The Acts of the Apostles
Most scholars date the Acts of the Apostles around 80-90 AD on the grounds that Acts appears to be a second part to Luke as the author most likely intended the two to be read together and Luke uses the Gospel of Mark as a source. Acts also looks back on the destruction of Jerusalem, and does not appear to show any awareness of the letters of Paul, which began circulating late in the first century.
The Acts of the Apostles, the second volume of Luke’s two-volume work, follows closely the roles that both Peter and Paul would play in the early church. Peter was the leading member of the Twelve (Acts 1:13, 15), a miracle worker like Jesus in the gospel (Acts 3:1–10; 5:1–11, 15; 9:32–35, 36–42), the object of divine care (Acts 5:17–21; 12:6–11), and the spokesman for the Christian community (Acts 2:14–36; 3:12–26; 4:8–12; 5:29–32; 10:34–43; 15:7–11), who, according to Luke, was largely responsible for the growth of the community in the early days (Acts 2:4; 4:4). Paul eventually joined the community at Antioch (Acts 11:25–26), which subsequently commissioned him and Barnabas to undertake the spread of the gospel to Asia Minor. This missionary venture generally failed to win the Jews of the diaspora to the gospel but enjoyed success among the Gentiles (Acts 13:14–14:27). Paul’s refusal to impose the Mosaic law upon his Gentile converts provoked very strong objection among the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1), but both Peter and James supported his position (Acts 15:6–21).
Excerpts from the Acts of the Apostles:
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The Acts of the Apostles:
The Promise of the Spirit.
The Ascension of Jesus.
The First Community in Jerusalem.
The Choice of Judas’s Successor.
- [1:3] Appearing to them during forty days: Luke considered especially sacred the interval in which the appearances and instructions of the risen Jesus occurred and expressed it therefore in terms of the sacred number forty (cf. Dt 8:2). In his gospel, however, Luke connects the ascension of Jesus with the resurrection by describing the ascension on Easter Sunday evening (Lk 24:50–53). What should probably be understood as one event (resurrection, glorification, ascension, sending of the Spirit—the paschal mystery) has been historicized by Luke when he writes of a visible ascension of Jesus after forty days and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. For Luke, the ascension marks the end of the appearances of Jesus except for the extraordinary appearance to Paul. With regard to Luke’s understanding of salvation history, the ascension also marks the end of the time of Jesus (Lk 24:50–53) and signals the beginning of the time of the church.
- [1:6] The question of the disciples implies that in believing Jesus to be the Christ (see note on Lk 2:11) they had expected him to be a political leader who would restore self-rule to Israel during his historical ministry. When this had not taken place, they ask if it is to take place at this time, the period of the church.
- [1:7] This verse echoes the tradition that the precise time of the parousia is not revealed to human beings; cf. Mk 13:32; 1 Thes 5:1–3.
- [1:8] Just as Jerusalem was the city of destiny in the Gospel of Luke (the place where salvation was accomplished), so here at the beginning of Acts, Jerusalem occupies a central position. It is the starting point for the mission of the Christian disciples to “the ends of the earth,” the place where the apostles were situated and the doctrinal focal point in the early days of the community (Acts 15:2, 6). The ends of the earth: for Luke, this means Rome.
The Coming of the Spirit.
Peter’s Speech at Pentecost.
* [2:1–41] Luke’s pentecostal narrative consists of an introduction (Acts 2:1–13), a speech ascribed to Peter declaring the resurrection of Jesus and its messianic significance (Acts 2:14–36), and a favorable response from the audience (Acts 2:37–41). It is likely that the narrative telescopes events that took place over a period of time and on a less dramatic scale. The Twelve were not originally in a position to proclaim publicly the messianic office of Jesus without incurring immediate reprisal from those religious authorities in Jerusalem who had brought about Jesus’ death precisely to stem the rising tide in his favor.
* [2:2] There came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind: wind and spirit are associated in Jn 3:8. The sound of a great rush of wind would herald a new action of God in the history of salvation.
* [2:3] Tongues as of fire: see Ex 19:18 where fire symbolizes the presence of God to initiate the covenant on Sinai. Here the holy Spirit acts upon the apostles, preparing them to proclaim the new covenant with its unique gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38).
* [2:4] To speak in different tongues: ecstatic prayer in praise of God, interpreted in Acts 2:6, 11 as speaking in foreign languages, symbolizing the worldwide mission of the church.
* [2:14–36] The first of six discourses in Acts (along with Acts 3:12–26; 4:8–12; 5:29–32; 10:34–43; 13:16–41) dealing with the resurrection of Jesus and its messianic import. Five of these are attributed to Peter, the final one to Paul. Modern scholars term these discourses in Acts the “kerygma,” the Greek word for proclamation (cf. 1 Cor 15:11).
* [2:33] At the right hand of God: or “by the right hand of God.”
* [2:38] Repent and be baptized: repentance is a positive concept, a change of mind and heart toward God reflected in the actual goodness of one’s life. It is in accord with the apostolic teaching derived from Jesus (Acts 2:42) and ultimately recorded in the four gospels. Luke presents baptism in Acts as the expected response to the apostolic preaching about Jesus and associates it with the conferring of the Spirit (Acts 1:5; 10:44–48; 11:16).
* [2:42–47] The first of three summary passages (along with Acts 4:32–37; 5:12–16) that outline, somewhat idyllically, the chief characteristics of the Jerusalem community: adherence to the teachings of the Twelve and the centering of its religious life in the eucharistic liturgy (Acts 2:42); a system of distribution of goods that led wealthier Christians to sell their possessions when the needs of the community’s poor required it (Acts 2:44 and the note on Acts 4:32–37); and continued attendance at the temple, since in this initial stage there was little or no thought of any dividing line between Christianity and Judaism (Acts 2:46).
Cure of a Crippled Beggar.
* [3:1–4:31] This section presents a series of related events: the dramatic cure of a lame beggar (Acts 3:1–10) produces a large audience for the kerygmatic discourse of Peter (Acts 3:11–26). The Sadducees, taking exception to the doctrine of resurrection, have Peter, John, and apparently the beggar as well, arrested (Acts 4:1–4) and brought to trial before the Sanhedrin. The issue concerns the authority by which Peter and John publicly teach religious doctrine in the temple (Acts 4:5–7). Peter replies with a brief summary of the kerygma, implying that his authority is prophetic (Acts 4:8–12). The court warns the apostles to abandon their practice of invoking prophetic authority in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:13–18). When Peter and John reply that the prophetic role cannot be abandoned to satisfy human objections, the court nevertheless releases them, afraid to do otherwise since the beggar, lame from birth and over forty years old, is a well-known figure in Jerusalem and the facts of his cure are common property (Acts 4:19–22). The narrative concludes with a prayer of the Christian community imploring divine aid against threats of persecution (Acts 4:23–31).
* [3:1] For the three o’clock hour of prayer: literally, “at the ninth hour of prayer.” With the day beginning at 6 A.M., the ninth hour would be 3 P.M.
* [3:6–10] The miracle has a dramatic cast; it symbolizes the saving power of Christ and leads the beggar to enter the temple, where he hears Peter’s proclamation of salvation through Jesus.
* [3:13] Has glorified: through the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God reversed the judgment against him on the occasion of his trial. Servant: the Greek word can also be rendered as “son” or even “child” here and also in Acts 3:26; 4:25 (applied to David); Acts 4:27; and Acts 4:30. Scholars are of the opinion, however, that the original concept reflected in the words identified Jesus with the suffering Servant of the Lord of Is 52:13–53:12.
* [3:14] The Holy and Righteous One: so designating Jesus emphasizes his special relationship to the Father (see Lk 1:35; 4:34) and emphasizes his sinlessness and religious dignity that are placed in sharp contrast with the guilt of those who rejected him in favor of Barabbas.
* [3:15] The author of life: other possible translations of the Greek title are “leader of life” or “pioneer of life.” The title clearly points to Jesus as the source and originator of salvation.
* [3:17] Ignorance: a Lucan motif, explaining away the actions not only of the people but also of their leaders in crucifying Jesus. On this basis the presbyters in Acts could continue to appeal to the Jews in Jerusalem to believe in Jesus, even while affirming their involvement in his death because they were unaware of his messianic dignity. See also Acts 13:27 and Lk 23:34.
* [3:18] Through the mouth of all the prophets: Christian prophetic insight into the Old Testament saw the crucifixion and death of Jesus as the main import of messianic prophecy. The Jews themselves did not anticipate a suffering Messiah; they usually understood the Servant Song in Is 52:13–53:12 to signify their own suffering as a people. In his typical fashion (cf. Lk 18:31; 24:25, 27, 44), Luke does not specify the particular Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus. See also note on Lk 24:26.
* [3:20] The Lord…and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus: an allusion to the parousia or second coming of Christ, judged to be imminent in the apostolic age. This reference to its nearness is the only explicit one in Acts. Some scholars believe that this verse preserves a very early christology, in which the title “Messiah” (Greek “Christ”) is applied to him as of his parousia, his second coming (contrast Acts 2:36). This view of a future messiahship of Jesus is not found elsewhere in the New Testament.
* [3:21] The times of universal restoration: like “the times of refreshment” (Acts 3:20), an apocalyptic designation of the messianic age, fitting in with the christology of Acts 3:20 that associates the messiahship of Jesus with his future coming.
* [3:22] A loose citation of Dt 18:15, which teaches that the Israelites are to learn the will of Yahweh from no one but their prophets. At the time of Jesus, some Jews expected a unique prophet to come in fulfillment of this text. Early Christianity applied this tradition and text to Jesus and used them especially in defense of the divergence of Christian teaching from traditional Judaism.
Before the Sanhedrin.
Prayer of the Community.
Life in the Christian Community.
* [4:1] The priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees: the priests performed the temple liturgy; the temple guard was composed of Levites, whose captain ranked next after the high priest. The Sadducees, a party within Judaism at this time, rejected those doctrines, including bodily resurrection, which they believed alien to the ancient Mosaic religion. The Sadducees were drawn from priestly families and from the lay aristocracy.
* [4:11] Early Christianity applied this citation from Ps 118:22 to Jesus; cf. Mk 12:10; 1 Pt 2:7.
* [4:12] In the Roman world of Luke’s day, salvation was often attributed to the emperor who was hailed as “savior” and “god.” Luke, in the words of Peter, denies that deliverance comes through anyone other than Jesus.
* [4:27] Herod: Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39, who executed John the Baptist and before whom Jesus was arraigned; cf. Lk 23:6–12.
* [4:31] The place…shook: the earthquake is used as a sign of the divine presence in Ex 19:18; Is 6:4. Here the shaking of the building symbolizes God’s favorable response to the prayer. Luke may have had as an additional reason for using the symbol in this sense the fact that it was familiar in the Hellenistic world. Ovid and Virgil also employ it.
* [4:32–37] This is the second summary characterizing the Jerusalem community (see note on Acts 2:42–47). It emphasizes the system of the distribution of goods and introduces Barnabas, who appears later in Acts as the friend and companion of Paul, and who, as noted here (Acts 4:37), endeared himself to the community by a donation of money through the sale of property. This sharing of material possessions continues a practice that Luke describes during the historical ministry of Jesus (Lk 8:3) and is in accord with the sayings of Jesus in Luke’s gospel (Lk 12:33; 16:9, 11, 13).
Ananias and Sapphira.
Signs and Wonders of the Apostles.
Trial before the Sanhedrin.
* [5:1–11] The sin of Ananias and Sapphira did not consist in the withholding of part of the money but in their deception of the community. Their deaths are ascribed to a lie to the holy Spirit (Acts 5:3, 9), i.e., they accepted the honor accorded them by the community for their generosity, but in reality they were not deserving of it.
* [5:12–16] This, the third summary portraying the Jerusalem community, underscores the Twelve as its bulwark, especially because of their charismatic power to heal the sick; cf. Acts 2:42–47; 4:32–37.
* [5:17–42] A second action against the community is taken by the Sanhedrin in the arrest and trial of the Twelve; cf. Acts 4:1–3. The motive is the jealousy of the religious authorities over the popularity of the apostles (Acts 5:17) who are now charged with the defiance of the Sanhedrin’s previous order to them to abandon their prophetic role (Acts 5:28; cf. Acts 4:18). In this crisis the apostles are favored by a miraculous release from prison (Acts 5:18–24). (For similar incidents involving Peter and Paul, see Acts 12:6–11; 16:25–29.) The real significance of such an event, however, would be manifest only to people of faith, not to unbelievers; since the Sanhedrin already judged the Twelve to be inauthentic prophets, it could disregard reports of their miracles. When the Twelve immediately resumed public teaching, the Sanhedrin determined to invoke upon them the penalty of death (Acts 5:33) prescribed in Dt 13:6–10. Gamaliel’s advice against this course finally prevailed, but it did not save the Twelve from the punishment of scourging (Acts 5:40) in a last endeavor to shake their conviction of their prophetic mission.
* [5:30] Hanging him on a tree: that is, crucifying him (cf. also Gal 3:13).
* [5:31] At his right hand: see note on Acts 2:33.
* [5:34] Gamaliel: in Acts 22:3, Paul identifies himself as a disciple of this Rabbi Gamaliel I who flourished in Jerusalem between A.D. 25 and 50.
* [5:36–37] Gamaliel offers examples of unsuccessful contemporary movements to argue that if God is not the origin of this movement preached by the apostles it will perish by itself. The movement initiated by Theudas actually occurred when C. Cuspius Fadus was governor, A.D. 44–46. Luke’s placing of Judas the Galilean after Theudas and at the time of the census (see note on Lk 2:1–2) is an indication of the vagueness of his knowledge of these events.
a. [5:3] Lk 22:3; Jn 13:2.
The Need for Assistants.
Accusation against Stephen.
* [6:1–7] The Hellenists…the Hebrews: the Hellenists were not necessarily Jews from the diaspora, but were more probably Palestinian Jews who spoke only Greek. The Hebrews were Palestinian Jews who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and who may also have spoken Greek. Both groups belong to the Jerusalem Jewish Christian community. The conflict between them leads to a restructuring of the community that will better serve the community’s needs. The real purpose of the whole episode, however, is to introduce Stephen as a prominent figure in the community whose long speech and martyrdom will be recounted in Acts 7.
* [6:2–4] The essential function of the Twelve is the “service of the word,” including development of the kerygma by formulation of the teachings of Jesus.
* [6:2] To serve at table: some commentators think that it is not the serving of food that is described here but rather the keeping of the accounts that recorded the distribution of food to the needy members of the community. In any case, after Stephen and the others are chosen, they are never presented carrying out the task for which they were appointed (Acts 6:2–3). Rather, two of their number, Stephen and Philip, are presented as preachers of the Christian message. They, the Hellenist counterpart of the Twelve, are active in the ministry of the word.
* [6:6] They…laid hands on them: the customary Jewish way of designating persons for a task and invoking upon them the divine blessing and power to perform it.
* [6:8–8:1] The summary (Acts 6:7) on the progress of the Jerusalem community, illustrated by the conversion of the priests, is followed by a lengthy narrative regarding Stephen. Stephen’s defense is not a response to the charges made against him but takes the form of a discourse that reviews the fortunes of God’s word to Israel and leads to a prophetic declaration: a plea for the hearing of that word as announced by Christ and now possessed by the Christian community. The charges that Stephen depreciated the importance of the temple and the Mosaic law and elevated Jesus to a stature above Moses (Acts 6:13–14) were in fact true. Before the Sanhedrin, no defense against them was possible. With Stephen, who thus perceived the fuller implications of the teachings of Jesus, the differences between Judaism and Christianity began to appear. Luke’s account of Stephen’s martyrdom and its aftermath shows how the major impetus behind the Christian movement passed from Jerusalem, where the temple and law prevailed, to Antioch in Syria, where these influences were less pressing.
* [7:2–53] Stephen’s speech represents Luke’s description of Christianity’s break from its Jewish matrix. Two motifs become prominent in the speech: (Acts 7:1) Israel’s reaction to God’s chosen leaders in the past reveals that the people have consistently rejected them; and (Acts 7:2) Israel has misunderstood God’s choice of the Jerusalem temple as the place where he is to be worshiped.
* [7:2] God…appeared to our father Abraham…in Mesopotamia: the first of a number of minor discrepancies between the data of the Old Testament and the data of Stephen’s discourse. According to Gn 12:1, God first spoke to Abraham in Haran. The main discrepancies are these: in Acts 7:16 it is said that Jacob was buried in Shechem, whereas Gn 50:13 says he was buried at Hebron; in the same verse it is said that the tomb was purchased by Abraham, but in Gn 33:19 and Jos 24:32 the purchase is attributed to Jacob himself.
* [7:55] He…saw…Jesus standing at the right hand of God: Stephen affirms to the Sanhedrin that the prophecy Jesus made before them has been fulfilled (Mk 14:62).
Philip in Samaria.
Simon the Magician.
Philip and the Ethiopian.
* [8:1–40] Some idea of the severity of the persecution that now breaks out against the Jerusalem community can be gathered from Acts 22:4 and Acts 26:9–11. Luke, however, concentrates on the fortunes of the word of God among people, indicating how the dispersal of the Jewish community resulted in the conversion of the Samaritans (Acts 8:4–17, 25). His narrative is further expanded to include the account of Philip’s acceptance of an Ethiopian (Acts 8:26–39).
* [8:1] All were scattered…except the apostles: this observation leads some modern scholars to conclude that the persecution was limited to the Hellenist Christians and that the Hebrew Christians were not molested, perhaps because their attitude toward the law and temple was still more in line with that of their fellow Jews (see the charge leveled against the Hellenist Stephen in Acts 6:13–14). Whatever the facts, it appears that the Twelve took no public stand regarding Stephen’s position, choosing, instead, to await the development of events.
* [8:3] Saul…was trying to destroy the church: like Stephen, Saul was able to perceive that the Christian movement contained the seeds of doctrinal divergence from Judaism. A pupil of Gamaliel, according to Acts 22:3, and totally dedicated to the law as the way of salvation (Gal 1:13–14), Saul accepted the task of crushing the Christian movement, at least insofar as it detracted from the importance of the temple and the law. His vehement opposition to Christianity reveals how difficult it was for a Jew of his time to accept a messianism that differed so greatly from the general expectation.
* [8:9–13, 18–24] Sorcerers were well known in the ancient world. Probably the incident involving Simon and his altercation with Peter is introduced to show that the miraculous charisms possessed by members of the Christian community (Acts 8:6–7) were not to be confused with the magic of sorcerers.
* [8:16] Here and in Acts 10:44–48 and Acts 19:1–6, Luke distinguishes between baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus and the reception of the Spirit. In each case, the Spirit is conferred through members of the Twelve (Peter and John) or their representative (Paul). This may be Luke’s way of describing the role of the church in the bestowal of the Spirit. Elsewhere in Acts, baptism and the Spirit are more closely related (Acts 1:5; 11:16).
* [8:18–20] Simon attempts to buy the gift of God (Acts 8:20) with money. Peter’s cursing of Simon’s attempt so to use his money expresses a typically Lucan attitude toward material wealth (cf. Lk 6:24; 12:16–21; 16:13).
* [8:26–40] In the account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, Luke adduces additional evidence to show that the spread of Christianity outside the confines of Judaism itself was in accord with the plan of God. He does not make clear whether the Ethiopian was originally a convert to Judaism or, as is more probable, a “God-fearer” (Acts 10:1), i.e., one who accepted Jewish monotheism and ethic and attended the synagogue but did not consider himself bound by other regulations such as circumcision and observance of the dietary laws. The story of his conversion to Christianity is given a strong supernatural cast by the introduction of an angel (Acts 8:26), instruction from the holy Spirit (Acts 8:29), and the strange removal of Philip from the scene (8:39).
* [8:27] The Candace: Candace is not a proper name here but the title of a Nubian queen.
* [8:30–34] Philip is brought alongside the carriage at the very moment when the Ethiopian is pondering the meaning of Is 53:7–8, a passage that Christianity, from its earliest origins, has applied to Jesus; cf. note on Acts 3:13.
* [8:37] The oldest and best manuscripts of Acts omit this verse, which is a Western text reading: “And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he said in reply, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’”
Saul Visits Jerusalem.
The Church at Peace.
Peter Heals Aeneas at Lydda.
Peter Restores Tabitha to Life.
* [9:1–19] This is the first of three accounts of Paul’s conversion (with Acts 22:3–16 and Acts 26:2–18) with some differences of detail owing to Luke’s use of different sources. Paul’s experience was not visionary but was precipitated by the appearance of Jesus, as he insists in 1 Cor 15:8. The words of Jesus, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” related by Luke with no variation in all three accounts, exerted a profound and lasting influence on the thought of Paul. Under the influence of this experience he gradually developed his understanding of justification by faith (see the letters to the Galatians and Romans) and of the identification of the Christian community with Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor 12:27). That Luke would narrate this conversion three times is testimony to the importance he attaches to it. This first account occurs when the word is first spread to the Gentiles. At this point, the conversion of the hero of the Gentile mission is recounted. The emphasis in the account is on Paul as a divinely chosen instrument (Acts 9:15).
* [9:2] The Way: a name used by the early Christian community for itself (Acts 18:26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). The Essene community at Qumran used the same designation to describe its mode of life.
* [9:8] He could see nothing: a temporary blindness (Acts 9:18) symbolizing the religious blindness of Saul as persecutor (cf. Acts 26:18).
* [9:13] Your holy ones: literally, “your saints.”
* [9:19–30] This is a brief resume of Paul’s initial experience as an apostolic preacher. At first he found himself in the position of being regarded as an apostate by the Jews and suspect by the Christian community of Jerusalem. His acceptance by the latter was finally brought about through his friendship with Barnabas (Acts 9:27).
* [9:20] Son of God: the title “Son of God” occurs in Acts only here, but cf. the citation of Ps 2:7 in Paul’s speech at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:33).
* [9:26] This visit of Paul to Jerusalem is mentioned by Paul in Gal 1:18.
* [9:29] Hellenists: see note on Acts 6:1–7.
* [9:31–43] In the context of the period of peace enjoyed by the community through the cessation of Paul’s activities against it, Luke introduces two traditions concerning the miraculous power exercised by Peter as he was making a tour of places where the Christian message had already been preached. The towns of Lydda, Sharon, and Joppa were populated by both Jews and Gentiles and their Christian communities may well have been mixed.
* [9:36] Tabitha (Dorcas), respectively the Aramaic and Greek words for “gazelle,” exemplifies the right attitude toward material possessions expressed by Jesus in the Lucan Gospel (Lk 6:30; 11:41; 12:33; 18:22; 19:8).
* [9:43] The fact that Peter lodged with a tanner would have been significant to both the Gentile and Jewish Christians, for Judaism considered the tanning occupation unclean.
The Vision of Cornelius.
The Vision of Peter.
The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him.
The Baptism of Cornelius.
* [10:1–48] The narrative centers on the conversion of Cornelius, a Gentile and a “God-fearer” (see note on Acts 8:26–40). Luke considers the event of great importance, as is evident from his long treatment of it. The incident is again related in Acts 11:1–18 where Peter is forced to justify his actions before the Jerusalem community and alluded to in Acts 15:7–11 where at the Jerusalem “Council” Peter supports Paul’s missionary activity among the Gentiles. The narrative divides itself into a series of distinct episodes, concluding with Peter’s presentation of the Christian kerygma (Acts 10:4–43) and a pentecostal experience undergone by Cornelius’ household preceding their reception of baptism (Acts 10:44–48).
* [10:1] The Cohort called the Italica: this battalion was an auxiliary unit of archers formed originally in Italy but transferred to Syria shortly before A.D. 69.
* [10:2] Used to give alms generously: like Tabitha (Acts 9:36), Cornelius exemplifies the proper attitude toward wealth (see note on Acts 9:36).
* [10:3] About three o’clock: literally, “about the ninth hour.” See note on Acts 3:1.
* [10:7] A devout soldier: by using this adjective, Luke probably intends to classify him as a “God-fearer” (see note on Acts 8:26–40).
* [10:9–16] The vision is intended to prepare Peter to share the food of Cornelius’ household without qualms of conscience (Acts 10:48). The necessity of such instructions to Peter reveals that at first not even the apostles fully grasped the implications of Jesus’ teaching on the law. In Acts, the initial insight belongs to Stephen.
* [10:9] At about noontime: literally, “about the sixth hour.”
* [10:17–23] The arrival of the Gentile emissaries with their account of the angelic apparition illuminates Peter’s vision: he is to be prepared to admit Gentiles, who were considered unclean like the animals of his vision, into the Christian community.
* [10:24–27] So impressed is Cornelius with the apparition that he invites close personal friends to join him in his meeting with Peter. But his understanding of the person he is about to meet is not devoid of superstition, suggested by his falling down before him. For a similar experience of Paul and Barnabas, see Acts 14:11–18.
* [10:28] Peter now fully understands the meaning of his vision; see note on Acts 10:17–23.
* [10:30] Four days ago: literally, “from the fourth day up to this hour.”
* [10:34–43] Peter’s speech to the household of Cornelius typifies early Christian preaching to Gentiles.
* [10:34–35] The revelation of God’s choice of Israel to be the people of God did not mean he withheld the divine favor from other people.
* [10:36–43] These words are more directed to Luke’s Christian readers than to the household of Cornelius, as indicated by the opening words, “You know.” They trace the continuity between the preaching and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and the proclamation of Jesus by the early community. The emphasis on this divinely ordained continuity (Acts 10:41) is meant to assure Luke’s readers of the fidelity of Christian tradition to the words and deeds of Jesus.
* [10:36] To the Israelites: Luke, in the words of Peter, speaks of the prominent position occupied by Israel in the history of salvation.
* [10:38] Jesus of Nazareth: God’s revelation of his plan for the destiny of humanity through Israel culminated in Jesus of Nazareth. Consequently, the ministry of Jesus is an integral part of God’s revelation. This viewpoint explains why the early Christian communities were interested in conserving the historical substance of the ministry of Jesus, a tradition leading to the production of the four gospels.
* [10:39] We are witnesses: the apostolic testimony was not restricted to the resurrection of Jesus but also included his historical ministry. This witness, however, was theological in character; the Twelve, divinely mandated as prophets, were empowered to interpret his sayings and deeds in the light of his redemptive death and resurrection. The meaning of these words and deeds was to be made clear to the developing Christian community as the bearer of the word of salvation (cf. Acts 1:21–26). Hanging him on a tree: see note on 5:30.
* [10:42] As judge of the living and the dead: the apostolic preaching to the Jews appealed to their messianic hope, while the preaching to Gentiles stressed the coming divine judgment; cf. 1 Thes 1:10.
* [10:44] Just as the Jewish Christians received the gift of the Spirit, so too do the Gentiles.
The Baptism of the Gentiles Explained.
The Church at Antioch.
The Prediction of Agabus.
* [11:1–18] The Jewish Christians of Jerusalem were scandalized to learn of Peter’s sojourn in the house of the Gentile Cornelius. Nonetheless, they had to accept the divine directions given to both Peter and Cornelius. They concluded that the setting aside of the legal barriers between Jew and Gentile was an exceptional ordinance of God to indicate that the apostolic kerygma was also to be directed to the Gentiles. Only in Acts 15 at the “Council” in Jerusalem does the evangelization of the Gentiles become the official position of the church leadership in Jerusalem.
* [11:3] You entered…: alternatively, this could be punctuated as a question.
* [11:12] These six brothers: companions from the Christian community of Joppa (see Acts 10:23).
* [11:19–26] The Jewish Christian antipathy to the mixed community was reflected by the early missionaries generally. The few among them who entertained a different view succeeded in introducing Gentiles into the community at Antioch (in Syria). When the disconcerted Jerusalem community sent Barnabas to investigate, he was so favorably impressed by what he observed that he persuaded his friend Saul to participate in the Antioch mission.
* [11:26] Christians: “Christians” is first applied to the members of the community at Antioch because the Gentile members of the community enable it to stand out clearly from Judaism.
* [11:27–30] It is not clear whether the prophets from Jerusalem came to Antioch to request help in view of the coming famine or whether they received this insight during their visit there. The former supposition seems more likely. Suetonius and Tacitus speak of famines during the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41–54), while the Jewish historian Josephus mentions a famine in Judea in A.D. 46–48. Luke is interested, rather, in showing the charity of the Antiochene community toward the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem despite their differences on mixed communities.
* [11:30] Presbyters: this is the same Greek word that elsewhere is translated “elders,” primarily in reference to the Jewish community.
Herod’s Persecution of the Christians.
Mission of Barnabas and Saul.
* [12:1–19] Herod Agrippa ruled Judea A.D. 41–44. While Luke does not assign a motive for his execution of James and his intended execution of Peter, the broad background lies in Herod’s support of Pharisaic Judaism. The Jewish Christians had lost the popularity they had had in Jerusalem (Acts 2:47), perhaps because of suspicions against them traceable to the teaching of Stephen.
* [12:2] James, the brother of John: this James, the son of Zebedee, was beheaded by Herod Agrippa ca. A.D. 44.
* [12:3, 4] Feast of Unleavened Bread…Passover: see note on Lk 22:1.
* [12:17] To James: this James is not the son of Zebedee mentioned in Acts 12:2, but is James, the “brother of the Lord” (Gal 1:19), who in Acts 15; 21 is presented as leader of the Jerusalem Christian community. He left and went to another place: the conjecture that Peter left for Rome at this time has nothing to recommend it. His chief responsibility was still the leadership of the Jewish Christian community in Palestine (see Gal 2:7). The concept of the great missionary effort of the church was yet to come (see Acts 13:1–3).
* [12:20–23] Josephus gives a similar account of Herod’s death that occurred in A.D. 44. Early Christian tradition considered the manner of it to be a divine punishment upon his evil life. See 2 Kgs 19:35 for the figure of the angel of the Lord in such a context.
* [12:25] They returned to Jerusalem: many manuscripts read “from Jerusalem,” since Acts 11:30 implies that Paul and Barnabas are already in Jerusalem. This present verse could refer to a return visit or subsequent relief mission.
First Mission Begins in Cyprus.
Paul’s Arrival at Antioch in Pisidia.
Paul’s Address in the Synagogue.
Address to the Gentiles.
* [13:1–3] The impulse for the first missionary effort in Asia Minor is ascribed to the prophets of the Antiochene community, under the inspiration of the holy Spirit. Just as the Jerusalem community had earlier been the center of missionary activity, so too Antioch becomes the center from which the missionaries Barnabas and Saul are sent out.
* [13:4–14:27] The key event in Luke’s account of the first missionary journey is the experience of Paul and Barnabas at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14–52). The Christian kerygma proclaimed by Paul in the synagogue was favorably received. Some Jews and “God-fearers” (see note on Acts 8:26–40) became interested and invited the missionaries to speak again on the following sabbath (Acts 13:42). By that time, however, the appearance of a large number of Gentiles from the city had so disconcerted the Jews that they became hostile toward the apostles (Acts 13:44–50). This hostility of theirs appears in all three accounts of Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts, the Jews of Iconium (Acts 14:1–2) and Beroea (Acts 17:11) being notable exceptions.
* [13:5] John: that is, John Mark (see Acts 12:12, 25).
* [13:6] A magician named Bar-Jesus who was a Jewish false prophet: that is, he posed as a prophet. Again Luke takes the opportunity to dissociate Christianity from the magical acts of the time (Acts 13:7–11); see also Acts 8:18–24.
* [13:9] Saul, also known as Paul: there is no reason to believe that his name was changed from Saul to Paul upon his conversion. The use of a double name, one Semitic (Saul), the other Greco-Roman (Paul), is well attested (cf. Acts 1:23, Joseph Justus; Acts 12:12, 25, John Mark).
* [13:16–41] This is the first of several speeches of Paul to Jews proclaiming that the Christian church is the logical development of Pharisaic Judaism (see also Acts 24:10–21; 26:2–23).
* [13:16] Who are God-fearing: see note on Acts 8:26–40.
* [13:18] Put up with: some manuscripts read “sustained.”
* [13:20] At the end of about four hundred and fifty years: the manuscript tradition makes it uncertain whether the mention of four hundred and fifty years refers to the sojourn in Egypt before the Exodus, the wilderness period and the time of the conquest (see Ex 12:40–41), as the translation here suggests, or to the time between the conquest and the time of Samuel, the period of the judges, if the text is read, “After these things, for about four hundred and fifty years, he provided judges.”
* [13:31] The theme of the Galilean witnesses is a major one in the Gospel of Luke and in Acts and is used to signify the continuity between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the church and to guarantee the fidelity of the church’s teachings to the words of Jesus.
* [13:38–39] Justified: the verb is the same as that used in Paul’s letters to speak of the experience of justification and, as in Paul, is here connected with the term “to have faith” (“every believer”). But this seems the only passage about Paul in Acts where justification is mentioned. In Lucan fashion it is paralleled with “forgiveness of sins” (a theme at Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 10:43) based on Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:37) rather than his cross, and is put negatively (Acts 13:38). Therefore, some would translate, “in regard to everything from which you could not be acquitted…every believer is acquitted.”
* [13:46] The refusal to believe frustrates God’s plan for his chosen people; however, no adverse judgment is made here concerning their ultimate destiny. Again, Luke, in the words of Paul, speaks of the priority of Israel in the plan for salvation (see Acts 10:36).
Paul and Barnabas at Iconium.
Paul and Barnabas at Lystra.
End of the First Mission.
* [14:8–18] In an effort to convince his hearers that the divine power works through his word, Paul cures the cripple. However, the pagan tradition of the occasional appearance of gods among human beings leads the people astray in interpreting the miracle. The incident reveals the cultural difficulties with which the church had to cope. Note the similarity of the miracle worked here by Paul to the one performed by Peter in Acts 3:2–10.
* [14:12] Zeus…Hermes: in Greek religion, Zeus was the chief of the Olympian gods, the “father of gods and men”; Hermes was a son of Zeus and was usually identified as the herald and messenger of the gods.
* [14:14] Tore their garments: a gesture of protest.
* [14:15–17] This is the first speech of Paul to Gentiles recorded by Luke in Acts (cf. Acts 17:22–31). Rather than showing how Christianity is the logical outgrowth of Judaism, as he does in speeches before Jews, Luke says that God excuses past Gentile ignorance and then presents a natural theology arguing for the recognition of God’s existence and presence through his activity in natural phenomena.
* [14:23] They appointed presbyters: the communities are given their own religious leaders by the traveling missionaries. The structure in these churches is patterned on the model of the Jerusalem community (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 5, 22; 21:18).
Council of Jerusalem.
James on Dietary Law.
Letter of the Apostles.
Delegates at Antioch.
Paul and Barnabas Separate.
* [15:1–35] The Jerusalem “Council” marks the official rejection of the rigid view that Gentile converts were obliged to observe the Mosaic law completely. From here to the end of Acts, Paul and the Gentile mission become the focus of Luke’s writing.
* [15:1–5] When some of the converted Pharisees of Jerusalem discover the results of the first missionary journey of Paul, they urge that the Gentiles be taught to follow the Mosaic law. Recognizing the authority of the Jerusalem church, Paul and Barnabas go there to settle the question of whether Gentiles can embrace a form of Christianity that does not include this obligation.
* [15:6–12] The gathering is possibly the same as that recalled by Paul in Gal 2:1–10. Note that in Acts 15:2 it is only the apostles and presbyters, a small group, with whom Paul and Barnabas are to meet. Here Luke gives the meeting a public character because he wishes to emphasize its doctrinal significance (see Acts 15:22).
* [15:7–11] Paul’s refusal to impose the Mosaic law on the Gentile Christians is supported by Peter on the ground that within his own experience God bestowed the holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his household without preconditions concerning the adoption of the Mosaic law (see Acts 10:44–47).
* [15:11] In support of Paul, Peter formulates the fundamental meaning of the gospel: that all are invited to be saved through faith in the power of Christ.
* [15:13–35] Some scholars think that this apostolic decree suggested by James, the immediate leader of the Jerusalem community, derives from another historical occasion than the meeting in question. This seems to be the case if the meeting is the same as the one related in Gal 2:1–10. According to that account, nothing was imposed upon Gentile Christians in respect to Mosaic law; whereas the decree instructs Gentile Christians of mixed communities to abstain from meats sacrificed to idols and from blood-meats, and to avoid marriage within forbidden degrees of consanguinity and affinity (Lv 18), all of which practices were especially abhorrent to Jews. Luke seems to have telescoped two originally independent incidents here: the first a Jerusalem “Council” that dealt with the question of circumcision, and the second a Jerusalem decree dealing mainly with Gentile observance of dietary laws (see Acts 21:25 where Paul seems to be learning of the decree for the first time).
* [15:14] Symeon: elsewhere in Acts he is called either Peter or Simon. The presence of the name Symeon here suggests that, in the source Luke is using for this part of the Jerusalem “Council” incident, the name may have originally referred to someone other than Peter (see Acts 13:1 where the Antiochene Symeon Niger is mentioned). As the text now stands, however, it is undoubtedly a reference to Simon Peter (Acts 15:7).
* [15:34] Some manuscripts add, in various wordings, “But Silas decided to remain there.”
* [15:36–18:22] This continuous narrative recounts Paul’s second missionary journey. On the internal evidence of the Lucan account, it lasted about three years. Paul first visited the communities he had established on his first journey (Acts 16:1–5), then pushed on into Macedonia, where he established communities at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea (Acts 16:7–17:5). To escape the hostility of the Jews of Thessalonica, he left for Greece and while resident in Athens attempted, without success, to establish an effective Christian community there. From Athens he proceeded to Corinth and, after a stay of a year and a half, returned to Antioch by way of Ephesus and Jerusalem (Acts 17:16–18:22). Luke does not concern himself with the structure or statistics of the communities but aims to show the general progress of the gospel in the Gentile world as well as its continued failure to take root in the Jewish community.
Paul in Lycaonia: Timothy.
Through Asia Minor.
Imprisonment at Philippi.
Deliverance from Prison.
* [16:3] Paul had him circumcised: he did this in order that Timothy might be able to associate with the Jews and so perform a ministry among them. Paul did not object to the Jewish Christians’ adherence to the law. But he insisted that the law could not be imposed on the Gentiles. Paul himself lived in accordance with the law, or as exempt from the law, according to particular circumstances (see 1 Cor 9:19–23).
* [16:7] The Spirit of Jesus: this is an unusual formulation in Luke’s writings. The parallelism with Acts 16:6 indicates its meaning, the holy Spirit.
* [16:10–17] This is the first of the so-called “we-sections” in Acts, where Luke writes as one of Paul’s companions. The other passages are Acts 20:5–15; 21:1–18; 27:1–28:16. Scholars debate whether Luke may not have used the first person plural simply as a literary device to lend color to the narrative. The realism of the narrative, however, lends weight to the argument that the “we” includes Luke or another companion of Paul whose data Luke used as a source.
* [16:11–40] The church at Philippi became a flourishing community to which Paul addressed one of his letters (see Introduction to the Letter to the Philippians).
* [16:14] A worshiper of God: a “God-fearer.” See note on Acts 8:26–40.
* [16:16] With an oracular spirit: literally, “with a Python spirit.” The Python was the serpent or dragon that guarded the Delphic oracle. It later came to designate a “spirit that pronounced oracles” and also a ventriloquist who, it was thought, had such a spirit in the belly.
* [16:20] Magistrates: in Greek, stratēgoi, the popular designation of the duoviri, the highest officials of the Roman colony of Philippi.
* [16:35] The lictors: the equivalent of police officers, among whose duties were the apprehension and punishment of criminals.
* [16:37] Paul’s Roman citizenship granted him special privileges in regard to criminal process. Roman law forbade under severe penalty the beating of Roman citizens (see also Acts 22:25).
Paul in Thessalonica.
Paul in Beroea.
Paul in Athens.
Paul’s Speech at the Areopagus.
* [17:6–7] The accusations against Paul and his companions echo the charges brought against Jesus in Lk 23:2.
* [17:7] There is another king, Jesus: a distortion into a political sense of the apostolic proclamation of Jesus and the kingdom of God (see Acts 8:12).
* [17:16–21] Paul’s presence in Athens sets the stage for the great discourse before a Gentile audience in Acts 17:22–31. Although Athens was a politically insignificant city at this period, it still lived on the glories of its past and represented the center of Greek culture. The setting describes the conflict between Christian preaching and Hellenistic philosophy.
* [17:18] Epicurean and Stoic philosophers: for the followers of Epicurus (342–271 B.C.), the goal of life was happiness attained through sober reasoning and the searching out of motives for all choice and avoidance. The Stoics were followers of Zeno, a younger contemporary of Alexander the Great. Zeno and his followers believed in a type of pantheism that held that the spark of divinity was present in all reality and that, in order to be free, each person must live “according to nature.” This scavenger: literally, “seed-picker,” as of a bird that picks up grain. The word is later used of scrap collectors and of people who take other people’s ideas and propagate them as if they were their own. Promoter of foreign deities: according to Xenophon, Socrates was accused of promoting new deities. The accusation against Paul echoes the charge against Socrates. ‘Jesus’ and ‘Resurrection’: the Athenians are presented as misunderstanding Paul from the outset; they think he is preaching about Jesus and a goddess named Anastasis, i.e., Resurrection.
* [17:19] To the Areopagus: the “Areopagus” refers either to the Hill of Ares west of the Acropolis or to the Council of Athens, which at one time met on the hill but which at this time assembled in the Royal Colonnade (Stoa Basileios).
* [17:22–31] In Paul’s appearance at the Areopagus he preaches his climactic speech to Gentiles in the cultural center of the ancient world. The speech is more theological than christological. Paul’s discourse appeals to the Greek world’s belief in divinity as responsible for the origin and existence of the universe. It contests the common belief in a multiplicity of gods supposedly exerting their powers through their images. It acknowledges that the attempt to find God is a constant human endeavor. It declares, further, that God is the judge of the human race, that the time of the judgment has been determined, and that it will be executed through a man whom God raised from the dead. The speech reflects sympathy with pagan religiosity, handles the subject of idol worship gently, and appeals for a new examination of divinity, not from the standpoint of creation but from the standpoint of judgment.
* [17:23] ‘To an Unknown God’: ancient authors such as Pausanias, Philostratus, and Tertullian speak of Athenian altars with no specific dedication as altars of “unknown gods” or “nameless altars.”
* [17:26] From one: many manuscripts read “from one blood.” Fixed…seasons: or “fixed limits to the epochs.”
* [17:28] ‘In him we live and move and have our being’: some scholars understand this saying to be based on an earlier saying of Epimenides of Knossos (6th century B.C.). ‘For we too are his offspring’: here Paul is quoting Aratus of Soli, a third-century B.C. poet from Cilicia.
Paul in Corinth.
Accusations before Gallio.
Return to Syrian Antioch.
* [18:2] Aquila…Priscilla: both may already have been Christians at the time of their arrival in Corinth (see Acts 18:26). According to 1 Cor 16:19, their home became a meeting place for Christians. Claudius: the Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome ca. A.D. 49. The Roman historian Suetonius gives as reason for the expulsion disturbances among the Jews “at the instigation of Chrestos,” probably meaning disputes about the messiahship of Jesus.
* [18:6] Shook out his garments: a gesture indicating Paul’s repudiation of his mission to the Jews there; cf. Acts 28:17–31.
* [18:7] A worshiper of God: see note on Acts 8:26–40.
* [18:8] Crispus: in 1 Cor 1:14 Paul mentions that Crispus was one of the few he himself baptized at Corinth.
* [18:12] When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia: Gallio’s proconsulship in Achaia is dated to A.D. 51–52 from an inscription discovered at Delphi. This has become an important date in establishing a chronology of the life and missionary work of Paul.
* [18:13] Contrary to the law: Gallio (Acts 18:15) understands this to be a problem of Jewish, not Roman, law.
* [18:18] He had his hair cut because he had taken a vow: a reference to a Nazirite vow (see Nm 6:1–21, especially, 6:18) taken by Paul (see also Acts 21:23–27).
* [18:22] He went up and greeted the church: “going up” suggests a visit to the church in Jerusalem.
* [18:23–21:16] Luke’s account of Paul’s third missionary journey devotes itself mainly to his work at Ephesus (Acts 19:1–20:1). There is a certain restiveness on Paul’s part and a growing conviction that the Spirit bids him return to Jerusalem and prepare to go to Rome (Acts 19:21).
* [18:24, 25] Apollos appears as a preacher who knows the teaching of Jesus in the context of John’s baptism of repentance. Aquila and Priscilla instruct him more fully. He is referred to in 1 Cor 1:12; 3:5–6, 22.
* [18:26] The Way [of God]: for the Way, see note on Acts 9:2. Other manuscripts here read “the Way of the Lord,” “the word of the Lord,” or simply “the Way.”
Paul in Ephesus.
The Jewish Exorcists.
The Riot of the Silversmiths.
* [19:1–6] Upon his arrival in Ephesus, Paul discovers other people at the same religious stage as Apollos, though they seem to have considered themselves followers of Christ, not of the Baptist. On the relation between baptism and the reception of the Spirit, see note on Acts 8:16.
* [19:24] Miniature silver shrines of Artemis: the temple of Artemis at Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Artemis, originally the Olympian virgin hunter, moon goddess, and goddess of wild nature, was worshiped at Ephesus as an Asian mother goddess and goddess of fertility. She was one of the most widely worshiped female deities in the Hellenistic world (see Acts 18:27).
* [19:31] Asiarchs: the precise status and role of the Asiarchs is disputed. They appear to have been people of wealth and influence who promoted the Roman imperial cult and who may also have been political representatives in a league of cities in the Roman province of Asia.
* [19:35] Guardian of the temple: this title was accorded by Rome to cities that provided a temple for the imperial cult. Inscriptional evidence indicates that Ephesus was acknowledged as the temple keeper of Artemis and of the imperial cult. That fell from the sky: many scholars think that this refers to a meteorite that was worshiped as an image of the goddess.
* [19:40] Some manuscripts omit the negative in [not] be able, making the meaning, “There is no cause for which we shall be able to give a reason for this demonstration.”
Journey to Macedonia and Greece.
Return to Troas.
Eutychus Restored to Life.
Journey to Miletus.
Paul’s Farewell Speech at Miletus.
* [20:5] The second “we-section” of Acts begins here. See note on Acts 16:10–17.
* [20:6] Feast of Unleavened Bread: see note on Lk 22:1.
* [20:7] The first day of the week: the day after the sabbath and the first day of the Jewish week, apparently chosen originally by the Jerusalem community for the celebration of the liturgy of the Eucharist in order to relate it to the resurrection of Christ.
* [20:10] The action of Paul in throwing himself upon the dead boy recalls that of Elijah in 1 Kgs 17:21 where the son of the widow of Zarephath is revived and that of Elisha in 2 Kgs 4:34 where the Shunammite woman’s son is restored to life.
* [20:16–35] Apparently aware of difficulties at Ephesus and neighboring areas, Paul calls the presbyters together at Miletus, about thirty miles from Ephesus. He reminds them of his dedication to the gospel (Acts 20:18–21), speaks of what he is about to suffer for the gospel (Acts 20:22–27), and admonishes them to guard the community against false prophets, sure to arise upon his departure (Acts 20:28–31). He concludes by citing a saying of Jesus (Acts 20:35) not recorded in the gospel tradition. Luke presents this farewell to the Ephesian presbyters as Paul’s last will and testament.
* [20:28] Overseers: see note on Phil 1:1. The church of God: because the clause “that he acquired with his own blood” following “the church of God” suggests that “his own blood” refers to God’s blood, some early copyists changed “the church of God” to “the church of the Lord.” Some prefer the translation “acquired with the blood of his own,” i.e., Christ.
Arrival at Tyre.
Arrival at Ptolemais and Caesarea.
Paul and James in Jerusalem.
* [21:1–18] The third “we-section” of Acts (see note on Acts 16:10–17).
* [21:8] One of the Seven: see note on Acts 6:2–4.
* [21:10] Agabus: mentioned in Acts 11:28 as the prophet who predicted the famine that occurred when Claudius was emperor.
* [21:11] The symbolic act of Agabus recalls those of Old Testament prophets. Compare Is 20:2; Ez 4:1; Jer 13:1.
* [21:14] The Christian disciples’ attitude reflects that of Jesus (see Lk 22:42).
* [21:17–26] The leaders of the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem inform Paul that the Jews there believe he has encouraged the Jews of the diaspora to abandon the Mosaic law. According to Acts, Paul had no objection to the retention of the law by the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem and left the Jews of the diaspora who accepted Christianity free to follow the same practice.
* [21:23–26] The leaders of the community suggest that Paul, on behalf of four members of the Jerusalem community, make the customary payment for the sacrifices offered at the termination of the Nazirite vow (see Nm 6:1–24) in order to impress favorably the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem with his high regard for the Mosaic law. Since Paul himself had once made this vow (Acts 18:18), his respect for the law would be on public record.
* [21:24] Pay their expenses: according to Nm 6:14–15 the Nazirite had to present a yearling lamb for a holocaust, a yearling ewe lamb for a sin offering, and a ram for a peace offering, along with food and drink offerings, upon completion of the period of the vow.
* [21:25] Paul is informed about the apostolic decree, seemingly for the first time (see note on Acts 15:13–35). The allusion to the decree was probably introduced here by Luke to remind his readers that the Gentile Christians themselves were asked to respect certain Jewish practices deriving from the law.
* [21:28] The charges against Paul by the diaspora Jews are identical to the charges brought against Stephen by diaspora Jews in Acts 6:13. Brought Greeks into the temple: non-Jews were forbidden, under penalty of death, to go beyond the Court of the Gentiles. Inscriptions in Greek and Latin on a stone balustrade marked off the prohibited area.
* [21:31] Cohort commander: literally, “the leader of a thousand in a cohort.” At this period the Roman cohort commander usually led six hundred soldiers, a tenth of a legion; but the number in a cohort varied.
* [21:36] Away with him: at the trial of Jesus before Pilate in Lk 23:18, the people similarly shout, “Away with this man.”
* [21:38] The Egyptian: according to the Jewish historian Josephus, an Egyptian gathered a large crowd on the Mount of Olives to witness the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem that would fall at the Egyptian “prophet’s” word. The commotion was put down by the Roman authorities and the Egyptian escaped, but only after thousands had been killed. Four thousand assassins: literally, sicarii. According to Josephus, these were political nationalists who removed their opponents by assassination with a short dagger, called in Latin a sica.
* [21:40] In Hebrew: meaning, perhaps, in Aramaic, which at this time was the Semitic tongue in common use.
Paul’s Defense before the Jerusalem Jews.
Paul before the Sanhedrin.
* [22:1–21] Paul’s first defense speech is presented to the Jerusalem crowds. Luke here presents Paul as a devout Jew (Acts 22:3) and zealous persecutor of the Christian community (Acts 22:4–5), and then recounts the conversion of Paul for the second time in Acts (see note on Acts 9:1–19).
* [22:15] His witness: like the Galilean followers during the historical ministry of Jesus, Paul too, through his experience of the risen Christ, is to be a witness to the resurrection (compare Acts 1:8; 10:39–41; Lk 24:48).
* [22:21] Paul endeavors to explain that his position on the law has not been identical with that of his audience because it has been his prophetic mission to preach to the Gentiles to whom the law was not addressed and who had no faith in it as a way of salvation.
* [22:22] Paul’s suggestion that his prophetic mission to the Gentiles did not involve his imposing the law on them provokes the same opposition as occurred in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:45).
* [22:25] Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and has not been tried?: see note on Acts 16:37.
Transfer to Caesarea.
* [23:2] The high priest Ananias: Ananias, son of Nedebaeus, was high priest from A.D. 47 to 59.
* [23:3] God will strike you: Josephus reports that Ananias was later assassinated in A.D. 66 at the beginning of the First Revolt.
* [23:5] Luke portrays Paul as a model of one who is obedient to the Mosaic law. Paul, because of his reverence for the law (Ex 22:27), withdraws his accusation of hypocrisy, “whitewashed wall” (cf. Mt 23:27), when he is told Ananias is the high priest.
* [23:11] The occurrence of the vision of Christ consoling Paul and assuring him that he will be his witness in Rome prepares the reader for the final section of Acts: the journey of Paul and the word he preaches to Rome under the protection of the Romans.
* [23:17] Centurions: a centurion was a military officer in charge of one hundred soldiers.
* [23:23] By nine o’clock tonight: literally, “by the third hour of the night.” The night hours began at 6 P.M. Two hundred auxiliaries: the meaning of the Greek is not certain. It seems to refer to spearmen from the local police force and not from the cohort of soldiers, which would have numbered only 500–1000 men.
* [23:26–30] The letter emphasizes the fact that Paul is a Roman citizen and asserts the lack of evidence that he is guilty of a crime against the empire. The tone of the letter implies that the commander became initially involved in Paul’s case because of his Roman citizenship, but this is not an exact description of what really happened (see Acts 21:31–33; 22:25–29).
* [23:26] M. Antonius Felix was procurator of Judea from A.D. 52 to 60. His procuratorship was marked by cruelty toward and oppression of his Jewish subjects.
Trial before Felix.
Captivity in Caesarea.
* [24:5] Nazoreans: that is, followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
* [24:7] The Western text has added here a verse (really 6b–8a) that is not found in the best Greek manuscripts. It reads, “and would have judged him according to our own law, but the cohort commander Lysias came and violently took him out of our hands and ordered his accusers to come before you.”
* [24:10–21] Whereas the advocate Tertullus referred to Paul’s activities on his missionary journeys, the apostle narrowed the charges down to the riot connected with the incident in the temple (see Acts 21:27–30; 24:17–20). In his defense, Paul stresses the continuity between Christianity and Judaism.
* [24:24, 25] The way of Christian discipleship greatly disquiets Felix, who has entered into an adulterous marriage with Drusilla, daughter of Herod Agrippa I. This marriage provides the background for the topics Paul speaks about and about which Felix does not want to hear.
* [24:27] Very little is known of Porcius Festus who was a procurator of Judea from A.D. 60 to 62.
Appeal to Caesar.
Paul before King Agrippa.
* [25:2] Even after two years the animosity toward Paul in Jerusalem had not subsided (see Acts 24:27).
* [25:9–12] Paul refuses to acknowledge that the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem has any jurisdiction over him now (Acts 25:11). Paul uses his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to the jurisdiction of the Emperor (Nero, ca. A.D. 60) (Acts 25:12). This move broke the deadlock between Roman protective custody of Paul and the plan of his enemies to kill him (25:3).
* [25:13] King Agrippa and Bernice: brother and sister, children of Herod Agrippa I whose activities against the Jerusalem community are mentioned in Acts 12:1–19. Agrippa II was a petty ruler over small areas in northern Palestine and some villages in Perea. His influence on the Jewish population of Palestine was insignificant.
King Agrippa Hears Paul.
Reactions to Paul’s Speech.
* [26:2–23] Paul’s final defense speech in Acts is now made before a king (see Acts 9:15). In the speech Paul presents himself as a zealous Pharisee and Christianity as the logical development of Pharisaic Judaism. The story of his conversion is recounted for the third time in Acts in this speech (see note on Acts 9:1–19).
* [26:4] Among my people: that is, among the Jews.
* [26:14] In Hebrew: see note on Acts 21:40. It is hard for you to kick against the goad: this proverb is commonly found in Greek literature and in this context signifies the senselessness and ineffectiveness of any opposition to the divine influence in his life.
* [26:16] The words of Jesus directed to Paul here reflect the dialogues between Christ and Ananias (Acts 9:15) and between Ananias and Paul (Acts 22:14–15) in the two previous accounts of Paul’s conversion.
* [26:18] To open their eyes: though no mention is made of Paul’s blindness in this account (cf. Acts 9:8–9, 12, 18; 22:11–13), the task he is commissioned to perform is the removal of other people’s spiritual blindness.
* [26:22] Saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses foretold: see note on Lk 18:31.
* [26:23] That the Messiah must suffer: see note on Lk 24:26.
* [26:26] Not done in a corner: for Luke, this Greek proverb expresses his belief that he is presenting a story about Jesus and the church that is already well known. As such, the entire history of Christianity is public knowledge and incontestable. Luke presents his story in this way to provide “certainty” to his readers about the instructions they have received (Lk 1:4).
* [26:27–28] If the Christian missionaries proclaim nothing different from what the Old Testament prophets had proclaimed (Acts 26:22–23), then the logical outcome for the believing Jew, according to Luke, is to become a Christian.
* [26:31–32] In recording the episode of Paul’s appearance before Agrippa, Luke wishes to show that, when Paul’s case was judged impartially, no grounds for legal action against him were found (see Acts 23:29; 25:25).
Departure for Rome.
Storm and Shipwreck.
* [27:1–28:16] Here Luke has written a stirring account of adventure on the high seas, incidental to his main purpose of showing how well Paul got along with his captors and how his prophetic influence saved the lives of all on board. The recital also establishes the existence of Christian communities in Puteoli and Rome. This account of the voyage and shipwreck also constitutes the final “we-section” in Acts (see note on Acts 16:10–17).
* [27:1] Cohort Augusta: the presence of a Cohort Augusta in Syria during the first century A.D. is attested in inscriptions. Whatever the historical background to this information given by Luke may be, the name Augusta serves to increase the prominence and prestige of the prisoner Paul whose custodians bear so important a Roman name.
* [27:9] The time of the fast: the fast kept on the occasion of the Day of Atonement (Lv 16:29–31), which occurred in late September or early October.
* [27:35] He took bread…: the words recall the traditional language of the celebration of the Eucharist (see Lk 22:19).
a. [27:2] 19:29; 20:4.
Winter in Malta.
Arrival in Rome.
Testimony to Jews in Rome.
* [28:4] Justice: in Greek mythology, the pursuing goddess of vengeance and justice.
* [28:11] Dioscuri: that is, the Twin Brothers, Castor and Pollux, the sons of Zeus and the patrons of the sailors.
* [28:16] With Paul’s arrival in Rome, the programmatic spread of the word of the Lord to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) is accomplished. In Rome, Paul is placed under house arrest, and under this mild form of custody he is allowed to proclaim the word in the capital of the civilized world of his day.
* [28:17–22] Paul’s first act in Rome is to learn from the leaders of the Jewish community whether the Jews of Jerusalem plan to pursue their case against him before the Roman jurisdiction. He is informed that no such plan is afoot, but that the Jews of Rome have heard the Christian teaching denounced. Paul’s offer to explain it to them is readily accepted.
* [28:20] The hope of Israel: in the words of Paul (Acts 23:6), Luke has identified this hope as hope in the resurrection of the dead.
* [28:25–28] Paul’s final words in Acts reflect a major concern of Luke’s writings: how the salvation promised in the Old Testament, accomplished by Jesus, and offered first to Israel (Acts 13:26), has now been offered to and accepted by the Gentiles. Quoting Is 6:9–10, Paul presents the scriptural support for his indictment of his fellow Jews who refuse to accept the message he proclaims. Their rejection leads to its proclamation among the Gentiles.
* [28:29] The Western text has added here a verse that is not found in the best Greek manuscripts: “And when he had said this, the Jews left, seriously arguing among themselves.”
* [28:30–31] Although the ending of Acts may seem to be abrupt, Luke has now completed his story with the establishment of Paul and the proclamation of Christianity in Rome. Paul’s confident and unhindered proclamation of the gospel in Rome forms the climax to the story whose outline was provided in Acts 1:8—“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…and to the ends of the earth.”