Acts 13: New American Commentary

1. Paul and Barnabas Commissioned (13:1–3)

1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

13:1 The Antioch church was the first Christian congregation to witness to the Gentiles in its own city (11:19f.). It then became the first to send missionaries forth into the larger world. Judging from Acts, Antioch was the first church to catch the vision of “foreign missions.” The leadership is described in unique terms as comprised of “prophets and teachers” (v. 1), and five names are listed. Although it is possible grammatically to construe the first three as being prophets and the last two as teachers, it probably is best to see all five as comprising the congregational leadership as prophet-teachers. Paul and Barnabas already had been described as “teaching” the congregation (11:26), and the additional designation of “prophet” would emphasize the inspired, Spirit-led dimension to their teaching.

In Paul’s epistles the role of “prophet” is regularly depicted as a gift of the Spirit (cf. Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 28; 14:1–5, 24–25, 31; Eph 4:11). The gift of prophecy can be that of foretelling future events, as with Agabus (Acts 11:27). More often it is that of speaking an inspired word from God for the edification and direction of the community.1 In this latter sense the gift is exemplified in the present passage, as these “prophetic teachers” were inspired by the Spirit to set Paul and Barnabas apart for a special mission (v. 2).

One is intrigued by the list of five names. Those of Barnabas and Paul are quite familiar, and they become even more so in the following narrative. Of the other three, nothing else is known for certain. “Simeon called Niger” perhaps indicates that he was a black, since niger is the Latin word for black. Some have suggested that he might have come from Cyrene, like Lucius, or from elsewhere in North Africa. From the time of the early church fathers, some have equated “Lucius of Cyrene” with Luke and seen this solitary reference as Luke’s “signature” to his book. Little evidence, however, substantiates this; and the Greek “Luke” and Latin “Lucius” are different names.2 Manaen is described as having been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch. The Herod referred to would be Antipas (cf. Luke 3:1; Acts 4:27). The term used to describe Manaen’s relationship to Herod is syntrophos, which literally referred to someone suckled by the same nurse as a baby. Later it came to mean someone “reared together” with someone. Manaen was thus of considerable social standing, a courtier and childhood companion of the king.3 Manaen was possibly the source of Luke’s rather extensive treatment of Antipas (cf. Luke 8:3; 13:31f.; 23:7–12).

13:2 In v. 2 “they” likely refers to the entire Antioch congregation gathered for worship,4 but the directive of the Holy Spirit may well have been mediated through the inspiration of the prophet-teachers. That they were fasting indicates the church was in a mood of particular expectancy and openness to the Lord’s leading. Although evidence suggests the Jewish practice of fasting was regularly observed in some early Christian circles, the association of fasting with worship suggests a time of intense devotion when normal human activities like eating were suspended. This is still a valid form of fasting for Christians today.5 The Spirit directed the community “to set apart” Barnabas and Saul. The Spirit led the church in its mission. As throughout Acts, God took the initiative in every new development of the Christian witness; however, the church did its part. It fasted and prayed, seeking the divine leading in a mode of expectant devotion. The Spirit was not specific at this point, referring only to “the work to which I have called them.” The little word “work” (ergon) refers to Paul and Barnabas’s mission. It forms an “inclusion” for the whole mission, occurring here at its inception and again at its conclusion (14:26).

13:3 The congregation responded in faith. It is not clear who laid hands on Paul and Barnabas, whether the other prophet-teachers, the elders of the church (who can only be assumed from the structure of the other churches in Acts), or the whole congregation. The gesture almost certainly was not an ordination. No one in Antioch had any rank exceeding that of Paul and Barnabas. The gesture was more a symbol of the congregation’s endorsing the work of the two. They separated them for a task in which they would perform a witness on behalf of the whole church.6 In modern terms it was a commissioning service for the two missionaries.

2. Sergius Paulus Converted on Cyprus (13:4–12)

4The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

6They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10“You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.”

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

13:4 Paul and Barnabas set out on their mission, departing from Seleucia, the main port for Antioch, lying about sixteen miles downstream and five miles from where the Orontes flowed into the Mediterranean. Their destination was Cyprus, some sixty miles distant. Barnabas was himself a Cypriot by birth (4:36), the Hellenists had already begun some witness on the island (11:19), and other natives of Cyprus belonged to the Antioch church (11:20).

The island had been settled from ancient times; it was occupied as early as the eighteenth century b.c. and was colonized successively by Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Assyrians, Persians, and the Egyptian Ptolemies. Since the mid-first century b.c. it had been under Roman jurisdiction and from 22 b.c. had been organized as a senatorial province administered by a proconsul. It is a testimony to Luke’s accuracy in details that he designated Sergius Paulus (v. 7) the Roman proconsul (an-thypatos), the correct term for the administrator of a senatorial province.7

13:5 Barnabas and Paul landed at Salamis, the closest Cypriot port to Seleucia. Here they began a pattern that Paul would perpetuate throughout his missionary career. Where there were local synagogues, he began his ministry by preaching first in them. There was an extensive Jewish community at Salamis, and evidently several synagogues were there.8 Only at this point do we learn that John Mark was part of the entourage. He is described as their “helper” (hypēretēs). This term is used in Luke 1:2 for “servants of the word” and in Luke 4:20 for the worship leader in the synagogue. Some have seen Mark’s role as that of catechist, or keeper of written documents on Jesus’ life, or even the administrator of baptism.9 Keeping the more general meaning of the term, which is that of a servant or helper, probably would be wisest. Mark assisted Barnabas and Paul in whatever way they needed him.

13:6–7 From Salamis the three traversed the width of the island, arriving at Paphos some ninety miles to the west. It may well be that they evangelized the villages along the way,10 but Luke did not dwell on this. He rather focused on the high point of the Cyprus experience—the conversion of the proconsul and the defeat of a false prophet’s attempt to thwart their witness to him. Paphos was a fairly new city and the seat of Roman government on the island.11 The proconsul at this time was named Sergius Paulus. Although there is no certain archaeological verification of his proconsulship on Cyprus at this time, several inscriptions might point in that direction.12 Further, the family of the Pauli was an influential Roman patrician family, producing many officials throughout the empire over a long period, which in itself lends credence to a Paulus as proconsul of Cyprus.

13:8 Paul’s efforts to witness to the proconsul did not go unopposed, however. In the official’s entourage was a certain Jewish “false prophet” named “Bar-Jesus.” Luke described him as a “magos,” a term that could be used favorably, as it is of the Persian astrologer-magi of Matt 2. It was often used in the sense of a charlatan, a trickster, a claimant to false powers; and it is in this derogatory sense that Luke referred to Bar-Jesus. One should not be altogether surprised that a Roman official could be hoodwinked by such a figure. Romans put great stock in powers of divination and even had their own sacred oracles. Charlatans like Bar-Jesus were usually smooth and highly knowledgeable, practicing a sort of pseudoscience. His Jewish credentials did not hurt him either. The Jews had a reputation among the Romans for their antiquity and depth of religious knowledge. Josephus mentioned a number of such Jewish sorcerers who had great successes among the Gentiles.13 Bar-Jesus probably offered his services to Paulus in terms of divining future events for him. In any event, just as with Simon-Magus (8:9–13, 18f.), the setup was a lucrative one; and Bar-Jesus saw the Christian missionaries as a potential threat. In v. 8 Luke added that the magician also had the name of Elymas and that “is what his name means.” The etymology is anything but clear, but the connection seems to be between “magician” and Elymas, not with “Bar-Jesus.

13:8–10 Any number of suggestions have been made to show the possible etymological relationship between the two terms. Of these the most likely are that Elymas comes from the Arabic root alim, which means sage, or that it comes from the Aramaic haloma, which means interpreter of dreams.14 Either of these derivations would point to the same fact—Elymas claimed to predict the future. For Luke such claims were unfounded. Elymas was a “false prophet” (v. 6). Threatened, Elymas sought to thwart the Christian missionaries by turning “the proconsul from the faith” (v. 8). At this point Sergius Paulus was not a believer. Elymas sought to hinder the missionaries from their witness to the faith, to divert Paulus’s attention from the proclamation. This was a serious mistake, poor judgment on his part. Like Peter with Simon Magus (8:20–23), Paul turned on Elymas with a vengeance. Luke clarified that it was ultimately not Paul but the Spirit of God whom Elymas had taken on. Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Looking at him with a withering gaze, Paul began to denounce Elymas, “You are a child of the devil.” No one familiar with Aramaic (as Elymas probably would have been) could have missed the pun. His name, Bar-Jesus (in Aramaic Bar-Jeshua), meant etymologically son of the Savior. He was no son of the Savior; quite the opposite, he was son of the devil.

Paul’s language is filled with Old Testament phrases. “Enemy of everything that is right” surely could refer to his general moral opposition to all that was good and just. The phrase is literally, however, “enemy of all righteousness”; and “righteousness” is a primary attribute of God throughout the Bible. Paul could have implied that Elymas had set himself up as an enemy of God. He was filled with “deceit” (dolos) and “trickery” (rhadiourgia). Dolos originally meant bait by which something or someone was lured into a trap. This was what Elymas had been doing all along with Sergius Paulus, deceiving him with all his false claims. Now he was adding to his evil ways—not only tricking the proconsul but perverting the straight paths of the Lord himself in attempting to divert the official from the gospel.

13:11 One might have been able to take advantage of a proconsul, but one could not withstand the ways of the Lord with impunity. Sometimes in Acts the inevitable punishment came swiftly, as it did for Ananias and Sapphira (5:1–11). It descended with equal immediacy on Elymas. Paul predicted it: “You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun” (v. 11). Paul himself had experienced blindness, not, however, as punishment but as a sign of the Lord’s presence in his conversion.15 One would like to agree with Chrysostom, who argued that Paul inflicted his own blindness on Elymas in the hope that it would lead to his conversion, just as it had been a sign of his own. More likely, however, the blindness was symbolic of Elymas’s own spiritual state of being (cf. John 3:19–20; 9:39).

Paul’s prediction was immediately fulfilled. “Mist and darkness” overcame Elymas, and he began to grope around and seek for someone to lead him about. There was some clemency in his judgment. The blindness would be limited, “for a time.” Luke did not say how long. The significant witness was given by the miracle—to Elymas of the judgment that had come from opposing God, to Sergius Paulus of the power of the God Paul proclaimed. For the Christian reader a further important point has been made: Christianity has nothing to do with the magic and superstition of this world; its power, the power of the Word and Spirit, overcomes them all. This theme will return in Acts 19.

13:12 Verse 12 describes the effect of the miracle on the proconsul: he believed. He was not only impressed by the miracle but also by the teaching about the Lord. This familiar pattern already has been illustrated in Acts. The miracles wrought by the Spirit often provide an opening for faith. It is much as with the lame beggar of chap. 3. The crowds were attracted to the apostles by the healing (3:11). They believed in the Lord as the result of Peter’s preaching the gospel (4:4). So here Paulus was impressed by what had happened to Elymas. He believed as a result of the teaching about the Lord. There is no reason to doubt the reality of his conversion.16 This has been the main point of the whole Cyprus narrative. No other conversions have been mentioned, though there were surely others as a result of the missionaries’ preaching. Luke left us with one major result of the mission—the conversion of a prominent Roman official.

Before leaving the Cyprus narrative, one small but significant note must be treated. In v. 9 Luke identified Saul by his Roman name, “who was also called Paul.” From this point on in Acts, the name Paul appears, whereas before it had been “Saul.” The only exceptions hereafter are Paul’s recounting his conversion experience when he repeated the call of Jesus to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Why did Luke change the designation at this point? Some have argued that he did so because of the presence of Sergius Paulus in the narrative, a man of the same name. That may well have something to do with it but only in an indirect way. Paul was now entering Greco-Roman territory as he worked on Cyprus, no longer working primarily among Palestinian Jews. He almost certainly had both names. Paul was his Roman cognomen, and every Roman citizen had such a name.17 It would be the name natural to every Greek and Roman who crossed his path—like Sergius Paulus. Paul also had a Hebrew name, called a signum, an additional name used within his own community. It was Saul, the same name as the ancient Jewish king who was also a Benjamite. This signum “Saul” was surely that used of him in Jewish circles. Luke’s switch at this point is thus natural and quite observant of the situation. Moving into Greco-Roman territory, Paul would be the name primarily used to address him. There is a further subtle dimension. With the change in name, there also came a shift in status. Heretofore, Barnabas had always been mentioned before Paul. It was “Barnabas and Saul” (cf. 13:1, 7; 11:30; 12:25). From here on it was “Paul and Barnabas” (cf. 13:42, 46).18 Even more significantly, it was “Paul and his companions” (13:13). Paul was more and more on his own ground as he moved into Greco-Roman territory. He assumed leadership.

3. Paul’s Address to the Synagogue at Pisidian Antioch (13:13–52)

The remainder of chap. 13 is set primarily in Pisidian Antioch. It consists of three main parts: (1) the journey to Antioch and the setting of the stage for Paul’s speech in the synagogue (vv. 13–16a), (2) Paul’s address to the synagogue (vv. 16b–41), and (3) the final response of the Jews and Gentiles on the occasion of a second visit to the synagogue in Antioch (vv. 42–52).

(1) The Setting (13:13–16a)

13From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. 14From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.”

16Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said:

Leaving Cyprus, Paul and his party sailed from Paphos northwest to the coast of present-day Turkey. Their stopping place was Perga, some twelve miles inland. Perga was located in Pamphylia, the land that lay between the Taurus mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. The area of Lycia lay to the west and Cilicia to the east. Pamphylia was under Roman jurisdiction, having been a separate province from 25 b.c. to a.d. 43 and then being merged with Lycia into the province of Pamphylia-Lycia from a.d. 43–68. Perga could be reached by traveling seven miles up the Cestrus River from the Mediterranean port of Attalia and then going about five miles west by foot to Perga. The Cestrus is not navigable in this area today, and it may not have been in Paul’s day. If not, the missionaries would have landed at Attalia and traveled by foot to Perga.19 At this point Perga seems to have been only a stopping place on their journey. On their return trip they would preach there (14:25).

At Perga, John Mark decided to leave them, and he returned home to Jerusalem. Just why he did so has long been a fruitful subject for speculation.20 Was he intimidated by the prospect of the arduous and dangerous task of crossing the Taurus mountains to reach Antioch? Was he angered that Paul was assuming more and more authority and forcing his cousin Barnabas to a lesser role? Did he contract malaria in the Pamphylian lowlands? Did he disagree with Paul’s concept of a law-free mission to the Gentiles? All of these have been suggested; none can be substantiated. Luke was simply silent on the reason. He did clarify that it was a serious matter for Paul, serious enough to create a falling out with Barnabas on a subsequent occasion (cf. 15:37f.).

Luke’s note that they went from Perga to Pisidian Antioch is extremely terse, and one is apt to miss the difficulty of the trek. Antioch lay some 100 miles to the north across the Taurus mountain range. The route was barren, often flooded by swollen mountain streams, and notorious for its bandits, which even the Romans had difficulty bringing under control.21 Antioch itself was in the highlands, some 3,600 feet above sea level. It was one of the sixteen cities named Antioch that had been established around 300 b.c. by Seleucus Nikator in honor of his father Antiochus. Although referred to as “Pisidian Antioch” to distinguish it from the others, it was actually in Phrygia but just across the border from Pisidia. In Paul’s day it belonged to the Roman province of Galatia and was the leading city of the southern part of the province, having the status of a “colony city” with its privileges of local autonomy and exemption from imperial taxes. The Seleucid rulers had moved many Jews to the city, and there was a large Jewish population there.22

13:14–16 As was their custom, Paul and Barnabas went first to the synagogue in the city. The Diaspora synagogue was more than a house of worship. It was the hub of the Jewish community—house of worship, center of education, judicial center, social gathering place, general “civic center” for the Jewish community. If one wished to make contact with the Jewish community in a town, the synagogue was the natural place to begin. It was also the natural place to begin if one wished to share the Christian message. Jesus was the expected Jewish Messiah, and it was natural to share him with “the Jews first.” There had perhaps been an arrangement already for Paul to speak that day, as the invitation from the rulers of the synagogue would suggest (v. 15b). Usually a synagogue had only one ruling elder, but evidence suggests that the title was retained by those who formerly served as well as sometimes being conferred strictly as an honor, which explains why it occurs sometimes in the plural, as here.23 The ruling elder was responsible for worship, appointing lay members to lead in prayer and read the Scripture lessons. He also would invite suitable persons to deliver the homily on the day’s Scripture when such were available. The form of the service as depicted in v. 15 is exactly that known from rabbinic sources, the sermon following the readings from the Law and the Prophets.24 There seem to have been a number of styles of homilies, but one that linked the Torah and prophetic texts together was considered ideal. One is tempted to try to derive the texts on which Paul expounded in Pisidian Antioch. Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22 for the Torah (seder) and Isa 1:1–22 for the prophetic text (haphtarah) were suggested by Ramsay.25 More recently J. Bowker has suggested Deut 4:25–46 as the seder and 2 Sam 7:6–16 as the haftarah, with 1 Sam 13:14 as the “proem text,” that is, the text that links the two together.26

(2) The Sermon (13:16b–41)

“Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, 18he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, 19he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. 20All this took about 450 years.

“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

23“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

26“Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30But God raised him from the dead, 31and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.

32“We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:

“ ‘You are my Son;

today I have become your Father.’

34The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words:

“ ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’

35So it is stated elsewhere:

“ ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’

36“For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. 37But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.

38“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. 40Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:

41“ ‘Look, you scoffers,

wonder and perish,

for I am going to do something in your days

that you would never believe,

even if someone told you.’ ”

It is instructive to compare Paul’s sermon in Pisidian Antioch with the other speeches in Acts. It has much in common with Peter’s speeches—the emphasis on the Jerusalem Jews’ responsibility for Jesus’ death, the contrast between the death on the cross and the triumph of the resurrection, the apostolic witness, the proofs from Scripture (even some of the same texts), and the call to repentance. One would expect many of the same emphases. This, as with most of Peter’s sermons, was a speech to Jews. Paul’s sermons to Gentiles (chaps. 14; 17) would be radically different. This sermon has a feature in common also with Stephen’s speech—namely, the long introductory sketch of Jewish history. There is a radically different function for the historical sketches in the two speeches, however. Stephen used Old Testament history to depict the rebelliousness of the Jews toward their divinely appointed leaders. Paul used it to show God’s faithfulness to his promises for Israel, promises that were ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

The speech falls into three main parts. Verses 16b–25 provide a sketch of Old Testament history that emphasizes God’s providence and promise to Israel. Verses 26–37 demonstrate by means of apostolic witness and scriptural proof how those promises are fulfilled in Christ. Finally, vv. 38–41 issue an invitation to accept the promises and a warning against rejecting God’s marvelous deed in Christ.

The Promise to Israel (13:16b–25)

13:16b–21 Paul was aware of two groups in his congregation and addressed them both—“men of Israel” and “Gentiles who worship God” (vv. 16b, 26).27 It was to the first group that the primary content of the sermon was addressed. It was from the second group that he would receive the most positive response. The keynote of Paul’s sketch of Old Testament history was God’s mercy to Israel, his acts of lovingkindness. This is particularly to be seen in the verbs he used to depict each stage of history. God “chose” the patriarchs (eklegomai, “elected,” v. 17). He “made the people prosper” in Egypt (hypsoō, “exalted,” v. 17). He “led them out” (exagō, v. 17) of Egypt. He “endured their conduct,” or “cared for them in the wilderness” (v. 18).28 He “gave the land of Canaan to them as an inheritance” (kataklēronomeō, v. 19). He “gave” them judges (v. 20).29 Upon their request he “gave” them Saul as king (v. 21).30 Finally, he “made” (literally “raised up,” egeiren) David as king (v. 22). No point is dwelt upon until we get to David. All the stress is on God’s mercy—his election of Israel, his exaltation of his people, his gift of an inheritance in the promised land, his gift of rulers and kings.

13:22–23 The pace slows with David because this is the point Paul wanted to stress. God “raised up” David, a common Old Testament expression for God bringing forth a prophet or ruler to serve his people but also an expression for Jesus’ resurrection. The parallelism may not be accidental, for in a real sense David and the promises to him foreshadow the promise fulfilled in Christ. David was a special expression of God’s mercy, a man who fulfilled all God’s will for him, a man after God’s own heart.31 David also received a special promise from God, a promise of a descendant who would be God’s own Son and with whom he would establish a kingdom that would last forever. This promise was embodied in Nathan’s prophecy to David (2 Sam 7:12–16). It lies behind v. 23 with its reference to God’s promise. The promised descendant of David was Jesus the Savior. This promise to David had been the goal of Paul’s entire historical sketch. It would continue to be the main subject of Paul’s sermon as he showed how Christ fulfilled the promise.

13:24–25 The verses dealing with John the Baptist are difficult to place on an outline of Paul’s sermon (vv. 24–25). Should they go with the opening sketch of Israel’s history (vv. 16–23) or with the section on God’s sending Jesus (vv. 26–37)? Does John belong with the period of Israel or the period of Christ? The very fact that John was placed between these two major sections of the speech emphasizes his transitional role. John was the eschatological messenger, the last in the line of Old Testament prophets, who heralded the coming of the Messiah. He was the link-figure, joining together the period of Israel and the period of God’s new community in Christ. The outline followed here places John with the section on Israel’s history because the structure of Paul’s speech seems to do so. The key is Paul’s address to his hearers (“brothers,” etc.). The speech contains three direct addresses (vv. 16, 26, 38), and each seems to mark a transition to a major division in the sermon.

The references to Jesus’ being the “coming” one in vv. 24–25 may reflect the prophecy of Mal 3:1, which looks to the sending of God’s messenger as a herald to the coming of the Lord. Contemporary Judaism interpreted Mal 3:1 messianically, and throughout the New Testament John is depicted in this role of the herald, the forerunner of the Messiah Jesus. John’s message and his baptizing were both aimed at the repentance of the people in preparation for the coming Messiah (cf. Mark 1:4). John’s denial that he was the Messiah and his statement that he was unworthy to perform even the slave’s task of untying the “coming” one’s sandals (v. 25) is found in all four Gospels (cf. Matt 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:15f.; John 1:27). Here in Paul’s speech it appears in wording that is closest to that of John’s Gospel (cf. John 1:20f., 27).32 Quite possibly Paul’s listeners in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch had heard about John the Baptist. A few years later Paul encountered a group of the Baptist’s disciples even further to the west in Ephesus (Acts 19:1–7). Paul wanted his hearers to see John’s role in its proper perspective. John was in every way subordinate to the one whose coming he proclaimed. But he was a first bold witness to the coming of the Messiah.

The Promise Fulfilled in Christ (13:26–37)

13:26 There may be a distant echo of Ps 107:20 in v. 26. In any event, it is a key verse, linked directly with the reference to God’s sending the promised “Savior” Jesus in v. 23. That had been the whole point of the opening section of Paul’s sermon—God’s mercy to Israel from the patriarchs to David, especially as epitomized in the promise to David that he would send a descendant whose kingdom would have no end.33 Now that promise had been fulfilled in the Savior Jesus; now that message of salvation had been sent. Jesus was the Son of David; it was above all to David’s own people, the people chosen in Abraham (v. 17), the Jews, that God had sent the Messiah and the message of salvation in him. Paul addressed a synagogue consisting of Jewish listeners and devout God-worshiping Gentiles who identified closely with the Jewish faith and looked to the promises given to Israel. The tragedy of this speech would be that the Jews, the very ones to whom the Messiah had first been sent, would ultimately reject this message of salvation (13:45f.).

13:27–28 Verses 27–31 tell the story of Jesus’ rejection, death, and resurrection in the basic kerygmatic form already familiar from Peter’s speeches earlier in Acts. The people of Jerusalem, and especially their rulers, did not recognize Jesus as their God-sent Messiah. What they did to him was done in ignorance (cf. 3:17). And yet, in condemning him to death, they unknowingly fulfilled the prophecies that the Messiah must suffer and die (cf. Luke 24:46; Acts 3:18). The irony of it all was that they were the very ones who should have understood who Jesus was, who read those very prophecies in their synagogues every sabbath (v. 27b). Paul highly compressed his summary. His reference to their finding no real legal basis for the death penalty (v. 28a) recalls Pilate’s protest of Jesus’ innocence (cf. Luke 23:4; Acts 3:13).

13:29–30 Verses 29–30 complete the gospel summary, noting that the Jews of Jerusalem fulfilled all that the prophets had written concerning his suffering and death.34 Like Peter, Paul referred to Christ’s crucifixion as hanging on “a tree” (5:30; 10:39; Gal 3:13). His compression of the story is particularly evident in his referring to “their” taking him down from the cross and laying him in the tomb, which could be taken to refer to the Jews of Jerusalem. The reference is, of course, to Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:53) and Nicodemus (John 19:38–42). The removal of the body and its placement in the tomb underlines the full reality of the death of Christ. He was dead and buried (cf. 1 Cor 15:4). This heightens the contrast with the next statement: God raised him from the dead.35 The emphasis on the burial also prepares for the explanation of Ps 16:10 in vv. 34–37. It is the contrast between the seeming defeat of the cross and the victory of the resurrection so familiar in Peter’s speeches: “You killed him but God raised him” (cf. 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:39f.).

13:31 The kerygmatic portion of Paul’s speech ends with the familiar reference to the apostolic witness (cf. 1:8; 2:32; 3:15). It is striking that Paul did not include himself among these witnesses. But here it was not just the resurrection he wished to emphasize but the entire Christ event, embracing the journey from Galilee and the witness to his crucifixion (cf. Luke 23:49, 55; Acts 1:13f.) as well as the whole forty-day period of his resurrection appearances (Acts 1:3). Above all the Twelve could attest to these events (cf. Acts 1:21f.). But another “witness” to these things was the testimony of the Scriptures. To these Scripture proofs Paul now turned.

13:32–33a Just as Peter’s sermons to the Jews relied heavily on Old Testament texts that were shown to have their fulfillment in Jesus, so now in vv. 32–37 Paul turned to the Scriptures to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah who fulfilled the promise to David. In that generation (“to us their children,” said Paul) God accomplished his promise to David. This he did by “raising up” Jesus. The expression “raising up” could be connected with God’s bringing Jesus onto the stage of history. It is the same verb (egeiren) used in v. 22 for God’s “raising up” David as king (“made … king”). In the immediate context, however, the emphasis is on the resurrection of Jesus. By the resurrection of Jesus, God demonstrated that he had truly accomplished his promise by bringing forth the Son who abides forever.

13:33b–34 Paul quoted three Old Testament texts that establish Jesus as the one who fulfills the promise. The first is Ps 2:7, a psalm that already in contemporary Judaism was applied to the Messiah and was itself based on the Nathan prophecy of 2 Sam 7.36 God said to the Messiah: “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” (Acts 13:33). To what does “today” refer? In the context Paul seems to have been implying the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus was indeed the Son of God from all eternity and recognized as such throughout his earthly life (Luke 1:35; 3:22; 9:35). But it was through the resurrection that he was exalted to God’s right hand, enthroned as Son of God, and recognized as such by believing humans. It was through the resurrection that he was declared Son of God with power (Rom 1:4). Paul’s second Old Testament text, Isa 55:3, also relates to the Nathan prophecy of 2 Sam 7:4–17: “I will give to you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.” It is somewhat more difficult to determine the exact purpose of this quotation in the total argument, but Paul gave a key in introducing the verse by saying that it established that God raised Jesus from the dead, never to decay. The “holy and sure” blessings to David are God’s promise that he would establish in his descendant an eternal throne, a kingdom that would last forever (cf. 2 Sam 7:13, 16).37 But God’s promise was not fulfilled in David, who did not himself enjoy an eternal reign.

13:35–37 The final Old Testament text, Ps 16:10, is quoted in v. 35 to establish this.38 The text of the psalm refers to God’s Holy One who will not suffer decay. Peter also cited this same text in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:25–28). Paul applied it in much the same fashion. David could not have been speaking about himself in the psalm because he died, was buried, and his body decayed (v. 36; cf. 2:29–31). Only the one whom God raised from the dead escaped death and decay. Paul’s argument had come full circle. Only by virtue of the resurrection of Jesus were the promises to David fulfilled. Jesus is God’s Holy One who saw no decay. He is the one who received the sure and holy promises to David. He is the Son of God whose throne is forever. Paul’s witness was now complete. Apostles and Scripture attested to the resurrection of Jesus in fulfillment of the promises to David. It now only remained for his hearers to accept him as the promised Savior (v. 23).

Appeal to Accept the Promise (13:38–41)

13:38–39 With the third address to his Jewish “brothers” in the synagogue, Paul turned to the final and most important part of his sermon—the call to repentance. Throughout the sermon he had appealed to God’s constant acts of mercy. Now he offered God’s greatest act of mercy, the forgiveness of sins through Jesus.39 The next statement, which is a fuller explication of the forgiveness of sins, could hardly be more Pauline: “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (v. 39). “Through him” recalls Paul’s favorite phrase, “in Christ.” “Everyone who believes” is reminiscent of Paul’s constant emphasis on the sole necessity of faith in Christ. Justification was his favorite term for describing the saving work of Christ. It is a law-court term and carries the idea of being acceptable to God. Through faith in Christ, one is “put right with God” and becomes acceptable to him. The idea is that the law of Moses could never serve as a basis for acceptability to God.40 Only in Christ is one truly “justified,” forgiven of sin, and acceptable to God.

13:40–41 Having begun his appeal with an invitation, Paul concluded with a warning. His warning took the form of a quote from Hab 1:5, which originally had warned Israel of King Nebuchadnezzar’s rise to power and the threat of an invasion from Babylon if the nation failed to repent. In the present context the threat seems to be that God would once again have to bring judgment upon his people if they failed to accept the mercy and forgiveness now offered to them in Jesus. If they continued in their rejection, they would be rejected. It is remarkable how quickly Paul’s warning came to bear. In the ensuing narrative, Habakkuk’s prophecy was once again fulfilled—among the Jews of Pisidian Antioch, as they rejected the words of salvation. God did something they would never have dreamed of—he turned to the Gentiles.41

(3) The Sermon’s Aftermath (13:42–52)

42As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.

46Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,

that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

48When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

49The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

13:42–43 Paul’s synagogue audience was at first favorably impressed by what he had to say. On first sight vv. 42–43 seem almost to be doublets, but they probably are best viewed as sequential. At the conclusion of the service, as they were all exiting, the congregation urged Paul and Barnabas to return for a further exposition on “these things” the next Sabbath (v. 42). At this point they expressed a somewhat detached interest. When next Sabbath arrived, they would become anything but detached. Others in the congregation showed a genuine interest in the witness of Paul and Barnabas, following them and talking with them as they left the synagogue (v. 43). Among these were both Jews and “devout converts.”42 The latter were undoubtedly proselytes, Gentiles who had become full converts to Judaism. Other Gentiles in the congregation had believed in and worshiped God but had not yet undergone the rites like circumcision, which would qualify them as converts (cf. vv. 16, 26). Some of these also may have been among this group who showed a keener interest in Paul and Barnabas’s testimony. The two missionaries urged them to continue along the path they had started and to remain open to the grace of God (v. 43b).

13:44–45 When next Sabbath arrived and Paul and Barnabas returned to the synagogue in accordance with the Jews’ invitation, the situation rapidly deteriorated. “Almost the whole city” had gathered to hear the Christian missionaries (v. 44). Because Pisidian Antioch was predominantly Gentile, this would indicate that the Jews were considerably eclipsed by the large numbers of Gentiles who came to hear Paul’s witness. Evidently the “God-fearing Gentiles” who had heard Paul’s sermon the previous Sabbath had understood that the salvation he proclaimed in Christ included them. The word had spread like wildfire through the Gentile populace, and they were there en masse. The Jews were filled with jealousy and began to speak abusively against the things Paul was saying, perhaps even blaspheming the gospel itself (v. 45).43 The reason for their sudden change in receptivity was evident: their “jealousy” was over the presence of all these Gentiles. It was one thing to proclaim the coming of the Messiah to the Jews. It was quite another to maintain that in the Messiah God accepted the Gentiles on an equal basis. To them this was little short of blasphemy, and Paul’s witness to them was over.

13:46–48 Paul and Barnabas responded “boldly” (v. 46). The reference to “bold witness” generally appears in contexts that emphasize the inspiration of the Spirit behind the testimony, and that is most likely implied here.44 Paul was led to a decisive turning point. The Jews had rejected the gospel that embraces all people without distinction. Paul had to focus his attention on those who were receptive—the Gentiles. Since Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled God’s promise to the Jews, it was essential to proclaim the gospel to the Jews first (cf. vv. 26, 32f.).45 But the Jews in Antioch had rejected the eternal life that is to be found in Jesus, and Paul had to turn to those who were “worthy” (v. 46).46 Paul backed his decision to turn to the Gentiles by quoting Isa 49:6, an Old Testament text that was “programmatic” for the Christian mission in Acts (Acts 1:8; 26:23; cf. Luke 24:47). The text of Isaiah, a “servant” passage, originally envisaged Israel’s destiny as being that of a witness to God to all the nations of the world. As Servant-Messiah, Jesus fulfilled this divine destiny. He was to be “a light to the nations.”47 Now, the messengers of the Messiah are likewise commanded to be “a light for the Gentiles” (v. 47). The Jews of Pisidian Antioch could not accept a Messiah who embraced the Gentiles. In rejecting Paul’s witness to the Gentiles, they thus rejected their Messiah as well.

Verses 46–48 are programmatic for Paul’s mission in Acts, establishing a pattern that would appear again and again. One could view the present statement as definitive: Paul would no longer turn to the Jews; he would now witness only to Gentiles. Such was not the case. In the very next city on his missionary itinerary he would again begin his witness in the synagogue (14:1).48 Again and again he experienced the rejection of the Jews and turned to the Gentiles of that town. But he never gave up on his fellow Jews. It was very much the problem he wrestled with in Rom 9–11. In spite of the overwhelming rejection of the gospel by his own people, Paul could not bring himself to believe that the rejection was final and that God had deserted them. His great successes in witness were indeed among the Gentiles, but he never abandoned his witness to Jews. The ambiguity of the witness to the Jews persists to the very end of Acts and is never definitively settled (cf. 28:17–28). The contemporary church can learn from Paul’s persistence. His actions caution against a mission policy that only targets those who are most receptive to the gospel message.

13:48 The Gentiles of Pisidian Antioch were those who accepted Paul’s message, honoring (glorifying) the word of the Lord (v. 48). Perhaps it was the specific “word” of Isa 49:6 they praised, with its good news that the light of Christ and his salvation extended to Gentiles such as they. Many of them believed, accepting Christ as Savior. They were those who were “appointed for eternal life.” In this phrase we encounter the same balance between human volition and divine providence that is found throughout Acts. On their part these Gentiles took an active role in believing, in committing themselves to Christ; but it was in response to God’s Spirit moving in them, convicting them, appointing them for life. All salvation is ultimately only by the grace of God.

13:49–52 The Antioch mission ended on a mixed note of both opposition and success. On the one hand, the gospel was well received by the Gentiles and spread throughout the whole region.49 On the other hand, the rejection by the Jews became even stronger and broke out in outright persecution of Paul and Barnabas. Evidently the opposition was spearheaded by some of the Gentile women who attended the synagogue. Both Josephus and Strabo attested to the fact that many Gentile women were attracted to the Jewish religion in the Diaspora, attending the synagogues and even becoming proselytes.50 Just who the “leading men” were whom they incited is not clear. Evidently they were Gentiles who had sufficient social standing or political power to force the departure of Paul and Barnabas.51 In any event, Paul and Barnabas followed the directions given by Jesus for dealing with an unreceptive town: they shook the dust of the city off their feet as they departed.52 The gesture had a certain irony about it. The rabbis attested to the Jewish practice of shaking the dust off their feet when they returned from a sojourn in Gentile territory, symbolizing their leaving their defilement behind as they stepped on the “holy land” once again. Paul and Barnabas’s dust-shaking symbolized their ridding themselves of all responsibility for the unreceptive Jews. The gesture, however, did not apply to everyone in Antioch. Not all had been unreceptive, and the story ends on a positive note. There were many Gentile converts in Antioch, and these new disciples rejoiced in their experience in the Holy Spirit and their newfound acceptance in Christ.

1 See F. V. Filson, “The Christian Teacher in the First Century,” JBL 60 (1941): 317–28; H. Greeven, “Propheten, Lehrer, Vorsteher bei Paulus,” ZNW 44 (1952–53): 1–43; O. Knoch, “ ‘In der Gemeinde von Antiochia gab es Propheten und Lehrer’ (Apg. 13, 1),” Liturgisches Jahrbuch 32 (1982): 133–50.

2 Some have gone further and connected Luke/Lucius with the Lucius of Rom 16:21. For the view that Lucius was a Cypriot and that “Cyrene” is a scribal error for an original text that read Kyrenia (a town in Cyprus), see F. F. Bishop, “Simon and Lucius: Where did they come from? A Plea for Cyprus,” ExpTim 51 (1939–40): 148–53.

3 Josephus (Ant. 15.373–78) tells of an Essene of similar name who rose to favor in the court of Herod the Great for predicting Herod’s rise to kingship. Some would see this as possibly the grandfather of the Manaen of Acts 13:1, but this is strictly speculative. Unlikely is the view that Luke confused Barnabas’s nickname with that of Manaen since the Hebrew form of Manaen (Menachem) means comforter (cf. 4:36).

4 The word for “worship” is λειτουργέω, which in secular Greek referred to a public service rendered without pay. In the NT it is employed widely for any ministry rendered in the name of the Lord. In the OT it was used of the service of the priests and Levites in the temple worship, a similar context to that of Acts 13:2.

5 For the linking of fasting with prayer and worship, cf. Luke 2:37; Acts 14:23.

6 E. Best, “Acts xiii:1–3,” JTS 11 (1960): 344–48. For the unlikely view that it was an ordination to the apostolate, see R. B. Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles: An Exposition (London: Methuen, 1901), 191–93; S. Dockx, “L’ordination de Barnabé et de Saul d’après Actes 13, 1–3,” NRT 98 (1976): 238–50.

7 There were two types of Roman provinces. Imperial provinces were under the emperor, had legions stationed in them, and were administered by legates (governors). Senatorial provinces were under the Roman senate, had no legions, and were administered by proconsuls. Antioch was in the imperial province of Syria. For further information on Cyprus, see M. F. Unger, “Archaeology and Paul’s Tour of Cyprus,” BibSac 117 (1960): 229–33.

8 For Jews on Cyprus see Philo, Embassy to Gaius 282 and Josephus, Antiquities 13.284–87.

9 For catechist see R. O. P. Taylor, “The Ministry of Mark,” ExpTim 54 (1942–43): 136–38. For keeper of written documents, see B. T. Holmes, “Luke’s Description of John Mark,” JBL 54 (1935): 63–72.

10 The verb used for traversing in v. 6 is often used in Acts with the connotation of witnessing along the way.

11 The old settlement of Paphos was originally established by the Phoenicians and lay some seven miles to the southeast of the new city of that name. This original settlement had been destroyed by earthquake in 15 b.c. The new city had thus been built during the Roman period in Roman style.

12 There are problems with all the inscriptions that are relevant, either about date or the incompleteness of the inscription due to damage. Two inscriptions have been found in Pisidian Antioch, one to an L. Sergius Paullus and another to a female Sergia Paulla. At Soli on the northern coast of Cyprus was found an inscription to a Paulus, but his office was not specified; and he seems to date too late for the Paulus of Acts. A Lucius Sergius Paullus is given on a Roman list as a curator of the Tiber, but there is no evidence to link him with service on Cyprus. On the whole question see F. F. Bruce, “Chronological Questions in Acts,” BJRL 68 (1986): 279–80.

13 His most intriguing reference is in Antiquities 20.236–37, where he spoke of a Cyprian Jewish sorcerer who aided Felix in seducing Drusilla away from her husband Azizus, the king of Emesa. Some interpreters would see this as none other than Elymas/Bar-Jesus. (Josephus’s event was some five to ten years later than Paul’s encounter with Elymas.) Such an identification is at best speculative.

14 A number of interpreters point to the variant found in several Western witnesses, where ἕτοιμος occurs in place of Elymas. He would thus claim to be “son of readiness.” For the derivation from Aramaic haloma, see L. Yaure, “Elymas, Nehelamite, Pethor,” JBL 79 (1960): 297–314; C. Daniel, “Un Essenien mentionné dans les Actes des Apôtres: Barjesu,” Museon 84 (1971): 455–76. F. C. Burkitt follows the Western reading ἕτοιμος and emends it to ὁ λοίμος—“pestilent fellow” (“The Interpretation of Bar-Jesus,” JTS 4 [1903]: 127–29).

15 In the OT the phrase “not see the light” referred to death (cf. Job 3:16; Num 12:12), but later it came to mean blindness (E. Richard, “The Old Testament in Acts,” CBQ 42 [1980]: 330–41).

16 See J. Foster, “Was Sergius Paulus Converted? (Acts xiii.12),” ExpTim 60 (1948): 354–55.

17 Romans had three names: a praenomen, a nomen, and a cognomen, as in Gaius Julius Caesar. “Paul” seems to have been a cognomen. We simply do not know his first two Roman names. The practice of having an “ethnic” signum was common in the East. See G. A. Harrer, “Saul who also is called Paul,” HTR 33 (1940): 19–33.

18 The only exceptions are 14:12, 14 and 15:12, 25, where Barnabas actually did have priority in the view of the Lystrans (Zeus) and the church in Jerusalem (their former delegate to Antioch).

19 F. J. Foakes-Jackson and K. Lake, eds., The Beginnings of Christianity (London: Macmillan, 1922), 4:147; 5:224.

20 For the view that it was youthful rebellion at a change of Paul’s plans, see T. J. Pennell, “Acts xiii, 13,” ExpTim 44 (1932–33): 476; R. Hughes, “Acts xiii, 13,” ExpTim 45 (1933–34): 44f. W. Ramsay argued that Paul contracted malaria at Perga and that he changed an original plan to go to Ephesus in order to reach the highlands of Antioch for relief (St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1897], 89–97).

21 Foakes-Jackson, Acts, 114.

22 On Antioch see W. Ramsay, The Cities of St. Paul (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1907), 247–96.

23 Beginnings 4:149.

24 There was a set cycle of readings for 154 Sabbaths used in Palestine and the Western Diaspora. The service consisted of six basic parts. First was the recitation of the basic confession, the Shema, based on Deut 6:4–9; 11:13–21; Num 15:37–41. Then followed prayers, including the Shemoneh’esreh, or “eighteen benedictions.” Third came the Torah-reading from the books of the Law, usually divided into portions and read by several laypersons. Fourth was a reading from the Prophets. In Palestine this was usually followed by a paraphrase of the readings from an Aramaic Targum. Fifth was a homily on the day’s readings, which was optional, depending on the availability of a suitable speaker. Finally came the priestly blessing based on Num 6:22–26, or, in the absence of a priest, a benediction pronounced by the ruler of the synagogue. E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, trans. S. Taylor and P. Christie, 5 vols. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1892) 2:447–54.

25 Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, 100.

26 J. W. Bowker, “Speeches in Acts: A Study in Proem and Yelammedenu Form,” NTS 14 (1967–68): 96–111.

27 Despite Kraabel’s objections, the terms φοβούμενοι and σεβόμενοι do often seem to designate pious Gentiles who worship God, especially in such contexts as v. 50, where σεβομένας are set over against “Jews.” See A. T. Kraabel, “Greeks, Jews, and Lutherans in the Middle Half of Acts,” HTR 79 (1986): 147–57.

28 There are variants in the LXX as well as Acts between the verbs προποφορέω (“put up with”) and προφοφορέω (“treat gently like a nurse”). The Hebrew of Deut 1:31 (נָשָׂא) has the same ambiguity. See R. P. Gordon, “Targumic Parallels to Acts xiii, 18 and Didache xiv, 3” NovT 16 (1974): 285–89.

29 The reference to 450 years seems to cover the period of the Egyptian sojourn to the time of the judges, allowing 400 years in Egypt, forty in the wilderness, and ten for the conquest. The Western text reads, “There were judges for 450 years,” but this conflicts with the OT. See Beginnings 4:150–51.

30 The tradition that Saul was king for forty years is not given in the OT but does not conflict with the OT evidence and is found in Josephus, Ant. 6.378 (eighteen years during Samuel’s lifetime and twenty-two more after his death).

31 The quote in v. 22 is a mixed quote based on three passages: “I have found David” (Ps 89:20), “a man after my own heart” (1 Sam 13:14), “who will do everything I want him to do” (Isa 44:28). For “son of Jesse,” cf. 1 Sam 16:1.

32 See C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: University Press, 1963), 253–56.

33 See G. W. McRae, “Whom Heaven Must Receive Until the Time,” Int 27 (1973): 151–65.

34 The servant psalms, especially Isa 52:13–53:12, would be especially in mind. Cf. Luke 18:31; 22:37; 24:44–46; Acts 8:32.

35 That Jesus rose “from the dead” (ἐκ νεκρών) is a familiar confessional formula found throughout the NT: with ἐγείρω in Luke 9:7; Acts 3:15; 4:10; 13:30; Rom 4:24; 6:4; 7:4; 8:1; 1 Cor 15:4; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:20; Col 2:12; 1 Thess 1:10; 2 Tim 2:8; Heb 11:19; 1 Pet 1:21; with ἀνίστημι in Acts 13:34; 17:31.

36 Psalm 2:7 is also applied to Jesus’ resurrection in Heb 1:5; 5:5. See R. O’Toole, “Christ’s Resurrection in Acts 13, 13–52,” Bib 60 (1979): 361–72. The promise of 2 Sam 7 lies behind the entire argument here; see D. Goldsmith, “Acts 13, 33–37: A Pesher on 2 Samuel 7,” JBL 87 (1968): 321–24. See also E. Lovestam, A Study of Acts 13:32–37 (Lund: Gleerup, 1961), 37–48.

37 See J. Pillai, Apostolic Interpretation of History: A Commentary on Acts 13:16–41 (Hicksville, N.Y.: Exposition, 1980), 83–87; E. Schweizer, “The Concept of the Davidic Son of God,” Studies in Luke-Acts, 186–93. Dupont stresses the phrase “to you” in v. 34 and sees Paul’s point as being that God will give “to you [believers]” the holy promises to David—forgiveness, justification, and service: “Ta Hosia David ta Pista (Acts 13, 34=Isaie 55:3),” Etudes sur les Actes des Apôtres (Paris: Cerf, 1967), 337–59.

38 In the Greek text of verses 34–35 there is a word linkage in the words “give” (δώσω, δώσεις) and “holy” (ὅσια, ὅσιον), suggesting that the two texts may have already been linked in a collection of OT Christological testimonies.

39 Throughout Luke-Acts, the work of Christ is described in terms of the forgiveness of sins: Luke 1:77; 3:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 26:18. It is often argued that this concept is not found in Paul. It is, however, very much involved in his whole idea of justification. Cf. also such explicit references as Rom 4:7; Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

40 Some interpreters take v. 39 to mean that the law could atone for some sins, but not for all, and that Christ justifies us in those areas where the law fails. This idea is totally alien to Paul’s thought and is found nowhere else in Luke-Acts. The more “absolute” meaning seems to apply best: the law can never set us right with God; only Christ can. See F. F. Bruce, “Justification by Faith in the Non-Pauline Writings of the New Testament,” EvQ 24 (1952): 69–71.

41 See D. Moessner, “Paul in Acts: Preacher of Eschatological Repentance to Israel,” NTS 34 (1988): 101.

42 Luke spoke of σεβομένων προσηλύτων, which Foakes-Jackson suggests may indicate that καί has dropped out, the original reading referring to two distinct groups of God-fearers and proselytes (Acts, 120).

43 The Greek reads literally “blaspheming, they spoke against the things said by Paul.” Although the word “blaspheme” is used in some NT contexts for slander against persons (cf. Acts 18:6), it is usually used of blasphemy against God or Jesus, and that may be the implication here (cf. Luke 22:65; 23:39; Acts 26:11).

44 Cf. 4:8 (“filled with the Holy Spirit”) with the bold witness in 4:13, 19, 31. Cf. 9:17 with 9:27, 29. Behind this concept of bold witness is the promise of Jesus (Luke 21:13–15).

45 Cf. the similar concept of “to the Jew first” in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1:16; 2:9f.; 3:1–4).

46 Behind the expression “eternal life” (ζωῆ αἰώνιος) lies the OT concept of sharing in the life of the age to come, God’s eschatological kingdom. It is essentially the same as “salvation” (cf. v. 26). Cf. Acts 11:18; Luke 10:25; 18:18, 30.

47 See J. Dupont, “Je t’ai établi lumière des nations (Ac. 13, 14; 43–52),” Nouvelles Etudes, 347–49. Cf. P. Grelot, “Note sur Actes xiii, 47,” RB (1981): 368–72.

48 See also 16:13; 17:1, 10, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8.

49 Ramsay (Traveller, 104) argued that χώρα is used here in a technical sense of the whole district officially under the jurisdiction of Antioch. Χώρα, however, does not bear this meaning in other places in Acts (cf. 16:6; 18:23).

50 Josephus (War 2.561) said that a majority of the women in Damascus had become Jewish converts. In his sixth satire (542), Juvenal complained of the addiction of the Roman women to the Jewish religion. See Robertson, WP 3:201.

51 Ramsay (The Cities of St. Paul, 313) suggested that the leading men were the magistrates of the city.

52 Cf. Luke 10:11. For a full discussion of this gesture, see Beginnings 5:266–77.

 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 288–309.


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