 1:13, 23; 2:2, 8; 2Cor 13:4; Gal 2:20; 3:1), he generally prefers to speak of Yeshua having "died for us" (Rom 5:6, 8, 15; 6:8; 8:34; 14:9, 15; 1Cor 8:11; 15:3; 2Cor 5:14, 15; Gal 2:21; Col 2:20; 1Thess 4:14; 5:10; 2Tim 2:11). Paul realized that it was better to speak of what Yeshua did for us than what the Sanhedrin did to him.

29 And when they completed all that had been written concerning him, having taken him down from the tree they laid him in a tomb.

 

God Raised the Savior

30 But God resurrected him from the dead!

See my web article The Mystery of the Resurrection and my commentary on 1Corinthians 15.

31 who appeared over many days to the ones having come with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who now are his witnesses to the people.

 

32 And to you we proclaim Good News, the promise made to the fathers!

 

33 that God has fulfilled this promise to their sons, to us, having resurrected Yeshua, as also it has written in the first psalm: 'You are My Son. Today I have begotten you.'

 

See my commentary on Psalm 2.

34 But since He resurrected him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, thus He has spoken, 'I will give you the holy things of David, the faithful things.'

 

Quote from Isaiah 55:3.

35 Wherefore also in another psalm He says, 'You will not permit Your Holy One to see corruption.'

 

Psalm 16:10

36 For indeed David having served his own generation by the purpose of God, he fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption.

 

37 But the One whom God resurrected did not see decay.

The resurrection of Yeshua and its promise of resurrection on the last day is a key doctrine for Paul. As a Pharisee he already believed in resurrection to occur in the last days. Meeting Yeshua on the Damascus Road convinced him that Yeshua had indeed conquered death. First, God (presumptively the Father) raised Yeshua. Nowhere does it say that Yeshua raised himself. Second, the resurrection of Yeshua fulfilled the promise to the fathers. The promise was of a Seed, first given to Abraham (Gen 15:5) and then repeated to Isaac and Jacob.

The promise to Abraham of an heir contains a word play on "seed," a singular noun, and a hint of the Seed of the Woman, the Messiah, which Paul mentions in Galatians 3:6. The heir is a Seed comparable to the stars of the heavens. The stars are symbolic of eternity and the majesty of God (cf. Ps 19:1; Jer 31:35-37; Dan 12:3). The number of stars is beyond the knowledge of man, therefore Abraham's Seed will be greater than any man. Yet, God did the unthinkable and instructed Abraham to offer his son as a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed, which Paul interpreted as a belief that God would raise Isaac from the dead (Heb 11:19).

In response to such radical obedience and completion of the intended sacrifice the Angel of ADONAI (pre-incarnate Son of God) called to Abraham from heaven and made three special promises (Gen 22:16-18). First, Abraham's "seed" (descendants) will be as numerous as the stars of heaven, and the sand on the seashore. Second, Abraham's "Seed" (Messiah) will possess the gates of his enemies (cf. Matt 16:18; 1Cor 15:25; 2Thess 1:5-10). Third, in Abraham's "Seed" (Messiah) the nations of the earth will be blessed (Gen 26:4; Gal 3:8). These promises were given because Abraham obeyed the voice of ADONAI.

God Provided a Solution for Sins

38 Then let it be known to you, men, brethren, that through this One forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,

Then let it be known to you, men, brethren: Paul again addresses two groups, first by "men" the synagogue rulers, and the by "brethren" the other hearers.

forgiveness: Grk. aphesis (from aphiēmi, 'letting go') a term frequently used of canceled penal liabilities or indebtedness. Thus by extension aphesis means forgiveness (of) or release (from). In the LXX aphesis occurs primarily in Leviticus 25 and 27 for Heb. yobel, year of jubilee (BDB 398) and also in Deuteronomy 15:1-9 for Heb. shemittah, release from debts in the year of jubilee (BDB 1030). Only once does aphesis appear in the sense of forgiveness (Lev 16:26) and there it is without a Heb. equivalent (DNTT I, 698).

In the LXX the verb aphiēmi usually renders the Heb. nasa, to release from guilt or punishment (Gen 18:26, BDB 669), or salach, to forgive or pardon (Lev 4:20, BDB 699), but sometimes kipper, to cover or make atonement (Ex 32:30; Isa 22:14 BDB 497). Aphiemi and aphesis are not the chief words to convey the concept of forgiveness in the LXX. God's grace of forgiveness was experienced in priestly rituals of atonement sacrifices, so that all kinds of terms related to that system are used to express the idea (e.g., washing, cleansing, covering, etc.).

The grace of forgiveness follows upon the provision of Yeshua as Savior. After all, the promise of his name is that he would "save His people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). Atonement precedes forgiveness, as Paul says "without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22 NASB). Thus, Yeshua died as a sin offering to provide atonement (Rom 8:3-4; 2Cor 5:21; Eph 5:2; Heb 2:17; 7:27; 9:28). Forgiveness, then, means that all the offenses in God's book have been expunged. This is much better than mere diversion. "My sins are gone." Further use of forgiveness terminology by Paul occurs several times (Acts 26:18; Rom 4:7; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Heb 9:22; 10:18).

39 and everyone trusting in him is set free from all things which you could not be freed by the Torah of Moses."

and everyone trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part., in general Greek usage means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman, which essentially means to confirm or support (BDB 52). In the Niphal form 'aman means to be true, reliable or faithful and can be applied to men (e.g., Moses, Num 12:7), but especially to God who keeps his covenant and gives grace to those who love him (Deut 7:9). In the Hiphil form 'aman means to stand firm or trust as Abraham trusted in God's promise (Gen 15:6). The Hebrew concepts of trust and faithfulness are inseparable. If one trusts, then one is faithful. Far too many Christians truncate "believe" into affirming a creed or believing in the God of the Bible or even trusting in Yeshua's atoning work for salvation. Unfortunately, such believing and trusting does not always result in faithfulness. Being a disciple requires more than just believing.

The Protestant Reformation made "sola fide" ("faith alone") a pillar of its theology. In other words, justification (i.e., salvation) is accomplished only by faith. Various passages in Paul's writings are employed to prove the point (Rom 1:17; 3:26, 28, 30; 5:1; Gal 3:8, 24; Eph 2:8). Sanctification is also by faith (2Th 2:13). "Faith" in Christian usage essentially means to believe everything that Scripture claims about Yeshua and to trust in his atoning sacrifice for forgiveness of sins. The Christian concept of "faith" excludes any consideration of religious or pietistic works. Christian theology with its antinomian tendency has generally sought to strip pistis of its Hebraic meaning of "faithfulness."

set free: Grk. dikaioō, aor. pass., to make right or render right or just (Mounce). Danker has (1) to verify to be in the right or (2) to put into a condition or state of uprightness. BAG adds to make free or pure. Many Christian theologians treat justification as essentially forensic, that is, God judicially decrees a righteous status to unrighteous people on the basis of Yeshua's atonement in order to put them in a right relationship with Him. The imputation theology, also called positional salvation, provides the excuse to continue in a sinning lifestyle, which Paul appropriately rebukes (Rom 6:1-2). Paul uses the verb in his writings with the sense of imparting righteousness to the individual.

God Calls for a Response

40 Take heed, then, lest what was said in the Prophets come upon you:

Paul closes his sermon with a warning about God's judgment. The phrase "what is said the Prophets" alludes to all that the Hebrew Prophets had warned concerning the Day of the Lord (Isa 13:6; Ezek 30:3; Joel 2:31-32; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Zeph 1:15-16; Zech 12:10-14; Mal 4:5). Paul writes at length on the anticipated day of God's judgment (Rom 14:10; 1Cor 5:5; 2Cor 5:10; Phil 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1Thess 5:2; 2Thess 2:2).

41 'Look, you scoffers, be amazed and perish, that I am doing a work in your days, a work you would not ever believe, even if one declares it to you.'"

Paul then quotes from Habakkuk 1:5, giving a new emphasis to the work they would not believe. In the original context God warned of an impending Babylonian invasion that would execute God's wrath on the disobedient Kingdom of Judah. The unthinkable was that God would use a more wicked nation to punish a less wicked nation. Paul's warning is not unlike Yeshua's own prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem.

"If only you had recognized this day the things that lead to shalom! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will surround you with barricades and hem you in on all sides. And they will smash you to the ground—you and your children within you. And they won’t leave within you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:42-44 TLV)

Paul's quotation functions as a midrash on the concept of an unbelievable work. The Messiah had been prophesied for centuries. Now he had come in their time. Messianic expectancy had been at best a hope, but the reality had finally arrived. Paul recognizes that in spite of his own personal testimony and his persuasive speech that some of his Jewish audience would refuse to accept the message. The fundamental reason for rejection of the Messiah then, as now, was that Yeshua was not the Messiah they wanted. They were not willing to become his property and live for him by his standards. They expected the Messiah to be their property and do their bidding. As expected some of the Judean Jews in the city reacted quite negatively to Paul and his message (Acts 13:45).

Works Cited

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.

Barclay: William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles. Rev. ed. The Westminster Press, 1976. Daily Bible Study Series.

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 the Acts. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1954. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)

Clarke: Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible. (1826). Ed. Ralph Earle. Baker Book House, 1967. Online.

Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.

DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols., ed. Colin Brown. 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.

Hegg: Tim Hegg, Letter Writer: Paul's Background and Torah Perspective. 2nd ed. TorahResource, 2008.

HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.

Kaiser: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Zondervan, 2008.

Keck: Leander E. Keck, Romans. Abingdon Press, 2005. (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries)

Lane: William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1974. (NICNT)

Le Cornu: Hilary Le Cornu, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Galatians. Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry, 2005.

Leman: Derek Leman, Paul Didn't Eat Pork: Reappraising Paul the Pharisee. Mt. Olive Press, 2005.

Longenecker: Richard D. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 9, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.

LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (1889). rev. by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online

Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.

Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.

NIBD: Herbert Lockyer, ed., Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.

Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters. B & H Academic, 1999.

Santala: Risto Santala, Paul: The Man and the Teacher in the Light of Jewish Sources. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1995. Online.

Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans. Lederer Books, 1997.

Skarsaune: Oskar Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.

TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Moody Press, 1980.

Young: Brad H. Young, Paul the Jewish Theologian. Hendrickson Pub., 1997.

Copyright © 2016 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.