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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Acts 18



Verse 1

1. μετὰ ταῦτα χωρισθεὶςἧλθεν, after these things he departed and came. The ὁ Παῦλος of Text. recept. is an insertion of some one who thought to make the reference clearer. The number of similar instances in this book is large.

εἰς Κόρινθον, to Corinth. As Athens was the seat of culture, so Corinth was the seat of commerce in the south of Greece. The city, at this time the political capital of Greece and the residence of the Roman pro-consul, stood on the isthmus which united the Peloponnesus to the mainland, and through it all land traffic between the peninsula and the rest of Greece must pass, while its two harbours, one on each side of the neck of land on which Corinth stood, made it the resort of seafaring traders both from east and west. Of Lechæum, the western port, on the Corinthian gulf, we have no mention in the New Testament, but Cenchreæ, the harbour on the Saronic gulf, by which communication with the East was kept up, is mentioned in Acts 18:18. The city was also made famous for its connexion with the Isthmian games, from which St Paul in his Epistles draws frequent illustrations when writing to the Corinthian Church. (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, &c.) For further particulars of the history of Corinth see Dict. of Bible, s.v.

Verses 1-11


Verse 2

2. Ἰουδαῖον ὀνόματι Ἀκύλαν a Jew named Aquila. The name Aquila is Latin, and it is not likely that this was the man’s Jewish name, but as the custom was among the Jews, he had probably assumed a Roman name during his dwelling in Italy and in his intercourse with the Gentiles. See above on Acts 13:9. The name is identified, by the Jews, with that of Onkelos who wrote a Targum on the Pentateuch, and some make that Onkelos to be the same with Aquila who translated the Old Testament into Greek, of which translation part is preserved to us in Origen’s Hexapla.

Ποντικὸν τῷ γένει, born in Pontus. Literally, ‘a man of Pontus by birth.’ The provinces of Asia Minor abounded with Jewish families of the Dispersion, as we may see from the whole history in the Acts. In Acts 2:9-11 many of these districts are mentioned as contributing to the number of worshippers who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. Pontus came under Roman sway when its king Mithridates was conquered by Pompey, and this connexion may have led Aquila to leave his native country for Italy. Aquila and his wife are mentioned Romans 16:3 as though they were again in Rome, so that probably they had formed ties there which were only temporarily severed by the Claudian edict mentioned in this verse. (It is however questioned whether the salutations in Romans 16 form part of the Epistle as it was sent to the Romans.) They were with St Paul when he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:19), and were so far settled in Ephesus, where that Epistle was written, as to have a house which they could place at the service of the Christians there, as a place to worship in. And if (as is most probable) Timothy was in Ephesus when the Second Epistle (2 Timothy 4:19) was addressed to him, they were in that city again at this later date (for Priscilla is only the diminutive form of Prisca, as the name of the wife is there written). More than this is not known of their changes of abode.

προσφάτως, lately. This adverb is only found here in N.T., but is more common in the LXX. Cf. Judith 4:3 προσφάτως ἦσαν ἀναβεβηκότες ἐκ τῆν αἰχμαλωσίας. Also Judith 4:5; 2 Maccabees 14:36.

Πρίσκιλλαν, Priscilla. This name also is Latin, being a diminutive of the adjective ‘Prisca,’ which was also used as a proper name, see Romans 16:3.

διὰ τὸ διατεταχέναιἀπὸ τῆς Ῥώμης, because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. The Jews were often objects of persecution in Rome, but this particular occasion is probably that mentioned by Suetonius, Claud. 25, where we read that by reason of the Jewish tumults at the instigation of one Christus (or Chrestus) they were driven out of the city. Whether this was the name of some Jew then resident in Rome, or whether it is a reference to some disturbance that had arisen from the Jewish expectation of ‘the Christ’ or Messiah, and the name Christus is mistakenly used by Suetonius as though it were that of some agitator actually present, we cannot tell. Or it may have been some movement of the Jews against the Christians because they taught that the ‘Christ’ was already come. In that case the name ‘Christus’ would come into great prominence, and might give rise to the statement of Suetonius that a person of that name had been the instigator of the disturbances.

Verse 3

3. καὶ διὰ τὸ ὁμότεχνον εἶναι, and because he was of the same craft. Among the Jews every Rabbi deemed it proper to practise some handicraft, and they have a proverb about R. Isaac, who was a smith, ‘Better is the sentence of the smith (R. Isaac) than that of the smith’s son (R. Jochanan),’ thus marking their opinion that the pursuit of a craft was no injury to the teacher’s wisdom (T. B. Sanhedrin, 96a). Thus our Lord is spoken of (Mark 6:3) as ‘the carpenter.’

There is an interesting passage bearing on this matter in the ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,’ chap. 12. It is concerning one who comes to a Christian congregation ‘in the name of the Lord.’ εἰ δὲ θέλει πρὸς ὑμᾶς καθῆσαι, τεχνίτης ὤν, ἐργαζέσθω καὶ φαγέτω. εἰ δ' οὐκ ἔχει τέχνην, κατὰ τὴν σύνεσιν ὑμῶν προνοήσατε, πῶς μή ἀργὸς μεθ' ὑμῶν ζἡσεται Χριστιανός. εἰ δ' οὐ θέλει οὕτω ποιεῖν, χριστέμπορός ἐστι.

ἔμενεν παρ' αὐτοῖς καὶ ἠργάζετο, he abode with them and wrought. In a passage from T. B. Sukkah, 51 b, part of which has already been quoted on Acts 4:9, we read in a description of the Jewish synagogue at Alexandria, ‘The people did not sit mixed together, but goldsmiths by themselves, and silversmiths by themselves, and ironworkers by themselves, and miners by themselves, and weavers by themselves, and when a poor man came there he recognised the members of his craft, and went there, and from thence was his support, and that of the members of his house.’ This may explain how readily Paul found at Corinth some persons who were of his own craft.

ἦσαν γὰρ σκηνοποιοὶ τῇ τέχνῃ, for by their occupation they were tentmakers. What they made was most probably tent-cloth. This was of goats’ hair, and the plaiting of it into strips and joining these together was a common employment in Cilicia, to such an extent that the district gave name to the material and the articles made of it, a soldier’s and sailor’s rough hair-rug being named Cilicium. As the trade was intended in such cases as St Paul’s merely to be used as a resource under circumstances of need which were not likely to come about, we can understand that while complying with Jewish feeling in the matter, a trade would be chosen for the boy which would not consume a large part of his time in learning. Mishnah Qiddushin IV. 14 says ‘let a person teach his son a trade both clean and easy.’ The most common handicraft of Tarsus offered just such a trade in the making of this rough goats’ haircloth.

Verse 4

4. ἔπειθέν τε Ἰουδαίους καὶ Ἕλληνας, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. No doubt as in other Gentile cities, the religion of the Jews in Corinth gained the attention of many among the Gentiles, who as proselytes or inclining thereto might form part of the Sabbath audience in the synagogue. According to his rule St Paul addressed himself to the Jews first.

Verse 5

5. ὡς δὲ κατῆλθονὁ Τιμόθεος, but when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia. After the arrival of his companions, who had been left at Beroea (Acts 17:14) there was a change in the character of St Paul’s preaching. It may well be that he had encouragement by their presence in his work of preaching, and also that it was not so necessary for him to consume his whole time on his craft because the Philippians had sent a contribution for his support (Philippians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 11:9).

συνείχετο τῷ λόγῳ ὁ Παῦλος, was constrained by the word. The meaning is, he was earnestly occupied in preaching the word, and felt himself more urged on, and also more able to preach, because of his freedom from the necessity of constant labour. It was apparently only on the Sabbath that he had reasoned with the people before. The usus loquendi favours the passive meaning. Meyer (3rd ed.) renders ‘he was apprehended, seized by the word’ in the sense of internal pressure of spirit. For the verb cf. Wisdom of Solomon 17:11, πονηρία προσείληφε τὰ χαλεπὰ συνεχομένη τῇ συνειδήσει, being pressed with conscience’ (A.V.).

διαμαρτυρόμενοςεἶναι τὸν Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. We are here told of the manner in which the greater earnestness of the Apostle was exhibited. He gave in all its fulness his solemn testimony, no doubt confirmed from Scripture and by the narrative of his own miraculous conversion, that this Jesus, whom he had formerly persecuted, was the Christ, the Messiah whom the Jews had long expected.

Verse 6

6. ἀντιτασσομένων δὲ αὐτῶν, but when they opposed themselves. The word implies a strong organized opposition. They resisted like a force drawn up for battle.

καὶ βλασφημούντων, and blasphemed. The same word is used in 2 Peter 2:2, ‘The way of truth shall be evil spoken of.’ And the same conduct, though the word is different, is described in the next chapter (Acts 19:9), ‘speaking evil of the Way before the multitude.’

ἐκτιναξάμενος τὰ ἱμάτια εἶπεν, he shook out his raiment and said. Cf. LXX. Nehemiah 5:13, καὶ τὴν ἀναβολήν μου ἐξετίναξα καὶ εἶπα Οὕτως ἐκτινάξαι ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἄνδρα ὂς οὐ στήσει τὸν λόγον τοῦτον ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκ κόπου αὐτοῦ. The act is figurative of entire renunciation. Nothing which pertained to them should cling to him. In like manner he would cast them from his thoughts. Cf. Acts 13:51.

τὸ αἶμα ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν ὑμῶν, your blood be upon your own heads. For the phrase cf. LXX. 2 Samuel 1:16; 1 Kings 2:37; Ezekiel 33:4. The verb to be supplied is ἔστω or ἐλθέτω. The Apostle uses the O.T. expression ‘blood’ in the figurative sense of ‘destruction.’

εἰς τὰ ἔθνη πορεύσομαι, I will go unto the Gentiles, i.e. the Gentiles in Corinth. For in his future preaching elsewhere (see Acts 19:8) he addressed the Jews and went to the synagogue, as had been his custom from the first.

Verse 7

7. εἰσῆλθεν εἰς οἰκίαν τινὸς ὀνόματι Ἰούστου, he entered into a certain man’s house named Justus. St Paul perhaps used this house for the purposes of teaching and worship. We may suppose that for his own lodging, he still remained with Aquila and Priscilla. Some MSS. give the name Titus (or Titius) Justus to this man, and the double name is adopted in the Revised Version, but there is good authority for the Text. recept.

σεβομένου τὸν θεόν, one that worshipped God. He was a proselyte. See above on Acts 13:43, Acts 17:4. The house of Justus was therefore an appropriate place in which both Jews and Gentiles might meet, and to which Gentiles would be more ready to come than to that of a Jew by birth.

οὗ ἡ οἱκίατῇ συναγωγῇ, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. It is likely that St Paul though he came no more to the synagogue at Corinth, chose not to betake himself far away, because he would be ready to receive any of his brethren who might change their feelings and come to him. On this cf. Chrysostom’s language: ὅρα πῶς πάλιν εἰπών, ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν, οὐδέ οὕτως αὐτῶν ἀμελεῖ. ὥστε τοῦ διεγεῖραι ἕνεκεν εἶπε τοῦτο. καὶ λοιπὸν ἧλθε πρὸς Ἰοῦστον, οὗ ἦν ἡ οἰκία ὁμοροῦσα τῇ συναγωγῇ. ἐγειτνίαζεν ὥστε καὶ ζῆλον ἔχειν ἀπὸ τῆς γειτνιάσεως εἴπερ ἤθελον.

But we can see how, while his near neighbourhood gave opportunity for this, the meetings of those who came to the synagogue with those who were going to the house of Justus, would be likely to cause bitterness, especially when the number of St Paul’s adherents began to increase, and a ruler of the synagogue was counted among them.

Verse 8

8. Κρίσπος δὲ ὁ ἀρχισυνάγωγος, and Crispus the ruler of the synagogue. This Crispus is alluded to, 1 Corinthians 1:14, as one of the few whom St Paul himself baptized. His previous distinguished position among the Jews, and the conversion of his whole family, would make him noticeable among the Christian converts. There may have been more than one synagogue in Corinth. In Acts 18:17 we read of Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue. But it is quite possible that this man may have been appointed immediately after the conversion of Crispus, and may have been desirous to shew his zeal against the Christian teachers by laying an immediate information against Paul before the proconsul.

καὶ πολλοὶ τῶν Κορινθίωνἐβαπτίζοντο, and many of the Corinthians … were baptized. St Paul mentions that he himself only baptized (in addition to Crispus) Gaius and the household of Stephanas. But Silas and Timothy were now by his side and would care for the admission of the new converts to baptism.

Verse 9

9. εἶπεν δὲἐν νυκτὶ δι' ὁράματος τ. Π., and the Lord spake to Paul in the night by a vision. We may infer from the language used to him that for some reason the heart of the Apostle was beginning to wax faint, and that he was in danger of bodily maltreatment. The communication was made in the same way as the call to come over into Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). Only here the Lord appeared to his servant.

λάλει καὶ μὴ σιωπήσῃς, speak, and hold not thy peace. Instead of fainting, be more earnest still. Let nothing stop thy testimony.

Verse 10

10. διότι ἐγώ εἰμι μετὰ σοῦ, for I am with thee. The pronoun is emphatically expressed.

τοῦ κακῶσαί σε, to harm thee. There will be assailants. Christ does not promise him freedom from attack. But the enemy shall not be able to do him violence. And this appearance of Christ would give the Apostle the confidence of the prophet of old (2 Kings 6:16), ‘They that be with us are more than they that be with them.’

With this genitival infinitive of design, cf. Luke 24:29, εἰσῆλθεν τοῦ μεῖναι σὺν αὐτοῖς, also Genesis 24:21, καὶ παρεσιώπα τοῦ γνῶναι εἰ εὐώδωκε κύριος τὴν ὁδὸν αὐτοῦ ἢ οὔ.

διότι λαὸςἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ, for I have much people in this city. How important and extensive the Christian community at Corinth became we may gather from the Epistles which St Paul wrote afterwards to the Church there. And as the city was one of the great centres of commercial activity at this period, we can see how important it was (humanly speaking) for the Church to make good its footing there from the first. The Lord mercifully by this vision gave His servant assurance that his words should be largely blessed, and rising up thus comforted, he was ready for any task.

Verse 11

11. ἐκάθισεν δέ, and he dwelt there. In this word the historian seems to intend to express the quiet and content which filled the Apostle’s mind after the vision. καθίζω is generally rendered ‘to sit down,’ and here seems to be applied purposely to the restful state of the Apostle’s mind after the comforting revelation. The same verb is used by St Luke (Luke 24:49), ‘Tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high,’ where the admonition is of like character with the advice given here to St Paul. In no other place in the New Testament is the word similarly used.

ἐνιαυτὸν καὶ μῆνας ἕξ, a year and six months, and beside the teaching which he gave to the Corinthians he wrote at this time the two Epistles to the Thessalonians which are the first in order of date among the Apostolic letters, and probably the earliest part of the whole New Testament.

Verse 12

12. Γαλλίωνος δὲ ἀνθυπάτου ὄντος τῆς Ἀχαίας, but when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia. We come now to an episode in marked contrast to the repose and quiet spoken of just before. St Luke here gives Gallio his correct title, which is a great mark of the fidelity of his narrative. Achaia was a Roman province. Such provinces belonged either to the Senate or to the Emperor. When they were senatorial the governor was styled Proconsul. Now Achaia had been a senatorial province under Augustus, but under Tiberius became an imperial province for a time. Subsequently after A.D. 44 under Claudius (Suet. Claud, xxv.), which is the reign in which these events in St Paul’s life occurred, it was once more made senatorial and so had a proconsul at this period for its governor. This Gallio was the brother of the famous philosopher Seneca, who was tutor, and for a time minister, of the Emperor Nero. Originally Gallio was called Marcus Annæus Novatus, and took the name of Gallio from the orator Lucius Junius Gallio, by whom he was adopted. The character of Gallio as described by his Roman contemporaries is that of a most bright, popular and affectionate man. He is spoken of as ‘sweet Gallio,’ and Seneca declares that ‘those who love him to the utmost, don’t love him enough.’

κατεπέστησαν ὁμοθυμαδόν, they rose up with one accord. The Jews probably hoped to avail themselves of the inexperience of a newly arrived proconsul. For this reason they came in a body and sought to have Paul expelled from the city.

καὶ ἤγαγον αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ βῆμα, and brought him to the judgement seat. In Gallio’s eyes they would seem to be a company of Jews accusing one of their own race of some erroneous teaching. If he had only lately come from Rome, he would be likely to have heard there of the troubles about ‘Christus’ (see above on Acts 18:2), and he would consider that he had come into the midst of a quarrel about the same matter.

Verses 12-17


Verse 13

13. παρὰ τὸν νόμον, contrary to the law, i.e. the Jewish law. The Jewish religion was one of those allowed throughout the Roman Empire, and their hope is to induce the proconsul to protect the Jewish law by Roman law. But the majesty of the Roman power was far too august to be invoked for settling a quarrel between the members of a merely ‘tolerated’ religion. He would not meddle in their matters.

Verse 14

14. μέλλοντος δὲ τοῦ Παύλου ἀνοίγειν τὸ στόμα, but when Paul was about to open his mouth. The Roman proconsul has too much contempt for the whole matter and all who are concerned in it to listen to any defence. For the law of the Jews, its breach or its observance, he has no care, and will not be used by either party. Chrysostom praises Gallio’s conduct. ἐπιεικής τις ἄνθρωπος οὗτος εἶναι μοι δοκεῖ, καὶ δῆλον ἐξ ὧν ἀποκρίνεται συνετῶς.

εἶπεν ὁ Γαλλίων πρὸς τοὺς Ιουδαίους, Gallio said unto the Jews. He declines to hear any argument, for he is determined to give no opinion.

εἰ μὲν ἦν ἀδίκημά τι ἢ ῥᾳδιούργημα πονηρόν, if it had been a matter of wrong or wicked villany. The two things of which the magistrate would take account are [1] any evil-doing (cp. Acts 24:20), an act of injustice, or [2] any unscrupulous conduct involving moral wrong. He would be, that is, a minister of law and equity, for that was his duty.

κατὰ λόγον ἂν ἀνεσχόμην ὑμῶν, reason would that I should have borne with you. A very happy idiomatic rendering of the Greek, like many others in the A.V. Gallio shews by his language how far he feels the Roman citizen above the tolerated Jews. But if their case had called for its exercise they should have had the benefit of toleration, and he would have inquired into matters that were the business of his office.

Verse 15

15. εἰ δὲ ζητήματά ἐστιν περὶ λόγου καὶ ὀσνομάτων, but if they are questions about words and names. The use of the indicative ἐστίν shews that Gallio considers this is what they are.

There would no doubt be many points brought forward from St Paul’s teaching to which the Jews would object. And whether Jesus was the Christ or not would seem to the Roman a matter entirely of definition, and on which the law had no bearing. If he had heard the name of ‘Christus’ at Rome (see on Acts 18:2), it would make Gallio the more ready to imitate his royal master, and get rid of the disputants as fast and as far as possible.

καὶ νόμου τοῦ καθ' ὑμᾶς, and of your own law. On this circumlocution see Acts 17:28 note. The accusers had without doubt been striving to make out that in teaching a different manner of worship (Acts 18:13) Paul was bringing forward a religion not enjoying toleration by the Roman government. But Gallio sees through their intention, and counting them all for Jews, he will not be drawn into their questions.

ὄψεσθε αὐτοί, look to it yourselves. The pronoun is very emphatic. For the form ὄψεσθε used as an imperative, cf. LXX. Numbers 13:19, καὶ ὄψεσθε τὴν γῆν τίς ἐστι, καὶ τὸν λαόν. Also Judges 7:17; Judges 21:21; 1 Samuel 6:9; &c.

κριτὴς ἐγὼ τούτων οὐ βούλομαι εἶναι, I am not minded to be a judge of these matters. Gallio knows his own business and will only look to that. It is not a case where his jurisdiction can interfere, and so he leaves the whole untouched. There is no question here about his own regard and disregard of enquiries about religion. He sits to administer Roman law, and this dispute among the Jews at Corinth lies outside his cognizance altogether.

Verse 16

16. καὶ ἀπήλασεν αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ τοῦ βήματος, and he drave them from the judgement seat. The description given by St Luke makes it probable that Gallio’s βῆμα was in some open public place, whither all might come and bring their plaints. The proconsul would be attended by his lictors and other officials, and those he now commands to clear the place of these troublesome cavillers about words and names. The new magistrate found perhaps enough to do in matters which came within his jurisdiction in the busy mercantile life of Corinth.

Verse 17

17. ἐπιλαβόμενοι δὲ πάντες Σωσθένην τὸν ἀρχισυνάγωγον, and they all laid hold on Sosthenes the ruler of the synagogue and, &c. The verb is used (Acts 21:30) of the violent action of the mob at Jerusalem, and just afterwards (Acts 21:33) of the chief captain’s conduct when he rescued Paul. Neither of these would be a very gentle measure. And we may understand something of the same kind here. The surrounding crowd, of whom no doubt most would be Greeks, catching the tone of the magistrate, prepared to follow up his decision by a lesson of their own, of a rather rough kind. Sosthenes had probably been the spokesman of the Jews, and Paul would not improbably have some sympathizers among the Gentiles. And ‘Jew-baiting’ was not unknown in those days. So with impunity the crowd could wreak their own vengeance on these interrupters of the proper business of the court, and beat Sosthenes before he was out of the magistrate’s presence. The name Sosthenes was a very common one, and we need not identify this man with the Sosthenes mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1.

καὶ οὐδὲν τούτων τῷ Γαλλίωνι ἔμελεν, and Gallio cared for none of these things, neither for the questions raised nor for those who raised them. How little Jewish life was regarded by the Romans is shewn in many places in their literature (see Farrar’s St Paul, Vol. I. Exc. XIV.). Tiberius banished four thousand of them to Sardinia, saying that if the unhealthy climate killed them off ‘it would be a cheap loss’ (Tac. Ann. II. 85). Coming from Rome where such feeling was universal, the lives and limbs of a few Jews would appear of small importance, and like the Emperor just named he may have thought it mattered little what became of them.

It is best to take οὐδέν as subject of ἔμελεν, and τούτων not as governed by ἔμελεν, but by οὐδέν.

Verse 18

18. προσείνας ἡμέρας ἱκανάς, having tarried many days. This seems to refer to the period after the appearance before Gallio. We are told (Acts 18:11) that he settled quietly for a year and six months. Then came an opportunity of attacking him on Gallio’s arrival. Of this the Jews tried to avail themselves, and when their attempt was at an end, the Apostle had another time of peace among his converts. So that the whole stay in Corinth extended over more than a year and a half.

ἀποταξάμενος, having taken leave of. A strictly N.T. use of the word. It occurs again below in Acts 18:21 and in Mark 6:46; Luke 9:61.

ἐξέπλει εἰς τὴν Συρίαν, he sailed for Syria. We have no motive given why the Apostle at this time sailed back. Some have suggested that he was carrying a contribution to the brethren in Jerusalem. It is clear that when the return was resolved on, he wished to reach Jerusalem as soon as possible, for he declined to tarry in Ephesus even though his preaching was more readily received there than by the Jews in many other places. It may have been the wish to fulfil his vow, which could only be brought to its conclusion by a visit to the temple in Jerusalem.

κειράμενος ἐν Κεγχρεαῖς τὴν κεφαλήν, εἶχεν γὰρ εὐχήν, having shorn his head in Cenchreæ, for he had a vow. We can observe all through the narrative of the Acts that St Paul, although the Apostle of the Gentiles, never ceased to regard the festivals and ceremonies of the Jews in things which did not militate against the Christian liberty. For some reason, either during sickness or in the midst of his conflict at Corinth, he had taken a vow upon himself of the nature of the Nazirite vows (Numbers 6:1-21). This could only be brought to its fitting close by a journey to Jerusalem to offer up the hair, which it was a part of the vow to leave uncut. At Jerusalem when the ceremony was completed the head was shaven (see Acts 21:24), but it seems to have been allowed to persons at a distance to cut the hair short and to bring that with them to the temple and to offer it up when the rest was shaven. This appears to be what St Paul did at this time, at Cenchreæ, before starting on the voyage to Syria. The Greek word for ‘having shorn’ stands in the original next to Aquila. Hence some have contended that it was he who had the vow, and who cut his hair. They have pointed out also that the order of the names ‘Priscilla and Aquila’ seems to have been adopted purposely to make this connexion of words possible. But the name of the wife stands before that of her husband in Romans 16:3; see also 2 Timothy 4:19 and according to the best MSS. in Acts 18:26 below. This order of the names may have been adopted because by her zeal she made herself a very conspicuous member of the Church wherever she lived. But it seems very unlikely that all this detail of a vow and its observance would be so prominently mentioned in connexion with Aquila, who played but a small part in St Luke’s history; while it is a most significant feature in the conduct of St Paul that he so oft conformed to Jewish observances.

Verses 18-23


Verse 19

19. κατήντησαν δὲ εἰς Ἕφεσον. and they came to Ephesus. Ephesus was the famous city, the capital of Ionia, and afterwards the scene of a large portion of St John’s labours. It stood not far from the sea on some hilly ground, by a small river which flows into the sea in the district lying between the greater rivers, the Hermus and the Meander. In St Paul’s day it was by far the busiest and most populous city in Proconsular Asia. For a more complete account of its inhabitants and the special worship of Artemis (Diana) for which it was celebrated, a fitting place will be found in the notes on chap. 19.

κἀκείνους κατέλιπεν αὐτοῦ, and he left them there, ‘They probably had business connexions with the large city of Ephesus, which caused them to end their journey here. These people though working at their trade appear to have been above the position which would be implied by Dr Farrar’s expression (St Paul I. 573), ‘his lodging in the squalid shop of Aquila and Priscilla.’ They travelled about and lived now at Rome, now at Ephesus, and now in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19), and on their condition when in Ephesus, see above on Acts 18:2.

εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν, into the synagogue. He could not give up his own people, though he was constantly exposed to hard usage by them. He seeks them out again here as soon as he arrives. In Ephesus however his message seems to have been received with less hostility, for those who heard him begged him to stay a longer time. The cosmopolitan character of the Ephesian population may have had something to do with this.

Verse 20

20. ἐρωτώντων δὲ αὐτῶν ἐπὶ πλείονα χρόνον μεῖναι, and when they asked him to tarry a longer time. We need not from this suppose that more impression had been produced on this occasion than made the Jews willing to give him a patient hearing.

Verse 21

21. ἀλλὰ ἀποταξάμενος καὶ εἰπών, but bidding them farewell and saying. The words in the Text. recept., which are omitted from this verse, seem to be an addition suggested by Acts 20:16. The authorities for the omission are numerous, both uncials, cursives and versions.

πάλιν ἀνακάμψω πρὸς ὑμᾶς τοῦ θεοῦ θέλοντος, I will return again to you, if God will. Having the opportunity, he soon redeemed his promise. See Acts 19:1.

Verse 22

22. εἰς Καισάρειαν, to Cæsarea, This was the home of Philip the Evangelist, and we may suppose that St Paul would make the success of his distant mission known to his fellow-labourer. He made the house of Philip his home in Cæsarea on a later occasion (Acts 21:8).

ἀναβάς, having gone up, i.e. from the coast to the city of Jerusalem,

καὶ ἀσπασάμενος τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, and having saluted the Church. This must strike every reader as a very brief notice of a visit to the centre of all Church life and action at this time. And we cannot but be surprised that there is no mention (as in Acts 14:27) of a gathering of the Church, and of the report of what the great missionary had been enabled to effect. Dr Farrar (St Paul, II. 5) suggests that St Paul met with a cold and ungracious reception, and that the position which he assumed towards the Law in his preaching to Gentile converts raised him up adversaries among the Christians in Jerusalem, who were naturally zealous for the Law. It is certainly strange that even the name of the city is not mentioned, nor are we told a word about the fulfilment of the vow. For some reason or other, the Apostle hastened, as soon as his salutations were ended, to the more congenial society of the Christians at Antioch who had rejoiced over his success on a former visit.

Verse 23

23. καὶ ποιήσας χρόνον τινά, and after he had spent some time there. As they had experienced for themselves the troubles of the Judaizers, the people at Antioch would sympathize with the Apostle, if he were meeting with like opposition now in his own work.

For χρόνον ποιεῖν cf. Acts 15:33, Acts 20:3; 2 Corinthians 11:25; James 4:13.

ἐξῆλθεν, he departed, making Antioch his starting point as he had done in both his former missions.

διερχόμενος καθεξῆςΦρυγίαν, passing through all the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order. No doubt he took the same route as before. Thus he would visit Lystra and Derbe before he came to the more northern portions of Asia Minor mentioned in this verse.

στηρίζων, strengthening. The return of the Apostle to the Churches which he had once visited would infuse new spirit, while his presence and words would everywhere quicken Christian activity.

Verse 24

24. Ἰουδαῖος δέ τις Ἀπολλὼς ὀνόματι, now a certain Jew named Apollos. The five verses following are a digression to introduce the narrative of the next chapter.

The name Apollos is an abbreviation of Apollonius, which is read in one MS. (D). His influence as a Christian teacher made itself most felt in Corinth. (Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 4:6.)

Αλεξανδρεὺς τῷ γένει, an Alexandrian by birth. On Alexandria as a place where Jews abounded, cf. Acts 6:9. It was in Alexandria and by Jews that the Septuagint Version was made.

ἀνὴρ λόγιος, an eloquent man (Rev. Ver. ‘learned’). The word includes both senses. He had stores of learning, and also could use them to convince others.

κατήντησεν εἰς Ἕφεσον, δυνατὸς ἂν ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς, came to Ephesus, and he was mighty in the Scriptures. The study of the Old Testament flourished greatly in Alexandria, and Apollos had great power in the exposition and application of these Scriptures. The literary activity and philosophic pursuits of the Greek population of Alexandria were not without their effect on the more conservative Jews, and we find from many sources that the Jewish writings were studied with all the literary exactness which marked the Greek scholarship of the time, and the Jews, conscious of the antiquity of their own records and yet impressed with the philosophic character of their cultured fellow-citizens, bent themselves greatly to find analogies between the Mosaic writings and the teachings of the schools. In study like this Apollos had no doubt been fully trained.

δυνατὸς ἐν is in the N.T. used only by St Luke, see Luke 24:19; Acts 7:22. It is frequent in the LXX., cf. Sirach 21:7, γνωστὸς μακρόθεν ὁ δυνατὸς ἐν γλώσσῃ.

Verses 24-28


Verse 25

25. οὗτος ἧν κατηχημένος τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ κυρίον, this man was instructed in the way of the Lord. The verb κατηχέω (whence our ‘catechize’) implies a course of instruction distinct from his own study of the O.T. Scriptures. We know from Josephus (Antiq. XVIII. 5. 2) that the teaching and baptism of John produced great effect among the Jews. We need not therefore wonder at finding among Jews in Alexandria and Ephesus men who had accepted the Baptist’s teaching about Jesus. But in considering such cases we must remember where such instruction as they had received would stop short. They would know that John baptized in preparation for the coming of the kingdom, they would have heard that he pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, being certified thereof when He came to be baptized. But when John was dead and the life of Jesus was brought to a close on Calvary, except the few of John’s disciples who had joined the followers of our Lord, none would know of the way in which the foundations of the heavenly kingdom were laid, none would understand the institution of the Sacraments, nor the sending down of the Holy Ghost, nor the teaching of repentance, and of the gift of salvation to the faithful through grace. Of these things John had known nothing, and we must not forget in our attempt to estimate his work and its effects, that there came to himself a day when he sent to Christ to ask ‘Art thou He that should come?’ (Matthew 11:3.)

καὶ ζέων τῷ πνεύματι ἐλάλει καὶ ἐδίδασκεν ἀκριβῶς τὰ περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, and being fervent in spirit he spake and taught carefully the things concerning Jesus. By πνεῦμα is meant Apollos’s own spirit and zeal. The reading of the Text. recept. τὰ περὶ τοῦ Κυρίου seems to have been the suggestion of some one who did not understand the plain statement of the text. In the previous expression ‘the way of the Lord’ we have only the Old Test. words (Isaiah 40:3) quoted by the Evangelists concerning John’s preaching. (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3.) There may have been some timidity felt about the further statement that Apollos taught the things ‘concerning Jesus,’ and so the reading of the early part of the verse was brought in here also. But after what has been said above we can see how this Alexandrian Jew might publish with the utmost accuracy all that John had proclaimed about the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, and enforce it from his own studies of the Old Testament Scriptures. He might declare how John had pointed to Jesus, and might even relate much of the works and words of Christ, as an evidence that God was sending greater prophets than they had known for long, and that therefore Christ’s life was a testimony that redemption was near. All this he might know and preach most carefully, and yet lack all that further knowledge which Aquila and Priscilla imparted. Chrysostom on the contrary explains πνεῦμα of the Holy Ghost, and suggests that the case of Aquila is somewhat like that of Cornelius, where the Holy Spirit was given before baptism in the name of Christ. For ζέων τῷ πνεύματι cf. Romans 12:11.

ἐπιστάμενοςἸωάννου, knowing only the baptism of John. In this sentence we have the solution of any difficulty which there may seem to be in the verse. He knew nothing of that other baptism, which is the entrance into Christ’s kingdom, and therefore he could merely be looking forward for the fulfilment of the prophecies, and the power of his teaching would consist in the zealous way which he published that the voice of God in His older Revelation proclaimed Messiah’s advent very near.

Verse 26

26. οὗτός τε ἤρξατο παρρησιάζεσθαι ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ, and this man began to speak boldly in the synagogue. The verb παρρησιάζεσθαι has been frequently used of the boldness of the disciples (cf. Acts 9:27; Acts 9:29, Acts 14:3, &c.). Here too was the same spirit and the same need of it. For the Jews were not all ready to listen to announcements of the approach of the Messiah. The speaker must be prepared with arguments as well as courage who dwelt on this theme, about which the Jews had been deluded by many impostors.

ἀκούσαντες δὲ αὐτοῦ Πρίσκιλλα καὶ Ἀκύλας, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him. Here as in other places (see above on 18) the name of the wife precedes that of her husband. By joining her in this marked way with Aquila in the communications with Apollos, the historian indicates that she was a woman of great power and zeal among the Christians. It has been suggested that she was perhaps a born Jewess and her husband not so, which might account for the prominence given in several places to her name. It may be noted here, as so often, that Aquila and his wife, like the other Judæo-Christians, still attended the worship of the synagogue.

προσελάβοντο αὐτόν, they took him unto them. He would be much more in sympathy with them than with many of the Jewish congregation. He was prepared to accept the Messiah, but did not yet understand that Jesus was He. Priscilla and Aquila must have been persons of some mark to be warranted in taking Apollos thus to their company.

καὶ ἀκριβέστεροντὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, and expounded unto him the way of God more carefully. For the adverb cf. the previous verse. The use of the same word in both verses seems to shew that the studies of Aquila and his wife in the Scriptures had been of the same earnest kind as those of Apollos. By the ‘way of God’ we must understand God’s further working out of the Old Testament prediction in the closing events of the life of Jesus, and in the gift of the Holy Ghost. That Joel’s prophecy, quoted by St Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16), had been thus fulfilled, was new learning for the eloquent Alexandrian. As also the newly-appointed means of grace in baptism and the breaking of bread, with the promise of salvation through faith in Christ. These also may be included as part of the ‘way of God,’ being means whereby men are brought nearer to Him.

Verse 27

27. βουλομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ διελθεῖν, ε. τ. ., and when he was minded to pass over into Achaia. We find from Acts 19:1 that the centre of his labours there was Corinth. Being acquainted with the philosophy and learning of Greece he was well fitted to be a preacher to the Greeks as well as to the Jews, and he may have felt that Corinth was the place where he could do most good. We are not told of any Apostolic commission to Apollos, but we know from 1 Corinthians 1:12, &c. that he came to be regarded by some Corinthians as the equal of St Paul, and that there arose some strong party feeling in that Church, which is rebuked in St Paul’s letter to them. We cannot suppose that this was brought about by Apollos, for St Paul speaks of him as watering what he himself had planted, and it may be that the knowledge of the existence of such a spirit accounts for the unwillingness of Apollos to come back to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:12) which we read of somewhat later.

προτρεψάμενοιἀποδέξασθαι αὐτόν, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to receive him. For προτρέπομαι cf. Wisdom of Solomon 14:18, καὶ τοὺς ἀγνοοῦντας ἡ τοῦ τεχνίτου προετρέψατο φιλοτιμία. Also 2 Maccabees 11:7, αὐτὸς δὲ πρῶτος ὁ ΄ακκαβαῖος ἀναλαβὼν τὰ ὅπλα προετρέψατο τοὺς ἄλλους. Here we find the first instance of letters of commendation sent from one Church to another. ‘The brethren’ at Ephesus were probably only a small number, but Aquila and Priscilla would be well known to the Christians in Corinth.

ὃς παραγενόμενοςδιὰ τῆς χάριτος, who when he was come helped them much which had believed through grace, διὰ τῆς χάριτος may be joined either to συνεβάλετο or to τοῖς πεπιστευκόσιν. But as the history is occupied with the work of Apollos, it seems more natural to explain the ‘grace’ spoken of, as the gift which was already in Apollos, and which the more full instruction that he had just received had tended to increase. He had formerly been but partially enlightened. Now that he knows the truth in Christ, his former ability becomes more helpful still. He helps others through his grace. His work seems rightly estimated by St Paul, ‘he watered’ what the Apostle had ‘planted’ (1 Corinthians 3:6).

For συμβάλλομαι in the sense of ‘helping,’ cf. Wisdom of Solomon 5:8, τί πλοῦτος μετὰ ἀλαζονείας συμβέβληται ἡμῖν; ‘What good hath riches with our vaunting brought us?’ (A.V.).

Verse 28

28. εὐτόνως γὰρ τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις διακατηλέγχετο, for he mightily confuted the Jews. The verb implies that Apollos brought the objections of the Jews to the test (ἔλεγχος) of Scripture, and shewed them to be futile. The disciples, who had already believed, appear to have been suffering from Jewish gainsayers. It was by his power in the Scriptures that Apollos was helpful against these adversaries of the faith.

For εὐτόνως, which in N.T. is found only here and in Luke 23:10, cf. LXX. Joshua 6:8, σημαινέτωσαν εὐτόνως. Also 2 Maccabees 12:23.

διακατελέγχομαι occurs nowhere else.

δημοσίᾳ, publicly. By his discourses in the synagogue. This was an important feature in the help that Apollos gave. He was a learned Jew, able to set forth to whole Jewish congregations how their Scriptures were receiving their fulfilment. Thus they who already believed would be strengthened.

ἐπιδεικνὺςτὸν Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. See above on Acts 18:5. The Jews had complained before Gallio that St Paul was teaching a religion ‘contrary to the Law.’ Those who heard Apollos learnt that in Jesus they were accepting the ‘fulfiller of the Law.’

Chrysostom says here: ἐντεῦθεν πῶς ἦν δυνατὸς ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς Ἀπολλὼς δείκνυσι· τούς μὲν γὰρ Ἰουδαίους σφόδρα ἐπεστόμιζε. τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι τὸ διακατηλέγχετο· τοὺς δὲ πιστεύοντας θαρρεῖν μᾶλλον ἐποίει, καὶ ἵστασθαι πρὸς τὴν πίστιν.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 18:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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