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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 14

 

 

Verse 1

5. At IconiumPreaching of Paul, Acts 14:1-5.

1. Iconium—Driven from the capital of Pisidia, our two apostles betake themselves to the capital of Lycaonia. This, like Antioch, stood upon the great thoroughfare which we have described (Acts 16:10) as extending from the AEgean on the west through the Syrian Gates on the east, being the solely possible direct route to Syria and southern Asia. This was in the direction southeastwardly toward Tarsus, the native home of Paul, and therefore probably preferred rather than to go deeper into Asia Minor or farther toward Europe. Since that day Iconium has been distinguished in history as the capital of the Seljukian Turks, originally a Tartar race, but then working their onward way to the conquest of Constantinople and the attempted conquest of Christian Europe. It stands in a vast plain near the foot of Mount Taurus, about fifty miles from Pisidian Antioch. The synagogue—Large as the city was, the Jewish population seems not to have been extensive, since the synagogue appears to have been but one. The population seems to have consisted of an upper stratum of Greeks and Jews, and an underlying mass of primitive Lycaonian people, probably of Syrian origin, mentioned in Acts 14:11. Over all these were a few haughty Romans, moving about with the air of masters by conquest.

So spake… multitude… believed—They so spake, that is with such method and power as to attract the faith of the hearers. They appealed with spiritual power to the spiritual sympathies in man, and there would be those whose sympathies were awakened, and whose spirit, touched by the heavenly Spirit, would yield to the divine attraction.


Verse 4

4. Multitude… divided—Powerful as the opposition is, the apostles divide the city with their opponents, yet probably being in a minority.


Verse 5

5. Assault—Rather an onset or rush, for before the assault could be made the apostles, being informed, escaped.

Rulers—Probably the rulers of the Jewish synagogues, leading the Jews to inflict the Jewish punishment of stoning.


Verse 6

At LystraHealing of Lame ManAttempted Sacrifices, Acts 14:6-18.

6. Cities of Lycaonia—Driven from the great metropolitan cities of Pisidian Antioch and Lycaonian Iconium, our apostles now take refuge in the more rural towns of Lystra and Derbe. They find here an almost exclusively primitive population, with little of the Greek, Jew, or Roman upper stratum, and an inferior civilization. There is no synagogue for them to enter. There are few resident Jews to gainsay. Primitive paganism still prevails. And it is a curious fact that the very word pagan signifies villager, which arises from the fact that when the Roman empire became Christian, the rural regions and villages were the latest to be pervaded by its power, and so the latest in retaining their old idolatries.


Verse 8

8. Lystra—The apostles still persevere in their southeastern course, as if rather gravitating homeward than the reverse. Lystra is supposed to be a little to the east of south from Iconium, yet geographers and travellers are still uncertain as to its precise position.

Sat a certain man—The word sat, according to the Greek imperfect, implies continual, perhaps repeatedly habitual, action. The man was sitting, or was in the habit of sitting.

Never had walked—The fact of his well-known paralysis of feet rendered the change notorious to his fellow villagers.


Verse 9

9. Heard Paul speak—In the discourse, doubtless, he learned how the blessed Jesus performed many a miracle, which cured at once both soul and body, administering forgiveness of sin and restoring health and soundness. He may have been told that that same Jesus still reigned on high, willing and able to save, and empowering even his apostles often to work miracles of mercy upon the diseased of soul and body. He may have learned that the very first miracle performed by the Lord’s apostles was the healing of a cripple like himself at the Beautiful gate of the wonderful temple in ancient Jerusalem.

Steadfastly beholding him—See note on Acts 3:4.

Faith to be healed—The Greek word here signifies not to be healed, but to be saved, including the whole salvation both of body and soul, the earnest and type of the complete salvation of body and soul in the glorious resurrection.


Verse 10

10. With a loud voice—As the earnest action of the apostle in discerning the spirit required an intense exertion of the eye, so the performance of the miracle required energetic personal action expressed in the loudness of the voice. So even Jesus (John 11:43) in calling forth Lazarus for once used a loud voice. (On which see our note.)

Stand upright—Paul did not, like Peter, use the name of Jesus; because, unlike Peter, he had doubtless already in his preaching fully declared that any miracle he might work was wrought by Jesus’ power.


Verse 11

11. Speech of Lycaonia—What this dialect precisely was there is no record to inform us. Probably it belonged to the eastern rather than the western type; approaching more nearly the Hebrew or Syriac than to the Latin or Greek: for the lowest stratum of population, being the earliest, is from the East, while the Greek and Romanic peoples are a return population from the West, which, nevertheless, originally flowed from the primitive Eastern cradle of the human race. Of course, this last reflex current of population was but the thin upper stratum.

The gods are come down—The very name of Lycaonia, according to the tradition, was derived from an old mythological fable of Jupiter having come down in the form of a man to pay a visit to their king, Lycaon. Lycaon, doubting the divinity of this visitor in human shape, determined to put him to the test. For this purpose he butchered a child, and had him brought upon the table as disguised food for his guest. Jupiter in wrath burned his palace with lightning, and transformed the brutal king into a wolf. The Lystrans therefore resolved not to subject themselves to any calamity by any want of respect to the possible deities now present among them.


Verse 12

12. Barnabas, Jupiter… Paul, Mercurius—Chrysostom was probably right in supposing that Barnabas was a man of venerable age, majestic presence, and dignified reserve, and so fitted to make a very suitable Jupiter. And as Jupiter was usually, in his visitations among men, accompanied by an attendant, so it was very supposable that Paul was Mercurius. Mercurius, too, was the god of eloquence, and was the nimble-tongued, wing-footed messenger of the gods, well represented by the younger, agile, eloquent chief speaker, Paul.


Verse 13

13. The priest of Jupiter—For Jupiter, who was probably the tutelar deity of Lystra, there was a chief pontiff to preside over the worship and sacrifices.

Jupiter, which was before their city—A statue there may have been, fronting their town, called Jupiter-before-the-city; but it was not to statues that sacrifices were brought, and so it was probably a temple which was designated by this name, standing before the town.

Garlands—With which the sacrificial victims were usually crowned.

Unto the gates—Not the gates of the city, but the front door at the street of the house where the apostles were lodging. The purpose was to sacrifice to them personally.


Verse 14

14. Apostles… heard of—From the performance of the miracle the apostles had evidently retired to their lodging place, and had known nothing of this sacrificial movement, so that they now first hear of their own deification. A Jesuitical policy might have induced them to accept the worship in order to transfer it to the divine Jesus.

Among the people—We would rather suppose that these words were uttered at first from the threshold of the door, and reiterated in various forms after rushing among the crowd.


Verse 15

15. Sirs—Addressing them in a tone of dignified respect.

Men of like passions—Not gods, but men. And all men are created with the same psychological faculties, emotions, and appetites by nature, though those passions may acquire very different qualities by education and by grace. Yet neither grace nor any other experience can add to or take from the complete set of natural faculties and feelings.


Verse 16

16. In times past—Before Christ came to establish a universal religion to be preached to every creature, abolishing all false systems, and filling the world with truth.


Verse 18

18. Scarce restrained they the people—As old Lycaon had been destroyed by not recognising the incarnate Jupiter, so these Lycaonians are fearful lest they shall make a similar mistake, and be deceived in mistaking these gods for men. They would, therefore, insist upon it, and stay on the safer side.


Verse 19

6. Paul, Rescued from Death, Retraces his Route back to Antioch, Acts 14:19-28.

19. Jews from Antioch—Of course our country village is soon convinced by visitors from the capital. They now are told that these two men, instead of being gods, forsooth, are nothing but a couple of itinerant apostate Jews and jugglers. The Lystrans realize their mistake with a sense of ridicule, and a feeling of indignation against the innocent apostles, whom they hold responsible for their own stupidity.

Having stoned Paul—This death by stoning is partly Jewish, and partly extemporaneous, as handiest for the mob.

Drew him out of the city—Dragging him as a dead man from their streets, that he may putrefy without.


Verse 20

20. Disciples stood round—The murdered man is not deserted by his faithful converts; surrounding him, doubtless consulting with what obsequies to honour him. But before they had decided the murdered man rose up, relieving them from their tasks, and came into the city. We have called him the murdered man, assuming that the Lystrans, who dragged his body out of their town, had full opportunity for a correct judgment, and we have their authority for it that there was violence enough to kill him, and symptoms sufficient to prove him killed. But mark the calm boldness of Paul, rising and firmly walking, equally independent of Barnabas and the surrounding disciples, into the city from whose streets he had just been dragged as dead. Yet prudence dictated that he should leave the ensuing day, and he obeyed.

Among the disciples here made there was a young man who became to Paul a minister more true than John Mark, a fellow apostle more persevering than Barnabas. This was TIMOTHY of Lystra. By his mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois, Timothy was taught the Scriptures from his childhood. Two of St. Paul’s epistles were to him addressed, (Acts 16:1.)

To Derbe—Which lies eastward from Lystra, distant a few hours’ journey.


Verse 21

21. Taught many—At Derbe, as at neither of the last three places, Paul seems to encounter no persecution, but to have won many converts. The simple omission of any mention of persecutions strikingly coincides with Paul’s own account in 2 Timothy 3:11, where Paul reminds Timothy of his persecutions at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, and there stops. Paley draws a striking argument from this plainly undesigned coincidence between the Acts and the Epistle to prove the authenticity and the truth of both.

Here terminates the journey of the apostle, and from this point he retraces his steps, by Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, mainly by the route which he came, to the Mediterranean, thence by sea to the great Syrian Antioch whence he started. A few hours’ journey eastward from Derbe would have brought him to the Syrian Gates, whence he could have taken a shorter route to metropolitan Antioch, visiting by the way his native Tarsus. But objects nearer to his heart even than his home and kindred lay in the route he took.


Verse 22

22. And that—The that depends upon exhorting; or we may supply saying, after and understood.

Much tribulation—This is true especially of ages of persecution; it is true, in a less degree, even in Christian lands, and in the ordinary state of a world unconverted. Nay, it is even true internally of every Christian, since the depravities of the heart itself are ever prone, unless kept in firm subjection, to rise up in insurrection against the grace of God. But this text cannot be so overstrained as to prove that there shall never come an age in which all shall know the Lord from the greatest even unto the least, and when external persecution shall have dwindled to a minimum, perhaps to nothing.


Verse 23

23. Ordained—The Greek word signifies to elect by the outstretched hand. This election is a different act, expressed by a different word, from the imposition of hands, by which ordination is performed. The election in the present case is expressly said to have been done by the apostles. We may suppose reasonably that they consulted the views of the members of the Church; but there is not the slightest ground for doubt that Luke attributes the authority of the act to the apostles.

Elders—So far as there was pastorship, oversight, instruction, exhortation, or even preaching, the elders performed or provided for it. In Jewish Churches such an officer was called a presbyter, that is, elder; in Gentile Churches he was called an episcopos, that is, overseer or superintendent, from which Greek word our English bishop is derived.


Verse 24

24. Throughout Pisidia—They passed through the province southward.

Pamphylia—(See note on Acts 13:13.)


Verse 25

25. Perga—(See note on Acts 13:13.) Now on Paul’s return southward the inhabitants have returned, and he accordingly preached the word.

Into Attalia—In going into Asia Minor they had sailed up the Cestrus; but in this their return they take a land route to Attalia, and there embark to Syrian Antioch.


Verse 26

26. Sailed to Antioch—Trace upon the map their line of voyage cutting through the Mediterranean, between Cilicia and Cyprus, to Seleucia, the seaport town of Antioch.

Whence they had been recommended— Antioch had been the departing point, (Acts 13:1-4,) and Antioch is now their returning point.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 14:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/acts-14.html. 1874-1909.

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