Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 28 August 2021; Revised 9 July 2022
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 A.D. 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.
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 Introduction to Acts for background information on Luke and the book of Acts. For a suggested timeline of Acts see the dating chart of George Edmundson. All dates given for the narrative of Acts are estimates.
Chapter Twenty-Eight concludes the narrative of Paul's voyage from Caesarea to Rome. See the map of the journey here. Very soon the travelers discovered that they had shipwrecked on the island of Malta. The natives showed kindness by kindling a fire and welcoming them. Soon thereafter Paul was bitten by a snake and the natives thought him to be a murderer who was receiving justice. When he did not die the pagan natives thought Paul must be a "god."
Then, Publius, a leading citizen of the island, received and provided hospitality to the travelers for three days. The father of Publius was sick. Paul prayed for the man and he was healed. Others on the island with diseases then came and were healed. During their stay on Malta the islanders honored Paul and his companions in many ways and provided necessities for them.
During this time an Alexandrian ship had arrived at Malta and wintered there. After three months Paul and his companions with the military escort sailed on the Alexandrian ship to Syracuse, Sicily, then to Rhegium, Italy, and then to Puteoli, a city on the Bay of Naples. Paul found brethren at Puteoli and was permitted to stay with them for seven days. Word spread to Rome among disciples of Paul's arrival and so as they traveled along, brethren met them, which gave much encouragement to Paul. Upon arrival at Rome, the centurion permitted Paul to dwell in private quarters with a soldier who guarded him.
After three days, Paul invited the Jewish leaders in Rome to meet with them. Paul repeated the charges against him but asserted that he had done nothing against their people. The Jewish leaders told Paul that they had not received any information of these matters and wanted to hear more from him about the Messianic movement. The Jewish leaders met Paul again at his place of lodging at another arranged time. For an entire day Paul proclaimed the kingdom of God, trying to persuade them concerning Yeshua. Some were persuaded but some would not believe. The Jewish leaders departed, having a great dispute among themselves about Paul's teaching.
Paul was allowed to rent his own home for two years, as he continued under house arrest and awaited a formal hearing before Caesar Nero. During that time he received many visitors and continued to proclaim the kingdom of God as fulfilled in Yeshua the Messiah. Luke did not record the outcome of the hearing before Caesar, but Paul was released at the end of the two years.
Safe at Malta, 28:1-6
Healing on Malta, 28:7-10
From Malta to Rome, 28:11-16
Meeting with Jewish Leaders, 28:17-22
Proclamation of Yeshua, 28:23-28
November A.D. 59
Rome: Caesar Nero (AD 54-68)
Procurator of Judaea: Porcius Festus (AD 59-61)
High Priest in Jerusalem: Ishmael b. Phiabi II (AD 58-61)
Safe at Malta, 28:1-6
1 And having been saved, then we learned that the island was called Malta.
And: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. having been saved: Grk. diasōzō, pl. aor. pass. part., "save thoroughly," to bring someone through danger and into a safe condition (HELPS). All 276 passengers of the destroyed Alexandrian ship made it safely to the beach, some swimming and others floating on ship debris (27:43-44).
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. we learned: Grk. epiginōskō, aor., 1p-pl., "know about," here referring to familiarity with something through receipt of information. that: Grk. hoti, conj., that, because; used here to introduce a subordinate clause as complementary of the verb "learned." the island: Grk. nēsos (from neō, "to swim"), properly "floating land," a tract of land surrounded by water, but not large enough to be considered a continent; island. An island is simply the tip of a mountain mostly covered by water (cf. Gen 7:19-20; Jon 2:6).
was called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass., to identify by name or give a term to; call. Malta: Grk. Melitē, Melita ("honey"), the name of an island in the Mediterranean, lying between Africa and Sicily, now called Malta. See the map here. Malta is the largest of the three major islands that constitute the Maltese archipelago. Malta is in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, 80 miles south of Sicily and 170 miles south of Italy. The island is 17 miles long and 10 miles wide, with a total area of 95 sq. miles. Prior to the first century Malta was successively ruled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans. At this time Malta was a dependency of the Roman province of Sicily (Cicero, In Verr. IV. 18).
As Luke noted in 27:39, the sailors had not recognized the beach toward which they sailed. St. Paul's Bay, as the location of the shipwreck was later named, is remote from the great harbor of Malta into which ships commonly sailed, and possesses no marked features by which it could be recognized (Smith 140). Thus, crew and passengers gained information of their location from local residents.
2 Also the natives were showing not the ordinary kindness to us; for having kindled a fire they received all of us because of the rain coming on and because of the cold.
Also: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; and, also, both. the natives: pl. of Grk. ho barbaros, one to whom a pure Greek dialect is not native and one who had not adopted Greek culture; "barbarian" as a pejorative term in Athens. This does not mean that the residents of Malta did not speak a dialect of Greek, otherwise there would be no possibility of communication between Paul and the locals. Ellicott comments that the language of Malta at the time, if not absolutely Punic (the language of ancient Carthage, a form of late Phoenician), was probably a very bastard Greek. The inscriptions which have been found in the island are in the Greek and Latin, but these were used as official languages by the rulers.
were showing: Grk. parechō, impf., 3p-pl., to cause something to be present for the other, to bring about or to furnish. not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. the ordinary: Grk. ho tugchanō, aor. part., lit. "hit the mark" (HELPS), here meaning receiving that which is common, ordinary or everyday. Thus "not ordinary" equals exceptional or special. kindness: Grk. philanthrōpia, affection that is characteristic of one who cares for people, kindness. to us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The natives went beyond what might be customarily expected of treatment of strangers.
for: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has an explanatory function here. having kindled: Grk. haptō, pl. aor. part., lit. "make contact with or fasten to," here meaning to cause to be in a burning state. a fire: Grk. pura, a pile of burning fuel, fire. they received: Grk. proslambanō, aor. mid., 3p-pl., to take to oneself, often with strong personal interest. The verb implies both shelter and hospitality. In ancient times there were no motels for travelers. Homeowners with a spare bed or unused space would make it available to travelers. Warmth, above all things, was needful for those who had been chilled and drenched (Ellicott).
all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. of us: Grk. hēmeis. The plural pronoun presumptively includes all 276 persons from the ship. because: 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 second usage applies here. of the rain: Grk. ho huetos, liquid precipitation, rain. The rain followed naturally on the cessation of the gale. coming on: Grk. ho ephistēmi, perf. part., to come or stand near, being present. and: Grk. kai. because: Grk. dia. of the cold: Grk. ho psuchos, condition of coldness. Ellicott notes that the "cold" shows that the wind was not the Sirocco, which is always accompanied by heat.
3 Now Paul having gathered a certain quantity of sticks and having laid them on the fire, a viper having come from the heat fastened on his hand.
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. The conjunction points to a time after the rain when fuel piles for fires would need to be renewed.
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. Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia to traditional Jewish parents of the tribe of Benjamin and given the Hebrew name Sha'ul (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3; Php 3:5). The name Paulus was probably taken from the patron who made Roman citizenship possible for Paul's father or grandfather (see Acts 22:28). 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 the fact that the apostle never 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, which also has Sha'ul, 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."
having gathered: Grk. sustrephō (from sún, "with," and strephō, "to turn"), aor. part., form a unit, thus to gather together. a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. This pronoun is often used to distinguish someone of consequence in contrast to others, or to denote a collective commonality of those in a group, as here. Most versions don't translate the pronoun. quantity: Grk. plēthos, a relatively large number of any kind; multitude, great number, quantity. Many versions translate the noun as "bundle."
of sticks: pl. of Grk. phruganon, a dry stick. Generally in the plural this word comprises all dry sticks, brush-wood, fire-wood, or similar material used as fuel (Thayer). The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Some critics of Luke's narrative have disputed the identification of the island as Malta, since there is now no wood to be found in the island except at one spot, and not anywhere near St. Paul's Bay. Ellicott explains:
"The Greek word [phruganon], however, is applied to the dry stalks of herbaceous plants rather than to the branches of trees, and, as such, exactly describes the stout, thorny heather that still grows near the bay. It is clear, however, apart from this, that the people of Malta did not live without fire, and, not having coal, must therefore have had wood of some kind as fuel."
For Paul to engage in gathering brushwood demonstrates a willing spirit to be helpful as he had on the ship. This gathering activity implies a certain amount of freedom. His military guard must have removed the chains (see verse 20 below) to allow the physical activity. With Paul's example perhaps the soldiers directed the other prisoners to also gather brushwood.
and: Grk. kai, conj. having laid them: Grk. epitithēmi, aor. part., to put, place or lay upon or transfer to. on: Grk. epi, prep., with the root meaning of "upon," used primarily as a marker of position or location; and in composition may be translated 'at, by, near, on, upon, or over.' the fire: Grk. ho pura. See the previous verse. a viper: Grk. echidna, a poisonous snake, a viper or adder. The noun does not occur in the LXX, but is a loanword in rabbinic writings (BAG). having come: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out.
from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, here denoting a point of origin; from. the heat: Grk. ho thermē, a relatively high degree of warmth or the condition or quality of being hot; heat. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Nicoll observes, "the viper numbed by the cold felt the sudden heat, and was restored to activity." fastened on: Grk. kathaptō, aor., take a firm hold of, fasten on to. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh.
his: 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. hand: Grk. ho cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. The verbal clause implies the fangs of the snake had punctured Paul's hand. Barnes comments regarding the verb "fastened:"
"It might have been by coiling around his hand and arm, or by fastening its fangs in his hand. It is not expressly affirmed that Paul was bitten by the viper, yet it is evidently implied; and it is wholly incredible that a viper, unless miraculously prevented, should fasten himself to the hand without biting."
Just as some critics have disputed the identification of the island as Malta because of the lack of trees, so the same critics point out that there are now no poisonous snakes on Malta. Ramsay comments,
"The objections which have been advanced, that there are now no vipers in the island, and only one place where any wood grows, are too trivial to deserve notice. Such changes are natural and probable in a small island, populous and long civilized." (195)
Smith also says,
"Upon this point I would merely observe that no person who has studied the changes which the operations of man have produced on the Fauna (animals) of any country will be surprised that a particular species of reptiles should have disappeared from that of Malta." (151)
4 Then when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, "Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, whom having been saved out of the sea, Justice has not allowed to live."
Then: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hōs, adv. used to express comparison, time, purpose, or consequence; here of time. the natives: pl. of Grk. barbaros, adj. See verse 2 above. saw: Grk. horaō, aor., 3p-pl., to perceive physically with the eye, as well as to see with the mind (inward perception). the creature: Grk. ho thērion, (dim. form of thēr, "beast of prey"), beast or wild animal; i.e. not domesticated and therefore unclean. hanging: Grk. kremannumi, pres. mid. part., to hang, hang up or suspend. The verb occurs seven times in the Besekh, four of which pertain to a method of capital punishment, and its use here hints at the deduction of the observing natives.
from: Grk. ek, prep., may be used to denote derivation or separation, here the former; from, out of, out from among. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. hand: Grk. ho cheir. See the previous verse. The observation of the natives does not mean that Paul walked around with a snake latched on his hand for a period of time as if he were a pet. The entire sequence of events described in verses 3 through 5 would have lasted only a few minutes at most.
they began saying: Grk. legō, impf., 3p-pl., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, here orally, and often used to introduce quoted material as here. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110), to, towards, with. Here the preposition denotes being in company with others and speaking face to face. one another: Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun, one another, each other.
Undoubtedly: Grk. pantōs, adv. expressing a decisive reaction to some matter or event expressed in context; altogether, by all means, certainly, undoubtedly. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it, this. 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).
is: Grk. eimi, pres., 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). a murderer: Grk. phoneus, one who commits unjustified intentional homicide, a violation of the sixth commandment. The natives saw that Paul was chained to a Roman soldier and would naturally assume that Paul was guilty of a capital crime. Having been bitten by a viper the natives assumed Paul must be guilty of the worst crime, that of murder.
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. having been saved: Grk. diasōzō, aor. part. See verse 1 above. out of: Grk. ek. the sea: Grk. ho thalassa, the sea, is used of both oceanic and inland bodies of water, whether salt or fresh. In the English language 'sea' normally refers to a body of salt water and 'lake' to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. The term has the local meaning of the Adriatic Sea (Acts 27:27).
Justice: Grk. ho dikē, right or justice, properly, right, especially a judicial verdict which declares someone approved or disapproved (HELPS). The term is used in classical Greek for a legal decision, a recompense based on justice. In the LXX dikē translates primarily two terms: (1) Heb. word group naqam (SH-5358, 5359), to avenge, exact punishment, vengeance (Ex 21:20; Lev 26:25; Deut 32:41); and (2) Heb. rîb (SH-7379), dispute, a case at law, lawsuit (Job 29:16; Ps 35:23; 43:1; 74:22; 140:12; Prov 22:23; Lam 3:58; Mic 7:9).
Here the noun is personified as a deity. In Greek literature the term dikē was personified as Justitia, the daughter of Zeus and an avenging goddess by Hesiod (c. 750 BC), in his work Theogany (902), and Aeschylus ( c. 525 – 456 BC), in his work Seven Against Thebes (662). The term also appears in Jewish literature as a circumlocution for God as divine justice (Wis. 1:8; 4Macc. 4:13, 21; 8:13, 21; 9:9; 11:3; 12:12; 18:22; Philo, Flaccus §XVIII.146; XXI.189).
has not: Grk. ou, adv. allowed: Grk. eaō, aor., let alone. The basic idea is the removal of a real or perceived impediment to a desired action; let something happen or take place; allow, permit, let. to live: Grk. zaō, pres. inf., be in the state of being physically alive. Being bitten by a poisonous snake was guaranteed to produce death. Gill comments that the notion might occur among the natives that a murderer that could not be legally convicted was sometimes punished in this manner.
Unknown to the pagans on Malta is that God had sent a plague of snakes on Israel in the wilderness for grumbling (Num 21:6; Deut 8:15; 1Cor 10:9), and in the time of Jeremiah predicted a plague of snakes, symbolic of the Babylonians, on Israel in His judgment for idolatry and harlotry (Jer 8:17). Bruce cites an anecdote in the Greek Palatine Anthology (7:290) that tells of a man who escaped from a storm at sea and was shipwrecked on the Libyan coast, only to be killed by a viper (498).
5 Then the one indeed having shaken off the creature into the fire, he suffered no harm.
Then: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with the narrative immediately preceding; "so, therefore, consequently, then." the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun; i.e., Paul. indeed: Grk. mén, conj., a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. having shaken off: Grk. apotinassō (from apo, "away from," and tinassō, "to shake, brandish"), aor. part., to shake off.
In the LXX apotinassō occurs only three times and translates three different words: (1) Heb. na'ar (SH-5287), to shake, shake out or off (Jdg 16:20; Lam 2:7); (2) Heb. natash (SH-5203), to leave, forsake, loosen (1Sam 10:2); and (3) Heb. naar (SH-5010), to abhor, abandon, spurn (Lam 2:7). the creature: Grk. ho thērion. See the previous verse. into: Grk. eis, prep., with the root meaning of "in, within," literally, "motion into which" implying penetration ("into," "unto," "union") to a particular purpose or result (HELPS). The preposition denotes the direction of the shaking off.
the fire: Grk. ho pur, fire, as a physical state of burning. he suffered: Grk. paschō, aor., to experience something, but often with a negative connotation in association with physical pain or ill treatment; suffer. no: 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. harm: Grk. kakos, adj., bad, evil, and used here to mean causing harm, with the focus on personal or physical injury.
Luke depicts Paul was quite composed in what he did, and that the viper was no cause of alarm to him. After all, Yeshua had promised him that he would go to Rome, so the attack of the viper, while interesting, posed no real threat. In one sense the bite of the viper represented a spiritual attack. Satan is depicted in Scripture as a serpent (Gen 3:1; 2Cor 11:3; Rev 12:9; 20:2) and demonic entities as snakes (Luke 10:19). Henry Morris classifies the lack of harm from the snake bite as a providential miracle in which there was an acceleration of the healing process in the body (BBMS 473). Morris also views this incident as a fulfillment of the promise Yeshua made to his disciples (Mark 16:18) that they would take up or handle snakes without harm (DSB). This promise was for protection, not for show.
6 And they were expecting him to be about to become swollen or suddenly to fall down dead. Then upon a long time of them waiting and seeing nothing harmful happening to him, having changed their minds they began declaring him to be a god.
And: Grk. de, conj. they: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun, lit. "the ones," in reference to the pagan natives. were expecting: Grk. prosdokaō, impf., 3p-pl., be on alert for; expect, wait for, look for. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to be about: Grk. mellō, pres. inf., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to. to become swollen: Grk. pimprēmi, pres. pass. inf., fill full of; become inflamed or swollen. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The natives certainly expected to see a physical reaction to the snake bite. Redness, swelling, and severe pain can occur from a dry bite in which no venom is injected.
or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote (1) an alternative, 'or,' or (2) a comparative function, 'than.' suddenly: Grk. aphnō, adv., of a sudden, unawares, unexpectedly. The adverb implies a relative time period of minutes, not hours or days. to fall down: Grk. katapiptō (from kata, "against, down," and piptō, to fall"), pres. inf., fall down, fall prostrate. dead: Grk. nekros may be used as (1) a noun, corpse or (2) adj., without life in the physical sense, being dead; here the latter. Sudden death could result if the viper employed neurotoxic venom, which acts quickly to attack the nervous system, resulting in paralysis, starting at the head, moving down the body until the diaphragm is paralyzed and the person can't breathe.
Then: Grk. de. upon: Grk. epi, prep. a long time: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, whether of quantity ("many") or quality ("much"), here the former in a temporal sense. of them: m. pl. of Grk. autos. waiting: Grk. prosdokaō, pl. pres. part. The natives who witnessed the snake bite and had no remedy for this injury could only wait and lament his misfortune. and: Grk. kai, conj. seeing: Grk. theōreō, pl. pres. part., to look at or gaze; observing, seeing. The verb indicates that the natives maintained an active analytical observation.
nothing: Grk. mēdeis, adj. (from mē, "not" and heis, "one"), not even one, nothing, none. The adjective constitutes an emphatic denial. harmful: Grk. atopos, adj. (from a, "not," and topos, "place"), amiss, improper, out of place, strange. In this context the adjective has the practical meaning of "harmful" (Thayer, AMPC). happening: Grk. ginomai, pl. pres. mid. part., to become, and here equivalent to come to pass or happen, used of historical events or something happening to someone; take place, happen, occur, arise. to: Grk. eis, prep. him: Grk. autos. The natives were amazed when they saw no evidence of swelling or paralysis.
having changed their minds: Grk. metaballō, pl. aor. mid. part., make a turn around, used here metaphorically of a change in opinion. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The verb indicates that the natives abandoned their previous assumption that Paul must be a murderer. they began declaring: Grk. legō, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 4 above. him: Grk. autos. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 4 above. a god: Grk. theos, God or god, here the latter. HELPS notes that long before the Besekh was written, theos referred to the supreme being who owns and sustains all things. In secular Greek writings pagan deities were always represented in anthropomorphic form.
Ancient cultures believed in many gods ("polytheism") and thus they did not believe in one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe as described in Scripture. This is the second time that pagans thought Paul to be a god (Acts 14:12), although here they don't presume a specific deity. Rather, to survive the snake bite implies that Paul must be a supranatural being. On this occasion, however, there is no indication the natives engaged in an act of worship as happened previously, but Paul probably rebuked the assumption if it was spoken in his hearing.
Healing on Malta, 28:7-10
7 Now in the areas around that place were lands belonging to the chief of the island, named Publius, who having welcomed us hospitably entertained three days.
Now: Grk. de, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. the areas: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. around: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; about, concerning, around. that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there. place: Grk. ho topos, a spatial area, generally used of a geographical area, especially an inhabited place, as a city, village, or district.
were: Grk. huparchō, impf., 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. lands: pl. of Grk. chōrion (the diminutive of chōra, "a field"), a limited parcel, a part of a larger area; a confined piece of ground; a definite portion of space that is viewed as enclosed, or complete in itself (HELPS). belonging to the chief: Grk. ho prōtos, adj., having to do with beforeness, here standing out in significance or importance; chief, principal. The title was the equivalent of governor (Ellicott) or chief magistrate (Meyer).
of the island: Grk. ho nēsos. See verse 1 above. named: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. Publius: Grk. Poplios, the Greek spelling of the Roman name Publius. His name appears only in this chapter, but nothing more is known of him. Later church tradition identified him as bishop of the island (Nicoll). who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. having welcomed: Grk. anadechomai, aor. part., to undertake or take upon oneself, receive, welcome.
us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The omission of "all" (verse 2 above) suggests the pronoun is limited to Paul, Luke, Aristarchus and the centurion Julius (Ellicott). Nicoll suggests that Publius may well have been officially responsible for the needs of the Roman soldiers and their prisoners. hospitably: Grk. philophronōs, adv., courteously, kindly, in a friendly manner. HELPS adds "acting from a mind-set of personal affection." The term occurs only here in the Besekh.
entertained: Grk. xenizō, aor., to receive as a guest, entertain hospitably. The verb implies the provision of lodging. three: Grk. treis, adj., the numeral three, a cardinal number. 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. This short stay may have only been until quarters could be arranged in the capital for the centurion and Paul's band.
8 And it happened the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with fevers and dysentery; toward whom Paul having entered and prayed, having laid hands on him, healed him.
And: Grk. de, conj. it happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 6 above. The verb implies the passage of some time since the three days mentioned in the previous verse. the father: Grk. ho patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av") (SH-1), father, either as an individual, head of household or ancestor, first in Genesis 2:24. of Publius: Grk. ho Poplios. See the previous verse. was lying in bed: Grk. katakeimai, pres. mid. inf.. be in a reclining posture, to be abed, afflicted with: Grk. sunechō (from sun, "with," and echō, "to hold"), pres. mid. part., to hold fast, here meaning to be seized by or afflicted with sickness.
Smith notes that in speaking of the mother-in-law of Simon Peter, who was taken with a great fever (Luke 4:38), Luke uses the same form of the verb (sunechomenon) in the same sense as the Greek writers do (155). fevers: pl. of Grk. puretos, fiery heat, fever. The plural form is intensive indicating either continuous or elevated in temperature. Smith also notes that Hippocrates (460-370 BC), the great Greek physician, used puretos, fevers, in the plural (Epidemics 3) (155).
and: Grk. kai, conj. dysentery: Grk. dusenterion, a bowel-complaint, dysentery. Dysentery is an infectious disease marked by inflammation and ulceration of the lower part of the bowels, accompanied by bloody diarrhea. The infection may be caused by either the bacteria Shigella or the amoeba Entamoeba histolytica. The infection could easily spread in ancient times (and modern times!) from food preparation because Gentiles did not typically wash their hands on a regular basis. In contrast Jews were very conscientious about hand-washing (Mark 7:3).
toward: Grk. pros, prep. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 3 above. having entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. part., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. Paul entered the room of the sick man, no doubt by invitation. and: Grk. kai. prayed: Grk. proseuchomai, 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, here the ailments already mentioned.
having laid: Grk. epitithēmi, aor. part. See verse 3 above. hands: pl. of Grk. ho cheir. See verse 3 above. on him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. healed: Grk. iaomai, aor., to produce a physical cure, heal. him: Grk. autos. The afflictions of fever and dysentery were eliminated completely. Yeshua healed many people by touching them with his hands (Mark 6:5; 8:23, 25; Luke 4:40; 5:13; 14:4; 22:51). Laying on of hands, as well as anointing with oil, was a common method of healing (Mark 5:23; 7:32; 16:18; Jas 5:14-15).
9 Then this having happened, also the rest of those on the island having diseases were coming and being healed.
Then: Grk. de, conj. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, which refers back to the healing of Publius' father. having happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 6 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. the rest: pl. of Grk. ho loipos, adj., remaining of what's left, other, rest of. of those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. on: Grk. en, prep. the island: Grk. ho nēsos. See verse 1 above. having: Grk. echō, pl. pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. diseases: pl. of Grk. astheneia, weak in body, sick or sickly, and may refer to a condition of debilitating illness, sickness, disease, or disability.
were coming: Grk. proserchomai, impf. pass., 3p-pl., to approach from a point to a person or place; come, go to, approach. The imperfect tense implies that this coming continued for some time, perhaps the entire time Paul spent on the island. Luke does not identify Paul's location for this ministry, but presumptively the house where the apostolic team were provided lodging. The fact of natives continually coming implies the cooperation of the centurion to allow Paul freedom of access to people.
and: Grk. kai. being healed: Grk. therapeuō, impf. pass., 3p-pl., to serve or cure, and here refers to the specific service of restoring a person to health. News of the miracle quickly spread through the island with predictable results. Other people with ailments hoped for a cure. Thus, the ministry of Paul and Luke included healing as well as proclaiming the good news. It's very possible that that the medical skill of Luke may also have been instrumental in effecting these cures, considering the information given in the next verse (Nicoll).
10 who also honored us with many honors; and on setting sail, they put on board the things for our needs.
who: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. The antecedent for the pronoun is "the rest" in the previous verse, and more specifically those who had been healed. also: Grk. kai, conj. honored: Grk. timaō, aor., 3p-pl., to have special regard for, to show respect to. The corresponding Hebrew verb kabad (SH-3513) means to honor or to glorify (BDB 457). us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. with many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 6 above. honors: pl. of Grk. timē, high level of respect for special merit or quality; honor, esteem. The term can also refer to a value in money (cf. Acts 4:34; 5:2-3; 7:16; 19:19), and its possible Luke describes the people of the island providing financial or material support to the apostolic team.
In the LXX timē is used for expressing monetary value, translating Heb. keseph (SH-3701), silver (Gen 44:2), but primarily to translate Heb. kabôd (SH-3519), honor, glory, which is normally used of honor given to humans (Ex 28:2, 40; 2Chr 32:33; Esth 1:20; Ps 45:9; 49:12). Ellicott comments that the honors probably took the form of gifts. The very word was also specially applied, both in Greek and Latin, to the honorarium, or fee, paid to a physician, and its use here may be directly accorded to Luke for his medical services. There is an applicable saying in the Apocrypha: "Honor the physician with the honor due him, according to your need of him, for the Lord created him" (Sirach 38:1 RSV).
and: Grk. kai. on setting sail: Grk. anagō, pl. pres. mid. part., 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. The present tense is used to refer to an anticipated future event. they put on board: Grk. epitithēmi, aor. mid., 3p-pl., lit. "laid on." See verse 3 above. the things: pl. of Grk. ho definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. for: Grk. pros, prep., "toward." our needs: pl. of Grk. ho chreia, state or experience of necessity, need. The plural noun refers to provisions, primarily food, needed for the next part of the trip to Rome.
February A.D. 60
From Malta to Rome, 28:11-16
11 Then after three months we set sail on a ship having wintered at the island, an Alexandrian, with a figurehead of the Twin Brothers.
Then: Grk. de, conj. after: Grk. meta, prep. with a root meaning of "in the midst of" (DM 107), 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. three: Grk. treis, adj., the numeral three. months: pl. of Grk. mēn, a lunar month. The preposition meta is often used in temporal references and in the Jewish manner of counting the three months would have included November, the month of arrival on Malta, which was more than fourteen days after Yom Kippur (cf. Acts 27:9, 27). Thus "after three months" would mean after November, December, and January. The time is now February of AD 60 (Ramsay 196).
we set sail: Grk. anagō, aor., 1p-pl. See the previous verse. Bruce cites Pliny the Elder as saying that navigation begins to be resumed when the west winds start to blow on February 8 (Natural History, 2:122). Obviously the date of departure would depend on the state of the weather. on: Grk. en, prep. 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. 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.)
having wintered: Grk. paracheimazō, aor. part., to pass or spend the winter, which would have been at least November through January. at: Grk. en. the island: Grk. ho nēsos. See verse 1 above. For this ship the winter was probably spent in the harbor at Valetta (Bruce). an Alexandrian: Grk. Alexandrinos, adj., Alexandrian, belonging to Alexandria in Egypt. This was the same type of ship on which Paul sailed from Myra to Malta (Acts 27:5-6). Hirschfield says that the Alexandrian ship was part of a very special fleet, designed and constructed by the Romans expressly to transport grain from the fertile land of the Nile to Italy, particularly to Rome (28). This ship was quite large.
Lucian of Samosata, a second century Syrian rhetorician, provides a detailed description of an Alexandrian grain ship called Isis. The ship was 180 feet in length, a quarter of that in width, and 44 feet from the deck to the lowest point in the hold. Hirschfield puts the ship's capacity at almost 2,000 tons (27). The size of the ship is also indicated by the number of people onboard (276) the Alexandrian ship on which Paul previously sailed and shipwrecked (Acts 27:37).
with a figurehead: Grk. parasēmos, marked with a sign, a figure-head. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Bruce notes that ships, like inns, took their names from their figureheads. of the Twin Brothers: Grk. Dioscouri, Sons of Zeus; the twin brothers Castor and Pollux. These pagan deities were the gods of navigation, and recognized as the ship's patron deities. Their constellation, Gemini, was considered a sign of good fortune in a storm. Bruce, quotes the Roman poet Horace (65-8 BC)
"Then through the wild Aegean roar
The breezes and the Brethren Twain
Shall waft my little boat ashore." (Odes, 3:29.62-64)
Luke may have mentioned the design of the figurehead because the centurion chose this ship on that basis, regarding it as an omen of good luck for safety in completing the journey to Rome. Of course, this ship might have been the only one available going to Italy.
12 And having put in at Syracuse, we stayed three days.
And: Grk. kai, conj. having put in: Grk. katagō, aor. part., to lead or bring down someone from a point that is higher (BAG). The verb is used here as a nautical term, with the idea of descent from the deep water of the 'high seas' into a harbor. at: Grk. eis, prep. Syracuse: Grk. Surakousai, a large maritime city on the east coast of Sicily about 85 miles from Malta and the capital of the Roman province of Sicily. See the map here. The place-name occurs only here in the Besekh. Founded in 734 BC Syracuse had a celebrated history in both Greek and Roman times.
Syracuse was famous for successfully overcoming Athenian military forces during the Peloponnesian War in 415-413 BC, the detailed narrative of which is the most dramatic part of the work of Thucydides (Book VI and Book VII). Ships bound from Alexandria to Italy commonly put in there, for the harbor was an excellent one, and the fountain Arethusa in the island furnished an unfailing supply of excellent water ("Syracuse," SBD). The city, containing many elegant buildings and supported with walls of marble, boasted an amphitheatre and four temples devoted the pagan deities of Jupiter, Fortune, Diana and Minerva, as well as a statue of Apollo (Benson).
we stayed: Grk. epimenō, aor., 1p-pl., "to stay on," here meaning to persist in a local position; remain, stay. three: Grk. treis, adj., the numeral three. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 7 above. Ramsay suggests that the southerly wind that brought the ship to Syracuse fell and thus they were obliged to remain in Syracuse for a few days (196).
13 from there having made a circuitous route we came to Rhegium, and after one day a south wind having come up, we came to Puteoli on the second day.
from there: Grk. hothen, adv., a marker of derivation, used here in a spatial sense, where, from whence. having made a circuitous route: Grk. perierchomai (from perí, "around" and erchomai, "to come"), aor. part., to go about, but used here in a nautical sense of navigating by tacking. See the Textual Note below. Bruce allows that the ship perhaps sailed by tacking in a northwesterly wind. Two versions use the nautical term "tacking" (CJB, Phillips), which Falconer defines as "to change the course from one board to another, or turn the ship about from the starboard to the port tack, in a contrary wind." This procedure results in the ship taking a zigzag course to windward.
The term "tacking" takes it name from the "tack" or rope attached to the lower corners of the sails by which pulling will change the position of the sail relative to the wind. In other words, as Ramsay says, they did not have a southerly wind to leave Syracuse, so by good seamanship they were able to work their way up the coast (196). we came: Grk. katantaō, aor., 1p-pl., come down to, reach; used of coming or arriving at a destination in the course of travel.
to: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." Rhegium: Grk. Rhēgion, a city in the south-west corner of Italy opposite Sicily, just at the southern entrance of the Straits of Messina, about 85 miles from Syracuse. See the map here. By a curious coincidence, the figures on its coin are the very "twin brothers" displayed on the figurehead of the Alexandrian ship which brought Paul to the city ("Rhegium," SBD). Ellicott notes that Caligula (AD 37-41) began the construction of a harbor at Rhegium for the wheat-ships of Egypt; but this work, which Josephus describes as the "great and kingly undertaking" of his reign, was left unfinished (Ant. XIX, 2:5).
and: Grk. kai, conj. after: Grk. meta, prep. one: Grk. heis, the numeral one. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 7 above. a south wind: Grk. notos, a wind out of the southern quarter, the south wind. having come up: Grk. epiginomai (from epi, "upon," and ginomai, "to become"), aor. part., occur as a phenomenon; arise, come up, spring up. Ellicott observes that the ship sailed through the Strait of Messina without mishap from the maritime hazards of the famous rocks of Scylla on the Italian side and the whirlpool of Charybdis on the Sicilian side. 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. Puteoli: Grk. Potioli, a city situated on the Bay of Naples, about 180 miles from Rhegium. See the map here. The name, Puteoli, arose from local strong hot mineral springs, which was a favorite watering-place of the Romans, being considered efficacious for cure of various diseases ("Puteoli," SBD). Puteoli was the most sheltered part of the Bay of Naples, and the harbor to which the Alexandrian wheat-ships brought their cargoes in Italy (Smith 157). Smith also says that all ships entering the bay were obliged to strike their topsails, except wheat-ships, which were allowed to carry theirs. They could therefore be distinguished whenever they came into sight.
on the second day: pl. of Grk. deuteraios, adj., on the next day, on the second day. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. The passage from Rhegium to Puteoli, with the south wind, probably took not much over twenty-four hours, beginning one day and ending the following morning (Ramsay 196). Puteoli was the location where ships usually discharged their cargo and passengers, partly because there was no commodious harbor nearer to Rome ("Puteoli," SBD). Thus, the centurion with his prisoners, as well as the apostolic team, disembarked at this place. Ramsay says that the cargo of wheat, however, was likely carried to Ostia, where it had to be transshipped to smaller vessels which could go up the Tiber to Rome (197).
The Nestle and UBS Greek texts favor periareō (to cast off), which is found in only four manuscripts, including the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (both 4th c.) (GNT 526). Some versions follow this reading with the translation of "casting off," "setting sail," "weighed anchor" or words to that effect (e.g., NET, NIV, NRSV, OJB, TLV). The Nestle and UBS committees gave periareō a "C" rating, which indicates a considerable degree of doubt that the chosen reading is the superior one. The great majority of MSS have perierchomai, including a corrected Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus (5th c.), the Vulgate (4th c.), the Syriac (Peshitta, 2nd-5th c.), and p74 (7th c.).
Ramsay, who prefers the reading of perierchomai, comments that the reading of periareō is an unnecessary piece of information here (196). Smith also prefers the reading of perierchomai (156). A number of versions accept this reading with the translation of "circled around," "made a circuit," "sailed around" or words to that effect (AMP, BRG, CJB, CSB, DRA, ESV, JUB, KJV, TLB, MEV, NABRE, NASB, NEB, NKJV, NMB, RSV). Some versions avoid making a choice with the simple translation of "we sailed" (CEB, CEV, GNB, GW, ICB, NOG, NCV, NIRV, NLT).
14 where having found brothers, we were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we came to Rome.
where: Grk. hou, adv. used to introduce information about a location. having found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. part., to discover or find, especially after seeking. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," a male sibling; brother. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites who are of the same blood by virtue of descent from Jacob. In the LXX adelphos translates Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a near blood relative (Gen 13:8), a member of the same tribe (Num 16:10) or a fellow descendent of Jacob (Ex 2:11; 4:18).
According to Josephus that there was a considerable Jewish element in the population of Puteoli, née Dicearchia (Ant. XVII, 12:1). We may assume that Luke's use of the plural noun here is intended in a spiritual sense, rather than a strictly filial sense. Some versions translate the noun with the generic label "believers" (AMP, GW, GNB, HCSB, TLB, NOG, NCV, NIRV, NLT, NRSV). However, the plural noun properly denotes Messianic Jews. Thus, Paul searched in the Jewish quarter of the city and found followers of Yeshua.
Nothing is known for certain of the origin of the congregation in Puteoli. It might have been founded by Peter when he visited Italy in A.D. 42/43–46 or founded by Messianic Jews expelled from Rome by Claudius in 49/50. Patrobas, whom Paul mentions in Romans 16:14 and named by Hippolytus as one of the seventy disciples (Luke 10:1), was at some point appointed as overseer of the congregation in Puteoli.
we were invited: Grk. parakaleō, aor. pass., 1p-pl., to motivate performance; urge, exhort, encourage. to stay: Grk. epimenō, aor. inf. See verse 12 above. with: Grk. para, prep., has the root meaning of "beside" (DM 108). With the following pronoun in the dative case para indicates that something is done in the vicinity of someone; among, in the presence of, with (Thayer). them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. seven: Grk. hepta, the numeral seven. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 7 above. The invitation was probably given for the seven days in order for Paul and his team to spend the Sabbath with the local congregation.
Paul's lodging and fellowship with local Messianic Jews presumes the consent of Julius. Gill observes that the great civility and courteousness which the centurion extended to Paul demonstrates a readiness to grant personal favors. Considering the whole of the centurion's conduct toward Paul he was very likely converted by Paul during the voyage.
And: Grk. kai, conj. so: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. we came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 1p-pl. See the previous verse. to: Grk. eis, prep. Rome: Grk. ho Rhōmē, the capital of Italy and the Roman empire. See the map here. This statement anticipates the narrative of the next two verses.
Rome dates from 753 BC and is named for its legendary founder Romulus. Initially the city was built on the Palatine hill on the west bank of the Tiber River, but the city expanded over six neighboring hills and became known as "the city of seven hills" (NIBD 927). The seven hills were named Palatine, Capitoline, Caelian, Esquiline, Viminal, Quirinal, and Aventine. Today the hills are hardly recognizable due to erosion and centuries of construction. Since its founding Rome transitioned in its form of government from a monarchy, to a republic, to a dictatorial empire.
Luke does not specify the route of travel, although the next verse offers a suggestion. The most expeditious route would be to go by sea from Puteoli to Terracina and from there take the Via Appia highway. However, the group likely traveled over land northeast from Puteoli fifteen miles to Capua and taken the Via Appia from there (Bruce). The Via Appia, or Appian Way, was one of the great Roman roads of south Italy, named after Appius Claudius Caecus, a statesman and censor, in whose time the road was planned (312 BC).
15 And from there, the brothers having heard the things concerning us, came to meet us, as far as the Market of Appius and the Three Inns; whom Paul having seen, having given thanks to God took courage.
And from there: Grk. kakeithen (derived from kai, "and," and ekeithen "from there, from that place"), adv., a marker of movement from a place or time, here of the former. Luke describes leaving Puteoli. the brothers: pl. of Grk. ho adelphos. See the previous verse. The term refers to Jewish disciples from the congregation in Rome. Ellicott suggests the "brothers" who came to meet Paul might have included some of the 24 individuals Paul greeted in his letter (Romans 16:3-15). Having received Paul's letter the disciples in Rome would be eager to meet him. See the Additional Note below regarding the Messianic congregation in Rome.
having heard: Grk. akouō, pl. aor. pass. part., to hear aurally, to comprehend what is heard and often to heed what is said. the things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 7 above. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The point of the clause is that the story of Paul's journey to Rome and all that had happened to the apostolic team en route had spread from the brethren in Puteoli to the congregation in Rome. This would have been received as welcome news since Paul had previously written to the Roman congregation of his desire to visit them (Rom 1:15; 15:22-29).
came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 13 above. to: Grk. eis, prep. meet: Grk. apantēsis, the act of joining a person or group through movement from a locality; meeting, meet. In the LXX apantēsis often translates Heb. qirah (SH-7125), an encounter, whether accidental, friendly or hostile (Jdg 4:18, 22; 6:35; 11:31, 34). In Roman writings the word was almost a technical term for the official welcome of a visiting dignitary by a deputation which went from the city to greet him and escort him for the last part of his journey (Bruce).
Noteworthy is that apantēsis occurs only three times in the Besekh and the other two times are in reference to meeting Yeshua in his Second Coming (Matt 25:6; 1Th 4:17). Luke's use of the term is weighted with meaning. us: Grk. hēmeis. The first person pronoun likely refers to Paul and his companions. In effect Paul, Luke and Aristarchus received a "royal welcome." as far as: Grk. achri, prep. signifying an interval between two points with focus on continuity, here meaning up to a certain point. The preposition emphasizes the distance covered because of eagerness to meet Paul.
the Market: Grk. phoron, Forum or Market. of Appius: Grk. Appios, a place name taken from the name of the highway Via Appia. The market town was 43 miles from Rome. The town was infamous among Romans as being filled with sailors and scoundrel publicans (Bruce). Ellicott suggests that on the evening when the disciples from Rome met Paul and his companions in this wretched little town, there was a prayer-meeting with thanksgivings and praises pouring forth from rejoicing hearts.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the Three: Grk. treis, the numeral three. Inns: Grk. tabernai, lit. "hut," a tavern or inn. The town was ten Roman miles distant from the previous place and 33 miles from Rome (Thayer). Ellicott notes that it is clear a second detachment of friends met Paul and his companions, who had either started later than the others or had felt unequal to the additional ten miles. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. having seen: Grk. horaō, aor. part. See verse 4 above.
having given thanks: Grk. eucharisteō, aor. part., to give thanks, which is generally distinguished in Scripture from a prayer of petition, and of which God is explicitly the recipient. The verb occurs not at all in the LXX of the Tanakh, but is found six times in the Jewish Apocrypha (Jdth 8:25; 2Macc 1:11; 10:7; 12:31; 3Macc 7:16; Wsd 18:2) and the Epistle of Aristeas 177 (DNTT 3:818). In the Besekh the verb often occurs in reference to Yeshua or an apostle offering a b'rakhah ("blessing") to God. Jews had b'rakhot for many circumstances, which are discussed in the Tractate Berachot. The content of the b'rakhah is a sentence or paragraph of praise and thanksgiving to God for something He has provided or done.
to God: Grk. ho theos, properly, God, the Creator and owner of all things (John 1:1-3). The definite article probably signifies "the one called." In the LXX the singular theos translates the plural Heb. Elohim (SH-430), when used of the true God, the God of creation (Gen 1:1). In Hebrew thought the plural form represents fullness (DNTT 2:67), which excludes the possible existence of any other deity (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). Also, theos is not a philosophical construct for monotheism. God is a Person, and in the apostolic narratives He is particularly the God of the patriarchs and Israel (Matt 22:32; Luke 1:68).
Paul could have offered the Shehecheyanu ("who has given us life") blessing: Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu melekh ha'olam shehecheyanu vekiymanu vehigi'anu lazman hazeh, "Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and allowed us to arrive at this Time (Ber. 54a). This blessing is used on many occasions, especially at the beginning of festival celebrations, but also on arrival in Israel or meeting a friend who has not been seen for at least 30 days. This blessing is versatile and suitable to recite for a number of life events, ranging from the more important occasions to less significant ones.
took: Grk. lambanō, aor., to lay hold of by actively accepting what is offered (HELPS), to take or receive. courage: Grk. tharsos, emboldened from within; courage, confidence. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Ramsay suggests that this description implies that Paul had been in low spirits. Ellicott suggests that the lack of communication from the Roman congregation since his letter, and certainly no possibility of communication during the six-month trip from Caesarea, left him with many questions about the state of affairs in the Roman congregation. Having received a warm welcome by the Roman disciples alleviated much of Paul's concern.
Additional Note: Messianic Congregation in Rome
The congregation likely began as a result of pilgrims at Pentecost (Acts 2:10) returning home with the good news of Yeshua. Paul wrote a letter to the congregation in the Spring of 57 during his third Diaspora journey while in Corinth (cf. Rom 16:1, 23; 1Cor 1:14). At that time Paul noted in his letter that Priscilla and Aquila had returned to Rome from Ephesus and hosted a group of disciples in their home (Rom 16:3-5). According to patristic history Paul's arrival in Rome (A.D. 60) was preceded more than fifteen years earlier by Peter who, accompanied by Mark, had given leadership to the fledgling congregation for a time (A.D.42/43─46).
Peter's ministry in Rome during the reign of Caesar Claudius was reported by Eusebius (Church History, II, 14:6; 15:1-2); Jerome (Lives of Illustrious Men, Chap. I); and Paulus Orosius (History Against the Pagans, Book VII, 6.1). (See the history of Peter's ministry in my article Simon Peter: Fisherman-Apostle.) Modern scholars generally reject the patristic report of Peter arriving in Rome before Paul because (1) Scripture is silent on when Peter went to Rome; (2) Paul said that he would not build on another's work (Rom 15:20; 2Cor 10:15-16); and (3) the report of the church fathers is just "tradition."
However, "silence" on this subject proves nothing. The fact remains that no historical evidence has been produced to rebut the patristic report and the church fathers were competent historians. In my view there is no contradiction with Peter having preceded Paul to Rome. Paul's Roman letter was written well over a decade after Peter ministered there and as Edmundson (44, 50) and Robinson (114) argue, Paul's comment in his Roman letter very much implies that Peter had laid a foundation in Rome.
But, much had happened in the interim. Establishing the Messianic congregation with its proclamation of Yeshua the Messiah eventually produced considerable conflict among the unbelieving Jewish community as happened in other cities. In A.D. 49/50, a few years after Peter departed, Caesar Claudius, who had previously extended favorable treatment toward Jews, expelled Jews from Rome, including Messianic Jews such as Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:2). The adverse action of Claudius did not end until 54 at the accession of Nero.
When Paul wrote his letter, the Jewish disciples who had returned had not been back more than three years. As a reconstituted congregation Paul desired to add something to their spiritual character and proclaim the good news to the unbelieving Jews in Rome (Rom 1:11-15). However, Paul mainly wanted to go where Messiah had not been previously proclaimed, and thus his intention was merely to stop over in Rome on his way to Spain (Rom 15:24).
16 Now when we entered into Rome Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier guarding him.
Now: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hote, temporal adv., when, at which time. we entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor., 1p-pl. See verse 8 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. Rome: Grk. ho Rhōmē. See verse 14 above. See the Textual Note below. The centurion would no doubt have delivered his other prisoners to the appropriate authority and made a report to his superior concerning his assignment from Governor Festus.
Ramsay notes that the double expression of arrival at Rome in verses 14 and 16 is remarkable; and has caused much speculation among commentators (197). The double expression seems due to the double sense that every name of a city-state bears in Greek: the word "Rome" either included the entire territory or district over which the city presided, or be restricted to the walls and buildings of the city itself. Thus in verses 14 and 15, "we passed through two points in the territory of Rome," and here in verse 16, "we entered the (walls of) Rome."
Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 1 above. was allowed: Grk. epitrepō, aor. pass., grant opportunity for an activity; permit, allow. to stay: Grk. menō, pres. inf., to be in a situation for a length of time; abide, remain, stay or wait for. by: Grk. kata, prep. himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun. with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. the soldier: Grk. ho stratiōtēs, soldier in the military sense. The Greek term is broad in scope and included ranks below Centurion.
guarding: Grk. phulassō, pres. part., to guard or watch, here meaning to serve as sentinel. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Guarding Paul had two purposes: first to keep Paul in custody until his appeal could be heard, and second, to protect his life from potential threats. Noteworthy is that Paul was not taken to a prison, but placed in his own lodging (verse 30 below).
The Western text expands the first part of the verse with the clause "the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard." The expansion passed into the Byzantine text and included in the Textus Receptus (Metzger). The clause is not found in the earliest MSS (GNT 526) and therefore modern versions do not include the clause.
Meeting with Jewish Leaders, 28:17-22
17 And it happened after three days he called together those being leaders of the traditional Jews. Then they having come together, he said to them, "Men, brothers, I, having done nothing contrary to our people or the customs of our fathers, was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
And: Grk. de, conj. it happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 6 above. The intent of the verb is likely "it came to pass according to the sovereign plan of God." after: Grk. meta, prep. three: Grk. treis, adj., the numeral three. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 7 above. The phrase marking the time sequence since arrival in Rome does not necessarily denote that the third day had already elapsed, but could just as well designate the third day (cf. "after three days," Mark 8:31). In Jewish culture a part of a day counted as a day. Meyer suggests that during the three days Paul met with members of the Messianic congregation, especially those whom he had greeted in his letter.
he: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, lit. "the same," the antecedent of which is "Paul" in the previous verse. Most versions insert Paul's name. called together: Grk. sugkaleō (from sun, "with," and kaleo, "to call"), aor. mid. inf., to call together, to assemble. The invitation to meet with Paul was sent out on the third day. those: m. pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. being: Grk. eimi, pl. pres. part. See verse 4 above. leaders: m. pl. of Grk. prōtos, adj. See verse 7 above.
of the traditional Jews: m. pl. of Grk. Ioudaios (derived from Ioudas, "Judah"). See the explanatory note on 2:5. Among Gentiles the ethnic term did not distinguish between members of the twelve tribes of Israel or parties of Judaism. However, among Jews in the first century Ioudaios was only used to distinguish devout Jews whose tenets and practices conformed to Pharisee beliefs and traditions (Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 2:5; 10:28).
There was a large Jewish population in Rome, well over 10,000, having existed there since the second century BC (Encyclopedia Judaica 14:242). Some Jews went there from Alexandria, drawn by the lively commercial intercourse between those two cities. Other Jews were brought as prisoners to Rome after the war between the Hasmonean brothers on one side and Julius Caesar and Pompey on the other. The Jewish prisoners were either ransomed by their fellow Jews or set free by their Roman masters. The Jews settled as traders on the right bank of the Tiber, and thus originated the Jewish quarter in Rome. For a history of the Jews in Rome see the article Rome in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
Stern suggests that in the three days mentioned Paul had arranged with the brothers in the Roman congregation to draw up a list of Jewish community leaders. Stern speculates that the believers in the Rome had apparently not done much to evangelize the Jews living there, or they had been ineffective in their outreach, or the persecution alluded to in Acts 18:2 might have shocked them into silence.
In any event Paul saw an evangelistic opportunity. Judging by the content of Paul's speech that follows the purpose of calling the Jewish leaders together was to fulfill his desire of proclaiming the good news in Rome (Rom 1:15). In addition he had an obligation to announce the good news to the Jews first (Rom 1:16). Being chained to a Roman soldier, it was more prudent to conduct this meeting in his own quarters (verse 30 below) rather than go to the local synagogue where the presence of a Roman soldier would create a furor.
Being identified as leaders, these Jews were synagogue rulers and principal men in the Jewish community. It is striking that the Jewish leaders responded to Paul's summons, but like King Agrippa (Acts 25:22) they had likely heard stories about Paul and were curious enough to meet with him. It is also possible that Paul's declaration to Agrippa, "All the Jewish leaders have known my manner of life from my youth" (Acts 26:4) applied to these leaders as well.
Then: Grk. de. they: m. 3p-pl. of Grk. autos. having come together: Grk. sunerchomai (from sun, "with," and erchomai, "to come"), pl. aor. part., to come together as a collection of persons. The actual day of this meeting is not given, but probably within a day or two of the invitation being sent out. he said: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 4 above. The imperfect tense emphasizes speech in progress. to: Grk. pros, prep. them: m. 3p-pl. of Grk. autos. Paul probably spoke in Hebrew as he did when he addressed the crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 21:40; 22:2). He then addressed the group in the customary Jewish manner (cf. Acts 1:16; 2:29; 7:2; 13:15, 26, 38; 15:7, 13; 23:1).
Men: m. pl. of Grk. anēr, voc. case, an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr renders several Heb. words, but primarily ish, man or husband, Gen 2:23 (DNTT 2:562). The direct address of anēr in speaking to groups appears 29 times in Acts, but many Bible versions ignore the noun here. The address of "men," a greeting of courtesy, presumes those present were only men. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 14 above. The use of "brothers," which occurs 14 times in Acts by someone addressing a Jewish group, acknowledges their common heritage as Jews or emphasizes their shared form of Judaism.
Paul then rebuts the false report about himself first declared by Jews from Ephesus in the Jerusalem temple (Acts 21:28). I: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. having done: Grk. poieō, aor. part., a verb of physical action, here means to express by deeds the feelings and thoughts of the mind; act, do, perform. In the LXX poieō translates chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity. nothing: Grk. oudeis, adj. See verse 5 above. Paul then alludes to the slander spread against him (Acts 21:21, 28) that led to specific charges (Acts 23:29; 24:5-6).
contrary to: Grk. enantios, adj., in opposition; contrary, hostile, opposed. Many versions have "against." our people: Grk. ho laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically, and often in the apostolic narratives groups associated with the God of Israel. In the LXX laos renders Heb. am, (SH-5971), folk, people, nation or inhabitants of a locality, first in Genesis 14:16. In the apostolic narratives laos generally corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'arets, "people of the land." The noun is used of the people that descended from Jacob.
or: Grk. ē, conj. the customs: pl. of Grk. ethos, a way of doing things marked by recurring procedure; custom or practice. of our fathers: m. pl. of Grk. ho patrōos, adj., ancestral, hereditary, of one's fathers, received from one's fathers. With the mention of "customs, the adjective alludes to notable Jewish teachers in the past two centuries known as the Sages that developed the traditions followed by the Pharisees and traditional Jews. See the list of Sages here.
was delivered: Grk. paradidōmi, aor., to hand over or deliver, and here refers to delivering a person to custody in order to accomplish a judicial process. as a prisoner: Grk. desmios, one who is bound, thus "bound, in bonds, captive or prisoner. from: Grk. ek, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim (SH-3389), which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). See the note on "Jerusalem" in 1:4. Jews considered Jerusalem to be their capital city. into: Grk. eis, prep. the hands: pl. of Grk. cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand, used here both literally and figuratively of "authority."
of the Romans: pl. of Grk. ho Rhōmaios, derived from Rhōmē, the capital of Italy and the Roman empire, thus a Roman or Roman citizen, here the former. Paul uses the term to refer to the military authorities that arrested him at the temple (Acts 21:30-33) and then the two Roman governors before whom Paul stood trial (Acts 23:24; 24:1-2; 25:1, 6). Bruce comments that Paul's statement of being "delivered into the hands of the Romans" is a very mild way of describing how he was rescued by Roman soldiers from a Jewish mob that was trying to kill him, although it conforms to the prophecy of Agabus (Acts 21:11).
18 who having examined me, were willing to grant release because of not one ground of death existing in me.
who: m. pl. of Grk. hostis (from hos, "who," and tis, "a certain one"), relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the preceding noun "Romans;" whosoever, who. having examined: Grk. anakrinō, pl. aor. part., to engage in careful inquiry, make a close study of, ask questions about, to examine or investigate. The plural form would include the hearings conducted by both Governor Felix and Governor Festus. me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. were willing: Grk. boulomai, impf. mid., 3p-pl., to will or intend, here of reaching a decision upon deliberation; intend, decide, will.
to grant release: Grk. apoluō, aor. inf., to set free from a condition or obligation; release, set free, let go. because of: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, used here to express causality; on account of, because of. not one: Grk. mēdeis, adj. See verse 6 above. ground: Grk. aitia, cause or reason, used here as a legal term for a crime worthy of death. of death: Grk. thanatos, death, used here of death as a penalty. existing: Grk. huparchō, pres. inf. See verse 7 above. in: Grk. en, prep. me: Grk. egō. Paul reports the "finding of fact and conclusion of law" reached by Governor Festus (Acts 25:25; 26:31). Roman law had not been violated and therefore the charge of a capital crime by Paul had no basis.
19 But the Judean leaders objecting, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not as having anything to bring against my nation.
But: Grk. de, conj. the Judean leaders: m. pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 17 above. The CJB has "Judeans," MW has "Judean authorities," and the TLV has "Judean leaders." Paul intends the term to refer to the adversarial rulers in Jerusalem, in contrast to the Jewish leaders in Rome. He is not referring to "the Jews" in general as implied by the translation of Christian versions. objecting: Grk. antilegō, m. pl. pres. part., speak against in an adversarial manner, contradict, oppose. Paul's adversaries in Jerusalem wanted him dead (cf. Acts 25:3) and his life would have been jeopardy if the charges had simply been dismissed.
I was forced: Grk. anankazō, aor. pass., to compel or constrain, doing so with urgency as a pressing necessity (HELPS). to appeal to: Grk. epikaleō, aor. mid. inf., call upon for help, aid or intercession; invoke, appeal to. Paul made his appeal when standing trial before Governor Festus (Acts 25:11). Caesar: Grk. Kaisar, originally the family name of Julius, the first emperor. In time it became a title of the Roman head of state. The Caesar in power at this time was Nero, although his name does not appear in the Besekh.
Nero was born in A.D. 37 and in 54 Nero succeeded Claudius as emperor after his assassination. Nero became infamous for cruelties, his personal debaucheries and extravagances, and late in his reign horrific persecutions of Christians. He died by suicide in 68. For a summary of Nero's life see the article at Livius.org. For original biographies of Nero see Tacitus, The Annals, (AD 109), Books XII−XVI, and Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars (AD 121), Book VI, The Life of Nero.
not: Grk. ou, adv. as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 4 above. having: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 9 above. anything: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 3 above. to bring against: Grk. katēgoreō, pres. inf., to speak against or accuse, used here as a technical legal term meaning to charge with an offense. my: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. nation: Grk. ho ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. In the LXX ethnos generally translates Heb. goy (SH-1471), nation, people (DNTT 2:790). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations, then descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:2) and then specifically of Israel (Ex 19:6).
In the Besekh ethnos in the singular may refer generally to any people distinguished by language and culture (Acts 10:35), including Israel (Luke 23:2). In a colloquial sense "nation" means "the Jewish people," since Israel did not have an independent political identity. Paul makes clear that his appeal to Caesar made no accusations against his own country or their leaders, even though they did treat him unjustly.
20 On account of this reason, therefore, I invited you, to see and to speak to you. For I am wearing this chain for the sake of the Hope of Israel."
On account of: Grk. dia, prep. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. reason: Grk. ho aitia. See verse 18 above. The opening phrase summarizes Paul's narrative in the previous three verses. therefore: Grk. oun, conj. I invited: Grk. parakaleō, aor. See verse 14 above. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The pronoun refers to the unbelieving leaders of the Jewish community in Rome. to see: Grk. horaō, aor. inf. See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. to speak to you: Grk. proslaleō, aor. inf., speak to, converse with. Paul's statement reflects a protocol of courtesy. He also wanted to present his defense as soon as possible since he had every expectation that the accusation of Judean leaders would follow him to Rome.
For: Grk. gar, conj. I am wearing: Grk. perikeimai, pres. mid., be in a position around, here meaning to be bounded, perhaps around the wrist. this: Grk. houtos. chain: Grk. ho halusis, a chain, specifically used of a manacle or handcuff. Ellicott notes that the mention of "chain" in the singular agrees with the fact stated in verse 30 below, that Paul was entrusted to the keeping of a single soldier. Ramsay suggests that a light chain fastened Paul's wrist to that of the soldier (198). for the sake of: Grk. heneka, prep., expresses cause or reason for something; on account of, because of. the hope: Grk. ho elpis, hope, here meaning the basis of a firm expectation.
of Israel: Grk. ho Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The name here refers to Jacob whose name was changed by divine decree to Israel (Gen 32:28; 35:9). The name is used in the sense of national identity. The hope of Israel is two-fold. First, "the hope of Israel" was a title of the Messiah (Jer 14:8; 17:13). Israelites from the time of the Roman occupation looked for the Messiah to come in a very public manner, destroy the enemies of Israel, restore Israel to sovereign rule in its land, and establish the Davidic monarchy over Israel and the nations (cf. Luke 1:68-74; 2:32-38). The real hope of Israel was ADONAI (Ps 65:5; 71:5; 146:5).
Second, the "hope of Israel" is the expectation of resurrection (Acts 23:6; 24:15; 25:8). Paul's declaration to the Jewish leaders of Rome is a restatement of what he said to King Agrippa,
"6 And now I stand being judged for the hope of the promise having been made by God to our fathers 7 to which our twelve tribes in earnestness, serving God night and day to attain the hope; concerning which hope, O King, I am being accused by Jewish leaders." (Acts 26:6-7 BR)
21 And they said to him, "We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor any of the brothers having arrived reported or spoke anything evil about you.
And: Grk. de, conj. they: m. pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun, lit. "the ones," referring to the Jewish leaders whom Paul had invited. said: Grk. legō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 4 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. We: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. have neither: Grk. oute, conj. functioning as a negative particle, dismissing an activity or thing that follows the particle and often coupled formulaically with another oute, "neither…nor." received: Grk. dechomai, aor., 1p-pl., to take with the hand, to receive, frequently with the connotation of enthusiastic acceptance.
letters: pl. of Grk. gramma, that which is written or drawn, here of a document or correspondence. Writing dates back to early antiquity as the existence of the Pentateuch attests and archaeology has produced letters of royal officials as early as 2275 BC. The earliest letter mentioned in Scripture was written by David (2Sam 11:14) and numerous letters are mentioned in the Tanakh written by kings and prophets ("Epistles," ISBE). Letter writing was a very popular means of communication in the first century, made possible by the extensive Roman postal system (cursus publicus). Letters were conveyed by couriers on horse-back, wagons and ships.
Letters were usually written on one side of a sheet of papyrus, about 9½ X 11 inches. If more than one sheet was required they would be attached to one another as in the papyrus roll (McGuire). Paul's mentor Gamaliel was known for his letter writing. The Talmud records this anecdote: Rabbi Gamaliel sat on the Temple Mount and dictated three letters to his scribe,
'Take one sheet', he said, 'and write an epistle to our brethren in Upper Galilee and to those in Lower Galilee, … Take another sheet, and write to our brethren of the South, … And take the third and write to our brethren the Exiles in Babylon and to those in Media." (Sanhedrin 11b)
The success of the postal system is demonstrated by the existence of Paul's letters to seven congregations, three individuals and the circular letter Hebrews. Two letters of Paul did not survive (1Cor 5:9; Col 4:16). 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. (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.) Most versions have "Judea," since the Jewish context favors "Judea." concerning: Grk. peri, prep. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. There was regular communication between Jews in Jerusalem and Rome, but the lack of sailing during the winter months would have precluded such correspondence. In addition, there would be no reason for the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to have sent letters concerning the charges against Paul since the matter had not been settled by either a Jewish or Roman court.
nor: Grk. oute. any: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. of the brothers: m. pl. of Grk. ho adelphos. See verse 14 above. The noun is used of fellow Jews from Judea. The noun does not necessarily intend government messengers, but would include all Jews coming to Rome for any reason. having arrived: Grk. paraginomai, aor. mid. part., to make one's way so as to be present; come, arrive, be present. This arrival would have been recent, within the last few weeks. reported: Grk. apaggellō, aor., to report or announce, here meaning to relate as the result of first-hand experience, observation or other source of direct information; relate, report, declare.
or: Grk. ē. spoke: Grk. laleō, aor., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about. In context the verb refers to general conversation and sharing of news or gossip and any information about Paul would have been second-hand or hearsay. anything: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. evil: Grk. ponēros, adj., evil, wicked, and generally refers to an ethical deviation from an acceptable moral or social standard, particularly as prescribed by God in His Torah.
In the LXX ponēros translates Heb. ra (SH-7451), adversity, bad, evil, primarily in an ethical sense, first in Genesis 2:9; and Heb. roa (SH-7455), badness, evil conduct with willful intent, first in Deuteronomy 28:20. By "anything evil" these leaders probably meant "any capital crime" or "crime punishable under Jewish law." Many versions translate the adjective as "bad," and the English word can have an ethical meaning.
about: Grk. peri. you: Grk. su. The phrase "anything evil about you" would summarize both actions and character. These Jewish leaders do not say that they had heard nothing about Paul (see the next verse), only that they had heard nothing "evil" against Paul. They could have heard a rumor as stated by Jacob that Paul lived in an orderly manner according to Torah (Acts 21:20) (Ellicott). In any event, they acknowledged that no report had reached them to invalidate the statements which Paul had just made as to the causes of his imprisonment (Nicoll).
22 But we consider it appropriate to hear from you what you think; for truly concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against."
But: Grk. de, conj. we consider it appropriate: Grk. axioō, pres., 1p-pl., to account or treat as worthy, here with the sense of arriving at a positive decision to proceed with an action on the basis of its merit; think fit, consider appropriate. to hear: Grk. akouō, aor. inf. See verse 15 above. from: Grk. para, prep. See verse 14 above. With the following pronoun in the genitive case the preposition denotes that communication proceeds from the side or the vicinity of someone, or from one's sphere of power. you: Grk. su, first person pronoun. what: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun, lit. "the things which." See verse 4 above.
you think: Grk. phroneō, pres., engage in a process of mental activity, with emphasis on thought or attitude; think, give thought to. The use of this verb here is striking, being the only time it's used in Acts, but of the 26 times it occurs in the Besekh, 23 are in the letters of Paul. The tone of the opening clause has the appearance of neutrality, "we want to hear your point of view," but it could also be a sly setup request in order to sit in judgment on what is shared. for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. truly: Grk. mén, conj. See verse 5 above. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 7 above. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 4 above.
sect: Grk. hairesis, choice of association based on shared principles or beliefs, ordinarily of a subgroup with views or beliefs that deviate in certain respects from those of the larger membership; party, faction. The noun is used of mainstream Jewish parties (Acts 5:17; Acts 15:5), but in the narrative of Paul's trial before Felix (Acts 24:5) Tertullus used the term in regard to the Nazarenes, a name for the Yeshua movement. The term "sect" has a pejorative meaning there and here.
it is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. known: Grk. gnōstos, adj. (from ginōskō, to know), known, understood; used here of that which is known by experience or receipt of information. to us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. that: Grk. hoti, conj., used here to introduce an explanation of what was "known." everywhere: Grk. pantachou, adv., in any and every direction; everywhere, in all places. The term may be hyperbole, and it certainly refers to locations of Jewish population, but not likely "everywhere in the Roman empire." It could even mean "everywhere in this city," and hearken back to the days of the reign of Claudius when conflict between believing and unbelieving Jews resulted in expulsion from the city.
it is spoken against: Grk. antilegō, pres. pass. See verse 19 above. The followers of Yeshua had been subject to official sanction for thirty years. It's very possible that the Jewish leaders in Rome were aware of the ruling from Jerusalem in A.D. 29 that if anyone should confess Yeshua to be the Messiah, he should be banned from any religious assembly (John 9:22). After Pentecost in A.D. 30 the apostles were also ordered to stop proclaiming Yeshua as the Messiah (Acts 4:18). The Jewish leaders in Rome were likely aware of these edicts.
The testimony of Tertullus before Governor Felix in 57 (Acts 24:5) indicated the continuing view of Judean authorities that the Nazarene sect was considered to be outside of mainstream Judaism and a threat to the shalom of Jewish communities. While these leaders had heard nothing "evil" about Paul they had heard of his connection with this despised sect. Stern comments that these Jewish leaders were very open-minded, more so than currently. The situation in Rome was different from other cities described in the book of Acts, where very quickly local Jewish leaders took a hostile position against Paul and the Messianic message.
Nicoll observes that the Jewish leaders of Rome, while not guilty of any untruth in what they had just said as to their knowledge of the Nazarene sect, could not understand the Apostle's identification of it with the Jewish national hope. They may have expressed themselves in this guarded manner for political reasons. They did not want to engage in any hasty or hostile action towards a prisoner who was evidently treated with consideration by the Roman authorities; and as a result revive an old quarrel which might again lead to their own political insecurity.
Proclamation of Yeshua, 28:23-29
23 And having appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging; to whom he expounded, earnestly testifying of the kingdom of God, also persuading them concerning Yeshua, from both the Torah of Moses and the Neviim, from morning until evening.
And: Grk. de, conj. having appointed: Grk. tassō, pl. aor. part., to arrange so as to be in order. The verb was originally a military term meaning "to draw up in order, arrange in place, assign, appoint, order" (HELPS). him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Many versions insert Paul's name here. a day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 7 above. Luke gives another indefinite time reference, but the meeting appointment was probably not delayed many days. The opening clause indicates the appointment was for the convenience of the visitors.
many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 6 above. The use of the plural adjective suggests a sizable crowd in addition to the Jewish leaders. came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 13 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 4 above. him: Grk. autos. at: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." his lodging: Grk. ho xenia, a place of hospitality or lodging. The term as used here may refer to a guest room in the home of a wealthy Messianic patron (cf. Phm 1:22), or be the rented quarters mentioned in verse 30 below. If the former the lodging could have belonged to Aquila (cf. Rom 16:3-5).
Stern observes that this all-day session in which large numbers of "local Jewish leaders" of the capital of the world came to visit the world's leading evangelist in order to hear about the Messianic movement must be unique in world history. to whom: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. he expounded: Grk. ektithēmi (from ek, "out of" and tithēmi, "to set"), impf. mid., to set forth, here meaning to declare, explain or expound. The verb stresses that Paul presented his message in a logical sequence, offering proofs built upon proofs from Messianic prophecies.
earnestly testifying: Grk. diamarturomai (from dia, "thoroughly" and marturomai, "witness, testify"), pres. mid. part., an emphatic declaration establishing the importance of what is stated, giving full, clear testimony. The middle voice emphasizes witnessing done with a high level of strong personal interest motivating it (HELPS). Luke now gives a summary of the substance of Paul's lengthy discourse, a subject of serious interest to Jews.
of the kingdom: Grk. ho basileia, may mean kingship, royal power, the reign or the territory ruled over by a king. For the use of the title the size of the territory was immaterial, ranging from a city to a country to an empire. The term appears widely in Jewish literature of Aristeas, Philo, Josephus, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs and the LXX, especially the Apocrypha. In the LXX basileia translates Heb. mamlakh (SH-4467; BDB 575), kingdom, sovereignty, dominion, reign, first in Genesis 10:10; and Heb. malkuth (SH-4438; BDB 574), royalty, royal power, reign, kingdom, first in Numbers 24:7. In the Tanakh the Hebrew words are used primarily for the reign of earthly rulers and secondarily of God's kingship.
of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 15 above. Paul spent hours discussing a topic very important to Jews and he sought to expand their understanding of it. According to the Book of Jubilees Abraham set the example for his descendants by declaring God to be his king, "'My God, God Most High, Thou alone art my God, and Thee and Thy dominion have I chosen" (12:19), which echoes Abraham's declaration to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand in an oath to ADONAI, El Elyon, maker of heaven and earth" (Gen 14:22 CJB). Israel first sang the praise of God's reign after crossing the Red Sea, "ADONAI will reign forever and ever!" (Ex 15:18 TLV).
In the covenant with Israel God expressed his will for a kingdom, "you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6). Then, God promised David,
"When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." (2Sam 7:12-13 NASB)
The hope that God would establish His reign as King over all the earth is expressed frequently in Scripture (e.g., Ps 22:28; 29:10; 93:1; 99:2; 103:19; 145:10-13; 146:10; 1Chr 29:11; Isa 52:7; Dan 2:44; 4:3; 7:27; Micah 4:7; Obad 1:21; Zech 9:10; 14:9). The theme of God's kingdom is also found in intertestamental Jewish literature: Tobit 13:1; Sibylline Oracles 3:47-48, 767; Psalms of Solomon 17:3; Wisdom of Solomon 10:10; Assumption of Moses 10:1; Prayer of Azariah and the Three Men 33; and Enoch 84:2.
In the Tanakh and Jewish literature there are two kinds of kingdom: a priestly kingdom and a Davidic kingdom. Yochanan the Immerser spoke of both kingdoms, but he saw them occurring simultaneously (cf. Matt 3:7-12). The immersion of Spirit would be the inauguration of the priestly kingdom and the immersion of fire would be the judgment on the wicked and victory of the Davidic kingdom. It is important to note that in Scripture the doctrine of the Kingdom relates to the expectation and fulfillment of promises made to Israel. Thus, the teaching concerning the Kingdom is a Jewish doctrine.
When Yeshua began his ministry he made the public announcement, "the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15) and then he taught his disciples to pray, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done" (Matt 6:10). The Mishnah also enjoined Jews to accept "the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven" (acknowledging God and who he is) even before accepting "the yoke of the commandments" (Berachot 2:2). Paul's proclamation of the good news and discipleship instruction included explaining the Kingdom of God from the Messianic viewpoint (Acts 14:22; 19:8; 20:25).
Biblically defined there is no kingdom without Israel at its center. Paul declared that the Body of Messiah is a commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12), which alludes to the promise God made to Jacob that he would be a company of nations (Gen 35:11). Thus, the teaching concerning the Kingdom is a Jewish doctrine. The kingdom is not to be associated with an ecclesiastical organization, a political ideology or living in heaven. Rather the true Kingdom of God is the reign of the Jewish Messiah in human hearts (Luke 17:21), as Yeshua told Pilate "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).
The citizens of the Kingdom of God confess the Kingship (or Lordship) of Yeshua and seek righteousness, peace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit according to the King's will (Rom 14:17; cf. 1Cor 4:20; Col 1:13; 1Th 2:12; Heb 12:28). Indeed the kingdom is Yeshua working through his messengers and disciples to bring healing and hope to suffering humanity, the same purpose he had in the first mission given to the apostles (Matt 10:8).
also: Grk. te, conj. persuading: Grk. peithō, pres. part., to bring about a convinced state in regard to something; convince, persuade, urge. Some versions qualify the verb with "trying to persuade," but the active voice of the verb conveys more than an attempt, as indicated by the next verse. them: pl. of Grk. autos. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua, "Jesus" in Christian Bibles. The English spelling of "Jesus" was introduced by the Mace New Testament in 1729. Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel, "you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt 1:21 TLV). For more information on the meaning of his name and his titles, see my article Who is Yeshua?
from: Grk. apo, prep. both: Grk. te. the Torah: Grk. ho nomos may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX nomos generally corresponds to Heb. torah (SH-8451), which means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" (BDB 435f), first in Genesis 26:5. In the Tanakh torah refers primarily to commandments decreed by God to Israel. Torah sets forth the way to live in an ethical way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God. In the apostolic narratives nomos is generally used to mean the written commandments given to Israel.
of Moses: Grk. Mōusēs transliterates Heb. Mosheh (Ex 2:10). Born into the tribe of Levi about 1525 BC in Egypt there is no greater figure in the Tanakh than Moses. The story of Moses is found in the extensive narratives from Exodus 1:1 through Deuteronomy 34:1. His life can be easily divided into three 40-year periods, the first being his birth and early life in Egypt (Acts 7:23), the second his years in Midian (Acts 7:30), and the third from the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt through the years spent in the wilderness until his death (Ex 7:7; 16:35; Num 14:33; Deut 2:7; Josh 5:6; Acts 7:36). He had two wives and two sons (Ex 18:2-4; Num 12:1).
During the last third of his life Moses served Israel as deliverer, judge, mediator, lawgiver, priest, elder, prophet and scribe. Moses was privileged to speak with ADONAI "face to face" (Ex 33:11). He was noted for his humility (Num 12:3) and his faithfulness to God (Heb 11:23-29), and being anointed of the Spirit (Num 11:17). He died at the age of 120 in the land of Moab (Deut 34:1-7). Moses left Israel and the Body of Messiah with the rich legacy of the first five books of the Bible (Ex 24:4). Moses was a giant of a man. For a summary of his life and deeds see my article Moses, Servant of God.
The reference to the "Torah of Moses" identifies the first division of the Hebrew Bible (Torah), which contains the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (Ex 24:4; Deut 31:9; Mark 12:19; Luke 24:27, 44; Acts 15:21; Rom 10:5) and left Israel with the rich legacy of God's Word. Paul could have pointed out a number of passages in the Torah that predicted the Messiah, most notably that of Moses himself who prophesied that a prophet like him would arise (Deut 18:15; Acts 3:22). See my article The Messiah in the Pentateuch.
and: Grk. kai. the Neviim: pl. of Grk. ho Prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In the LXX prophētēs translates Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker, or prophet; first in Genesis 20:7 where it is used of Abraham. In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The Hebrew prophets were a diverse group, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). See my PowerPoint presentation The Hebrew Prophets.
The use of the plural "Prophets" refers to second division of the Tanakh known as the Neviim, which included the Early Prophets (Joshua–Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah–Malachi). Contrary to the beliefs of the Sadducees (and many modern Christians) Paul affirmed the Pharisee belief (as well as the belief of Yeshua) that the literary works of the Neviim in the Tanakh are authoritative Scripture (Matt 5:17-19; 26:56; Luke 24:27, 44-45; Rom 1:2; 16:26; 2Tim 3:16-17). The reference to the Neviim could also have implied specific Hebrew prophets who provided key Messianic prophecies, such as Isaiah, Daniel, Micah and Zechariah. See my article The Messiah in the Prophets. See also my article Prophecies of the Messiah for a compilation of predictions made by Moses and the Prophets that Yeshua fulfilled.
from: Grk. apo. morning: Grk. prōi, early in the morning (BAG). The time could have been as early as sunrise or shortly thereafter. until: Grk. heōs, prep., a marker of limit, here of time; till, until. evening: Grk. hespera, of or at evening. The time reference does not extend past sundown.
Luke's narrative of this meeting only summarizes Paul's method of presenting the good news of Yeshua, similar to the narrative of Paul's speech to King Agrippa. No doubt the day-long discourse incorporated much of the same content as his discourses in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:16-41) and to King Agrippa (Acts 26:16-23). Given the Jewish setting the main components of the "Jewish Gospel" would have been presented.
• God provided a descendant of David to be the Savior of Israel (Acts 13:23).
• Yeshua was commended by Yochanan the Immerser (Acts 13:24-25).
• Yeshua was rejected by Israel's leaders and crucified according to the purpose of God (Acts 13:27-29; 26:23).
• God resurrected Yeshua from death and he appeared afterwards to many people (Acts 13:30-31; 26:23).
• The promises of the Messiah God made to the fathers have now been fulfilled with the coming of Yeshua (Acts 13:26, 32-33).
• Through the atonement of Yeshua there is the forgiveness of sins, including sins for which the Torah did not provide a means of acquittal (Acts 13:38; 26:18).
24 And some indeed were persuaded of the things he was speaking, but some refused to believe.
Luke summarizes the response of the Jewish gathering to Paul's message, a poignant statement of the impact of the good news on the minds and hearts of Jews. And: Grk. kai, conj. some: m. pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun, lit. "the ones." Luke provides no exact numbers of those who believed as he did in the first chapters of Acts. indeed: Grk. mén, conj. See verse 5 above. were persuaded: Grk. peithō, impf. pass., 3p-pl. See the previous verse. In other words, these Jews believed the good news of Yeshua of the things: n. pl. of Grk. ho. he was speaking: Grk. legō, pl. pres. mid. part. See verse 4 above. Luke alludes to the content of Paul's teaching throughout the day.
but: Grk. de, conj. some: m. pl. of Grk. ho. refused to believe: Grk. apisteō, impf. pass., 3p-pl., to disbelieve or refuse to believe; properly, refusing to be persuaded by God (HELPS). The number of those who did not believe Paul's message is presented as generally equivalent to those that believed. The unbelief seems inexplicable, especially since Jews generally anticipated the coming of the Messiah. Why should some Jews believe and others not believe who heard the same message and must have been convicted by the Holy Spirit? Of course, this is the enigma of the human condition, enslaved to Satan and sin.
Yet, the outcome of Paul's teaching, was better than he might have expected. As Stern notes, a sizeable proportion of the Jewish leaders, though not necessarily half, were persuaded of the truth of the Messiah then and there. This is why this meeting must be unique in world history. There is no other reported instance of a sizeable proportion of a major Jewish community's leadership coming to faith in Yeshua in one day.
25 And being discordant towards one another, they began departing, Paul having followed up with one message that, "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers,
And: Grk. de, conj. being: Grk. eimi, pl. pres. part. See verse 4 above. discordant: Grk. asumphōnos, adj., discordant in sound; met. discordant, at difference, at variance. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh, although it occurs in the Apocrypha (Wis. 18:10) and Josephus (Against Apion I, 8:1). towards: Grk. pros, prep. one another: m. pl. of Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun. See verse 4 above. The fact of discordance refers back to the statement of the previous verse about the group listening to Paul being divided in their response, some believing and others disbelieving. they began departing: Grk. apoluō, impf. mid., 3p-pl. See verse 18 above. The visitors exercised the discretion to leave.
Paul: Grk. ho Paulos. See verse 3 above. having followed up with: Grk. epō, aor. part., to speak or say by word or writing; say, follow up, answer. The verb epō captures the essence of Paul taking a parting shot at those with a negative response to his day-long discourse. one: Grk. heis, adj., the numeral one. message: Grk. rhēma, a communication consisting of words, often with the implication of importance or special significance. In the LXX rhēma translates Heb. dabar (SH-1697), word, whether a discourse, counsel, or utterance of a sentence (DNTT 3:1119f). that: Grk. hoti, conj., used here to introduce a quotation.
The Holy: Grk. ho Hagios, adj., set apart by or for God and therefore different; holy, hallowed and when used of God worthy of reverence. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Leviticus 11:44. Spirit: Grk. ho Pneuma (for Heb. ruach, Resh-Vav-Chet), wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit. "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (pneuma ho theos, John 4:24). The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh.
rightly: Grk. kalōs, adv., in an effective manner, often with the focus on meeting expectations; well, effectively, accurately, correctly, appropriately. spoke: Grk. laleō, aor. See verse 21 above. through: Grk. dia, prep., used here to denote instrumentality. Isaiah: Grk. Ēsaias, a Graecized form of Heb. Yesha'yahu ("YHVH is salvation"). Isaiah was the son of Amoz of the tribe of Judah and perhaps related to the royal house. He lived during the reigns of the Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and the first years of Manasseh. He married a prophetess and had two sons (Isa 7:3; 8:3). Isaiah was put to death by King Manasseh by being sawn in half (Yebamoth 49b; Ascension of Isaiah 1:9; 5:2; cf. Heb 11:37).
the prophet: Grk. ho prophētēs. See verse 23 above. Isaiah received his call from God in a dramatic fashion, c. 740 BC (Isa 6:1), and prophesied for forty years during which he was an adviser to King Ahaz and King Hezekiah. He was contemporary with the prophets Micah and Hosea. He left a monumental literary work of 66 chapters, the longest of the prophetic books, containing almost half of the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. Isaiah wrote mostly warnings in the first half of his book and mostly comfort and promise in the second half.
Various scholars have proposed that some unknown author wrote the second half of the book of Isaiah (40─66) and a few scholars have actually suggested a Third Isaiah (56─66). Against this viewpoint are these arguments:
• For 25 centuries no one doubted that Isaiah was the author of all 66 chapters;
• There is no evidence whatever that the two (or three) parts of the book ever existed separately;
• The same style, vocabulary, and figures of speech occur in both sections;
• Quotations in the Besekh from parts of Isaiah labeled as "Second" and "Third Isaiah" attribute those passages to Isaiah the prophet (Luke 3:4-6=Isa 40:3-5; Matt 8:17=Isa 53:4; Matt 12:17-21=Isa 42:1-4; Luke 4:17-21=Isa 61:1-2; Rom 10:16=Isa 53:1; Acts 8:32-33=Isa 53:7-8; Rom 10:20=Isa 65:1); and
• One of the Dead Sea Scrolls includes the entire text of Isaiah, with no break between chapters 39 and 40.
Paul concurred with Peter that Isaiah, like the rest of the literary prophets, spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). The verb "spoke" implies verbal inspiration. Isaiah described the source of his book as a vision (Heb. chazôn), which means he saw the words in a pictographic experience (Isa 1:1; 2:1; 13:1). The words that Isaiah recorded were not the result of his own mental insight, but came to him by divine revelation (John 12:41).
to: Grk. pros. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 8 above. The term is used here of distant ancestors. The reference "your fathers" connects the unbelieving Jews in the departing group with the stubborn and rebellious Israelites to whom Isaiah prophesied. Paul was more tactful than Yeshua who spoke of his adversaries as being children of the devil (John 8:44). The quotation that follows could be the verbal equivalent of the symbolic act of "shaking the dust off his feet" as he did at Pisidian Antioch when synagogue leaders rejected his message of Yeshua (Acts 13:51).
Paul no doubt considered himself a watchman for Israel (cf. Acts 9:15; 13:16-17, 23-24, 40-41, 47; Rom 9:3) and thus his warning was motivated by the instruction given to Ezekiel:
"Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from My mouth, give them a warning from Me. 18 When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak to warn the wicked of his wicked way, to save his life, that wicked person will die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood from your hand. 19 Yet you, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your soul." (Ezek 3:17-19 TLV)
26 "saying, 'Go to this people, and say, "In hearing you will hear and never understand, and in seeing you will see and never perceive."
MT: "Go and tell this people, 'Keep on hearing but do not understand and keep on seeing but do not perceive.'" (BHIB)
LXX: "Go and say to this people: Hearing you shall hear, but in no way shall you perceive and seeing you shall see, but in no way shall you know. (ABP)
Targum Isaiah: "Go, and tell this people, who are diligently hearing, but understand not, and see diligently, but know not." (Sefaria)
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 4 above. Paul then quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10. Yeshua also quoted this passage to his adversaries (Matt 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10). The quotation is accurately taken from the LXX. Go: Grk. poreuomai, aor. pass. imp. to move from one area to another; go, journey, make one's way, transport, travel. to: Grk. pros, prep. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 17 above. In context the noun refers to the people of Judah. and: Grk. kai, conj. say: Grk. epō, aor. imp. See the previous verse.
In hearing: Grk. akoē, hearing as a sensory faculty, and here of its practical use. you will hear: Grk. akouō, fut., 2p-pl., to hear, used here of a willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō translates Heb. shama (SH-8085), which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). and: Grk. kai. never: Grk. ou mē, lit. "not, not." The double negative presents an emphatic denial. understand: Grk. suniēmi, aor. subj., 2p-pl., to grasp the significance of a word or action; understand, comprehend. In the LXX suniēmi translates Heb. bin (SH-995), to discern, understand or consider.
and: Grk. kai. in seeing: Grk. blepō, pl. pres. part., to see, used here of using one's eyes to take note of something. In the LXX blepō translates Heb. ra'ah (SH-7200), to see. you will see: Grk. blepō, fut., 2p-pl. The repetition of the verb has a figurative meaning, that of have inward or mental sight. and: Grk. kai. never: Grk. ou mē. perceive: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., 2p-pl., to perceive physically with the eye, and used here in a figurative sense of extraordinary mental or inward perception. The verb denotes a personal experience. In the LXX here horaō translates Heb. yada (SH-3045), to know, usually by experience.
The two paradoxical statements may reflect willful unbelief, but they may also represent a mystery. The unbelieving Jews heard the same words as the believing Jews and in terms of the signs and wonders produced by Yeshua and the apostles, the unbelieving Jews saw the same thing as the believing Jews. The prophecy spoken by Isaiah expresses reality.
27 For the heart of this people has thickened, and with the ears barely they heard, and their eyes they have closed; lest ever they should see with the eyes, and with the ears they should hear, and with the heart they should understand and should turn, and I would heal them.'
MT: "Make dull the heart of this people and their ears heavy and their eyes shut lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and with their heart understand and return and be healed." (BHIB)
LXX: "For the heart of this people was thickened and they heard heavily with their ears, and the eyes, closed eyelids, lest at any time they should behold with their eyes, and the ears should hear, and the heart should perceive, and they should turn, and I shall heal them." (ABP)
Targum Isaiah: "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and darken their eyes ; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and repent, and it shall be forgiven them." (Sefaria)
For: Grk. gar, conj. the heart: Grk. ho 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 translates Heb. leb (SH-3820), inner man, mind, heart, will. of this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 17 above. has thickened: Grk. pachunō, aor. pass., to thicken, to fatten, and by extension to make dull, unfeeling. In the LXX pachunō translates Heb. shamen (SH-8080), to grow fat.
In medical terms thickening of the heart is called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick (hypertrophied). The thickened heart muscle can make it harder for the heart to pump blood. The thickened heart muscle can cause shortness of breath, chest pain or problems in the heart's electrical system, resulting in life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or sudden death. The medical description is parabolic in application, because the heart represents the will.
The grammar of the LXX departs from both the Hebrew text and the Targum, which begin the declaration with the verb in the imperative mood. The LXX views the action as completed after Isaiah fulfilled his mission. Paul's use of the LXX affirms that the spiritual state that existed in the time of Isaiah is the current spiritual state of the unbelieving Jewish leaders.
and: Grk. kai, conj. with the ears: pl. of Grk. ho ous, the anatomic organ of the ear. In the LXX ous translates Heb. ozen (SH-241), the ear. barely: Grk. bareōs, adv., heavily; fig. with difficulty, dully. The adverb denotes disinterested listening (HELPS). In the LXX bareōs translates Heb. kabad (SH-3513), to be heavy, weighty, or burdensome. they hear: Grk. akouō, aor., 3p-pl. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. eyes: pl. of Grk. ho ophthalmos, the organ of the eye. In the LXX ophthalmos translates Heb. ayin (SH-5869), an eye. they have closed: Grk. kammuō, aor., 3p-pl., to close or shut the eyes.
lest: Grk. mēpote, adv., a marker cautiously expressing possibility and indicating a circumstance or attitude designed to counteract a consequence ordinarily considered undesirable; so that, lest. The redundancy in the following phrasing is typical of Hebrew narrative. they should see: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., 3p-pl. See the previous verse. In the LXX here horaō translates Heb. ra'ah (SH-7200), to see. with the eyes: pl. of Grk. ho ophthalmos. and: Grk. kai. with the ears: pl. of Grk. ho ous. they should hear: Grk. akouō, aor. subj., 3p-pl. and: Grk. kai. with the heart: Grk. ho kardia. they should understand: Grk. suniēmi, aor. subj., 3p-pl. See the previous verse.
This section in Isaiah's passage speaks of both the outer faculties (hearing, seeing) and the inner ones (understanding, perceiving) (Motyer 78). The simplicity of these metaphors caused the sophisticates of Isaiah's day to scorn him as fit only to teach little children (Isa 28:9-10). Yet, the metaphors accurately depicted the spiritual condition of Judah's elite. Their reaction of closed ears and eyes represented not only disinterest but willful unbelief. The word of God was not too difficult for them to understand (cf. Deut 30:11), but Isaiah's hearers chose to reject the message of God.
and: Grk. kai. should turn: Grk. epistrephō, aor. subj., 3p-pl., to turn towards or turn back, here referring to a change in mode of thinking. In the spiritual sense the verb describes turning back to God and being transformed. In the LXX epistrephō translates Heb. shuv (SH-7725), to turn back, return. When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God's will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909).
The Hebrew concept of repentance is not just thinking differently, feeling sorry over being caught or apologizing. Repentance is humbling oneself before God and taking active steps to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God’s will as expressed in the commandments (1Kgs 8:33, 35, 48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 30:15; 59:20; Ezek 18:21; Hos 6:1; Jon 3:8). Repentance is a personal responsibility, yet it requires God’s grace to do it, as Jeremiah says, "ADONAI, turn us to you, and we will come back" (Lam 5:21 CJB). Repentance is always urgent on the lips of the prophets (cf. Deut 30:10; Isa 45:22; Jer 25:5; 35:15; Ezek 14:6; 18:30, 32; 33:11; Zech 1:3-6).
and: Grk. kai. I would heal: Grk. iaomai, fut. mid. See verse 8 above. The verb is used here in a spiritual sense. In the LXX iaomai translates Heb. rapha (SH-7495), to heal, whether literally or figuratively regarding the hurts of the nation. Of interest is that the Targum of Isaiah has "be forgiven" instead of "heal." Relevant to Paul's use of the quotation Isaiah 53:5 uses rapha to depict the sufferings of the Messiah as producing healing of the spiritual condition of Israel. them: pl. of Grk. autos. See the Additional Note below.
Like the original audience of Isaiah those who left the meeting with Paul in a state of unbelief were willfully refusing to accept the message of the Messiah. In their minds they had no spiritual problems that needed to be fixed by Yeshua. They probably considered themselves faithful to Torah and that was enough. In reality they were afflicted with spiritual heart disease and they were unwilling to heed the remedy of the great physician. In a sense Isaiah's description reflects a kind of fear. If they agreed with the message they would have to make some changes in their lives. Unbelief is simply unwillingness to surrender to the will of God.
Contained in the lament of unbelief is a sequence by which belief occurs. Paul sets forth this sequence in Romans 10:14-15. First, someone has to be sent with the message of God, Isaiah in the historic setting and Paul in the immediate setting. Second, there must be faithful proclamation of the word of God, so that people will know the truth, which both Isaiah and Paul accomplished.
Third, the audience must hear the message with a willingness to act on what they hear, which some did after hearing Paul. Fourth, they must trust God for His willingness to show mercy. Fifth, in trust they must call on God for the salvation He provides according to His terms, that is by repenting of their sins. Then they must confess that Yeshua is Lord, and believe that God resurrected him from death (Rom 10:9).
Additional Note: The Isaiah Conundrum
To the modern mind the quotation of Isaiah presents a theological conundrum. The action of "blinding" the eyes and making ears "heavy" sounds like taking away the possibility of choice. And, if that were true, how could God blame anyone for sinning (cf. Rom 9:18-20)? The Jewish point of view is reflected in the Talmudic epigram of Rabbi Chanina, "Everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven" (Berachot 33b), which implies that anyone can turn to God. Being created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) means having a will and with it comes accountability for choices (Gen 4:6-7; Deut 30:19).
People too often forget that God is a "will-ing being" (a term from Otto Rank, a Jewish psychoanalyst) and is free to exercise His will in His own interests. Scripture affirms God's benevolent attitude:
"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezek 18:23 ESV)
"I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezek 33:11 NASB)
"Indeed the Scripture says, 'Every one trusting in Him will not be put to shame.' 12 For there is no difference between traditional Jew and Hellenistic Jew, for the same Lord of all is rich toward all the ones calling on Him. 13 For 'Everyone who should call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (Rom 10:11-13 BR)
"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (2Pet 3:9 NASB)
The words of Isaiah must be considered in its context. Isaiah was called to be the voice of God to a rebellious people, not to utter dark sayings and deprive people of the truth. Otherwise, what would be the point in producing the book? As a prophet of God he confronted the sinful culture of Judah. Isaiah wanted people to be healed (LXX) and forgiven (Targum). Generally not considered is the tendency in the Hebrew of the Tanakh to express a consequence as though it were a purpose (F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, InterVarsity Press, 1983; p. 100). The announcement to Isaiah was a reality check.
Isaiah was to speak for God, but he needed to realize that the people would not respond as God wished. This instruction would keep Isaiah from judging the success of his ministry on how many souls "were saved." Paul no doubt recognized the irony and lament in Isaiah's message as suiting his own situation. Salvation can only be on God's terms and is contingent on readiness (cf. Matt 10:11). The mystery is why God would offer mercy at all. Mankind rebelled against God from the beginning and invented nonexistent gods in order to justify a degenerate lifestyle and has been resisting God's will ever since (Rom 1:21-32). That has always been the real issue.
People don't want a holy God telling them how to live. In the minds of many people a God of love should arrange a pleasurable life without suffering and without adverse consequences to bad behavior. They want their "sin" cake and salvation, too. In reality God doesn't have to do anything to "blind" or "deafen" a person. Man's natural propensity toward selfishness and self-will promotes resistance to the word of God (Rom 3:9-18). God simply permits a person to strengthen an attitude that already exists. As Solomon said, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy" (Prov 29:1 NASB).
A completely different interpretation might be gained from considering the subject of the verbs in this verse. The quoted passage does not use the name of God at all. Isaiah does not say, "God blinded and God hardened." In reality, Isaiah the prophet is the subject of the verbs in the Hebrew text "make the heart fat and the eyes blind." So, Isaiah did what God told him to do, to deliver an unacceptable message with a foregone outcome. Since the verbs are used of a spiritual condition, there is yet another possible subject. Consider these passages:
"Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved." (Luke 8:12 NASB)
"Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5:3 NASB)
"the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so they might not see the light of the Good News of the glory of Messiah, who is the image of God." (2Cor 4:4 TLV)
"But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness. He doesn’t know where he is going, because the darkness has made his eyes blind." (1Jn 2:11 TLV)
The prophet Isaiah did not blame God for the spiritual blindness of Israel, but rather confronts their unwillingness to see.
"Hear, you deaf, look you blind, so that you may see. … You have seen many things, but you do not pay attention. Though ears are open, no one hears." (Isa 42:18, 20 TLV)
Paul's use of Isaiah 6:9-10 spoke the truth to the spiritual condition of the unbelieving Jewish leaders in Rome.
28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the nations; they also will listen."
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 5 above. let it be: Grk. eimi, pres. imp. See verse 4 above. known: Grk. gnōstos, adj. See verse 22 above. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. that: Grk. hoti, conj. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. salvation: Grk. ho sōtērios (from sōtēr, "savior"), adj., God's beneficent favor in rescuing or bringing salvation; saving, bringing salvation. of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 15 above. The context of the concept of the "salvation of God" is the loss of freedom.
"Whenever men by their own fault or through some superior power have come under the control of someone else, and have lost their freedom to implement their will and decisions, and when their own resources are inadequate to deal with that other power, they can regain their freedom only by the intervention of a third party" (DNTT 3:177).
That third party is the God of Israel and His agent to accomplish deliverance is the Messiah. Yet, the salvation of which Paul spoke was not the deliverance from Roman oppression and restoration of Israel's national sovereignty that many Jews desired (cf. Luke 2:30; Acts 1:6). For Paul the "salvation of God" meant spiritual transformation in order to be delivered from God's wrath.
has been sent: Grk. apostellō, aor. pass., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. In the LXX apostellō translates Heb. shalach ("stretch out" or "send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). to the nations: pl. of Grk. ho ethnos, humans belonging to a people group as defined by language and culture; nation, people. In the LXX ethnos generally translates Heb. goy (SH-1471; BDB 156; pl. goyim), community, nation or people, first in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations (DNTT 2:790). The plural goyim is generally used in the Tanakh for non-Hebrew peoples (Gen 18:18; 22:18; 26:4), but also for nations that included Hebrew peoples (Gen 17:4-5; 35:11; 48:19).
The great majority of Bible versions translate the plural noun here as "Gentiles," but in my view "Gentiles" is a much too restrictive translation. While the plural form of ethnos (ethnesin, ethnōn) is generally used in the Besekh to mean non-Israelite peoples or Gentiles (Matt 6:32; Luke 12:30; Acts 4:25; 13:48; Rom 2:14; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:9; Rev 11:18; 14:8), it is also used of people groups or countries that included Israelite or Jewish people (Matt 28:19; Mark 13:10; Luke 23:2; 24:47; Acts 24:2, 10; 28:19; 1Cor 10:18; Php 3:5). Several versions do have "nations" (ABP, DARBY, EXB, LITV, MW, NCV, YLT, WEB).
Paul's declaration here is similar to the one he made fourteen years earlier in Pisidian Antioch when he faced opposition from synagogue rulers (Acts 13:46), then five years later in Corinth (18:6) and two years later in Ephesus (19:8-10). Gilbert surmises that with this statement Paul's mission to the Jews was over (252). Bruce, also comments that this statement occurring at the end of Acts represents a "note of solemn finality." Henceforth the Gentiles would have priority in hearing the good news. In my view Paul certainly did not mean that he was ending evangelism of Jews, since that was not his intention in the previous occasions of making the declaration.
In Pisidian Antioch he quoted Isaiah to the synagogue rulers, "'I have placed you for a light of nations, that you should be for salvation to the end of the earth" (Isa 49:6). Paul affirms that his mission is the same as the mission God gave to Israel. After those former occasions of rejection by synagogue leaders Paul continued his priority of going to synagogues to proclaim the good news. There is no reason to assume he intended to change his ministry priority now (cf. Rom 9:1-3). Yeshua gave Paul a broad mandate in terms of the people groups to whom he was to proclaim the good news (cf. Acts 9:15) and his ministry had no small measure of success with Jews.
they: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. also: Grk. kai, conj. Lumby comments that the apostle does not wish to convey, as many versions do, a taunt to the Jews that they come behind the Gentiles. The point is that now the message has been given according to Yeshua's command to the Jews, the Gentiles should in their turn be privileged to hear the good news. Therefore the translation of "also" (i.e. "as well as you"), best represents Paul's meaning. In addition the conjunction recognizes that some of the Jewish leaders had believed. A number of versions translate the Greek word order literally with "they also" (ASV, DARBY, DLNT, LEB, MJLT, NASB, YLT).
will listen: Grk. akouō, fut. mid., 3p-pl. See verse 15 above. There is another level of meaning that Paul could have intended. Since Ioudaioi (verse 17 above) really refers to traditional Jews, then the plural "ethnesin" could include descendants of Jacob that lived as Gentiles. Traditional Jews regarded any descendant of Jacob that lived as a Gentile as not being truly Jewish. In addition, Paul said that he had been entrusted with the good news for the "uncircumcised" (Gal 2:7), as well as the "Gentiles" (Gal 2:2, 8-9).
Paul treats "uncircumcised" and "Gentiles" as synonyms (cf. Rom 2:14, 26), and many Jews in the Diaspora were uncircumcised (Tarn & Griffith 223-227). Thus, Paul emphasized that the good news of salvation was not just for the Torah-observant Jews, but for all the sons of Israel and the non-Israelites of every nation.
[29 And he having said these things, the Jewish leaders departed, having great discussion among themselves.]
This verse is omitted in the earliest and best MSS, but found in the Western and Byzantine texts (GNT 528). As a result the verse is either omitted or placed within brackets in most versions. Metzger suggests the addition was probably made because of the abrupt transition from verse 28 to verse 30. The verse adds little of substance since verse 25 above states that the group members left Paul with much disagreement between one another.
30 And he stayed two whole years in his own rented lodging, and was welcoming all those coming to him,
And: Grk. de, conj. he stayed: Grk. emmenō, aor., to abide in a fixed place, which has a geographical emphasis here. two whole: Grk. holos, adj., signifier of a thing understood as a complete unit and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire. years: Grk. dietia, a space of two years. According to ancient practice the time reference can mean any period between one and two years. In the LXX dietia translates the Heb. construction s'natayim yamim ("two years," Gen 41:1), the time that Joseph was left in prison. The addition of the adjective holos intends the time period to be twenty-four months.
Since Paul arrived in late February of A.D. 60, then twenty-four months would conclude in February/March of 62. Bruce suggests that the two years' continuation of Paul's stay in Rome could be accounted for adequately by congestion of court business. It is a safe inference that according to the report of Paul's vision aboard ship (Acts 27:24) his case did come up for hearing and he did indeed "stand before Caesar." With the report of the Judaea governor declaring that Paul had broken no Roman law (cf. Acts 25:18-19, 25-26; 28:18), the trial would have been brief and the case dismissed with prejudice.
In his letter to the congregation in Philippi, written during this period, Paul expressed confidence that he would be released (Php 1:19). Luke's mention of the time period strongly implies that Paul was released at the end of it. While Luke says nothing of the outcome of the case, it is likely the outcome was so well known as to be unnecessary to mention. Rather Luke purposed to focus on Paul's continuing ministry without hindrance in Rome.
in: Grk. en, prep. his own: Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself, what is one's own as opposed to belonging to another. The adjective distinguishes the following location from the lodging mentioned in verse 23 above (Nicoll). rented lodging: Grk. misthōma, that which is either let or hired for a price; hired dwelling, rented house, rented space. In Greek writings the term meant a price agreed on in hiring, contract-price, rent (LSJ). The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The noun does not necessarily connote an entire house. In the LXX misthōma occurs about a dozen times and translates Heb. ethnan (SH-868), wages of a harlot (Deut 23:18; Ezek 16:31-34, 41; Hos 2:12; Mic 1:7).
Some versions translate the phrase en idiō misthōmati as "at his own expense" (AMPC, ESV, NCB, NLT, NRSV, NTE, RSV), which Bruce affirms as the essential meaning. The main point of this information is that the Roman government did not pay any expenses for necessities while Paul awaited trial. Apparently he had the means to pay the rent and buy food and any other necessities he might need during the two years of waiting for the outcome of Roman justice. Stern suggests that Paul supported himself in Rome as he did in Corinth, but being kept under "house arrest" would probably preclude such employment.
The situation now was just as it was in Caesarea when Paul stayed two years in the Praetorium (Acts 23:35; 24:27). Here as there he could have been supported out of his own funds and/or the support of the local congregation (cf. Acts 24:23), or distant congregations. In his letter to the congregation in Philippi he mentions having received a financial gift from them brought by Epaphroditus (Php 4:10, 18).
and: Grk. kai, conj. was welcoming: Grk. apodechomai, impf. mid., receive hospitably; welcome, receive. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. coming: Grk. eisporeuomai, pl. pres. mid. part., to go in, to come in, to enter, here of a structure. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 4 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The lodging was large enough to receive visitors. Paul's ministry for the two years was probably similar to his lengthy periods of teaching in Corinth (Acts 18:11) and Ephesus (19:9-10).
Luke's description of Paul's hospitality illustrates the rabbinic saying "Let your home be a meeting-house for the sages, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily" (Avot 1:4; translation by Bivin 12). Paul received many visitors and expanded his impact with the help of dedicated assistants. Lumby summarizes from the letters Paul wrote during the two years the names of his companions and special visitors. Besides Luke and Aristarchus (Acts 27:27), he had also the fellowship for some time of Tychicus who took the letter to Ephesus (Eph 6:21).
Timothy was included in the greetings from Paul to the congregations of Philippi and Colossae (Php 1:1; Col 1:1), and to Philemon (Phm 1:1). Epaphroditus had been with Paul but then sent to Philippi (Php 2:25-29), and he returned with a gift from the congregation (Php 4:18). Onesimus found Paul when in flight from his master he made his way to Rome (Col 4:9; Phm 1:10). Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, was also there (Col 4:10; Phm 1:24), and another Jewish disciple, Yeshua, called Justus, of whom we only know that Paul considered him worthy to be called a fellow-worker in the kingdom of God (Col 4:10).
Epaphras, from Colossae, had come to visit Paul, and to bring him the greetings from the congregation there (Col 4:12), and express his concern about the state of believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis (Col 4:13). Last of all Demas was there as a fellow-worker (Col 4:14; Phm 1:24), but much later would be mentioned as having forsaken the good way through love of this present world (2Tim 4:10).
31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord, Yeshua the Messiah, with all boldness, without hindrance.
proclaiming: Grk. kērussō, pres. part., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald, to proclaim. The verb always contains the suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed (Thayer). In the LXX kērussō occurs 29 times, mostly to translate Heb. qara (SH-7121), to call, proclaim or read (DNTT 3:50). In translating qara the verb kērussō usually occurs in settings of making a public announcement requiring compliance (e.g., Gen 41:43; Ex 32:5; 2Chr 20:3; Neh 6:7; Esth 6:9; Joel 1:14; 2:15; 3:9; Jon 1:2; 3:1, 4-5).
Kērussō also translates Heb. rua (SH-7321), to cry out, raise a shout, give a blast with a horn, in settings of proclaiming an important message from ADONAI (Hos 5:8; Joel 2:1; Zeph 3:14; Zech 9:9). In the Besekh the use of kērussō combines the primary elements of the Hebrew verbs of proclaiming a message from God that demands an obedient response. the kingdom of God: See verse 23 above. The kingdom of God was a subject of intense interest to Jews, rather than Gentiles, so his continued proclamation of the Kingdom points to his audience. The description of Paul's ministry is similar to the narrative of Paul's ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:8).
and: Grk. kai, conj. teaching: Grk. didaskō, pres. part., 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). the things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. 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. See verse 23 above. the Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, to anoint), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah.
Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to translate Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, and teaching about the Messiah again points to a Jewish audience. For a discussion of the Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
The "things concerning the Lord" that Paul taught no doubt fulfilled the requirement of the Great Commission to make disciples, that is, teach them to obey all that Yeshua commanded (Matt 28:19-20). with: Grk. meta, prep. See verse 11 above. all: Grk pas, adj. boldness: Grk. parrēsia, freedom of speech, confidence; used here to refer to freeness in speech, as opposed to being under constraint to watch one's words; boldness, candor, straightforwardness, unguardedness.
without hindrance: Grk. akōlutōs, (from alpha, as a neg. prefix, and kōluō, "to hinder"), adv., without being stopped, unhindered, freely. Bruce notes that the adverb, which occurs only here in the Besekh, is a legal term used in official documents. The use of the adverb affirms that the Romans imposed no obstacle to Paul's ministry, even if it was conducted while handcuffed to a soldier. Indeed, the soldier also served as a bodyguard to insure there would be no hindrance.
Luke's conclusion to his monumental book is a powerful testimony to the sovereign grace of God. Paul had complete freedom to proclaim the good news of Yeshua in these two years. What began in Jerusalem by the original mission given to the apostles (Acts 1:8) was carried by Paul to Rome and beyond. Yet, Paul was not content with his local ministry in Rome. He had great pastoral concern for the congregations he had planted throughout the Diaspora.
According to church tradition during the two years Paul wrote the letters titled Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. These letters make reference to his chains and imprisonment (Eph 6:20; Php 1:7, 13-14; Col 4:3, 18; Phm 1:13). Commentators John Gill (Hebrews Intro) and Henry Morris (DSB 1363) also favor this period of Paul's house arrest in Rome for the writing the letter called "Hebrews."
Release and Ministry: A.D. 62−64
Chapter Twenty-Eight concludes the monumental and inspirational narrative of the book Acts of the Apostles. After his release and until his martyrdom in A.D. 67/68 Paul ministered in various places. Clement, bishop of Rome (A.D. 88-99), in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, written about A.D. 95, reports that Paul had proclaimed the good news "in the east and in the west" and come "finally to the limit of the west" (5:7) before being martyred in A.D. 67.
Paul very likely accomplished his desire to go to Spain (Rom 15:24, 28) and he apparently spent some time in Crete (Titus 1:5), Macedonia (1Tim 1:3), and in Nicopolis on the west coast of Greece (Titus 3:12). During this period Paul likely wrote the first letter to Timothy and the letter to Titus. See the proposed map of his ministry here.
Arrest and Martyrdom: A.D. 65−68 A.D.
After a few years of travel Paul returned to Rome and while there was arrested, perhaps during Nero's pogrom of 64/65. However, being a citizen Paul was entitled to a formal hearing process, which could be lengthy given his previous experience of waiting two years for disposition of his case. During this incarceration he wrote his last letter to Timothy (2Tim 4:6). Clement of Rome, in his letter to the Corinthians, did not specify the year of Paul's martyrdom, but said that "having borne witness before rulers, he departed at length out of the world, and went to the holy place, having become the greatest example of patience" (5:7).
Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea (314-340), recorded this comment in regards to Paul's death:
"It is, therefore, recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero. This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day" (Church History, II, 25:5-8, written in 323–325 AD).
Clement does not mention Nero by name, but substitutes the "prefects," which probably alludes to legal jurisdictions that handled Paul's case. "Prefect" is term used in both military and civil administration for one with magisterial authority. Pontius Pilate was a Prefect. Eusebius says only that Paul was martyred in Rome without mentioning the year. Eusebius goes on to mention that Dionysius (d. 171), bishop of Corinth, wrote in a letter to Rome that Paul and Peter were martyred at the same time, some say on the same day. However, the Greek phrase kata ton auton kairon could be translated as "according to his time." If Dionysius had meant "same day" he would have used hēmera, which means "day," instead of kairos, which means a definite or approximate period of time in which an event occurs. In other words the time of their martyrdom was different according to the providence of God.
Thus, the intention of Dionysius was misinterpreted by later writers and the tradition of Peter and Paul being martyred in the same year (67 or 68) arose. In Lives of Illustrious Men, written well over a century later than Eusebius (in AD 492), Jerome says that Paul was put to death in the fourteenth year of Nero on the same day as Peter (Chap. V), or 67/68. Nero began his reign in AD 54.
Ant.: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Antiquities of the Jews (AD 93; Latin Antiquitates Judaicae). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
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DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
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Motyer: J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah. InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Nicoll: W. Robertson Nicoll (1851–1923), The Expositor's Greek Testament (1897), 5 vols. Online.
Ramsay: Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939), St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 10th ed., Hodder & Stoughton, 1907. Online.
Robinson: John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament. The Westminster Press, 1976.
SBD: Sir William Smith (1813-1893), A Dictionary of the Bible. John Murray, 1893. Online. aka "Smith's Bible Dictionary."
Smith: James Smith (1782–1867), The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. 4th ed. Longman, Green and Company, 1880. Online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889. Website HTML 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc. Online.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Wars: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Wars of the Jews (AD 78; Latin De Bello Judaico). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
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