Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 4 November 2020; Revised 21 May 2021
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 A.D. 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. Parsing data for Greek words is from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. 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. For a suggested timeline of Acts see the dating chart of George Edmundson. All dates given for the narrative of Acts are estimates.
Third Diaspora Journey (cont.)
Chapter Twenty-One concludes Luke's narrative of Paul's third Diaspora journey. See the map of the return journey here. After Paul left Miletus on May 1, 57, in a coastal vessel, Luke's narrative marks stopping places in the Aegean Sea: Cos, Rhodes, Patara and possibly Myra. Then the team took a larger ship to travel across the Mediterranean to Tyre in Phoenicia. En route they passed Cyprus without stopping. Upon arrival in Tyre Paul's team received hospitality from Philip and his four daughters. While there the prophet Agabus warned Paul of trouble awaiting him in Jerusalem.
Paul and his team nevertheless continued their journey and safely arrived at Jerusalem, apparently prior to Shavuot (Pentecost, May 29; cf. Acts 20:16). Paul met with Jacob (aka "James"), the half-brother of Yeshua, and leaders of the congregation, and gave a full report on his Diaspora ministry. Jacob then presented a problem to Paul. While tens of thousands of traditional Jews had believed in Yeshua there were unbelieving Jews that were spreading the slander that Paul taught Jews to quit following Torah. (A lie that persists to this day.)
Jacob suggested a demonstration of Paul's adherence to Torah customs, which took him to the temple. While there unbelieving Jewish pilgrims from Asia stirred up the crowd against Paul and seized him. The mob took him outside the Temple and was on the verge of stoning Paul when a contingent of Roman soldiers intervened and took Paul into custody. The soldiers took Paul to their barracks with the mob following. Paul asked for permission to speak to the crowd. The Roman commander granted Paul's request and he began speaking to the crowd in Hebrew. His speech is recorded in the next chapter.
Paul in Tyre, 21:1-6
Paul in Caesarea, 21:7-14
Paul in Jerusalem, 21:15-19
Paul Slandered and Jacob's Plan, 21:20-26
Paul Seized in the Temple, 21:27-30
Paul in Roman Custody, 21:31-36
Paul's Appeal, 21:37-40
Rome: Caesar Nero (AD 54-68)
Procurator of Judaea: Marcus Antonius Felix (AD 52-59)
High Priest in Jerusalem: Ananias, son of Nebedaius (AD 46-58)
Paul in Tyre, 21:1-6
Date: Sunday, 1 May 57
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement; (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter; or (3) a continuation of thought, sometimes with emphasis. The second meaning applies here. when: Grk. hōs, adv. used to express comparison, time, purpose, and consequence; here of time. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. sailing: Grk. anagō, aor. pass. inf., to conduct from a lower place to a higher, to lead or bring up. The verb is used here as a technical nautical term; put to sea, set sail.
happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to come into being, to happen, to become. having torn ourselves away: Grk. apospaō, pl. aor. part., cause to move from a position or point of view. Danker's definition describes simple movement away from the mooring location for the ship. Some versions apply the translation of "being or had parted/departed" (e.g., ESV, KJV, MW, NASB, NEB, NKJV, NRSV, OJB, RSV). However, In Greek culture the verb originally meant to drag, tear or wrench away from (LSJ). Thus, Bruce interprets the use of the verb with a stronger emotional content, "we tore ourselves away from them." Other versions apply this translation (e.g., CEB, CJB, CSB, MSG, NIV, NJB, TLV). This interpretation seems more reasonable to the context considering the description in 20:37.
from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, here denoting the point of departure; from, away from. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here. having run a straight course: Grk. euthudromeō, aor. part., a nautical term that means to sail swiftly across the water toward the destination without deviation, equivalent to running before the prevailing wind. we came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 1p-pl., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place.
to: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, here complementing the verb to indicate the destination of movement; among, into, to, toward. Cos: Grk. ho Kōs, an island in the Aegean Sea, south-west of Asia Minor. The place-name occurs only here in the Besekh. Cos was one of the islands of the Dodecanese, famed as the home of the medical school founded by Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C. (Bruce). The island was 40 miles from Miletus.
Date: Monday, 2 May 57
and: Grk. de, conj. the next day: Grk. ho hexēs, adv., next in order, the period immediately following. The adverb is found five times in the Besekh, all in Luke-Acts. to: Grk. eis, prep. Rhodes: Grk. ho Rhodos, an island in the Aegean Sea, south-west of Asia Minor, whose chief city on the northeast end was called Rhodes. The place-name occurs only here in the Besekh. Rhodes was 85 miles from Cos.
Date: Tuesday, 3 May 57
and from there: Grk. kakeithen, adv. (derived from kai, "and," and ekeithen "from there, from that place"), a marker of movement from a place or time, here of the former. to: Grk. eis, prep. Patara: Grk. Patara, a town on the coast of the Roman province Lycia, 70 miles from Rhodes. Ramsay notes, "The voyage [from Miletus] may be taken as typical of the course which hundreds of ships took every year, along a route familiar from time immemorial" (170). Patara was formerly the port of Xanthus, capital of the kingdom of Lycia, and now the headquarters of the Roman governor of the province (Bruce).
and: Grk. kai, conj. to: Grk. eis, prep. Myra: Grk. Mura, a port in the province of Lycia, about 50 miles east of Patara. The additional clause is found only in the Wycliffe Bible (1395), based on the reading of a Vulgate MS (A.D. 405). See the Textual Note below. Myra stood upon a hill formed by the openings of two valleys. At an early period Myra was of less importance than Patara, yet later it became a regular port for ships from Egypt and Cyprus. Myra was also famed as the seat of worship of an Asiatic deity whose name is no longer known ("Myra," ISBE). Ramsay accepts the text as authentic and puts Paul's arrival there as 4 May (169). See the map of Lycia with Patara and Myra here.
The additional clause "and to Myra" is found in the Western Text (Bruce), and several specific MSS: the Latin Vulgate (405), Coptic (3rd-6th c.), Bezae (6th c.) and p41 (8th c.) (GNT 500). Even though the added text is not found in the great majority of MSS, the NA25 (1966) committee gave its omission a "C" rating, meaning that there was a considerable degree of doubt as to this decision. However, the UBS4 (1993) committee gave its omission an "A" rating to indicate the text is virtually certain (Metzger 427).
Although Metzger regards the additional clause as apocryphal he does note that two prominent scholars, Albert C. Clark (1933) and James Hardy Ropes (1926) argued that the clause was accidentally dropped through homoeoteleuton, a technical term meaning that the scribe copying the MS made a mistake because of the similar ending of lines.
Date: Wednesday, 4 May 57
2 and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, having gone aboard we set sail.
and: Grk. kai, conj. with three basic uses: (1) continuative, and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, verily. The first use applies here. having found: Grk. heuriskō, pl. aor. part., to find, learn, discover, especially after searching. a ship: Grk. ploion in biblical times denoted any vessel that could go out on a body of water, whether lake, inland sea or ocean; used frequently of the fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee. In modern times "ships" are vessels that can traverse oceans, whereas "boats" cannot, and modern Bible versions follow this distinction. There were no passenger vessels, only merchant freighters. Ancient merchant ships could be propelled by both oars and sails.
Most merchant ships in the first century ranged in size from 20 to 50 meters in length and could carry about 100 to 500 tons of cargo. (See the article Merchant Ships.) Given the route taken this ship was not a coastal vessel but a large ship that could navigate the open waters of the Mediterranean. So the apostles had to scout out a willing captain, strike a deal for passage, and bring enough food for the trip, as well as bedding for resting on the deck.
The verbal phrase "having found a ship" could imply that the search was not successful in Patara and it was continued at Myra. Bruce contends that the trip to Myra was too long to be accommodated by the itinerary of one day's voyage to Patara. However, Luke imposes no limitation as the trip to Myra would have been conducted the next day of 4 May. The grammar of the first two verses does not absolutely rule out finding the ship the next day in Myra. In addition, Bruce notes that Myra was a great port for transshipment for cross-sea traffic to Syria and Egypt (fn4, 398).
crossing over: Grk. diaperaō, pres. part., to cross over, to pass over. The verb functions as kind of an understatement for the lengthy voyage, as if it were no greater task than crossing the sea of Galilee (cf. Matt 9:1; 14:34). to: Grk. eis, prep. 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. Tyre and Sidon were the principal cities. At this time Phoenicia was part of the Roman province of Syria. See the map here. Several years earlier disciples that had fled the persecution in Jerusalem brought the good news to the traditional Jews of Phoenicia and established the Yeshua movement in that area (Acts 11:19).
having gone aboard: Grk. epibainō, pl. aor. part., move so as to arrive at or be in an area; arrive, enter, set foot in/on. we set sail: Grk. anagō, aor. pass., 1p-pl. See the previous verse. The narrative implies there was good weather for sailing. See the article Roman Empire Sailing for more information. Phoenicia was just over 400 miles from Patara. Merchant ships traveled in open sea at a speed of about 4–6 knots (Casson). Thus, the trip across open water from Patara to Phoenicia would have taken about four days.
Date: Friday, 6 May 57
3 Then having sighted Cyprus and having left it on the left, we kept sailing toward Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship would be unloading its cargo.
Then: Grk. de, conj. having sighted: Grk. anaphainō, pl. aor. part., to bring to light or make to appear, used here as a nautical term of taking sight of a place. Cyprus: Grk. ho Kupros, a large island at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea mentioned most prominently in Acts. See the map here. Cyprus was about the half-way point between Patara/Myra and Phoenicia. 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. At this time Cyprus was a senatorial province of Rome with a proconsul in charge at the capital city of Paphos. There was a significant Jewish population on Cyprus with at least three synagogues due to the widespread dispersion of Jews from Babylon.
Cyprus was the birthplace of Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37). The good news was taken to Cyprus initially by Jewish disciples who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem, perhaps in 39/40 (Acts 11:20). Later in about 46 Paul and Barnabas began their ministry of the first Diaspora journey by proclaiming the good news throughout the whole island (Acts 13:4-12).
and: Grk. kai, conj. having left: Grk. kataleipō, pl. aor. part., to leave or leave behind. it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., the island. on the left: Grk. euōnumos, adj., left, on the left side. The nautical term is "port." we kept sailing: Grk. pleō, impf., 1p-pl., to sail, travel by sea, voyage. The ship position was south of the island and the ship's itinerary did not stop at Cyprus. toward: Grk. eis, prep. Syria: Grk. Suria, the Roman imperial province north of Galilee, united with Cilicia, with its capital at Antioch. See the map here. The destination for the ship lay in the southern part of the province.
Date: Sunday, 8 May 57
and: Grk. kai, conj. we landed: Grk. kataerchomai, aor., 1p-pl., to come down, whether from high elevation to lower elevation (or to the coast), or from the high seas to the shore, here the latter. at: Grk. eis, prep. Tyre: Grk. Turos, an ancient seaport of the Phoenicians situated northwest of Galilee, about 40 miles from Capernaum as the raven flies. The city, called Tsor in Hebrew, first occurs in Joshua 19:29 and is mentioned over 40 times in the Tanakh. David employed craftsmen from Tyre and used cedars from that area in building a palace (2Sam 5:11). Tyre also provided craftsmen and construction materials for the Temple in Jerusalem during Solomon's reign (1Kgs 5:1-12; 7:13-14; 9:11). For the history of Tyre see the article in the ISBE.
Under Roman rule, Tyre was a free city and an important port of trade. Tyre is mentioned 11 times in the Besekh, all in the apostolic narratives, and 9 of which also include the mention of Sidon, a sister city to Tyre. Yeshua spent time in the region of Tyre and Sidon and contrasted them with unbelieving Jews as examples of readiness to believe (Matt 11:20-22).
for: Grk. gar, conj., conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. there: Grk. ekeise, adv. of place, there, at that place. the ship: Grk. ho ploion. See the previous verse. The noun is used here in a fig. sense of the crew. was: Grk. eimi, impf., 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).
would be unloading: Grk. apophortizomai, pres. mid. part., to discharge goods and freight from a ship, unload. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. its cargo: Grk. ho gomos, the load, freight or lading of a ship.
Date: 8-14 May 57
4 And having sought the disciples, we stayed there seven days; who kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to be setting foot toward Jerusalem.
And: Grk. de, conj. having sought: Grk. aneuriskō, aor. part., come upon by looking here and there; locate, found. the disciples: pl. of Grk. ho mathētēs, 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 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. Ramsay notes that seeking was necessary since Paul's team was unfamiliar with the city and the location of the brethren (172).
we stayed: Grk. epimenō, aor., 1p-pl., may mean (1) persist in a local position; remain, stay; or (2) continue a state or activity; continued, persist. The first meaning applies here. there: Grk. autou, adv., in that place, here, there. seven: pl. of Grk. hepta, adj., the number seven. 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 (BAG). The second meaning applies here. who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb or a preceding entity; who, which. kept telling: Grk. legō, impf., 3p-pl., 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, command or think.
Paul: Grk. ho Paulos, from the Latin cognomen or surname Paulus ("small" or "humble"). The definite article probably signifies "the one called." The name Paulos first appears in Acts 13:9. The name Paulus was probably taken from the patron who made Roman citizenship possible for Paul's father or grandfather (see Acts 22:28). Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia to traditional Jewish parents of the tribe of Benjamin, given the Hebrew name Sha'ul, and lived as a devout Pharisee (Acts 22:3; 23:6; 26:5; Php 3:5). Paul was called by Yeshua to be an apostle and to proclaim the good news to the nations and the sons of Israel (Acts 9:15). For a biography of Paul see my article The Apostle from Tarsus.
The CJB, in deference to its intended audience, substitutes the Hebrew name Sha'ul for "Paul" to emphasize his Jewishness and rebut the lie of historic Christianity that the apostle surrendered his Jewish identity (Stern 267). We should note that "Paul" is also the only name by which the apostle refers to himself in his writings and those were sent to congregations with largely Jewish membership, as well as to Jewish congregational leaders. In addition, the OJB adds the title "Rav" in direct violation of Yeshua's instruction (Matt 23:8). Paul never used the honorific of himself and no one ever addressed Paul as "Rabbi."
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. 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), but particularly the Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation. The negative particle is subjective, involving will and thought. The negative particle does not have the force of a prohibition.
to be setting foot: Grk. epibainō, pres. inf., move so as to arrive at or be in an area; arrive, enter, set foot in/on. toward: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim (SH-3389), which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). Hierosoluma is one of two forms of "Jerusalem" in Greek, the other being Ierousalēm, which occurs in verse 11 below. See the note on "Jerusalem" and the two spellings in 1:4.
Luke's narrative at this point involves what might seem like a conflict in spiritual direction. The Spirit had been telling Paul consistently that he should expect trouble with a capital "T" in Jerusalem (Acts 20:23), but he must still go there. Now these disciples had received a revelation of adversity facing Paul in Jerusalem and concern for their beloved apostle led them to advise avoidance of the city. Had not Yeshua taught his disciples to flee trouble when possible (cf. Matt 10:23; 24:16)? Certainly it is wisdom to seek godly counsel in making decisions, but priority must always be given to a clear call and direction of God.
5 And when it happened our days were completed, having set out we journeyed, all accompanying us, with wives and children, as far as outside the city. And having bowed the knees on the shore, having prayed
And: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hote, temporal adv., when, at which time. it happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 1 above. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The plural pronoun refers to Paul and his entire team. days: pl. of Grk. ho hēmera. See the previous verse. were completed: Grk. exartizō, aor. inf., to accomplish or complete. The verb implies a predetermined plan of Paul. Ramsay interprets the verb to refer to the time necessary to unload the merchant ship on which Paul arrived (172). Thus, Paul intended to take the same ship for the next part of his journey.
having set out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. The verb signals leaving the meeting place of the disciples. Given the departure times for ships the group probably left very early in the morning. we journeyed: Grk. poreuomai, impf. mid., 1p-pl., to move from one area to another; go, journey, make one's way, transport, travel. The verb marks the movement from the meeting place en route to the docks. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every, the whole. "All" refers to the disciples with whom Paul had spent the week.
accompanying: Grk. propempō, pres. part., to escort. us: Grk. hēmeis. with: Grk. sún ("soon"), prep. used to denote association or connection, in this case the former. wives: pl. of Grk. gunē, an adult female person, without respect to age, marital or social status except as defined in the context. In the LXX gunē renders Heb. ishshah (SH-802), woman, wife (Gen 2:22). The context favors "wives." and: Grk. kai, conj. children: pl. of Grk. teknon normally refers to man or woman's immediate biological offspring, but may also refer to more distant relations such as grandchildren or descendants. When used of immediate offspring a teknon is older than an infant, but younger than bar/bat mitzvah age.
as far as: Grk. heōs, adv., a marker of limit, here of distance or position; as far as. outside: Grk. exō, adv. of place, outside, used of a position that beyond a limit or boundary. the city: Grk. ho polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. The final sentence repeats the verbs found in the narrative of Paul's departure from the Ephesian elders (20:36). And: Grk. kai, conj. having bowed: Grk. tithēmi, aor. part., may mean (1) to arrange for association with a site; place, put; or (2) to arrange for creation of role or status, make, appoint. The first meaning is intended here. The verb describes Paul putting his body into a certain posture.
the knees: pl. of Grk. ho gonu, the anatomical joint of the knee. Standing was the typical posture for prayer (Matt 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11), but kneeling represented both urgency and humility in the presence of the holy God (Luke 22:41; Acts 9:40). on: Grk. epi, prep. expressing the idea of hovering, used primarily as a marker of position or location, here emphasizing physical contact; on, upon (DM 106). the shore: Grk. ho aigialos, the shore of the sea, beach. having prayed: Grk. proseuchomai, pl. aor. mid. part., to petition deity for some personal desire. The verb refers to petitioning God for His help or answer with respect to an urgent need. Ramsay comments,
"There took place a kindly farewell on the shore at Tyre, as at Miletus; but the longing and sorrow of long personal friendship and love could not here be present to the same extent as there. The scenes are similar, and yet how different! Such touches of diversity amid resemblance could be given only by the eye-witness."
6 having said farewell to one another, and we went up into the ship. Then they returned to their places.
having said farewell: Grk. aspazomai, aor. part., to address with some form of special recognition or expression of affection; used here in relation to saying goodbye. to one another: pl. of Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun, one another, each other. and: Grk. kai, conj. we went up: Grk. anabainō, aor., 1p-pl., to proceed in a direction that is up, go up. into: Grk. eis, prep. the ship: Grk. ho ploion. See verse 2 above. Then: Grk. de, conj. they: pl. of Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there, these. returned: Grk. hupostrephō, aor., 3p-pl., to go back to a position, to return or turn back.
to: Grk. eis, prep. their places: pl. of Grk. ho idios, adj., belonging to oneself, what is one's own as opposed to belonging to another, lit. "things." Almost all versions translate the adjective as "home(s)." The use of the adjective stresses that the disciples did not go to their meeting place, but to whatever place they needed to be, whether individual residences or places of work.
Paul in Caesarea, 21:7-14
Date: Sunday, 14 May 57
7 Then, the voyage having been completed from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and having greeted the brothers, we stayed one day with them.
Then: Grk. de, conj. the voyage: Grk. ploos, a sailing, a voyage. Paula and his team probably took the same ship that brought them to Tyre. having been completed: Grk. dianuō, aor. part., to accomplish fully, complete, finish. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. from: Grk. apo, prep. Tyre: See verse 3 above. we: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun draws attention to Luke's presence with the ministry team. arrived: Grk. katantaō, aor., 1p-pl., used of coming or arriving at a destination in the course of travel; come to, arrive at, reach.
at: Grk. eis, prep. Ptolemais: Grk. Ptolemais, a coast city of Phoenicia, midway between Tyre and Caesarea. The city was named after Ptolemy I Soter, a companion of Alexander the Great and ruler of Egypt (305-282 BC) during the Hellenistic period. In previous times the city was known as Acco (Heb. Akko, Jdg 1:31). Ptolemais lay about 25 miles south of Tyre, the most southerly of the Phoenician ports. Ramsay observes that the emphasis of "finishing the voyage" from Tyre to Ptolemais is due to the fact that it was probably over about 10 AM (172).
and: Grk. kai, conj. having greeted: Grk. aspazomai, aor. part., to address with some form of special recognition or expression of affection; used here of greeting. the brothers: pl. of Grk. ho adelphos, lit. 'of the same womb,' and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the Jewish context the term 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). Here the noun denotes Messianic Jews, very likely including congregational elders.
we stayed: Grk. menō, aor., 1p-pl., to be in a situation for a length of time; abide, remain, stay or wait for. one: Grk. heis, adj., the number one. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 4 above. The noun refers here to a cycle of day and night. with: Grk. para, prep. with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, and used here to denote a close association or proximity, with, beside, in the presence of. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The brothers in Ptolemais provided lodging for Paul and his team.
Date: Monday, 15 May 57
8 And on the next day, having gone forth we came to Caesarea; and having entered into the house of Philip the good-news-bearer, being of the Seven, we stayed with him.
And: Grk. de, conj. on the: Grk. ho, definite article. next day: Grk. epaurion, adv., lit. 'on the morrow,' the next or following day. having gone forth: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part. See verse 5 above. we came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 1p-pl. See verse 1 above. to: Grk. eis, prep. Caesarea: Grk. Kaisareia, a prominent coastal city located 600 stadia northwest from Jerusalem (Josephus, Wars I, 3:5) or about 70 miles. See the map here. Originally called Strato's Tower, Herod changed the name of the city to Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus (Josephus, Ant. XIV, 4:4; XV, 8:5). After the death of Herod the city became the capital of the Roman province of Judaea and served as the official home of the procurators. The city was home to a thriving Jewish community.
and: Grk. kai, conj. having entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. part., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. into: Grk. eis, prep. the house: Grk. ho oikos, a structure for habitation; house, home and by extension the household of that dwelling. of Philip: Grk. Philippos, "fond of horses," composed etymologically from philia, "fondness, affection," and hippos, "horse." Philip was a respected name in the Hellenistic world being the name of five kings of Macedon, including Philip II the father of Alexander the Great. Bruce's assumption that Philip must have been a Hellenistic Jew based on his name is without foundation. Yeshua and the original Twelve apostles all had Greek names and they were all Hebraic Jews.
There are four men named Philip in the Besekh, including one of the twelve apostles of Yeshua (John 1:43). Luke introduced this Philip in Acts 6:5 as one of the seven men placed in charge of the charitable distribution to widows. Philip later gained notoriety by proclaiming the good news in Samaria (Acts 8:5), and then directed by an angel to the Gaza region where he met and proclaimed the good news to an Ethiopian official (8:26-39). Philip was then miraculously transported to Azotus where he continued proclaiming the Messiah up the coast to Caesarea. Philip thus made Caesarea his home. Hippolytus (170-236) includes Philip in his list of the Seventy whom Yeshua chose and sent on an evangelistic mission in Luke 10:1 (On the Seventy Apostles). Later tradition says that he became the beloved bishop of Tralles in Asia Minor (Barker 285).
the good-news-bearer: Grk. euaggelistēs, one who bears or brings good news. Christian versions translate the noun as "evangelist," but the CJB, MW and TLV have "the proclaimer of the good news," a more accurate rendering. Rienecker says a possible secular use of the noun describes one as the proclaimer of the oracle announcements. In modern Christianity an evangelist is generally considered a Protestant or Evangelical minister who serves as an itinerant or special preacher of the gospel, especially a revivalist. Nothing is known for certain of Philip's ministry activities after arriving in Caesarea. Stern comments that Philip must have won only Jews to the Lord at first in Caesarea; since Peter later brought the first Gentile to faith in that city (Acts 10:1–11:18). Philip probably functioned as the pastor of the local Messianic congregation. Even so, his heart passion was proclaiming the good news of Yeshua as the Messiah.
being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 3 above. of: Grk. ek, prep. may be used to denote derivation or separation, here the former; from, out of, out from among. the Seven: pl. of Grk. ho hepta, adj., the number seven, but here a reference to the first seven stewards appointed in Acts 6. Being associated with a group of men identified by number is unique to the Jewish culture. In the Besekh there is also the Twelve and the Seventy. In the Tanakh there is the Seventy elders (Num 11:25) and a special group of commandos ("mighty men") called the Thirty (2Sam 23:18-19). Being associated with the numbered group denotes a status of special honor.
we stayed: Grk. menō, aor., 1p-pl. See the previous verse. with: Grk. para, prep. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., Philip. The last phrase stands in contrast to the following verse to clarify that Philip provided lodging for Paul and his team.
9 Now with this man were four daughters, virgins, prophesying.
Now: Grk. de, conj. with this man: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it, lit. "this one." were: Grk. eimi, impf. four: Grk. tessares, the number four. daughters: pl. of Grk. thugatēr, a female offspring, daughter, or a female descendant. After living in Caesarea for over 20 years Philip had a family. The lack of a mention of the daughters' mother may mean that Philip was a widower at this point. virgins: pl. of Grk. parthenos, a woman who has never had sexual relations; a female beyond puberty, and of marriageable age, but not yet married. While the syntax does not make the daughters living with Philip a certainty, it would be highly unusual in Jewish culture for single daughters with a living father to live apart from his authority and protection.
prophesying: Grk. prophēteuō, pl. pres. part., may mean (1) to proclaim a divine revelation; (2) prophetically reveal what is hidden; or (3) foretell the future, prophesy (BAG). In the LXX prophēteuō generally translates Heb. nava, which means to show, present or express oneself, to speak as a prophet (DNTT 3:77). The Hebrew verb primarily means to speak prophetically, that is "forth-telling," with occasional predictions (foretelling). The daughters fulfilled the prophecy of Joel regarding "daughters will prophesy" (Acts 2:17). The verb signifies that the daughters had a ministry in the local congregation, perhaps complementing their father's ministry.
Bruce says the daughters reportedly lived to great age and were highly esteemed as informants on persons and events belonging to the early years of the Messianic movement in Judea. According to patristic record two of the virgin daughters were eventually buried in Hierapolis and one daughter in Ephesus, presumably because she had married. No mention is made of the fourth daughter. (Eusebius, Church History, Book III, Chap. 31).
Date: 15-25 May 57
10 And staying many days, a certain one came down from Judea, a prophet named Agabus.
And: Grk. de, conj. staying: Grk. epimenō, pl. pres. part., may mean (1) persist in a local position; remain, stay; or (2) continue a state or activity; continued, persist. The first meaning applies here. many: Grk. pleiōn, the comparative form of polus (verse 7 above), great in number, many. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 4 above. The point of "many days" is that Paul stayed longer than a week. Ramsay observes that the sense of the expression "many days" varies greatly according to the situation (cf. Chap. 13:31; 24:17; 27:20); but here it is not likely to be less than nine or ten. a certain one: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun, a certain one, someone, anyone. The pronoun is often used to distinguish someone in a class or in contrast to others. Many versions leave the pronoun untranslated.
a certain one: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun, a certain one, someone, anyone. The pronoun is often used to distinguish someone in a class or in contrast to others. Many versions leave the pronoun untranslated. 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. Judea: Grk. Ioudaia, a transliteration of the Latin provincial name of Iudaea. In the LXX Ioudaia translates Heb. Y'hudah ("praised," SH-3063), Judea or the Kingdom of Judah, first in Ruth 1:1. The territorial name of Ioudaia has two uses in Acts:
(1) the historic territory of that lay between Samaria on the north and Idumea on the south. Judea was bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the east by the Jordan River (Acts 1:8). (See the map.) (2) the Roman province of Judaea formed in AD 6, comprised of Samaria, Judea and Idumea with its capital at Caesarea (Acts 2:9; 10:37). (See the map.) Given the destination Luke intended the first meaning of the hill country of ancient Judea.
a prophet: 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 Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling.
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 authority, 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 is first introduced in Acts 11:28 where he foretold a great famine. 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 outside of Luke's mention.
11 And having come to us, and having lifted the belt of Paul, and having bound the feet and hands of himself, he said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit: 'The man of whom is this belt unbelieving Jews will bind in Jerusalem and will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'"
And: Grk. kai, conj. having come: Grk. erchomai, aor. part. See verse 1 above. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" and conveys motion toward; to, toward, with. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Luke includes himself as part of Paul's ministry team. and: Grk. kai, conj. having lifted: Grk. airō, aor. part., may mean (1) to raise up, lift; (2) to take upon oneself and carry what has been raised, to bear; or (3) to bear away what has been raised, carry off (Thayer). The first meaning is intended here. the belt: Grk. ho zōnē, a belt or waistband, pulled tightly to remove all the slack from a garment because the purse was kept there. The verbal phrase indicates that Agabus wanted everyone present to see the belt. of Paul: See verse 4 above.
and having bound: Grk. deō, aor. part., may mean (1) to bind, tie or fasten, normally used of physical restraint; or (2) as a legal term, forbid. the feet: pl. of Grk. ho pous, the body part that is used for walking or running; the foot. and: Grk. kai, conj. hands: pl. of Grk. ho cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. of himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person. he said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 4 above. Thus: Grk. hode, demonstrative pronoun referring to what is present; this one here, thus. says: Grk. legō, pres.
the Holy: Grk. Ho Hagios has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as an adj., meaning set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity; and (2) as a pure substantive to refer to that which has been set apart (BAG). The term is used of sacred things, places, people, angels and God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy, and first used of God in Leviticus 11:44.
Spirit: Grk. Ho Pneuma, here referring to the Holy Spirit. In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a person 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 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). All of the passages indicate that the Holy Spirit is divine, not less or other than God.
The man: Grk. ho anēr, an adult man without regard to marital status. of whom: 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. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 9 above. belt: Grk. ho zōnē. unbelieving: The adjective does not occur in the Greek text but is appropriate to this context. In 14:2 Luke describes the unbelief encountered by Paul at the Iconium synagogue with the verb apeitheō, to disobey, be rebellious, or resist. The verb indicates a willful refusal to believe. As reported in Acts such unbelief is manifested by vocal opposition and even violent retaliation.
Jews: pl. of Grk. ho Ioudaios (derived from Ioudas, "Judah") may be used as an adjective (Judean, Jewish) or a noun (Jew, Judean). See the explanatory note on 2:5. In the first century Ioudaios was used to distinguish devout, observant Jews whose tenets and practices were governed by the Great Sanhedrin and the Pharisees, in contrast to other descendants of Jacob who did not live by the strict code (Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 2:5; 10:28). Ioudaios is never used to identify Hellenistic Jews, Samaritan Jews or Qumran Jews (cf. John 4:9). The CJB has "Judeans," but this is clearly a mistake. See verses 27-28 below. The qualification of "unbelieving" is important since Paul and his fellow disciples were traditional Jews.
will bind: Grk. deō, fut., 3p-pl. See verse 30 below for the fulfillment of this prophecy. Note that Agabus does not say that Paul will be bound with his belt. Agabus only used the belt to illustrate being restrained. A number of versions inaccurately translate the verb as Paul being tied up by the Jews, which did not happen (e.g., CJB, GNB, GW, MSG, NOG, NCV, NET, NIRV, NJB, NTE). in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, and may be translated as "at, among, by, in, or within" as the context requires.
Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm, which transliterates Heb. Yerushalaim (SH-3389), 660 times in the LXX, first in Joshua 10:1 (DNTT 2:324). See the note on "Jerusalem" in verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. will deliver: Grk. paradidōmi, fut., 3p-pl., may mean (1) to deliver, hand over, or entrust; (2) to deliver a person to a custodial procedure and judicial process; (3) to hand down, pass on, transmit or relate, and used of oral or written tradition (BAG). The first meaning applies here, since the "handing over" was not voluntary.
him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. into: Grk. eis, prep. the hands: pl. of Grk. cheir. The noun is used here idiomatically of control or authority. of the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations, then of descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:2) and then even more specifically of Israel (Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1).
In the Besekh ethnos in the singular may refer generally to any people distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9), including Israelites and non-Israelites as here. The prophecy was fulfilled by Roman soldiers (verses 32-33). The prophecy of Agabus has a double meaning in that the Romans delivered Paul from certain death. Noteworthy is what Agabus does not say. He did not advise Paul not to continue his journey.
12 And when we heard these things, we and also those of that place began urging him not to go up to Jerusalem.
And: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hōs, temporal adv. we had heard: Grk. akouō, aor., 1p-pl., to hear aurally or listen, often with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō translates Heb. shama, which not only means to hear, but also to accept and to act upon what has been heard (DNTT 2:173). these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. we: Grk. hēmeis, pronoun of the first person, used to mean Luke and the ministry team. and: Grk. kai, conj. also: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; also, both.
those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. of that place: Grk. entopios, adj., belonging to the place, native, resident. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. The adjective denotes the local congregation. began urging: Grk. parakaleō, impf., 1p-pl., lit. "call alongside," here to encourage performance; urge, exhort, encourage. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 4 above. The negative particle emphasizes the heartfelt plea, but in no sense demanded Paul's compliance.
to go up: Grk. anabainō, pres. inf. See verse 6 above. Bruce suggests the present infinitive with the negative particle means to "stop going up." to: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm. See the previous verse. Paul's ministry team and the congregation leaped to a conclusion that Agabus did not offer. Even so it was a reasonable deduction. Why give the prophecy if not to prevent the adverse treatment? We might also ask, for whose benefit was the prophecy given?
13 Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I have readiness not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Yeshua."
Then: Grk. tote, temporal adv. that focuses on a time or circumstance that is closely associated with what precedes in the narrative; at that time, then, thereupon. Paul: See verse 4 above. answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor pass., make a response to a specific query or to answer someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. are you doing: Grk. poieō, pres., 2p-pl., a verb of physical action, may mean (1) to produce something material or bring something into existence; or (2) to express by deeds the feelings and thoughts of the mind; act, do, perform (Thayer). The second meaning applies here.
weeping: Grk. klaiō, pres. part., express grief or sorrow aloud, to cry, sob or weep. This verb does not express a silent dropping of tears, but a vocal cry, even a loud demonstrative form of mourning, a wailing. In the LXX klaiō is used mostly to translate Heb. bakah, weep, cry aloud (DNTT 2:416). and: Grk. kai, conj. breaking: Grk. sunthruptō, pres. part., break in pieces, crush, thoroughly weaken. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. 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).
For: Grk. gar, conj. I: Grk. egō. have: Grk. echō, pres., to have, hold or possess, with a wide range of application. readiness: Grk. hetroimōs, adv., being ready or prepared. not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. only: Grk. monon, adv., marking a narrow limitation; merely, just, only. to be bound: Grk. deō, aor. pass. inf. See verse 11 above. but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. even: Grk. kai, conj. to die: Grk. apothnēskō, aor. inf., to cease to live, generally used of physical death, whether natural or violent. at: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm. See verse 11 above.
for: Grk. huper, prep., lit. "over, above," used to express a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something. With the genitive case of the noun following the preposition emphasizes a supportive aspect; for the advantage of, in behalf of, in the interest of. the name: Grk. ho onoma. See verse 10 above. of the Lord: Grk. ho kurios, may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' owner, master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. Both meanings can apply here. In the LXX kurios primarily substitutes for Heb. YHVH (DNTT 2:511).
Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry. Yeshua is the owner-master of his disciples who esteem him as possessing all authority in heaven and earth. 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 is salvation" (BDB 221). For more information on the meaning our Lord's name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
Stern compares Paul's response to Yeshua's rebuke of Peter (Matt 11:27) for his refusal to accept Yeshua's destiny. In contrast to Yeshua's harsh response to Peter, Paul offered a rational, if not emotional, rejoinder and certainly offered no criticism of those concerned for his welfare. In addition, Paul knew that suffering was included in his appointment as an apostle (Acts 9:16), and he was willing to even die that Israelites might be saved (Rom 9:1-3), but he also knew that he was not going to die in Jerusalem (cf. Rom 15:24, 28). Paul's attitude was "Yeshua first." The Lord had given him clear instructions and he intended to obey.
14 Then his not being persuaded, we were silent, having said, "The will of the Lord be done!"
Then: Grk. de, conj. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 4 above. being persuaded: Grk. peithō, pres. pass. part., to bring about a convinced state in regard to something; convince, persuade, be persuaded. we were silent: Grk. hēsuchazō, aor., 1p-pl., to be still, to be silent; here to cease from appeal. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part. See verse 4 above. Paul's ministry team and congregation responded in unity. The will: Grk. ho thelēma may mean (1) that which is to be carried out according to wish or purpose, will; or (2) the act of willing, will or desire. The first meaning applies here. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See the previous verse. be done: Grk. ginomai, pres. pass. imp., lit. "come to be." See verse 1 above. In Scripture the "will of the Lord" (or God) represents three different points of view.
● God's sovereign will is His masterful omnipotent control of events and people to work everything for our good and His glory (Acts 17:26-28; Rom 8:27-28; Jas 4:15). This same power holds the universe together and subjects all things to immutable laws (Dan 4:35; Rom 1:20; Col 1:17; Heb 1:3).
● God's lifestyle will consists of God's commandments and instructions for living in a manner pleasing to Him. God's lifestyle will is expressed in both Old Covenant and New Covenant Scriptures (Deut 10:12-13; Matt 5:17-19; 7:21; 1Cor 7:19).
● God's personal will is His supernaturally revealed guidance to certain individuals in biblical history (Gen 12:1-3; Ex 3:10; Isa 6:8; Matt 4:18-19; Acts 8:26-29; 9:2-15; 13:2), especially in cases of calls to divine service. See my web article The Will of God.
In this situation, by saying the "will of the Lord be done" might imply submission to allowing God to claim Paul's life. In reality it was God's personal will for Paul as regards his journey destination. Yet God's sovereign will has an overarching role in determining how events would play out in Jerusalem and in Paul's future ministry.
Date: Wednesday, 25 May 57
Paul in Jerusalem, 21:15-19
15 Now after these days having packed the baggage we went up to Jerusalem.
Now: Grk. de, conj. after: Grk. meta, prep., may be used (1) as a marker of association; with, among; or (2) as a sequential marker; after, behind. The second usage is intended here. these: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 9 above. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 4 and 10 above. having packed the baggage: Grk. aposkeuazō, pl. aor. part., to carry off goods and chattels; to pack up and carry off; to carry off one's personal property or provide for its carrying away (Thayer). The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. and: Grk. kai, conj. we went up: Grk. anabainō, impf., 1p-pl. See verse 6 above. The imperfect tense denotes continuous action in past time, so Luke gives a summary statement that includes the narrative of the next two verses. to: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: See verse 4 above.
The KJV translates aposkeuazō as "packed the carriages." A carriage is a wheeled conveyance pulled by one or more horses. This may simply be an 18th century cultural paraphrase or acceptance of the Western Text amendment of the next verse.
16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea also came with us, bringing us to Mnason, a certain Cypriot, an early disciple, with whom we would lodge.
And: Grk. de, conj. some of the disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs. See verse 4 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. Caesarea: See verse 8 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. came: Grk. sunerchomai, aor., 3p-pl., 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. with: Grk. sún, prep. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Jewish disciples likely traveled with Paul due to the obligation for attending the Shavuot celebration (Deut 16:16). Pilgrims typically traveled to festivals in groups for greater safety.
bringing us: Grk. agō, pl. pres. part., to cause movement by taking the lead; lead, bring, carry, take. to Mnason: Grk. Mnasōn. The name appears only here in the Besekh. a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 10 above. Cypriot: Grk. Kuprios, belonging to Cyprus, a Cypriot. Barker assumes that because "Mnason" is a Greek name, he must have been a Gentile. Having a Greek name is not sufficient reason for declaring someone a Gentile, since the Talmud notes it was customary for Jews in the Diaspora to also have Gentile names (TB Gittin 11b; Stern 267). In addition, Cyprus had a large Jewish population and Barnabas himself originated from Cyprus. Let's not forget that all the apostles had Greek names.
an early: Grk. archaios, adj., properly, that has been from the beginning, original, primeval, old, ancient, early. disciple: Grk. mathētēs. Rienecker suggests that "early disciple" may mean that he was someone who followed Yeshua (cf. Matt 8:21; John 4:1; 6:66) or that he was disciple since the first Pentecost. Bruce considers Mnason a founding member of the Jerusalem congregation. Being an "early disciple" would argue persuasively that Mnason was a Jew.
with: Grk. para, prep. See verse 7 above. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 11 above. we would lodge: Grk. xenizō, aor. subj., 1p-pl., may mean (1) to receive as a guest, entertain hospitably; or (2) to surprise or astonish by the strangeness and novelty of a thing. The first meaning applies here. This Mnason was obviously known to the Caesarean disciples. Bruce suggests that some the Caesarean disciples may have gone to Jerusalem to arrange hospitality during the "many days" Paul spent in Caesarea.
According to Chrysostom, the disciples from Caesarea conducted Paul to the house of Mnason at Jerusalem where he was to lodge (Homily XLV), not as in some English versions that either the disciples brought Mnason with them from Caesarea (ASV, KJV, NEB, NKJV, NMB, REV, YLT) or they stopped at a village en route to Jerusalem to stay with Mnason (TPT). The Greek syntax favors the view that Mnason's residence was in Jerusalem and most modern versions reflect the journey to Mnason in Jerusalem (CEB, CJB, CSB, ESV, NOG, NASB, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TLV). Bruce concurs with the interpretation of Chrysostom.
Date: Friday, 27 May 57
17 Now having arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers gladly welcomed us.
Now: Grk. de, conj. having arrived: Grk. ginomai, aor. part. See verse 1 above. at: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: See verse 4 above. In the providence of God Paul accomplished his goal (Acts 20:16) of arriving in Jerusalem before Shavuot (Pentecost), which occurred on 29 May (7 Sivan).
the brothers: pl. of Grk. ho adelphos. See verse 7 above. Considering the context Luke likely meant "brothers" in the same sense as Peter used the term in Acts 15:7, both fellow Israelites and members of the Messianic community. gladly: Grk. asmenōs, adv., joyfully, with delight, gladly The adverb occurs only here in the Besekh. welcomed: Grk. apodechomai, aor., to receive heartily, welcome. The verb means to accept something offered, including to receive hospitality.
us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The plural pronoun presumptively refers to Paul and his 8-man ministry team (cf. 20:4): Aristarchus, Gaius, Sopater, Secundus, Timothy, Trophimus, Tychicus and Luke.
Date: Saturday, 28 May 57
18 Then on the following day Paul went in with us to Jacob, also all the elders arrived.
Then: Grk. de, conj. on the following day: Grk. epiousa, pres. part. (fem. part. of epeimi, "next"), following, next, used in reference to the next day. Paul: See verse 4 above. went in: Grk. eiseimi, impf., enter an area, go in or into. with: Grk. sún, prep. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. to: Grk. pros, prep. Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos, the Grecized form of Grk. Iakōb, which is used in the LXX to transliterate the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob," Gen 25:26), "James" in Christian versions (BAG). Josephus often uses the spelling of Iakōbos for the patriarch Jacob (Ant., I, 18:1). Of all the Christian versions only the NASB has a marginal note "or Jacob." Five different Jewish men bear this name in the Besekh and this Jacob is one of four half-brothers of Yeshua (Matt 13:55).
According to Hippolytus (170-236, On the Seventy Apostles), Jacob of Nazareth was one of the seventy men Yeshua sent out to announce the Kingdom of God (Luke 10:1-11). The mission of the 70 occurred after Yeshua met with his brothers in John 7:2-3. After his resurrection Yeshua made a personal appearance to Jacob (1Cor 15:7) and then Jacob was among the disciples filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 1:14). Eventually Jacob assumed oversight of the Jerusalem congregation and became a prominent leader of the Body of Messiah (Acts 12:17; 15:13; Gal 2:9). He also wrote a letter of exhortation to Messianic Jews in the Diaspora as much as ten years before this date, later included in the Besekh. For more background information on this son of Joseph and Miriam, see my article The Letter of Jacob: Introduction.
also: Grk. te, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 5 above. 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 the LXX presbuteros translates Heb. zaqen ("zaw-kane", SH-2205), old, advanced in days (Gen 18:11), as well as a technical term for a man with official authority (Ex 17:5). The term is taken from a word meaning to have a growing beard. In the Tanakh elders as a group are found in tribes, communities and in the body of seventy appointed by Moses. In the Besekh the term was used for the Jewish Sages (Matt 15:2), for members of the ruling council in Jerusalem (Matt 16:21), and for officers in a synagogue (Luke 7:3).
The Jewish synagogue typically had seven elders: the nasi (President) with two assistants, chazan (pulpit minister), three parnasin (receivers of alms) (Moseley 9). Messianic congregations naturally imitated synagogue organization. The apostles appointed elders over Messianic congregations wherever they were formed (cf. Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22; 20:17; 21:18). Elders were chosen to give oversight to the administration and ministries of the congregation. The number of elders was variable in proportion to the size of the congregation. The quantity could have been based on the historic formula of appointing leaders of thousands, hundreds and possibly fifties (Ex 18:21). Given the large size of the Jerusalem congregation, the number of elders likely exceeded seven.
arrived: Grk. paraginomai, aor. mid., 3p-pl., to make one's way so as to be present; come, arrive, be present. Since Paul's arrival could have been anticipated this meeting of the elders was probably planned in advance. Unfortunately Luke does not specify the location of the meeting. Perhaps the location was the house of Miriam, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12; cf. Acts 1:13; 2:2).
19 And having greeted them, he began to relate with regard to each one the things God had done among the nations through his ministry.
And: Grk. kai, conj. having greeted: Grk. aspazomai, aor. part., to address with some form of special recognition or expression of affection; to welcome or greet. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The plural pronoun refers to the elders and other apostles in attendance. he began to relate: Grk. exēgeomai, impf., to recount a narrative; explain, tell, report, or describe (BAG). This is the same verb used in Acts 15:12 in which Barnabas and Paul shared the outcome of their first Diaspora journey. with regard to: Grk. kata, prep., may mean 'down,' 'against," or 'according to,' but with the adjectives following being in the accusative case the preposition is used distributively, indicating a succession of things following one another (Thayer).
each: Grk. hekastos, adj., in reference to an individual person or thing; each, every, every one. one: Grk. heis, the number one. The specification of "each one" indicates a detailed narrative. Some versions emphasize the listing with the translation of "one by one" (ESV, NASB, NRSV, RSV). the things: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 11 above. God: Grk. ho theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and God of Israel, the only God in existence.
had done: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 13 above. The "things God had done" includes not only miraculous signs and wonders, but the outcome of proclaiming the good news and disciple-making. among: Grk. en, prep. See verse 11 above. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 11 above. The noun has a more inclusive meaning here since Paul is reporting incidents and ministry that occurred in his second and third Diaspora journeys. Commentators overlook the fact that Paul's ministry was among traditional Jews, Hellenistic Jews, proselytes, God-fearing Gentiles and ignorant pagan Gentiles, all of which fulfilled the mission Yeshua gave to Paul (Acts 9:15). As an envoy for the King of Israel Paul was in effect an ambassador-at-large.
through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 4 above. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. ministry: Grk. ho diakonia, service or ministration, especially in meeting the needs of others. Here the term is used of Paul's humble dedication to his specific divine assignment. Paul took no credit to himself of all that God had done. He was merely a human tool for God to use. Paul's summary of his ministry could have included the following highlights.
Highlights of the Second Diaspora Journey
● circumcision and enlistment of Timothy (16:1-3).
● proclamation of the good news in Macedonia and planting congregations in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea and Athens (16:14-15, 40; 17:1-31).
● deliverance of the demoniac girl in Philippi (16:16-18).
● deliverance of the apostles from prison by an earthquake (16:25-26).
● conversion of the Philippian jailer (16:29-34).
● proclamation of the good news in Achaia and planting a congregation in Corinth, including working with Aquila and Priscilla (18:1-18).
Highlights of the Third Diaspora Journey
● the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Ephesus and the recruitment of about twelve new messengers for Yeshua (19:1-7).
● proclamation of the good news in Ephesus and throughout Asia (19:8-10).
● in Ephesus physical healings from sickness and deliverance from demonic oppression mediated by handkerchiefs and aprons brought from Paul's body (19:11-12).
● in Ephesus the burning of occult books valued at five myriads of silver (19:19).
● in Ephesus the riot instigated by Demetrius and seizure of two of Paul's ministry team members and subsequent deliverance by the town clerk (19:23-41).
● in the congregations of Macedonia and Achaia strengthening disciples (20:1-3).
● recruitment of a ministry team (20:7).
● in Troas the restoration of Eutychus to life (20:9-12).
● safe sailing and trip from Macedonia to Caesarea (20:3, 13-15, 21:1-8).
20 Then those having heard they began glorifying God. They said also to him, "You see, brother, how many tens of thousands there are among the traditional Jews of those having believed, and they are all being zealous ones for the Torah?
Then: Grk. de, conj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having heard: Grk. akouō, aor. part. See verse 12 above. they began glorifying: Grk. doxazō, impf., 3p-pl., enhance esteem or reputation through word (of praise) or action to honor. In the LXX doxazō translates 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 the previous verse. The meeting was transformed into a time of praise and worship, perhaps singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). In humility the focus of the praise was God, not Paul.
They said: Grk. legō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 4 above. The plural subject alludes to the audience of Paul's testimony, but Jacob was probably the chief spokesman. also: Grk. te, conj. See verse 12 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. You see: Grk. theōreō, pres., to see, here to have awareness in depth. brother: Grk. adelphos, voc. See verse 7 above. The use of "brother" rather than any title affirms the close bond Paul had with Jacob and the elders as sons of Israel. how many: pl. of Grk. posos, correlative pronoun; how much, how great, how many. The pronoun serves to expand the following number.
tens of thousands: pl. of Grk. murias, ten thousand or a group of ten thousand (BAG), thus the plural form would be at least 20,000. Idiomatically, then, the plural form can refer to a very great number, tens of thousands (Rienecker). The great majority of versions minimize the literal meaning of the noun with "thousands." A few versions have "myriads," an unfamiliar term to modern readers (NKJV, TLV, YLT), which also obscures the literal meaning. Five versions have the correct rendering of "tens of thousands" (CEV, CJB, ISV, MW and TPT).
In the LXX murias translates Heb. rebabah (SH-7233), ten thousand, multitude (Gen 24:60, Lev 26:8; Num 10:36; Deut 32:30; 33:2, 17), as well as Heb. ribbo (SH-7239), ten thousand, multitude (1Chr 29:7; Ezra 2:64, 69; Neh 7:66, 71; Dan 11:12; Jon 4:11). The usage in the LXX indicates that murias is a number that should be taken literally, although scholars often impugn the integrity of the Tanakh by assuming that large numbers are exaggerated.
there are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. The present tense emphasizes the contemporary situation. among: Grk. en, prep., lit. "within." the traditional Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 11 above. The CJB has "Judeans" in the verse instead of "Jews" on the assumption that Jacob refers to residents of Judea. In my view the numerical count cannot be restricted to a local population. The original count of 3,000 new followers of Yeshua (Acts 2:41) that grew to 5,000 (Acts 4:4) included many pilgrims from the Diaspora that were present in Jerusalem for Shavuot (Pentecost). In this context the census summary of "many tens of thousands" is a serious number and hints at a significant portion of the overall Jewish population in the world.
The apostles certainly knew how to count and determine the size of crowds numbering in the thousands (cf. Matt 14:21; 15:38). Luke also used the plural of murias (muriadōn) to describe the crowd in attendance on one occasion of Yeshua's teaching (Luke 12:1), a group so large they were stepping on one another. So, when Jacob says there were "many tens of thousands" of Messianic Jews at that time we should believe him. "Many" is more than double, so how many "tens of thousands" were there? Liberman and Stern suggest that there could have been 30,000, 50,000 or more Messianic Jews in Jerusalem when Paul arrived. See the Additional Note below on the census of Messianic Jews.
of those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having believed: Grk. pisteuō, perf. 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. In context the verb conveys that tens of thousands of traditional Jews believed in Yeshua as the Messiah, as well as trusted in Yeshua's atoning death for forgiveness of sins.
and: Grk. kai, conj. they all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 5 above. being: Grk. huparchō, pres., 3p-pl., to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance; to be or exist. HELPS notes that the verb properly means already have or be in possession of what exists, especially what pre-exists. zealous ones: pl. of Grk. zēlōtēs, one who is passionately devoted or earnestly committed. of the Torah: Grk. ho nomos (from nemō, distribute; 'that which is generally recognized as customary') may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. In the LXX nomos occurs about 430 times, of which about 200 are without Hebrew equivalent (DNTT 2:439). For the rest, the most common equivalent is torah (SH-8451), which means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" (BDB 435f), first in Exodus 13:9.
In the Tanakh torah not only refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Moses, but also custom or manners of man, e.g. direction given by priests (Deut 24:8; 33:10). Torah sets forth the way to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God. In normal Jewish usage in the first century the term Torah could mean the commandments given to Israel at Sinai and Moab (Matt 12:5; John 8:5) or the entire Pentateuch, especially when used in combination with "the Prophets" (Matt 22:40; John 1:45). In the apostolic narratives "nomos" almost always refers to the written Torah of Moses, but sometimes is used to mean laws enacted by Jewish authorities (e.g., John 8:17; 18:31; Acts 18:15; Rom 7:2).
To say the Messianic Jews were "zealous ones of the Torah" is an important qualification. There was an extreme faction called "zealots" that actively opposed Roman occupation and believed in the violent overthrow of the Roman government. They staged rebellions at various times, which all failed. Messianic Jews were noted for the godly lifestyle as defined by Torah and taught by Yeshua. Liberman points out that nowhere in this narrative are the Messianic Jewish "zealots for the Torah" condemned for their devotion or for the adherence to Torah.
The fact that Jewish followers of Yeshua could be faithful to him and observant of Torah laws and Jewish customs at the same time is a witness against the later discrimination of Christianity that required Jews to abandon their customs in order to be accepted as converts to the Christian religion.
Additional Note: Messianic Jewish Census
Little considered by Christian commentators is that during the apostolic era the population of Messianic Jews was quite large, and provided the majority of constituency in local congregations. Christian scholars generally suppose that Gentile believers far outnumbered Jewish believers and that most of the Besekh was written for the sake of the Gentiles. The assumption of superior Gentile numbers in early congregations has no biblical or historical evidence to support it. Moreover, Luke never provides a specific count of Gentile believers, but limits numbering to "many" (e.g., Acts 10:27; 13:48; 14:27; 15:3; 17:12; 19:18). The Besekh provides several clues to the strength of the Messianic Jewish population.
1. Population. An article on "Population" in Encyclopedia Judaica states that a census of Jews taken by Emperor Claudius in AD 48 found no less than 6,944,000 Jews within the confines of the empire and that shortly before the fall of Jerusalem the world Jewish population exceeded 8,000,000, of whom probably not more than 2,350,000–2,500,000 lived in the land of Israel. … Magen Broshi, curator of Jerusalem’s Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, estimates the city's population at the end of the rule of King Herod the Great at 40,000, and before the destruction of the Second Temple at 80,000; although these figures do not include the "suburbs" outside the city walls ("Estimating the Population of Ancient Jerusalem," pp. 10–15 in Biblical Archeology Review 4:2, 1978) (Stern 301).
2. Priority. Jews were given the priority in hearing the good news, both in principle (Acts 1:8; Rom 1:16) and practice (Acts 2:1-11; 9:20; 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:1, 10; 18:4, 19; 19:8).
3. Leaders. All the apostles, prophets, and messengers who proclaimed the good news, as well as the early congregational overseers in major communities were Jews. (See my commentary on Romans 16.)
4. Hebrews. The letter titled "Hebrews," which I believe was authored by Paul, was an open letter intended to be circulated among Messianic Jewish synagogues or groups in the Diaspora. The title "To the Hebrews" is found on the oldest MSS. The content concerns only Jews, Messianic and unbelieving Jews. The name "Hebrews" avoids the rivalry of sectarian groups within first century Judaism. (See my article Hebrews: An Introduction.)
5. James. The letter titled (or mislabeled) "James" was written by Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua, who addressed the missive to the "twelve tribes in the Diaspora" (Jas 1:1). The twelve tribes is an ethnic label identifying the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob (Matt 19:28; Luke 23:20; Acts 27:6; Jas 1:1; Rev 7:4; 21:12). Diaspora is a technical term for the lands outside of Israel where Jews lived. This term has no relevance to Gentiles. (See my Introduction and commentary on the letter of Jacob.)
6. First Peter. The first letter of Peter is addressed to sojourners in the Diaspora (1Pet 1:1), so like the letter of Jacob, Peter wrote to Messianic Jews. Throughout the letter Peter employs theological terms and descriptions familiar to Jews, as well as quoting and alluding to many passages in the Tanakh. The fact that Peter uses the term "Christian" (Grk. Christianos) in 4:16 does not mean that the letter recipients were not Jewish. Christianos is the Greek form of "Messianic." See my article The Letters of Peter: First Peter.
7. Second Peter. The second letter of Peter is addressed to disciples having the "same faith" as his. Peter also identifies its recipients as the same people who received the first letter (2Pet 3:1). The letter's content relies on biblical and apocryphal sources with which Jews were familiar. See my article The Letters of Peter: Second Peter.
8. Jude. The short letter penned by Jude (Heb. Y'hudah), the half-brother of Yeshua, does not seem to name its recipients, although the address to "the called, beloved of the Father and kept for Messiah Yeshua" has special relevance to Israel. Jewish identity of the recipients is also indicated by the allusion of shared history (verse 5; cf. Jas 1:1; 1Pet 1:1) and the material quoted from the Tanakh and even non-canonical Jewish literature (verses 9 and 14). See my commentary on Jude.
9. Conclusion. Jacob reported that "many tens of thousands" of observant Jews (not counting Hellenistic Jews) present in Jerusalem for Shavuot were followers of Yeshua. As Stern insists, the burden of proof falls on those wanting to discount the literal meaning of the census in Acts 21:20. Since the number of pilgrims attending Shavuot was only a portion of the worldwide Jewish population, Stern suggests the number of Messianic Jews in the world could have approached the one million mark. For the demographic breakdown of congregations in the apostolic era see my article The Apostolic Community.
21 and they have been instructed about you, that you teach all the traditional Jews among the nations apostasy from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to live by the customs.
and: Grk. de, conj. The conjunction continues the thought from the previous verse with Jacob probably doing the speaking and the elders concurring. they have been instructed: Grk. katēcheō, aor. pass., 3p-pl., to teach by word of mouth, especially by repetition. The verb may indicate the context of the synagogue. about: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, and used here to introduce a quotation of what others were saying.
you teach: Grk. didaskō, pres., to impart instruction. In the LXX didaskō is used primarily to translate Heb. lamad (SH-3925), exercise in, learn, teach (Deut 4:1; Ps 119:99). In its LXX usage the verb means chiefly instruction in how to live (e.g., Deut 11:19; 20:18) (DNTT 3:760). Paul always began his ministry in a city by teaching in the local synagogue, and then other public venues when forced out of the synagogue. The use of two verbs that mean "to teach" may suggest a play on words.
all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 5 above. the traditional Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 11 above. The phrase "all the Jews" points to the fact that for Paul the priority of proclaiming the good news was always to the Jew first (Rom 1:16). among: Grk. kata, prep. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 11 above. The phrase "among the nations" alludes to the fact of the Jewish people being scattered throughout the world. Josephus reported in A.D. 93 that "the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers" (Antiquities of the Jews, XI, 5:2). Specifically Paul had ministered among Jews in the Roman provinces of Syria and Cilicia, Cyprus, Pamphylia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, Galatia, Phrygia, Asia, Macedonia and Achaia.
apostasy: Grk. apostasia, defection, revolt, a falling away. from: Grk. apo, prep. Moses: Grk. Mōusēs (for Heb. Mosheh), the great Hebrew leader, prophet and lawgiver of Israel. The name of Moses has a double meaning here, first of Moses as the covenantal father of the Jewish people (John 5:45; 9:28) and then as a circumlocution for the Pentateuch or the body of Torah instruction that Moses penned (cf. Luke 16:29; 24:27; Acts 15:21; 26:22; 2Cor 3:15). Among Pharisees "Moses" was also cited as the authority behind their traditions. telling: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 4 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. not: Grk. mē, adv.
to circumcise: Grk. peritemnō, pres. inf., the act of surgically removing the male foreskin by a knife. In the LXX peritemnō translates Heb. mul (SH-4135), circumcise. their children: pl. of Grk. ho teknon. See verse 5 above. The use of tekna instead of huioi ("sons") may seem unusual since only boys were circumcised. The circumcision requirement was first given to Abraham (Gen 17:10-14; Acts 7:8). God commanded that thereafter circumcision be performed on the eighth day after birth (Gen 17:12; 21:4; Lev 12:3), regardless of the day of week. Circumcision was the sign of belonging to the seed of Abraham and the chosen people (Gen 17:10-14; Lev 12:3). Circumcision assured fulfillment of covenantal promises whereas uncircumcision would result in being "cut off" from one's people (Gen 17:14).
Yet, in the patristic era, the Catholic Church refused to consider Messianic Jews to be Christian because they practiced infant circumcision (Augustine, Anti-Donatist Writings, Book VII. §1). The Catholic prejudice has persisted into modern times (see the article by David Jones in Works Cited below). Even the 18th century Baptist Bible commentator John Gill makes the patently false comment on this verse "the apostle taught that circumcision was abolished." Paul never said any such thing. Contrary to Gill the 18th century Methodist Bible commentator Adam Clarke said that Paul, "had not yet said to any Jew, forsake Moses, and do not circumcise your children."
The slander against Paul mirrors the charges brought against Stephen. Stephen had been accused with having taught against Moses, God, the Temple and the Torah (6:11–14), four pillars of Judaism. Paul is accused of violating three of those pillars, Moses, circumcision (the Torah) and customs (the Temple). N.T. Wright makes the strange claim that the zealous Messianic Jews had believed the report against Paul, which Jacob's statement does not support. Jacob presents the supposed teaching of Paul as patently untrue. He knew that Paul made a clear distinction between Gentile adult circumcision, which he strongly opposed, and Jewish infant circumcision, which he supported.
Paul wrote in his Corinthian letter, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God" (1Cor 7:19 NASB). Circumcision of Jewish babies is an unalterable commandment of God (Gen 17:14; Lev 12:3). To tell Jews not to circumcise their children according to the covenantal requirement would be a grave sin. When Paul wrote to the Philippian congregation a couple of years later he boasted of his own eighth-day circumcision as representative of his Jewish identity (Php 3:5). God does not require Gentiles to circumcise their babies, but the New Covenant did not change the rules for Jews (cf. Jer 31:31-33; Acts 16:3; 1Cor 1:20). Apparently many modern Christians are incapable of mentally processing this distinction.
nor: Grk. mēde, adv. to live by: Grk. peripateō, pres. inf., to engage in pedestrian activity; but used here idiomatically of a course of behavior; follow, live by, observe, walk. In the LXX peripateō is found in only 33 passages, of which more than half come from Wisdom literature, and renders Heb. halak (to go, come or walk), which is used fig. of how one conducts oneself in life (cf. Deut 30:16; 1Kgs 11:38; Ps 1:1; 15:2) (DNTT 3:943). the customs: pl. of Grk. ho ethos, a way of doing things marked by recurring procedure; custom or practice.
The Greek term is not found in the Greek translation of the Tanakh, but it is found in the Apocrypha (4Macc 18:5) and Josephus (Ant. XV, 8:1, 4) for ancestral customs handed down from Moses, which all the Jews were obliged to observe, or to die for them. The Greek term corresponds to the Hebrew term halakhah ("way to walk"), which for practical purposes means "Jewish religious law" (Stern 160). Customs or traditions included rules for circumcision, kosher diet, Sabbath observance, calendar festival observance, ritual washings, synagogue worship and many other aspects of Jewish life.
The Pharisees justified their many legalistic rules by claiming they came from Moses, the so-called Oral-Law. The Mishnah declared,
"Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, and Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Synagogue. The latter used to say three things: be patient in justice, rear many disciples, and make a fence round the Torah" (Avot 1:1).
Yeshua rebutted this claim, insisting the transmission of traditions came from themselves, i.e. their Sages (Matt 15:3; Mark 7:3, 8-9, 13). However, to the legalists any attack on their customs was an attack on the Torah as a whole. The second point of slander could be more persuasive since Paul took a charitable approach in not expecting new believers, including those of Hellenistic Jews, to conform to his Pharisee standards (Rom 14:2-6, 13-16; 1Cor 10:23; Col 2:16). Nevertheless, he never told observant Jews to stop keeping the traditional customs, and he instructed all disciples to respect the scruples of traditional Jews (1Cor 10:32).
Liberman points out that many Orthodox and Conservative Jews today believe that being a follower of Yeshua means apostatizing from Moses and that Messianic Judaism is not Judaism at all (302). Of course, the reality is that there are a variety of Judaisms today as there were in the first century. Modern Chasidic or Orthodox Jews do not consider Reformed or Karaite Jews as truly "Jewish." Daniel Juster says that Jewish identity not only rests on parentage and circumcision, but also by maintaining that one is a Jew. He offers this anecdote. David Ben Gurion, when asked who is a Jew, stated that it was anyone who desired to identify himself as a Jew (246).
It is perhaps the height of irony that the very thing that Paul was accused of teaching was later embraced by the Catholic Church as official dogma. Christianity considered Jewish customs and traditions to be evil and the Council of Nicea II (8th century), officially banned Jewish life in Yeshua. All who continued to practice circumcision, Sabbath observance, festivals or other Hebrew rites were to be excluded from the Church. In addition, Jews that converted to Christianity were required to sign a written affirmation of their renunciation of the Jewish way of life (Schonfield 54-55). Even today some Christians think the way for a Jew to demonstrate his faith in Yeshua is to eat a ham sandwich.
22 Therefore, what is to be done? Certainly they will hear that you have come.
Therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, "so, therefore, consequently, then." what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 13 above. is to be done: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. The phrase "to be done," while not in the Greek text is added to complete the thought based on the next verse. The rhetorical question posed by Jacob does not intend uncertainty, but asked in order to provide the answer.
Certainly: Grk. pantōs, adv., altogether, by all means. they will hear: Grk. akouō, fut. mid. See verse 12 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. you have come: Grk. erchomai, perf. See verse 1 above. Apparently Paul still had adversaries in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 9:29; 15:1-2) and eventually someone would see him and report back.
23 So, do this what we say to you. There are four men with us, having a vow on themselves;
So: Grk. oun, conj. See the previous verse. do: Grk. poieō, aor. imp. See verse 13 above. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 9 above. what: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 11 above. we say: Grk. legō, pres., 1p-pl. See verse 4 above. to you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. Paul is asked to voluntarily submit to the plan of Jacob and the Jerusalem elders to counteract the pernicious slander. If the slander against Paul was left unchecked, the lie could be advanced against all the apostles.
There are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. four: Grk. tessares, adj., the number four. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 11 above. Nothing further is known about these four men, including their names. with us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. having: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 13 above. a vow: Grk. euchē may mean (1) a vow or (2) a prayer in the sense of a petition to God. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX euchē mostly renders Heb. neder (SH-5088), a vow or oath made to God (Gen 28:20; 31:13; Lev 7:13; Deut 23:21). A vow is an oral promise of a special service or a special offering. The biblical vow is never a promise between humans.
on: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 5 above. The preposition is used here in the sense of a moral obligation. themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person. The vow is within the person's power to perform it, it is lawful and there is a will to perform it with no pressure to make the vow (freely made). In this instance, the vow taken by the four men was voluntary. The nature of the vow taken by the four men is explained in the next verse. See the Additional Note below.
Additional Note: Vows in the Bible
Making a vow to God was not a Torah requirement, but if taken God required it to be fulfilled to avoid a severe penalty.
"Whenever a man makes a vow to ADONAI or swears an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he is not to violate his word but do everything coming out of his mouth" (Num 30:2 TLV)
"When you make a vow to ADONAI your God, you are not to delay to make good on it—for Adonai your God will certainly require it of you, and you would have sin on you." (Deut 23:21 TLV)
The vow was considered to be a binding obligation for men (Num 30:2). A woman could make a vow, but the vow could be canceled by their father or husband when they heard it (Num 30:5, 8, 13). A vow of a divorced woman or widow as absolutely binding (Num 30:9). The vow was a voluntary act not required by duty, but motivated by devotion and love, either preceding (Ps 50:14) or following (Ps 116:17-18) a divine blessing. Four types of vows may be identified in the Tanakh.
1. Contingency vows: performance of a promise in response to provision. A person told God that if He did something the person would respond with a promised action. Jacob made a contingency vow at a place he later called Bethel, that if God would supply his needs and keep him safe and enable him to return to his father's house, then he would dedicate that place for worship and give God a tenth of everything God provided (Gen 28:20-22; cf. Gen 31:13). In that instance the payment of the tithe was strictly voluntary since the tithe did not become an obligation until Israel was at Sinai.
In the story of Jonah the Phoenician sailors made vows to ADONAI contingent on their lives being saved from the storm (Jon 1:14-16). Jephthah promised that if God gave him victory over the Ammonites he would consecrate to Him whatever came out his house upon his return (Jdg 11:30-31). The vow was fulfilled by dedicating his daughter to the service of God (Jdg 11:35-39). See my article Jephthah: Faithful Hero. Hannah made a similar vow. She desperately wanted a son and in prayer promised God that if He gave her a son she would give him back to God (1Sam 1:11). And she did.
2. Consecration: a vow of consecration or complete devotion to ADONAI, specifically that of the Nazirite (Heb. nazir, Num 6:1-6, 13). The Nazirite vow was a special kind of fasting, and included abstaining from all liquid and edible products of the grape vine, as well as any fermented beverage, and avoidance of a dead body, even if a relative. In these restrictions the consecration of the Nazirite bore a resemblance to that of the high priest (Lev 10:9-11; 21:10-12). The term nazir was also used for untrimmed grape vines (Lev 25:5, 11), so this principle was applied to leaving the hair untrimmed. To prevent even the accidental removal of hair, the Rabbis forbade the use of a comb (Nazir 6:3).
Becoming a Nazirite could be a voluntary act (Num 6:2) or divinely called (Amos 2:11). The number of days devoted to voluntary Nazirite separation was self-determined (Num 6:13), although the Mishnah set the period at 30 days (Nazir 6:2). The separation period would terminate automatically if someone suddenly died in the presence of the Nazirite (Num 6:9-10). A number of Israelite men were devoted Nazirites: Samson (Jdg 13:5; 16:17), Samuel (1Sam 1:11), Elijah (2Kgs 1:8), the Rechabites (Jer 35:1-6), and Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 3:4; Luke 1:15-17; 7:24-26, 33). There is no Biblical example of a woman taking such a vow, except perhaps for Manoah's wife during her pregnancy with Samson (Jdg 13:4).
3. Votive offerings: presenting an animal for sacrifice or a payment of money to fulfill a vow (Lev 22:18). A votive offering had to be presented at the sanctuary and eaten there (Deut 12:11, 17-18). The Sages specified the three annual pilgrim feasts as occasions for presenting votive offerings (Rosh Hashanah 4a-b; Chagigah 8b; Rashi). The votive offering could be a type of peace offering which can be eaten (Lev 7:16; Ps 22:25-26; Prov 7:14; Nah 1:15), a burnt offering which cannot be eaten (Lev 22:18) (TWOT 2:557). A votive offering of an animal had to be a male from cattle, sheep or goats, without defect (Lev 22:18-25). The sacrificial votive offering had to be accompanied by the specified grain offering and drink offering (Num 15:3-13).
Since God gives His best, man should offer him his best. A votive offering could be (1) a tithe as a result of a promise (Gen 28:20), (2) a peace offering (Lev 22:20), (3) a thank offering for deliverance from death (Ps 116:12-14), (4) a thank offering for answering a prayer for God's help (Ps 22:24-25). David paid votive offerings and noted that paying the vow was a joyful occasion (Ps 22:25; 61:8). However, God refused to accept votive offerings from those in the sex business (Deut 23:18; Prov 7:10, 14). This illustrates that God only accepts a votive offering from someone who is in a right relationship with God.
4. Promise of Obedience: The people of Israel under Moses made a public promise to keep all the commandments God had spoken, many of which involved offerings. "All the words which ADONAI has spoken, we will do!" (Ex 24:3 TLV). Just before entering the land of promise the Israelites repeated to Moses their commitment to obedience, "You go near and hear all that ADONAI our God may say to you; and you tell us all that ADONAI our God says to you, and we will hear and we will do it" (Deut 5:27 BR). God also provided that in the celebration of Sukkot in Sabbatical years the Torah was to be read in a public service and the Israelites were to reaffirm their commitment to obey Torah commandments (Deut 31:10-13).
24 having taken these men be purified with them, and bear the expense for them so that they will shave the head; and all will know that what they have been instructed about you is nothing, but you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Torah.
having taken: Grk. paralambanō, aor. part., to receive to one's side; take, receive; or to cause to go along; take. these men: pl. of Grk. houtos, masc. demonstrative pronoun. See verse 9 above. be purified: Grk. hagnizō, aor. pass. imp., 2p-sing., to cleanse in such a way that one is purified. The imperative mood directed to Paul is used for entreaty, not for command. The verb ordinarily refers to cleansing from pollution or uncleanness by means of prayers, abstinence, washings, and/or sacrifices. The passive voice has a reflexive force, to take upon oneself a purification.
In the LXX hagnizō is used to describe the measures taken to achieve eligibility for religious rituals and expresses consistently the removal of what is not seemly (DNTT 3:101). Hagnizō translates three Hebrew verbs: (1) qadash (SH-6942), to be set apart or consecrated (Ex 19:10; Num 11:18), manifested by washing of garments. (2) nazar (SH-5144), to dedicate or consecrate, manifested by abstinence from alcohol (Num 6:3); and (3) chata (SH-2398), purify oneself from uncleanness, manifested by presenting a sin offering (Num 8:21; 19:12).
with: Grk. sún, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., the four men. and: Grk. kai, conj. bear the expense: Grk. dapanaō, aor., to incur expense, spend money. The purification ritual at the sanctuary required a sin offering (ewe-lamb), a burnt offering (he-lamb), a peace offering (ram), as well as an accompanying bread offering and a drink offering (Num 6:13-18) (Nazir 6:8). All of the animals and additional offering items had to be purchased. Pertinent to this situation is that the Sanhedrin operated four markets on the Mount of Olives at which pilgrims could purchase sacrificial animals and other ritually important items, such as wine, oil and salt (TJ Ta'anith 4:8; cited by Lane 403).
for: Grk. epi, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The instruction to be personally purified begs the question of why should Paul go through a purification ritual. There is no evidence he had become unclean nor is there any evidence the four men had violated the terms of their separation. It may be that a special circumstance happened that someone suddenly died in the presence of the four men, thereby making them unclean and requiring purification (Num 6:9). The four men were apparently poor so Paul was being asked to act as their patron and share their burden. The appeal to Paul to bear the expense assumes that he had the funds.
so that: Grk. hina, conj. they will shave: Grk. xuraō (from xuron, 'razor'), fut., 3p-pl., to shave or shear. In the LXX xuraō translates Heb. galach (SH-1548), to shave, occurring in reference to cutting hair off the head (e.g. Lev 13:33; Num 6:9). the head: Grk. ho kephalē, the head as an anatomical term. The only vow in the Torah that involved hair-cutting was a Nazirite vow (Num 6:2-8). Thus, each of the four had separated themselves as Nazirites. The personal hair cutting was not total to achieve baldness as implied by "shave," but to remove what had grown past its previous length. The cutting of the hair marked the completion of the vow.
Josephus noted that it was common for the Jews to make vows to God, patterned after the Nazirite vow, lasting thirty days and ending with hair-cutting, as an expression of gratitude when they had been raised up from sickness or delivered from danger (Wars, Book II, 15:1). Paul had previously performed a vow (Acts 18:18), which could have pertained to sickness, or perhaps protection in danger (cf. Rom 16:2). Pharisee tradition required that a Nazirite vow undertaken in the Diaspora had to be repeated within the land of Israel (Nazir 3:3), and Paul's actions in this instance may reflect compliance with this tradition.
and: Grk. kai, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj.; used of Paul's adversaries. will know: Grk. ginōskō, fut., 3p-pl., to know, including (1) to be in receipt of information; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value. The first meaning applies there. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning from a teacher (DNTT 2:395).
that: Grk. hoti, conj. what: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. they have been instructed: Grk. katēcheō, perf. pass., 3p-pl. See verse 21 above. about: Grk. peri, prep. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. is: Grk. eimi, pres. nothing: Grk. oudeis, adj. used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, none, nothing. In other words, the slander has no substance. There are no facts or evidence to support the claim. but: Grk. alla, conj. you yourself: Grk. autos. Jacob then rebuts the slander with the truth.
also: Grk. kai. walk orderly: Grk. stoicheō, pres., properly, walk in line, in strict accordance to a particular pace; fig. to be in agreement with (HELPS). The verb originally came from a military context, to walk in file or standing in a row with others (Gal 5:25; Php 3:16) (Robertson). keeping: Grk. phulassō, pres. part., may mean (1) serve as sentinel; guard, watch; (2) ensure that something remains intact; keep safe, preserve, watch; (3) 'be on guard against' or 'be on the alert against;' avoid (4) 'keep something from being violated;' keep, observe. The fourth meaning applies here. the Torah: Grk. ho nomos. See verse 20 above. The authority of Jacob stands behind the assertion that Paul was Torah-observant (Stern).
Gloag points out that Paul himself several times showed the example of keeping the law, as when he circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3), shaved his head at Cenchrea (Acts 18:18), and lived as a traditional Jew among Jews, that he might win the Jews (1Cor 9:20). Indeed, according to Luke's narrative and his own letters Paul was an observant Jew throughout his life, keeping the Sabbath (Acts 13:14, 27, 42; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4), the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Acts 20:6) the Feast of Weeks (Acts 20:16), and the Feast of Passover (1Cor 5:8). Luke will go on to record in later chapters of Acts that Paul consistently affirmed his zealous commitment to God as a Pharisee and his loyalty to Torah observance (Acts 22:3; 23:6; 24:14; 26:4-5; 28:17).
According to Bruce various commentators have sought to impugn the request of Jacob and the elders as a condition of receiving the charitable funds Paul had collected from Diaspora congregations or setting him up for failure. Such asinine suggestions have no support in Luke's narrative. Rather the request of the elders represented what they viewed as a good faith gesture to rebut the slander that was going around against Paul. The accusers could even harm the ministry of the Jerusalem congregation by applying the slander to all Messianic Jews.
Additional Note: Paul the Torah-Observant Pharisee
Jacob's affirmation of Paul being Torah-observant strongly rebuts the claim of Catholic and Reformed Christianity that Paul repudiated the Law of Moses, the Torah, and circumcision, not just for Gentiles, but for Jews as well. Paul was not ashamed of being a Pharisee (Php 3:5). Having been consecrated to God at birth (Gal 1:15), then trained under the great Sage Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), he lived according to the strictest tenets of orthodox Judaism (Gal 1:13-14). After his radical transformation as a disciple of Yeshua, Paul continued to live by Pharisee traditions out of conviction to persuade traditional Jews to follow Yeshua, but also to avoid giving offense to traditional Jews (cf. 1Cor 9:20).
In his letter to the Roman congregation, written before this visit to Jerusalem, Paul demonstrated a very high view of the Torah and its continuing authority. He did not treat God's commandments as suggestions or cultural adaptations. He specifically asserted that the Torah was not nullified by the atonement through Yeshua (Rom 3:31) and affirmed strongly that the Torah is holy, righteous, good and spiritual (Rom 7:12, 14). Moreover, without the Torah there is no standard to define sin (Rom 3:20; 4:15; 7:7). A much ignored verse is Paul's statement that God intends the requirement of the Torah to be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:4; cf. 1Cor 7:19).
The view that Paul abandoned Torah is based on a deliberate misreading of the letter to Galatia. Christian scholars ignore the fact that Paul's catch-phrases "under law" (Gal 3:23; 4:4-5, 21; 5:18) and "works of law" (Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10) refer to legalism rather than obeying the written commandments of the Torah. While Paul encouraged new believers, both Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews, to imitate his example (1Cor 4:16-17; 11:1; Gal 4:12), he did not insist that new believers live by his Pharisee rules. Rather he exhorted believers to live by the two great commandments to love God and neighbor, as well as the Ten Commandments, and thereby build a strong relationships and congregational unity (Rom 12:10; 13:8-10; 14:1-7; 15:1-3; 1Cor 10:23-33; 1Th 4:1).
25 Now concerning those of the nations having believed, we wrote, directing them also to avoid that sacrificed to an idol and blood and strangled and harlotry."
Now: Grk. de, conj. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 21 above. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. of the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 11 above. Most versions have "Gentiles," but the translation of "nations" is more appropriate since ethnōn could include Hellenistic Jews that formerly lived as pagans before accepting the good news. having believed: Grk. pisteuō, pl. perf. part. See verse 20 above. we: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The use of the plural pronoun is significant since it represents all the apostles and elders present at the previous conference, including Paul and Peter (Acts 15:22). wrote: Grk. epistellō, aor., 1p-pl., give information or instruction by letter; write. While Jacob proposed the content of the letter, its composition was approved by the apostles and elders present.
It's not immediately clear why Jacob raised what is essentially "old business" from the previous apostolic conference. Longenecker says that "many commentators have argued that the fourfold Jerusalem decree (Acts 15:20, 29) has no relevance to this situation but was only brought in to inform Paul for the first time of something drawn up behind his back at Jerusalem after the Jerusalem Council." Such a revisionist interpretation is clearly wrong since Paul attended the conference and delivered the letter Jacob had proposed (Acts 15:2, 22-23). Paul's first letter to the congregation in Corinth written in 54/55 exhorted disciples concerning three of the four prohibitions.
Jacob may have wanted to assure Paul that the former decree was still in force. Moreover, the minimum expectations of Gentile disciples as a basis for fellowship with Jewish disciples did not imply any elimination of divine expectations of Messianic Jews. "Moses" still has authority over Jewish people (cf. Acts 15:21). Conversely, Jacob was not prepared to enforce the covenantal expectations of Jews on Gentiles as the Judaizers wished.
directing: Grk. krinō, aor. part., may mean (1) make a selection between options; (2) subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior; (3) draw a conclusion and (4) determine, resolve or decree. The fourth meaning applies here (cf. 2Macc 11:36). In the LXX krinō is used to translate three Hebrew words: din, rib and shaphat, generally of issuing a judgment in a legal context (DNTT 2:363). them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; used of the letter's recipients. also: Grk. te, conj. See verse 12 above. The conjunction hints that the letter contained more than the following four prohibitions.
to avoid: Grk. phulassō, pres. mid. inf. See the previous verse. The present tense denotes that the ban decreed in the letter will continue indefinitely. Many versions diminish the force of the verb by translating it as "should avoid." However, the letter did not offer an opinion but issued a binding decree that all Gentile followers of Yeshua were (and are) obligated to obey. The following list is quoted verbatim from the letter issued by the leaders in Acts 15:29.
that Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. sacrificed to an idol: Grk. eidōlothutos (from eidōlon, idol or false god, and thuō, to sacrifice), adj., that which is sacrificed to an idol, idolatrous offering. The term hearkens back to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes who ordered that the Hebrews be compelled to eat meat sacrificed to idols, as well as pork (4Macc. 5:2). Thus, it would be considered a sin to sacrifice an animal or meat from an animal to an idol or knowingly and willfully eating meat from such an idolatrous offering. Violating this restriction would be tantamount to consorting with enemies of the Jewish people.
Paul later affirmed this ruling to the congregation in Corinth (1Cor 10:28), as Yeshua did at the end of the century to the congregations in Pergamum and Thyatira (Rev 2:14, 20). Paul also described idolatry as including sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and covetousness (Col 3:5). The idol business provided a means to attain what God had forbidden, and many people were willing to sacrifice their honor, their family relationships, their finances and their health to gain the short-term pleasures (Titus 3:3; Jas 4:3; 5:5; 2Pet 2:13). Not much has changed in that regard.
and: Grk. kai, conj. blood: Grk. haima, the fluid that circulates in the principal vascular system of human beings and vertebrate animals, blood. The precious fluid transports nutrients and oxygen to the cells and waste products away from those same cells. The noun is used in a neutral sense of human blood (Luke 8:43-44), unlawful bloodshed (Acts 22:20), blood-guiltiness (Acts 5:28), the blood of Yeshua shed on the cross for sins (Acts 20:28), and the blood of sacrificial animals for expiation of sin (Hebrews 9:7). In the LXX haima translates Heb. dam (SH-1818), blood of humans or animals with the same range of meaning.
Scripture provides two prohibitions with respect to blood. The first prohibition is unlawful bloodshed or murder (Gen 4:10-11). God is the Lord of all life and He requires justice for victims of violence (Gen 9:5-6). Bloodshed defiles the land and the land can only be cleansed by the death of the murderer (Gen 4:10; Num 35:33; Job 16:18; Ps 9:12). While haima is not the standard term for murder, the practice of idolatry in some places included child sacrifice, as it did in ancient Israel before the exile (cf. 2Kgs 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; Jer 7:31; 32:35; Ezek 16:21; 20:31). Infanticide was also widely practiced in Greek and Roman culture and justified by pagan philosophy. Babies rejected for a variety of reasons would be deposited outside of town to die. The Didache (AD 100) declared the Christian principle, "you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born" (Chap 2).
Animal blood is also precious to God, so the second prohibition is against eating blood. In the covenant with Noah, God instructed that meat should be added to the diet, but that in doing so the flesh of an animal should not be eaten with its life, its blood (Gen 9:4). The fact that this prohibition was part of the covenant with Noah means it was intended for all mankind and thus it is not a Jewish rule. God has never rescinded this ban so it is still in force. In the instruction given to Israel at Sinai the prohibition of consuming animal blood was reiterated on pain of being cut off (Lev 3:17; 7:26-27; 17:10, 14; Deut 12:23). The restriction was specifically applied to "strangers" or Gentiles residing with Israelites (Lev 17:10).
Vincent comments that pagan Gentiles had no scruples about consuming blood; on the contrary, it was considered a special delicacy. The heathen were accustomed to drink blood mingled with wine at their sacrifices (Homer, Odyssey, XVIII.45). Thus, Scripture also decries drinking blood (Ps 16:4; 50:13; 1Cor 10:21). Divine judgment on the wicked is sometimes depicted as drinking blood (Num 23:24; Jer 46:10; Ezek 39:17-19; Rev 16:4-6). Even though the prohibition does not use any verbs of eating or drinking, the recipients of the letter would most likely have assumed that "blood" meant consumption of blood rather than murder.
and: Grk. kai, conj. strangled: Grk. pniktos (from pnigō, to choke, throttle, or strangle), strangled, i.e. hanging an animal by the neck until deprived of life. Thayer adds "suffocated," based on usage of the term in Greek literature. See the Textual Note below. The noun pniktos does not occur in the LXX, but the verb pnigō is found in 1Samuel 16:14-15 for Heb. ba'ath, (SH-1204) to fall upon, startle, terrify. Also, a related Greek verb apopnigō, to suffocate or choke, occurs in Nahum 2:12 for Heb. chanaq (SH-2614), used of a lion choking its victim to death. If an animal is strangled, blood will begin to coagulate and be deposited into the meat and tissues.
According to the Jewish tradition slaughtering requires that an animal be killed with a single knife stroke across the neck. The animal dies instantly, and the blood drains quickly. The U.S. Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act (1958) requires slaughtering animals by first stunning into unconsciousness, hanging in a vertical position by a leg, and then severing the carotid artery and jugular vein with a knife to allow for maximum blood removal from the body. The Torah does not provide a specific procedure for slaughtering animals, but instruction does refer to death by bloodshed (cf. Lev 17:13-14). This prohibition as the previous two directly relates to participating in a pagan celebration.
Another possible meaning is that "the strangled" refers to animals that have died a natural death or been killed by other animals. Eating meat from such animals is expressly prohibited in the Torah (Lev 7:24; 11:39-40;17:15; 22:8; Deut 14:21). People in ancient times did not know about bacteria and the dangers of eating "road kill," but the Torah regulation protected Israelites from contaminated meat. Eating meat from a strangled animal would certainly violate the Noachide restriction.
and: Grk. kai, conj. harlotry: Grk. porneia, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse (BAG), or sexual conduct condemned and forbidden in Scripture. The word-group originally meant to prostitute or practice prostitution (DNTT 1:497). A pornē was a woman who sold her body, a prostitute or a courtesan (1Cor 6:15-16). A pornos was a man who prostituted his body for hire to another's lust, a male prostitute (Thayer; 1Cor 5:9-10). Pornos was also used of a catamite or a sodomite (LSJ; 1Cor 6:9). Paul used pornos to denote a habitually immoral man (1Cor 5:10-11; Eph 5:5; 1Tim 1:10). In the LXX porneia translates (1) Heb. zenunim (SH-2183; masc.) prostitution, Genesis 38:24; (2) zenuth (SH-2184; fem.), harlotry (Num 14:33); and (3) zanah (SH-2181), be or act as a prostitute (Jer 2:20).
Some versions translate porneia as "fornication" (ASV, CJB, JUB, KJV, TLB, NASB, NMB, NRSV, NTE), which can be misleading. The English word "fornication" is defined as "voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other" (Dictionary.com). The first part of the definition would include prostitution and the second part of the definition would include adultery. But, people uneducated in the biblical terminology interpret "fornication" according to the contemporary definition. In the Tanakh consensual sex between a single man and single woman, not related to each other, was not specifically prohibited, but it did create a marriage obligation (Ex 22:16-17; Deut 22:23-27).
Lightfoot interprets porneia to mean a ban against polygamy (4:132). However, it would be nonsensical for Torah-observant Jews to prohibit Gentiles to engage in something not condemned in the Torah (cf. Ex 21:10; Rom 4:15; 5:13), and was an acceptable practice in first century Judaism (Josephus, Ant., XVII, 1:2). Lightfoot essentially read Christianity's prohibition of polygamy into the text to give it apostolic authority. Longenecker restricts porneia in this context to "marriage in prohibited degrees of relationship," an interpretation favored by the church fathers (Tertullian, Apologia 9.13). Consanguineous marriages were permitted in some ancient cultures, but Roman civil law prohibited marriages of close relatives (see the article in Smith's Dictionary).
Contrary to attempts to limit the application of porneia, the term is consistently used in Scripture of sexual conduct outside of heterosexual marriage. The first usage of porneia in the Tanakh is for prostitution (Gen 38:24) and the first usage in the Besekh is for sexual unfaithfulness of a wife that provides grounds for divorce (Matt 5:32; 19:9). Immorality was a serious problem among first century believers, because the Greek and Roman culture made sex so accessible at pagan temples and brothels. In addition, a man might have one wife to bear his legitimate children, but he could freely have sex with a mistress, a slave or a prostitute without legal consequences (Pseudo-Demosthenes, Speeches: Against Neaera, 59:122).
Scripture specifically condemns adultery (Ex 20:14; Matt 19:18), bestiality (Ex 22:19), same-sex relations (Lev 18:22; Rom 1:24-27; 1Cor 6:9), incest (Lev 18:6; 1Cor 5:1), prostitution (Deut 22:21; 23:17; 1Cor 6:15-18), and wives having multiple lovers (Prov 6:24-32; Hos 1:2; 2:2). Intertestamental Jewish literature also included incest and the sin of Sodom in porneia (Sirach 23:16; Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs: Ruben 1:6; Judah 13:6; Benjamin 9:1). Porneia particularly stood for the wicked practices associated with idolatry (Jer 2:20; 3:9; Ezek 16:15; Hos 4:11-12). Porneia-zanah is rebellion and unfaithfulness against God (Num 14:33; Isa 47:10; Ezek 16:15; 23:7; 43:7; Hos 5:11).
Date: Monday, 30 May 57
26 Then Paul having taken the men, on the day following, having been purified with them, he entered into the temple declaring the completion of the days of the purification, until the offering that was presented for each one of them.
Then: Grk. tote, adv. See verse 13 above. Paul: See verse 4 above. having taken: Grk. paralambanō, aor. part. See verse 24 above. the men: pl. of Grk. ho anēr. See verse 11 above. These are the four men under a Nazirite vow referred to in verse 23 above. on the day: Grk. ho hēmera. See verse 4 above. following: Grk. echō, pres. mid. part. See verse 13 above. The middle voice gives the verb the meaning of adjoining, neighboring, bordering, following or next (Thayer). See the terms for "next day" in verse 8 and 18 above. This day would be after Shavuot since fasting was not allowed on that day. Paul commenced immediately to carry out the instructions of Jacob.
having been purified: Grk. hagnizō, aor. pass. part. See verse 24 above. with: Grk. sun, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The plural pronoun refers to the four men. Given the word order of the verse the verb "purified" probably refers to washing in a mikveh. In the first century there were many pools that surrounded the Temple area for ritual purification. (See pictures at BibleWalks.com.) he entered: Grk. eiseimi, impf., 3p-sing. See verse 18 above.
into: Grk. eis, prep. the temple: Grk. ho hieron, sanctuary or temple, here referring to the entire 35-acre complex with its courts, rooms, and chambers, in contrast to naios, the holy place where priests performed their sacrifices. For a description of the construction and characteristics of the temple see my comment on Mark 11:11. declaring: Grk. diangellō, pres. part., spread news far and wide, proclaim, tell, inform. the completion: Grk. ekplērōsis, a completion, fulfillment, or accomplishment. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. of the days: pl. of Grk. ho hēmera. of the purification: Grk. ho hagnismos, the act of ceremonial purification. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh.
Days of purification lasted seven days (Num 6:9; 12:14; 19:14), as noted in the next verse. The days were probably reckoned from the completion of the thirty days, or other term, of the vow itself (Ellicott). The verbal phrase "declaring the completion" meant that Paul gave notice to the proper of the officials of the Temple regarding the completion of the vow of the four men and that he would be sharing in the rite and paying for the required sacrifice.
until: Grk. heōs, adv. See verse 5 above. the offering: Grk. ho prosphora, that which is brought, an offering or sacrifice. The term refers to the offering required in the Torah (Num 6:13). that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. was presented: Grk. prospherō, aor. pass., causing movement of something to a place; bring, present. for: Grk. huper, prep. See verse 13 above. each: Grk. hekastos, adj. See verse 19 above. one: Grk. heis, the cardinal numeral one. of them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Edersheim explains that the ceremonies were conducted in a special Nazirite chamber in the Court of the Women (300).
After the various sacrifices had been offered by the priest, the Nazirite retired to the special chamber, where he boiled the flesh of his peace-offerings, cut off his hair, and threw it in the fire under the caldron. If he had already cut off his hair before coming to the temple, he must still bring it with him, and cast it in the fire under the caldron. After that the priest waved the offering, as detailed in Numbers 6:19-20, and the fat was salted, and burned upon the altar (Edersheim 300).
Date: Tuesday, 31 May 57
Paul in the Temple, 21:27-30
27 Now when the seven days were about to be completed, unbelieving Jews of Asia, having seen him in the temple, began stirring up all the crowd and laid hands upon him,
Now: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 1 above. the: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article. seven: pl. of Grk. hepta, the number seven. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 4 above. The "seven days" refers to the "days of purification" in the previous verse. were about: Grk. mellō, impf., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to. to be completed: Grk. sunteleō, pres. pass. inf., may mean (1) to bring to a close; complete, finish; or (2) bring about in accord with purpose; conclude, bring about, effect. The first meaning applies here. The practical meaning is that the following action took place before the seven days were completed, although the exact day is left unstated.
unbelieving: The CJB and OJB insert "unbelieving" as an important qualification. Jews: pl. of Grk. ho Ioudaios. See verse 11 above. of Asia: Grk. Asia refers to the Roman proconsular province of Asia, roughly the western third of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital. See the Bible map of Asia here. Stern suggests these Asian Jews may have been from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Acts 6:9) who disputed with Stephen. Paul's previous experience of violent opposition in Jerusalem was from Hellenistic Jews (Acts 9:29). However, these hostile traditional Jews were likely pilgrims from Ephesus attending the festival (cf. Acts 19:9; and verse 29 below). They knew Paul by sight.
having seen: Grk. theaomai, aor. part., to look upon with special interest; see, look at, behold, take notice of. The verb emphasizes a special perception or realization. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; Paul. The concern of Jacob and the elders expressed in verse 22 has come to pass. in: Grk. en, prep. the temple: Grk. ho hieron. See the previous verse. Bruce suggests Paul was seen in the Court of Israel. began stirring up: Grk. sugcheō, impf., 3p-pl. (from sun, "with," and cheō, "to pour"), thus lit. "to pour together." The active voice of the verb means "to confuse, confound, trouble or stir up" (BAG).
all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 5 above. the crowd: Grk. ho ochlos, an aggregate of people or an assembled company of people; crowd, multitude, great number. In many passages the term denotes common people in contrast to the ruling classes and religious elite. Stern notes that the crowd would have included Judean Jews. and: Grk. kai, conj. laid: Grk. epiballō, aor., 3p-pl., to move something so as to put it over or on something; put on, lay on; frequently with a suggestion of violence by physically grasping. hands: pl. of Grk. ho cheir. See verse 11 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. him: Grk. autos. The syntax favors the unbelieving Jews from Asia as the ones who grabbed Paul, while yelling for support from the surrounding crowd.
28 crying out, "Men! Israelites! Come to our aid! This is the man, the one teaching everyone everywhere against our people and the Torah and this place; besides he also even brought Hellenistic Jews into the temple and has defiled this holy place."
crying out: Grk. krazō, pres. part., may mean (1) to utter a loud cry; scream, cry out, or (2) express something with a vigorous voice; call out. The first meaning applies here. Men: Grk. anēr, voc. case. See verse 11 above. The direct address of "Men" could have included proselytes present in the Temple. Israelites: Grk. Israēlitēs, voc. case, a descendant of Israel the patriarch and member of the people of Israel. Many versions render the direct address as "Men of Israel," but that is an inaccurate translation of the vocative case of the two nouns. Calling them "Israelites" gives emphasis to their covenant identity distinguished from proselytes. Come to our aid: Grk. boētheō, pres. imp., to come to the aid of, come to the rescue of, come to help, help.
This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. the man: Grk. ho anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind, used here of an adult male. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam (Gen 1:26-27); (2) ish (Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh (Ps 8:4-5), which are generally used for a human male or mankind (DNTT 2:564). the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. teaching: Grk. didaskō, pres. part. See verse 21 above. everyone: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 5 above. everywhere: Grk. pantachou, adv., in any and every direction; everywhere, in all places. Stern notes that the accusers proceed to state five lies about Paul. Their declaration identifies the unbelieving Jews of Asia as the ones spreading the slander against Paul (verse 21 above).
against: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 19 above. our people: Grk. ho laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically, and often in the apostolic narratives of people groups associated with the God of Israel. Often in Scripture laos is viewed in contrast with the ruling class. The term corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'aretz, "people of the land," i.e., the people of Israel. Gill suggests that the accusers asserted that according to Paul's teaching the Jews were not the only people of God (Acts 13:46); that God was the God of the Gentiles (Rom 3:29), as well as of the Jews; that God had chosen, and called, and saved some of the one (Rom 1:5), as well as of the other; and that the Gentiles shared in the favor of God, and the blessings of the Messiah (Rom 15:12).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the Torah: Grk. ho nomos. See verse 20 above. The accusers likely used "Torah" as a synonym of "Moses," meaning traditions they attributed to Moses. By his rejection of works of legalism as a basis for righteousness and salvation Paul's accusers regarded him as antinomian and a libertine. Nothing in Paul's sermons and letters support the idea that he rejected the Torah as some Christian commentators claim. Paul makes reference to this slander in his Roman letter, "And why not say, 'Let us do evil, so that good may come'—just as we are being slandered and as some claim that we say. Their condemnation is deserved!" (Rom 3:8 TLV).
and: Grk. kai, conj. this: Grk. houtos. place: Grk. ho topos, a spatial area, generally used of a geographical area. The noun may intend Jerusalem or more specifically the temple as the only place to offer sacrifices. Paul had compared Jerusalem with Hagar in his letter to the Galatians: "But this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery along with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free—she is our mother" (Gal 4:25-26 TLV). Regarding the temple Paul may have given the impression of minimizing its importance by declaring that the Creator does not dwell in temples made by hands (Acts 17:24), the people of the Messiah are the temple (1Cor 3:16-17; 2Cor 6:16) and the death of Yeshua is a fully sufficient atoning sacrifice (Acts 13:38; 1Cor 5:7; 2Cor 5:21).
besides: Grk. eti, adv. expressing addition, yet, still. he also: Grk. te, conj. even: Grk. kai, conj. brought: Grk. eisagō, aor., cause to enter into an area; bring or lead in. Hellenistic Jews: pl. of Grk. Hellēn, lit. "Hellenists," which may mean (1) a person who spoke or wrote Hellenistic Greek; or (2) a person of Hellenistic culture as opposed to traditional Israelite culture (BAG). My translation of "Hellenistic Jews" is based on history and usage of the term in the Besekh. After Alexander the Great (356−323 BC) conquered the world he and his successors sought to assimilate people of all the nations in the Greek way of life. All who spoke the Greek language and adopted or accommodated Greek culture in varying degrees were counted as Hellenist (DNTT 2:124).
All the lexicons recognize that Hellēn is a cultural term and not restricted to persons born to ethnic Greek families or Gentiles in general. Yet, the lexicons inexplicably exclude Jews from this definition and assume that Ioudaios is the only Greek word that can refer to Jews. This omission reflects a major blind spot in Christian scholarship. Almost all Bible versions translate the noun here as "Greeks" (a few have "Gentiles"). Hellēn literally means "Hellenist," and a Hellenist might be a Gentile or he might be a descendant of Jacob. Of interest is that the CJB, which translates the noun here as Goyim, translates the same noun in John 7:35 and in John 12:20 as "Greek-speaking Jews." Why is that definition not applied here?
Hellenists were a recognized group within first century Judaism (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chap. LXXX; Smith's Dictionary of the Bible). There were thousands of Hellenistic Jews in the Diaspora. Hellenistic Jews could be completely secular, ascetic like the Essenes, or devout worshippers as the Greek-speaking Jews that Luke describes in Acts 6:1. For a detailed discussion of the term Hellēn and the arguments for the usage of Hellēn in the Besekh representing "Hellenistic Jews" see my article Hellenism and the Jews. The plural "Hellenists is likely an allusion to the four men under a Nazirite vow who accompanied Paul.
into: Grk. eis, prep. the temple: Grk. ho hieron. See verse 26 above. As background to this slander it's important to know that the actual Temple grounds were enclosed by a barrier, and at the entrances to it were warning notices in Greek and Latin forbidding entry by any uncircumcised person on pain of death. In some places Hellenistic Jews dropped circumcision since Gentiles found it to be offensive (Tarn & Griffith 224). The accusers claimed that Paul brought uncircumcised Hellenists into the temple, a blatant falsehood.
and: Grk. kai. has defiled: Grk. koinoō, perf., to defile by treating what is sacred as common or ordinary (HELPS). this: Grk. houtos. holy: Grk. ho hagios, adj. See verse 11 above. place: Grk. topos. The noun is used here of the temple. In the Torah of Moses defiling the sanctuary resulted from uncleanness of worshippers (Lev 15:31; Num 19:13, 20) or committing idolatrous acts (Lev 20:3; cf. Ezek 5:11; 1Macc. 1:41-47, 54; 2Macc. 6:1-5). Paul had committed neither of those two offenses. The purification ritual referenced in verse 26 above required immersing naked in a mikveh as witnessed by a priest. The mikveh ritual effectively precluded unauthorized entry by uncircumcised men.
29 For it was they having previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, whom they were supposing that Paul had brought him into the temple.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 3 above. it was they: Grk. eimi, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 3 above. having previously seen: Grk. prooraō, perf. part. (from pro, "before" and horaō, "see"), properly, see beforehand or ahead of time. Trophimus: Grk. Trophimos, a member of Paul's ministry team first mentioned in 20:4. the Ephesian: Grk. ho Ephesios, adj., of Ephesus or a resident of Ephesus. The unbelieving Jews from Asia apparently knew Trophimus by sight because of his association with Paul in Ephesus. Christian commentators generally accept the assumption of Paul's accusers that Trophimus was a Gentile. Yet, there is no evidence that Trophimus was a Gentile and Ephesus had a large Jewish population. There is also no evidence that Paul recruited Gentiles to be part of his ministry team.
Identifying Trophimus as a Jew is supported by the fact that both Hippolytus and Dorotheus named Trophimus as one of Yeshua's seventy disciples (Luke 10:1). Yeshua did not recruit Gentiles to serve as his messengers. Paul's accusers may have identified Trophimus as a Gentile by his manner of dress. They could not have known whether he was circumcised except by personal inspection. It would be better to identify Trophimus as a Hellenized Jew, a term coined by David Flusser (75). Hellenized Jews spoke Jewish Greek (a form of common Greek) as their primary language and used the Greek translation of the Torah (Septuagint) for synagogue services. While "Hellenized Jews" rejected the legalism of the Pharisees they were nonetheless zealous for the Temple and being Torah-observant.
in: Grk. en, prep. the city: Grk. ho polis. See verse 5 above. with: Grk. sún, prep. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Luke notes that the unbelieving Jews from Asia had seen Paul and Trophimus together in Jerusalem prior to Paul going to the temple. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. they were supposing: Grk. nomizō, impf., may mean (1) to practice what is customary; or (2) to determine on the basis of ordinary reasoning; to deem, suppose, or think. The second meaning is intended here. that: Grk. hoti, conj. Paul: See verse 4 above. had brought: Grk. eisagō, aor. See the previous verse. him: Grk. autos. into: Grk. eis, prep. the temple: Grk. ho hieron. See verse 26 above. Paul's accusers jumped to a conclusion without evidence.
30 also the whole city was set in motion, and there was a rushing together of the people, and having seized Paul they were dragging him out of the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.
also: Grk. te, conj. the whole: Grk. holos, adj., signifier of a thing understood as a complete unit and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire. city: Grk. ho polis. See verse 5 above. was set in motion: Grk. kineō, be in motion, move, move around, and used here of a public excitement to cease their activity and respond to the event taking place at the temple. Even without the qualifying adjective, to say "the city" being set in motion seems to be hyperbole. Luke makes note of the impact of an event on a city in previous passages (cf. Acts 8:8; 13:44; 16:20; 19:29). It is clearly an estimate based upon personal observation. In this situation people within the temple responded to the loud shouting and then a chain reaction spread from that point into the city.
and: Grk. kai, conj. there was: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., "came to be." a rushing together: Grk. sundromē, a coming together on the run. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. of the people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 28 above. and: Grk. kai. having seized: Grk. epilambanomai, aor. mid. part., may mean (1) to take or lay hold of with the intention of helping or using for practical purpose; or (2) to take hold of forcefully with hostile intention, lay hold of, seize. The second meaning applies here. Paul: See verse 4 above. The narrative of Paul being physically grabbed and held may be considered a fulfillment of the prophecy of Agabus (verse 11 above), even though no binding objects were used.
they were dragging: Grk. helkō, impf., to cause to move forward; draw or drag, as of a physical pulling motion. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. out: Grk. exō, adv. of place, outside, used of a position that beyond a limit or boundary. of the temple: Grk. ho hieron. See verse 26 above. and: Grk. kai. immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv., immediately, forthwith, right away. The adverb is a dramatic device that energizes the narrative, often shifting the reader's attention to another scene. the gates: pl. of Grk. ho thura, a device for opening and closing an entranceway; door, gate. There were ten gates that led from the Court of the Gentiles to the Court of the Women.
were shut: Grk. kleiō, aor. pass., closed to prevent entry; locked, shut. The Levitical security team probably took charge of closing all the gates to prevent curious and excited residents from rushing into the temple. Some commentators see in the action to shut the gates a symbolic closing of the temple to the message of God, as well as his messenger. The action sealed the prophecy of the temple's destruction (Luke 21:6).
Paul in Roman Custody, 21:31-36
31 and as they were seeking to kill him, a report went up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was stirred up.
and: Grk. te, conj. as they were seeking: Grk. zēteō, pres. part., to seek, here with a focus on striving for a goal. to kill: Grk. apokteinō, aor. inf., put an end by force to the existence of someone, kill. The infinitive expresses purpose. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; Paul. The clause probably means that the mob that had hold of Paul was taking him someplace to stone him. The zeal to punish for actions believed to defile the holy temple was not uncommon. The Talmud records an incident in which a priest who had performed his duties while unclean was taken out of the temple court by young priests who broke his skull with clubs instead of taking him before a Beth Din (Sanhedrin 82b).
a report: Grk. phasis, information about an event, though the mode here is not disclosed. went up: Grk. anabainō, aor. See verse 6 above. to the commander: Grk. ho chiliarchos, lit., "leader of a thousand," a Roman tribune that had command of a subdivision of a legion. We learn later in Acts that the name of the commander is Lysias (23:26; 24:7, 22). of the Roman cohort: Grk. ho speira, a military tactical unit, originally translating the Latin manipulus, a Roman unit of two centuries and later translating the Latin cohors (English "cohort") (LSJ). An auxiliary cohort was the sixth part of an imperial legion, which had 6,000 men at full strength.
The basic cohort consisted of ten centuria or 480 men, not counting officers, but the first cohort of a legion was double strength. For information on the ancient Roman military see UNRV History. The Roman cohort was stationed in the Tower of Antonia, a fortress at the northwest corner of the Temple Mount. Herod the Great built the tower in A.D. 6 and named it in honor of his patron Mark Antony. The tower of Antonia served as an official residence for the Roman procurators when in Jerusalem and had sufficient space to accommodate a Roman cohort. These soldiers were available because as Josephus says,
"a Roman cohort stood over the cloisters of the temple, for they always were armed, and kept guard at the festivals, to prevent any innovation which the multitude thus gathered together might make." (Wars, II, 12:1).
that: Grk. hoti, conj. all: Grk. holos, adj. See the previous verse. Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm. See verse 11 above. was stirred up: Grk. sugcheō, pres. mid. See verse 27 above. The middle voice is akin to the active voice, so "stirred up" seems the best choice (DLNT). A number of versions have "was in confusion" (CEB, ESV, LEB, NASB, NET, RSV, YLT). Other versions opt for a term of stronger reaction of "chaos" or "uproar" (CSB, JUB, KJV, TLB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, OJB, TLV). CJB has "in turmoil," which is an excellent descriptor. In other words there was great disquiet of mind.
As news of the riot at the temple spread through the city the local residents would be immediately troubled that festival pilgrims might take advantage of the situation and do something stupid against the Romans. In that event the whole cohort would be mobilized and a slaughter would ensue. Residents waited nervously to learn the outcome of the Romans getting involved.
32 who at once, having taken along soldiers and centurions, ran down upon them; and having seen the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. at once: Grk. exautēs, adv., at once, immediately, without delay. having taken along: Grk. paralambanō, aor. part. See verse 24 above. soldiers: pl. of Grk. stratiōtēs, soldier in the military sense. The Greek term is broad in scope and included ranks below Centurion. and: Grk. kai, conj. centurions: pl. of Grk. hekatontarchēs (from hekaton, "a hundred," and archō, to rule), commander of a century (Latin centuria), consisting of 80 fighting men (Latin milites) and 20 military servants (Latin calones). A centurion had administrative duties with respect to the soldiers, but more importantly he served as a tactical leader in combat. The plural would mean at least two centurions leading two centuries.
ran down: Grk. katatrechō, aor., to run down. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The verb graphically illustrates the change in elevation from leaving the Tower to reaching Paul. upon: Grk. epi, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. It did not take long for the soldiers to reach the mob. and: Grk. de, conj. having seen: Grk. horaō, pl. aor. part., to perceive physically with the eye. the commander: Grk. ho chiliarchos. See the previous verse. "Seeing the commander" implies that the commander was leading his men from the front. and: Grk. kai, conj. the soldiers: pl. of Grk. ho stratiōtēs. they stopped: Grk. pauō, aor. mid., 3p-pl., engage in cessation of an activity or state; stop, cease.
beating: Grk. tuptō, pl. pres. part., can range in meaning from multiple blows as in 'pummel' to a single strike; here the former. Paul: See verse 4 above. Gill says this beating was what the Jews call, "the rebels' beating," or beating on account of rebellion and obstinacy. A beating with fists differed from whipping or scourging, which was done by the order of a Bet Din. This beating had no legal authority behind it. Seeing the fully armed Roman soldiers with swords and spears would instill fear and take their attention away from Paul.
33 Then having drawn near the commander took hold of him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; and he began inquiring who he might be and what it is he had been doing.
Then: Grk. tote, adv. having drawn near: Grk. engizō, aor. part., come or draw near, approach. the commander: Grk. ho chiliarchos. See verse 31 above. took hold: Grk. epilambanomai, aor. mid. See verse 30 above. of him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and: Grk. kai, conj. ordered: Grk. keleuō, aor., give an authoritative order; command, order. him: Grk. autos. to be bound: Grk. deō, aor. pass. inf. See verse 11 above. with two: Grk. duo, adj., the number two. chains: pl. of Grk. halusis, a chain, specifically used of a manacle or handcuff. Chains were heavy and cumbersome enough to make escape or flight extremely difficult. The two chains would have been used to bind the feet and hands.
and: Grk. kai, conj. he began inquiring: Grk. punthanomai, impf., to inquire for information or to learn as a result of inquiry. who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. he might be: Grk. eimi, pres. opt. and: Grk. kai. what: Grk. tís. it is: Grk. eimi, pres. he had been doing: Grk. poieō, perf. part. See verse 13 above. The commander asks two important questions of the crowd: the name of the man they were beating and the reason they were giving him the beating. The commander would naturally assume that Paul was guilty of some criminal behavior since he was being beaten by his own people.
34 But others in the crowd were shouting a certain thing or another. Now he not being able to know the certainty because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks.
But: Grk. de, conj. others: Grk. allos, adj., used to distinguish from one or more other entities; one, other (of two), another. in: Grk. en, prep. the crowd: Grk. ho ochlos. See verse 27 above. were shouting: Grk. epiphōneō, impf., 3p-pl., to call out, to shout or shout out. a certain thing: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 10 above. or another: Grk. allos. The point of the Greek syntax is that the commander received different answers to his questions. Luke uses a similar description for the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:32). Those in the crowd may not have known Paul or of what he was accused. They had simply reacted out of zeal for the sanctity of the temple and their belief in Paul's guilt.
Now: Grk. de. he: Grk. autos, masc. personal pronoun. not: Grk. mē, adv., negative particle. being able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. part., to be capable of doing or achieving; be able. to know: Grk. ginōskō, aor. inf. See verse 24 above. the certainty: Grk. ho asphalēs, certain, definite, or reliable, related to the information the commander was attempting to learn. because of: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 4 above. the uproar: Grk. ho thorubos, noisy disruptive activity, uproar, clamor or tumult. The noun refers to the decibel level of so many people shouting at the same time. The commander could not hope to conduct an orderly interview and quit trying.
he ordered: Grk. keleuō, aor. See the previous verse. him: Grk. autos; Paul. to be brought: Grk. agō, pres. mid. inf. See verse 16 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. the barracks: Grk. ho parembolē, a spatial or structural arrangement for a group of people engaged in military or related activity. The noun is used here of barracks in the Tower of Antonia that housed Roman soldiers.
35 And when he came upon the stairs, it happened that he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd;
And: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hote, adv. he came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 1 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. the stairs: pl. of Grk. ho anabathmos, a flight of steps or stairs leading up. The noun occurs only in this chapter of the Besekh. it happened that: Grk. sumbainō, aor., take place as an event; happen, come to pass. he: Grk. autos, masc. personal pronoun. was carried: Grk. bastazō, aor., may mean (1) take up something from a position; lift with the hands; (2) sustain a burden; bear, carry; (3) remove from a position; remove, pilfer, steal. The second meaning applies here.
by: Grk. hupo, prep. the soldiers: pl. of Grk. stratiōtēs. See verse 32 above. Paul may have been bodily lifted on the shoulders of a soldier like the modern "firemen's carry" or carried by two soldiers with Paul sitting on a shield. Whatever the method Paul did not walk up the stairs. because of: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 4 above. the violence: Grk. ho bia, strength in violent action; force, strength, violence. of the crowd: Grk. ho ochlos. See verse 27 above. Some versions translate the noun as "mob" in view of their violent actions.
The threat of violence was directed toward Paul, not the Roman soldiers. The daring of this crowd being driven by adrenalin and religious zeal is incredible. They must have been blind to their own danger posed by the cohort. A slaughter could easily have happened if the centurions had believed they were going to be attacked. The commander may be credited with calm crisis management.
36 for the multitude of the people were following, shouting, "Away with him!"
for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 3 above. The conjunction has an explanatory function here. the multitude: Grk. ho plēthos, relatively large number of any kind; multitude, great number. of the people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 28 above. The phrase "multitude of the people" clarifies the reference to the "whole city" in verse 30 above. It is very possible that the Jewish pilgrims from Asia who instigated the riot were in the crowd and influencing their actions. were following: Grk. akoloutheō, impf., 3p-pl., may mean (1) to be in motion in sequence behind someone; (2) to be in close association with someone, especially as a disciple. The first meaning applies here. The crowd stayed close to the band of soldiers bearing Paul.
shouting: Grk. krazō, pl. pres. part. See verse 28 above. Away: Grk. airō, pres. impf. See verse 11 above. The verb is used in the idiomatic sense of to take from among the living. with him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; Paul. The mob clearly wanted Paul dead, so they entreated the Romans to do the deed. Bruce notes that the verbal entreaty "Away with him" was the same shout with which Yeshua's death had been demanded not far from this location twenty-seven years before (Luke 23:18; John 19:15).
Paul's Appeal, 21:37-40
37 And being about to be brought into the barracks, Paul said to the commander, "Is it permitted to me to say something to you?" And he was saying, "You know Greek!"
And: Grk. te, conj. being about: Grk. mellō, pres. part. See verse 27 above. to be brought: Grk. eisagō, pres. pass. inf. See verse 28 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. the barracks: Grk. ho parabole. See verse 34 above. Paul: See verse 4 above. said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 4 above. to the commander: Grk. ho chiliarchos. See verse 31 above. Is it permitted: Grk. exesti, pres., it is allowable, lawful, permitted, right, or possible. to me: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. to say: Grk. legō, aor. inf. See verse 4 above. something: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. to: Grk. pros, prep. you: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. Paul approached the commander in a respectful manner and addressed him in Greek.
And: Grk. de, conj. he was saying: Grk. phēmi, impf. (from phaō, "shine, bring to light"), to convey one's thinking through verbal communication, say, declare. The subject of the verb is the commander. You know: Grk. ginōskō, pres. See verse 24 above. Greek: Grk. Hellēnisti, in Greek mode or in Greek language. The noun occurs only twice in the Besekh (also John 19:20). Greek was spread throughout the world by the conquest of Alexander the Great and his successors in the 4th-3rd centuries BC. After the Greek conquest the language was dubbed "Koine" ("common") because of being freely used and understood throughout the world. While Latin was the official language of the Roman government, Greek was the language of commerce.
Most all versions translate "you know Greek" as a question. However, the Greek verb and grammar indicate the commander made a declarative statement. A few versions reflect this point of view (CJB, MSG, Moffatt). The commander's statement does demonstrate surprise. Apparently he did not think Paul to be fluent in Greek and expected him to speak Aramaic or perhaps even Egyptian, considering his following comment. The commander was unaware that Paul himself possessed the gift of languages (cf. 1Cor 12:10; 14:18).
38 You are not then the Egyptian who before these days having stirred up sedition and having led out into the wilderness four thousand men of the Assassins."
You: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 13 above. The negative particle actually begins the Greek sentence and in that position it could be used interrogatively if an affirmative answer was expected. Most versions translate the statement as a question. Instead, the commander presents this comment as a conclusion he has reached on the basis of Paul's fluency in Greek and expects a negative response from Paul. A few versions recognize the sentence as declarative rather than interrogatory (ERV, EXB, ICB, MSG, NCV, VOICE, WE).
then: Grk. ara, conj., a marker of inference based on a preceding assertion or fact, but in this case something only existing in the mind; so, then. the Egyptian: Grk. ho Aiguptios, adj., a native of Egypt. "The Egyptian" is a reference to a historical figure. who: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. before: Grk. pro, prep. indicating precedence, either (1) spatially, 'ahead, before,' (2) temporally, 'earlier than, before' or (3) in rank, before or above. The second usage applies here. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 9 above. days: pl. of ho hēmera. See verse 4 above. The phrase "before these days" is a generalizing reference to about AD 54, three years earlier.
having stirred up sedition: Grk. anastatoō, aor. part., upset the stability of an entity; properly to turn something over, up to down; agitate, disturb, upset, unsettle. The verb is found nowhere in secular Greek literature, but it is found in the LXX of Daniel 7:23 for Aram. akal (SH-399), to eat or devour. The insurrection of the Egyptian against Roman rule was reported by Josephus (Antiquities, XX, 8:6; Wars, II, 13:5). The Egyptian was a self-proclaimed prophet who gained 30,000 followers. The uprising was crushed by the Procurator Felix, but the Egyptian escaped.
and: Grk. kai, conj. having led out: Grk. exagō, aor. part., to bring, lead or take out. into: Grk. eis, prep. the wilderness: Grk. ho erēmos, may mean (1) unpopulated, lonely; (2) deserted; or (3) desolate as a state of loneliness. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX erēmos often renders Heb. midbar (SH-4057), which refers to tracts of land used for pasturage or uninhabited land (BDB 484), first in Genesis 14:6. Bible versions are divided between translating the noun as "desert" and "wilderness." As a geographical reference the term probably refers to the area west of the Dead Sea known as the Wilderness of Judea. Those that led rebellions against the Romans often retreated to the wilderness for sanctuary.
four thousand: Grk. ho tetrakischilioi, adj., the numerical quantity of four thousand. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 11 above. of the Assassins: pl. of Grk. ho sikarios (from Latin sica, a dagger), one who carries a dagger or short sword under his clothing, that he may secretly kill someone; an assassin, murderer, or bandit. The assassins are identified in Josephus as the Sicarii (Ant., XX, 8:10). The Sicarii were murderous thugs that killed individuals targeted during festivals and plundered small villages of their enemies. Bruce assumes that the number given by Luke rebuts the claim of Josephus that the Egyptian had 30,000 followers. However, Luke and Josephus simply report different facts. The 4,000 Sicarii should be included in the 30,000. The Sicarii were more memorable to the Roman commander than the deluded people who followed the Egyptian false prophet.
39 But Paul said, "Indeed, I am a man, a traditional Jew of Tarsus of Cilicia, a citizen of not an insignificant city. Now I beg you, allow me to speak to the people."
But: Grk. de, conj. Paul: See verse 4 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 4 above. Paul proceeds to say three things about himself. Indeed: Grk. mén, conj., a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. I: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. a man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 28 above. Many versions do not translate the noun. For Paul to state the obvious might seem irrelevant. It is unlikely the Roman commander would mistake Paul for a female. Rather, Paul knows that Romans generally held antisemitic attitudes toward Jews. As a man created in the image of God Paul views himself as equal to the Roman commander and asks for respect.
a traditional Jew: Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 11 above. This is an important statement since some Christian commentators have alleged that Paul was influenced by Hellenism. Rather Paul was raised in an orthodox Jewish family, educated by a leading Pharisee Sage and lived by conservative Jewish values. See the Additional Note on verse 24 above. of Tarsus: Grk. Tarseus (from Grk. Tarsos), of Tarsus, belonging to Tarsus, a Tarsian. of Cilicia: Grk. Kilikia, a province of Asia Minor, bounded on the north by Cappadocia, on the south by the Mediterranean, on the east by Syria, and on the west by Pamphylia. Cilicia was part of the Roman province of Syria. Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia, a maritime city situated about ten miles inland from the Mediterranean coast.
a citizen: Grk. politēs (from polis, "city") may mean (1) an inhabitant of any city or country; or (2) the associate of another in citizenship, i.e. a fellow-citizen, fellow-countryman (Thayer). The first meaning is intended here in the sense of a native. Paul was born in Tarsus. Almost all versions translate the noun as "citizen," which in modern times implies a legal standing with rights. Politēs should not be confused with the term Paul will use to explain his Roman citizenship in 22:28.
of not: Grk. ou, adv. an insignificant: Grk. asēmos, adj., something unmarked, used idiomatically to mean unremarkable, insignificant, or unimportant. Paul employs the adjective as an understatement. city: Grk. polis. See verse 5 above. 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. See the map and history of Tarsus here.
Now: Grk. de. I beg: Grk. deomai, pres. mid., direct a request with focus on appeal for assistance, the nature of which is nuanced by the context; ask, beg, beseech, petition, pray, plead, request. In the LXX deomai translates four Hebrew words, generally meaning to beg, beseech, or entreat for favor, whether from a ruler or from God (DNTT 2:860). you: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. allow: Grk. epitrepō, aor. imp., grant opportunity for an activity; permit, allow. me: Grk. egō. to speak: Grk. laleō, aor. inf., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 11 above. the people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 28 above.
Paul wanted the opportunity to explain himself. He had been accused of a serious crime and he had rights under Jewish law to a hearing. None of the temple leaders, who were ex officio members of the Sanhedrin, had intervened and so Paul realized he was going to be denied a fair trial. He thought his best option would be to appeal directly to the people.
40 Then having given permission, he Paul, having stood on the stairs, motioned with his hand to the people; and a great silence having taken place, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,
Then: Grk. de, conj. having given permission: Grk. epitrepō, aor. part. See the previous verse. he: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Paul: See verse 4 above. having stood: Grk. histēmi, perf. part., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; or (2) be in an upright position, used of bodily posture. The second meaning applies here. on: Grk. epi, prep. the stairs: pl. of Grk. ho anabathmos. See verse 35 above. motioned with: Grk. kataseiō, aor., a gesturing motion, probably with a staccato waving motion for attention; beckon, gesture, motion. The verb occurs only four times in the Besekh, all in Acts, and three of which in reference to Paul (Acts 13:16; 19:33).
his hand: Grk. ho cheir. See verse 11 above. to the people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 28 above. and: Grk. de, conj. a great: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, indicating a high degree in quantity or quality, here the latter. silence: Grk. sigē, silence. Thayer refers to the noun as a deep silence. The sudden silence of the entire crowd contrasts sharply with the previous loud clamor and shouting. having taken place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 1 above. he addressed them: Grk. prosphōneō, aor., call out with a message; address.
in the Hebrew: Grk. ho Hebrais (fem. of Hebraios, "Hebrew"), the Hebrew language (BAG). The noun occurs three times in the Besekh, all in Acts (22:2; 26:14). Hebrais also occurs in 4Macc 12:7; and 16:15 for the Hebrew language spoken by Israelites. Josephus uses Hebraios and Hebraikos to designate the Hebrew language (Ant. Book I, 1:1-2; 20:2). A number of versions translate the noun as "Aramaic" or have a footnote suggesting "Aramaic." Some Christian commentators also assume Luke meant "Aramaic" (Barnes, Bruce, Longenecker, Lumby, Marshall, Nicoll). The majority of versions translate the noun correctly as "Hebrew." language: Grk. dialektos, a pattern of verbal articulation or coherent language peculiar to any people; dialect, language.
As far as can be determined from the Tanakh, the only language God ever used to speak to His people was Hebrew. Actually, archaeological evidence and the texts of early Jewish writings (especially the LXX) suggest that Greek was much more prevalent than Aramaic. We should consider that the Greek word for "Aramaic" is Suristi (LXX 2Kgs 18:26; Ezra 4:7; Isa 36:11; Dan 2:4), not Hebrais. If Luke had intended to say "Aramaic" he would have used Suristi, not Hebrais. The Talmud has a declaration that contradicts the assumption of Christian scholars, "Why use the Syrian language in the land of Israel? Either use the holy tongue or Greek!" (Sotah 49b).
A number of scholars have presented strong evidence that Yeshua and the apostles spoke conversational Hebrew (Bivin, Flusser, Hamp, Lindsey, Stern, and Tverberg). David Flusser (1917-2000), Orthodox Jewish scholar at Hebrew University, had said,
"It is possible that Jesus did, from time to time, make use of the Aramaic language. But during that period Hebrew was both the daily language and the language of study. The Gospel of Mark contains a few Aramaic words, and this is what has misled scholars….There is thus no ground for assuming that Jesus did not speak Hebrew; and when we are told (Acts 21:40) that Paul spoke Hebrew, we should take this piece of information at face value" (11).
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 4 above. Paul's speech is recorded in the next chapter.
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.
Barker: William P. Barker, Everyone In the Bible. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.
Bivin: David Bivin, New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007
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. Rev. ed. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1988. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Casson: Lionel Casson, "Speed under Sail of Ancient Ships," Transactions of the American Philological Association, Vol. 82, New York University, 1951. Online.
Chrysostom: John Chrysostom (347-407), Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles. Oxford Edition. trans. J. Walker, et. al. (Online)
Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762–1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. 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.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Dorotheus: Dorotheus (255-362), Bishop of Tyre, The Choosing of the Seventy Holy Apostles. Online.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Temple: It's Ministry and Services (1874). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994. Online.
Ellicott: Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905), Commentary for English Readers (1878). Online.
Flusser: David Flusser, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, Adama Books, 1987.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
Gloag: Paton James Gloag (1823-1906), A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Acts of the Apostles. 2 vols. T&T Clark, 1870. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
Hamp: Douglas Hamp, Discovering the Language of Jesus: Hebrew or Aramaic? CreateSpace, 2005.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.
Hippolytus: Hippolytus of Rome (170-236), On the Seventy Apostles. Online.
ISBE: James Orr, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1939. Website HTML, 2011. Online.
Jones: David Albert Jones, Infant Male Circumcision: A Catholic Theological and Bioethical Analysis. Linacre Quarterly, 85(1): 49–62; 2018. Online.
Juster: Daniel Juster, Jewish Roots: Understanding Your Jewish Faith, Rev. ed., Destiny Image Pub., 2013.
Lane: William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1974. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Liberman: Joel Liberman, The Acts of the Emissaries: Practical Sermons on the Spirit-filled Birth & Explosive Growth of Messianic Judaism. Tree of Life, Inc., 2014.
Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations upon the Acts, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), Vol. 4. Hendrickson Pub., 1989. Online.
Lindsey: Robert L. Lindsey, Jesus Rabbi & Lord: The Hebrew Story of Jesus Behind Our Gospels, Cornerstone Publishing, 1990.
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
Lindsey: Robert L. Lindsey, Jesus Rabbi & Lord: The Hebrew Story of Jesus Behind Our Gospels, Cornerstone Publishing, 1990.
Longenecker: Richard D. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 9, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
Lumby: J. Rawson Lumby, Acts, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge University Press, 1891. 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 Yeshua and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters. B & H Academic, 1999.
Ramsay: Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939), St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 10th ed., Hodder & Stoughton, 1907. Online.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vol. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Schonfield: Hugh J. Schonfield (1901-1988), The History of Jewish Christianity (1936). Vine of David, 2008. Online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Tarn & Griffith: Sir William Tarn and 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.
Tverberg: Lois Tverberg, Listening to the Language of the Bible. En-Gedi Resource Center, 2004.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Vincent: Marvin R. Vincent (1834-1922), The Word Studies in the New Testament. 4 vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1886. Online.
Wright: N.T. Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part Two: Chapters 13-28 (The New Testament for Everyone). Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.
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