Acts 15
Pulpit Commentary
And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Verse 1. - Came down... and taught for which came down... taught, A.V.; saying for and said, A.V.; custom (ἔθος) for manner, A.V. Except ye be circumcised, etc. The question thus raised nearly effected the disruption of the Church, and was the most serious controversy that had yet arisen. If the views broached by these Judaean Christians had prevailed, the whole character of Christianity would have been changed, and its existence probably cut short. How great the danger was appears from even Peter and Barnabas having wavered in their opinion. (For St. Paul's treatment of the subject, see Romans 2:25, etc.; 4; Galatians 5:2-6; Galatians 6:12-15, etc.) The expression, Τινὲς κατέλθοντες ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰουδαίας, is so like that in Galatians 2:11, Πρὸ τοῦ ἐλθεῖν τινὰς ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου as to suggest very strongly the consideration whether Peter was not at Antioch at this time, and whether the scene related in Galatians 2:11, etc., did not precede, and in fact cause, the Council of Jerusalem. In this case the "dissension and disputation" spoken of in ver. 2 would include and directly point to the memorable rebuke given by Paul to Peter; and we should understand that Peter, accepting Paul's rebuke, preceded him and Barnabas, and prepared the way at Jerusalem for the solution arrived at. And, indeed, Peter's words at Jerusalem are almost an echo of Paul's words addressed to him at Antioch. If Barnabas had shown a leaning towards the Judaizing party, he would the more readily have been accepted by them as one of the embassy. The chief objection to this hypothesis is that in Galatians 2:11 Peter's visit to Antioch seems to be spoken of as something subsequent to the journey of St. Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem. But it is not in the least necessary so to understand it. St, Paul's mention of his visit to Jerusalem might naturally recall the incident which had led to it, and which was another example of his own independence. Farrar places Peter's visit to Antioch between the Council of Jerusalem and the quarrel with Barnabas, in the time indicated in ver. 35 of this chapter (vol. 1. Acts 23.), and so do Conybeare and Howson (vol. 1. p. 238), Meyer, and Alford ('Proleg.,' p. 24; note on Acts 15:36, and Galatians 2:11). Renan ('St. Paul,' p. 290, etc.) and Lewin (vol. 1. Acts 13.) place it after St. Paul's return to Antioch, at the conclusion of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:22, 23). No absolute certainty can be arrived at, but see note to ver. 35. Custom (see Acts 16:21); τὰ ἔθη is the technical term for the Mosaic institutions, used by Josephus and Philo (see too Acts 6:14; Acts 21:21, note).
When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
Verse 2. - And when for when therefore, A.V.; questioning for disputation, A.V.; the brethren (in italics) appointed for they determined, A.V. Certain other of them. One of these would be Titus (Galatians 2:1). The circumstance that, on this occasion, St. Paul did go up to those who were apostles before him, to consult with them on a matter of doctrine, shows at once why he refers so pointedly to this visit in Galatians 2:1, etc., and is almost conclusive evidence that this visit is the one there referred to. The companionship of Barnabas; the agreement of the expression, "I went up by revelation," with the fact that he was sent by the Church, doubtless in obedience to some voice of the Spirit, like that mentioned in Acts 13:2; the occasion, a dispute about the circumcision of Gentile converts; the line taken by Paul and Barnabas in declaring the conversion of the Gentiles (Acts 15:4, 12; Galatians 2:27), and the result (Acts 15:19; Galatians 2:5, 7, 9), are all strong, not to say conclusive, marks of the identity of the two visits. The apostles and elders. This phrase marks the constitution of the governing part of the Church of Jerusalem. The addition in vers. 22 and 23 of "the whole Church," and (according to the T.R.) of "the brethren," shows the part the body of the believers had in approving and sanctioning the decisions of the elders. The transaction marks the position of the Church of Jerusalem as the metropolitan Church of Christendom.
And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
Verse 3. - They therefore... passed for and... they passed, A.V.; both Phoenicia for Phonice, A.V. Being brought on their way (προπεμφθέντες). The word προπέμπειν has two distinct though allied meanings: one is "to conduct a person on his way," as in Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; the other is "to help a person on his way, by supplying him with all necessaries for his journey," as in Romans 15:24; 1 Corinthians 16:6; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Titus 3:13 3John 6. This last is the meaning here. Being the messengers of the Church, they traveled at the Church's expense. Both Phoenicia and Samaria. Their course would be through Berytus, Type, Sidon, and Samaria. Declaring the conversion of the Gentiles. There was an especial reason for doing so, as it had a strong bearing upon the great controversy about to be decided at Jerusalem.
And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
Verse 4. - The apostles for of the apostles, A.V.; the elders for elders, A.V.; rehearsed for declared, A.V. They were received of the Church, etc. Being themselves the formal envoys of the Church of Antioch, they were formally received as such by the Church of Jerusalem, headed by the apostles and elders.
But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
Verse 5. - Who for which, A.V.; it is for that it was, A.V.; charge for command, A.V. There rose up, etc. As soon as Paul and Barnabas had finished their recital of the conversion of the heathen to whom they had preached the gospel, certain Christian Pharisees who were at the meeting disturbed the joy of the brethren and the unanimity of the assembly by getting up and saying that all the Gentile converts must be circumcised and keep the Law. This, of course, would have included Titus, who was present with St. Paul (Galatians 2:1, 3). The Epistle to the Galatians deals directly and forcibly with this question.
And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
Verse 6. - The elders for elders, A.V.; were gathered for came, A.V.; to for for to, A.V. The question was too important, and, perhaps, the persons who advanced the objections too considerable, to allow of a decision to be taken on the spot. A special meeting of the Church was called to consider the matter.
And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
Verse 7. - Questioning for disputing, A.V., as in ver. 2; brethren for men and brethren, A.V., as in Acts 7:2, etc.; you for us, A.V. and T.R.; by my mouth the Gentiles for the Gentiles by my mouth, A.V. Questioning. It was a repetition of the same scene that took place at Antioch. Peter, etc. It seems to have been wise on Peter's part to allow the meeting to exhaust itself by fruitless disputations before he rose to speak. His rising, with all the authority of his person and position, commanded immediate attention. A good while ago; literally, from ancient days, or still more exactly, from the days of the beginning of the gospel (ἡμεραὶ ἀρχαίαι), days belonging to the beginning (ἀρχή) of the Church's existence, and dating far back in Peter's own apostolic life. Nothing can be more natural than this allusion to the conversion of Cornelius, and the gift of the Holy Ghost to the Gentile inmates of his house, as related in Acts 10:44.
And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Verse 8. - Heart for hearts, A.V. (καρδιογνώστης). Bare them witness; i.e. set the mark of his approval upon them, vouched for their sincerity (see the use of the verb μαρτυρέω in Luke 4:22; John 3:26; Acts 6:3; Acts 10:22, etc.).
And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Verse 9. - He made no distinction for put no difference, A.V. (comp. Acts 10:20, note); cleansing for purifying, A.V. This is exactly the doctrine of Galatians 2:16 and Romans 3:30, with which compare also ver. 11.
Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Verse 10. - That ye should put for to put, A.V. The Greek words cannot be construed as the A.V. takes them. It is not a Greek construction to say πειράζειν τινα ποιεῖν κακόν, "to tempt any one to do evil." The infinitive ἐπιθεῖναι must be taken gerundially, "by placing," or "putting," and the sense is - Why do you try God's patience by your provocation in putting an unbearable yoke upon the necks of those who believe? Or, "as if he had not power to save by faith" (Chrysostom).
But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Verse 11. - We shall be saved through the grace, etc., for through the grace... we shall be saved, A.V.; Jesus for Jesus Christ, A.V. and T.R.; in like manner for even, A.V. "How full of power are these words! The same that Paul says at large in the Epistle to the Romans, the same says Peter here" (Chrysost., ' Hem.,' 32.).
Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
Verse 12. - And for then, A.V.; they hearkened for gave audience, A.V.; rehearsing what signs for declaring what miracles, A.V. Kept silence; marking the contrast between the noisy questionings and disputings which had preceded Peter's speech, and the quiet orderly attention with which they now listened to Paul and Barnabas, telling them of the conversion of the Gentiles. It recalls Virgil's description of the effect of the presence of a man of grave piety upon an excited crowd -

"Tum, pielate gravem ac meritis si forte virum quem
Aspexere, silent, arrectisque auribus adslant."

(AEneid,' 1:152.)
And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
Verse 13. - Brethren for men and brethren, A.V., as ver. 7. James answered. James's place as presiding bishop is here distinctly marked by his summing up the debate. "This (James)was bishop, as they say, and, therefore, he speaks last" (Chrysost., ' Hem.,' 33.). And again, "No word speaks John here, no word the other apostles, but held their peace, for James was invested with the chief rule." "He says well with authority, 'My sentence is" (ibid.). A remarkable testimony against papal supremacy.
Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
Verse 14. - Symeon for Simeon, A.V.; rehearsed for declared, A.V.; first God for God at the first, A.V. Symeon. This is the only place (unless Symeon is the right reading in 2 Peter 1:1) in which Simon Peter's name is given in this Hebrew form, which is most proper in the month of James speaking to Palestine Jews. Singularly enough, Chrysostom was misled by it, and thought the prophecy of Simeon in Luke 1:31 was meant, How first; corresponding to the" good while ago" of ver. 7. Did visit, etc. The construction ἐπεσκέψατο λαβεῖν is very unusual, and indeed stands alone. The verb always has an accusative case after it (Acts 6:3; Acts 7:23; Acts 15:36), unless Luke 1:68 is an exception, which, however, it hardly is. There are two ways of construing the phrase. One is to consider it as elliptical, and to supply, as the A.V. and R.V. do, τὰ ἐθνή. So Alford, who compares the construction in Luke 1:25, where ἐπ ἐμέ must be supplied. But this is a harsh construction. The other and better way is to take ἐπεσκεψατο, not in the sense of" visiting," but of" looking out," or "endeavoring to find something." The sense of the infinitive after the verb is nearly equivalent to" look out for and took," literally, looked out how he might take. With a slight modification of meaning, Irenaeus (in 'Speaker's Commentary') renders it" Excogitavit accipere," "planned" or "contrived to take." A people for his Name; 1.e. to be called by his Name. Λαός was the peculiar designation of "the people" of God, answering to the Hebrew עַם (comp. 1 Peter 2:10, Οἱ ποτὲ οὐ λαὸς νῦν δὲ λαὸς Θεοῦ).
And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
Verse 16. - These things for this, A.V.; I will for will, A.V.; fallen for fallen down, A.V.
That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
Verse 17. - May for might, A.V.
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
Verse 18. - Who maketh these things known, etc., for who doeth all these things (in ver. 17 of A.V.); known for known unto God are all his works, A.V. and T.R. Known from the beginning of the world. The above passage from Amos 9:11, 12, is quoted, not very exactly, though with no change of sense, from the LXX., where it ends with the words, "saith the Lord, who doeth all these things," as in the A.V. But the LXX. ver. 17 differs widely from the present Hebrew text. For whereas the Hebrew has, "That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen that are called by my Name," the LXX. (Cod. Alex.) have Ὅπως α}ν ἐκζητήσωσιν οἱ κατάλοιποι τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸν Κύριον καὶ ππάντα τὰ ἔθνη κ.τ.λ., where it is evident that they read יִדְרְשׁוּ, seek after, for יֵרְשׁוּ, possess, and אָדָם, men, for אֶדום, Edom. There is every appearance of the LXX., followed here by St. James, having preserved the true reading. As regards the reading of the R.V. in ver. 18, it is a manifest corruption. It is not the reading of either the Hebrew or the Greek version of Amos, or of any other version; and it makes no sense. Whereas the T.R., which is the reading of Irenaeus (3:12.), as Meyer truly says, "presents a thought completely clear, pious, noble, and inoffensive as regards the connection," though he thinks that a reason for rejecting it. Nothing could be more germane to St. James's argument than thus to show from the words of Amos that God's present purpose of taking the Gentiles to be his people was, like all his other works, formed from the beginning of the world (comp. Ephesians 1:9, 10; Ephesians 3:5, 6; 2 Timothy 1:9, etc.). As regards the interpretation of the prophecy of Amos intended, the idea seems to be that that apparent ruin of the house and family of David which culminated in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus would be followed by those "sure mercies of David," which consisted in his resurrection from the dead, his exaltation to the right hand of God, and the gathering in of the Gentiles to his kingdom. The phrase, "the tabernacle of David," is rather difficult, because the word in the Hebrew is סֻכַּת דָזִיד, tabernacle or booth of David. It is the word used for the booths at the Feast of Tabernacles, and denotes a temporary shed of branches or the like of a very humble character. It is difficult to say why this word was used, unless it was to show that the house of David had fallen to a low estate before it was pulled down.
Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
Verse 19. - Judgment for sentence, A.V. (ἐγὼ κρίνω); turn for are turned, A.V. (ἐπιστρέφουσιν Judgment. Sentence is the best word, as expressing the decisive judgment of St. James, which, being delivered with the authority of his office at the close of the debate, carried with it the suffrages of the whole council. The things decreed by them were called Τὰ δόγματα τὰ κεκρίμενα ὑπὸ σῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων Turn. It applies to those that should hereafter turn as well as to those who were already turned.
But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Verse 20. - The pollutions for pollutions, A.V.; what is strangled for things strangled, A.V. The pollutions. In the decree itself (ver. 29) this is explained by εἰδωλοθύτων, things offered to idols, though some apply the "pollutions" to all the things here mentioned, not the idols only. Later St. Paul somewhat enlarged the liberty of Gentile converts in respect to meats offered to idols (see 1 Corinthians 8:4-13; 1 Corinthians 10:25-28). What is strangled, etc. The things forbidden are all practices not looked upon as sins by Gentiles, but now enjoined upon them as portions of the Law of Moses which were to be binding upon them, at least for a time, with a view to their living in communion and fellowship with their Jewish brethren. The necessity for some of the prohibitions would cease when the condition of the Church as regards Jews and Gentiles was altered; others were of eternal obligation.
For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
Verse 21. - From generations of old for of old time, A.V.; sabbath for sabbath day, A.V. The meaning of this verse seems to be that, in requiring the above compliances, the council was not enjoining anything new or strange, because the Gentiles who attended the synagogues were familiar with these Mosaic doctrines. It has been often stated that these four prohibitions were in substance the same as the so-called seven precepts of Noah, which were binding upon proselytes of the gate. This is, however, scarcely borne out by the facts. The four prohibitions seem to have been a temporary arrangement adapted to the then condition of the Church, with a view to enabling Christian Jews and Gentiles to live in brotherly fellowship. The Jew was not to require more of his Gentile brother: the Gentile was not to concede less to his Jewish brother. St. Augustine ('Cont. Manich.,' 32, 13), quoted by Meyer, ridicules the idea of Christians in his time being bound by the law of things strangled (see Hooker and Bishop Sanderson, quoted by Wordsworth, in the same sense).
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
Verse 22. - It seemed good to for pleased it, A.V.; the elders for elders, A.V.; to choose men out of their company and send them, etc., for to send chosen men of their own company, A.V.; Barsabbas for Barsabas, A.V. and T.R., as Acts 1:23. To choose men, etc. This is a necessary, change, because the middle aorist (ἐκκεξαμένους) cannot have a passive meaning (chosen); see ver. 40. Chief men (ἡγουμένους); literally, leaders. So in Luke 22:26 Ὁ ἡγούμενος is rendered, "He that is chief." In Hebrews 13:7, Οἱ ἡγούμενοι ὑμῶν is, "Them which have the rule over you;" your spiritual rulers. Silas seems to be a contraction of Silvanus, like Lucas for Lucanus. In the Acts he is always called Silas, in the Epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter, Silvanus. Going as direct emissaries from James and the Church of Jerusalem, and Judas would have great weight with the Jews in Syria and Cilicia.
And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
Verse 23. - Wrote thus by them for wrote letters by them after this manner, A.V.; the elder brethren for elders and brethren, A.V.; unto... greeting for send greeting unto, etc., A.V., as Acts 23:26. The elder brethren, etc. The grammar of the sentence is irregular, as there is nothing for γράψαντες to agree with. But "the elder brethren" is a phrase unknown to the Scriptures, and it is much more in accordance with the feeling of the times that "the brethren," i.e. the whole Church, should be included in the salutation. Greeting. It is remarkable that the only other place in the New Testament where this Greek salutation occurs is James 1:1.
Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
Verse 24. - The words in the A.V. and the T.R., saying, Ye must be circumcised and keep the Law, are omitted in the R.T. and the R.V.; commandment for such commandment, A.V. The certain which went out from us are the same as the "certain men" which "came down from Judaea," of ver. 1. The word rendered subverting (ἀνασκευάζοντες) occurs nowhere else in Scripture or in the LXX. It is spoken properly of a person who moves and carries off all the goods and furniture from the house which he is quitting. Hence to "disturb," "throw into confusion, turn upside down," and the like. To whom we gave no commandment. Observe the distinct disavowal by James of having authorized those who went forth from him and the Jerusalem Church to require the circumcision of the Gentiles. The A.V. expresses the meaning most clearly.
It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Verse 25. - Having come to for being assembled with, A.V.; to choose out men and send them for to send chosen men, A.V. (see note on ver. 22). Having come, etc. The Greek is capable of either meaning. Alford prefers that of the A.V. Others think that stress is laid upon the decree being unanimous. Our beloved Barnabas and Paul. James and the council thus gave their full and open support to Barnabas and Paul. Observe that Barnabas is named first, as in ver. 12.
Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
Verse 27. - Themselves also shall for shall also, A.V.; by word of mouth for by mouth, A.V. Judas and Silas (see Acts 10:7, note).
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Verse 28. - It seemed good, etc. The formula is remarkable. It implies the consciousness on the part of the council that they had "the mind of the Spirit;" but how this mind of the Spirit was communicated we are not expressly told. There may have been some "revelation," similar to that recorded in Acts 13:2; Acts 10:19; Galatians 2:1, etc. It is, however, generally understood as resting upon Christ's promise to be with his Church always. Hefele ('Hist. of Christian Councils,' pp. 1,2, English translation) quotes Cyprian as writing to Pope Cornelius in the name of the Council of A.D. : "Placuit nobis, Sancto Spiritu suggerente;" and the Synod of Aries as saying, "Placuit, praesenti Spiritu Sancto." And this is the general language of the synods. Constantine claimed for the decrees of the three hundred bishops at Nicaea the same authority as if they had been "solius Filii Dei sententia." But, as Bishop Wordsworth on Acts 15:28 wisely says, "It cannot be held that councils of the Church now are entitled to adopt the words of the text in the framing of canons."
That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Verse 29. - Things sacrificed for meats offered, A.V.; it shall be well with you for ye shall do well, A.V. The phrase εῦ πράσσειν means to" prosper," to "fare well" (comp. Ephesians 6:21, "How I do").
So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
Verse 30. - They, when they were dismissed, came down for when they were dismissed, they came, A.V.; having gathered for when they had gathered, A.V. The multitude does not exactly express the idea of τὸ πλῆθος, which is the fullness or the whole of the body spoken cf. Thus Luke 1:10, Πᾶν τὸ πλῆθος τοῦ λαοῦ is "The whole congregation;" Luke 2:13, Πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου is "The whole heavenly host;" Luke 19:37, Ἄπαν τὸ πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν, "The whole company of the disciples;" also Acts 6:2 and Acts 4:32, Τὸ πλῆθος τῶν πιστευσάντων is "The whole company of believers;" Acts 22:36, Τὸ πλῆθος τοῦ λαοῦ is "The whole body of the people;" in ver. 12 of this chapter, Πᾶν τὸ πλῆθος is "The whole Church of Jerusalem." So here, Τὸ πλῆθος means "The whole Church."
Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.
Verse 31. - And when they had read it for which when they had read, A.V.
And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
Verse 32. - Being themselves also prophets for being prophets also themselves, A.V. Being themselves also prophets, exhorted, etc. Observe the connection of exhortation with prophecy, and compare the explanation of the name of Barnabas in Acts 4:36, note. Confirmed them; ἐπεστήριξαν, as ver. 41 and Acts 14:22; Acts 18:23. Nothing is so unsettling as controversy; but the preaching of these "chief men" brought back men's minds to the solid faith and hope of the gospel. How rich the Church of Antioch was at this time, with Paul and Barnabas, Judas and Silas, and probably Titus, and some, if not all, of those mentioned in Acts 13:1, for their teachers.
And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
Verse 33. - Spent some time there for tarried there a space, A.V. (see Acts 18:23; Acts 20:3; James 4:13); dismissed for let go, A.V. those that had sent them forth for the apostles, A.V. and T.R.
Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
Verse 34. - This verse is omitted in the R.T. and by the best manuscripts and commentators. It seems to have been put in to explain ver. 40. But Silas may have returned to Jerusalem, as stated in ver. 33, and come back again to Antioch, from having formed a strong attachment to St. Paul and his views.
Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
Verse 35. - But Paul for Paul also, A.V.; tarried for continued, A.V. It is at this time that Meyer and other commentators (see ver. 1, note) place Peter's visit to Antioch mentioned in Galatians 2:11. But it is quite inconceivable that Peter, with all the influence of the Jerusalem Cornell fresh upon him, and after the part he himself took in it, and when his own emissaries, Silas and Judas, had just left Antioch, should act the part there ascribed to him. Nor is it within the region of probability that, so soon after the council, any should have come "from James" to unsay what James had said and written at the council. We may with much confidence place Peter's visit to Antioch before the council, as suggested in note to ver. 1.
And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
Verse 36. - After some days for some days after, A.V.; return now for go again, A.V.; the brethren for our brethren, A.V. and T.R.; wherein we proclaimed for where we have preached, A.V.; fare for do, A.V. After some days is hardly equivalent to μετά τινας ἡμέρας. The expression in Greek is quite indefinite as to time, and may cover months as well as days. That it does cover a considerable length of time we gather from the expression in ver. 33, that Judas and Silas "tarried some time at Jerusalem," followed by that in ver. 35, that after their departure "Paul and Barnabas tarried (διέτριβον) in Antioch." We can hardly suppose the two periods together to have included much less than a year. Let us return, etc. The singular loving care of Paul for his young converts appears here (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8; 1 Thessalonians 3:5-8; 2 Corinthians 1:14, etc.).
And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
Verse 37. - Was minded for determined, A.V. and T.R.; John also for John, A.V. and T.R.; who was called for whose surname was, A.V. Was minded. It is doubtful which is the true reading, ἐβουλεύσατο or ἐβούλετο. The difference of meaning is small. The first means "took council with himself," i.e. planned, thought, to take Barnabas; the second, "wished," i.e. his deliberate will was to take Barnabas. Singularly enough, Alford, who rejects ἐβούλετο, which is the reading of R.T., translates ἐβουλεύετο by "was minded," which is the translation of ἐβούλετο in the R.V. We see in this choice of Mark by Barnabas the natural partiality of a near relation. We may also see the same flexibility of disposition which made him yield to the influence of the emissaries of James (Galatians 2:13). Who was called. It might seem odd that this description of John should be repeated here after having been given in Acts 12:25. But perhaps it was usual so to designate him (see Luke 8:2; Luke 22:3; Matthew 10:3; Acts 1:23; Acts 10:6).
But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
Verse 38. - Take with them him for take him with them, A.V.; withdrew for departed, A.V. Withdrew. The Greek word ἀποστάντα (from which comes the substantive apostasy) is a strong one, and denotes decided blame, as does the indication of the opposite course, by way of contrast, which he did not take. "He did not go with them to the work" to which God called them, as he ought to have done. The whole phrase, too, which follows is strongly worded. "Paul thought good," as regards one who had turned back from the work, "not to take that man." The μὴ συμπαραλαβεῖν of ver. 38 is, as Meyer observes, sharply opposed to the συμπαραλαβεῖν of ver. 37. Luke evidently sides strongly with Paul, and almost reproduces the ipsis-sima verba of the "sharp contention." One would infer that this passage was penned by Luke before the reconciliation which appears in 2 Timothy 4:11, and that we have here an indication of the early date of the publication of "The Acts." Perhaps also there is an indication in the narrative, coupled with Mark's subsequent attach-merit to Peter, that Mark rather leant at this time to Judaizing views, and that his previous departure "from the work" was partly owing to a want of complete sympathy with St. Paul's doctrine. St. Paul would have no half-hearted helper in his grand and arduous work.
And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
Verse 39. - There arose a sharp contention for the contention was so sharp between them, A.V. and T.R.; parted for departed, A.V.; so that for so sharp... that, A.V.; and Barnabas for and so Barnabas, A.V.; took Mark with him for took Mark, A.V.; sailed away for sailed, A.V. There arose a sharp contention, etc. The sense "between them" must be supplied, if the English word "contention" is used. The word παροξυσμός only occurs twice in the New Testament: once in Hebrews 10:24, in a good sense, "To provoke" (for a provocation) - " stimulate or excite" - " unto love and good works," which is its common classical sense; the other time in this passage, where the sense is attributed to it in which it is used in the LXX., as in Deuteronomy 29:28, Ἐν θυμῷ καὶ ὀργῇ καὶ παροξυσμῷ μεγάλῳ σφόδρα, "in great indignation;" and in Jeremiah 32:37 (39. 37, LXX.), coupled with the same words, ἐν παροξυσμῷ μεγάλῳ, "in great wrath;" answering to קֶצפin Hebrew. But it is more probable that St. Luke uses the word here in its common medical sense. In medical writers - Galen, Hippocrates, etc. - the παροξυσμός is equivalent to what we call an access, from the Latin aecessio, used by Celsus, when a disease of some standing takes a turn for the worse, comes to a height, and breaks out into its severest form. This is the sense in which our English word "paroxysm" is used. The meaning of the passage will then be that, after a good deal of uncomfortable feeling and discussion, the difference between Paul and Barnabas, instead of cooling down, broke out into such an acute form that Barnabas went off to Cyprus with Mark, leaving St. Paul to do what he pleased by himself. And Barnabas, etc. The R.V. is much more accurate. The consequence of the quarrel is said by St. Luke to have been that Barnabas took Mark off with him to Cyprus. The statement that Paul chose Silas is a separate and independent statement, as appears by Παῦλος (in the nominative) and ἐξῆλθε in the indicative mood. St. Luke's narrative quite sides with St. Paul, and throws the blame of the quarrel, or at least of the separation, upon Barnabas. Renan ('St. Paul,' p. 119) thinks St. Paul was too severe upon John Mark, and that it was ungrateful of him to break with one to whom he owed so much as he did to Barnabas for any cause of secondary importance. He also thinks that the real root of the quarrel lay in the constantly changing relations between the two apostles, aggravated by a domineering spirit in St. Paul. But the force of this censure turns upon the question whether it was a cause of secondary importance. If St. Paul had a single eye to the success of his mission, and judged that Mark would be a hindrance to it, it was a question of primary importance to "the work," and St. Paul was right. Renan also remarks upon the extinction of the fame of Barnabas consequent upon this separation from his more illustrious companion. "While Paul kept advancing to the heights of his glory, Barnabas, separated from the companion who had shed a portion of his own luster upon him, pursued his solitary course in obscurity." Sailed away. Cyprus was Barnabas's native country (Acts 4:36), and the scene of the earliest mission (Acts 11:19), and of Paul and Barnabas's first joint evangelistic labors (Acts 13:4). Barnabas would have many friends there, and could form plans at his leisure for his future action. The friendly mention of him in 1 Corinthians 9:6 shows both that he continued his disinterested labors as an apostle and that the estrangement between him and St. Paul had passed away. The paroxysm had yielded to the gentle treatment of charity.
And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
Verse 40. - But for and, A.V.; went forth or departed, A.V.; commended for recommended, A.V.; to for unto, A.V.; the Lord for God, A.V. and T.R. Chose Silas. If ver. 34 of the T.R. is a true reading, it accounts for the presence of Silas at Antioch. Otherwise there is no difficulty in supposing that Silas, attracted by the holy zeal of St. Paul and by desire to work among the Gentiles, had come back to Antioch after giving account to the apostles at Jerusalem of the success of his mission with Judas to the Churches at Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
Verse 41. - Syria and Cilicia (see ver. 23). This rather looks as if the "some days after" of ver. 36 did not cover a very long time, because the special mention of "the Churches of Syria and Cilicia" indicates that St. Paul's visit had some connection with the epistle addressed to them by the apostles and elders of the Church of Jerusalem (ver. 23), as we see from Acts 16:4 was the case. Confirming; as Acts 14:22; Acts 15:32; Acts 18:22 (T.R.). In the passive voice ἐπιστηρίζομαι means to "lean upon," as in 2 Samuel 1:6, LXX., and in classical Greek. Renan thus indicates their probable route: "They traveled by land northwards across the plain of Antioch, went through the 'Syrian Gates,' coasted the gulf of the Issus, crossed the northern branch of the Issus through the 'Amanean Gates,' then,, traversing Cilicia, went perhaps through Tarsus, crossed Mount Taurus through the 'Cilician Gates,' one of the most terrible passes in the world, and thus reached Lycaonia, going as far as Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium" ('St. Paul,' p. 123).

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