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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles


On his way to Jerusalem, the Apostles and his companions made a short stay in several places, Tyre, Ptolemais, Cæsarea (1–7). At Cæsarea he stopped at the house of Philip the Deacon. While there, Agabus predicted and illustrated by a symbolical action, the sufferings that awaited Paul at Jerusalem (8–11). Paul goes up to Jerusalem prepared for any event, bringing with him one Mnason, an old disciple, with whom they were to lodge (12–16). Having called on James the Bishop of Jerusalem, and related the success of their mission among the Gentiles, he is persuaded, in order to disarm Jewish prejudices, to go through a course of purification in the temple (17–26). While thus engaged, the Jews finding him in the temple, create an uproar and tumult, and were on the point of killing him when the Tribune interposed to save his life (27–32).


1. “Being parted from them.” The Greek would imply a great interior struggle, as if he said; having torn ourselves away from them.

2, 3. The course they took is here described. It can be easily traced on the map of Asia Minor.

4. The Faith had been preached in Phenice (15:3)—the number of believers here was small. Hence, they were obliged to look for them, “finding disciples.”

“Through the Spirit.” The Holy Ghost, who inspired the believers thus to counsel Paul about whose welfare they were solicitous. This was not a command; but an inspired warning, that by going up to Jerusalem, he ran a risk. He was free to accept this warning or take the consequences. His mind was made up to choose the latter.

5. “And,” in Greek “but” as if to say, notwithstanding this warning, when the seven days had expired we set out on our journey, the faithful of both sexes escorting us outside the city.

8. The end of their sea voyage was Ptolemais, the rest of the journey was by land.

“Philip, the Evangelist,” one of the seven deacons appointed at Jerusalem. “Evangelist,” one who preaches the Gospel. Philip, likely, held a prominent place among the deacons, who were appointed not to preach, but to superintend the distribution of alms (6:1–6). Philip may have received a special commission from the Apostles to preach He laboured hard in Samaria in the cause of the Gospel (8:5).

9. The gift of prophecy was sometimes conferred on females, so as to foretell future events or explain the mysterious truths of God in private, not, however, in public, or in the congregation (1 Cor. 14:24). The word generally means to be under Divine influence or inspiration whether in foretelling future events or instructing others, or speaking foreign tongues under Divine influence. Very likely, these virgins exercised the gift of prophecy in foretelling to St. Paul the dangers that awaited him, on which account St. Luke, probably, makes mention of them here, in connection with the Prophecy of Agabus, v. 10.

10. “Came down.” Judea was an elevated country higher than the maritime districts. “Agabus,” see 11:28.

11. “Paul’s girdle,” which was a portion of the dress of the Orientals.

“Binding,” &c. A striking mode of prediction, emblematical of what was to happen Paul. This was a symbolical and exterior prediction by act—a thing by no means uncommon among the Jews.

Jeremiah acted in this way; (Jeremiah 13:4, 27:2–4). So did Isaias (20:3, 4), so did Ezechiel (4:4–6; 3 Kings 22:11).

“Into the hands of the Gentiles.” The Romans—then masters of Judea.

13. “Afflicting my heart,” by such alarms and expressions of tenderness, when I am determined on suffering every evil for the sake of Christ.

14. “The Will of the Lord,” &c. Considering Paul’s unalterable resolve, they considered it to be clearly the will of God that he was to go up to Jerusalem.

15. “Being prepared.” Baggage and everything required for journeying by land got together.

16. “Mnason.” An early convert, probably, from the time of our Lord himself. He dwelt in Jerusalem. The Greek text might be so rendered as to convey that this man accompanied them from Cæsarea; or, that the disciples brought Paul and his companions to Mnason, in whose house they lodged, enjoying his hospitality.

18. “James,” the less, Bishop of Jerusalem, our Lord’s cousin; likely, the only Apostle in Jerusalem at the time.

“Ancients.” The clergy of the first and second order.

19. “Saluted.” With respect and affection.

20. “The Jews that have believed. Zealots for the law.” For the observance of the Mosaic Ritual, and observe it themselves with great care and accuracy.

21. Likely some Jews from the countries where the Apostle preached the Gospel, calumniously charged him with teaching the Jews, who dwelt amongst the Gentiles, to give up the Law of Moses and desert his Ritual. Among other things, not to circumcise their children nor observe the other precepts of the Law of Moses. This they maliciously circulated. At this time, the Law of Moses, though not obligatory on the converted Jews, nor necessary for Salvation, was not, however, forbidden to them, mortua; but, not mortifera. Nor did St. Paul teach the contrary. Hence, the rumour regarding him was a malicious calumny, which James and those with him knew well. The observance of Mosaic ceremonies was prohibited, however, in regard to converted Gentiles.

22. “What is it, therefore?” What is to be done to meet this calumny and avert its consequences, chiefly, riotous conduct and violence? “The multitude” of the Jews are sure to come together and create a riot. Something, therefore, must be done to prevent such excitement. It is to be done in the following manner: We have here in this Christian church of Jerusalem, “four men,” converts from Judaism, “who have a vow on them.” From their “shaving their heads” (v. 24), it clearly denotes the vow of the Nazarites.—For how long a time they bound themselves is not mentioned.—The time for which they took the vow being now accomplished, they were to be shaven, according to the usage in such cases.

24. In order to show that the ceremonial Law of Moses is neither despised nor underrated by thee, “take these,” join thyself with them in observing the rite of purification or sanctification usually observed in regard to such vows, “and bestow on them.” Share in the expenses for offerings and sacrifices presented at the completion of the vow; or, rather defray for them the necessary expenses (which was looked upon as a meritorious act of religion), “that they may shave their heads,” and cut off the hair which they permitted to grow during the time of the vow. This shaving of the head would show that the vow, in all its parts, had been previously faithfully observed, the shaving of the head being the last act performed.

“And all will know that the charges made against thee touching the observance of the Mosaic Law are false,” utterly groundless; and that thou thyself dost fully comply with the requirements of the Mosaic Law. What was directly meant by this advice was, that Paul would show by submitting to a rite still lawful and permitted to him, though not necessary, that he was not an enemy of the Jewish Law. He would thus conciliate the Jews.

25. St. James wishes to remind St. Paul of the Decree of the Council of Jerusalem (c. 15:20, &c.) regarding the Gentile converts, who were not to be subjected to any Jewish observances in general, such as the Jewish converts might lawfully practise for a time.

“We have written, decreeing that they should only refrain,” &c. After the word, “decreeing,” are inserted in the Greek reading the words—“that they observe no such thing, but only refrain,” &c. This reading is adopted by many critics as the most probable. The words are certainly implied in the decree of the Apostles (15:20), &c.

26. This prudent advice of St. James is at once complied with by St. Paul. “Paul took the men,” &c. Joined with them in the ceremonies relating to their vows, carrying out what he declared (1 Cor. 9:20) becoming “a Jew unto the Jews,” &c.—in all things not prohibited by the moral law.

“Being purified with them.” Joining them in the process or ceremonies of purification prescribed in such cases.

“Giving notice” to the priests of the temple of his intention to observe the vow, as the law regulating Nazarites required.

“Of the accomplishment of the days of purification.” Of the period when the days would be accomplished by himself. Others say by his four companions. But the former is the more probable, as it was to clear himself of the charge of hostility to the Jewish Law and Ritual, James gave him this counsel.

It may refer to himself and them also, who could give no notice for themselves, not having the means wherewith to pay the expenses which Paul paid for them.

“Until an oblation,” &c. These days were to last “until an oblation,” &c. “Until” might be rendered at which purification or its accomplishment, “an oblation (or victim) should be offered,” &c.

Paul charged himself with the expenses in this case, as the men were poor; and it was regarded as a meritorious act of religion among the Jews to pay the expenses of purification for poor Nazarites.

27. “The seven days.” The definite article, the, in the Greek would imply that there was question of seven fixed definite days, “were drawing to an end.” In Greek “were about to be accomplished.”

Some understand these of the days that remained for the four men, after Paul joined them, participated in their vow and announced to the priests that he would pay their expenses.

Likely, it was usual to have such declaration made seven days before the expiration of the vow. It may also be understood of the temporary and voluntary vow of seven days made by Paul, when, by the advice of James, he joined them.

It is, however, a matter of controversy, how or from what time these “seven days” were to be computed.

“That were of Asia,” who came up to worship in Jerusalem, enemies of the Apostle, whom they at once recognized, owing to his long sojourn in their districts.

28. “Men of Israel.” Lovers of the Law of Moses.

“This place,” the temple. Possibly, Paul may have said on some occasion, as did our Lord before him, that the temple would one day be destroyed.

“Brought in Gentiles into the temple.” The outer of the many courts of the temple was set apart for the Gentiles. Hence, called the court of the Gentiles. But the inner courts were appropriated for the Jews exclusively, into which it was unlawful for the Gentiles to enter. To this reference is made here.

“Violated the holy place” by the introduction of Gentiles into it.

29. “Trophimus,” who accompanied him on his way from Ephesus (c. 20:4).

“In the city” of Jerusalem, and, therefore, inferred most erroneously that he accompanied him into the temple.

30. “Drew him out of the temple,” on pretence that he violated it; but, in reality, with a view of killing him (v. 31). They would not shed his blood within the precincts of the temple, which would thus be polluted. “Doors were shut,” evidently by the Levite door keepers, to save the temple from profanation.

31. “Tribune.” Claudius Lysias (23:26).

32. “Ran down,” in a hurry from the castle, Antonia, where he dwelt.

33. “Two chains,” for his hands and feet, as foretold by Agabus (v. 11) not in such a way, however, as to prevent him from walking (v. 34). By thus binding him, the Tribune meant to convey to the people that he reserved him for just punishment, if the charges alleged against him were proved. “And demanded.” Asked the multitude who he was, and what his crime.

34. “Into the castle.” The tower, Antonia, the citadel of Jerusalem, where the soldiers kept guard. It was situated at the angle of the western and northern porticos of the temple (Josephus de Bello, Lib. 5; c. 5).

35. “Stairs.” The flight of stairs leading from the temple to the tower, Antonia, which was built on an eminence overlooking the temple. On these stairs, when the soldiers were returning with Paul, the violence was so great and the crowd so pressing, that the soldiers were obliged to carry Paul on their shoulders to rescue him.

36. “Away,” &c., that is to say, death to him.

37. “Something to thee.” In my own defence, and in explanation of all this uproar. This was spoken in Greek, as appears from the following question of the Tribune, who was surprised at hearing Paul speak in Greek, supposing him to be a native of Egypt, where Greek was not commonly spoken.

“Canst thou speak Greek?” an expression of surprise that Paul would have addressed him in the Greek language. Likely, Greek was the native language of the Tribune, who, it would seem, was not a native of Rome, having purchased Roman citizenship at a great price (22:28).

38. “That Egyptian.” Likely a Jew who resided in Egypt. Josephus (Antiq., xx. 6; De Bello, ii. 13, 5) gives us an account of him. He states that this man, whose name is not given, came from Egypt to Jerusalem; gave out, or pretended, that he was a Prophet, and induced the people to follow him to Mount Olivet, where he promised them they would see the walls of Jerusalem fall down at his command, thus securing to them a safe entrance through the breach. Josephus informs us that he conducted from the wilderness thirty thousand (30,000) men whom he got together and led them round Mount Olivet. Felix, the governor, on being apprised of it, led out the Roman soldiers, and having slaughtered a large number, captured a great many, the rest betaking themselves to flight. Among those who thus escaped was the false prophet himself. The Tribune fancied was the same who caused this great uproar.

“The desert.” The mountainous tract to the east of Jerusalem, between it and the Jordan (Matthew 3:1).

“Four thousand cut-throats.” Josephus states the number to be thirty thousand (30,000). Between him and the Tribune there is the greatest discrepancy as to numbers. Possibly, the Tribune may have referred to the number who survived the slaughter by Felix. But the narrative of Josephus seems strange; for while he states (Antiq.) there were thirty thousand, of whom very many were slain (De Bello, &c.), he says four hundred (400) were slain, and two hundred (200) taken prisoners. This would be comparatively a small amount out of thirty thousand. Most likely the number given by the Tribune, as recorded by St. Luke, is the accurate account, as it would be most difficult to collect so large a number as thirty thousand (30,000). However, it matters but little, which is the true account. St. Luke is not answerable for the number; he only records the words of the Tribune, giving no statement at all of his own.

39. “No mean city.” Well known and distinguished. Once the rival of Athens and Alexandria for learning. Josephus (Antiq. Lib. i, c. 6) speaks of it in terms of great praise.

40. “Hebrew tongue,” or rather the Syro-Chaldaic, the vernacular of Judea at this time.

The use of the old Hebrew ceased during the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity. On their return, the Jews brought back the Chaldaic or Aramaic language with which they mixed up some Hebrew words. This was the language composed chiefly of the Chaldaic, but partly of the Hebrew that was commonly in use in Judea after the captivity until the destruction of Jerusalem. St. Paul employed this language, in order to conciliate the good will of the Jews.

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