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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Acts 28

 

 

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Verse 1

Acts 28:1. When they were escaped, they knew — From some of the inhabitants who came to them; that the island — On which they were cast; was called Melita — Or, Malta. This island, which took its name from the abundance of honey found therein, (meli, in Greek, signifying honey,) lies between Africa and Sicily, about sixty miles distant from the latter country, and is about twelve miles broad, and twenty long. It consists of a chalky rock, having not more than between one and three feet depth of earth, and yet is very fertile, producing much cotton and excellent fruits. The Melitese were originally a colony of the Carthaginians, as appears from several old inscriptions in Punic characters, and from the language of the present inhabitants, the number of whom is stated to be above ninety thousand. The place on the island where Paul and his company were driven on shore is, at this day, shown to travellers, and goes by the name of St. Paul’s shore, or haven. His shipwreck here procured a kind of religious veneration to the island among Christian nations; in consequence of which, it was given, in the year of our Lord 1525, by Charles V., emperor of Germany, to the knights of Rhodes, expelled from that island by the Turks, and generally called the knights of St. John of Jerusalem. They are one thousand in number, of whom five hundred always reside on the island. In the year 1798, the French, under Bonaparte, took the island; and, in 1800, being reduced by famine, after a blockade of two years, it surrendered to the English, under whose dominion it still continues.


Verse 2

Acts 28:2. And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness — In our distressed circumstances; for they kindled a fire, &c., because of the present rain — Which had followed the storm; and because of the cold — With which, in our wet clothes, we were ready to perish. It must be observed, that the Romans and Greeks termed all people barbarians that differed from them in their language or customs. All mankind are therefore comprehended by the apostle under the distinction of Greeks and Barbarians, Romans 1:14. The Greeks and Romans, however, were in many respects more barbarous themselves (according to the common meaning of that term) than these islanders, who, as we learn from Diodorus Siculus, (lib. 5. page 204,) were noted for their civility to strangers, and who certainly, on this occasion, gave a striking proof of that civility. They were not, indeed, as here appears, much cultivated, but the generosity which they showed to these shipwrecked strangers was far more valuable in the sight of God, and all good men, than any varnish which the politest education could give, where it did not teach humanity and compassion.


Verse 3-4

Acts 28:3-4. And when Paul — Who had learned to make himself servant of all, and would stoop to any thing by which he might be serviceable, was laying on the fire a bundle of sticks — Which he had gathered; there came a viper — Which had been concealed among the wood; out of the heat, and fastened on his hand — Round which it probably twisted itself, and bit it. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast — Or the fierce animal, as θηριον should rather be translated; the word beast being a very improper term for it; they said — Seeing also his chains; No doubt this man is a murderer — “They concluded he was a murderer, (says Elsner,) rather than a person guilty of any other crime, because they saw the viper hanging on his hand, which therefore they judged to have been the offending member, according to the rule which prevailed among the ancients, that persons were often remarkably punished in that part of the body which had been the immediate instrument of their sin;” whom, though he hath escaped the sea — Hath not been destroyed by the tempest and shipwreck; yet vengeance suffereth not (Greek, ουκ ειασεν, hath not suffered) to live — They looked upon him as, in effect, a dead man already, after having been bit by that venomous creature. The poison of a viper so inflames the blood, that a person infected with it is usually tormented as with fire, and quickly dies. For this reason, the ancient Scythians, in war, used to dip their arrows in the blood and gaul of vipers, that their enemies wounded by them might die a painful and sudden death. And, in some remote times, some condemned criminals were put to death by vipers set to their breasts: by this means Cleopatra despatched herself. Though δικη, (justice, or judgment,) here rendered vengeance, may be understood of the divine vengeance in general; yet, as these were the words of heathen idolaters, possibly they might refer to a deity worshipped among them under that name; as we know the Greeks and Romans had a goddess whom they termed νεμεσις, Nemesis, the daughter of Justice, who, they supposed, punished the wicked. It must give us pleasure to trace among these barbarians the force of conscience, and the belief of a particular providence; which some people of more learning have stupidly thought it philosophy to despise. But they erred in imagining that calamities must always be interpreted as judgments. Let us guard against this error, lest, like them, we condemn, not only the innocent, but the excellent of the earth.


Verse 5-6

Acts 28:5-6. And he shook off, &c. — Greek, αποτιναξας το θηριον, having shaken off the venomous animal into the fire, (the power of Christ interposing to preserve him,) he felt no harm — Received no injury, and took no further notice of what had happened. Howbeit, they looked when he should have swollen — The islanders, knowing that the bite of a viper was wont to occasion a sudden and painful death, expected the venom left in Paul’s flesh would have caused a burning and swelling, and that he would instantly have fallen down dead. But Christ now fulfilled in Paul the promise made to his disciples, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them. But after they had looked a great while — Expecting every moment the pernicious effects of the venom to appear, to their astonishment they saw no harm come to him — God hereby intended to make him remarkable among this barbarous people, and so to prepare the way for their receiving the doctrine of salvation from his lips: they changed their minds, and said that he was a god — Some deity, descended in a human form; supposing that no less power than that of a god could ward off so extreme a danger. Such is the stability of human reason! A little before he was a murderer; and presently he is a god! Just like the people of Lystra; one hour sacrificing to this same apostle, and the next stoning him. Nay, but there is a medium: he is neither a murderer nor a god, but a man of God. But natural men never run into greater mistakes than in judging of the children of God. Grotius, Whitby, and some others, think that these Melitese took Paul for Hercules, αλεξικακος, (the driver away of evil,) who was worshipped in this island, and was, according to Ptolemy, one of the gods of the Phenicians.


Verses 7-10

Acts 28:7-10. In the same quarters — In the neighbourhood of the place where the ship was stranded, and the shipwrecked company had met with such kind treatment; were possessions of the chief man of the island

The chief in wealth, if not in power also; who received and lodged us three days — The first three days of their stay in the island, till they could all be disposed of properly through the island. For such goodness Paul was soon able to make some return. For the father of Publius lay sick of a fever — The providence of God so ordering it, that he should be ill just at this time, that the cure of him might be a present recompense to Publius for his generosity, and the cure of him by a miracle, a recompense particularly for his kindness to Paul. To whom Paul entered in and prayed — Thus showing that he could do nothing of himself, but looked to, and depended on, the living and true God alone for the recovery of the sick person; and laid his hands on him — Thus, not acting as a physician, to restore him by medicines, but as an apostle, to cure him by miracle; and healed him — Made him perfectly well in an instant. Thus, by an extraordinary fact, God recommended the gospel and the ministry of Paul to Publius and his family, and indeed to the whole island. For the news of this miracle was soon spread abroad in all parts of it, so that others also, who had diseases — Of any kind, as many as were able to travel, or could any way be brought; came and were healed — In the same manner, by prayer and the imposition of Paul’s hands. Who also honoured us, &c. — The sick people, who were thus miraculously cured, together with their relations and friends, being grateful to Paul, rewarded him and his company very liberally, performing to them, during their abode in the island, every office of kindness in their power; and, at their departure, lading them with such things as were necessary — For their voyage.


Verse 11

Acts 28:11. And after three months — The three winter months, which time Paul doubtless improved, as a true labourer in the Lord’s vineyard. We departed in a ship of Alexandria, whose sign was Castor and Pollux — Two fabulous semi-deities of the Greeks and Romans, who were said to be the sons of Jupiter and Leda, and, being translated to the heavens, formed the constellation called Gemini, or the Twins, a constellation which, when it appeared, was deemed propitious to mariners. And, as it was the custom of the ancients to have images of their gods, both on the head and stern of their ships, this Alexandrian ship had these, either on her prow or stern. And yet, in a ship having such an idolatrous image, Paul did not refuse to sail, considering it as being only the name of the ship.


Verse 12

Acts 28:12. And — Soon after, leaving Malta, they made the island of Sicily; and landing at Syracuse, tarried there three days — The ship, probably, having some goods to put ashore, or some to take in there; for the ship seems to have been making a trading voyage. This city was the metropolis of Sicily, situated on the east side of the island, and had a beautiful prospect for every entrance, both by sea and land. The port, which had the sea on both sides of it, was almost wholly surrounded with elegant buildings; all the suburbs on both sides being banked up, and supported with walls of marble. While in its splendour, this city was considered as the largest and richest belonging to the Greeks; being twenty-two miles in circuit, and equalling Carthage in its wealth. It was called Quadruplex, because it was divided into four parts; the first of which contained the famous temple of Jupiter; the second, the temple of Fortune; the third, a large amphitheatre, and a surprising statue of Apollo; and the fourth, which was the island of Ortygia, the two temples of Diana and Minerva, and the celebrated fountain of Arethusa. About two hundred and ten years before the birth of Christ, this city was taken by Marcellus, the Roman general, and, in storming the place, the famous Archimedes was slain by a common soldier, while he was intent upon his geometrical studies. He was calmly drawing his lines, and proceeding in the demonstration of a problem, when a soldier entered the room and clapped a sword to his throat. “Hold,” said Archimedes, “one moment, and my demonstration will be finished.” But the soldier, equally regardless of his prayer and demonstration, killed him instantly; Marcellus extremely regretting his death, and afterward showing singular favour to his relations for his sake. The reader that will be at the pains of consulting the Encyclopædia Britannica, on the word SYRACUSE, will find a particular account of the manner in which this illustrious geometrician, Archimedes, defended the city for a long time, by his powerful engines, against all the valour and power of the Romans, beating their galleys to pieces by huge stones projected from his machines, and by his levers, chains, and hooks from the walls, weighing the ships out of the water, tossing them to and fro, whirling them round, and dashing them in pieces against each other, or against the points of rocks which projected under the walls, or sinking them to the bottom, destroying several also by burning-glasses. In short, the account of the power of his engines is, perhaps, the most extraordinary that occurs in history; and if it were not well authenticated, would exceed all belief. How these stupendous effects were produced, few, if any, have been able to comprehend. Syracuse was afterward rebuilt by Augustus, and had, at the time Paul visited it, recovered itself so as to answer its former splendour. It had at length three castles, three walls, and a marble gate, and was able to send out twelve thousand heroes, and four hundred ships; but it received such a blow from the Saracens, A.D. 884, when they razed it, that it has not been able to recover itself since: See Calmet and the Universal History, vol. 7. p. 516; vol. 17. p. 29.


Verses 13-15

Acts 28:13-15. From thence we fetched a compass — Coasted round the eastern shore of Sicily; and came to Rhegium — A town on the Italian shore, opposite to Messina in Sicily; and after one day — Having a favourable gale, we pursued our voyage; and came to Puteoli — A great seaport town of Campania, not far from Naples. Here finding Christian brethren — To whom Paul was known, at least by his fame; we were desired to stay with them seven days — That they might have an opportunity of hearing Paul and conversing with him. And Julius was so good as to grant their request. After which he set out with the prisoners and soldiers for Rome, by land. And now the brethren in that city, to whom Paul was well known by his letter lately written to the Romans, hearing that he was on the road, came out to meet him — Not being ashamed of his bonds; and some of them came as far as the town of Appii Forum — Which was fifty-one miles from the city, and others to the Three Taverns, a town at the distance of thirty miles. This unlooked-for testimony of respect from the brethren at Rome, making a strong impression upon the apostle’s mind, he thanked God for it, and took courage — Finding Christ was at Rome also, and being greatly refreshed by the company and conversation of such affectionate friends. After which they all went forward to the city, where, it is supposed, they arrived in the February of A.D. 63. It is remarkable that there is no certain account by whom Christianity was planted at Rome. Probably some inhabitants of that city were at Jerusalem on the day of pentecost, (Acts 2:10,) and being then converted themselves, carried the gospel thither at their return.


Verse 16

Acts 28:16. And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard — Or prefect of the pretorian band, according to his commission. It was customary for prisoners who were brought to Rome, to be delivered to this officer, who had the charge of the state prisoners. The person who now held this office was the noted Afranius Burrhus. But Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him — Dr. Lardner proves, from Ulpian, that the proconsul was to judge whether a person, under accusation, was to be thrown into prison, or delivered to a soldier to be guarded, or committed to sureties, or trusted on his parole of honour. The humanity with which Julius all along treated the apostle merits particular attention. At Sidon he allowed him to go ashore to visit his Christian friends. And, when they were shipwrecked on the island of Melita, he kept the soldiers from killing the prisoners that he might save Paul. And because some brethren at Puteoli wished Paul to remain with them a week, he was so good as to grant their desire. And, as this worthy person is said by Luke to have courteously entreated Paul through the whole of the voyage, he may have bestowed on him favours which are not particularly mentioned. Those, however, which are mentioned deserve notice, as proofs of esteem and love from a heathen very honourable to the apostle. Julius’s regard for Paul was founded, at first, on the favourable opinion which Festus, Agrippa, and the tribunes, had formed of his cause, and which no doubt, they made known to Julius before he left Cesarea. But his esteem of the apostle must have increased by what he himself observed in the course of their acquaintance. For, in his conversation, Paul expressed such just views of God and religion, and of the duties of morality; and, in his actions, showed such benevolence to mankind, and such a concern for their real interest, as could not fail to endear him to so great a friend to virtue, as this centurion seems to have been. Besides, if Paul was represented to Julius as one who could work miracles, that circumstance alone would induce him to treat him with great respect. And more especially, when he became himself a witness to the accomplishment of Paul’s prediction concerning their shipwreck, and to the miraculous cures which he performed on the sick, in the island of Melita. Julius, therefore, having so great a friendship for Paul, and, it may be, a favourable opinion of the Christian doctrine, we may suppose that when he delivered the prisoners to Afranius Burrhus, who was then pretorian prefect, he did justice to Paul by representing him, not only as entirely innocent of any real crime, but as a man of singular probity, who was highly favoured of God, and endowed with extraordinary powers. To this representation, as well as to Festus’s letter, the apostle was probably indebted for the indulgence which was shown him immediately on his arrival at Rome. For he was not shut up in a common jail, with the other prisoners, but from the very first was allowed to dwell in his own hired house, with a soldier, who kept him by means of a chain fastened to his right wrist, and to the soldier’s left arm. This is the chain of which Paul so often speaks in his epistles, calling it his bonds; and which he showed to the Jews, when they came to him on the third day after his arrival. Who, that had met Paul in these bonds, would have guessed at his real character, and have imagined him to have been one of the most upright, benevolent, and generous of mankind? Yet such the apostle undoubtedly was. See Macknight and Doddridge.


Verses 17-20

Acts 28:17-20. And after three days — Given to rest and prayer; Paul called the chief of the Jews together — His great love to the Jews induced him, wherever he came and found any, to labour in the first place to promote their salvation; and as he was now bound, and could not conveniently go round to them, he sent for the chief of them to come to him, his confinement not being so strict but he had liberty to receive the visits of his friends. He had reason to suppose that they might be offended, and imbibe prejudices against him, when they heard he had appealed from the courts in Judea to Cesar, and he judged it would be very proper for him to make an apology to them for so doing; and, in order to prepare their minds for receiving the gospel, to suffer nothing to be wanting on his part, to make them sensible of the affectionate regard that he had for them, notwithstanding the injurious treatment he had met with from their countrymen at Jerusalem. For these purposes he wished to have this interview with them. And when — According to his desire; they were come together — In the private house where he dwelt; he said, Men and brethren — Addressing them in respectful language; and thereby intimating, that he expected to be treated by them both as a man and a brother; though I have committed nothing against the people, &c. — Seeing him chained, they might have suspected he had committed something against them. Therefore he first obviates this suspicion. Yet was I delivered prisoner to the Romans — Their accusing him as a criminal before Felix the governor, and demanding judgment against him, was, in effect, delivering him prisoner into the hands of the Romans; and that at a time when he desired no more but a fair and impartial trial by their own law. But if he had declared the whole truth in this matter, the Jews would have appeared in a worse light than that in which he now represented them; for he might with truth have asserted that they would have murdered him without any colour of law or justice, if the Romans had not protected him. Who, when they had examined me — And had heard all that my adversaries could offer against me; would have let me go — That is, would have set me at liberty; because there was no cause of death in me — No crime, or offence, which they could judge to be a sufficient reason for putting me to death, or for keeping me under longer confinement. But when the Jews spake against it — He speaks tenderly of them, not mentioning their repeated attempts upon his life. I was constrained to appeal unto Cesar — To remove my cause to Rome, finding that the governors of Judea, one after another, stood so much in awe of the Jews, that they would not discharge me for fear of making them their enemies. Not that I had aught to accuse my nation of — Not that I had any design to accuse others; for, whatever injury I have received from any particular persons, I heartily forgive them, and wish the whole Jewish people, without exception, even my most inveterate enemies among them, all possible prosperity and happiness; but I was forced, contrary to my inclination, to make this appeal, purely in my own defence, and to prevent that assassination which I knew some persons were contriving against me. For this cause, therefore, have I called for you — As soon as I came hither; to see and speak with you — With a view, if possible, to prevent any prejudice which might be entertained by any of you to my disadvantage; because that for the hope of Israel — What Israel hopes for, namely, the Messiah and the resurrection; I am bound with this chain — And exposed to all these sufferings; and therefore, rather merit your compassion and friendship, than your resentment.


Verse 21-22

Acts 28:21-22. And they said, We have neither received letters, &c. — There must have been a particular providence in this; neither any of the brethren, (the Jews,) that came from Judea, showed or spake any harm of thee — This was very strange if true: that the restless and inveterate rage of the Jews, which had followed Paul whithersoever he went, should not follow him to Rome also, to get him condemned there, was remarkable. But, perhaps his accusers had not yet arrived; or the Jews did not dare to pursue him with their accusations into the court, to which, by appealing to Cesar, he had now removed his cause. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest — What thy opinions or sentiments are, and what thou hast to say in defence of thy doctrine, as a disciple and missionary of Jesus of Nazareth; for as concerning this sect — Which professes so high regard to him; we know — In the general; that it is everywhere spoken against — And held in great contempt. This was not, nor is it ever a proof of a bad cause; but a very probable mark of a good one. Some think this refers to a fact mentioned by Justin Martyr, (Dialog. cum Tryph., pp. 171, and 368,) and afterward by Origen, (contra Cels., lib. 6.,) and Eusebius, (Ecc. Hist., lib. 4. cap. 18,) that the Jews at Jerusalem sent chosen men, of the most distinguished character, all over the world, representing the Christians as an atheistical sect, and charging them with the grossest calumnies, which the ignorant heathen advanced against them. The fact itself is very credible, but as the exact date of it cannot be ascertained, it possibly might take place after this period, and so not be the cause of the reproach now everywhere cast on the Christians. The carnal mind, which is enmity against God and his holy religion, will always dispose those who are only born after the flesh, to hate, despise, and persecute those that are born after the Spirit, and this circumstance sufficiently accounts for all the obloquy and ill treatment which the disciples of Jesus met with.


Verse 23

Acts 28:23. And when they had appointed him a day — Which might best suit the convenience of most of them that were present; they came to him at his lodging — For though they were much prejudiced against the Christian religion, as being everywhere maligned, yet they were willing to be accurately informed concerning it, which the Jews at Jerusalem were not. And though Paul appeared among them, with every disadvantage, having been sent to Rome a prisoner, and being at this very time bound with a chain; yet they were willing to give him a patient hearing, judging it unjust to condemn a man, a party, or cause, unheard. So far, it seems, had they imbibed the fair and equitable principles of the imperial city wherein they resided. To whom he expounded — Various passages of their own Scriptures, as well as the chief principles of the Christian faith; and testified the kingdom of God — That is, bore testimony to the erection and establishment of God’s kingdom, under the Messiah; or set forth the nature of the Messiah’s kingdom, showing that it was a spiritual, not a temporal kingdom; persuading them concerning Jesus — Namely, that Jesus of Nazareth, in whose name he preached, was the very person foretold as the Lord of that kingdom; both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets — That is, he showed that the birth, doctrine, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, had all happened exactly according to the predictions concerning the Messiah contained in the law and the prophets, and from that agreement he argued and proved that Jesus was their long-expected Messiah. On this head, he had as much need to persuade as to convince, their will making as strong a resistance as their understanding. And in such an important light did he view this subject, and so much was his heart set upon it, that he continued his discourse from morning till evening — Probably eight or ten hours, urging it upon his hearers with all his might; for he knew not when he should have such another opportunity, and therefore was willing to make the most of this.


Verses 24-26

Acts 28:24-26. And some believed the things which were spoken — Were happily persuaded of the truth of Paul’s doctrine, and were induced to embrace Christianity; and some — On the other hand, were so much under the influence of strong prejudice and hardened, that they believed not — But rejected the gospel, amidst all the evidence which Paul advanced to support it. And when they agreed not among themselves — But were of opposite opinions; they departed — The assembly broke up; after that Paul had spoken one word — In the close of all, on account of that obstinacy which he observed to prevail in most of them; Well spake the Holy Ghost unto our fathers — What is equally applicable to you; saying, Go unto this people — Perverse and obstinate as they are; and say, Hearing ye shall hear, &c. — That is, ye shall most surely hear; and shall — Or rather will; not understand — The words seem to denote a judicial blindness, consequent upon a wilful and obstinate resistance of the truth. See notes on Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:14; John 12:40. We may observe here, that this passage of Isaiah is quoted oftener in the New Testament than any other taken from the Old; namely, no fewer than six times: (see the margin:) and yet in such a variety of expressions, as plainly proves that the apostles did not confine themselves exactly, either to the words of the original Hebrew or of the Greek version.


Verse 28-29

Acts 28:28-29. Be it known, therefore, &c. — Having reproved the unbelieving and disobedient among his hearers, he assured them that the salvation of God, which they despised and seemed to fortify themselves against, was sent unto the Gentiles — Namely, more especially from that time; and that they would hear and embrace it, and so inherit the blessings which these Jews rejected. His words imply, that he would, from that day forward, turn to the Gentiles; and would seek, in their faith and obedience, his consolation under that grief which the infidelity of his brethren gave him. Before this, it must be observed, no apostle had been at Rome. St. Paul was the first. And when he had said these words — The last, it seems, that he now uttered among them; the Jews departed — Out of the place, not being prevailed upon to receive Jesus as the Messiah; and had great reasoning — Greek, συζητησιν, disputations; among themselves — Some thinking there was considerable weight in what Paul had urged to defend the gospel, while others, still retaining their sinful and inveterate prejudices against it, were enraged, and spake of him and his arguments with great contempt and indignation.


Verse 30-31

Acts 28:30-31. And Paul dwelt two whole years at Rome, in his own hired house — Before he was heard by Cesar, or his deputy, upon his appeal; and received all that came to him — Whether Jews or Gentiles. Preaching the kingdom of God — As established in the person of his beloved Son; and teaching those things which concerned the Lord Jesus — And the religion he had instituted in the world; with all confidence — All freedom of speech; no man forbidding him — Neither emperor, nor senate, nor magistrate, nor soldier, nor priest, nor people, though in a heathen city, devoted to idolatry, in the least hindering or forbidding him. It appears, from this passage, that the persecution against the Christians at Rome was not then begun: the Romans had not yet made any laws against the disciples of Jesus; for what is here related happened within the first ten years of the reign of Nero, before his cruelty against Christians broke out. Observe, reader, that Rome heathen of old was far less cruel, and much more courteous to the preachers of the gospel, than Rome antichristian has since been. Then an apostle might preach two years together, without molestation, in his own hired house, to all comers: but now a minister of God must there have no public or private place of meeting to worship God according to his word and will, without danger of an inquisition! As the apostle’s house was open to every comer, it is not to be doubted that many resorted to him daily; some out of curiosity to hear and see the chief of a sect which was now become so numerous, and was said to be endued with extraordinary powers, and others from an honest inclination seriously to inquire into the strange things which he spake concerning Jesus of Nazareth, and to examine the evidence which he offered in support of them. Now to all these the apostle willingly preached, bearing witness to Christ at Rome, even as formerly in Jerusalem. And though Luke has not mentioned it, Paul himself hath told us, that his testimony concerning Jesus was well received, and that he made many converts in Rome, among whom were some even of the emperor’s domestics, whose salutation he sent to the Philippians 4:22. Further, he says, that the brethren in Rome, encouraged by his example, perhaps also strengthened by the gift of the Spirit, which he imparted to them, according to his promise, (Romans 1:11,) preached the gospel more openly and boldly than they would otherwise have done, Philippians 1:14-15. Such was the victory of the word of God, and such progress had the gospel made by the end of these two years, in the parts of the world which lay west of Jerusalem, by the ministry of Paul among the Gentiles. How far eastward the other apostles had carried it, in the same time, history does not inform us. As Luke concludes his history with Paul’s abode at Rome before his journey into Spain, we may infer that he wrote both his gospel and the Acts while the apostle was still living, of whose actions he was himself an eye-witness, and by whom, it is very probable, this book was revised, as the ancients also say his gospel was. During this, his first confinement at Rome, the apostle wrote four epistles, which still remain; namely, one to the Ephesians, another to the Philippians, a third to the Colossians, and a fourth to Philemon: and after his release, he wrote his epistle to the Hebrews. In the epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Timothy joined Paul. But he is not mentioned in the inscription of the epistle to the Ephesians, though it was written about the same time with the others, and sent along with the epistle to the Colossians. From this circumstance we may infer, that the letters to the Philippians, the Colossians, and Philemon, were written a little before the letter to the Ephesians, and while Timothy was at Rome; but that after they were finished, and before the letter to the Ephesians was begun, he left the city to go to Philippi, agreeably to the apostle’s promise to the Philippians to send Timothy to them soon, (chap. Acts 2:19,) and to what he tells the Hebrews, that Timothy was actually sent away, chap. Acts 13:23. The letter to the Ephesians, being written soon after that to the Colossians, and while the matter, and form, and very expressions of that letter were fresh in the apostle’s mind, the two resemble each other so much, that they have been termed twin epistles, and throw light on each other. For which reason the apostle very properly ordered the Colossians to cause their epistle to be read in the church of the Laodiceans, to which it is supposed the Ephesians, agreeably to the directions given them by Tychicus, sent a copy of their epistle. If this conjecture be right, the epistle to the Ephesians is the letter from Laodicea, which the Colossians were ordered to read in their church, Colossians 4:16.

It must now be observed, that Paul, during his two years’ confinement at Rome, having preached the gospel with great success, and edified the churches of Greece and Asia by the divinely-inspired letters which he wrote during that period, was at length released, probably in the spring of A.D. 65, answering to the ninth year of Nero. Luke, indeed, has not directly mentioned Paul’s release; but by limiting his confinement to two years, he has intimated that he was then set at liberty. His confinement at Rome issued thus favourably through the goodness of his cause, and through the intercession of some powerful friends in Cesar’s family, who had embraced the Christian faith, and who were greatly interested in the fortune of one who was so strong a pillar of the new religion which they had espoused.

Some have questioned whether he ever returned into the east again, which yet, from Philemon 1:22, and Hebrews 13:23, he seems to have expected. Clemens Romanus (ad Corinthians epist, 1. cap. 5) expressly tells us, that he preached in the west, and that to its utmost bounds, which must at least include Spain, whither he intended to go, Romans 15:24-25. Theodoret adds, that he went to the islands of the sea, and numbers Gaul (that is, France) and Britain among the disciples of the tent-maker. But in what order he took these places, or how tong he remained in any of them, cannot be determined. We are told, however, that about A.D. 65, or 67, (for chronologers differs) he returned to Rome, where, some say he met with Peter, who was thrown into a prison, with other Christians, on pretence of being concerned in the burning of the city. Chrysostom tells us, that he here converted one of Nero’s concubines, which so incensed that cruel prince, that he put him to death; probably after an imprisonment, in which the second epistle to Timothy was written. How long Paul continued in prison, at this time, we know not; but from his being twice brought before the emperor, or his prefect, it may be presumed that he was imprisoned a year or more before he was condemned.

The danger to which Paul was exposed, by this second imprisonment, appeared so great to his assistants, that most of them fled from the city. Luke alone remained with him: and even he was so intimidated, that he durst not stand by him when he made his first answer, 2 Timothy 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:16. From this epistle we learn, also, that although the apostle’s assistants, terrified with the danger that threatened him, forsook him and fled, he was not altogether without consolation. For the brethren of Rome came to him privately, and ministered to him, as we learn from his salutation to Timothy, 2 Timothy 4:21. It is universally agreed, among all ancient writers, who mention his death, that he was beheaded at Aquæ Salviæ, three miles from Rome; for, being free of that city, he could not be crucified, as Peter was, according to the tradition of the Latin Church, on the very same day. It is said, and there is great reason to believe it, that this glorious confessor gave his head to the fatal stroke with the greatest cheerfulness, and also that he was buried in the Via Ostiensis, two miles from Rome, where Constantine the Great erected a church to his memory, A.D. 318, which was successively repaired and beautified by Theodosius the Great, and the Empress Placidia. But his most glorious monument remains in his immortal writings, which come next under our consideration: and the author of this work will esteem it one of the greatest honours which can be conferred upon him, and the most important service his pen can perform for the church of Christ, to be, in any measure, instrumental in illustrating them, and rendering them more edifying than they had been before to the reader.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 28:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/acts-28.html. 1857.

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