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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Acts 28

 

 

Verse 1

And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.

And when they were escaped, then they knew - `then we knew' is evidently the true reading [epegnoomen ( Greek #1921 )].

That the island was called Melita (see the note at Acts ). The opinion that this island was not Malta to the south of Sicily, but Meleda in the Gulf of Venice-which until lately had respectable support among competent judges-is now all but, if not entirely, exploded; recent examination of all the places on the spot, and of all writings and principles bearing on the question, by gentlemen of the highest qualifications-particularly Mr. Smith-having set the question, it may now be affirmed, at rest.


Verse 2

And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

And the barbarous people - so called, merely as speaking neither the Greek nor the Latin language. (Compare Romans 1:14; 1 Corinthians 14:11 ; Colossians 3:11.) They were originally Phoenician colonists (see Diod. Sic., Acts 28:12 , quoted by Humphry). Their dialect was probably the Punic (or Carthaginian dialect of the Phoenician language).

Showed us no little ('no ordinary') kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain - `the rain that was (then) on us;' not now falling for the first time, but then falling heavily,

And because of the cold. They welcomed them all, drenched and shivering, to these most seasonable marks of And because of the cold. They welcomed them all, drenched and shivering, to these most seasonable marks of friendship. In this these 'barbarians' contrast favourably with many since, bearing the Christian name. The life-like style of the narrative here and in the following verses gives it a great charm.


Verse 3

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks ('a quantity of dry sticks'), and laid them on the fire. The vigorous activity of Paul's character is observable in this comparatively trifling action (as Webster and Wilkinson remark).

There came a viper out of the heat, [apo (Greek #575) tees ( Greek #) thermees (Greek #2329) is the only King James reading: ek ( Greek #1537) of the Received Text has next to no support, and diexelthousa is better than exelthousa (Greek #1831).] - 'a viper darted out from the heat.' Having laid itself up among the sticks on the approach of the cold winter season, and thus lain torpid, it had suddenly recovered from its torpor by the heat.

And fastened (its fangs) on his hand. Vipers dart at their enemies sometimes several feet at a bound. They have now disappeared from Malta, owing to the change which cultivation has produced.


Verse 4

And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.

And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on ('hanging from') his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer - an impression which might be strengthened by seeing the chains on his hands;

Whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. Thus it appears they believed in a supreme, resistless, avenging Eye and Hand-vague though doubtless their notions, were of where it resided.


Verse 5

And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.

And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. (See Mark 16:18 .)


Verse 6

Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

Howbeit they looked ('kept looking') when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly - being no doubt familiar with the effect of such bites.

But after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. From "a murderer" to "a god;" just as the Lycaonians, from "sacrificing to" Paul and Silas, fell to "stoning them" ( Acts 14:13; Acts 14:19).


Verse 7

In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.

In the same quarters ('the neighbourhood of that place') were possessions of the chief man, [ too (Greek #3588) prootoo (Greek #4413)] (or, 'the First man')

Of the island, whose name was Publius. Since this man's father was still alive (Acts 28:8), he himself would hardly be so called if this distinction was that of the family. It must, therefore, have been his official title. Accordingly, two inscriptions have been discovered in the island-the one in Greek, the other in Latin-containing the same words here employed, and proving that this was the proper official title of the Maltese representative of the Roman Praetor of Sicily, to whose province Malta belonged.

Who received ('welcomed') us, and lodged (or 'entertained') us - not only Paul's company, but the 'courteous' centurion,

Three days courteously - until proper winter accommodation could be obtained for them.


Verse 8

And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.

And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever - literally, 'fevers;' meaning that which was intermittent.

And of a bloody flux, [dusenteria ( Greek #1420)] - 'dysentery.' 'This (as Hackett says) is one of those expressions in Luke's writings that have been supposed to indicate his professional training as a physician. (See Acts 12:23; Acts 13:11; Luke 22:44 .) It is correct to attach to them that significancy. No other writer of the New Testament exhibits this sort of technical precision in speaking of diseases.'

To whom Paul entered in, and prayed - thus precluding the supposition that any charm resided in himself,

And laid his hands on him, and healed him. Thus, as our Lord rewarded Peter for the use of his boat ( Luke 5:3 , etc.), so Paul richly repays Publius for his hospitality. And as before we observed the fulfillment of one prediction of the ascending Redeemer, "They shall take up serpents," so here we have another, "they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16:18).


Verse 9

So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:

So when this was done, others ('the rest') also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed ('kept coming and getting healed'):


Verse 10

Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.

Who also honoured us with many honours , [timais ( G5092 )] - 'presents,' tokens of gratitude and regard.

And when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary. 'This was not taking hire for the miracles performed among them ( Matthew 10:8 ), but merely accepting such grateful expressions of feeling-particularly in providing what would minister to their comfort during the voyage-as showed the value they set upon the presence and labours of the apostle among them, and which it would have hurt their feelings to refuse. Whether any permanent effects of this three months' stay of the greatest of the apostles were left at Malta, we cannot certainly say. But though little dependence is to be placed upon the tradition that Publius became Bishop of Malta, and afterward of Athens, we may well believe the accredited tradition, that the beginnings of the Christian Church at Malta sprang out of this memorable visit.

Departure from Malta-Prosecution of the Voyage as far as Puteoli, and Land Journey Thence to Rome ()


Verse 11

And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.

And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria (see the note at Acts 27:6 ),

Which had wintered in the isle - no doubt driven in by the same storm which had wrecked on its shores the apostle's vessel-an incidental mark of consistency in the narrative;

Whose sign - or figure-head; the figure, carved or painted on the bow, which gave name to the vessel. Such figure-heads were anciently as common as now.

Was Castor and Pollux, [ dioskouroi ( G1359 )] - 'the Dioscuri;' that is, Castor and Pollux, the tutelar gods of mariners, to whom all their good fortune was ascribed. 'Anthony is substituted for them (remark Webster and Wilkinson) in the modern superstitions of Mediterranean sailors. They carry his image in their boats and ships. It is highly improbable that two ships of Alexandria should have been casually found, of which the owners were able and willing to receive on board such a number of passengers. We may then reasonably conceive that it was compulsory on the owners to convey soldiers and state-travelers' (Acts 27:6).


Verse 12

And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.

And landing at Syracuse - the ancient and celebrated capital of Sicily, on its eastern coast; about 80 miles, or one day's sail, north from Malta;

We tarried there three days - probably from the state of the wind. Doubtless, Paul would wish to go ashore, to find out and break ground among the Jews and proselytes whom such a mercantile center would attract to it; and if this was allowed at the outset of the voyage (


Verse 13

And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:

And from thence we fetched a compass , [perielthontes (Greek #4014)] - literally, 'went around;' that is, proceeded circuitously, or (in nautical phrase) tacked, working probably to windward (as Mr. Smith thinks), and availing themselves of the sinuosities of the coast, the wind not being favourable. What follows confirms this.

And came to Rhegium - now Reggio, a seaport on the southwest point of the Italian coast, opposite the northeast point of Sicily, and at the entrance of the narrow straits of Messina.

And after one day the south wind blew - `a south wind sprang up;' and so they were now favoured with a fair wind, the want of which probably kept them three days at Syracuse, and then obliged them to tack, and put in for a day at Rhegium.

And we came the next day to Puteoli - now Pozzuoli, situated on the northern part of the magnificent bay of Naples, about 180 miles north of Rhegium, a distance which they might make, running before their "south wind," in about 26 hours. The Alexandrian grain ships (says Howson, whose authority is the philosopher Seneca) enjoyed a privilege special to themselves, of not being obliged to strike their topsail on landing. By this they were easily recognized, as they hove in sight, by the crowds that we find gathered on the shore on such occasions.


Verse 14

Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.

Where we found brethren - implying, probably, that it was an agreeable surprise to them to find such,

And were desired ('requested') to tarry with them seven days. That they did so stay seems implied; and as they had now parted with their ship, it is probable that Julius would find the delay as convenient for himself as for Paul and his company, as he would thus have time to transmit intelligence to Rome, and receive instructions for the reception of his charge. However this may be, the apostle had thus an opportunity of spending the day of rest with the Christians of the place-all the more refreshing from his long privation in this respect, and as a seasoning for the unknown future that lay before him at the metropolis.

And so (at the close of these seven days) we went toward Rome, [eis (Greek #1519 ) teen (Greek # ) Roomeen ( G4516 ) eelthamen (Greek #2064)] - 'came to Rome.' Our translators, observing that in the very next verse something is recorded which occurred before their arrival at Rome, have rendered this 'to' by "toward." But there was no need for this. For they started from Puteoli for Rome; and as they were only stopped on the way by the unexpected arrival of two parties of brethren from the capital to meet them-the one at Appii Forum, the other at Three Taverns-the fact of their arrival at Rome is first mentioned, and then this incident which occurred by the way.


Verse 15

And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. And from thence (that is, from Rome), when the brethren heard of us, [ ta (Greek #3588) peri (Greek #4012) heemoon (Greek #2257)] - 'heard of our circumstances' or 'matters;' probably by letter from Puteoli, which would be conveyed by the bearer of the centurion's despatches to the capital. Since this is the first mention of Christians already at Rome, we naturally ask how Christianity was first introduced there. Now it is one of the most remarkable facts in the history of the first planting of Christianity, that while we have in the New Testament explicit and lively accounts of its first introduction into Asia Minor, Proconsular Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia, neither in the New Testament nor in the genuine writings of the early Church, subsequent to the close of the Canon of Scripture, have we any available accounts of the first introduction of Christianity into the great metropolis of the ancient world. That the apostle Peter was there, we have no reasonable ground to doubt; but that he was not there before the last year of his life, is equally beyond reasonable doubt. We have, in fact, no evidence that the first beginnings of the Church of Rome were owing to the labours of any eminent teacher; and from all that can be gathered from the silence of the New Testament-in connection with the small but extremely interesting salutations in the closing chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and from the confused and contradictory traditions of the fathers, we are shut up to the belief that Christianity was first brought to Rome, and first took root there, through the visits paid to it by private Christians from the provinces, from the great Pentecostal season (see Acts 2:10 ) onwards. (But see Introduction to Epistle to Romans).

They came to meet us as far as Appii Forum - a town 41 miles southeast from Rome,

And the Three Taverns - `and Three Taverns' (without the article, as the name of a place: see the note at Acts 28:8 ). This place was 30 miles from Rome. It would thus appear that they came from Rome in two parties-one stopping short at the nearer, the other going on to the more distant place.

Whom when Paul saw, he thanked God - for such a welcome. How sensitive he was to such Christian affection, all his Epistles show, ( Romans 1:9-12, etc.)

And took courage - his long-cherished purpose to "see Rome" (Acts 19:21), there to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ, and the divine pledge that in this he should be gratified ( Acts 23:11 ), being now about to be auspiciously realized.

Remarks:

(1) Probably there never was any detailed account of a disastrous voyage, ending in the total wreck of the vessel and the safe landing of every soul on board-amounting to nearly four hundred-which bore more unequivocal marks of historic truth; and yet even this portion of the Acts of the Apostles, including the subsequent account of what passed at Malta, has not escaped the attacks of the destructive school of criticism. It is admitted, for example, by Zeller that the substance of these two chapters belongs indubitably to the oldest materials of the book; but he contends that spurious matter has crept into it throughout. The examples which he gives of this are such as are either utterly frivolous, or admit of easy enough explanation; and this whole style of criticism-based on foregone conclusions, and designed to support a theory both of the book and of Pauline Christianity which would scarcely be worthy of refutation but for the ingenuity, acuteness, and learning with which it is supported-might be made to shake the credit of most historical records; in which there are nearly always some circumstances which at first appear improbable, and some which seem contradictory, while the language is often such as to afford to sceptical minds materials of suspicion.

The whole history of the Tubingen school of criticism affords one of the most striking illustrations of the extent to which the acutest and most learned men may allow themselves to be committed in support of a theory once taken up and confidently advocated, especially when that theory has the charm of being perfectly novel, of being a reconstruction of all Christianity, and of furnishing to those who sit uneasy under the authority of the New Testament and the supernatural character of the events which it records an imposing body of evidence in proof of its unhistorical and unreliable character. Time will no doubt dissolve this whole fabric of hostile criticism, which has already lost much of its ground in the land of its birth. But as its withering effects have, to some extent, been felt in this country (Britain), so even when these pass away, the same spirit of unsanctified criticism may be expected to give birth to other forms of assault on the canonical books and on the truths which they proclaim, and must be sedulously guarded against, especially by those who are apt to set too much store by mere learned criticism.

(2) The distinguishing features of our apostle's character, and of his religious principles, come out nowhere more nobly than in this narrative. There was something about him which, from the first, seems to have commanded the deep respect of the centurion Julius; and his whole procedure throughout the voyage showed such loftiness of character, and yet soundness of judgment-such confidence in the divine communications made to him, yet healthy attention to the means of safety and of bodily strength-such anxious solicitation for the welfare of all, yet cheerfulness of spirit and desire to diffuse it over all-that nowhere in this book does he show to more advantage; and one sees in him the saviour of a vast multitude of human beings, hardly more in fulfillment of a divine promise to himself, than in the exercise of his large and ready wisdom (see Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 ). But his religious principles come out quite as strikingly here. Divine agency and human instrumentality-the one controlling all the circumstances so as to secure a most unlikely issue, the other providing the indispensable conditions of that issue-are here not only recognized by the apostle, as perfectly consistent with each other, but acted on as a matter of course, us if in his own mind they created no difficulty at all, and were not so much as thought of in the light of conflicting principles. He who acted on such principles throughout this voyage may surely be expected, in his writings, whenever he has occasion to touch upon and expound them (as in his Epistle to the Romans, Romans 9:1-33), to hold forth and plead for what his own conduct here exemplified; and those who so interpret those writings as to set aside the one of these principles as inconsistent with the other would do well to study a little more deeply the apostle's procedure during this voyage.

(3) "And so we came to Rome," says the historian ( Acts 28:14), as the goal of all that both he and the great apostle had been so anxiously looking forward to. 'How would the heart of the apostle and his companions beat (says Lechler) in anxious expectation, when the imperial city of pagandom, with its cupolas and battlements, lay before their eyes! But how also would the heart of the Roman Caesar have beat in his palace had he had a presentiment that at this moment, in the form of a Jewish prisoner, there entered by the gates a power before which the Roman empire and the whole pagan world would crumble into dust! This was even a more decisive moment than when formerly it was said, Hannibal ante portas (Hannibal is at the gates).'

The Measure of Liberty accorded to Him-His First Interview with the Jews of Rome ()


Verse 16

And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.

And when we came to Rome - or, 'had entered Rome' [eiseelthomen ( G1525 ), seems the true reading]. Thus is our apostle at length brought to the renowned capital of the ancient world-situated on the banks of the Tiber, about 16 miles from its mouth, and at that time containing about two million inhabitants.

[The centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard]. Though the evidence against the genuineness of this clause is decisive [ ho (Greek #3588) hekatontarchos (G1543) paredooken ( Greek # ) tous ( Greek #3588) desmious ( G1198) too ( G3588 ) stratopedarchoo--- lacking in 'Aleph (') A B, and all the most ancient manuscript and versions, and found apparently but in a few of the later manuscript and a number of cursives: it is easy to account for its getting in, though not genuine, as probably stating a fact; but if genuine, very difficult to explain its dropping out]. there is no good reason for doubting what it states. This "captain of the guard" then was the 'Praetorian Prefect,' to whose custody, as commander of the Praetorian guard (the highest military authority in the city), were committed all who were to come up for judgment before the emperor. Ordinarily, there were two such prefects; but from 51 to 62 A.D. one distinguished general-Burrus Afranius, who had been Nero's tutor-held that office; and as this bracketed clause speaks of "the captain," as if there were but one, Wieseler is led to fix the apostle's arrival at Rome to be not later than the year 62 AD But even though there had been two when Paul arrived, he would be committed only to one of them, who would be the captain of the guard to him. At most, therefore, this argument-supposing the clause it is built on to be genuine-could furnish only confirmation of such chronological conclusions as can be otherwise established. But since no dependence can be placed upon the clause, no chronological inferences should be based on it.

But Paul was suffered to dwell. Leaving out the preceding clause, this "but," of course, goes with it [epetrapee ( Greek #2010) too (Greek #3588 ) Pauloo (Greek #3972) is the genuine text].

By himself - or in quarters of his own,

With a soldier ('the soldier') that kept (or 'guarded') him. See the note at Acts 12:6 . This privilege was allowed in the case of the better class of prisoners, not accused of any flagrant offence, on finding security-which in Paul's case would not be difficult among the Christians. The extension of this privilege to the apostle may have been due to the terms in which Festus wrote about him; but far more probably it was owing to the high terms in which Julius spoke of him, and his express intercession in his behalf. It was overruled, however, for giving the fullest scope to the labours of the apostle compatible with confinement at all. Since the soldiers who kept him were relieved periodically, he would thus make the personal acquaintance of a great number of the Praetorian guard; and if he had to appear before the Prefect from time to time, the truth might thus penetrate to those who surrounded the emperor, as we learn from Philippians 1:12-13 that it did.


Verse 17

And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

And it came to pass, that after three days Paul - `that he' (according to the true reading)

Called the chief of the Jews together - meaning the rulers of the synagogues and others of position and influence. These he 'called together,' being of course now precluded from going to them, as he otherwise would have done. Ever since Pompey settled the Jewish captives, whom he brought with him from the East ( 61 BC), in that part of Rome called now the 'Trastevere,' on the further side of the river-manumitting many of them-the number of Jewish residents at the capital continued to increase; and as they were active and enterprising, they grew wealthy and influential, and from time to time sent considerable sums to Palestine for the service of the temple, and other religious purposes. At length, being suspected of encouraging the treasonable designs of their countrymen in the East, and being themselves of a restless spirit, they began to be treated rigorously, and Claudius (as we have seen, Acts 18:2 ) banished them the city. But, long before the time here referred to, they were permitted to return, and at this time-which was early in the reign of Nero-they enjoyed full toleration, all was quiet with them, and they were both numerous and prosperous. (Their place of residence still is where it then was-in what is now called 'The Ghetto.') To call "the chief of the Jews together," and state his case to them in the first instance, was according to his uniform custom of going - "to the Jew first."

And when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans - that is, the Roman authorities, Felix and Festus.


Verse 18

Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.

Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me - no capital crime. So Acts 13:28.


Verse 19

But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of - q.d., 'I am here not as their accuser, but as my own defender, and this not of choice but necessity.' His object, in alluding thus gently to the treatment he had received from the Jews, was plainly to avoid whatever might irritate his visitors at the first, especially as he was not aware whether any or what information against him had reached their community.


Verse 20

For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.

For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you ('have I requested to see and speak with you'): because that for the hope of Israel (see the note at Acts 26:6-7) I am bound with (or 'wear') this chain - q.d., 'This cause is not so much mine as yours; it is the nation's cause; all that is dear to the heart and hope of Israel is bound up with this case of mine.' From the touching allusions which the apostle makes to his chains-before Agrippa first, and here before the leading members of the Jewish community at Rome, at his first interview with them-one cannot but gather that his great soul felt keenly his being in such a condition; and it is to this keenness of feeling, under the control of Christian principle, that we owe the noble use which he made of it in these two cases.


Verse 21

And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.

And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spake any harm of thee.


Verse 22

But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

But we desire, [ axioumen ( G515 )] - 'we deem it proper,' or 'due,'

To hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against. This statement has been pronounced incredible; and believing critics (as Tholuck) have thought that these Jews here dishonestly concealed the truth, while rationalistic critics make it a handle against the authenticity of the history itself. But the distinction which they make between Paul himself, against whom they had heard nothing, and his "sect," as everywhere spoken against, is a presumption in favour of their sincerity; and, as Meyer well says, until the apostle appealed to Caesar, the Jews of Palestine would have no occasion to send information to Rome against him, while the unexpected turn which the case took by his appeal to Caesar occurred so late, that no information on the subject would travel from Jerusalem to Rome in advance of the apostle himself. The apparent freedom from prejudice here expressed is best explained by reference to the danger which the Jews of Rome felt themselves to be in of fresh persecution, should any disturbances break out among themselves-which a keen collision between them and the Christians would be sure to provoke. It was this, probably, that induced the Jewish community of Rome, as a body, to ignore the Christianity which was springing up in the capital around them; and the same motive would now induce them to express themselves with such prudent reserve as they do here. (So Humphry, Philippi, Hackett, and substantially Lechler.)

Second Interview with the Jews of Rome-His exposition of the Christian Faith to them continued from day to day-The two-fold issue of this, and the apostle's final testimony to his countrymen ()


Verse 23

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging , [xenian (Greek #3578)]: the word denotes one's place of stay as a guest (Philem 22). It was probably not "his own hired house" (Acts 28:30), but that of some Christian friend, possibly Aquila's and Priscilla's (for they had returned to Rome, as we find from Romans 16:3), who would deem it a privilege to receive him; though he would soon find himself more at liberty in a house of his own.

To whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God - opening up the great spiritual principles of that kingdom, in opposition to the contracted and secular views of it entertained by the Jews;

Persuading them concerning Jesus - as the ordained and predicted Head of that kingdom,

Both out of the law of Moses, and out of the Prophets - drawing his materials and arguments from a source mutually acknowledged,

From morning until evening. 'Who would not wish to have been present?' exclaims Bengel; but virtually we are present while listening to those Epistles which be dictated from his prison at Rome, and to his other Epistolary expositions of Christian truth against the Jews.


Verse 24

And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.

And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. What simplicity and candour are in this record of a result, repeated from age to age, where the Gospel is presented to a promiscuous assemblage of sincere and earnest inquirers after truth, of frivolous worldlings, and of prejudiced bigots!


Verse 25

And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,

And when they (the Jews) agreed not among themselves - the discussion having passed into a debate between the two parties into which the visitors were now divided, respecting the arguments and conclusions of the apostle,

They departed - the materials of discussion being felt by both parties to be exhausted; After that Paul had spoken one word - uttered one solemn parting testimony, from those Scriptures regarded by both alike as "the Holy Spirit speaking" to Israel,

Well spake the Holy Spirit by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers - or, 'your fathers' (according to the better reading).


Verse 26

Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:

Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand ...


Verse 27

For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

For ... their eyes have they closed; lest they ... should be converted , [epistrepsoosin ( G1994 )] - or, 'and return,'

And I should heal them. See the notes at Matthew 13:13-15, and John 12:38-40 . With what pain would this stern word be wrung from him whose "heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel was that they might be saved," and who "had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart" on their account! ( Romans 9:2; Romans 10:1 .)


Verse 28

Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. See the notes at Acts 13:44-48. 'This "departure to the Gentiles" (says Bengel) he had intimated to the perverse Jews at Antioch ( Acts 13:46), and at Corinth ( Acts 18:6 ); now at Rome: thus in Asia, Greece, and Italy.' Acts 28:29

And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.

[And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.] This verse we formerly regarded (with Olshausen) as genuine; but as it is wanting in some of the principal authorities ['Aleph (') A B E, with many cursives; in the text of the Vulgate, and apparently in that of the Peshito Syriac], and is found only in some later manuscript [as G H] - while internal evidence seems pretty equal on both sides-we must view it as at least doubtful.

Conclusion ()


Verse 30

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house (see the note at Acts 28:23) - yet in custody; for it is added,

And received all that came in unto him - while it is not said that he went to the synagogue or anywhere else, enjoying, in the uninterrupted exercise of his ministry, all the liberty of a guarded man.


Verse 31

Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with an confidence, no man forbidding him.

Thus closes this most precious monument of the beginnings of the Christian Church, in its march from East to West, among the Jews first, whose center was Jerusalem; next among the Gentiles, with Antioch for its headquarters; finally, its banner is seen waving over imperial Rome, foretokening its universal triumphs. That distinguished apostle whose conversion, labours, and sufferings for "the faith which once he destroyed" occupy more than half of this History, it leaves a prisoner unheard, so far as appears, for two years. His accusers, whose presence was indispensable, would have to await the return of spring before starting for the capital, and might not reach it for many months; nor, even when there, would they be so sanguine of success-after Felix, Festus, and Agrippa had all pronounced him innocent-as to be impatient of delay. And if witnesses were required to prove the charge advanced by Tertullus, that he was "a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the (Roman) world" (Acts 24:5 ), they must have seen that, unless considerable time were allowed them, the case would certainly break down.

If to this be added the capricious delays which the emperor himself might interpose, and the practice of Nero to hear but one charge at a time, it will not seem strange that the Historian should have no proceedings in the case to record for two years. Having begun this history of his, probably, before the apostle's arrival, its progress at Rome under his own eye would furnish exalted employment, and beguile many a tedious hour of his two years' imprisonment. Had the case come on for hearing during this period, much more if it had been disposed of, it is hardly conceivable that the History should have closed as it does. But if, at the end of this period, the Narrative only wanted the decision of the case, while hope deferred was making the heart sick ( Proverbs 13:12); and if, under the guidance of that Spirit whose seal was on it all, it seemed of more consequence to put the Church at once in possession of this History, than to keep it back indefinitely for the sake of what might come to be otherwise known-we cannot wonder that it should be wound up as it is in its two concluding verses. All that we know of the apostle's proceedings and history beyond this must be gathered from the Epistles of the Imprisonment-those to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon-written during this period; and from the Pastoral Epistles-those to Timothy and that to Titus-which in our judgment are of subsequent date. From the former class of Epistles we learn the following particulars:

First, That the trying restraint laid upon the apostle's labours by his imprisonment had only turned his influence into a new channel, the Gospel having in consequence penetrated even into the palace, and pervaded the city, while the preachers of Christ were emboldened; and though the Judaizing portion of them, observing his success among the Gentiles, had been led to inculcate with fresh zeal their own narrower gospel, even this had done much good by extending the truth common to both. (See the notes at Philippians 1:12-18; Philippians 4:22). Secondly, That as, in addition to all his other labours, "the care of all the churches came upon him from day to day" ( 2 Corinthians 11:28 ), so with these churches he kept up an active correspondence by means of letters and messages, and on such errands he wanted not faithful and beloved brethren enough, ready to be employed-Luke, Timotheus, Tychicus, (John) Mark, Demas, Aristarchus, Epaphras, Onesimus, Jesus, called Justus, and, for a short time, Epaphroditus. (See the notes at Colossians 4:7; Colossians 4:9-12; Colossians 4:14; Philem 23-24 ; and Introd. to Eph., Phil., and Philem.) That the apostle suffered martyrdom under Nero at Rome has never been doubted.

But whether this took place at the close of this present imprisonment, or whether he was acquitted and set at liberty on this occasion, resumed his apostolic labours, and after some years more was again apprehended, condemned, and executed-is a question which has latterly given rise to much discussion. In the absence of explicit testimony in the New Testament, the burden of proof lies certainly with the advocates of a second imprisonment. Accordingly, they appeal, first, to the Pastoral Epistles, as referring to movements of the apostle himself and of Timothy, which cannot, without straining, be made to fit into any period prior to the appeal which brought the apostle to Rome; which bear marks throughout of a more advanced state of the Church, and more matured forms of error, than can well have existed when he came first to Rome; and which are couched in a manifestly riper style than any of his former Epistles.

And they appeal, secondly, to the testimony of the fathers-Clement of Rome, Eusebius, and Jerome-as at least confirming these conclusions. On the other hand, it is contended by several modern critics (DeWette, Winer, Wieseler, Davidson, Schaff, not to mention Petavius and Lardner formerly), that no mention is made in the New Testament of any liberation and second imprisonment; that no earlier writer than Eusebius, in the fourth century, expressly states it as a fact, and he apparently on no good authority, while Jerome and others appear to have simply followed Eusebius; and that as to the evidence from the Pastoral Epistles in favour of this theory, it is more apparent than real. To discuss these arguments would be unsuitable here: they belong rather to an Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles; but they have been handled with great ability by the advocates of a double imprisonment (Michaelis, Hug, Gieseler, Neander, Credner, Lange, etc., besides earlier critics), whose arguments appear to us as convincing, as their number is far greater than that of their opponents.

Remarks: If ever that great characteristic of genuine love - "that it beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" - was pre-eminently exemplified, it was by him who penned that description of it, in his treatment of his brethren after the flesh, from the very beginning of his labours among them as a preacher of Christ up to the last interview with them recorded in this chapter. And there are special features of this character in him which, the more they are studied, will the more raise him in our estimation, as, next to his Great Master, perhaps the noblest model for imitation by Christian ministers in general, by converted Jews in particular, as missionaries to their brethren according to the flesh, and by those priests of the Church of Rome whose eyes have been opened to see its errors, and whose services thenceforward have been consecrated to the trying work of preaching Christ to their former co-religionists.

Alas! how little do we see of that combination of burning zeal with large wisdom, of that union of firmness and flexibility, of that high-minded sensitiveness to what was due to himself, and yet readiness to put up with affronts and return good for evil, which constitute such marked features in the great apostle's character, such potent elements in his success as a servant of Christ, and so much of the secret of his surpassing and enduring influence on Christendom. To Peter, it is true, was assigned distinctively "the gospel of the circumcision," while that "of the uncircumcision was committed" to Paul ( Galatians 2:7); but while out of his Jewish sphere Peter was nothing, Paul, besides his incomparable services in the Gentile field, was the most powerful of all labourers among his own countrymen also. There is not one recorded instance of the conversion of Gentiles through Peter's sole instrumentality-the case of Cornelius and his party being that of one divinely brought to him (if we may so say), and of whom it was told him that he was all ready to receive the truth from his lips; and as Peter needed a vision from heaven to convince him that Gentiles were, under the Gospel, on the same footing before God as the Jews, so when he did open the Gospel to this proselyte and prepared Gentile, he did it in a way peculiarly Jewish, such as we should expect from one cast (so to speak) in the mould of the ancient economy.

On the other hand, while the appropriate sphere of our great apostle was undoubtedly among the Gentiles, and the Church of Christ has taken its stamp of universality from him pre-eminently, how powerful were his reasonings, and how noble his appeals to his own countrymen in the synagogues, in the streets of Jerusalem, and before the legal tribunals, not to speak of the wonderful light which he throws upon the Old Testament Scriptures in his Epistles! To this we have adverted once and again in the course of our Exposition of this precious record of the first triumphs of the Gospel; but the scenes with which it closes constrain us to leave our readers with this commanding figure before their eye-yet not without writing beneath it two mottoes from his own pen:

"By the grace of God I am what I am,"

AND

"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world"!

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 28:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/acts-28.html. 1871-8.

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